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Full text of "The flame of life"

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ALBERT W; SMITH 
BROWSING LIBRARY 








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Cornell University Library 
PQ 4803.Z3F9 1900 




3 1924 027 482 334 




B Cornell University 
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The original of tliis bool< is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
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http://www.archive.org/cletails/cu31924027482334 



THE FLAME OF LIFE 



THE WORKS OF 

G A B R I E L E 
D'ANNUNZIO 

I 

The Romances of the Rose 

The Child of Pleasure. (IlPiacere.) 

The Intruder. ( L' Innocente.) 

The Triumph of Death. ( II Trionfo della Morte.) 

II 

The Romances of the Lily 

The Maidens of the Rocks. (Le Vergini delle Rocce.) 
The Book of Grace. (La Grazia.) — In Preparation. 
The Annunciation. (L' Annunziazione.) — In Pre- 
paration. 

Ill 

The Romances of the Pomegranate 

The Flame of Life. (II Fuoco.) 
The Dictator. (II Donatore.) — In Preparation. 
The Triumph of Life. (II Trionfo della Vita.) — 
In Preparation. 



L. C. PAGE & CO. (incorporated). Publishers 
212 SUMMER STREET, BOSTON, MASS. 



The ROMANCES OF THE POMEGRANATE 



THE FLAME 
OF LIFE 

By GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO 

Author of "Th£ Twumph of Dsath," etc. 

Translated by 
KASSANDRA VIVARIA 

Author of " Via Lucis," etc. 
... & come natura &ce in poco. -— Dante 




B O S T-O N 
L. C. PAGE £sf COMPANY (Incorporated) 



M D CCCC 



CONTENTS 



I. PAGE 

The Epiphany of the Flame i 

II. 
The Empire of Silence I57 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 



The Flame of Life 



% 



I 

THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 

" Stelio, does not your heart fail you for the first 
time? " La Foscarina asked with a slight smile, touch- 
ing the hand of the silent friend sitting beside her. 
" I see you are a little pale, and you seem preoccu- 
pied. Yet this is a beautiful night for the triumph of 
a great poet ! " 

She gathered into one deeply conscious glance all 
the beauty scattered so divinely through that last hour 
of the September twilight. In the dark, living firma- 
ment of her eyes the neighbouring garlands of light, 
created by the oar as it dipped in the water, seemed 
to encircle the fiery angels that shone from afar on the 
towers of San Marco and of San Giorgio Maggiore. 

" As ever," she added in her sweetest voice, — " as 
ever, all things are favourable to you. On an even- 
ing like this what soul could remain closed to the 
dreams that it shall please your words to bring forth ? 
Do not you feel already that the crowd is eager to 
welcome your revelation? " 

Thus, delicately, she soothed her friend, wrapping 
him round with continual praise, exalting him with 
continual hope. 



2 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" No more unusual and no more magnificent festi- 
val could have been imagined for the purpose of en- 
ticing from his ivory tower a disdainful poet such as 
you are. This joy, of entering for the first time into 
communion with a multitude in a sovereign place 
such as the Hall of the Greater Council, was reserved 
for you alone. You will speak from the throne 
whence once the Doges addressed the assembled pa- 
tricians ; their background the Paradiso of Tintoretto, 
and over their heads the Gloria of Paolo Veronese." 

Stelio Effrena Iboked her deep in the eyes. 

"Do you wish to intoxicate me?" he said, with 
sudden gaiety. " This that you are offering me is the 
cup you would place before one going to the scaffold. 
Well, then, yes, my friend, I confess that my heart 
does shrink a little."' 

A sound of applause burst from the Passage of San 
Gregorio, echoing along the Grand Canal, re-echoing 
in the precious discs of porphyry and serpentine 
adorning the house of the Darios, that stooped under 
their weight like a decrepit courtesan under the pomp 
of her jewels. 

The royal barge was passing. 

" Here is the one among your listeners whom the 
ceremony bids you crown with some flower of your 
speech in the preamble," said the woman, allud- 
ing to the Queen. '<-In one of your first books, I be- 
heve, you confess your taste and your respect for 
ceremonials. One of your most extraordinary feats 
of imagination is that which has for its motive the 
description of a day of Charles II. of Spain." 

The two occupants of the gondola saluted the barge 
as it passed them. The Queen, blonde, rosy, illu- 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 3 

mined by the freshness of the inexhaustible smile that 
was for ever rippling among the pale meshes of her 
Buranese laces, looked back, moved by an impulse of 
spontaneous curiosity, as she recognized the poet of 
Persephone and the great tragic actress. By her side 
was Andriana Duodo, the patroness of Burano, the 
industrious little island where she cultivated a dainty 
garden of thread for the marvellous renewing of 
antique flowers. 

"Don't you think, Stelio, that those two women 
have twin smiles?" La Foscarina said, watching the 
water gurgle in the furrow left by the receding gon- 
dola, where the reflection of that double glamour 
seemed to prolong itself. 

"The Countess is a magnificent and ingenious 
spirit, one of those rare Venetian souls that have re- 
mained strongly coloured like their ancient can- 
vases," said Stelio, with grateful remembrance. " I 
have a deep devotion for her sensitive hands. They 
are hands that tremble with joy when they touch beau- 
tiful lace or velvet, and linger there with a grace that 
seems half shy of being so languid. One day, as I 
was taking her through the halls of the Academia, 
she stopped before the Massacre of the Innocents, 
by the first Bonifazio (you certainly remember the 
green of the prostrate woman that the soldier of 
Herod is about to strike: it is a note you cannot 
forget). She remained standing there a long time, 
the joy of full and perfect sensation difi"used all over 
her. Then she said, ' Take me away, Efifrena, I must 
leave my eyes behind on that dress, I want to see 
nothing else.' Ah, dear friend, don't smile, she 
was simple and sincere in saying this. She had in all 



4 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

truth left her eyes behind on that fragment of canvas 
which art, with a httle colour, has made the centre 
of an indefinitely joyous mystery. In all truth, it 
was a blind woman that I was leading. And I 
was all reverence for that privileged soul, in which 
the spell of colour had had the power to abolish for 
a time every vestige of its ordinary life and to stop 
all other communications from the outside. What 
would you call this? A filling up of the chalice 
to the brim, it seems to me. This, for instance, is 
what I would do to-night, if I were not discouraged." 
A fresh clamour, louder and longer, rose from 
between the two watchful columns of granite, as the 
barge came to shore by the crowded Piazzetta. A - 
confused roar, like the imaginary rushing that ani- 
mates the spirals of some sea-shells, filled the open 
spaces of the ducal balconies at the surging of the 
dense, dark multitude. Then, suddenly, the shout 
rose higher in the limpid air, breaking up against 
the slim forest of the marbles, vaulting over the 
brow of the taller statues, shooting beyond the 
pinnacles and the crosses, dispersing in the far dis- 
tances of twilight. The manifold harmonies of the 
sacred and pagan architectures all over which the 
Ionic modulations of the Biblioteca ran like an agile 
melody, continued unbroken in the pause which again 
followed, and the summit of the naked tower rose like 
a mystic cry. And that silent music of motionless 
lines was so powerful, in its contrast with the spec- 
tacle of an anxious multitude, that it created almost 
visibly the phantom of some richer and more beauti- 
ful life. That multitude, too, seemed to feel the 
divinity of the hour, and in the greeting it sent 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 5 

up to the modern symbol of royalty stepping on 
its ancient landing-place, the fair Queen beaming 
with her inextinguishable smile, perhaps it exhaled 
its obscure aspiration to transcend the narrowness of 
its daily life and to reap the harvest of eternal poetry 
growing over its stones and its waters. In those 
men, oppressed by the tedium and labour of their 
long mediocrity, the strong covetous souls of their 
forefathers, who had applauded so many returning 
conquerors of the sea, seemed to be waking up con- 
fusedly, and as they woke they seemed to remember 
the rush of the air, stirred by the hissing, implacable 
banners of old that had shamed enemies without 
number as they dropped to rest, refolding like the 
great wings of victory. 

" Do you know, Perdita," suddenly asked Stelio, — 
" do you know of any other place in the world like 
Venice, in its power of stimulating at certain mo- 
ments all the powers of human life, and of exciting 
every desire to the point of fever? Do you know of 
any more terrible temptress ? " 

The woman he called Perdita did not answer, her 
head bent as if in greater concentration, but in all 
her nerves she felt that indefinable quiver that the 
voice of her friend always called up when it un- 
expectedly revealed the vehement and passionate 
soul to which she was drawn by limitless love and 
terror. 

" Peace ! oblivion ! Do you ever find them down 
there, at the end of your deserted canal, when you 
return home parched and exhausted from having 
breathed the atmosphere of the theatre — of the 
theatre that any gesture of yours lashes to frenzied 



6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

enthusiasm? For my part, I can never find myself 
on these dead waters without feeling that my life is 
being multiplied at a bewildering speed, and at times 
my thoughts seem to take fire as if delirium were 
imminent." 

"The flame and the strength are in yourself, 
Stelio," said the woman, without raising her eyes, 
almost humbly. 

He was silent, intent. Images and impetuous 
music were being generated within him, as if by 
the magic of some instantaneous fertilisation. And 
the unexpected flood of that abundance was filling his 
spirit with joy. 

It was still the hour that in one of his books he 
had called "Titian's hour," because in it all things 
seemed, like that painter's nude creations, to shine 
with a rich glow of their own, and almost to illumine 
the sky rather than receive light from it. The 
strange, sumptuous octagonal temple drawn by Bal- 
dassare Longhena from the dream of Polifilo was now 
emerging from its blue green shadow with its cupola, 
its scrolls, its statues, its columns, its balustrades, 
like a temple dedicated to Neptune, constructed 
after the pattern of tortuous marine shapes, and shad- 
ing off into a haze of mother of pearl. In the hollows 
of the stone the wet sea-salt had deposited something 
fresh, and silvery and jewel-like, that vaguely sug- 
gested pearl shells lying open in their native waters. 

" Perdita," said the Poet, a kind of intellectual joy 
running through him, as he saw the things which his 
imagination called to life multiplying themselves 
everywhere, " does it not strike you that we seem to 
be following the princely retinue of dead Summer? 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 7 

There she lies, sleeping in her funeral boat, all 
dressed in gold like the wife of a Doge, like a Lore- 
dana, or a Morosina, or a Soranza, of the enlightened 
centuries. And the procession is taking her to the 
Island of Murano, where some masterly Lord of Fire 
will make her a crystal coffin. And the walls of the 
coffin shall be of opal, so that when once submerged 
in the Laguna, she may at least see the languid play 
of the sea-weed through her transparent eyelids, and 
while awaiting the hour of resurrection give herself 
the illusion of having still about her person the con- 
stant undulation of her voluptuous hair.'' 

A smile poured over La Foscarina's face, springing 
from eyes that might have well seen the beautiful 
figure. Indeed that sudden allegory in both its form 
and rhythm truthfully expressed the feeling that was 
permeating all things. As the milky blue of the opal 
is filled with hidden fire, so the pale monotonous 
water of the harbour held dissimulated splendours 
that were brought to light by each shock of the oars. 
Beyond the straight forest of ships motionless on 
their anchors San Giorgio stood out like a vast 
rosy galley, its prow turned to the Fortuna that 
attracted it from the height of its golden sphere. A 
placid estuary opened out in the centre of the Giu- 
decca. The laden boats that came down the rivers 
flowing into it brought with their weight of splintered 
trunks what seemed the very spirit of the woods that 
bend over the running waters of their far-away sources. 

And from the Molo, from the twofold miracle of 
the porticoes open to the popular applause, where the 
red and white wall rose as if to enclose that dominant 
will, the Riva unfolded its gentle arch towards the 



8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

shady gardens and the fertile islands, as if to lead 
away the thoughts excited by the arduous symbols 
of art to the restfulness of nature. And almost as 
if still further to complete the avocation of Autumn 
there passed a string of boats laden with fruit, like 
great floating baskets that spread over the waters 
reflecting the perpetual foliage of the cusps and 
Capitols, the fragrance of the island fruit gardens. 

" Do you know, Perdita," began Stelio, gazing with 
visible pleasure at the golden bunches and the purple 
figs not inharmoniously heaped in those boats from 
poop to prow ; " do you know a detail of ducal 
chronicles which is quite charming? The wife of the 
Doge, to defray the expenses of her state dress, 
was given certain rights over the duty on fruit. 
Does not this amuse you, Perdita? The fruit of the 
islands clothing her in gold and girding her round 
with pearls, Pomona giving Arachne her due; an 
allegory that Veronese might well have painted for 
the ceiling of the Vestiario. Whenever I picture to 
myself the stately lady standing on her high slippers 
with the gemmed heels, I like to think that something 
fresh and rural clings to her between the folds of 
heavy cloth, the tribute of the fruit. How many new 
savours seem thus added to her magnificence. Well, 
dear friend, let us now imagine that these figs and 
grapes of the new Autumn are to yield the price of 
the golden dress in which dead Summer is wrapped." 

" What delightful fancies, Stelio ! " said La Fosca- 
rina, youthfulness springing up in her for a moment, 
so that she smiled in the surprised manner of a child 
before a picture-book. "Who was it that one day 
called you the Image-maker?" 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 9 

" Ah ! those images ! " exclaimed the poet, pene- 
trated. " In Venice, in the same way that one can- 
not feel except in music, one cannot think if not in 
images. They come to us from all quarters, in 
countless numbers, in endless variety, and they are 
more real, more living, than the people that elbow us 
in the narrow streets. They let us bend down to 
scrutinize the depths of their hngering eyes, and we 
can divine the words they are going to say by the 
curves of their eloquent lips. Some are tyrannical, 
like imperious mistresses, and hold us long under the 
yoke of their power. Others come to us wrapped 
in veils, like virgins ; or tightly swaddled, like infants ; 
and only he who can tear away those husks will raise 
them to perfect life. When I awoke this morning, 
my soul was already full of them ; it was like a great 
tree with a load of chrysalides." 

He stopped and laughed. 

" If they all break open to-night," he added, " I 
am saved. If they remain closed, I am lost." 

" Lost?" said La Foscarina, looking at him in the 
face with eyes so full of confidence that his gratitude 
to her became immense. " You cannot lose yourself, 
Stelio. You are always safe, you carry your fate in 
your own hands. I think your mother can never 
have feared for you, even in the worst of moments. Is 
it not true? It is only the excess of your pride that 
causes your heart to falter." 

" Ah, dear friend, how I love you for this, and 
how grateful I am to you ! " Stelio confessed can- 
didly, taking her hand. " You are constantly feeding 
my pride in myself and letting me half believe that 
I have already acquired those virtues to which I con- 



lo THE FLAME OF LIFE 

tinually aspire. Sometimes you seem to have the 
power of conferring I know not what divine quality 
to the things that are born of my soul, and of placing 
them at such a distance that they appear adorable in 
my own eyes. You put in me the rehgious wonder of 
the sculptor, who, having taken his idols to the temple 
at fall of day, still warm from his touch, and I would 
almost say still clinging to the moulding fingers that 
shaped them, finds them next morning raised on 
pedestals and wrapped in a cloud of incense, breath- 
ing divinity from every pore of the deaf and dumb 
matter in which his perishable hands had fashioned 
them. You never enter my soul without accomplish- 
ing a like deed of exaltation, and because of this, 
every time that my good fortune allows me to be 
near you, you become necessary to my life. And 
nevertheless, during our too long separations, I can 
live on, and so can you, both knowing to what splen- 
dours the perfect union of our lives might give birth. 
Thus while I fully know all you bring me, and further, 
all you could bring, I consider you as lost to me, and 
I call you by that name I have given you because 
I want to express this boundless consciousness and 
infinite regret — " 

He interrupted himself, feeling the hand he still 
held tremble in his own. 

" When I call you Perdita,'' he added in a lower 
voice, after a pause, " I feel that you ought to see my 
desire advancing towards you with a deadly weapon 
thrust in its heaving side. Even if it succeed in 
touching you, the chill of death will have already 
reached the points of its rapacious fingers." 

A suffering that she knew too well flooded her as 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME ii 

she listened to the beautiful, the perfect words flow- 
ing from her friend's lips with a readiness that proved 
their sincerity. It was once again a fear and anxiety 
that she herself did not know how to define. She 
seemed to lose the sense of her personal being and to 
find herself thrown into a kind of fictitious life both 
intense and hallucinating, that made even breathing 
difficult. Once drawn into that atmosphere, as fiery 
as the encircling neighbourhood of a forge, she felt her- 
self capable of suffering all the transfigurations that it 
should please the Life-Giver to work in her for the 
satisfaction of his own constant desire of poetry and 
of beauty. She felt that in his poetic spirit her own 
image was not of far different nature to the image, so 
evident as to be nearly tangible of the dead Sum- 
mer wrapped in her opalescent shroud. And an 
almost childish desire assailed her, of seeking in 
his eyes, as in a mirror, the reflection of her true 
likeness. 

What made her suff"ering heavier was the fact that 
she could trace a vague resemblance between this 
agitated feeling and the anxiety that always possessed 
her at the moment of entering into a stage fiction in 
order to incarnate some sublime creation of Art. 
Was he not drawing her on to live in a similar higher 
zone of life, and,- that she might figure there oblivious 
of her everyday personality, was he not covering her 
with a splendid mask? But, while to her it was only 
given to prolong such a state of intensity by a su- 
preme effort, she knew that he moved in it, as easily 
as if it were his natural mode of being, ceaselessly 
enjoying the miraculous world of his own that he 
renewed by an act of continual creation. 



12 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

He had brought about in himself the intimate 
marriage of art with life, and he thus found in the 
depths of his own substance a spring of perennial 
harmonies. His spirit had found the means of unin- 
terruptedly maintaining itself in that mysterious con- 
dition which gives birth to the work of beauty and 
of thus suddenly transforming into ideal species the 
passing figures of his varied existence. It was pre- 
cisely to this conquest of his that he alluded when he 
put the following words in the mouth of one of his 
personages : " I stood by and watched within myself 
the continual genesis of a finer life wherein all ap- 
pearances were transfigured as in a magic mirror." 
He was gifted with an extraordinary facility of lan- 
guage that enabled him to instantly translate into 
words even his most complex modes of feeling with 
a precision so detached and vivid that they seemed 
at times to belong to him no longer, to have been 
made objective by the isolating power of style. His 
limpid and penetrating voice, that seemed to draw a 
clear outline round the musical figure of each word, 
still further enhanced this singular quality of his 
speech; so much so that an ambiguous feeling 
made of admiration and aversion crept over those 
who heard him for the first time, because of his mani- 
festing himself in a form so sharply defined that it 
seemed to be a result of his constant determination 
to establish between himself and those who were to 
remain strangers to him a deep and impassable dif- 
ference. His sensibility, however, equaUing his in- 
tellect, it was easy for those who came near to him 
and who loved him to catch the glow of his vehement 
and passionate soul through the crystal of his words. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 13 

These knew how wide were his powers of feeling and 
of dreaming, and from what combustion he drew the 
beautiful images into which he was wont to convert 
the substance of his inner hfe. 

She whom he called Perdita knew it well. As the 
pious one awaits from her God the supernatural help 
that is going to work her salvation, she seemed wait- 
ing for his guidance to place her at last in the neces- 
sary state of grace. Then perhaps she might elevate 
and maintain herself in that fire to which she was 
impelled by her mad desire of burning and melting 
away. The loss of even the last vestige of her youth 
made her desperate. She was terrified of finding 
herself alone in a gray desert. 

" Now it is you, Stelio," she said, with her slight 
concealing smile, gently taking her hand away from 
her friend, — " now it is you who wish to intoxicate 
me. Look," she exclaimed, to break the spell, 
pointing to a laden boat that was coming slowly 
towards them, — " look at your pomegranates." 

But her voice was unsteady. 

Then in the evening dream they watched the boat 
pass on the delicate water that was green and silvery 
like the new leaves of the river-willow, the boat over- 
flowing with the emblematic pomegranates. They 
suggested the idea of things rich and hidden, they 
seemed caskets of red leather bearing the crown of 
the kingly giver, some tightly closed, some half-open 
over their agglomeration of gems. 

In a hushed voice the woman murmured the words 
Hades addresses to Persephone when in the sacred 
drama the daughter of Demeter tastes the fatal 
pomegranate : 



14 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" When thou shalt pluck the Colchian herb in flower 
Upon the tender meadow-grass of Earth, 
Beside thy blue-robed mother, and, one day, 
See glimmer on the tender meadow-grass 
The white feet of the Oceanides, 
Then there shall come to thine immortal eyes • 
Remembrance, and a sudden weariness, 
The weariness of daylight ; and thy soul 
Shall tremble in thy heart, Persephone, 
Mindful of its deep sleep, and looking back, 
Persephone, to its deep kingdom. Then 
Thy blue-robed mother shalt thou see in silence 
Weeping apart, and thou shalt say to her : 
' O Mother, Hades calls me to his deep 
Kingdom ; now Hades calls me far from day 
To queen it among shadows ; Hades calls 
Me lonely to his insatiable love.' " 

" Ah, Perdita, how well you diffuse the shadows 
over your voice," interrupted the poet, feeling the 
harmony of the night that darkened the syllables of 
his verse. " How well you become nocturnal at the 
fall of day ! Do you remember the scene where 
Persephone is on the point of sinking into Erebus, 
while the chorus of the Oceanides is moaning? Her 
face is like yours when you darken it Her crowned 
head drops backwards as she stands rigid in her 
crocus-dyed peplum ; it seems as if night itself were 
flowing into her bloodless body, deepening under 
her chin, in the hollow of her eyes, round her nos- 
trils, transforming her into a sombre mask of trag- 
edy. It is your mask, Perdita. The memory of you 
helped me to bring forth her divine person while I 
was composing my ' Mystery.' That little velvet 
ribbon that you nearly always wear round your neck 
taught me the colour most fit for the peplum of 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 15 

Persephone. And one night, in your own house, as 
I was taking leave of you on the threshold of a room 
where the lamps had not yet been lit (an agitated 
evening last autumn, if you remember), you suc- 
ceeded with a mere gesture in bringing the creature 
to light in my soul that was still lying there undevel- 
oped, then, unconscious of having produced that 
sudden nativity, you disappeared into the intimate 
shadow of your own Erebus. Ah, I was quite cer- 
tain I could hear you sob, yet a torrent of ungovern- 
able joy was coursing through me. I have never 
told you this before, have I ? I ought to have con- 
secrated my work to you, as to an ideal Lucina." 

She sat there suffering under the gaze of the Life- 
giver; suffering because of the mask that he admired 
on her face, and of the joy that she felt was for ever 
springing up within him as from a source that could 
never run dry. The whole of her own self gave her 
pain; the mutability of her features; the strange 
mimic power possessed by the muscles of her face, 
the unconscious Art that regulated the meaning of 
her gestures, the expressive shadow that she had so 
often known how to wear on the stage like a veil 
of sorrow in some moment of expectant silence. 
And this was the shadow that now was filling up the 
hollows carved by time in her no longer youthful 
body. The hand she loved caused her cruel suffer- 
ing, — the noble, delicate hand whose gift or caress 
yet had such power to hurt her. 

" Don't you believe, Perdita," Stelio said after 
another pause, " in the occult beneficence of signs? " 
As a river's meandering forms, encircles, and nour- 
ishes the islands of the valley, that clear though tor- 



i6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

tuous, course of thought to which he gave himself up 
left in his spirit dark isolated spaces whence he knew 
full well that some new treasure would be forthcom- 
ing in his own good time. " I am not speaking of 
astral science, of the signs of the horoscope. I mean 
that as some believe themselves subject to the influ- 
ence of a certain star, likewise we can create an ideal 
correspondence between our soul and some earthly 
thing, so that the latter, saturating itself little by little 
with our own essence, and itself being magnified by 
our illusion, at last appears almost representative to 
us of some unknown fatality, and becomes something 
like the figure of a mystery by appearing at certain 
crises of our Hfe. This, Perdita, is the secret by which 
we may restore something of a primeval freshness to 
our souls that have become a little arid. I know by 
experience what wholesome effects are derived from 
intense communion with some natural thing. Our 
soul must now and then become like the hamadryad 
in order to feel the fresh energy of the tree, the life 
of which gives it its own life. You have gathered 
already that in saying this I allude to your own words 
on the passing of the boat. Briefly and obscurely 
you were expressing this same truth when you ex- 
claimed ' Look at your pomegranates ! ' To you 
and to those who love me they can never be any- 
thing but mine. To you and to them the idea of 
my person is indissolubly bound up with the fruit that 
I have chosen for an emblem, and have overcharged 
with mysterious significances more numerous than its 
own grains. If I had lived in the ages when the men 
who excavated the old Greek marbles used to find 
the roots of the ancient fables still moist in the earth, 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 17 

no painter could have represented me without placing 
the Punic apple in my hand. To sever my person 
from that symbol would have seemed to his ingenu- 
ous soul like cutting off a living part of me, because, 
to his paganly inclined imagination the fruit would 
have seemed joined to my arm as to its natural 
bough. His idea of me would have been no different 
from that which he would have had of Hyacinthus, of 
Narcissus, or of Ciparissus, who all three would neces- 
sarily appear to him alternately under the aspect of 
youth and symbolised by a plant. And even in our 
own times there are a few agile and highly coloured 
spirits ready to understand all the meaning and enjoy 
all the savour of my invention. Yourself, Perdita, 
have you not trained a beautiful pomegranate in your 
garden that each summer you might see me blossom 
and bring forth fruit? A letter you once wrote me 
that was winged like a heavenly message describes 
the graceful ceremony by which you decked out the 
' Effrenic ' shrub with necklaces on the day you re- 
ceived the first copy of Persephone. Thus, you see, 
for you and for those who love me, I have truly 
renewed an antique myth by thus projecting myself 
into one of the forms of eternal Nature; so that 
when I die (and Nature grant that before then I may 
have manifested myself wholly in my work !) my 
disciples will honour me under the symbol of the 
Pomegranate. In the sharpness of the leaf, in the 
flame-colour of the blossom, in the gem-like pulp 
of the crowned fruit, they will recognise some of the 
qualities of my art: by that leaf, by that flower, 
and by that fruit, as if by a posthumous teaching of 
their master, their intellects will be led to that same 



1 8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

flame, sharpness, and enclosed opulence. You see 
now, Perdita, what the true benefit is. By affinity I 
myself am led on to develop myself in accordance 
with the magnificent genius of the tree by which I 
chose to signify my aspirations to rich and ardent 
life. It seems as if this vegetating effigy of myself 
were sufficient to reassure me that my powers are 
conforming to nature in their development, so as to 
obtain in a natural way the effect for which they were 
destined. ' Thus hath nature disposed me,' is Leo- 
nardo's epigraph that I wrote on the title-page of my 
first book ; and the pomegranate as it blossoms and 
brings forth fruit unceasingly repeats that simple 
motto. We can only obey the laws written in our 
own substance and by them we must remain com- 
plete in a fulness and unity that fill us with joy 
amongst so many dissolutions. There is no discord 
between my art and my life." 

He spoke with complete freedom, and in a flowing 
stream, as if he felt the spirit of the listening woman 
become concave like a chalice to receive that wave, 
and wished to fill it to the brim. An ever clearer 
intellectual joy was spreading over him, together 
with a vague consciousness of the mysterious process 
that was preparing his mind for the effort which 
awaited it. Now and then as he bent over his lonely 
friend and heard the oar measuring the silence that 
rose from the great estuary, he would catch a glimpse, 
like a flash, of the crowd with its innumerable faces 
that was thickening in the great hall, and a quick 
tremor would shake his heart. 

" It is very singular, Perdita," he went on, gaz- 
ing at the pale far waters where the low tide 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 19 

blackened the shore, — " it is very singular to note 
how easily chance assists our fancy in giving a mys- 
terious character to the conjunction of certain appear- 
ances with the aim we have imagined. I cannot 
understand why the poets of our day wax indignant 
at the vulgarity of their age and complain of having 
come into the world too early or too late. I believe 
that every man of intellect can, to-day as ever, create 
his own beautiful fable of life. We should look into 
life's confused whirl in the same spirit of fancy that 
the disciples of Leonardo were taught to adopt in 
gazing at the spots on a wall, at the ashes of fire, at 
clouds, even mud and other similar objects, in order 
to find there ' admirable inventions ' and ' infinite 
things.' The same spirit prompted Leonardo to 
add : ' In the sound of bells you will find every 
word and every name that you choose to imagine.' 
That master well knew — as the sponge of Apelles 
had already pointed out — that chance always be- 
friends the ingenious artist. To me, for example, the 
ease and grace with which chance seconds the har- 
monious unfolding of my invention is a constant 
source of astonishment. Don't you think that black 
Hades forced his bride to eat the seven grains on 
purpose to furnish me with the subject-matter of 
a masterpiece ? " 

He interrupted himself with a burst of the youth- 
ful laughter that always so clearly revealed the native 
joy dwelling within him. 

"See, Perdita," he added, laughing, "whether I 
am right. In the very beginning of last October I 
was invited to Burano by Donna Andriana Duodo. 
We spent the morning in her gardens of thread; 



20 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

during the afternoon we went to visit Torcello. I 
had already begun living in the myth of Persephone 
in those daj's, and the work was being slowly formed 
within me, so that I felt as if I were gliding on 
Stygian waters and passing into the regions that lie 
beyond them. Never had I known a purer and 
sweeter foretaste of death, and that feeling had made 
me so light that I could have walked on the meadow 
of Asphodel without leaving a footprint. The air 
was damp, soft, and grayish; the canals meandered 
between barJks overgrown with discoloured herbs. 
(Perhaps you only know Torcello in the sunshine.) 
But meanwhile some one was talking and discussing 
in Charon's boat. The sound of praise awoke me. 
Alluding to me, Francesco de Lizo was lamenting 
that a princely artist so magnificently sensual — they 
are his own words — should be forced to live apart 
far from an obtuse and hostile crowd, and to cele- 
brate the feast ' of sounds, of colours, and of forms ' 
in the palace of his lonely dream. Giving way to 
a lyric impulse he recalled the splendidly festive 
lives of the Venetian artists, the public consent that 
lifted them up like a whirlwind to the heights of 
glory, the beauty, strength, and joy that they multi- 
plied around them and reflected in the numberless 
figures they painted on high walls and arched ceil- 
ings. And Donna Andriana said : ' Well, then, I 
solemnly promise you that Stelio Effrena shall have 
his triumphant festival in Venice itself.' It was the 
Dogaressa who spoke. At that moment I saw a 
pomegranate laden with fruit break the infinite 
squalor of the low, greenish bank like a hallucinat- 
ing apparition. Donna Orsetta Contarini, who was 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 2i 

seated next to me, gave a cry of delight, and held 
out two hands as impatient as her desire. Nothing 
pleases me so much as the sincere and powerful 
expression of desire. ' I adore a pomegranate 1 ' 
she exclaimed, as if already enjoying its pleasant 
sub-acid flavour. She was as childlike over it as 
her archaic name. I was stirred, but Andrea Con- 
tarini seemed deeply to disapprove of his wife's 
eagerness. He is an Hades having but little faith, 
it would seem, in the mnemonic virtue of the seven 
grains as applied to lawful wedlock. The boatmen, 
however, had been stirred too, and were making for 
the shore. I jumped on the bank first and fell to 
stripping the tree, my blood relation. It was truly 
a case of repeating with pagan lips the words of the 
Last Supper : ' Take, eat, this is my body, which is 
given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' 
How does all this strike you, Perdita ? You must 
not think I am inventing. I am quite truthful." 

She was being carried away along that free and ele- 
gant play of words by which he seemed to exercise the 
nimbleness of his spirit and the facility of his elo- 
quence. There was something undulating, variable, 
and powerful about him that conjured up the twofold 
image of flame and of water. 

" Now," he continued, " Donna Andriana has kept 
her promise. Guided by that taste for antique splen- 
dour that so largely survives in her, she has prepared 
a festival truly worthy of the Doges in the Ducal 
Palace, in imitation of those that were celebrated 
towards the close of the sixteenth century. It is she 
who thought of rescuing the Ariadne of Benedetto 
Marcello from her obhvio;!, and of making her sigh 



22 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

out her lamentation in the very place where Tin- 
toretto has painted the Minoide in the act of receiv- 
ing the crown of stars from Aphrodite. Does not 
the same woman who left her clear eyes behind on 
the ineffable green gown shine in the beauty of this 
thought? Add to it that there is an ancient counter- 
part to this musical performance in the Hall of the 
Greater Council. A mythological composition by 
Cornelio Frangipani, the music by Claudio Merulo, 
was recited in the same hall in the year 1573 in 
honour of the most Christian emperor Henry III. 
Confess, Perdita, that my learning bewilders you. 
Oh, if you knew how much of it I have accumulated 
on the subject. I will read you my discourse some 
day when you deserve severe punishment." 

" But will you not read it at the festival to-night?" 
La Foscarina asked, surprised and fearful lest he 
should have resolved to disappoint the expectation 
of the public, with his well-known careless ignoring 
of obligation. 

He divined his friend's anxiety and confirmed it. 

" This evening," he said, with quiet assurance, " I 
am coming to take an ice in your garden and to 
enjoy the sight of the begemmed pomegranate, 
gleaming under the sky." 

"Oh, Stelio! What are you doing?" she ex- 
claimed, starting up. 

There was in her words and action so sharp a 
regret, and at the same time so strange an evocation 
of the expectant crowd, that they troubled him. The 
image of that crowd, the formidable monster with the 
numberless human faces, stood before him amid the 
purple and gold of the great hall, bringing him a 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 23 

foretaste of its fixed stare and its stifling breath. 
Suddenly, too, he measured the danger he had de- 
cided to face in trusting only to the inspiration of the 
moment, and he realised what the horror would be of 
a sudden mental darkening, of some unlooked-for 
bewilderment. 

" Reassure yourself," he said. " I was jesting. I 
will go ad bestias, and I will go unarmed. The sign 
appeared again a moment ago; did you not see it? 
Do you think it can have appeared in vain after the 
miracle of Torcello? It has come to warn me once 
more that I must only assure those attitudes for 
which Nature has disposed me. Now you well know, 
dear friend, that I can only speak of myself. There- 
fore from the throne of the Doges I must only speak 
to the audience of my own soul under the veil of 
some seductive allegory and with the enchantment of 
some beautiful musical cadence. This I shall do ex 
tempore, if the flaming spirit of Tintoretto will only 
pour down to me from his Paradiso something of his 
own fervour and daring. The risk tempts me. But 
what a singular self-deception I was about to fall into, 
Perdita ! When the Dogaressa announced the festi- 
val and invited me here to do it honour, I began 
writing a pompous discourse, a truly ceremonious 
piece of prose, ample and solemn, like one of the 
purple state gowns in the glass cases in the Correr 
Museum; not without a deep genuflection to the 
Queen in the preamble, not without a leafy garland 
for the head of the most serene Andriana Duodo. 
And for some days, with curious complacency I 
dwelt very near the spirit of a Venetian patrician of 
the sixteenth century, Cardinal Bembo, for instance, 



24 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

adorned with all learning, academician of the Urania 
or the Adorni, and assiduous frequenter of the gar- 
dens of Murano and the hills of Asolo. I am sure 
there was a certain correspondence between the turn 
of my periods and the massive gold frames that en- 
circle the paintings in the ceiling of the Council Hall. 
But, alas ! as I reached Venice yesterday morning, and 
in passing by the Grand Canal dipped my weariness 
in the moist transparent shadows where the marble 
still exhaled the spirituality that night gives it, I felt 
that my sheets were worth much less than the dead 
sea-weeds rocked by the tide, and seemed strangers 
to me no less than the Trionfi of Celio Magno or the 
Favoli Maritti of Anton Maria Consalvi that I had 
quoted and commented on in them. What was I to 
do, then?" 

He cast an exploring glance round sky and water 
as if to discover an invisible presence, or recognise 
some newly arrived phantom. A yellowish glare was 
stretching to the more solitary shores, that stood out 
in it as if drawn there in finely pencilled lines, like the 
opaque veining of agates ; behind him, towards the 
Salute, the sky was scattered over with light-spreading 
vapours, violet and rosy, that made it comparable to 
a changing sea peopled by sea-anemones. From the 
neighbouring gardens there descended an exhaled fra- 
grance of plants saturated with light and warmth, like 
floating aromatic oils heavy on the bronze-like water. 

" Do you feel the autumn, Perdita? " he asked his 
absorbed ix\Qr\A, awakening her with his voice. 

The vision returned to her of dead Summer being 
lowered among the sea-weeds of the laguna, shrouded 
in its opalescent glass. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 25 

" It is upon me," she answered, with a melancholy 
smile. 

" Did you not see it yesterday, when it descended 
on the city? Where were you yesterday at sun- 
down?" 

" In a garden of the Giudecca." 

" I was here, on the Riva. Does it not seem to you 
that when human eyes have seen a similar vision of 
joy and beauty, the lids ought to close over them for 
ever to keep them sealed ? It is of these secret hid- 
den things that I should like to speak to-night, Per- 
dita. I should like to celebrate in myself the marriage 
of Venice with Autumn, giving it an intonation as 
little different as possible from that of Tintoretto when 
he painted the Marriage of Ariadne and Bacchus for 
the hall of the Anticollegio, — azure, purple and 
gold. Yesterday an old germ of poetry suddenly 
broke open in my soul. I remembered the fragment 
of a forgotten poem in nona riina that I began writ- 
ing here when I came to Venice for the first time, one 
September in my earliest youth that I spent at sea. 
It was called The Allegory of Autumn, and it sang the 
praises of the god no longer crowned with vine-leaves, 
but with jewels like one of Veronese's princes, fired 
with passion, about to migrate to the sea-city with 
the arms of marble and the thousand girdles of green. 
At that time the idea had not reached the degree of 
intensity necessary for it to enter into the life of Art, 
and instinctively I abandoned the effort of manifesting 
it as a whole. But, in the active spirit as in the fertile 
soil, no seed is ever lost: it returns to me now at the 
right moment urgently demanding expression. What 
a just but mysterious fate governs the world of the 



26 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

mind! It was essential tiiat I should respect that 
first germ in order to feel its multiplied virtue expand 
in me to-day. That Vinci, who has darted a glance 
into every profound thing, certainly meant to convey 
this particular truth by his fable of the grain of millet 
that says to the ant, ' If you will in so far please me 
as to let me enjoy my desire of new birth, I will re- 
store myself to you an hundredfold.' Admire this 
touch of grace in those fingers that could bend iron. 
Ah, he ever remains the incomparable master. How 
shall I forget him awhile that I may give myself up 
to the Venetians ? " 

Of a sudden the gay irony with which he addressed 
himself in his last words died out, and his whole 
attention seemed to bend over his thoughts. With 
bowed head, his body feeling a kind of convulsed 
contraction that answered to the extreme tension of 
his spirit, he began to trace some of the secret analo- 
gies which should bind together many images ap- 
pearing to him as if in the rapid intervals between 
successive lightning flashes, and to determine some 
of the broader lines upon which those images should 
be developed. Such was his agitation that the 
muscles of his face quivered visibly under the skin, 
and the woman felt, as she watched him, a reflected 
anguish not unsimilar to what she would have felt 
had he made before her a spasmodic effort to draw 
the string of a gigantic bow. And she knew that 
he was far away, estranged, indifferent to everything 
that was not his own thought. 

" It is already late, the hour is drawing near, we 
must go back,'' he said, suddenly pulling himself 
together as if pressed by anxiety, as if the formi- 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 27 

dable monster with its innumerable human faces that 
would occupy the great resounding hall had reap- 
peared. " I must get back to the hotel in time to 
dress." 

And his youthful vanity blossomed again at the 
thought of the unknown women whose eyes were to 
fall upon him for the first time that night. 

" To the H6tel Daniele," La Foscarina called to the 
oarsman. 

As the dentellated iron at the prow veered round 
on the water with a slow swing like a crawling ani- 
mal, both felt a different but equally acute suffer- 
ing at leaving behind them the infinite silence of the 
estuary, already mastered by shadow and death, 
at turning back towards the magnificent City of 
Temptation, in whose canals, as in the veins of a 
voluptuous woman, the fever of night was kindling. 

They were silent awhile, absorbed by the internal 
tempest that belaboured them, penetrating to the 
roots of their being and forcing them as if to tear 
them up. The aromas descended from the gardens 
swimming like oil on the water, that showed a glitter 
as of burnt bronze here and there in its folds. There 
was something like the phantom of past pageants in 
the air, which they perceived in the same way that 
they had felt a worn note of gold while contemplat- 
ing the harmony of the durable marbles on the 
palaces that age had dimmed. That magic evening 
seemed to renew the breath and reflection of the 
east clinging as of old to the round, hollow sails and 
curved flanks of the galleys that brought them home 
with their beautiful spoil. And all things around 
seemed to exalt the forces of life in the man who 



28 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

would have drawn the very universe to himself in 
order not to die, in the woman who would have 
thrown her burdened soul to the stake if that could 
have made her die pure. And both sat with their 
anxiety growing upon them, listening to the flight 
of time, as if the water on which they glided were 
flowing through a fearful clepsydra. 

Both started at the sudden burst of the salute that 
hailed the lowering of the flag on board a man- 
of-war anchored near the gardens. They saw the 
striped bunting flutter above the black mass and 
descend along its staff, and its folds drop like some 
heroic dream suddenly vanishing. The silence seemed 
deeper for a moment, and the gondola slipped into 
denser shadow as it grazed the flank of the armed 
giant. 

" Perdita," Stelio Effrena said unexpectedly, " do 
you know that Donatella Arvale who is going to 
sing in Ariadne f" 

In that deeper shadow his voice echoed with singu- 
lar resonance against the ironclad. 

" She is the daughter of Lorenzo Arvale, the great 
sculptor," La Foscarina answered after a moment's 
pause, " She is one of my dearest friends, and she is 
also my guest. You will meet her, therefore, at my 
house after the festival." 

" Donna Andriana spoke to me about her last 
night with great warmth as a marvellous being. She 
told me that the idea of unearthing this Ariadne 
came to her one day on hearing Donatella Arvale 
sing the air, 'Ah come mai puoi — Vedermi piangere' 
We are going to have some wonderful music at your 
house, then, Perdita. Ah, how I thirst for it ! Down 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 29 

there in my solitude I have had no music for many 
months but that of the sea, which is too terrible, and 
my own, which is too confused as yet." 

The bells of San Marco gave the signal for the 
Angelus, and their ponderous roll dilated in long 
waves along the mirror of the harbour, vibrated 
through the masts of the ships, spread afar towards 
the infinite lagoon. From San Giorgio Maggiore, 
from San Giorgio dei Greci, from San Giorgio degli 
Schiavoni, from San Giovanni in Bragora, from San 
Moise, from the churches of the Salute and the Re- 
dentore and beyond, over the whole domain of the 
Evangelist, from the far towers of the Madonna dell' 
Orto, of San Giobbe, of Sant' Andrea, bronze voices 
answered, mingling in one great chorus, spreading 
over the silent company of stones and water one great 
dome of invisible metal, the vibrations of which 
seemed to reach the twinkling of the earliest stars. 
In the purity of evening the sacred voices gave the 
City of Silence a sort of immensity of grandeur. 
From the summit of their temples they brought 
anxious mankind the message sent by the immortal 
multitudes hidden in the darkness of deep aisles, or 
mysteriously troubled by the light of votive lamps ; 
they brought to spirits worn out by the day the mes- 
sage of the superhuman creatures figured on the 
walls of secluded chapels and in the niches of inner 
altars, 'vho had announced miracles and promised 
worlds. And all the apparitions of the consoling 
Beauty invoked by unanimous Prayer, rose on that 
storm of sound, spoke in that aerial chorus, irradiated 
the face of the marvellous night. 

" Can you still pray? " asked Stelio, in a low voice. 



30 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

on seeing that the woman's lids were lowered and 
motionless, her hands clasped on her knees, her whole 
person absorbed in some interior act. 

She did not answer, only pressing her lips closer 
together. And both listened on, feeling that their 
distress was about to overtake them, in the fulness of 
its tide, like a river no longer interrupted by a cata- 
ract. Both had a grave, confused consciousness of 
the strange interval, in which a new image had sprung 
up unexpectedly between them and a new name had 
been uttered. The ghost of the unforeseen sensation 
they had felt on entering the shadow of the ironclad 
seemed to have remained in them, like an isolated 
encumbrance, like an indistinct, and nevertheless per- 
sistent, point round which was a kind of unexplored 
void. Distress in the fulness of its tide now sud- 
denly seized them, throwing them towards each 
other, uniting them with such vehemence that they 
dared not look into each other's eyes for fear of 
reading there some too brutal desire. 

" Shall we not meet again to-night, after the festi- 
val? " asked La Foscarina, with a tremble in her faint 
voice. "Are you not free? " 

She hastened to detain him, to imprison him, as if 
he were about to slip from her, as if she hoped that 
night to find some philtre that would lastingly attach 
him to her. And, while she felt that the gift of her- 
self had at length become a necessity, yet the fearful 
lucidity that pierced the flame within her had shown 
her the poverty of the gift so long denied. And a 
sorrowful modesty, made of fear and of pride, con- 
tracted her faded limbs. 

" I am free ; I am yours," the young man answered 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 31 

in a lower voice, without looking at her. " You know 
that nothing is worth to me that which you can 
give." 

He too was trembling to the depths of his heart, 
with the two aims before him that caused him to 
strain his energy like a mighty bow, — the city and the 
woman ; both deep and tempting and tired with hav- 
ing lived too much, and languid with too many loves ; 
both over-magnified by his dream, and fated to de- 
lude his expectation. 

For some seconds a violent wave of regret and 
desires overcame him. The pride ; the intoxication of 
his hard, dogged labour ; his boundless, uncurbed am- 
bition that had been forced into a field too narrow for 
it ; his bitter intolerance of mediocrity in life ; his claim 
to princely privileges; the dissembled craving for 
action by which he was propelled towards the multi- 
tude as to the prey he should prefer ; the vision of 
great and imperious art that should be at the same time 
a signal of light in his hands and a weapon of sub- 
jection ; his strangely imperial dreams ; his insatiable 
need of predominance, of glory, of pleasure, — rebelled 
tumultuously, dazzling and suffocating him in their 
confusion. And his sadness inclined him to the last 
love of the lonely, wandering woman who seemed to 
carry in the folds of her dress the silenced frenzy of 
those far-off multitudes from whose pent-up brutality 
her cry of passion or burst of sorrow or enthralling 
pause had wrenched the sublime pulsation that Art 
quickens. A troubled desire drew him to the de- 
spairing woman in whom the traces of every pleasure 
were visible — towards that ageing body saturated 
with endless caresses, yet still unknown to him. 



32 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Is it a promise? " he asked, controlling his agita- 
tion. "Ah, at last ! " 

She did not answer, but gave him a look of almost 
insane ardour, which escaped him. 

And they remained silent, and the roll of the bells 
passing over their heads was so strong that they felt 
it at the roots of their hair, like a quiver of their own 

flesh. 

"Good-bye," she said, near the landing-place. 
" On coming into the courtyard let us meet at the 
second well on the side of the Molo." 

" Good-bye," he said. " Place yourself so that I 
may distinguish you among the crowd when I am 
about to utter the first word." 

An indistinct clamour came from San Marco, 
above the sound of the bells, spreading over the 
Piazzetta, dwindling away towards the Fortuna. 

" May all Hght be on your forehead, Stelio," said 
the woman, holding out her dry hands to him pas- 
sionately. 

Stelio Effrena entered the court by the south 
door. On seeing the Giant's Staircase invaded by 
the black and white multitude that swarmed up 
under the reddish light of the torches fixed in the 
iron candelabra, he felt a sudden movement of 
repugnance, and stopped in the long covered gallery. 
There was a contrast that jarred on him too acutely 
between the meaner intruding crowd and the sight 
of those architectural forms, magnified still more by 
the unusual illumination in which the strength and 
the beauty of their former life were expressed in 
such varied harmonies. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 33 

" Oh, how wretched ! " he exclaimed, turning to the 
friends who accompanied him. " In the Hall of the 
Greater Council, from the throne of the Doges, how 
can one find a metaphor that will bring emotion to 
a thousand starched shirt-fronts! Let us go back; 
let us go and drink in the odour of the other crowd 
outside, the real crowd. The Queen has not yet 
left the palace ! We have plenty of time." 

" Until I see you on the platform," Francesco de 
Lizo said, laughing, " I shall not be sure that you are 
really going to speak." 

" I think Stelio would prefer the balcony between 
the two blood-like columns to the platform in the 
hall, would prefer haranguing a rebellious populace 
that had threatened to set fire to the new Procuratie 
and the old Libreria" said Piero Martello, wishing 
to flatter the master's taste for sedition and the fac- 
tious spirit that he himself imitated in his affectation. 

" Yes, certainly," said Stelio, " if the harangue 
were sufficient to stop or hasten an irreparable act. 
I grant you that the words we write should be used 
to create a pure form of beauty contained and shut 
in by a book as by a tabernacle that is only ap- 
proached by election, and by an act of that same 
deliberate will necessary for the breaking of a seal ; 
but it seems to me that the words we address directly 
to a multitude should have no other aim but action, 
even violent action, if need be. Only on this con- 
dition can a spirit that is a trifle haughty commu- 
nicate with the crowd by means of voice and gesture 
without lowering itself. In any other case his game 
can only be of a histrionic nature. For this reason 
I bitterly repent having accepted my present office 

3 



34 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

of ornate and pleasure-giving orator. Each of you 
may grasp how much is humihating to me in this 
honour of which I am made the mark, and how 
much is useless in my coming effort. All these 
outside, wrested for one night from their mediocre 
occupations or their favourite pastimes, are coming 
to hear me with the same futile and stupid curiosity 
with which they would go and listen to any vir- 
tuoso. To the women among my listeners the art 
with which I have composed the knot of my cravat 
will be far more appreciated than the art with which 
I round my periods. And, after all, the effect of 
my speech will probably be a burst of deadened 
applause from gloved hands, or a low, discreet 
murmur which I shall acknowledge with a bow. 
Don't you think that I am indeed about to touch the 
highest summit of my ambitions? " 

" You are wrong," said Francesco de Lizo. " You 
must congratulate yourself on having succeeded in 
impressing the rhythm of art on the life of a forget- 
ful city for a few hours, and in having given us a 
glimpse of the splendours that might beautify our 
existence through a renewed marriage of art with 
life. If the man who built the Festival Theatre 
at Bayreuth were present, he would applaud this 
harmony which he himself has announced. But the 
admirable part of it is that, though you were absent 
from and ignorant of it, the festival seems to have 
been disposed by the guidance of your own spirit, 
by an inspiration, a design of your own. This is 
the best proof of a possibility of restoring and 
diffusing taste, even in the midst of present barbari- 
ties. Your influence is deeper at the present day 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 35 

than you think. The lady who has wished to do 
you honour, she whom you call the Dogaressa, has 
asked herself at every new idea rising in her mind, 
' Would this please Stelio Effrena? ' You don't know 
how many men of the younger generation are now 
asking themselves the same question when they 
consider the aspects of their inner life ! " 

" For whom should you speak, if not for these? " 
said Daniele Glauro, the fervent, sterile ascete of 
Beauty, in that spiritual voice of his that seemed 
to reflect the inextinguishable white-heat of a soul 
cherished by the master as the most faithful. " If 
you look round when you stand on the platform 
■ you will easily recognise them by the expression 
of their eyes. They are very numerous, some, 
too, have come from afar, and they are waiting 
with an anxiety that you perhaps cannot under- 
stand. Their number is made up of those who 
have drunk in your poetry, who have breathed the 
fiery ether of your dream, who have felt the clutch 
of your own chimera. It is made up of those 
to whom you have promised a stronger and more 
beautiful life, to whom you have announced the 
world's transfiguration by the miracle of a new art. 
They are the many, many whom your hope and joy 
have carried away. They have heard that you are 
going to speak in Venice, in the Ducal Palace, in 
one of the most glorious places on earth. They 
are going to see and hear you for the first time, 
surrounded by the magnificence that seems to them 
the only fitting frame to your nature. The old 
Palace of the Doges, that has slept in, darkness for 
so long, is suddenly reillumined and revivified. 



36 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

In their eyes it is you alone who have had the 
power of relighting its torches. Do you not under- 
stand their expectations? And does it not seem to 
you that you ought to speak for them alone? You 
can carry out the condition you just laid down for 
him who speaks to a multitude, you can stir up 
a vehement emotion in their souls that shall turn 
them towards the Ideal and hold them there for ever. 
For how many of them, Stelio, you might make this 
Venetian night unforgettable ! " 

Stelio laid his hand on the prematurely bent 
shoulders of the mystic doctor and smilingly re- 
peated the words of Petrarch: " Non ego loquar 
omnibus sed tibi, sed mihi et his!' . . . 

The eyes of his unknown disciples shone within 
him; and with perfect clearness he now felt within 
himself, like a tuneful modulation, the sound of his 
own exordium. 

" Nevertheless," he added merrily, turning to Piero 
Martello, " to rouse a tempest in this sea would be a 
much more stirring thing." 

They were standing near the corner column of the 
portico, in contact with the noisy, unanimous crowd 
gathered in the Piazzetta that prolonged itself towards 
the Zecca, was engulfed near the Procuratie, barri- 
caded the black tower, occupied every space like 
a formless wave, communicated its living warmth 
to the marble of the columns and the walls against 
which it pressed in its continual overflowing. Now 
and then a greater outcry would come from the 
distance, at the further end of the Piazza, growing 
in volume until it burst quite close to them like 
a clap of thunder; then it would dwindle until it 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 37 

expired beside them like a murmur. The upper 
outline of the arches, the loggias, the spires, and 
the cupolas of the golden Basilica, the attics of 
the Loggetta, the entablatures of the Biblioteca 
were shining with numberless little lights, and the 
high pyramid of the Campanile, twinkling together 
with the silent constellations in the bosom of night, 
conjured up for the multitude drunk with its own 
noise the immensity of the silent heavens, the 
boatman at the far end of the laguna, to whom this 
light must seem a new kind of signal, the cadence 
of a solitary oar disturbing the reflection of the stars 
in the water, the holy peace closed in by the walls of 
some island convent. 

" To-night I should like to be for the first time with 
a woman whom I desired on a floating bed some- 
where beyond the Gardens, towards the Lido," said 
Paris Eglano, the erotic poet, a fair, beardless youth 
who had a handsome and voracious red mouth in 
contrast to the almost angelic delicacy of his features. 
" In an hour's time Venice will offer some Nero-like 
lover hidden in some gondola-cabin the Dionysian 
spectacle of a city that has been set on fire by its 
own delirium." 

Stelio smiled as he noticed to what extent those 
who approached him were steeped in his own es- 
sence, and how deeply the seal of his own style had 
stamped itself on those intellects. The image of 
La Foscarina flashed on his desire, La Foscarina as 
she was: poisoned by art, laden with voluptuous 
learning, with the savours of maturity and of cor- 
ruption in her eloquent mouth, with the dryness of a 
vain fever in those hands that had pressed out the 



38 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

substance of all deceitful fruits, with the traces of a 
hundred masks on that face that had simulated the 
fury of mortal passions. It was thus he pictured 
her to his desire, and his pulse quickened at the 
thought that before long he would see her emerging 
from the crowd as from an element by which she was 
enslaved, and would draw from her look the neces- 
sary intoxication. 

"Let us go," he said to his friends, ready now; 
" it is time." 

The cannon announced that the Queen had left 
the residence. A long quiver ran along the living 
human mass, like that which precedes a squall at 
sea. From the shore of San Giorgio Maggiore a 
rocket darted up with a vehement hiss, rose straight 
in the air like a stem of fire, scattered a rose of fire 
at its summit, then bent downwards, dwindled, dis- 
persed in trembling sparks, died out on the water 
with a dull crackling. And the joyous acclamation 
that greeted the beautiful Queen, the united cry of 
love echoed by the marbles and repeating her name, 
— the name of the white starry flower of the rocket 
that had the pure pearl for its meaning, — all this 
summoned up in Stelio's mind the pomp of the 
ancient Promissione, the triumphant procession of the 
art that accompanied the new Dogaressa to the ducal 
palace ; the immense wave of joy on which Morosina 
Grimani, resplendent in her gold, soared to her throne, 
while all the arts bowed down to her laden with gifts. 

"If the Queen loves your books," said Francesco 
de Lizo, " she will wear all her pearls to-night. You 
will find yourself in a labyrinth of precious stones, 
all the heirlooms of the patricians of Venice." 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 39 

"Look, Stelio, at the foot of the staircase," said 
Daniele Glauro, " there is a group of your devotees 
awaiting your passage." 

Stelio paused at the well indicated by La Foscarina, 
and bent over its bronze rim, feeling the carved out- 
lines of its cariatides against his knees, and discern- 
ing in its deep, dark mirror the vague reflection of 
the far-off stars. For a few seconds his soul isolated 
itself, grew deaf to surrounding voices, withdrew into 
the circle of shadow whence came a slight chill re- 
vealing the dumb presence of water. The fatigue 
brought on by his state of tension made itself felt, 
and with it a desire to be elsewhere, an indistinct 
need of going beyond even the ecstasy that the 
night hours were to bring him, and in the last ex- 
treme depth of his being the consciousness of having 
there a secret soul that, like the mirror of water, re- 
mained strange to all things, motionless and intangible. 

" What is it you see?" said Piero Martello, he too 
bending over the edge, worn by the ropes of the 
pitchers that had been lowered down over it for 
centuries. 

" The face of Truth," answered the master. 

In the rooms surrounding the Hall of the Greater 
Council, once inhabited by the Doges, now by the 
pagan statues forming part of the booty of ancient 
wars, Stelio Effrena was awaiting a sign from the 
master of ceremonies to appear on the platform. He 
smiled calmly on the friends who were talking to 
him, but their words reached his ears between one 
pause and another like the intermittent sounds that 
wind brings from afar. Now and then he would 



40 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

approach one of the statues with an involuntary 
movement as if seeking some frail spot where he 
might break it, or bend intently over a medal as if to 
read there some sign impossible to decipher. But 
his eyes were sightless, being turned inwards to that 
region where the accumulated powers of his will 
called up the silent forms which his voice would pres- 
ently raise to perfection of verbal music. His being 
contracted under the effort of bringing the represen- 
tation of the singular feeling that possessed him to 
the highest degree of intensity. Since he was going 
to speak only of himself and his own world, he would 
at least gather into one ideal image the more resplen- 
dent qualities of his art, thus showing those who fol- 
lowed him what an invincible force it was that hurried 
him through life. Once more he would prove to them 
how, in order to obtain victory over man and circum- 
stance, there is no other way but that of constantly 
feeding one's own exaltation and magnifying one's 
own dream of beauty or of power. 

As he bent over a medal of Pisanello's he felt the 
pulse of his thought beating with incredible rapidity 
against his burning temples. 

" Do you see, Stelio," said Daniele Glauro, drawing 
him on one side with that pious reverence that veiled 
his voice whenever he spoke of those things which 
made up his religion, — " do you see how the myste- 
rious affinities of art are working upon you, and how 
your spirit, about to manifest itself, is being led by 
an infallible instinct in the midst of so many forms 
towards the one model or footprint of the highest and 
most accurate expression of style. Through the ne- 
cessity of coining your own idea, you are brought 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 41 

to bend over a medal of Pisanello's; you come in 
conjunction with the sign of one who is among the 
greatest styHsts that have appeared in the world ; the 
most frankly Hellenic soul of the whole Renaissance. 
And your brow at once becomes marked by a ray of 
light." 

On the bronze was the effigy of a young man with 
fair, waving hair, imperial profile, and Apollo-like neck. 
His was so perfect a type of elegance and vigour 
that the imagination could not picture him in life ex- 
cept as entirely exempt from all decadence, change- 
less for all eternity. Dux equitum prcestans Mala- 
testa Novellus Cesence dominus. Opus Pisani pictoris. 
And close to it lay another medal by the same hand, 
bearing the effigy of a virgin with narrow bosom, 
swan-like neck, and hair drawn back as if it were a 
heavy bag, with a high receding forehead that seemed 
already vowed to the halo of the blessed ; a vessel of 
purity for ever sealed, hard, precise, and clear as the 
diamond, an adamantine pyx enshrining a soul that, 
like the Host, seemed consecrated to sacrifice. Cici- 
lia Virgo, Filia Johannis Frencisci primi Marchionis 
Matituce. 

" See," said the subtle expert, pointing out the two 
rare impressions, — " see how Pisanello has gathered 
with an equally wonder-working hand the proudest 
flower of life and the purest flower of death. Here 
you have the image of profane desire and the image 
of sacred aspiration in the same metal, both fixed by 
the same idealism of style. Don't you recognise in 
them the analogies that unite this form of art to your 
own art? V^h&n yonr Persephone ■p\c\is the luscious 
fruit of the infernal pomegranate, there is also some- 



42 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

thing mystic in her fine gesture of desire, because in 
breaking it to eat the grains she unconsciously de- 
termines her fate. The shadow of mystery, therefore, 
accompanies her sensuous act. This reveals the char- 
acter of your whole work. No sensuality is more 
ardent than yours, yet your senses are so sharpened 
that, while enjoying the appearance, they penetrate to 
the greater depths until they come upon the great 
mystery, and shudder. Your vision prolongs itself 
beyond the veil on which life has painted the volup- 
tuous images that give you pleasure. Thus, concili- 
ating in yourself that which seems irreconcilable, 
blending without effort the two terms of an antithesis, 
you are setting the example of a complete and ultra- 
powerful life. You should make this felt to them 
that listen to you, because it is this, above all, that 
should be recognised for the sake of your glory." 

He had celebrated the imaginary marriage of the 
proud Malatesta, leader of knights, and the blessed 
Mantuan virgin, Cecilia Gonzaga, with the faith of a 
pious priest at the altar. Stelio loved him for this 
faith ; loved him, too, because in no other man had he 
ever felt so deep and sincere a belief in the reality of 
the poetic world, and because his own consciousness 
often found some revealing expression in him and 
his comments often threw unforeseen light on his own 
work. 

" Here comes La Foscarina with Donatella Arvale," 
announced Francesco de Lizo, who was watching the 
crowd that came up the Censor's Staircase and grew 
denser in the large hall. 

Once more distress took hold of Stelio Effrena. 
He could hear the murmur of the multitude ming- 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 43 

ling in his ears with the throb of his arteries as 
in some indefinite distance, and Perdita's last words 
came back to him above that roar. 

The murmur rose again, then dwindled, and ceased 
altogether as with a light, sure tread he ascended the 
steps of the platform. Turning towards the crowd 
he saw for the first time the formidable monster with 
the numberless human faces staring in his dazzled 
eyes from among the gold and sombre purples of the 
great hall. 

A sudden leap of pride helped him to master him- 
self. He bowed to the Queen and to Donna Andri- 
ana Duodo ; both threw him the same twin smiles as 
from the gliding barge on the Grand Canal. His 
glance sought La Foscarina in the glitter of the first 
rows, travelled to the back of the assembly, where 
only a dark zone dotted with pale spots appeared. 
The silent, expectant multitude appeared to him in 
the image of a gigantic many-eyed chimera, its bosom 
covered with shining scales, stretching its blackness 
under the enormous scrolls of the rich, heavy ceiling 
that hung over it like a suspended treasure. 

Splendid indeed was that chimeric bosom on which 
necklaces^ glittered, that had certainly flashed before 
under that same ceiling on the night of some coro- 
nation festival. The diadem and ornaments of the 
Queen and her many pearl necklaces, graduated 
drops of light that suggested a miraculous falling in 
grains of a smile just about to break out; the dark 
emeralds of Andriana Duodo, originally torn from the 
hilt of a scimitar; the rubies of Giustiniana Memo, 
set after the manner of carnations by the inimitable 



44 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

workmanship of Vettor Camelio; the sapphires of 
Lucrezia Priuli, taken from the heels of the high san- 
dals on which the Most Serene Zilia had stepped to 
her throne on the day of her triumph; the beryls of 
Orsetta Contarini, so deHcately set in opaque gold by 
the artist hand of Silvestro Grifo ; the turquoises of 
Zenobia Corner, turned strangely pale by the myste- 
rious disease that had changed them one night as 
they lay on the moist bosom of the Lusignana among 
the pleasures of Asolo, the proudest jewels that had 
adorned the old-time festivals of the Sea-City, — flashed 
with renewed fire on the chimera's bosom, and from 
it a tepid exhalation of feminine skin and breath went 
up to Stelio. The rest of that shapeless, strangely 
spotted body stretched backwards into an appendage 
something like a tail, between the two gigantic 
spheres that recalled to the memory of the image 
maker the two bronze spheres on which the blind- 
folded monster presses its leonine claws in the Alle- 
gory of Giambellino. And that accumulation of 
blind animal life, void of all thought before him who 
in that hour was alone to think, gifted with the same 
inert fascination possessed by enigmatic idols, cov- 
ered by its own silence as by a shield capable of 
receiving and repulsing any vibration, waited for the 
air to palpitate under his first dominating word. 

Stelio Effrena measured the silence in which his 
first word should fall. As his voice rose to his lips, 
an effort of will leading it and strengthening it against 
his instinctive emotion, he caught sight of La Foscarina 
standing against the iron railing round the celestial 
sphere. The head of the tragic actress rose from her 
unadorned neck, and the purity of her bare shoulders 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 45 

above the orbit of the signs of the zodiac. Stelio 
admired the art of that apparition. Fixing his own 
on those far-off adoring eyes, he began speaking very 
slowly, as if the rhythm of the oars was still in his 
ears. 

" One afternoon not long ago, returning from the 
Gardens along the warm bank of the Schiavoni, that 
must often have seemed to some wandering poet like 
I know not what golden magic bridge stretching out 
over a sea of light and silence to some infinite dream 
of beauty, I thought, or rather I stood by and watched 
my own thoughts as I would an intimate spectacle, — 
I thought of the nuptial alliance of Autumn and 
Venice under those skies. 

" A sense of life was diffused everywhere ; a sense of 
life made up of passionate expectation and restrained 
ardour, that surprised me by its vehemence, but yet 
could not seem new to me, because I had already 
found it gathered in some belt of shadow under the 
almost deathly immobility of summer, and I had also 
felt it here vibrating now and then like a mysterious 
pulsation under the strange, feverish odour of the 
waters. Thus, I thought, this pure City of Art truly 
aspires to the supreme condition of that beauty that 
is an annual return in her as is the giving forth of 
flowers to the forest. She tends to reveal herself 
in a full harmony as if she still carried in herself, 
powerful and conscious, that desire of perfection 
from which she was born and formed through the 
ages like some divine creature. Under the motion- 
less fires of a summer sky she seemed pulseless and 
breathless, dead indeed in her green waters ; but my 
feeling did not deceive me when I divined her 



46 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

secretly labouring under a spirit of life that would 
prove sufficiently powerful to renew the highest of 
older miracles. 

" This I thought as I stood by and witnessed the 
splendid spectacle that my eyes were made capable 
of contemplating by a peculiar gift of love and poetry, 
seeming to change their faculty of sight into a deep 
and lasting vision. . . . But how shall I ever commu- 
nicate to those who hear me my vision of joy and 
beauty? There can be no dawn and no sunset 
to equal such an hour of light on the waters and 
among the stones. And no sudden appearing of a 
beloved woman in a wood in spring could be in- 
toxicating like the unexpected revelation in full day- 
light of the heroic and voluptuous city, bringing to 
my arms, to be crushed there, the richest dream ever 
dreamed by a Latin soul." 

The voice of the speaker, clear, penetrating, almost 
icy at first, seemed to have been suddenly warmed 
by the invisible sparks that doubtless were wrung 
from his brain by the effort of improvisation governed 
by the acute vigilance of his fastidious ear. As the 
words flowed without impediment, and the rhythmic 
line of his periods closed round them like a figure 
drawn at one stroke by a bold hand, his listeners 
could feel under that harmonious fluidity the excess 
of the tension tormenting his spirit, and were held 
captive by it as by one of those savage Circensian 
games in whicl^ aH the energies of the athlete are 
made manifest, the V^ibration of his sinews and the 
swollen tissue of his arteries. They could feel how 
much was actual, warmj and alive in the thoughts so 
expressed, and their enjoyment was greater because 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 47 

so unlocked for, all having expected from that un- 
tiring seeker after perfection the studied reading of a 
laboriously composed discourse. With deep emotion 
his devotees witnessed the audacious test, as if the 
mysterious process whence the forms had arisen that 
had held out to them so many gifts of joy was being 
laid bare before them. And that first emotion diffused 
by contagion and indefinitely multiplied by numbers 
became unanimous, and flowed back to him who had 
produced it, threatening to overcome him. 

It was the expected peril. He swayed as if under 
the shock of a wave too strong for him. And for 
some seconds a thick darkness filled his brain, the 
light of his thought went out like a torch at the 
breath of some irresistible wind, his eyes clouded as 
in the early stage of faintness. He felt how great 
the shame of defeat would be if he yielded to that 
bewilderment. And in that darkness, with a kind of 
sharp percussion, as of steel on flint, his will created 
the new spark. 

With a look and gesture he lifted the eye of the 
crowd up to the masterpiece spreading over the ceil- 
ing of the hall, a kind of sun-given radiance. 

" Thus I am sure," he exclaimed, — " thus the city 
appeared to Veronese while he was seeking within 
himself the image of the triumphant Queen. Ah, I 
am sure he must have trembled to his remotest fibres 
and bent his knee like one stricken and bewildered 
by a miracle, prostrating himself in adoration, arid 
when he tried to manifest his wonder to mankind 
and to paint her here, he, the prodigal artist who 
seems to have collected in himself all the imagina- 
tions of the most unbridled satraps, the magnificent 



48 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

poet whose soul was like that Lydian river called by 
the harmonious Greeks Chrysorroes, from whose gold- 
yielding springs a whole dynasty of kings came 
forth laden with wealth, — he, Veronese, scattered 
in profusion gold, jewels, amaranth, purple, ermine, 
all that is sumptuous elsewhere, but he could only 
picture the glorious face in a halo of shadow. 

" We should unite in exalting Veronese if only 
for that veil of shadow ! All the mystery and the 
fascination of Venice are in that shadow, small yet 
infinite, composed of things living but unknowable, 
gifted with the portentous virtue of the fabulous cav- 
erns where gems had eyes to see, and where men 
have found coolness and ardour at the same time in 
one inexpressibly ambiguous sensation. We must 
praise Veronese for this. The giving a human as- 
pect to his representation of the queenly city has 
enabled him to grasp its essential spirit, which is 
only symbolically an inextinguishable flame seen 
through a veil of water. And I know of one whose 
spirit, having been long saturated with these things, 
withdrew it enriched by a new power, and hence- 
forth treated his art and his life with a more ardent 
touch." 

Was he not himself that one? He seemed to re- 
cover all his assurance and to feel himself out of 
danger after this assertion, master of his thoughts 
and words, capable of drawing into the circle of his 
dream the giant chimera of the bosom covered with 
glittering scales, the elusive and versatile monster 
from whose sides emerged the tragic muse, her head 
raised above the belt of constellations. 

Obeying his gesture, the numberless faces turned 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 49 

to the apotheosis. The unveiled eyes gazed won- 
deringly at the marvel, as if they saw it for the first 
time, or under a hitherto unknown aspect. The 
wide, bare shoulders of the woman with the golden 
helmet shone on the cloud with strongly accentuated 
muscular life that made it as tempting as a palpable 
body. And from that living nudity, conqueror of 
time that had obscured beneath her the heroic 
images of sieges and battles, a voluptuous charm 
seemed to emanate, made sweeter by the breath of 
the autumn night floating through the open windows 
that stirred it as it stirred the wave of perfume hov- 
ering round the fragrant rose-bushes, while the prin- 
cesses from on high, bending over the balustrades 
between the two spiral columns, inclined their burn- 
ing faces and their opulent bosoms towards their 
latest worldly sisters in the hall below. 

Under this incantation, the poet began tossing his 
periods to his audience, -harmonising them like lyric 
stanzas. 

" It was indeed some such flame which I felt 
yesterday rising to extreme vehemence and confer- 
ring on the beauty of Venice a power of expression 
never before seen. The whole city kindled with 
desire before my eyes, and throbbing with expecta- 
tion within its thousand girdles of green like a woman 
in love awaiting her hour of joy. She held her 
marble arms out to the wild autumn whose per- 
fumed breath reached her from the delicious death 
of the distant landscape, and watched the light va- 
pours that rose from the confines of the lagoon draw- 
ing near her, silent, like furtive messages. Intently 
she listened to the slightest sounds in the silence she 

4 



so THE FLAME OF LIFE 

herself had made, and the breath of the wind flying 
through her rare gardens had a musical continuation 
that prolonged it outside the enclosures. A kind of 
stupor gathered round the solitary imprisoned trees 
that were changing colour, becoming resplendent like 
some burning things. The dry leaf that had fallen 
on the worn stone of the bank shone like some pre- 
cious thing ; at the summit of the wall adorned with 
fair lichens the pomegranate, swollen with maturity, 
burst suddenly like a beautiful mouth that breaks 
open by an impulse of cordial laughter. A boat 
passed, slow and wide, filled with bunches like a 
wine-press spreading through the air, and above the 
waters with their tangle of sea-weed, the intoxication 
of the vintage season, and a vision of solitary vineyards 
full of young men and women singing. A deep 
eloquence spoke from all surrounding objects, as if 
invisible signs adhered to visible aspects and all were 
living by some divine Hellenic privilege in the higher 
truth of art. 

" Surely, then," I thought, — " surely there must be 
in the city of stone and water, as in the spirit of the 
pure artist, a spontaneous and constant aspiration 
to ideal harmonies. A kind of fictitious rhythmical 
imagination seems to spaciously elaborate its repre- 
sentations, conforming them to an idea, as it were, 
and directing them to a premeditated end. Her 
marvellous hands seem to weave her light and 
shadows into a continual work of beauty; she 
dreams over her work, and from her own dream, 
transfiguring the heritage of centuries, she draws 
that tissue of inimitable allegories by which she is 
covered. And, because poetry alone is truth, he 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 5! 

who knows how to contemplate it and draw it into 
himself by the virtue of thought will be near know- 
ing the secret of victory over life." 

He had sought the eyes of Daniele Glauro while 
uttering the last words, and had seen them shine 
with joy under the vast, thoughtful brow that seemed 
swollen by the presence of an unborn world. The 
mystic doctor was there with his whole legion, with 
some of thcJse unknown disciples whom he had de- 
scribed to Stelio as eager and anxious, full of faith 
and expectation, panting to break through the nar- 
rowness of their daily servitude, and to know some 
free ecstasy of joy or pain. Stelio saw them there, 
serried together in a group, like a nucleus of com- 
pressed forces, leaning against the great reddish 
bookcases whose numberless volumes of forgotten 
and inert science lay buried. He could tell them by 
their intent, animated faces, their long, thick hair, 
their mouths that were either opened in child-like 
stupor or tightened with a sort of violence full of 
sensitiveness, their light or dark eyes to which the 
breath of his words seemed to bring alternate lights 
and shadows like the passing of a breeze over a bed 
of delicate flowers. He seemed to be holding their 
united souls in his hands, able to agitate one or the 
other, and crush it, or tear it and burn it as if it were 
only some light banner. Whilst his spirit stretched 
and relaxed in its continual discharge, there still re- 
mained to him an extraordinary lucidity of exterior 
analysis, a kind of separate faculty of material obser- 
vation, that seemed to become ever more acute and 
more sharply defined as his eloquence warmed and 
quickened. Little by little he felt his effort becom- 



52 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

ing easier and the efficacy of his will being supple- 
mented by an energy free and obscure as an instinct 
that rose from the depths of his unconsciousness, 
operating by an occult process impossible to gauge. 
Association reminded him of the extraordinary mo- 
ments in which — in the silence and intellectual heat 
of his remote chamber — his hand had written an 
immortal verse that had seemed to him not born 
of his brain, but dictated by an impetuous deity to 
which his unconscious organ had obeyed like a blind 
instrument. A not unsimilar miracle was now taking 
place within him, surprising his ear by the unforeseen 
cadence of the words that fell from his lips. An 
almost divine mystery was unfolding through the 
communion into which his soul had entered with the 
soul of the crowd. Something greater and stronger 
was adding itself to the feeling he had about his own 
person. And at every moment it seemed that his 
voice was acquiring a higher virtue. 

He saw the ideal picture complete and living within 
himself, and his manifestation of it in the language of 
poetry was after the manner of the master-colourists 
who reign in that place. The luxuriance of Veronese, 
the ardour of Tintoretto, was in his speech. 

" And the hour was approaching; the hour of the 
supreme feast was at hand. There was an unusual 
light in the heavens coming from the far-away hori- 
zon, as if the wild bridegroom were waving his purple 
banner as he drew nearer in his fiery chariot. The 
wind roused by his speed was heavy with all the per- 
fumes of the earth, and reminded the expectant one 
on the water where the vague sea-locks floated of the 
white, compact rose-bushes that here and there grew 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 53 

against the balustrades of the gardens overlooking 
the Brenta, melting little by little like masses of 
snow. The distant country seemed entirely reflected 
in the crystal of the air as by the fallacious mirage 
of the desert; and that impression of nature served 
to magnify the rarity of the dream of art, for no 
autumnal pageant of woods and meadows was com- 
parable in the memory to the divine life and transfig- 
urations of those ancient stones. 

" Is not some god coming to the city who offers 
herself? I asked of my own spirit, overcome by the 
anxiety and desire of pleasure expressed around me 
as if a fever of infinite passion invaded all things. 
And I called up the most powerful artist to picture 
that young, expected god with proud form and re- 
fulgent colours. 

" He was indeed coming ! The inverted goblet of 
the sky poured down a stream of splendour that, at 
first, seemed incredible to me, for it was of a quality 
richer even than the richest light of inspired thought 
or involuntary dream. The water was like some 
starry matter of an unknown, changeable nature, sug- 
gesting in myriads the indistinct images of a fluid 
world. A perpetual quiver drew from it harmonies 
for ever new by a series of stupendously easy destruc- 
tions and creations. Between the wonders of sky and 
water the stones that were multiform and many-souled, 
like a forest or like a people, the silent company of 
marbles from which the genius of art has extracted 
the occult conceptions of nature, on which time has 
accumulated its mysteries and glory engraved its 
signs; along the hidden veins of which the human 
spirit rises towards the ideal, as the sap ascends to 



54 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the flower through the fibres of the plant, — the mul- 
tiform and many-souled stone constantly took on 
some expression of life so new and intense that law 
seemed destroyed for it, and its original inertness 
flooded by a miraculous sensibility. 

" Each second after vibrated on these things 
like an unbearable flash. From the crosses on the 
tops of the cupolas swollen by prayer to the slight 
saline crystals hanging under the arch of the bridges, 
all glittered in a supreme jubilation of light. Like 
the sentinel on the rampart throwing his sharp cry 
to Expectation quivering like a storm below him, 
so the golden angel from the summit of the greater 
tower at last flashed out the announcement. 

" And He appeared. He appeared sitting on a 
cloud as on a chariot of fire, the long ends of his 
purple raiment trailing behind him, imperious though 
gentle, his half-open lips full of sylvan murmurs and 
silences, his hair floating over his strong neck, his 
titanic breast, hardened by the breath of the forest 
quite bare. He turned his youthful countenance to 
the City Beautiful. An indescribable inhuman fasci- 
nation emanated from that countenance. I know not 
what refined yet cruel brutality that contrasted with 
his deep eyes full of knowledge shining under heavy 
lids. His blood leapt and pulsated violently through- 
out his body to the extreme joints of the firm hands 
and to the toes of the nimble feet ; and occult things 
were about his whole being, concealing joy as the 
grape still in flower conceals the wine; and all the 
tawny gold and purple that He brought with him 
were like the raiment of his senses. . . . 

"With what passion, palpitating under her thousand 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 55 

girdles of green and the weight of her great jewels, 
the City Beautiful gave herself up to the magnificent 
God ! " 

Lifted up in the vortex of those words, the soul of 
the crowd seemed to reach the sense of Beauty at 
one bound, at a height never before attained, and to 
stand surprised there. The poet's eloquence was 
seconded by the expression of all that surrounded 
him; it seemed to resume and continue the rhythms 
obeyed by all that effigied strength and grace; it 
seemed to sum up the unlimited concordances be- 
tween the forms created by human art and the 
qualities of the natural atmosphere that perpetu- 
ated themselves. This was why his voice had so 
much power ; why his gesture so easily enlarged the 
outlines of images; why in every syllable he pro- 
nounced there was added to the significance of the 
letter the suggestive power of sound. And it was 
not the effect of the usual electric communication 
established between speaker and audience only, but 
of the spell that held the wonderful edifice to its 
foundations and that gathered extraordinary vigour 
from the unaccustomed contact of that palpitating 
agglomerated humanity. The pulse of the crowd 
and the voice of the poet seemed to restore their 
own life to those ancient walls, and to renew its origi- 
nal spirit in the cold museum with its nucleus of 
powerful ideas, made concrete and organic in the 
most durable of substances to bear witness to the 
nobility of a race. 

A splendour of youth almost divine fell on the 
women, as it might have fallen in a sumptuous al- 
cove; they too had felt the anxiety of expectance 



56 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and the joy of surrender, like the City Beautiful. 
They were smiling with vague languor as if exhausted 
by a sensation that had been too stirring, their bare 
shoulders emerging like flowers from their corollas 
of gems. The emeralds of Andriana Duodo, the 
rubies of Giustiniana Memo, the sapphires of Lu- 
crezia Priuli, the beryls of Orsetta Contarini, the 
turquoises of Zenobia Corner, all the heirlooms in 
whose flame there was a little more than the mere 
value of their substance, just as in the decorations 
of the great hall there was a little more than even 
the value of art, seemed to throw on the white faces 
of the patrician women the reflection of a joyous, 
shameless anterior life, as if awakening in them and 
by some secret virtue raising from the abyss the 
souls of the voluptuous women who had offered men 
their bodies saturated with myrrh, with musk, and 
with amber, and to the public their rouged uncovered 
breasts. 

As he watched the bust of the large many-eyed 
chimera on which the feathers of the women's 
fans flapped softly, hot intoxication swept over his 
thoughts, disquieting him, suggesting words of al- 
most carnal essence, some of those living sub- 
stantial words with which he had often touched 
women as if with caressing and inviting fingers. 
The multiplied reverberation in himself of the vibra- 
tion produced by him shook him so deeply that he 
was about to lose his usual balance. He felt himself 
swinging above the crowd like a concave and sono- 
rous body in which the various resonances were 
generated by the action of an indistinct though 
infallible will. During the pauses he would anx- 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 57 

iously await the unforeseen manifestation of that will, 
while the interior echoes still remained as of a voice 
not his own having pronounced words expressive of 
thoughts that were new to him. And that sky, and 
that water, and those marbles, and the autumn as he 
had described it, seemed to have no connection with 
his own late sensations, but to belong to a world of 
dreams of which he had caught sight while he was 
speaking — in a rapid succession of flashes. 

It surprised him, this unknown power that con- 
verged in him, abolishing the limits of his own 
person and conferring the fulness of a chorus on 
his solitary voice. This, then, was the mysterious 
truce that the revelation of beauty could bring to 
the daily existence of the breathless multitude ; this 
the mysterious will that could possess the Poet about 
to answer the multiform soul questioning him as to 
the value of life and yearning to raise itself, if once 
only, towards the eternal idea. He was only the 
means by which beauty held out the divine gift of 
oblivion to the men gathered in a place consecrated 
by centuries of human glory. He was only trans- 
lating in the rhythm of words the visible language 
with which the ancient artists had already set forth 
in that very spot the prayer and aspiration of the 
race. Those men would now contemplate the world, 
for an hour at least, with different eyes ; surely they 
would think and dream with a different soul. 

It was the highest benefit of beauty made mani- 
fest; it was the victory of art, the liberator, over 
the misery and anxiety and tedium of ordinary 
existence; it was one of those happy intervals in 
which the stabs of necessity and pain seem to cease 



58 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and the clenched hand of destiny slowly to relax its 
hold. His thoughts overstepped the walls that 
closed the palpitating crowd into a sort of heroic 
cycle, a zone of red triremes and fortified towers and 
triumphant processions. The place seemed too nar- 
row now for the exaltation of his new feeling, and 
once again the real crowd attracted him, the great, 
unanimous crowd he had seen outside and had heard 
sending up in the starry night a clamour by which it 
was itself intoxicated as by wine or blood. 

And his thoughts went out not only to this but 
to infinite other multitudes. He conjured them up 
crowded in a theatre, held by a dominating idea of 
truth and beauty; silent and intent before the great 
arch of the stage open on some marvellous trans- 
figuration of human life, or frenzied by the sudden 
splendour radiating from an immortal phrase. And 
his dream of higher Art as it rose again showed him 
mankind once more seized by reverence for the poets 
as for those who alone can interrupt human anguish 
for a while, assuage its thirst, and dispense oblivion. 
And the test he was undergoing, now seemed much 
too slight : he felt himself capable of creating gigan- 
tic fictions. And the still formless work that he was 
nourishing within him leapt with a great shudder of 
life as he saw the tragic actress standing out from the 
sphere of constellations, the Muse with the diffusing 
voice who seemed to carry the very frenzy of those 
distant multitudes silenced in the folds of her dress. 

Almost as if the intensity of the life he had lived 
during the pause had exhausted him, there was a 
more subdued note in his voice when he began 
speaking again. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 59 

" Under this image," he resumed, — " under this 
image so real and evident to me at the time I saw it 
that it seemed nearly tangible, do you not see the 
analogies that make it significant of singular things? 

" The mutual passion of Venice and Autumn that 
exalts the one and the other to the highest degree of 
their sensuous beauty has its origin in a deep affinity ; 
for the soul of Venice, the soul fashioned for the City 
Beautiful by its great artists is autumnal. 

" The correspondence between the external and 
the interior spectacle once discovered, my enjoyment 
found itself unspeakably multiplied. The crowd of 
imperishable forms that peoples its churches and 
palaces seemed from these latter to answer the har- 
mony of daylight with a chord so deep and powerful 
that it soon became dominant. And — because the 
light of Heaven alternates with shadows, but the light 
of Art lasts in the human soul and cannot be extin- 
guished — when the miracle of the hour ceased to 
cover all those things, my spirit felt itself alone and 
ecstatic among the splendours of an ideal autumn. 

" It is under this aspect that the artistic creation 
hemmed in between the youth of Giorgione and the 
old age of Tintoretto appears to me. It is purple, 
golden, rich, and expressive, like a pageant of the 
earth under the sun's last flame. Whenever I con- 
sider the impetuous creators of so much powerful 
beauty an image presents itself to my mind drawn 
from a fragment of Pindar, — ' When the centaurs 
became acquainted with the virtues of wine, which is 
sweet as honey and conquers men, they at once ban- 
ished the white milk from their tables and hastened 
to partake of their wine in silver horns.' None in 



6o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the world knew and tasted of the wine of life more 
than they. They drew from it a sort of lucid in- 
toxication that multiplied their power and communi- 
cated a fertilising energy to their eloquence. And in 
the most beautiful of their creations the violent throb 
of their pulses seems to have persisted through the 
ages, like the very rhythm of Venetian Art. 

" How pure and poetic is the sleep of the Virgin 
Ursula on her immaculate bed ! A gentle silence 
hovers in the solitary room; the habit of prayer 
seems sketched on the pious lips of the sleeper. The 
shy light of dawn pierces through the doors and the 
half-open windows, pointing to the word written on the 
corner of her pillow. INFANTIA is the simple word 
spreading round the maiden's head, something like 
the freshness of morning : INFANTIA. The maiden, 
already betrothed to the princely barbarian and des- 
tined for martyrdom, sleeps on. As she lies there 
fervent, ingenuous, and chaste, does she not seem the 
image of art such as the precursors saw it in the 
sincerity of their child-like eyes? INFANTIA. The 
word calls up all the forgotten ones round that pil- 
low, — Lorenzo Veneziano and Simone da Cusighe, 
and Catarino and lacobello, and Maestro Paolo and 
Giambono, and Semitecolo and Antonio, Andrea and 
Quirizio da Murano, and the whole of the laborious 
family by which colour, afterwards the rival of fire, 
was prepared in the burning island of furnaces. 

" But would not they themselves have uttered a 
cry of surprise had they seen the wave of blood 
that poured from the breast of the Virgin when 
pierced by the handsome pagan archer? Blood so 
crimson flowing from a maiden nurtured on ' white 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 6i 

milk ' ! It is a very orgy of slaughter ; the archers 
have brought their finest arms to it, their richest 
apparel, their most elegant gestures, as to a festival. 
The golden-haired barbarian aiming his dart at the 
martyr with so proud an act of grace seems the 
youth Eros chrysalised and wingless. 

" This same agreeable slayer of innocence will 
presently give himself up to the enchantment of 
music, and laying aside his bow will dream a dream 
of infinite pleasure. 

" Well may Giorgione be considered as the one 
to infuse the new soul into him, and to kindle 
it with an implacable desire. The music that 
enchants him is not the melody of angelic lutes 
diffused between the arches that curve over radiant 
thrones, or dwindling into serene distances in the 
visions of the third Bellini. It is still at the touch of 
religious hands that it rises from the harpsichord, 
but the world it awakens is full of a joy and of a sad- 
ness in which sin lies hidden. 

" Whoever has looked at the Concerto with saga- 
cious eyes has fathomed an extraordinary and irrevo- 
cable moment of the Venetian soul. By means of 
the harmony of colour, the power of significance of 
which is unlimited as the mystery of sound, the 
artist shows us the first workings of a yearning soul 
to whom life suddenly appears under the aspect of 
a rich inheritance. 

"The monk sitting at the harpsichord and his 
older companion are not monks like those that Vit- 
tore Carpaccio painted flying from the wild beast 
that Jerome had tamed, in San Giorgio degli Schia- 
voni. They are of nobler and stronger essence, and 



62 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the air they breathe is finer and richer: it is pro- 
pitious to the birth of a great joy or a great sorrow, 
or a haughty dream. What notes do the beautiful, 
sensitive hands draw from the keys where they hn- 
ger ? Magic notes they must be, certainly, to succeed 
in working in the musician so violent a transfigura- 
tion. He is half-way through his earthly existence, 
he is already detached from his youth, already 
on the verge of decay, and life is only now revealing 
itself adorned with all its good things, like a forest 
laden with purple fruit, of which his hands that were 
intent on other work have never known the velvet 
bloom. He does not fall under the dominion of some 
solitary tempting image, because his sensuality slum- 
bers, but he undergoes a confused kind of anguish in 
which regret overcomes desire while on the web of 
the harmonies that he seeks, the vision of his past — 
such as it might have been and was not — weaves itself, 
before his eyes like a design of Chimerae. His com- 
panion, who is calm because already on the threshold 
of old age, divines this inner tempest; kindly and 
gravely he touches the shoulder of the passionate 
musician with a pacifying movement. Emerging from 
the warm shadow like the expression of desire itself, 
we see the youth with the plumed hat and the un- 
shorn locks, the fiery flower of adolescence, whom 
Giorgione seems to have created under the influence 
of a ray reflected from the stupendous Hellenic myth 
whence the ideal form of Hermaphrodite arose. He 
is there, present and yet a stranger, separated from 
the others as one having no care but for his own 
good. The music seems to exalt his inexpressible 
dream and to multiply infinitely his power of enjoy- 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 63 

ment. He knows that he is master of the life that 
escapes both the others;' the harmonies sought after 
by the player seem only the prelude to his own 
feast. He glances sideways intently as if turning to 
I know not what that fascinates him, and that he 
would fascinate; his closed mouth is a mouth heavy 
with a yet ungiven kiss; his forehead is so spacious 
that the leafiest of crowns would not encumber it, but 
if I consider his hidden hands, I can only imagine 
them in the act of crumpling the laurel leaves to per- 
fume his fingers." 

The hands of the Life-giver moved as if they were 
imitating the gesture of the covetous youth and truly 
extracting its essence from the aromatic leaf; the 
manner of his voice gave to the image thus presented 
an appearance so strongly detached that all those 
among his listeners who were young thought their 
unspeakable desire was at last finding expression, 
and their inner dream of uninterrupted and unending 
pleasure being made manifest. A profound emotion 
seized them, an obscure agitation of controlled im- 
pulses ; they seemed to divine new possibilities, the 
prey that was unhoped for and distant seemed hence- 
forth tangible. Stelio recognised them here and there 
along the whole length of the hall, leaning against 
the great reddish bookcases where the numberless 
volumes of inert and forgotten wisdom lay buned. 
They occupied the space left free all round, making 
a border for the compact mass that was like a living 
hem ; and as the extreme edges of a flag that waves 
in the wind have a stronger flutter, thus they too 
throbbed more than the rest of the audience at the 
valiant breath of the poet's words. 



64 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Stelio recognised them all. Some he could distin- 
guish by the singularity of their attitude, by the ex- 
cess of emotion betrayed in the curve of their lips, or 
the throb of their temples, or the fire of their cheeks. 
On the faces of some that were turned to the open 
balcony he divined the enchanting effect of the 
autumn night and their dehght in the breezes coming 
from the weedy lagoon. The eyes of another, in a 
ray of love, would point out to him some seated 
woman, looking as if she had given herself up to her- 
self, with an indefinable expression of impure languor, 
with a soft snow-white face where the mouth seemed 
the entrance to a hive moist with honey. 

A strange lucidity possessed him, which gave un- 
usual evidence to the things he saw, as if they ap- 
peared to him in the hallucination of fever. All 
things in his eyes were living a hyperbolic life ; the 
portraits of the Doges that recurred round the room 
among the white meandering of the maps breathed 
as truly as the bald old men at the further end whose 
monotonous gestures he could discern at intervals as 
they wiped their pale, heated brows. Nothing escaped 
him; not the persistent tearfulness of the hanging 
torches in the bronze baskets that gathered up the 
wax yellow as amber, nor the extreme fineness of a 
gemmed hand that would press a handkerchief to 
sorrowful lips as if to soothe a burn, nor the folds of 
a light scarf thrown round bare shoulders to which 
the night breeze breathing through the open bal- 
conies had brought a shiver. And, nevertheless, 
while he noted these thousand transient aspects, there 
remained in his vision the entire image of the vast 
thousand-eyed chimera, from whose side the tragic 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 65 

Muse emerged, her head rising above the belt of 
constellations. 

His eyes constantly returned to the promised 
woman who was appearing to him there as the living 
fulcrum of a starry world. He was grateful to her 
for having chosen such a way of appearing to him in 
the moment of that first communion. He no longer 
saw in her now the passing mistress of a night, a 
body ripened by long ardour, laden with voluptuous 
knowledge, but as the admirable instrument of a new 
art, the apostle of the highest poetry. He saw in her 
the woman who was to incarnate his future fictions 
of beauty in her manifold person; whose unfor- 
gettable voice was to carry the words of enlighten- 
ment to distant peoples. It was not by a promise of 
pleasure that he now bound himself to her, but by a 
promise of glory, and the work that was still formless 
within him leapt once more. 

" You who are listening to me," he continued, " do 
you not see some analogies between these three sym- 
bols of Giorgione's and those three generations liv- 
ing at the time and illumined by the dawn of a new 
century? Venice, the triumphant city, reveals her- 
self to their eyes like a great overpleasing banquet 
where all the wealth gathered by all the centuries 
of war and commerce is to be spread out without 
measure. What richer fountain of pleasure could 
there be to initiate life in insatiable desire? It 
is a moment of emotion, almost of bewilderment, 
that, because of its fulness, is worthy an hour of 
heroic violence. Stirring voices and laughter seem 
to come from the hills of Asolo, where in the midst 
of her pleasures reigns the daughter of San Marco, 

5 



66 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Domina Aceli, who fsund the girdle of Aphrodite in 
the myrtle gardens of Cyprus. The youth of the 
white feathers comes at last towards the banquet, a 
leader followed by an unbridled retinue ; and at last 
we see all the strongest appetites burning like torches, 
the flames of which are ceaselessly quickened by an 
impetuous wind. 

"Thus begins that divine autumn of Art to the 
splendour of which man will turn with a deep throb 
of emotion as long as the human soul is capable 
of aspiring to transcend the narrowness of its daily 
existence to live a more fervent life or die a nobler 
death. . 

" Giorgione is now imminent on that marvellous 
sphere, but I cannot recognise his mortal person, and 
I seek him in the mystery of the fiery cloud that 
girds him round. He appears more like, a myth to 
us than a man. The destiny of no poet on earth is 
comparable to his. All, or nearly all, concerning him 
is imknown. Some have gone so far as to deny his 
existence. His name is written on no work of his, 
and no work is attributed to him with certainty. 
Yet the whole of Venetian art seems to have been 
inflamed by his revelation. The great Cisan appears 
to have received from him the secret of infusing a 
stream of luminous blood into the veins of the beings 
he creates. In all truth Giorgione represents in Art 
the Epiphany of the Flame. He deserves to be called 
the Bearer of Fire, like Prometheus. 

" When I consider the rapidity with which the sa- 
cred gift has passed from artist to artist, glowing ever 
more gloriously from colour to colour, the image 
rises spontaneous in my spirit of one of those festi- 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 6-j 

vals by which the Greeks attempted to perpetuate the 
image of the Titan son of Japetus. On the day of the 
festival a group of young Athenian horsemen would 
ride, galloping from Ceramicus to Colonos, their 
leader waving a torch lit at the altar of the temple. 
Whenever the rapidity of their course extinguished 
it, the bearer would give it up to his companion, who, 
still galloping, would relight it, and this one passed 
it to the third, and the third to the fourth, and so on 
ever galloping until the last laid it, still burning, on 
the altar of the Titan. This image, with all that is 
vehement in it, is in some way significant to me of 
the feast of the master-colourists of Venice. Each of 
them, even the least glorious, has had the sacred gift 
in his hand, at least for a moment. Some even, like 
that first Bonifacio whom we should glorify, seem 
to have gathered with their incombustible fingers the 
inner flower of this flame." 

His own fingers moved in the air as if to pick the 
ideal flower from the invisible summit of the wave 
that the seething soul of the chimera was propelling 
towards the poet who had conquered it. And his 
eyes travelled to the celestial sphere, silently offering 
the fiery gift of that flower to her who watched over 
the godlike beasts of the Zodiac. " To you, Perdita." 

But the woman was smiling to some one far away, 
pointing to some one with her smile. And so, by 
following the thread of her smile, he was led to an 
unknown person suddenly lit up on a background 
of shadow. 

Was not that the creature of music whose name 
had resounded against the iron of the ship in the 
silence and the shadow? 



68 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

She seemed to him almost an interior image sud- 
denly sprung up in that part of his soul where 
the ghost of the sensation that had fallen upon 
him as he entered the shadow of the ironclad had 
remained like an obscure and indistinct point. For 
a second she was beautiful, with the beauty of his 
own unexpressed thoughts. 

" A City to which similar creatures have given so 
powerful a soul," he added, agile on the rising wave, 
" is only considered to-day, by the many, as a great 
inert shrine full of relics, or as a refuge full of peace 
and oblivion ! 

" Indeed I know of no other place in the world — 
unless it be Rome — where an ambitious and robust 
spirit can spur on the active virtue of his intellect 
and all the energies of his being towards the supreme 
degree, better than on these sluggish waters. And 
I know of no marsh capable of provoking in human 
pulses a fever more violent than that which at times 
creeps towards us from the shadow of a silent canal. 
And those men who spend their noontide buried in 
the ripe crop during the dog-days feel no wilder 
wave of blood rise to their temples than that which 
dims our eyes when we bend too intently over these 
waters, seeking lest by chance we should discover in 
the depths below them some ancient sword or old lost 
diadem. 

" Nevertheless, do not all fragile souls come here 
as to a place of refuge? those who hide some secret 
wound, those who have accomplished some final 
renunciation, those whom a morbid love has emascu- 
lated, and those who only seek silence the better to 
hear themselves perish ? Perhaps Venice is in their 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 69 

eyes a clement city of death, embraced by a sleep- 
giving pool. Their presence, however, weighs no 
more than the wandering weeds floating about the 
steps of the marble palaces. They only serve to 
increase the singular odour of sickly things, the 
strange feverish odour on which we have often found 
it sweet, towards evening, after a laborious day, to 
nurse the fulness of our own feelings, at times so 
akin to languor. 

" Yet the ambiguous city does not always indulge 
the illusion of those who worship her as a peace- 
giver. I know of one who started up from his rest 
on her bosom as terrified as if he had been lying 
with the pliant fingers of his beloved on his tired 
eyelids and had heard snakes suddenly hissing in 
her hair. 

" Ah, if I could only show you the prodigious life 
that I see throbbing under her vast necklaces and 
her thousand girdles of green ! Day by day she 
absorbs more of our soul : now giving it back to us 
intact and fresh, and renewed with a primitive new- 
ness on which the traces of the morrow's things will 
impress themselves with ineffable clearness ; now 
giving it back to us infinitely subtle and voracious, 
like a flame melting all that approaches it, so that at 
evening, among the dross and ashes of it, we some- 
times come upon some extraordinary sublimate. 
She entices each of us into the act that is the very 
genesis of our species : the effort to surpass our- 
selves unceasingly. She shows us the possibility of 
transforming pain into the most efiicacious of stimu- 
lating energies ; she teaches us that joy is the most 
certain means of knowledge offered us by Nature, 



;o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and that he who has suffered much is less wise than 
he who has much enjoyed." 

Here and there a vague murmur of dissent rip- 
pled through the audience; the Queen denied the 
assertion with a slight shake of her head; some 
ladies communicated a sort of graceful horror to each 
other in an exchange of glances. Then all was lost 
in the zeal of the youthful applause that on every 
side went out to him who taught with such truthful 
daring the art of ascending to superior forms of life 
by the power of joy. 

Stelio smiled as he recognised his own, who were 
many; smiled on recognising the efficacy of his 
teaching that had already cleared the mists of inert 
sadness from more than one spirit, and in more than 
one had killed cowardice and vain tears, and in more 
than one had instilled for ever a scorn of complain- 
ing sorrows and weak compassions. He was glad of 
having given utterance once more to that principle 
of his doctrine which flowed naturally from the soul 
of the art he was glorifying. And they who had 
withdrawn into a hermit's cell to adore a sad phantom 
that only lived in the blurred mirror of their own 
eyes ; and they who had made themselves kings of 
a windowless palace, from time immemorial awaiting 
a visitation there ; and they who had hoped to dig 
up the image of Beauty from under some ruin and 
had only found a worn sphinx that had tormented 
them with its endless enigmas; and they who sat 
down evening after evening on their doorsteps, pale, 
to await the arrival of a mysterious stranger bringing 
endless gifts under his mantle, and pressed their 
ears flat on the ground to hear the footsteps that 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 71 

now seemed to draw near and now to fade away ; all 
those who were sterilised by a resigned mourning or 
devoured by a desperate pride ; those who were hard- 
ened by a useless obstinacy or kept sleepless by some 
continually disappointed expectation, — he would 
have bid them all come and recognise their disease 
under the splendour of that ancient yet ever-resurgent 
soul. 

" If its whole population were to emigrate," he said, 
in a voice full of exaltation, " forsaking its homes, 
attracted by other shores, as once its own heroic 
youth were tempted by the arch of the Bosphorus 
in the time of the Doge Pietro Ziani, and no prayer 
were again to strike the sonorous gold of the curved 
mosaics, no oar were again to perpetuate with its 
rhythm the meditation of the silent stones, Venice 
would yet and for ever remain a City of Life. The 
ideal creatures guarded by its silence live in the 
whole past and in the whole future. We constantly 
find in them new concordances with the edifice of 
the Universe that is about to be, unexpected meet- 
ings with the idea that was born only yesterday, 
clear announcements of that which is only a fore- 
boding in us as yet, and open answers to that which 
we have not yet dared to ask. They are simple, and 
yet charged with numberless significances ; they are 
ingenuous, and yet clothed in curious raiment. If we 
contemplated them for an indefinite length of time, 
they would never cease from pouring dissimilar 
truths into our spirits. If we visited them every 
day, they would appear to us every day under an 
unforeseen aspect, like the sea, the rivers, the fields, 
the woods, and the rocks. Sometimes the things 



72 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

which they say to us do not r&ach as far as our 
intellect, but are revealed to us in a kind of confused 
happiness causing our own substance to dilate and 
quiver from. its very depths. Some clear morning 
they will show us the way to the distant forest where 
the beautiful one awaits us from time immemorial, 
buried in her mystic hair. 

"Whence comes their unlimited power? 

" From the pure unconsciousness of the artists 
who created them. 

" Those profound men ignored the immensity of the 
things which they expressed. Striking a million roots 
into the soil of life, not like single trees, but like the 
vastest forests, they have absorbed infinite elements, 
which have been transfused and condensed by them 
into ideal species whose essences have remained un- 
known to them, as the taste of the apple remains un- 
known to the branch that bears it. They have been 
the mysterious means continually chosen by Nature 
to satisfy her continual aspiration to those types which 
she has not succeeded in producing in an integral 
manner. Because of this, while continuing the work 
of the Divine Mother, their mind has become trans- 
formed, as Leonardo says, into a ' likeness of the 
divine mind.' And because creative force inces- 
santly rushed to their fingers like sap to the buds 
of the trees, they have created with joy." 

All the desire of the artist panting to obtain the 
Olympic gift, all his envy of those colossal, untir- 
ing, and undoubting forgers of beauty, all his thirst 
for happiness and glory, stood revealed in the 
accent with which he pronounced the last words. 
Once more the soul of the multitude was in the 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 73 

poet's power, strained and vibrating like one only- 
chord made of a thousand chords, that incalculably 
prolonged every resonance. That resonance awak- 
ened in it the sense of a truth that it had contained 
all along, but that the words of the poet were sud- 
denly revealing in the form of a message never 
heard before. It no longer felt a stranger in the 
sacred place, where one of the most splendid of 
human destinies had left so deep a trace of its 
splendour; but it could feel the aged mass living 
round it and beneath it, from its deepest foundations, 
as if its memories, no longer motionless in the shadow 
of the past, were circulating through it like the free 
winds of a deeply-stirred forest. In the magic res- 
pite given to it by the virtue of strength and poetry 
the multitude seemed to perceive in itself the inde- 
structible signs of its primitive generation, almost 
a vague effigy of its remote .ascendency; it seemed 
to recognise its right to an old heritage of which 
it had been despoiled, — that heritage which the 
messenger was telling them was still intact and 
within their power to recover. It was experiencing 
the agitation of one about to regain a lost fortune. 
And over the night that could be seen glittering 
through the open balconies, with the red glare of 
the illumination that was to encircle the harbour be- 
low beginning to appear, there seemed to be spread 
the expectation of a foretold home-coming. 

In that sonorous silence the solitary voice reached 
its climax. 

" To create with joy ! " It is the attribute of 
Divinity ! It is not possible to imagine at the 
summit of our spirit a more triumphal act. The 



74 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

very words that express it have about them the 
qualities of the dawn's resplendence. 

" And these artists created by a means that is in 
itself a joyous mystery: by colour which is the 
ornament of the world; colour, which seems the 
effort of matter to become light. 

" And such was their extreme musical sense of 
colour that their creation transcends the narrow 
limits of the pictured symbols, and takes on the 
high revealing power of an infinite harmony. 

" Never has the sentence pronounced by that 
Vinci on whom Truth flashed one day with its thou- 
sand sacred faces appeared so evident as before their 
great symphonic canvases. Music cannot be called 
other than the sister of painting. Their painting 
is not only silent poetry, it is also silent music. 
For this, the subtlest seekers of rare symbols and 
those most anxious to impress the signs of an in- 
ternal Universe on the purity of a thoughtful brow 
seem to us almost barren in comparison to these 
great unconscious musicians. 

" When we see Bonifacio in his Parable of Dives 
intoning with a note of fire the most powerful har- 
mony of colour in which the essence of a haughty 
and voluptuous soul has ever stood revealed, we do 
not pause with our inquiry at the fair youth listening 
to the music, seated between the two magnificent 
courtesans, whose faces have the gleam of lamps lit 
in pure ether. But piercing through the material 
symbol we give ourselves up with anxious emotion 
to the power of evocation held by those far-reaching 
chords, in which our spirits of to-day seem to find 
the foresight of I know not what evening, heavy with 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME ;5 

autumnal gold as with beautiful destinies, on a har- 
bour quiet as a basin of perfumed oils where a galley 
throbbing with oriflames shall enter in the midst of a 
strange silence, like a twilight butterfly fluttering into 
the veined chalice of a great flower. 

" Shall not our mortal eyes really see it landing 
under the palace of the Doges some glorious evening? 

" Does it not appear to us from a prophetic horizon 
in that Allegory of Autumn which Tintoretto offers 
us, like a superior created image of our dream of 
yesterday? 

" Seated on the shore like a deity Venice receives 
the ring from the young vine-crowned god who has 
descended into the water, while Beauty soars on her 
wings with the diadem of stars to crown the wonder- 
ful alliance. 

" Look at the distant ship ! it seems to bring some 
announcement. Look at the body of the symbolic 
woman ! both seem capable of bearing the germs of 
a world.'' 

The vast bursting applause was overpowered by 
the youthful clamour that rose like a whirlwind 
towards him who had made so great a hope flash 
before their anxious eyes, towards him who had 
revealed himself as possessing so lucid a faith in the 
occult genius of their race, in the growing virtue of 
the ideals handed down by their fathers, in their 
sovereign dignity of spirit, in the indestructible power 
of Beauty, in all the great values held as nothing by 
modern barbarity. The hearts of his disciples went 
out to the master with an impulse of love, with all 
the effusion of gratitude, for his ardent words had 
brought torch-lights to their souls, and had excited 



^e THE FLAME OF LIFE 

their sense of life to the point of fever. Giorgione's 
creation lived again in each of them : the youth with 
the beautiful white feathers, about to grasp the im- 
mense accumulated spoil. And to each it seemed as 
if his power of enjoyment had been infinitely multi- 
plied. Their cry was so expressive of internal tumult, 
that the Life-giver shivered inwardly, filled by a 
sudden tide of sadness as he thought of the ashes of 
that transient fire, of the morrow's cruel awakening. 
Against what sharp and ignoble hindrances would 
it not have to break, this, their terrible desire of liv- 
ing, and the violent will to direct all the energies of 
their being to a sublime end, to shape the wings of 
victory for their own fate ! 

But the night was favourable to that youthful 
delirium. The dreams of domination, of pleasure, 
and of glory that Venice has first nursed, and then 
suffocated in her marble arms, seemed to rise again 
from the foundations of the palaces, entering by the 
open balconies, throbbing like a people newly restored 
to life under the enormous scrolls of the ceiling that 
was rich and heavy like a suspended treasure. The 
strength that- was swelling the muscles of the gods, 
kings, and heroes effigied round the ample dome and 
the high walls; the beauty that flowed like visible 
music through the nudity of the goddesses, the 
queens, and the courtesans ; the human strength and 
beauty transfigured by centuries of art, — harmonised 
in one single image, that those intoxicated men 
seemed to see real and breathing before their eyes, 
erected there by the new poet. 

Their intoxication vented itself in the shout they 
sent up to him who had offered their parched lips a 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME ;; 

cup of his own wine. All henceforth would be able 
to see the inextinguishable flame through the veil of 
water. Some one among them already imagined him- 
self crumpling laurel leaves to perfume his fingers, and 
some already dreamt of discovering at the bottom of 
a silent' canal the ancient sword and the old, lost 
diadem. 



Stelio Effrena was alone with the statues in one 
of the rooms of the neighbouring museum, impatient 
of any other contact, feeling the necessity of recollect- 
ing himself and quieting the unusual vibration by 
which his whole essence had been dissipated and dis- 
persed over the manifold spirit of the crowd. There 
was no trace in his memory of his recent words ; he 
could find no sign of his recent images. All that 
persisted in his mind was that " inner flower of the . 
flame " that he had mentioned when glorifying the 
first Bonifacio, and had gathered with his own incom- 
bustible fingers for the promised woman. It again 
struck him how at the moment of a spontaneous 
offer, the woman had withdrawn herself, and how, in 
the place of her absent eyes, he had found the indi- 
cating smile. The cloud of ecstasy that had been on 
the point of dissolving seemed to again condense 
above his head; assuming the vague shape of the 
creature of music, and holding the flaming flower in 
an attitude of dominion, it seemed that she was 
emerging above his inward agitation as on the inces- 
sant tremble of a summer sea. The first notes of the 
symphony of Benedetto Marcello reached him from 
the neighbouring hall as if to celebrate that image, 



78 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

their fugue-like movement at once revealing its char- 
acter of great style. A clear, sonorous idea, strong 
as a living person, developed itself in the measure of 
its power, and in that music he recognised the virtue 
of the same principle round which as round a thyrsus 
he had entwined the garland of his poetry. 

Then the name that had already echoed against the 
flank of the ironclad, in the silence and the shadow, 
the name that had been scattered like a sibylline leaf 
by the immense wave of the evening bells, seemed to 
propose its syllables to the orchestra for him, like a 
new theme picked up by the bows of the instruments. 
The violins, the viols, and the violoncellos sang it in 
turn; the sudden blasts of the heroic trumpets ex- 
alted it; finally, with a uniform impetus the whole 
quartette launched it into that heaven of joy where 
the crown of stars offered to Ariadne by the golden 
Aphrodite would presently shine. 



In the pause which followed, Steho underwent a 
singular bewilderment, almost a religious stupor, as if 
he had assisted at an annunciation. He understood 
what a precious thing it was to him to be alone among 
those pure, silent images in that inestimable lyric 
moment. 

A shred of the same mystery that he had grazed 
under the flank of the ironclad as one touches a float- 
ing veil seemed to waver before his eyes in that de- 
serted room that was yet so near to the human crowd. 
It was silent, like the sea-shell lying on the shore by 
the rushing waves. Again, as before at other extraor- 
dinary hours of his journey, he felt that his fate was 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 



7? 



present and about to give his being a new impulse, 
perhaps to call to life in it a marvellous act of will. 
And as he reflected on the mediocrity of the many 
obscure destinies hanging over those heads in the 
crowd, that were eager for the apparitions of ideal 
life, he rejoiced at being where he was to adore the 
auspicious demon-figure that had secretly come to 
visit him and to bring him a shrouded gift in the 
name of an unknown mistress. 

He started at the burst of human voices saluting 
the unconquered king with a triumphant acclamation. 
" Viva il forte, viva il grande." . . . 

The deep hall echoed like a vast timbrel, and the 
reverberation diluted along the staircase of the cen- 
sors and the Golden Staircase, to the loggias, the pas- 
sages, the porches, the vestibules, to the wells, to the 
foundations of the palace, like a thunder of gladness 
rolling in the serene night. 

" Viva il forte, viva il grande 
Vinci tor dell' Indie dome." ^ . . 

It seemed that the chorus was saluting the appari- 
tion of the magnificent god invoked by the poet upon 
the Sea-City. It seemed as if the hem of his purple 
raiment fluttered in those vocal notes like flames in a 
crystal tube. The living image hung suspended over 
the crowd that it was nourishing with its own dream. 
" Viva il forte, viva il grande." . . . 

In the impetuous /«^M^ movement of the bassi, the 
contralti and the soprani repeated their frenzied ac- 
clamation of the Immortal of the thousand names and 

1 " Hail to the strong, hail to the great conqueror o£ vanquished 
India." 



8o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the thousand crowns, "born on an ineffable bed, 
like to a young man in his first youth." 

The old Dionysian intoxication seemed to revive 
and diffuse itself over the divine Chorus. The ful- 
ness and freshness of life in the smile of Zeus, who 
loosed the hearts of men from human sufferings, was 
expressed there with a luminous burst of joy. The 
inextinguishable fires of the Bassarides flamed and 
crackled there. As in the Orphean hymn the light 
of a conflagration illumined the young brow crowned 
with azure hair. " When the splendour of fire in- 
vaded all the earth, he alone chained up the shrill 
whirlwinds of flame." As in the Homeric hymn the 
barren bosom of the sea throbbed there, the meas- 
ured stroke of the numerous oars that were pushing 
the well-built vessel to unknown lands echoed there. 
The Florid, the Fruit-bearer, the visible Remedy of 
mortals, the sacred Flower, the Friend of pleasure, 
Dionysius the liberator, suddenly reappeared before 
the face of man on the wings of song, crowning that 
nocturnal hour with bliss, incessantly holding out to 
his senses as in a full chalice all the good things of life. 

The strength of the song was increasing, the voices 
blending in its rush. The hymn now celebrated the 
tamer of tigers, of panthers, of lions, and of lynxes. 
The Maenads seemed to scream out here with heads 
thrown back, and locks scattered, and dresses loos- 
ened, striking their cymbals, shaking their citherns. 
" Evoe ! " 

A broad pastoral rhythm rose unexpectedly from 
these heroic sounds, bringing forth the images of the 
Theban Bacchus of the pure brow circled with gentle 
thoughts. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 8i 

" Quel che all' olmo la vite in stretto nodo 
Pronuba accoppia, e i pampini feconda." ^ 

Only two voices in a succession of sixths now sang 
the leafy nuptials, the green marriage-feast, the flexi- 
ble ties. The image of the boat on the lagoon, laden 
with bunches like a wine-press about to be trodden, 
already created by the poet's words, passed again 
before the eyes of the multitude. And the song 
seemed to repeat the miracle witnessed by the pru- 
dent pilot Medeia. " And it came to pass that a 
sweet and most fragrant wine ran along the swift, 
black boat. . . . And a vine unfolded itself up to 
the top of the sail, and from it hung numberless 
bunches. And a dark ivy twisted itself about the 
mast, and it was covered with flowers, and beautiful 
fruits grew on it, and garlands were about the row- 
locks." 

The spirit of the fugue then passed into the orches- 
tra, disburdened itself there in beautiful volutes while 
the voices struck the web of the orchestra with a 
simultaneous percussion. And like a light thyrsus 
brandished above the Bacchic crowd, a single voice 
repeated the impartial melody, smiling with the grace 
of that pastoral marriage. 

" Viva deir olmo 
E della vite 
V almo fecondo 
Sostenitor!'"^ 

The single voices seemed to call forth a picture 
of erect Tiades gently waving their thyrsi in the 

1 " He who tightly clasps the vine to the elm-tree, weds them one 
to the other, and fructifies its tendrils." 

* " Hail to the great, fruitful supporter of the vine and the elm-tree." 
6 



82 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

fumes of their intoxication, dressed in long crocus- 
coloured garments, their faces alight, palpitating 
like the women of Veronese who were bending 
from aerial balustrades to drink in the song. 

The heroic applause came up once more with 
final vehemence. The face of the conquering God 
flashed again among the madly waved torches. 
Voices and orchestra thundered in unison in a 
supreme impulse of joy at the huge chimera full of 
eyes under the hanging treasure of the ceiling in the 
circle of red triremes and armed towers and trium- 
phant processions. 

" Viva dell' Indie, 
Viva de' mari. 
Viva de' mostri 
II domator ! " i 

SteHo Efifrena had come as far as the threshold ; 
through the throng that gave way as he passed he 
penetrated into the hall, and remained standing 
against one of the sides of the platform occupied by 
the singers and the orchestra. His anxious eyes 
sought la Foscarina by the heavenly sphere, but did 
not find her. 

The head of the tragic muse no longer rose above 
the belt of constellations. Where was she? Where 
had she withdrawn herself? Could she be seeing 
him without his seeing her? An obscure feeling of 
agitation perturbed him, and all they had seen that 
evening on the waters returned to his spirit con- 
fusedly accompanied by her parting words of promise. 
As he looked through the open balconies he thought 

1 " Hail to the conqueror o£ India, of the seas, and of the 
monster?." 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 83 

she had gone out into the night air, and that perhaps 
she was leaning against the parapet, feeling the waves 
of music pass over her cold neck, deriving from them 
a joy as of shivers communicated by long kisses. 

The expectation of the revealing voice, however, 
overpowered every other thought, abolished every 
other anxiety. He noticed that a deep silence had 
come over the hall, as in the moment when he had 
opened his lips for his first syllable. As in that 
moment the elusive and versatile monster with the 
thousand human faces seemed to stretch out dumbly, 
making a void in itself to receive a new soul. 

He heard some one round him whisper the name 
of Donatella Arvale ; he turned his eyes towards the 
platform beyond the dark hedge of the violoncelli. 
The singer was invisible, concealed by the delicate, 
quivering forest, whence the sorrowful harmony 
was about to arise that was to accompany Ariadne's 
lament. 

In the propitious silence the violins unfolded the 
prelude. The viols and the violoncellos then added 
a deeper sigh to that imploring moan. After the 
Phrygian flute and the Berecinthian cithern, after the 
instruments of revelry the sounds of which trouble 
the reason and spur on delirium, was not this, grave 
and sweet, the august Doric lyre, the harmonious 
fulcrum of song? It was the birth of the Drama 
from the noisy Dithyramb. The great metamor- 
phosis of the Dionysian rite, the frenzy of the sacred 
festival converted into the creative enthusiasm of the 
tragedian, seemed figured by that musical vicis- 
situde. The fiery breath of the Thracian god had 
given life to a sublime form of art. The crown and the 



84 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

tripod decreed as the prize of the poet's victory had 
taken the place of the lascivious goat and the Attic 
basket of figs, ^schilus, keeper of a vineyard, had 
been visited by the god, and had received the infusion 
of his spirit of flame. On the slope of the Acropolis, 
by the sanctuary of Dionysius, a marble theatre had 
arisen worthy of containing the chosen people. 

Thus, suddenly in the inner world of the Life-giver 
the pathways of the centuries had opened up, and 
were stretching away into the distance of primitive 
mysteries. That form of art to which the effort of 
his genius was tending, attracted by the obscure 
aspirations of human multitudes, now appeared to 
him in all the sanctity of its origins. The divine 
sorrow of Ariadne, coming like a melodious cry out 
of the furious Thiaros, imparted a throb to the already 
living, though still formless, work that he was nourish- 
ing within him. Again his glance sought the Muse 
of the propagating voice against the belt of con- 
stellations. As he did not see her, he turned to the 
forest of instruments whence the moan arose. 

Then, among the slight bows that rose and fell on 
the strings with an alternating motion, he saw the 
singer. She was standing straight as a stem, and 
like a stem swaying a little to the hushed harmony. 
The youthfulness of her agile yet robust body seemed 
resplendent through the tissue of her garments like a 
flame seen through the thinness of polished ivory. 
The bows seemed to draw their note from the occult 
music that was in her as they rose and fell round her 
white form. When she curved her lips for her first 
words Stelio felt the strength and purity of the voice 
before he heard its modulation, as if she were before 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 85 

him like a crystal vase in which he could trace the 
ascension of a living spring. 

" Come mai puoi 
Vedermi piangere?" * . . . 

The melody of antique love and sorrow flowed 
from those lips with an expression so strong and 
pure, that as it passed into the manifold soul of the 
audience it immediately changed into mysterious joy. 
Was it indeed the divine weeping of the daughter 
of Minos as she held out her deluded arms to the 
Flavian guest from the deserted shore of Naxos? 
The fable vanished, abolishing the deception of time. 
The eternal love and eternal sorrow of gods and 
men breathed in the sovereign voice. The useless 
regret of each lost joy, the last recalling of each 
fugitive good, the supreme prayer to every sail van- 
ishing in the sea, to every sun hiding in the moun- 
tains, the implacable desire and the promise of death 
passed into the great, solitary song, transformed 
by the virtue of art into sublime essences that the 
soul could receive without suffering. The words 
themselves dissolved in it, lost all meaning, changed 
into indefinitely revealing notes of love and sorrow. 
Like a circle that is closed and yet dilates continually 
with the same throb as universal life, the melody had 
circumscribed the manifold soul that yet dilated with 
it in an immense joy. Through the open balconies, 
in the perfect calm of the autumn night, the fascina- 
tion spread over the torpid waters, rose to the vigi- 
lant stars, went beyond the motionless masts of the 
ships, beyond the sacred towers inhabited by the 

* " How can you bear to see me weep ? " 



86 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

now silent bells. In the interludes the singer would 
bend her young head, apparently lifeless as an image, 
all white in the forest of instruments, surrounded by 
the alternate motion of the long bows, perhaps un- 
conscious of the world that her song had in a 
moment transfigured. 



Stelio Effrena reached the courtyard by a secret 
outlet, so as to be spared the curiosity of the im- 
portunate, and took refuge in a fragment of shadow. 
Thence he watched the throng at the head of the 
Scala dei Giganti and waited for the two women, 
the singer and the actress, who had promised to 
meet him at the well. 

At every instant his expectation became more 
anxious. The immense cry rising round the outer 
walls of the palace reached him and then lost itself 
in the heavens that were illumined by a red glare as 
of a conflagration. An almost terrible joy seemed 
spreading over the Sea-City. It seemed that a vehe- 
ment breath had suddenly come to dilate the narrow 
hearts, and that a superabundance of sensual life was 
swelling the arteries of man. The repetition of the 
Bacchic chorus celebrating the crown of stars laid 
by Aphrodite on the forgetful head of Ariadne, the 
great hymn of glory followed by the supreme clam- 
ours of the revels of Thiaros, had drawn a cry from 
the throng gathered on the Molo under the open 
balconies. 

At the final elevation, in unison on the word 
" Viva!" in the chorus of Maenads, Satyrs, and 
Egipans, the chorus of the populace in the harbour 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 87 

of San Marco had answered like a formidable echo. 
And at that point it had seemed as if their delirium, 
remembering the woods burned of old on the sacred 
nights, had given the signal of the conflagration in 
which the beauty of Venice was finally to stand 
resplendent. 

The dream of Paris Eglano flashed on Stelio's 
desire, — the spectacle of the miraculous flames 
offered to love on the floating bed. The image of 
Donatella Arvale persisted in his eyes: a nimble, 
youthful figure, powerful and shapely, standing out 
of the forest of sound in the midst of the alternating 
motion of the bows that seemed to draw their note 
from the hidden music that was in her. And, with 
a strange pain in which there passed something like 
a shadow of horror, he saw the image of the other 
woman, — poisoned by art, overcharged with volup- 
tuous knowledge, her eloquent mouth full of the 
savours of maturity and corruption, a dryness as of 
fever in her hands that had pressed the juice from 
all deceitful fruits, and the traces of a hundred masks 
on her face that had shammed the fury of mortal 
passions. To-night at last, after the long interme- 
diate desire, he was to receive the gift of the age- 
ing body, that was saturated with caresses and yet 
still unknown to him. How he had trembled and 
vibrated a little while ago, as he sat by the side 
of the silent woman, gliding towards the City Beau- 
tiful on waters that had seemed to both as if rushing 
through a fearful clepsydra ! Ah, why was she now 
coming towards him with the other temptress? Why 
was she placing, by the side of her knowledge full of 
despair, the pure splendour of that young life? 



88 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

With a deep throb he noticed the figure of la 
Foscarina standing in the light of the smoking 
torches at the top of the marble staircase, so tightly 
pressed by the crowd upon that of Donatella Arvale 
that they blended into each other in one same white- 
ness. His eyes followed them down the staircase in 
the same suspense, as if at every step they were put- 
ting their feet on the margin of an abyss. In those 
brief hours the stranger had already lived within 
him a life so intense that his emotion on seeing her 
draw near him was such as he would have felt had 
he suddenly been met by the living incarnation of 
one of the ideal creatures born of his art. 

She was coming slowly down through the human 
tide that her song had raised for a moment to the 
height of joy. Behind her, the Palace of the Doges, 
crossed by sudden flashes and confused sounds, gave 
the impression of one of those fabulous awakenings 
that suddenly transfigure the inaccessible palaces in 
the midst of a wood where the long hair on some royal 
head had grown in their solitude through the ages, 
feeding on their silence like the eternal willows on 
a lethal river. The two guardian Giants blazed red 
in the red light of the torches; the cusp of the 
Golden Gate glittered with little lamps ; beyond the 
north wing, the five cupolas of the basilica reigned 
in the heavens like vast mitres studded with chryso- 
lites. And .still the great clamour rose, rose above 
the crowd of marbles, bold as the lowing of the 
sea in a storm against the walls of Malamocco. 
Stelio saw the two temptresses come to his desire 
in the midst of this festive tumult, in this con- 
trast of unusual appearances, both emerging from 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 89 

the crowd as from the clasp of a monster. And 
his desire pictured to him extraordinary promiscui- 
ties which he beheved could be realised with the 
facility of dreams and the solemnity of liturgic 
ceremonies. He thought Perdita must be leading 
that magnificent prey to him for some recondite 
aim of beauty, for some great work of love which 
she herself would help him accomplish. Perdita's 
words that night, he thought, would be wonderful 
in their meaning. And the indefinable melancholy 
he had felt on leaning over the bronze edge, on 
gazing at the reflection of the stars in the dark 
inner well, passed over his spirit ; he seemed to feel 
himself in the expectation of some event about to 
stir that secret soul in the last depths of his being 
which had remained, like the mirror of water, un- 
moved and strange and intangible. By the dizzy 
quickening of his thoughts, he understood that he 
had attained the state of grace, that he was near 
the divine delirium which only the virtues of the 
lagoon could give him. And he went forth from the 
shadow to meet the two women with an intoxicating 
presentiment. 

" Oh, Effrena," la Foscarina said, coming up to 
the well, " I did not hope to find you here. We 
are very late, are we not? But we were hemmed in 
by the crowd without escape. ..." 

Turning to her companion, she added, smiling, 
" Donatella, here is the Lord of the Flame." 

Without speaking, yet smiling, Donatella Arvale 
acknowledged Stelio's deep salute. 

Drawing her towards her, la Foscarina resumed : 

"We must go and look for our gondola. It is wait- 



90 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

ing for us at the Ponte della Paglia. Are you coming 
with us, Effrena? We must seize our moment. The 
crowd is rushing towards the Piazzetta. The Queen 
comes out by the Porta della Carta." 

A long, united cry greeted the appearance of the 
fair pearled Queen at the head of the staircase, whence 
at one time, in the presence of the people, the Doge 
was wont to receive the ducal ensign. Once more 
the name of the white starry flower and of the pure 
pearl was repeated by the crowd and echoed by the 
marble. Flashes of joy sparkled in the sky; a thou- 
sand pigeons of fire flew away from the pinnacles of 
San Marco like flaming messengers. 

"The Epiphany of the Flame," exclaimed la 
Foscarina, as on reaching the Molo she came upon 
the hallucinating spectacle. 

By her side Donatella Arvale and Stelio Effrena 
stopped, struck with wonder, looking at each other 
with dazed eyes. And their faces, lit up by the 
reflection, shone as if they were bending over a 
furnace or the mouth of a crater. 



All the innumerable appearances of volatile and 
many-coloured Fire spread over the firmament, 
crawled on the water, twined round the masts of the 
vessels, garlanded the cupolas and the towers, adorned 
the entablatures, wrapped themselves round the 
statues, budded on the capitals, enriched every line, 
transfigured every aspect of the sacred and profane 
architectures in the midst of which the deep harbour 
was like an enchanted mirror that multiplied the 
marble. The astonished eye could no longer distin- 



/ 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 91 



guish the quality of the various elements : it was 
deluded by a mobile and measureless vision, all the 
forms of which lived a lucid, fluid life suspended in 
vibrating ether, so that the slim prows curving on the 
waters and the myriad pigeons of fire in the heavens 
seemed to vie with each other in a similar flight and 
to both reach the summit of the immaterial edifices. 
That which in the twilight had seemed a silvery 
palace dedicated to Neptune and built after the like- 
ness of tortuous marine forms, had now become a 
temple built by the willing genii of Fire. It seemed, 
on a giant scale, one of those labyrinthian dweUings 
rising on the andirons at the hundred doors of which 
the two-faced presages with their ambiguous gestures 
appear to the watching maiden ; it seemed, on a giant 
scale, one of those frail, regal palaces, all vermilion, 
at the thousand windows of which the salamander 
princesses look out for an instant, laughing voluptu- 
ously at the thoughtful poet. The sphere of the 
Fortuna, borne on the shoulders of the Atlantides, 
radiated on the triple loggia near by, rosy as a wan- 
ing moon, a cycle of satellites springing from its 
reflection. From the Riva, from San Giorgio, from 
the Giudecca, fiery bunches of stars sparkled cease- 
lessly, converged on high and burst there into roses, 
lilies, palms, into flowers of Paradise forming an aerial 
garden that continually melted and continually re- 
newed itself with ever richer and stranger blossoms. 
It was like a rapid succession of supernal springs and 
autumns; an immense rain of sparks made of leaves 
and petals fell from the dissolution of the heavens, 
wrapping all things in its tremulous gold. Through 
the gap that opened out in that thickness one could 



92 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

see still far off a beflagged flotilla advancing from 
the lagoon: a flock of galleys similar perhaps to 
that which might float through the dream of a child 
of pleasure, sleeping his last sleep on a bed steeped 
in deadly perfumes; like those dream-vessels, they 
too perhaps had cables made of the twisted hair of 
female slaves brought from conquered countries and 
still dripping with sweet oils; like them, perhaps, 
their hulls too were full of myrrh, spikenard, ben- 
zoin, balsam of Syria, cinnamon, all the aromas; 
arid of sandal, cedar, terebinth, all the odoriferous 
woods in different layers. The indescribable colours 
of the flags that adorned them suggested perfumes 
and spices. Blue and green and greenish blue, 
crocus-coloured, violet, and of indistinct blendings, 
those flags seemed to escape from an internal con- 
flagration and to have been coloured by unknown 
processes. Thus, perhaps, in the fury of ancient 
sieges fire was set to reservoirs that contained the 
essences destined to the wives of the Syrian princes ; 
and thus, on the water dotted over by the molten 
matters gathered in its hulls, the magnificent lost 
fleet advanced towards the harbour, slowly as if its 
pilots were ecstatic dreams that would lead it to the 
foot of the columned Lion, there to consume itself 
like a gigantic votive pyre, perfuming and stupefying 
the soul of Venice for all eternity. 

" The Epiphany of the Flame ! What an unfore- 
seen commentary to your poem, Effrena ! The City 
of Life responds by a miracle to your act of adora- 
tion. She is all burning, through her veil of water. 
Are you not satisfied? Look! Millions of golden 
pomegranates are hanging everywhere." 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 93 

The actress was smiling and the festival illumined 
her face. She seemed under the empire of that 
singular gaiety of hers that Stelio well knew, apd 
that because of its dull creaking sound gave him the 
idea of a deep, shut-up house where violent hands 
suddenly opened all the doors and windows, causing 
them to turn on their corroded hinges. 

" We must praise Ariadne," he said, " for having 
given this harmony its highest note." 

He only said those words that the singer might 
be induced to speak, only because of his desire to 
hear what the tone of her voice would be when not 
lifted up in song. But his praise was lost in the 
reiterated clamour of the crowd that overflowed on 
the Molo, making delay impossible. From the shore 
where he stood he helped the two friends into their 
gondola, then sat down on the stool at their knee, 
and the long dentellated prow, throwing out sparks, 
entered into the enchantment. 

" To the Rio Marin, by the Canalazzo," la Foscarina 
ordered the boatman. "Do you know, Effrena, we 
are going to have some of your best friends to 
supper, — Francesco de Lizo, Daniele Glauro, Prince 
Hoditz, Antimo della Bella, Fabio Molza, Baldassare 
Stampa — .? " 

" It is going to be a banquet, then? " 

" Alas ! not that of Cana ! " 

" But will Lady Myrta not be there with her 
Veronese-like greyhounds?" 

" Certainly, Lady Myrta will not fail ; did you not 
see her in the hall? She was sitting in one of the 
first rows wrapped up in you." 

Because they had looked each other in the eyes 



94 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

as they spoke, a sudden confusion invaded them. 
And the remembrance of the full twilight hour they 
had lived on that same water cleaved by that same 
oar filled their souls like a tide of troubled blood ; 
they were surprised by a swift return of that same 
anguish which both had felt when on the point of 
leaving behind them the silence of the estuary already 
in the power of shadow and death. And their lips 
rebelled against vain, deceitful words, and their souls 
withdrew from the effort of incHning themselves for 
the sake of prudence towards the passing ornaments 
of the life of joy that now seemed worthless, absorbed 
as they were in the consideration of the strange figures 
that were rising from their own depth with an aspect 
of monstrous wealth never before seen, like the heaped 
up treasures that shafts of light were discovering in 
the night waters. 

And because they were silent as they had been 
when they approached the vessel with the descending 
flag, they felt the presence of the creature of music 
weigh the more heavily on their silence, as in the 
interval when they had first heard her name ; and, 
little by little, that weight became intolerable. 
Nevertheless, she appeared to be as distant from 
Stelio, who was sitting at her knee, as she had been 
a moment ago among the forest of instruments : apart 
and unconscious, as a moment ago in the joy of her 
song. She had not yet spoken. 

Almost timidly and only to hear her speak, Stelio 
asked her: — 

"Are you staying some time longer in Venice?" 

He had tried to choose the words he should address 
to her : all those that had come as far as his lips had 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 95 

troubled him, had seemed too full of ambiguous 
meanings, too much alive, insidious, fit for incal- 
culable transformations of life like the unknown 
seed from which spring the thousand roots. And 
it had seemed to him that none of these could be 
heard by Perdita too without her love being left the 
sadder for them. 

Only after having uttered the simple, usual question 
he noticed that even in its words an infinity of hope 
and desire could lie hidden. 

" I shall have to leave to-morrow," answered Dona- 
tella Arvale ; " even now I ought not to be here." 

Her voice, that was so clear and powerful in the 
heights of song, sounded low and sober as if suffused 
with a slight opaque quality, suggesting the image of 
a precious metal wrapped in the most delicate velvet. 
Her brief answer suggested a place of suffering to 
which she was about to return, where she would 
submit herself to some well-known torture; a sor- 
rowful strength of will, like iron tempered in tears, 
sparkled through the veil of her young beauty. 

" To-morrow ! " exclaimed Stelio, with sincere regret. 
" Have you heard, Signora?" 

" I know," said la Foscarina, gently, taking Dona- 
tella's hand. " And it is a great sorrow to me to see 
her go. But she cannot remain too long away from 
her father. Perhaps you still ignore . . ." 

"What?" Stelio asked quickly. "Is he ill? It 
is true, then, that Lorenzo Arvale is ill ! '•' 

" No, he is tired," la Foscarina answered, touching 
her forehead with an involuntary gesture that showed 
Stelio the horrible threat hanging over the genius of 
the artist who had seemed as fertile and untiring as 



96 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

one of the old masters : a Delia Robbia or a Verroc- 
chio. " He is only tired. He needs rest and sooth- 
ing balsams, and his daughter's song is an unequalled 
balm to him. Do not you too, Effrena, believe in the 
healing power of music? " 

" Certainly," he said. " Ariadne has a divine gift 
by which her power transcends all limits." 

The name of Ariadne came spontaneously to his 
lips to indicate the singer such as he saw her. It 
seemed to him that he could not utter the girl's own 
name preceded by the ordinary generic epithet im- 
posed by social customs. As he saw her, she was 
singular and entire, freed from the small ties of cus- 
tom, living her own secluded life, like a great work 
on which style should have set its inviolable seal. In 
his eyes, she was isolated like those figures that stand 
out because of sharp and deepened outline, a stranger 
to ordinary life, fixed on some profoundly secret 
thought; and already, before the intensity of that 
concentration, he felt a kind of passionate impatience 
not dissimilar to that of the curious man who should 
find himself before some hermetically closed thing 
that tempts him. 

" Ariadne had for the healing of her sorrows 
that gift of oblivion," she said, " which is denied 
to me." 

A perhaps involuntary bitterness coloured her 
words. In it Stelio perceived the landmarks of an 
aspiration towards some life that should be less 
oppressed by useless suffering. His rapid intuition 
divined her indignation at her state of slavery, her 
horror of the sacrifice to which she was forcing her- 
self, the vehement desire in her of rising towards joy, 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 97 

and the aptitude in her of being drawn Hke a beauti- 
ful bow by some strong hand that should know how 
to use it as its weapon for a great conquest. He 
divined that she had lost all hope of her father's 
recovery; that it was painful to her to henceforth 
feel herself no more than the custodian of an extin- 
guished hearth, of ashes that had no sparks ; and the 
image of the great stricken artist appeared to him 
not such as he was, since he had never seen his per- 
ishable mask, but such as he was pictured to him 
by the ideas of beauty which he had expressed in 
lasting bronze and marble. And he gazed fixedly at 
that image in an agony of terror more icy than that 
which the most awful aspects of death could have 
inspired. And all his strength and all his pride 
and all his desire seemed to resound within him 
like a bundle of arms scattered by a threatening 
hand, and there was no fibre in him which did not 
quiver. 

La Foscarina raised the funeral pall that in the 
midst of the splendours of the festival had changed 
the gondola into a coffin. 

" See there, Effrena," she said, pointing to the 
balcony of Desdemona's house. " See the fair 
Nineta receiving the homage of the Serenade seated 
between her monkey and her pet dog." 

" Ah, the fair Nineta," exclaimed Stelio, shaking 
off his sad thoughts, bending towards the smiling bal- 
cony and, with cordial vivacity, sending a greeting to 
the little woman who was listening to the musicians by 
the light of two silver candelabra. Garlands of the 
year's last roses hung entwined about the sconces. 
" I have not seen her again yet. She is the gentlest 

7 



98 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and most graceful animal I know. What a piece of 
good fortune it was for our dear Hoditz to have dis- 
covered her behind the lid of a harpsichord while 
rummaging in an old curiosity shop at San Samuele ! 
Two pieces of good fortune in one day: the fair 
Nineta and a lid painted by Pordenone. From that 
day the harmony of his life has been complete. How 
I should like y@u to penetrate to his nest ! You 
would find there a truly admirable example of what I 
was saying to-day at sunset. Here is a man who by 
obeying his native taste for subtlety has composed 
his own little fable with minute art, and in it he lives 
as happy as his Moravian ancestor in the arcadia of 
Rosswald. Ah, how many exquisite things I know 
of him ! " 

A wide />eoia adorned with many-coloured lanterns 
full of singers and musicians was floating under the 
house of Desdemona. The old song of brief youth 
and passing beauty rose sweetly to the little woman 
who listened, smiling her childlike smile, between 
her monkey and her little dog as in a print by Pietro 
Longhi. 

"Do beni vu ghave, 
Beleza e zoventu ; 
Co i va no i torna piu, 
Nina, raia cara."* 

" Don't you think that this is the true soul of 
Venice and that the other one which you have pic- 

' " Two good things are yours, 
Beauty and youth ; 
When they go they \\\',\ not return 
Nina, my dear." 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE. FLAME 99 

tured to the crowd is only your own, Effrena?" said 
la Foscarina, her head swaying a little to the languid 
melody that floated all along the Grand Canal, 
repeated far away by the other song-boats. 

" No, this is not it," answered Stelio. " There is 
within each of us, flitting like a butterfly on the sur- 
face of our deep souls, a more trivial soul, an animiila 
vagula, a slight playful spirit that often carries us away 
and persuades us to yield to easy, mediocre pleasures, 
to puerile pastimes and light melodies. This ani- 
mula vagula is there, even in the gravest and most 
violent natures, like the clown attached to the per- 
son of Othello, and often it deceives our judgment. 
You are listening now to the child-soul of Venice, 
humming on its guitars; but her real soul is only 
to be discovered in her silence, and most terribly, 
be sure of that, in full summer, in the full noon- 
tide, like the great Pan. Nevertheless, . there on 
the harbour of San Marco I had indeed thought 
that you were feeling its vibration in the immense 
conflagration. You are forgetting Giorgione for 
Rosalba." 

Round the peota full of song other boats had as- 
sembled, full of languid women, who turned towards 
the music with gestures of lassitude, as if on the 
point of sinking into invisible arms. And round all 
that accumulated voluptuousness, the reflections of 
the lanterns in the water trembled like a flowering 
of luminous multicoloured water-lilies. 

" Se lassarfe passar 
La bela e fresca etk, 
Un zorno i ve dirk 
Vechia maura ; 



lOO THE FLAME OF LIFE 

E bramarfe, ma invan, 
Quel che shavevi in man 
Co avfe lassk scampar 
La congiontura." * 

It was truly the song of the year's last roses fading 
away as they twined round the sconces. In Perdita's 
soul it conjured up the pageant of dead summer, 
the opalescent veil in which Stelio had wrapped the 
gentle corpse dressed in gold. Through the glass 
sealed by the Lord of the Flame, she could see her 
own image lying at the bottom of the lagoon, on 
its field of seaweeds. A sudden chill took hold of 
her limbs ; again the horror and disgust of her own 
ageing body gripped her. And, remembering the 
recent promise, thinking how her beloved might that 
very night exact the keeping of it, her whole body 
contracted in the pulsation of her sorrowful modesty 
made of fear and of pride. Her experienced, des- 
pairing eyes ran over the woman beside her, sought 
her out, penetrated her, felt her occult but certain 
strength, her intact freshness, her pure healthiness, 
and that indefinable virtue of love emanating like 
an aroma from the chaste bodies of virgins once they 
have attained the perfection of their blossoming. 
She seemed to admit the secret affinity that already 
ran between the girl and the Life-giver. She seemed 
to divine the words with which he silently addressed 
her. The anguish was so fearful that it bit her 

1 " If you let your fine, fresh age pass away, 
One day it will call you 
A ripened old thing ; 
And you will desire, but in vain, 
All that you had 
When you let the occasion slip." 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME loi 

bosom intolerably, and her convulsed fingers clutched 
the black rope running along the side of the gon- 
dola, and the little metal griffin that held it creaked 
at her involuntary movement. 

That movement did not escape Stelio, who was 
watching her anxiously. He understood her ex- 
treme anguish and himself suffered from it acutely 
for a few moments ; but his feeling was mixed with 
an almost angry impatience, because her anguish, 
like a cry of destruction, crossed and interrupted a 
fiction of transcendant life that he had been in- 
wardly composing in order to conciliate the con- 
trast, to conquer the new force presenting itself 
before him, like a bow ready to be drawn, and at 
the same time not to lose the savour of that maturity 
which life had steeped in all its essences, the benefit 
of that passionate attention and faith by which his 
intellect was sharpened, as by a kindling drug, and 
his pride nourished as by a continual act of praise. 
" Ah, Perdita," he was thinking, " why has not a 
pure spirit of human love sprung from the fermen- 
tation of your numberless human loves? Ah, why 
have I finally conquered you with my desire, al- 
though I know that it is too late ; and why do you 
let me read in your eyes the certainty of your com- 
ing gift, in the midst of a flood of doubts that will 
not be sufficient to revive the abolished prohibition ? 
Both of us, well knowing that all the ability of our 
long communion was in that prohibition, have not 
known how to preserve it, and are going to yield 
blindly, at the last hour, to the command of a tur- 
bid, nocturnal voice. Even a little while ago, when 
your head was standing out from the belt of con- 



I02 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

stellations, I no longer saw in you the carnal mis- 
tress, but the muse and the apostle of my poetry. 
And all the gratitude of my soul went out to you 
for your promise of glory, not for your promise of 
pleasure. Have you not understood, as you always 
do? With marvellous fancy, as ever, have you not 
led my desire along the ray of your smile towards 
something resplendent with youth that you yourself 
had chosen and reserved for me? In descending 
the staircase and coming towards me together with 
her, had you not the appearance of one bearing a 
gift, of one bringing an unexpected announcement? 
Nor wholly unwaited for, Perdita, not wholly un- 
waited for, because I knew some extraordinary act 
must come from your infinite wisdom." 

" How happy the fair Nineta is with her monkey 
and her little dog ! " sighed the despairing woman, 
looking back towards the light song and the laughing 
balcony. 

" La zoventu xe un fior 

Che apena nato el mor, 

E un zomo gnanco mi 

No saro quela." ^ 

Also Donatella Arvale turned and Stelio Effrena 
with her. The light skiff carried the three faces of 
that heavy destiny, without sinking, over the water 
and the music. 

" E vegna quel che vol, 
Lassfe che vaga ! " * 

' " Youth is a flower 

No sooner born than dead ; 

And I, too, one day, 

Will be the same no longer." 

* " And come what will, 
And let it go I " 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 103 

All along the Grand Canal, repeated in the dis- 
tance by all the boats, flowed the melody of transient 
pleasure. Fascinated by its rhythm, the slaves of 
the oar united their voices to the joyful chorus. 
That joy, which had seemed terrible to the Life-giver, 
when he heard it in the first cry of the crowd massed 
on the Molo, had now become attenuated, more las- 
civious, had blossomed into grace and playfulness, 
had become soft and indulgent. The more frivo- 
lous soul of Venice repeated the refrain of forgetful 
life, lightly touching its guitars and dancing among 
the festoons of lanterns. 

" E vegna quel che vol, 
Lassfe che vaga ! " 

Suddenly, in the curve of the canal, before the red 
palace of the Foscari, a great galleon flamed like a 
burning tower. More lightning crackled in the sky. 
More fiery pigeons flew up from the fortress, sur- 
passed the small light towers, slipped down along the 
marbles, fluttered, hissed on the water, multiplied 
themselves in numberless sparks, and floated there, 
smoking. Along the parapets, from the decks, from 
the poop, from the prow, a thousand fountains of fire 
opened up, dilated, blended, illuminating the canal 
from one part to the other, painting it a violent red 
as far as San Vitale, as far as the Rialto. The gal- 
leon disappeared from sight, transformed by the ceas- 
ing of the fireworks into a purplish thunder-cloud. 

" Turn down San Polo, turn down San Polo," la 
Foscarina called to the oarsman, lowering her head 
as under a storm, and pressing her hands to her ears 
to defend them from the roar. 

And with dazzled eyes Donatella Arvale and 



104 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Stelio Effrena again glanced at each other. And 
their faces were as resplendent, lit up by the reflected 
glare, as if both had been bending over a furnace or 
the mouth of a crater. 

The gondola entered the canal of San Polo and 
slipped into its shade. A sudden veil of ice fell on 
its three silent occupantSi Under the arch of the 
bridge, the cadence of the oar struck upon their souls 
and the noise of the festival seemed infinitely far 
away. All the houses were dark; the belfry rose 
lonely and silent among the stars, the Campiello del 
Reiner and the Campiello del Pistor were deserted, 
and the grass breathed there in peace; the trees 
hanging over the walls of the little gardens seemed 
to feel their leaves dying on their branches lifted up 
to the quiet sky. 



" The rhythm of art and the pulse of life then have 
again beaten in Venice with one same throb, at least 
for a few hours," said Daniele Glauro, lifting from the 
table a chalice from which only the sacred Host was 
missing. " Let me express, also, in the name of so 
many who are absent, the gratitude and fervour that 
are blending in one single image of beauty the three 
persons to whom we owe the miracle, — the lady oi 
the banquet, the daughter of Lorenzo Arvale, and 
the poet of Persephone." 

"Why the lady of the banquet, Glauro?" la Fos- 
carina asked, smiling, with astonished grace. " I, like 
yourself, have not given but have received joy. It is 
Donatella whom we should crown and Stelio Effrena. 
The glory of it goes to both." 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 105 

" But your silent presence in the Hall of the Greater 
Council, near the celestial sphere, a little while ago," 
answered the mystic doctor, " was not less eloquent 
than Stelio's words, nor less musical than Ariadne's 
song. Once more you have divinely carved your 
own statue in silence, and it shall live in our mem- 
ory together with the words and the song." 

Stelio Effrena, with a deep, inward shiver, again 
saw the ephemeral, versatile monster from whose side 
the tragic muse had emerged, with her head lifted to 
the belt of constellations. 

" True, true," exclaimed Francesco de Lizo. " I 
think so too. Whoever saw you, while listening to 
the song, the words, and the symphony, could not 
but recognise in you the visible centre of that ideal 
world that each one of us — us the faithful, us the 
near ones — felt was growing out of his own aspi- 
rations." 

" Each one of us," said Fabio Molza, " felt that there 
was great and unusual significance in your person as 
it stood before the poet, dominating the crowd." 

" It seemed that you alone were about to assist at 
the mysterious birth of a new idea," said Antimo 
della Bella; "everything seemed animating itself to 
generate that idea which must soon be revealed to us, 
if having waited for it with so much faith has made 
us at all worthy." 

The Life-giver,, with another shudder, felt the work 
which he was nourishing leap within him, formless 
still, but already a living thing, and his whole soul 
stretched out with an impetuous movement, as if 
carried away by a lyric breath, towards the power of 
fertilisation and of revelation that emanated from the 



io6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Dionysian woman to whom the praise of those fer- 
vent spirits was rising. 

She had suddenly become very beautiful, a noctur- 
nal creature forged out of dreams and passions on an 
anvil of gold, a breathing image of immortal fate and 
eternal enigmas. Although she was motionless, al- 
though she was silent, her well-known accents and 
her memorable gestures seemed to live about her, 
vibrating indefinitely, like melodies round the chords 
that repeat them, like its rhymes round the closed 
book where love and pain go in search of them, 
to find comfort and intoxication. The heroic fidel- 
ity of Antigone, the fury of Cassandra, the devour- 
ing fever of Phaedra, the fierceness of Medea, 
the sacrifice of Iphigenia; Mirra before his father, 
Polissena and Alcestes before the face of death, 
Cleopatra, changeable like the wind and flame of the 
world; Lady Macbeth, that dreaming murderess of 
the little hands and the large lilies pearled over with 
dew and with fears; Imogen, Juliet, Miranda; and 
Rosamund and Jessica and Perdita, the sweetest souls 
and the most terrible and the most magnificent, — 
were all in her, living in her body, flashing through her 
pupils, breathing in her mouth that knew of honey 
and of poison, of the gemmed goblet and the cup of 
wormwood. Thus, with an unlimited vastness and 
through endless time, the outlines of human age and 
substance seemed to widen and perpetuate them- 
selves ; and for no other reason than the motion of a 
muscle, a sign, a gesture, a line of feature, a tremor 
of the eyelids, a slight change of colour, an almost 
imperceptible bend of the brows, a changing play of 
light and shade, a lightning-like virtue of expression 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 107 

radiating from that thin, frail body, infinite worlds 
of undying beauty were continually generated. The 
very genii of the places consecrated by poetry 
breathed over her and girded her round with alterna- 
ting visions : the dusty plain of Thebe, the parched 
Argolide, the burnt up myrtles of Trezene, the sacred 
olives of Colonus, the triumphant Cydnus, the pale 
landscape of Dunsinane, Prospero's cave, the wood in 
the Ardennes, regions furrowed with blood, laboured 
by pain, transfigured by a dream or lighted by an 
inextinguishable smile, appeared, receded, and melted 
away behind her head. And other remote regions : 
regions of mist, northern plains, the immense con- 
tinents beyond the ocean where she had passed like 
an unknown force, carrying her voice and her flame 
with her, melted away behind her head; with the 
multitudes, their hills and rivers, the gulfs, the impure 
cities, the ancient forsaken races, the strong peoples 
panting for the dominion of the world, the new 
peoples that wrest from nature her most secret 
energies to make them the slaves of omnipotent labour 
in edifices of iron and glass, the colonies of bastard 
races that ferment and grow corrupt on virgin soil, 
all the barbarous crowds to which she had appeared 
as a sovereign revelation of Latin genius, all the 
unconscious masses to which she had spoken the 
sublime language of Dante, all the innumerable 
human herds whence the aspiration to beauty, had 
risen towards her on a wave of confused hopes and 
anxieties. As she stood there, a creature made of 
perishable flesh and subject to the sad laws of time, 
an immeasurable mass of real and ideal life seemed 
to weigh upon her and widen round her, throbbing 



io8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

with the rhythm of her breath. It was not on the 
stage only that she had cried out and suffocated her 
sobs, but she had loved, fought, and suffered vio- 
lently in her daily life for herself, for her own soul, 
for her flesh and blood. What loves ? What battles ? 
What spasms? From what depths of melancholy 
had she drawn the sublimate of her tragic power? 
At what springs of bitterness had she watered her 
free genius? Certainly she had witnessed the cruel- 
est misery, the darkest ruin ; she had known heroic ef- 
forts, pity, horror, and the threshold of death. All her 
thirsts had kindled again in the delirium of Phaedra; 
and in the submission of Imogen all her tenderness 
had trembled anew. Thus Life and Art, the irrevo- 
cable past and the eternally present, had made her 
profound, many-souled and mysterious, had magnified 
her ambiguous fate beyond human limits, making her 
equal to the temples and the forests. 

She stood on, breathing under the eyes of the poets, 
who saw her one and yet different. 

"Ah, I will possess you as in a vast orgy; I will 
shake you like a bundle of thyrsi ; I will shake from 
the knowledge of your body all the divine and 
monstrous things that weigh upon you ; the things 
you have accomplished, and those still in travail that 
are growing in you as in a sacred season," spoke the 
lyric demon of the Life-giver, recognising in the 
woman's mystery the surviving power of the primitive 
myth, the renewed initiation of the deity which had 
fused all the energies of nature in one single ferment, 
and with the varying of its rhythms and in the en- 
thusiastic worship of himself had raised human senses 
and the human spirit to the summit of joy and pain. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 109 

" It will be good, it will be good, to have waited so 
long. The passing of years, the tumult of dreams, 
the agonies of the struggle and the swiftness of 
triumph, the impurity of many loves, the enchant- 
ment of poets, the applause of the crowd, the wonders 
of earth, the patience and the fury, the footsteps in 
the mud, the blind flights, all the evil, all the good, 
what I know and what I ignore, what you know and 
what you ignore, — all this had to be, to make the ful- 
ness of my night that is coming." 

He felt himself suffocate and turn pale. Desire 
seized him by the throat with a wild impulse, to leave 
him no more; and his heart swelled with that same 
anxiety that both had felt in the evening when they 
had glided over the water that had seemed flowing 
in a frightful clepsydra. 

As the exaggerated vision of places and events 
vanished suddenly, the nocturnal creature reappeared 
stilll more profoundly knitted to the city of the vast 
necklaces and the thousand girdles of green. In the 
city and in the woman he now saw a power of ex- 
pression that he had never seen before. The one and 
the other burned in the Autumn night, and the same 
fever that ran through the canals was running through 
her veins. 

The stars glittered, the trees swayed behind Per- 
dita's head, a garden stretched out beyond the 
windows open on the balconies. Whiffs from the 
sky stole into the supper-room, agitating the little 
flames of the candelabra and the chahces of the 
flowers; they passed through the doors, giving 
the curtains a light throb, animating that old house 
of the Capello where the last great daughter of San 



no THE FLAME OP LIFE 

Marco whom the people had covered with glory and 
with gold had collected her relics of republican 
magnificence. Galleon lamps, Turkish targets, quiv- 
ers of leather, bronze helmets, velvet sheaths, adorned 
the rooms of the last descendant of that marvellous 
Cesare d'Arbes who had kept the Art of Comedy- 
alive against the goldonian reform, and changed the 
agony of the Serene Republic into a convulsion of 
laughter. 

" All I ask is to serve that idea humbly," la 
Foscarina said to Antimo della Bella, with a slight 
tremor in her voice because she had met Stelio's 
gaze. 

" You alone can make it triumph," said Francesco 
de Lizo. " The soul of the crowd is subject to you 
for ever." 

" The drama," declared Daniele Glauro, " can only 
be a rite or a message. The performance should be 
once more solemn as a ceremony, including as it 
does the two elements that make up all worship, — the 
living person on the stage in whom, as before the 
altar, the word of the revealer is made incarnate, 
and the presence of the multitude silent as in its 
temples. . . ." 

" Bayreuth ! " interrupted Prince Hoditz. 

" No, the Janiculum ! " cried Stelio EfFrena, sud- 
denly emerging from his dizzy silence, " a Roman hill. 
Not the bricks and the wood of Upper Francony. 
We will have a marble theatre on our Roman hill." 

The sudden opposition of his words seemed to 
have been almost brought about by a kind of joyful 
contempt. 

" Do you not admire the work of Richard Wagner?" 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME iii 

asked Donatella Aryale, with a slight frown that for an 
instant made her Hermes-like face seem almost hard. 

He looked her straight in the eyes, feeling all that 
was obscurely hostile in the girl's manner and himself 
sharing against her that indistinct enmity. He saw 
her living her own encircled life apart, immovable 
in some deeply secret thought, a stranger and 
inviolable. 

" The work of Richard Wagner," he answered, " is 
founded on the German spirit, and its essence is 
purely northern. His reform has some analogy with 
that which Luther attempted ; his drama is nothing 
if not the supreme flower of the genius of a race, the 
extraordinarily efficacious summing up of the aspira- 
tions that have burdened the soul of the symphonists 
and of the national poets from Bach to Beethoven, 
from Wieland to Goethe. If you could imagine his 
work on the shores of the Mediterranean, among our 
light olive-trees and our slender laurels, under the 
glory of the Latin sky, you would see it grow pale 
and dissolve. Since, according to his own words, it 
is given to the artist to see a still unformed world 
shining in its future perfection, and to enjoy it pro- 
phetically in desire and in hope, I announce the 
advent of a new or renewed art that by the powerful, 
sincere simplicity of its lines, by its vigorous grace, 
by the ardour of its spirit, by the pure force of its 
harmonies, shall continue and crown the immense 
ideal edifice of our elect race. I glory myself that I 
am a Latin, and — forgive me, dreaming Lady Myrta,' 
forgive me. Prince Hoditz, — I see a barbarian in 
every man of different blood. 

"But he, too, Richard Wagner, started from the 



112 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Greeks in developing the thread of his theory," said 
Baldassare Statnpa, who, having just returned from 
Bayreuth, was still full of the ecstasy. 

" A confused and unequal thread," answered the 
master. " Nothing is further from the Orestiades 
than the tetralogy of the Ring. The Florentines of 
Casa Bardi have perceived the essence of Greek 
tragedy far more deeply. All homage to the Cam- 
erata del Conte di Vernio." 

" I have always thought that the Camerata was an 
idle gathering of savants and rhetoricians," said 
Baldassare Stampa. 

" Do you hear, Daniele?" exclaimed Stelio, turn- 
ing to the mystic doctor. " When was there in the 
world a more fervid fire of intelligence ? They sought 
the spirit of life in Greek antiquity; they tried to 
develop all human energies harmoniously, to manifest 
man in his integrity by all the means of art. Giulio 
Caccini taught that not only things in particular, but 
all things together are needful to the excellence of 
the musician ; the tawny hair of Jacopo Peri and of 
Zazzerino flamed in their song like that of Apollo. 
In the discourse that precedes his Rappresentazione 
di Anima et di Corpo, Emilio del Cavaliere gives us 
the same ideas on the foundation of the new theatre 
that have since been carried out at Bayreuth, even to 
the precept of perfect silence, of propitious darkness, 
of an invisible orchestra. Marco da Gagliano in cele- 
brating a festive performance eulogises all the arts 
that contributed to it ' in such a manner that every 
most noble feeling is flattered through the intellect at 
one same time by the most pleasure-giving arts that 
human talent has discovered.' Is not that enough?" 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 113 

" Bernino," said Francesco de Lizo, " gave an 
opera in Rome for which he himself had constructed 
the theatre, painted the scenery, carved the orna- 
mental statues, invented the machinery, written the 
words, composed the music, regulated the dancing, 
instructed the actors, in which he himself danced, 
sang, and recited." 

" Enough, enough ! " cried Prince Hoditz, laughing ; 
" the barbarian is conquered." 

" And it is still not enough," said Antimo della 
Bella ; " we should glorify the greatest of these inno- 
vators, he who is anointed a Venetian by his passion 
and death, whose sepulchre in the Church of the 
Frari is worthy of a pilgrimage, — the divine Claudio 
Monteverde." 

" His was an heroic soul of pure Italian essence," 
Daniele Glauro confirmed reverently. 

" He accomplished his work in the storm, loving, 
suffering, struggling, alone with his fate, his passion, 
and his genius," la Foscarina said slowly, as if 
absorbed in the vision of the brave life full of pain 
that had fed the creatures of its art with its warmest 
blood. " Tell us about him, Effrena." 

Stelio quivered as if she had suddenly touched 
him. Again the expressive power of her diffusing 
voice called up an ideal figure, that rose from some 
indefinite depths as from a tomb, assuming before 
the eyes of the poets the colour and the breath of life. 
The old viola-player, bereaved and ardent and sad 
like the Orpheus of his own fable, appeared in the 
supper-room. 

It was a fiery apparition, prouder and more daz- 
zling by far than that which had lit up the harbour of 



114 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

San Marco; an inflamed force of life, expelled 
from the inner bosom of nature towards the expec- 
tancy of the multitudes ; a vehement zone of light 
breaking out from an interior sky to illumine the 
more secret depths of human will and desire, an un- 
known Word springing from primitive silences to say 
that which is eternal and eternally inexpressible in 
the heart of the world. 

" Should we speak of him, if he himself could 
speak to us ? " said the Life-giver, troubled, unable to 
contain the growing fulness that surged within him 
like an anguished sea. And he gazed at the singer; 
and he saw her as when she had first appeared to 
him in the pauses, among the forest of instruments 
white and lifeless as a shadow. 

But the spirit of beauty which they had invoked 
was to manifest itself through her. 

"Ariadne," Stelio added in a low voice, as if to 
awaken her. 

She rose without speaking, went to the door, 
entered the neighbouring room. They heard the 
rustle of her skirts, her light footfall, and the sound 
of the instrument being opened. All were quiet and 
intent. A musical silence seemed to occupy the 
place that had remained empty in the supper-room. 
Once only a breath of wind slanted the candle flames, 
disturbing the flowers. Then all became anxious 
again, and motionless in expectation. 

" Lasciatemi morire ! " ^ 

Suddenly their souls were ravished by a power 
that seemed the lightning-like eagle by which Dante 
I " O let me die I " 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 115 

in his dream was ravished up to the flame. They 
were burning together in undying truth ; they heard 
the world's melody pass through their luminous 
ecstasy. 

" Lasciatemi morire ! " 

Was it Ariadne, still Ariadne, who was weeping in 
some new pain ? rising, still rising, to new height in 
her martyrdom? 

" E che volete 
Che mi conforte 
In cosi dura sorte. 
In cosi gran martire ? 
Lasciatemi morire 1 " ' 

The voice ceased ; the singer did not reappear. 
The aria of Claudio Monteverde composed itself in 
the memory like a changeless feature. 

" Is there any Greek marble that has reached a 
simpler and securer perfection of style? " said Daniele 
Glauro, in a low voice, as if he feared to disturb the 
silence which was still ringing with the music. 

" But what sorrow on earth has ever wept like 
this?" stammered Lady Myrta, her eyes full of tears 
that ran down the furrows of her poor bloodless face, 
while her hands, deformed by gout, trembled as they 
wiped them away. 

The austere intellect of the aesthete and that of 

the sweet sensitive soul in the old infirm body 

gave witness to the same power. In the same way, 

nearly three centuries before in Mantua, six thousand 

spectators had been unable to control their tears, and 

1 " And what can comfort me 
In my hard fate, 
In my great martyrdom ? 
O let me die 1 " 



ii6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

poets had believed in the living presence of Apollo 
on the new stage of the famous theatre. 

" Here, Baldassare is an artist of our own race," 
said Stelio Effrena, "who, by the simplest means, 
has succeeded in touching the highest degree of that 
beauty which the German rarely approached in his 
confused aspirations towards the fatherland of 
Sophocles." 

" Do you know the lamentation of the ailing 
King?" asked the young man with the long sunny 
hair worn by him as an heirloom of the Venetian 
Sappho, of the " high Gasparra," the unfortunate 
friend of Collatino. 

" All the anguish of Amfortas is in a mottetto I 
know: ' Peccantem me quotidie;' but with what 
lyric impulse, what powerful simplicity ! All the 
forces of tragedy are there, I should almost say sub- 
limated like the instincts of a multitude in the heart 
of a hero. Palestrina's much older expression seems 
to me also purer and more virile. 

" But the struggle of Kundry and of Parsifal in the 
second act, the Herzeleide motive, the impetuous 
figure, the figure of pain drawn from the motto of 
the sacred banquet, the motive of Kundry's aspira- 
tion, the prophetic theme of the promise, the mad 
kiss on the mouth of the youth, all that heartrending 
and intoxicating contrast of desire and horror. . . . 
'The wound, the wound ! Now it is burning, it is bleed- 
ing in me ! ' And above the despairing restlessness 
of the tempter, the melody of submission. . . . ' Let 
me weep on your bosom, let me be united to thee 
for an hour, and even if God repel me I shall be re- 
deemed and saved by thee ! ' And Parsifal's answer 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 117 

in which the motive of the madman now transfigured 
into the promised hero returns with so grand a so- 
lemnity : ' Hell is before us for all eternity, if only 
for one hour I let thee fold me in thy arms.' And 
the wild ecstasy of Kundry. . . . ' As my kiss has 
made thee a prophet, the entire caress of my love 
shall make thee divine. One hour, one hour only 
with thee, and I shall be saved ! ' And the last ef- 
forts of her demoniac will, the supreme gesture of 
inducement, the prayer and the furious offer. . . . 
' Only thy love can save me ! Let me love thee ! 
Mine for one only hour ! Thine for one only hour.' " 

Madly Perdita and Stelio looked into each other's 
eyes. For a second they rushed into each other, ' 
were united, knew joy, and gasped as on a bed of 
pleasure and death. 

The Marangona, the largest bell of San Marco, 
rang out in the night, and as once before in the 
evening hour, they seemed to feel the roll of the 
bronze in the roots of their hair almost like a quiver 
of their own flesh. They again felt, passing over 
their heads, the vortex of sound in which the appari- 
tions of the consoling beauty invoked by unanimous 
Prayer had suddenly arisen. The phantoms on the 
water, the infinite waverings of dissimulated desire, 
the anxiety, the promise, the farewell, the festival, 
the monster with the innumerable human faces, and 
the great starry sphere, and the applause and the 
symphony and the song, and the miracles of Fire, and 
the passage along the sonorous canal, the song of 
brief youth, the struggle and mute anguish in the 
boat, the sudden shadow on their three destinies, the 
banquet illumined by the beautiful idea, the an- 



ii8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

nouncement, the hope, the pride, — all the pulsations 
of strong life met and renewed themselves within 
them, quickened, became a thousand, and became 
one. And it seemed to them that they had lived 
beyond human limits in that instant, that an un- 
known immensity was spreading before them which 
they could absorb as the ocean absorbs, because 
having lived so much, they yet were empty, having 
drunk so much, they yet were parched. A violent 
illusion mastered their souls full of riches. The one 
seemed to grow immeasurably in the other's wealth. 
The maiden had disappeared. The eyes of the wan- 
dering, despairing woman were repeating : " The full 
'caress of my love shall make thee divine. One hour, 
one only hour with thee, and I shall be saved ! Mine, 
even if for one only hour! Thine, even if for one 
only hour! " 

And the eloquence of the enthusiast continued 
building up the sacred tragedy. Kundry, the furious 
tempter, the slave of desire, the rose of hell, the 
original perdition, the cursed one, now reappeared 
in the spring dawn, reappeared humble and pale in 
the garb of the messenger, her head bent, her gaze 
dim, her hoarse, broken voice knowing one word 
only: " Let me serve ; let me serve ! " 

The melodies of solitude, of submission, of purifi- 
cation, prepared round her lowliness the enchantment 
of Good Friday. And Parsifal reappeared in his 
black armour, with closed helmet, with lowered spear, 
absorbed in an infinite dream : " I have come by 
perilous roads, but perhaps this day shall see me 
saved because I hear the murmur of the holy forest." 
Hope, pain, remorse, remembrance, promise, faith 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 119 

panting for salvation, sacred, mysterious melodies 
seemed to weave the ideal mantle that was to cover 
the Simple, the Pure one, the Promised Hero sent 
to heal the incurable wound. " Will you lead me 
to Amfortas to-day?" He grew languid, fainting 
in the arms of the old man. " Let me serve; let me 
serve ! " The melody of submission spread through 
the orchestra again, destroying the original impetu- 
ous figure. " Let me serve ! " The faithful woman 
was bringing water, was kneeling in her lowliness, 
fervently washing the beloved feet. " Let me serve ! " 
The faithful woman drew from her bosom a vase of 
ointment to anoint the beloved feet, and then wiped 
them with her loosened hair. The Pure One bent 
over the sinner, pouring water on her wild head : 
"Thus I accomplish my first office; receive this 
baptism and believe in the Redeemer." The brow 
of Kundry lay low in the dust as she burst out weep- 
ing, freed from desire, freed from the curse. And 
then, from the profound final harmonies of the prayer 
to the Redeemer, the melody of the flowery meadow 
spread and rose with superhuman sweetness. " How 
beautiful the meadow is to-day ! marvellous flowers 
once drew me to them, but the grass and the 
flowers were never before so fragrant." Parsifal in 
his ecstasy gazes at the meadow and the dewy 
forest, smiling in the morning light. 

" Ah, who shall forget the sublime moment," ex- 
claimed the fascinated man, his thin face flashing 
again with the lightning-stroke of joy. " All, in the 
darkness of the theatre, were fixed in perfect stillness 
like one single compact mass. In each of our veins 
our blood had stopped, seeming to listen. The 



120 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

music rose like light from the Mystic Gulf; the 
notes seemed to transform themselves into rays of 
spring sunshine, coming to life with the same joy 
as the blade of grass that breaks through the earth, 
as the flower that opens, as the branch that buds, as 
the insect bringing forth its wings. And all the 
innocence of things just born entered into us, and 
our souls lived again I know not what dream of far 
away infancy. . . . Infantia, the device of Vettor 
Carpaccio. Ah, Stelio, how well you repeated it to 
our old age a little while ago, and how well you 
have found the way of making us feel our sorrow 
for what we have lost, and our hope of recovering 
it by means of an art that shall be indissolubly re- 
united to life ! " 

Stelio Effrena was silent, oppressed by the weight 
of the gigantic work of the barbaric creator whom 
the enthusiasm of Baldassare Stampa had called up 
and placed against the burning figure of the trage- 
dian of Ariadne and Orpheus. A kind of instinctive 
rancour, of obscure hostility which was not of the 
intellect, raised him up against the tenacious German 
who had succeeded in inflaming the world. To 
obtain his victory over men and things, he too had 
exalted his own image and magnified his own dream 
of dominating beauty; he too had been drawn to 
the crowd as to the preferable prey, he too had 
made his discipline of the effort to surpass himself 
without respite. And now he had his temple on the 
Bavarian hills. 

"Art alone can bring men back to unity," said 
Daniele Glauro. " Let us honour the great master 
who has always had this for his faith. His theatre, 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 121 

although of bricks and wood, although small and im- 
perfect, has a sublime significance. In it the work of 
art is religion brought under the senses in a living 
form ; the drama there becomes a rite." 

" Let us honour Richard Wagner," said Antimo 
della Bella ; " but if this hour is to be memorable as 
the hour of an announcement, and a promise from 
him who a little while ago was pointing the mysteri- 
ous vessel out to the crowd, let us again invoke as 
our patron the heroic soul which has spoken to us 
through the voice of Donatella Arvale. In laying the 
foundation stone of his theatre, the poet of Siegfried 
consecrated it to the hopes and the victories of his 
German people. The theatre of Apollo which is 
rapidly rising on the Janiculum, where once the eagles 
descended with their prophecies, must be no other 
than the monumental revelation of the idea towards 
which our race is led by its genius. Let us reinforce 
the privilege by which nature has made our blood so 
great." 

Stelio Effrena was silent, overwhelmed by vor- 
tex-like forces that laboured in him with a kind of 
blind fury similar to the subterranean forces that 
swell, break up, and transfigure a volcanic territory, 
creating in it new mountains and new abysses. The 
elements of his inner life, carried away by that shock, 
seemed at the same time to dissolve and to multiply 
themselves. Grand, terrible images passed over the 
tumult in musical storm-clouds. Rapid concen- 
trations and dispersions of thought succeeded each 
other like electric discharges in a hurricane. At in- 
tervals, he seemed to hear shouts and songs, as if 
a door continually reclosed were being continually 



r22 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

thrown open ; as if blasts of wind were bringing him 
the distant cries of a massacre, alternating with 
an apotheosis. Suddenly, with the intensity of a 
feverish vision, he saw the dry, fated land, in which 
he was going to place the souls of his tragedy ; he 
felt all its thirst in himself. He saw the mythic fount 
that alone broke in upon its dryness, and on the 
throb of its springs the whiteness of the virgin who 
was to die there. He saw the heroine's mask on 
Perdita's face, in all the beauty of an extraordinarily 
calm sorrow. The ancient dryness of the plain 
of Argos then seemed to convert itself into flames, 
the fount of Perseia flowed like a river. The two 
primordial elements, fire and water, passed over 
all things, cancelled every sign, diflfused themselves, 
wandered, struggled, triumphed, spoke, found words 
and a language with which to reveal their inner es- 
sence, to tell the innumerable myths born of their 
eternity. The symphony expressed the drama of the 
two elemental Souls on the stage of the Universe, the 
pathetic struggle of the two great living and mobile 
Beings, of the two forces of cosmic Will, such as the 
shepherd Arya on his plateaus imagined it, when his 
pure eyes first saw the spectacle. Then from the very 
centre of the musical mystery, from the inner depth 
of the symphonic ocean, the Ode arose, brought by 
the human voice, and soared to its greatest height. 
The miracle of Beethoven renewed itself. The winged 
Ode, the Hymn, burst up from the depths of the 
orchestra to tell, in an imperious and absolute man- 
ner, the joy and the sorrow of Man. Not the chorus, 
as in the Ninth Symphony, but the solitary, domi- 
nating voice that was the interpreter, the messenger 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 123 

to the multitude. " Her voice ! her voice ! She has 
disappeared. Her voice seemed to touch the very 
heart of the world, and she was beyond the veil," 
said the Life-giver, having once more before his eyes 
the crystal statue in which he had seen the ascending 
veins of melody. "I will seek you, I will find you 
again, I will master your secret. You shall sing my 
hymns, raised up on the summit of my music." Freed 
from impure desire, he now considered the virgin's 
form as the receptacle, as the custodian of a divine 
gift. He heard the disembodied voice rise from the 
depths of the orchestra to reveal the part of eternal 
truth hidden in the passing fact, in the fleeting event. 
The Ode was crowning the episode with light. Then, 
as if to lead back to the play of images his spirit, 
which had been rapt " beyond the veil," a dance 
figure designed itself on the rhythm of the dying Ode. 
The silent dancer appeared within a parallelogram 
traced in the arch of the stage, as within the limits of 
a strophe ; her body, redeemed for a while from the 
sad laws of gravity, imitating fire and water and the 
whirlpool and the evolution of stars. " La Tanagra," 
the flower of Syracuse, made of wings, as a flower is 
made of petals ! Thus he conjured up the image of 
the already famous Sicilian who had rediscovered the 
ancient art as it was in the times when Frinico could 
boast of having as many dance figures in himself as 
a stormy winter's night raises up waves upon the sea. 
The actress, the singer, and the dancer, the three 
Dionysian women, appeared to him as three per- 
fect, almost divine instruments of his creations. By 
means of words, gesture, and symphony, and with 
incredible rapidity, his work would complete itself 



124 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and live its powerful life before the conquered 
multitude. 

He was silent, rapt in an ideal world, intent on 
measuring the effort necessary to manifest it. 

" Richard Wagner affirms that the only creator of a 
work of art is the people," Baldassare Stampa was 
saying, " and that all the artist can do is to gather 
up and express the creation of the unconscious 
throng. . . ." 

The extraordinary feeling that had surprised him 
while he had been speaking to the crowd from the throne 
of the Doges returned and occupied him. During that 
time of communion between his own soul and the soul 
of the crowd an almost divine mystery had taken place ; 
something greater and stronger had added itself to 
the feeling he habitually entertained about his own 
person, an unknown power had seemed to converge 
within him, abolishing the limits of his particular per- 
sonality and conferring the harmony of a chorus to 
his solitary voice. There must, therefore, be in the 
multitude some hidden beauty from which only the 
hero and the poet can draw a flash. Whenever 
that beauty revealed itself by a sudden clamour 
arising in theatre or entrenchment or public place, a 
torrent of joy must swell the heart of him who had 
called it forth with his verse, his harangue, or the 
action of his sword. The word of the poet, when 
communicated to the crowd, must, therefore, be an 
act like the deed of a hero, — an act creating instan- 
taneous beauty in the numberless obscurities of the 
soul, in the same way as a wonderful sculptor, from 
a mass of clay and by the mere touch of his plastic 
thumb brings forth a divine statue. The silence that 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 125 

had been spread like a sacred veil on the completed 
poem would then cease. The substance of life would 
no longer be signified by immaterial symbols, but life 
itself would be manifested in its entirety through the 
medium of the poet, the Word made flesh, the rhythm 
quickened in a breathing, living form ; the idea would 
spring forth in the fulness of its strength and freedom. 

" But Richard Wagner," said Fabio Molza, " be- 
lieves that the crowd consists of all those who feel 
some mutual infirmity. Do you hear, a mutual 
infirmity? . . ." 

" Towards Joy, towards eternal Joy ! " thought 
Stelio EfFrena. " The people are all those who feel 
an obscure necessity of raising themselves by means 
of Fiction out of the daily prison in which they serve 
and suffer." The small city theatres disappeared 
before him, those theatres where in the midst of a 
suffocating heat that is saturated with every impurity, 
before a band of debauchees and harlots, the actors 
take on themselves the office of prostitutes. On the 
steps of the new theatre he saw the true crowd, the 
immense, unanimous crowd that he had smelt and 
heard a moment ago among the marbles under the 
stars. His art, though imperfectly understood, would 
bring to those rough unconscious souls, by the 
mysterious power of rhythm, an emotion deep as that 
felt by the prisoner on the point of being freed from 
his chains. The joy of their liberation spread little 
by little over the most abject, the furrowed brows 
cleared and lips opened in wonder that were accus-' 
tomed to violent outcry ; lastly the hands — the rough 
hands enslaved by instruments of toil — stretched out 
in one unanimous movement towards the heroine 



126 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

who was exhaling her immortal sorrow under the 
stars. 

" In the life of a people like ourselves," said Daniele 
Glauro, "great manifestations of art weigh much 
more than a treaty of alliance or a tributary law. 
That which is undying is worth more than that which 
passes away. The daring and the cunning of a 
Malatesta are preserved for all Eternity in a medal of 
Pisanello's. Of all Machiavelli's politics nothing 
would survive if it were not for the sinews of his 
prose. . . ." 

" True, true," thought Steho Effrena ; " the fortunes 
of Italy are inseparable from the fate of Beauty, of 
whom she is the mother." And that sovereign truth 
now seemed to him the approaching sun of the divine, 
far-away ideal fatherland through which Dante 
wandered. " Italy ! Italy ! " The name that has in- 
toxicated the world sounded over his soul like a 
rallying cry. Should not a new art, robust in both 
roots and branches, rise from ruins steeped in so 
much heroic blood, and should not this art sum up 
within itself all the forces latent in the hereditary 
substance of the nation? Should it not become a 
constructive and determining power in the third 
Rome, pointing out to the men who were taking part 
in its government the primitive truths to be made 
the basis of new forms? Faithful to the oldest in- 
stincts of his race, Richard Wagner had foreseen and 
forwarded by his effort the aspiration of the German 
States toward the heroic greatness of empire. He 
had presented them with the magnificent figure of 
Henry the Fowler rising up and standing under the 
ancient tree. ..." Let the warriors rise up from 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 127 

every German land ! " At Sadowa and at Sedan the 
warriors had won. With one same impulse, with the 
same doggedness, the people and the artist had accom- 
plished their aim of glory. One same victory had 
crowned the work of the sword and the work of the 
lyre. The poet as much as the hero had accomplished 
an enfranchising act. His musical figures had con- 
tributed as much as the will of the Chancellor, as 
much as the blood of the soldiers, to the work of 
exalting and perpetuating the soul of his race. 

" He has been here a few days ; he is staying at the 
Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi," said Prince Hoditz. 

Suddenly the image of the barbaric creator 
approached him, the lines of the face became visible, 
the sky-blue eyes shone under the vast forehead, the 
lips closed tightly above the powerful chin that was 
armed with sensuality and pride and disdain. The 
small body bent with old age and glory drew itself 
up, growing gigantic like its work, the appearance 
of a god coming over it. Its blood coursed like 
the streams on a mountain-side ; its breath heaved like 
the wind in a forest. All of a sudden the youth of 
Siegfried filled it, was like the dawn shining through 
a cloud. " To follow the impulse of my own heart, 
to obey my own instinct, to listen to the voice of 
nature speaking within me. Let this be my supreme 
and only law." The heroic words rising from the 
deep vibrated in it, giving expression to the young 
healthy will that had overcome every obstacle and 
every evil enchantment, that had always felt itself in 
harmony with the law of the Universe. And at this, 
the flames brought forth from the rock at the stroke 
of Wotan's staff rose up in a circle. 



128 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" A way has been opened through the sea of flames. 
Great is the joy of being steeped in that fire. Oh 
that in that fire I might find my bride ! " All the 
phantoms of the myth seemed to flash and then 
become dark again. The winged helmet of Brune- 
hilde ghttered in the sun. " Glory to the sun, glory 
to the light, glory to the radiant day ! My sleep was 
long; who has awakened me ?" The phantoms 
became tumultuous and dispersed. Suddenly Dona- 
tella Arvale, the Song-maiden, reappeared on a 
background of shadow, such as he had first seen her 
in the crimson and gold of the Great Hall holding the 
fruit of the flame in an attitude of dominion. " Do 
you not see me, then? My consuming eyes and my 
flaming blood, do they give you no fear? Do you too 
feel this wild ardour?" Her power over his dream 
seemed to return with her absence. Infinite music 
welled up from the silence that filled her empty place 
in the supper-room. Her Hermes-like face seemed 
to withhold an inviolable secret. " Do not touch me, 
do not disturb me, and I will reflect your luminous 
image for ever. Love yourself and give me up." 
Once more, as on the feverish water, a kind of 
passionate impatience dogged the Life-giver, and 
again he saw in the absent one the faculty of being 
drawn like a beautiful bow by a strong hand that 
should know how to use it as a weapon for some 
great conquest. "Awake, virgin, awake! Laugh 
and live ! Be mine ! " 

Violently his spirit was being drawn into the circle 
of the imaginary world created by the German god ; 
its visions and harmonies overcame him, the fig- 
ures of the northern myth built themselves up over 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 129 

the figures of his own art and his own passion ob- 
scuring them. His own desire and his own hope 
were speaking the language of the barbarian. " It 
is necessary that smiling I should love you, and 
smiling I should blind myself. It is necessary that 
still smiling we should unite ourselves and lose 
ourselves in that union. O radiant Love ! O pro- 
pitious Death ! " The exaltation of the warrior 
maiden standing on the flame-encircled rock touched 
its steepest height; her cry of freedom and pleasure 
rose to the heart of the sun. Ah, what had that 
formidable stirrer of human souls not expressed? 
what apex and what abyss had he not reached? what 
effort could ever equal his effort? what eagle could 
ever hope to soar higher? His gigantic work stood 
complete in the midst of men, the last chorus of the 
Grail, the thanksgiving hymn echoed through the earth. 
" Glory to the miracle, redemption to the Redeemer ! " 

" He is tired," said Prince Hoditz, " very tired 
and worn out. This is why we did not see him at 
the Ducal Palace. His heart is ailing ..." 

The giant became human again, turned into a 
small body bent with age and glory, worn with pas- 
sion, dying. And it seemed to Stelio Effrena that 
he was once more hearing those words, uttered by 
Perdita, which had made a coflRn of their gondola: 
the words alluding to another great and stricken 
artist, the father of Donatella Arvale. " The name 
of the bow is Bios, and its work is Death." The 
young man saw his way stretching before him, 
traced out by victory, the long , art, the short life. 
" Forward ! Forward ! Higher and still higher ! " 
At every hour, at every second, he would have to 

9 



130 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

feel, fight, and strengthen himself against destruc- 
tion, diminution, violation, and contagion. At every 
hour, at every second, he would have to keep his 
eyes fixed on his aim, bringing. all his energies to 
converge towards it without truce and without res- 
pite. He felt that victory was as necessary to him 
as air. A furious desire of battle was awaking 
in his agile Latin blood at that contact with the 
barbarian. " To you I now leave the task of willing," 
the latter had cried out from the stage of the new 
theatre on the day of inauguration : " In the work of 
art of the future the fountain head of all inven- 
tions shall never run dry." Art was as infinite as 
the beauty of the world. There are no limits to 
strength and daring. He must seek further, still 
further, and find. " Forward ! Forward ! " 

One single, vast, formless wave summed up the 
anguish and the aspirations of that delirium, con- 
torting itself into a vortex, rising in a tidal wave, 
seeming to condense itself, to take on the very 
qualities of plastic matter, to obey the same inex- 
haustible energy that shapes all things and all beings 
under the sun. A form of extraordinary purity and 
beauty was born of that travail, took life and shone 
with almost unbearable happiness. The poet saw it, 
gathered it up into his pure eyes, felt its roots strik- 
ing into the very centres of his spirit. " Ah, only 
to express it, to manifest it to mankind, to fix it in 
its perfection for all eternity ! " It was one of those 
sublime instants that have no return. Then every- 
thing vanished. Ordinary life flowed on around him, 
fleeting words sounded, expectation throbbed, all 
desire fell consumed. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 131 

And he looked at the woman. Stars twinkled, 
trees waved behind Perdita's head, a garden deep- 
ened out, and still the eyes of the woman said : " Let 
me serve ! Let me serve ! " 



In the garden, the guests had dispersed along 
the walks and under the vine-trellises. The night 
air was damp and lukewarm ; delicate eyelids could 
feel it on their lashes like the approach of a warm, 
mobile mouth. The hidden stars of the jessamine 
shrubs yielded their acute perfume in the shadow; 
the odour of the fruits too was as strong and even 
heavier than in the island gardens. A vivid fertilis- 
ing power emanated from that small space of culti- 
vated earth that was enclosed like an exiled thing 
by its girdle of water, becoming all the more intense 
from its banishment, like the soul of the exile. 

" Do you wish me to stay? Do you wish me to 
return after the others have gone? Tell me. It is 
late. " 

" No, no, Stelio, I beg of you. It is late. It is too 
late. You say so yourself." 

Mortal dismay was in the woman's voice. Her 
bare neck and her bare arms shuddered in the dark- 
ness ; and she longed to deny herself and she longed 
to be possessed, and she longed to die and longed to 
be shaken by his man's hands. She trembled ; her 
teeth trembled in her mouth. A stream that seemed 
to flow from a glacier submerged her, rolled over her, 
chilled her from the roots of her hair to the tips of her 
fingers. The joints of each limb ached as if ready 
to fall asunder, and the jaws stiffened by her terror 



132 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

seemed to change her voice. And she longed to die, 
and longed to be suddenly taken and overthrown by 
the violence of his manhood ; and over her dismay 
and over her chill and over her body that was 
no longer young the same terrible sentence hung 
suspended that the loved one had pronounced and 
that she herself had repeated : " It is late ; it is too 
late." 

" Your promise, your promise ! I will wait no 
longer. I cannot, Perdita." 

The harbour, voluptuous like a proffered bosom, 
the estuary lost in darkness and death, the City 
kindled by its twilight fire, the water running in 
the invisible clepsydra, the vibrating bronze of the 
bells close to the heavens, the suffocating desire, the 
tightly drawn lips, the lowered Hds, and dry hands, 
the whole fulness of the tide returned with the 
memory of the silent promise. He desired, with a 
savage desire, that flesh full of deep things. 

" I will wait no longer." His turbid ardour came 
to him from far, far away, from the remotest of 
origins, from the primitive brutality of sudden unions, 
from the antique mystery of sacred lusts. Like the 
throng that the god possessed and that descended the 
mountain-side, tearing up trees, pushing on with a 
fury ever more and more bhnd, swelling its numbers 
with other madmen, spreading insanity along its 
passage until it became an immense animal and 
human multitude, spurred on by a monstrous will, 
the crude instinct in him rushed by, troubhng all the 
figures of his soul and dragging them with it in its 
rush with one manifold agitation. And what he most 
desired in that despairing woman full of knowledge^ 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 133 

was the creature weighed down by the eternal servi- 
tude of her nature, destined to succumb to the sudden 
convulsions of her sex, the creature who habitually 
slaked the lucid fever of the stage with obscure, 
sleep-giving pleasures, the actress full of flame who 
passed from the frenzy of the crowd to the embrace 
of manhood, the Dionysian creature who was wont to 
crown her mysterious rites by the act of life as in the 
Orgies of old. 

His desire lost all proportion and became mad, full 
of the quiver of conquered multitudes and the intoxi- 
cation of her unknown lovers and the vision of 
orgiastic promiscuities; cruelty, rancour, jealousy, 
poetry, and pride were in his desire. Regret stung 
him for never having possessed the actress after 
some theatrical triumph, still warm with the breath 
of the crowd, covered with sweat, pale and panting, 
still wearing the traces of the tragic soul that had 
wept and cried out in her, with the tears of that intrud- 
ing soul still damp on her convulsed face. For the 
space of a lightning-flash he saw her outstretched, 
full of the power that had drawn a howl from the 
monster, throbbing like a Maenad after the dance, 
parched and tired, yet needing to be taken, to be 
shaken, to feel herself contracting in a last spasm, 
to receive some violent germ, in order to quiet 
down at last to a lethargy without dreams. How 
many men had come forth from the crowd to 
clasp her after having panted for her lost in the 
unanimous mass? Their desire had been made of 
the desire of thousands, their vigour multiplied. 
Something of the drunkenness of the people, some- 
thing of the fascinated monster, would penetrate into 



134 THE FLAME OF LJFE 

the bosom of the actress with the pleasure of those 
nights. 

" Don't be cruel ; don't be cruel ! " implored the 
woman, feeling all that turbulence in his voice and 
reading it in his eyes. " Oh, do not hurt me !" 

Once more, under the voracious gaze of the young 
man, her body seemed to contract at the resistance of 
a painful modesty. His desire reached her like a 
wound that tore her open. She knew how much was 
pungent and impure in that sudden excitement, how 
deeply rooted was his opinion of her that considered 
her a poisoned and corrupt thing laden with many 
loves, an expert in all that was pleasure, a wandering, 
implacable temptress. She divined his ill-will, his 
jealousy, the malignity of the fever that had suddenly 
been kindled in the dear friend to whom she had 
consecrated all that, shut up within herself, was pre- 
cious and sincere, for whom she had preserved the 
value of that offering by a constant refusal. Hence- 
forward all was lost, all had been devastated at a 
blow, like a beautiful domain that has become the 
prey of vindictive rebel slaves. And almost as if she 
had been on her death-bed and in her last agony, the 
whole of her sharp, stormy life rose up before her, 
her life of pain and struggle, of bewilderment, passion, 
and triumph. She felt all the weight, all the encum- 
brance of it. She remembered the ineffable feeling 
of joy, of terror, and of liberation that had possessed 
her when she gave herself up for the first time in her 
far-away girlhood to the man who had deluded her. 
And there passed through her soul with a frightful 
stab the image of the virgin who had withdrawn her- 
self that day, who had disappeared, who was perhaps 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 135 

still dreaming in her solitary chamber, or was weep- 
ing or promising herself, or prostrate was tasting 
already the joy of her promise. " It is late ; it is too 
late ! " The irrevocable word seemed to pass con- 
tinually over her head like the roll of a bronze bell. 
And his desire reached her like a wound that tore 
her open. 

" Oh, do not hurt me ! " 

She stood imploring him, white and slight like the 
swansdown that ran round her neck and on her rest- 
less bosom. She seemed to have separated herself 
from her power, to have become light and weak, 
clothed with a secret, tender soul that was so easy to 
be killed, to be destroyed and offered up as a blood- 
less sacrifice. 

" No, Perdita; I will not hurt you," he stammered, 
suddenly unnerved by her voice and countenance, 
seized at the entrails by a feeling of human pity 
which had arisen from the same depths as his first 
savage instinct. " Forgive me ; forgive me." 

It would have pleased him now to take her in his 
arms, to nurse her, comfort her, to feel her weeping 
and to drink in her tears. It seemed to him that he 
did not recognise her, that it was an unknown person 
who stood there before him, one infinitely pained 
and lowly and deprived of all strength. And his 
pity and remorse were a little like what one would 
feel if one had unwillingly offended or hurt a sick 
person or a child, some little and inoffensive lonely 
being. 

" Forgive me ! " 

It would have pleased him to kneel down before 
her, to kiss her feet in the grass or say some little 



136 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

word to her. He stooped and touched one of her 
hands. She shuddered from head to foot, turned her 
widened eyes towards him, then cast them down 
again and remained motionless. The shadows accu- 
mulated under the arch of her eyebrows, marking 
the undulation of the cheek-bone. Again the icy 
stream submerged her. 

They heard the voices of the guests who were scat- 
tered about the garden ; then a great silence came. 
They heard the gravel creak under some footstep ; 
then again a great silence came. An indistinct clam- 
our reached them from the distance of the canals. 
All at once the perfume of the jessamine seemed 
to have become stronger, like a heart that has quick- 
ened its throbs. The night seemed to be heavy with 
wonders. The eternal forces were harmoniously at 
work between the earth and the stars. 

" Forgive me ! If my desire gives you pain, I will 
go on suffocating it. I am even capable of giving it 
up, of obeying you. Perdita, Perdita, I will forget 
what your eyes said to me up there among the use- 
less words. . . . What clasp, what caress, could have 
united us more deeply? All the passion of night 
urged us and threw us towards each other. I re- 
ceived you all into myself like a wave. And now it 
seems that I can no longer divide you from my own 
blood, it seems that you too cannot go away from 
me, and that we should set out together towards 
I know not what daybreak . . ." 

He was speaking in a low voice, putting his whole 
self into his words, as if he had become some vibrat- 
ing substance in which at every moment all the 
changes of that nocturnal creature seemed to impress 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 137 

themselves. It was no longer the heavy human 
prison, a bodily shape made of opaque and impene- 
trable flesh that was there before him, but a soul that 
was revealing itself in a variety of appearances as 
expressive as melodies, a sensibility delicate and pow- 
erful beyond all measure that was creating in her in 
turns the frailty of flowers, the vigour of marble, the 
vehemence of the flame, all that is shadow and all 
that is light 

" Stelio ! " 

She only just said the name, and yet in the dying 
breath that came from her pale lips there was as 
great an immensity of wonder and exaltation as in 
the loudest cry. She had caught the sound of love 
in the words of the man beside her, — of love, love ! 
She, who had so often listened to beautiful perfect 
words flowing towards her in that limpid voice and had 
suffered from them as from a torture and a mockery, 
now, because of this new accent in it, saw her own 
life and the life of the world transfigured. Her soul 
seemed to reverse itself, the heavy encumbrances fall- 
ing to unknown depths, disappearing in endless dark- 
ness, while there came to the surface something light 
and luminous, something free and spotless, that dilated 
and curved into a glorious dome like a morning sky ; 
and as the wave of light creeps from horizon to 
zenith in its silent harmony, the illusion of happi- 
ness rose upon her lips. An infinite smile diffused 
itself there, so infinite that the lines of her mouth 
trembled in it like leaves in the wind, her teeth shone 
in it like jessamine blossoms in the light of stars, — 
the slenderest of shapes in a vast element. 

" All is abolished ; all has vanished. I have not 



138 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

lived, I have not loved, I have not enjoyed, I have 
not suffered, I am new again. This is the only love 
I know. I am pure again. I would that I could die 
in the joy you will reveal to me. Years and their 
facts have passed over me without touching that part 
of my soul that I have been keeping for you, that 
secret heaven which has opened up suddenly and has 
conquered shadows, and has remained alone to hold 
the strength and sweetness of your name. Your love 
is saving me ; the fulness of my clasp will make you 
divine. . . ." 

Words of ecstasy sprang from her enfranchised 
heart, but her lips dared not speak them, and she 
went on smiling, smiling that infinite smile of hers, 
still in silence. 

" Is it not true? Tell me! Answer me, Perdita. Do 
not you too feel this necessity? This necessity that 
has become stronger with all the strength of our 
renunciation, with all the constancy we have shown 
in waiting for the fulness of the hour? Ah, it does 
indeed seem to me that all my hopes and all my 
presentiments would be as nothing, Perdita, if this 
hour were not to come. Tell me that you could not 
get to that daybreak without me as I could not with- 
out you. Answer me." 

" Yes, yes ! " 

In that faint syllable, she gave herself up irre- 
claimably. The smile went out; the mouth became 
heavy, appearing in almost hard relief against the 
pallor of her face, as if thirst were swelling it, strong 
to attract, to take, to hold, insatiable. And her whole 
person, that had seemed to shrivel in her pain and 
terror, drew itself up again as if a new framework had 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 139 

suddenly grown within it, reconquered its carnal 
power, was overswept by an impetuous wave, be- 
came once more desirable and impure. 

" Let us wait no longer; it is late." 

He was trembling with impatience. The fury was 
again taking hold of him ; frenzy had again seized 
him by the throat with its feline claws. 

" Yes," repeated the woman, but in a different 
tone, her eyes plunged into his as if she were now 
certain of possessing the philtre that was to bind him 
to her lastingly. 

He felt the many joys that must pervade that flesh 
full of deep things enter his heart. He looked at her 
and turned pale, as if his blood had suddenly been 
dispersed over the earth and was sinking into it to 
nourish the roots of growing things, as if he were 
standing in a dream, outside all time, alone with her 
who was alone. 

She was standing under the fruit-laden shrub which 
she had adorned with necklaces ; her whole person 
was sharply drawn and curved like her lips, and 
fever darted from all her limbs like the breath darts 
from between the lips. The unexpected beauty 
made up of a thousand ideal forces that had illu- 
mined her in the supper-room renewed itself in her 
still more intensely, made up now of a flame that 
never fades, of a fervour that never languishes. The 
magnificent fruits, bearing upon them the crown of 
the kingly giver, hung above her head, the myth of 
the pomegranate was revivified in the night as it had 
been at the passage of the laden boat on the even- 
ing water. Who was she? Persephone, Queen of 
Shadows? Had she lived there where all human 



146 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

agitations seem but the wind's sport amid the dust 
of an endless road? Had she seen the world where 
its springs are, counted in a subterranean world 
the roots of flowers immovable like the veins in 
a petrified body? Was she tired or drunk with 
human tears and laughter and lusts, and with having 
touched all mortal things one by one to see them 
blossom and to see them perish? Who was she, 
then? Had she struck upon the cities like a curse? 
Had her kiss for ever closed all lips that sang? 
Had she stopped the throb of tyrannous souls, 
and poisoned youths with the sweat of her body 
that was salt like the foam of the sea? Who was 
she; who was she? What was the past that made 
her so pale, so ardent, and so perilous? Had she 
already told all her secrets and given away all her 
gifts, or could she still accomplish some new work 
that would bring wonder to this new lover, to whom 
life, desire, and victory, all three, meant one only 
thing? All this and still more, still more was offered 
to his dream by the thin veins on her temples, the 
undulation of her cheeks, the power of her body, 
the bluish-greenish shadow as of the sea that was the 
element in which her face lived as the eye lives in 
its own moisture. 

"All evil and all good, that which I know and 
that which I ignore, that which you know and that 
which you ignore, all was reserved for the fulness 
of our night." Life and dream had become one 
only thing. Thoughts and senses were as wines 
poured out in one same cup. Their garments and 
their bare faces, their hopes and the sight of their 
eyes were like the plants of that garden, like the air. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 141 

the stars, and the silence. The hidden harmony of 
Nature became apparent, by which she has mixed 
together and dissimulated all her differences and 
diversities. 

It was one of those sublime moments that have no 
return. Before even his soul was conscious of it, 
his hands went out to her in their desire, touched 
her body, drew it towards him, found pleasure in 
feeling that it was cold and sweet. 

When she felt his strong hands on her bare arm, 
the woman threw her head back as if about to fall. 
Under her dying eyelids, between her dying lips, the 
white of her eyes and the white of her teeth glittered 
like things that glitter for the last time. Then 
quickly she raised her head and revived ; her mouth 
sought the mouth that was seeking it They stamped 
themselves on each other. No seal was ever deeper. 
Love, like the shrub above them, covered both those 
deluded ones. 

They separated ; they gazed at each other without 
seeing. They could see nothing. They were blind. 
They could hear a terrible roll as if the quiver 
of bronze bells had re-entered their very forehead. 
Nevertheless they heard the dull thud of a pome- 
granate that had fallen on the grass from a branch 
they had shaken in their violent clasp. They shook 
themselves as if to throw off a mantle that was 
burdening them. They saw each other and became 
lucid again. They heard the voices of their friends 
who were scattered about the garden and a distant 
indistinct clamour from the canals where perhaps the 
antique pageants were repassing. 

" Well, " asked the young man, eagerly, scorched 



142 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

to the marrow by that kiss that had been full of flesh 
and soul. 

The woman bent down to the grass to pick up the 
pomegranate. It was quite ripe and broken by its 
fall; its blood-like juice was flowing; it moistened 
her parched hand and stained her light dress. With 
the remembrance of the laden boat, the pale island, 
and the meadow of asphodel, the words of the Life- 
giver came back to her loving spirit. " This is my 
body. . . . Take and eat." 

" Well ? " 

" Yes." 

She pressed the fruit in her hand with an instinc- 
tive movement, as if to crush it. The juice trickled 
in a streak over her wrist. Then her whole body 
contracted and vibrated as if round a knot of fire, 
craving for subjection. Again the icy river sub- 
merged her, passing over her, chilling her from the 
roots of her hair to the points of her fingers without 
extinguishing that knot of fire. 

" How? Tell me ! " the young man urged, almost 
roughly, as he felt his madness rising again and the 
odour of the Orgy returning from' afar. 

" Leave when the others leave, then come back. I 
will wait for you at the gate of the Gradenigo Garden." 

The wretched carnal trembling shook her. She 
had become the prey of an invincible power. He 
saw her again for the space of a flash as he had 
pictured her before, outstretched, moist, and throb- 
bing like a Maenad after the dance. Again they 
gazed upon each other, but they could not bear the 
suffering brought by the fierce eyes of their desire. 
They parted. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 143 

She went away towards the voices of the poets 
who had exalted the idealism of her power. 



Lost ! lost ! Henceforth she was lost ! She was 
still living, yet overthrown, humiliated, wounded as 
if she had been pitilessly trodden under foot; she 
was still living, and the dawn was rising, and the 
days were beginning again, and the fresh tide was 
flowing again into the City Beautiful, and Donatella 
was still pure on her pillows. It was already melting 
into infinite distance, although it was still so near, 
that hour in which she had waited for her lover at 
the gate, had heard his steps in the almost funereal 
silence of the deserted sidepath, had felt her knees 
give way as under a blow, and the terrible roll as of 
bronze bells fill her head. That hour was already 
very far, yet in all her body, together with the tremu- 
lousness that pleasure had left there, the sensations of 
that time of waiting persisted with strange intensity ; 
the chill of the railing against which she had laid 
her brow, the acrid odour that rose from the grass 
as from a retting-tank, the warm moist tongue of 
Myrta's greyhounds that had noiselessly come and 
licked her hands. 

" Good-bye, good-bye ! " 

She was lost. He had risen from her bed as from 
the couch of a courtesan, almost a stranger to her, 
almost impatient, attracted by the freshness of dawn, 
by the freedom of morning. 

" Good-bye ! " 

From her window she caught sight of him on the 
shore, drinking in a wide breath of vivid air; then 



144 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

in the great calm she heard his firm, clear voice 
calling the gondolier : — 

" Zorzi ! " 

The man was sleeping in the bottom of his gondola 
and his human sleep was like the sleep of the curved 
boat that obeyed him. As Stelio touched him with 
his foot, he awoke with a start, jumped to the stern, 
seized his oar. The man and the boat woke up at 
the same time, in perfect harmony with each other, 
like a single body, ready to glide on the water. 

" Your servant, master," said Zorzi, with a good- 
natured smile, glancing at the sky that was growing 
lighter. " Do you sit down, and I will row." 

Opposite the palace some one threw open the great 
door leading to some works. It was a stone-cutting 
establishment, where steps were being cut out of 
the stone of Val di Sole. 

"To ascend," thought Stelio, and his superstitious 
heart gladdened at the good omen. The name of 
the quarry, too (the Valley of the Sun), seemed 
radiant on the door-plate. The image of a staircase 
signified his own ascension. He had already seen 
it in the abandoned garden on the coat of arms of 
the Gradenigo. " Higher, ever higher ! " Joy was 
again bubbling up from the depths. The morning 
seemed to stimulate all the works of man. 

"And Perdita? And Ariadne?" He saw them 
again at the top of the marble staircase in the light 
of the smoking torches, thrown so close to each 
other by the throng that they had blended in one 
same whiteness, — the two temptresses, both emerg- 
ing from the crowd as from the clasp of a monster. 
"And la Tanagra?" The Syracusan with the long 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 145 

goat-like eyes then appeared, in a restful pose, knitted 
to her mother earth, as the figure of a bas-relief 
is attached to the marble in which it is carved. 
"The Dionysian Trinity!" He pictured them to 
himself as freed from every passion, like the crea- 
tures of Art. The surface of his soul was being 
covered with splendid, rapid images, like a sea 
scattered over with swelling sails. He had ceased 
to suffer. The increasing daylight was spreading 
a sharp sense of newness over his whole sub- 
stance. The heat of the night's fever was entirely 
dispersing in the breeze; its fumes were being dis- 
sipated. What was happening all around, happened 
in himself too. He was being born anew with the 
morning. 

" There is no need for me to light you any more 
now ! " murmured the oarsman, putting out the gon- 
dola lantern. 

" By San Giovanni Decollate, to the Grand Canal," 
cried Stelio, sitting down. 

And while the dentellated prow turned into the 
Canal of San Giacomo dall' Orio, he turned to look at 
the palace, which was leaden in the shadow. An illu- 
minated window suddenly grew dark like an eye that 
is blinded. " Good-bye, good-bye." His heart gave 
a leap, pleasure waved back into his veins, images of 
pain and death passed over all the others. The wo- 
man no longer young had remained up there alone, 
with the expression of a dying thing on her face; 
the virgin was preparing to go back to the place of 
her torment. He knew not how to pity, he could 
only promise. From the abundance of his strength, 
he drew the illusion of being able, for his greater joy, 



146 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

to change those two destinies. He ceased to sufifer. 
All uneasiness yielded before the simple pleasure of 
the eyes offered him by the sights of the morning. 
The leaves peeping over the garden walls, behind 
which the twitter of the sparrows was already awaken- 
ing, hid from him the pallor of Perdita ; the sinuous 
lips of the singer were lost in the water's undulation. 
That which was happening around, happened to him 
too. The arch and the echo of the bridges, the 
swimming seaweeds, the moan of the pigeons, were 
like his breathing, his confidence, his hunger. 

" Stop in front of the Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi," 
he ordered the boatman. 

As he passed by a garden wall, he tore away a few 
frail, flowering plants from the interstices of the bricks 
that had the rich, dark colour of clotted blood. The 
flowers were violet, of extreme delicacy, almost im- 
palpable. He thought of the myrtles that grow along 
the Gulf of .iEgina, hardy and erect, like bronze 
bushes. He thought of the little dark cypresses that 
crown the stony tops of the Tuscan Hills, of the high 
laurels that protect the statues in the Roman villas. 
His thoughts increased the value of the autumnal 
flowers that were too slight an offering for Him who 
had known how to give his life the great victory He 
had promised it. 

" Go to shore." 

The Canal was deserted ; it was like an ancient 
river, full of poetry and silence. The green sky was 
mirrored in it with its last dying stars. At the first 
glance the palace had an aerial appearance as of a 
painted cloud laid on the water; the shade in which 
it was still wrapped had about it something of the 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 147 

quality of velvet, the beauty of something rich and 
soft. And in the same manner that the pattern 
slowly discloses itself in thick velvet, slowly the lines 
of the architecture became visible in the three Corin- 
thian orders that rose with their rhythm ot grace and 
strength, to the summit where the emblems of noble 
estate, the eagles, the horses, and the pitchers, were 
entwined with the roses of the Loredan. NON 
Nobis, Domine. Non Nobis. 

It was there that the great ailing heart was beat- 
ing. The image of- the barbaric creator reappeared, 
with its blue eyes shining under the vast brow, its 
lips closing above the robust chin that was armed 
with sensuality, pride, and disdain. Was he asleep? 
Could he sleep, or did he lie sleepless with his glory? 
The young man recalled strange things that were 
told of him. Was it true that he could not sleep, 
except on his wife's heart, closely held by her, and 
that even in his old age there persisted in him this 
need of a loving contact? He recalled a story of 
Lady Myrta's, who, when she was in Palermo, had 
visited the Villa d'Angri, where the cupboards in the 
room inhabited by the old man had remained im- 
pregnated with so violent an essence of roses that it 
still turned her faint. He saw the small, tired body 
adorned with gems, wrapped in sumptuous sheets, 
perfumed like a corpse prepared for the funeral pyre. 
And was it not Venice that had given him, as of old 
it had given Albert Diirer, a taste for things sumpt- 
uous and voluptuous? It was in the silence of the 
canals that he had heard the passing of the most 
ardent breath of his music, — the deadly passion of 
Tristan and Isolde. 



148 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Now the great ailing heart was throbbing there, 
and there its formidable impulse was dying out. The 
patrician palace with the eagles and horses and 
pitchers and roses was shut up and as dumb as a 
great sepulchre. The sky above the marbles was 
reddening at the breath of dawn. 

" Hail to the victorious one ! " And Stelio threw 
the flowers down. before the door. 

"Goon! Goon!" 

The oarsman bent over the oars, spurred by that 
sudden impatience. The slight* boat skipped over 
the water. The canal was all alight on one side. 
A tawny sail passed noiselessly. The sea, the bright 
waves, the laugh of the sea-birds, the wind out in the 
open, rose up before his desire. 

" Row, Zorzi ! To the Veneta Marina by the 
Canal dell' Olio," cried the young man. 

The canal seemed too small for his soul to breathe 
in. Victory was as necessary to him now as air. He 
wanted to test the well-tempered quality of his nature, 
after the night's delirium, in the light of the morning, 
and in the sharpness of the sea. He was not sleepy ; 
there was a circle of freshness round his eyes as if he 
had bathed them with dew. He felt no need of rest, 
only a horror of his hotel bed as of a resting-place 
too vile for him. " The deck of a vessel, the smell 
of salt and pitch, the throb of a red sail . . ." 

" Row, Zorzi ! " 

The gondolier rowed with increased vigour; the 
rowlock now and then creaked under his effort. 
The Fondaco dei Turchi melted away like worn and 
marvellously discoloured ivory, like the surviving 
portico of a ruined mosque. The palace of the 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 149 

Cornaro and the palace of the Pesaro passed them, 
like two opaque giants blackened by time as by the 
smoke of a conflagration. The Ca'd'Oro passed them 
like a divine play of stone and air ; then the Rialto 
showed its ample back already noisy with popular 
life, laden with its encumbered shops, filled with the 
odour of fish and vegetables, like an enormous cor- 
nucopia pouring on the shore all round it an abun- 
dance of the fruits of the earth and sea with which 
to feed the dominant city. 

" I am hungry, I am hungry, Zorzi," said Stelio, 
laughing. 

"A good sign when the night makes you hungry; 
only the old are made sleepy by it," said Zorzi. 

" Go to shore ! " 

At a stall he bought some of the grapes of the 
Vignole, and some of the figs of Malamocco, heaped 
on a plate of vine-leaves. 

" Row ! " 

The gondola veered under the warehouse of the 
Tedeschi, slipping along the dark, narrow canals 
towards the Rio de Palazzo. The bells of San 
Giovanni Crisostomo, of San Giovanni Elemosinario, 
of San Cassiano, of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, of Santa 
Maria Formosa, and of San Lio were joyously ringing 
in the dawn. The noise of the market, with its odours 
of fishery, of green stuff and of wine, was drowned in 
the salutation of the bronzes. The strip of water under 
the strip of sky, between the still sleeping walls of brick 
and marble, became ever more resplendent before the 
metal of the prow, as if the race were lighting it up, 
and that increase of light gave Stelio the illusion 
of a flaming swiftness. He thought of a boat that is 



ISO THE FLAME OF LIFE 

being launched, raising sparks as it slips into the sea : 
the waves fume all round, the crowd shouts and 
applauds. 

" To the Ponte della Paglia ! " 

A thought as spontaneous as an instinct was lead- 
ing him to the glorious place where it seemed that 
there must still remain some trace of his own lyrical 
animations, and some echoes of the great Bacchic 
Chorus. " Viva il forte!" The gondola grazed 
the powerful flank of the ducal palace, standing com- 
pact like a single mass worked by chisels that had 
been as apt at finding melodies there as the bows of 
musical instruments. He embraced that mass with 
the whole of his newly arisen soul ; there, once more, 
he heard the sound of his own voice and the crash of 
applause, saw the great, many-eyed Chimera, its bust 
covered with resplendent scales, its length blackening 
under enormous gilded scrolls, and distinctly saw 
himself oscillating above the multitude like a hollow, 
sonorous body inhabited by some mysterious will. 
He was saying the words : " To create with joy ! It 
is the attribute of Divinity ! It is impossible to 
imagine at the summit of our spirit a more triumph- 
ant act. The very words which express it have some- 
thing of the splendour of dawn. . . ." He went on 
repeating to himself, to the air, to the water, to the 
stones, to the ancient city, to the young dawn : " To 
create with joy, to create with joy." When the prow 
passed under the bridge, he absorbed in the wider 
breath he drew, together with all his own hope and 
courage, all the beauty and all the strength of his ante- 
rior life. 

" Find me a boat, Zorzi, a boat that will go out to 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 151 

sea." He seemed to need still more breathing space, 
to need the wind, the sea salt, the "foam, the swollen 
sail, the bowsprit pointed towards an immense ho- 
rizon. 

" To the Veneta Marina ! Find me a fishing boat. 
Some braghozzo from Chioggia." 

He caught sight of a great red and black sail that 
had only just been hoisted, and was flapping as it 
caught the wind, haughty as an old republican ban- 
ner, bearing the Lion and the Book. 

" There it is ! there it is ! We must overtake it, 
Zorzi." 

Impatiently he waved his hand to the boat, signing 
to her to stop. 

" Shout out to the boat that they must wait for 
me! " 

The man at the oar, heated and dripping, threw a 
cry of recall to the man at the sail. The gondola flew 
like a canoe in a regatta to the panting of the gon- 
dolier's mighty breast. 

" Bravo, Zorzi ! " 

But -Stelio was panting too, as if he were about to 
overtake his fortune, or some happy aim, or the cer- 
tainty of empire. 

" We have run in and won the flag," said the oars- 
man, rubbing his heated hands with a frank laugh 
that seemed to refresh him. " What folly ! " 

The gesture, the tone, the popular wit, the aston- 
ished faces of the fisherman leaning over the parapet, 
the reflection of the sail that made the water blood- 
like, the cordial odour of bread that came from a 
neighbouring bakehouse, the odour of boiling tar 
from a neighbouring dockyard, the noise of the 



152 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

arsenal work-people going to their warlike labour, all 
the strong emanation of that shore where one could 
still smell the old rotten galleys of the Serene Re- 
public and hear the resounding under the hammer of 
the Italian iron-clads, — all those rough and healthy- 
things called up an impulse of gladness that burst 
forth in a laugh from the young man's heart. He and 
the oarsman laughed together under the tarred, 
patched flank of the fishing boat, that had the living 
aspect of a good patient beast of burden, its skin 
harsh with wrinkles, excrescences, and scars. 

"What is it you want?" asked the elder of the 
fishermen, bending towards the sonorous laughter 
his bearded and weather-beaten face in which the 
only light things were a few grey hairs, and the grey 
eyes under the eyelids turned up by the salt winds. 
" What can I do for you, master? " 

The mainsail was flapping and hissing like a banner. 

"The master would like to come on board," 
answered Zorzi. 

The mast creaked like a living thing from head to 
foot. 

" Let him come up, then. Is that all you wish?" 
said the old man, simply, and he turned to take the 
stepladder. 

He hooked it along the stern. It was made of a 
few worn pegs, and a single double knotted rope that 
was also worn. But that too, like every detail of the 
rough boat, seemed to Stelio a singularly living 
thing. On putting his foot upon it, his thin glossy 
shoes embarrassed him. The large hard hand of the 
sailor, marked with blue emblems, helped him up, 
pulled him on board with a wrench. 



THE EPIPHANY OF THE FLAME 153 

" The grapes and the figs, Zorzi ! " 

The oarsman from the gondola handed him the 
plate of vine-leaves. 

" May it go into so much new blood for you ! " 

"And the bread!" 

" We have got hot bread," said a sailor, lifting up 
his fine, fair, round form, " just fresh from the oven." 

Hunger certainly would give it a delicious flavour, 
would find all the goodness of the grain gathered 
there. 

" Your servant, master, and fair wind to you," cried 
the oarsman, saluting. 

" Pull ! " 

The Latin sail with the Lion and the Book swelled 
crimson. The boat made for the open, turning its 
prow towards San Servolo. The shore seemed to 
arch itself as if to push it off. The veins of water in 
the ship's track made an opaline whirlpool as they 
mingled, one rosy, one blue-green, then they changed ; 
all the colours alternated as if the wave at the prow 
were a fluid rainbow. 

" Steer to the right ! " 

The boat veered with all its might. A miracle 
caught it; the first rays of the sun pierced the 
throbbing sail and flashed on the angels above the 
towers of San Marco and of San Giorgio Maggiore. 
They kindled the sphere of the Fortuna ; their light- 
ning crowned the five mitres of the Basilica. The 
Sea-City was queen on the water, and all her veils were 
rent. 

" Glory to the miracle ! " A superhuman feeling 
of power and freedom swelled the heart of the young 
man as the wind swelled the sail that was being 



1 54 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

transfigured for him. He stood in the crimson 
splendour of that sail as in the splendour of his own 
blood. It seemed to him that the mystery of so 
much beauty demanded of him the triumphal act. 
The consciousness came to him that he was ready 
for its accomplishment. " To create with joy ! " 
And the world was his ! 



II 

THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 



II 

THE EMPIRE OF .SILENCE 

" In Time ! " La Foscarina had paused for a long 
time in one of the rooms of the Academia before the 
old woman of Francesco Torbido, — that wrinkled, 
toothless, flabby, yellowish old woman, incapable of 
either weeping or smiling any longer, that kind of 
human ruin far worse than putrefaction, that kind 
of earthly parca holding between her fingers in place 
of spindle, thread, or scissors the placard with the 
warning. 

" In time ! " she repeated to the open air, interrupt- 
ing the silence full of thoughts during which, little 
by little, she had felt her heart grow heavy and 
descend to its depths like a stone in dull water. 
" Stelio, do you know the shut-up house in the Calle 
Gambara?" 

"No, which?" 

" The house of the Countess of Glanegg." 

" No, I don't know it. " 

" Don't you know the story of the beautiful Aus- 
trian?" 

" No, Fosca, tell it me." 

" Shall we go as far as the Calle Gambara? it is only 
a few steps." 

" Let us go." 



IS8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Side by side, they went towards the shut-up house. 
Stelio hung back a little to watch the actress, to see 
her walking in the dead air. His warm glance em- 
braced her whole person, — the line of the shoulders 
falling with so noble a grace, the free flexible waist 
on the powerful limbs, the knees that moved slightly 
among the folds of her gown, and the pale, passionate 
face, the mouth- full of thirst and eloquence, the fore- 
head that was as beautiful as a beautiful manly brow, 
the eyes that lengthened out from among the eye- 
lashes, hazy as if a tear were continually coming up 
to them and melting there unshed : the whole of the 
passionate face full of light and shadow, of love and 
sorrow : the feverish strength, the trembling life. 

"I love you, I love you! You alone please me; 
everything in you pleases me," he said suddenly, 
quite low, close to her cheek, almost pressing against 
her as he fell in with her pace, putting his arm under 
her arm, unable to bear the thought of her being 
seized by her torment, of her suffering from the fear- 
ful admonishment. 

She started, stopped, dropped her eyes, turned 
white. 

" Sweet friend," she said in so low a voice that 
the words seem modulated less by her lips than by 
her soul's smile. 

All her trouble was flowing away, was being 
changed into a wave of tenderness that poured its 
abundance over her friend. Her infinite gratitude 
gave her an anxious need of finding some great gift 
for him. 

"What can I do, what can I do for you? Tell 
me!" 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 159 

She thought of some wonderful test, some sudden 
strange testimony of love. "Let me serve, let me 
serve ! " She longed to possess the world that she 
might offer it to him. 

" What is it that you wish? Tell me, what can I 
do for you ? " 

" Love me ! Love me ! " 

" My love is sad, my poor friend." 

" It is perfect ; it fills up my life." 

" But you are young." 

" I love you ! " 

" You should possess that which is strong like 
yourself." 

" Every day you exalt my hope and my strength. 
The tide of my blood seems to swell when I am near 
you and your silence. At such times, things are 
conceived in me which you will marvel at in time. 
You are necessary to me." 

" Do not say so ! " 

" Each day you bring me the assurance that every 
promise ever made to me will be kept." 

" Yes, you will go on to the end of your own beau- 
tiful destiny. I have no fear for you. You are safe. 
No danger can frighten you. No obstacle can ever 
come in your way. Oh, to love without fearing ! 
Whoever loves, fears. I do not fear for you. 
You seem to me invincible. For this too, I thank 
you." 

She was showing him her profound faith which, like 
her passion, was lucid and unlimited. For a long 
time, even in the ardour of her own struggles and the 
vicissitudes of her wandering lot, she had kept her eyes 
intently fixed on his young, victorious life as on an 



i6o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

ideal form born of the purification of her own desire. 
More than once, in the midst of the sadness of her 
vain loves and the nobility of her self-imposed pro- 
hibition, she had thought : " Ah, if when the end has 
come of all my courage that the storm has hardened, 
if at the end of all the clear strong things that sorrow 
and revolt have laid bare in the depths of my soul, if 
with all that is best in me I could one day shape the 
wings for your last, highest flight ! " More than once 
her melancholy had known the intoxication of an 
almost heroic presentiment. At such times, she had 
subjected her soul to effort and constraint, had raised 
it to the highest moral beauty she knew, had led it 
towards actions that were pure and sorrowful, only 
for the sake of deserving that which she hoped and 
feared, only to think herself worthy of offering her 
servitude to him who was so impatient of conquest. 

And now a sudden violent shock of Fate had 
thrown her against him with all the weight of her 
trembling body like a woman full of desire. She 
had united herself to him with the sharpest of her 
blood, she had watched him on the same pillow, 
sleeping the heavy sleep of love's exhaustion, she had 
known at his side sudden awakenings agitated by cruel 
forebodings, had known the impossibility of closing 
her tired eyes again, lest he should gaze on her while 
she slept, lest seeking in her face the lines of the 
years that had passed he should be disgusted by them 
and pant after some fresh, young, unconscious life. 

" Nothing is worth what you give me," said Stelio, 
pressing her arm, his fingers seeking the bare wrist 
under her glove, urged by an uneasy necessity of 
feeling the pulse of that devoted life and the beating 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE i6i 

of that faithful heart in the deserted places through 
which they walked, under the squalid smoke that sur- 
rounded them and deadened the noise of their steps. 
" Nothing is worth this certainty of never again being 
alone until death." 

" Ah, then you too feel it, you too know that this 
is for ever ! " she cried with an impulse of joy as she 
saw the triumph of her love. " For ever ! Whatever 
may happen, wherever your fate may lead you, 
wherever you may want me to serve you, Stelio, be 
it near you or from afar. . . ." 

A confused monotony of sound was spreading 
through the air. She recognised it. It was the 
chorus of sparrows gathered together on the great 
dying tree in the garden of the Countess Glanegg. 
The words stopped on her lips ; she made an instinc- 
tive movement, as if to turn back, as if to draw her 
friend away in some other direction. 

"Where are we going?" he asked, shaken by his 
companion's brusque movement and by the un- 
expected interruption that was like the end of some 
music or enchantnient. 

She stopped. She smiled her slight concealing 
smile. " In Time." " I tried to escape," she said, 
" but I cannot, I see." 

As she stood there, she was like some pale flame. 

" I had forgotten that I was taking you to the 
closed house, Stelio." 

She stood there in the ashen daylight, nerveless 
like one lost in a desert. 

" I thought it was somewhere else we were going. 
But here we are. In time ! " 

She stood before him now as on that unforgettable 



i62 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

night, when she had implored him, "Do not hurt 
me ! " She stood there clothed in her sweet tender 
soul, that was so easy to slay, so easy to destroy and 
offer up like a bloodless sacrifice. 

" Let us go ; let us go ! ." he said, trying to draw 
her away. "Let us go elsewhere." 

" One cannot." 

" Let us go home, let us go home and light a fire, 
the first October fire. Let me spend the evening 
with you, Foscarina. It is going to rain before long. 
It would be so sweet to linger in your room, to talk 
or be silent with our hands in each other's. . . . 
Come, let us go." 

It would have pleased him to take her in his arms, 
to nurse her, comfort her, to feel her weeping and 
to drink in her tears. The very sound of his own 
caressing words increased his tenderness. Then, 
passionately, of all her loving person he loved the 
delicate lines that went from her eyes to her temples, 
and the little dark veins that made violets of her eye- 
lids, and the undulation of her cheek, and the weary 
chin, and all that in her seemed touched by the 
disease of Autumn and all that was shadow on her 
passionate face. 

" Foscarina, Foscarina ! " 

Whenever he called her by her real name, his 
heart would beat more rapidly, as if something more 
profoundly human were entering into his love, as if 
all of a sudden their whole past were being reknit 
to the figure isolated by his dream, as if innumerable 
threads were reconnecting all its fibres to implacable 
life. 

" Come, let us go ! " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 163 

" But why, since the house is there. Let us pass 
by the Calle Gambara. Don't you want to know 
the story of the Countess Glanegg? Look, it is like 
a convent ! " 

The narrow street was lonely; like a hermitage 
path it was greyish, damp, and strewn with putrid 
leaves. The north-east wind had brought a slow 
soft mist with it that deadened every noise. The 
monotonous twitter of the sparrows sounded now and 
again like the creaking of iron or wood. 

" Behind those walls, a desolate soul is surviving 
the beauty of its own body," said la Foscarina, 
in a level voice. " Look, the windows are closed, the 
shutters are nailed, the doors are sealed. Only one 
is left open for the servants to pass in and out of, 
and through it the dead woman's food is brought 
to her as in an Egyptian tomb. It is an extinguished 
body that those servants feed and wait upon." 

The almost naked tops of the trees that overtopped 
the cloistered enclosure seemed smoking, and the 
sparrows, more numerous on the branches than the 
diseased leaves, twittered and twittered endlessly. 

" Guess what her name is. It is as rare and beau- 
tiful a name as if you had discovered it yourself." 

" I don't know." 

" Radiana. Radiana is the name of the prisoner." 

" But whose prisoner? " 

" The prisoner of Time, Stelio. Time watches at 
her doors, as in the old prints, with his hour-glass 
and his scythe. . . " 

" Is it an allegory? " 

A child passed whistling. When he saw the two 
gazing at the closed windows, he also stopped to 



1 64 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

look with wide, wondering, curious eyes. They 
were silent. The constant twitter of the sparrows 
could not overpower the silence of the walls and the 
trees and the sky: its monotony sounded in their 
ears like the roar in a sea-shell, and through it they 
could hear the silence of surrounding things and 
a few distant voices. The hoarse hoot of a siren 
prolonged itself in the misty distance, becoming, 
little by little, as soft as a flute note. It ceased. 
The little boy grew tired of his gazing : nothing visi- 
ble was happening ; the windows did not open ; all 
remained motionless. He went off at a run. 

They heard the flight of his little naked feet patter- 
ing on the damp stones and the rotten leaves. 

" Well?" asked Stelio, " and what about Radiana? 
You have not told me yet why she has shut herself up. 
Tell me ! I have been thinking of Soranza Soranzo." 

"She is the Countess Glanegg, a lady of the high- 
est Viennese nobility, and perhaps the most beauti- 
ful creature that I have ever met. Franz Lenbach 
has painted her in the armour of a Valkyrie, wearing 
the four-winged helmet. Do you know Franz Len- 
bach? Have you ever been to his studio in the 
Palazzo Borghese?" 

" No, never." 

"You must go there one day, and you must ask 
him to show you that portrait. You will never 
again forget the face of Radiana. You will see it 
unchanged as I now see it through those walls. She 
has chosen to remain such as she was in the eyes 
of those who once saw her in her splendour. Once 
on some too bright a morning when she noticed that 
the time of withering had come for her too, she 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 165 

resolved to take leave of the world in such a way 
that man should not stand by, watching the decay 
and collapse of her famous beauty. Perhaps it was 
her sympathy with things that fall to pieces and go 
to ruin which kept her in Venice. On the occasion 
of her leave-taking she gave a magnificent entertain- 
ment at which she appeared, still sovereignly beauti- 
ful. Then, with her servants, she retired for ever 
in this house which you see, in this walled garden, 
to await the end. She has become a legendary 
figure. It is said that no mirror is allowed in her 
house and that she has forgotten her own face. Her 
most devoted friends and her nearest relatives are 
not allowed to see her. How does she live? In the 
company of what thoughts? What is the art that 
helps her while away the time of waiting? Is her soul 
in a state of grace ? " 

Every pause in the veiled voice that questioned 
the mystery was filled with a melancholy so dense as 
to seem almost tangible ; it seemed to be cadenced 
by the sobbing rhythm of water that is being poured 
into an urn. 

"Does she pray? Does she contemplate? Does 
she weep? Perhaps she has become inert and no 
longer suffers, as an apple does not suffer when it 
shrivels up in the bottom of an old cupboard." 

The woman stopped. Her lips curved down- 
wards as if their words had withered them. 

" What if she were suddenly to look out of that 
window?" said Stelio, his ear catching something 
like a real sensation, like the grinding of hinges. 

Both examined the interstices of the nailed 
shutters. 



1 66 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

"She might be sitting there looking at us," he 
added in a hushed voice. 

The shudder of the one communicated itself to the 
other. 

They were leaning against the opposite wall, un- 
willing to move a step. The surrounding inertia was 
creeping over them ; the damp, greyish mist grew 
thicker as it swathed them ; the confused monotony 
of the birds' twitter stunned them like certain drugs 
that stun fever. The sirens screeched in the dis- 
tance. The screeches, dwindling little by little till 
they became as gentle as flute notes in the limp air, 
seemed to linger like the discoloured leaves that were 
leaving their branches one by one without a moan. 
How long it took for the falling leaf to drop to the 
earth ! All was mist ; all was slow heaviness, deser- 
tion, waste, ashes. 



" It is inevitable ! I must die, dear friend ; I must 
die," the woman said in a heart-rending voice after a 
long silence, raising her face from the cushion where 
she had been pressing it in order to master the con- 
vulsion of pain and pleasure that his sudden, furious 
caresses had given her. 

She saw her friend sitting apart from her on the 
other divan near the balcony, in the attitude of one 
about to go to sleep, his eyes half shut, and his head, 
which was thrown back, tinged with gold by the light 
of evening. She saw the red mark, like a small 
wound, just under his lip, and the disordered hair on 
his forehead. She felt that those were the things on 
which her desire fed and rekindled itself. She felt 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 167 

that her eyelids hurt her pupils the more she looked, 
that her gaze burnt her eyelashes ; that the incurable 
evil entered through her pupils, spreading over all 
her withered body. Lost, lost, henceforth she was 
lost without remedy. 

" Die ? " her friend said weakly, without opening his 
eyes, without moving, as if speaking from the depths 
of his drowsiness and his melancholy. 

She noticed that the little open wound moved 
under his lip when he spoke. 

" Before you hate me." 

He opened his eyes, raised himself up, held out his 
hand towards her as if to prevent her from saying 
any more. 

" Ah, why do you torment yourself? " 

She was almost livid ; her loosened hair fell in 
streaks over her face ; she seemed consumed by a 
poison that corroded her, bent as if her soul had 
broken through its flesh, terrible and miserable. 

" What are you doing with me ; what are we doing 
with each other ?" the woman said in her anguish. 

They had struggled that day: the breath of the 
one mingling with the other's breath, one heart 
against the other heart; their union had been like a 
scuffle ; they had felt the taste of blood in the mois- 
ture of their mouths. All at once they had yielded 
to a sudden rush of desire as to a blind necessity of 
destroying each other. He had shaken her life as 
if to tear it up by its most hidden roots. They 
had felt a sharpness of teeth hiding in their cruel 
kisses. 

" I love you ! " 

" Not as I would wish ; this is not what I want." 



1 68 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

"You excite me. Suddenly, the fury seizes 
me. . . ." 

" It is like hatred." 

" No, no ; don't say that." 

" You shake me and rend me as if you wanted to 
make an end of me." 

" You blind me. After that I know nothing." 

" What is it that agitates you ? What do you see 
in me?" 

" I don't know. I don't know what it is." 

" I know it." 

"Don't torment yourself I love you! This is 
the love. ..." 

" That condemns me ! I must die of it. Give 
me once more the name you used to give me.'' 

" You are mine ! I have you now and will not 
lose you." 

" But you must lose me." 

"But why? I cannot understand you. What is 
this madness of yours? Does my desire offend you? 
But you, do you perhaps not desire me too? Are 
you not seized by the same fury of possessing me 
and of being possessed? Your teeth were chattering 
before I even touched you. . . ." 

His intolerance was burning into her more deeply, 
was poisoning her wound. She covered her face with 
her hands. Her heart had become rigid and was 
beating in her breast like a hammer, and the hard 
blows of the hammer were reverberated in her head. 

" Look ! " 

He touched his lip where it hurt him, pressed 
the small wound, held out to the woman his finger 
tinged with the drop of blood that had oozed from it. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 169 

She rose to her feet quickly, writhing as if he had 
prodded her with a red-hot iron. She opened her 
eyes wide upon him as if to devour him with her 
gaze, her nostrils quivered, a fearful force heaved 
in her, her whole body, in vibrating, felt itself naked 
under her dress as if the folds no longer adhered to 
it. Her face, that had looked up from the hollow 
of her hands as from a blind mask, burnt darkly 
like a fire that has no rays. She was most beautiful, 
most terrible, and most miserable. 

" Ah, Perdita, Perdita 1 " 

Never, never, never will that man forget that step 
which Lust moved towards him, the way in which it 
drew near him, the swift dumb wave that overthrew it- 
self on his breast, that wrapped him round, that drank 
him in, that gave him for a moment the fear and 
the joy of suffering a divine violence, of dissolving 
in a kind of warm, deadly moisture, as if the whole 
of the woman's body had suddenly become one 
single aspiring mouth that drew him in and by 
which he was entirely absorbed. 

He closed his eyes, forgetting the world and his 
glory. A dark sacred depth opened in him like a 
temple. His spirit became motionless and opaque, 
but all his senses aspired after the transcending of 
their human limits, aspired to the joy that is beyond 
the human impediment, became sublime, capable of 
penetrating the remotest mysteries, of discovering 
the most recondite secrets, of drawing one pleasure 
from another like one harmony from another har- 
mony, became marvellous instruments, infinite vir- 
tues, realities sure as death. All was vanishing like 
a mist, the energies and the aspirations of the 



\^o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

universe seemed converging in that mere union of 
sexes ; it was consecrated by heaven, made religious 
by the shadow of the curtains, accompanied by the 
roar of death. 

He opened his eyes. He saw the room, that had 
grown dark ; through the open balcony he saw the 
distant sky, the trees, the cupolas, the towers, the 
extremity of the lagoon with the face of the twi- 
light bending over it, and the Euganean Hills, that 
were quiet and blue like the folded wings of earth 
resting in the evening. He saw the forms of silence 
and the silent form of the woman adhering to him like 
the bark to the trunk of the tree. 

The woman was lying with all her weight upon him, 
holding and covering him in her embrace, her fore- 
head pressed against his shoulder, her face suffocat- 
ingly hidden ; she was clasping him with a hold that 
did not loosen, that was indissoluble, like the grip of 
a corpse's stiffened arms round a living person. It 
seemed as if she could never loosen that clasp, as if 
she could never again be detached from him except by 
the cutting off of her arms. He felt, in that encircling 
clasp, the solidity and the tenacity of the bones, 
while on his bosom and along his legs he felt the 
soddenness of the body that trembled upon him now 
and then with a quiver as of water running over 
gravel. Indefinite things passed in that tremble of 
water, numberless continual things that rose from the 
depths and descended from afar ; ever thicker, more 
impure, they passed and passed like a turbid stream 
of life. He acknowledged once more that his sharp 
desire was nourished by that very impurity, by that 
unknown encumbrance, by those traces of lost loves, 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE i;i 

by all that bodily sadness and unspeakable despair. 
He owned once more that it was the phantoms of 
other gestures which spurred his gesture of longing 
for the wandering woman. It was because of her 
that he was suffering now and because of himself; 
and he felt her suffer, and he felt that she was his the 
same as fuel belongs to the fire that consumes it. 
And again he heard the words that had come unex- 
pectedly after their fury had passed : " It is inevi- 
table: I must die." 

He turned his eyes to the open again, saw the 
gardens darkening, the houses being lit up, a star 
springing from the sky's mourning, the glitter of a 
long pale sword at the bottom of the lagoon, the 
mountains melting into the fragments of night, the 
distance stretching out towards regions rich with 
unknown possessions. There were actions to be 
accomplished in the world, conquests to be followed 
up, dreams to exalt, destinies to enforce, enigmas 
to attempt, laurels to be gathered. There were 
paths down there, mysterious meetings that could 
not be foreseen. Some veiled joy might be pass- 
ing somewhere, with nobody to meet or recognise 
it. Was there not perhaps an equal, a brother, 
living somewhere in the world at that hour, or a 
distant enemy on whose brow the lightning-like 
inspiration from which the eternal work is born was 
about to descend after a day of troubled expecta- 
tion. Some one, perhaps, at that hour had finished 
some great work, or had found at last some heroic 
reason of living ; but he, — he lay there in the prison 
of his body under the weight of the desperate 
woman. Her magnificint fate, full of sorrow and of 



172 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

power, had come to break against him as against a 
rock. What was Donatella Arvale doing? What 
was she thinking of in the evening hour on her 
Tuscan hill in her solitary house, near her demented 
father? Was she tempering her will for some con- 
templated struggle? Was she sounding her secret? 
Was she pure? 

He became inert under the woman's clasp, his 
arms hindered by the rigid circle. Repulsion filled 
his being. A melancholy as strong as pain thick- 
ened round his heart; and the silence seemed 
expecting a cry. The veins throbbed painfully in 
his limbs, that had grown torpid under her weight. 
Little by little the clasp gave way as if life were 
failing it. The heart-rending words came back to 
his soul. A funereal image appeared, assailing him 
with a sudden frightened uneasiness. And neverthe- 
less he did not move nor speak nor attempt to dis- 
sipate the cloud of anguish that had gathered over 
them both. He remained motionless. He lost the 
knowledge of places and the measure of time. He 
saw himself and the woman in the midst of an infi- 
nite plain, where half-scorched, scattered grasses grew 
under a white sky. They were waiting, waiting for 
a voice to call them, for a voice that should raise 
them up. ... A confused dream was born in his 
torpor, fluctuated, changed, turned sad in the night- 
mare. Breathlessly he seemed to be climbing a 
steep hillside with his companion; and her more 
than human breathlessness increased his own. . . . 

He started, re-opening his eyes at the clang of a 
bell. It was the bell of San Simeone Profeta, and 
it was so near that it seemed to be ringing in the 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 173 

very room. The metallic sound pierced like a 
rapier. 

"Had you, too, gone to sleep?" he asked the 
woman, finding her unresisting like one already dead. 

And he raised one hand, passed it lightly over her 
hair, stroking her cheeks and chin. 

She burst into sobs, as if that hand were breaking 
her heart. And she lay sobbing on his breast with- 
out dying there. 



" I have a heart, Stelio," said the woman, looking 
him in the eyes with a painful effort that made her 
lips tremble as if she had overcome fierce shyness in 
order to say those words. " I suffer from a heart 
that is alive in me, — ah, Stelio, alive and eager and 
full of anguish as you will never know. . . ." 

She smiled her thin, concealing smile, hesitated, 
held out her hand towards a bunch of violets, took 
it up and raised it to her nostrils ; her eyelids 
dropped; her forehead was bare between her hair 
and the flowers, marvellously beautiful and sad. 

"Sometimes you wound it," she said in a low 
voice, her breath lost in the violets. " You are cruel 
to it sometimes. . . ." 

It seemed as if the humble, sweet-smelling flowers 
were helping her to confess her grief, veiling still 
further her timid reproach to her friend. She was 
silent; he bowed his head. They could hear the 
crackling of the wood on the fire-dogs ; they could 
hear the even beat of the rain in the mourning 
garden. 

" A great thirst for kindness ; ah, you will never 



i;4 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

know what a thirst it is! . . . For that kindness, 
dear sweet friend, that deep true kindness, knowing 
not how to speak, but understanding, knowing how 
to give all in a single look, in a little movement, 
strong and sure, always rising up between us and life 
that stains and seduces us . . . Do you know it? " 

Her voice, alternately firm and vacillating, was so 
warm with inner light, so filled with the revelation 
of a soul, that the young man felt it passing through 
his blood, less like a sound than a spiritual essence. 

" In you, in you, I know it." 

He took her hands that were in her lap holding 
the violets, and, bending over them, submissively 
kissed them both. Then he remained at her feet in 
the same attitude of submission. The delicate per- 
fume made his own tenderness more delicate. The 
rain and the fire spoke in the pause. 

"Do you think I am sure of you?" the woman 
asked in a clear voice. 

" Have you not watched me sleeping on your 
heart?" he answered, his tone all at once changed 
by a new emotion, because he had seen in that 
question the bare soul rise up and stand before 
him, had felt his secret need of believing and con- 
fiding discovered. 

"Yes, but what is that? The sleep of youth is 
calm on any pillow. You are young. . . ." 

" I love you and believe in you. I have given 
myself up entirely. You are my companion and 
your hand is strong." ' 

He had seen the well-known anguish disturb the 
lines of the dear face, and his voice had trembled 
with love. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 175 

" Kindn»ss ! " said the woman, with a light move- 
ment, caressing the hair on his temples. " You know 
how to be kind ; the necessity is in you, dear friend, of 
comforting. But a fault has been committed, and it 
must be atoned for. Once I thought that I could 
do the highest and the most humble things for you, 
and now it seems to me there is only one thing I can 
do, — to go away, disappear, leave you free with your 
fate." 

He interrupted her, lifting himself up and taking 
the dear face in his hands. 

" This thing I can do, which even love could not," 
she said in her low voice, turning pale and looking 
at him as she had never done before. 

He felt himself to be holding his soul in the hollow 
of his hand, the image of a living spring infinitely 
precious and beautiful. 

" Foscarina, Foscarina, my soul, my life ! Yes, 
yes, more than love, I know that you can give me 
more than love; and nothing is worth to me that 
which you can give, and no other offer could comfort 
me for not having you at my side on the way. 
Believe, believe ! I have repeated this to you so 
many times, don't you remember? also when you 
were not entirely mine, even when the prohibition 
still kept us apart. . . ." 

Holding her closely in that same position, he 
bent over her and kissed her passionately on the 
lips. 

She shivered in all her bones ; the cold stream was 
passing over her, freezing her. 

" No, no more," she begged, turning white. 

She moved her friend away from her, unable to 



176 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

restrain the panting in her breast. As in a dream, 
she bent down to pick up the violets that had 
fallen. 

" The prohibition ! " she said, after an interval ot 
silence. 

A dull roar came from a log that was struggling 
with the bite of the flame ; the rain was pouring on the 
trees and stones. Now and then the sound imitated 
the agitation of the sea, conjuring up hostile places, 
inhospitable distances, beings that wandered under 
inclement skies. 

" Why have we violated it? " 

Stelio's eyes were intent on the mobile splendour 
of the hearth ; in his flat, open hands the marvellous 
sensation was being continued, the vestige of the 
miracle still dwelt there, the trace of that human 
countenance across the miserable pallor of which a 
wave of sublime beauty had passed. 

"Why?" repeated the woman, sorrowfully. "Ah, 
confess, confess that you, too, before the blind fury 
took us and carried us both away that night, — you too 
felt that all was about to be lost and devastated, you, 
too, felt that we could not yield if we wanted to save 
the good that was born of us, to save that strong, 
inebriating thing that to me had seemed the only 
valuable one of my life. Confess, Stelio ; tell me the 
truth. I can almost remind you of the moment when 
the better voice spoke to you. Was it not on the 
water as we went towards my house, having Donatella 
with us? " 

She had hesitated a moment before pronouncing 
that name, and afterwards she had felt an almost 
physical bitterness descending from her lips, as if 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 177 

its syllables had become poison to her. In her 
suffering she waited for her friend's answer. 

" I can no longer look back, Fosca," he answered. 
" Nor would I. I have lost no good thing that was 
mine. I like your soul to have a mouth that is heavy, 
and it pleases me to feel that your blood flies from 
your face when I touch you, and you know by that 
touch that I desire you. . . ." 

" Be silent, be silent ! " she implored. " Do not 
unnerve me always. Let me speak of my trouble 
to you. Why will you not help me?" 

She drew back a little among her cushions, shrink- 
ing as if his had been an act of brutal violence and, 
in order not to look at her lover, looking fixedly 
into the fire. 

" More than once I have seen something in your 
eyes which has filled me with horror," she at last 
managed to say, with an effort that made her voice 
hoarse. 

He started, but dared not contradict her. 

" With horror," she repeated, more clearly, im- 
placable towards herself, Having conquered her fear 
and taken hold of her courage. 

Both of them, with naked throbbing hearts, now 
stood before the truth. 

" Without weakness," the woman spoke on. 

" The first time, it was that night, out there in the 
garden. ... I know what it all was that you were 
seeing in me. All the mud over which I have walked, 
all the infamy I have trodden under foot, all the im- 
purity which has filled me with repugnance. . . . Ah, 
you could not have confessed the visions that were 
kindling your fever! Your eyes were cruel, and 

iz 



178 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

your mouth was convulsed. When you felt that you 
were wounding me you took pity. . . . But since, but 
since . . ." 

A blush had covered her, her voice had become 
impetuous and her eyes shone. 

" To have nourished for years, with all that was 
best in me, a feeling of unlimited devotion and ad- 
miration ; to have received when near you and from 
afar, in joy and in sadness, every consolation offered 
to mankind by your poetry with an act of the purest 
gratitude: and to have anxiously awaited other, 
ever greater and more consoling gifts; to have be- 
lieved in the great strength of your genius from its 
very dawn and never to have detached my eyes from 
your ascension ; and to have accompanied it with a 
wish that for years has been like my morning and 
evening prayer; to have silently, fervently gone on 
with the continual effort of imparting some beauty 
and some harmony to my spirit, that it might be less 
unworthy of approaching yours ; on the stage before 
an ardent audience, to have so many times pro- 
nounced some immortal words, thinking of those 
which perhaps one day you would elect to give to 
the crowd through my lips; to have worked un- 
ceasingly; to have always sought after simpler and 
more intense art; to have aspired to perfection 
continually for fear of not pleasing you, of appear- 
ing too unequal to your dream; to have loved my 
fitful glory only because it might one day have 
served your own ; to have hastened on the newest of 
your revelations with unshakable faith, that I might 
offer myself to you as an instrument of victory before 
the hour of my own decay, and to have defended this 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 179 

idealism in my hidden soul against all and every- 
thing, against all and against myself: yes, more 
harshly, more bravely against my own self; to have 
made of you my melancholy, my unyielding hope, 
my heroic test, the symbol of all things good, strong, 
free, ah, Stelio, Stelio . . ." 

She stopped a moment, suffocated by that memory 
as by a new shame . 

"... and to have reached that dawn, to have 
seen you leaving my house in that way, in that hor- 
rible dawn." 

She turned even whiter, all the blood leaving her 
face. 

" Do you remember? " 

" I was happy, happy, happy," he cried out 
to her in a choked voice, convulsed to the very 
depths. 

"No, no; don't you remember? You rose from 
my bed as from the bed of a courtesan, replete, after 
a few hours' violent pleasure. . . ." 

" You are wrong; you deceive yourself! " , 

" Confess, tell me the truth ; only through truth 
can we yet hope to save ourselves." 

" I was happy. My whole heart was open ; I was 
dreaming and hoping. I felt myself rising to new 
life. . . ." 

"Yes, yes; happy because you were breathing 
freely again, because you found yourself still young 
in the wind and the daylight. Ah, you had mingled 
too many acrid things with your caresses, and there 
was too much poison in your pleasure. What did 
you see in her who had known agony in her renunci- 
ation so many times, — and you know it, — yes, agony, 



i8o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

rather than break through the prohibition necessary 
to the life of the dream that she was dragging with 
her in her endless wandering. Tell me, what was it 
you saw in me if not a corrupt creature, a body full 
of lust and remains of adventurous passions, a wan- 
dering actress who, on her bed, as on the stage, 
belongs to all and to none . . ." 

" Foscarina ! Foscarina ! " 

He threw himself upon her, overcome by her words, 
and closed her lips with his trembling hand. 

" No, no ; don't speak like that. Be silent ! You 
are mad ; you are mad. . . ." 

"The horror of it ! " she murmured, falling back on 
her cushions as if about to lose consciousness, wearied 
by the effort, wan under the flood of bitterness that 
had gurgled up from her heart's depths. 

But her eyes remained open and dilated, motion- 
less like two crystals, hard as if they had no lashes, 
fixed upon him. They prevented him from speak- 
ing, from denying or diminishing the truth they had 
discovered. After a few seconds he found them 
becoming intolerable. He closed them with his 
fingers, as one closes those of the dead. She saw 
the gesture, which was one of infinite melancholy; 
felt those fingers touching her lids as only love and 
pity can touch. The bitterness disappeared; the 
harsh knot melted away ; her lashes moistened. She 
held out her arms, twined them round his neck, and 
supporting herself by them, raised herself slightly. 
She seemed to be drawing herself together within 
herself, to have become light and weak once more 
and full of silent prayer. 

" So I must go away," she sighed, her voice mois- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE i8i 

tened by her heart's weeping. " Is there no help for 
it? Is there no forgiveness? " 

" I love you," said her lover. 

She freed one arm and held out her open hand to 
the fire, as if for an exorcism. Then she locked the 
young man again in a close embrace. 

" Yes, yet for a little while, yet for a little while ! 
Let me stay with you a little more ! Then I will go 
away, I will go away, and die somewhere far away 
on a stone under some tree. Let me stay with you 
a little longer." 

" I love you," said her lover. 

It seemed as if the blind undaunted forces of life 
were whirling over their heads and, above their 
embrace. Because they felt them and were terrified 
by them, they held each other more closely ; and from 
the clasp of their two bodies, a good and an evil that 
were heart-rending, confused and intermingled and 
no longer separable, were born for their souls. In the 
silence, the voices of the elements spoke their obscure 
language, which was like an uncomprehended answer 
to their mute questioning. The fire and the rain, 
near them and afar, conversed, answered, narrated. 
Little by little these things attracted the Spirit of the 
Life-giver, drew it away, mastered it, dragged it into 
the world of innumerable myths that was born of 
their eternity. With a sensation that was deep and 
real he heard the resonance of the two melodies 
expressing the intimate essence of the two elementary 
wills : the two marvellous melodies that he had found 
and was going to weave into the symphonic web of 
his new tragedy. The stabs of pain and the vi- 
brations of anxiety suddenly ceased as if for a happy 



1 82 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

truce, for an interval of enchantment in the mist. 
The woman's arms, too, were loosened as if obey- 
ing some mysterious liberating command. 

" There is no help for it," she said to herself, as 
if she were repeating the words of a condemnation 
actually heard by her in the same way as Stelio had 
heard the great melodies. 

She leaned forward, resting her chin on her hand 
and her elbow on her knee; and she remained in 
that attitude staring fixedly into the fire with a frown 
between her brows. 

As he looked at her, he returned to his uneasiness. 
The truce had passed too quickly, but in it his spirit 
had been turned towards his work, and a tumult that 
was like impatience had stayed behind with him. That 
uneasiness now seemed useless to him, the woman's 
anguish seemed importunate, since he loved her and 
desired her, and his caresses were ardent, and both 
were free, and the place of their dwelling was favour- 
able to their dreams and their pleasures. He longed 
to find a sudden means of snapping the iron band 
that held her, of hfting her sad mists, of leading his 
friend back to joy. He asked of his own spirit of 
grace some delicate invention to mellow the afflicted 
one and win her back to a smile. But he no longer 
possessed the spontaneous melancholy, the trembhng 
pity that had given his fingers so soft a touch when 
he closed the despairing eyes. His instinct sug- 
gested nothing more than a sensual act, the caress 
that deadens the soul, the kiss that drowns thought. 

He hesitated, looked at her. She was sitting in the 
same bent attitude, her chin leaning on her hand, her 
forehead puckered. The fire lit up her face and hair 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 183 

in its glad leaping; the brow was as beautiful as a fine 
manly brow ; there was something wild in the natural 
fold and the tawny lights of the thick locks where they 
waved back from the temples, — something fierce and 
rough, that reminded one of the wing of a bird of prey. 

" What are you looking at?" she said, feeling his 
attention. "Are you discovering a white hair?" 

He went down on his knees before her, flexible and 
caressing. 

" You are beautiful in my eyes. In you I always 
find something that pleases me, Foscarina. I was 
watching the strange wave of your hair just here; it 
is not made by a comb, but by the storm." 

He insinuated his sensual hands through her thick 
locks. She closed her eyes, seized by the usual chill, 
dominated by the terrible power; was his like a thing 
that can be held in the hand, like a ring on a finger, 
like a glove, like a garment, like a word that can be 
spoken or not, like a wine that can be drunk or spilt 
on the ground. 

" You are beautiful as I see you. When you shut 
your eyes thus, I feel that you are mine to your last, 
last depths, lost in me, like the soul is confused with 
the body. One only life, mine and yours. . . . Ah, 
I cannot tell you. . . . The whole of your face turns 
pale within me. ... I feel the love that is in your 
veins and in your very hair rising, rising. I see it 
overflow from under your eyelids. . . . When your 
eyelids beat, it seems that they must throb like my 
blood, and that the shadow of your eyelashes must 
reach to the innermost part of my heart." 

She listened in the darkness where the red vibra- 
tion of the flame reached her through the living 



1 84 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

tissue. And now and then it seemed that his voice 
came from far away and was not speaking to her, but 
to another; that she was listening surreptitiously to 
a lover's outpouring, that she was torn by jealousy, 
stricken by the flashes of a desire to killj invaded by 
a spirit of vengeance that thirsted for blood, and that 
nevertheless her body remained motionless and that 
her hands were hanging beside her, full of heavy 
torpor, harmless and powerless. 

" You are my joy, and you are my awakening. 
There is an awakening power in you of which you 
yourself are unconscious. The simplest of your acts 
is enough to reveal some truth to me that I ignored, 
and love is like the intellect, — shining in the measure 
of the truths which it discovers. Why, why do you 
regret? Nothing is destroyed ; nothing is lost. We 
were meant to unite our two selves, just as we have 
joined them, so that together we might rise towards 
joy. It was necessary that I should be free and 
happy in the truth of your entire love in order to 
create the work of beauty that is expected by so 
many. I have need of your faith; I have need of 
passing through joy and of creating. . . . Your mere 
presence is enough to fructify my spirit incalculably. 
A moment ago, when you were holding me in your 
embrace, I suddenly felt a torrent of music, a river 
of melody passing through the silence. . . ." 

To whom was he speaking? Of whom was he 
asking joy? Was not his musical necessity stretch- 
ing out towards her who sang and transfigured the 
universe with her song? Of whom, if not of fresh 
youth, intact virginity, could he ask joy and creation? 
While she was holding him in her arms, the other 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 185 

woman had been singing within him. And now, 
now, to whom was he speaking, if not to her? Only 
the other could give him that which was necessary 
to his art and his life. The virgin was a new force, 
a closed beauty, a weapon not yet used, sharp and 
magnificent, bringing the intoxication of war. A 
sorrow mixed with anger tormented the woman 
in that vibrating broken darkness which she could 
not leave. She was suffering as if lying in a night- 
mare. It seemed to her that she was rolling to the 
deep with her indestructible encumbrance, with 
her past life and her years of misery and triumph, 
with her faded face and her thousand masks, with 
her despairing soul and the thousand souls that had 
inhabited her mortal shape. The passion that was 
to have saved her was pushing her irreparably to- 
wards ruin and death. In order to reach her and to 
reach his joy through her, the desire of the man she 
loved was obliged -to force itself through the con- 
fused encumbrance, made up, as he believed, of innu- 
merable, unknown loves; it would contaminate and 
corrupt itself there, become sharp and cruel; lastly, 
from sharpness it would pass to disgust, perhaps to 
hatred and contempt. The shadow of other men 
must ever lurk above his own caress, and that shadow 
must ever kindle the instinct of brutal ferocity that 
was hidden in the depths of his powerful sensuality. 
Ah, what had she done? She had armed a furious 
devastator and had put him there between herself 
and her friend. Henceforth there was no escape for 
her. She herself on that night of conflagration had 
brought him the fresh, beautiful prey on whom he 
had cast one of those looks that are an election 



1 86 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and a promise. To whom was he speaking now, if 
not to her? Of whom was he asking joy? 

" Don't be sad ; don't be sad ! " 

She now heard the words confusedly, more faintly 
from minute to minute, as if her soul were sinking 
and the voice remaining on high, but she felt his im- 
patient hands caressing her, tempting her. And in 
the blood-like darkness that was like the darkness 
whence folly and delirium spring, from her marrow, 
from her veins, from all her troubled flesh, a savage 
rebellion rose suddenly. 

" Shall I take you to her; shall I call her to you?" 
she cried, beside herself, opening her eyes wide on 
his surprise, seizing him by the wrists and shak- 
ing him with convulsed strength. " Go, go ; she is 
waiting for you. Why do you stay here? Go, run; 
she is waiting for you." 

She got up, raised him as she did so, and tried to 
push him towards the door. She was unrecognis- 
able, transfigured by her violence into a threatening, 
dangerous creature. The strength of her hands 
was incredible, like the energy of harm that had 
developed itself in all her limbs. 

" Who, who is waiting for me ? What are you 
saying? Come back to yourself, Foscarina." 

He was stammering as he called her ; he trembled 
with misgiving; he seemed to see the face of folly 
outlined in those convulsed features. She was like 
one demented and did not hear him. 

" Foscarina ! " 

He called her with all his soul, white with terror, 
as if to stop with his cry the reason that was about to 
leave her. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 187 

She gave a great shudder, unclenched her hands, 
and looked round in a dazed way, as if she were 
awaking and did not remember. She was panting. 

" Come, sit down." 

He drew her back to the cushions, settled her there 
gently. She let herself be soothed, tended by his 
pained tenderness. She seemed to awake after 
having lost consciousness and to remember nothing. 
She moaned. 

" Who has beaten me? " 

She felt her sore arms, touched her cheeks near 
the joint of the jaws that hurt her. She began to 
shiver with cold. 

" Stretch yourself out ; lay your head here. ..." 

He made her lie down and rest her head, covered 
her feet with a cushion, softly, very gently, bending 
over her, as over a dear invalid, giving up to her all 
his heart that was beating, beating, still terrified. 

" Yes, yes," she repeated, at his every movement, 
as if to prolong the sweetness of his care of her. 

"Are you cold?" 

" Yes." 

" Shall I cover you up ? " 

" Yes." 

He looked for something to cover her, found a 
piece of old velvet on a table. He covered her with 
that. She smiled up at him slightly. 

" Are you comfortable like this ? " 

She only just signed to him with her eyelids that 
were closing. He picked up the violets, that were 
languid and warm. Then he placed the bunch on 
the cushion where her head was resting. 

"So?" 



1 88 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Her lashes moved still more slightly. He kissed 
her on the forehead, in the midst of the perfume ; 
then he turned to stir up the fire, added more wood, 
raised a great blaze. 

" Does the heat reach you? Are you getting 
warm? " he asked in a low voice. 

He drew near and bent over the poor creature. 
She had gone to sleep ; the contractions of her face 
were smoothing out, and the lines of her mouth had 
recomposed themselves in the regular rhythm of 
sleep. A calm similar to that of death was diffused 
over her pallor. " Sleep, sleep." He was so full of 
love and pity that he would have liked to transfuse 
an infinite virtue of consolation and forgetfulness into 
that sleep. " Sleep on ; sleep on ! " 

He remained there, standing on the carpet, to 
watch her. For a few seconds he measured her 
breathing. Those lips had said, " One thing I can 
do which even Love cannot do ! " Those lips had 
cried out, " Shall I take you to her? Shall I call 
her to you? " He neither judged nor resolved, let- 
ting his thoughts disperse. Once again, he felt the 
blind, undaunted forces of life whirling above his 
head, and once again above that sleep he felt his 
terrible desire of life. " The bow is called Bios, and 
its work is Death." 

In the silence, the fire and the water spoke. The 
voice of the elements, the woman sleeping in her sor- 
row, the nearness of fate, the immensity of the future, 
memory and presentiment, all those signs created a 
state of musical mystery in his spirit in which his un- 
expressed work rose up and received light. He 
heard his melodies developing indefinitely ; he heard 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 189 

a person in the fable saying: " It alone quenches 
our thirst; and all the thirst that is in us reaches out 
greedily towards its freshness. If it were not for it, 
no one of us could live here ; we should all die of 
thirst." He saw a landscape, furrowed by the white 
dried-up bed of an ancient river, scattered over with 
lighted bonfires in the extraordinarily calm pure 
evening. He saw a funereal glimmer of gold, a tomb 
full of corpses all covered with gold, the body of 
Cassandra crowned among the sepulchral urns. A 
voice was saying : " How soft her ashes are ! They 
run through the fingers like sea-sand." A voice was 
saying: "She speaks of a shadow that passes over 
things and of a wet sponge that wipes out all traces." 
At this, night came ; the stars twinkled, the myrtles 
filled the air with odour, and a voice was saying: 
" Ah, the statue of Niobe ! Before dying, Antigone 
sees a stone statue from which issues a spring of 
eternal tears." The error of time had disappeared, 
the distance of centuries was abolished. The ancient 
tragic soul was present in the new soul. The poet's 
words and the poet's music were recomposing the 
ideal unity of life. 



One afternoon in November he returned on the 
steamer from the. Lido, accompanied by Daniele 
Glauro. They had left the stormy Adriatic behind 
them, and with it the roar of the green and white 
waves on the desert beach, the trees of San Niccolo 
despoiled by the rapacious wind, clouds of dead 
leaves, heroic phantoms of leave-takings and arrivals, 
the memory of the archers competing for the scarlet, 



190 THE FLAME OF tiFE 

and of Lord Byron galloping, devoured by th 
anxiety of surpassing his own destiny. 

" I too, to-day, would have given a kingdom for 
horse," said Stelio, deriding himself in his irritation : 
the mediocrity of Hfe " There was neither a crosi 
bow nor a horse at San Niccolo, not even the courag 
of the oarsman ! Perge audacter. . . . Here we ar( 
on this ignoble gray carcass that smokes and grun 
bles Hke a kettle. Look at Venice dancing dow 
there ! " 

The anger of the sea was spreading over the lagoor 
The waters were agitated by a strong tremor, and 
seemed that the agitation communicated itself to th 
foundations of the city, that the palaces and cupola 
heaved like boats on the water. Seaweeds floatec 
torn up from their depths, showing all their whitis 
roots. Flocks of sea-gulls gyrated in the wind an 
at times their strange laughter could be heard hang 
ing above the innumerable crests of the storm. 

" Wagner ! " said Daniele Glauro, in a low voic 
and with sudden emotion, pointing out an old ma 
who was leaning against the parapet at the prov 
" There with Donna Cosima and Franz Liszt. D 
you see him? " 

The heart of SteHo Effrena beat louder ; for hii 
too all surrounding figures disappeared ; the bitte 
tedium ceased with the oppression of his inertia, an 
there remained only the sense of superhuman powe 
conjured up by that name ; the only reality abov 
all those indistinct husks was the ideal world brougl 
to light by that name round the little old man wh 
was bending towards the tumult of the waters. 

Victorious genius, fidelity of love, unchangeabl 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 191 

friendship, all the supreme apparitions of an heroic 
nature were once more gathered together under 
the tempest, silently. One same dazzling whiteness 
crowned the three persons standing near one another ; 
their hair over their sad thoughts was extraordinarily 
white. An uneasy sadness stood revealed in their 
faces and attitudes as if one same obscure presenti- 
ment lay heavy on their communicating souls. The 
woman's white face had a beautiful robust mouth, 
made up of firm clear lines that betrayed a tenacious 
soul; and her light steely eyes were continually 
fixed on him who had chosen her for the companion 
of his great warfare, continually adoring and vigi- 
lant on him who, having conquered all deadly things, 
yet would not be able to conquer that other death 
which so constantly menaced him. That feminine 
gaze full of fear and of protection thus opposed itself 
to the invisible eyes of the other Woman, and gath- 
ered a vague funereal shadow round the protected 
one. 

" He seems to be suffering," said Daniele Glauro. 
" Don't you see? He looks as if about to collapse. 
Shall we draw nearer to him ? " 

Stelio Effrena gazed with inexpressible emotion at 
the white hairs tossed about by the harsh wind on 
the aged neck under the wide brim of the soft felt 
and at the almost livid ear with its swollen lobe; 
that body, borne up during its warfare by so fierce 
an instinct of predominance now had the appear- 
ance of a rag that the gale could sweep away and 
destroy. 

"Ah, Daniele, what could we do for him?" he 
asked his friend, seized by a religious need of mani- 



192 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Testing by some outward sign his reverence and pity 
for that great oppressed heart. 

"What could we do?" repeated his friend, to 
whom that fervent desire of offering something of 
himself to the hero suffering from human fate had 
instantly communicated itself. 

They were one soul in that act of fervour and 
gratitude, in the sudden elevation of their deep 
nobility; but could they give nothing except that 
which they gave. Nothing could stop the secret 
workings of his malady; and both grew more sor- 
rowful as they gazed at the white hair, the frail half- 
living thing blown about on the old man's neck by 
the vehement breath that came from the open and 
brought to the shuddering lagoon the roar and the 
foam of the sea. 

" Ah, proud sea, you must carry me still ! The 
salvation which I seek I shall never find on earth. I 
will remain faithful to you, O waves of the great 
sea. . . ." The impetuous harmonies of the Flying 
Dutchman, with the despairing recall that pierces 
through them at intervals, awoke in Stelio Effrena's 
memory, and in the wind he seemed to hear the wild 
song of the crew again on the ship with the blood- 
like sails : " Iohoh6 ! lohohe ! Come to shore, O 
swarthy captain : seven years have passed. . . ." And 
his imagination recomposed the figure of Richard 
Wagner as a young man, the recluse lost in the liv- 
ing horror of Paris, poor and undaunted, devoured 
by a marvellous fever, intent on his star, resolved on 
forcing the world to recognise it too. In the myth 
of the pale seaman, the exile had found an image 
of his own panting race, his furious struggle, his 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 193 

supreme hope. " But one day the pale man may be 
delivered if only he find in his wandering a woman 
who will be faithful to him unto death." 

That woman was there, by the side of the hero, 
like an ever vigilant custodian. She, too, hke Senta, 
knew the sovereign law of fidelity, and death was 
about to dissolve the sacred vow. 

"Do you think that, immersed in the poetry of 
myths, he has dreamed of some extraordinary manner 
of passing away and is now praying each day to Nature 
to conform his end to his dream?" asked Daniele 
Glauro, dweUing on the mysterious will that enticed 
the eagle into mistaking the brow of ^Eschylus for a 
rock and brought Petrarch to expire alone over the 
pages of a book. " What would be a worthy end ? " 

" A new melody of unknown power that was only 
indistinct when it appeared to him in his first youth, 
and that he was then unable to fix, will cleave his 
soul in two, like a terrible sword." 

" True," said Daniele Glauro. 

The clouds were battling through space in phalanxes, 
overcoming each other, driven by the great wind; 
the cupolas and the towers swaying in the back- 
ground also seemed deformed ; the shadows of the 
city and the shadows of the sky, equally vast and 
mobile on the swollen waters, changed and merged 
into each other, as if made of substances equally near 
dissolution. 

" Look at the Magyar, Daniele ; his is certainly a 
generous spirit; he has served the hero with unlimited 
faith and devotion. And this servitude, more than 
his art, consecrates him to glory. But see, how from 
his strong, sincere feeling, he draws an almost his- 

13 



194 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

trionic performance, such as he would draw from the 
continual need of imposing on his spectators, to de- 
lude them, a magnificent image of himself." 

The abb6 half raised his thin, bony body that 
seemed clasped by a coat of mail. Holding himself 
thus erect, he uncovered his head to pray, offering 
his silent prayer to the God of Tempests. The wind 
ruffled his long thick hair, the great leonine mane 
whence so many flashes and quivers had started to 
move women and crowds. His magnetic eyes were 
raised to the sky, while the muttered words that 
sketched themselves on his long thin lips spread 
a mystic air over his face harsh with lines and 
enormous warts. 

"What matters?" said Daniele Glauro. "He 
possesses the divine faculty of fervour and a taste for 
overpowering strength and dominating passion. Has 
not his art aspired towards Prometheus, Orpheus, 
Dante, Tasso ? He was attracted by Richard Wagner 
as by the great energies of nature ; perhaps he heard 
in him that which he tried to express in his own 
symphonic poem ' What is heard on the Mountain- 
side.' " 

" True," said Stelio Effrena. 

Both started, however, on seeing the old bent man 
turn suddenly with the gesture of one about to be 
drowned in darkness, and clutch convulsively at his 
companion, who gave a cry. They ran to him. All 
those who were on the boat, struck by the cry of 
anguish, rushed and crowded about him. A look 
from the woman however was enough, none dared 
approach the seemingly lifeless body. She herself 
supported him, laid him on the bench, felt his pulse, 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 195 

bent over his heart listening. Her love and sorrow 
drew an inviolable circle round the motionless man. 
All drew back, silent, anxious, watching the livid face 
for signs of returning consciousness. 

The face was still, abandoned on the woman's 
knees. Two deep furrows descended along the 
cheeks to the half-closed mouth, deepening near the 
imperious nostrils. Squalls of wind stirred the rare 
and very fine hair on the full brow, and the white 
collar of beard under the square chin where the ro- 
bustness of the jawbone was apparent in spite of the 
soft wrinkles. A clammy sweat was dropping from 
his temples, and a slight tremor agitated one of the 
hanging feet. Every little sign in that pale face was 
impressed on the minds of the two young men 
for ever. 

How long did his suffering last? Alternating 
shadows continued on the dark, seething water, in- 
terrupted now and then by great zones of sun-rays 
that seemed to cross the air and sink into the sea 
with the weight of arrows. They could hear the 
cadenced noise of the engine, the derisive laugh of 
the sea-gulls, and already the dull howl coming from 
the Grand Canal, the vast moan of the stricken city. 

" Let us carry him," said Stelio, in his friend's ear, 
intoxicated with the sadness of things and the so- 
lemnity of his visions. 

The motionless face was barely giving signs of 
returning to life. 

" Yes, let us offer ourselves," said Daniele Glauro, 
turning pale. 

They looked towards the woman with the face of 
snow, and held out their arms. 



196 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

How long did that terrible removal last? The 
space from the boat to the shore was brief indeed, 
but they seemed to have gone a long way in those 
few steps. The water clamoured against the posts of 
the landing-pier, the howl broke from the Canal as 
if it came from the windings of a cavern, the bells of 
San Marco were ringing for vespers ; but the confused 
noises had lost all immediate reality ; they seemed 
indefinitely profound and remote, like a lament of 
the Ocean. 

They carried the weight of the Hero on their arms ; 
they bore the stunned body of him who had spread 
the power of his oceanic soul over the world, the 
perishable form of the Revealer who had laid the es- 
sences of the Universe, in infinite song, before men's 
worship. With an ineff"able shiver of fear and joy, 
like the man who should see a river dashing itself 
over a rock, a volcano bursting open, a conflagration 
burning a forest, a dazzling meteor obscuring the 
starry heavens like man in the presence of a natural 
force that should have suddenly and irresistibly mani- 
fested itself, Stelio Effrena felt under the hand that 
was passed below the shoulder and sustained the 
bust, — he stopped a moment to grasp his strength, 
which was escaping him, and gazed at the white head 
against his breast, — he felt in his hand the renewed 
beating of the sacred heart. 



"You were strong, Daniele, — you who cannot break 
a stick! That old barbarian body was heavy; it 
seemed built over a bronze framework of bones ; solid, 
well-built, meant to remain standing on a shaking 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 197 

deck, — the structure of a man meant for the sea. 
But where did your strength come from, Daniele? 
I was afraid for you. You did not even stagger ! 
We have carried a hero in our arms. We must mark 
this day and celebrate it. His eyes opened before 
mine; his heart beat once more under my own hand. 
We were worthy of carrying him, Daniele, because 
of our fervour." 

" You are worthy not only of carrying him, but 
of picking up and preserving some of the most beau- 
tiful promises offered by his art to those who still 
hope." 

" Ah ! if only I am not overmastered by my own 
abundance, and if I succeed in conquering the anx- 
iety that suffocates me, Daniele ! . . . " 

On, on went the two friends, side by side, intoxi- 
cated and full of confidences, as if their friendship 
had suddenly become something higher, increased by 
some ideal treasure; on, on they went in the wind, 
in the noise, in the evening's emotion, followed by the 
fury of the sea. 

" It seems as if the Adriatic had overthrown the 
Murazzi this evening-, and were about to scorn the 
prohibition of the Senate," said Daniele Glauro, stop- 
ping before the wave that was flowing over the 
Piazza and was threatening the Procuratie. " We 
must go back." 

" No, let us take the ferry across. Here is a skiff. 
Look at San Marco on the water ! " 

The boatman was ferrying them to the Torre dell' 
Orologio. The Piazza was inundated, like a lake in 
a cloister of porticoes, reflecting the sky left uncov- 
ered by the flight of the clouds that were coloured 



198 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

by the green and yellow of the twilight. The golden 
Basilica, more living, as if revivified like a parched 
forest, by contact with the water, was resplendent 
with wings and halos in the waning light ; and the 
crosses of its mitres could be seen at the bottom of 
the dark mirror, like the spires of another submerged 
Basilica. 

" En verus fortis qui fregit vincula mortis," 
read Stelio Effrena, on the curve of an arch, under 
the mosaic of the Resurrection. " Do you know 
that Richard Wagner had his first conversation with 
death in Venice twenty years ago now, at the time 
of Tristan? Consumed by a desperate passion, he 
came to Venice to die here in silence, and composed 
instead that raving second act which is a hymn to 
eternal night. His fate has again led him to the 
lagoon. It seems decreed that he is to end here, 
like Claudio Monteverde. Is it not indeed a musical 
desire immense and indefinable, this desire of which 
Venice is full? Here, every sound transforms itself 
into expressive voices. Listen ! " 

The city of stone and water had become sonorous 
like a great organ. The hiss and the howl changed 
into a kind of choral imploration growing and waning 
with a rhythmic swell. 

"Does not your ear seize the Hne of a melody in 
this chorus of moans? Listen ! " 

They had landed from the skiff and were walking 
onwards in the narrow streets, crossing the little 
bridges, lingering by the canal footpaths, penetrating 
into the city at random ; but even in the excitement 
of his speed, Stelio directed his way almost by in- 
stinct towards a distant house that now and then as 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 199 

In a lightning flash appeared to him animated by a 
deep expectation. 

" Listen ! I can distinguish a melodic theme that 
rises and falls without the power to develop itself. . . ." 

Stelio stopped, listening with so acute an intensity 
of attention that his friend was surprised as if he were 
assisting at his imminent transversion into the natural 
phenomenon he was observing, as if he were annul- 
ling himself little by little into a vaster and more 
powerful will that was making him similar to itself 

" Have you heard? " 

" It is not given me to hear what you hear," 
answered the barren ascete to the genius. " I will 
wait until you can repeat the words that Nature has 
spoken to you." 

Both trembled in the intimacy of their hearts, — one 
most lucid, the other unconscious. 

" I don't know," he said ; " I don't know any 
more. ... It seemed to me. . . ." 

The message he had received in a passing state of 
unconsciousness was now slipping from his percep- 
tion. The workings of his spirit began anew; his 
will reawakened, agitated by anxious aspirations. 

" Ah, to be able to restore to melody its natural 
simplicity, its ingenuous perfection, its divine inno- 
cence ; to draw it out all throbbing with life from its 
eternal sources, from the very mystery of Nature, 
from the very soul of universal things ! Have you 
considered the myth referring to the early childhood 
of Cassandra? One night she was left in the temple 
of Apollo, and was found in the morning lying on the 
marble, held in the coils of a snake that was Hcking 
her ears. From that time she understood all the 



200 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

voices scattered in the air ; she knew all the melodies 
of the world. The power of the seer was but a mus- 
ical power. A part of that Apollian virtue entered 
into the poets who co-operated in the creation of the 
tragic chorus. One of those poets could boast of 
knowing all the different voices of birds, and another 
of being able to converse with the winds, and another 
of fully understanding the language of the sea. More 
than once I have dreamt that I was lying on that 
marble in the coils of that serpent. . . . That myth 
would have to renew itself, Daniele, before we could 
create the new art." 

At every step, his speech grew more fervid; at 
every step he gave himself up further to the tide of 
his thoughts, still feeling however that an obscure 
part of himself was remaining in communion with 
the sonorous air. 

" Have you ever thought what the music might be 
of that kind of pastoral ode sung by the Chorus in 
CEdipos Tyrannos when Jocaste flies away horrified, 
and the son of Laius is still under the illusion of a 
last hope? Do you remember that.? ' O Citheron, 
let Olympus bear witness before another full moon 
comes round again.' For a moment the image of 
the mountains interrupts the horror of the drama, 
the rural serenity brings a pause in the human terror. 
Do you remember it? Try to represent the strophes 
to yourself as if they were a frame within the lines 
of which a series of corporal movements are devel- 
oped, an expressive dance-figure animated by the 
perfect life of melody. You would have the spirit of 
Earth conjured up before you in the essential plan of 
things ; the comforting apparition of the great com- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 201 

tnon Mother at the misfortune of her stricken, trem- 
bling children, a celebration, in short, of all that is 
divine and eternal above mankind which is dragged 
to madness and death by cruel Destiny. Now try 
by intuition to feel how much that song has helped 
me in my tragedy to find the means of the highest 
and simplest expression." 

" You intend to re-establish the Chorus on the 
stage? " 

" Oh, no ! I shall not revive an antique form ; I 
shall invent a new form, obeying my instinct and the 
genius of my race only, as the Greeks did when they 
created their drama, that marvellous inimitable edifice 
of beauty. For a long time the three arts of music, 
poetry, and dancing have separated from each other ; 
the first two have followed their development toward 
greater power of expression ; the third is in its decad- 
ence ; therefore I think that it is no longer possible to 
fuse them into a single rhythmical structure without 
taking from one or other of them its own already 
acquired dominant character. If made to concur 
towards a common and total effect, they must re- 
nounce their supreme and particular effect and re- 
main, in a word, diminished. Among the substances 
most capable of receiving rhythm, language is the 
foundation of every work of Art tending to perfection. 
Do you believe that language is given its full value in 
the Wagnerian drama? And does it not seem to you 
that the musical conception loses some of its prim- 
itive purity by often being made to depend on 
performances extraneous to the genius of music? 
Richard Wagner certainly has a sense of this weak- 
ness and confesses it when he goes up to some friend 



202 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

in Bayreuth and covers his eyes with his hand, that 
he may give himself up entirely to the pure virtue of 
the symphony and be therefore rapt by the greater 
joy into a deeper vision." 

" All this which you are exposing is new to me," 
said Daniele Glauro ; " yet it gives me a joy like that 
which we feel when we learn things that have been 
long foreseen and felt by presentiment. You will 
therefore superpose the three rhythmic arts, but will 
present them in single manifestations linked by a 
sovereign idea and elevated to the supreme degree 
by their own significant energy?" 

" Ah, Daniele ! How can I give you an idea of 
the work that is living in me?" exclaimed Stelio 
Effrena. " The words with which you would attempt 
to formulate my meaning are hard and mechanical. . . . 
No, no. . . . How shall I communicate to you the life 
and the infinitely fluid mystery that are within me?" 

They were at the foot of the Rialto steps ; Stelio 
ran up rapidly and stopped against the balustrade at 
the top of the arch waiting for his friend. The wind 
went over him like an army of flags, the ends of 
which were striking his face ; the Canal beneath 
him, lost in the shade of the palaces, bent like 
a river running towards some cataract roaring afar; 
one region of sky above him was clear in the midst 
of the agglomerated clouds, vivid and crystalline 
like the serenity that spreads itself above glaciers. 

"It is impossible to stay here," said Daniele 
Glauro, supporting himself against a shop door; "the 
wind will carry us away." 

" Go down ; I will overtake you. Only a moment," 
the master cried to him, leaning on the balustrade, 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 2oj 

covering his eyes with his hand concentrating all his 
soul into the effort of listening. 

Formidable indeed was the voice of the gale in 
that gathering of centuries now turned to stone ; it 
alone dominated the solitude as in the time when 
the marbles still slept in the bosom of the mountains, 
and wild grasses grew round the birds' nests in the 
muddy lagoon islands, long before the Doge was in- 
stalled in the Rialto, long before the patriarchs had 
led the fugitives ' to their great destiny. Human 
life had disappeared ; there was nothing under the 
heavens except an immense sepulchre in the hollows 
of which that one voice re-echoed, and that voice 
alone. Its unaccompanied song, its lamentation that 
had no hope, commemorated the multitudes that had 
become ashes, the dispersed pageants, the fallen 
greatness, the numberless days of birth and death, 
the things of a time without name or form. All the 
melancholy of the world passed with that wind over 
the outstretched soul. 

" Ah, I have grasped you," cried out the joy of the 
triumphant artist. 

The entire hne of the melody had been revealed 
to him, was henceforth his, was immortal in his 
spirit and in the world. No living thing seemed 
more living to him than that one. His own life 
yielded to the unlimited energy of that sonorous 
idea, yielded to the generating force of that germ 
capable of infinite developments. He imagined it 
as steeped in the symphonic sea and unfolding it- 
self through a thousand aspects until it reached its 
perfection. 

" Daniele, Daniele, I have found it." 



204 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

He raised his eyes, saw the first stars in the 
adamantine sky and intuitively felt the great silence 
in which they throbbed. Images of skies rounded 
over far-off countries crossed his spirit; agitations 
of sands, trees, water and dust on windy days ; the 
Libyan Desert, the olive field on the Bay of Salona, 
the Nile close to Memphis, the parched Argolides. 
Other images overtook these. He feared lest he 
should lose what he had found. With an effort he 
closed his memory as he would have clenched his 
hand to hold something. Close to a pillar he noticed 
the shadow of a man and a glimmer at the €nd of a 
long pole, and the slight explosion of a flame that 
is being lit in a lantern. With anxious rapidity he 
marked the notes of the theme in the lamplight on a 
page of his notebook, fixing in the five lines the mes- 
sage of the elements. 

" What a day of marvels ! " said Daniele Glauro, 
watching him come down the steps as light and 
nimble as if he had robbed the air also of its elastic 
properties. " May Nature always cherish you, my 
brother ! " 

" Come, come ! " said Stelio, taking him by the 
arm and drawing him after him with the gladness of 
a child. " I want to run." 

He was drawing him through the narrow streets 
towards San Giovanni Elemosinario. He was re- 
peating to himself the names of the three churches 
he would meet on his way before reaching the dis- 
tant house that from time to time had appeared to 
him as in a lightning-flash animated by a deep 
expectation. 

" It is quite true, Daniele, what you told me one 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 205 

day ; the voice of things is essentially different from 
their sound," he said, stopping at the beginning of 
the Ruga Vecchia close to the belfry, because he 
noticed that his haste was tiring his friend. "The 
sound of a wind simulates in turns the moans of a 
terrified multitude, the howling of wild beasts, the 
crash of cataracts, the quiver of unfurled banners, 
mockery, menace, despair. The voice of the wind 
is the synthesis of all these sounds ; it is the voice 
that sings and tells the terrible travail of time, the 
cruelty of human destiny, the warfare eternally 
waged for a deception that is eternally renewed." 

" And have you never thought that the essence of 
music is not in the sounds themselves?" asked the 
mystic doctor. "That essence dwells in the silence 
that precedes sound and in the silence that follows 
it. Rhythm appears and lives in these intervals of 
silence. Every sound wakens in the silence that goes 
before and that follows it, a voice which can only 
be heard by one spirit. Rhythm is the heart of 
music, but its throbs are inaudible except during the 
pauses of sound." 

The law, metaphysical in its nature, thus announced 
by the contemplator, confirmed Stelio in his belief in 
the justness of his own intuition. 

" Imagine," he said, " the interval between two 
scenic symphonies in which all the motifs unite to 
express the inner essence of the characters that are 
struggling in the drama and to reveal the inner depths 
of the action, as, for instance, in Beethoven's great 
prelude in ' Leonora ' or in ' Coriolanus.' That musi- 
cal silence throbbing with the heart-beats of rhythm 
is like the mysterious living atmosphere where alone 



2o6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

words of pure poetry can appear. The personages 
thus seem to emerge from the symphonic ocean as if 
from the truth itself of the hidden being that oper- 
ates within them; and their spoken language will 
have an extraordinary resonance in that rhythmic 
silence, will touch the extreme limit of verbal power, 
because it will be animated by a continual aspiration 
to song that cannot be appeased except by the mel- 
ody that shall again rise from the orchestra at the end 
of the tragic episode. Do you understand ? " 

" You mean that you place the episode between 
two symphonies, that prepare and complete it, be- 
cause music is the beginning and the end of human 
speech." 

" I thus draw the personages of the drama nearer 
to the spectator. Do you remember the figure used 
by Schiller in the ode he composed in honour of 
Goethe's translation of* Mahomet,' to signify that only 
an ideal world can have its life on the stage? The 
Chariot of Thespis, like the boat of Acheron, is so 
frail that it can only carry shades or human images. 
On the ordinary stage those images are so distant that 
any contact with them seems as impossible as contact 
with mental phantoms. They are distant and strange, 
but by making them appear in the rhythmic silence, 
by making music accompany them to the threshold 
of the visible world, I draw them marvellously near 
to the spectator, because I illumine the most secret 
depths of the will that produces them. You under:, 
stand, their intimate essence is there uncovered and 
placed in immediate communion with the soul of the 
crowd. And that crowd, under the ideas signified by 
voice and gesture, feels the depths of the musical 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 207 

motives that correspond to them in the symphonies. 
I show, in a word, the images painted on the veil and 
that which happens beyond the veil. You under- 
stand ! And by means of music, of dancing, and of 
lyric poetry, I create round my heroes an ideal at- 
mosphere in which the whole life of Nature vibrates, 
so that in each of their actions not only the powers 
of their preordained destinies seem to converge, but 
also the obscurest influences of surrounding things, — 
of the elementary souls living in the great tragic cir- 
cle. As the creations of ^schylus bear in themselves 
something of the natural myths from which they 
sprang, I would that my creations could be felt 
throbbing in the torrent of savage forces, suffering 
from contact with the earth, drawn into communion 
with air, fire, water, with the mountains and with the 
clouds, in their pathetic struggle against a fate that 
must be conquered. I would that Nature could be 
round them as our oldest forefathers saw her: the 
passionate actress in an immortal drama." 

They were entering the Campo di San Cassiano, 
that stretched out deserted on the banks of its livid 
Stream ; steps and voices echoed there as in a rocky 
amphitheatre, clear above the roar that came from 
the Grand Canal as from a great river. A purplish 
shadow rose from the fever-breathing water and 
spread in the air like a poisonous exhalation. Death 
seemed to have filled that place from all time. At a 
high window a shutter beat in the wind against the 
wall, grinding on its hinges like a sign of abandon- 
ment and ruin. Yet all those appearances worked 
extraordinary transformations in the spirit of the 
Life-giver. Once more he saw a wild, lonely spot 



208 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

by the tombs at Mycenae in the hollow between the 
lower peak of Mount Eubcea and the inaccessible 
flank of the citadel. Myrtles grew vigorously be- 
tween the harsh boulders and the Cyclopic ruins. 
The waters of the Fount of Perseia, springing from 
among the rocks, fell into a cavity like a shell, whence 
it ran out and was lost in the valley of stone. At its 
edge at the foot of a shrub lay the body of the Victim 
stretched out rigid, spotless. In the deadly silence 
he could hear the rush of the water and the inter- 
mittent breath of the wind on the nodding myrtles. 

" It was in an august place," he said, " that I first 
had the vision of my new work : at Mycenae, at the 
gate of the lions, while re-reading the ' Oresteia.' . . . 
Land of Fire, land of thirst and delirium, birthplace 
of Clytemnestra and the Hydra, soil made sterile for 
ever by the horror of the most tragic destiny that 
has ever overwhelmed a human race. . . . Have you 
ever thought of that barbaric explorer who, after 
having passed the greater part of his life among his 
drugs behind a counter, began digging in the ruins 
of Mycense among the graves of the Atridas, and one 
day (the sixth anniversary took place not long ago) 
saw the greatest and the strangest vision that has ever 
presented itself to mortal eyes ? Have you ever con- 
sidered the fat Schliemann in the act of discovering 
the most dazzling treasure ever accumulated by death 
in the obscurities of the earth for hundreds and thou- 
sands of years ? Have you ever thought that the ter- 
rible, superhuman spectacle might have appeared to 
another, to some youthful, fervent spirit ; to a poet, a 
Life-giver, to you, to me, perhaps ? The frenzy of it, 
the fever, the madness. . . . Imagine ! " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 209 

He was flaming, vibrating, all at once carried away 
by his fiction as by a storm. His seeing eyes shone 
with the gleam of the funereal treasures. His crea- 
tive force was flowing to his spirit like blood to the 
heart. He was the actor in his own drama. His 
accents, his gesture, signified transcendent passion 
and beauty, overstepped the power of the spoken 
word, the limit of the letter. The fraternal spirit of 
his companion hung upon his lips, trembling before 
the sudden splendour that was realising his divinations. 

" Imagine ! Imagine that the earth you are dig- 
ging in is evil ; it must still give out the exhalations 
of monstrous deeds. The curse that weighed on the 
Atridse was so deadly that there must have remained 
some vestige of it still to be dreaded in the dust that 
was trodden by them. You are stricken by witchcraft, 
the dead whom you seek and cannot succeed in find- 
ing have come to life in you again and breathe 
within you with the tremendous breath that ^Eschylus 
infused into them, vast and bloodthirsty as they ap- 
peared in the ' Oresteia,' thrust through ceaselessly 
with the sword and brand of their destiny. Hence 
all the ideal life with which you have nourished your- 
self must have assumed in you the form and the im- 
press of reality. And you go on obstinately in this 
land of thirst, at the foot of this naked mountain, 
drawn into the fascination of the dead city, digging, 
digging in the earth, with those frightful phantoms 
always before your eyes, in the thirsting dust. At 
every stroke of the spade you must tremble through 
all your bones, longing to see really the face of one 
of the Atridae, still untouched, with the signs yet vis- 
ible of the violence he endured, the cruel death. And 

14 



2IO THE FLAME OF LIFE 

it appears, the gold, the gold, the bodies, great heaps 
of gold, the bodies all covered with gold. . . ." 

The Atridae princes were there extended on the 
stone, a prodigy called up in the darkness of the 
alley. Both the listener and he who had evoked 
them shuddered with the same shudder in the same 
flash. 

" A succession of tombs ; fifteen intact bodies, one 
beside the other, on a bed of gold, with faces covered 
with masks of gold, with foreheads crowned with 
gold, with breasts bound with gold; and over all, 
on their bodies, at their sides, at their feet, over all 
a profusion of golden things, innumerable as the 
leaves fallen from a fabulous forest. . . . Do you 
see? Do you see?" 

The anxiety of rendering all that gold so that it 
should be palpable, of changing his hallucinating 
vision into a sensible reality, suffocated him. 

"I see, I see!" 

" For a moment, the soul of that man has leaped 
back hundreds and thousands of years, breathed the 
terrible legend, trembled in the horror of that ancient 
massacre. For a moment his soul has traced that 
ancient and violent life. They were there, the slain 
ones : Agamemnon, Eurymedon, Cassandra, and the 
royal escort lay under his eyes for a moment, motion- 
less. And then exhaled like vapour — do you see 
— like melting foam, like dust that is scattered, 
like I know not what inexpressibly faint and fugitive 
thing, all vanish into their silence, swallowed up by 
the same fatal silence that was about their radiant 
immobility. A handful of dust and a heap of 
gold " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 211 

The miracle of Life and Death was there on the 
stones of the deserted alley as on the stones of the 
sepulchres. Inexpressibly moved, trembling, Daniele 
Glauro seized the hands of his friend. And in his 
faithful eyes the Life-giver saw the dumb flame of 
enthusiasm consecrated to the masterpiece. 

They stopped by a doorway against the dark wall. 
There was a mysterious sense of distance in them 
both, as if their spirits were lost in the depths of 
time; and behind that door, antique people lived 
enslaved by a motionless Destiny. From the house 
one could hear a cradle that was being rocked to the 
rhythm of a low sing-song; a mother was conciliating 
the sleep of her child with a melody handed down 
from her ancestors ; her protecting voice covered the 
menacing roar of the elements. The stars burned 
above the narrow strip of sky. Further down against 
the walls and the sand-banks the sea was lowing. 
Elsewhere the heart of a hero was suffering as if 
waiting for death, and near them the cradle rocked 
on, and the voice of the mother calling down happi- 
ness on the infant's wail. 

" Life ! " said Stelio Effrena, resuming his walk and 
dragging his friend after him. " Here, in one instant, 
all that trembles, weeps, hopes, yearns, and raves in 
the immensity of life, gathers itself up in one spirit, 
condensed there with so rapid a sublimation that it 
seems as if one should be able to manifest it all in a 
single word. What word? What word? Do you 
know it? Who shall ever say it? " 

He was once more beginning to suffer from his 
anxiety and discontent that wanted to embrace all 
and express all. 



212 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Have you ever seen the entire universe in a few 
seconds, standing out before you like a human head? 
I have, a thousand times. Ah, to be able to cut it 
off, like him who cut off the head of Medusa, at one 
blow, and hold it up from a scaffolding high above 
the crowd that it might never forget it again. Have 
you never thought that a great tragedy might resem- 
ble the attitude of Perseus? I tell you that I should 
like to take the bronze of Benvenuto away from the 
Loggia of Orcagna and carry it away for the vestibule 
of the new theatre as an admonishment. But who 
shall give a poet the sword of Hermes and the mirror 
of Athena?" 

Daniele Glauro was silent. He who had received 
from Nature the gift of enjoying beauty, though not 
of creating it, well divined the torment of Stelio's 
fraternal spirit. Silently he walked beside his brother, 
bending his vast thoughtful brow, that seemed swol- 
len by the presence of an unborn world. 

" Perseus ! " added the Life-giver, after a pause 
that had been full of the flashes of his inventions. 
" In the hollow, under the citadel of Mycense, there is 
a fountain called Perseia: the only living thing in 
that place where all is burnt up and dead. Men are 
attracted to it as to a spring of life in that land 
where the sorrowful whiteness of the dried up rivers 
can be seen late into the twilight. Every human 
thirst stretches out voraciously to its freshness. 
Through the whole of my work the murmur of 
that stream will be heard : the water, the melody of 
water. ... I have found it ! In it, in the pure ele- 
ment, the pure Act which is the aim of the new 
tragedy shall be accomplished. The Virgin destined 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 213 

like Antigone to die " deprived of nuptials ' shall fall 
asleep on its clear icy waters. Do you understand? 
The pure Act marks the defeat of ancient Fate. The 
new soul suddenly bursts the iron band that clasped 
it with a determination born of madness, of a lucid 
delirium that is like ecstasy, that is like a deeper 
vision of nature. The last ode in the orchestra tells 
the salvation and the freedom of man obtained by 
means of pain and sacrifice. The monstrous Fate is 
conquered there by the tombs into which the race of 
Atreus descended, before the very bodies of the vic- 
tims. Do you understand? He who has freed him- 
self by means of the pure Act, the brother who kills 
the sister to save her soul from the horror that 
was about to seize her, has truly seen the face of 
Agamemnon ! " 

The fascination of the funereal gold was again tak- 
ing hold of him ; the evidence of his internal vision 
gave him an hallucinated appearance. 

" One of the bodies exceeds all the others in stature 
and in majesty: wearing a large crown of gold, with 
cuirass, girdle, and shoulder-plates of gold surrounded 
with swords, spears, daggers, cups, covered with in- 
numerable discs of gold scattered over his body like 
petals, more venerable than a demi-god. He bends 
over him while he melts away in the light and raises 
the heavy mask. . . . Ah, does he not indeed see the 
face of Agamemnon? Is not this perhaps the King 
of Kings? His mouth is open; his eyelids are open. . . . 
Do you remember? Do you remember Homer? 'As 
I lay dying I lifted my hands towards my sword ; but 
the woman with the dog's eyes went her way and 
would not close my eyelids and my mouth, as I de- 



214 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

scended to the abode of Hades.' Do you remem- 
ber ? Well, the mouth of the corpse is open, the eyes 
are open. ... He has a large forehead bound with 
a round leaf of gold ; his nose is long and straight ; his 
chin oval. . . ." 

The dreamer stopped a moment, his eyes fixed and 
dilated. It was he who was seeing ; the vision was 
his. All about him disappeared, and his fiction 
remained the only reality. Daniele Glauro shuddered, 
for he too had seen through those eyes. 

"Ah, even to the white spot on the shoulder; he 
has raised the armour. . . . The spot, the spot! 
The hereditary sign of the race of Pelops ' of the 
ivory shoulders ! ' Is he not the King of Kings? " 

The rapid, interrupted words of the visionary 
seemed a succession of flashes by which he was him- 
self dazzled. He himself was astonished by that 
sudden apparition, by that sudden discovery, that 
illumined in the darkness of his spirit, manifested 
itself and became almost tangible. How could he 
have discovered that spot on the shoulder of Aga- 
memnon? From what abyss of his memory had that 
detail arisen, so strange and yet precise and decisive 
as the description necessary for the recognition of a 
body dead since yesterday? 

"You were there," said Daniele Glauro, in his 
exaltation. " You yourself have raised the armour 
and the mask. ... If you have really seen what 
you say, you are no longer a man. . . ." 

" I have seen ! I have seen ! " 

Once more he was being transformed into the 
actor of his own drama and with a violent palpi- 
tation was hearing from the mouth of a living person 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 215 

the words of his companion, those same words that 
were to be pronounced in the episode. " If you 
have really seen what you say, you are no longer a 
man." From that moment the explorer of tombs 
took on the aspect of a great hero fighting against 
the ancient fate that had arisen from the ashes them- 
selves of the Atridae to contaminate and overcome 
him. 

"It is not with impunity," he said, "that a man 
uncovers tombs and gazes on the face of the dead ; 
and of what dead ! He is living alone with his sister, 
with the sweetest creature that has ever breathed the 
air of this earth, alone with her in the house full 
of light and silence, as in a prayer, a consecration. 
. . . Now imagine one who should unconsciously 
drink poison, a philtre, something impure, that 
should corrupt his blood, that should contaminate 
his thoughts: thus, suddenly, while his soul is in 
peace. . . . Imagine this terrible evil, this vengeance 
of the dead ! He is suddenly invaded by incestuous 
passion; he becomes the trembling and miserable 
prey of a monster, fighting a desperate hidden fight, 
without truce, without escape, day and night, at every 
hour, at every moment, the more atrocious the more 
the unconscious pity of the poor creature stoops to 
his evil. . . . How can he be liberated? From the 
moment in which the tragedy has its beginning, from 
the moment in which the innocent companion begins 
to speak, she appears destined to die. And all that 
is said and accomplished in the episodes, and all that 
is expressed by song and by the dance and by the 
interludes, all serves to lead her slowly and inexor- 
ably towards death. She is the equal of Antigone. 



2i6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

In the brief tragic hour she passes accompanied by 
the light of hope and by the shadow of presentiment, 
she passes accompanied by song and weeping, by the 
great love that offers joy, by the furious love that 
gives birth to mourning, and never stops except to 
fall asleep on the clear icy water of the fountain that 
called her uninterruptedly with its solitary moan. 
As soon as he has killed her, her brother receives 
from her through death, the gift of his redemption. 
' Every stain is gone from my soul,' he cries ; ' I 
have become pure, quite pure. All the sanctity of 
my first love has returned to my mind like a torrent 
of light. ... If she were to rise up now, she could 
walk over my soul as over immaculate snow. ... If 
she were to return to life again, all my thoughts for her 
would be like lilies, like lilies. . . . Now she is perfect, 
now she can be adored like a divine being. ... In 
the deepest of my sepulchres I will lay her at rest, 
and I will set about her all my treasures. . . .' 
Thus the act of death, that he has been dragged into 
by his lucid delirium, becomes a purifying act of 
liberation and marks the defeat of an ancient fate. The 
ode emerging from the symphonic ocean sings of the 
victory of man, irradiates the darkness of the catas- 
trophe with an unusual light, raises on the summit of 
music the first word of the renewed drama." 

" The gesture of Perseus," exclaimed Daniele 
Glauro, in his exaltation. " At the end of the tragedy 
you cut off the head of the Moira and show it to the 
crowd, ever young and ever new, that brings the 
spectacle to a close with great cries." 

Both saw in their dream the marble theatre on the 
Janiculum, the multitude dominated by its idea of 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 217 

truth and of beauty, the great starry night stretching 
over Rome; they saw the frenzied crowd carrying in 
their rude hearts, as they descended the hill, the con- 
fused revelation of poetry; they heard the clamour 
of the immortal city prolonging itself in the shadow. 

" And now good-bye, Daniele," said the master, 
again seized by haste, as if some one were waiting for 
him or calling him. 

The eyes of the tragic muse gazed immovable in 
the background of his dream, sightless, petrified in 
the divine blindness of statues. 

" Where are you going?" 

" To the Palazzo Capello." 

" Does la Foscarina know the thread of your work ? " 

" Vaguely ! " 

" And what shall be her figure? " 

" She shall be blind, having already passed into 
another world, already half alive in something beyond 
life. She shall see that which others do not see. She 
shall have one foot in the shadow, and her forehead 
in eternal truth. The contrasts of the tragic hour shall 
reverberate in her inner darkness, multiplying them- 
selves in it like thunder in the deep circles of solitary 
rocks. Like Tiresias, she shall understand all things 
permitted and forbidden, earthly and terrestrial, and 
she shall know ' how hard knowing is when knowing 
is useless.' Ah, I will put marvellous words in her 
mouth and silences that shall give birth to things of 
infinite beauty. . . ." 

" Her power on the stage, whether she is silent or 
whether she speaks, is more than human. She wakens 
in our hearts the most hidden evils and the most se- 
cret hopes ; and through her enchantment our past 



2i8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

becomes present, and through the virtue of her as- 
pects we recognise ourselves in the sorrows under- 
gone by other creatures in all time, as if the soul 
revealed to us by her were our own soul." 

They paused on the Ponte Savio. Stelio was silent 
under a flood of love and melancholy that suddenly 
invaded him. He was hearing the sad voice again : 
" To have loved my passing glory only that one day 
it might serve yours." He was hearing his own voice 
again : " I love you and believe in you ; I give my- 
self up entirely. You are my companion. Your 
hand is safe." The power and security of that alliance 
were swelling his pride, yet, for all that, deep in the 
depths of his heart there still trembled an undefined 
aspiration and a presentiment that grew denser at 
times and became as heavy as anguish. 

" I am sorry to leave you to-night, Stelio," con- 
fessed the kind brother, he too falling under a veil of 
melancholy. " Whenever I am near you I seem to 
feel myself breathing more freely and living a quicker 
life." 

Stelio was silent. The wind seemed to have grown 
fainter, the intermittent gusts tore away the acacia 
leaves and wrapped them round. The brown church 
and the square tower of naked brick prayed to the 
stars in silence. 

" Do you know the green column that is in San 
Giacomo dall' Orio?" added Daniele, meaning to 
keep his friend a few moments longer, because he 
dreaded the farewell. " What a sublime substance it 
is ! it seems the fossilised condensation of an immense, 
growing forest; as it follows its innumerable veins, 
the eye travels in a dream into silvern mysteries. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 219 

When I gaze at it I seem to be visiting Sila and 
Ercinna." 

Stelio knew it. Perdita had one day remained lean- 
ing against the great precious stem for a long time, 
contemplating the magic golden frieze that curves 
out — obscuring it — above the canvas of Bassano. 

" To be ever dreaming, dreaming ! " he sighed, 
feeling a return of the bitter impatience which had 
suggested words of scorn to him on the boat that 
brought him from the Lido. " To live on relics ! 
Think of Dandolo, who overthrew that column and 
an empire at the same time, and who chose to remain 
doge when he might have been emperor. He lived 
more than you do, perhaps, who wander through 
forests when you examine the marble he brought 
home as booty. Good-bye, Daniele." 

" Do not diminish your lot." 

" I wish I could force it." 

" Thought is your weapon." 

" Often my ambition burns up my thought." 

" You can create ; what more do you seek ? " 

" In other times I too might have conquered an 
archipelago." 

" What does it matter to you? A melody is worth 
a province. Would you not give up a principality 
for a new image .' " 

" I would that I could live the whole of life and not 
be only a brain." 

" A brain contains the world." 

" Ah, you cannot understand ! You are the ascetic ; 
you have overcome desire." 

" And you will overcome it, too." 

" I don't know whether I would." 



220 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" I am certain of it." 

" Good-bye, Daniele. You are the one who bears 
witness to me. No other is as dear to me as you are." 

Their hands met in a firm clasp. 

" I shall stop for news at the Palazzo Vendramin," 
said the kind brother. His words brought to his 
mind once more the great, ailing heart, the weight of 
the hero on their arms, the terrible removal. 

" He has conquered ; he can die," said Stelio 
Effrena. 



He entered la Foscarina's house like a spirit. His 
intellectual excitement was changing the aspect of 
things. The hall, illuminated by a galley lamp, 
seemed immense. A felse upon the pavement near 
the door disturbed him as if he had met a coffin. 

" Ah, Stelio ! " cried the actress, jumping up with 
a start when she saw him appear, and moving quickly 
towards him, impetuous with all the spring of her 
desire that expectation had restrained. " At last ! " 

She stopped an instant before him without touch- 
ing him. The impulse she had controlled vibrated 
visibly in her body from top to toe; it seemed to 
beat in her throat in a short gasp. She was as the 
wind is when it falls. 

" Who has taken you from me? " she thought, her 
heart filled with doubt ; all at once she had felt some- 
thing in the loved one that made him intangible to 
her, she had caught something in his eyes that was 
estranged and distant. 

But she had been most beautiful in his eyes as she 
came forth from the shade, animated with a violence 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 221 

not dissimilar to that of the storm that was agitating 
the lagoons. The cry, the gesture, the start, the sud- 
den stop, the vibration of her muscles under her gar- 
ments, the light in her face extinguished Hke a flame 
that becomes ashes, the intensity of her look that was 
like a gleani of battle, the breath which parted her 
lips like the heat that breaks open the lips of earth, — 
all these aspects of the real person showed a power 
of pathetic life only comparable to the ferment of 
natural energies, to the action of cosmic forces. The 
artist recognised in her the Dionysian creature, the 
living material capable of receiving the impress of 
the rhythm of art, of being fashioned according to the 
laws of poetry. And because she was in his eyes as 
various as the waves of the sea, the blind mask he 
would put on her face seemed inert, narrow the tragic 
fable through which she was to pass sorrowing, too 
limited the order of sentiment from which she was to 
draw her expressions, almost subterranean the soul 
she must reveal. " Ah ! all that trembles, weeps, 
hopes, yearns, raves in the immensity of life ! " His 
mental fancies were seized with a sort of panic, with 
a sudden, dissolving terror. What could that single 
work be in the immensity of Hfe? ./Eschylus had 
composed more than a hundred tragedies, Sophocles 
still more ; they had formed a world with colossal 
fragments raised in their titanic arms. Their work 
was as vast as a cosmogony. The ^Eschylian figures 
seemed to be still warm with ethereal fire, shining 
with sidereal light, damp from the fertilising cloud. 
The statue of CEdipus seemed to be carved out of the 
same mass as the solar myth ; that of Prometheus 
made with the same primitive tool with which the 



222 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

shepherd Arya had produced fire upon the Asiatic 
heights. The spirit of the Earth worked in the 
creators. 

" Hide me, hide me ! and do not ask me anything, 
and let me be silent," he implored, not knowing how 
to dissimulate his excitement, and failing to control 
the tumult of his distracted thoughts. 

The heart of the woman throbbed with fear in its 
ignorance. 

" Why? What have you done ? " 

" I am suffering." 

"From what?" 

" From anxiety, anxiety, from that malady of mine 
which you know." 

She took him in her arms. He felt that she had 
trembled with doubt. 

" Mine, still mine ? " she asked in a suffocated voice, 
with her lips upon his shoulder. 

" Yes, yours always." 

It was a horrible tremor which shook the woman 
every time she saw him go away, every time she saw 
him come back. When he left her, was he going to 
the unknown wife ; when he returned, had he come to 
take his last leave of her ? 

She strained him in her arms, with the love of a 
mistress, a sister, a mother, with all human love. 

" What can I do for you, what can I do for you ? 
Tell me ! " 

She was continually tormented by the need of 
offering, of serving, of obeying a command which 
should drive her towards danger and the struggle to 
obtain some good which she should bring him on 
returning to him. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 223 

" What can I give you ? " 

He smiled slightly, overtaken by weariness. 

" What is it you want? Ah, I know." 

He smiled, letting himself be soothed by that 
voice, by those adoring hands. 

"Everything, is it not true? You want every- 
thing?" 

He smiled sadly, like a sick child told by a play- 
mate of beautiful games. 

" Ah, if I could. But nobody in the world will 
ever be able to give you anything of any value, sweet 
friend. Only your poetry and your music can demand 
everything. Do you recollect your Ode beginning, 
'I was Pan'?" 

He bent over the faithful heart a brow that was 
being illumined by beautiful things. 

"I was Pan!" 

The splendour of the lyrical moment went through 
his spirit together with the delirium of the Ode. 

" Have you seen your sea to-day? Did you see 
the storm ? " 

He shook his head without answering. 

" Was it a great storm ? You told me one day 
that you have many sailors among your ancestors. 
Have you thought of your house on the sand-hills? 
Are you homesick for the sands? Do you want to 
go back down there? You have done a great deal 
of work down there, and strong work. That house 
is blessed. Your mother was there whilst you were 
at work. You could hear her walk gently in the 
neighbouring rooms. . . . Did she stop to listen 
sometimes?" 

He clasped her in silence. The voice was pene- 



224 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

trating him deeply and seemed to refresh his pent-up 
soul. 

" And was your sister with you, too? You told me 
her name one day. I have not forgotten it. Her name 
is Sophia. I know she is like you. I should like to 
hear her speak once, or to see her pass down the 
road. . . . One day you praised her hands to me. 
They are beautiful, are they not? You told me one 
day that when she is sorrowful they hurt her ' as if 
they were the very roots of her soul.' That was what 
you told me, ' the very roots of her soul.' " 

He was listening to her almost in a state of beati- 
tude. In what way had she discovered the secret of 
that balsam? From what hidden spring was she 
drawing the melodious fluidity of those memories? 

" Sophia will never know the good she has done to 
the poor pilgrim. I know little about her, but I know 
that she is like you in the face, and I have pictured 
her to myself. . . . Even now I can see her. . . . 
In distant countries, far, far away in the midst of a 
strange, hard population, she has appeared to me 
more than once when I was feeling lost; she has 
come to keep me company. She would appear sud- 
denly without my calling or expecting her. . . . 
Once at Miirren, which I had reached after a long 
tiring journey I had undertaken in order to see a 
poor sick friend who afterwards died. ... It was 
at dawn ; the mounains had that cold dehcate colour 
of beryl that is only seen among glaciers, the colour 
of those things that will for ever remain distant and 
intact and, oh, so enviable, so enviable 1 Why did 
she come? We waited together. The sun touched 
the peaks of the hills. Then a dazzling rainbow 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 225 

ran along their edges, lasted a few seconds, and 
disappeared. . . ." 

He listened to her almost in a state of beatitude. 
Was not all the beauty and all the truth that he 
would have expressed contained in one of the stones 
or flowers of those mountains? The most tragic 
struggle of human passions was not worth the ap- 
parition of that rainbow on the eternal snows. 

" And another time? " he asked softly. 

For the pause had prolonged itself and he feared 
she would not continue. 

She smiled, then grew sad. 

"Another time, it was at Alexandria, in Egypt, one 
confused day of horror as if after a shipwreck. . . , 
The city had all the appearance of putrefaction. . . . 
I remember : a street full of muddy water, a whitish 
skeleton-like horse that was splashing in it, its mane 
and tail looking as if tinted with ochre ; the turrets of 
an Arab cemetery; the distant glitter of the marsh of 
Mareotis. . . . Disgust, ruin ! " 

" Oh, dear soul, never again, never again shall you 
be desperate and alone," he said in his heart, swollen 
with paternal kindness towards the nomad woman who 
was calling up the sadness of her continual wandering. 

His spirit which had stretched out so violently 
towards the future now seemed with a slight shudder 
to draw back into the past the power of that voice 
which was being made present. He felt himself in a 
state of concentration sweet and full of images like 
that which is generated by the telling of stories round 
the hearth in winter. Like once before under the 
windows of the cloistered Radiana, he felt himself 
seized by the fascination of time. 

IS 



226 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

"And another time?" 

She smiled, then grew sad. 

"Another time it was in Vienna, in a museum. . . . 
A great deserted hall, the cracking of rain on the 
glass of the windows, numberless precious shrines in 
crystal cases, the signs of death everywhere, of exiled 
things no longer prayed to, no longer worshipped. 
. . . Together we bent over a case containing a 
collection of holy arms with their metal hands fixed 
in a changeless gesture. . . . Martyrs' hands studded 
with agates, amethysts, topazes, garnets, and sickly 
turquoises. . . . Through certain apertures, splinters 
of bone could be seen in the interior. There was one 
that held a golden lily, another a miniature city, a 
third a column. One was finer than the others. It 
had a ring on each finger, and it held a small vase 
full of ointment: it contained the relics of Mary 
Magdalen. . . . Exiled things, become profane and 
no longer prayed to, no longer worshipped. ... Is 
Sophia devout.' Has she preserved the habit of 
prayer? " 

He did not answer. It seemed to him that he 
should not speak, that he should give no visible sign 
of his own existence in the enchantment of that 
distant life. 

" Sometimes she would come into your room while 
you were working and lay a blade of grass on the 
page you had commenced." 

The enchantress shuddered inwardly: an image 
that was wrapped in veils revealed itself all of a sud- 
den, suggesting other words which remained unut- 
tered. "Do you know that I began loving the 
creature who sings, her whom you cannot have for- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 227 

gotten, do you know that I began to love her, think- 
ing of your sister? In order to pour into a pure 
soul the tenderness which my heart would have 
given to your sister from whom I was separated by 
so many cruel things ! Do you know it ? " The 
words were living, but they remained unuttered ; yet 
the voice trembled at their dumb presence. 

" Then you would allow yourself a few moments' 
rest; you would go to the window and with her beside 
you would look out to the sea. A ploughman urged 
his young oxen yoked to the plough over the sand to 
teach them the straight furrow; you would watch 
them with her every day at the same time. When 
they were fully trained, they came and ploughed the 
sand no longer, but were taken up to the hill. . . . 
Who has told me all these things?" 

He himself had told her one day, almost in the 
same words, but now those memories were being 
brought back to him like unexpected visions. 

" Then the flocks passed along the seashore : 
they came from the mountains and went to the 
plains of the Puglia, from one pasture to another 
pasture. As they walked, the woolly sheep imitated 
the motion of the waves, but the sea was nearly always 
quiet when the flocks passed with their shepherds. 
All was quiet ; there was a golden silence stretched 
over the beach. The dogs ran along beside the 
flock : the shepherds leaned on their staffs, and the 
tinkle of their collar bells was faint in the vastness. 
Your eyes would follow their progress as far as the 
promontory. Then, later, you would go with your 
sister and follow the marks left by their passage on 
the damp sand. It was here and there dotted with 



228 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

holes and golden like a honeycomb. . . . Who has 
told me all these things?" 

He listened to her almost in a state of beatitude. 
His fever was quenched. There descended upon him 
a slow peace that was like slumber. 

" Then the sudden squalls would come ; the sea 
would overrun the sand-hills and the low woods, 
leaving its foam on the juniper and tamarisk trees, 
on the myrtle and the rosemary. Quantities of sea- 
weeds and fragments would be thrown on shore. 
Some boat had shipwrecked somewhere. The sea 
brought fire-wood for the poor and mourning who 
knows where ! The beach would be crowded with 
women and children and old men vying with one 
another as to who should collect the largest bundle. 
Then your sister would bring other help : bread, 
wine, vegetables, linen. The blessing would rise 
louder than the roar of the waves. You would look 
on from the window; and it seemed to you that 
none of your beautiful images was worth the odour 
of the new bread. You would leave the half-written 
page and hasten down to help Sophia. You would 
speak to the women, the children, and the old 
men. . . . Who has told me all these things?" 



From the very first Stelio had preferred going 
to the house of his friend through the gate of the 
Gradenigo garden and passing among the trees and 
shrubs that had grown wild again. La Foscarina had 
obtained leave to unite her own garden with that of 
the abandoned palace by means of a breach in the 
partition wall. But soon afterwards. Lady Myrta had 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 229 

come to inhabit the immense, silent rooms that had 
welcomed as their last guest the son of the Empress 
Josephine, the viceroy of Italy. The rooms were 
adorned with old stringless instruments, and the gar- 
den was peopled by beautiful greyhounds deprived of 
their prey. 

Nothing seemed to Stelio sadder and sweeter than 
that walk towards the woman who awaited him, 
counting the hours that were so slow and yet so swift 
to fly. The canal path of San Simeone Piccolo 
turned golden in the afternoon like a bank of fine ala- 
baster. The reflected sun-rays played with the iron 
of the prows moored in a row by the landing pier, 
quivered on the steps of the church, on the columns 
of the peristyle, animating the warm, disjointed 
stones. A few rotten gondola cabins lay in the 
shade of the pavement with their cloths spoiled and 
discoloured by the rains, like biers worn by the wear 
and tear of many funerals, grown old on the cemetery 
road. The suffocating odour of hemp came from a 
decayed palace now used as a rope factory, through 
the barred windows choked with greyish down as 
with accumulated cobwebs. And the garden gate 
opened at the end of the Campiello della Comare, 
which was grassy like the churchyard of a country 
parish; it opened out between two pillars crowned 
with mutilated statues, and on the limbs of these the 
dried ivy branches stood out like veins. Nothing 
could have seemed to the visitor sweeter or more 
sad. The chimneys of the humble dwellings round 
the grass plot smoked peacefully towards the green 
cupola; now and then a flight of pigeons crossed 
the canal, starting from the sculptures of the Scalzi ; 



230 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the whistle of a train passing on the lagoon bridge 
could be heard, and the sing-song of a rope-maker 
and the roll of an organ and the chanting of the 
priests. The late summer was deceiving the melan- 
choly of love. 

"Helion! Sirius! Altair! Donovan! Ali-Nour! 
Nerissa ! Piuchebella ! " 

Lady Myrta, seated on the bench against the wall 
clasped by rose-bushes, was calling her dogs. La 
Foscarina stood near her, dressed in a tawny garment 
that seemed made of the wonderful roan stuff used in 
ancient Venice; the sun wrapped the two women 
and the roses in one same fair warmth. 

" You are dressed like Donovan to-day," said Lady 
Myrta to the actress, smiling. " Do you know that 
Stelio loves Donovan above all the others?" 

A faint blush tinted the face of La Foscarina ; her 
eyes sought the tawny greyhound. 

" The strongest and the most beautiful," she said. 

" I think he wants him," added the old lady, with 
her indulgent sweetness. 

" What is it he does not want?" 

The old woman felt the veiled melancholy ; she 
remained silent for a few moments. 

The dogs lay near them, heavy and sad, sleepy and 
full of dreams, far from their plains, their steppes, and 
their deserts, crouching on the field of clover where 
the marrow plants meandered with their hollow, 
yellow-green fruit. The trees were motionless, as if 
they had been fused in the same bronze that covered 
the three graduated cupolas of San Simeone. There 
was one same aspect of wildness about the garden 
and the great stone dwelling, darkened by the tena- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 231 

cious smoke of time, streaked with the rust of its irons 
produced by the rains of an infinite number of au- 
tumns. And the head of a tall pine resounded with 
the same twittering which was certainly reaching the 
ears of Radiana at that moment from her walled 
garden. 

"Does he give you pain?" the old woman would 
have liked to ask of the woman in love, because the 
silence weighed upon her and the fire of that sorrow- 
ful soul was warming her like the persistent summer. 
But she dared not. She sighed instead of speaking. 
Her heart, which was ever young, could still beat at 
the sight of desperate passion and threatened beauty. 
" Ah, you are still beautiful, and your mouth still 
attracts, and the man who loves you can still know 
the intoxication of your pallor and your eyes," she 
said, looking at the absorbed actress, towards whom 
the November roses were stretching out. " But I am 
a shadow." 

She lowered her eyes, saw her own deformed hands 
resting on her knees, and marvelled at their being 
hers, they were so dead and contorted, miserable 
monsters that could no longer touch anything without 
exciting repugnance, that henceforth had only the 
sleepy dogs to caress. She felt the wrinkles on her 
face, the artificial teeth against her gums, the false 
hair on her head, the entire ruin of her poor body, 
that at one time had obeyed the graceful dictates of 
her delicate spirit; and she marvelled at her own 
persistence in struggling against the decay of her 
age, in deceiving herself, in recomposing each morn- 
ing the laughable illusion of essences, ointments, 
rouge, and dyes. But was not her youth still present 



232 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

in the continual spring of her dream ? Had she not 
yesterday, only yesterday, caressed a lovable face with 
perfect fingers, hunted the fox and the stag in the 
northern counties, danced in a park with her promised 
bridegroom to an air of John Dowland's. 

" There are no mirrors in the house of the Countess 
Glanegg ; there are too many in the house of Lady 
Myrta," thought la Foscarina. " One has hidden her 
decadence from herself and all others ; the other has 
seen herself growing older each morning, has counted 
her wrinkles one by one, has gathered up her dead 
hairs in her comb, has felt the first shake of her teeth 
in her pale gums, and has tried to repair the irrepa- 
rable ruin by artifice. Poor, tender soul that would 
still live, smiling and fascinating! One should dis- 
appear, die, sink below the earth." She noticed the 
little bunch of violets fastened by a pin to the hem 
of Lady Myrta's dress. In every season a fresh flower 
was pinned there, in some fold, hardly visible, as a 
sign of her daily illusion of spring, of the ever- 
renewed incantation that she worked on herself by 
means of memory, music, and poetry, with all the 
arts of dreams against old age, ill-health, and solitude. 
" One should live a supreme, flaming hour, and then 
disappear in the earth before all fascination be lost, 
before the death of our last grace." 

She felt the beauty of her own eyes, the hunger of 
her lips, the rough strength of her hair folded back 
by the tempest, all the power of the rhythms and the 
impulses that slept in her muscles and in her bones. 
She seemed to hear her friend's words which had 
praised her, to see him in the fury of his desire, in the 
sweetness of languor, in the moment of deepest ob- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 233 

livion. "For a little while longer, still for a little 
while, I shall please him, I shall seem beautiful to 
him, I will burn his blood. Still for a little while." 
With her feet in the grass, with her forehead lifted 
to the sun, in the odour of the fading roses, in the 
tawny dress that likened her to the magnificent 
beast of prey, she burned with passionate expecta- 
tion, with a sudden flood of life, as if that future 
which she had given up by her resolution of death 
were flowing back into the present. " Come, come ! " 
She called her lover inwardly, half intoxicated, sure 
of his coming, because she already felt him and had 
never yet been deceived by her presentiment. " Still 
for a little while ! " Every moment that passed 
seemed an iniquitous theft. Motionless as she was, 
she suffered and desired bewilderingly. The whole 
garden, penetrated by heat to its very roots, throbbed 
with her own pulsation. She felt as if she were 
about to lose consciousness, to fall. 

" Ah ! here is Stelio," exclaimed Lady Myrta, 
seeing the young man appear among the laurels. 

The woman turned quickly, blushing. The grey- 
hounds rose, pricking their ears. The meeting of 
those two brought forth sparks that were like a flash 
of lightning. Once more, as ever, her lover had felt 
in the presence of the marvellous creature the divine 
sensation of being suddenly wrapped in inflamed 
ether, in a vibrating atmosphere that seemed to 
isolate him from the ordinary atmosphere and almost 
ravished him. He had one day associated that mira- 
cle of love with a physical image, remembering how 
on one distant evening of his childhood, in crossing a 
desolate plot of ground, he had suddenly found him- 



234 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

self surrounded by will-o'-the-wisps and had uttered 
a cry. 

"You were awaited here by all that lives in this 
seclusion," said Lady Myrta, with a smile that covered 
the emotion which had seized the poor youthful heart 
in its prison of an old ailing body, at the spectacle of 
love and desire. " In coming you have obeyed a call." 
" True ! " said the young man, holding the collar 
of Donovan, who had crept up to him, remembering 
his caresses. " Indeed, I come from somewhere 
very far. Where do you think I come from? 
Guess ! " 

"From the land of Giorgione." 
" No, from the cloister of Santa Apollonia. Do 
you know the cloister of Santa Apollonia? " 
" Is it your invention of to-day .■' " 
" Invention ? It is a cloister of stone, a real one, 
with its well and its little columns." 

"It may be; but all the things you have once 
looked at become your inventions, Stelio." 

" Ah, Lady Myrta, I should like to give you that 
gem. I should like to remove it into your garden. 
Imagine a small secret cloister, opening on an order 
of worn columns, coupled like nuns when they 
pace fasting in the sun, very delicate, neither white 
nor grey nor black, but of that most mysterious 
colour ever given to stone by that great master- 
colourist called Time. And in the midst of these a 
well, and on the margin furrowed by the rope a bot- 
tomless pail. The nuns have disappeared, but I think 
the shades of the Danaides frequent the place. . . ." 
He interrupted himself suddenly on seeing him- 
self surrounded by the hounds and began imi- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE ^35 

tating the guttural sounds made by the kennel-man 
to rally them. The dogs became restless; their 
melancholy eyes brightened. Two who had been at 
some distance from the others bounded towards him 
with long leaps, jumping over the bushes, and stopped 
before him, wiry, sinuous, with strained nerves. 

" Ali-Nour ! Crissa ! Nerissa ! Clarissa ! Altair ! 
Helion ! Hardicanute ! Veronese ! Hierro ! " 

He knew them all by name ; and when he called 
them, they seemed to recognise him for their master. 
There was the Scotch deer-hound, the native of the 
highlands, with rough thick coat, rougher and thicker 
round his jowls and nose and grey as new iron; 
there was the reddish Irish wolf-hound, the robust 
destroyer of wolves, whose brown eyes showed the 
whites on moving; there was the spotted Tartary 
hound, black and yellow, brought from the vast 
Asiatic steppes where he guarded the tents at night 
from leopards and hyenas; there was the Persian 
dog, fair and small, his ears covered with long silky 
hairs, with a bushy tail, his coat paler along the ribs 
and down his legs, more graceful even than the ante- 
lopes he had slain ; there was the Spanish galgo who 
had migrated with the Moors, the magnificent beast 
held in leash by a pompous dwarf in the picture of 
Diego Velasquez, trained to course and overthrow 
in the naked plains of the Mancha, or in the low 
woods thick with brushwood of Murcia and Ali- 
cante ; there was the Arabian sloughi, the illustrious 
plunderer of the desert, with dark tongue and palate, 
all his sinews visible, his framework of bones show- 
ing through the fine skin, a noble animal all pride, 
courage, and elegance, accustomed to sleeping on 



236 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

rich carpets and drinking pure milk in pure vessels. 
And gathered together in a pack they quivered round 
him who knew how to reawaken in their torpid blood 
their primitive instincts of pursuit and carnage. 

" Which of you was Gog's best friend ? " he said, 
looking from one to the other of the beautiful 
anxious eyes fixed on him. 

" You Hierro ? You Altair ? " 

His singular accent excited the sensitive animals, 
who listened with suppressed, intermittent yelps. 
Each movement of theirs imparted a shining wave 
to their various coats ; and their long tails, curved at 
the ends like hooks, wagged lightly from side to side 
against their muscular haunches. 

" Well, I must tell you what I have kept silent 
until to-day: Gog, do you hear? who could break 
the hare at one snap of his jowls, — Gog is crippled." 

" Oh, really ! " exclaimed Lady Myrta, regretfully. 
" How did it happen, Stelio, and how is Magog? " 

" Magog is safe and sound." 

They were a couple of greyhounds given by Lady 
Myrta to her young friend to take with him to his 
house on the sea. 

" But how did it happen? " 

" Ah, poor Gog ! He had already killed thirty- 
seven hares. He possessed all the qualities of great 
breeding: swiftness, resistance, an incredible quick- 
ness at turning, and the constant desire of killing his 
prey, and the classical manner of running straight, 
and gripping from behind. Have you ever seen 
greyhounds course, Foscarina?" 

She was so intent that she started at the unexpected 
sound of her name. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 237 

" Never ! " 

She was hanging on his lips, fascinated by their 
instinctive expression of cruelty in describing the 
work of blood. 

" Never ! Then you do not know one of the rarest 
manifestations of daring, vehemence and grace in the 
world." 

He drew Donovan towards him, knelt on the 
ground and began feeling him with his expert hands. 

" There is in nature no machine more precisely 
and powerfully adapted to its purpose. The muzzle 
is sharp in order to part the air in running, it is long, 
in order that the jaws may disable the prey at the 
first snap. The skull is large between the two ears 
in order to contain greater courage and skill. The 
jowls are dry and muscular, the lips short so that 
they barely cover the teeth." 

With easy assurance, he opened the mouth of the 
dog, which attempted no resistance. The dazzling 
teeth appeared, the palate marked with large black 
waves, the thin rosy tongue. 

" See what teeth ! See how long the eye-teeth 
are, and a little curve at the points the better to 
retain his hold. No other kind of dog has a mouth 
constructed in so perfect a manner for the purpose of 
biting." 

His hands lingered in the examination, and his 
admiration for the noble specimen seemed to have 
no bounds. He had knelt down on the clover, 
receiving in his face the breath of the animal, which 
was letting itself be examined with unusual docility, 
as if it had understood the praise of the expert and 
were enjoying it. 



238 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" The ears are small and placed very high, straight 
in moments of excitement, but falling flat and adhering 
to the skull when at rest. They do not prevent the 
collar from being taken off and put on again without 
undoing the buckle : so ! " 

He took off the collar, which exactly fitted the 
animal's neck, and put it on again. 

" Then he has a swan's neck, long and flexible, 
which allows him to grasp his peculiar game at the 
moment of his greatest swiftness without losing his 
balance. Ah, I once saw Gog clutch a hare that was 
jumping across a ditch. . . . Now observe the more 
important parts : the length and depth of chest made 
for long runs, the oblique lines of the shoulders pro- 
portioned to the length of the limbs, the formidable 
muscular mass in the haunches, the short heels, the 
backbone saddle-backed between bands of sohd 
muscles. . . . Look ! Helion's backbone stands out 
plainly : Donovan's is hidden in a furrow. The paws 
are like those of a cat, with nails that are close, but 
not too much so, elastic and sure. And what ele- 
gance there is in the ribs, disposed with the symmetry 
of a fine ship's keel, and in that line, curving inwards 
towards the abdomen, which is entirely hidden. All 
is directed to one aim. The tail thick at its root and 
thin at the tip — look! almost like that of a rat — 
serves the animal for the purpose of a rudder and is 
necessary to him in order to be able to turn rapidly 
when the hare doubles. Let me see, Donovan, if 
you are perfect also in this." 

He took the tip of the tail, passed it under the 
leg, drew it back towards his haunch-bone, where it 
exactly touched the projecting part 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 239 

" Perfect ! I once saw an Arab of the tribe of 
Arb^a measuring his sloughi in this way. AH-Nour ! 
Did you tremble when you discovered the flock of 
gazelles? Think, Foscarina, the sloughi trembles 
when he discovers his prey, trembles like a willow, 
and turns two soft beseeching eyes to his master that 
he may be set free. I do not know why this pleases 
me, and moves me so much. His desire of killing is 
terrible in him, his whole body is ready to fly like an 
arrow, yet he trembles! Not with fear surely, not 
with uncertainty, but with desire. Ah, Foscarina, if 
you were to see a sloughi in those moments you 
would certainly carry away from him his manner of 
trembling, and you would know how to make it 
human, and you would give men yet another quiver 
with your tragic art. . . . Get up Ali-Nour ! desert 
torrent of swiftness, do you remember? Now it is 
only the cold that causes your trembling. . . ." 

Gay and voluble, he let Donovan go, and taking in 
his two hands the snakelike head of the slayer of 
gazelles, looked into the depths of his eyes, where 
lurked the homesickness of silent tropical countries, 
of tents unfolded after a journey that meteors had 
deceived, of bonfires lit for the evening meal under 
the wide stars that seemed to draw their life from the 
throb of the wind in the palm-tops. " Eyes full of 
dreams and of melancholy, of courage and faithful- 
ness. Have you ever thought. Lady Myrta, that the 
hound of the lovely eyes is precisely the mortal 
enemy of the lovely-eyed animals like the gazelle 
and the hare ? " 

The woman had entered into that bodily incan- 
tation of love by which the limits of one's person 



240 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

seem to spread and be fused in the air, so that each 
word or gesture of the loved one excites a quiver 
sweeter than any caress. The young man had talcen 
in his hands the head of Ali-Nour, but she felt the 
touch of those hands on her own temples. The 
young man was searching the eyes of Ali-Nour, but 
she could feel that glance deep in her own soul, and 
it seemed that his praise of those eyes flowed to her 
own eyes. 

She was standing on the grass like the haughty 
animals he loved, dressed like the one he preferred of 
all the others, filled like them with a confused memory 
of a distant origin, and slightly stupefied by the glare 
of the sun-rays reflected by the wall covered with 
rose-trees, stupefied and fervent as if in a slight fever. 
She heard him speaking of things that were alive, of 
limbs apt for the chase and the capture, of vigour and 
dexterity, of natural power and the vigour of blood, 
and she saw him bending near the earth in the 
odour of the grass, in the warmth of the sun, pliable 
and strong, feeling skins and bones, measuring the 
energy of exposed muscles, enjoying the contact of 
those generous bodies, almost taking part in that 
delicate, cruel brutality that it had more than once 
pleased him to represent in the inventions of his art ; 
and she herself, with her feet in the warm earth under 
the breath of the sky, in her dress that was similar in 
colour to the tawny plunderer, felt a strange primitive 
sense of bestiality rising from the roots of her being, 
something that was almost the illusion of a slow meta- 
morphosis in which she was losing a part of her 
human consciousness and becoming a child of nature, 
a short-lived, ingenuous force, a savage life. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 241 

Thus was he not touching the obscurest mystery 
of her being? was he not making her feel the animal 
profundity from which the unexpected revelations of 
her tragic genius had sprung forth, shaking and 
inebriating the multitude like the sights of the sea 
and the sky, like the dawn or the tempest? When 
he had told her of the quivering sloughi, had he not 
divined the natural analogies from which she drew the 
powers of expression that had set poets and peoples 
wondering? It was because she had discovered anew 
the Dionysian sense of nature the naturaliser, the 
ancient fervour of instinctive and creative energies, 
the enthusiasm of the manifold god emerging from 
the ferment of every sap that she appeared so new 
and so great on the stage. She had sometimes felt 
in herself something like an imminent approach of 
the miracle that used of old to swell with divine milk 
the bosom of the Maenades when they saw the young 
panthers draw near them craving for food. 

She stood on the grass tawny and agile like the 
favourite hound, full of the confused memory of a 
distant origin, living and desirous of living without 
measure in the brief hoiir allotted to her. The mist 
of tears was vain, all the stifling aspirations to good- 
ness and renunciation fell, and all the ashen melan- 
cholies of the deserted garden. The presence of the 
Life-giver seemed to widen space, to change time, 
to quicken the throb of blood, to multiply the faculty 
of enjoyment, to create once more the phantom of 
a magnificent festival. She was there once more as 
he had wished to shape her, forgetful of fears and 
wretchedness, cured of her sad evil, a creature of 
flesh vibrating in the light, in the warmth, in the per- 

i6 



242 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

fumes, in the play of appearances, ready to cross the 
suggested plains and sand-hills and deserts with him 
in the fury of the chase, to feel the intoxication of 
that ecstasy, to rejoice at the sight of courage, skill, 
and bleeding spoils. From second to second as 
he spoke and moved, he shaped her after his own 
likeness. 

" Ah, every time I saw the hare breaking in the 
teeth of the hound, a flash of regret would pass over 
my joy for those great moist eyes that were being 
extinguished ! Larger than yours, Ali-Nour, and 
larger than yours, Donovan, resplendent like pools 
on a summer evening, with the same circle of wil- 
lows dipping into them and the same heaven mir- 
rored and changing in them. Have you ever seen a 
hare in the early morning, emerge from a freshly 
ploughed furrow, run for a while on the silver hoar- 
frost, then stop in the silence, sit down on its hind- 
legs, prick up its ears, and watch the horizon? Its 
look seems to pacify the universe. The motionless 
hare searching the smoking field in a moment of 
respite from its perpetual anxiety ! One could not 
imagine a more certain sign of perfect surrounding 
peace. In those moments, it is a sacred animal that 
we should adore. . . ." 

Lady Myrta broke into the youthful laugh that 
revealed the whple range of her gilded elephantine 
teeth and shook the tortoise-like wrinkles under her 
chin. 

" Kind Stelio," she exclaimed, laughing, " first to 
adore, then tear in pieces: is that your way?" 

La Foscarina looked at her in some surprise, for 
she had forgotten her ; and sitting there on the stone 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 243 

seat, yellow with mosses, with her contorted hands, 
with that glitter of gold and ivory between her thin 
lips, with those small blue eyes under limp eyelids, 
with that harsh voice and that queer laugh, she sug- 
gested the image of one of those old web-footed 
fairies that wander through the woods followed by an 
obedient toad. The words did not penetrate the 
oblivion in which she had lost herself, nevertheless 
they disturbed her as a shriek. 

" It is not my fault," said Stelio, " if greyhounds 
are made to kill hares and not to slumber in a walled 
garden on the waters of a dead canal." 

Again he began imitating the guttural sounds 
of the kennel-man. 

" Crissa ! Nerissa ! Altair ! Sirius ! Piuchebella ! 
Helion ! " 

The excited dogs grew agitated : their eyes lit up ; 
the dry muscles started under the tawny, black, 
white, leaden, spotted, and mingled coats; the long 
haunches curved like bows ready to unbend and to 
hurl into space the carcasses drier and more slender 
than a bundle of arrows. 

" There, there, Donovan, there 1 " 

He was pointing to something half grey, half red- 
dish, in the grass at the bottom of the garden, that 
had the appearance of a hare crouching with its 
ears laid flat. The imperious voice deceived the 
hesitating hounds, and the thin powerful bodies were 
beautiful to see in the sunlight, shining like living 
silk, quivering and vibrating at the stimulus of the 
human voice like the lightest flags in a pavice, an- 
swering to the breeze. 

" There, Donovan ! " 



244 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

And the great tawny dog looked him in the eyes, 
gave a formidable leap, dashed towards the fancied 
prey with all the vehemence of his reawakened in- 
stinct. He had reached it in an instant, then stopped, 
disappointed, bending on his hind-legs, his neck 
thrust forward ; then he leaped again, began playing 
with the pack that had followed him in great dis- 
order, began fighting Altair, left off, and, his pointed 
muzzle erect, followed, barking, a flock of sparrows 
that had flown away from the pine top with a gay 
rustle in the blue. 

" A marrow, a marrow," cried the deceiver, between 
his peals of laughter, " not even a rabbit. Poor 
Donovan ! A bite in a pumpkin. Ah, poor Donovan, 
what a humiliation ! Take care. Lady Myrta, lest he 
drown himself in the canal to hide his shame. . . ." 

Seized by the contagion of his gaiety, la Foscarina 
laughed with him. Her roan dress and the coats of 
the hounds shone in the slanting sun on the green 
of the clover. The whiteness of her teeth and the 
pealing laughter filled her mouth with renewed 
youth. The tedium of the ancient garden seemed 
torn asunder like the cobwebs that are brushed away 
when a violent hand opens a window that has been 
long closed. 

" Would you like to have Donovan?" said Lady 
Myrta, with a malicious grace in her soul that lost 
itself among her wrinkles like a stream in a flooded 
land. " I know, I know your arts. . . ." 

Stelio ceased laughing, blushing like a child. 

A wave of tenderness swelled the bosom of la 
Foscarina as she noticed the childish blush. Her 
whole being sparkled with love; and a mad desire 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 245 

to fold her lover in her arms quivered in her pulses 
and on her lips. 

"Would you like to have him?" Lady Myrta 
asked again, happy at being able to give, and grate- 
ful to him who had received the gift with so much 
fresh, vivid pleasure. " Donovan is yours ! " 

Before thanking her, his eyes sought the grey- 
hound almost anxiously, he saw him again as he was, 
strong, splendid, most beautiful, with the stamp of 
style on his limbs as if Pisanello had designed him 
for the reverse of a medal. 

"But Gog, what has become of Gog? You have 
not said another word about him," said the giver. 
" Ah, how easily an invalid goes out of our minds ! " 

Stelio was watching la Foscarina, who had turned 
towards the group of hounds, walking on the grass 
with a quick undulation which was like the step 
called precisely by the old Venetians the greyhound 
step. The roan dress, gilded by the declining sun, 
seemed burning on her flexible figure. And it was 
easy to see that she was going towards the animal of 
her own colour, to which she likened herself strangely 
by her deep mimetic instinct, almost to the point of 
being transfigured. 

" It was after a run," said Stelio. " I was in the 
habit of having a hare coursed along the sand-hills 
by the seashore nearly every day. The peasants 
often brought me live ones from my own grounds, 
dark, robust ones ready to defend themselves, most 
cunning, capable of scratching and biting. Ah, Lady 
Myrta, there is no ground for a run finer than my 
free seashore. You know the great plateaus of Lan- 
cashire, the dry Yorkshire soil, the hard plains of 



246 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Altcar, the low Scotch moors, the sands of southern 
England; but a gallop along my sand-hills, more 
golden and more luminous than the autumn clouds, 
beyond the low juniper and tamarisk clusters, beyond 
the small, limpid mouths of the streams, beyond the 
little salt pools, along a sea which is greener than a 
meadow, within sight of the blue and snowy moun- 
tains, would obscure your fairest memories, Lady 
Myrta." 

" Italy ! Italy ! " smiled the indulgent old fairy. 
" The flower of the world." 

" It was along that shore that I would let the hare 
loose. I trained a man to unleash the dogs at the 
right moment, and I would follow the chase on 
horseback. . . . Certainly Magog is an excellent 
courser, but I had never seen a more ready or more 
ardent slayer than Gog. . . ." 

" He came from the Newmarket kennels," said the 
giver,, proudly. 

" One day I was returning home along the sea- 
shore. The chase had been brief. . . . Gog had over- 
taken the hare at the end of two or three miles. I 
was coming home at a slow gallop, skirting the calm 
water. Gog was galloping beside me, keeping up 
with Cambyses, jumping up now and then towards 
the game that hung from my saddle, and barking. 
Suddenly, on seeing a dead carcass before him, my 
horse started to one side, and his hoof wounded the 
dog, who began howling, holding up his left foreleg, 
which seemed broken at the fetlock. I reined in the 
frightened horse with some difficulty, and went back. 
But as Cambyses saw the carcass again, he shied and 
bolted. Then it became a furious race along the 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 247 

downs. With what emotion I cannot tell you, I heard 
in a few minutes the hard breathing of Gog behind 
the horse. He had followed me, you understand? 
In spite of his broken leg, moved by the generosity 
of his blood, forgetting his pain, he followed me, over- 
took me, passed me ! My eyes met his sweet, beau- 
tiful eyes, and while I strove to regain my mastery 
over the frightened horse, my heart broke each time 
I saw his poor wounded leg graze the ground. I 
worshipped him at that moment, I worshipped him. 
Do you think me capable of tears? " 

" Yes," said Lady Myrta, " even of tears." 

"Well, when my sister Sophia began dressing the 
wound with her thin hands on which the tears were 
dropping, I too, I think — " 

La Foscarina stood beside Donovan, holding him 
by the collar, pale again, more attenuated, as if the 
chill of evening were already beginning to penetrate 
her ; the shadow of the bronze cupola was lengthening 
on the grass, on the hornbeams, on the laurels; a 
violet moisture in which the last atoms of the sun's 
gold were swimming spread itself among the stems 
and branches that were quivering in the wind. And 
once more their ears caught the twittering in the 
pine tops full of empty cones. 

" See, we are yours," seemed the words of the 
woman, while the greyhound, seized by the first 
shivers, pressed against her knees. " We are yours 
for ever ; we are here to serve you." 

" Nothing in the world disquiets and kindles me 
so much as these sudden visions of the virtue of 
blood," said the young man, roused by the memory 
of that hour of emotion. 



248 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

They heard the prolonged whistle of a train that 
was crossing the bridge over the lagoon. A breath 
of wind stripped off all the petals of a large white 
rose, so that only a bud reniained on the top of the 
stalk. The chilly dogs drew near one another, gather- 
ing together one against the other. Their slender 
bones shivered under the thin skin, and the melan- 
choly eyes shone in the long heads flat as the heads 
of reptiles. 

" Did I ever tell you, Stelio, of the way in which a 
lady belonging to the best blood of France died at a 
hunting party where I was present?" Lady Myrta 
asked him. The tragic image and the pitiful remem- 
brance had been reawakened in her by the expres- 
sion she had caught on the pale face of la Foscarina. 

" No, never; who was she? " 

" Jeanne d'Elbeuf Through her own imprudence 
or inexperience, or that of the man who rode beside 
her, she was shot, nobody ever knew by whom, to- 
gether with the hare, which passed between the legs 
of the horse. She was seen to fall. We all hastened 
to her, and found her on the grass, steeped in blood, 
by the side of the convulsed hare. In the silence and 
dismay, while we all stood there as if turned to stone, 
while not one of us had yet dared to speak or move, 
the poor creature raised one hand just a little, point- 
ing to the wounded, suffering animal, and said (never 
shall I forget her voice), " Tuez-le, tuez-le, mes amis. 
. . . Ca fait si mal ! " ^ Then died at once. 

Heart-rending indeed was the sweetness of the late 
November that smiled like an invaUd who believes 
himself to be convalescent and feels an unusual 

1 " Kill it, kill it, my friends, it hurts so I " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 249 

happiness and knows not that his agony is at 
hand ! 

"What is the matter with you to-day, Fosca? 
What has happened? Why are you so reserved 
with me? Tell me! Speak to me!" 

Stelio had strolled into San Marco by chance and 
had seen her there, leaning against the door of the 
chapel that leads to the Baptistery. She was alone, 
motionless, her face devoured by fever and shadow, 
her eyes full of terror fixed on the terrible figures 
flaming in the yellow fire of the mosaics. A choir 
was practising behind the door; the chant, inter- 
rupted every now and then, began again with the 
same cadence. 

" Leave me alone, I beg of you, I beg of you ! I 
must be alone. I implore you ! " 

The sound of her words betrayed the dryness of 
her convulsed mouth. She turned as if to fly. He 
held her back. 

" But tell me ! Say one word at least that I may 
understand." 

Again she moved as if to draw herself away, and 
her movement expressed an unspeakable suffering. 
She had the appearance of a creature lacerated by 
torture, wrenched by an executioner. She seemed 
more wretched than a body tied to the rack, tormented 
by red-hot pincers. 

" I implore you. If you are sorry for me, there 
is only one thing you can do for me now; let 
me go. . . ." 

She spoke very low, and the torture of her shaken 
soul was so evident that her not crying out, and her 
throat's not giving way to breathless screams, seemed 
inhuman. 



250 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" But one word, at least one, that I may under- 
stand." 

A flash of fury passed over the perturbed face. 

" No ! I want to be let alone." 

The voice was as hard as the look. She turned, 
taking a few steps like one overtaken by dizziness 
hastening to some support. 

" Foscarina ! " 

But he dared not hold her back. He saw the 
desperate woman walk into the zone of sunlight that 
had invaded the basilica with the rush of a torrent 
through the door that an unknown hand had opened. 
The deep golden cave with its apostles, with its 
martyrs, with its sacred beasts, sparkled behind her 
as if the thousand torches of the day were pouring 
into" it. The chant stopped, then began again. 

" I am drowning in my sadness. . . . The impulse 
to rebel against my fate, to go away aimlessly, to 
search. . . . Who will save my hope ? From whom 
will light come to me? . . . To sing, to sing! But 
I would sing a hymn of life at last. . . . Could you 
tell me where the Lord of the Flame is just now?" 
The words of Donatella Arvale's letter were branded 
on her eyes and branded on her soul with all the 
pecuHarities of the handwriting, with all the diversity 
of signs as living as the hand that had penned them, 
as throbbing as the impatient pulse. She could see 
them engraved in the stones, outlined in the clouds, 
reflected in the waters, indelible and inevitable, like 
decrees of Fate. 

" Where can I go ? Where can I go ? " The sweet- 
ness of things, the warmth of the golden marbles, the 
fragrance of the quiet air, the languor of human 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 251 

leisure, reached her through her agitation and de- 
spair. She looked at a woman of the people wrapped 
in her brown cloak and seated on the steps of the 
basilica, a woman who was neither old nor young, 
neither beautiful nor plain, who sat enjoying the sun- 
shine, eating a large piece of bread, biting pieces out 
of it with her teeth and then chewing them slowly, 
her eyes half shut as she savoured her contentment 
while her fair lashes shone upon her cheeks. " Ah, 
if I could change myself into you, take on your des- 
tiny, be content with bread and sunshine and think 
no more and suffer no more." The poor woman's 
repose seemed infinite bliss to her. 

She turned with a start, fearing, hoping, that her 
lover had followed her. She did not see him. She 
would have fled if she had seen him ; but her heart 
failed her as if he had sent her to her death without 
calling her back. " All is over." She was losing all 
sense of measure and certainty. The thoughts that 
passed in her were broken and confusedly dragged 
on by anguish, like plants and stones by the fury of 
an overflowing river. In all the aspects of surround- 
ing things, her bewildered eyes saw a confirmation 
of her sentence or the obscure menace of new evils, 
or a figuring of her state, or the signifying of occult 
truths about to work cruelly on her existence. At 
the corner of San Marco, near the Porta della Carta, 
she felt the four porphyry kings clasping each other 
as for a compact while their tough fists grasp the hilt 
finishing in a hawk's beak, live as if they had been 
made of dark blood. The numberless veins of the 
various marbles with which the side of the temple is 
encrusted, those indistinct threads of different colours, 



2S2 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

those intertwined labyrinths and meanders, seemed to 
make her own interior diversity visible, and the very 
confusion of her thoughts. In turn, she felt all things 
estranged, remote, unexisting, and then familiar, ap- 
proaching her and participating in her intimate life. 
In turn she seemed to find herself in unknown places 
and among forms belonging to her as if her own 
substance had given them their material life. Like 
those who are dying, she was at intervals illumined 
by images of her distant childhood, by memories of 
far-away events, by the distinct and rapid apparition 
of a face, a gesture, a room, a whole neighbourhood. 
And above all these phantoms, in a background of 
shadow the eyes of her mother seemed gazing on 
her, kind and firm, no larger than human eyes while 
in life, yet infinite as an horizon towards which she 
was being called. " Shall I come to you .'' Are 
you really calling me for the last time?" 

She had entered the Porta della Carta and had 
crossed the lobby. The intoxication of pain was 
leading her back to the place where on a night of 
glory the three Destinies had met. She sought 
the well which had been their meeting-place. The 
whole life of those few instants rose up again round 
its bronze rim with the evidence and the outline of 
reality. There she had said as she turned, smiling, to 
her companion, " Donatella, here is the Lord of the 
Flame.'' The immense cry of the multitude had 
covered her voice and a thousand fiery pigeons had 
lit up the sky above their heads. 

She drew nearer to the well. Every detail of it 
impressed itself on her spirit as she stood consider- 
ing it, clothing itself with a strange power of fateful 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 253 

life ; the furrows left by the ropes in the metal, the 
green oxide that streaked the stone at its base, the 
breasts of the cariatides worn out by the knees of 
the women who had at one time pressed upon them 
in the effort of drawing water, and that deep inner 
mirror no longer disturbed by the shock of descend- 
ing pails, that narrow subterranean circle that reflected 
the sky. She bent over the edge, saw her own face, 
saw her terror and her ruin, saw the immovable 
Medusa which she carried in the centre of her soul. 
Unconsciously she was repeating the act of him 
whom she loved. And she saw his face, too, and the 
face of Donatella, such as she had seen them shining 
for an instant on that night, one close to the other, 
lit up by the flashes from the sky as if they had been 
bending over a furnace or a crater. "Love, love 
each other! I will go away. I will disappear. 
Good-bye." Her eyelids dropped over the thought 
of death. In that darkness the kind firm eyes re- 
appeared, infinite as an horizon of peace. " You 
who are in peace and who wait for me, you who 
lived and died of passion." She straightened her- 
self. An extraordinary silence filled the deserted 
courtyard. The wealth of the high carved walls 
rested half in the shadow, half in the light ; the five 
mitres of the basilica surpassed the columned cloister 
as light as the snowy clouds that made the sky 
seem more blue, the same as the jessamine flower 
causes the leaf to seem more green. Again through 
her torment she was touched by the sweetness of 
things. " Life might still be^ sweet." 

She came out by the Molo, stepped into a gondola, 
had herself rowed to the Giudecca. The harbour, 



254 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the Salute, the Riva degli Schiavoni, all the stone and 
all the water, were a miracle of gold and opal. She 
looked anxiously towards the Piazzetta lest a figure 
should be appearing there. The image of dead sum- 
mer dressed in gold and shut in a coffin of opalescent 
glass flashed on her memory. She imagined her 
own self submerged in the lagoon and laid out on 
a bed of seaweed, but the memory of the promise 
made on that water and kept in the night's delirium, 
pierced her heart like a knife, threw her once more 
into a horrible convulsion. "Never more, then? 
Never more?" All her senses remembered all his 
caresses. The lips, the hands, the strength, the fire 
of the young man, passed into her blood as if they 
had melted in her. The poison burnt into her 
to her furthest fibres. With him she had found at 
the extreme limit of pleasure a spasm that was not 
death and yet was beyond life. "And now never 
more? never more?" 

She was in the Rio della Croce. The foliage grew 
above a red wall. The gondola stopped at a closed 
door. She landed, took out a small key, opened the 
door, and went into the garden. 

It was her refuge, the secret place of her solitude, 
preserved by her faithful melancholies as by silent cus- 
todians. All came forward to meet her, the old ones 
and the new ones, surrounded her, accompanied her. 

With its long trellises, with its cypresses, with its 
fruit-trees, with its edges of lavender, its oleanders, 
its carnations, its rose-bushes crimson and crocus 
coloured, marvellously soft and tired in the colours 
of its dissolution, that garden seemed lost in the 
extreme lagoon, on one of those islands forgotten by 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 255 

man, Mazzorbo, Torcello, San Francesco Deserto. 
The sun embraced it and penetrated it on every side 
so that the shadows were so slight as to be hardly 
visible ; so great was the stillness of the air that the 
dry vine leaves stayed on their tendrils. None of 
the leaves fell; though all were dead. 

"Never more?" She walked under the trellises, 
went towards the water, stopped on the grassy 
mound, felt tired, sat down on a stone, held her 
temples tightly between her hands, made an effort 
to concentrate herself, to recover her dominion over 
herself, to consider, to deliberate. " He is still here ; 
he is near me. I can see him again. Perhaps I 
shall find him before long at the threshold of my 
door. He will take me in his arms, will kiss my 
eyes and lips, will tell me again that he loves me, 
that everything in me pleases him. He does not 
know, does not understand. Nothing irreparable has 
happened. What, then, is the fact that has convulsed 
and broken me? I have received a letter from a 
woman who is far away, a prisoner in a lonely villa 
with her demented father, who complains of her lot 
and longs to change it. This is the fact. There is 
no more. This is the letter." She looked for it and 
opened it to reread it. Her fingers trembled. She 
felt the perfume of Donatella as if she had had her 
by her side there on that stone. 

"Is she beautiful? Truly? What is she like?" 
The lines of the image were confused at first. She 
tried to seize them, and they vanished. One detail 
before any of the others fixed itself, becoming pre- 
cise and evident, — the large heavy hand. " Did he 
see it that night? He is extremely sensitive to the 



2s6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

beauty of hands. He always looks at them when he 
meets a woman. Does he not love Sophia's hands? " 
She gave herself up for a few seconds to childish 
considerations such as those, then smiled at them 
bitterly. And suddenly the image completed itself, 
grew living, shone with strength and youth, overcame 
her, dazzled her. " She is beautiful ; and hers is the 
beauty which he would have her possess." 

She stayed on transfixed, surrounded by the silent 
splendour of the waters, with the letter on her knees, 
nailed there by the inflexible truth. And involuntary 
thoughts of destruction flashed above that inert dis- 
couragement : the face of Donatella was burnt in A 
fire, her body deformed by a fall, her voice quenched 
by an illness. Horror at herself filled her, and then 
pity for herself and for the other woman. "Has 
she not also the right of living .' Let her live, let 
her love, let her have her joy." She imagined some 
magnificent adventure for her, some happy love, the 
love of a bridegroom, prosperity, luxury, pleasure. 
" Is there only this one man on earth whom she can 
love .' To-morrow could she not meet the man who 
is to take her heart? Could not her fate suddenly 
turn her elsewhere, draw her far away, lead her towards 
an unknown path, separate her from us for ever? Is 
it perhaps necessary that she should be loved by the 
man whom I love ? They may perhaps never meet 
again." Thus she tried to escape her own presenti- 
ment, but a contrary spirit was telling her : " They 
have met once ; they will seek each other ; they will 
meet again. Hers is not the obscure soul that can 
be lost in a crowd or along a side-path. She carries 
a gift in herself resplendent as a star and that will 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 257 

always make her easy to recognise from afar: her 
song. The miracle of her voice will be her signal. 
She will certainly avail herself of this power in the 
world ; she too will pass among men leaving wonder 
behind her. She will have glory as she has beauty, — 
two signal lights to which he will easily go. They 
have met once; they will meet again." 

The woman cowered down under her pain as if 
under a yoke ; the threads of grass at her feet seemed 
to withhold the rays they received, and to breathe 
in a green light which was coloured by their quiet 
transparency. She felt the tears rise to her eyes, — 
gazed through that veil at the lagoon which trembled 
with the trembling of her tears. A fair pearly light 
was on the waters. The islands of the Follia, San 
Clemente and San Servilio were wrapped in pale 
mist. And now and then there came from their dis- 
tance faint cries, as of shipwrecked men lost in the 
calm, answered now by the shriek of a siren, now by 
the hoarse cry of the scattered sea-birds. The silence 
would become terrible, then it would soften again. 
She recovered her deep goodness, recovered her ten- 
derness for the beautiful creature with whom she had 
deluded her desire of loving Sophia, the kind sister. 
She thought over the hours spent in the lonely villa 
on the hill of Settignano, where Lorenzo Arvale cre- 
ated his statues in the fulness of his strength and 
fervour, unconscious of the thunderbolt that was 
about to strike him. She lived in that time once 
more, saw those places again, — she was sitting to the 
famous artist who was portraying her in his clay. 
Donatella would sing some antique song, and the 
spirit of the song would animate both the model and 

17 



2S8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the effigy, and her thoughts and the pure voice 
and the mystery of art almost composed an appear- 
ance of divine Hfe in the great studio open to the 
daylight on all sides, whence Florence and its river 
could be seen in the spring valley. 

What if not the reflection of Sophia had attracted 
her towards the girl who had been deprived of a 
mother's caresses from the time of her birth? She 
called her up to her memory as she had seen her 
standing grave and firm at her father's side, the com- 
forter of his great work, the guardian of his sacred 
flame and also of a secret determination of her own 
that was being preserved like a sword in its sheath, 
bright and sharp. 

" She is sure of herself and mistress of her own 
strength. When she shall feel herself free to do it, 
she will reveal herself as one made for dominion. 
She is made to subject men, to excite their curiosity 
and their dreams. Her instinct, bold and prudent 
as experience, is leading her already. . . . And she 
remembered her attitude towards the young man on 
that night, her almost disdainful silence, her short, 
dry words, and the way in which she had risen from 
the table, left the supper-room, and disappeared for 
ever, leaving her image framed in the circle of an 
unforgettable melody. "Ah, she knows the art of 
disquieting the soul of one who dreams. He cannot 
certainly have forgotten her. On the contrary, he 
certainly awaits the hour in which it shall be given 
him to meet her again as impatiently as she who has 
asked me where he is." 

She took up the letter and began glancing through 
it, but her memory was swifter than her sight. The 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 259 

enigmatic question, half veijed, was at the bottom of 
the page like a postscript. On seeing the handwrit- 
ing again, she went through the same tearing of her- 
self asunder as on first reading it; and again all 
became upheaval in her heart as if the danger were 
imminent, as if her passion and her hope were already 
irreparably lost. " What is she going to do ? What 
is her thought? Did she expect that he would seek 
her out without delay, and, disappointed in her ex- 
pectation, does she now think of tempting him? 
What is she going to do ? " She struggled against 
that uncertainty, as against a spiked door beyond 
which the light of her life should lie waiting to be 
reconquered. " Shall I answer? And if I answered 
in a way that would make her understand the truth, 
could my love lay a prohibition on hers ? " A move- 
ment of repugnance, modesty, and pride uplifted her 
soul. " She shall never, never know of my wound 
from me; never, even if she should question me." 
And she grasped all the horror of an open rivalry 
between the ageing mistress and the maiden strong 
with the strength of her intact youth. She saw the 
cruelty and humiliation of the unequal struggle. 
" But if it were not this one," an opposing spirit 
urged, "would it not be another? Do you think 
you can keep a man of his nature to your melancholy 
passion? There is only one condition on which you 
should have loved him and offered him your love, 
faithful until death, and that was the prohibition 
which you have broken." 

" True, true," she murmured, as if she were an- 
swering a distinct voice, — a clear judgment pro- 
nounced in the silence by invisible destiny. 



26o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" There is only one condition on which he will now 
be able to accept and recognise your love, — the con- 
dition that you leave him free, that you renounce 
possession, that you give up all, always, asking for 
nothing, always; the condition of being yourself 
heroic. Do you understand?" 

" True, true," she repeated, raising her forehead, 
all her moral beauty now flashing again on the heights 
of her soul. 

But the poison bit her. Once more all her senses 
remembered all his caresses, — the lips and hands, 
the strength and fire of the young man passed into 
her blood as if they were melting there. And she 
stayed on, motionless in her malady, dumb in her 
fever, consumed in her soul and in her flesh, like 
those red-spotted vine leaves that seemed to burn 
round the rims like waste paper thrown on the 
embers. 

A distant, changeless song began vibrating on the 
air, trembling in the immense stupor: a song of 
women's voices, that seemed to come from broken 
bosoms, somewhat similar to the sounds awakened 
from the snapped wires of old spinets at a sudden 
touch on the worn keys, faint yet shrill, with a bright, 
vulgar rhythm that was sadder in that light and still- 
ness than the saddest things of life. 

" Who is singing? " 

With obscure emotion she rose, drew near the 
shore, strained her ear to listen. 

" The mad women of San Clemente ! " 

From the island of La Follia, from the light, deso- 
late hospital, from the barred windows of the terrible 
prison, came the bright yet lugubrious chorus. It 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 261 

trembled, hesitated in the ecstatic immensity, became 
almost childlike, grew fainter, seemed about to die 
away; then rose up strengthened, shrieked, became 
almost piercing; then stopped as if all the vocal 
chords had snapped together; rose once more like 
a tortured cry, like a call from lost, shipwrecked 
beings who have seen a ship pass on the horizon, 
like a clamour of dying creatures; then it dwindled, 
stopped, did not rise again. 



Heart-rending indeed was the sweetness of the 
late November! It smiled like an invalid over an 
interruption in his pain, who knows that it is the last, 
and savours of life, which is revealing its delicacies 
to him with an act full of new grace while on the 
point of forsaking him, daily slumber resembles 
that of a child going to sleep on the knees of 
death. 

" Look at the Euganean hills down there, Fosca- 
rina ; if the wind rises they will go wandering through 
the air like veils, they will pass over our heads. I 
have never seen them so transparent. . . . One day 
I should like to go with you to Arqucl ; the villages 
down there are as rosy as the shells which one finds 
in the earth in myriads. When we arrive, the first 
drops of a fine sun shower will be robbing the peach 
blossoms of a few petals. We will stop under one of 
the arches of the Palladio to keep dry. Then we 
will look for the Fountain of Petrarch without asking 
our way. We will take his Rhymes with us in Mis- 
sirini's small type, — the little book you keep by 
your bedside and can no longer close now because 



262 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

it is swollen with leaves like a doll's herbarium. . . , 
Would you like to go to Arqu^ some spring day? " 

She did not answer him, watching only the lips 
that said these delicate things and hopelessly enjoy- 
ing the sound and their motion and nothing else, 
in a passing manner. She found the same distant 
spell in those images of Spring as in a stanza of 
Petrarch's, but she could place a marker near the 
one and find it again, while the others were lost with 
the hour. She wanted to answer, " I shall not drink 
at that fountain," but remained silent that she might 
not disturb the caress. " Oh, yes, give me illusions, 
illusions ! You must play your own game ; you must 
do with me what you will." 

" Here we are at San Giorgio in Alga ; we shall be 
at Fusina before long." 

The little walled island passed them with its marble 
Madonna perpetually reflecting herself in the water 
like a nymph. 

"Why are you so sweet? I have never felt you 
like this before. One is out of one's depth with you 
to-day. I cannot tell you what a feeling of infinite 
melody is in your presence to-day. You are hereby 
my side, I can take your hand ; and yet you are also 
diffused in the horizon, you are that horizon itself, 
with the waters, with the islands, with the hills that I 
would climb. When I was speaking to you a little 
while ago, it seemed that each syllable was creating 
in you ever widening circles, like the ones round that 
leaf there which has just fallen from that golden 
tree. ... It is true ? Tell me it is true. Oh, look 
at me!" 

He felt himself surrounded by the woman's love 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 263 

as by light and air ; he breathed in that soul as in an 
element, receiving an ineffable fulness of life, as if a 
single stream of mysterious things were flowing from 
her and from the depths of the day, and pouring itself 
into his overflowing heart. The desire of returning 
the happiness which was given him raised him to an 
almost religious degree of gratitude, suggesting words 
of thanks and of praise which he would have uttered 
had he been bending over her in the shadow. But the 
splendour of sky and water had become so great all 
around them that he could only be silent as she was 
silent. It was a moment of marvellous communion 
in the light for both ; it was a journey brief and yet 
immense during which both compassed the dizzy 
distances they had within them. 

The boat touched the shore of Fusina. They 
gazed at each other with dazzled eyes; and when 
their feet touched the ground, when they saw that 
squalid bank where the grass grew faded and rare, a 
kind feeling of loss came upon them that was like a 
disappointment, and both moved unwillingly, feeling 
in those first steps that weight of their bodies which 
had seemed to have become hghter during the drive. 

"Does he love me, then? " 

Suffering and hope revived in the woman's heart. 
She did not believe the ecstasy of her beloved to 
be other than sincere; she knew that his words 
responded to an inward flame. She knew how en- 
tirely he abandoned himself to every passing wave 
that touched his sensibility, how incapable he was of 
dissimulation or falsehood. She had more than once 
heard him utter cruel truths with the same feline and 
flexible grace as that possessed by those men who 



264 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

are given to fascinating. She well knew the direct 
limpid gaze that sometimes became icy or cutting, 
that was never otherwise than straight ; yet she also 
knew the marvellous swiftness and diversity of thought 
and feeling that made his an unseizable spirit. In 
him there was ever something voluble, fluctuating 
and powerful that suggested the double and diverse 
image of flame and of water; and she had hoped to 
fix him, hold him, possess him. In him there was 
ever an unlimited ardour of life as if every second 
seemed the supreme one to him, and he were about 
to take his leave of the joy and pain of existence, like 
from the caresses and the tears of a love-parting. 
And she would have attracted that insatiable avidity 
to herself as to its only nourishment ! 

What was she to him, if not an aspect of that 
" life of the thousand and thousand faces " towards 
which his desire, according to one of the images of 
his own poetry, continually shook all its thyrsi? 
She was a cause of visions and inventions to him, 
like the hills and the woods and the rain. He drank 
in mystery and beauty from her as he did from all 
the forms of the universe. Even now he was already 
apart from her, already intent on some new quest; 
his mobile ingenuous eyes were already looking 
round for the miracle to wonder at and adore. 

She glanced at him and he did not turn his face 
towards her, intent on observing the damp misty 
country they were slowly driving through. She sat 
there beside him, deprived of all strength, no longer 
capable of living in herself and for herself, of breath- 
ing with her own breath, of following a thought that 
should be outside her love, hesitating even in her 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 265 

enjoyment of natural things that were not pointed 
out by him, needing to wait until he should com- 
municate his sensations and his dreams to her before 
inclining her aching heart towards that landscape. 

Her life seemed to be dissolving and condensing 
itself at intervals. When the intensity of a second 
had passed, she would wait for the next one, and 
between one and the other she would have no per- 
ception except that time was flying and the lamp 
was burning itself out. 

" My friend, my friend," said Stelio, suddenly 
turning and taking one of her hands with an emotion 
that had risen to his throat little by little and was 
suffocating him, " why have we come to these places? 
They seem so sweet, and they are full of terror." 

He was looking at her fixedly with the look that 
from time to time would suddenly appear in his eyes 
like a tear, — a look that would touch the very secret 
of another's existence and descend to the uttermost 
depths of unconsciousness, deep as that of an old 
man, deep as that of a child, and she trembled under 
it as if her soul had been one of the tears of his 
eyes. 

"You are suffering?" he asked with a pity full of 
anguish that turned the woman pale. " You feel this 
terror?" 

She looked round with the anxiety of one pursued. 
She seemed to see a thousand harmful phantoms 
rising from the fields. 

" Those statues," said Stelio, with an expression in 
his voice that turned them in her eyes into witnesses 
of her own decay. 

And the landscape spread silently around them as 



266 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

if all its inhabitants had deserted it for centuries or 
were all sleeping in new graves dug only yesterday. 

"Shall we go back? The boat is still there." 

She did not seem to hear. 

" Answer me, Foscarina ! " 

" Let us go on ; let us go on," she answered. " Fate 
cannot change wherever we go." 

Her body followed the motion, the slow rolling of 
the wheels, and she feared to interrupt it, recoiling 
from the slightest effort, the smallest fatigue, full of a 
heavy inertness. Her face was like the delicate veil 
of ashes that covers live coal, hiding its consumption. 

" Dear, dear soul ! " said her beloved, bending 
towards her and touching her pale cheek with his lips. 
" Hold on to me. Give yourself up to me. Be sure 
of me. I will not fail you, and you will not fail me. 
We shall find, we must find, the secret truth on which 
our love may rest for ever, unchanged. Do not shut 
yourself up from me. Do not suffer alone. Do not 
try to hide your torment from me ! When your 
heart swells with pain, speak to me. Let me hope 
that I could comfort you. Let nothing be kept 
silent between us, and let nothing be hidden. I 
venture to remind you of a condition that you your- 
self have made. Speak to me, and I will always answer 
you truthfully. Suffer me to help you, since so much 
good conies to me /rom you. Tell me that you are 
not afraid of suffering. I believe that your soul is ca- 
pable of bearing all the pain of the world. Do not let 
me lose my faith in this, the strength of your passion, 
by which you have seemed divine to me more than 
once. Tell me you are not afraid of suffering. . . . 
I don't know, perhaps I am mistaken. . . . But I 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 267 

have felt a shadow in you, a desperate determination 
as it were to go away, to draw yourself back, to find 
some end. . . . Why? Why? And a moment ago, 
looking at all this terrible desolation which is smil- 
ing at us, a great fear suddenly gripped my heart: 
I thought that perhaps even your love could change 
like all else, pass away into dissolution. ' You will 
lose me.' Ah, those words are yours, Foscarina. It 
is from your lips they fell." 

She did not answer, and for the first time since she 
loved him his words to her seemed vain, useless 
sounds moving in the air quite powerless. For the 
first time he himself seemed a weak anxious creature, 
governed by unbreakable laws. She pitied him as 
much as herself. He was laying on her the con- 
dition of being heroic, a compact of pain and violence. 
While attempting to comfort and uplift her, he was 
predicting a difficult test, preparing her for torture. 
But of what use was courage, of what use was effort, 
what were all miserable human agitations worth ; and 
why did they ever think of the future, of the uncertain 
to-morrow? The past alone reigned around them, 
and they were as nothing, and everything was as 
nothing. " We are dying; you and I are two dying 
creatures ; let us then dream and then die." 

" Be silent ! " she said faintly, as if they were pass- 
ing through a churchyard; and a thin slight smile 
appeared on the edge of her lips like the smile that 
was floating over the landscape, and it stopped there 
motionless as on the lips of a portrait. 

The wheels rolled on and on in the white road 
along the banks of the Brenta. The river, magnified 
and glorified in the sonnets of gallant abb6s at the 



268 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

time when barges full of music and pleasure slipped 
down its current, now had the humble aspect of a 
canal, where the blue-green ducks splashed about in 
flocks. In the low well-watered plain, the fields were 
smoking, the trees rose naked, the leaves rotted in 
the moisture of the earthy mounds, the slow golden 
vapour floated over an immense vegetable decom- 
position that seemed to touch even the walls, the 
stones, the houses, and destroy them like the leaves. 
From the Foscara to the Barbariga, the patrician 
villas, where a life of pale veins, delicately poisoned 
by cosmetics and perfumes, had flickered out in 
languid games round a beauty spot or a little dog, 
were falling into ruins, silent and forsaken. Some 
had the appearance of a human ruin, with their 
empty apertures that seemed eyeless sockets and 
toothless mouths ; others at first sight seemed on the 
point of crumbling to bits and falling into powder 
like the hair of dead women when tombs are un- 
covered, like moth-eaten garments when cupboards 
are opened that have been too long closed ; their 
boundary walls were knocked down, their columns 
broken, their gates contorted, their gardens overrun 
with weeds, but here and there, near and far, all over 
in the fruit orchards, in the vineyards, among the 
silvery cabbages, among the vegetables, among the 
pastures, on the heaps of manure and refuse from 
the wine-press under the hay-ricks, on the threshold 
of hovels and all along the river-side, rose the surviv- 
ing statues. They were numberless like a dispersed 
people. Some still white, some grey or yellow with 
lichens or greenish with mosses, or spotted ; in all at- 
titudes, with all gestures, Goddesses, Heroes, Nymphs, 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 269 

Seasons, Hours, with their bow, with their arrows, 
their garlands, their cornucopias, their torches, with 
all the emblems of their riches, power, and pleasure, 
exiled from fountains, grottoes, labyrinths, harbours, 
porticoes ; friends of the evergreen box and myrtle, 
protectors of passing loves, witnesses of eternal vows, 
figures of a dream far older than the hands that had 
formed them and the eyes that had seen them in the 
ravaged gardens. And in the soft late summer sun 
their shadows, lengthening little by little over the 
landscape, were like the shadows of the irrevocable 
past, of all that which loves no longer, laughs and 
weeps no longer, will never live, will never return 
again. And the silent words on their lips of stone 
were the same as the words spoken by the im- 
movable smile on the lips of the worn-out woman, — 
Nothing ! 



They became acquainted with other fears that day, 
other shadows. 

Henceforth the tragic sense of life filled them both, 
and they strove in vain to overcome the physical 
sadness which made their spirits become every mo- 
ment clearer and more disquieted. They held each 
other's hands as if they had been walking in the dark, 
or through perilous places. Their words were rare ; 
but now and then they would look into each other's 
eyes, and the glance of the one would pour a con- 
fused wave into the other, which was only the over- 
flowing of their love and horror ; and it did not ease 
their hearts. 

"Shall we go on?" 



270 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Yes, let us go on." 

They were holding each other's hands tightly as if 
making some strange experiment, as if they were 
determined to find out what depths could be reached 
by the forces of their mingled melancholy. At the 
Dolo their footsteps crackled on the chestnut leaves 
which strewed the way; and the great trees that 
were changing colour flamed upon their heads like 
crimson hangings on fire. Further off", the Villa 
Barbariga appeared, lonely, desolate, reddish in its 
bare garden, bearing traces of old paintings in the 
fissures of its frontage that were like remains of 
rouge in the wrinkles of an old woman. And at 
every glance the distances of the landscape became 
dimmer and more blue, like things that are being 
slowly submerged. 

" Here is Stri." 

They went down to the villa of the Pisani ; they 
entered ; they visited the deserted apartments accom- 
panied by the caretaker. They heard the sound of 
their steps on the marble that mirrored them, the 
echo in the ornamented arches, the groan of the doors 
as they were opened and shut, the tedious voice 
awakening the memories of the place. The rooms 
were vast, hung with faded stuffs, furnished in the 
style of the first Empire, bearing the Napoleonic 
emblems. In one of the rooms the walls were cov- 
ered with the portraits of the Pisani, procurators of 
San Marco ; in another, with marble medallions of all 
the doges ; in another, with a series of flowers painted 
in water-colour and mounted in delicate frames, pale 
as the dried flowers that are put under glass in 
memory of a love or a death. 



THE EMPIRE OP SILENCE 271 

In another la Foscarina said as she entered : — 

" Wiik time! Here too." 

There, on a bracket, was a translation into marble 
of the figure of Francesco Torbido, made more horri- 
ble by the subtle study of the sculptor to bring out 
with his chisel, one by one, the wrinkles, the veins, 
the hollows. And at the doors of the room there 
seemed to appear the phantoms of the crowned 
women who had concealed their decay and their 
misery in that spacious dwelling that was like a 
palace and like a monastery. 

"Maria Luisa of Parma, in 1817," continued the 
tedious voice. 

And Stelio : — 

" Ah, the Queen of Spain, the wife of Charles IV., 
the mistress of Manuel Godo'l ! This one attracts me 
above all the others. She passed by this place at the 
time of their exile. Do you know whether she stayed 
here, with the King and the favourite?" 

The custodian only knew the name and date. 

" Why does she attract you ? " asked la Foscarina. 
" I know nothing about her." 

" Her end, the last years of her life as an exile after 
so much passion and so many struggles are unusually 
full of poetry." 

And he described to her the violent, tenacious 
figure, the weak, credulous King, the handsome 
adventurer who had enjoyed the favours of the 
Queen, and had been dragged through the streets 
by a furious crowd, the agitation of the three lives 
bound up by fate and driven like twigs in a whirl- 
wind before the will of Napoleon, the tumult at 
Aranjuez, the abdication, the exile. 



2/2 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Godof then, the Prince of Peace, as the King 
had called him, faithfully followed the sovereigns 
into exile ; was faithful to his royal mistress and she 
to him. And they lived together under the same 
roof always, and Charles never suspected the virtue 
of Maria Luisa, and lavished his kindness on both 
lovers until death. Imagine their residence in this 
place ; imagine here such a love having come safely 
out of so terrible a hurricane. All was snapped, 
■ overthrown ; all had crumbled to dust under the 
might of the destroyer. Bonaparte had passed that 
way and had not suffocated that love, already grey, 
under the ruins he left behind 1 The fidelity of 
these two violent ones touches me as much as the 
credulity of the gentle King. They grew old in this 
manner. Think! The Queen died first, then the 
King ; and the favourite, who was younger than they, 
lived some few years more, a wanderer. . . ." 

" This is the Emperor's room," said the custodian, 
solemnly, throwing open a door. The great shade 
seemed to be omnipresent; the sign of his power 
dominated from above all the pale relics collected 
there. But in the yellow room it occupied the vast 
bed and stretched itself out under the canopy, be- 
tween the four posts surmounted by gilded flames. 
The formidable sigla between the crown of laurels 
shone upon the bolster; and that kind of funereal 
couch was prolonged in the dim mirror that hung 
between the two Victories supporting the candelabra. 

" Did the Emperor sleep in this bed? " asked the 
young man of the custodian who was showing him, 
on the wall, the effigy of the condottiere mantled 
with ermine, and wreathed with laurel as he ap- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 273 

peared at the coronation blessed by Pius VII. " Is 
it certain? " 

He was astonished at not having felt the emotion 
produced on ambitious hearts by the traces of heroes, 
the deep throb which he well knew. Perhaps his 
spirit was stunned by the odour of the shut-up 
place, the stuffiness of old materials and mattresses, 
the dulness of the silence where the great name 
found no echo, whilst the buzzing of a moth per- 
sisted so distinctly that he thought he had it in 
his ear. 

He raised the hem of the yellow coverlet and let 
it fall as quickly as if the pillow beneath it had been 
full of worms. 

" Let us go ; let us go out," begged la Foscarina, 
who had been looking through the windows at the 
park, where the tawny bands of the slanting sun 
alternated with half blue, half green zones of shadow, 
" One cannot breathe here." 

The air was like that of a crypt. 
" Now we pass into the room of Maximilian of 
Austria," continued the tedious voice, " who caused 
his bed to be put in the dressing-room of Amalia 
Beauharnais." 

They crossed the room in a glare of crimson. The 
sun was beating on a crimson sofa, making rainbows 
in a frail chandelier with crystal drops that hung from 
the ceiling, kindling the perpendicular red lines on 
the wall. Stelio paused on the threshold, calling to 
life, as he looked back into the blood-like resplen- 
dence, the pensive figure of the young blue-eyed 
archduke, the fair flower of Hapsburg, fallen on bar- 
baric ground one summer morning. 

18 



274 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Let us go," again cried la Foscarina, as she saw 
he was again delaying. 

She was hurrying away across the immense hall 
which Tiepolo had decorated ; behind her, the bronze 
gate made in shutting a clear sound like the tinkling 
of a bell that spread itself through the emptiness 
in long vibrations. She was hurrying away in dis- 
tress, as if all were about to crash down upon her, 
and the light were about to fail, and she feared to 
find herself alone in the dark with those phantoms of 
misery and death. As he passed through the air set 
in motion by her flight, between those walls full of 
relics, behind the famous actress who had simulated 
the fury of deadly passions, the desperate efforts of 
will and desire, the violent shock of proud destinies 
on every stage in the world, Stelio Effrena lost the 
heat of his veins as if he were moving in a frozen 
wind ; he felt his heart grow icy, his courage fainter ; 
his reason for living lost all strength, his bonds with 
beings and things loosened ; and the magnificent illu- 
sions which he had given his soul that it might 
surpass itself and his destiny trembled and disap- 
peared. 

" Are we alive still .' " he sai(J, when they found 
themselves in the open, in the park, far from the 
grim odour. 

And he took the woman by the hands, shook her 
slightly, looked into the depths of her eyes, tried to 
smile ; then he led her towards the sunshine on the 
grass of the meadow. 

" How warm it is ! Do you feel ? How good the 
grass is ! " 

He half closed his eyes, so that he might feel the 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 275 

rays upon his eyelids, once more suddenly seized by 
the joy of life. She imitated him, soothed by her 
friend's enjoyment, looking from under her eyelids 
at his fresh, sensual mouth. They remained thus 
for some time hand in hand, with their feet in the 
grass under the sun's caresses, feeling the blood in 
their veins throbbing in the silence as the streams 
become more rapid when the frost breaks up in 
spring. Her thoughts went back to the Euganean 
hills, to the villages rosy as fossil shells, to the first 
drops of rain falling upon young leaves, to the foun- 
tain of Petrarch, to all pleasant things. 

" Life could still be sweet," she sighed, and her 
voice was the miracle of hope being born anew. 

The heart of her beloved became like a fruit sud- 
denly ripened and melted by a miraculous ray of 
warmth. Joy and goodness spread through his spirit 
and his flesh. Once again he enjoyed the moment 
like one about to depart. Love was exalted above 
destiny. 

" Do you love me ? Tell me." 

The woman did not reply; but her eyes opened 
wide, and all the vastness of the universe was in the 
circle of her pupils. Never was immense love more 
powerfully signified by any earthly creature. 

" Life is sweet, sweet with you, for you, yesterday 
as to-morrow ! " 

He seemed intoxicated with her, with the sun, the 
grass, the divine sky, as with things never seen be- 
fore, never possessed. The prisoner going out at 
dawn from the suffocating prison, the convalescent 
who sees the sea for the first time after having seen 
death, are less intoxicated than he was. 



276 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Do you wish to go ? Shall we leave melancholy 
behind us? Shall we go away to countries where 
there is no autumn?" 

"The autumn is in myself, and I must carry it 
with me wherever I go," she thought, but she smiled 
her slight, concealing smile. " It is I, I who will go 
away ; I will disappear ; I will go and die far away, 
my love, my love ! " 

She had not succeeded during that pause in over- 
coming her sadness, nor in renewing her hope, yet 
her sorrow had softened, had lost all acrimony, all 
rancour. 

" Shall we go away? " 

" To go away, to be always going away, aimlessly 
through the world, to go far away ! " thought the 
wandering woman. " Never to rest, never to be at 
peace ! The anxiety of the journey is not over, and, 
see, the truce has expired. You wish to comfort me, 
dear friend, and in order to comfort me you are pro- 
posing that we should go far away again, when I re- 
turned home only yesterday ! " 

Suddenly her eyes became like springs of living 
water. 

" Leave me to my home a little longer. And you, 
remain if you can. After, you will be free, you will 
be happy. . . . You have so much time before you 1 
You are young. You will have what is due to you. 
They who expect you will not lose you." 

Her eyes wore two crystal masks, which glittered 
in the sun in her feverish face. 

" Ah, always the same shadow ! " exclaimed Stelio, 
complainingly, with an impatience which he could 
not control. " But what are you thinking of ? What 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 277 

do you fear? Why do you not tell me what is 
troubling you? Let us talk, then. Who is it that 
expects me ? " 

She trembled with apprehension at that question, 
which appeared new and unforeseen, although her 
last words were repeated in it. She trembled at find- 
ing herself so near danger; a precipice seemed to 
have opened under her feet as they walked on the 
beautiful grass. 

" Who is it that expects me ? " 

Suddenly, at the end of the day, in that strange 
place, on that beautiful meadow, after so many ap- 
paritions of spectres, sanguinary and bloodless, there 
rose up a wilful form alive with desire which filled 
her with even greater terror. Suddenly, at one stroke, 
above all those figures of the past there rose a figure 
which was the future ; and the semblance of life was 
transformed anew, and the benefit of that brief pause 
was lost already, and the good grass under her feet 
was henceforth valueless. 

" Yes, let us talk, if you wish it. . . . Not now. . . ." 

Her throat contracted so that her voice could 
hardly pass through it, and she held her face a little 
raised that her eyelids might keep her tears from 
falling. 

" Don't be sad ! Don't be sad ! " begged the young 
man, his soul suspended on her lids like those, tears 
that would not fall. "You have my heart in your 
hands. I will not fail you. Do not torment yourself. 
I am yours." 

Donatella was there for him too tall, with her 
curved figure, with the agile, robust body of a wing- 
less victory, fully armed with her virginity, attractive 



278 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and hostile, ready to struggle and to give herself. 
But his soul hung on the eyelids of this other woman, 
like the tears that veiled those pupils in which he 
had seen the immensity of love. 

" Foscarina ! " 

The hot drops fell at last, but she did not let them 
flow down her cheeks. With one of those gestures 
that often sprang from her sorrow with the unex- 
pected grace of a wing that is being set free, she 
stopped them, moistened her fingers with them, and 
spread them over her temples without drying them. 
And while she thus left her tears upon herself she 
tried to smile. 

" Forgive me, Stelio, if I am so weak." 

Then, desperately, he loved the delicate marks that 
went from the corners of her eyes to her moistened 
temples and the small dark veins that made her eye- 
lids like violets and the undulation of her cheeks 
and the worn chin and all that seemed touched by 
the malady of autumn, all the shadow of that im- 
passioned face. 

" Ah, dear fingers ! Beautiful as the fingers of 
Sophia ! Let me kiss them as they are, still wet ! " 

He was drawing her over the meadow in his caress 
to a belt of golden green. Lightly, holding his arm 
under hers, he kissed her finger-tips one by one. 
They were more delicate than the unopened buds 
of flowers. She was quivering. He could feel her 
shudder at each touch of his lips. 

" They are salt ! " 

"Come, Stelio, some one will see us." 

" There is nobody here." 

" Down there in the greenhouses." 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 279 

" There is not a sound, listen ! " 

" How strange the silence is ! It is ecstasy ! " 

" One could hear the falling of a leaf." 

" And that keeper? " 

" He must have gone to meet some other visitor." 

"Who would come here? " 

" I know that the other day Richard Wagner came 
with Daniela von Biilow." 

" Ah, the niece of Countess Agoult and of Daniel 
Stern." 

" With which of these phantoms did the great ail- 
ing heart converse? " 

"Who knows?" 

" Only perhaps with himself" 

" Perhaps." 

" Look at the glass of the conservatories, how it 
shines. It is irradiated. Time, rain, and sunshine 
have so painted it. Does it not seem to reflect a 
distant twilight? Have you ever stopped on the 
Fondamenta Pesaro and looked up at the beautiful 
petafore window of the evangelists? If you raised 
your eyes you could see the windows of the palace 
marvellously painted by atmospheric vicissitudes." 

" Do you then know all the secrets of Venice? " 

" Not all yet." 

" How warm it is here ! See how large those 
cedars are." 

" There is a swallow's nest there hanging on that 
beam. The swallows have gone away late this 
year." 

" Will you really take me in spring to the Euganean 
hills?" 

" Yes, Fosca, I should hke to." 



28o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" How far away spring is ! " 

" Life can still be sweet." 

" We are dreaming." 

" Orpheus with his lyre, all dressed in lichens." 

" Ah, what a pathway of dreams ! Nobody passes 
us. Grass, grass everywhere. There is not a foot- 
step." 

" Deucalion with his stones, Ganymede with the 
eagle, Diana with the stag, the whole of mythology." 

" How many statues ! But these at least are not 
in exile ; the old hornbeams still enclose them." 

" Here Maria Luisa used to stroll between the 
King and the Favourite. She would stop at inter- 
vals, to listen to the click of the shears that were 
cutting the hornbeams into arches. She would let 
drop- her pocket handkerchief, perfumed with jessa- 
mine, and Manuel Godoi would pick it up with a still 
graceful movement, dissimulating the pain in his hip 
when he bent down, that had stayed with him as a 
memento of the tortures suffered in the streets of 
Aranjuez at the hands of the mob. As the sun was 
warm and the snuff excellent in its enamelled box, the 
uncrowned king would say with a smile : ' Ah, dear 
Bonaparte is certainly not so well off at St. Helena.' 
But the demon of power, of struggle and of passion, 
would reawaken in the heart of the Queen. . . . Look 
at the red roses." 

" They are flaming. They seem to have a live 
coal at the heart. They are flaming really." 

" The sun is becoming crimson. This is the hour 
of the Chioggia sails on the lagoon." 
" Pick me a rose 1 " 
" Here it is 1 " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 281 

" Oh, its leaves are falling ! " 

" Here is another ! " 

" Its leaves are falling too." 

" They are all at death's door. Here, perhaps this 
one is not." 

" Do not pick it." 

" Look ! they become more and more red. Boni- 
fazfo's velvet. . . . Do you remember? It is the 
same strength." 

" The inner flower of the flame." 

" What a memory ! " 

" Hark ! the doors of the conservatory are being 
shut." 

" It is time to turn back." 

" The air is already getting cooler." 

"Are you cold?" 

" No, not yet." 

" Have you left your cloak in the carriage? " 

" Yes." 

" We will wait at the Dolo, for the passage of the 
train. We will return to Venice by train." 

"Yes." 

" There is plenty of time still." 

"What is this? Look!" 

" I don't know." 

" What a bitter smell ! A shrubbery of box and 
hornbeams. . . ." 

" Ah, it must be the labyrinth." 

A rusty iron gate shut it in between two pillars 
that bore two Cupids riding stone dolphins. Nothing 
was visible on the other side of the gate, except 
the beginning of the path and a kind of hard intri- 
cate thicket, dense and mysterious. A tower rose 



282 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

from the centre of the maze, and the statue of a 
warrior stood as if reconnoitring at the top of the 
tower. 

"Have you ever been in a labyrinth?" Stelio 
inquired of his friend. 

" No, never," she answered. 

They paused a moment to watch the deceiving 
game composed by some ingenious gardener for the 
delight of the ladies and their gallants in the days of 
hoops and patches, but neglect and age had turned it 
wild and desolate, had taken from it all prettiness 
and regularity, had changed it into an enclosed 
wood brown and yellowish, full of inextricable mazes 
where the slanting rays of the sunset shone so red 
that some of the bushes here and there were like 
burning, smokeless bonfires. 

" It is open," said Stelio, feeling the gate yield 
when he leaned against it. " Do you see?" 

He pushed the rusty iron that creaked on the 
loose hinges, then took one step forward, crossing 
the threshold. 

" What are you doing? " said his companion, with 
instinctive fear, stretching out her hand to hold him 
back. 

" Shall we not go in? " 

She stood perplexed. But the labyrinth at- 
tracted them with its mystery, illumined by its deep 
flame. 

" What if we lose ourselves? " 

" Don't you see ? It is quite small. We shall 
easily find the way out." 

" What if we don't find it?" 

He laughed at her childish fear. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 283 

" We shall stay in it, wandering round for ever." 

" There is nobody in the neighbourhood. No, no, 
let us go away." 

She tried to draw him back. He defended him- 
self, going backwards towards the path. Suddenly 
he disappeared, laughing. 

" Stelio, Stelio ! " 

She no longer saw him, but she could hear his 
laugh pealing in the wild maze. 

" Come back, come back ! " 

" Come and find me." 

" Stelio, come back ! You will lose yourself." 

" I shall find Ariadne." 

She felt her heart leap at that name, then con- 
tract, suffering confusedly. Had he not called Dona- 
tella by that name on that first evening? Had he 
not called her Ariadne, there on the water, while 
sitting at her knee? She even remembered the 
words : " Ariadne possesses a divine gift by which 
her power transcends all limits." She remembered 
his accent, his attitude, his look. 

Tumultuous anguish convulsed her, dimmed her 
reason, prevented her from considering the chance 
spontaneity of the present occasion, from recognis- 
ing her friend's unconsciousness. The terror that 
lay hidden at the bottom of her desperate love 
rebelled, mastered her, blinded her miserably. The 
little vain accident took on an appearance of cruelty 
and disdain. She could still hear that laugh pealing 
in the wild maze. 

" Stelio ! " 

She cried out to him as if she had seen him in the 
act of being embraced by the other woman, as if she 



284 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

had seen him in a frenzied hallucination, torn from 
her arms for ever. 

" Stelio ! " 

" Look for me," he answered laughing, invisible. 

She darted into the labyrinth to find him and went 
straight towards his voice and laugh, carried away 
by her impulse. But the path deviated. A blind box 
wall rose up before her, impenetrable, and stopped 
her. She followed the crooked, deceiving path, and 
one turning succeeded the other and all were alike, 
and the circle seemed to have no end. 

" Look for me ! " the voice repeated from afar 
across the living hedges. 

"Where are you? Where are you? Do you see 
me?" 

She looked here and there for some thinner place 
in the hedge through which she could see. All she 
could perceive was the thick tissue of the branches 
and the redness of evening that kindled them on 
one side, while the shadows drowned them on the 
other. The box bushes and the hornbeams mingled, 
the evergreen leaves grew in confusion together with 
the dying ones, the darker with the paler, in a 
contrast of vigour and languor, with an ambiguity 
that increased the bewilderment of the panting 
woman. 

" I am losing myself. Come and meet me ! " 

Again his youthful laughter pealed in the thicket. 

" Ariadne, Ariadne, the thread ! " 

The sound now came from the opposite side, 
wounding her in the spine like a blow. 

" Ariadne ! " 

She turned, ran, wandered, tried to penetrate the 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 285 

hedge, to make an opening in the foliage, broke away 
a branch. 

She saw nothing, except the regular ever-renewed 
maze. At last she heard a step, so near her that she 
thought it was behind her and started. But she was 
mistaken. Again she explored the leafy prison, 
whence there was no return, that was closing round 
her ; Hstened, waited ; she heard her own panting and 
the throb of her own pulses. The silence had become 
vast. She gazed at the sky, curving immense and 
purfe over the two leafy walls that imprisoned her. It 
seemed as if there were nothing in the world beyond 
that narrowness and that immensity. And she could 
not succeed in separating in her thoughts the reality 
of the place from the image of her soul's torture, the 
natural aspect of things from that kind of living 
allegory created by her own anguish. 

" Stelio ! Where are you? " 

No answer came. She listened. She waited in 
vain. The seconds seemed hours. 

" Where are you? I am frightened." 

No answer came. Where had he gone? Had he 
perhaps found the way out; had he left her there 
alone? Was he going to continue his cruel game? 

A furious longing to shriek, to sob, to throw her- 
self on the ground, to struggle there and hurt herself 
and die, seized the maddened woman. She again 
raised her eyes towards the silent sky. The summit 
of the great hedges were reddening like burnt vine 
branches that have ceased to flare up and are about 
to become ashes. 

" I can see you," suddenly said the laughing voice, 
in the low shadows, quite close to her. 



286 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

She started violently, bent down in the shadow. 

" Where are you ? " 

He laughed among the leaves without showing him- 
self, like a faun in ambush. The game excited him 
and warmed his limbs that were stretching themselves 
in his exercise of dexterity ; and the wild mystery, the 
contact with the earth, the odour of autumn, the singu- 
larity of the unforeseen adventure, the woman's be- 
wilderment, the very presence of the stone deities, 
poured into his physical pleasure an illusion of 
antique poetry. 

"Where are you? Oh, do not joke any more. 
Do not laugh so. It is enough now." 

He had crept into the bush on his hands and 
knees, his head uncovered. Under his knees he felt 
the decaying leaves, the soft moss. And as he 
breathed and throbbed in the branches, letting that 
pleasure absorb all his senses, the communion of 
his own life with the life of the trees became closer, 
and the spell of his imagination renewed in that 
gathering of uncertain ways the industry of the first 
maker of wings, the myth of the monster which was 
born of Pasiphae and the Bull, the Attic fable of 
Theseus in Crete. The whole of that world became 
real to him, he was being transfigured on that purple 
evening in autumn according to the instincts of his 
blood and the memories of his intellect, into one of 
those amphibious forms, half beast, half divinity, 
into one of those silvern genii whose throat is swollen 
with the same glands that hang suspended from the 
neck of the goat. A laughing voluptuousness sug- 
gested strange attitudes and gestures to him, surprising 
and whimsical, figured to him the joy of a chase, of a 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 287 

rapid union on the moss or against the uncultured 
box. Then he desired a creature that should be like 
him, a fresh bosom to which he might communicate 
his laughter, two swift legs, two arms ready for a 
struggle, a prey to conquer, a virginity to force, a 
violence to accomplish. The curved form of Dona- 
tella reappeared to him. 

" Enough ! I can go on no longer, Stelio. I 
shall let myself fall to the ground." 

La Foscarina gave a scream on feeling the hem of 
her dress pulled by a hand that had passed through 
the bush. She bent down and perceived in the 
shadow among the branches the face of a laughing 
faun. That laugh flashed on her soul without moving 
it, without breaking the horrible suffering that had 
closed round her. On the contrary she suffered all 
the more acutely from the contrast between his 
merriment and her sadness, between that joy which 
was ever new and her perpetual anxiety, between that 
easy oblivion and the weight of her encumbrance. 
She saw her error more clearly and she saw the 
cruelty of life that was placing the image of the other 
woman there where she herself was suffering. As 
she bent down, as she saw his youthful face, she saw 
with the same clearness the face of the singer who 
was bending down with her imitating her gesture as 
the shadow repeats a gesture on an illuminated wall. 
All grew confused in her spirit and her thoughts were 
unable to place an interval between that image and 
reality. The other woman placed herself upon her, 
oppressing her, suppressing her. 

" Leave me ! Leave me ! It is not me you are 
seeking. . . ." 



288 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

The voice was so changed that Stelio stopped his 
laugh and his game, drew back his arm, rose up 
straight. She saw him no more, the impenetrable 
leafy wall was between them. 

" Lead me away from this. I can hold up no 
longer ; my strength is spent. ... I am suffering ! " 

He could find no words with which to soothe her 
and comfort her. The simultaneous coincidence of 
his recent desire and her sudden divination had struck 
home. 

" Wait, wait a moment ! I will try to find the way 
out. I will call some one. . . ." 

" Are you going away? " 

" Don't be afraid ! Don't be afraid ! There is no 
danger." 

And while he spoke thus to reassure her he was 
feeUng the inanity of his words — the discord between 
that laughable adventure and the obscure emotion 
arising from a far different cause. And now he too 
felt the strange ambiguity by which the small event 
was appearing in two confused aspects : a suppressed 
desire of laughter persisting under his solicitude so 
that his suffering was new to him, like certain agitations 
born of extravagant dreams. 

" Don't go away," she begged, a prey to her hallu- 
cination. " Perhaps we shall meet there at the next 
turning. Let us try. Take me by the hands." 

Through one of the open spaces he took her hands 
and found them so cold that he started as he touched 
them. 

" Foscarina, what is the matter? Do you really 
feel unwell? Wait! I will try to break through the 
hedge." 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 289 

He tried to force through the thicket, snapped 
some of its branches but its robustness resisted his 
efforts. He wounded his hands in vain. 

" It is not possible." 

" Cry out. Call some one." 

He called out in the silence. The summit of the 
high hedges had lost its colour, but in the sky above 
them a red light was spreading that was like the 
reflection of woods on fire on the horizon. A flock 
of wild ducks passed, arranged in a black triangle, 
stretching out their long necks. 

" Let me go ! I shall easily find the tower. And 
from the tower I can call. Some one will hear my 
cries." 

"No, no!" 

She heard him go away from her, followed the 
sound of his steps, was once more engaged in the 
maze, once more found herself alone and lost. She 
stopped, waited, listened. She looked at the sky, 
saw the triangular flock disappear in the distance. 
She lost the sense of time, the seconds seemed hours. 

" Stelio ! Stelio ! " 

She was no longer capable of an eff'ort to dominate 
the disorder of her exasperated nerves. She felt the 
extreme access of her mania coming on as one would 
feel a hurricane that is drawing near. 

" Stelio ! " 

He heard the voice full of anguish and hastened 
his search along the winding paths that now drew 
him near to the tower and now drew him away from 
it. His laugh had frozen in his heart. His whole 
soul trembled to the roots, every time his name 
reached him, pronounced by that invisible agony. 

19 



290 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

And the gradual lessening of the light brought up 
to his imagination the thought of blood that is flow- 
ing away, of life that is slowly fading. 

" Here I am ! Here I am ! " 

One of the paths brought him at last to the open 
space where the tower was built. He ran furiously 
up the winding staircase, felt a dizziness overtake him 
when he reached the top, closed his eyes holding 
on to the banisters, opened them again, saw a long 
zone of fire on the horizon, the disc of the rayless 
moon, the plain that was like a grey marsh, the laby- 
rinth beneath him black with box bushes and spotted 
with hornbeam, quite narrow in its interminable folds, 
looking like a dismantled edifice invaded by wild 
vines, like a ruin and a wood, lugubrious and -wild. 

" Stop ! Stop ! Do not run like that. Some one 
has heard me. A man is coming. I can see him 
coming. Wait ! Stop ! " 

He saw the woman running round like a mad thing 
along the blind uncertain paths, like a creature con- 
demned to some vain torment, to some useless but 
eternal agitation, like a sister of the mythical 
martyrs. 

" Stop ! " 

It seemed that she did not hear him, or that she 
could not stop her fatal agitation, and that he was 
tied down and could not rescue her, but was to re- 
main a witness of that terrible chastisement. 

" Here he is ! " 

One of the keepers had heard their cries, had 
drawn near, was coming through the gate. Stelio 
met him at the foot of the tower. Together they 
went out to seek the lost woman. The man knew 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 291 

the secret of the labyrinth. Steho prevented his 
chatter and his display of wit by surprising him with 
his generosity. 

"Has she lost consciousness? Has she fallen?" 
The shadow and silence were very sinister and filled 
him with dismay. When he called her she did not 
answer. Her steps could not be heard. Night had 
already descended over the place under a damp veil 
of mist that was slowly dropping from the purple 
sky. " Shall I find her stretched out, fainting, on the 
ground ? " 

He started on suddenly seeing a mysterious figure 
appear at a turning with a pale face that attracted all 
the twilight and shone hke a pearl with large fixed 
eyes and tight stiff lips. They turned back towards 
the Dolo, taking the same way along the Brenta. 
She never spoke, never opened her mouth, never 
Snswered, as if she could not unclose her teeth, 
stretched out in the bottom of the carriage wrapped 
in her mantle up to her chin, shaken now and then 
by strong shudders, suffused with a livid pallor Hke 
that of malarial fever. Her friend tried to take her 
fingers and hold them in his own to warm them, but 
in vain : they were inert and seemed hfeless. And 
as they went the statues passed and passed on beside 
them. 

The river flowed darkly between its banks under 
the violet and silver sky where the full moon was 
rising. A black boat was coming down stream, 
towed by two grey horses that trod the grass on the 
tt)w-path with a dull thud of heavy hoofs, led by a 
man who whistled peacefully, and the funnel smoked 
on the deck hke a chimney-pot on the roof of a hovel. 



292 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

and the yellow light of a lantern flared in the hold 
and the odour of an evening meal spread through 
the air and here and there, as they went through the 
irrigated landscape, the statues passed and passed 
beside them. 

It was like a Stygian plain, like a vision of 
Hades: a land of shadows, mist, and water. All 
things grew misty and vanished like spirits. The 
moon enchanted and attracted the plain as it en- 
chants and attracts the sea, drinking in the vapours 
of earth from the horizon with insatiable, silent greed. 
Solitary pools shone everywhere, small silvery canals 
between rows of inclined willows could be seen glit- 
tering at indefinite distances. Earth seemed to be 
losing its solidity little by little, seemed to dissolve; 
the sky seemed to watch its own melancholy reflected 
on it in innumerable quiet mirrors. And here and 
there along the discoloured shore, like the shadows 
of a destroyed population, those statues passed and 
passed beside them. 



" Do you often think of Donatella Arvale, Stelio? " 
la Foscarina asked suddenly, after a long interval in 
which both had heard nothing but the cadence of 
their own steps along the canal footpath of the 
Vetrai illumined by the manifold light of the frail 
things that filled the windows of the neighbouring 
shops. 

Her voice was like a glass that is cracking. Steho 
stopped suddenly in the attitude of one who suddenly 
finds himself before an unforeseen difficulty. His 
spirit had been wandering freely over the red and 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 293 

green island of Murano, begemmed with flowers 
in her present disconsolate poverty, in which she 
seemed to have lost even the memory of the joy- 
ous times in which poets had sung her praises as 
" a place fit for nymphs and demigods." He had 
been thinking of the illustrious gardens where Andrea 
Navagero, Bembo, Aretino, Aldo, in their learned 
assembly rivalled each other in the elegance of their 
platonic dialogues, lauri sub umbra. He had been 
thinking of convents luxurious as gynaecus inhabited 
by nuns dressed in white camelot and laces, their 
brows adorned with curls, their breasts uncovered 
after the manner of the more honoured courtesans, 
given to secret loves, much sought after by licentious 
patricians, the possessors of sweet names such as 
Ancilla Soranzo, Cipriana Morosini, Zanetta Balbi, 
Beatrice Falier, Eugenia Muschiera, pious teachers 
of pleasures. His fluctuating dream had been accom- 
panied by an aria which he had heard in the museum 
slowly moaning in sonorous drops from a small me- 
tallic instrument set in movement by the turn of a 
key hidden under a garden of glass where two lovers 
adorned with glass beads danced round a little foun- 
tain of white agate. It was an indistinct melody, a 
forgotten dance tune; most of its notes were silent 
through dust and damage, yet so expressive that he 
had been unable to drive it away from his ears. And 
since, all around him had had the remote frailty and 
melancholy of those little figures dancing to sounds 
slower than falling drops. The faint soul of Murano 
has chattered in that old pastime. 

At the sudden question the aria had stopped, the 
figures had dispersed, the spell of far-away life had 



294 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

vanished. His wandering spirit was called back and 
contracted unwillingly. By his side Stelio felt the 
beating of a living heart that he must inevitably wound. 
He turned to look at his friend. She was walking, al- 
most calm, with no trace of agitation, along the canal 
between the green of the sickly water and the irides- 
cence of the delicate vases. The only thing about 
her that trembled slightly was her attenuated chin 
just showing between the sable collar and the border 
of her veil. 

" Yes, sometimes," he answered, after a moment's 
hesitation, incapable of falsehood, and feeling the 
necessity of raising their love above ordinary ex- 
actions and deceptions in order that it might remain 
a cause of strength to him and not of weakness, a 
free compact and not a burdensome tie. 

The woman went on steadily, but she had entirely 
lost the sensation of her various Hmbs in the terrible 
beating of her heart that ran from neck to heels 
as on a single cord. She saw nothing; all she felt 
was the fascinating presence of the water by her 
side. 

" Her voice cannot be forgotten," he said after a 
pause, gathering up his courage. " Its power is ex- 
traordinary. From the very first evening, I thought 
that she might be made a marvellous instrument of 
my work._ I wish she would consent to sing the lyric 
parts of my tragedy, the odes that arise from the 
symphonies and resolve themselves into dance-figures 
at the end between one episode and the other. La 
Tanagra has consented to dance. I rely on your 
kind intervention, my friend, in order to obtain the 
consent of Donatella Arvale. The Dionysian Trinity 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 295 

would thus be reconstructed in a perfect manner on 
the new stage, for man's greater joy. . . ." 

He noticed as he spoke that his words did not 
ring true, that his unconcerned manner contrasted 
too sharply with the deadly shadow on the veiled 
face of his mistress. Against his will he had exag- 
gerated his frankness in considering the singer merely 
as an artistic instrument, as a purely ideal force to 
be attracted into the circle of his magnificent enter- 
prise. UnwilHngly disturbed by the suffering that 
walked beside him, he had stooped ever so slightly 
towards dissimulation. Certainly what he had said 
was the truth, but his mistress had asked him for 
another truth. He interrupted himself brusquely, 
unable to tolerate the sound of his own words. He 
felt that art in that hour had no resonance whatever 
between him and the actress, no living value. They 
were dominated by another more imperious, more 
turbid force. The world which intellects create 
seemed inert like the old stones they were treading. 
The only truthful and formidable power was the 
poison running in their human blood. The will of 
the one was saying: "I love you, and I want you 
all, body and soul, for my own." The will of the 
other was saying : " You shall love me and you shall 
serve me, but I can renounce nothing in life that 
excites my desire." The struggle was unequal and 
atrocious. 

As the woman was silent, involuntarily quickening 
her pace, he faced the other truth. 

" I quite understand that this is not what you 
wanted to know. . . ." 

" Yes, it was not that ! Well ? " 



296 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

She turned to him with a kind of spasmodic vio- 
lence that reminded him of her fury one distant 
evening and of the mad cry: "Go! Run! She is 
waiting for you ! " On that tranquil path between 
the lazy water and the frail crystals, in the quiet 
little island, the face of danger flashed before him. 

But an importunate stranger crossed the path, 
offering to lead them to the neighbouring furnace. 

" Let us go in ! Let us go in ! " said the woman, 
following the man and penetrating into the passage 
as in a refuge to avoid the shame of the open street, 
the profane daylight shining on her ruin. 

The place was damp, spotted with sea-salt, smell- 
ing of salt like a cave. They passed through a 
courtyard full of firewood, passed through a de- 
crepit door, reached the furnace, found themselves 
wrapped round with its fiery breath, before a great 
incandescent altar that imparted a painful tingling to 
their eyes as if the lashes had suddenly caught fire. 

" To disappear, to be swallowed up, to leave no 
trace ! " roared the woman's heart, intoxicated with a 
desire of destruction. " That fire could devour me 
in an instant like a dried stick, like a bundle of straw." 
And she drew near to the open mouths, whence she 
could watch the fluent flames, more splendid than a 
summer noon, surrounding the earthenware vases in 
which the formless mineral was being melted ; the 
workmen disposed all round were waiting to approach 
with an iron tube to shape it with a breath of their 
lips and the instruments of their art. 

" Oh, Virtue of the Flame ! " thought the Life- 
giver, beguiled from his anxiety by the miraculous 
beauty of the element that had become famihar to 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 297 

him as a brother from the day in which he had felt 
the revealing melody. " Ah, that I might give to the 
life of the creatures who love me the perfection of the 
forms to which I aspire ! That I might fuse all their 
weaknesses in some white heat, and make of it an 
obedient matter in which to impress the command- 
ments of my will, which is heroic, and the images of 
my poetry, which is pure. Why, why, my friend, will 
you not be the divine, mobile statue of my spirit, the 
work of faith and of sorrow by which our lives might 
surpass our art itself? Why are we on the point of 
resembling those small lovers who curse and lament? 
I had truly thought that you could have given me 
more than love when I heard from your lips those 
admirable words : ' One thing I can do, which even 
love cannot do.' You must ever be able to accom- 
plish those things which love can, and those things 
which love cannot do in order to equal my insatiable 
nature." 

Meanwhile, the work of the furnace was proceeding 
fervently. At the end of the blowing irons, the molten 
glass swelled, twisted, became silvery as a little cloud, 
shone like the moon, crackled, divided into a thou- 
sand infinitely fine fragments, glittering, slighter than 
the threads which we see in the forest at dawn 
stretching from branch to branch. The workmen 
were shaping harmonious vases, each as he operated 
obeying a rhythm of his own, generated by the quality 
of the matter and by the habit of movements most apt 
to dominate it. The apprentices would place a small 
pear-shaped mass of burning paste on the spot 
pointed out by the master, and the mass would 
lengthen out, twist, transform itself into a handle, a 



298 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

rim, a spout, a foot, or a stem. The red heat would 
slowly die out under the instruments, and the half- 
formed chalice would again be. exposed to the flame, 
and be drawn from it docile, ductile, sensitive to the 
slightest touches that adorned and refined it, con- 
forming it to the model handed down by their fathers, 
or to the free invention of the new creator. The 
human gestures round those elegant creatures of fire, 
breath and iron, were extraordinarily nimble and 
light, like the gestures of a silent dance. The figure 
of la Tanagra appeared to the Life-giver like a sala- 
mander in the perpetual undulation of the flame. 
And the powerful melody was sung to him by the 
voice of Donatella. 

" To-day, again, I myself have given her to you as 
a companion," la Foscarina was thinking. " I my- 
self have called her up between us, have recalled her 
while your thoughts were perhaps elsewhere, have sud- 
denly left her before you, as in that night's delirium." 

It was true, it was true ! From the instant in 
which the name of the singer had echoed against the 
armour of the man-of-war, pronounced for the first 
time by her friend in the shadow made by the flank 
of the armed giant on the twilight waters — from that 
instant she had unconsciously exalted the new image 
in his spirit, had fed it with her very jealousy, with 
her very fear, had strengthened and magnified it 
daily, had at last illumined it with cei-tainty. More 
than once she had repeated to him who had perhaps 
forgotten : " She is waiting for you ! " More than 
once she had presented that distant mysterious ex- 
pectancy to his perhaps careless imagination. As in 
that Dionysian night when the conflagration of Venice 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 299 

had lit up the two young faces with one same re- 
flection, it was now her passion that kindled them, 
and they only burned because she chose that she 
should burn. " Certainly," she was thinking, " he now 
possesses that image and is possessed by it. My very 
anguish excites his desire. It gives him joy to love 
her under the eyes of my despair. . . ." And her 
torture was nameless, and because it was her own love 
that had fed the love that was killing her, she felt her 
own ardour encircling it like a necessary atmosphere, 
without which perhaps it could not have lived. 

" As soon as it is formed the vase is put in the 
furnace room to be tempered," one of the master 
glaziers answered Stelio, who had questioned him. 
" It would break into a thousand fragments, if it were 
all at once exposed to the air." 

They could see the shining vases, still the slaves of 
the flame, still under its dominion, gathered together 
in a receptacle that prolonged the furnace where they 
had been fused. 

" They have already been there for ten hours," said 
the glazier, pointing to his graceful family. Later the 
delicate, beautiful creatures would abandon their father 
and be separated from him for ever, would grow cold 
and become icy gems, would live their own new life 
in the world, would subject themselves to voluptuous 
men, would go out to meet danger, would follow the 
variations of light, holding the cut flower or the 
intoxicating wine. 

" Is it our great Foscarina ? " the small, red-eyed 
man asked of Stelio in a low voice. 

He had recognised her, when, suff'ocating, she had 
raised her veil. 



300 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Trembling with ingenuous emotion, the master gla- 
zier took one step towards her and bowed humbly. 

" One evening, mistress, you have made me trem- 
ble and cry Hke a child. Will you allow me, in mem- 
ory of that evening, which I can never forget as long 
as I live, to offer you a little work made by the hands 
of the poor Seguso? " 

"A Seguso," exclaimed Stelio Effrena, bending 
quickly towards the little man to look him in the face 
— " of the great family of glaziers, a pure one of the 
genuine race?" 

" At your service, master;" 

"A prince, then?" 

" Yes. A harlequin shamming as prince." 

" You know all the secrets, then ? " 

The man of Murano made a mysterious gesture 
that conjured up all the deep ancestral knowledge 
of which he had declared himself the last heir. 

The other glaziers smiled round the furnace, inter- 
rupting their work while the glass at the end of 
their irons changed colour. 

" Then, mistress, you will deign to accept? " 

He seemed to have stepped from a panel of 
Bartolomeo Vivarini, to be the brother of one of the 
faithful ones kneeling under the mantle of the Virgin 
in Santa Maria Formosa : thin, bent, dried up, as if 
refined by fire, frail as if his skin covered a frame- 
work of glass, with thin grey hanging curls, a thin 
rigid nose, sharp chin, two thin lips from the corners 
of which there started the wrinkles of wit and 
attention, two flexible prudent hands, reddened by 
scars where they had been burnt, expressive of 
dexterity and precision, accustomed to gestures 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 301 

leading beautiful lines in sensitive matter, true in- 
struments of delicate art made perfect in the last heir 
by the uninterrupted practice of so many laborious 
generations. 

" Yes, you are a Seguso," said Stelio Effrena, who 
had examined all this, " the proof of your nobility is 
in your hands." 

The glazier gazed at them smiling, stretching them 
out flat. 

" You should bequeathe them in your will to the 
museum of Murano, together with your blowing- 
pipe." 

" Yes, indeed, for them to be preserved like the 
heart of Canova and the morello cherries of 
Padova. " 

The frank laugh of the workmen ran round the 
forge and the unformed vases trembled at the end of 
the irons, half rosy and bluish like clusters of hydran- 
gea about to change colour. 

" But the decisive proof will be in your glass. 
Let us see ! " 

La Foscarina had not spoken, fearing the unsteadi- 
ness of her voice; but all her graceful sweetness 
suddenly reappearing above the edge of her sadness 
had accepted the gift and compensated the giver. 

" Let us see, Seguso." 

The little man scratched his perspiring temple with 
an air of perplexity, divining the expert. 

" Perhaps I can guess," added Stelio Effrena, draw- 
ing near the crucible chamber and throwing a glance 
of election on the vases gathered there. " If it be 
that one. . . ." 

Behold with his presence he had brought an 



302 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

unusual animation in the midst of a daily labour, 
the bright ardour of the game that he perpetually 
unfolded through life. All those simple souls, after 
having smiled, passionately awaited the test, awaited 
his choice with the curious anxiety with which one 
awaits the result of a bet, soliciting a comparison 
between the subtlety of the master and that of the 
judge. And the young unknown man who moved in 
their laboratory as in a familiar place, equaUing him- 
self to the men and the things around him with such 
rapid and spontaneous sympathy, was no longer a 
stranger to them. 

" If it be that one. . . ." 

La Foscarina was attracted by the game and 
almost forced to unbend, suddenly emptied of all 
bitterness and rancour before her friend's happiness. 
There too and without effort he had kindled a 
fugitive moment with beauty and passion, communi- 
cated to his companions the fervour of his vitality, 
raised the spirits he had met to a superior sphere, 
reawakened in those degenerate artisans the ancient 
pride in their art. In few moments the harmony of 
a pure line had become the centre of their world. 
And the Life-^iver was bending over the grouped 
vases as if the fortune of the little hesitating glazier 
depended on his choice. 

"Yes, it is quite true. You alone know how to 
live," she was telling him tenderly. " It is necessary 
that you should have all. I shall rest content with 
seeing you live, with seeing your pleasure. And do 
with me what you will." 

She smiled as she annihilated herself. She 
belonged to him, Hke a thing that can be held in a 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 303 

clenched hand, like the ring on a finger, like a 
garment, like a word that can be spoken or held back, 
like a wine that can be drunk or spilt on the ground. 

" Well, Seguso ? " exclaimed Stelio Effrena, grow- 
ing impatient at his prolonged hesitation. 

The man looked him in the face, then growing 
bolder, trusted to his inborn instinct. Five vases, 
among many others, had come from his own hands. 
One could distinguish them, as if they had belonged 
to a different species ; but which of the five was the 
most beautiful? 

The workmen had their faces turned to him while 
they exposed the vases fixed on their pipes to the 
flames lest they should grow cold. And the flames, 
clear as the flame from the crisp laurel leaf, swayed 
in the furnace, seeming to keep those men chained 
there with the irons of their art. 

" Yes, yes," cried Stelio Effrena, as he saw the 
master glazier pick out the chosen vase with infinite 
care. " Blood cannot speak false, the gift is worthy 
of the Dogaressa Foscarina, Seguso." 

The Muranese holding the stem of the chalice 
between his finger and thumb stood smiling before 
the woman, illumined by the warm praise. His sharp 
sagacious look put one in mind of the little golden 
fox on the cock's tail in the blazon of Murano ; the 
eyelids, reddened by the violent glare of his furnace, 
twinkled over the eyes that were turned to the frail 
work still glittering in his hand before going away, 
and his almost caressing fingers and his whole attitude 
revealed the hereditary faculty of feeling the difficult 
beauty of simple lines and extremely delicate colour- 
ings. The chalice held by the bent man who had 



304 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

created it was like one of those miraculous flowers 
that blossom on thin contorted shrubs. 

It was indeed beautiful, mysterious as natural things 
are mysterious, holding the life of a human breath 
in its hollow, its transparency emulating skies and 
waters, similar in its purple rim to a seaweed wander- 
ing on the ocean ; pure, simple, with no other orna- 
ment but that rim, no other limbs but its foot, its stem 
and its lip ; and no man could have told why it was 
so beautiful, not with one word nor with a thousand. 
And its value was either none or incalculable, accord- 
ing to the quality of the eye that gazed upon it. 

" It will break," said Stelio. 

La Foscarina had chosen to take her gift with her 
without having it wrapped up, like one carries a 
flower. 

" I will take my glove off." 

She stood the goblet on the edge of the well that 
rose in the centre of the green. The rust of the 
weather-cock, the worn facade of the basilica with 
its Byzantine remains, the red brick of the belfry, 
the gold of the hayrick beyond the wall and the 
bronze colour of the high laurels and the faces of the 
women threading glass beads on the doorsteps, and 
the grass and the clouds and all the surrounding ap- 
pearances there varied the sensibility of the luminous 
glass. All colours melted into its own colour. And 
it seemed to be living a manifold life in its frailty, like 
an animated rainbow in which the universe mirrors 
itself. 

" Imagine the sum of experience which has gone to 
the production of this beautiful thing," said Stelio, 
in his wonder. " All the generations of the Seguso 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 305 

contributed across the centuries with their breath 
and touch to the birth of this creature, in the happy 
instant in which that little unconscious glazier was 
enabled to follow the remote impulse and transmit it 
with precision to inert matter. The fire was equal, 
the paste was rich, the air was tempered ; all things 
were favourable. The miracle took place." 

La Foscarina held the stem of the chalice between 
her naked fingers. 

" If it were to break, we should raise up a mauso- 
leum to it as Nero did to the shades of his broken 
cup. Oh, the love of things. Another despot, 
Xerxes, has preceded you, my friend, in adorning a 
beautiful tree with necklaces." 

There was on her lips below the edge of her veil a 
barely visible but continual smile ; and he knew that 
smile through having suffered from it on the banks of 
the Brenta, in the fields haunted by the statues. 

" Gardens, gardens ; gardens everywhere. Once 
they were the most beautiful in the world, earthly 
paradises as Andrea Calmo calls them, dedicated to 
love, music, and poetry. Perhaps one of those old 
laurels has heard Aldo Manuzio conversing in Greek 
with the Navagero or Madonna Gasparina sighing 
in the footsteps of the Conte di Collalto. . . ." 

They were going along a road that was shut in 
by the walls of desolate gardens. At the summit of 
the walls, in the interstices of the blood-red bricks, 
strange grasses trembled, long and stiff as fingers. 
The bronze-like laurels were gilded at the tips by the 
decHning sun. The air seemed filled with a kind of 
glittering gold-dust. 

" How sweet and terrible was the fate of Gaspara 



3o6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Stampa! Do you know her rhymes? I saw them 
one day on your table. What a mixture of ice and 
fire ! Now and then her deadly passion, across the 
petrarchism of Cardinal Bembo, gives out some fine 
cry. I know a magnificent verse of hers : — 
" ' Vi vere ardendo e non sentire il male ! ' " ^ 

" Do you remember, Stelio," said la Foscarina, with 
that inextinguishable smile that gave her the appear- 
ance of one walking in her sleep, — " do you remember 
the sonnet that begins : 

" ' Signore, io so che in me non son piu viva, 

E veggo omai ch' ancor in voi son morta ' ? . . ." ^ 

" I don't remember, Fosca." 

" Do you remember your own beautiful image of 
dead summer? Summer was lying in the funeral 
boat dressed in gold like a dogaressa and the proces- 
sion was leading her to the island of Murano where 
a Lord of Fire was to enclose her in a veil of opales- 
cent glass so that when submerged in the lagoon she 
could at least watch the sea-weed's undulations. . . . 
Do you remember?" 

" It was an evening in September." 

" The last of September, the evening of the Alle- 
gory. There was a great light on the water. . . . 
You were a little excited : you talked on and on. . . . 
How many things you said ! You had just come 
from solitude and you wefe full to overflowing. You 
poured a stream of poetry over your friend. There 
passed a boat laden with pomegranates. I was called 
Perdita then. . . . Do you remember?" 

* " To live consumed by fire and not to feel the pain I " 
^ " My lord, I know that I live no more in me, 
And I see henceforth that in you too 1 die." 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 307 

She herself, as she walked, felt the extreme elas- 
ticity of her step, felt that something was disappearing 
in her as if her body were about to change into an 
empty chrysalis. The sensations of her own physical 
person seemed to depend on the glass she was carry- 
ing, seemed only to exist in the anxiety caused by 
its frailty and the fear of letting it fall, while her bare 
hand httle by little became colder, and her veins 
changed to the colour of the violet edge running 
round the lip of the goblet. 

" My name was still Perdita. . . . Have you in mind, 
Stelio, another sonnet of Gaspara's that begins ; 

" ' lo vorrei pur che Amor dicesse come 
Debbo seguirlo ' ? . • . * 

And the madrigal that begins : 

" ' Se tu credi piacere al mio signore ' ? . . ." ^ 

" I did not know you to be so familiar with the 
poor Anassilla, my friend." 

" Ah, I will tell you. ... I was barely fourteen, 
years old when I acted in an old romantic tragedy 
called Gaspara Stampa. I was doing the leading 
part. ... It was at Dolo where we passed the other 
day on our way to Stra. It was in a small country 
theatre in a kind of tent. ... It was a year before 
my mother died. ... I remember quite well. ... I 
can remember certain things as if they had happened 
yesterday, — and twenty years have passed. I can re- 
member the sound of my voice, which was weak then, 
when I forced it in the tirades because some one in 

1 " I would that Love would also say 

How I should follow him." 

2 " If you think to please my lord." 



308 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the wings was whispering to me to speak louder, still 
louder. . . . Gaspara was in despair, sorrowed, raved 
for her cruel Count. . . . There were so many things 
that I did not know, that my small, profaned soul did 
not understand, and I know not what instinct of sor- 
row led me to find the accent and the cries that were 
to shake the miserable crowd from which we expected 
our daily bread. Ten starving people tortured me, 
like an instrument of gain ; brutal necessity was cut- 
ting and tearing away from me all the dream flowers 
born of my trembling precocity. It was a time of 
weeping and suffocation, of dismays, of uneasy fatigue, 
of reserved horror. Those who made my martyrdom 
did not know what they were doing, poor things, 
blunted by poverty and weariness. God forgive 
them and let them rest. Only my mother who, she 
also, SteHo, 

" ' Per amar molto ed esser poco amata 
Visse e morl infelice,' * 

d^only my mother took pity on me and suffered from 
the same torment as myself and knew how to hold 
me in her arms, how to calm my horrible trembling, 
how to weep with me and comfort me. My blessed, 
blessed one ! " 

Her voice changed. The eyes of her mother once 
more opened within her, kind and firm and infinite as 
an horizon of peace. " You must tell me, you must 
tell me what I should do. Guide me, teach me, you 
who know." Her soul felt the clasp of those arms and 
from the distance of years the pain flowed back to 
her in all its fulness, but not harsh, having turned 

' " For having loved too well and been too little loved, 
Sorrowing lived and died " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 309 

almost sweet. The memory of her struggle and of 
her sufferings seemed to moisten her soul with a 
warm flood, upraise and comfort it. On what anvils 
had the iron of her will not been forged, in what 
waters had it not been tempered? The test had 
indeed been hard for her and the victory difficult, 
bought at the price of labour and perseverance, bought 
from brute forces that had been hostile. She had 
witnessed the darkest poverties and sombre ruin, she 
had known heroic efforts, pity, horror, and the thresh- 
old of death. 

" I know what hunger is, Stelio, and what the 
approach of night is when a refuge is uncertain," she 
said softly, stopping between the two walls. And 
she raised her veil towards her forehead, looking into 
her friend's face with her free eyes. 

He grew pale under those eyes, so sudden was his 
emotion, so great his dismay at the appearance of 
that unexpected attitude. He found himself con- 
fused as in the incoherence of a dream, incapable of 
connecting that extraordinary apparition with the 
recent traces of life, incapable of putting the meaning 
of those words on that same woman who was smiling 
to him, still holding the delicate glass in her naked 
fingers. Yet he had heard what she had said, and 
she was there before him in her great sable cape 
with the softness still about her of the beautiful eyes 
that lengthened out under the eyelashes misty as if a 
tear continually rose into them, and melted unshfed, 
there before him in the solitary path between the two 
walls. 

" And there are other things that I have known." 

It did her good to speak in this way. His humility 



3ro THE FLAME OF LIFE 

seemed to give her heart strength like the most dar- 
ing act of pride. She 'had never felt the conscious- 
ness of her dominion and her worldly glory exalt her 
before the man she loved, but now the memory of 
her obscure martyrdom, of her poverty and hunger, 
created in her a feeling of true superiority over him 
whom she believed invincible. As along the banks 
of the Brenta his words had seemed vain for the 
first time, thus for the first time she felt herself in her 
experience of hfe stronger than him whom all good 
fortune had protected from' his cradle and who had 
not suffered except from the fury of his desires and 
the anxieties of his ambition. She imagined him 
grappling with necessity, forced to labour like the 
slave, oppressed by material narrownesses, subject to 
vile discomforts. Would he have found the energy 
to resist, the patience to endure? Under the sharp 
pinch of necessity, she pictured him weak and lost, 
humbled and broken. " Ah, all bright superb things 
are for you as long as you live, as long as you live." 
She could not bear the sadness of that image and 
rejected it with an almost maternal impulse of defence 
and protection. And by an involuntary movement she 
laid one hand on his shoulder, drew it back when he 
noticed, then placed it there again. She smiled like 
one who knows what he should never know, hke 
one who has won victory over things that he could 
never have conquered. She heard within herself the 
words heavy with the terrible promise: "Tell me 
you are not afraid of suffering. . . I believe your 
soul to be capable of bearing all the sorrow of the 
world." Her eyelids, that were hke violets, dropped 
over her secret pride, but an infinitely subtle, com- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 311 

plex beauty appeared in the lines of her face, a beauty 
that was shed by a new concordance of inner forces, 
by a mysterious direction of her reawakened will ; in 
the shadow that descended from the folds of her 
veil gathered up round her eyelashes an inimitable 
life animated her pallor. 

" I am not afraid of suffering," she said, answering 
him who had spoken on the bank of the distant river. 
And lifting her hand from his shoulder, she stroked 
her friend's cheek and then he understood that she 
had answered his distant words. 

He was silent, intoxicated as if she had given him 
to drink the very essence of her heart pressed out 
into that goblet. Of all the natural forms that sur- 
rounded them, in the diffused light, none seemed to 
him to equal the beauty and mystery of that human 
face, showing as it did beyond its features glimpses of 
a sacred depth where doubtless some great thing had 
been accomplished in silence. Quivering, he waited 
for her to continue. 

They walked on side by side between the two 
walls. The path was a narrow one, dull and soft un- 
der foot, but the refulgent clouds hung above it. 
They reached the cross roads where a wretched hovel 
stood half ruined. La Foscarina stopped to look at 
it, the gnarled, unhinged windows were held open by 
a cane fixed across them. The low sun as it pene- 
trated there beat on the smoky walls, revealed the 
accessories : a table, a bench, a cradle. 

" Do you remember, Stelio," she said, " that inn 
where we went in at Dolo, to wait for the train — 
Vampa's inn? A huge fire was burning in the grate, 
the crockery shone on the walls, the slices of polenta 



312 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

were toasting on the gridiron. Twenty years ago, 
they were just the same — the same fire, the same 
crockery, the same polenta. My mother and I used 
to go in after the performance ; we used to sit down 
on a bench in front of a table. I had wept in the 
theatre, I had shrieked, raved and died of poison, or 
by the sword. The sound of the verses would still 
remain in my ears, like a voice that was not my own, 
and a strange will persisted in my soul which I could 
not drive away, like a figure trying to perform those 
steps and those gestures over again despite my inert- 
ness. . . . The counterfeit of life remained in the 
muscles of my face, and some evenings they could 
not rest. The mask, the sense of the living mask 
that was already growing. . . . My eyes would re- 
main staring. A steady chill continued at the roots 
of my hair. ... I could not succeed in recovering 
full consciousness of myself and of what was going on 
around me. . . . 

" The odours that came from the kitchen nauseated 
me ; the food that was on the dishes seemed to me 
too coarse, heavy as stones, impossible to swallow. 
My repugnance rose from something unspeakably 
delicate and precious, which I felt at the depths of 
my weariness, from a confused nobility which I felt 
beneath, my humiliation. ... I cannot tell. ... It 
was perhaps the obscure presence of that force which 
developed itself in me afterwards, of that election, 
of that difference from others by which Nature has 
marked me out. . . . Sometimes the feeling of that 
diversity became so great that it almost estranged 
me from my mother — may God forgive me ! — that 
almost separated me from her. ... A great soli- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 313 

tude was making its way within me ; nothing that 
was around me seemed to touch me. ... I used to 
be alone with my fate. My mother, who was be- 
side me, was retreating into infinite distance. Ah ! 
she was near death at the time, and was being pre- 
pared for the parting, and perhaps these were the 
signs. She would urge me to eat with the words 
she only could say. I used to answer : ' Wait ! wait.' 
I could only drink, I had a great thirst for fresh water. 
Sometimes when I was still more tired and trembling 
I would go on smiling a long, long smile. And even 
my blessed one, with her deep heart, could not under- 
stand whence came my smile. . . . 

" Incomparable hours, in which it seemed as if the 
bodily prison were being broken by the soul that 
went wandering to the further limits of life ! What 
must your youth have been, .Stelio? Who can 
imagine it? We have all felt the weight of the 
sleep that falls on our flesh, all of a sudden, swift 
and heavy like a blow from a hammer after toil or 
ecstasy, and seems to annihilate us. But the power 
of dreams, too, during our watching, sometimes takes 
hold of us with that same violence ; it grasps us, and 
we are powerless to resist it, and it seems as if the 
whole tissue of our existence were being destroyed, 
as if our hopes were weaving another, brighter and 
more strange, with those same threads. . . . Ah, there 
come back to my memory some of the beautiful 
words you said in Venice that evening, when you 
pictured her marvellous hands intent on ordaining her 
own Hghts and shadows in an uninterrupted work of 
beauty. You alone can describe the unutterable. . . . 

" On that bench there in front of the rough table. 



314 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

in Vampa's inn at Dolo, where Fate led me with you 
again the other day, I had the most extraordinary 
visions that dreams have ever awakened in my soul. 
I saw that which cannot be forgotten; I saw the real 
forms that surrounded me clothe themselves with the 
figures that were growing from my intellect and my 
instinct. Under my fixed eyes, burnt by the smoky 
red naphtha lights of the temporary stage, the world of 
my expressions began to take shape. The first Hnes 
of my art developed themselves in that condition of an- 
guish and weariness, of fever and repugnance, in which 
my sensibility became in a manner almost plastic, 
like the incandescent material we saw the glass work- 
ers holding at the end of their tubes. There was in it 
a natural aspiration to receive form and breath, to fill 
the hollow of a mould. On certain evenings, on that 
wall covered with copper saucepans, I could see my- 
self as in a mirror, in an attitude of pain or rage, 
with a face that I did not recognise; and my eye- 
lids would beat rapidly to escape that hallucination 
and to break the fixity of my look. My mother 
would say again and again : ' Eat, my child, eat this 
at least.' But what were bread, wine, meat, fruits, 
all those heavy things bought with hard toil, com- 
pared to what I had within me? I used to repeat: 
' Wait ! ' and when we rose to go I used to take a 
piece of bread with me. I liked to eat it next morn- 
ing in the country, under a tree or on the banks of the 
Brenta, sitting on a stone or on the grass. . . . Oh, 
those statues ! " 

La Foscarina stopped once more at the end of an- 
other path between two walls, that led to a deserted 
field, to the Campo-di-San-Bernardo, where the old 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 315 

monastery stood. The steeple of Santa-Maria-degli- 
Angeli rose beyond it, and a glorious cloud hung 
over it like a rose upon its stem ; and the grass was 
as soft, as green, as placid as in the park of the Pisani 
at Stra. 

" Those statues ! " repeated the actress, with an 
intent look as if they stood there in front of her in 
great numbers, hindering her on her way. " They did 
not recognise me the other day, but I recognised 
them, Stelio. " 

The distant hours, the wet misty landscape, the 
leafless trees, the villas falling to ruin, the silent river, 
the relics of queens and empresses, the crystal masks 
on the feverish faces, the wild labyrinth, the vain pur- 
suit, the terror, and the agony, the splendid, terrible 
pallor, the frozen body on the cushions of the car- 
riage, the lifeless hands, all that sadness was suddenly 
illumined by a new light in the spirit of her beloved. 
And he looked at the marvellous creature, panting 
with surprise and dismay, as if he were seeing her for 
the first time, and her features, her step, her voice, 
her garments held manifold and extraordinary signi- 
ficances that were as inaccessible to him in their num- 
ber and rapidity as flashes of lightning. 

There she was, a creature of perishable flesh, sub- 
ject to the sad laws of time ; yet a vast mass of real 
and ideal life weighed upon her, widened round her, 
throbbed with the very rhythm of her breath. The 
wandering, despairing woman had touched the limits 
of human experience : she knew that which he would 
never know. He, the man of joy, felt the attraction 
of so much accumulated sorrow, of so much humility 
and so much pride, of so great a war and so great a 



3i6 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

victory. Willingly he would have lived that life him- 
self. He envied her her fate. Astonished, he watched 
the veins on the back of that bare hand, dehcate and 
blue as though the skin did not cover them, and the 
small nails that glittered round the stem of the goblet. 
He thought of a drop of that blood circulating through 
her substance, limited by common outlines, and yet 
as immeasurable as the Universe. It seemed to him 
that there was only one temple in the world, and that 
temple was the human body. An anxious longing 
possessed him to stop the woman, to stand before 
her and examine her attentively, to discover all her 
aspects, to question her endlessly. 

Strange questions rose up in his spirit. "Did 
you pass along the main roads when you were a 
young girl on the cart loaded with scenery, lying on 
a bundle of leaves, followed by a group of strolling 
players? Did you pass through the vineyards, and 
did some villager offer you a basket of grapes? Had 
the man who possessed you for the first time the 
figure of a satyr and did you hear the wind roaring on 
the plain in your terror, sweeping away that part of 
you which you will seek for ever but never find again ? 
How many tears you must have drunk on the day I 
heard you, for the voice of Antigone to sound so pure 
in you ? Did you win the nations one after another 
as battles are won to conquer an empire ? Do you 
recognise them by their different odours as one rec- 
ognises wild beasts? One nation rebelled, resisted 
you, and in subjecting it you loved it more than those 
which had worshipped you at your first appearance. 
Another, on the other side of the ocean, to which you 
revealed a new unknown manner of feeling, cannot 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 317 

forget you, and continually sends you messages for 
you to return. What sudden beauties shall I see aris- 
ing from your love and your sorrow? " 

She appeared to him on the solitary meadow in the 
forgotten island, under the clear wintry sky, as she 
had appeared to him in the far-off Dionysian night in 
the midst of the praises of the poets who had sat at 
the supper table. The same power of imparting life, 
the same power of revelation, emanated from the 
woman who had said as she lifted her veil, "I know 
what hunger is. . . ." 

" It was in the month of March, I remember, " con- 
tinued la Foscarina, softly, " I was going out in the 
meadows early, with my bread. I was walking at 
random. The statues were my destination. I went 
from one to the other and stopped before each, as if 
visiting them. Some seemed to me lovely and I 
would try to imitate their gestures, but as if by in- 
stinct, I remained longer with the mutilated ones, to 
comfort them. In the evening, on the stage during 
the performance I would remember some of them, 
with such a deep feeling of their distance and of their 
solitude in the quiet country under the stars, that it 
seemed to me as if I could not speak any more. The 
crowd would lose patience at these too prolonged 
pauses. At certain times when I had to wait for my 
interlocutor's first tirade to be finished, I would stand 
in the attitude of some one of them which was familiar 
to me, and remain motionless as if I too had been of 
stone. I was already beginning to shape my own 
self . . ." 

She smiled. The grace of her melancholy sur- 
passed the grace of the declining day. 



3i8 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" I tenderly loved one that had lost the arms it 
had once used to hold a basket of fruit on its head. 
But the hands were fastened to the basket and moved 
my pity. It rose on its pedestal in a field of flax; a 
small canal stagnated close by, and in it the sky's re- 
flection continued the blue of the flowers. If I shut 
my eyes I can still see the stony face and the sun 
that coloured itself in passing through the stalks of 
the flax, as through a green glass. Always, ever 
since that time, on the stage, in the most heated 
moments of my art, there rise visions of some land- 
scape to my memory, especially when by the mere 
force of silence I succeed in communicating a great 
quiver to the crowd that is listening. , . ." 

She had flushed a little at the cheekbones, and, as 
the oblique sun wrapped her round, drawing sparks 
from her sables and from the goblet, her animation 
seemed an increase of light. 

" What a spring that was ! In one of my wander- 
ings I saw a great river for the first time. It appeared 
all of a sudden, swollen, flowing rapidly between wild 
banks in a plain burning like stubble under the level 
rays of the sun, that grazed its outskirts like a red 
wheel. I felt then how much divinity there is in a 
great river flowing through the earth. It was the 
Adige, coming down from Verona, from the city of 
Juliet. . . ." 

An ambiguous emotion was taking hold of her as 
she recalled the poetry and poverty of her youth. 
She was driven to continue by a kind of fascination, 
nevertheless she did not know how she had arrived 
at these confessions, when she had meant to speak to 
her friend of another young Hfe which was not past. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 319 

but present. By what deception of love had she 
been brought from the sudden tension of her will, 
from her resolute decision of facing the painful truth, 
from the gathering up of her mislaid energy to linger 
in the memory of by-gone days, and to cover with 
her own lost virgin self that other one which was so 
different? 

" We entered Verona one evening in the month of 
May through the gate of the Palio. Anxiety suffo- 
cated me. I held the copy-book, where I had copied 
out the part of Juliet with my own hand, tightly 
against my heart, and constantly repeated to myself 
the words of my first entrance : ' How now ! Who 
calls ? I am here. What is your will ? ' A strange 
coincidence had excited my imagination : I was four- 
teen years old on that very day, — the age of Juliet ! 
The gossip of the Nurse buzzed in my ears ; little by 
little my destiny seemed to be getting mixed up with 
the destiny of the Veronese maiden. At the corner 
of every street I thought I saw a crowd coming 
towards me and accompanying a coffin covered with 
white roses. As soon as I saw the Arche degli 
Scaligeri, closed with iron nails, I cried out to my 
mother, ' Here is the tomb of Juliet.' And I be- 
gan to weep bitterly with a desperate desire of love 
and death. ' Oh, you, too early seen unknown, and 
known too late.' " 

Her voice, as it repeated the immortal words, pene- 
trated the heart of her lover like a heart-rending 
melody. She paused a moment and repeated, — 

" Too late." 

They were the very words uttered by her beloved, 
which she herself had repeated in the garden where 



320 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the hidden stars of the jessamine blossoms had given 
forth their sharp perfume and the fruit had smelt as 
it does in the island gardens, when both had been 
about to yield to their cruel desire : " It is late, 
too late ! " The ageing woman on the good grass 
now stood before the old image of herself, of her own 
virginity, panting in the garb of Juliet before her 
love's first dream. Having attained the limit of her 
experience, had she not preserved that dream intact 
over men and time ? — but to what end ? Here she 
was, bringing up her dead, distant youth only to tread 
it under foot as she led her lover to that other woman 
who was alive and expectant. 

With the smile of her inimitable suffering she said : 
" I have been Juliet." 

The air around them was so calm that the smoke 
from the furnace chimneys tarried there, contaminat- 
ing it. Gold quivered everywhere. The cloud on 
the belfry of the Angeli was growing crimson round 
the edges. The water was invisible, but its sweetness 
was passing over the face of things. 

" One Sunday in May, in the immense arena in the 
ancient amphitheatre under the open sky, I have 
been JuHet before a popular multitude that had 
breathed in the legend of love and death. No quiver 
from the most vibrating audiences, no applause, no 
triumph has ever meant the same to me as the ful- 
ness and the intoxication of that great hour. Truly, 
when I heard Romeo saying, ' Ah, she doth teach the 
torches to burn bright ! ' truly my whole being 
kindled ; I became a flame. I had bought a great 
bunch of roses with my little savings, in the Piazza 
delle Erbe, under the fountain of Madonna Verona. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 321 

The roses were my only ornament. I mingled them 
with my words, with my gestures, with each attitude of 
mine. I let one fall at the feet of Romeo when we 
first met; I strewed the leaves of another on his 
head from the balcony ; and I covered his body with 
the whole of them in the tomb. The air, the hght, and 
their perfume ravished me. Words slipped from me 
with strange ease, almost involuntarily as in delirium, 
and together with them I could hear the continual 
accompaniment made by the dizzy throb of my veins; 
I could see the deep amphitheatre, half in sunshine, 
half in shadow, and in the illuminated part a glitter as 
of thousands and thousands of eyes. The day was a 
quiet one like to-day. There was not a breath to 
ruffle the folds of my dress or the hair that fluttered 
on my bare neck. The sky was very far, yet now 
and then it seemed as if my weakest words must 
sound in its farthest distances, like a clap of thunder, 
or that its blue was becoming so deep that I was 
coloured by it as by a sea water that was drowning 
me. And at intervals, my eyes would travel to the 
long grasses growing at the summit of the walls, and 
there seemed to come to me from them I know not 
what encouragement to what I was saying and doing ; 
and when I saw them sway at the first breath of wind 
that was rising from the hills, I felt my animation 
increase and with it the strength of my voice. How 
I spoke of the lark and the nightingale ! I had heard 
them both in the country a thousand times. I knew 
all their melodies of the wood, the field, and the sky ; 
I had them wild and living in my ears. Each word 
before leaving my Hps seemed to have passed through 
all the warmth of my blood. There was no fibre in 



322 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

me which did not give forth an harmonious sound. 
Ah, grace ! the state of grace ! Each time it is given 
me to touch the summit of my art I recover that un- 
speakable abandonment. I was Juliet. ' It is day, it is 
day ! ' I cried out in my terror. The wind was in 
my hair. I could feel the extraordinary silence on 
which my lamentation fell. The crowd seemed to 
have disappeared below ground. It sat silent on the 
curved steps that were now in shadow. Above it 
the top of the wall was still red. I was telling of the 
terror of day, but I already truly felt ' the mask of 
night' on my face. Romeo had descended. We 
were already both dead, both had already entered 
into darkness. Do you remember? ' Now that you 
are there, you appear like a corpse at the bottom of a 
sepulchre. Either my eyes deceive me or you are 
very pale.' I was icy cold as I said these things. 
My eyes sought the glimmer of light at the top of the 
wall. It had gone out. The people were clamour- 
ing in the arena, demanding the death scene; they 
would no longer listen to the mother or the nurse or 
the monk. The quiver of its impatience intolerably 
quickened the throbbing of my own heart. The 
tragedy was hurrying on. I still have the memory of 
a great sky white as pearls, and of a noise as of the 
sea that quieted down when I appeared, and of the 
smell of pitch that came from the torches, and of 
the roses that covered me being faded by my fever, 
and of a distant sound of bells that brought the sky 
nearer to us, and of that sky that was losing its light 
little by little as I was losing my life, and of a star, 
the first star, that trembled in my eyes with my tears. 
, . . When I fell lifeless on the body of Romeo, the 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 323 

howl of the crowd in the shadow was so violent that I 
was frightened. Some one raised me up and dragged 
me towards that howl. Some one brought the torch 
close to my tear-stained Jace ; it crackled hard and 
smelt of pitch and was red and black, smoke and 
flame. That too, like the star, I shall never forget. 
And my face must certainly have been the colour 
of death. . . . Thus, Stelio, one night in May, Juliet 
came to life again and was shown to the people of 
Verona." 

She stopped once more, closing her eyes as if she 
had suddenly turned dizzy, but her sorrowful lips still 
smiled at her friend, 

" Then ? The need of moving, of going anywhere, 
of passing through space, of breathing in the wind. . . . 
My mother followed me in silence. We crossed a 
bridge, walked along the Adige, then crossed another 
bridge, entered a small street, lost ourselves in the 
dark alleys, found a square with a church in it, and 
so on, on, ever on. My mother asked me now and 
then, 'Where are we going?' I wanted to find a 
Franciscan convent where the tomb of Juliet was 
hidden, since to my great sorrow they had not buried 
her in one of those beautiful tombs closed in by fine 
gates. But I did not want to say it, and I could not 
have spoken. To open my mouth, to utter a single 
word was as impossible to me as to detach a star 
from the sky. My voice had lost itself with the last 
syllable of the dying Juliet. My lips had remained 
sealed by a silence necessary as death. And all my 
body seemed half alive, now icy, now burning, and 
now I don't know, as if only the joints of my bones 
were burning and all the rest were icy. ' Where are 



324 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

we going?' that kind anguish asked of me once more. 
Ah, the last word of Juliet answered within me. We 
were again near the water on the Adige, at the head 
of a bridge. I think I began to run, because shortly 
afterwards I felt myself seized by my mother's arms 
and I remained there crushed against the parapet, 
suffocated by my sobs. 'Let us throw ourselves 
down ! let us throw ourselves down ! ' I would have 
said, but I could not. The river was carrying in 
it the night with all its stars, and I felt that that desire 
of annihilation was not in me alone. . , . Ah, blessed 
one ! " 

She turned very pale, her whole soul feeling once 
more the clasp of those arms, the kiss of those hps, the 
tears of that tenderness, the depth of that suffering. 
But she glanced at her friend and suddenly a quick 
flood of blood spread over her cheeks and rose as 
far as her brow, as if brought there by a feeling of 
secret modesty. 

" What am I telling you ? Why am I speaking to 
you of all these things? One talks on and on with- 
out knowing why." 

She lowered her eyes in her confusion. At the 
memory of the mysterious terror that had preceded 
her womanhood, at the memory of her mother's 
grieved love, the original instinct of her sex stirred 
in her barren bosom. Her feminine avidity, that re- 
belled against the heroic design of total abnegation, 
experienced a strange emotion, became wiUing to be 
deluded. From the very roots of her substance there 
arose an unformed aspiration that she dared not con- 
template. The possibility of a divine compensation 
flashed on the sadness of the inevitable renunciation. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 325 

She felt the shaking of her heart, but she was Hke 
one who dares not look up to an unknown face for 
fear of reading there a sentence of life or death. 
She was afraid of suddenly seeing that thing dissolve 
which was not hope and yet was similar to hope, 
born of her soul as well as of body in so unexpected 
a manner. She became impatient of the great light 
that kindled the sky, of the places they were passing, 
of the steps she was taking, of the very presence of 
her friend. She thought of the half-waking softness, 
the lingering slumber of dawn when a veiled design 
lightly guides a happy dream. She longed for soli- 
tude, for quiet, for her distant secluded room, for the 
shadow of heavy curtains. Suddenly, with an impet- 
uous anxiety that rose from that impatience as if' she 
wanted to fix by a mental act a phantom that was 
about to melt away, she formed some words, and they 
reached as far as her lips, but did not move them: 
" A child, from you ! " 

She turned to her friend and all trembling looked 
him in the eyes. Her secret thought swayed in her 
eyes, like a thing that was both prayer and despair. 
She seemed to be anxiously seeking in him some un- 
revealed mark, some unknown aspect, almost another 
man. She called him gently, — 

" Stelio 1 " 

And her voice was so changed that the young man 
started inwardly and turned as if to help her. 

" My friend, my friend ! " 

Fearful and surprised he watched the wide waves 
of life that were passing through her, the extraordi- 
nary expressions, the alternate lights and shadows, 
and he dared not speak and dared not interrupt 



326 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the occult workings that were agitating the powers of 
that great, miserable soul; he could only feel con- 
fusedly beneath her words the beauty and the sad- 
ness of unexpressed things ; and while he was certain 
that some difficult good was about to rise from so 
great a fever, yet he knew not the aim to which that 
love would be led by its necessity of becoming per- 
fect or perishing. His spirit hung in an expectation 
that was full of wonder, feeling itself hve with so 
much fervour in those forgotten places, on the lowly 
grass, along the silent path. He had never ex- 
perienced a deeper feeling of the incalculable strength 
of which the human heart is capable. And it seemed 
to him as he listened to the throb of his own heart, 
as he divined the violence of the other's throbbing, 
that he could hear the strokes of the hammer beating 
on the hard anvil where human destiny is forged. 

" Tell me more," he said. " Let me get still 
nearer to you, dear soul. No moment since I have 
loved you has been worth the road along which we 
have gone together to-day." 

She was moving on with bent head, rapt in the illu- 
sion " Could it be? " She felt her barrenness about 
her like an iron belt. She considered the inexorable 
obstinacy of the maladies rooted in brute flesh. But 
the power of her passion, and of her desire, strength- 
ened by an idea of justice, appeared to her in the act 
of accomplishing a miracle. And all that was super- 
stitious in her nature rose to blind her lucidity and 
flatter a rising hope. " Have I ever loved before 
now? Have I not waited for years for this great love 
that is to save or destroy me ? From which of all those 
who have increased my wretchedness would I have 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 327 

desired a child? Is it not just that a new life should 
come forth from my life, now that I have made the 
entire gift of myself to my master? Have I not 
brought him my girlhood's dream intact, the dream 
of Juliet? Has not all my life been abolished, from 
that spring evening to one autumn night? " She 
saw the whole universe transfigured by her illusion. 
The memory of her mother gave her a sublime image 
of maternal love ; the kind, firm eyes opened within 
her again and she prayed to them. " Oh, tell me 
that I too shall be for a creature of my flesh and of 
my soul what you have been for me. Give me that 
assurance, you who know." Her past solitude 
seemed terrifying. All she could see in the future 
was death or that one hope of salvation. She thought 
she could have borne every test in order to deserve it, 
looked upon it as a grace to be implored, felt herself 
invaded by a religious ardour of sacrifice. It seemed 
as if the feverish throb of her distant youth which she 
had called up were being renewed in her emotion, and 
that she were being once more impelled on her way 
under the sky by an almost mystic force. 

She was going towards the figure of Donatella Ar- 
vale, outlined on the inflamed horizon at the end of a 
road that opened on the water. And her first sudden 
question re-echoed within her : " Do you often think 
of Donatella Arvale, Stelio? " 

A short road led to the Fondamenta degli Angeli, 
to the canal encumbered with fishing-boats, whence 
the great lagoon was visible, calm and radiant. 

She said : — 

" How beautiful the light is ! It is like that evening 
when my name was still Perdita, Stelio." 



328 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

She was touching a note that she had already- 
touched in a prelude that had been interrupted. 

" It was the last evening in September," she added ; 
" do you remember? " 

She had lifted up her heart so high that it seemed 
at times as if it failed her, as if the strength of her 
feeling was no longer in her power, but could escape 
her from one moment to another, and leave her a 
prey to those troubled furies, to the sudden impulse 
to which she had already yielded more than once. 
She intended that her voice should not tremble in 
uttering the name that must needs rise in the silence 
between her friend and herself. 

" Do you remember the man-of-war anchored in 
front of the gardens ? — a salute greeted the flag as it 
slipped down the mast. The gondola grazed the 
ironclad as it passed." 

She gave herself a moment's pause. An inimitable 
life animated her pallor. 

" Then in its shadow you uttered the name of 
Donatella." 

She made a fresh eflfort, like a person swimming 
and submerged by a new wave shaking his head above 
the foam. 

" She began to be yours." 

She felt herself stiffening from head to foot, as if 
under the effect of a poisoned prick. Her eyes were 
staring fixedly at the dazzling waters. 

" She must be yours," she said, with the hardness 
of necessity in her voice, as if to resist with a second 
shock the terrible things that were struggling to rise 
from the depth of her fire. 

Seized by violent anguish, incapable of speaking, 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 329 

of interrupting with a vain word the lightning-Hke ap- 
paritions of her tragic soul, SteHo Effrena stopped, 
and laid his hand on his companion's arm to make 
her stop also. 

" Is it not true? " she asked him with almost quiet 
sweetness, as if her contraction had relaxed sud- 
denly and her passion had accepted the yoke laid 
upon it by her will. " Speak to me. I am not afraid 
of suffering. Let us sit down here. , I am a little 
tired." 

They rested against a low wall in view of the 
waters. The calm of the winter solstice on the la- 
goon was so pure that the shape of the clouds and 
of the objects along the shore seemed given a kind of 
ideal quality in their reflection there, as if they were 
being imitated by art. Near and distant things, the 
red palace of the Da Mula on the canal, and farther 
the fort of Tessara, had the same distinctness, — the 
black boats with their folded sails, with their nets hung 
along the masts, seemed to gather in their hulls the 
feeling of infinite repose that came from the horizon. 
Human pain seemed powerless to move any of those 
lines, and all seemed to teach silence, giving man a 
promise of peace in time. 

" What can I tell you ? " said the young man, in a 
suffocated voice, almost as if he had been speaking to 
himself, instead of to the woman, unable to overcome 
the agitation made up of the certainty of his present 
love and the consciousness of his desire, which was 
inexorable as destiny. " Perhaps what you have im- 
agined is true, perhaps it is only a thought of your 
own mind. There is to-day only one certain thing 
which I know : that I love you, and that I recognise 



330 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

in you all which is noble. I also know another thing : 
that I have a work to accomplish and a Hfe to live ac- 
cording to the disposition of nature. You, too, must 
remember. On that evening in September I spoke 
to you at great length of my life and of the genii that 
lead it to its aim. You know that I can give up 
nothing. . . ." 

He trembled as if he were holding a sharpened 
weapon in his hands, and in moving it could not 
avoid hurting the unarmed. 

"Nothing; and especially I cannot give up your 
love, which every day exalts my strength and my 
hope. But have you not promised me more than 
love .'' Are you not capable, for me also, of those 
things which love cannot do? Do you not wish to be 
a constant, quickening breath for my life and my 
work? " 

She was listening, motionless, without so much as 
the throb of an eyelid. Like an invalid, in whom the 
action of voluntaiy motion is suddenly suspended, and 
who assists, like a spirit in a statue, at a sight full of 
horror. 

" It is true," he went on, after an anxious pause, 
recovering his courage, dominating his compassion, 
feeling that on his sincerity of that moment the fate 
depended of that free alliance by which he intended 
to be upraised and not lowered, — " It is true ; when 
I saw you come down that staircase on that night ac- 
companied by her who had sung, I believed that 
some secret thought was guiding you not to come 
alone towards me. . . ." 

She felt a subtle chill run along the roots of her 
hair and her eye grow dim, although they remained 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 331 

quite dry. Her fingers trembled round the stem of 
the goblet, while the colours of sky and water tinted 
the glass that trembled in the sorrowful hand. 

" I believed that you yourself had chosen her. . . . 
You had the appearance of one who knows and fore- 
sees. ... I was moved by it." 

She measured by her frightful torture how sweet 
his falsehood would have been. She longed for him 
to lie, or be silent. She measured the space that 
divided her from the canal, from the water that 
swallows and deadens. 

" There was in her something hostile, as if she 
were against me. . . . She remained obscure to me, 
impenetrable. . . . You remember the way she dis- 
appeared ; her image grew pale, and it was only the 
desire of her song that remained. You who led her 
to me have more than once revived her image. You 
have seen her shadow where it was not." 

She saw the face of death. No other thrust had 
pierced farther, had wounded her more deeply. 
" With my own hand ! With my own hand ! " And 
she heard once more the cry that had been her ruin : 
" She awaits you ! " And from second to second 
her knees seemed to give way still more, her worn- 
out body seemed nearer to obeying the furious im- 
pulse that was pushing her towards the water. But 
there remained one lucid point in her, and she con- 
sidered that that was neither the place nor the time. 
The sand banks left dry by the low tide were be- 
ginning to blacken on the lagoon. All of a sudden, 
the inner storm seemed to lose itself behind a mere 
appearance. She believed herself to be non-existent, 
marvelled at seeing the glass shining in her hand, 



332 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

lost all sense of her own body. All that was happen- 
ing was imaginary. Her name was Perdita. The 
dead summer lay in the depths of the lagoon. Words 
were only words. 

"Could I love her?" 

One breath more and darkness would have come. 
As the flame of a candle bends under the wind as if 
about to separate from the wick, yet still adheres to 
it by a slight azure fragment, almost by a pale spark, 
yet will soon kindle and straighten itself again at the 
ceasing of the wind, the wretched woman's reason 
came near to being extinguished. The breath of 
madness passed over her. Terror whitened and 
convulsed her face. 

He did not look at her, but stared fixedly at the 
stones. 

" Were I to meet her again, should I long to turn 
her destiny towards me?" 

He could see her youthful person again with its 
curved, powerful figure arising from the sonorous 
forest among the alternate motions of the violin bows 
that seemed to draw their occult note from the 
hidden music that was in her. 

" Perhaps." 

Again he saw the Hermes-like face, almost ada- 
mantine in its hardness, filled with some most secret 
thought, and the frown that made it hostile. 

" And of what avail would that be? Of what avail 
would all the vicissitudes and all the necessities of 
life be against the faith which binds us? Could 
we two ever resemble meaner lovers who spend 
their days struggling to overcome each other, weep- 
ing and cursing? " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 333 

She ground her teeth ; the wild instinct to defend 
herself, and to hurt as in a desperate struggle over- 
powered her. The flash of a murderous desire darted 
on the fluctuations of her thought. 

" No, you shall not have her — " 

And the cruelty of her master seemed monstrous 
to her. She seemed to be bleeding under the meas- 
ured and repeated blows like the man she had once 
seen on the white road in a mining town. The hor- 
rible scene returned to her memory : the man pros- 
trated by a blow from a mace rising and trying to 
throw himself against his enemy, and the mace that 
was hurled at him again, the blows aimed one after 
another by a firm, calm hand, their dull thud on the 
man's head, the obstinate rising, the tenaciousness of 
life, the flesh of his face reduced to a kind of red pulp. 
The images of the frightful memory mingled with the 
reality of her torture in her mental incoherence. 
She rose as if moved by a spring, impelled by the 
savage force that had invaded her veins. The glass 
broke in her convulsed hand, wounded her, fell at her 
feet in atoms. 

The man started. Her motionless silence had de- 
ceived him, and now he looked at her and saw her ; 
and again he saw, as on that evening when the fire- 
brands had crackled, the features of folly outline 
themselves on her disordered face. He stammered 
as if in pain, but impatience was boiling beneath his 
dismay. 

"Ah," said the woman, overcoming her tremor 
with a bitterness that contorted her mouth, " how 
strong I am ! Another time your wounds should not 
be so slow, since I resist so little, my friend." 



334 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

She noticed that the blood was dripping from 
her fingers; she wrapped them in her handker- 
chief; crimson stains spotted it. She glanced at 
the fragments of glass scattered shining on the 
ground. 

" The goblet is broken. You had praised it 
too much. Shall we raise a mausoleum for it 
here?" 

She was very bitter, almost mocking, her lips con- 
tracted by a sharp laugh that had no resonance. He 
was silent, disappointed, full of rancour at having 
seen the destruction of so beautiful an effort as that 
perfect vase. 

" Let us imitate Nero, having already imitated 
Xerxes." 

She felt even more acutely than her friend the 
harshness of her sarcasm, the dissonance of her voice, 
the malignity of that laugh that was like a spasm of 
her muscles. But she was unable to recover her 
hold over her soul, and she saw it slipping away from 
her will, irreparably, like the sailors on a ship from 
whose grasp the handle has slipped and who remain 
inert before the crane that turns fearfully backwards, 
unfolding, unreeHng chains and cables. She felt an 
acrid, irresistible need of scorning, scattering, tread- 
ing under foot as if invaded by some malignant 
demon. Every trace of goodness and tenderness had 
disappeared, and every hope and every illusion. She 
could discern in the man's glance the same shadow 
that passed over her own. 

"Do I annoy you? Would you like to return to 
Venice alone? Would you like to leave dead sum- 
mer behind you ? The tide is getting low, but there 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 335 

is still enough water for one who has no intention of 
returning to the surface. Would you like me to try? 
Could I be more docile? " 

She was saying these insensate things with a hiss in 
her voice ; she had become almost livid, as if all at 
once consumed by some corroding poison. And he 
remembered having seen that very same mask on her 
face one distant day of pleasure, fury, and sadness. 
His heart contracted and then relaxed. 

"Ah, if I have hurt you, forgive me," he said, try- 
ing to take one of her hands so as to quiet her with 
an act of gentleness. 

"But had we not started together towards this 
point? Was it not you . . ." 

She interrupted him, impatient at the gentleness 
of his usual balsam. 

"Hurt me? And what does it matter? Have no 
pity, have no pity. Do not weep over the beautiful 
eyes of the wounded hare. . . ." 

She was walking along the footpath by the side 
of the purplish canal, passing in front of doorsteps 
where the women still sat in the waning light with 
their baskets full of glass beads on their knees. The 
words broke between her teeth. The contraction of 
her lips changed into a frenzied convulsion of laughter 
that sounded like a peal of heart-rending sobs. Her 
companion shuddered, spoke to her under his breath 
in his dismay, followed by the curious gaze of those 
who looked on. 

" Be calm ! Be calm ! Oh, Foscarina, I beg of 
you ! Do not behave like this, I beg of you. Soon 
we will have reached the shore. We shall soon be 
home again. ... I will tell you. , . . Then you 



336 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

will understand. . . . We are in the street now. . . . 
Are you listening to me? " 

She had discerned a woman enceinte standing on 
one of the doorsteps. She was a big woman, and 
filled up the space between the door-posts ; she was 
eating a piece of bread with a far-off, dreamy look. 

"Are you listening? Foscarina, I beg of you. 
Take courage ; lean on me." 

He feared she would fall in her horrible convulsion, 
and held himself ready to support her. But she only 
quickened her pace, unable to answer, suffocating 
her peals of laughter with her bound-up hand. She 
seemed to feel the skin of her face cracking in her 
spasm. 

"What is the matter? What is it you see? 

Never will that man forget the change in those eyes. 
They stared sightless with a deadly stillness, in spite 
of the implacable heaving as if their lids had been cut 
off; and yet they saw, they saw something which was 
not there ; they were full of an unknown vision, occu- 
pied by a monstrous image that perhaps generated 
that laughter full of anguish and madness. 

" Would you Uke to stop ? Would you like a little 
water?" 

They had come out again on the Fondamenta dei 
Vetrai, where the shops were now shut, where their 
steps re-echoed, where the bursts of atrocious merri- 
ment seemed to prolong themselves as if under a 
portico. How long was it since they had passed 
along that dead canal? How much of their Hfe had 
passed away meanwhile? How much shadow had 
they left behind them ? 

In the gondola, wrapped in her mantle, paler than 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 337 

she had been on the way to the Dolo, the woman 
tried to control her spasms, holding her jaws with 
both hands, but from time to time the mahgnant laugh 
would escape, hissing in the sleepy silence, breaking 
through the rhythm of the two oars ; she would press 
her hands to her mouth more firmly, as if she were 
trying to suffocate herself Between her veil raised 
above the eyebrows and the blood-stained handker- 
chief, her eyes remained open and staring on the 
immensity of the twilight. 

The lagoon and the darkness swallowed up all 
forms and all colours ; only the groups of posts, like a 
procession of monks on a pathway full of ashes, 
interrupted the grey monotony. Venice in the back- 
ground was smoking like the remains of a vast 
pillage. 

When the roll of the bells reached them her soul 
remembered, her tears fell, the horror was conquered. 

The woman took her hands from her face, bent a 
little towards her friend's shoulder, recovered her 
voice to say. . . . 

" Forgive me ! " 



She humbled herself, ashamed ; each act of hers 
from that day silently begged for pardon and 
oblivion. 

A new grace seemed born in her. She became 
lighter, she talked in a lower voice. She would move 
delicately about the room dressed in quiet stuffs, veil- 
ing with the shadow of her lashes her beautiful eyes, 
that dared not look on her friend. The fear of 
oppressing him, of being irksome to him, gave wings 



338 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

to her instinct. Her ever waking sensibility watched 
and Hstened round the inaccessible door of his 
thoughts. She reached the point at certain hours of 
feeling the rhythm of that other life beating under 
her own pulse. 

Her soul, intent on creating a new feeling that 
should be capable of conquering the violence of in- 
stinct, revealed in her face with resplendent signs the 
difficulty of her secret task. Her supreme art had 
never before found expressions so singular; never 
had significances so obscure come to life in the 
shadow of her features. Looking at her one day, her 
friend spoke of the infinite power accumulated in the 
shadow produced by the helmet on the face of II 
Pensieroso. 

" Michael Angelo," he said, " has concentrated all 
the effort of human meditation in a small hollow of 
his marble. As the stream fills the hollowed palm, 
so the eternal mystery by which we are surrounded 
fills the small space opened by the Titan's chisel in 
the material that had come from the mountain, and 
it has remained there and grown denser with the 
centuries. I only know the changing shadow of 
your own face, Fosca, that sometimes rivals it in 
intensity, and even at times surpasses it." 

She stretched herself out towards the Life-giver, 
yearning for poetry and knowledge. She became to 
him the ideal figure of her who listens and under- 
stands. The wild, powerful fold of her hair imitated 
the impatience of wings round her pure forehead. 
A beautiful phrase would suddenly draw the tears 
from her eyes as if it had been a drop which falls 
into a vessel that is full and causes it to overflow. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 339 

She read out to him pages from the sovereign 
poets. The august shape of the Book seemed mag- 
nified by her attitude in holding it, by her gesture in 
turning the pages, by the religious gravity of her 
attention, by the harmony of the lips that changed the 
printed signs into vocal numbers. In reading the 
poetry of Dante she became as noble and severe as 
the sibyls in the dome of the Sixtine Chapel, bear- 
ing the weight of the sacred volumes with all the 
heroism of their bodies agitated by the breath of 
prophecy. The lines of her attitude, down to the 
slightest folds of her garment, together with her 
modulations, revealed the divine text. 

When the last syllable had fallen she saw her 
friend rise impetuously, trembling with fever, wander- 
ing about the room, agitated by the god, panting in 
the anxiety imparted to him by the confused tumult 
of his creative force. She saw him coming towards 
her with radiant eyes transfigured by a sudden beati- 
tude, illumined by an inner flame, as if a sovereign 
hope had all of a sudden been kindled in him, or an 
immortal truth revealed. With a shudder that abol- 
ished in the blood the memory of every caress, she 
saw him come to her and bend over her knees, over- 
thrown by the terrible shock of the world he was 
carrying in himself, by the upheaval that accom- 
panied some hidden metamorphosis. She knew pain 
and pleasure ; not knowing whether his were pleasure 
or pain, she was filled with piety, fear, and reverence 
in feeling that voluptuous body labouring thus in the 
genesis of the idea. She was silent, she waited, she 
adored the unknown thoughts in the head that rested' 
on her knees. 



340 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

But she understood his great striving better when, 
one day after she had read to him, he spoke to her 
of the Exile. 

" Imagine, Fosca, if you can without bewilderment, 
the fire and rush of the vast soul, in uniting itself to 
the elementary energies in order to conceive its 
world. Imagine an Alighieri on the road to exile, 
already possessed by his vision, an implacable pil- 
grim driven from land to land by his passion and 
his misery, from refuge to refuge, across fields, across 
mountains, along rivers, along seas, in every season, 
suffocated by the sweetness of spring, stricken by the 
harshness of winter, ever alert, attentive, his vora- 
cious eyes ever open, anxious with the inner travail 
that was forming the gigantic work. Imagine the 
fulness of that soul in the contrast between common 
necessities and the flaming apparitions that suddenly 
came to meet him at a turning of the road, on some 
river bank, in a rocky cave, on the slope of a hill, in 
the thick of' a forest, in a meadow bright with the 
song of the lark. Manifold life poured into his 
spirit by means of his senses, transfiguring the' 
abstract ideas that filled him into living images. 
Wherever he went unexpected sources of poetry 
flowed from his sorrowful step. The voice, the 
appearance, and the essence of the elements entered 
into his occult labour and increased it with sounds, 
with lines, with colours, with movements, with innu- 
merable mysteries. Fire, air, earth, and water worked 
in collaboration at the sacred poem, pervaded the 
sum of its doctrine, warmed it, modified and watered 
it, covered it with leaves and flowers. . . . Open this 
Christian book and imagine the statue of a Greek 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 341 

god on the other side. Do you not see shadow or 
light break from the one as from the other, the flash 
or the wind of the sky? " 

Then she began to feel that her own life was 
drifting into the all-absorbing work, that her own 
soul was entering drop by drop into the person of the 
drama, that her aspects, her attitudes, her gestures, 
and her accents were contributing to the formation 
of the figure of the heroine " living beyond life." 
She became the prey of those voracious eyes which 
she sometimes found fixed upon her with intolerable 
violence. She became acquainted with another man- 
ner of being possessed. It seemed to her that she 
was dissolving into her elements in the fire of that 
intellect, only to be afterwards more perfectly re- 
composed according to the necessities of a heroism 
that was to dominate destiny. Her secret task 
being in harmony with the virtue of the life which 
was being created, she was attracted by the desire 
of producing no discord between herself and the 
image which was to be like her. Art seconded the 
apparition of the new feeling she had prepared. 

Nevertheless, she suffered from the image that 
threw its shadow on the reality of renunciation and 
sorrow. A strange ambiguity was born of the 
resemblance between the image and her own being. 
Sometimes it seemed to her that her hidden effort 
was preparing her for her success on the stage, and 
not for the conquest of her conscience over the 
darkness of instinct. It seemed to her sometimes 
that she was losing her human sincerity, and was 
only in the state of fictitious concentration in which 
she was wont to put herself while studying the 



342 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

character of the tragic part she was to incarnate. 
Thus she became acquainted with another torment. 
She shut and contracted her soul under his pene- 
trating glance as if to prevent his piercing her and 
robbing her of her secret life. She grew to be terri- 
fied of the Seer. " He will read in my soul the 
silent words which he will put on the lips of his crea- 
tion, and I shall only pronounce them on the stage 
under the mask." She felt her spontaneity being 
arrested. She underwent strange bewilderments and 
discouragements, whence she would rise at times with 
an impetuous need of breaking that spell, of making 
herself different, of separating herself from that image 
which was to be like her, of marring those lines of 
beauty that imprisoned her and forced her to a deter- 
mined sacrifice. — Was there not also a virgin thirst- 
ing with love and yearning for joy in the tragedy, a 
virgin in whom a great spirit recognised the living 
apparition of his lightest dream, the Victory so often 
invoked that was to crown his life? And was there 
not also a loving woman no longer young, whose one 
foot was already in the shadow, and who had but a 
short step to take in order to disappear? — More than 
once she was tempted to contradict that resignation 
by some violent act. 

Then she would tremble at the possibility of once 
more falling into the horror, of being once more 
seized by the horrible fury, grasped by the insidi- 
ous beast that was not killed yet, but was liv- 
ing and watching in the dark for the right moment 
to spring upon her. Like a penitent, she increased 
her fervour because of the danger, hardened her dis- 
cipline, sharpened her vigilance; she repeated with 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 343 

a kind of intoxication the act of supreme abandon- 
ment that had risen from the depths of her misery 
before the purifying fire. ..." You must have all ; 
I shall rest content with seeing you live, with seeing 
your joy. And do with me what you will." 

Then he loved her for the unexpected visions she 
brought him, for the mysterious sense of inner events 
that she communicated to him by her vicissitudes 
of expression. It astonished him to find that the 
lines of a face, the movements of a human body 
could so powerfully touch and fertilise the intellect. 
He shuddered and turned pale one day on seeing 
her enter the room with her silent step, her face 
fixed in an extraordinarily calm sorrow, as if she were 
coming from the depths of wisdom whence all human 
agitations seem a play of the wind in the dust of 
an endless road. 

" Ah, I have created you, I have created you ! " he 
cried, deluded by the intensity of the hallucination, 
thinking he saw his heroine herself standing on 
a threshold of the distant room occupied by the 
treasures taken from the tombs of the Atrides. 
" Stop a moment ! Do not move your eyelids I 
Keep your eyes motionless like two stones ! You 
are blind. And you see all that others do not see. 
And nothing can be hidden from you. And here in 
this room the man you love has revealed his love to 
another, who is still trembling at the revelation. And 
they are still here, and their hands have not long been 
parted, and their love is in the air. And the room is' 
full of funeral treasures, and on two tables are dis- 
posed the riches that covered the bodies of Agamem- 
non and Cassandra. There are the chests full of 



344 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

necklaces, and here are the vases full of ashes, and 
the balcony is open looking out to the plain of Argos 
and the distant mountains. And it is sunset, and all 
this terrible gold gleams in the shadow. Do you 
understand ? You are there on the threshold, led by 
the Nurse. You are blind, and nothing is unknown 
to you. Stop a moment ! " 

He was speaking in the sudden fever of invention. 
The scene appeared and disappeared before him, 
submerged in a torrent of poetry. 

" What will you do? What will you say? " 

The actress felt a chill in the roots of her hair. 
Her soul vibrated with sonorous strength to the 
limits of her body. She became bhnd and pro- 
phetic. The cloud of tragedy descended and stopped 
above her head. 

"What will you say? You will call them. You 
will call one and the other by name in the silence full 
of great royal spoils." 

The actress could hear the throb of her blood, her 
voice was to resound in the silence of thousands of 
years from the distances of time. It was to reawaken 
the ancient sorrow of men and heroes. 

" You will take their hands and you will feel their 
two lives stretching towards each other with all their 
strength and gaze fixedly at each other across your 
motionless sorrow, as if it were a crystal about to 
break." 

The blindness of immortal statues was in her eyes. 
She saw herself sculptured in the great silence, and 
felt the quiver of the dumb crowd, seized at the heart 
by the sublime power of the attitude. 

"And then, and then?" 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 345 

The Life-giver rushed towards her as if he would 
have struck her to draw sparks from her. 

" You must call Cassandra from her sleep, you 
must feel her ashes live once more in your hands, 
she must be present in your vision. Will you do it? 
Do you understand? Your living soul must touch 
the ancient soul and mingle with it into one only 
soul and one only misfortune, so that the error of 
time seems destroyed and that unity of life to which 
I tend by the effort of my art be made manifest. 
Cassandra is in you and you are in her. Have you 
not loved her? Do you not also love the daughter 
of Priam? Who that has once heard it will ever for- 
get, who will ever forget the sound of your voice and 
the convulsion of your lips at the first cry of the 
prophetic fury. . . . ' O Earth ! O Apollo ! ' I can 
see you again, deaf and dumb on your car, with 
that aspect on your face of a wild beast newly cap- 
tured. Ah, but among so many terrible cries there 
were some infinitely soft, sad tones. The old men 
compared you to ' the tawny nightingale.' How are 
they.' How are they? — the words when you re- 
member your beautiful river? And when the old 
men question you concerning the love of the god, do 
you not remember them? " 

The tragic actress throbbed as if the breath of the 
god were again invading her. She had become an 
ardent ductile matter subject to all the animations of 
the poet. 

" Do you not remember them? " 

" O espousals, espousals of Paris fatal to the dear 
ones ! O you, paternal waters of Scamandros, then 
on your shores my youth fed upon you ! " 



346 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Ah, divine one ! Your melody does not let one 
forget the syllables of ^schylus. I remember. The 
soul of the crowd, gripped by the ' lamentation of 
discordant sounds,' unbent and was blessed by that 
melodious sigh, and each of us received the vision of 
her distant years and her innocent bliss. You can 
say, ' I have been Cassandra.' In speaking of her 
you will remember an anterior life. . . . Her mask of 
gold shall be in your hands. . . ." 

He seized her hands, unconsciously torturing them. 
She felt no pain. Both were intent on the sparks 
generated by their mingled forces ; one same electric 
vibration ran along their nerves. 

" You are there, close to the spoil of the enslaved 
princess, and you are feeling her mask. . . . What 
will you say? " 

They seemed in the pause to be waiting for the 
flash to illumine them. The eyes of the actress 
became once more motionless ; their blindness filled 
them once more. Her whole face became as marble. 
Instinctively the Life-giver left her hands free, and 
they sketched the gesture of feeling for the sepulchral 
gold. In a voice that created the tangible form she 
said : — 

" How large her mouth is !" 

He throbbed with almost fearful suspense. 

"You see her, then?" 

She remained silent with her intent, sightless 
eyes. 

" I too can see her. It is large, the horrible effort 
of divination had dilated it ; she cried out, cursed, and 
lamented ceaselessly. Can you imagine her mouth in 
silence? " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 347 

Slowly, still in the same attitude, almost in ecstasy, 
she said : — 

" How wonderful is her silence !" 

She seemed to be repeating words suggested to 
her by some mysterious genii ; while it seemed to the 
poet as he heard them that he himself had been 
about to utter them. A deep tremor shook him as 
if he had been assisting at a miracle. 

"And her eyes?" he asked, trembling. "What 
colour do you think her eyes were? " 

She did not answer. 

The marble lines of her face changed as if a slight 
wave of suffering had passed there. A furrow carved 
itself between her eyebrows. 

" Black, perhaps," he added softly. 

She spoke. 

" They were not black, but they seemed so because 
in the prophetic ardour the pupils were so dilated 
that they swallowed up the iris. . . ." 

She stopped as if her breath were about to fail her. 
A thin veil of moisture was spreading over her fore- 
head. Stelio gazed at her, silent and very pale ; and 
the interval was filled by the deep throbs of his 
heart. 

" In the pauses," continued the revealer, with pain- 
ful slowness, when she had wiped the foam from her 
livid lips, " her eyes were sweet and sad as two 
violets." 

She stopped again, breathless, with the appearance 
of one who dreams and suffers in the dream. Her 
mouth seemed parched, her temples were wet. 

" Thus they must have been before they were closed 
for ever." 



348 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Henceforth he was entirely carried away by the 
lyric whirlwind ; he breathed only in the inflamed 
ether of his poetry. The musical sentiment that 
had generated the drama determined itself in the 
forms of the Prelude he was composing. On the 
sonorous fulcrum the tragedy found its perfect bal- 
ance between the two forces that were to animate it, 
the power of the stage and the power of the orchestra. 
A motive of extraordinary vigour marked in the sym- 
phonic ocean the apparition of the ancient Fate. 

"You will perform the Agamemnon in the new 
theatre, the Antigone, and lastly the Victory of Man. 
My tragedy is a battle : it celebrates the renovation 
of the Drama, with the discomfiture of the monstrous 
will that dragged down the races of Labdacus and 
Atreus. It opens with the moan af an ancient victim, 
and closes with a cry of light." 

Revived by the melody, the Moyra lived before 
him again in visible shape such as she appeared be- 
fore the wild eyes of the Coefore, by the mound of 
the slaughtered king. 

" Do you remember," he said to the actress, in 
order to signify that violent presence, " do you re- 
member the decapitation of Marcus Crassus in Plu- 
tarch's narration? One day I proposed drawing from 
it an episode for the stage. Under the royal tent 
the Armenian, Artavasdes, is entertaining Orodes, the 
king of the Parthians, at a great banquet, and the cap- 
tains sit drinking round the table; and the spirit of 
Dionysius invades those barbarians, who are not in- 
sensible to the power of rhythm, because a performer 
of tragedies, called Jason Trallianus, is singing the 
adventures of Agave in the Bacchaittes of Euripides. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 349 

They have not yet risen from the table when Sillaces 
enters, bearing the head of Crassus, and having 
saluted the king, throws it bleeding in their midst. 
A great cry of joy arises from the Parthians. Then 
Jason gives the garments of Pentheus to one of the 
chorus, while he, seizing the head of Crassus, and 
full of the Dionysian fury, sings these verses : — 

" ' Portiamo dai monti 

alle case un' edera tagliata di recente 
insigne preda. . .' ^ 

" And the chorus leaps with joy, and as Agave tells 
them how she had caught that lion cub without a 
net, the chorus asks, Who had wounded him first, 
and Agave answers, — 

" ' Mio h il vanto. . . .' > 

" But Pomaxoethres, who had -been still supping, 
starts to his feet and tears the head from the hands of 
the furious actor, crying out that it is he, rather than 
Jason, who should say those words, because he is the 
slayer of the Roman. Do you feel the portentous 
beauty of the scene? — the fierce face of life suddenly 
flashes by the side of the waxen mask of metal, the 
odour of human blood excites the rhythmic fury of 
the chorus, a death-bringing arm tears asunder the 
veils of the tragic fiction. This unusual, astonishing 
epilogue closing the expedition of Crassus fills me 
with enthusiasm. Well, the eruption of the ancient 
Moyra in my modern tragedy is like the sudden ar- 
rival of Sillaces at the banquet of the Armenian. At 

1 " Let us take home from the hills the 

newly cut ivy as an illustrious 
spoil. . . ." 

2 " Mine is the boast. . . ." 



3 so THE FLAME OF LIFE 

the beginning, on the loggia that guards the Cyclopic 
walls and the gate of the hons, the virgin has in her 
hands the book of the Tragedians, and is reading the 
lamentation of Antigone. The fatal divinity is en- 
closed in the book, dominating the images of pain and 
crime. But those images are called up by the living 
words ; and close to the pure peplum of the Theban 
martyr glows the insidious crimson stretched out by 
Clytemnestra, and the Heroes of the Orestidae seem 
to recommence a new life while a man explores their 
tombs in the Agora. They seem to move at the 
back of the stage like shadows, impelled by obscure 
agitation ; they seem to bend down Hstening to the 
dialogues, to poison the air with their breath. Sud- 
denly a cry is heard announcing the great event. 
Here comes the man who has uncovered the tombs 
and has seen the face of the Atridae. Here he comes 
irradiated by the wonders of death and of that gold. 
He stands there, hke one delirious. Their souls are 
trembling. Is the fable rising from the soil to delude 
men once more? Their souls are anxious and trem- 
bling. Suddenly the power of the curse and ruin 
rushes upon them and seizes them to drag them 
towards infamous crimes ; the desperate struggle 
begins. The tragedy no longer wears its motionless 
mask, but shows its naked face ; and the book that 
the unconscious virgin was reading can no longer be 
re-opened without a shudder, because their souls have 
felt that that distant horror has become living and 
present, and that they are breathing and raving in 
it, as in an inevitable reality. The Past is in action. 
The illusion of Time has fallen. Life is one." 
The very greatness of his conception filled him 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 351 

with dismay. At times he would look anxiously 
about him, examine the horizon, question dumb 
things as if he were calling for help or hoping for a 
message. He would lie in silence for a long time, his 
eyes shut, waiting. 

" I must raise this enormous mass at one stroke 
before the eyes of the multitude. In this, you see, 
lies the difficulty of my prelude. This first effort is 
the greatest that my work will demand of me. At 
the same time I must call my world forth from 
nothing and place the manifold soul in the musical 
state most apt to receive the unusual revelation. 
The orchestra must produce this miracle. ' Art, like 
magic, is practical metaphysics,' Daniele Glauro 
says. And he is right." 

He would sometimes come to the house of his 
friend panting and agitated as if pursued by Erinnys. 
She never asked him questions, but her whole person 
would soothe the unquiet one. 

" I was afraid," he said one day, smiling, — " afraid 
of being suffocated. . . . You beUeve I am a little 
mad, do you not? Do you remember that stormy 
evening when I returned from the Lido? How sweet 
you were, Fosca ! Not long before on the Bridge of 
Rialto I, had found a Motive. I had translated the 
words of the element into notes. . . . Do you know 
what a Motive is? It is a small spring that may give 
birth to a flock of streams, a small seed that may give 
birth to a wreath of forests, a small spark that may 
give birth to an endless chain of conflagrations: a 
nucleus producing infinite strength. There is no 
more powerful thing in the world of ideal origins, nor 
more virtuous organ of generation ; and there is no 



352 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

greater joy for an active mind than that which may 
be given him by the developments of that energy. . . . 
Joy, yes, but also terror sometimes, my friend." 

He laughed his ingenuous laugh. The manner in 
which he spoke of these things was a symptom of the 
extraordinary faculty which likened his spirit to that 
of the primitive transfigurations of nature. There 
was a deep analogy between the spontaneous forma- 
tion of myths and his instinctive necessity of animat- 
ing all that fell under his senses. 

" A little while ago I had begun developing the 
Motive of that stormy evening, which I shall call the 
Wind-bags of ^Eolus. Here it is. It is this." 

He went to the keyboard and struck a few notes 
with one hand. 

" No more than this, but you cannot imagine the 
generating force of these few notes. A storm of 
music has arisen from them, and I have not been able 
to master it. ... I have been overcome, suffocated, 
forced to fly." 

He laughed again, but his soul was swaying Uke 
the sea. 

" The Wind-bags of Prince .^olus, opened by the 
companions of Ulysses. Do you remember it? The 
imprisoned winds break forth and push the ship back. 
Man trembled with fear." 

But his soul could find no rest, and nothing could 
free it of its agitated workings. And he kissed the 
hands of his friend, and walked away from her and 
wandered about the room, stopping before the in- 
strument that Donatella had touched in singing 
Claudio's melody; restlessly he went to the win- 
dow, saw the leafless garden, the beautiful solitary 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 353 

clouds, the sacred towers. His aspiration went out 
to the musical creature who was to sing his hymns 
at the summit of the tragic symphonies. 
In a low limpid voice the woman said : — 
" If only Donatella were here with us ! " 
He turned, took a few steps towards her, and looked 
at her fixedly, silently. She smiled her slight con- 
cealing smile on seeing him so near to her and yet 
so far away. She felt that he loved no one at that 
moment: not her and not Donatella; but that he 
considered them both as pure instruments of his art, 
as forces to be used, " bows to be drawn." He was 
burning in his own poetry, and she was there with her 
poor wounded heart, with her secret torture and her 
silent prayer, intent on nothing but the preparation 
of her sacrifice, ready to pass away beyond love and 
life as the heroine of the future drama. 

"Ah, what is it that could draw you near me, that 
could throw you on my faithful heart, quivering with 
another anguish ? " she thought, seeing him estranged 
and lost in his dream. " A great sorrow perhaps, a 
sudden blow, a cruel disappointment, an irreparable 
evil." 

There returned to her memory the verse of Gaspara 
Stama which he had praised : — 

" Vivere ardendo e non sentire il male ! " 

And she remembered his sudden pallor when she 
had stopped in the path between the two walls, and 
had declared her first titles of nobility in the struggle 
to live. 

" Ah, if only one day you could be brought to feel 
the value of a devotion such as mine, of a servitude 

23 



354 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

such as the one I offer you, if you were truly to need 
me one day, and, discouraged, you should draw a new 
faith from me, and weary, you should draw your 
strength from me ! " 

She was reduced to invoking sorrow to strengthen 
her hope and while saying to herself " if only one 
day ! " . . . the sense occupied her, the sense of time 
that flies, the sense of the flame that is consuming 
itself, of the body that is fading, of the infinite things 
that wear out and perish. Henceforth each day must 
dig its mark in her face, discolour her lips, destroy 
her hair ; henceforth each day was in the service of 
old age, would hasten the work of destruction in her 
miserable flesh. " What then? " 

Once more she recognised that it was desire, un- 
conquerable desire, that forged all the illusions and 
all the hopes which seemed to help her in accom- 
plishing "what even love cannot do." 

She recognised that every effort to root it out 
would be vain, and, discouraged, she saw the artifice 
into which her soul had been forced by her will drop 
away in an instant. With secret shame she felt how 
miserably she resembled at that moment the actress 
who lays aside her mask on coming away from the 
stage. In pronouncing those words that had inter- 
rupted the silence and expressed an unreal regret 
with the accents of sincerity, had she not been like 
one reciting a part? But she had suffered, but she 
had wrung her heart, but she had extracted that 
sweetness from the bitterness of her blood. What 
then? 

She recognised that the torturing constraint of 
those days had not succeeded in creating in her even 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 355 

a symptom of the new feeling by which love was to be 
made sublime. She was like those gardeners who 
with their shears have given an artificial shape to 
tenacious plants which still preserve their powerful 
trunk and all their roots intact, and outrun the de- 
sign with rapid expansion, if the work of the shears 
round their branches be not assiduous. Her effort 
was therefore as useless as it was painful, since it only 
had an outward efficacy, leaving her depths un- 
changed; on the contrary even increasing there the 
intensity of her evil by compressing it. Her secret 
task, therefore, was reduced to a constant dissimula- 
tion. Was it worth while living for this? 

She could not and would not go on living except 
on condition of at last finding her harmony. But the 
experience of those days had done nothing beyond 
making the discord greater between her goodness 
and her desire, had only succeeded in sharpening 
her restlessness and her sadness, or in losing itself 
entirely in the whirl of the creative soul that was at- 
tracting her to mould her like a plastic substance. 
She was indeed so far removed from the harmony 
she sought that she had at one moment felt her 
spontaneity ceasing and her sincerity clouding itself; 
a dull ferment of rebellion swelling her , heart and a 
threatened return of the feared madness. 

Was it not the same woman sitting in shadow 
among the cushions of the divan who had said to 
her friend one evening in October burnt up by the 
poison, " It is necessary ; I must die"? Was it not 
the same woman, — was it not the same woman who 
had risen thence when he had prodded her and had 
sprung upon him as if to devour him? 



356 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

If the young, man's turbid desire had then caused 
her to suffer cruelly, she now suffered still more 
cruelly in observing that his ardour had quieted itself 
and that a kind of reserve had taken its place in her 
friend, — a kind of reserve that was sometimes im- 
patient of the gentlest caress. She was ashamed of 
her regret, seeing that he was possessed by his idea 
and intent on concentrating all his energies on his men- 
tal effort alone. But a dark rancour would master 
her of an evening when he took his leave of her, and 
blind suspicions at night tormented her sleepless soul. 

She yielded to the nightly evil. Throbbing and 
feverish in the darkness of a gondola cabin, she 
wandered along the canal, hesitated before giving 
the oarsman the name of a distant Rio, tried to turn 
back, sobbed, suffocated over her wound, felt her 
pain becoming intolerable, inclined herself towards the 
lethal fascination of the water, conversed with death, 
then gave herself up to her misery. She watched 
the house of her friend. She remained there during 
long hours in fearful and useless expectation. 

They were her worst agonies those which she en- 
dured in that melancholy Rio della Panada that ends 
in a bridge under which the mortuary island of San 
Michele was visible in the open lagoon. The old 
Gothic palace at the corner of San Canciano was 
Hke a suspended ruin that must all at once crash 
down upon her and bury her. The black peate went 
to pieces along the corroded walls, uncovered by the 
low tide, exhaling the odour of dissolution ; and once 
she heard the little birds awakening at dawn in the 
garden of the Poor Clares. 

" To go away ! " The necessity of the act came 



upon her, suddenly urgent. She had already told her 
friend on one memorable day: " Now it seems to me 
that there is only one thing I can do : go away, dis- 
appear, and leave you free with your fate. This 
thing I can do which even love could not do." 
Henceforth delay was no longer possible ; she must 
break through every hesitation ; she must emerge at 
last from that kind of fatal immobility of events, in 
which she had been agitated for so long between life 
and death, as if she had fallen into the dumb troubled 
water, close to the sepulchral island, and were strug- 
gling there in anguish, feeling the soft sand give way 
beneath her feet, ever believing herself to be swal- 
lowed up, ever having before her eyes the level 
stretch of that great calm, and never drowning. . . . 
Nothing indeed had happened, nothing was hap- 
pening. Since that October dawn their outward life 
had continued unchanged. No word had been pro- 
nounced that might have established an end, that 
could point to an interruption. It almost seemed as 
if the sweet promise of the visit to the Euganean hills 
were about to be kept, as the time for the blossoming 
of the peach-trees drew nearer. Nevertheless, she 
felt at that moment the absolute impossibility of going 
on living as she was then living by the side of her 
beloved. It was a definite and unquestionable feeling, 
like the sensation of one who finds himself in a burn- 
ing house, of one who is stopped on a mountain-side 
by a chasm, or of one who in the desert has drunk of 
the last drop from his gourd. There was in her 
something that was fully accomplished as in the tree 
that has given forth all its fruit, as in the field where 
the harvest has been reaped, as in the current that has 



358 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

reached the sea. Her inner necessity was as the 
necessity of natural facts, of tides, seasons, and celes- 
tial vicissitudes ; she accepted it without examination. 

And her courage revived, her soul grew stronger, 
her activity reawakened, the virile qualities of the 
leader rose up in her once more. In a very short 
time she settled her tour, reassembled her people, 
fixed the date of her departure. " You must go and 
work down there among the barbarians beyond the 
ocean," she told herself harshly. " You must still go 
on wandering from town to town, from hotel to hotel, 
from theatre to theatre, and every night you will raise 
a howl in the crowd that pays you ; you will earn 
much money, you will come back laden with gold 
and with wisdom unless it so happens that you remain 
crushed by chance under a wheel at a crossing of the 
roads some foggy day. 

" Who knows ! " she added. " From whom have 
you received the order to go away ? From some one 
who is within you, deep, deep within you, and who 
sees that which you cannot see, like the blind woman 
in the tragedy. Who knows whether down there on 
one of those great peaceful rivers your soul will not 
find its harmony, and your hps will not learn that 
smile which they have so often attempted in vain ! 
Perhaps you will discover a few white hairs and that 
smile in your mirror at the same time. Go in peace." 

And she began preparing her viaticum for her 
journey. 



From time to time the breath of the premature 
season seemed to be passing in the February sky. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 359 

"Don't you feel the spring?" said Stelio to his 
friend, and his nostrils quivered. 

She threw herself back a little, feeling that her 
heart was melting, and offered her face to the sky, 
which was full of scattered vapours like slight feathers. 
The hoot of a siren prolonged itself in the pale estu- 
ary, becoming little by little as sweet as a flute-note. 
It seemed to the woman that something had escaped 
from her inmost heart and faded away in the distance 
with that sound like a pain that Httle by little is 
changing into a memory. 

She replied : 

" It has arrived at the Tre Porti." 

Once more they wandered at random along the 
lagoon on the water which was as familiar to their 
dream as the web to the weaver. 

" Did you say * to the Tre Porti'? " exclaimed the 
young man, quickly, as if some spirit were awaking in 
him. " Precisely there in the neighbourhood of the 
low beach, when the moon goes down, the sailors take 
the wind prisoner and bring it in chains to Dardi 
Seguso. One day I will tell you the story of the 
Archorgan." 

She smiled at the mysterious way in which he had 
alluded to the mariners' act. 

" Which story? " she said, yielding to the enchant- 
ment; " and how does Seguso come into it? Is it the 
master glazier? " - 

" Yes ; but an ancient one, who knew Greek and 
Latin, music and architecture ; who was admitted to 
the Academy of the Pellegrini; who had his gardens 
in Murano, and was often invited to supper by 
Vecellio in his house on the Contrada dei Biri ; who 



36o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

was the friend of Bernado Capello, of Jacopo Zane 
and other Petrarchian patricians. It was in the house 
of Caterino Zeno that he saw the famous organ 
built for Matthias Corvinus King of the Hunga- 
rians, and it was there that his fine idea came to 
him, in the course of a dispute with that Agostino 
Amadi who had succeeded in picking up for his 
collection of instruments a real Greek lyre, a great 
Lesbian heptachord adorned with gold and ivory. . . . 
Ah, do you imagine that relic of the school of Mity- 
lene brought to Venice by a galley that in passing 
through the waters of Santa Maura, caught and 
dragged the dead body of Sappho as far as Mala- 
mocco like a bundle of dead grass? But this is 
another story." 

Once more the wandering woman seemed to 
recover her youth, and to smile with the surprise of a 
child who is being shown a picture-book. What 
marvellous stories, what delightful inventions, had not 
the Image-maker found for her on the water in the 
slowness of that hour ! How many enchantments he 
had composed for her to the rhythm of the oar with 
those words of his that made everything visible ! 
How many times, sitting by his side in the light boat, 
she had tasted of that kind of lucid slumber in which 
all agitations were interrupted, and only the visions 
of poetry were allowed to live on ! 

" Tell it me," she begged ; and she would have 
added, " It will be the last," but refrained because 
she had as yet concealed her resolution from her 
friend. 

He laughed. 

" Ah, you are as greedy for stories as Sophia." 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 361 

At that name, as at the name of spring, she felt her 
whole heart melting and the cruelty of her lot passing 
through her soul, and her whole being turning to the 
things she had lost. 

" Look," he said, pointing to the silent level of the 
lagoon, creased here and there by the passage of a 
breeze. " Do not those infinite lines of silence aspire 
to become music?" 

The islands stood lightly on the afternoon illusion 
of the estuary as the lightest clouds hung from the 
sky. The long thin streaks of land seemed as vain 
as the black gatherings of refuse that sometimes 
float in zones on the calm waves. In the distance 
Torcello, Burano, Mazzorbo, San Francesco del De- 
serto did not seem like real landing-places, but more 
like submerged regions, the summits of which pierced 
the level of the water like the protruding parts of 
vessels that have gone to the bottom. The traces of 
man were faint indeed in that level solitude, like 
letters corroded by time in ancient inscriptions. 

" Well, then, the master glazier, hearing the famous 
organ of Matthias Corvinus praised in the house of 
Zeno, cried : ' Corpo di Baco ! They shall see what 
organ I cari make with my tube, my liquid Muse 
of song. I will make the god of organs. Dant 
sonitum glaucce per stagna loquacia canncs. . . . 
The water of the lagoon shall give forth its sound 
and the posts and the stones shall sing too. Mu/- 
tisonum silentium. . . . They shall see ! Corpo di 
Diana ! ' All who were present laughed, except 
Giulia da Ponte, who did not laugh because her teeth 
were dark. And Sansovino straightway began a 
dissertation on hydraulic organs. But the boaster 



362 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

before taking his leave invited the company to hear 
his new music on the day of the Sensa and promised 
that the Doge and his Bucintoro would stop to Usten 
in the middle of the lagoon. That night a rumour 
spread through Venice that Dardi Seguso had lost 
his reason. And the Council, which was extremely 
careful of its glaziers, sent a messenger for news to 
Murano. The messenger found the artist with his 
mistress Perdilanza del Mido, who was caressing him 
anxiously and in dismay because it had seemed to 
her that he was raving. The master, after having 
looked at him with flaming eyes, burst into a mighty 
laugh that reassured him more than any words, and 
calmly ordered him to refer to the Council that by 
the day of the Sensa Venice, besides San Marco, the 
Canalazzo and the Palace of the Doges would possess 
another wonder; and the day after he appUed for 
leave to take possession of one of the five little 
islands round Murano like the satellites of a planet, 
that have disappeared to-day, or are changed into 
sand-banks. After having explored the waters about 
Tem6dia, Trenc6re, Galbaia, Mortesina, and la Fo- 
l^ga, he chose Trem6dia as one chooses a bride, and 
Perdilanza del Mido entered into great affliction. . . . 
Look, Fosca, we are perhaps passing now upon the 
memory of Tremodia. The pipes of the organ are 
buried in the mud, but they cannot know decay. 
They were seven thousand. We are passing over 
the ruins of a singing forest of glass. How deHcate 
the seaweeds are here ! " 

He was bending over the beautiful waters, and she 
was bending over them too on the other side. The 
ribbons, the feathers, the velvet, the other delicate 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 363 

substances that made up the head-gear of la Fosca- 
rina mingled with sober art, her eyes and the blue 
shadows that encircled them, the very smile with 
which she made an enchanting grace of her waning 
beauty, the bunch of jonquils that was fixed in the 
prow in place of the lantern, the rare imaginings of the 
Life-giver, the dream-names of the vanished islands, 
the blue appearing and disappearing in the snowy mist, 
the faint cries coming now and then from a flock of 
invisible birds, — all the most delicate things seemed 
conquered by the play of those transient apparitions, 
by the colour of the salt locks that lived in the 
vicissitudes of the tide, coiling and turning as if at an 
alternating caress. Two mingled miracles seemed 
to colour them. Green as the grain fresh growing in 
the furrow, tawny as the leaf dying on the young oak, 
and green and tawny in their innumerable variations 
as of plants that both live and die, they gave the 
impression of an ambiguous season reigning exclu- 
sively in the bed of the lagoon. The light which 
illumined them through the clear water lost none of 
its strength ; while its mystery was increased so that 
there lurked in their languor a memory of their obe- 
dience to the moon's attraction. 

" Why, then, did Perdilanza enter into great afflic- 
tion?" asked the woman, still bending on the beau- 
tiful waters. 

" Because her name had been conquered in the 
mouth and in the soul of her lover by the name of 
Trem6dia, which he uttered passionately, and because 
the island was the only place to which she might not 
follow him. There he had constructed his new works, 
and he would remain there a great part of the day 



364 THE FLAME OE LIFE 

and nearly the whole night, assisted by his workmen, 
whom he had bound by an oath of silence sworn at 
the altar. The Council, having given orders that the 
master should be provided with all that might be 
needful for his terrible work, condemned him to de- 
capitation, in case the same work should turn out 
inferior to his pride. Then Dardi tied a scarlet thread 
round his bare neck." 

La Foscarina straightened herself to arrange her- 
self more comfortably. She was in a dream. She 
was losing herself as in the labyrinth, between the 
apparitions at the bottom of the lagoon and those of 
the story, and she was beginning to feel the same 
anxiety as reality mingled with the phantoms in 
her spirit. He seemed to be speaking of himself in 
those strange images, as when in the last hour of the 
September twilight he had declared to her the myth 
of the pomegranate ; and the name of the imaginary 
woman began precisely with the first two syllables 
of the name he used to give her then ! Did he wish 
to signify something under the veil of his story? 
And what then? And why did it please him, in 
the neighbourhood of the place where she had been 
seized by that horrible laughter to call up by that 
phantasy the memory of the broken cup? — The en- 
chantment was broken, oblivion vanished. By trying 
to understand, she herself fashioned with that dream- 
matter an instrument of torture. She seemed to for- 
get that her friend was unconscious of her coming 
farewell. She looked at him, recognised in his face 
the intellectual joy that always shone in him like 
something sharp and adamantine. Instinctively she 
said to herself, " I am going; do not wound me ! " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 365 

" Zorzi, what is that white thing floating there under 
that wall? " he asked the boatman behind him. 

They were coasting by Murano. The garden walls 
appeared and the tops of the laurel shrubs ; the black 
smoke of the furnaces floated like mourning raiments 
hanging in the silvery air. 

Then, with sudden horror, the actress saw the dis- 
tant port where the great throbbing ship was waiting 
for her, saw the perpetual cloud on the brutal city of 
the thousand and thousand roads, with its mountains 
of coal, its forests of masts, its monstrous arms. She 
heard the thud of sledge-hammers, the creaking of 
the cranes, the panting of the engines, the vast moan 
of the iron under the burning darkness. 

" It is a dead dog," said the oarsman. 

A swollen, yellowish carcass was floating under the 
red brick wall in the cracks of which grasses and 
flowers trembled that were children of ruin and wind. 

" Row," cried Stelio, full of disgust. 

The woman closed her eyes. The boat leaped un- 
der the effort of the oars, gliding swiftly on the milky 
water ; the sky had become quite white ; an equally 
diffused splendour reigned on the estuary. Fisher- 
men's voices came from a barge laden with green 
stuff. A twittering of sparrows came from San 
Giacomo di Palude. A siren screeched in the dis- 
tance. 

" And then the man with the scarlet thread? . . ." 
la Foscarina asked, anxious to hear the remainder 
because she wanted to understand. 

" Often he felt his head shaking on his shoulders," 
Stelio continued, laughing. " He was obliged to blow 
tubes that were as thick as the trunks of trees, and 



366 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

he had to do it with the art of a hving mouth, not 
with the strength of a bellows, and at a single breath, 
and without interruptions. Imagine ! The lungs of 
a Cyclops would not have been sufficient. Ah, one 
day I shall tell the ardour of that life placed between 
the executioner's axe and the necessity of a miracle, 
in communion with the elements. He had fire, earth, 
and water, but air was missing, the motion of air. 
Meanwhile the Ten sent him a red-haired man to bid 
him good-day every morning: you know? that red- 
haired man with his cap on his eyes, who stands em- 
bracing the column in the Adoration of the Magi by 
the second Bonifazio. After infinite attempts -a 
good idea came to Dardi. That day he conversed 
with the Priscianese, under the laurels of the palace, 
of ^olus and his twelve sons and of the landing of 
the Laertian on the western island. He re-read 
Homer, Virgil, and Ovid in Aldo's beautiful types. 
Then he went and sought a wizard who had the 
fame of being able to cast a spell on the winds 
in favour of long navigations. ' Mi gavaria bisogno 
de un venteselo ne tropo forte ne tropo fiapo docile 
da podermelo manipolar come che vogio mi, un 
venteselo che me serva per supiar certi veri che go 
in testa. . . . Lenius aspirans aura secunda venit. . . . 
M' astu capio, vechio?' "^ 

The story-teller burst into a ringing laugh, because 
he could see the scene with all its details in a house 
in the Calle de la Testa at San Zanepolo, where the 

^ " I am in need of a little wind, neither too strong nor too feeble, 
and quite docile, that I could manage as I please ; a little wind with 
which to blow some glass which I have in my head. . . . Lenius 
aspirans aura secunda venit. . . . Have you understood me, old man ? " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE . 367 

Schiavone lived with his daughter Cornelia Schivo- 
netta, honorata cortegiana (piezo so pare scudi 2).^ 

" What is the matter with him ? Is he going mad ? " 
thought the two boatmen, on hearing him speak their 
dialect, mingled with obscure words. 

La Foscarina tried to second his gaiety, but she 
was suffering from his youthful laughter as once 
before in the mazes of the labyrinth. 

" The story is long," he added ; " one day I shall 
do something with it, but I am keeping it for some 
idle time. . . . Imagine ! the Schiavone works the 
spell. Every night Dardi sends his boatman to the 
Tre Porti to lay the trap for the Little Wind. At 
last one night not long before dawn, while the moon 
is setting they surprise it sleeping on a sand-bank in 
the midst of a flock of tired swallows brought hither 
by it. . . . It is lying there prostrate, sleeping as 
lightly as a child in the aroma of the sea-salt, almost 
entirely covered by the numberless forked tails. 
The rising tide favours its sleep ; the black and white 
travellers flutter all over it, wearied by their long 
flight. . . ." 

" How pretty ! " exclaimed the woman at the fresh 
picture. " Where have you seen it? " 

" And here begins the grace of the fable : they 
seize it, bind it with willows, take it on board, and 
sail towards Tremidia. The boat is invaded by the 
swallows that will not abandon their leader." 

Stelio stopped, because the details of the adven- 
ture were thronging to his imagination in such num- 
bers that he did not know which of them to choose. 
But he listened to a song that was in the air coming 

1 An honourable courtesan (at the house of her father, two crowns). 



368 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

from the direction of San Francesco del Deserto. 
They could discern the slightly inclined belfry of 
Burano, and behind the island of thread the belfry of 
Torcello in its solitary splendour. 

" And then," urged his companion. 

" I can say no more, Fosca ; I know too many 
things. . . . Imagine that Dardi falls in love with 
his prisoner. ... Its name is Ornitio because it is 
the leader of migrating birds. A continual twitter of 
swallows is about Tremodia; the nests hang from 
the posts and the shafts of the scaffolding that sur- 
rounds the work! Sometimes a wing is burnt by 
the flame of the furnace when Ornitio blows into the 
iron, making a hght luminous column with the in- 
candescent paste. Ah, but what trouble had to be 
gone through before it could be tamed and taught 
its work ! The Lord of the Flame began by talking 
Latin to it and reciting to it some of Virgil's poetry, 
thinking to be understood. But the blue-haired 
Ornitio spoke Greek, of course, with a slightly hissing 
accent. ... It knew two of Sapho's odes by heart 
unknown to classical scholars that it had brought one 
spring day from Mitylene to Chio ; and in breathing 
through the unequal tubes, it remembered the pipe 
of Pan . . . One day I will tell you all these things." 

" And what did it live on ? " 

" On pollen and salt. " 

" And who brought it this food?" 

" No one. It was sufficient for it to breathe the 
pollen and the salt that are diffused in the air." 

" And did it not try to escape? " 

" Always. But Dardi used infinite precautions, like 
the lover he was. " 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 369 

" And did Ornitio return his love ? " 

" Yes, it began to return his love because it liked 
the scarlet thread that the master always wore round 
his bare neck. " 

"And Perdilanza?" 

" She languished in her sorrow, forsaken. Some 
day I will tell you. ... I will go one summer on the 
seashore of Palestrina to compose this fable for you 
by the golden sand." 

" But how does it end? " 

" The miracle takes place ; the arch-organ is built 
in Tremodia with its seven thousand glass pipes, like 
one of those congealed forests that Ornitio, inclined 
to magnify its journeys, declared it had seen in the 
country of the Iporborrei. And on the day of the 
Sensa, the Serenissimo, between the Patriarch and the 
Archbishop of Spalatro goes forth upon the harbour 
of San Marco in the Bucintoro. Ornitio believes it 
must be the Cronide returning in triumph, so great is 
the pomp. The cataracts are let loose round Tremo- 
dia, and animated by the eternal silence of the lagoon, 
the gigantic instrument, at the magic touch of the 
new musician, spreads a wave of harmonies, so vast 
that it reaches the mainland and travels down the 
Adriatic The Bucintoro .stops because its forty oars 
have suddenly dropped along its sides like wounded 
wings, abandoned on their rowlocks by the bewildered 
crew. But suddenly the wave breaks, dwindles to a 
few discordant sounds, hesitates, and melts away. 
Dardi suddenly feels the instrument growing dumb 
under his hands as if its soul had failed it, — as if 
some strange force working in its depths had ravaged 
the prodigious instrument. What has happened? 

24 



3;o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

All he hears is the great clamour of scorn that passes 
between the silenced pipes, with the noise of artillery 
and the tumult of the populace. A canoe leaves the 
Bucintoro bearing the red-haired man with his block 
and his axe. The blow aims at the scarlet thread. 
The head falls, and is thrown on the water, where it 
floats like the head of Orpheus. ..." 

"What had happened?" 

" Perdilanza had thrown herself in the cataract ! 
The water had dragged her into the depths of the 
organ. The body with all its famous hair thus placed 
itself across the great dehcate instrument stifling its 
musical heart. . . ." 

"But Ornitio?" 

" Ornitio picks up the bleeding head on the water 
and flies away towards the sea. The swallows hear 
of its flight and follow it. In a few seconds a black 
and white cloud of swallows thickens round the 
fugitive. All the nests remain empty at this sud- 
den departure, in Venice and in the islands. The 
summer has no more flights. September no longer 
knows the farewells that once made it both sad and 
joyful. . . ." 

"And Dardi'shead?" 

" Where it can be, no one knows ! " the story-teller 
concluded, laughing. 

And again he fell to listening to the song that was 
in the air, in which he was beginning to distinguish a 
rhythm. 

" Do you hear? " he said. 

And he signed to the oarsmen to stop. The oars 
rested on the rowlocks. 

The silence was so intense that one could hear 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 371 

both the song in the distance and the dripping of 
the water from the posts. 

"That is the wood-lark," Zorzi informed them in 
a subdued voice ; " it still sings, poor thing, to the 
memory of Saint Francis." 
" Row ! " 

The gondola glided on the milky quiet of the 
water. 

" Would you Uke to row on to San Francesco, 
Fosca?" 

The woman's head was bent in thought. 
" Perhaps there is a hidden meaning in your story," 
she said after a pause. " Perhaps I have understood." 
"Alas, yes, if there were any similarity between 
my daring and that of the man of Murano. I think 
that I too should wear as a warning a scarlet thread 
round my neck." 

" You will have your great destiny. I have no fear 
for you." 

His laugh ceased. 

" Yes, my friend, I must win, and you shall help 
me. Every morning I too receive my threatening 
visitor, — the expectation of those who love me and of 
those who hate me, of my friends and of my enemies. 
Expectation should wear the executioner's dress 
because nothing on earth is more pitiless." 
" But it is the measure of your power." 
He felt the vulture's beak at his heart. Instinc- 
tively he drew himself up, seized by a blind impatience 
that made the slowness of their progress a suffering. 
Why was he lying idle? At every hour, at every 
moment, he should be feeling, struggling, increasing 
and asserting himself against destruction, diminu- 



372 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

tion, violation and contagion. At every hour, at 
every moment, his eyes should be fixed on his aim, all 
his energies should be made to converge to it with- 
out fail and without respite. — Thus the need of 
glory seemed ever awakening within him a warlike 
instinct, the madness of struggle and retaliation. 

" Do you know this maxim of the great Heracli- 
tus,' ' the name of the bow is BIOS and its work is 
death ' ? This is a maxim that excites our spirit even 
before communicating to it its precise meaning. I 
heard it continually repeated within me while sitting 
at your table that autumn night at the Epiphany of 
the Flame. I went through an hour of truly Diony- 
sian life, an hour of delirium restrained but as terrible 
as if I were holding in myself the burning mountain 
where the Thyades howl and writhe. Now and then 
I actually seemed to hear songs and clamours and the 
cries of a distant massacre. And it surprised me that 
I could remain motionless, and the sense of my bodily 
stillness seemed to increase my deep frenzy, and I 
could see nothing else but your face, which had sud- 
denly become most beautiful; and in your whole per- 
son I could see the might of all your soul, and behind 
it I could also see other countries and multitudes. 
Ah, if I could only tell you how I saw yflu in the 
tumult while the marvellous images passed accom- 
panied by gusts of music ! I spoke to you as if across 
a battle-field. I threw out a rallying cry that you 
perhaps heard, not for love only, but for glory, not for 
one thirst, but for two thirsts, and I knew not which 
was the most ardent. And the face of my work 
appeared to me then the same as your face. I saw 
it! Do you hear? With incredible rapidity my 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 373 

work shaped itself into words and song and gesture 
and symphony. It was so Hving that if only I suc- 
ceeded in breathing a small part of it into the forms I 
wish to express I could truly inflame the world." 

He spoke, controlling his voice ; and the smothered 
impulse of his words seemed to have a strange reflec- 
tion in the calm water, in the white glare that 
prolonged the even cadente of the two oars. 

" Expression, that is the necessity. The greatest 
vision has no value unless it be manifested and con- 
densed in living forms. And I have everything to 
create. I am not pouring my substance into heredi- 
tary forms. My whole work is an invention ; I can- 
not and will not obey other than my own instinct and 
the genius of my race. And, nevertheless, like Dardi, 
who saw the famous organ in the house of Caterino 
Zeno, I too have another work before my spirit, a 
work accomplished by a formidable creator that 
stands gigantic in the midst of men." 

The image of the barbaric creator reappeared to 
him ; the blue eyes shone under the vast forehead ; 
the lips tightened above .the robust chin armed with 
sensuality and pride and disdain. Then he saw once 
more the white hair blown about by the sharp wind 
on the aged neck, under the wide brim of the felt 
hat and the almost livid ear with the swollen lobe. 
Then he saw the motionless body lying unconscious 
on the knees of the woman with the face of snow, 
and the slight tremor in one of the hanging feet. 
He thought of his own ineffable quiver of fear and 
joy when he had suddenly felt that sacred heart 
beating again beneath his hand. 

" Ah ! not before but round my spirit, I should 



374 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

say. Sometimes it is like the sea in a tempest, try- 
ing to drag me down and swallow me. My Temodia 
is a rock of granite in the open sea, and I am like 
an artisan intent on building up on it a pure Doric 
temple, having to defend the order of his columns 
from the violence of the waves, his spirit incessantly 
strained that he may never cease through all that 
noise to hear the secret rhythm which alone must 
regulate the intervals between his lines and his spaces. 
In this sense, too, my Tragedy is a battle." 

Once more he saw the patrician palace as it had 
appeared to him in the early October dawn with its 
eagles, its horses, its pitchers, and its roses, closed 
and dumb like a great sepulchre, while above it the 
breath of the day was kindling the sky. 

" In that dawn," he added, " passing through the 
Canal after the night's delirium, I gathered from a 
garden wall some violet flowers that grew in the in- 
terstices of the brick, and I made the gondola stop 
by the Palazzo Vendramin and threw them before 
the door. The offering was too small ; I thought of 
laurels and myrtles and cypresses. But the sponta- 
neous act served to express my gratitude towards 
Him who was to impose on my spirit the necessity 
of being heroic in its liberating and creating effort." 

Bursting into sudden laughter, he turned to the 
oarsman at the poop : — 

" Do you remember, Zorzi, our regatta one morn- 
ing to reach the braghozso ? " 

" Indeed I remember ! What a row it was ! My 
arms are still stiff ! And that rascally hunger, master, 
where do you put it? Every time I see the master of 
the boat, he asks after the stranger who ate up that 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 375 

loaf of bread with that basket of figs and raisins. He 
says that he will never forget that day, because he 
drew the heaviest net of his life. He caught such 
mackerel as is never to be seen. . . ." 

The oarsman went on chattering until he noticed 
that his master was no longer listening to him and 
that he was expected to keep quiet, even to hold his 
breath. 

" Do you hear the song? " said Stelio to his friend, 
gently taking one of her hands because it distressed 
him to have awakened a memory which gave her 
pain. 

Raising her face she said : — 

"Where is it? Is it in Heaven? Is it on earth?" 

An endless melody was flowing over the peaceful 
whiteness. 

She said : — 

" How it rises ! " 

She felt a quiver pass through her friend's hand,. 

" When Alessandro enters the illuminated room 
where the virgin has been reading the lamentation of 
Antigone," he said, gathering from his consciousness 
some sign of the obscure process which was going on 
in the depths of his mystery, " he tells how he has 
come on horseback through the plain of Argos, 
crossing the Inachus, a river of burnt up flint; the 
whole country is covered with little wild flowers 
that are dying, and the song of the larks fills the 
sky . . . thousands of skylarks, a multitude without 
number. . . . He tells how one fell all of a sudden 
at the feet of his horse, heavy as a stone, and re- 
mained there silent, struck down by its own frenzy, 
by having sung with too much joy. He picked it 



376 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

up. ' Here it is.' You then hold out your hand 
towards him; you take it and murmur: 'Ah, it is 
still warm.' . . . While you are speaking the virgin 
trembles. You can feel her trembling." . . . 

Again the tragic actress felt the chill at the roots 
of her hair as if the soul of the blind woman were 
re-entering her own soul. 

" At the end of the Prelude the impetus of the 
chromatic progressions expresses this growing joy, the 
anxiety of delight. . . . Listen, listen ! . . . Ah, what 
a marvel ! This morning, Fosca, only this morning 
I was at my work. . . . My own melody now develops 
itself in the heavens. ... Is not grace upon us?" 

A spirit of life was running through the solitude ; 
a vehement aspiration filled the silence with emotion. 
It seemed as if a natural desire of ascension were 
passing like an awakening, or the announcement of 
some great return, over the motionless lines, the empty 
horizon, the flat waters, and the outstretched shores. 
The woman gave up her whole soul to it as a leaf 
gives itself up to the whirlwind, ravished to the 
heights of love and faith. But a feverish impatience 
to act, a desire of work, a need of hastening the ac- 
complishment, seized the young man. His capacity 
for work seemed multiplied. He considered the ful- 
ness of the hours to come. He saw the concrete 
aspects of his work, the mass of pages, the volume of 
scores, the variety of the task, the wealth of the sub- 
stances capable of receiving rhythm. In the same 
way he saw the Roman hill, the rising building, the 
harmony of cut stones, the workmen busy with their 
masonry, the architect watching them, severe and 
vigilant, the Vatican standing before the Theatre of 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 377 

Apollo, and the Holy City beneath it. Smiling, he 
called up the image of the little man who was sup- 
porting the work with truly papal magnificence, sa- 
luting the bloodless, large-nosed figure of the Roman 
prince who had not degenerated from the traditions 
of his name, and who, with the gold accumulated in 
centuries of plunder and nepotism, was building up 
an harmonious temple for the Renaissance of the 
Arts that had thrown a ray of beauty on the mighty 
lives of his fathers. 

" In a week's time, Fosca, if grace assist me, my 
Prelude will be finished. I should like to try it with 
an orchestra immediately. I shall perhaps go to 
Rome for this. Antimo della Bella is more anxious 
even than I am. I get a letter from him nearly 
every morning. I think my presence in Rome for 
a few days is necessary also in order to avoid some 
error in the construction of the Theatre. Antimo 
writes concerning the possibility of pulling down the 
old stone steps leading from the Corsini Garden to 
the Janiculum. I don't know whether you remember 
the aspect of the place? The road that will lead 
to the Theatre passes under the Arch of Septimus, 
turns along the side of the Palazzo Corsini, crosses 
the garden, and reaches the foot of the hill. The 
hill — do you remember? — is all green, covered with 
little fields, canes, cypresses, plane-trees, laurels, and 
holm-oaks; it has a wooded and sacred look, with 
its crown of tall Italian pines. There is quite a 
forest of holm-oaks on its slope watered by subterra- 
nean streams. All the hill is steeped in a wealth of 
living waters. The fountain Paulina towers on the 
left. The Parrasio wood, the ancient seat of the 



378 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Arcadi, blackens below it. A flight of stone steps 
in two branches, passing along a succession of wide, 
overflowing basins, leads to a raised plain from 
which open two paths flanked by truly Apollo-like 
laurels, indeed worthy of leading men towards poetry. 
Who could imagine a more noble entrance? Cen- 
turies have shrouded it in mystery ; the stone of the 
steps, of the balustrades, of the basins, of the statues, 
vies in roughness with the bark of the venerable 
plane-trees that old age has made hollow. No sound 
is heard but the song of birds, the splash of the 
fountains, and the murmur of leaves. Ah ! and I 
believe that poets and simple souls can even hear the 
throb of the Hamadryads and the breath of Pan. . . ." 

The aerial chorus was rising, rising untiringly, fill- 
ing every space with itself like the immense desert, 
like the infinite light. The impetuous melody created 
in the sleep of the lagoon, the illusion of a unani- 
mous anxiety that rose from the waters, from the 
sands, from the grasses, from the vapours, from all 
natural things to follow the ascension. All those 
things which had seemed inert, now seemed to be 
breathing deeply, to be gifted with a soul that was 
full of emotion, possessed by a desire of expression. 

" Listen ! Listen ! " 

And the images of hfe created by the Life-giver, 
and' the ancient names of those immortal energies 
circulating in the Universe, and the aspirations of 
men to transcend the circle of their daily torment, 
to appease themselves in the splendour of an Idea, 
and all wishes, and hopes, and daring, and effort in 
that place of hope and obHvion, before that humble 
island where the Spouse of Poverty had left the traces 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 379 

of himself, seemed delivered from the shadow of 
Death by the mere virtue of that song. 

" Does it not seem like the frenzied joy of an 
assault? " 

The squalid shores, the crumbling stones, the 
putrefying roots, the traces of destroyed works, 
the odours of dissolution, the funereal cypresses, the 
black crosses, in vain reminded him of the same 
words that the statues along the river had spoken 
with their lips of stone. Only that song of victory 
and liberty, stronger than all other signs, touched 
the heart of him who was to create with joy. " On ! 
on ! Higher ! ever higher ! " 

And the heart of Perdita, purified from all coward- 
ice, ready for every test, seconding the hymn's ascen- 
sion, betrothed itself to life again. As in the distant 
hour of that night's delirium the woman repeated: 
" Let me serve ! Let me serve ! " 



The boat entered a canal closed between two green 
banks, which reached the line of the eye so precisely 
that one could see the numberless reeds and point 
out the new ones by their lighter colour. 

" Laudato si, mi signore, per sora nostra matre terra, 
la quale ne sustenta at governa 
et produce diversi fructi con coloriti ilori at herba." 

From the fulness of her soul the woman measured 
the love of the Poor Man of Assisi for all created 
things. Such was her abundance that she sought for 
living things to worship everywhere; and her look 

1 " Be praised, my Lord, for our Lady the Motlier Earth who feeds 
and governs us and brings forth divers fruits with coloured flowers 
and grass." 



38o THE FLAME OF LIFE 

became childlike again, and all those things were 
reflected in it as in the peace of the water, and some 
seemed to return from the far past and reappear like 
unexpected apparitions. 

When the ship touched the shore, she was aston- 
ished at having arrived already. 

" Would you like to land or would you prefer to go 
back? " Stelio asked her, pulling himself together. 

She hesitated a moment, because her hand was in 
his, and the separation would have been a lessening of 
the sweetness. 

"Yes," she answered, smiling. "Let us walk a 
little on this grass too." 

They landed on the island of San Francesco. A 
few young cypress-trees greeted them shyly. No 
human face appeared. The invisible myriads filled 
the desert with their praise. The mist was rising, 
massing into clouds, obscuring the sun. 

" How much grass we have walked on, have we 
not, Stelio?" 

He said, — 

" But now comes the steep boulder to climb." 

She said, — 

" Let the boulder come and let the ascent be steep." 

He wondered at the unusual joy in her tone. He 
looked at her and saw intoxication in her beautiful eyes. 

" Why," said he, " do we feel so free and happy in 
this lonely island ? " 

" Do you know why ? " 

" This is a sad pilgrimage for other people. Those 
who come to this place leave it with the taste of death 
in their mouths." 

She said : — 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 381 

" We are in a state of grace." 

He said : — - 

" They who hope most, live most." 

She said : — 

" They who love most, hope most." 

The rhythm of the aerial song went on, attracting 
their ideal essences. 

He said : — 

" How beautiful you are ! " 

A sudden blush covered the impassioned face. 
She paused for a moment, quivering. She half 
closed her eyes. In a suppressed voice she said : — 

" A warm current is passing. Did you not feel a 
rush of warmth on the water from time to time?" 

She drank the air in. 

" There is something like a smell of new-mown hay. 
Do you notice it? " 

" It is the smell of the banks full of seaweeds that 
are being uncovered.'" 

" Look what a beautiful landscape." 

" Le Vignole. And that is the Lido. And that is 
the island of Sant' Erasmo." 

The sun had cast its veils and was now embracing 
the estuary. The moisture of the emerging sand- 
banks suggested the brightness of flowers. The 
shadows of the small cypress-trees were beginning to 
lengthen and becoming of a deeper blue. 

" I am sure," she said, " that almond-trees are 
blossoming in the neighbourhood. Let us go on the 
dyke." 

She threw her head back with one of those move- 
ments that were natural to her, that seemed to break 
a bond or rid her of an impediment. 



382 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

" Wait ! " 

And drawing out the two pins that fastened her hat, 
she quickly uncovered her head. She went bacic to 
the steps of the landing and threw the shining thing 
into the gondola. Then she returned to her friend 
nimbly, running her fingers through the mass of her 
hair, and the air passed through it and the sun shone 
on it. She seemed to feel relieved, as if her breathing 
were easier. 

"Did the wings hurt?" said Stelio, laughing. 

And he looked at the rough furrow, not ploughed 
by the comb, but by the storm. 

" Yes, the smallest weight worries me. If it did 
not seem strange, I Oould always go bareheaded. 
But when I see the trees, I cannot hold out any more. 
My hair remembers its wild birth, and longs to 
breathe in its own way, in the desert at least." 

She spoke frankly and vivaciously, walking on the 
grass with her quick swinging movement. And Stelio 
remembered the day when, in the Gradenigo garden, 
she had seemed to him very like the beautiful tawny 
greyhound. 

" Oh, here is a Capuchin friar ! " 

The friar was coming towards them and greeted 
them affably. He offered to show the visitors round 
the monastery, but informed them that the cloister 
was closed to his companion. 

" Shall I go in?" said Stelio, looking at his com- 
panion, who was smiling. 

" Yes, go ! " 

" And you will remain alone? " 

" I will remain alone." 

" I will bring you a piece of the sacred pine-tree." 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 383 

He followed the Franciscan under the portico where 
the empty swallows' nests hung from the raftered ceil- 
ing. Before crossing the threshold he turned once 
more to say good-bye to his companion. The door 
closed upon him. 

" O BEATA SOLITUDO 1 
O SOLA BEATITUDO ! " 

Then, as a sudden change in one of the stops at 
once changes all the notes in an organ, all the 
woman's thoughts were transfigured. The horror of 
absence, the worst of all evils, stood before her loving 
soul. Her friend was no longer there : she no longer 
heard his voice, no longer felt him breathing ; she no 
longer grasped his kind, firm hand. She no longer 
saw him live, no longer felt the air, the light, the 
shadows, the whole life of the world, harmonise with 
his life. " What if he should not come back, if that 
door were not to reopen?" It could not be. He 
would certainly cross that threshold again in a few. 
minutes, and she would receive him again into her 
eyes and her very being. But it was thus, thus, that 
he would disappear in a few days ; and first the plain, 
then the mountain, and then plains and mountains 
and rivers, and then the strait and the ocean, the 
infinite spaces that cries and tears cannot overcome, 
would step between her and that forehead, those 
eyes, those lips. The image of the brutal city to 
which she was going, blackened by coal and bristling 
with weapons, filled the quiet island. The crash of 
sledge-hammers, the shriek of cranes, the panting of 
engines, the immense groan of iron, drowned the 
melody of spring. And in contrast to each of those 
simple things, to the grass, the sands, the water, the 



384 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

seaweed, the soft feather dropping perhaps from the 
throat of a song-bird, there appeared streets, invaded 
by the human stream, houses with their thousand de- 
formed eyes, full of fevers that make sleep unknown, 
theatres filled with the breath or the stupor of a 
crowd that has relaxed for an hour the tension of its 
will and fiercely outstretched in the war of lucre. 
And she saw her name and her portrait on walls 
defiled by advertisements, on boards carried about 
by stupefied porters, on great factory bridges, on the 
doors of swift vehicles, high and low and everywhere. 

" Here ! look ! The branch of an almond-tree. 
The almond-tree is blossoming in the convent gar- 
den, in the second cloister, near the grotto with 
the sacred pine-tree. And you knew it ! " 

Her friend was hastening to her, joyful as a child, 
followed by the Capuchin friar, who was holding a 
little bunch of thyme. 

" Take it ! See what a marvel ! " 

Tremblingly she took the branch, and tears dimmed 
her eyes. 

" You knew it ! " 

He noticed the sudden brightness between her eye- 
lashes, something tender and silvery, — a shining and 
trembling moisture which made the white of her 
eyes like the petals of a flower. Of all her beloved 
person, he passionately loved the delicate marks that 
went from the corners of the eyes to the temples, and 
the small dark veins which made the eyelids like 
violets, and the undulation of the cheeks, and the 
weary chin, and all that could not flower again, all 
the shadows on the impassioned face. 

" Ah, Father," she said with a merry look, re- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 385 

straining her sorrow, " will not Christ's Poor Man 
weep in heaven for this torn off branch ? " 

The Father smiled with sprightly indulgence. 

" This good gentleman," he answered, " did not 
give me time to say a word when he saw the tree. 
He already had the branch in his hand, and all I 
could say was 'Amen.' But the almond-tree is 
rich." 

He was placid and affable, with a crown of hair 
nearly all black still round the tonsure, with a refined, 
olive face, with two large tawny eyes, shining as clear 
as topazes. 

" Here is the savoury thyme," he said, offering the 
herbs. 

They heard a choir of young voices singing a 
Response. 

" They are the novices ; we have fifteen of them." 

And he accompanied the visitors to the field be- 
hind the convent. Standing on the bank, at the foot 
of a cypress-tree that had been destroyed by light- 
ning, the Franciscan pointed to the fertile islands, 
praised their fruitfulness, enumerated their kinds of 
fruit, extolled the most luscious according to the 
various seasons, pointed out the boats sailing to 
the Rialto with the new crops. 

" Be praised to Thee, O Master, for our Mother 
Earth," said the woman with the blossoming branch. 

The friar, sensitive to the tenderness of that feminine 
voice, was silent. 

Tall cypress-trees surrounded the pious meadow; 
and four of them, — the oldest, — leafless, sapless, bore 
signs of lightning. Their tops were motionless, — the 
only emerging things in that level posture of the 

25 



386 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

fields and waters that stretched on a line with the 
horizon. Not even the faintest breeze ruffled the in- 
finite mirror. The depths full of seaweeds were trans- 
parent and seemed like bright treasures; the marsh 
reeds shone like rods of amber; the freshly un- 
covered sands had the changing colours of mother- 
of-pearl ; the very mud imitated the opaline tender- 
ness of the medusae. A profound enchantment that 
was like rapture filled the desert with joy. The 
melody of winged creatures still continued from in- 
visible places; but it, too, seemed to be quieting 
down at last into the holy silence. 

" At this time, on the hills of Umbria," said he 
who had robbed the almond-tree in the cloister, 
" every olive-tree has at its feet, like a cast-off slough, 
a bunch of its cut branches ; and it seems tenderer 
because the bunch hides the roughness of the crooked 
roots. Saint Francis passes in mid-air healing with 
his finger the pain of the wounds made by the pruning 
knife." 

The friar crossed himself and took his leave. 

" Praise be to Jesus Christ ! " 

The guests saw him moving away among the 
shadows cast by the cypress-trees on the meadowi 

" He is in peace," said the woman. " Does it not 
seem to you, Stelio? A great peace was on his face 
and in his voice. Look at his step, too." 

First a ray of sunshine, then a ray of shadow, 
touched his tonsure and his tunic. 

" He gave me a splinter of the pine-tree," said 
Stelio. " I will send it to Sophia, who has a great 
devotion for the Seraphic Saint. Here it is. It no 
longer smells of resin. Smell it." 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 387 

For Sophia's sake she kissed the relic. The lips 
of the good sister would be laid on the same place 
where hers had rested. 

" Send it." 

They walked in silence a while with lowered heads, 
in the footsteps of the man who was at peace, going 
towards the quay between the rows of cypress-trees 
laden with berries. 

" Do you not want to see her again?" la Foscarina 
asked her friend with a tremor of shyness. 

" Yes, very much." 

" And your mother? " 

" Yes ; my heart goes out to her who daily expects 
me." 

" And you would not like to go back ? " 

" Yes, I will go back, perhaps." 

"When?" 

" I do not know yet, but I long to see my mother 
and Sophia. I desire it indeed greatly, Foscarina." 

"And why do you not go? What keeps you 
here ? " 

He took the hand that was hanging loosely at 
her side, and they continued their walk. As the 
oblique rays of the sun lighted up their right cheeks, 
they saw their united shadows preceding them at one 
level on the grass. 

" When you pictured to yourself the hills of Umbria 
a moment ago," said the woman, " perhaps you were 
thinking of the hills of your own country. That figure 
of the pruned olive-trees was not a new one to me. 
I remember your talking to me one day of the prun- 
ing. ... In no other labour can the peasant acquire 
a deeper sense of the dumb life that is in the tree. 



388 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

When he stands in front of the apple or pear or peach 
tree with the pruning knife and scissors that should 
increase their strength and could at the same time 
cause their death, the spirit of divination rises in him 
from all the wisdom acquired in his communings with 
earth and sky. The tree is then at its most delicate 
moment, when its sensibility re-awakens, flowing to 
the buds which are swollen and about to open. Man 
with his cruel knife must regulate the mysterious 
movements of the sap. The tree is still intact, 
ignorant of Hesiod and Virgil, labouring with its 
blossom and its fruit, and every branch in the air is 
as much alive as an artery in the arm of the pruner. 
Which is the one to be lopped off? Will the sap 
heal the wound ? . . . Thus, one day you spoke to 
me of your orchard. I remember. You told me 
that all the cuts should be turned to the north that 
the sun should not see them." 

She was speaking as on that distant November 
evening when the young man had come to her 
through the violent wind, panting after having carried 
the hero. 

He smiled. He let the dear hand lead him. And 
he drank in the fragrance of the blossoming branch, 
very like the smell of some bitter milk. 

" It is true," he said. " And Laimo would pre- 
pare the ointment of Saint Fiacre, mixing it in the 
mortar, and Sophia would bring him the strong 
linen to bind the larger wounds, after they had been 
dressed. . . ." 

He could see the peasant on his knees mixing cow- 
dung, clay, and barley husks in the stone mortar, 
according to the rules of antique wisdom. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 389 

" But in ten days," he added, " the whole hill seen 
from the sea will be like a fresh, rosy cloud. Sophia 
has written to remind me of it. . . . Has she ap- 
peared to you any more?" 

" She is with us now." 

" She is looking out of the window at the sea, 
which has become purple, and my mother is with her 
at the window, and she is saying, ' Who knows if 
Stelio may not be in that sailing boat waiting at the 
mouth of the river for the coming of the wind? He 
promised me he would return unexpectedly by sea, in 
a brig.' And her heart aches." 

"Ah, why do you disappoint her?" 

" Yes, it is true, Fosca ; I can be away for months 
and months, and feel that my life is full. But then, 
an hour comes when nothing in the world seems to 
me sweeter than those eyes ; and there is a part of 
myself that remains inconsolable. I have heard the 
sailors of the Tyrrhenean Sea call the Adriatic the Gulf 
of Venice. To-night I am thinking that my home is 
on the Gulf, and that seems to bring it nearer." 

They were at the landing. They turned to look 
once more at the island of Prayer with its beseeching 
cypresses. 

" Yonder is the canal of the Tre Porti that leads to 
the open sea," he said, homesick. He saw himself 
on the deck of the brig in sight of his tamarisks and 
myrtle-trees. 

They went on board. They were silent for a long 
time. Quietly, meanwhile, the melody descended 
on the archipelago. As the light from the sky pene- 
trated the waters, so the song from the sky came and 
rested oh the fields. But Burano and Torcello ap- 



390 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

peared like two broken galleons against the dazzling 
west, and the clouds were ranging themselves in 
phalanxes, down towards the Dolomites. 

" Now that the scheme of the work is finished, all 
you want is peace for your work," said the woman, 
softly continuing her persuasion, while her soul trem- 
bled in her breast. " Have you not always worked 
best in your own home? In no othfer place will you 
be able to appease the anxiety which oppresses you. 
I know it." 

He said : — 

" It is true. When the craving for glory seizes us, 
we believe that the conquest of art resembles the 
siege of a stronghold, and that noise and sound ac- 
company the bravery of the assault. But it is only 
the work which has grown in the austerity of silence 
that is of any value ; only the work done with slow 
and indomitable perseverance; work done in hard, 
pure solitude. Nothing is of any value but the com- 
plete surrender of spirit and flesh to the Idea which 
we long to establish among men as a commanding 
force for ever." 

" Ah, you know it." 

The woman's eyes filled with tears on hearing his 
smooth words, in which she felt all the depth of his 
manly passion, the heroic need of spiritual dominion, 
the firm determination to surpass himself and to 
force his destiny. 

" You know it ! " 

And she felt a shudder like that which is caused 
by cruel sights; and in the face of that living will 
everything else seemed vain, and the other tears that 
had blinded her when he had offered her the bios- 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 391 

soms seemed mean and effeminate compared with 
those that were now rushing to her eyes, and were 
alone worthy to be drunk in by her friend. 

" Well, then, go back to your sea, to your own 
lands, to your house. Re-light your lamp with the 
oil of your own olives." 

His lips were closed, and there was a furrow 
between his eyelids. 

" The kind sister will come again to lay a blade of 
grass on the difficult page." 

He bent his brow which a thought was oppressing. 

" You will rest by talking to Sophia at the window, 
and perhaps you will see the flocks passing again on 
their way from the plains to the mountains." 

The sun was nearing the gigantic acropolis of the 
Dolomites. The immense phalanx of clouds was dis- 
ordered as if by a battle, shot through by number- 
less beaming arrows, and bathed in a marvellous 
blood-like crimson. The waters extended the great 
battle fought round the impregnable towers. The 
melody had melted into the shadow of the already 
distant islands. The whole estuary seemed mantled 
in gloomy warlike magnificence as if myriads of 
flags were bending over it, a silence that seemed only 
waiting for a flourish of imperial trumpets. 

Softly, after a long pause, he said : — 

" And if she were to question me about the fate of 
the virgin who reads the lamentation of Antigone? " 

The woman started. 

" And if she were t6 question me about the love of 
the brother who searches the tombs?" 

The phantom filled the woman with fear. 

" And if the page on which she lays the blade of 



392 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

grass were the one where the trembling soul tells its 
desperate hidden fight against the horrible evil ? " 

The woman could find no words in her sudden dis- 
may. Both remained silent, gazing at the sharp 
peaks of the mountains in the distance, which shone 
as if they had only just emerged from primordial 
fire. The sight of that solitary, eternal grandeur 
brought a sense of strange fatality to their two souls 
and almost an uncertain terror, which they could 
neither conquer nor scrutinise. Venice was darkened 
by the masses of burning porphyries ; she lay on the 
waters all wrapped in a violet veil ; from it the marble 
pillars emerged, carved by man to guard the bells 
that give the signal for customary prayer. But the 
customary work and prayer of man, the old city 
tired with having lived too long, its mutilated mar- 
bles and its worn-out bells, — all those things op- 
pressed by the weight of memories, and all perishable, 
become lowly in comparison with the tremendous 
inflamed Alps that lacerated the sky with their thou- 
sand inflexible points, themselves an enormous, soli- 
tary city, waiting perhaps for a young nation of 
Titans. 

Abruptly, after the long silence, Stelio Effrena 
asked the woman : — 

"And you?" 

She did not answer. 

The bells of San Marco gave the signal for the 
Angelus, and the powerful roll dilated in long waves 
over the still crimsoned lagoon which they were leav- 
ing in the hands of shadow and death. From San 
Giorgio Maggiore, from San Giorgio dei Greci, from 
San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, from San Giovanni in 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 393 

Bragora, from San Moise, from the Salute, from the 
Redentore, and on through the whole domain of the 
Evangelists, from the far towers of the Madonna dell' 
Orto, of San Giobbe, of Sant' Andrea, the bronze 
voices answered, mingled in one great chorus spread- 
ing on the quiet gathering of stones and waters 
one great invisible dome of metal which seemed to 
communicate by its vibrations with the twinkling of 
the first stars. 

Both shivered when the gondola entered the 
damp of the dark Rio, passing under the bridge 
that looked towards the island of San Michele, 
passing near the black peate putrefying along the 
corroded walls. From the nearest belfries, from San 
Lazzaro, from San Canciano, from San Giovanni e 
Paolo, from Santa Maria dei Miracoli, from Santo 
Maria del Pianto, other voices answered. And the 
roll above their heads was so strong that they seemed 
to feel its vibration in the very roots of their hair 
like a quiver of their own flesh. 

" Is it you, Daniele? " 

It seemed to Stelio that he had recognised the 
figure of Daniele Glauro on the Fondamenta Sanudo, 
near the door of his house. 

" Oh, Stelio, I was waiting for you ! " cried the 
agitated voice, in the storm of sound. " Richard 
Wagner is dead." 



The world seemed to have lost value. 

The wandering woman armed herself with her 
"courage and went on preparing her viaticum. From 
the hero lying on his bier a great inspiration rose to 



394 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

all noble hearts. She knew how to receive it and 
convert it into living thoughts and actions. 

It happened that her friend came upon her while 
she was collecting her familiar books, the small things 
that were never parted from her, the pictures that had 
over her a power of enchantment or of consolation. 

"What are you doing?" he asked. 

" I am preparing to start." 

She saw his face change, but did not hesitate. 

" Where are you going?" 

" Far away. I am crossing the Atlantic." 

He became a shade paler. And at once he doubted ; 
thought that perhaps she was not speaking the truth ; 
that perhaps she was only sounding him ; that the 
resolve was not a fixed one, and that she was only 
expecting to be urged to stay. 

His unexpected disappointment on the shores of 
Murano had left its traces on his heart. 

" Have you decided on it, then, all of a sudden?" 

She was simple, sure, and ready. 

" Not all of a sudden," she answered. " My idleness 
has been lasting too long, and I have the burden of 
all my people upon me. While I wait for 'the Theatre 
of Apollo to be opened and for 'The Victory of Man ' 
to be ready, I shall go and take my leave of the Bar- 
barians. I will work for the great undertaking. We 
will need a great deal of gold to build up again the 
treasures of Mycene ! And everything connected 
with your work should have the aspect of an unusual 
magnificence. I do not want the mask of Cassandra 
to be of some base metal. . . . And what I espe- 
cially want, is to satisfy your desire : that the people 
shall have free access to the Theatre for the first 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 395 

three days, and always after that, on one day in the 
week. This faith helps me to leave you. Time 
flies. Every one must be at his place, in full posses- 
sion of all his powers, when the time comes. I will 
not fail you. I hope you will be satisfied with your 
friend. I am going to work ; and certainly I find 
it more difficult this once than at other times. But 
you, but you, my poor child, what a burden you 
have to bear ! What an effort we are asking of you ! 
What great things we expect from you ! Ah, you 
know it! . . ." 

She had begun bravely, in a tone that at times had 
seemed almost cheerful, trying to appear what she 
was meant to be above all, — a good and faithful in- 
strument at the service of genius ; a virile, willing 
companion. But some wave of repressed emotion, 
escaping, would come into her throat and choke her 
voice. Her pauses became longer, and her hand 
became uncertain in its wandering among her books 
and relics. 

" May all things be ever propitious to your work ! 
This only matters ; all the rest is nothing. Let us 
keep our hearts on high ! " 

She shook back her head with its two wild wings, 
and held out her two hands to her friend. He pressed 
them, pale and serious. In her dear eyes that were 
like living springs of water he caught a gleam of the 
same flash of beauty that had dazzled him one night 
in the room where the logs roared, and he had heard 
the unfolding of the two splendid melodies. 

" I love you and believe in you," he said ; " I will 
not fail you, and you will not fail me. Something 
proceeds from us that will be stronger than life." 



396 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

She said : — 

" A melancholy." 

The familiar books lay on the table before her 
with their dogs' ears and marked margins, with some 
leaves, a flower, a blade of grass between page and 
page, with their landmarks of the sorrows which 
had asked and obtained from them consolations of 
enlightenment or oblivion. All the small beloved 
objects were scattered before her, strange, various, 
and nearly all valueless things, — a doll's foot, a votive 
offering in the shape of a silver heart, a small ivory 
compass, a dialless watch, a little iron lantern, an odd 
earring, a flint, a key, a seal, other refuse; but all 
were consecrated by some memory, animated by 
some superstitious belief, touched by the finger of 
love or death, relics that could only speak to one soul, 
and that spoke to it of tenderness and cruelty, of war 
and peace, of hope and dejection. Before her, too, 
were images suggesting thought, and disposing for 
reflection, — figures to which artists had intrusted a 
secret confession, mazes of signs in which they had 
enclosed an enigma, simple lines that imparted peace 
like a glimpse of the horizon, profound allegories, 
veihng some truth that, like the sun, could not be 
gazed on by mortal eyes. 

" Look," she said, to her friend, pointing to an old 
engraving, " you know it well." 

They both knew it well, yet together they bent 
down to examine it again, and it seemed to them as 
new as music which, whenever questioned, gives 
some different answer. It came from the hand of 
Albert Diirer. 

The great Angel of Earth with the eagle's wings, 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 397 

the sleepless spirit crowned with patience, sat on the 
bare stone with his elbow on his knee, his cheek sup- 
ported on his hand, a book on his other knee, and a 
compass in his other hand. At his feet, coiled round 
like a serpent, lay the faithful greyhound, the dog 
which has hunted side by side with man from the 
very dawn of time. By his side, almost crouching 
on the edge of a millstone, like a bird, slept a child, 
sad already, holding the style and the tablet with 
which to write down the first word of his science. 
All round him were scattered the instruments of the 
works of man, and on his watchful head, near the 
summit of a wing, the silent sands of time ran through 
their hourglass; and in the background there was 
the sea with its gulfs and its ports and its lighthouses, 
the calm, unconquerable sea over which, when the 
sun had set in its rainbow glory, the twilight bat 
would fly with the revealing word written on its 
membrane. And those ports and those lighthouses 
and those cities were the work of the sleepless spirit 
crowned with patience. He had broken the stone 
for the towers, cut down the pine-tree for the ships, 
tempered the iron for every struggle. He himself 
had laid on Time the instrument that measures it. 
Seated not to rest, but to meditate on some new work 
to be accomplished, he fixed on life the powerful eyes 
shining with the free Hght of the sun. Silence rose up 
to him from every surrounding form but one. And 
that only voice was the voice of the roaring fire in 
the furnace, under the crucible where sublimated 
matter would presently generate some new force that 
would serve to cure some evil, or to teach some 
law. And this was the answer of the great Angel of 



398 THE FLAME OF LIFE 

Earth with the eagle's wings from whose steel-bound 
flank hung the keys that open and shut, to those who 
were questioning him : " The sun sets. The light 
that is born in the heavens dies in the heavens, and 
each day is ignorant of the light of another day. But 
the night is one, and its shadow is on every counten- 
ance, and its blindness is in every eye except on the 
countenance and in the eyes of him who feeds his fire 
in order to illumine his strength. I know that the liv- 
ing are as the dead, the waking as the sleeping, the 
young as the old, because the change of the one 
brings forth the other, and each change has pain and 
joy for equal companions. I know that the harmony 
of the Universe is made of discords as in the lyre and 
in the bow. I know that I am and that I am not, 
and that one alone is the way, high or low. I know 
the putrid odour and the numberless infections that 
go hand in hand with human nature. And yet, be- 
yond my knowledge, I continue the accomplishment 
of my manifest or secret works. I see some perish 
while I still last, I see others that seem as if they 
must last eternally beautiful and exempt from all 
miseries, no longer mine, although born from my deep- 
est evils. I see all things changing before fire as 
fortunes do before gold. Only one thing is constant, 
and that thing is my courage. I can never sit down, 
except to rise again." 

The young man passed his arm round his friend's 
waist; and together, speechless, they went to the 
window. 

They saw the far, far distant sky, the trees, the 
cupolas, the towers, the end of the lagoon over which 
the face of twilight was bending, and the Euganean 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 399 

hills as quiet and blue as if they were the wings of 
earth folded in the repose of evening. 

They turned, facing each other, looking into the 
depths of each other's eyes. 

Then they kissed each other, as if sealing an 
unspoken compact. 



The world seemed to have lost value. 

Stelio Effrena had asked the widow of Richard 
Wagner for the two young Italians who had carried 
the unconscious hero from the boat to the shore one 
November night, and four of their companions, to be 
granted the honour of carrying the bier from the 
death-chamber to the boat and from the boat to the 
carriage. She had granted it. 

It was the sixteenth of February. It was one 
o'clock in the afternoon. Stelio Effrena, Daniele 
Glauro, Francesco de Lizo, Baldassare Stampa, Fabio 
Molza, and Antimo della Bella were waiting in the 
hall of the palace. The latter had arrived from 
Rome after having obtained permission to bring 
with him two artisans engaged in the construction 
of the Theatre of Apollo, that they might carry 
at the funeral bunches of laurels gathered on the 
Janiculum. 

Speechless, without even looking at each other, 
they waited, each overcome by the beating of his 
own heart. Nothing was heard except the feeble 
splash of the water on the steps of the great door 
where on the candelabra at the doorposts two words 
were engraved, Domus Pads. 

The boatman, who had been dear to the hero, came 



40O THE FLAME OF LIFE 

down and called them. His eyes, in his faithful, 
manly face, were burnt by tears. 

Stelio Efifrena went first ; his companions followed 
him. When they had ascended the staircase, they 
entered a low half-dark room, full of a sad odour of 
flowers and perfume. They waited a few seconds. 
The other door opened. One by one they entered 
the adjoining room ; one by one they turned pale. 

The body was there, shut in its crystal coffin, and 
standing beside it was the woman with the face of 
snow. The second coffin of burnished metal shone 
open on the pavement. 

The six bearers stood before the body waiting for 
the signal. The silence was very great, and none 
stirred; but an impetuous sorrow had forced itself 
into their souls like a gust of wind, and was shaking 
them to their deepest roots. 

All were gazing fixedly at the chosen one of Life 
and Death ; an infinite smile illumined the face of the 
prostrate hero — a smile as distant and infinite as 
the rainbow of a glacier, as the gleam of the sea, as 
the halo of a star. They could not bear to see it, 
but their hearts, with a wondering fear that made 
them religious, felt as if they were receiving the reve- 
lation of a divine secret. 

The woman with the face of snow moved slightly, 
yet remained in the same attitude, rigid as a monument. 

Then the six companions moved towards the bier, 
held out their arms, gathered up their strength. 
Stelio Effrena had his place at the head and Daniele 
Glauro at the foot, as on that other day. They raised 
their burden at one effiirt, at a low command from 
their leader. A glamour struck their eyes as if fi 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 401 

belt of sun had crossed the glass. Baldassare Stampa 
broke into sobs. One same knot gripped all their 
throats. The coffin wavered, then was lowered again, 
entered its metal wrapper as in an armour. 

The six companions remained prostrate all round, 
hesitating before closing the cover, fascinated by that 
infinite smile. On hearing a slight rustle, Stelio 
Effrena looked up. He saw the face of snow bend- 
ing over the body, like a superhuman apparition of 
love and sorrow't That second was like all eternity. 
The woman disappeared. 

When the coffin was closed, they lifted up its in- 
creased weight ; they bore it slowly out of the room 
and down the staircase. Wrapped in a kind of sub- 
lime anguish, they could see their fraternal faces re- 
flected in the metal case. 

The funeral boat awaited them at the door. The 
pall was drawn over the coffin. The six companions 
waited with bared heads for the family to come down. 
It came, gathered close together. The widow passed 
veiled. But the splendour of her countenance was 
in their memories for ever. 

The procession was brief: the funeral boat went 
first; the widow followed with her dear ones, then 
the group of young men. The sky was encumbered 
with clouds, above the wide pathway of stone and 
water. The great silence was worthy of Him who 
had transformed the forces of the Universe for man's 
worship into infinite song. 

A flock of pigeons, starting from the marbles of 
the Scalsi, flew with a quivering flash over the bier 
and across the canal, wreathing the cupola of San 
Simeone. 

26 



402 THE .FLAME OF LIFE 

At the landing a silent group of devoted friends 
was waiting. The large wreaths perfumed the grey- 
air; they could hear the water beating under the 
curved prows. The six companions lifted the coffin 
from the boat and carried it on their shoulders to 
the compartment that was waiting for it in the 
station. The friends drew near and laid their wreaths 
on the pall. No word was spoken. 

The two artisans drew near with their bunches of 
laurels gathered on the Janiculum.' - 

They were vigorous, powerful men, chosen among 
the strongest and finest, and they seemed to be 
shaped in the ancient mould of the Roman race. 
They were quiet and grave, with all the wild liberty 
of the Agro in their bloodshot eyes. Their strong 
outlines, narrow forehead, low crisp hair, firm jaws 
and bull-like neck, recalled the profile of some of 
the Consuls of old. Their attitude, exempt from any 
servile obsequiousness, made them worthy of their 
mission. 

The six companions in turn, equal now in their 
fervour, strewed branches from the bunches of laurel 
over the hero's coffin. 

Noble indeed were those Latin laurels, cut from 
the shrubs of the hill where, in the days of remote 
antiquity, the eagles descended with their prophe- 
cies, where in recent though still fabulous times a 
stream of blood has been shed for the beauty of 
Italy by the soldiers of the Liberator. They were 
straight, dark robust branches ; the leaves were 
hard, strongly veined, with sharp margins, green 
as the bronze of fountains, rich with the aroma of 
triumph. 



THE EMPIRE OF SILENCE 403 

And they travelled towards the Bavarian hill still 
slumbering under its frost, while their noble trunks 
were already budding in the light of Rome to the 
murmur of hidden springs. 

SETTIGNANO DI DESIDERIO : 
XIII DI FEBRUARY, MDCCC. 



L. C. Page and Company's 
Announcement of 
List of New Fiction. 

Philip WinwOOd. (soth thousand.) A Sketch of 
THE Domestic History of an American Captain in 
THE War of Independence, embracing events that 
occurred between and during the years 1763 and 
1785. IN New York and London. Written by his 
Enemy in War, Herbert Russell, Lieutenant in the 
Loyalist Forces. Presented anew by Robert Neilson 
Stephens, author of " A Gentleman Player," " An Enemy to 
the King," etc. 

With six full-page illustrations by E. W. D. Hamilton. 
Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 400 pages . . . jfSl.jO 

" One of the most stirring and remarkable romances that has been published in a 
long while, and its episodes, incidents, and actions are as interesting and agreeable as 
they are vivid and dramatic. . . . The print, illustrations, binding, etc., are worthy 
of ^e tale, and the author and his publishers are to be congratulated on a literary 
work of fiction which is as wholesome as it is winsome, as fresh and artistic as it is 
interesting and entertaining from first to last paragraph." — Boston Times. 

Breaking the Shackles. By frank barrett. 

Author of " A Set of Rogues.*' 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 350 pages . $1.50 

"The story opens well, and maintains its excellence throughout. . . . The 
author's triumph is the greater in the xinquestionable interest and novelty which he 
achieves. The pictures of prison life are most vivid, and the story of the escape 
most thrilling." — T&e Freetnan^s Journal^ London. 

The Progress of Pauline Kessler. By 

Frederic Carrel. 
Author of " Adventures of John Johns." 
Library izmo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 350 pages . $1.50 

A novel that wUl be widely read and much discussed. A power- 
ful sketch of an adventuress who has much of the BecHy Sharpe in 
her. The story is crisply written and told with directness and in- 
sight into the ways of social and political life. The characters are 
strong types of the class to which they belong. 



L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY S 



Ada Vernham, Actress. By richarb marsh. 

Author of " Frivolities," " Tom Ossington's Ghost," etc. 
Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 300 pages . jSi-SO 

This is a new book by the author of "Frivolities," which was 
extremely well received last season. It deals with the inside life of 
the London stage, and is of absorbing interest. 

The Wallet of Kai Lung. By ernest bramah. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 350 pages . {1.50 

This is the first book of a new writer, and is exceedingly well 
done. It deals with the fortunes of a Chinese profession^ story- 
teller, who meets with many surprising adventures. The style 
suggests somewhat the rich Oriental coloring of the Arabian 
Nights. 

Edward Barry : south sea pearler. By louis 

Becke. 
Author of " By Reef and Palm," « Ridan, the Devil," etc. 
With four full-page illustrations by H. C. Edwards. 
Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 300 pages . $1.50 
An exceedingly interesting story of sea life and adventure, the 
scene of which is laid in the Lagoon Islands of the Pacific. 

This is the first complete novel from the pen of Mr. Becke, and 
readers of his collections of short stories will quickly recognize that 
the author can write a novel that will grip the reader. Strong, and 
even tragic, as is his novel in the main, " Edward Barry " has a 
happy ending, and woman's love and devotion are strongly por- 
trayed. 

Unto the Heights of Simplicity. By jo 

HANNES ReiMERS. 

Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . JfSi.zS 

We take pleasure in introducing to the reading public a writer of 
unique charm and individuality. His style is notable for its quaint 
poetic idiom and subtle imaginative flavor. In the present story, he 
treats with strength and reticence of the relation of the sexes and 
the problem of marriage. Certain social abuses and false standards 
of morality are attacked with great vigor, yet the plot is so interest- 
ing for its own sake that the book gives no suspicion of being a 
problem novel. The descriptions of natural scenery are idyllic in 
their charm, and form a fitting background for the love story. 



LIST OF NEW FICTION 



The Black Terror, a romance of Russia. By John 
K. Leys. 
With frontispiece by Victor A. Searles. 
Library_i2mo, doth decorative, 350 pages . . . ?i.5o 

A stirring tale of the present day, presenting in a new light the 
aims and objects of the Nihilists. The story is so vivid and true to 
life that it might easily be considered a history of political intrigue 
in Russia, disguised as a novel, while its startling incidents and 
strange denouement would only confirm the old adage that " truth 
is stranger than fiction," and that great historical events may be 
traced to apparently insignificant causes. The hero of the story 
is a young Englishman, whose startling resemblance to the Czar is 
taken advantage of by the NihUists for the furtherance of their 
plans. 

The Baron's Sons. By maurus jokai. 

Author of " Black Diamonds," " The Green Book," " Pretty 
Michal,"" etc. Translated by Percy F. Bicknell. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, with photogravure 
portrait of the author, 350 pages . . . . ^fSi-So 

An exceedingly interesting romance of the revolution of 1848, 
the scene of which is laid at the courts of St. Petersburg, Moscow, 
and Vienna, and in the armies of the Austrians and Hungarians. 
It follows the fortunes of three young Hungarian noblemen, whose 
careers are involved in the historical incidents of the time. The 
story is told with all of Jokai's dash and vigor, and is exceedingly 
interesting. This romance has been translated for us directly from 
the Hungarian, and never has been issued hitherto in English. 



Slaves of Chance. By ferrier langworthy. 

With five portraits of the heroines, from original drawings by 

Hiel. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 350 pages . ^1.50 

As a study of some of the realities of London life, this novel is 
one of notable merit. The slaves of chance, and, it might be added, 
of temptation, are five pretty girls, the daughters of a pretty widow, 
whose means are scarcely sufficient, even living as they do, in a 
quiet way and in a quiet London street, to make both ends meet. 
Dealing, as he does, with many sides of London life, the writer 
sketches varied types of character, and his creations are cleverly 
defined. He tells an interesting tale with delicacy and in a fresh, 
attractive style. 



L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY S 



Her Boston Experiences. By Margaret allston 

(nom de plume). 
With eighteen full-page illustrations from drawings by Frank 

O. Small, and from photographs taken especially for the 

book. 
Small i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 225 pages . $1.25 

A most interesting and vivacious tale, dealing with society life 
at the Hub, with perhaps a tinge of the flavor of Vagabondia. The 
story has appeared serially in The Ladies' Home Journal, where it 
was received with marked success. We are not as yet at liberty to 
give the true name of the author, who hides her identity under the 
pen name, Margaret Allston, but she is well known in literature. 

Memory Street. By martha baker dunn. 

Author of " The Sleeping Beauty," etc. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . $1.25 

An exceedingly beautiful story, delineating New England life and 
character. The style and interest will compare favorably with the 
work of such writers as Mary E. Wilkins, Kate Douglas Wiggin, 
and Sarah Orne Jewett. The author has been a constant con- 
tributor to the leading magazines, and the interest of her previous 
work will assure welcome for her first novel. 

Winifred, a story of the chalk cliffs. By s. 
Baring Gould. 
Author of " Mehala," etc. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 350 pages . $1.50 

A striking novel of English life in the eighteenth century by this 
well known writer. The scene is laid partly in rural Devonshire, 
and partly in aristocratic London circles. 

At the Court of the King : being romances of 

France. By G. Hembert Westley, editor of " For Love's 

Sweet Sake." 
With a photogravure frontispiece from an original drawing. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . jfi.2,5 

Despite the prophecies of some literary e.xperts, the historical 
romance is still on the high tide of popular favor, as exemplified by 
many recent successes. We feel justified, consequently, in issuing 
these stirring romances of intrigue and adventure, love and war, at 
the Courts of the French Kings. 



LIST OF NEW FICTION 



God's Rebel. By hulbert fuller. 

Author of " Vivian of Virginia." 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 375 pages . . . $1.25 

A powerful story of sociological questions. The scene is laid in 
Chicago, the hero being a professor in " Rockland University," 
whose protest against the unequal distribution of wealth and the 
wretched condition of workmen gains for him the enmity of the 
" Savior Oil Company," through whose influence he loses his posi- 
tion. His after career as a. leader of laborers who are fighting 
to obtain their rights is described with great earnestness. The 
character drawing is vigorous and varied, and the romantic plot 
holds the interest throughout. The Albany Journal is right in 
pronouncing this novel " an unusually strong story." It can hardly 
fail to command an immense reading public. 

A Georgian Actress. By Pauline Bradford Mackie. 
Author of " Mademoiselle de Bemy," " Ye Lyttle Salem 

Maide," etc. 
With four full-page illustrations from drawings by E. W. D. 

Hamilton. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 300 pages . jSi.So 

An interesting romance of the days of George III., dealing with 
the life and adventures of a fair and talented young play-actress, 
the scene of which is laid in England and America. The success of 
Miss Mackie's previous books will justify our prediction that a new 
volume wiU receive an instant welcome. 

God — The King — fly Brother, a romance. 

By Mary F. Nixon. 
Author of " With a Pessimist in Spain," " A Harp of Many 

Chords," etc. 
With a frontispiece by H. C. Edwards. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . $1.25 

An historical tale, dealing with the romantic period of Edward 
the Black Prince. The scene is laid for the most part in the 
sunny land of Spain, during the reign of Pedro the Cruel — 
the ally in war of the Black Prince. The well-told story records 
the adventures of two young English knight-errants, twin brothers, 
whose family motto gives the title to the book. The Spanish maid, 
the heroine of the romance, is a delightful characterization, and the 
love story, with its surprising yet logical denouement, is enthralling. 



L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY S 



Punchinello. By Florence Stuart. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 325 pages . $1.50 

A love story of intense power and pathos. The hero is a hunch- 
back (Punchinello), who wins the love of a beautiful young girl. 
Her sudden death, due indirectly to his jealousy, and the discovery 
that she had never faltered in her love for him, combine to unbalance 
his mind. The poetic style relieves the sadness of the story, and 
the reader is impressed with the power and brilliancy of its concep- 
tion, as well as with the beauty and grace of the execution. 

The Golden Fleece. Translated from the French of 
Amedee Achard, author of " The Huguenot's Love," etc. 
Illustrated by Victor A. Searles. 
Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 450 pages . fi-So 

Amedee Achard was a contemporary writer of Dumas, and his 
romances are very similar to those of that great writer. "The 
Golden Fleece " compares favorably with " The Three Musketeers " 
and the other D'Artagnan romances. The story relates the adven- 
tures of a young Gascon gentleman, an officer in the army sent by 
Louis XIV. to assist the Austrians in repelling the Turkish Invasion 
under the celebrated Achmet Kiuperli. 

The Good 5hip York. By w. clark russell. 

Author of " The Wreck of the Grosvenor," " A Sailor's Sweet- 
heart," etc. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 350 pages |i-50 

A romantic and exciting sea- tale, equal to the best work of this 
famous writer, relating the momentous voyage of the clipper ship 
York, and the adventures that befell Julia Armstrong, a passenger, 
and George Hardy, the chief mate. 

" Mr. Russell has no rival in the line of marine fiction," — Mati and Express. 

Tom Ossington's Ghost. By richard marsh. 

Author of " Frivolities," " Ada Vernham, Actress," etc. Illus- 
trated by Harold Pifford. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 325 pages . $1-50 

*' I read * Tom Ossington's Ghost * the other night, and was afraid to go up-stairs 
in the dark after it." — Truth. 

" An entrancing book, but people with weak nerves had b^+ter not read it at 
night." — To-day. 

" Mr. Marsh has been inspired by an entirely original idea, and has worked it out 
with great ingenuity. We like the weird but n9i repulsive story better than anything 
he has ever done." — World. 



LIST OF NEW FICTION 



The Glory and Sorrow of Norwich. By 

M. M. Blake. 
Author of "The Blues and the Brigands," etc., etc., with 

twelve full-page illustrations. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 315 pages . $1.50 

The hero of this romance, Sir John de Reppes, is an actual 
personage, and throughout the characters and incidents are instinct 
with the spirit of the age, as related in the chronicles of Froissart. 
Its main claim for attention, however, is in the graphic representa- 
tion of the age of chivalry which it gives, forming a series of brilliant 
and fascinating pictures of mediaeval England, its habits of thought 
and manner of life, which live in the mind for many a day after 
perusal, and assist to a clearer conception of what is one of the most 
charming and picturesque epochs of history. 

The nistress of Haidenwood. By hulbert 

Fuller. 
Author of " Vivian of Virginia," " God's Rebel," etc. 
library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 350 pages . . . $1.50 
A stirring historical romance of the American Revolution, the 
scene of which for the most part being laid in and about the debatable 
ground in the vicinity of New York City. 

Dauntless, a tale of a lost cause. By Captain Ewan 
Martin. 
Author of '' The Knight of King's Guard." 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 400 pages, illustrated . i^i.SO 

A stirring romance of the days of Charles I. and Cromwell in 
England and Ireland. In its general character the book invites 
comparison with Scott's " Waverley." It well sustains the reputa- 
tion gained by Captain Martin from " The Knight of King's Guard." 

The Flame of Life. (Il Fuoco.) Translated from 

the Italian of Gabriel D'Annunzio, author of " Triumph of 

Death," etc., by Kassandra Vivaria, author of "Via 

Lucis." 

Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 350 pages . . . #1.50 

This is the first volume in the Third Trilogy, "The Romances 
of the Pomegranate," of the three announced by the great Italian 
writer. We were fortunate in securing the book, and also in securing 
the services as translator of the talented author of " Via Lucis," 
herself an Italian by birth. 



Selections from 

L. C. Page and Company's 

List of Fiction. 

An Enemy to the King. {Thirtieth Thousand.) 

From the Recently Discovered Memoirs of the 

SlEUR DE LA TOURNOIRE. By ROBERT NeILSON STE- 
PHENS. 

Illustrated by H. De M. Young. 

Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, gUt top, 460 pages . $1.30 

"Brilliant as a play ; it is equally brilliant as a romantic novel." — Pkiladelphia 
Press. 

" Those who love chivaliy, fighting, and intrigue will find it, and of good quality, 
in this book." — New York Critic. 

The Continental Dragoon. (Eighteenth Thousand.) 

A Romance of Philipse Manor House, in 1778. By 

Robert Neilson Stephens. 

Author of " An Enemy to the King.'" 

Illustrated by H. C. Edwards. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . $1.50 

"It has the sterling qualities of strong dramatic writing, and ranks among the 
most spirited and ably written historical romances of the season. An impulsive ap- 
preciation of a soldier who is a soldier, a man who is a man, a hero who is a hero, is 
one of the most captivating of' Mr. Stephens's charms of manner and style." — 
Boston Herald. 

The Road to Paris. (Sixteenth Thousand:^ By Robert 
Neilson Stephens. 

Author of " An Enemy to the King," " The Continental Dra- 
goon," etc. 

Illustrated by H. C. Edwards. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 500 pages . . . I1.5C 

" Vivid and picturesque in style, well conceived and full of action, the novel is 
absorbing from cover to cover." — Philadelphia P-uhlic Ledger. 

" In the line of historical romance, few books of the season will equal Robert 
Neilson Stephens's ' The Road to Paris.' " — Cincintmii Times-Star. 



L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY S 



A Qentleman Player. {TUny-fifth Thousand.) his 

Adventures on a Secret Mission for Queen Eliza- 
beth. By Robert Neilson Stephens. 

Author of " An Enemy to the King," " The Continental Dra- 
goon," " The Road to Paris,'' etc. 

Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 450 pages . . . $1.50 

"A thrilling historical romance. ; . ; It is a well-told tale of mingled romance 
and history, and the reader throughout unconsciously joins in the flight and thrills 
with the excitement of the dangers and adventures that befall the fugitives." — 
Chicago Tribune. 

" ' A Gentleman Player ' is well conceived and well told." — Bostonjournal. 



Rose ^ Charlitte. (Eighth Thousand) An Acadien 

Romance. By Marshall Saunders. 

Author of " Beautiful Joe," etc. 

Illustrated by H. De M. Young. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 500 pages . . . ^1.5° 

"A very fine novel we unhesitatingly pronounce it -. . . one of the books that 
stamp themselves at once upon the imagination and remain imbedded in the memory 
long after the covers are closed." — Literary Worlds Boston. 



Deficient Saints, a Tale of Maine. By Marshall 

Saunders. 

Author of " Rose a Charlitte," " Beautiful Joe," etc. 

Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 400 pages . . . Jl.So 

" The tale is altogether delightful ; it is vitally charming and expresses a quiet 
power that sparkles with all sorts of versatile beauty." — Boston Ideas: 



Hel" Sailor, a novel. By Marshall Saunders. 
Author of " Rose a Charlitte," " Beautiful Joe," etc. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 325 pages Ji-^S 

A story of modern life of great charm and pathos, dealing with 
the love affairs of an American girl and a naval officer. 

" A love story, refreshing and sweet." — Utica Herald. 

" The wayward petulance of the maiden, who half-resents the matter-of-course 
wooing and wedding, her graceful coquetry, and final capitulation are prettily told, 
making a fine character sketch and an entertaining story." — Bookseller, Chicago. 



LIST OF FICTION 



Pretty Michal. a romance of Hungary. By Maurus 

JOKAI. 

Author of " Black Diamonds," " The Green Book," " Midst the 
Wild Carpathians," etc. 

Authorized translation by R. Nisbet Bain 

Illustrated with a photogravure frontispiece of the great Mag- 
yar writer. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 325 pages . . . S1.50 

" It is at once a spirited tale of ' border chivalry,' a charming love story full of 
genuine poetry, and a graphic picture of life in a country and at a period botli equally 
new to EngU^ readers." — Literary Worlds London* 

Midst the Wild Carpathians. By maurus 

JOKAI. 

Author of " Black Diamonds," " The Lion of Janina," etc. 

Authorized translation by R. Nisbet Bain. 

Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . ijli.25 

" The story is absorbingly interesting and displays all the virility of Jokai's 
powers, his genius of description, his keenness of characterization, his subtlety of 
humor, and ms consummate art in the progression of the novel from one apparent 
climax to another." — Chicago Evening Post. 

In Kings' Houses, a romance of the reign of 

Queen Anne. By Julia C. R. Dorr. 
Author of " A Cathedral Pilgrimage," etc. 
Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 400 pages . . . $1.50 

" We close the book with a wish that the author may write more romances of the 
history of England which she knows so well." — Booktnany New York. 

" A fine strong story which is a relief to come upon. Related with charming, 
simple art." — Philadelphia Public Ledger. 

Omar the Tentmaker. a romance of old 

Persia. By Nathan Haskell Dole. 
Illustrated by F. T. Merrill. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 350 pages . , . $1.50 

" The story itself is beautiful and it is beautifully written. It possesses the true 
spirit of romance, and is almost poetical in form. The author has undoubtedly been 
inspired by his admiration for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam te write this story of 
whidi Omar is the hero." — Troy Times. 

" Mr, Dole has built a delightful romance." — Chicago Chronicle. 

" It ii a strong and vividly written story, full of the life and spirit of romance." — 
N*w Orleans Picayune, 



L. C. PACfE AND COMPANY S 



ManderS. a tale of Paris. By Elwyn Barron. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 350 pages 5^1.50 

" Bright descriptions of student life in Paris, sympathetic views of human frailty, 
and a dash of dramatic force, combine to form an attractive story. The book contains 
some very strong scenes, plenty of life and color, and a pleasant tinge of humor. 
. . . It has grip, picturesqueness, and vivacity," — Tlte Speaker, London. 

"A study of deep human interest, in which pathos and humor both play their 
parts. The descriptions of life in the Quartier Latin are distinguished for tiieir 
freshness and livelmess." — ^/./a»£ej Gazette, London. 

"A romance sweet as violets." — Town Topics, New York. 



In Old New York, a romance. By Wilson Bar- 
rett, author of " The Sign of the Cross," etc., and Elwyn 
Barron, author of " Manders.*' 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 350 pages j?i.50 

" A novel of great interest and vigor." — Philadelphia Inquirer. 

" * In Old New York ' is worthy of its distinguished authors." — Chicago Times- 
Herald. 

" Intensely interesting. It has an historical flavor that gives it a substantial value." 
— Boston Globe. 



The Golden Dog. a romance of Quebec. By 

William Kirby. 

New authorized edition. 

Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 620 pages . . , $1.25 

" A powerful romance of love, intrigue, and adventure in the time of Louis XV. 
and Mme. de Pompadour, when the French colonies were making their great 
struggle to retain for an ungrateful court the fairest jewels in the colonial diadem of 
France." — New York Herald. 



The Knight of King's Guard, a romance of 

THE Days of the Black Prince. By Ewan Martin. 
Illustrated by Gilbert James. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . JJi-SO 

An exceedingly well written romance, dealing with the romantic 
period chronicled so admirably by Froissart. The .scene is laid at a 
border castle between England and Scotland, the city of London, 
and on the French battle-fields of Cressy and Poitiers. Edward the 
Third, Queen Philippa, the Black Prince, Bertrand du Guesclin, are 
all historical characters, accurate reproduttions of which give life 
and vitality to the romance. The character of the hero is especially 
well drawn. 



LIST OF FICTION 



The Making of a Saint. By w. somerset 

Maugham. 
Illustrated by Gilbert James. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 350 pages . , , J?i.S0 

"An exceedingly strong story of original motive and design. . . . The scenes are 
imbued with a spirit of frankness . . . and in addition there is a strong dramatic 
flavor." — Philadelphia Press, 

" A sprightly tale abounding in adventures, and redolent of the spirit of mediaeval 
ItaXy:'— Brooklyn Times. 

Friendship and Folly, a novel. By maria 

Louise Pool. 
Author of " Dally," " A Redbridge Neighborhood," " In a Dike 

Shanty," etc. 

Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . ^1.25 

'The author handles her elements with skilful fingers — fingers that feel their 
.._y most truthfulW^ among the actual emotions and occurrences of nineteenth 
century romance. Hers is a frank, sensitive touch, and the result is both complete 



way most truthfulW^ among the actual emotions and occurrences of nineteenth 
century romance. Hers is a frank, se; ■' ■ '- -' -'^ 1. :_ 1.-^1 i_^- 

and full of interest." — Boston Ideas. 

" The story will rank with the best previous work of this author." — Indianapolis 
News. 

The Rejuvenation of Miss Semaphore. 

A Farcical Novel. By Hal Godfrey. 

Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry. 

Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . i!>i-25 

" A fanciful, laughable tale of two maiden sisters of uncertain age who are induced, 
by their natural longing for a return to youth and its blessings, to pay a large sum 
for a mystical water wliich possesses the value of setting backwards the hands of 
time. No more delightfully fresh and original boolt has appeared since Vice 
Versa' charmed an amused world. It is well written, drawn to the life, and full of 
tile most enjoyable humor." — Boston Beacon. 



The Paths of the Prudent. By J. S. Fletcher. 
Author of " When Charles I. Was King," " Mistress Spitfire," etc. 
Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . ^1.50 

" The story has a curious fascination for the reader, and the theme and characters 
are handled with rare ability." — Scotsman. 

"Dormthia is charming. The story is told with great humor," — />«?/ Mall 
Gazette. 

" An excellently well told story, and the reader's interest is perfectly sustained to 
the very end." — Punch. 



L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY S 



Cross Trails. By victor Waite. 
Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy. ^ 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 450 pages . . . f i-5o 

"A Spanish- American novel of unusual interest, a brilliant, dashing, and stirring 
story, teeming with humanity and life. Mr. Waite is to be congratulated upon the 
strength with which he has drawn his characters," — San Francisco Chronicle. 

" Every page is enthralling." — A cadeiny. 

" Full of strength and reality." — A ikencBum, 

"The book is exceedingly powerful." — Glasgow Herald. 



BijH 



the Dancer. By james blythe patton. 

Illustrated by Horace Van Rinth. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 350 pages . , . $1.50 

*' A novel of Modem India. . . . The fortunes of the heroine, an Indian nautch- 
eirl, are told with a vigor, pathos, and a wealth of poetic sympathy that makes the 
book admirable from first to last," — Detroit Free Press. 

" A remarkable book." — Bookman. 

" Powerful and fascinating." — Pall Mall Gazette. 

"A vivid picture of Indian life." — Academy, London. 



Drives and Puts, a book of golf stories. By 

Walter Camp and Lilian Brooks., 
Small i2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 250 pages . $1.25 

" It will be heartily relished by all readers, whether golfers or not." — Boston 
Ideas. 

" Decidedly the best golf stories I have read." — Milwaukee Journal. 

" Thoroughly entertaining and interesting in every page, and is gotten out with 
care and judgment tloat indicate rare taste in bookmaking." — CkUago Saturday 
Evening Herald. 



Via. Lucis. By Kassandra Vivaria. 
With portrait of the author. 
Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 480 pages . . . jSii.50 

"'Via Lucis'is — we say it unhesitatingly — a striking and interesting produc- 
tion." — London AtheniEitm. 

"Without doubt the most notable novel of the summer is this strong story of 
Italian life, so full of local color one can almost see the cool, shaded patios and the 
flame of the pomegranate blossom, and smell the perfume of tlie grapes growing on 
the hillsides. It is a story of deep and passionate heart interests, of fierce loves and 
fiercer hates, of undisciplined natures that work out their own bitter destiny of woe. 
There has hardly been a finer piece of portraiture than that of the child Arduina, — 
the child of a sickly and unloved mother and a cruel and vindictive father, — a mor- 
bid, q^ueer, lonely little creature, who is left to grow up without love or training of 
any kmd." — New Orleans Picayune. 



LIST OF FICTION 



*' To Arms I " being some passages from the Early 
Life of Allan Oliphant, Chirurgeon, Written by 
Himself, and now set forth for the First Time. 
By Andrew Balfour. 

Illustrated by F. W. Glover. 

Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 575 pages . . . $1.50 

" A tale of ' Bonnie Tweedside,' and St. Dynans and Auld Reekie, — a fair picture 
of thekCoiintry under misrule and usurpation and all kinds of vicissitudes. Allan Oli- 
phant is a great hero." — Chicago Times-Herald, 

" A recital of thrilling interest, told with unflagging vigor." — Globe, 
" An unusually excellent example of a semi-historic romance." — World. 

The River of Pearls ; or, the red spider, a 

Chinese Romance. By Ren6 de Pont- Jest. 
With sixty illustrations from original drawings by Felix Re- 

gamey. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 300 pages . . . $1.50 

Close acquaintance with the manners and customs of the Chinese 
has enabled the author to write a story which is instructive as well 
as interesting. The book, as a whole, shows the writer to be pos- 
sessed of a strong descriptive faculty, as well as keen insight into 
the characters of the people of whom he is writing. The plot is 
cleverly conceived and well worked out, and the story abounds with 
incidents of the most exciting and sensational character. Enjoy- 
ment of its perusal is increased by the powerful illustrations of Felix 
Regamey. 

The book may be read with profit by any one who wishes to 
realize the actual condition of native life in China. 

Lrally of the Brigade, a romance of the Irish 

Brigade in France during the Time of Louis the 

Fourteenth. By L. McManus. 
Author of "The Silk of the Kine," "The Red Star," etc. 
Illustrated. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 250 pages . . . r!!i.25 

The scene of this romance is partly at the siege of Crimona (held 
by the troops of Louis XIV.) by the Austrian forces under Prince 
Eugene. During the siege the famous Irish Brigade renders valiant 
service, and the hero — a dashing young Irishman — is in the thick 
of the fighting. He is also able to give efficient service in unravel- 
ling a political intrigue, in which the love affairs of the hero and the 
heroine are interwoven. 



8 L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY'S 

Frivolities, especially addressed to those who are 
Tired of being Serious. By Richard Marsh. 
Author of " Tom Ossington's Ghost," etc. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, 340 pages . . . fi.So 

A dozen stories in an entirely new vein for Mr. Marsh. The 
humor is irresistible, and carries the reader on breathlessly from one 
laugh to another. The style, though appealing to a totally different 
side of complex human nature, is as strong and effective as the 
author's intense and dramatic work in " Tom Ossington's Ghost." 



Sons of Adversity, a romance of queen Eliza- 
beth's Time. By L. Cope Cornford. 
Author of " Captain Jacobus," etc. 
Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy. 
Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 325 pages . . . iSi.25 

"A tale of adventure on land and sea at the time when Protestant England and 
Catholic Spain were stru^ling for naval supremacy. Spanish conspiracies against 



the peace of good Queen Bess, a vivid description of the raise of the Spanish siege of 
Leyden by the combined Dutch and English forces, sea fights, the recovery of stolen 
treasure, are all skilfully woven elements in a plot of unusual strength." — Piiisburg 
Bulletin* 



The Count of Nideck. from the French of 
Erckmann-Chatrian, Translated and Adapted by 
Ralph Browning Fiske. 

Illustrated by Victor A. Searles. 

Library i2ino, cloth decorative, 375 pages . . . ^^1.25 

" * The Count of Nideck,' adapted from the French of Erckmann-Chatrian by 
Ralph Browning Fiske, is a most interesting tale, simply told, and moving with 
direct force to the end in view." — Minneapolis Tidies. 



" Rapid in movementj it abounds in dramatic incident, furnishes graphic descrip- 
tions of the locality, and is enlivened with a very pretty love story." — Troy Budget. 



Muriella ; or. le selve. By ouida. 

Illustrated by M. B. Prendergast. 

Library lamo, cloth decorative, 250 pages . . . $i''2-^ 

"Ouida's literary style is almost perfect in 'Muriella.'" — Chicago Times- 
Herald. 

"'Muriella' is an admirable example of the author's best ■^ox}/." — Breoklyn 
Times. 

" It dwells in the memory, and bears the dramatic force, tragic interest, and 
skilfulness of treatment that mark the work ef Ouida when at her best." — Pittskm-g 
BulUiin. 



LIST OF FICTION 



The Archbishop's Unguarded Moment. 

By Oscar Fay Adams. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, illustrated, 300 pages i(Si.25 

" A very captivating volume." — Evening Wisconsin. 
" Brinuning over with humor." — Chicago Chronicle. 

" He who cares to pass a few hours in quiet enjoyment and subdued laughter will 
do well to become the possessor of this clever volume." — A mericaUt Philadelphia. 

The Works of Gabriel d' Annunzio. 

The Triumph of Death. 
The Intruder. 
The Maidens of the Roclcs. 
The Child of Pleasure. 

Each, I vol., library i2mo, cloth decorative . . $^-S0 

" The writer of the greatest promise to-day in Italy, and perhaps one of the most 
unique figures in contemporary nterature, is Gabriel d'Annunzio, the poet-novelist." 
— TAe Bookman. 

*' This book is realistic. Some say that it is brutally so. But the realism is that 
of Flaubert and not of Zola. There is no plain speaking for the sake of plain speak- 
ing. Every detail is justified in the fact tl^t it illuminates either the motives or the 
actions of the man and woman who here stand revealed. It is deadly true. The 
author holds the mirror up to nature, and the reader, as he sees his own experiences 
duplicated in passage after passage, has something of the same sensation as all of us 
know on the first reading of George Meredith's Egoist.' Reading these pages is 
like being out in tiie country on a dark night in a storm. Suddenly a flash of light- 
ning comes and every detail of your surroundings is revealed." — Review of the 
Trtum^h 0/ Death, in the New York Evening Sun. 

Ye Lyttle Salem Maide. a story of witch- 
craft. By Pauline Bradford Mackie. 

With four full-page photogravures from drawings by E. W. D. 
Hamilton. 

Printed on deckle-edged paper, with gilt top, and bound in 
cloth decorative, 321 pages jSi-SO 

A tale of the days of the reign of superstition in New England, 
and of a brave "lyttle maide" of Salem Town, whose faith and 
hope and unyielding adherence to her word of honor form the basis 
of a most attractive story. Several historical characters are intro- 
duced, including the Rev. Cotton Mather and Governor and Lady 
Phipps, and a very convincing picture is drawn of Puritan life during 
the latter part of the seventeenth century. An especial interest is 
added to the book by the illustrations, reproduced by the photo- 
gravure process from originals by E. W. D, Hamilton. 



lO L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY S 

Mademoiselle de Berny. a story of valley 

Forge. By Pauline Bradford Mackie. 
With five full-page photogravures from drawings by Frank T. 

Merrill. 
Printed on deckle-edged paper, with gilt top, and bound in 

cloth decorative, 272 pages jfSi.So 

" The charm of * Mademoiselle de Beray ' lies in its singular sweetness." — Boston 
Htrald. 

" One of the very few choice American historical stories." — Boston Transcript. 

" Real romance . . . admirably written." — Washington Post. 

" A stirring romance, full of life and action from start to finish." — Toledo Daily 
Blade. 

" Of the many romances in which Washington is made to figure, this is one of the 
most fascinating, one of the best." — Boston Courier. 

Captain FraCaSSe. translated from the French 
OF Gaxttier. By Ellen Murray Beam. 
Illustrated by Victor A. Searles. 
Library 1 2mo, cloth decorative, 575 pages . . . $1.25 

" The story is one of the best in romantic fiction, for upon it Gautier lavished his 
rare knowledge of the twelfth century. — San Francisco Chronicle. 

" One of those rare stories in which vitality is abundant. — New York Herald. 

In Guiana Wilds, a study of tv^o women. By 

James Rodway. 
Author of " In the Guiana Forest," etc. 
Library i2mo, cloth, decorative, illustrated, 250 pages $1.25 

" In Guiana Wilds " may be described as an ethnological 
romance. A typical young Scotchman becomes, by the force of 
circumstances, decivUized, and mates with a native woman. 

It is a psychological study of great power and ability. 

The Gray House of the Quarries. By mary 

Harriott Norris. 
With a frontispiece etching by Edmund H. Garrett. 
8vo, cloth decorative, 500 pages $1.50 

" The peculiar genre, for which, in a literary sense, all must acknowledge obliga- 
tion to the author of a new type, is the Dutch-American species. The church-goinp, 
the courtings, the pleasures and sorrows of a primitive people, their lives and deaths, 
weddings, suicides, births, and burials, are Rembrandt and Rubens pictures on a 
fresh canvas." — Boston Transcript. 

" The fine ideal of womanhood in a person never once physically described will 
gratify the highess tone of tlie period, and is an ennobling conception," — Time and 
the Hour, Boston. 



LIST OF FICTION II 

Vivian of Virginia, being the memoirs of our 

First Rebellion, by John Vivian, Esq., of Middle 
Plantation, Virginia. By Hulbert Fuller. 

With ten full-page illustrations by Frank T. Merrill. 

Library i2mo, doth decorative, gilt top, deckle-edge 
paper, 375 pages $1.50 

" A stirring and accurate account of tiie famous Bacon rebellion." — Los Angeles 
Sunday Times. 

" We sliall have to search far to find a better colonial story than this." — Denver 
Republican, 

" A well-conceived, well-plotted romance, full of life and adventure." — Chicago 
Inter-Ocean. 

" A story abounding in exciting incidents and well-told conversations." — Boston 
Journal. 

" Mr. Fuller will find a large circle of readers for his romance who will not be 
disappointed in their pleasant expectations." — Boston Transcript. 

" Instead of using history as a background for tlie exploits of the hero, the author 
used the hero to bring out history and the interesting events of those early days in 
Virginia. The author has preserved the language and customs of the times admi- 
rabfy." — Philadelpkia Telegram. 



A nan=at=AfniS. a romance of Italy in the days 

OF Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the Great Viper. By 

Clinton Scollard. 
Author of " Skenandoa,'' etc. 
With six full-page illustrations and title-page by E. W. D. 

Hamilton. 
Library i2mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, deckle-edge 

paper, 360 pages ^1.50 

"The style is admirable, simple, direct, fluent, and sometimes eloquent; and the 
story moves with rapidity from start to finish." — The Bookman. 
" A good story." — A^. Y. Commercial Advertiser. 
" It is a triumph in style." — Uiica Herald. 

Bobbie IVIcDuff . By Clinton Ross, Author of " The 
Scarlet Coat," "Zuleika," etc. 
Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst. 
Large 1 6mo, cloth decorative, 260 pages . . . $1.00 

" ' Bobbie McDuff,' by Clinton Ross, is a healthy romance, tersely and vigorously 
told." — Louisville Courier-Journal. 

"It is full of mystery and as fascinating as a fairy ale." — San Francisco 
Chronicle. 

" It is a well-written story, full of surprises and abounding in vivid interest" — 
The Coneregaiionalitt, Boston. 



12 L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY S 

A Hypocritical Romance and other stories. 

By Caroline Ticknor. 
Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy. 

Large i6mo, cloth decorative jSl.oo 

Miss Ticknor, well known as one of the most promising of the 
younger school of American writers, has never done better work 
than in the majority of these clever stories, written in a delightful 
comedy vein. 

A Mad Madonna and other stories. By l. 

Clarkson Whitelock. ^ 
With eight half-tone illustrations. 

I vpl., large i6mo, cloth decorative .... $i.o& 

A half dozen remarkable psychological stories, delicate in color 

and conception. Each of the six has a touch of the supernatural, a 

quick suggestion, a, vivid intensity, and a dreamy realism that is 

matchless in its forceful execution. 

On the Point. a summer idyl. By Nathan Has- 
kell Dole. 
Author of " Not Angels Quite," with dainty haJf-tone illustra- 
tions as chapter headings. 
I vol., large i6mo, cloth decorative .... Si.oo 
A bright and clever story of a summer on the coast of Maine, 
fresh, breezy, and readable from the first to the last page. The 
narrative describes the summer outing of a Mr. Merrithew and his 
family. The characters are all honest, pleasant people, whom we 
are glad to know. We part from them with the same regret with 
which we leave a congenial party of friends. 

Cyrano de Bergerac. a heroic comedy from 

the French of Edward Rostand, as Accepted and 
Played by Richard Mansfield. Translated by How- 
ard Thayer Kingsbury. 
I vol., cloth decorative, with a photogravure frontis- 
piece $1.00 

I vol., paper boards .50 

The immediate and prolonged success of " Cyrano de Bergerac," 
in Paris, has been paralleled by Mr. Mansfield's success with an 
English version, dating from its first night at the Garden Theatre, 
New York, October 3, 1898. 

As a literary work, the original form of Rostand took high rank ; 
and the preference of Mr. Mansfield for Mr. Kingsbury's new trans- 
lation implies its superior merit.