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OUR OWN SET 



A NOVEL 



BY 



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From the German by CLARA BELL 



REVISED AND CORRECTED IN THE UNITED STATES 



NEW YORK 

wujLiam s. gottsberger, publisher 

II MURRAY STREET 
1884 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884 

BY William S. Gottsberger 
ill the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington 



THIS TRANSLATION WAS MADE EXPRESSLY FOR THE PUBLISHER 



3c«ö» of 



OUR OWN SET 



PART I. 

THE CARNIVAL. 



CHAPTER I. 

At Rome in 1870. Roman society was already 
divided into " Le Monde noir '* and " Le Monde 
blanc " which as yet gave no sign of amalgama- 
tion into a " Monde gris'^ His Holiness the Pope 
had entrenched himself in the Vatican behind his 
prestige of martyrdom; and the King already 
held his court at the Quirinal. 

Among the distinguished Austrians who were 
spending the winter in Rome were the Otto 
Ilsenberghs. Otto Ilsenbergh, one of the leading^ 
members of the Austrian feudal aristocracy, was 
in Rome pr9fessedly for his health, but in reality 
solely in order to avail himself of the resources of 
the Vatican library in compiling that work on the 
History of Miracle which he has lately given to 



396209 



2 OUR OWN SET. 

the world under a quaint pseudonym. He and his 
wife with a troup of red-haired Ilsenberghs, big 
and little, inhabited a straggling, historical palazzo 
on the Corso, with a glacial stone staircase and 
vast drawing-rooms which looked more fit for the 
meetings of conspirators than for innocent tea- 
drinkings and dances. 

The countess was " at home *' every evening 
when there was no better amusemeut to be had. 
She was by birth a princess Auerstein, of the 
Auerstein-Zolling branch, in which — as we all 
know — the women are remarkable for their white 
eyebrows and their strict morality. The Ilsenbergh 
salon was much frequented; the prevailing tone 
was by no means formal ; snioking was allowed in 
the drawing-room — nay the countess herself 
smoked : to be precise she smoked regalias. 

It was in the beginning of December ; a wet 
evening and the heavy drops splashed against the 
window panes. Count Ilsenbergh was sitting in 
an immense reception-room decorated with fres- 
coes, at a buhl table, evidently constructed for no 
more arduous duties than the evolution of love 
letters. He was absorbed in the concoction of an 
article for " Our Times.** A paper of strictly 
aristocratic-conservative tendencies, patronized by 
himself, taken in by his fellow-aristocrats, but read 



OUR OWN SET. 3 

by absolutely no one— excepting the liberal news- 
paper writers when in search of reactionary per- 
versities. Count Ilsenbergh was in great trouble; 
the Austrian Ministry had crowned their dis- 
tinguished achievements by one even more 
distinguished — for the fourth time within three 
years a new era was announced, and in defiance 
of prejudice a spick-and-span liberal ministry was 
being composed, destined no doubt to establish 
the prosperity of the Austrian people on a per- 
manent basis — and beyond a doubt to cause a 
fresh importation of " Excellencies " into the 
fashionable salons of the Ringstrasse at Vienna. 
Count Ilsenbergh was prophesying the end of all 
things. 

The countess was sitting at her ease on a sofa 
close to the fire-place, with its Renaissance chimae- 
ras of white marble. The handsomest editions of 
the works of Ampere and Mommsen lay on the 
tables, but she held on her lap a ragged volume of 
a novel from a circulating library. She was a tall, 
fair woman with a high color and apricot-colored 
hair, a languid figure, slender extremities and in- 
significant features; she spoke French and German 
alike with a strong Viennese accent, dressed un- 
fashionably, and moved awkwardly ; still, no one 

who knew what was what, could fail to see that she 

I * 



4 OUR OWN SET. 

was a lady and an aristocrat. At all court func- 
tions she was an imposing figure, she never stum- 
bled over her train and wore the family diamonds 
with stately indifference. 

The portiere was lifted and General von 
KHnger was announced. General von Klinger 
was an old Austrian soldier whose good fortune it 
had been to have an opportunity of distinguishing 
himself with his cavalry at Sadowa, after which, 
righteously wroth at the national disaster, he had 
laid down his sword and retired with his General's 
rank to devote himself wholly to painting. Even 
as a soldier he had enjoyed a reputation as a genius 
and had covered himself with glory by the way in 
which he could sketch, with his gold-cased pencil 
on the back of an old letter or a visiting-card, 
a galloping horse and a jockey bending over its 
mane; a work of art especially admired for the 
rapidity with which it was executed. Since then 
he had studied art in Paris, had three times had his 
pictures refused at the salon and had succeeded in 
persuading himself that this was a distinction — 
in which he found a parallel in Rousseau, Delacroix 
and fifty fellow- victims who had been obliged to 
submit to a similar rebuff. Then he had come to 
Rome, an unappreciated genius, and had estab- 
lished himself in a magnificent studio in the 



OUR OWN SET. 5 

Piazza Navona, which he threw open to the public 
every day from three till five and which became a 
popular rendezvous for the fashionable world. 
They laughed at the old soldier's artistic preten- 
sions, but they could not laugh at him. He was 
in every sense of the word a gentleman. Like 
many an old bachelor who cherishes the memory 
of an unsuccessful love affair in early life, he 
covered a sentimental vein by a biting tongue — 
a pessimist idealist perhaps describes him. He was 
handsome and upright, with a stiffly starched shirt 
collar and romantic dark eyes — a thorough old 
soldier and a favorite with all the fine ladies of 
Roman society. 

*' It is very nice of you to have thought of us," 
said the countess greeting him heartily ; ** it is 
dreadful weather too — come and warm your- 
self." 

The count looked up from his writing: " How 
are you General ?" he said, and then went on with 
his article, adding : " Such an old friend as you 
are will allow me to go on with my work ; only a 
few lines — half a dozen words. These are grave 
times, when every man must hold his own in the 
ranks !" — ^and the forlorn hope of the feudal cause 
dipped his pen in the ink with a sigh. 

The general begged him not to disturb himself. 



6 OUR OWN SET. 

the countess said a few words about some musical 
soiree, and presently her husband ended his page 
with an emphatic flourish, exclaiming: "That 
will give them something to think about !" and 
came to join them by the fire. 

A carriage was heard to draw up in the street. 

" That may be Truyn, he arrived yesterday/* 
observed the countess, and Count Truyn was in 
fact announced. 

Erich Truyn was at that time a man of rather 
more than thirty with hair prematurely gray and 
a glance of frosty indifference. People said he 
had been iced, for he always looked as though he 
had been frozen to the marrow in sublime superi- 
ority ; his frigid exterior had won him a reputa- 
tion for excessive pride, and totally belied the 
man. He was an uncommonly kind and noble- 
hearted soul, and what passed for pride was 
merely the shrinking of a sensitive nature which 
had now and again exposed itself to ridicule, per- 
haps by some outburst of high-flown idealism, 
and which now sought only to hide its sanctuary 
from the desecration of the multitude. 

" Ah ! Truyn, at last, and how are you ?" cried 
the countess with sincere pleasure. 

" Much as ever," replied Truyn. 

" And where is your wife ?" asked Ilsenbergh. 



OUR OWN SET. 7 

"I do not know." 

" Is she still at Nice ?" 

"I do not know." And as he spoke his 
expression was colder and more set than before. 

"Are you to be long in Rome?" said the 
countess, anxious to divert the conversation into 
a more pleasing channel. 

" As long as my little companion likes and it 
suits her," answered Truyn. His ' little companion ' 
always meant his only child, a girl of about 
twelve. 

"You must bring Gabrielle to see me very 
soon," said the lady. " My Mimi and Lintschi are 
of the same age.'* 

"I will bring her as soon as possible ; unluckily 
she is so very shy she cannot bear strangers. But 
she has quite lost her heart to the general and to 
our cousin Sempaly." 

" What, Nicki !" exclaimed the countess. " Do 
you mean that he has the patience to devote him- 
self to children ?" 

" He has a peculiar talent for it. He dined 
with us to-day." 

" He is an unaccountable creature !" sighed 
the countess. " He hardly ever comes near us." 

At this moment a quick step was heard out- 
side and Count Sempaly was announced. 



8 OUR OWN SET. 

" Lupus in Fabula / " remarked Ilsenbergh. 

The new-comer was a young man of eight or 
nine and twenty, not tall, but powerfully though 
slightly built ; his remarkably handsome, well-cut 
features and clear brown complexion were beauti- 
fied by a most engaging smile, and by fine blue 
eyes with dark lashes and shaded lids. Under 
cover of that smile he could say the most auda- 
cious things, and whether the glance of those eyes 
were a lightning flash or a sunbeam no one had 
ever been quite certain. He gallantly kissed the 
tips of the countess's fingers, nodded to the men 
with a sort of brusque heartiness, and then seated 
himself on a cushion at the lady's feet. 

** Well, it is a mercy to be allowed to see you 
at last ; you really do not come often enough, 
Nicki; and in society I hardly ever meet you," 
complained the countess in a tone of kindly 
reproof. " Why do you so seldom appear in the 
respectable world?" 

"Because he is better amused in the other 
world !" said Ilsenbergh with a giggle in an under- 
tone. 

But a reproachful glance from his wife warned 
liim to be sober. 

" I simply have not the time for it," said Sem- 
paly half laughing. " I have too much to do." 



OUR OWN SET. 9 

" Too much to do !" said Truyn with his quiet 
irony. . . "In diplomacy? — What is the latest 
news ?" 

" A remarkable article in the ' Temps * on the 
great washing-basin question,*' replied Sempaly 
with mock gravity. 

" The washing-basin question !" repeated the 
others puzzled. 

"Yes/' continued Sempaly. "The state of 
affairs is this : When, not long since, the young 
duke of B. . . was required to serve under the 
conscription, his feelings were deeply hurt by the 
fact that he had not only to live in barracks, but 
to wash at the pump like a common soldier. This 
so outraged his mamma that she went to the Min- 
ister of War to petition that her son might have a 
separate washing-basin ; but after serious discus.- 
sion her application was refused. It was decided 
that this separate washing-basin would be a breach 
of the Immortal Principles of '89." 

" It is hardly credible !" observed Truyn ; 
Ilsenbergh shrugged his shoulders and the coun- 
tess innocently asked: 

"What are the immortal principles of '89?" 

" A sort of ideal convention between the aris- 
tocracy and the canaille," said Sempaly coolly. 
" Or if you prefer it, the first steps towards the 



ro OUR OWN SET. 

abdication of privilege at the feet of the higher 
humanity/' he added with a smile. 

The countess was no wiser than before, Sem- 
paly laughed maliciously as he fanned himself with 
a Japanese screen, and Ilsenbergh said : " Then 
you are a democrat, Sempaly ?" 

" From a bird's-eye point of view," added 
Truyn drily ; he had not much faith in his cousin's 
liberalism. 

"I am always a democrat when I have just 
been reading * The Dark Ages,' " said Sempaly — 
*The Dark Ages' was the name he chose to give 
to Ilsenbergh's newspaper. — " Besides, joking 
apart, I am really a liberal, though I own I am 
uneasy at the growing power of the radicals. By 
the bye, I had nearly forgotten to give you two 
items of news that will delight you Fritzi," — 
addressing the countess. "The reds have won all 
the Paris elections, and at Madrid they have been 
shooting at the king." 

** Horrible!" exclaimed the countess, and she 
shuddered, "we shall see the Commune again 
before long." 

"'93>" said Truyn, with his tone of dry irony. 

" We really ought to draw a cordon round the 
Austrian throne to protect it against the pestilen- 
tial flood of democracy," said Sempaly very 



OUR OWN SET. II 

gravely. " Ilsenbergh you must petition the upper 
house." 

" Your jokes are very much out of place/* said 
the countess, " the matter is serious." 

" Oh, no ! not for us," said Truyn. " Our people 
are too long suffering." 

"They are sound at the core," interrupted 
Ilsenbergh with dramatic emphasis. 

"They do not yet know the meaning of 
liberty," said Sempaly laughing, "and to them 
equality is a mere abstraction — a metaphysical 
delicacy." 

"They are thoroughly good and loyal !" ex- 
claimed Ilsenbergh, "and they know. . ." 

" Oh !" cried Sempaly, " they know very little 
and that is your safeguard. When once their eyes 
are opened your life will cease to be secure. If I 
had been a bricklayer I should certainly have been 
a socialist," and he crossed his arms and looked 
defiantly at his audience. 

" A socialist !" cried Ilsenbergh indignantly. 
" You ! — never. No, you could not have been a 
socialist; your religious feelings would have pre- 
served you from such wickedness !" 

" Hm !" replied Sempaly suspiciously, and 
Truyn said with a twist of his lips : 

"As a bricklayer Sempaly might not have 



12 OUR OWN SET. 

been so religious ; he might have found some dif- 
ficulty in worshipping a God who had treated him 
so scurvily." 

** Hush, Truyn !" exclaimed Sempaly, somewhat 
anxiously to his cousin. ** You know I dislike all 
such discussions. 

** True. I remember you wear Catholic blink- 
ers and are always nervous about your beliefs ; 
and you would not like to feel any doubt as to the 
unlimited prolongation of your comfortable little 
existence," said Truyn in a tone of grave and 
languid banter. For Sempaly was not burthened 
with religion, though, like many folks to whom 
life is easy, he clung desperately to a hope in a 
future life, for which reason he affected " Catholic 
blinkers " and would not have opened a page of 
Strauss for the world. 

"The sword is at our breast!" sighed the 
countess still sunk in dark forebodings. '* This new 
ministry! ..." And she shook her head. 

" It will do no harm beyond producing a few 
dreary articles in the papers and inundating us 
with new Acts which the crown will not trouble 
itself about for a moment," observed Sempaly. 

" The Austrian mob are gnashing their teeth 
already !" said the lady. 

** Nonsense ! The Austrian mob is a very good 



OUR OWN SET. 13 

dog at bottom; it will not bite till you forbid it to 
lick your hands/' said her cousin calmly. 

" I should dislike one as much as the other,'* 
said the countess, looking complacently at her 
slender white fingers. 

" But tell us, Nicki," asked Ilsenbergh, " has 
not the change of ministry put a stop to your 
chances of promotion ?" Sempaly was in fact an 
apprentice in the Roman branch of the great 
Austrian political incubator. 

" Of course," replied Sempaly. " I had hoped 
to be sent to London as secretary; but one of our 
secretaries here is to go to England, and the 
democrats are sending us one of their own proteg& 
in his place. My chief told me so this morning." 

" Oh ! who is our new secretary ?" asked the 
countess much interested. " If he is a protege of 
those creatures he must be a terrible specimen." 

" He is one Sterzl — and highly recommended ; 
he comes from Teheran where he has distinguished 
himself greatly," said Sempaly. 

" Sterzl !" repeated Ilsenbergh scornfully. 

" Sterzl !" cried the lady in disgust. " It is to 
be hoped he has no wife, — that would crown all." 

" On that point I can reassure you," said the 
general; " Sterzl is unmarried." 



14 OUR OWN SET. 

" You know him ?** murmured the countess 
slightly abashed. 

** He is the son of one of my dearest friends — 
a fellow- officer," replied the general, " and if he 
has grown up as he promised he must be a man 
of talent and character — his abilities were bril- 
liant." 

** That is something at any rate," Ilsenbergh 
condescended to say. 

"Yes, so it strikes me," added Sempaly ; " we 
require one man who knows what work means." 

" I was promised that my nephew should have 
the appointment," muttered the countess. " It is 
disgusting !" 

*' Utterly !" said Sempaly with a whimsical 
intonation. ** A foreign element is always intrusive; 
we are much more comfortable among ourselves." 

Tea was now brought in on a Japanese table 
and the secretary and his inferior birth were for 
the time forgotten. 



IS 



CHAPTER II. 

Sempaly was not merely affecting the demo- 
crat to annoy his cousin the countess ; he firmly 
believed himself to be a liberal because he laughed 
at conservatism, and regarded the nobility as a 
time-honored structure — a relic of the past, like 
the pyramids, only not quite so perdurable. But 
in spite of his theoretical respect for the rights of 
man and his satirical contempt for the claims of 
privilege, Sempaly was really less tolerant than his 
cousin of "the dark ages." Ilsenbergh, with all 
his feudal crotchets, was an aristocrat only from a 
sense of fitness while Sempaly was an aristocrat 
by instinct ; Ilsenbergh's pride of rank was an af- 
fair of party and dignity, Sempaly*s was a matter 
of superfine nerves. 

A few days after this conversation Sempaly 
met the general and told him that the new secre- 
tary had arrived, adding with a smile : " I do not 
think he will do !" 

" Why not ?" asked the general. 

" He speaks very bad French and he knows 
nothing about bric-a-brac^' replied Sempaly with 



1 6 OUR OWN SET. 

perfect gravity. ** I introduced him yesterday to 
Madame de Gandry and he had hardly turned his 
back when she asked me — she is the daughter of 
a leather-seller at Lille, you know — ' is he a man 
of family ?* — and would you believe it, I could 
not tell her. That is the sort of thing I never 
know." Then he added with a singular smile: 
" His name is Cecil — Cecil Maria. Cecil Maria 
Sterzl ! It sounds well do not you think ?" 

Cecil Maria ! It was a ridiculous name and 
ill-suited the man. His father had been an officer 
of dragoons who had retired early to become a 
country gentleman — the dearest dream of the 
retired officer ; his mother was a faded Fräulein 
von . . . . who had all her linen — not merely for 
her trousseau but all she ever purchased — marked 
with Aer coronet, who stuck up a flag on the turret 
of their little country house with Aer arms, and 
insisted on being addressed as baroness — which 
she never had been — by all her acquaintance. 
When, within a year of her marriage, she became 
the mother of a fine boy it was a burning question 
what his name should be. 

" Cecil Maria," lisped the lady. 

" Nonsense ! The boy shall be called Anthony 
after his grandfather," said his father, and the 
mother burst into tears. What man can resist the 



OUR OWN SET. 17 

tears of the mother of his first-born ? The child 
was christened Cecil. 

His father died at the early age of forty ; his 
youngest child, a little girl whom he worshipped, 
was dangerously ill of scarlet fever and he fell a 
victim to his devotion to her. Cecil was at that 
time a pretty but rather delicate boy, with an in- 
tense contempt for the French language which his 
sister's governess tried to instil into him, and a 
pronounced preference for the society of the stable- 
lads and peasant boys ; the baroness was always 
complaining that he was dirty and did not care to 
keep his hands white. The guardianship of the 
orphans devolved on General Sterzl, their father's 
elder brother, who honestly did his best for them, 
managing their little fortune with care, and con- 
scientiously directing their education. After a 
brief but keen inspection of the clever spoilt boy, 
of his silly mother, and of his cringing tutor, he 
shrugged his shoulders over this country gentle- 
man's life and placed the lad in the Theresianum, 
a college which in the estimation of every Austrian 
officer is the first educational establishment in the 
world — provided, that is to say, that he himself 
was not brought up there. 

During the first six months Cecil was bound- 
lessly miserable. All his life long till now he had 



1 8 OUR OWN SET. 

been accustomed to be first ; and it was hard sud- 
denly to find himself last. Although his abilities 
were superior his neglected education placed him 
far below most of his companions, and besides this 
he was, as it happened, the only boy not of noble- 
birth in this fashionable college, with the exception 
of a young Tyrolese whose descent was illegiti- 
mate, though he nevertheless was always boasting 
of his family. Then his companions laughed at 
his provincial accent, at his want of strength and 
at his queer name. We have all in our turn had 
to submit to this rough jesting. He could not for 
a long time get accustomed to it, and during the 
first half-year he incessantly plagued his mother 
and guardian to release him from what he called a 
prison ; but they remained deaf to his entreaties. 
The visible outcome, when Cecil went home for 
the summer holidays, was a very subdued frame of 
mind, and nicely kept, long white nails. The next 
term began with his giving a sound thrashing to 
the odious Tyrolese who bored the whole school 
with his endless bragging and airs. This made him 
immensely popular ; then he began to work in 
earnest; his masters praised his industry — and 
his complaints ceased. Had the subtle poison of 
pretentious vanity which infected the whole col- 
lege crept into his veins ? Had he begun to find 



OUR OWN SET. 19 

a charm in hearing Mass read on Sundays and 
Highdays by a Bishop ? To be waited on by ser- 
vants in livery, to learn to dance from the same 
teacher who gave lessons at court, and to call the 
titled youth of the empire * du* ? It is difficult 
to say. He seemed perfectly indifferent to all these 
privileges and assumed no airs or affectations. — His 
pride was of a fiercer temper. 

He finished his education by learning eastern 
languages, passed brilliantly, and, still aided by his 
uncle, went in for diplomacy. He was sent to an 
Asiatic capital which was just then undergoing a 
visitation of cholera and revolution ; there again 
he distinguished himself and was decorated with 
the order of the Iron Crown. 

One thing was soon very evident to every one 
in Rome : The new secretary was not a man 
whose character could be summed up in an epi- 
gram. There was nothing commonplace or pretty 
in the man. Externally he was tall and broad 
shouldered, with a well set carriage that gave him 
the air of a soldier in mufti ; his hair was brown 
and close-cropped and his features sharply cut. In 
manner he was awkward but perfectly well-bred, 
unpretentious and simple. The ambassador's 
verdict on the new secretary was very different 

from Sempaly's. *' He is my best worker," said 

3 * 



20 OUR OWN SET. 

his excellency : " A wonderful worker, and a long 
head — extraordinarily capable; but not pliant 
enough — not pliant enough. . . ." 

Nor was it only with his superiors that he found 
favor ; the younger officials with whom he came 
in contact were soon on the best terms with him. 
He had one peculiarity, very rare in men who 
take life so seriously as he did : He never quib- 
bled. The embassy at Rome at that time swarmed 
to such an extent with handsome, fashionable 
idlers that the Palazzo di Venezia was like a 
superior school for fine ladies with moustaches — 
as Sempaly aptly said. Sterzl looked on at their 
feeble doings with indulgent good humor; it was 
impossible to hope for any definite views or action 
from these young gentlemen ; it would have been 
as wise to try to make butterflies do the work of 
ants. He himself was always ready to make good 
their neglect and gave them every liberty for their 
amusements. He wished to work, to make his 
mark — that was his business ; to fritter away life 
and enjoy themselves was theirs. Thus they agreed 
to admiration. 

But though his subalterns were soon his de- 
voted allies, society at' large was still disposed to 
offer him a cold shoulder. His predecessor in 
office had never pretended to do anything note- 



OUR OWN SET. 21 

worthy as a diplomatist, but he had been an ad- 
mirable waltzer, and — which was even more 
important — he had not disdained that social 
diversion; consequently he had been a favorite 
with the ladies of Rome who loudly bewailed his 
departure and were not cordial to his successor. 
Sterzl took no pains to fill his place ; he had no 
trace of that obsequious politeness and superficial 
amiability which make a man popular in general 
society. His blunt conscientiousness and quite 
pedantic frankness of speech were displeasing on 
first acquaintance. In a drawing-room he com- 
monly stood silently observant, or, if he spoke, he 
said exactly what he thought and expected the 
same sincerity from others. He could never be 
brought to understand that the flattery and sub- 
terfuge usual in company were merely a degener- 
ate form of love for your neighbor; that the 
uncompromising truthfulness that he required 
must result in universal warfare ; that the limit- 
line between sincerity and rudeness, between 
deference and hypocrisy, have never been rigidly 
defined ; that the naked truth is as much out of 
place in a drawing-room as a man in his shirt- 
• sleeves ; and that, considering the defects and 
deformities of our souls, we cannot be too thank- 
ful that custom prohibits their being displayed 



22 OUR OWN SET. 

without a decent amount of clothing. Merciful 
Heaven ! what should we see if they were laid 
bare? 

No, we cannot live without lying. A man 
who is used to society demands that it should tell 
lies, it is his right, and a courtesy to which he has 
every claim. When a man finds that society no 
longer thinks him worth lying to his part is played 
out and he had better vanish from the scene. In 
short, Sterzl had no sort of success with women ; 
they dubbed him by the nickname of ' le Paysan 
du Danube,^ Men respected him; they only re- 
gretted that he had so many extravagant notions, 
particularly a morbid touchiness as to matters of 
honor ; however, that is a fault which men do not 
seriously disapprove of To Sterzl himself it was 
a matter of entire indifference what was said of 
him by people who were not his personal friends. 
For a friend he would go through fire and water, 
but he would often neglect even to bow to an 
acquaintance in the street as he walked on, straight 
to his destination, his head full of grand schemes. 
He was fully determined to make his mark : to 
do — perhaps to become — something great . . . 
but. . . . 



23 



CHAPTER III. 

Princess Vulpini, who had not escaped the 
fashionable complaint — the Morbus Schlieman- 
iensiSy had found a treasure no further off .than in 
an old-clothes shop in the Via Aracoeli, where she 
had bought two wonderful shields from designs, 
she was assured, of Benvenuto Cellini's and a 
fragment of tapestry said to have been designed 
by Raphael, and she had invited a few intimate 
friends — Truyn, Sempaly, von Klinger, and 
Count Siegburg, an Austrian attache, to give their 
opinion as to the genuineness of her find. She was 
Truyn's sister and a few years younger than he ; 
she had met Prince Vulpini at Vichy when spend- 
ing a season there with her invalid father and soon 
afterwards had married him, and now for twelve 
years she had lived in Rome, loving it well, though 
she never ceased railing at it for sundry incon- 
veniences, was always singing the praises of 
Vienna and would have all her shopping done for 
her ** at home ** because she was convinced that 
nothing was to be had in Rome but photographs, 
antiques and wax- matches. 



24 OUR OWN SET. 

The company had just finished a lively dinner, 
throughout which they had unanimously abused 
the new Italian Ministry ; but with the arrival of 
the coffee and cigarettes they turned to the con- 
sideration of the princess's antiquities which she 
had spread out on the floor for inspection. The 
gentlemen threw themselves on all-fours to ex- 
amine the arras and the shields, and pronounced 
their verdict with conscientious frankness. No 
one, it seemed, was thoroughly convinced of the 
authenticity of the treasures but the Countess 
Marie Schalingen, a lady who had been for some 
few weeks in Rome as the princess's guest ; all 
the others had doubts. The most vigorous sceptic 
of them all was Count Siegburg, who, to be sure, 
was the one who knew least of such matters, but 
who nevertheless spoke of " electrotype casts and 
modern imitations " with supreme decisiveness. 

Wips, or more correctly Wiprecht Siegburg, 
was the spoilt child of the Austrian circle; I 
doubt whether he could have invented gunpowder, 
have discovered America, or have proved that the 
earth goes round, but for work-a-day company he 
was certainly pleasanter than Schwarz, Columbus 
or Galileo. He had been attached to the embassy 
with no hope of his finding a career, but simply 
to get him away from Vienna, where his debts 



OUR OWN SET. 25 

had at last become inconveniently heavy. His 
widowed mother, after much meditation, had hit 
upon this admirable plan for checking her son in 
his extravagance. 

"You make me quite nervous, Siegburg," said 
the princess at length, ** though I know that you 
have not the faintest glimmering of knowledge on 
the subject." 

" Perhaps you are right," he answered coolly. 
** At any rate, I have lost confidence lately in my 
critical instincts. I always used to think that the 
genuineness of antiquities was in proportion to 
their dirt ; but now that I have learnt that even 
the dirt is counterfeit I have lost all basis of judg- 
ment." 

They all laughed at this confession, not so 
much for its wit as because every one laughed at 
Siegburg's little sallies. They were in the smok- 
ing-room, a snug apartment, picturesquely and 
comfortably furnished with carved wood and 
oriental cushions. All the party were on the in- 
timate terms of "just ourselves." a mixture of 
courteous deference and hearty friendliness. The 
conversation was not precisely learned; on the 
contrary, there was a certain frivolity in its tone ; 
very bad jokes were perpetrated and some anec- 
dotes related savoring of Saint-Simon in raciness 



26 OUR OWN SET. 

without any one being scandalized, for they were 
not in the mood to run every jest to earth, to treat 
every point by chemical analysis, or take every 
word literally. Superficiality is sometimes a 
gracious and a blessed thing. 

"I feel so thoroughly at home to-day — in 
such an Austrian atmosphere. . . .'* exclaimed the 
hostess. " But I have a presentiment that it will 
not be of long duration. Mesdames de Gandry 
and Ferguson are dining in this neighbor- 
hood. ..." 

As she spoke the servant announced Prince 
Norina. 

" * Coming events cast their shadows before,' " 
quoted Sempaly ; it was well known that when 
Prince Norina made his appearance the Countess 
de Gandry would soon follow. Norina was fat 
and fair, handsome on the barber's block pattern, 
and for the last four or five years had been danc- 
ing attendance on the French countess. He bowed 
to the princess, shook hands with the men and was 
instantly seized upon by the master of the house 
to listen to a tirade on the latest misdemeanors of 
the government. Vulpini was the blackest of the 
Black, a strong adherent of the pope, though from 
political rather than religious bias— -chiefly indeed 
as a fanatically exclusive Roman, who scorned to 



OUR OWN SET. 27 

make common cause with Italy at large, and re- 
garded " Italia unita " as a wild chimera. Prince 
Norina, who had no political convictions, listened 
to him and nodded assent to anything and every- 
thing. 

The company now adjourned to the drawing- 
room, a large uncomfortable room furnished in a 
motley style, partly Louis XV. and partly Empire, 
and which opened out of the more splendid salon 
in which the princess received formally, and the 
boudoir to which none but her most intimate 
friends were admitted. The conversation had lost 
much of its liveliness, and had flattened to a level 
at which some of the company had taken refuge 
in photographs when Madame de Gandry and 
Mrs. Ferguson were announced and rustled in. 

Madame de Gandry — a pale brunette, inter- 
esting rather than pretty, with a turned-up nose 
and hard bright eyes, noisy and coquettish, incon- 
siderate and saucy, because she fancied it gave 
her style — had for the last five years ruled the 
destinies of Prince Norina. Society had, however, 
agreed, perhaps for its own convenience, to regard 
their intimacy as mere good fellowship. The lady 
was looked upon as one of those giddy creatures 
who love to sport on the edge of an abyss. Mrs. 
Ferguson, the daughter of a hotel-keeper at San 



28 OUR OWN SET. 

Francisco and wife of a man whose wealth in- 
creased daily, was the exact opposite to Madame 
de Gandry — white and pink, with large eyes and 
sharp little teeth, very slender and flat-figured like 
many Americans. She dyed her hair, rouged, 
dressed conspicuously, spoke eccentric English 
and detestable French, sang Judic's songs, and 
had been introduced to Roman society by the 
Marchese B. . . who had met her at Nice. Her 
friendship with Madame de Gandry had begun 
on the strength of a landau they had hired be- 
tween them, had culminated in an opera-box on 
the same terms, and would probably be destroyed 
by a lover — in common too. 

A few gentlemen had also arrived : Count de 
Gandry, who looked like a hair-dresser and was 
suspected of carrying on a covert business as 
dealer in antiquities; M. Dieudonne Crespigny 
de Bellancourt, a square-built French diplomatist, 
the son of a butcher and son-in-law to a duke, 
etc., etc. The latest bankruptcy, the climate of 
Rome, the excavations, were all discussed. Madame 
de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson submitted at first 
to the tedium of a general conversation, but con- 
trived at the same time to attract as much of the 
men's attention as was possible under the circum- 
stances. Soon after eleven the Countess Ilsen- 



OUR OWN SET. 29 

bergh came in ; she had come from a grand din- 
ner and looked bored to death. 

" It really is absurd how one meets every one in 
Rome/* she said presently, when she had been 
questioned as to the how and where of the party 
she had just quitted. ** Who do you think I came 
across to-day, Marie? — That Lenz girl from 
Vienna ; now she is a duchess or a Countess 
Montidor — Heaven knows which; once, years 
ago, I had something to do with a charity sale she 
got up, so now she comes up to me as if I were 
an old acquaintance and pretends to be intimate, 
talks of 'we Austrians,' and 'at home at Vienna/ 
— Amusing, rather?" 

" Poor Fritzi ! I feel for you !" exclaimed Sem- 
paly with a malicious laugh. " But there is a 
greater treat in store for you. The Sterzl women, 
mother and sister, are coming in a few days." 

" Indeed ! that is pleasant certainly!" 

"Why ?" asked Madame de Gandry, throwing 
herself into the conversation. " Are they objec- 
tionable people ?" 

" By no means," said the countess quickly. " I 
believe they are the most respectable people in the 
world, but — it is a bore to be constantly meeting 
people here whom one could not possibly recog- 



30 OUR OWN SET. 

nize in Vienna. You should give him a hint, 
Nicki — tell him — explain to him. ..." 

" To be sure," said Sempaly laughing, " I 
might say : Look here, my good friend, beware 
of taking your mother and sister out anywhere ; 
my cousin the countess would rather not meet 
them." 

The countess shrugged her shoulders and 
turned away from her flippant interlocutor, tap- 
ping her fan impatiently. ** Do you mean to re- 
ceive them Marie ?" she asked. 

" Whom do I not receive ?" said the princess 
in an undertone, with a significant glance. 

"Well I cannot — decidedly not," said the 
countess excitedly, " though I shall be grieved to 
annoy Sterzl. It will be his own fault entirely if 
he forces me to explain myself" 

" Do as you think proper," replied her friend, 
" but you know I am very fond of Sterzl ; he 
stands high in my good graces." 

" What ! le Paysan du Danube f giggled 
Madame de Gandry, who had only partly under- 
stood the conversation. 

" Sterzl is a man of the highest respectability," 
said the countess icily ; she did not intend to allow 
that little French woman to laugh at her fellow- 
countryman, though he was not a man of birth. 



OUR OWN SET. 31 

"Z^ Paysan du Danube is my particular 
friend," said the princess with the simple heartiness 
that was so peculiarly her own. " I am very 
fond of him ; he is quite one of ourselves/' 

" He can have no higher reward on earth," 
said her brother with good-humored irony. 

" When my small boy fell and broke his arm, 
here in this very room, Sterzl picked him up, and 
you should have seen how gently he held my poor 
darling," added the princess. 

** That is ample evidence in favor of the fact 
that his woman-kind are presentable," laughed 
Sempaly. 

" But allow me to ask,*' interposed the Madame 
de Gandry, "just that I may understand what I 
am about — these Sterzls, they are not in good 
society in Austria ?" 

" Our Austrian etiquette can afford no stand- 
point for foreign society," said Truyn with unusual 
sharpness, for he could not endure Madame de 
Gandry ; " we receive no one who is not by birth 
one of ourselves." 

" Yes," said Sempaly with a keen glance, 
" Austrian society is as exclusive as the House of 
Israel, and scorns proselytes." And the leather- 
seller's daughter, who had not understood — or 
not chosen to understand Truyn's speech, replied 



^ i 



32 OUR OWN SET. 

with much presence of mind : " Ah, I am glad to 
know what I am about/' 

Siegburg, who was sitting behind her, glanced 
at Sempaly and made an expressive grimace. 

Princess Vulpini looked almost spiteful. " I 
will not leave Sterzl in the lurch," she said, 
"and if his sister is like his description of 
her. ..." 

" He has talked to you about his sister ?" in- 
terrupted Sempaly. 

" To be sure," said the princess with a smile, 
" and to you too, I should not wonder, Nicki ?" 

" No indeed, he does not show me his sacred 
places, I am not worthy," replied Sempaly. "He 
only told me that she was coming, and with a very 
singular smile. Hm, Hm ! he seems to set great 
store by the young lady and will no doubt look 
out for a fine match for her. I should not wonder 
if he had got her here for that express purpose. 
Norina, take care of yourself — forewarned you 
know. ..." 

** Mademoiselle Sterzl will hardly aspire to a 
prince's crown !" exclaimed Madame de Gandry, 
up in arms to defend her property. 

" Sterzl will not let his sister go for less," as- 
serted Sempaly. 



OUR OWN SET. 33 

" Do not talk such nonsense," said Truyn, to 
check Sempaly's audacity. 

But Sempaly was leaning over a table and scrib- 
bling on the back of an old letter ; presently he 
handed the half sheet to the Countess Ilsenbergh ; 
Madame de Gandry peeped over her shoulder. 

" Capital !" she exclaimed, " delicious !" Sem- 
paly had sketched Sterzl as an auctioneer, the 
hammer in one hand and a fashionably-dressed 
doll in the other, with all the Princes in Rome 
crowded round. In one corner he had written : 
" This lot — Fräulein Sterzl — once, twice, 
thrice. ..." 

The sketch was handed round ; the likeness of 
Sterzl was unmistakable. Soon after the Countess 
Ilsenbergh went away, and as the company were 
not in the best of humors the two friends also 
withdrew shortly after midnight followed by those 
gentlemen who had come in their train. 

" Fritzi is really a victim to an idee fixe,* the 
princess began when this indiscreet group had de- 
parted ; ** she wants me to entrench myself in dig- 
nified reserve against this poor little thing. What 
harm can the child do me ?" 

" I cannot imagine," said Siegburg ; " indeed, 
if she is pretty and has some money, it strikes me 
I will marry her myself — that will set matters 

3 



34 OUR OWN SET. 

Straight" Siegburg was fond of talking of the 
money that his wife must bring him, and liked to 
air the selfishness of which he was innocent, as 
very rich folks sometimes make a parade of 
poverty. 

" And it was really very stupid of Fritzi to 
ventilate this idiotic nonsense before those two 
women," added the princess, who was apt tp ex- 
press herself strongly ; but nothing that she said 
•ever sounded badly, on the contrary, she lent a 
grace to whatever she said. " Does she think she 
can make me turn exclusive !" 

"I hope you observed how that pinchbeck 
countess was prepared to tread in her footsteps," 
said Seigburg. 

Truyn meanwhile was hunting eagerly about 
the chimney-shelf and the tables, assisted by the 
master of the house. 

^* What are you looking for, Erich ?" asked his 
sister 

^' For that sketch of Sempaly's. I should not 
like to leave the thing about. Excuse me, Nicki, 
the caricature was capital, I have nothing to say 
against it, if it had only been among ourselves ; 
but you really ought not to have shown it to 
strangers. You are so heedless, you do not think 
of what you are doing." 



OUR OWN SET. 35 

** And what have I done now ?*' asked Sem- 
paly without any trace of annoyance. 

" You have simply stamped this young girl as 
an adventuress on the look-out for a husband." 

"Pooh ! as if so trifling a jest could be taken 
in earnest !*' said Sempaly. They searched every- 
where for the caricature but in vain. 

" I am convinced that wretched woman put it 
in her pocket!" cried the princess indignantly. 
That wretched woman was of course Madame de 
Gandry. 



It was true that Princess Vulpini was very fond 
of Sterzl, and he returned her regard with almost 
rapturous devotion. In spite of an unpolished 
and absent manner he had a vein of poetic chiv- 
alry and a pure reverence for true and lofty 
womanhood. He could not think it worth his 
while to offer to any woman that flattery — often 
impertinent enough in reality — that gratifies 
some of the sex, and he had never learnt the A B 
C of modern gallantry; but in his intercourse with 
those whom he spoke of as " true women " there 
was a touch of chivalrous protection and reserved 
deference. His behavior to them was so full of an 



3* 



36 OUR OWN SET. 

old-fashioned courtesy that he was certain to win 
their favor ; he treated them partly like children 
that must be cared for, and partly like sacred 
beings before whom we must bow the knee. 

Immediately on his arrival in Rome the prin- 
cess found great pleasure in their acquaintance, 
she confided to him all her little indignation at 
this or that grievance in Rome, and allowed hinl 
to take a variety of small cares off her shoulders, 
being, as all women of her soft nature are, very 
fastidious and utterly unpractical. 

There had been few sweeter girls in the 
Vienna world than the Countess Marie Truyn in 
her day, and there was not now in all Rome a 
more lovable woman than the Princess Vulpini. 
When in the afternoons she drove out in her open 
carriage, with her four or five children that looked 
as though they had been stolen straight out of one 
of Kate Greenaway's picture books, along the 
Corso to the Villa Borghese, her fashionable ac- 
quaintance, who had brought out their most 
recent or most fashionable bosom-friend instead of 
their children, would exclaim : " Here comes true 
happiness !" And the men bowed to her with par- 
ticular respect, eager to win the friendly and 
gracious smile that warmed all hearts like a ray of 
spring sunshine. She had never been a regular 



OUR OWN SET. 37 

beauty and had early lost her youthful freshness 
and the slim figure that had been almost prover- 
bial. Nevertheless her charm was undiminished ; 
her chief ornament, a wonderful abundance of 
bright brown hair, was as fine as ever and she wore 
it still, as when a girl of sixteen, simply combed 
back and gathered into a knot low down at the 
back. In spite of her faded complexion there was 
a childlike sweetness in her small round face, with 
its kind little eyes, its delicate turned-up nose, and 
soft lips that had no beauty till they smiled. All 
her movements were simple and graceful and her 
whole appearance conveyed the impression of ex- 
quisite refinement and the loftiest womanliness. 
Her dress was apt to be a little out of fashion, the 
latest chic never suited her. She was a great 
reader, even of very solid books, especially affect- 
ing natural science ; but she retained nevertheless 
the literal faith of her infancy, and this innocent 
orthodoxy was part and parcel of the simple fer- 
vency of her character. Sempaly, who was sin- 
cerely attached to her, always spoke of her devout 
piety as one of her most engaging qualities ; he 
declared that a woman to be truly sympathetic 
must be religious ; that a man may allow himself 
to profess free thought, but that a sceptical woman 
was as odious as a woman with a hump. To this 



38 OUR OWN SET. 

observation, which Sempaly once threw out in the 
presence of Sterzl, Cecil took great exception, 
though he himself was as devoid of religious be- 
liefs as Sempaly himself; he thought it imperti- 
nent 

** Men do not jest about the women whose 
names are sacred to them," he said with the 
pedantic chivalry, which always provoked his col- 
league's opposition. However, Sempaly only 
retorted with a sneering smile and a shrug. 



39 



CHAPTER IV. 

A FEW days after the evening when Sempaljr 
had given such brilliant proof of his talent as a 
caricaturist, General von Klinger was sitting in his 
studio on a divan covered with a picturesque 
Persian rug and endeavoring — having for the 
moment nothing better to do — to teach his par- 
rot to sing the Austrian anthem — a loyal task 
which the bird, perched on the top of its cage,, 
persistently refused to learn. It was a gorgeous 
studio, with a coved ceiling painted in fresco and 
a rococo plaster cornice, the walls hung with old 
tapestry, eastern stuffs and other "properties.'' It 
was so large that men looked like dwarfs in it, and 
the general's works of art like illustrations cut out 
of a picture book. The scirocco brooded in the 
atmosphere and the general was out of sorts ; he 
could not get on with his painting, and though it 
was now a quarter to five not a visitor had he 
seen Usually by this hour he had a number — 
nay sometimes too many. The general often 
grumbled — to himself of course — at the inter- 
ruption ; but he always enjoyed the little dissipa- 



40 OUR OWN SET. 

tiön ; it made him melancholy to be left to him- 
self. 

He was thinking just now how difficult it was 
to get on as a painter; his coloring was capital — 
so all his artist friends assured him ; but that his 
drawing left much to be desired he himself con- 
fessed. His two strong points were a harmonious 
effect of grey tone and horses seen from behind. 
All his pictures returned to him from the exhibi- 
tions unsold, excepting one which was purchased 
by the emperor in consideration of the general's 
former merits as a soldier rather than of his talents 
as an artist. The painters who came to smoke 
his cigarettes accounted for this by saying that his 
artistic aims were too independent, that he made 
no concessions to public taste and so could not 
hope for popularity. 

He was in the very act of whistling the national 
anthem for the sixteenth time to the recalcitrant 
bird, when he heard a knock at the door ; he rose 
to open it and Sempaly came in. He had called 
to inform the general that he had discovered a 
very fine though much damaged piece of tapestry 
in a convent, and had bought it for a mere song ; 
he had in fact purchased it for the general because 
he knew that it was just such a specimen as he 
had long wished for. " But if you do not care to 



OUR OWN SET. 41 

take it I shall be very glad to keep it," he added. 
No one had the art of doing an obliging thing 
with a better grace than he ; it was one of his little 
accomplishments. 

When they had settled their business Sempaly 
broke into loud lamentations that he was obliged 
to dine that day at the British embassy, and then 
to dance at the French ambassador's, and raved 
about the ideal life led by his friend — he only 
wished he could lead such a life — in which there 
were no evening parties, routs, balls or dinners. 
Next he wandered round the room looking at all 
the studies that hid their faces against the wall. 
*' Charming !" " Superb !" he kept exclaiming in 
French, with his Austrian accent, from a sheer 
impulse to say something pleasant — he always 
tried to make himself pleasant. " Why do not 
you work that thing up ?" he said at length, point- 
ing to a sketch on canvas of a group of bashi- 
bazouks. 

" It might sell," replied the artist whose great 
difficulty always lay in the * working up,' *' but you 
know I am independent in my aims, I set my face 
against making concessions to the vulgar ; I must 
work on my own principles and not to pander to 
the public." 

Sempaly smiled at this profession of faith. 



42 OUR OWN SET. 

" As it is a mere whim with you ever to sell at 
all," he answered, " my advice is that you should 
never attempt it, but leave all your works to the 
nation, so that we may have a Musee Wierz at 
Vienna." 

The general assured him that he was quite in 
earnest in his desire to sell his pictures, but Sem- 
paly smiled knowingly. 

" There was once upon a time," he began, " a 
cobbler who was a man of genius, but he prided 
himself on his sense of beauty and his artistic 
convictions, and he heeded not the requirements 
of his customers — he would make nothing but 
Greek sandals. He died a beggar, but happy in 
the consciousness of never having made a con- 
cession to the vulgar." 

The general was on the point of making an 
indignant reply to this malicious anecdote, when 
the loud rap was again heard which seems to be 
traditional at a studio door ; it is supposed to be 
necessary to arouse the artist from his absorption in 
his work. The general went to admit his visitor. 

There was a small ante-room between the 
studio and the stairs. The door was no sooner 
opened than in flitted a slender creature, fair and 
blooming, tall, slim, and bewitchingly pretty, in a 
dark dress and a sealskin jacket. 



OUR OWN SET. 43 

" What, you Zinka !*' cried the old general de- 
lightedly. " This is a surprise ! How long have 
you been in Rome ?" 

" Only since this morning," answered a gay 
voice. 

" And are you alone ?" asked the artist in as- 
tonishment, as Zinka shut the door and went for- 
ward into the atelier. 

" Yes, quite alone," she said calmly. " I left 
the maid at home ; she and mamma are fast asleep, 
resting after their journey. I came alone in a 
carriage — it was very nice of me do not you 
think ? — Why, what a face to make ! . . . And 
why have you not given me a kiss. Uncle Klin- 
ger ?" She stood before him bright and confident, 
her head a little thrown back, her hands in a tiny 
muff, gazing at him with surprise in her frank 
grey eyes. 

'* My dear Zinka. ..." the general began — 
for, like all conscientious old gentlemen with 
romantic memories, he was desperately punctilious 
as to the proprieties when any lady in whom he 
took an interest was implicated, " I am charmed, 
delighted to see you. . . . But in a strange place, 
where you know no one, and in a strange house 
where. ..." 

"Oh, now I understand," cried the girl. " It 



44 OUR OWN SET. 

IS not proper !....! shall live to be a hundred 
before I know exactly what is proper ; it is very 
odd, but Uncle Sterzl used always to say that it 
was of no use to worry about it ; that if people 
were ladies and gentlemen everything was proper, 
and if they were not why it was all the same. But 
he «did not know what he was talking about, it 
would seem !*' and she turned sharply on her heel 
and made for the door. 

"But, my dear Zinka," cried the general hold- 
ing her back, "tell me at least where you are 
living before you whisk off like a whirlwind. Do 
not be so utterly unreasonable." 

" I am perfectly reasonable," she retorted. She 
was both embarrassed and angry; her cheeks 
were scarlet and her eyes full of tears. " It never 
would have occurred to me certainly that there 
was anything improper in calling on an old gen- 
tleman," and she emphasized the words quite 
viciously, " in his studio. Oh, the vanity of men ! 
Who can foresee its limits ! — But I am perfectly 
reasonable, I acknowledge my mistake — simple- 
ton that I am ! . , . . And I have been looking 
forward all day to taking you by surprise. I 
meant to ask you to dine with us. at the Hotel 
de I'Europe and to come with me first to the 
Pincio to see the sunset. And these are the 



OUR OWN SET. 45 

thanks I get ! . . . . Do not trouble yourself to get 
your hat, it is waste of trouble ; I do not want 
you now. Good-bye." And she flew off, her head 
in the air, without looking back once at the gen- 
eral who dutifully escorted her to the carriage. 

The old man came back much crest-fallen. A 
voice greeted him cheerfully : 

"Quite in disgrace, general!" 

It was Sempaly, who had witnessed the whole 
scene from a recess, and whom the general had 
entirely forgotten. 

" So it seems,** said he shortly, beginning to 
scrape his palette. 

" But tell me who is this despotic little prin- 
cess ?** 

" Who ? My god-daughter, Zinka Sterzl.*' 



Thunderbolts are out of date, no one believes 
in them now-a-days ; nevertheless it is a fact, 
which Sempaly himself never contradicted, that he 
fell in love with Zinka at first sight. And when 
a few days after Zinka*s irruption into the gen- 
eral's studio the old gentleman accepted an in- 
vitation to dine with the Baroness Sterzl at the 
Hotel de TEurope, on entering the room he found. 



46 OUR OWN SET. 

eagerly employed in looking over a quantity of 
photographs with the young lady — Count Sem- 
paly. 

The two gentlemen were the only guests, and 
yet — or perhaps in consequence — the little party 
was as gay and pleasant as was possible with so 
affected and formal a hostess as the " Baroness." 

This lady, a narrow and perverse soul as ever 
lived, was the very essence of vanity and affecta- 
tion. She imagined — Heaven alone knows on 
what grounds — that the general had formerly 
loved her hopelessly, and she always treated him 
accordingly with a consideration that was intoler- 
ably irritating. She had made great strides in 
the airs of refinement since she and the general 
had last met — at a time before she, or rather her 
children, had become rich through an advantage- 
ous sale of part of their land, and this of course 
added to the charms of her society. She was 
perpetually complaining in a tone of feeble ele- 
gance — the sleeping-carriages were intolerable, 
the seats were so badly stuffed, Rome was so 
dirty, the hotels were so bad, the conveyances so 
miserable ; she brought in the names of all the 
aristocratic acquaintances they had made at Nice, 
at Meran, and at Biarritz, and asked — the next 
day being a saint's day — which church was fit 



OUR OWN SET. 47 

to go to. The vehement old general answered 
hotly that " God was in them all." But Sempaly 
informed her with the politest gravity that Car- 
dinal X. . . . read mass in the morning at St. 
Peter's and that the music was splendid. " I 
advise you to try St. Peter's." 

" Indeed, is St. Peter's possible on a saint's 
day?" she asked. "The company is usually so 
mixed in those large churches." 

The general fairly blushed for her follies on 
her children's account. 

" Have you forgiven me, Zinka ?" he said to 
change the conversation. 

** As if I had time to trouble myself about 
your strait-laced proprieties !" exclaimed she, 
coloring slightly ; she evidently did not like this 
allusion to her little indiscretion : ** I have some- 
thing much worse to think about." 

" Why — what is the matter, sweetheart ?" 
asked her brother, who took everything seriously. 

" I have lost something," she said in a tone of 
deep melancholy which evidently covered some 
jest. 

" Not a four-leaved shamrock or a medal 
blessed by the pope ?" asked the general. 

" Oh, no ! something much more important." 

" Your purse !" exclaimed the baroness hastily. 



48 OUR OWN SET. 

But Zinka burst out laughing. " No, no, some- 
thing much greater — you will never guess : 
Rome." 

On which Sterzl, who could never make out 
what his fascinating little sister would be at, only 
said : ** That is beyond me." 

But Sempaly was sympathetic. "I see you 
are terribly disappointed," he said, and Zinka 
went on like a person accustomed to be listened 
to. 

" Yes, ever since I could think at all I have 
dreamed of Rome and longed to see it. My Rome 
was a suburb of Heaven, but this Rome is a 
suburb of Paris. My Rome was glorious and this 
Rome is simply hideous." 

" Do not be flippant, Zinka," said the general, 
who always upheld traditional worship. 

" Well, as a city Rome is really very ugly," 
interposed her brother, " it is more interesting as 
a museum of antiquities with life-size illustrations. 
Still, you do not know it yet. You have seen 
nothing as yet. ..." 

" But lodgings, you mean," retorted Zinka, 
casting down her eyes with sanctimonious sauci- 
ness. 

*' It is dreadful !" the baroness began, ** we 
have been here five days and cannot find an apart- 



OUR OWN SET. 49 

ment fit to live in. Wherever we go there is some 
drawback ; the stairs are too dark, or the entrance 
is bad, or there is only one door to the salon, or 
the servants' rooms. ..." 

*' But my dear Zinka," interrupted the gen- 
eral, " if you really have seen nothing of Rome 
excepting the lodgings in the Corso, of course. . ." 

" Oh ! but I have seen something else," cried 
Zinka, " indeed, I know my way about Rome 
very well." 

'* In your dreams ?" 

*' No, I went yesterday ; mamma had a sick 
headache." 

'* Olr! those headaches !" sighed the baroness 
putting her salts to her nose, " I am a perfect 
martyr to them !" 

To have sick headaches and be a strict Catholic 
were marks of good style in the baroness's estima- 
tion. Sempaly put on a sympathetic expression, 
but returned at once to the subject in hand. 

*' Yes, I know Rome very well," Zinka went 
on : " You have only to ask the driver of the 
street cab No. 1203, and he will tell you. I drove 
about with him for three hours yesterday. You 
see, to have been in Rome a whole week and to 
have seen nothing but furnished lodgings was 
really too bad, so I took advantage of the oppor- 



50 OUR OWN SET. 

tunity when mamma was in bed ; I slipped out — 
you need not make that face. Uncle, I took the 
maid with me — we meant to walk everywhere 
with a map. Of course we lost our way, cela va sans 
dire, and as we were standing helpless, each hold- 
ing the map by a corner, a driver signed to us — 
so, with his first finger. In we got and he asked 
us where we wished to go, but as I had no answer 
ready he said with the most paternal air: *Ah! 
the signora wants to see Rome — good, I will 
show her Rome !' And he set off, round and round 
and in and out, all through the city. I was posi- 
tively giddy with this waltz round all the sights of 
Rome. He showed me a perfect forest of fallen 
pillars, with images of gods and fragments of 
sculpture carefully heaped round them, like Christ- 
mas boxes for lovers of antiquities — * the Campo 
Vaccino* he called it — I believe it was the Forum; 
then he pointed out the palace of Beatrice Cenci, 
the Jews' quarter, the Theatre of Marcellus, the 
Temple of Vesta; and every time he showed me 
anything he added : * Now am I not a capital 
guide ? Many a driver would only take you from 
place to place, and what would you see ? Nothing 
.... a heap of stones .... but I tell you : that is 
the Colisseum, and this is the Portico of Octavia, 
and then the stones have some meaning.' And at 



OUR OWN SET. 51 

last he set me down at the door of the hotel and 
said quite seriously : ' Now the signora has seen 
Rome.'" 

They were now at dessert ; the baroness looked 
anything rather than pleased. 

"Allow me to request," she said, ** that for the 
future in the first place you will not make friends 
with a common driver and in the second, that you 
will not drive about Rome in a Botta (a one horse 
carriage) ; it is not at all the thing. You have no 
sense of fitness whatever." 

Zinka, who was both sensitive and spoilt, 
colored. 

"Let her be, mother, why should she not learn 
a little Italian and ride in a Botta V said Sterzl, 
who rubbed his mother the wrong way from morn- 
ing till night. Sempaly took prompt advantage 
of the situation to whisper to Zinka: 

" I cannot promise to be as good company as 
your Botta driver, but if you will allow me, I will 
do my best to help you to find the Rome you 
have lost." 

" Are you sure you know your way about ?" 
asked the girl with frank incivility. 

" I am the laquais de place of the Embassy I 
assure you," replied Sempaly laughing ; *' my only 

4* 



52 OUR OWN SET. 

serious occupation consists in showing strangers 
the sights of Rome." 

After this the evening passed gaily; the 
baroness made a few idiotic speeches but Sempaly 
forbore to be ironical ; he was on his very best 
behavior, and the baroness was quite taken in by 
his elaborate reserve. Not so Sterzl, who was 
himself too painfully alive to her aristocratic airs 
and pretensions. However, the society of his 
sister, whom he adored, had put him into the best 
of humors ; he launched forth a few bitter epi- 
grams against the priesthood, and was satirical 
about the society of Rome, but Zinka stopped 
him every time with some engaging nonsense, 
and in listening to her chatter he forgot his bitter- 
ness. 

At last he asked her to sing a Moravian popu- 
lar song; she seated herself at the hotel piano 
and began. There was something mystical in the 
low veiled tones of her voice like an echo of the 
past, as she sang the melancholy, dreamy strains 
of her native land. Sterzl, who always yawned 
all through an opera, listened to her singing, his 
head resting on his hand, in a sort of ecstasy. In 
Sempaly too, who in spite of his Hungarian name 
was by birth a Moravian, Zinka's simple melody 
roused the half-choked echoes of his youth, and 



OUR OWN SET. 53 

when she ceased he thanked her with genuine 
feeling. 

Zinka's was an April weather nature. After 
bringing the tears into the eyes of her hearers, 
nay into her own, with her song, she suddenly 
struck up an air by Lecocq that she had heard 
Judic sing at Nice. The words, as was perfectly 
evident to all the party, were Hebrew to the girl, 
but the baroness was beside herself 

"Zinka!" she exclaimed in extreme consterna- 
tion, "you really are incredible — what must these 
gentlemen think of you !" 

" Do not be in the least uneasy," said the 
general. But Zinka stopped short ; her face was 
pale and quivering ; Sterzl interposed : 

" It is often a little difficult to follow my sister's 
vagaries," he said turning to Sempaly ; then he 
tenderly stroked her golden head with his large, 
firm hand, saying : " Do not be unhappy, sweet- 
heart ; but you are a little too much of a goose 
for your age." 

When presently Sempaly had quitted the hotel 
with the general his first words were : " Tell me, 
how is it that with such a fool of a mother that 
child has remained so angelically fresh — so BoU 
ticelUr 



54 



CHAPTER V. 

A MINE somewhere in Poland or Bohemia 
came to grief about this time by some accidental 
visitation, and five hundred families were left 
destitute through the disaster. Of course the 
opportunity was immediately seized upon for 
charitable dissipations, for qualifying for Orders of 
Merit by liberal donations, and for attracting the 
eyes of Europe by the most extravagant display 
of philanthropy. After much deliberation Countess 
Ilsenbergh had arrived at the conviction that, as 
both the ambassadors' families were hindered by 
mourning from giving any public entertainment, 
the duty of taking the lead devolved upon her. 
The rooms in her Palazzo were made on purpose 
for grand festivities, and after endless discussion it 
was decided that the entertainment should be 
dramatic. An Operetta, a Proverbe by Müsset, 
and a series of Tableaux Vivants were finally put 
in rehearsal and a collection was to be made after 
the performance. 

Madame de Gandry threw herself into the 
undertaking with the most commendable ardor. 



OUR OWN SET. 55 

She was on intimate terms with the leading spirits 
at the Villa Medici — the French Academy of 
Arts at Rome — and she interested herself in the 
painting of the scenes, and in the artistic design- 
ing of the dresses in which she proved invaluable. 
Up to a certain point all went smoothly. The 
operetta — an unpublished effort of course — by a 
Russian amateur of rank who was very proud of 
not even knowing his notes, was soon cast. It 
needed only three performers and led up to the 
introduction of an elaborate masquerade and of 
certain suggestive French songs. Mrs. Ferguson, 
who never let slip an opportunity of powdering 
her hair and sticking on patches, was to sing the 
soprano part ; Crespigny took that of a husband 
or a guardian in a nightcap or flowered dressing- 
gown, and a young French painter, M. Barillat, 
who was at all times equally ready to sketch or to 
wear a becoming costume, was to fill that of the 
lover. The cast of the little French play was equally 
satisfactory ; but when the arrangement of the 
tableaux came to be considered difficulties arose. 
In the first place all the ladies were eager to dis- 
play their charms under the becoming light of a 
tableau vivant; and the number of volunteers 
was quite bewildering to the committee of man- 
agement that met every day at the Ilsenberghs' 



56 OUR OWN SET. 

house. Then squabbles and dissatisfaction arose; 
the ladies did not approve of the choice of sub-- 
jects, they thought their dresses unbecoming, their 
positions disadvantageous ; each one to whom a 
place at the side was 'assigned was deeply ag- 
grieved; an unappreciated beauty who prided 
herself on her profile from the left would not for 
worlds be seen from the right, etc., etc. And 
above all — an insuperable diflSculty — almost all 
the available men of the set manifested the great- 
est objection to * making themselves ridiculous ' 
and positively rejected the most flattering bland- 
ishments of the ladies' committee. Sempaly, who 
had been asked to appear as a Roman emperor, 
would not hear of putting on flesh-colored tights 
and a wreath of vine ; and Truyn had shrugged 
his shoulders at the proposal that he should don a 
wig with long curls. 

Siegburg — little Siegburg, as he was always 
called, though he was nearly six feet high — after 
defending himself with considerable humor, good- 
naturedly agreed to stand as Pierrot, in a Watteau 
scene in which the Vulpini children were to appear; 
and Sterzl, being personally requested by his am- 
bassador, submitted, though with an ill grace, to 
be the executioner in Delaroche's picture of Lady 
Jane Grey. This tableau was to be the crowning 



OUR OWN SET. 57 

glory of the performance ; Barillat had taken in- 
finitely more pains with it than with any other ; 
the part of Lady Jane was to be filled . by a fair 
English girl, Lady Henrietta Stair; and then, 
within a few days of the performance, Lady Hen^ 
rietta fell ill of the measles. 

The committee were in despair when this news 
reached them, and all who were concerned in the 
performance were summoned to meet at the 
Palazzo that evening to talk the matter over. 
Hardly any one was absent ; only Sterzl, who de- 
tested the whole charity scramble, as he called it, 
sent his excuses. Every lady present expected 
to find herself called upon to stand — or rather to 
kneel — as Lady Jane Grey ; but Mrs. Ferguson 
was the first to give utterance to the thought, and 
to offer herself heroically as Lady Henrietta's 
substitute. To the astonishment of all the company 
Sempaly, whose interest in the work of benevo- 
lence had hitherto displayed itself only in satirical 
remarks, and suggestions as to the representation 
of Makart's * entrance of Charles V.' or of Siemi- 
radzky's 'living torches,' took an eager part in the 
discussion. 

"Your self-sacrifice, Mrs. Ferguson," said he, 
"is more admirable every day." 

" Dear me," replied the lady innocently. 



58 OUR OWN SET. 

" where is the self-sacrifice in having an old gown 
cut up into a historical costume ?" 

" That, indeed, would be no sacrifice," said 
Sempaly coolly. " But it must be a sacrifice for 
a lady to appear in a part that suits her so re- 
markably ill." 

Mrs. Ferguson smiled rather like some pretty 
little wild beast showing its teeth. 

" Ah !" she said, " I suppose you think I have 
none of that pathetic grace that M. Barillat is so 
fond of talking about." 

" No more than of saving grace," said Sem- 
paly solemnly. Then, while the women were dis- 
puting over the matter, he found an opportunity 
of whispering a few words to Barillat; Barillat 
looked up delighted. At this moment they were 
joined by Countess Ilsenbergh. 

" I have another suggestion to offer Madame 
la Comtesse ; I have thought of some one. . ." 

" Some newly-imported American," laughed 
Madame de Gandry, *' or a painter's model with 
studied grace and yellow hair?" 

" You may rest assured that I should not for 
an instant think of proposing to employ a model," 
Barillat emphatically declared ; " no, the lady in 
question is a very charming person: Fräulein 
Sterzl. I saw her the day before yesterday at 



OUR OWN SET. 59 

Lady Julia Ellis's; she is an Austrian — you 
must know her surely ?*' 

" I have not that pleasure," said the countess 
drily. 

" You do not think she will do ?" murmured 
the artist abashed. The countess cleared her 
throat. 

"Bless me !" cried Madame de Gandry furious 
at the pride of her Austrian friend, " you take the 
matter really too much in earnest. Why on earth 
should not the girl act with us ? On these oc- 
casions, in Vienna, as I have been informed, even 
actors are invited to help." 

" That is quite different," said the countess. 

Madame de Gandry shrugged her shoulders 
and turned away and the countess beckoned to 
her cousin Sempaly. " I am heartily sick of the 
whole business," she exclaimed. "At home I have 
got this sort of thing up a score of times, and 
everything has gone well . . . while here. . ." 

" Yes, there is more method among us " replied 
Sempaly sympathetically. 

" The people here are so unmanageable ; eVtry 
one wants to play the best parts," said the coun- 
tess. 

" That is the result of the republican element," 
observed Sempaly. 



60 OUR OWN SET. 

" And now there is all this difficulty about the 
Lady Jane Grey tableau," sighed the countess. 
*' Why need that English girl take the measles 
now, just when she is wanted." 

"The English are always so inconsiderate," said 
Sempaly gravely. 

" Do you happen to have met this little Sterzl 
girl ?" 

"Yes." 

"What does she look like?" 

" Well, she looks like a very pretty girl. . ." 

" And besides that ?" 

" Besides that she looks very much like our 
own girls ; it is really a most extraordinary freak 
of nature ! She seems to be very presentable on 
further acquaintance; Princess Vulpini is quite in 
love with her." 

" Indeed ! — Well, Barillat is possessed with 
the idea of having her to play the part of Lady 
Jane Grey and in Heaven's name let him have his 
own way!" cried the countess. " If Marie Vul- 
pini will bring her here I will make the best of 
it." 

" What, you mean to say that you will let her 
figure in your tableau and not invite her mother?" 
laughed Sempaly. 

" Invite her ! — to the performance of course. 



OUR OWN SET. 6 1 

I invite Tom, Dick, and Harry, and all the English 
parsons and all the foreign artists/' 

** And all their families. Fritzi, you are an 
admirable woman !" retorted Sempaly ironically. 

" But the rehearsals are so perfectly intimate. . " 
she murmured. Time pressed however. " Well, 
have it so for all I care ;" said the countess re- 
signedly and next morning she paid a polite 
call on the Baroness Sterzl to request Zinka's as- 
sistance ; and as she had as much tact as pride 
she had soon reconciled not only Zinka, but her 
sensitive thin-skinned brother, to the fact that the 
young girl had only been asked at the last moment 
and under the pressure of necessity to take part 
in the performance. Cecil did not altogether like 
the idea of displaying his pretty sister in a tableau 
and only consented because he did not like to de- 
prive Zinka of the pleasure which she looked for- 
ward to with great delight. He adored the child 
and could refuse her nothing. 

The evening of the festival arrived ; the per- 
formances took place in a vast room almost lined 
with mirrors and lighted by wonderful Venetian 
chandeliers that hung from the decorated ceiling 
where frescoes were framed in tasteless gilt scroll 
work. In spite of its size the room was crowded ; 
the most illustrious of the company sat in solitary 



62 OUR OWN SET. 

dignity in the front row, and behind them was 
packed a fashionable but somewhat mixed crowd. 
Manly forms of consummate elegance were 
squeezed against the walls, and the assembly 
sparkled like a sea of sheeny silks and glittering 
jewels. Princess Vulpini, who was helping the 
countess to do the honors, hovered on the margin, 
graceful and kindly, but a little pale and tired, and 
the countess herself reigned supreme in that regal 
dignity which she could so becomingly assume on 
fitting occasions. There were very few women 
who could wear a diamond coronet with such good 
grace as Fritzi Ilsenbergh — even her intractable 
cousin Sempaly did her that much justice. 

The great success of the evening was not the 
little French play, in which Madame de Gandry 
and the all-accomplished Barillat made and parried 
their hits after the accepted methods of the 
Theatre Frangais; it was not the operetta, in 
which Mrs. Ferguson looked bewitchingly pretty 
and sang ^le Sentier convert^ to admiration; it was 
not even the children's tableau, in which the 
little Vulpinis looked like a bunch of freshly- 
gathered roses ; the great success of the evening 
was the tableau of Lady Jane Grey. SterzFs 
face in this scene was a perfect tragedy, all the 
misery of an executioner who adores his victim 



OUR OWN SET. 63 

was legible there. And Zinka ! — gazing up to 
heaven with ecstatic pathos, her whole attitude 
expressive of sacred resignation and childlike awe, 
she was the very embodiment of the hapless and 
innocent being before whom the executioner 
lowers his gaze. A string quartet played the 
allegretto from Beethoven's seventh symphony 
and the melancholy music heightened the effect of 
the poetical tableau, thrilling the audience like a 
lullaby sung by angels to soothe the struggling, 
suffering human soul. 

The whole artistic corps who had been invited 
from the Villa Medici, with the director at their 
head, unanimously decided that this performance 
far excelled all that had gone before, and Countess 
Ilsenbergh forgot in its success all the annoyance 
it had occasioned her. After the collection, which 
produced a magnificent sum, most of the company 
dispersed. Ilsenbergh, with his most feudal smile, 
expressed his thanks to all the performers in turn 
and presented elegant bouquets to the ladies. The 
entertainment lost its formal character and became 
a sociaj gathering. 

Zinka was sitting in a side room, surrounded 
by a host of young Romans and Frenchmen. As 
she was one of those rare natures who derive not 
the smallest satisfaction from the homage of men 



64 OUR OWN SET. 

for whom they have no regard, she listened to their 
enthusiastic compliments with absolute indiffer- 
ence. 

She had asked for an ice and Norina had offered 
it to her on his knees, remaining in that position to 
pour out a string of high-flown compliments. 
Zinka, unaccustomed to this Southern effusive- 
ness, was remonstrating with some annoyance but 
without the slightest effect, when Sempaly came 
in and exclaimed in the abrupt tone he commonly 
used to younger men : " Get up, Norina, do you not 
see that your devotion is not appreciated." 

The prince rose with a scowl, Sempaly drew a 
seat to Zinka's side and in five minutes had, as 
usual, entirely monopolized her. 

'* My cousin the countess owes everything to 
you," he said in his most musical tones; " you 
saved the whole thing. I detest all amateur per- 
formances, but that tableau of Lady Jane Grey 
was really beautiful." 

" I liked the French play very much. Madame 
de Gandry's acting was full of spirit." 

'* Bah ! I have had more than enough of such 
spirit." 

" Indeed !" laughed she, " it seems to me that 
you are suffering from general weariness of life. 
You are blase.' 



1 >> 



OUR OWN SET. 65 

" What do you understand by being blasd ?" 
he asked. 

" Why, that exhaustion of heart and soul 
which comes of the fatigue produced by a life of 
perpetual enjoyment ; it is I believe an essential 
element in the character of a man of fashion." 

'* Something between a malady and an affecta- 

« 

tion," remarked Sempaly. 

** Just so ; in short, to be blas^ is the heart- 
sickness of a fop." 

Sempaly glanced at her keenly. " Your defi- 
nition is admirable," he said, *' I will make a note 
of it ; but the cap does not fit me. I am not blase, 
I am not indifferent to anything. Shams, hypoc- 
risy, and meretriciousness irritate me, but when I 
meet with anything really good or lovely or 
genuine I can recognize it and admire it — more 
perhaps than most men." 

Meanwhile the winner of the musical prize 
from the Villa Medici had sat down to the piano 
and plunged straightway out of a maundering 
improvisation into a waltz by Strauss. The 
countess had no objection if they liked to dance, 
and several couples were soon spinning under the 
flaring candles. 

Sempaly rose : " May I have the honor ?" he 

5 



66 OUR OWN SET. 

said to Zinka, and they went together into the 
dancing-room. 

Zinka had the pretty peculiarity of turning 
pale rather than red as she danced; her move- 
ments were not sprightly, but gliding and dreamy; 
in fact she waltzed with uncommon grace. Sem- 
paly had long since lost the subaltern's delight in 
a dance; he only asked ladies who had some 
special interest or charm for him, and every one 
knew it. 

" Hm !" said Siegburg, shaking his head as he 
went up to General von Klinger who was watch- 
ing the graceful couple from a recess, " my little 
game has come to nothing it seems to me.** 

** Have you retired then ?" asked the general. 

" By no means — quite the contrary ; but my 
chances are small enough at present I fancy; 
what do you say ?*' He looked straight into the 
old man's eyes ; he understood and said nothing. 

"She dances beautifully, I never saw a girl 
dance better. How well she holds her head," he 
murmured. Suddenly a flash of amusement 
lighted up his eyes. " Look at Fritzi's face !" he 
exclaimed : " What a horrified expression ! a per- 
fect Niobe." 



67 



CHAPTER VI. 

Sempaly's intimacy with the Sterzls grew 
daily ; he did the honors of Rome to Zinka, and 
dined with them as a fourth two or three times a 
week. After the tableaux at the Ilsenberghs* 
Zinka was asked everywhere; all the men were 
at her feet, and all the ladies wanted to learn her 
songs. The men she treated with the utmost in- 
difference and to the ladies she was always oblig- 
ing, particularly to those whom no one else would 
take the pains to be civil to, all of which greatly 
added to her popularity. Truyn's little girl — a 
spoilt, shy thing, who quarrelled with her maid 
three times a week regularly and insisted on learn- 
ing everything from Latin to water-color drawing, 
though she would submit to no teacher but her 
father, perfectly worshipped Zinka and to her was 
as docile as a lamb. Princess Vulpini was delighted 
at her influence on her little niece and declared 
that Zinka was a real treasure; and Lady Julia 
Ellis, who had made the young girl's acquaintance 
two years since at Meran, was proud to take her 
out. Whenever the baroness could not go the 



68 OUR OWN SET. 

English lady was always ready to chaperon Zinka, 
and when Lady Julia was ' at home ' Zinka had to 
help her to receive her guests and to make tea. 

Countess Schalingen, a Canoness devoted to 
painting, full of sentimentality and romance, whose 
ideas had not yet got beyond Winterhalter, called 
Zinka 'quite delicious,' took her on excursions, 
dragged her to all the curiosity-dealers, and finally 
painted her portrait on a handscreen for Princess 
Vulpini — ^her head and shoulders in gauzy drapery 
coming out of a lily. Before the end of a fort- 
night a rich American had enquired about her 
rank and extraction, and the handsome Crespigny 
had learnt all about her fortune. Norina paid his 
court to her when his tyrant's back was turned 
and Mrs. Ferguson did her the honor of being 
madly jealous. 

But all this did not turn her head, it did not 
seem even to astonish her ; she had always been 
spoilt and wherever she had gone she had 
found friends and admirers. When people were 
kind to her she was delighted, but she would have 
been much more astonished if they had not been 
kind. Sempaly had called her "a Botticelli^'' but 
the word was only applicable to her mind ; in ap- 
pearance she had none of the ascetic grace of the 
pre-Raphaelites. She was more like the crayon 



OUR OWN SET. 69 

figures of Latour, or that typical beauty of the 
eighteenth century, la Lamballe. She had not the 
bloom of pink and white, but was pale, even in 
her youthful freshness with soft shadows under 
her eyes ; and her hair, which was thick and waved 
naturally had reddish lights in the brown. A 
tender down softened its outline on her temples 
without shading her forehead, and gave her face a 
look of peculiar innocence. She was slight but 
not angular, her arms were long and thin, her 
hands small and sometimes red. Her moods varied 
between dreamy thoughtfulness and saucy high 
spirits, her gait was usually free and light but oc- 
casionally a little awkward, " like an angel with its 
wingp clipped," Sempaly said. She had a low veiled 
voice in speaking that reminded one of the vibrat- 
ing tones of an Amati violin. She was as wild as a 
boy, as graceful as a water nixie, and as innocent 
as a child — with the crude innocence of a girl who 
has been brought up chiefly by men — and all her 
ideas had the stamp of dreamy seclusion and fervid 
sentiment. 

She had had French and English governesses 
and had even been to school in a convent for a 
year ; still, the ruling influence in her life had been 
that of her guardian. General Sterzl — an eccen- 
tric being with an intense horror of sentimental 



JO OUR OWN SET. 

school-friendships and of the conventional propri- 
ety that comes of too eariy familiarity with the 
worid. It was to him that Zinka owed the one 
good word which Countess Ilsenbergh spoke in 
her favor : 

'' One thing must be admitted ; sh^ is not 
affected, she is as natural as one of our own 
girls." 



" Poor Coralie !" the baroness would frequently 
exclaim, " what a pity that she is not here ; what 
a treat it would be for her !" 

" Yes," Sterzl would answer in his dry way, 
"she was in too great a hurry." And the 
baroness would cast her eyes up to heaven. 

Coralie was her eldest and favorite daughter. 
Disappointed in her love of some hard-hearted 
gentleman she had renounced the vanities of the 
world some three years since, but — like her 
mother's worthy daughter — even in the depth of 
her disappointment and despair she had taken 
care to choose a convent where the recluses were 
divided into ladies and sisters, where the children 
who came to school there played hide and seek 
under a French name, and where being a boarder 
was called being en pension. 



OUR OWN SET. 71 

" Poor Coralie !" the baroness would sigh ; and 
then seating herself at her writing-table she would 
scribble endless letters about the delights of a 
residence at Rome to all her friends in Austria» 
and especially to her sister, the Baroness Wol- 
nitzka. 

Baroness Sterzl was a typical specimen of a 
class of nobility peculiar to Austria, and called 
there, Heaven knows why, " the onion nobility " 
(zwiebelnoblesse). It is a circle that may be de- 
scribed as a branch concern of the best society ; a 
half-blood relation; a mixture of the elements 
that have been sifted out of the upper aristocracy 
and of the parvenus from below, who find that 
they can be reciprocally useful ; a circle in which 
almost every man is a baron, and every woman» 
without exception, is a baroness. Its members are 
for the most part poor, but refined beyond expres- 
sion. The mothers scold their children in bad 
French and talk to their friends in fashionable 
slang ; they give parties, at which there is nothing 
to eat — but the family plate is displayed, and 
where the company always consists of the same 
old bachelors who dye their hair and know the 
Almanack de Gotha by heart. Everyone is well 
informed about the doings of the world — how 
many shifts Minnie N. had in her trousseau, why 



72 OUR OWN SET. 

the engagement between Fritz O. and Lori P. 
was broken off, and much more to the same effect 
Of late years the 'onion-nobility/ with various 
other offshoots of the higher culture, has been 
swamped by the advance of the liberals, that is to 
say, by the progress of the financial classes. 

Only a year since the baroness herself had 
stood on the stairs of the opera-house to watch 
the occupants of the grand tier — at that time 
appropriated to the cream of the aristocracy — to 
take note of aristocratic dresses, and to hear aris- 
tocratic nothings from aristocratic lips. Now, in 
Rome, she was living in the whirl of society. 
Her satisfaction knew no bounds, and she made 
daily progress in exclusiveness ; the Countess II- 
senbergh, as compared to her, was a mere bungler. 
But she was never so amusing to watch as when 
she met some fellow-countrymen of untitled rank. 
It happened that this winter there was in Rome a 
certain Herr Brauer, an old simpleton with a very 
handsome wife who laid herself open for the ad- 
miration of all the young men of any pretensions. 
Being furnished with a few letters of introduction 
he and his fascinating partner disported themselves 
very contentedly in the outer circle — the suburbs, 
so to speak — of good society without having a 
suspicion how far they were from the centre. 



OUR OWN SET. 73 

Baroness Sterzl could never cease wondering **how 
those people could be tolerated." 

She was always well dressed, she gave capital 
little dinners, she had the neatest coup^ and the 
most comfortable landau, and her coachman had 
the cleanest shaved imperial face and the smartest 
livery in Rome. Her manners were somewhat 
changeable, since she was constantly endeavoring 
to appropriate the airs and graces of the most 
fashionable women she met. She was extremely 
unpopular and consequently bored to death wher- 
ever she went ; she was never quite easy as to her 
footing in society and lived in the discomfort of a 
person who is always trying to walk on tiptoe. 

Her sole unqualified pleasure during this period 
— which, however, she always spoke of as the 
happiest of her life — was the writing of the 
above-mentioned letters home, and especially as 
has been said, to her sister the Baroness Wolnitzka 
in Bohemia. 

She craved a public to* witness her success and, 
like all mean natures, she knew no greater joy 
than that of exciting envy ; she would often read 
these epistles to Zinka, for she was very proud of 
her wordy style. Zinka was somewhat disturbed 
by these flowery compositions which always ended 
with these words : " What a pity it is that you 



74 OUR OWN SET. 

should not be here. It would give us the greatest 
pleasure to have you with us." 

" Take care, mamma," said the girl, "they will 
take you at your word and descend upon us." 

"What are you dreaming of?" said the 
baroness folding her letter with the utmost philoso- 
phy; "they have no money." 



75 



CHAPTER VII. 

Hovels deep sunk in the ground, moss-grown 
thatched roofs, here and there an old lime-tree or 
a tall pear-tree with crabbed branches standing 
out black and bare against the wintry sky, slimy 
puddles, a pond full to the brim in which three 
forlorn-looking geese are sadly paddling, a swampy 
road along which a procession of ploughs are 
splashing their way at the heels of the muddy, 
unkempt teams — in short, a Bohemian village, 
with a shabby manor-house beyond. Over the 
tumble-down gate-way, with a pigsty on one 
side and a dog-kennel on the other, hangs a coat 
of arms. The mansion — a square house with a 
steep shingle roof — stands, according to the un- 
romantic custom of the country, with one side 
looking on to the farm-yard; and the drawing- 
room windows open exactly over an enormous 
dung heap which a party of women are in the very 
act of turning with pitch-forks, under the superin- 
tendence of a short stout man in a weather-beaten 
hunting-hat and shooting-coat with padded silk 
sleeveä out of which the wadding is peeping at a 



^6 OUR OWN SET. 

hundred holes. He is smoking a pipe with a 
china bowl decorated with a mincing odalisque. 
His face is broad and red, his ears purple, and his 
aspect is anything rather than aristocratic as he 
stands giggling and jesting with the damsels of the 
steaming midden. 

This is Baron Wolnitzky, a man who, like a 
good many others, got himself a good deal talked 
about in 1848 and then vanished from the scene 
without leaving a trace behind. 

Often when we see some dry and barren tree 
shedding its sere and mouldy leaves in the autumn 
we find it hard to believe that it bore blossoms in 
the spring; and the baron was like such a tree. In 
the spring- tide of 1848 — an over-teeming spring 
throughout Europe — his soul too had blossomed. 
He had had patriotic visions and had uttered them 
in rhyme, and his country had hailed him as a 
prophet — perhaps because it needed an idol, or 
perhaps because in those agitated times it could 
not tell black from white. In those days he had 
displayed hiihself in a magnificent national cos- 
tume with sleeves of the most elaborate cut, had 
married a patriotic wife who always dressed in the 
Slav colors : blue, white, and red, and who got 
two young men, also dressed in Slav costume, to 
lount guard at the door of her house. He was 



\ 



OUR OWN SET. ^^ 

descended from a Polish family that had immi- 
grated many generations since and his connections 
were as far as possible from being aristocratic, 
while he owed his little fortune entirely to his 
father who had put no ' baron ' before his name, 
and who had earned it honestly as a master baker. 
In feudal times it would hardly have occurred to 
him to furbish up this very doubtful patent of 
nobility ; but in the era of liberty it might pass 
muster and prove useful. A very shy pedigree 
serves to shed glory on a democratic martyr. 

During the insurrection of June he fled with 
his wife in picturesque disguise ; at first to Dres- 
den, and then to Switzerland where he lived for 
some time in a boarding-house at Geneva, receiv- 
ing homage as a political refugee, and horrifying 
the mistress by his enormous appetite. At length 
he returned to Bohemia where the events of forty- 
eight and its picturesquely aparelled leaders had 
fallen into oblivion. He retired to his little estate 
and turned philosopher — philosophy, ever since 
the days of Diogenes, has been the acknowledged 
refuge of shipwrecked hopes and pretensions. 

There he went out walking in his shirt sleeves, 
played cards with the peasants and grew more 
vulgar, fatter, and hungrier every day ; and if he 
ever had an idea it was unintentionally, in a bad 



78 OUR OWN SET. 

dream after eating too much of some national deli- 
cacy. 

His wife, a robust and worthy soul, though 
full of absurdities, bore a strong resemblance to 
the mother of the Regent Orleans in as much as 
she had a sound understanding combined with a 
very sentimental nature, was utterly devoid of tact, 
bitter to the verge of cynicism, thoroughly indis- 
creet and a great chatterbox. 

She resigned herself without demur to the 
new order of things and brought a new tribe of 
children into the world, most of whom died young. 
Three survived ; two sons, who so far broke through 
the traditions of the family as to become infantry 
officers, and one daughter, in whom patriotic 
romance once more flickered into fanaticism. 
This girl had been christened Bohuslawa, a name 
which was commonly shortened into Slawa, which 
in the more important dialects of the Slav tongue 
means Fame. She, like her mother, was of stal- 
wart build, but her features were regular though 
statuesque and heavy — she was said to be like liie 
Apollo Belvedere. She had already had four 
suitors but neither of them had met her views and 
now at twenty — having been bom in forty-eight 
— she was spending the winter, unmarried and 
■)rely discontented, in the country, wHere she 



OUR OWN SET. 79 

occupied herself with serious studies and accepted 
the attentions of a needy young Pole who was 
devoted to her and in whom she condescended to 
take some slight interest 

But Baron Wolnitzky is still standing by the 
midden ; the great black dog, which till this mo- 
ment has never ceased barking at the door of his 
kennel, now, to introduce some variety into the 
programme, jumps on to its roof, from which ad- 
vantageous standpoint he still barks without pause. 
Everything is dripping from the recently-thawed 
snow, and the air is full of the splash and gurgle 
of dropping and trickling water; the grey February 
twilight sinks upon the world and everything looks 
dingy and soaked. 

A sound of creaking wheels is heard approach- 
ing, and a dung-cart appears in the gate- way. 

"Well, what. is going on in the town?" says 
the baron to the man who comes up to him, 
wrapped in an evil-smelling sheepskin and with the 
ears of his fur cap tied under his chin, to kiss his 
master*s elbow. " Have you brought the news- 
papers ?" 

" Yes, your Grace, my Lord Baron," says the 
man, "and a letter too." And he draws a packet 
tied up in a red and white Ij^ndkerchief out of a 
pocket in his sheepskin. The baron looks at the 



80 OUR OWN SET. 

documents. "Another letter from Rome already," . 
he mutters, grinning; " I must take it in at once 
that the women may have something to talk 
about." 

The women, that is to say his wife and 
daughter, were sitting in the dining-room at a 
long table covered with a flowered cloth, on which 
stood the tea things, a paraffine lamp, and a bread- 
basket of dull silver filagree work. The lamp was 
smoking and the table looked as uncomfortable 
and dingy as the village outside, half-buried in 
manure. The baroness, in a tan-colored loose 
gown, in which she looked squarer than ever, 
without a cap, her thin grey hair cut short, was 
hunting for the tenth time to-day, on and under 
every article of furniture, for the key of the store- 
room. Bohuslawa, meanwhile sat still, with a 
volume of Mickiewicz in her hand, out of which 
she was reading aloud in rather stumbling Polish, 
with a harsh voice. A young man with a sharp- 
cut sallow face and long black hair, in a Polish 
braided coat, wide collar and olive-coloured satin 
cravat, corrected her pronunciation now and then. 
He was her Polish adorer. He was one of that 
familiar species, thq teacher of languages with a 
romance in the background ; he lived in the neigh- 
ouring town and came every Saturday to the 



OUR OWN SET. 8 1 

village, four railway stations off, to instruct Bohu- 
slawa in Polish and spend Sunday with the family. 

When the union of these two patriots — ^which 
had already been secretly discussed — was to take 
place, depended on a mysterious law-suit that the 
young Pole was carrying on against the Russian 
government. His name was Vladimir de Matu- 
schowsky, his grandmother had been a Potocka, 
and when he was not giving lessons, he was medi- 
tating conspiracies. 

"Is there nothing else for tea?'* asked the 
baron, casting a doubtful eye on the stale-looking 
rolls in the bread-basket. 

"No, the dogs have eaten up the cakes," 
replied the baroness coolly. She was at the mo- 
ment on all-fours under the piano, hunting for the 
key behind the pedal. 

" You will get an apoplexy," said Bohuslawa 
crossly but without anxiety, and without making 
the smallest attempt to assist the old lady. But 
at this instant a housemaid came in with the 
sought-for key on a bent and copper-colored 
britannia-metal waiter. 

"Oh, thank Heaven!" cried the baroness, 
" where was the wretched thing ?" 

"In the dog kennel, — your grace, my lady 
baroness, the puppy had dragged it there." 

6 



82 OUR OWN SET. 

In her love for dogs again the baroness resem- 
bled the Duchess of Orleans ; she always had a 
litter of half a dozen puppies to bring up, and the 
kennel was a well-known hiding place for every- 
thing that could not be found in its right place. 

" The little rascals !" she exclaimed, with an 
admiring laugh at the ingenious perversity of her 
mischievous pets. ** Bring the sugar then, 
Clara." 

" I have a surprise for you," growled her hus- 
band, " a letter from Rome," and he produced the 
document, with its mixed odors of patchouli and 
damp sheepskin, and pushed it across to his wife, 
while he took up the r,um bottle to flavor his tea. 

" From Rome !" exclaimed the baroness, "that 
is delightful. Where, oh where are my specta- 
cles ?" And she felt and patted herself all over 
till the superfluous substance shook like a jelly. 

" Ah, here they are — I am sitting on them — 
now then, children," and she began to read the 
letter aloud. 

" Dear Lotti, you must not take it ill that I so 
seldom write to you " — the baroness looked up 
over her spectacles — " so seldom ! . . . she never in 
her life wrote to me so often as from Rome " — 
** but you cannot imagine the turmoil in which we 
Mve. A dinner-party every day, two evening 



OUR OWN SET. 83 

parties and a ball. We are spending the carnival 
with the crime de la crime of Roman society. 
To-morrow we dine with Princess Vulpini — she 
was a Truyn and is the sister of Truyn of R. The 
next day we have theatricals, etc., etc. Zinka is 
an immense success. Nicki Sempaly among others 
— ^the brother of Prince Sempaly, the great landed 
proprietor — is very attentive to her. ..." 

Here she was interrupted by her husband. 
** Well, I never thought the old goose was quite 
such a simpleton !" he exclaimed, drumming his 
fingers angrily on the red and white flowered 
cloth. 

" I cannot imagine how Clotilde allows it !" 
cried the baroness — " and still less do I under* 
stand Cecil." 

"Take my advice, Lotti, go to Rome," ob- 
served the baron ironically; "go and set their 
heads straight on their shoulders." 

" With the greatest pleasure," replied his wife, 
taking his irony quite seriously, "but unfortu- 
nately we have not the money." 

Then she read the letter to the end ; like all 
Clotilde's epistles it ended with the words; "What 
a pity it is that you should not be here too ; it 
would give us the greatest pleasure to have you 
with us." 

6* 



84 OUR OWN SET. 

Tea was done ; the maid servant cleared the 
table with a great clatter of cups and spoons, the 
baron retired to play Bulka with his neighbors in 
the village inn-parlor ; the three who were left sat 
in meditative mood. 

" I must confess that I should like to go to 
Rome/' said the baroness, as she swept the crumbs 
off her lap on to the floor, " and it would be 
pleasant, too, to have relations there — for their 
grand acquaintance I own I do not care a straw." 

" I do not see why we should avoid all society 
if we were there," exclaimed Slawa hotly. 

" Well, you could do as you liked about it, of 
course," said the baroness, who held her daughter 
in the deepest respect, " I could stay at home ; 
you see, my dear Vladimir," she added almost 
condescendingly to her son-in-law in spe^ " I am 
uncomfortable in any company where I cannot get 
into my slippers in the evening. . ." 

" Mamma !" cried her daughter beside herself, 
" you really are ! . . ." 

The baroness sat abashed and silent — no one 
spoke. There was not a sound in the room but 
the crackling of the fire in the huge tiled stove and 
the snoring of the big hunting-dog that lay sleep- 
ing on the tail of his mistress's skirt. 

" If we only could sell the Bernini !" murmured 



OUR OWN SET, 85 

> 

the baroness presently, resuming the thread of 
their conversation. 

The Bernini was a bust of Apollo that the 
baroness had inherited from her mother's family — 
said to be an adaptation by Bernini from the head 
of the Apollo Belvedere. Whenever the Wol- 
nitzkys were in any financial straits the Bernini was 
packed off to some dealer in objects of vertu^ from 
which excursions it invariably returned unsold. 
Not many days previously the travelled Apollo- 
he had seen New York, London, and St Peters- 
burg — had come home from a visit to Meyer of 
Berlin. 

" By the bye, Vladimir, you have not seen it 
yet," said Slawa, ** I must show you the bust." 

" Is it the head that is said to be so strikingly 
like you? — that will interest me greatly," said 
the young Pole, casting an adoring eye on 
Slawa. 

" Bring the lamp, the bust is in the drawing- 
room." 

Vladimir, carrying the lamp, led the way into 
the drawing-room, a large, scantily-furnished 
room which was never dusted more than once a 
month. There, on a marble plinth in a corner, 
stood the radiant god — a copy from the Belve- 
dere Apollo no doubt — but by Bernini. . . ? 



86 , OUR OWN SET. 

" The likeness is extraordinary !'* cried Vladi- 
mir ecstatically, and gazing alternately at the bust 
and at Slawa. " Oh, it is a gem, a masterpiece ! 
you ought never to part with it." 

" Well, but I must say I should very much 
like to go. to Rome," sighed the baroness; but 
Slawa only bit her lips. 



N. 



\ 



87 



CHAPTER VIII. 

** And what shall we do to-morrow?" Sempaly 
would ask Zinka almost every evening when he 
met her, fresh and smiling, at some party ; he had 
made it his task to help her to find her lost Rome 
and devoted himself to it with praiseworthy dili- 
gence. 

The disappointment that she had experienced 
in her expedition under the guidance of the botta 
driver to the ruins of the capital of the Caesars is 
a common enough phenomenon; it comes over 
almost everyone who sets out with his fancy 
crammed with the mystical cobwebs that recent 
literature has spun round the name of Rome, to 
see for the first time that dense mass of splendor 
and rubbish among the bare modern houses. And 
the disappointment is greatest in those who come 
from a long stay in Venice or Verona. Rome has 
none of the seductive charm of those North 
Italian cities. Its architecture is sombre and 
heavy, and the prevailing hues in winter are a 
sober grey and a dull bluish-green, more sugges- 
tive of a subtly toned tempera picture than of a 



88 OUR OWN SET. 

glowing oil painting. It is vain to look for the 
sheen of the shimmering lagoons or the fantastic 
outline of the campaniles against the sky of 
Venice ; for the half- ruined frescoes, or amber 
sunshine of Verona. 

** After the cities of North Italy Rome has the 
effect of a severe choral by Handel after a noc- 
turne by Chopin. The first impression is crush- 
ing," said Sempaly to Zinka ; " but one wearies 
of the nocturne, and never of the choral." 

To which Zinka replied : " But the choral is 
so drowned by trivial hurdy-gurdy tunes that I 
find it very difficult to follow." To which he 
laughed and said : " We will speak of that again 
in a fortnight." 

By the end of the fortnight Zinka had thrown 
two soldi into the Fountain of Trevi to make sure 
that she should some day see Rome again, and in 
fanaticism for Rome she outdid even the fanatical 
General von Klingen Sempaly had contributed 
mainly to her conversion. Nothing could be 
more amusing or more interesting than to explore 
every nook of the city of ruins under his escort. 
He was constantly remembering this or that won- 
derful thing that he must positively show to 
Zinka. An artistic bas-relief that had been built 
to some queer orange-colored house above a 



\ 

\ 



\ 

\ 



OUR OWN SET. 89 

tobacconist's, or a heathen divinity which had had 
wings attached to its shoulders to qualify it for 
admission as an angel into a Christian church. 
He rode out with her into the Campagna, and 
pointed out all the most picturesque parts of the 
Trastevere, and he could find a ridiculous sugges- 
tion even in the most reverend things. The halls of 
the Vatican in which the liberal minded Vicars of 
Christ have granted a refuge to the pensioners of 
antiquity, he called the Poor-house of the gods ; 
and always spoke of St. Peter's, which is commonly 
known as la Parocchia dei Forestieri, as the Papal 
Grand Hotel. There was not a fountain, a frag- 
ment of sculpture, or a picturesque heap of ruins 
of which he could not relate some history, comic 
or pathetic, or he invented one; but he never 
produced the impression that he was giving a 
lecture. He had in fact a particularly unpretend- 
ing way of telling an appropriate and not too 
lengthy anecdote ; he never handed it round on a 
waiter, as it were, for examination, but let it drop 
quietly out of his pocket. His knowledge of art 
was but shallow, but his feeling for it, like all his 
instincts, was amazingly keen. His information 
on all subjects was miscellaneous and slender, 
not an article of his intellectual wardrobe — as 
Charles Lamb has it — was whole ; but he draped 



90 OUR OWN SET. 

himself in the rags with audacious grace and 
made no attempt to hide the holes. 

Truyn and his little daughter often joined them 
in these expeditions, and sometimes Cecil, but only ' 
when his mother did not choose to go out, and 
his demeanor on these occasions — 'peripatetic 
aesthetics' he called their walks — was highly 
characteristic. He would walk by the side of his 
sister and Sempaly, or a few steps behind them, 
sunk in silence but always sharply observant. 
From time to time he would correct their cicerone 
in his dates, which Sempaly took with sublime in- 
difference and for which — taking off his hat — 
he invariably thanked him with princely courtesy. 
Sterzl only sympathized with the classical style 
of the Renaissance ; the real antiques which Zinka 
raved about he smiled at as caricatures ; Guido on 
the other hand — for whom Sempaly had a weak- 
ness, as a Chopin among painters — Sterzl de- 
tested. He declared that the Beatrice Cenci had 
a cold wet bandage on her head, and that the 
picture was nothing more than a study apparently 
made from an idiot in a mad-house. When Zinka 
talked of her favorite antiques or other works in 
the mystical and sentimental slang of the clique, 
he laughed at her, but quite good-naturedly. He 
scorned all extravagance and raptures as cant and 



\ 



V 

« 



OUR OWN SET. 91 

aflfectation. Still he was merciful to his sister, and 
when she turned from a Francia with tears in her 
eyes, or turned pale as she quoted Shelley, or 
spoke of Leonardo's Medusa in Florence, he did no 
more than shrug his shoulders and say : " Zinka, 
you are crazy,*' or gently pull her by the ear. 
Everything in Zinka was right, even her want of 
sound common sense. 

The baroness had at last found a lodging, 
almost to her mind: a small palazzo in a side 
street, off the Corso, " furnished in atrocious taste, 
but otherwise very nice." The palazetto was in 
fact a gem in its way, with a simple and elegant 
stone front and a court surrounded by a colonnade 
with red camellia shrubs and a fountain in the 
midst. There were several much injured antique 
statues too, one of which was a famous and very 
beautiful Amazon at whose feet a rose-bush 
bloomed profusely. This Amazon struck Zinka 
as remarkably picturesque and she sketched 
her from every point of view without ever reading 
the warning in her sad face. Alas! Zinka had 
gazed at the sun and it had blinded her. 

But how could Cecil allow this daily-growing 
intimacy between Sempaly and his sister ? Sem- 
paly's elder brother, Prince Sempaly, had been 
married ten years and was childless, so the 



92 OUR OWN SET. 

attach^, as heir presumptive, was in duty bound 
to make a brilliant marriage. Did not Sterzl 
Jcnow this? Yes, he knew it, but he did not 
trouble his head about it He was under no 
illusion as to the singularity, not to say the im- 
probability of Sempaly marrying a girl of inferior 
birth ; he had no desire that it should be otherwise. 
He was no democrat ; on the contrary, his was a 
particularly conservative and old world nature, 
equally remote from cringing or from envy. 
That Sempaly should marry any other girl not his 
•equal in rank would have struck him as altogether 
wrong, but Zinka — Zinka was different He 
worshipped her as only a strong elder brother 
call worship a much younger weaker sister and 
there was no social elevation of which he deemed 
her unworthy. And when he saw Sempaly smile 
. down so tenderly and at the same time so respect- 
fully on his * butterfly,' as he called her, he was 
rejoiced at her good fortune and never for an in- 
stant doubted it Zinka was not sentimental. For 
a long time there was no tinge of any feeling 
stronger than good fellowship in her intercourse 
with Sempaly; her talk was all fun, her glance 
saucy and wilful. By degrees, however, a change 
came over her ; her whole manner softened, there 
was a gentle dreaminess even in her caprice and 



OUR OWN SET. 95 

when she smiled it was often with tears in her 
eyes. 

Sempaly was not regular in his visits to the 
palazetto; sometimes for two or three days he 
failed to appear, then he would call very early — 
at noon perhaps, join the family unceremoniously 
at their breakfast, go out driving with the ladies, 
accept an invitation to stay to dinner, and if Zinka 
was looking pale or out of spirits, he would pay 
her fifty kind little attentions to conjure a smile ta 
her lips. Occasionally he would fall into the mel- 
ancholy vein and talk of his loveless youth, and 
let her pity hifn for it. He would tell her about 
his elder brother, praising his many noble qualities,, 
and then add with a shrug : " Yes, he is a splendid 
fellow, but ... he has ideas !" When Zinka 
asked what sort of ideas, Sempaly sighed : " I 
hope you may some day know him and then you 
can judge for yourself." 

But this was in a low tone and he seemed to 
regret having said it. Then he would frequently 
allude to this or that picture in his brother's 
house at Vienna, or to some curious family relic, 
and say how much he should like some day to 
show it to Zinka. His favorite theme, however, 
was Erzburg, the old castle which for numberless 
generations had been the family summer-retreat 



94 OUR OWN SET. 

of the Sempalys and of which he was passionately 
fond. Excepting as regards this estate he was 
singularly free from all false or family pride ; he 
declared that his brother's Vienna palace was an 
unhealthy barrack, scouted at the Sempaly breed 
of horses, laughed at the Sempaly nose, and 
praised the traditional Sempaly tokay more in 
irony than in good faith — but then he came 
round to Erzburg again and simply raved about 
it Not about the oriental luxury with which 
part of the castle was fitted up — not in the best 
taste — of that he never spoke ; indeed, he said 
more about its deficiencies than its perfections, but 
in a tone of such loving excuse ! He talked of the 
large bare rooms where, for years, he had watched 
for the apparition of the white lady, half longing, 
half dreading to see her ; of the doleful groaning 
of the weather-cock of the rococo statues in the 
grounds, and of the gloomy pools with their low 
sad murmur, and their carpet of white water- 
lilies. The statues were bad, the pools unhealthy 
he admitted, and yet, as he said it, his usually 
mocking glance was soft and almost devout 
Once, when Zinka had grown quite dismal over 
his reminiscences, he took her hand and pressed 
it tenderly to his lips : ** Yoa must see Erzburg 
some day," he murmured. 



OUR OWN SET. 95 

His behavior to her was that of a man who is 
perfectly clear as to his own intentions but who 
for some reason is not immediately free to sue for 
the hand of a girl whom in his heart of hearts he 
already regards as his own. What did he mean 
by all this ? What was he thinking of? I believe 
absolutely nothing. He went with the tide. 
There are many men like him, selfish, luxurious 
natures who swim with the stream of life and 
never attempt to steer ; they have for the most 
part happy tempers, they are content with any 
harbor so long as they reach it without effort or 
damage, and if in their passive course they run 
down any one else they exclaim with their usual 
amiable politeness : " Oh ! I beg your pardon !" 
and are quite satisfied that the mishap was due to 
fate and not to any fault of theirs. 



96 



CHAPTER IX. 

It was in the end of February, shortly before 
the close of the carnival. Truyn, going to the 
Sterzls* with his little girl to take a walk with 
Zinka, saw at the. door of the palazetto a hackney 
carriage with a small portmanteau on the top. 
Sterzl's man-servant, an elegant person with close- 
cut hair, shaved all but a short beard, and wearing 
an impressive watch-chain, was condescending to 
exchange a few words with the driver blinking in 
the sunshine. 

The drawing-room into which Truyn and his 
daughter were admitted unannounced was in the 
full blaze of light. The motes danced their aim- 
less rainbow-colored dance; in the middle of 
the room stood Zinka with both hands on 
a table over which she was bending to gaze at 
a magnificent basket of flowers. There was some- 
thing in her attitude, quaint but graceful, in the 
elegant line of her bust, the pathetic joy of her 
radiant face, the soft flow of her plain long dress, 
which stamped the picture once and for ever on 
Truyn's memory. A sunbeam wantoned in her 



OUR OWN SET. 97 

hair turning it to gold and her whole figure was the 
embodiment of sweet and happy spring delight 
The basket of flowers, too, was a masterpiece of its 
kind — a capriccio of lilies of the valley, gardenias, 
snow-flakes, and pale-tinted roses, that k)oked as 
though the wayward west- wind had blown them 
into company. Sterzl was standing by, with a 
pleased smile, and the baroness, in an attitude of 
affected astonishment, stood a little apart with a 
visiting-card in her hand. Neither Cecil nor his 
sister -T- she absorbed in the flowers and he in 
gazing at her — had heard Truyn arrive. When 
he knocked at the door the baroness said " come 
in," and gave him the tips of her fingers ; then, 
with a wave of her hand towards the basket, she 
lisped out: "Did you ever se^ such extrava- 
gance !" 

Zinka looked up and welcomed him and so did 
Sterzl. " It is perfect folly . . . quite reckless.. . ." 
sighed the baroness, " such a basket of flowers 
costs a fortune. Why, only one gardenia. . ." 

Zinka's underlip pouted impatiently and Steril 
said in his dry way : 

. " My dear mother, do not destroy Zinka's il- 
lusions ; the basket fell from heaven expressly for 
her and she does not want to believe that it was 
bought, just like any other, in the Via Condotti or \ 

7 



98 OUR OWN SET. 

Babuino. What do you say, Count ? Sempaly sent 
it to her to console her for the departure of her 
brother. The reason is too absurd, do not you 
think ? I do not believe you would miss me par- 
ticularly for a few days, child ?'* and he put his 
hand affectionately under her chin. 

" Where are you off to so suddenly ?" asked 
Truyn very seriously. 

" To Naples. Franz Arnsperg has telegraphed 
to me to ask me to meet him there ; he is on his 
way to Paris from Constantinople, and he is a great 
friend of mine and has come by way of Naples on 
purpose that we may meet." 

"The Arnsperg- Meiringens ; you know their 
property adjoins ours," the baroness explained. 
Sterzl, who knew very well that Truyn was far 
better informed as to the Arnsperg- Meiringens 
than his mother, was annoyed and uncomfortable. 
However, he kissed her hand and then turned to 
his sister : 

" God shield you, my darling butterfly — write 
me a few lines, or is that too much to ask ?" Then 
he kissed her and whispered : " Mind you have 
not lost those bright eyes by the time I return." 

Truyn accompanied him to the carriage with a 

very long face ; he and General von Klinger had 

- watched Sempaly *s conduct with much disquietude. 



OUR OWN SET. 99 

they knew him to be susceptible but not impres- 
sionable, alive to every new emotion ; and Truyn 
would ere this have spoken to Sempaly on the 
subject if he had not been sure that it would 
merely provoke and irritate him without producing 
any good effect ; the general, on the other hand, 
could not make up his mind to open Sterzl's eyes 
to the state of affairs because, like Baron Stock- 
mar, he had an invincible dislike to interfering in 
matters that did not concern him. Like that 
famous man, not for worlds would he have com- 
mitted an indiscretion to save a friend for whom 
he would have sacrificed his life ; and this terror 
of being indiscreet is a form of cowardice which is 
considered meritorious in the fashionable world. 



-7 * ' -^ " : :^ : 

^ w J 



lOO 



CHAPTER X. 



I 



It is Shrove Tuesday. The sorriest jade of the 
wretchedest botta has a paper rose stuck behind 
his ear, though during the hours sacred to the 
carnival they are pariahs and outcasts from the 
Corso. Two-horse carriages are dressed in gar- 
lands and the horses have plumes on their heads. 
The Piazza di Spagna is alive with pedlars and 
hawkers, selling flowers and little tapers (moccoli), 
and with buyers of every nation doing their best ' 
to cheapen them. Baskets full of violets, roses, 
anemones, snowflakes — baskets full of indescriba- 
ble bunches of greenery — the ammunition of the 
mob which have already done duty for two or 
three days and are like nothing on earth but the 
wisps of rushes with which the boards are rubbed 
in some parts of Austria. The sellers of coral 
and tortoise-shell cry out to you to buy — "^ 
carnevaie. . ." and in the side streets — for misery 
dares not show its head in the main thoroughfares 
to-day — the beggars crowd more closely than 
ever round the pedestrian with their perpetual cry: 
: t * muojo di fame. 



OUR OWN SET. 10 1 

The houses on the Corso wear their gay car- 
nival trappings to-day for the last time. A smart 
dress flutters on every balcony, several stands 
have been erected and all the window-sills are 
covered, some with colored chintz and some with 
gold brocade. All Thursday, Saturday, and Mon- 
day Zinka and Gabrielle had driven unweariedly 
up and down the Corso with Count Truyn, fling- 
ing flowers at all their acquaintances and at a good 
many strangers. To-day, however, they had 
agreed to look on from the windows of the Palazzo 
Vulpini, for the close of the carnival is apt to be 
somewhat riotous. Every one who lives on the 
Corso seizes the opportunity of paying long owing 
debts of civility and offers ä place in a window to 
as^many friends as can possibly be squeezed in. 

There was a large party at the Vulpinis', for 
the most part Italians and relations of the prince's. 
Madame de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson had in- 
vited themselves, and Zinka, with Gabrielle Truyn, 
was to see the turmoil in the Corso from the bal- 
cony of the palazzo. The baroness had "tic 
douloureux " which kept her at home, — and which 
no one regretted. At six o'clock, before the be- 
ginning of the moccoliy all the company were to 
go to the * Falcone^* a well-known and especially 
Roman restaurant where they would dine more 



J02 OUR OWN SET. 

comfortably and easily than at home. From thence 
they were to adjourn to the Teatro Costanzi. 
Prince Vulpini had drawn up this thoroughly car- 
nival programme for the special benefit of the 
Countess Schalingen who had a passion for "local 
color," and who was enchanted. The princess was 
resigned ; local color had no interest for her and 
she was somewhat prejudiced against Italian 
native dishes and masked festivities of all kinds. 

It was three o'clock. Baskets of flowers and 
whole heaps of sweet little sugar-plum boxes were 
ready piled in the windows for ammunition. The 
little Vulpinis, who entirely filled the large centre 
window, and their shy English governess in her 
black gown, had just come into the room, skipping 
about and pulling each other's hair for sheer im- 
patience and excitement ; and when their govern- 
ess reproved them for behaving so roughly " ma i 
carnevale " is thought sufficient excuse ; the com- 
pany laughed and the English girl said no more. 
All the party had assembled. Madame de Gan- 
dry and Mrs. Ferguson were both looking pretty 
and picturesque ; the former had stuck on a fez, 
and the other a quaintly-folded handkerchief of 
oriental stuff, in honor of the carnival, when eccen- 
tricity of costume is admissible and conventional 
head-gear are contemned. 



OUR OWN SET. 103 

From the windows down to the carriages, from 
the carriages up to the windows the war was 
eagerly waged ; bunches of flowers, and bonbori- 
nieres from Spillman's and Nazzari's fly in all 
directions and scraps of colored paper fall like 
snow through the air. Then the blare and pipe of 
a military band came up from the Piazza di 
Venezia and the maskers crowded in among the 
carriages. One of the liveliest groups along the 
Corso was certainly that where the Vulpini chil- 
dren were grouped, with Zinka in their midst, she 
having undertaken the charge of them at their 
own earnest entreaty. She and Gabrielle were 
both laughing with glee, but at the height of their 
fun they remembered to pay all sorts of little civil- 
ities to the half-scared English governess and 
had stuck a splendid bunch of lilies of the valley 
in front of her camphor-scented black silk dress. 
What especially interested the children was watch- 
ing for Norina's carriage, for they not only recog- 
nized the prince who was driving, but knew all 
his party : Truyn. Siegburg, Sempaly, and as it 
passed with its four bays the little Vulpinis jumped 
with delight and chirped and piped like a tree full 
of birds ; the gentlemen waved their hands, smiled, 
and gallantly aimed bouquets without end at the 
windows of the palazzo. But all the finest flowers 



104 OVK OWN SET. 

that day were, beyond a doubt, aimed at Zinka. 
The floor all round her was heaped with snow- 
flakes, and violets, and roses. In her hand she 
had caught a huge bunch of roses flung up to her 
by Sempaly. 

" Oh, oh r* cried Madame de Gandry, retiring 
from the window to rest for a few minutes and re- 
fresh herself with a sip of wine. " Ah, mademoi- 
selle !" glancing enviously at the mass of blossoms 
strewn round Zinka, " you have as many bouquets 
as a prima donna!" Zinka nodded; then, con- 
templating her hat, which she had thrown off" in 
her excitement, with a whimsical air of regret and 
pulling the feather straight she said with a mockery 
of repentance: 

" My poor hat will be glad to rest on Ash 
Wednesday.'' 

" It is perfect, Marie, really perfect, this 
Roman carnival — a thing never to be forgotten !'* 
exclaimed the Countess Schalingen, coming in from 
the window. She was a genuine Austrian, always 
ready to go into ecstasies of enthusiasm. 

" It is horrid," answered the princess impa- 
tiently. " Under the new government it is nothing 
but an amusement for the strangers and street 
boys." 



OUR OWN SET. 105 

The Barberi have rushed past, and the proces- 
sion has once more begun to move on but its in- 
terest and excitenjent are over ; the crowd in the 
road begins to thin, and Sempaly, Truyn, Norina, 
Siegburg, and the general have come in, as agreed, 
to escort the ladies to the * Falcone/ The children 
have all been kissed and sent off to their dinner 
at home; Gabrielle somewhat ill- pleased at not 
being allowed to go with the elder party and 
Truyn himself not liking to part with his little 
companion. Zinka wishes to comfort Gabrielle 
by remaining with the little ones, but this was not 
to be heard of. 

" Only too many of us would wish to follow 
your example," whispers Princess Vulpini, to 
whom this dinner at a Roman restaurant is de- 
testable. 

" They are to go on foot, but they are so long 
getting ready after this little delay that the one 
peaceful half-hour before the moccoli is lost ; by 
the time they sally into the street the crowd, 
which had dispersed, is getting denser every 
minute. The darkness comes on rapidly, like a 
grey curtain let down suddenly from the skies ; 
the gaudy hangings are being taken in from the 
windows lest they should catch fire ; the carnival 
is putting on its ball-dress. Now the first twink- 



I06 OUR OWN SET. 

r 

ling tapers are seen here and there, like glow- 
worms in the dusk, and are instantly pelted with 
mazetti and bunches of greenery, mostly picked 
up from the pavement ** Fuori f fuorif" is the 
monotonous cry on every side, and presently: 
" senza moccolof vergognaf" — the death cries of 
the carnival. 

The Austrian gentlemen find their position 
anything rather than pleasant, for it is impossible 
to protect the ladies effectually against being 
jostled and pushed, still less against hearing much 
rough jesting. At last they are out of the Corso 
and have divided in the narrow streets; some 
having turned into the Via Maddalena, while 
others have crossed the Piazza Capranica to the 
Piazza della Rotunda ; but at last they are all met 
after various small adventures at the * Falcone,' 
The ladies* toilets have suffered a little and Prin- 
cess Vulpini looks very unhappy. 

The * Falcone' is a very unpretending restaur- 
ant where the waiters wear white jackets; the 
tariff is moderate and the risotto celebrated. 
Vulpini orders a thoroughly Italian dinner in an 
upper room. 

Suddenly Truyn exclaims in dismay : " What 
has become of Zinka and Sempaly ?*' 

"They have lingered talking on the way," 



OUR OWN SET. 107 

says Madame de Gandry with pinched lips as she 
leans back in her chair and pulls off her gloves. 
" People always walk slowly when they have so 
much to say to each other." 

Truyn 'frowned. " I am afraid they have got 
entangled in the crowd and have not been able to 
make their way out. I have hated this expedition 
from the first. I cannot imagine, Marie, what 
could have put such a plan into your head. . ." 

"Mine !" says his sister in an undertone and 
with a meaning glance. But she says no more. 
He knows perfectly well that she is as innocent of 
the scheme as the angels in heaven. 

"Why, what on earth is the matter?" asks 
Vulpini pouring huge quantities of grated cheese 
into his soup, while Mrs. Ferguson complains that 
she is dying of hunger, which is singular, consider- 
ing the enormous number of bonbons she has 
eaten in the course of the day. Madame de 
Gandry asks for a series of French dishes which 
the * Falcone * has never heard of Countess 
Schalingen is loud in her praises of the Italian 
cookery and is only sorry that she has no appetite. 

Truyn and the general sat gazing at the door 
in growing anxiety ; Zinka and Sempaly do not 
make their appearance — Truyn can hardly con- 
ceal his alarm. 



I08 OUR OWN SET. 

" I certainly cannot understand what you are 
so uneasy about," says Madame de Gandry with a 
perfidious smile ; ''if Fräulein Zinka has been 
mobbed and hindered Sempaly is in the same 
predicament and will take good care of her. If 
she were with any one less trustworthy, less com- 
petent, with whom she was less intimate . . . then 
I coiild understand. . .'* Truyn passes his hand 
over his grey hair in extreme perplexity and mut- 
ters in his mother tongue : '* This woman will be 
the death of me !'' and then he again blames his 
sister. 

Yet another quarter of an hour ; though the 
waiters are not nimble they have got to the des- 
sert and still no signs of Sempaly and Zinka. 

" I am beginning to feel very anxious/' says 
Marie. " I only hope the child has not fainted in 
the crowd," 

Madame de Gandry makes a meaning grimace. 
** It is perhaps the cleverest thing she could have 
done," she says. Truyn hears and bites his lip. 

The door just now opens and Zinka and Sem- 
paly come in ; she calm and sweet, he dark and 
scowling. 

*' Thank God !" cries Truyn. 

" What in the world has happened ?" asks the 
princess, while Truyn draws a chair to the table 



OUR OWN SET. 109 

for Zinka, next to himself. " What has happened ?" 
repeated Sempaly. " The most obvious thing in 
the world. We got into the thick of the mob and 
could not get through." 

" I cannot understand how that should have 
occurred," says Madame de Gandry. "We all 
came through." 

" You may perhaps recollect that we were the 
last of the party, countess ; we had hardly gone 
twenty yards when the crowd had become a com- 
pact mass, we pressed on, determined to get 
through at any cost — alone I could have managed 
it — but with a lady — suddenly we were in the 
thick of a furious squabble — curses, blows, and 
knives. I cannot tell you how miserable I was at 
finding myself out in the street with a lady — a 
young girl. . ." 

*' Fräulein Sterzl seems to take it all much 
more coolly than you do. Count Sempaly," inter- 
poses Madame de Gandry spitefully; "she does 
not appear to have been at all terrified by the 
adventure." 

"Fräulein Zinka was very brave," replied 
Sempaly. 

" Goodness me ! what was there to be afraid 
of;" says Zinka with the simplicity of childish in- 



/ 



no OUR OWN SET. 

nocence. "The responsibility was Count Sem- 
paly's not mine." 

The French woman laughs «harply. "We 
must be moving now," she says, " if we mean to 
go to Costanzi's," and there is a clatter of chairs 
and a little scene of confusion in which no one 
can find the right shawl or wrap for each lady. 

But Princess Vulpini makes no attempt to 
move : " I am going nowhere else this evening," 
she says with unwonted determination. " I will 
not take Zinka to Constanzi's. I will wait till she 
has eaten her beef-steak and then I will take her 
home. I hope you will all enjoy yourselves." 

Zinka eats her beef-steak with the greatest 
calmness and an unmistakably good appetite; she 
is perfectly sweet and docile and natural ; she has 
no suspicion that her name will to-morrow mor- 
ning be in every mouth. Truyn is as pale as 
death ; he has heard Madame de Gandry's whisper 
to her friend : " After this he must make her an 
offer." 



Ill 



PART II. 

LENT. 



CHAPTER I. 

** I AM glad to have found you,*' cried Truyn 
next morning as he entered Sempaly's room in 
the Palazzo di Venezia, and discovered him sipping 
his coffee after his late breakfast, with a book in 
his hand. 

" I am delighted that you should for once have 
taken the trouble to climb up to me. I must 
show you my Francia — the dealer who sold it to 
me declares it is a Francia. But you look 
worried. What has brought you here?" 

" I only wanted to know — ^to ask you whether 
you will drive out to Frascati with us to-day ?" 

"To Frascati! — ^This afteriioon? What an 
idea !" exclaimed Sempaly; "and in any case I 
cannot join you for I am going to the Palatine at 
three o'clock with the Sterzls." 

"Yes?" said Truyn looking uncommonly 
grave. 



112 OUR OWN SET. 

"May I offer you a cup of coffee?" asked 
Sempaly cooly. 

'* No thank you," replied Truyn shortly. He 
was evidently uneasy, and began examining the 
odds and ends at the table to give himself coun- 
tenance ; by accident he took up the book that 
Sempaly had been reading when he came in. It 
was Charles Lamb's Essays, and on the first page 
was written in a large, firm hand : " In friendly 
remembrance of a terrible quarrel, Zinka Sterzl." 

" The child lost a bet with me not long since," 
Sempaly explained. "Another bet is still un- 
settled and is to be decided to day at the Palatine." 
Truyn shut the book sharply and threw it down ; 
then, setting his elbows on the table at which they 
were sitting, and fixing his eyes keenly on Sem- 
paly's face he said : 

" Do you intend to marry Zinka Sterzl ?" 

Sempaly started, " What do you mean ?" he 
exclaimed; "what are you dreaming of?" But 
as Truyn said no more, simply gazing fixedly at 
him, he took up an attitude of defiance. He 
looked Truyn straight in the face with an angry 
glare and retorted : 

" And suppose I do ?" 

" Then I can only hope you will have enough 
resolution to carry out your intentions," said 



OUR OWN SET. 113 

Truyn, " for to stop half-way in such a case is a 



crime/' 



He drew a deep breath and looked at the 
ground. But Sempaly's face, instead of clearing, 
grew darker ; he was prepared for vehement oppo- 
sition and his cousin's calm consent, not to say 
encouragement, put him in the position of a man 
who, after straining every muscle to lift a heavy 
weight suddenly discovers that it is a piece of 
painted pasteboard. It completely threw him 
off his balance. 

"Well, I must say!" he began in a tone of 
extreme annoyance, " you speak of it as if it were 
a no more serious question than the dancing of a 
cotillon. In plain terms the thing is impossible. 
What are we to live on ? I have long since run 
through all my fortune, if I took what my brother 
would regard as so monstrous a step he would cut 
off all supplies, and Zinka is not of age. I might 
to be sure take to selling dripping to maintain my 
wife, which would have the additional advantage 
that my mother-in-law would cut me in conse- 
quence. Or perhaps you would advise me to let 
Dame Clotilde Sterzl keep us till Zinka comes into 
her money ?" 

"Well," says Truyn calmly, "if you can take 
such a reasonable view of the impossibility of your 

8 



114 OUR OWN SET. 

marriage with Zinka Sterzl, your behavior to her 
is perfectly inexplicable." 

Truyn was still sitting by the little table on 
which the pretty coffee service was set out, while 
Sempaly, his hands in his pockets, was walking 
up and down the room, kicking and shoving the 
furniture with all the irritation of a man who 
Icnows himself to be in the wrong. 

" Upon my soul I cannot make out what you 
would be at !" he suddenly exclaimed, standing 
still and facing his cousin. "Sterzl has never 
found any fault with my behavior and it is much 
more his affair than yours." 

Truyn changed color a little, but did not lose 
his presence of mind. 

" Sterzl, with all his dryness of manner, is an 
idealist," he said, ** who would fetch the stars from 
heaven for his sister if he could. He has never 
for an instant doubted that your intentions with 
regard to her were quite serious.!' 

'* That is impossible I" cried Sempaly. 

** But it is so," Truyn asserted. " He is too 
blind to think his sister beneath any one's notice.*' 

''And he is right !" exclaimed Sempaly, "per- 
fectly right — but the pressure of circumstances — 
of position — the duties I have inherited. . . ." 

He had seated himself on the deep inner ledge 



OUR OWN SET. 115 

of one of the windows, with his elbows on his 
knees and his chin between his hands, and was 
staring thoughtfully at the floor. 

" Allow me to ask you," he said, " what in- 
duced you to mix yourself up in the affair ?" 

" It has weighed on my mind for a long time," 
said Truyn, " but what especially moved me to 
speak of it to-day is the circumstance that last 
evening, before you came into the ' Falcone^ Mes- 
dames De Gandry and Ferguson allowed them- 
selves to speak in a way which convinced me that 
your constant intimacy with Zinka is beginning to 
do her no good." 

^ " Oh ! of course, if you listen to the gossip 
of every washerwoman," Sempaly interrupted 
angrily. And he muttered a long speech in which 
the words: 'Sacred responsibility — due regard 
for the duties imposed by Providence,' were freely 
thrown in. Truyn's handsome face flushed with 
contempt and at length he broke into his cousin's 
harangue, to which for a few minutes he had listen- 
ed in silence : 

" No swagger nor bluster. . . . The matter is 
quiet simple : Do you love Zinka ?" The attache 
frowned : 

"Yes," he said fiercely. 

" Then it is only that you have not the courage: 

8 * 



Il6 OUR OWN SET. 

to face the annoyances that a marriage with her 
would involve you in ?" 

Sempaly was dumb, 

"Then, my dear fellow, there is no choice; 
you must break off the intimacy, as gently but 
as immediately as possible." 

"That I neither can nor will attempt," cried 
Sempaly, stamping his foot. 

" If within three days you have not taken the 
necessary steps to secure your removal from 
Rome, I shall feel myself compelled to give Sterzl 
a hint — or your brother — whichever you prefer." 
Truyn spoke quite firmly. "And now good-bye." 

" Good-bye," said Sempaly without moving, 
and Truyn went to the door ; there he paused and 
said hesitatingly : ** Do not take it amiss, Nicki — 
I could do no less. Remember that though the 
right is a bitter morsel, it has a good after- taste." 

" Poor child, poor sweet little girl !" Truyn 
murmujred to himself as he descended the grey 
stone stairs of the Palazzo de Venezia. " Is this 
a time to be talking of inherited responsibilities 
and the duties of position — now ! Good heavens!" 
He lighted a cigar and then flung it angrily away. 
" Good heavens ! to have met a girl like Zinka — 
to have won her love — and to be free I . . . ." 
: : He hurried out into the street, leaving the 



OUR OWN SET. 117 

gate-porter astonished that the count, who was 
usually so courteous, should have taken no notice 
of his respectful bow; such a thing had never 
happened before. 

He was a strange man, this grey-haired young 
Count Truyn ; he had grown up as one of a very 
happy family and when still quite young he had 
been hurried, much against his will, into a marriage 
with the handsome Gabrielle Zinsenburg. He 
had never been able to reconcile himself to the 
empty wordliness of his life in her society; she 
was a heartless, superficial woman, some few 
years older than himself, who had staked every- 
thing on her hope of achieving a marriage with 
him. Within a few years they had separated, 
quite amiably, by mutual consent ; he had given 
her his name and she gave him his child. His 
life was spoilt. He had a noble and a loving 
heart but he might not bestow it on any woman ; 
he must carry it about in his breast where it grew 
heavy to bear. His love for his little girl, devoted 
as he was to her, was not enough to live by, and 
a bitter sense of craving lurked in his spirit. For 
many years he had lived a great deal abroad ; his 
mind had expanded and he had shed several of 
his purely Austrian prejudices. At home he was 
still regarded as a staunch conservative because " 



Il8 OUR OWN SET. 

he always passively voted on that side; but he 
was only indifferent, absolutely indifferent, to all 
political strife, and smiled alike at the reckless- 
ness of the 'left' and the excitability of the 
'right,' while in his inmost soul he regarded 
the perfecting of government as mere labor lost ; 
for he was no optimist, and thought that to heal 
the woes of humanity nothing would avail but its 
thorough regeneration, and that men have no 
mind for such regeneration ; all they ask is to be 
allowed to cry out when they are hurt, and shift 
their sins on to each other's shoulders. 

It afforded him no satisfaction to cry out. His 
weary soul found no rest but in unbounded benev- 
olence, and Sempaly's nature — experimental, 
groping his way through life — had seemed to 
him to-day more odious than ever. 

" How can a man be at once so tender and 
such a coward ?" he asked himself, *' He is the 
most completely selfish being I ever met with — a 
thorough epicurean in sentiment, and has only 
just heart enough for his own pleasure and enjoy- 
ment." 






^ The bet outstanding between Zinkai and Sem- 
tp^ly was not decided that afternoon. Sempaly 



OUR OWN SET. 119 

did not go to the Palatine, but excused himself at 
the last moment in a little note to Zinka. Truyn's 
words, though he would not have admitted it to 
himself, had made a very deep impression, and 
though he fought against it he could no longer 
avoid looking the situation in the face. To get 
himself transferred to some other capital, to give 
up all his pleasant idle habits here — the idea was 
intolerable ! He felt exactly like a man who has 
been suddenly roused from a slumber bright with 
pleasant dreams. He did not want to wake, or to 
rub his eyes clear of the vision. 

Was everything at an end then ? Truyn had, 
to be sure, suggested an alternative : if he could 
but call up sufficient energy it rested only with 
himself to turn the sweet dream into a still sweeter 
and lovelier reality, arid his whole being thrilled 
with ecstasy as this delightful possibility flattered 
his fancy. He was long past the age at which a 
man commits some matrimonial folly believing that 
he can reclaim the morals of some disrespectable 
second-rate actress, or that his highest happiness 
is to devote his life to his sister's governess who is 
a dozen years older than himself; when he con- 
templated the possibility of his marrying Zinka 
Sterzl after all, it was with the certainty that his 
feeling for her was not a mere transient madness^ 



I20 OUR OWN SET. 

but that it had its roots in the depths of his nature. 
Every form and kind of enjoyment had been at 
his command and he had hated them all. Things 
in which other men of his age and position could 
find excitement and interest roused his fastidious 
nature to disgust. Life had long since become to 
him a vain and empty show, when he had met 
Zinka .... Then all the sweetest spirits of spring 
had descended fluttering into his vacant heart ; a 
magical touch had made it a garden of flowers and 
filled it with fair, mad dreams of love. All the 
*' sweet sorrow " of life was revealed to him in a 
new form. . . And now was he to tread the blos- 
soms into dust ? " Give up seeing her — get my- 
self sent away — never ! I cannot and I will not 
do it," he muttered to himself indignantly as he 
thought it all over. "What business is it of 
Truyn's ? What right has he to issue his orders 
to me ?'* 

But when he had resolved simply to go on 
with Zinka as he had begun, to sun himself as 
heretofore in her smile, her gentleness, and her 
beauty, he was still uncomfortable. He felt that 
it would not be the same. Till now his heart had 
simply been content, now it could speak and ask 
for more ; to try to satisfy it with this shadow of 
delight was like attempting to slake a raging thirst 



OUR OWN SET. 121 

with the dew off a rosebud. He loved her now — 
suddenly and madly. Interesting women had 
hitherto utterly failed to interest him ; they were 
like brooklets filled by the rain : the muddiness 
of the water prevented their shallowness being im- 
mediately perceptible ; the storms of life had spoilt 
their clearness and purity; Zinka, on the contrary, 
was like a mountain lake whose waters are so 
transparent that near the shore every pebble is 
visible ; and though, in the middle, the bottom is 
no longer seen, it is because they are deep and 
not because they are turbid, till their crystalline 
opacity reflects the sky overhead. And in the 
depths of that lake, he thought, lay a treasure 
which one alone, guided and blest by God, might 
hope to find. How he longed to sound it. 

She was made for him ; never for an instant had 
he been dull in her society ; she satisfied both his 
head and his heart ; all the bewitching inconsis- 
tency and contradictions of her nature captivated 
him ; * he had said of her that *' she was like a little 
handbook to the study of women," she was made 
up of such a variety of characteristics. In the 
midst of her childlike moods she had such unex- 
pected depth of thought, such flashes of wisdom ; 
her wildest vagaries were so original and often 
ended so suddenly in wistful reverie; her little 



122 OUR OWN SET. 

selfish caprices were the converse of such devoted 
self-sacrifice ; her grace was so spontaneous, her 
voice so soft and appealing . . . Well, but should 
he? . . . No, it must not be. Truyn had said it — 
he must quit Rome — ^^the sooner the better. 

He took his hat and went out to call on the 
ambassador and discuss the matter with him. His 
excellency was not at home and Sempaly betook 
himself to the club, where he lost several games at 
ecartd — he was greatly annoyed. Then he went 
home and sat looking constantly at the clock as 
though he were expecting some one ; his irritation 
increased every minute. 



123 



CHAPTER II. 

•* Bright May — the sweetest month of Spring; 
The trees and fields with flowers are strown — 
Dear Heart, to thee Life's May I bring ; 
Take it and keep it for thine own — 
Nay — draw the knife ! — I will not start, 
Pierce if thou wilt, my willing breast. 
There thou shalt find my faithful heart 
Whose truth in death shall stand confessed." 

These words, sung in the Roman dialect to a 
very simple air, came quavering out of the open 
window of the drawing-room of the Sterzls* pal- 
azetto as Sempaly passed by it that evening ; he 
had gone out to pay some visits, to divert his 
mind, and though his way did not take him along 
the side street in which the palazetto stood, he had 
not been able to resist the temptation to make a 
detour. It was a mild evening and the tones 
floated down like an invitation ; he recognized 
Zinka's voice as she sang one of the melancholy 
Stornelli in which the peasants of the Campagna 
give utterance to their loves. It ceased, and he 
was just moving away, when another even sweeter 
and more piercing lament broke the warm 
silence. 



124 OUR OWN SET. 

" Or shall I die ? — Poison itself could have 
No terrors if I took it from thy hand. 
Thy heart should be my death-bed and my grave." 

The passionate words were sung with subdued 
vehemence to a rather monotonous tune — like a 
faded wreath of spring flowers borne along by 
some murmuring stream. He turned back, and 
listened with suspended breath. The song ended 
on a long, full note ; he felt that he would give 
God knows how much to hear the last line once 
more: 

^ La sepoltura mia sara il tuo seno .^. . . ' 

Now Zinka was speaking — it vexed him be- 
yond measure that he could not hear what she 
was saying. It was maddening. . .Good heavens! 
what a fool he was to stand fretting outside ! 



When he went into the drawing-room to his 
great surprise he was met by Sterzl. 

" Back so soon ?" he exclaimed as he shook 
hands with him. 

" Yes, Arnstein had only two days to spare in 
Naples,'* replied Sterzl ; " I was delighted to see 
him again, but — well, I must be growing very old, 



OUR OWN SET. 125 

I was so glad to find myself at home again," and 
he drew his sister to him and lightly stroked her 
pretty brown hair. His brotherly caress added 
to Sempaly's excitement "No wonder that 
you like your home !" he was saying, when the 
baroness appeared with an evening wrap on her 
shoulders, a fan and scent-bottle in her hand, and, 
as usual, dying of refinement and airs. 

** Not ready yet, Zena'ide ? Ah, my dear 
Sempaly, how very sweet of you !" and she gave 
him the tips of her fingers. — " We were quite 
anxious about you when you so suddenly excused 
yourself from joining us. ZinTca was afraid you 
had taken the Roman fever," she said sentimen- 
tally. 

" Zinka has an imagination that feeds- on hor- 
rors," said Sterzl smiling. 

" I did think that you must have some very 
urgent reason," said Zinka hastily and in some 
confusion. 

Sempaly looked into her eyes : " I was doing 
Ash-Wednesday penance, that was all," he said in 
a low voice. 

" Well, to complete the mortification come 
now to Lady Dalrymple's," the baroness sug* 
gested. 

" Oh, be merciful ! Grant me a dispensation. 



126 ^ OUR OWN SET. 

I should SO much enjoy a quiet evening," cried 
Sempaly. 

" And I too," added Zinka. " I am utterly 
sick of soirees and routs. These performances 
give me the impression of a full-dress review, at 
which such and such fashionable regiments are 
paraded." 

" Give us a holiday, mother ; remember, it is 
Ash- Wednesday, and we are good Catholics," said 
her son. 

'" I had some scruples myself, but the Duchess 
of Otranto is going," lisped the baroness. 

However, when Sempaly had assured her that 
the Duchess of Otranto was by no means a stan- 
dard authority in Roman society she yielded to 
the common desire that they should remain at 
home, and withdrew to her room to write some 
letters before tea. 

Most men have senses and nerves only in their 
brain while women, as is well known, have them 
all over the body ; in this respect Sempaly was 
like a woman. He had senses even in his finger 
tips — as a Frenchman had once said, of him : "il 
avait les sens poete !" (a poet's nerves). The most 
trifling external conditions gave him dispropor- 
tionate pleasure or pain. The smallest detail of 
ugliness was enough to spoil his appreciation of 



OUR OWN SET. 127 

the noblest and grandest work of art ; he would 
not have felt the beauty of Faust if he had first 
read it in a shabby or dirty copy. Now, when 
the baroness had left the room, there was no de- 
tail that could disturb his enjoyment in being with 
Zinka. 

Sterzl had taken up his newspaper ; Zinka, at 
Sempaly's request, had seated herself at the piano. 
She always accompanied herself by heart and sat 
with her head bowed a little over the keys and 
half-shut dreamy eyes. The sober tone of the 
room, with its tapestried walls and happy medley 
of knick-knacks, broad-leaved plants, Japanese 
screens, and comfortable furniture, formed a har- 
monious background to her slight, white figure.- 
The light of the one lamp was moderated by its 
rose-colored shade ; a subdued mezza-väce tone of 
color prevailed in the room which was full of the 
scent of roses and violets, and the heavy perfume 
seemed in sympathy with the gloomy sentiment 
of the popular love songs. Sempaly's whole na- 
ture thrilled with rapturous suspense, such as few 
men would perhaps quite understand. At his 
desire Zinka sang one after another of the Stor- 
nelli . . . her voice grew fuller and deeper . . . 

" Do not sing too long, Zini, it will tire you," 
said her brother. 



128 OUR OWN SET. 

" Only one more — the one I heard from out- 
side," begged Sempaly, and she sang : 

" La sepoltura mia sara il tuo seno . . . ." 

The words trembled on her lips ; her hands slipped 
off the last notes into her lap. Sempaly took the 
warm, soft little hands in his own ; a sort of de- 
lightful giddiness mounted to his brain as he 
touched them. 

'* Zinka," he said, " tell me, do you feel a little 
of what your voice expresses ?" 

Her eyes met his — and she blinked, as we 
blink at a strong, bright light ; she shrank back a 
little, as we shrink from too great and sudden joy. 
Her answer was fluttering on her lips when the 
door opened — the Italian servant pronounced 
some perfectly unintelligible gibberish by way of 
a name, and in marched — followed by her 
daughter and their Polish swain — the Baroness 
Wolnitzka. 

" Oh, thank goodness, I have found you at 
home I" she exclaimed. " We counted on finding 
you at home on Ash-Wednesday. God bless you, 
Zinka !" 

Zinka was petrified. Mamma Sterzl rushed 
in from an adjoining room at the sound of those 
rough tones. 



OUR OWN SET. 129 

"Charlotte!" was all she could stammer out, 
" Char . . . lotte . . . you . . . here !" 

*' Quite a surprise, is it not, Clotilde ? Yes, 
the most unhoped-for things sometimes happen. 
We arrived to-day at three o'clock and called here 
this afternoon but you were out ; so then we de- 
cided to try in the evening. It is rather late, to 
be sure, and I, for my part, should have been here 
long ago, but Slawa insisted on dressing— for 
such near relations ! Quite absurd . . . but I do 
not like to contradict her, she is so easily put out 
— so I waited to dress too." 

And the baroness, after embracing her sister 
and her niece, plumped down uninvited on a very 
low chair. 

She had dressed with a vengeance : a black 
lace cap was perched on the top of her short, grey 
hair, with lappets that hung down over her ears. 
Her massive person was squeezed into a violet 
satin gown, which she had evidently out-grown, 
and a lace scarf picturesquely thrown ovisr her 
shoulders was intended to conceal its defects ; her 
lavender-colored gloves were very short and much 
too tight, and burst at all the button-holes. Slawa 
had a general effect of tricolor, and she wore some 
old jewelry that she had bought of ä dealer in an- 
tiquities at Verona. She had curled and piled up 

9 



I30 OUR OWN SET. 

her hair after the antique and kept her head con- 
stantly turned over her left shoulder, to be as 
much like the Apollo as possible, at the same time 
making a grimace as if she were being photo- 
graphed and wished to look bewitching. 

Vladimir Matuschowsky's tall, slouching figure 
was buttoned into a braided coat ; he held a 
low-crowned hat with tassels in his hand, and 
glared at the plain dress-coats of the other two 
men as though they were a personal insult. 

" Monsieur Vladimir de Matuschowsky," said 
the baroness introducing him, " a. . . a. . .friend of 
the family." But she said it in French: when 
the Baroness Wolnitzka was at all at a loss she 
commonly spoke French. 

Her sister, who by this time had got over her 
astonishment, now began to wish to dazzle the 
new-comers. 

** Count Sempaly," she said, presenting the at- 
tach^ ; " a friend of our family . . . my sister, the 
Baroness Wolnitzka. You have no doubt heard 
of the famous Slav leader Baron Wolnitzky, who 
was so conspicuous a figure in forty-eight." 

Sempaly bowed without speaking ; Baroness 
Wolnitzka rose and politely offered him her hand : 
" I am delighted to make your acquaintance," she 
said. " I have heard a great deal about you ; my 



OUR OWN SET. 131 

sister has mentioned you in all her letters and I 
am quite au courant'' 

Again Sempaly bowed in silence and then, re- 
tiring into the background while the mistress of 
the house turned to address Slawa, he said to 
Sterzl : 

" I will take an opportunity of slipping away — 
a stranger is always an intruder at a family meet- 
ing/' His manner was suddenly cold and stiff and 
his tone intolerably arrogant. 

Sterzl nodded : "Go by all means/' he replied. 
But Baroness Sterzl perceiving his purpose ex- 
claimed : 

"No, no, my dear Sempaly, you really must 
not run away — you are not in the least de trop — 
and a stranger you certainly can never be." 

" It would look as though we had frightened you 
away, and that I will not imagine,*' added her 
sister archly. 

So Sempaly stayed; only, perhaps, from the 
impulse that so often prompts us to drink a bitter 
cup to the dregs. 

" Pray command yourself a little, Zini," whis- 
pered Cecil to his sister. "The interruption is 
unpleasant ; but you should not show your annoy- 
ance so plainly." 

Tea was now brought in ; Sterzl devoted him- 



9* 



132 OUR OWN SET. 

self in an exemplary manner to his cousin Slawa, 
so as to give his spoilt little sister as much liberty 
as possible. Slawa treated him with the greatest 
condescension and kept glancing over her huge 
Japanese fan at Sempaly, who was sitting by Zinka 
on a small sofa, taciturn and ill-pleased, while he 
helped her to pour out the tea. 

Baroness Wolnitzka gulped down one cup after 
another, eat up almost all the tea-cake, and never 
ceased an endless medley of chatter. The young 
Pole sat brooding gloomily, ostentatiously refused 
all food and spoke not a word ; his arms crossed 
on his breast he sat the image of the Dignity of 
Man on the defensive. 

*' I am desperately hungry," Madame Wol- 
nitzka confessed. "We are at a very good hotel — 
Hotel della Stella, in Via della Pace ; we were told 
of it by a priest with whom we met on our journey. 
It is not absolutely first-class — still, only people 
of the highest rank frequent it ; two Polish counts 
dined at the table d'hote and a French marquise ; 
— in her case I must own I thought I could smell 
a rat — I suspect she is running away with her 
lover from her husband, or from her creditors." 

Out of deference to the " highest rank " the 
baroness had put her hand up to her mouth on the 
side nearest to the young people as she made this 



OUR OWN SET. 133 

edifying communication. " The dinner was very 
good," she went on, "capital, and we pay six 
francs a day for our board." 

" Seven," corrected Slawa. 

"Six, Slawa." 

" Seven, mamma." 

And a discussion of the deepest interest to the 
rest of the party ensued between the mother and 
daughter as to this important point. Slawa re- 
mained master of the field ; " and with wax-lights 
and service it comes to eight," she added trium- 
phantly. 

" I let her talk," whispered her mother, again 
directing her words with her hand, " she is very 
peculiar in that way ; everything cheap she thinks 
must be bad. However, what I was going to say 
was that, to tell the truth, I did not get enough to 
eat at dinner — there were flowers on the table," 
— and she reached herself a slice of plum-cake. 

At this moment the door opened to admit 
Count Siegburg. 

"Good evening," he began — "seeing you so 
brightly lighted up I could not resist the tempta- 
tion to come in and see how you were spending 
your Ash- Wednesday." 

He glanced around at the three strangers and 
instantly grasped the situation ; but, far from tak- 



134 OUR OWN SET. 

ing the tragical view of it, he at once determined 
to get as much fun out of it as possible. After 
being introduced he placed himself in a position 
from which he could command the whole party, 
Sempaly included, and converse both with Madame 
Wolnitzka and her daughter. He addressed him- 
self first to the latter. 

** The name of Wolnitzky is known to fame,'* 
he said. 

" Yes, my father played a distinguished part in 
forty-eight," replied Slawa. 

"Siegburg — Siegburg? ..." Madame Wol- 
nitzka was meanwhile murmuring to herself. 
"Which of the Siegburgs? The Siegburgs of 
Budow, or of Waldau, or. . . ?" 

" The Waldau branch," said Baroness Sterzl. 
" His mother was a Princess Hag," and she leaned 
back on her cushions. 

" Ah ! the Waldau Siegburgs ! quite the best 
Siegburgs !" remarked her sister in a tone of as- 
tonishment. 

" Of course," replied Baroness Sterzl with great 
coolness, as though she had never in her life spoken 
to anyone less than "the best Siegburgs." . 

Madame Wolnitzka arranged her broad face in 
the most affable wrinkles she could command, and 
sat smiling at the young count, watching for an 



OUR OWN SET. 13s 

Opportunity of putting in a word. For the pre- 
sent, however, this did not offer, for her sister 
addressed her, asking, in a bitter-sweet voice: 

" And what made you decide on coming to 
Rome ?" 

" Can you ask ? I have wished for years to 
see Rome, and you wrote so kindly and so con- 
stantly, Clotilde — ^so at length ..." and here fol- 
lowed the history of the Bernini. "You re- 
member our Bernini, Clotilde ?" 

Her sister nodded. 

"Well, I had the Apollo, the head only, a 
copy by Bernini. It is a work of art that has been 
in our family for generations," she continued, turn- 
ing to Siegburg as she saw that he was listening to 
her narrative. 

" For centuries," added Madame Sterzl. 

" I must confess that I could hardly bear to part 
with it," her sister went on. ** However, I made 
up my mind to do so when Tulpe, the great anti- 
quary from Vienna, came one day and bid for it." 

Sterzl, to whom the god*s wanderings were 
known, made some allusion to them in his dry 
way ; on which the Baroness Wolnitzka shuffled 
herself a little nearer to Siegburg and addressed 
herself to him. 

" You see, count, it was something like what 



136 OUR OWN SET 

often happens with a girl : you drag her about^ to 
balls for years, take her from one watering-place 
to another, and never get her off your hands ; 
then you settle down quietly at home and sud- 
denly, when you least expect it, a suitor turns up. 
I could hardly bear to see the last of the bust I 
assure you." 

" It must indeed have been a harrowing part- 
ing," said Siegburg with much feeling. 

"Terrible!" said the baroness, "and doubly 
painful because" — and here she leaned over to 
whisper in Siegburg*s ear — "Slawa is so amazingly 
like the Bernini. Does not her likeness to the 
Apollo strike you ?" 

"I saw it at once — as soon as I came in," 
Siegburg declared without hesitation. 

" Every one says so — well then, you can un- 
derstand what a sacrifice it was ... it cuts me to 
the heart only to think of it. Oh ! these great 
emotions ! Excuse me if I take off my cap . . . " 
and she hastily snatched off the black lace struc- 
ture and passing her fingers through her thin 
grey hair with the vehemence of a genius she ex- 
claimed: "Merciful God! How we poor women 
are ill-used! crushed, fettered ..." 

" Yes, a woman's lot is not a happy one ; " said 
Siegburg sympathetically. 



OUR OWN SET. 137 

*' You are quite an original !" exclaimed hef 
sister, giggling rather uncomfortably — for in 
good society it is quite understood that when we 
are suffering under relations devoid of manners, 
and whom, if we dared, we should shut up at 
once in a mad-house, we may do what we can to 
render them harmless by ticketing them with this 
title — "Quite an original. Are you still always 
ready to break a lance for the emancipation of 
our sex?" 

" No," replied Madame Wolnitzka, " no, my 
dear Clotilde, I have given that up. Since I learnt 
by experience that every woman is ready to set 
aside the idea of emancipation as soon as she has 
a chance of marrying I have lost my sympathy 
with the cause." 

" The emancipation of women of course can 
only be interesting to those who cannot marry," 
observed Sterzl, who had not long since read an 
article on this much ventilated question. 

" And as there are undoubtedly more women 
than men in the world, legalized polygamy is the 
only solution of the difficulty," his aunt asserted* 

" Mamma ! you really are ! . . . " said Slawa 
with an angry flare. 

" Your views are necessarily petty and nar- 
row," retorted her mother. " If I were speaking of 



138 OUR OWN SET. 

the subject in a light and frivolous tone I could 
understand your indignation ; but I am looking at 
the matter from a philosophical point of view — 
you understand me, I am sure, Count Siegburg.*' 

"Perfectly, my dear madam," Siegburg as- 
sured her with grave dignity. " You look at tiie 
question from the point of national and political 
economy and from that point of view improprie- 
ties have no existence." 

Sempaly sat twirling his moustache ; Zinka first 
blushed and then turned pale, while the mistress 
of the house patted her sister on the shoulder, say- 
ing with a sharp, awkward laugh : " Quite an 
original — quite an original." 

But Sterzl, seeing that Siegburg was exces- 
sively entertained by the old woman's absurdities, 
and was on the point of amusing himself still 
further at her expense by laying some fresh trap 
for her folly, happily bethought him that the only 
way to procure silence would be to ask Slawa to 
sing. So he begged his cousin to give them some 
national air. Siegburg joined in the request, but 
Slawa tried to excuse herself on a variety of pre- 
texts : the piano was too low, the room was bad 
to sing in, and so forth and so forth ... at last, 
however, she was persuaded to sing some patriotic 
songs in which Matuschowsky accompanied her. 



OUR OWN SET. 139 

Her tall, Walkure-like figure swayed and 
trembled with romantic emotion, and faithful to 
the traditions of the *' art fretnissant'' — the 
thrilling school — she held a piece of music fast in 
both hands for the sake of^ effect, though it had 
not the remotest connection with the song she was 
singing. Her mother sat in breathless silence; 
tears of admiration ran down her cheeks; like 
many other mothers, she only recognized those of 
Slawa's defects which came into conflict with her 
own idiosyncracy and admired everything else. 
When Slawa had shouted the last verse of the 
latest revolutionary ditty, which would have been 
prohibited in forty-eight, and Sterzl was still ask- 
ing himself whether it was worse to listen to the 
mother's tongue or the daughter's singing, 
Matuschowsky, whose chagrin at the small ap- 
proval bestowed on his and Slawa's musical efforts 
had reached an unendurable pitch, observed that 
it was growing late and that the ladies must be 
needing rest after all their exertions and fatigues. 
Madame Wolnitzka hastened to devour the last 
slice of tea-cake, brushed the crumbs away from 
her purple satin lap on to the carpet, rose slowly, 
and made her way with many bows and courtesies 
towards the door, taking at least half an hour be- 
fore she was fairly gone. 



I40 OUR OWN SET. 

When his relatives had at length disappeared 
Sterzl accompanied the two gentlemen, who had 
also bid the ladies good- night, into the hall, and 
said good-humoredly to Siegburg : 

" You, I fancy, are the only one of the party 
who has really enjoyed the evening." Siegburg 
colored ; then looking up frankly at his friend he 
said : " You are not offended ?" 

" Well — perhaps, just a little," replied Sterzl, 
with a smile, " but I must admit that the tempta- 
tion was a strong one." 

"And really and truly I am very sorry for 
you," Siegburg went on, with that ingenuous want 
of tact that never lost him a friend. " There is 
nothing in the world so odious as to have a posse 
of disagreeable relations who suddenly appear and 
cling on to your coat-tails. I know it by experi- 
ence. Last spring, at Vienna, half a dozen old 
aunts of my mother's came down upon us from 
Bukowina like a snow-storm. . ." Sempaly mean- 
while had buttoned himself into his fur-lined coat 
and said nothing. 



141 



CHAPTER III. 

The three days have gone by in which Truyn 
had desired his cousin to make up his mind — 
three days since the sudden descent of Baroness 
Wolnitzka scared away the sweet vision that till 
then had dwelt in Sempaly's soul and checked the 
declaration actually on his lips — but he has not 
yet requested to be removed from Rome. Truyn's 
eye has been upon him all through these three days, 
has constantly met his own with grave questioning, 
as though to say: "Have you decided?" 

No, he had not decided. To a man like Sem- 
paly there is nothing in the world so difficult as a 
decision; fate decides for him — he for himself I 
Never. 

His encounter with the preposterous baroness 
might silence the avowal he was on the verge of 
uttering, but it was not so powerful as to banish 
Zinka's image once and for all from his mind. The 
silly old woman's chatter he had by this time for- 
gotten ; the Stornelli that Zinka had been singing 
still rang in his ears. For two days he had had 
the resolution to avoid the Palazetto, but he had 



142 OUR OWN SET. 

seen Zinka for a moment, by accident, yesterday 
on the Corso. She was in the carriage with Marie 
Vulpini — she had on a grey velvet dress and a 
broad-brimmed mousquetaire hat that threw a 
shadow on her forehead and her golden-brown 
hair ; she held a large bouquet of flowers and was 
chatting merrily with the little Vulpinis and 
Gabrielle Truyn ; what pretty merry ways she had 
with children ! His blood fired in his veins as their 
eyes met, and she blushed as she returned his bow. 
It was the first time she had blushed at seeing 
him. All that night he dreamed the wildest 
dreams, — and now he was taking a solitary early 
walk in the spring sunshine, on the Pincio, lost in 
thought, but snapping the twigs as he passed along 
to vent his irritation. More and more he felt that 
marriage with Zinka was a sine qua non of his ex- 
istence. He had never in his life denied himself a 
pleasure, and now. ... 



The brilliant March sun flooded the Piazza di 
Spagna, the waters of the Baracaccia sparkled and 
danced, reflecting the radiant blue sky, against 
which the towers of the Trinita dei Monti stood 
out sharp and clear. All over the shallow steps 



OUR OWN SET. 143 

of the church models were lounging in the regu- 
lation peasant costumes, and blind beggars inces- 
santly muttering their prayers. In front of the 
Hotel de V Europe the cab-drivers were sweetly 
slumbering under the huge patched umbrellas 
stuck up behind their coach-boxes for protection 
against the sun or rain. Flower-sellers were 
squatted on every door-step, and here and there 
sat a brown-eyed, snub-nosed white Pomeranian 
dog. The Piazza was swarming with tourists, and 
Beatrice di Cenci gazed with the saddest eyes in 
the world out of a photographer's shop at the 
motley crowd and bustle. 

Siegburg, in happy unconsciousness of coming 
evil, had just come out of Law's, the money 
changer's, and was inhaling with peculiar satisfac- 
tion the delicious pervading scent of hyacinths, 
when his eye was accidentally attracted by the 
fine figure of a young English woman who passed 
him in a closely fitting jersey. He was still watch- 
ing her when a harsh voice close to him ex- 
claimed : 

" Good morning, Count, — what luck !" 

He turned round and recognized, under a vast 

shady hat, the broad, dark face of the Baroness 

Wolnitzka. Though the day was splendidly fine 

she had on that most undressed of garments, orig- 



144 OVK OWN SET. 

inally meant as a protection against rain but 
subsequently adopted to conceal every conceivable 
defect of costume, and long since known to the 
mocking youth of Paris as a * cacAe-mzsere,' or — 
to render it freely — a slut-cover; and, though 
the pavement was perfectly dry, under this water- 
proof she held up the gown it hid, so high that 
her wide feet, in their untidy boots with elastic 
sides, were plainly displayed. 

" Ah, baroness !" he said lifting his hat, " I 
really did not ..." 

"No, you did not recognize me," she said 
calmly, "that was why I spoke to you. What 
luck ! But you are in the embassy too ?" 

"Certainly." 

"That is the very thing — I have a request to 
make then. My daughter is most anxious to have 
an audience of His Holiness. Slawa, you must 
know, is a fervent Catholic, though, between you 
and me, it is a mere matter of fashion. Now I, for 
my part, take a philosophical view of religious 
matters. At the same time I should be very 
much interested in seeing the Pope. ..." 

" But the Pope is unfortunately more inaccess- 
ible than ever," said Siegburg, "besides, as I do 
not belong to the Papal Embassy I cannot, I re- 
gret to say, give you the smallest assistance." 



OUR OWN SET. 145 

"That is what my nephew says — it is disas- 
trous, positively disastrous/' At this moment 
Slawa joined them, emerging from Piale's library, 
in an eccentric directoire costume, with a peaked 
hat and feather, and a pair of gloves, no longer 
clean, drawn far up over her elbows. 

. " Ah, goo.d morning," said she, offering the 
count her finger tips while Matuschowsky, who 
was in attendance, sulkily bowed. 

By this time Siegburg, hemmed in on all sides, 
began to think the situation unpleasant. 

" It is so delightful to meet with a fellow-coun- 
tryman in a foreign land. ..." Slawa began. 

" Quite delightful," replied Siegburg, thinking 
to himself: " How am I to get out of this ?" when 
suddenly the absurdity of the thing came upon 
him afresh, for he heard the baroness once more : 
" Good morning, Count, what luck !" and at the 
same moment she bore down on no less a man 
than Sempaly, who had just come down the sun- 
lit steps, and was crossing the Piazza lost in 
sullen meditation. "I beg your pardon," he 
muttered somewhat startled, " I really did not 
recognize you," and he gazed helplessly into the 
distance as though he looked for a rescue. But 
the baroness went on : 

" I am so delighted to have met you — I have 

10 



146 OUR OWN SET. 

a particular request to make : could you not pro- 
cure me admission to the Farnesina ? The Duke 
di Ripalda is said to be all powerful ..." 

" I am sorry to say it is quite im . . . " 

But at this instant a party of foreigners caught 
Sempaly's eye — two young ladies with a maid. 
The two girls, tall and straight as pine-trees, both 
remarkably handsome and dressed in neatly- fitting 
English linen dresses, were eagerly bargaining 
with an Italian who had embroidered cambric 
trimmings for sale, and they seemed to think it a 
delightful adventure to buy something in the 
street. 

" Two charming girls ! surely I know them," 
cried Madame Wolnitzka. " Are they not the 
Jatinskys ?" 

One of the young ladies, looking up, called 
out : " Nicki, Nicki !" half across the Piazza, with 
the frank audacity of people who have grown up 
in the belief that the world was created ex- 
pressly for their use. 

" Excuse me," said Sempaly with a bow to the 
baroness, " my cousins . . ." and without more ado 
he made his escape. 

" How long have you been here ? Where are 
you staying ?" 

" We arrived this morning — Hotel de Londres 



OUR OWN SET. 147 

— mamma wrote to you at once to the em- 
bassy . . . Ah, here is another Austrian !" for 
Siegburg had contrived to join them. " Rome is 
but a suburb of Vienna after all ! But tell me, 
who on earth were that old fortune-teller and her 
extraordinary daughter to whom you were both 
devoting yourselves so attentively ?** 

The Wolnitzky trio had in the meantime 
moved away. The baroness very gracious, Slawa 
very haughty, as became the living representa- 
tive of the Apollo Belvedere — past the two hand- 
some girls and down the Via Condotti. Suddenly 
Baroness Wolnitzka stopped : 

" I quite forgot to ask Count Sempaly to get 
me an invitation to the international artists' festi- 
val !" she exclaimed, striking her forehead, and 
she promptly turned about, evidently intending to 
repair the omission ; only Matuschowsky's decided 
interference preserved Sempaly from her return to 
the charge. 



The scene is now the Pincio — between five 
and six in the afternoon, the hour when the band 
plays every day on the great terrace, while the 
crowd collects to watch the sun set behind St. 



10 * 



148 OUR OWN SET. 

• 

Peter's. The reflection of the glow gilds the 
gravel, glints from the lace on the uniforms and 
the brass instruments, and throws golden sparks 
on the water in the wide basin behind the band- 
stand. The black shadows rapidly lengthen on 
the grass, and the palmettos, yuccas, and evergreen 
oaks stand out in rich, deep tones against the sky 
that fades from crimson to salmon and grey. A 
special set of visitors haunt the shady side of the 
Pincio; not the fashionable world: governesses 
and nurses with their charges, and priests — ^priests 
of every degree : the illustrious Monsignori with 
their finely chiselled features, their upright bearing 
and their elegant hands ; monks, with their bearded 
faces comfortably framed in their cowls, and whole 
regiments of priestlings from the Seminaries in 
their uniforms of every hue; lank, lean figures, 
with. sallow, unformed features. 

Separated from these only by a leafy screen 
the beauty and fashion of Rome drive up and 
down — the residents in handsome private car- 
riages, the foreigners in hired vehicles of varying 
degrees of respectability, or even in the humble, 
one-horse, hackney cab. The crowd grows denser 
every minute as the stream of Roman rank and 
wealth swells along the Via Borghese, across the 
Piazza del Popolo, and up the hill. On the top 



OUR OWN SET. 149 

of the Pincio the carriages come to a stand-still ; 
gentlemen on foot gather round them, bowing and 
smiling, the ladies talk across from one victoria to 
another — all sorts of trivial small- talk, unintelli- 
gible to the uninitiated. Up from the gardens 
which line the road from the Via Margutta, comes 
a fragrance of budding and growing spring ; dowA 
below lies Rome, and lording it grandly over the 
labyrinthine mass of houses and ruins, solemn and 
severe, its crown touched by the last rays of the 
vanished sun, stands St Peter's. 

Countess Ilsenbergh's carriage was drawn up 
side by side with that of Princess Vulpini ; the 
newly-arrived party of the Jatinskys was divided 
between them ; the countess mother reclining in- 
dolently with a gracious smile on her lips by the 
side of Countess Ilsenbergh, while the princess 
had undertaken to chaperon the young ladies. 
On the front seat, by his cousin Eugenie — 
Nini they called her — sat Sempaly. Sieg- 
burg was leaning over the carriage door, talking 
all sorts of nonsense, and relating all the gossip 
of Rome that was fit for maiden ears to the 
two new-comers ; they, infinitely amused, laugh- 
ed till their simple merriment infected even 
Sempaly, who had taken the seat coveted of all 
the golden youth of Rome — the seat next his 



ISO OUli OWN SET. 

beautiful cousin — in a very gloomy and taciturn 
humor. 

Presently there was an evident sensation among 
the public; every one was looking in the same 
direction. 

"What is happening?" asked Polyxena, the 
elder of the two Jatinska girls. 

" It must be the Dorias* new drag, or the King/' 
said Princess Vulpini, screwing up her short-sighted 
eyes. " No," saifl Siegburg, looking back, "neither. 
It is Baroness Wolnitzka !" 

And in fact, Madame Sterzl's pretty landau, 
which she had placed at the disposal of her sister for 
the afternoon, was coming up the roadj in it the 
Wolnitzkas, mother and daughter, both in their 
finest array. Slawa was leaning back, elegantly 
languid, while her mother stood up in the carriage 
and surveyed the world of Rome through an 
opera-glass. From time to time, either to rest, or 
because she suddenly lost her balance, she sat 
down ; and then she filled up her time by exam- 
ining every detail of the trimming and lining of 
the landau. It was this singular demeanor, com- 
bined with her very conspicuous person, that at- 
tracted so much attention to the Sterzls' vehicle — 
an attention which both mother and daughter, of 



OUR OWN SET. 151 

course ascribed to Slawa's extraordinary resem- 
blance to the Belvedere Apollo. 

** Baroness Wolnitzka ! the wonderful old 
woman we saw with you yesterday in the Piazza 
di Spagna ?** cried Polyxena. 

"Yes." 

" Only think, Nicki," she went on to Sempaly, 
*' mamma knows hfer ?" 

" Who is it that I know ?" asked her mother 
from the other carriage. 

" Baroness Wolnitzka, mamma ; do you see 
her — out there?" 

" Heaven preserve me !" exclaimed the coun- 
tess fervently. " I do not feel secure of my life 
when I am near her. She fell upon me to-day in 
the Villa Wolkonsky." 

" How on earth do you happen to know the 
old woman, aunt ?" asked Sempaly irritably. 

" Oh ! my husband had some political connec- 
tion with hers," the countess explained. ** She is 
not to be borne, she stuck to me like a leech for 
half an hour." 

** Your conversation must have been very in- 
teresting," said Siegburg. 

" It did not interest me," replied the counters 
rather sharply. " She told me how much her jour- 
ney had cost her, what she pays a day for carriage- 



152 OUR OWN SET. 

hire, and that when she was young she had singing- 
lessons of Cicimara. And she chattered endlessly 
about her sister Sterzl who is living here ' in the 
first style and knows absolutely none but the- 
creme de la creme ' — you laugh ! . . .*' 

" Well, mamma, you must confess that the as- 
sociation of such a name as Sterzl with the cream 
of society is irresistibly funny," cried Polyxena. 

**"It was anything rather than funny to me," 
said the countess ruefully. " By the way, though, 
she did tell me one thing — that her niece 
Zenaide Sterzl . . . Well, what is there to laugh at 
now ?" 

" Zenaide Sterzl ! the name is a poem in itself," 
cried Polyxena; "it is as though an English woman 
were named Belinda Brown, or a French girl 
called Roxalane Dubois." 

" Well, it seems from what the old woman told 
me that the fair Zenaide is about to relinquish the 
graceless name of Sterzl for one of the noblest 
names in Austria — that is the old idiot's story. It 
has not yet been made public, so she could not 
tell me the bridegroom's name, but Zenaide is as 
good as betrothed to a young count — an attach^ 
to the Austrian embassy. Who on earth can it be ? 
— You ought to know !" 

** Ah, ah ! Is it you ?" said Polyxena turning 



OUR OWN SET. 153 

to Siegburg. But Siegburg shook his head, strok- 
ing his yellow moustache to conceal a malicious 
smile as he watched Sempaly's conspicuous annoy- 
ance. ** Or is it you, Nicki ?*' the young countess 
went on — "I congratulate you on marrying into 
such a delightful family !*' 

But such a marked effect of embarrassment 
was produced by her speech that she was suddenly 
silent. 

** I know nothing of it," said Sempaly with a 
gloomy scowl. " That old chatterbox's imagina- 
tion is positively stupendous." 

The play of light on the gold lace of the uni- 
forms and the brass instruments is fast fading away 
and the sheen of the glossy-leaved evergreens is 
almost extinct. **Gran dio morir si giovane/*' is 
the tune the band is playing. The sun is down, 
the day is dead, night shrouds the scene ; the only 
color left is a dull glow behind St Peter's like a 
dying fire. 

"At the Ellis' this evening," Siegburg calls 
out to the ladies as he lifts his hat and turns away. 
The carriages make their way down the hill, past 
the Villa Medici, back into Rome, and their steady 
roar is like that of a torrent rushing to join the 
sea. 



154 



CHAPTER IV. 

Mr. and Lady Julia Ellis —r she was an 
earl's daughter — English people of enormous 
wealth and amazing condescension, had for many- 
years spent the winters in Rome. In former times 
the lady's eccentricities had given rise to much 
discussion ; now she was an old lady with white 
hair, fine regular features and much too fat arms. 
Like all English women of her day she appeared 
in a low gown on all occasions of full dress, and 
was fond of decking her head with a pink feather. 
Her husband was younger than she was and had a 
handsome, thoroughly English face, with a ^hort 
beard and very picturesque curly white hair. His 
profile was rather like that of Mendelssohn, a fact of 
which he was exceedingly proud. Besides this he 
was proud of two other things : of his wife, who 
had been admired in her youth by King George 
IV. and of a very old umbrella, because Felix 
Mendelssohn had once borrowed it. He had a 
weakness for performing on the concertina and 
had musical evenings once a week. 

It happened that on the occasion when the 



OUR OWN SET. 155 

Jatinskys first went to one of these parties Tulpin 
the Russian genius whose great work had served 
as the introduction to the Ilsenbergh tableaux, was 
elaborating a new opera to a French libretto on a 
national Russian story. He was, of course, one 
of those Russians who combine a passionate devo- 
tion to the national Slav cause with a fervent wish 
to be mistaken for born Parisians wherever they 
appear. The piano groaned under his hands^ 
while sundry favorite phrases from Orphee aux 
Enfers and other well-known works were heard 
above the rolling sea of tremolos. From time to 
time the performer threw in a word to elucidate 
the situation: "The czar speaks. . ." "The bojar 
speaks. . ." "The peasant speaks. . ." "The sigh- 
ing of the wind in the Caucasus. . ." " The foam- 
ing of the torrent. . ." While Mr. Ellis, who be- 
lieved implicitly in the opera, was heard murmuring: 
" Splendid ! . . . magnificent ! The opera must be 
worked out — it must not remain unperformed !" 

" Worked out !" sighed Tulpin with melancholy 
irony. " That is no concern of mine. We — we 
have the ideas, the working out we leave to — to— 
to others, in short. You must remember that I can- 
not read a note of music — literally, not a note," 
he repeated with intense and visible satisfaction, 
and he flung off a few stumbling arpeggios, while 



156 OUR OWN SET. 

Mr. Ellis cried: ** Astonishing !" and compared 
him with Mendelssohn, which Tulpin, who believed 
only in the music of the future, took very much 
amiss. A Grand Prix de Musique, from the 
French academy of arts at the Villa Medici, who 
had been waiting more than an hour to perform 
his "Arab symphony," muttered to himself: 
^* Good heavens ! leave music to us, and let us be 
thankful that we are not great folks !" 

At last Lady Julia took pity on her guests and 
invited them to go to take tea ; every one was 
only too glad to accept, and in a few minutes the 
music room was almost empty. Madame Tulpin, 
out of devotion, the Grand Prix out of spite, and 
Mr. Ellis out of duty were all that remained 
within hearing. In the adjoining room every one 
had burst into conversation over their tea ; still, 
a certain gloom prevailed. Melancholy seemed to 
have fallen upon the party like an epidemic, and 
the subject that was most eagerly discussed was 
the easiest mode of suicide. 

Tulpin rattled and thumped on ; suddenly he 
stopped — the Jatinskys had come in, and their ad- 
vent was such a godsend that even the genius 
abandoned the piano in their honor. They all 
three were smiling in the most friendly — it might 
almost be said the most reassuring manner ; for 



OUR OWN SET. 157 

Countess Ilsenbergh had not failed to impress 
upon them the very mixed character of Roman 
society, and, feeling their own superiority, they 
were able to cover their self-consciousness with 
the most engaging amiability. The two younger 
ladies were surrounded — besieged — and the 
strange thing was that the women paid them even 
greater homage than the men. Everything about 
them was admired : their small feet, their finely- 
cut profiles, their incredibly slender waists, the 
color of their hair, the artistic simplicity of their 
dresses — and bets were laid as to whether these 
were the production of Fanet or of Worth. But 
now there was the little commotion in the next 
room that is caused by the arrival of some very 
popular person. Zinka, without her mother, 
under her brother's escort only, came in and gave 
her slim hand with an affectionate greeting to the 
lady of the house. 

" You are an incorrigible truant, you always 
come too late ;" said Lady Julia in loving re- 
proach. 

" Like repentance and the police," said Zinka 
merrily ; and then Lady Julia introduced her to 
Countess Jatinska. 

" But you must help me with the tea ; you 
know I always reckon on you for that,'* Lady Julia 



IS8 OUR OWN SET. 

went on. " Give your charming countrywomen 
some, will you ?" 

Polyxena and Nini were sitting a yard or two 
off, surrounded by all the young men of Rome ; 
Zinka was going towards them with her winning 
grace of manner when Sempaly happened to come 
up, and found himself so unexpectedly face to face 
with her that he had no alternative but to shake 
hands, and he could not avoid saying a few words. 
Of course —* like any other man in his place — 
he made precisely the most unlucky speech he 
could possibly have hit upon : 

" We have not met for some time." 

She looked him in the face but of half-shut 
eyes, with her head slightly thrown back, and re- 
plied, with very becoming defiance : 

" You have carried out the penance you began 
on Ash- Wednesday !" 

" Perhaps,*' and he could not help smiling. 

She shrugged her shoulders : " I had intended 
to break off our friendship," she went on, " but 
now that I see the cause of your faithlessness," — 
and she glanced at the handsome young coun- 
tesses — "I quite understand it. Will you at any 
rate do me the favor of introducing me to the 
ladies ?" 

" Fräulein Sterzl — " said Sempaly ; but hardly 



OUR OWN SET. 159 

had he uttered the words when a scarcely sup- 
pressed smile curled Polyxena's lip. Zinka saw 
the smile, and she saw too that Sempaly's man- 
ner instantly changed ; he put on an artificial ex- 
pression of intolerable condescension. 

Zinka turned very pale, her eyes flashed indig- 
nantly as she hastily returned the young Austri- 
ans* bow and at once went back to her post 
Sterzl, who was talking to Truyn in a recess and 
saw the little scene from a distance, frowned 
darkly. Sempaly meanwhile seated himself on a 
stool by his cousins and with his back to the tea- 
table where Zinka was busying herself 

" So this is the far-famed Zinka Sterzl V* ex- 
claimed Polyxena: ** She does credit to your 
taste, Nicki. But she allows herself to speak to 
you in a very extraordinary manner ; it is really 
rather too much !" Sempaly made no reply. 
" She treats you already as if you were her own 
property." 

"But Xena," said Nini, trying to moderate 
her sister's irony, "at least do not speak so loud." 
In a few minutes Mr. Ellis came to announce 
that Monsieur B. was about to play his 'Arab 
symphony,* and the company moved back into 
the drawing-room. 

The evening had other treats in store ; when 



l6o OUR OWN SET. 

Monsieur B. had done his place was taken by a 
young Belgian count who devoted all his spare time 
to the composition of funeral marches, who could 
also play songs and ballads, such as are usually 
confined to the streets of Florence or the cafes 
chantants of Paris, arranged for the piano, and 
who gave a duet between a cock and hen with 
so much feeling and effect that all the audience 
applauded heartily, especially the Jatinskys to 
whom this style of thing was quite a novelty. 
Then Mrs. Ferguson sang her French couplets, 
Mr. Ellis played an adagio by Beethoven on the 
concertina, and then Zinka was asked to sing. 

" What am I to sing ? You know the extent 
of my collection," she said with rather forced 
brightness to Mr. Ellis. 

** Oh ! a Stornello. We beg for a Stornello,*' 
said Siegburg following her to the piano — " vieni 
tnaggiOy vieni primaverUy' and Lady Julia sec- 
onded the request. 

Zinka laid her hands on the keys and began. 
Her voice sounded through the room a little husky 
at first, but very sweet, like the note of a forest 
bird. 

Never before had she sat down to sing with- 
out bringing him to her side, even from the re- 
motest corner of the room, at the very first notes ; 



OUR OWN SET. I6l 

and now, involuntarily, she looked up to meet his 
gaze — but he was sitting by Polyxena, on a 
small sofa, in a very familiar attitude, leaning 
back, holding one foot on the other knee, and 
laughing at something that she was whispering to 
him. Zinka lost her self-command and was sud- 
denly paralyzed with self-consciousness. She 
could not sing that song before him. Her voice 
broke ; she forgot the accompaniment ; felt about 
the notes, struck two or three wrong chords and 
at length rose with an awkward laugh : 

" I cannot remember anything this evening !" 
she stammered. 

Polyxena had some spiteful comment to make, 
of course, and Sempaly grew angry ; he was on 
the point of rising to go to Zinka and console her 
for her failure, but before he could quite make up 
his mind to move, Nini had risen. In spite of her 
shyness she made her way straight across the 
room to Zinka and said something kind to her. 
Sempaly stayed where he was ; but as they were 
leaving, he put on Nini's cloak for her, and said 
in a low tone : " Nini, you are a good fellow !'* 
and he kissed her hand 



Sempaly's attentions had made Zinka the fash- 



xz 



1 62 OUR OWN SET. 

ion ; his sudden discontinuance, not merely of at- 
tentions, but of any but the barest civilities, of 
course, made her the laughing-stock of all their 
circle. The capital caricature that Sempaly had 
drawn of Sterzl and his sister that evening at the 
Vulpinis' was remembered once more ; Madame 
de Gandry, to whom Sempaly had been very civil 
till he had neglected her for Zinka, showed the 
sketch to air her acquaintance, with a plentiful sea- 
soning of spiteful insinuations. Every one was 
ready to laugh at the "little adventuress" who had 
come to Rome to bid for a prince's coronet and 
who had been obliged to submit to such condign 
humiliation. 

The leaders of foreign society vied with each 
other in doing honor to the Jatinskys. Madame 
de Gandry set the example by giving a party at 
which Ristori was engaged to recite ; Sterzl was 
of course, invited ; his mother and sister were left 
out. It was the first time since Zinka's appearance 
at the Ilsenberghs' that she had been omitted 
from any entertainment, however select. Many 
ladies of the international circle followed Madame 
de Gandry's lead, wishing like her to make a 
parade before the Austrians of their own exclu- 
siveness, and at the same time to be revenged on 
Zinka for many a saucy speech she had ventured 



OUR OWN SET. 163 

to make when she was still one of the initiated — 
of the sacred inner circle. The Italian society of 
Rome did not of course trouble itself about all 
these trumpery subtleties, and behaved to Zinka 
with the same superficial politeness as before. 

She, for her part, took no more note of their 
amenities than she did of the pin-pricks from the 
other side. If her feelings had not been so deeply 
engaged by Sempaly she would no doubt have 
taken all these petty social humiliations very 
hardly ; but her anguish of soul had dulled her 
shallower feelings. There is a form of suffering 
which deadens the senses and which mockery can- 
not touch. It was all the same to her whether 
she was invited or not — she could not bear- to go 
an5rwhere. The idea of meeting Sempaly with 
his cousins was as terrible as death itself She was 
an altered creature. A shy, scared smile was al- 
ways on her Ups, like the ghost of departed joys, 
her movements had lost all their elasticity, and 
her gait v/2ls more than ever like that of an angel 
whose wings have been clipped. 

Baroness Sterzl, of course, still drove out 
regularly on the Corso, and made the most praise- 
worthy attempts to keep up a bowing acquain- 
tance with her former friends, and as often as she 

could she went out in the evening — alone. There 

II * 



1 64 OUR OWN SET. 

was some consolation too in the proud consctous- 
ness of having quarrelled with Madame de Gan- 
dry and being on visiting terms with all the 
Roman duchesses. The only thing that caused 
her any serious discomfort was her sister Wol- 
nitzka's persistent and indiscreet catechism as to 
the state of affairs between Zinka and Sempaly. 
She herself, out of mere idle bragging, had told 
Charlotte the first day of her arrival in Rome that 
Zinka's engagement was not yet made public. 

Her aunt's coarse remarks and hints were fast 
driving Zinka crazy when Siegburg fortunately — 
perhaps intentionally, out of compassion for her — 
so frightened the mother and daughter, one evening 
when he met them at the palazetto, by his ac- 
count of the Roman fever that they were panic- 
stricken, and fled the very next morning to 
Naples. 

The member of the family who was most 
keenly alive to the change in their social relations, 
oddly enough, was Cecil. He had been wont to feel 
himself superior to these silly class-jealousies, and at 
the same time had a reasonable and manly dignity 
of his own that had preserved him from that mor- 
bid petulance which sometimes stands in arms 
against all friendly advances from men who, after 
all, cannot help the fact of their superior birth. 



OUR OWN SET. 165 

Democratic touchiness is a disease to which, in 
the old-world countries where hereditary rank is 
still a living fact, every man who is not a toady is 
liable — from Werther downwards — when fate 
brings him into contact with aristocratic circles. 
Sterzl had moved in them so long that he was accli* 
matized ; or rather, it had attacked him late in life, 
and, as is always the case when grown-up men 
take infantine complaints, with aggravated severity. 
He attributed all his sister's misery, not to his own 
want of caution and Sempaly's weakness of char- 
acter, but to the tyranny of social prejudice ; and 
he turned against society with vindictive contempt, 
making himself perfectly intolerable wherever he 
went Being a well-bred man, accustomed all his 
life to the graces of politeness, he could not be- 
come absolutely ill-mannered — but as ill-man- 
nered as he could be he certainly was : assertive, 
irritable, always on the defensive, he was constantly 
involved in some argument or dispute. 

Even at home he was not the same ; his pride 
was deeply nettled by Zinka's total inability to 
hide her suffering, while he felt it humiliating to be 
able to do nothing to comfort her. At first, in the 
hope of diverting her thoughts, he would bring 
her tickets for concerts or the theatre, and give 
her a thousand costly trinkets, old treasures of 



1 66 OUR OWN SET. 

porcelain, carved ivory, and curiosities of art, such 
as she had once loved. She used to rejoice over 
these pretty trifles — now she smiled as a sick man 
smiles at some dainty he no longer has any appe- 
tite for. He could see how sincerely she tried to 
be delighted, but the tears were in her eyes all the 
while. 

This drove Sterzl to desperation. At first he 
religiously avoided mentioning Sempaly in her 
presence, but as days and weeks passed and she 
brought no change in her crushed melancholy, he 
waxed impatient. He took it into his head that it 
would be well to open Zinka's eyes with regard to 
Sempaly. Sterzl himself was energetic, always 
looking to the future ; he had it out with his dis- 
appointments and got rid of them, however hard he 
might have been hit. He had always let things roll 
if they would not stand, and then set to work to 
begin again. His great point in life was to see 
things as they were. Truth was his divinity, and 
he could not understand that to a creature consti- 
tuted like Zinka, illusion was indispensable ; that 
she still laid no blame on Sempaly, but only on the 
alteration in his circumstances — on her own un- 
worthiness — on anything and everything but 
himself; that it was a necessity of her nature to be 
able still to love him, even though she knew that 



OUR OWN SET. 167 

he was lost to her forever. His austere nature 
could not enter into Zinka's soft and impressible 
susceptibility. 

So when he took to speaking slightingly or 
contemptuously of Sempaly on every possible op- 
portunity she never answered him, but listened in 
silence, looking at him with frightened, astonished 
eyes and a pale face, like a martyr to whom her 
tormentors try to prove that there is no God. The 
result of Cecil's well-meant but injudicious pro- 
ceedings was a temporary coolness between him- 
self and his sister — a coolness which, on his part, 
lay only on the surface, but which froze her spirit 
to its depths, and all this naturally tended to add 
fuel to Sterzl's detestation of Sempaly. The two 
men were in daily intercourse, and now in a state 
of constant friction. Sterzl would make biting 
remarks over the smallest negligence or oversight 
of which Sempaly might be guilty, and was bitterly 
sarcastic as to the incompetence of a young con- 
nection of the Sempalys who had not long since 
been attached to the embassy. 

'*To be sure," he ended by declaring, "in 
Austria it is a matter of far greater importance 
that an attache should be a man of family than 
that he should know how to spell." To such depths 
of clumsy rudeness could he descend. 



1 68 OUR OWN SET. 

Sempaly, without losing his supercilious good 
humor, would only smile, or answer in his most 
piping tones : 

"You are very right; the view we take of 
privilege is quite extraordinary. We should form 
ourselves on the model of the French corps 
diplomatique ; do not you think so ?" For, a few 
days previously, the Figaro had published a satiri- 
cal article on the presentation of a plebeian repre- 
sentative of the republic at some foreign court. 

Well, Sempaly might have retorted in a much 
haughtier key — but the lighter his irony the more 
it exasperated Sterzl. 



i69 



CHAPTER V. 

Countess Jatinska spent almost the whole 
of her stay in Rome on her sofa. When she was 
asked what she thought of Rome she replied that 
she found it very fatiguing ; when the same ques- 
tion was put to her daughters they, on the con- 
trary, declared themselves enchanted. Sempaly 
knew full well that in all Rome there was nothing 
they liked better than their ne'er-do-weel cousin. 
He displayed for their benefit all his most amia- 
ble graces; criticised or admired their dresses, 
touched up their coiffure with his own light hand, 
faithfully reported to them all their conquests, and 
made them presents of cigarettes and of trinkets 
from Castellani's. 

When there was nothing else to be done he 
was ready to attend them — of course, under the 
charge of some older lady — to see galleries and 
churches, Polyxena had a way, that was highly 
char actef istJC, of rushing past the greatest works 
with her nose in the air and laughing as she re- 
peated some imbecile remark that she had over- 
heard, or pointed out some eccentricity of tourist 



170 OUR OWN SET. 

costume. Nini took art more seriously, looked 
carefully at everything by the catalogue, and even 
kept a diary. Xena was commonly thought the 
handsomer and the more brilliant of the sisters,, 
and Sempaly apparently devoted himself chiefly to 
her, but he decidedly liked Nini best. The hours 
that he did not spend with his cousins he passed 
at the club, where he gambled away large sums. 
Meanwhile, he was looking very ill and complained 
of a return of old Roman fever. 

And what did the world say to his behavior ? 
The phlegmatic Italians did not trouble themselves 
about the matter ; Madame de Gandry and Mrs. 
Ferguson laughed over it ; Siegburg pronounced it 
disgraceful, and Ilsenbergh called it bad taste to 
say the least. That he ought to have arranged to 
leave Rome everybody agreed. Princess Vulpini 
held long and lamentable conferences with Gen- 
eral von Klinger — reproaching herself bitterly for 
not having seen the position of affairs long ago — 
but she had never attached any importance to 
Sempaly's marked attentions, having had no eyes 
for anything but Siegburg's devotion to Zinka, and 
she had taken a quite motherly interest in what 
she regarded as a good match for both. 

Truyn was perfectly furious with Sempaly. All 
that he was to Zinka during these weeks can only 



OUR OWN SET. 171 

be divined by those who have passed through such 
a time of grief and humiliation, with the conscious- 
ness of having a high-souled and tender friend in 
the back-ground. He was the only person who 
never aggravated her wound. He had the gentle 
touch, the delicate skill, which the best man or 
woman can only acquire through the ordeal of an 
aching heart. He came every afternoon with his 
little girl to take Zinka for a walk, for he knew 
that the regular drive on the Corso could only 
bring her added pain; and while the baroness, 
with outspread skirts, drove in the wake of fashion 
up to the Villa Borghese and the Pincio, these 
three — with the general, not unfrequently, for a 
fourth — would wander through silent and deserted 
cloisters or take long walks across the Campagna. 
Not once did Truyn bring a secret tear to her eye; 
if some accidental remark or association brought 
the hot color to her thin cheek he could always 
turn the subject so as to spare her. 

One sultry afternoon, late in spring, Truyn and 
his two daughters — as he was wont to call Zinka 
and Gabrielle — with the soldier-artist were saun- 
tering home, after a long walk, through the som- 
bre and picturesque streets that surround the 
Pantheon. The neighborhood is humble and 
wretched, but over a garden wall rose a mulberry 



1/2 OUR OWN SET. 

tree in whose green branches a blackbird was 
singing, and a few red geraniums blazed behind 
rusty window-bars, bright specks in the monoto- 
nous brown ; above the roofs bent the deep blue 
sky; the air was heavy and hot, and full of obscure 
smells of gutters and stale vegetables. Somewhere, 
in an upstairs room, a woman sang a love-song of 
melancholy longing. Suddenly the blackbird and 
the woman ceased singing at the same time ; a dis- 
mal howl and groan echoed through the street, 
and a mass of black shadows darkened the scene. 
Zinka, who had lately become excessively nervous, 
started and shuddered. 

**Itis nothing — only a funeral," Truyn ex- 
plained, taking off his hat. 

That was all — a Roman funeral, grim but pic- 
turesque — a long procession of mysteriously- 
shrouded figures, only able to see through two slits 
in the sack- like cowls that covered their heads, 
ropes round their waists, and torches or mystical 
banners in their hands — banners with the em- 
blems of death. These were followed by a troop 
of barefooted friars, and last came the bier covered 
with a bright yellow pall, carried by four more of 
the shrouded figures, who bent under its weight 
as they shuffled along. The ruddy flare and the 
black smoke wreaths, the groan-like chant, the 



OUR OWN SET. 173 

uncanny glitter of the men's eyes out of the form- 
less hoods — ghastly, ghostly, and exhaling • a 
savor of mouldiness and incense, like the resur- 
rection of a fragment of the middle ages — the 
procession defiled through the narrow street. 
Zinka, half-fainting, clung to Truyn; Gabrielle, 
whose childish nerves were less shocked, watched 
them with intense curiosity and began to question 
a woman who stood near her in the crowd that 
had collected, in her fluent, bungling Italian : 

" Who is it they are burying ?" she asked at 
length. 

" A woman," was the answer. 

** Was she young ?" 

" 5/." 

" And what did she die of? of fever ?" 

" No," said the Roman shrugging her shoul- 
ders ; and then she added, in the slow musical 
drawl of the Roman peasant : 

" Di passioned* 

The procession had passed, the chanting had 
died away ; the blackbird was singing lustily once 
more ; they went on their way — Truyn first, 
with Zinka hanging wearily on to his arm, behind 
them Gabrielle and the general. 

'*Passione/ is that a Roman illness?" she 
asked with her insatiable inquisitiveness. 



174 OUR OWN SET. 

" No, it occurs in most parts of the world,*' 
said the general drily. 

"But only among poor people, I suppose?'* 
said the child. 

" No, it is known to the better classes too, but 
it is not called by the same name,** said the old 
man with some bitterness, more to himself than to 
Gabrielle. 

" Then it is wrong — a shameful thing to die 
of?** she asked with wide, astonished eyes. 

Suddenly the general perceived that Zinka 
was listening ; her head drooped as she heard the 
child*s heedless catechism. He, under the cir- 
cumstances, would have felt paralyzed — he would 
not have known what to say to the poor crushed 
soul ; but not so Truyn. He turned to his com- 
panion and said something in a low tone. What, 
the general could not hear, but it must have been 
something kind and helpful — something which, 
without any direct reference to the past, conveyed 
his unalterable respect and regard, for she 
answered him almost brightly. Then he went on 
talking of trifles, remembering little incidents of 
his boyhood, characteristic anecdotes of his 
parents, and such small matters as may divert a 
sick and weary spirit, till, when they parted at 
the door of the palazetto, Zinka was smiling. 



OUR OWN SET. 175 

" That he has the brains of a genius I will not 
say, but he has genius of heart, I dare swear !" 
thought the soldier. 

Truyn had gone out riding with her two or 
three times across the Campagna, and she had en- 
joyed it ; but one day they met Sempaly, gallop- 
ing with his two handsome cousins over the 
anemone-strewn sward. From that day she made 
excuses for avoiding the Campagna — as though 
she thus avoided the chance, almost the certainty, 
of meeting him and them. Why then did she re- 
main in Rome at all ? Sterzl would not hear of 
her quitting it, because he thought that the world 
of Rome would regard it as a flight after defeat. 
His mother too, on different grounds, set her face 
against any such abridgment of their stay in 
Rome. Had she not taken the palazetto till the 
fifteenth of May ? 

And did Zinka, in fact, wish to go ? She often 
spoke of longing to be at home again, but when- 
ever their departure was seriously discussed it 
gave her a shock. She dreaded meeting him — 
and longed for it all the same. And in the even- 
ing when a few old friends dropped in to call — 
Truyn every evening and Siegburg very fre- 
quently — Truyn noticed that every time there 
was a ring she sat with her eyes fixed in eager 



176 OUR OWN SET. 

expectation on the door. She still cherished a 
sort of hope — a broken, moribund hope that 
was in fact no more than unrest — the vitality of 
suffering. 



177 



PART III 

EASTER. 



CHAPTER I. 

Passion- WEEK in Rome, and in all the glory 
and glow of an Italian spring. The glinting radi- 
ance brightens even the mystical gloom of St. 
Peter's, sparkles for an instant on the holy-water 
in the basins, wanders from the heads of the gigan- 
tic cherubs and the colossal statues down to the 
inlaid pavement, with the cold sheen of sunlight 
on polished marble. The hours glide on — the 
long solemn hours of Holy-Thursday in Rome ; 
the last gleam of daylight has faded away, the 
vast cathedral is filled with almost palpable 
twilight and its magnificence seems shrouded in a 
transparent veil of crape. The stone walls look 
dim and distant, the fane seems built of shadows, 
and sacred mystery falls as it were from heaven, 
deeper and more solemn as the minutes slip by, 
to sanctify the spot. 

In the papal chapel Zinka is kneeling with 

12 



178 OUR OWN SET. 

Truyn and Gabrielle, her eyes fixed on her hands 
which are convulsively clasped, and praying with 
the passion of a youthful nature whose yearning 
has found no foothold on earth and seeks a home 
in heaven. On both sides sit the prelates and 
dignitaries of the church in their carved stalls, in- 
quisitive and prayerless foreigners crowd at their 
feet. The tragedy of the passion is being recited 
in a monotonous, inconclusive chant that dies 
away in the dim corners of the chapel. 

The last of the twelve tapers on the altar is 
extinguished. . . ** Miserere met'' the choristers cry 
with terrible emphasis ; and then, awful but most 
sweet, beginning as a mere breath and rising to 
a mighty wail of grief, comes a voice like the 
utterance of the anguish of the God of Love over 
the misery from which He can never release man- 
kind. And before the majesty of that divine and 
selfless sorrow human sorrow bows in silence. 

Zinka bends her head. — It is ended, the last 
sound has died away in a sob, the crowd rises to 
follow the procession which, with a cardinal at the 
head, wends its way through the church. 

Truyn and the two girls quit the chapel ; 
behind them the steps of the priests and choristers, 
drowned in their own echoes, sound like the rust- 
ling of angelic wings ; the brooding, melancholy 



OUR OWN SET. 179 

peacefulness has lulled Zinka's heart to rest ; for 
the first time for many weeks she has forgot- 
ten. . . 

" Most interesting, but the bass was hoarse !" 

It was Polyxena Jatinsky who pronounced this 
summary criticism of the solemn ceremonial, close 
to Zinka. Zinka looked round ; Sempaly with 
his aunt and cousins were at her side. They had 
attended the service in reserved places in the 
choir. Involuntarily yielding to an impulse of 
pain Zinka pressed forward, but Gabrielle had 
flown to join them ; then she was obliged to stay 
and talk. The Jatinskys were perfectly friendly, 
Polyxena giving her her hand — Sempaly alone 
held aloof On going out the air struck' chill, 
almost cold, on Zinka'* face and she shivered. A 
well-known voice close behind her said rather 
brusquely : 

'* You are too lightly dressed and there is fever 
in the air. Put this round you," and Sempaly 
threw over her shoulders a scarf that he was carry- 
ing for one of the ladies. 

" Thank you, I am not cold ; these ladies will 
want the scarf," said Zinka hastily and repellently. 

Polyxena said nothing ; perhaps she may have 

thought it strange that in his anxiety for this little 

stranger, her cousin should forget to consider that 

I« * 



l8o OUR OWN SET, 

one of them might take cold. But Nini ex- 
claimed : '* No, no, Fräulein Sterzl : we are well 
wrapped up." 

At this juncture Truyn's servant, who had 
been seeking them among the crowd, told them 
where the carriage was waiting. 

While Zinka, wrapped in Nini's China-crape 
shawl, is borne along between the splashing 
fountains, across the bridge of St. Angelo, and 
through the empty, ill-lighted streets to the pala- 
zetto, all her pulses are dancing and throbbing — 
and the stars in the sky overhead seem un- 
naturally bright. It is the resurrection of her pain 
and with it of the lovely mocking vision of the 
joys she has lost. Good God ! how vividly she 
remembers them all — how keenly ! — the long 
dreamy afternoons on the Palatine, the delicious 
hours in the Corsini garden — under the plane- 
trees by the fountain, where he talked about Erz- 
burg while the perfume of violets and lilies fanned 
her with their intoxicating breath ; the sound of 
his voice — the touch of his light, thin hand, his 
smile — his way of saying particular words, of 
looking at her in particular moments . . . 

She is walking with him once more in the Vati- 
can, in rapt enjoyment of the beauty of the statues ; 
the Belvedere fountain trickled and splashed in 



OUR OWN SET. l8l 

dreamy monotony ; golden sunbeams fleck the 
pavement like footmarks left by the Gods before 
they mounted their pedestals ; there is a myste- 
rious rustle and whisper in the lofty corridors as of 
far, far distant ghostly voices, — and then, sud- 
denly, she is in front of Sant' Onofrio's ; the air 
is thick with a pale mist. At her feet, veiled in 
the thin haze, indistinct and mirage-like, the very 
ghost of departed splendor, lies Rome — the vast 
reliquary of the world ; Rome, on whose monu- 
ments and ruins every conceivable crime and 
every imaginable virtue have set their stamp; 
where the tragedies of antiquity cry out to the 
Sacrifice on Calvary. 

They had stood together a long time looking 
down on it ; then she had lost a little bunch of 
violets which she had been wearing and as she 
turned round to seek them she had perceived that 
he had picked them up and was holding them to 
his lips. Their eyes had met. . . . 

Yes ! he had loved her ! he loved her still — 
he must — she knew it. She told herself that, 
impulsive and excitable as he was, the merest 
trifle would suffice to bring him back to her ; but 
whether it was worth while to long so desperately 
for a man who could be turned by the slightest 
breath — that she did not ask herself 



1 82 OUR OWN SET. 

And through all the torturing whirl of these 
memories, above the clatter of the horses' hoofs 
and the rattle of the wheels over the wretched 
pavement, she heard the cry *' miserere mei^ But 
her thoughts turned no more to the God sacrificed 
for Man — the strongest angels* wings cannot bear 
us quite to heaven so long as our heart dwells on 
earth. 

" Good-night," she said, kissing Gabrielle as 
the carriage drew up at the door of the palazetto. 

" Will you let me have Nini's scarf for Gabri- 
elle ?" said Truyn. " I am afraid my little com- 
panion may catch cold." 

" Oh ! of course," cried Zinka, and she wrap- 
ped the child carefully in the shawl and kissed her 
again ; " when shall I learn to think of anyone 
but myself?" she added vexed with herself 



Easter- Monday. All the bells in the churches 
of Rome are once more wagging their brazen 
tongues after their week of dumb mourning, and 
images of the Resurrection in every conceivable 
form — sugar, wax, soap — decorate all the shop 
windows. 

Baroness Wolnitzka had returned fresher. 



OUR OWN SET. 183 

gayer and more enterprising than ever from her 
visit to Naples, where she not only had had herself 
photographed in a lyric attitude leaning on a pil- 
lar in the ruins of Pompeii, but, in spite of her 
huge size which was very much against her taking 
such excursions, she had with the help of two 
guides and a remarkably vigorous mule, reached 
the top of Vesuvius. Thanks, too, to a cardinal's 
nephew with whom she had scraped acquaintance 
on her journey, with a view to making him useful, 
she had succeeded in obtaining — not indeed a 
private audience of the pope — but leave to at- 
tend a private mass — and receive the communion, 
in company with three hundred other orthodox 
souls, from his sacred hand. 

This morning she had been to the palazetto to 
take leave of her sister — to ask once more after 
Sempaly — to give a full and particular account of 
the service at the Vatican — and to deliver a dis- 
course on the philosophical value of the mass. 
Slawa, whose orthodoxy had been fanned to 
bigotry, and who on Easter eve had duly climbed 
the sania scala on her knees, had supplemented 
her mother's narrative with a variety of interesting 
details : 

" It was most exclusive, quite our own set, and 
few families of the Polish colony — I wore my 



1 84 OUR OWN SET. 

black satin dress beaded with jet and I heard a 
gentleman behind me say : ' That is the only- 
woman whose veil is put on with any taste.' " 

Sterzl had kept out of the way during their 
visit ; Zinka had smiled amiably but had not at- 
tended : Baroness Clotilde had plied her sister 
with questions. Then the Wolnitzkas had left to 
go to the consecration of a bishop — also by in- 
vitation from the cardinal's nephew — the ladies 
were to be admitted to the sacristy and be pre- 
sented with flowers and refreshments. 

It was about six o'clock in the evening when 
General von Klinger was shown into the drawing- 
room of the palazetto. The room was not so 
pretty as it used to be ; the furniture was all set 
out squarely against the walls by the symmet- 
rical taste of the servants, and the flower vases 
that were always so gracefully arranged now never 
held anything but bunches of magnolias or 
violets ; Zinka no longer cared to arrange them. 

'* I am so glad you happen to have come to- 
day," she cried as he came in. The brilliancy of 
her eyes and the redness of her lips showed that 
she was already suffering from that terrible spring 
fever which makes havoc with young creatures in 
the warm days of April and May. She was sit- 
ting by her brother on a low red sofa, as she had 



OUR OWN SET. I8S 

SO often sat with Sempaly; the baroness was 
lounging in an arm-chair fanning herself; there 
was a sort of triumphant solemnity in her manner. 
Even Cecil, too, was evidently in some excitement 
though his air was just as frank and natural as 
ever. 

" Good evening, general, what hot, trying 
weather !" drawled the baroness. " It is an ex- 
traordinary event to find us all at home together 
at this hour but we all have a sacred horror of the 
mob in the streets on a holiday afternoon. 

"Oh, mamma!*' interrupted Zinka, *'it is not 
only the crowd — we wanted to enjoy our good 
fortune together; did not we, Cecil?" 

He nodded and stroked her hair. " Yes, little 
Zini." 

" Only think. Uncle Klinger — you knew, of 
course, that Cecil's book on Persia had attracted 
a great deal of attention — but that is not all. He 
has been appointed Charge d'affaires at Constan- 
tinople." 

The general offered his congratulations and 
shook hands warmly with the young man. 

" I could wish for nothing more exactly to my 
mind," said Cecil. "There is always something 
to do there ; a man always has a chance of mak- 
ing his mark and getting on." He was sincerely 



1 86 OUR OWN SET. 

and frankly satisfied and affected no indifference to 
the distinction he had earned. 

" In five years we shall see you ambassador/^ 
exclaimed the general, with the happy exaggera- 
tion that is irresistible on such occasions; 

" We do not go quite so fast as that," laughed 
Sterzl. " However, I hope to rise in due time. 
Will not you be proud of me, Butterfly, when I am 
'your excellency !' " 

" I am proud of you already," said Zinka, ** and 
you know how vain I am, and how much I value 
such things!" 

It was the first time for some weeks that the 
general had seen the two so happy together and 
it rejoiced his heart. 

"And the climate is good," Sterzl went on, 
" one of the best in Europe ; the foreign colony is 
friendly and pleasant. You will enjoy studying 
oriental manners from a bird's-eye view, Zini ; and 
the change of air will do you good ?" 

" You will take me too ?" she said turning pale. 

" Why, of course. The bay pf Constantinople 
is lovely and we can often sail out on it ; then, in 
the autumn, if I have time, we will make an ex- 
cursion in Greece. You will be quite a travelled 
person." He put his finger under her chin and 
looked with tender anxiety into her thin face ; . 



OUR OWN SET. 187 

every trace of color had suddenly faded from it, 
and the light that her brother's success had 
kindled in her eyes had died out. 

"It will be very nice — '* she said wearily; 
" delightful — thank you, Cecil — you are always 
so kind. . . when are we to start ?" 

" You might get off in about a week ; the sea- 
voyage will not over-tire you, and you can stop 
to rest at Athens. In the hot season we can go 
up to the hills — "then suddenly he glanced 
sharply in her face and his whole expression 
changed ; he added roughly, with a scowl: "but 
you need not come unless you like — stay here if 
you choose — I do not want to force you." 

At this instant the maid appeared to announce 
the arrival of a case from the railway. 

"The new ball-dresses !" cried the baroness in 
great excitement. " I am thankful they have come 
in time. I was quite in despair for fear I should 
not have my new gown in time for the ball at the 
Brancaleone's. It would have seemed so uncour- 
teous to the princess. . . Now let us see what 
Fanet has hit upon that is new. . . " And she 
rustled out of the room. 

Zinka sat still, with a frozen smile, looking like 
a criminal to whom the day of execution had just 
been announced, and uneasily twisting her fingers- 



1 88 OUR OWN SET. 

" Of course, I like it, Cecil . . . how can you 
think . . , and on Wednesday week we can start — 
Wednesday will be best . . . now I must go and see 
what my new dress is like ... do not laugh at me 
uncle ; I must make myself look as nice as I can 
for my last appearance." And she hurried off; but 
on her way she stumbled against a table and a 
book fell to the ground. She stopped, picked the 
book up, turned over the leaves and laid it down ; 
then, as if she wished to make up to her brother 
for some unkindness, she went back to Cecil and 
put her hand on his shoulder. 

" I do really thank you very much," she said, 
*^ and I am glad — really and truly glad, and very 
proud of you. . . " 

He looked up in her face and their eyes met — 
his lips quivered with rage — the rage of a lofty, 
generous, and masterful nature at finding itself in- 
capable of making a woman dear to it happy. 

Zinka shrank into herself ** My ball-dress !" 
she faintly exclaimed, and she slipped out of the 
room. 

For a few minutes the two men were silent. 
Presently the general spoke : 

" Zinka is going to the Brancaleones' to-mor- 
row ?" 

'* Yes," replied Sterzl ; "at least, she has prom- 



OUR OWN SET. 189 

ised to go. Whether she will change her mind at 
the last moment and stay at home, of course I 
cannot foresee." 

'* But she really seems to care about it this 
time," said the general. '* At least she took an 
interest in her dress." 

** Her dress ! . . . she did not even know what 
she was talking about. She fled that we might 
not see her tears. . . " Sterzl broke out, losing all 
his self-control. Then he looked sternly at his 
friend as though he thought he had betrayed a 
secret But the old man's sad face reassured 
him. " It is of no use to try to act before you," he 
went on ; "you are not blind — you must see how 
wretched she is — it is all over, general, she is 
utterly broken. . ." He started to his feet and after 
pacing the room two or three times stood still and 
with a helpless wave of the hands and a desperate 
shrug, he exclaimed : " There is nothing to be 
done — nothing !" Then he sat down again and 
buried his face in his hands. 

Von Klinger cleared his throat, paused for a 
word and could find nothing better to say than : 
" In time — things will mend ; you must have 
patience." 

" Patience !" echoed Sterzl with an indescrib- 
able accent. '* Patience ! — yes, if I could only 



190 OUR OWN SET. 

hope that things would mend. At first it pro- 
voked me that she should let everybody see... 
know ... I thought she might have more 
spirit and self-command. But now. — Good 
heavens ! she does all she can and it is killing 
her. . .that is not her fault. If only she were re- 
sentful — but she never complains ; she is always 
content with everything, she never even contra- 
dicts my mother now. And then, what is worst 
of all, I hear her at night — her room is over 
mine — walking up and down, very softly as if 
she were afraid of waking anyone — up and down 
for hours ; and often I hear her sobbing — she 
never sheds a tear by day ! . . ." he sighed. "And 
then — if it were for a man who was worth it all !" 
he went on. " But that blue-eyed, boneless, good- 
for-nothing simpleton ! . . . I ought never to have 
allowed her to step out of her own sphere — I 
ought never to have allowed them to become inti- 
mate ! I knew he was not worthy of her, even 
when, as I believed — but you will laugh at my 
simplicity perhaps — he condescended to be in 
earnest. — You cannot imagine what it is now to 
have to meet him every day, — to hear him ask 
every day : ' how are you all at home ?* — I feel 
ready to choke ... I could crush him under foot 
like a worm ! . . . and I am bound to be civil. 



OUR OWN SET. 191 

I may not even tell him that he has insulted 



me. 



The baroness here came back. 

" Lovely !" she exclaimed, with her affected 
giggle, " quite perfect ! Zinka has never had a 
dress that suited her so well." 

" That is well !" said Sterzl vaguely, " where is 
she ?" 

"She is gone to lie down; she has a bad head- 
ache," minced the baroness. " The young girls of 
the present day have no stamina. Why, at her 
age I. . . ." 

The general was not in the mood to listen to her 
sentimental reminiscences and he took his leave. 
In the hall he once more wrung Cecil's hand : 
^' Fortune has favored you," he said ; " you have 
a splendid career before you, and in her new and 
pleasant home Zinka will forget. — I congratulate 
you on your new start in life." 

Aye — his new start in life ! 



192 



CHAPTER II. 

The Brancaleone Palace, on the slope of the 
Quirinal, is one of the finest in Rome, and particu- 
larly famous for its gardens, laid out in terraces 
down the side of the hill, with the lower rooms 
of the palazzo opening on to the uppermost level. 
The dancing was in a large, almost square, room 
adjoining a long vaulted corridor full of old pictures 
relieved here and there by the cold severity of an 
antique marble statue. It was lighted by marvellous 
chandeliers of Venetian glass that hung from the 
ceiling. At the end of the corridor two steps led 
down into an anteroom, dividing it from a smaller 
sanctuary where the gems of the Brancaleone col- 
lection were displayed — mixed up, unfortunately, 
with several modern monstrosities — and from this 
room a door opened into the garden. 

Zinka arrived late. A transient and feverish 
expectancy lent her pinched features the brilliancy 
they had lost while her timid reserve gave her 
even more charm than her former innocent self- 
confidence, and her dress was certainly wonderfully 
becoming. Nor had she lost all her old popular- 



OUR OWN SET. 193 

ity, for she was soon surrounded by a little crowd 
of Roman ' swells ; ' one or two even of the 
Jatinskas' admirers deserted to Zinka. 

Truyn was not present ; the cold his little girl 
had caught at St. Peter's had developed into a 
serious illness, and he could not leave her. 

Zinka, with her gliding grace, her small head 
held a little high, and her softened glance, was 
still pretty to watch as she danced, and attracted 
general attention. The music, the splendor of the 
entertainment, the consciousness of looking well 
put her into unwonted spirits. She sent a search- 
ing glance round the room — no, he was not there. 
Sterzl stood talking with the general, delighted 
with her little triumph and charming appearance ; 
then he was congratulated by several men of dis- 
tinction on his recent promotion. He thanked 
them with characteristic simplicity and sincerity — 
the evening was a success for him too. Not long 
after midnight he left to attend to pressing busi- 
ness — matters were in a very unsettled state — 
and went to the embassy. 

Within a short time Sempaly came in. He 
had spent the previous night, as was very generally 
known, at cards — this was a new form of dissi* 
pation for him — he had lost a great deal of money, 
and he looked worn and out of spirits. He did 

13 



194 OUR OWN SET. 

not care for' dancing and came so late to ask his 
handsome cousins for the cotillon that they were 
both engaged — a, result to' which he was so mani- 
festly indifferent that Nini actually wiped away a 
secret tear. He was now standing with his fingers 
in his waistcoat pockets and his glass in his eye, 
exchanging impertinent comments with a number 
of other young men, on the figure of this woman 
or that girl, and trying to imagine himself in the 
position of the fabulous savage who found himself 
for the first time in a civilized ball-room. 

Suddenly he was silent — something had ar- 
rested his attention. 

The band was playing a waltz at that time 
very popular : " Stringi mi,** by Tosti. The room 
was very hot ; it was the moment when the curls 
of the young ladies begin to straighten, and their 
movements — at first a little prim — begin to gain 
in freedom ; when there is an electrical tension in 
the air suggestive of possible storms and the most 
indifferent looker-on is aware of an obscure ex- 
citement. Crespigny and Zinka spun past him — 
Zinka pale and cool in the midst of the emotional 
stir around her. She was not living in the present 
— she was in a dream. Suddenly Crespigny, who 
was not a good dancer, stumbled against another 
couple, caught his foot in a lady's train and fell 



OUR OWN SET. 195 

with his partner. Sempaly pushed his way 
through the dancers with blind force and was the 
first to help Zinka to her feet. Without thinking 
for a moment of the hundred eyes that were fixed 
upon him he leaned over the young girl — ^her power 
over him had risen from the dead. She, bewildered 
by her fall, did not perhaps at first see who it 
was that had helped her to rise ; she clung to his 
arm with half-shut eyes ; then, as he whispered a 
few sympathizing words, she looked up, started, 
colored, and shrank from him. 

" A very unpleasant accident,** said some of 
the ladies. 

Sempaly had taken possession of Zinka's 
slender hand and drew it with gentle insistence 
through his arm ; then he led her out of the heated 
ball-room into the adjoining gallery. 



The accident for which she had besieged 
Heaven with prayers had happened — the accident 
which threw him once more in her way. His old 
passion was awake again ; she saw it — she could 
read it in his eyes. She summoned up all her 
self-command to conceal her happiness — not so 
much out of deliberate calculation as from genu- 



13* 



196 OUR OWN SET. 

ine timidity and womanly pride. He talked — 
saying all sorts of eager, sympathetic things — 
she asked only the coldest and simplest questions. 
He had fetched her a wrap and with the white 
shawl thrown around her he led her from one 
room to another among the fan-palms and creamy 
yellow statues. Now and then she spoke to some 
acquaintance whom they met wandering like 
themselves, but these were fewer and fewer. The 
supper-room was thrown open and every one was 
gone to the buffet. 

Zinka's coldness, for which he was not at all 
prepared, provoked Sempaly greatly. He felt with 
sudden conviction that there could be no joy on 
earth to compare with that of once holding her in 
his arms and kissing her — devouring her with 
kisses. This image took entire possession of him 
and beyond the possible fulfilment of that dream 
he did not look. That joy must be his at any cost> 
if the whole world were to crumble at his feet. 

"Zinka," he said in a low tone, "Zinka — 
Lent is over — Easter is come." 

" Yes ? what do you mean ?*' she said coldly^ 
almost sternly. 

** I mean," he said, and he looked her straight 
in the face, ** that I have fasted and that now I will 
feast, and be happy." 



OUR OWN SET. 197 

They were in a small room — a sort of raised 
recess divided from the ball-room by a row of 
pillars ; they were alone. 

A joy so acute as to be almost pain came over 
Zinka. It blinded and stunned her ; she did not 
speak, she did not smile, she did not even look 
up at him ; she could not have stirred even if she 
had wished it — she was paralyzed. He thought 
she would not hear him. 

** Zinka," he urged, " can you not forgive me 
for having jingled the fool's cap for six weeks till 
I could not hear the music of the spheres ? Can 
you not forgive me — for the sake of the misery I 
have endured ? I can bear it no longer — I con- 
fess and yield unconditionally — I cannot live 
without you. ..." 

Zinka was not strong enough to bear such 
emotion ; the terrible tension to which for the last 
quarter of an hour her pride had compelled her 
gave way ; she tottered, put out her hands, and 
was falling. He put his arm round her and with 
the other hand pushed open a glass door that led 
into the garden. 

** Come out, the air will do you good," he said 
scarcely audibly, and they went out on to the de- 
serted terrace. His arm clasped her more closely 
and drew her to him. Involuntarily he waited till 



198 OUR OWN SET. 

she should make some effort to free herself from 
his hold; but she was quite passive; she only- 
raised a tear-bedewed face with a blissful gaze into 
his eyes, and whispered : " I ought not to forgive 
you so easily. . .*' and then, with no more distrust 
or fear than a child clinging to its mother, she let 
her head fall on his shoulder and sobbed for hap- 
piness. A strange reverence came over him ; the 
sound of some church bell came up from the city. 
He kissed her with solemn tenderness on the fore- 
head and only said : 

" My darling, my sacred treasure !" She was 
safe. 

When the general came out of the card-room 
to look once more at the dancers before he with- 
drew, the cotillon, with its fanciful figures and 
lavish distribution of ribbons and flowers, was 
nearly over. 

" What a cruel idea !" he heard in a lamentable 
voice from one of a row of chaperons, " to give 
a ball in such heat as this !" 

It was the baroness, who was searching all 
round the room with her eye-glass and a very sour 
and puckered expression of face. Siegburg, who, 
as the general knew, was to have danced the 
cotillon with Zinka, was sitting out; when von 
Klinger asked him the reason he answered very 



OUR OWN SET. • T99 

calmly, that " he believed Zinka had felt tired and 
had gone home/' But the way in which he said 
it roused the old man's suspicions that he put for- 
ward this hypothesis to prevent any further search 
being made for Zinka. He had seen her last in 
the corridor with Sempaly, and he hurried off to 
find her. He sought in vain in all the nooks 
hidden by the plants ; in vain in the recesses be- 
hind the pillars — but the door to the garden was 
open. This filled him with apprehension — he 
went out, sure that he must be following them. 

The air was oppressively sultry and damp ; it 
crushed him with a sense of hopeless anxiety. 
The scirocco had cast its baleful spell over Rome. 

Northerners who have never been in Rome 
have no idea of the nature of the scirocco ; they 
suppose it to be a storm of hot wind. No .... it is 
when the air is still and damp, when it distils but 
does not waft a heavy perfume that the scirocco 
diffuses its poison: a subtle influence compounded 
of the scent of flowers that it forces into life only 
to destroy them — of the mists from the Tiber 
whose yellow flood — like mud mixed with gold, 
which rolls over the corpses and treasure that lie 
buried in its depths — of the exhalations from the 
graves, and the perennial incense from all the 
churches of Rome. The scirocco cheats the soul 



200 OUR OWN SET. 

with delusive fancies and fills the heart with gloom 
and oppression ; it inspires the imagination with 
dreams of splendid achievement and stretches the 
limbs on a couch in languor and exhaustion. It 
penetrates even the cool seclusion of the cloister 
and breathes on the pale cheek of the young nun 
who is struggling for devout aspiration, reminding 
her of long forgotten dreams. 

All that is melancholy, all that is cruel and 
wicked in Rome — much, too, that is beautiful — 
is engendered by the scirocco. It is creative of 
glorious conceptions and of hideous deeds. One 
feels inclined to fancy that on the day when Caesar 
fell under the dagger of Brutus Scirocco and Tra- 
montane fought their last fight for the mastery 
of Rome — and Scirocco won the day. 

A dense grey cloud hung over the city and 
veiled the sinking moon. A cascade that tumbled 
from basin to basin, down the terraced slope of 
the Quirinal, plashed weirdly in the deep twilight 
of the earliest dawn, which was just beginning 
shyly to vie with the dying moon. Light and 
shade had ceased to exist ; the whole scene pre- 
sented the dim, smudged effect of a rubbed char- 
coal drawing. 

The general sent a peering glance through the 
laurel-hedged alleys that led down the hill. 



OUR OWN SET. 20 1 

Above the clipped evergreens, rose huge ilexes, 
wreathed to the very top with ivy and climbing 
roses. Here and there something white gleamed 
dimly in the grey — he rushed to meet it — it was 
a statue or a white blossomed shrub. Roses and 
magnolias opened their blossoms to the solitude, 
and the scent of orange-flowers filled the heavy 
air, stronger than all the other perfumes of the 
morning. Now and then, like a faint sigh, a 
shiver ran through the leaves — the fall of a dying 
flower. 

The old man held his breath to listen; he 
called : " Zinka — Sempaly !" No answer. 

Suddenly he heard low voices in a path known 
as the alley of the Sarcophagus and thither he 
bent his steps. The sullen light fell through a 
gap in the leafy wall on Sempaly and Zinka, 
seated on a bench, hand in hand, and talking 
familiarly, forgetful of all the world besides. 

Zinka was the first to see him ; she was not in 
the least disconcerted. 

"Oh! Uncle Klinger!" she exclaimed. "Mam- 
ma is waiting for me, I dare say ! — but do not 
scold m6, I entreat you — ." 

Thank God for those happy innocent eyes that 
looked so frankly into his ! — On purity like hers 



202 OUR OWN SET. 

Scirocco could have no power! No — he could 
not be angry with her. — But he I 

"Sempaly!" cried the old man indignantly: 
" What possesses you ?" 

*'I have at length made up my mind to be 
happy," said Sempaly with feeling, and he raised 
Zinka's hand to his lips. "That is all." 

"And I ought not to have forgiven him so 
easily — ought I ?" murmured Zinka, quailing at 
the general's stern frown, and her head drooped. 

" Zinka has been missed, you know how 
spiteful people are !" exclaimed von Klinger 
angrily, ignoring the sentimentality of the situ- 
ation. Sempaly interrupted him with vehement 
irritation. 

" What I should like to do," he said half to 
himself,. " is to go straight back to the ball-room, 
and tell my most intimate friends at once of our 
engagement !" But even as he spoke he recon- 
sidered the matter ; " but I cannot," he went on, 
"unfortunately I cannot. I must even entreat 
you, Zinka, to keep it a secret even from your own 
household." 

" Come, at once, with me," said the general 
drily, " my carriage is waiting in the Piazza. If I 
am not mistaken there is a little gate here which 
leads on to it. . . Yes, here it is. I will tell your 



"1 



OUR OWN SET. 203 

mother, so that others shall hear it, that you felt 
ill and left before the cotillon began and that Lady 
Julia took you home." 

When Zinka was safely on her way to the pala- 
zetto in charge of the general's trusty old coach« 
man, the two men looked each other in the face. 

" Outrageous !" growled the general furiously. 
Sempaly turned upon him quickly : 

" Think what you will of me," he said, " but do 
not let the shadow of a suspicion rest on Zinka. 
You know that if you hold up a cross to the devil 
himself, his power is quelled." 

Without answering a word the general hurried 
past Sempaly and straight into the ball-room ; but 
he found time to lock behind him the alcove door 
leading into the garden. In the ball-room he 
was met by the baroness who anxiously asked 
him : 

" Where is Zinka ? have you seen Zinka ?" 

" Zinka felt shaken and upset by her fall — 
she went away a long time since, with Lady Julia 
who took her home." 

He spoke very distinctly and in French, so 
that several persons who were standing near might 
hear him. " She might have let me know," ex- 
claimed the baroness peevishly. 

" We looked for you, but could nowhere find 



204 OUR OWN SET. 

you," said the general. Never in his life before 
had he told a lie. 



At some unearthly hour next morning he 
called on Lady Julia to confide to her the mystery 
of the night's adventure, that she might not con- 
tradict his story; as he had actually put Zinka into 
her carriage there seemed to be no other danger. 
Though she disliked the falsehood as much as he 
did, she was quite ready to confirm the fiction ; at 
the same time she could not help saying again and 
again : 

" Poor little thing ! I hope it may all come 
right !" 



20S 



CHAPTER. III. 

** Dearest Zinka, my own sweet littie love, 
" My brother arrived in Rome last night ; he is 
on his way to Australia and I am thankful to say 
stays only a few days. So long as he is here I 
must make every sacrifice and hardly see you at 
all, for he must know nothing of our engagement. 
Now, shall I tell you the real sordid reason why I 
cannot speak to him of my happiness ? — during 
these last few miserable weeks, simply and solely 
to kill the time, I have gambled and have always 
been unlucky, and I have got deeply into debt. 
My brother will pay, as he always has done, so 
long as the conditions remain unchanged. But. . . 
however, it is not a matter to write about. Believe 
this much only : that his narrow views can never 
affect my feelings towards you ; 'though I may 
seem to yield, for I think it useless to provoke his 
antagonism. As soon as he has sailed there will 
be nothing in the way of our engagement and we 
will be married immediately. To an accomplished 
fact he must surrender. If I possibly can, I will 
see you this evening at the palazetto — just to 



206 OUR OWN SET. 

have one kiss and a loving word. Till then I can 
only implore you to keep this absolutely secret. 
" Your perfectly devoted 

This was the note that Zinka received the 
morning after the ball, as she was breakfasting 
alone in her own room, rather later than usual, 
but with a convalescent appetite. The color 
mounted to her cheeks, and her eyes flashed in- 
dignantly. Coldness and neglect she had borne — 
but the meanness and weakness — the moral 
cowardice — that this note betrayed, degraded 
him in her eyes till she almost scorned him. She 
felt as though a sudden glar^ had shown her the 
real Sempaly — as though the man she loved was 
not he, but some one else. The man she had 
loved was a lofty young god who had chosen to 
descend from his high estate to break the heart of 
an insignificant girl who ought to have thought 
herself happy only to have gazed upon him ; but 
this was a boneless, nerveless mortal, who could 
stoop to petty subterfuge for fear of having to face 
the wrath of his brother. 

She was furious ; all the pride that had been 
crushed into silence by her dejection was roused 
to arms. She went to her desk and wrote as fol- 
lows: 



OUR OWN SET. 207 

" I am prepared to marry you in defiance of 
your brother's will, but I could never think of be- 
coming your wife behind his back. I am ready 
to defy him, but I do not choose to cheat him. It 
is of no use to come to the house this evening 
unless you are quite clear on this point. I could 
not think of marrying you unless I were perfectly 
sure that I was more indispensable to your happi- 
ness than your brother's good will. You must 
therefore consider yourself released from every 
tie, and regard the words you spoke yesterday in 
a moment of excitement as effaced from my 

memory. Ever yours, 

"ZiNKA Sterzl." 

Zinka enclosed this peremptory note in an en- 
velope, addressed it, rang for her maid and desired 
her to have it sent immediately to the Palazzo di 
Venezia. 

" And shall I say there is an answer ?" asked 
the girl. 

" No," said Zinka shortly. 

No sooner had the maid gone on her errand 
than the hapless Zinka felt utterly wretched and 
almost repented of having written so indignantly. . . 
She might have said all that was in the note with- 
out expressing herself so bitterly. She thought 
the words over, knit her brows, shook her head — 



208 OUR OWN SET. 

and at that moment her eye fell on another letter 
which had been brought to her with Sempaly's, 
and which she had forgotten to open. She saw 
that the writing was Truyn's. She hastily read 
the note which was a short one. 

" Dear Zinka : — My poor little girl has been 

much worse and the doctor gives me very little 

hope. She constantly asks for you, both when 

she is conscious and in her delirium. Come to 

her if you can. Your old friend, 

"Truyn." 

" P. S. It is nothing catching — inflammation 
of the lungs." 

Zinka started up — she forgot everything — 
her happiness, her grief, Sempaly himself — re- 
membering only Truyn's indefatigable kindness 
and the sorrow that threatened him. 

" Nothing catching. . . ." she repeated to her- 
self: " poor man ! he thinks of others even now — 
it is just like him. While I . . . I ?" She colored 
deeply, for she recollected how that evening the 
child had sat shivering by her side and she had 
not noticed it. 

" I had my head turned by a kind word from 
him. ..." she thought vexed with her own folly. 

In a very few minutes she was hurrying across 



OUR OWN SET. 209 

the Corso towards the Piazza di Spagna. Her maid 
had some difficulty in keeping up with her. Zinka 
almost flew, heeding nothing and looking at no 
one, till, in the Piazza di Spagna, she came upon 
a group of persons coming out of the Hotel de 
Londres and felt a light hand on her arm. Look- 
ing round she saw Nini. 

"Good-morning. Where are you off to in 
such a hurry ?" asked the young countess pleas- 
antly. 

" Good-morning," said Zinka hastily, " I am 
in a great hurry — I am going to the Hotel de 
TEurope ; Gabrielle Truyn is very ill — she wants 
to see me." 

But at this moment Zinka perceived a tall, 
broad-shouldered man, with a very handsome face 
and haughty expression, standing close to Nini. 
He was gazing at her with perfectly well-bred ad- 
miration, and Nini introduced him as Prince Sem- 
paly. Then she saw that Nicklas Sempaly was 
just behind, with Polyxena. His eyes met hers 
with a passionate flash, but he only bowed 
with distant formality. Zinka had no time to 
think about his manner, she was hardly conscious 
of his presence — all she felt was that she was 
being detained. 

" You must excuse me," she said, smiling an 



2IO OUR OWN SET. 

apology to Nini and shaking hands warmly wath 
her without stopping to think of the formalities of 
caste. "Poor Count Truyn is expecting me." 
And she hurried on again. 

" Who is that sweet-looking girl, Nini ?" asked 
the prince, " for, of course, you omitted to men- 
tion her name." 

" Fräulein Sterzl," replied Nini, " the sister of 
one of the secretaries to the embassy." 

" Sterzl," repeated the prince somewhat flatly. 

"Zenaide Sterzl!" said Polyxena over her 
shoulder. 

But the ironical accent emphasis she laid on 
the odd mixture of the romantic and the com- 
monplace was thrown away upon Prince Sempaly, 
who was much too fine a gentleman to laugh at his 
inferiors ; all he said was : 

" Sterzl ? I seem to know the name. Sterzl — 
I served for a time under a Colonel Sterzl of the 
Uhlans. He was a very superior man." 

Zinka meanwhile was flying on to the Hotel de 
TEurope. In the sun-flooded court- yard stood two 
rose-trees, a white and a red — two brown curly- 
headed little boys were fighting a duel with walk- 
ing-sticks in a shady corner — ^two English families 
were packing themselves into roomy landaus for 
an excursion and sending the servants in and out to 



OUR OWN SET. -211 

fetch things that they had forgotten. The air was 
full of the scent of roses, and sunshine, and laughter; 
but one of the Englishwomen hushed her com- 
panion who had laughed rather loudly and point- 
ing up to one of the windows said : " Remember 
the sick child.'* 

A cold chill fell on Zinka's heart — she ran up 
the familiar stairs. In Truyn's drawing-room sat 
Gabrielle's English governess — anxious but help- 
less. 

" May I go in ?" asked Zinka. 

"No, wait a minute — the doctor is there." 
At this moment Truyn came out of the child's 

room with Dr. E the German physician, and 

conducted him down-stairs. Truyn had the fixed, 
calm, white face of a man who is accustomed to 
bear his sorrows alone. 

When he returned he went up to Zinka and 
took her hand : " She asks for you constantly,'* he 
said, " but do you think you can prevent her see- 
ing that you are unhappy and alarmed ?" 

<« Yes — indeed you may trust me," said Zinka 
bravely, wiping away her tears ; and she went 
into the child's room " as silent and bright as a 
sunbeam." 



14* 



212 



CHAPTER IV. 

Some one must have seen Zinka and Sempaly 
in the course of their moonlight walk or else have 
found out something about it in spite of the gen- 
eral's precautions ; this was made evident by an 
article which came out on the Friday after the ball 
in a French ' society paper* published weekly in 
Rome. The title of the article was " a moonlight 
cotillon ;" it began with an exact description of 
Zinka, of whom it spoke as Fräulein Z . . . a 
S .... 1, the sister of a secretary in the Austrian 
Embassy ; referred to the sensation produced by 
her appearance as Lady Jane Grey, spoke of her 
as an elegant adventuress — "a professional 
beauty** — and hinted at her various unsuccessful 
schemes for winning a princely coronet ; schemes 
which had culminated in a moonlight walk, a few 
nights since, during a ball at the house of a dis- 
tinguished member of Roman society, and which 
had outdone in audacity all that had ever been 
known to the chronique scandaleuse of Rome. 
" Will she earn her reward in the form of a coro- 
net and will the pages of " High Life'* ere long an- 



OUR OWN SET. 213 

nounce a fashionable marriage in which this young 
lady will fill a part? — that is the question," so 
the article ended. 

" High Life," — this was the name of the paper 
graced by this effusion — was scouted, abused 
and condemned by everybody, covertly main- 
tained by several, and read by most — with dis- 
gust and indignation it is true, but still read. On 
this fateful Friday every copy of " High Life" was 
sold in no time, and before the sun had set Zinka's 
name was in every mouth. 

What said the world of Rome ? Lady Julia 
cried, had some tea, and went to bed ; Mr. Ellis 
said " shocking !" assured his wife that he was 
convinced of Zinka's innocence, and that it would 
certainly triumph over calumny ; after which he 
quietly went about his business and spent two 
whole hours in practising a difRcult passage on the 
concertina. 

It was the Brauers — the Sterzls' old neigh- 
bors before mentioned — who contributed chiefly 
to the diffusion of the article, supplementing it 
with their own comments. They had some 
acquaintance among the " cream " of Rome, 
though they had not been invited to the ball at 
the Brancaleone palace. Frau Brauer assumed a 
tone of perfidious compassion : it was a terrible 



214 OUR OWN SET. 

affair for a young girl's reputation, though, for her 
part, she could see nothing extraordinary in a 
moonlight wandering with an intimate friend. 
Her husband, to whom the Sterzl family had paid 
very little attention — the baroness out of conceit, 
and Cecil and Zinka because he was in fact in- 
tolerably affected, pompous and patronizing — 
said with a sneering smile that he had never seen 
anything to admire in that little adventuress, with 
her free and easy innocence — pushing herself into 
society she was not born to. He had always 
thought it most unbecoming ; and it must be a 
pleasant thing indeed for the Duchess of Bran« 
caleone to have such a scandalous business take 
place in her house — she would be more careful 
for the future whom she invited ! 

Madame de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson 
thought the article very amusingly written — not 
that they would ever have said a word about such 
a piece of imprudence — for really no one was 
safe ! To be sure any evil that might be written 
against them would be a lie — a pure invention — 
which in Zinka's case was quite unnecessary . . . 
So they sent the paper round to all their friends 
as a warning against rushing into acquaint- 
ance with strangers: '* One cannot be too care- 
ful." Zinka had seemed to them suspicious from 



OUR OWN SET. 215 

the first, for after all she was not " the real 
thing." 

All these spiteful and cruel insinuations they 
even ventured to utter in the presence of Princess 
Vulpini, in the general's atelier, the spot where all 
that circle concentrated whenever anything had 
occurred to excite or startle it, and they made the 
princess furious. 

" I am an Austrian myself," she said, " and 
was brought up with ideas of exclusiveness which 
are as much above suspicion as they are beyond 
your comprehension. .1 am strictly conservative 
in all my views. But Zinka is elect by nature — 
an exceptional creature before whom all such laws 
give way. I should have regarded it as pure folly 
to sacrifice the pleasure of her acquaintance for 
the sake of a social dogma." 

"Exceptions always fare badly," murmured the 
general. 

Countess Ilsenbergh, who was as strict on points 
of honor as she was on matters of etiquette, was 
deeply aggrieved by the article; she expressed 
herself briefly but strongly on the subject of the 
freedom of the press, and confessed that, whether 
Zinka were innocent or guilty, things looked very 
ugly for Sempaly. 

The count rushed into eloquence giving an 



2l6 OUR OWN SET. 

exhaustive discourse on the whole social ques- 
tion. 

" Princess Vulpini is quite right," he said. 
" Fräulein Sterzl is a bewitching creature, quite an 
exception — and if any departure from traditional 
law is ever permissible it would be so in her case. 
But the general too is right ; exceptions must al- 
ways fare badly in the world, and we cannot en- 
danger the very essence and being of social 
stability in order to improve the position of any 
single individual. Above all, we must never 
create a precedent." And he proceeded to enlarge 
on the horrible consequences which must result 
from such a mixture of classes, referred to the 
example of France, and proposed the introduction 
of the Hindoo system of caste, in its strictest ap- 
plication, as a further bulwark for the protection 
of society in Europe and the coercion of ambitious 
spirits. His wife, at this juncture, objected that 
European society had not yet reached such a sum- 
mit of absolute exclusiveness as he would assume, 
and that, consequently what was immediately 
needed was not any such far-reaching scheme for 
its protection, but some plan for dealing with the 
disagreeable circumstances in which its imperfec- 
tion had at this time placed them. 

He replied that the matter lay in a nutshell ; 



OUR OWN SET. 217 

either the story in * High Life' was a lie, in which 
case Sempaly had nothing to do but to deny it 
categorically, to prove an alibi at the hour men- 
tioned and to horsewhip the editor — or, the facts 
stated were true, and then — under the circum- 
stances — there was nothing for it — but . . . the 
lady's previous character was quite above suspicion 
— there was nothing for it — but. . ." and he 
shrugged his shoulders. 

" But to make Fräulein Sterzl Countess Sem- 
paly !" cried Madame de Gandry. " Well, I must 
say I do think it rather too much to give an adven- 
turous little chit a coronet as a reward for sheer 
impudence. But I beg your pardon, general, — I 
had forgotten that you are a friend of the family." 

" And I," exclaimed the general beside himself, 
and quite pale with rage, " I, madame, was within 
an ace of forgetting that I was listening to a 
lady !" 

Princess Vulpini interposed : " You yourself 
said, madame, that you had always avoided any 
acquaintance with Zinka ; now I have known her 
intimately, and seen her almost every day ; I have 
observed her demeanor with men — with young 
men — and heard her conversation with other 
girls, and I can assure you that the word impu- 
dence is no more applicable to her conduct than 



2l8 OUR OWN SET. 

to that of my little girl of three. — And if she did, 
in fact, go into the garden with my cousin the 
night of the ball, it is a proof simply of romantic 
thoughtlessness, of such perfect, unsuspicious in- 
nocence that it ought of itself avail to protect her 
against slander. I spent last night with Zinka, 
by the bedside of my little niece who is ill, and no 
girl with a stain on her conscience could look so 
sweetly pure or smile with such childlike sincer- 
ity. I would put my hand in the fire for her spot- 
less innocence !" 

The princess spoke with such dignity and 
warmth, and while she spoke she fixed such a 
scathing eye on Madame de Gandry, that the 
Frenchwoman, abashed in spite of herself, could 
only mutter some incoherent answer and with- 
draw with Mrs. Ferguson in her wake. 

The four Austrians were alone. 

" The person who puzzles me in this business/' 
said the princess, "is Nicki Sempaly. As soon 
as this wretched paper came into my hands I sent 
it to his rooms. There I heard that he had just 
gone out with the Jatinskys. I went to the Hotel 
de TEurope to talk it over with my brother, but 
he had gone to lie down and I had not the heart 
to wake him. Besides, he could have done no 
good, and I could not bear to disturb his happi- 



OUR OWN SET. 219 

ness over his child's amendment. — So I came to 
unburden my heart to you, general." 

*' Sempaly cannot have seen it yet/' suggested 
Ilsenbergh. The princess shrugged her shoulders. 
Countess Ilsenbergh once more expressed her opin- 
ion that " it was a very unpleasant afTair and that 
she had foreseen it all from the first/' after which, 
finding that it would be difficult to prevent her 
husband from delivering another lecture, she rose 
to go. 

At this instant Prince Vulpini came into the 
studio with a beaming countenance. '* Ah ! here 
you are ! I saw the carriage at the door as I was 
passing. — Have you heard the latest news?'* 

" Sempaly is engaged to Zinka ?'* cried his 
wife. 

" No !*' cried the prince; " the wind last night 
tore down the national flag on the Quirinal. Hur- 
rah for the Tramontana !" 



A few minutes later the general was alone ; 
after a moment's hesitation he took up his hat and 
hurried off to the palazetto to see how matters 
stood there. He was one of those who had been 
the latest to hear of the slanderous article and at 



220 OUR OWN SET. 

the same time to be the most deeply wounded by- 
it. But perhaps by this time Sempaly had en- 
gaged himself to Zinka, he said to himself, and he 
hastened his pace. 

It was the baroness's day at home. The silly 
woman was sitting dressed and displayed — a grey 
glove on one hand, while with the other she pre- 
tended to arrange a dish of bonbons. 

" How kind of you ! — " she exclaimed as the 
general entered the room. The stereotyped 
formula came piping out of her thin lips without 
the smallest variation to every fresh visitor, as 
chilling and as colorless as snow. 

He had hardly greeted the baroness when he 
looked round for Zinka — at first without seeing 
her ; it was not till a bright voice exclaimed : 

" Here I am, uncle, come and give me a kiss," 
that he discovered her, in the darkest corner of the 
room, leaning back in a deep arm-chair and look- 
ing rather tired and sleepy but wonderfully pretty 
and unwontedly happy. 

" I am so tired, so tired ! — you cannot think 
how tired I am," she said, laying his hand coax- 
ingly against her cheek, " and mamma is so cruel 
as to insist on my staying in the drawing-room 
because it is her day at home, and I was sound 
asleep when you came in, for thank heaven ! we 



OUR OWN SET. 221 

have had no visitors yet. I sat with Gabrielle all 
last night and the night before without closing my 
eyes ; but then I was so glad to think that the 
little pet would not take her medicine from any- 
one but me ; and last night, at length, in the mid- 
dle of one of my stories, she fell asleep on my 
shoulder. But then in order not to disturb her I 
sat quite still for six hours. I felt as if I had been 
nailed to a cross — and to-day I am so stiff I can 
hardly move." And she stretched her arms and 
curled herself into her chair again with a pretty ca- 
ressing action of her shoulders. " You ought to 
have stayed in bed," said the general paternally. 
" Oh dear no ! why I slept on till quite late in the 
morning. Besides, my being tired is of no real im- 
portance ; the great point is that Gabrielle is out 
of danger: Oh, if anything had happened to 
her! ..." and she shuddered; " I cannot bear to 
think of it. Count Truyn is firmly convinced that 
I have contributed in some mysterious way to the 
child's amendment, and when I came away this 
morning he kissed my hands in gratitude as if I 
had been the holy Bambino himself I laughed 
and cried both at once, and now I am so happy — 
my heart feels as light as one of those air balls the 
children carry tied by a string, that they may not 
fly off up to the clouds. But why do you look so 



222 OUR OWN SET. 

grave? are you not as glad as I am, uncle 
that. . . " 

The baroness who had been looking at her 
watch here expressed her surprise that not a liv- 
ing soul had come near them to-day. 

" You are evidently not a living soul, uncle — 
nothing but my dear grumpy old friend," said 
Zinka with her pathetic little laugh. There was 
something peculiarly caressing and touching about 
her to-day ; the old man's eyes were moist and 
his heart bled for the sweet child. 

Outside the door they heard a heavy swift 
step — the step of a man in pressing but crushing 
trouble ; the door was torn open and Sterzl, 
breathless, green rather than pale, foaming with 
rage, stormed in — a newspaper in his hand. 

"What is the matter — what has happened?" 
cried Zinka dismayed. He came straight up to 
her and stared at her with dreadful eyes. 

" Were you really in the garden with Sempaly 
during the cotillon ?" he said hoarsely. 

'* Yes," she said trembling. 

He gave a little start and shuddered — tot- 
tered — then he pulled himself up and flung the 
newspaper at her feet — at hers — his butterfly, 
his darling I 

" Read that," he said. 



— H 



OUR OWN SET. 223 

Von Klinger tried to seize the paper, but Sterzl 
held him with a firm hand. " Your leniency is 
out of place," he said dully ; " she may read any- 
thing." 

Zinka read; suddenly she sprang up with a 
cry of horror and the paper fell out of her hand. 
Even now she did not understand the matter, — 
exactly what she was accused of she did not 
know ; only that it was something unwomanly and 
disgraceful. 

" Cecil !" she began, looking into his face, 
" Cecil. . ." and then she covered her face, which 
from white had turned crimson, with her hands. 
He meanwhile had felt the absolute innocence of 
the girl, and was repenting of his rash and cruel 
wrath. 

"Zini," he cried, "forgive me — I was mad 
with rage — mad." And he tried to put his arm 
round her. But she held him off. 

" Leave me, leave me," she said. ** No, I can- 
not forgive you. Oh Cecil ! if all the newspapers 
in the world had said you had cheated, for in- 
stance — do you think I should have believed 
them ?" 

He bent his head before her with a certain 
reverence : " But this is different, Zini," he said 
very gently ; " I do not say it as an excuse for 



224 OUR OWN SET. 

myself, but it is different. You do not see how 
different because you are a child — an angel — 
poor, sweet, little butterfly," and he drew her 
strongly to his breast and laid his lips on the 
golden head; she however would not surrender 
and insisted on freeing herself 

"What on earth is going on?" the baroness 
asked again, for the twentieth time. Getting, even 
now, no reply, she picked up the newspaper that 
was lying on the floor, caught sight of the article, 
read a few lines of it, and broke out into railing 
complaints of Zinka — enumerating all the sins of 
which Zinka had been guilty from her earliest 
years and particularly within her recent memory, 
and ending with the words : " And you will ruin 
Cecil yet in his career." 

"Be quiet, mother;" said Cecil sternly. "My 
career is not the present question — we must think 
of our honor and of her happiness," and leaning 
over the fragile and trembling form of his sister, 
he said imploringly : 

"Tell me, Zini, exactly what happened." 

She had freed herself from his clasp and was 
standing before him with her arms folded across — 
rigid though tremulous — and her voice was cold 
and monotonous as she obeyed him and gave with 
naiVe exactitude her short and simple report, 



OUR OWN SET. 225 

blushing as she spoke. When she had ended Cecil 
drew a^ deep breath. ' 

** And since that you have heard nothing of 
Sempaly ?'* he asked. 

** The next morning he sent me a note." 

" Zinka, do not be angry with me . . . show 
me that note.*' 

She left the room and soon returned with the let- 
ter which she handed to Sterzl. He read it through 
with great gravity and marked attention then knit- 
ting his brows he slowly folded it up and turned it 
over. 

*' And you answered him ?" he asked. 

**Yes." 

" And what did you say ?" 

"Very little — that I was quite prepared to 
m^rry him without his brother's consent, but be- 
hind his brother's back? — No !" 

In the midst of his trouble a flash of pride 
lighted up Sterzl's weary eyes. " Bravo, Zini !" 
he murmured, "and he took this answer in 
silence ?" 

Zinka paused to think: 

" Yes. . ." she said ; " but no. — He sent me a 
note to the Hotel de TEurope." 

" And what does he say in that ?" 

" I have not read it yet ; it came just at the 

15 



226 OUR OWN SET. 

moment when Gabrielle was at the worst and then 
I forgot it — but here it is. . ." and she drew it out 
of the pocket of her blue serge dress. Sterzl 
shook his head and glanced with a puzzled air at 
his sister; then he opened the note. It was as 
follows : 

" My darling little treasure, my haughty in- 
dignant little sweetheart: 

*' Immediately on the receipt of your note I 
rushed to see you. The porter told me that you 
were not at home but with your poor little friend 
Gabrielle. Of course I cannot think of intruding 
on you there, though I would this day give a 
few years of my life for a sight of you — for one 
kiss. Sooner than lose you I am ready to throw 
up everything. Command and I obey . . . but 
no, I must be wise for us both ; I must wait till 
my affairs are somewhat in order. There is no 
help for it — I can only ask your forgiveness. I 
kiss your hands and the hem of your garment — 
I am utterly unworthy of you, but I love you 
beyond words. 

"Sempaly." 

When Sterzl had read this highly characteris- 
tic letter he slowly paced the room two or three 
times, and finally stood still in front of his sister. 



OUR OWN SET. 227 

Then, taking her hand and kissing it fondly, he 
said : 

" Forgive me, Zini — I am really proud of you. 
You have behaved like an angel . . . but he — he 
is a contemptible sneak.*' 

But this she could not stand. " I do not de- 
fend him," she exclaimed vehemently, "but at 
any rate he loves me, and he understands me. — 
He, at any rate, would never have suspected me. . . 
and . . . and. . ." But it was in vain that she 
paused for a word — she could say nothing more 
in his favor ; but she called up all her pride, and 
holding her head very high she left the room ; as 
soon as she was outside they could hear her sob 
convulsively. 

The baroness rose to follow her, but Cecil stood 
in her way. 

" Where are you going ?" he asked sternly.. 

'* To Zinka ; I really must make her see what 
mischief she has done. It is outrageous . . . why, 
at thirteen I should have known better !" Sterzl 
smiled bitterly : 

" Very likely," he said, " but I must beg you 
to leave Zinka to herself; she is miserable enough 
without that." 

" And are we to submit to her heedlessness 

15* 



228 OUR OWN SET. 

without even reproving her for it ?'* said the baron- 
ess indignantly. 

"Yes, mother," he said decidedly ; "our busi- 
ness now is not to reprove her, but to protect and 
comfort her." 

At this juncture dinner was announced. Sterzl 
begged the general to remain and dine with them^ 
for he had, he said, several things to talk over with 
him. He evidently wished above everything to 
avoid being alone with his mother. Before sitting 
down he went to Zinka's room to see whether she 
would not eat at least a little soup ; but he came 
back much distressed. 

" She would hardly speak to me," he said ; 
"she is quite beside herself/' And he himself sat in 
silence, eating nothing, drinking little, crumbling 
his bread and playing with his napkin. Each time 
the door opened he looked anxiously round. 

The meal was short and uncomfortable ; when 
they had returned to the drawing-room and were 
drinking their coffee the servant brought Sterzl a 
letter. Cecil took it hastily, looked at the address, 
and, not recognizing the writing, at last opened it. 
It contained only a half-sheet of note-paper, with 
a cleverly sketched caricature : Sterzl himself as 
auctioneer, the hammer in one hand a doll in the 
other, and before him the coroneted heads of 



OUR OWN SET. 229 

Rome. Sterzl at once recognized the likeness, 
though his lank figure was absurdly exaggerated, 
and his whole appearance made as grotesque as 
possible. He only shrugged his shoulders and 
said indifferently : 

" Does any one really think that such a thing 
as this can hurt or vex me now? Look, gen- 
eral — Sempaly, no doubt, is the ingenious artist 
of this masterpiece." 

The general took the paper, and would 
have torn it across to prevent Sterzl from examin- 
ing it any further; but before he could do so 
Cecil, looking over his shoulder, had snatched it 
out of his hand. 

" There is something written on it !" he said, 
deciphering the scribble in one corner, in Sem- 
paly's weak, illegible hand-writing : " Mademoi- 
selle Sterzl, going — going — gone — ! . . . Ah ! 
I understand !** 

His face grew purple and he breathed with 
difficulty. 

" To send you this is contemptible," cried the 
general ; " Sempaly drew this before he had ever 
seen Zinka ... I know it, I was present at the 
time." 

''What difference does that make ?" said Sterzl; 
" if this is the view people took of me and my pro- 



230 OUR OWN SET. 

ceedings ! Well, and after all they were right — 
I should have liked to see my lister brilliantly 
married — I meant it well . . . and I have made 
myself ridiculous and have been the ruin of the 
poor child." 

His rage and misery were beyond control ; he 
walked up and down, then suddenly stood stilly 
looking out of the open window ; then again he 
paced the room. 

" Sempaly is incomprehensible," he began, 
*' quite incomprehensible ! I had no very high 
opinion of his character — particularly lately; but 
I could not have supposed him capable of such 
baseness and cruelty. What do you gather from 
his not coming here to-day ?" 

"He simply has not happened to see the 
paper," the general suggested. " He is gone on 
some expedition with his brother and his c6usin3." 

" Well, but even supposing that he has not 
read this article," said Sterzl, "it still is very 
strange that, as matters stand between him and 
Zinka, he should have let two days go by without 
making any attempt to see her." 

The general was silent 

" You know him better than I do," Cecil began 
again presently, " and, as Zinka tells me, you were 



OUR OWN SET. ^ 231 

present during some part of this romantic moon- 
light promenade. Do you think he seriously in- 
tends to marry her V 

** I know that he is madly in love with her, 
and even the Ilsenberghs, who were discussing the 
matter at my house with the Princess Vulpini, saw 
no alternative for him — irrespective of his attach- 
ment to her — but to make her an offer." 

" We shall see/' murmured Sterzl. He looked 
at the clock : '* half past nine !'* he exclaimed. 
** This is becoming quite mysterious. I will try 
once more to see him at his rooms ; his chasseur 
will perhaps know when he is expected to return 
home. Would you mind remaining here?" he 
added in a low voice ; ** keep my mother from 
going to Zinka ; the poor child cannot bear it ;" 
and he hurried off. 

In about half an hour he returned. 

** Well ?" asked the general. 

" He set out at one o'clock for Frascati, with 
the prince, the Jatinskys, and Siegburg," said 
Sterzl gloomily. *' When I asked whether he was 
to be back this evening the man said certainly, for 
he was to set off to-morrow morning with his ex- 
cellency the ambassador. He has been afraid to 
declare his engagement for fear of a scene with 
his brother — he is gone out of Rome for fear of 



232 OUR OWN SET. 

a scene with me — * High Life * was lying open on 
his writing-table." 

They heard the light rustle of a dress. Sterzl 
looked round — behind him stood Zinka with 
tumbled hair and anxious, eager, tear-dimmed 
eyes. 

" Zinka !" he cried, stepping forward to catch 
her; for her gaze was fixed, she staggered, put 
out her hands with a helpless gesture and fell into 
his arms. He laid her head tenderly on his 
shoulder and carried her away. 



233 



CHAPTER V, 

Sempaly's nervous system was very sensitive 
and his ear remarkably delicate ; he had in con- 
sequence a horror — a perfect mania of aversion — 
for any scene which might involve excitement and 
loud talking. Besides this he had the peculiarity — 
common enough with the spoilt children of for- 
tune — of always ignoring as far as possible the 
inevitable difficulties of life in the hope that some 
deus ex machina would interfere to set matters 
straight for him. 

His passion for Zinka was perfectly genuine, at 
once vehement and tender ; far from diminishing, it 
had, if possible, increased during these last three 
days. Though that hour of sentimental and guileless 
talk with Zinka under the midnight moon had for 
the time satisfied her, it had only fevered him ; and 
while his cowardly double-dealing had lowered 
him in her esteem, her straightforward pride had 
raised her infinitely in his. He was utterly miser- 
able, but this did not prevent him from allowing 
his good-natured senior to pay his enormous debts, 
nor — in order to propitiate him — from paying 



234 OUR OWN SET. 

Specious attentions to his cousins. It must, how- 
ever, be said in extenuation, that this flirtation was 
not so much deliberate as instinctive, for he was a 
man whose untutored and unbounded impulse to 
make himself agreeable led him irresistibly to do 
his utmost to produce a pleasant impression, even 
at the sacrifice of his honor. If, only once, dur- 
ing these three days, he had had an opportunity of 
speaking to Zinka all might perhaps have turned 
out differently. He would probably have found it 
easy, with his wonderful fascination of person, to 
recover the ground he had lost ; and her proud 
rectitude might 'possibly have influenced him to 
take a bolder course of action. But, in the first 
instance, he could not intrude on Zinka while she 
was sitting by her little friend Gabrielle, and the 
idea of rushing into an explanation with Sterzl did 
not smile on his fancy. 

Thus he let the hours slip by, till, on the Fri- 
day morning, the luckless copy of ' High Life ' was 
brought into him addressed in a feigned hand. 
This made him furious, and he was on the point of 
rushing off to the palazetto when he remembered 
that he had promised to be ready to join the party 
to Frascati at one o'clock. He had dipped his pen 
and prepared the paper to send an excuse to the 
Hotel de Londres when there was a knock, and 



OUR OWN SET. 235 

Prince Sempaly, with his two cousins, walked in, 
half an hour before the appointed time. 

" What a surprise ! . . . An unexpected honor !" 
he exclaimed somewhat disconcerted. 

"That is what we intended," said Polyxena 
laughing. " Hum ! there is a rather pronounced 
perfume of latakia in your room — but the whole 
effect is pretty, very pretty," while Nini looked 
timidly about her with her fawn-like eyes. A 
bachelor's quarters are, as is well known, one of 
the most interesting mysteries that ever exercise 
the curious imagination of a young lady. 

" The girls insisted on seeing your den," the 
prince explained, " so I had to bring them, whether 
or no, while Siegburg amuses their mamma." 

*' Why, you yourself proposed it, Oscar !" cried 
Nini. 

Sempaly bowed. ** From this time henceforth 
this room is consecrated ground," he said gal- 
lantly — and "High Life "was lying on his desk 
all the time and an iron fist seemed clenched upon 
his heart If his brother had but come alone . . . 
but with these two girls ... it was crucial. 

Xena began to touch and examine all his odds 
and ends, to open his books, and at last to hover 
round his writing-table where, with graceful imper- 
tinence, she was about to take up the fatal sheet. 



236 OUR OWN SET. 

" Stop, Stop !" cried Nicki, ** that is not for 
your eyes, Xena." 

" Look, but touch not," said the prince, with a 
good-natured laugh ; " young maidens like you 
are not permitted to inspect the secrets of a 
bachelor's rooms too closely. You might seize a 
scorpion before we could interfere. Besides, we 
must not keep your mother waiting any longer, 
children; make haste and get ready, Nicki." 

For a moment Sempaly tried to think of an 
excuse; then he reflected that it really was not 
worth while to spoil the pleasure of Oscar's last 
day — all might be set right afterwards. So he 
only asked for time to write a note, and scribbled 
a few lines to Sterzl in which he formally pro- 
posed for Zinka. This note he confided to a por- 
, ter desiring him to carry it at once to the secre- 
tary's office. 

After this he was for a time very much pleased 
with himself; but, as the afternoon wore on, the 
more uneasy he became, and it- was to this unrest 
that most of the tender glances were due that the 
prince cast alternately on him and on Nini. He 
felt more and more as if he were being driven into 
a trap ; in the Villa Aldobrandini he found an 
issue from some of his difficulties. Suddenly, as 
they were standing by the great fountain, Nini and 



OUR OWN SET. 237 

he found themselves tete-a-tete, a circumstance 
arising from the consentaneous willingness of the 
rest of the party to give them such an opportu- 
nity. He seized the propitious moment to dis- 
burden his soul. He addressed her as his sister, con- 
fessed his secret betrothal, and implored her kind 
interest for Zinka. Nini, who felt as though she had 
been stabbed to the heart, was brave as became 
her and for sheer dread of betraying her own feel- 
ings, she tried to take a pleasure she was far from 
feeling in the success of his love affair. He kissed 
her hand and kept near her for the rest of the day. 
His brother, who perceived that the young couple 
had come to an understanding, communicated his 
observations to Countess Jatinska with extreme 
satisfaction. He was himself a man of strong 
and lofty feeling, free from all duplicity, and he 
could not conceive that a young man could 
have anything to say to a very handsome girl 
in private but to make love to her. 

The day was at an end. With that want of 
precaution of which only foreigners in Rome can 
be guilty, they set out homewards much too late 
and did not reach the hotel before ten. Here 
Nemesis overtook Sempaly. At the end of sup- 
per, which the little party had served to them in 
the countess' private sitting-room, and at which 



238 OUR OWN SET. 

the confidential footing on which Sempaly stood ^ 
with regard to his cousin was thrown into greater 
relief, the prince, with a frank smile of self-satisfac- 
tion at his powers of divination, raised his glass and 
said: "To the health of the happy couple." 

Nini turned crimson ; Nicki turned pale. He 
was in the trap now. Brought to bay he could do 
nothing but turn upon the foe whom he could not 
evade. He was possessed by a wild impulse to 
snatch the odious mask from his own face. 

** And who are the happy couple ?** he asked. 

" You need not be so mysterious about it, 
Nicki," cried his brother warmly. "Of you 
and. . . " but a glance at Nini reduced him to 
silence. 

" Of me and Fräulein Zinka Sterzl," said Semr 
paly with vehement emphasis. 

The blood flew to the prince's head ; rage and 
horror faWy deprived him of speech. Countess 
Jatinska laughed awkwardly, Polyxena pursed her 
lips disdainfully while Nini gave her cousin her 
hand and said loyally : 

"Your bride shall always find a friend in me." 

But now the prince's wrath broke loose — he 
was furious; he swore that this insane marriage 
should never take place, and could not conceive 
how his brother — a man old enough to know 



OUR OWN SET. 239 

better — could have allowed such a piece of mad- 
cap folly to enter his head. 

The ladies rose and withdrew; Sempaly, who 
till within a few minutes had been so weak and 
vacillating, had suddenly become rigid in obstinacy 
and he desired the waiter to bring him the fateful 
number of * High Life*. The prince read it, but 
his first observation was: "Well! and a pretty state 
the world would soon come to if every man who 
lets a charming adventuress entrap him into an in- 
discretion were to pay for it by marrying her !" 

At this insulting epithet applied to Zinka, 
Sempaly fired up. He did not attempt to screen 
himself, he defended Zinka as against himself, with 
the most unsparing self-accusation. Egotistical, 
sensitive, and morally effete as he was, he was still 
a gentleman, and he now set no limits to his self- 
indictment ; it seemed as though he thought that 
by heaping invective on his own head he could 
expiate the baseness into which he had been be- 
trayed during the last few days. He told the whole 
story : that he had loved Zinka from the first time 
of seeing her : that he had been on the point of 
making her an offer when an accidental interrup- 
tion had suddenly snatched him from the heaven 
of hope and bliss : that he had neglected and for- 
saken her : that his constant intimacy with his 



240 OUR OWN SET. 

handsome cousins had raised a barrier between 
him and Zinka ; then, how he had met her that 
night at the Brancaleones', and how, as he helped 
her to rise after her tumble, his passion had taken 
entire possession of him — all this he told, down 
to the moment when she had laid her head on his 
shoulder. " And before such guileless trust what 
man is there that would not bow in reverence !*' 
he ended, "all Rome can bear witness to her 
sweetness and goodness ; ask whom you will -*- 
Marie Vulpini, Truyn, even the Ilsenberghs — or 
Siegburg here." 

The prince turned to Siegburg. 

*' I can make neither head nor tail of the mat- 
ter," he said. " Is all he says of this girl true, or 
mere raving ?" 

Siegburg's answer was simple, eager, and plain ; 
it is, at all times, a difficult thing for a young man 
to praise a girl without reflecting on her in any 
way, but Siegburg's testimony in Zinka's favor 
was a little masterpiece of genuine and respectful 
enthusiasm. Prince Sempaly's face grew darker 
as he spoke. 

**And the young lady in question is the girl 
we met the other day in the Piazzi ?" he said. 

"Yes." 

"The sister of the secretary of legation whom 



OUR OWN SET. 241 

the ambassador introduced to me yesterday, and 
the niece of my old colonel ?*' 

''Yes." 

" And from what you tell me not only an ab- 
solutely blameless creature, but universally be- 
loved ?" 

"Yes." 

For a minute the prince was silent. Every 
fibre of his being had its root in the traditions of 
the caste into which he had been born, and a con- 
nection between Zinka Sterzl and a Sempaly was 
to him simply monstrous. He had in the highest 
degree a respect for his past — " le respect des 
ruines" — but they must be grand ruins, of a noble 
past, or they did not touch him at all. With his 
head resting on his hand he sat silent by the sup- 
per-table, which was not yet cleared and where the 
lights sparkled in the half-empty champagne- 
glasses, and the flowers placed for the ladies still 
lay by their plates. Suddenly he looked up, and 
pointing to the newspaper, he asked: 

" Had you seen that article when we came to 
fetch you from your rooms this morning ?" 

"Yes." 

The prince sat bolt upright. 

" And you did not stay in Rome to defend the 

girl ?" His black eyes looked straight into his 

16 



242 OUR OWN SET. 

brother's blue ones. " You came with us ? You 
left this young lady to be, for the whole day, the 
victim of the slander of all the evil tongues of 
Rome, for fear of an unpleasant explanation — 
for fear of a few high words with me ? — ^You have 
behaved in a base and unmanly way throughout 
this affair, both to this young lady and to the poor 
sweet creature in there. . ." and he pointed to the 
door behind which the two young countesses dis- 
appeared with their mother. " Of course I shall 
not let you starve ; your allowance shall be paid 
to you regularly as heretofore — but beyond that 
we have no further connection ; we have nothing 
in common, you and I. Go !" 



The deus ex machina had failed to appear. 
The dreaded scene with his brother had been 
postponed for a few hours, but it had come at last 
and Sempaly had gained nothing by his procras- 
tination and duplicity. He had provoked not 
merely his brother's anger but his scorn as well, 
while his marriage with Zinka, when he had at 
last found himself compelled to announce it to 
his brother, had altogether lost its startling and in- 
teresting aspect as a chivalrous romance, and had 



OUR OWN SET. 243 

come down to a mere act of reparation to satisfy 
his conscience. 

Sempaly rose rather earlier than usual next 
morning, his nerves still conscious of the remem- 
brance of this unsatisfactory scene and of the 
sleepless night that had been the consequence. 
Vexed with himself; at once surprised and touched 
by his brother's lofty indignation; ashamed to 
think of the calumny to which his irresolution 
and his absence must have exposed Zinka — he 
was in that state of sensitive irritability in which 
a man holds all the world in some degree responsi- 
ble for his own shortcomings, and is ready to re- 
venge himself on the first man he meets for the 
misery he is enduring. 

While he was waiting for his breakfast, walk- 
ing up and down the sitting-room — half drawing- 
room, half smoking-room — the general came in. 
For the first time in his life Sempaly greeted the 
old man as an intruder. 

" Good-morning," he cried, " what procures 
me the honor of such an early visit ?" 

"Well," said Von Klinger hotly, "it can 

scarcely surprise you that I, as Zinka's god-father 

and oldest friend, should come to ask you what 

you mean by your extraordinary conduct" 

16 * 



244 OUR OWN SET. 

** That, it seems to me, is her brother's busi- 
ness," said Sempaly roughly. 

** It is on purpose to prevent a collision between 
you and Sterzl that I have come so early," replied 
the general, who was cut out for an officer of 
dragoons rather than for a diplomatist. " Sterzl 
is beside himself with fury, and I know that your 
intentions with regard to Zinka are perfectly hon- 
orable, and so. . ." 

But at this moment the general's eye fell on a 
travelling-bag that the luxurious young attach^ 
was wont to carry with him on short journeys, 
and which lay packed on the divan. "You are 
going away ?'* asked the old man surprised. 

" I had intended to accompany my brother as 
far as Ostia to-day and return early to-morrow ; 
but that is at an end — the prince and I have 
quarrelled — yes, I have quarrelled past all possi- 
bility of a reconciliation with my noble and gen- 
erous brother. Are you satisfied ?" and he stamped 
with rage. 

" And is the want of judgment that has led to 
your parting any fault of mine pray ?" exclaimed 
the general angrily. 

There was a hasty rap at the door ; on Sem- 
paly*s answering: '* come in," Sterzl walked in. He 
did not take Sempaly's offered hand but drew a 



OUR OWN SET. 24s 

newspaper out of his pocket, held it out in front of 
Sempaly, and asked abruptly : 

" Have you read this article ?* 

"Yes," said Sempaly from between his teeth. 

"Yesterday — before you went out?*' Sterzl 
went on. 

This word-for-word repetition of the prince's 
question touched all Sempaly's most painful and 
shameful recollections of the scene to the quick. 
His eyes flashed, but he said nothing. 

Sterzl could contain himself no longer. All 
the bitter feelings of the last six weeks seethed in 
his blood, and the luckless travelling-bag caught 
his eye. This was too much. . 

What happened next ? . . . 

The general saw it all in a flash of time — un- 
expected, and inevitable. 

Sterzl took one stride forward and struck Sem- 
paly in the face with the newspaper. At the same 
moment Sempaly's servant came in with the 
breakfast tray. 

A few minutes later Sterzl and the general 
went down the stairs of the embassy in silence, 
not even looking at each other. When they were 
outside the younger man stopped and drew a deep 
breath : 

"Sempaly will send you his seconds in the 



246 OUR OWN SET. 

course of the morning," he said ; " I must ask you 
to act for me." 

The general nodded but did not speak. 

** I will send word to Crespigny too, and then 
you can do whatever you think proper." 

Still the general said nothing, and his silence 
irritated Sterzl. 

** I could bear it no longer," he muttered as if 
in delirium ; " what ... do you suppose . . . too 
much. . ." 

By this time they were in the Corso. Towards 
them came Siegburg, as bright and gay as ever, 
his hat pushed back on his head. 

" I am happy to be the first to congratulate 
you, Sterzl," he cried. 

" On what pray ?" said Sterzl fiercely. 

" On your sister's engagement to Sempaly — 
whatl then you really did know nothing about it?" 

Sterzl was bewildered: "What is it — what 
are you talking about ? — I do not understand," 
he stammered. 

"What, have you not heard ?" Siegburg began; 
" the bomb fell last evening ; Nicki declared his 
engagement. Oscar, to whom the whole business 
was news . . . come into this caf<6 and I will tell 
you exactly all about it ; it does not do to discuss 
such things in the street" 



OUR OWN SET. 247 

"I — I have not time," muttered Sterzl with 
a fixed vacant stare; and, as he spoke, he shot 
past Siegburg ; but his gait was unsteady and he 
ran up against a passer-by. 

" What on earth ails him ?*' said Siegburg 
looking after him. *' I thought he would be 
pleased and — well ! the ways of man are past 
finding out. This marriage will create a sensation 
in Vienna, eh, general ? But I approve — I en- 
tirely approve. We are on the threshold of a new 
era, as Schiller — or some one has said, Bismarck 
very likely — and we shall live to tell our children 
how we stood by and looked on. But what is the 
matter with you both — you and Sterzl ? To be 
sure — you were coming from the Palazzo di Vene- 
zia — have Nicki and Sterzl quarrelled — a chal- 
lenge !" The general nodded. " But it can be 
amicably arranged now," said Siegburg consol- 
ingly. 



248 



CHAPTER VI. 

On his return home Sterzl found Sempaly's 
note of the day before. The porter had taken it, 
as he was ordered, to the secretary's office, but as 
Sterzl had not gone there all day it had lain un- 
opened ; till, this morning, one of the messengers 
had thought it well to bring it to the palazetto. 
Sterzl read it and hid his face in his hands. 

Within a short time Sempaly's seconds were 
announced — Siegburg and a military attache from 
the Russian embassy. 

No, it could not be amicably arranged — under 
the circumstances there was but one way of satis- 
fying the point of honor. This point of honor — 
what is it ? A social dogma of the man of the 
world, and the whole creed of the southern aris- 
tocrat 

Sterzl was to start that night by the eleven 
o'clock train for Vienna, on matters of business, 
before setting out for Constantinople. The affair 
must therefore be settled at once. Beyond fixing the 
hour Sterzl left everything to his seconds. Swords, 



OUR OWN SET 249 

at seven that evening, among the ruins opposite 
the tomb of the Metellas was finally agreed on. 

Soon after six, Sterzl and his seconds set out. 
The carriage bore them swiftly along, through the 
gloomy, stuffy streets which lead to the Forum, 
along the foot of the Palatine, and past the Colos- 
seum, through the arch of Constantine into the 
Via Appia, on and on, between grey moss-grown 
walls, over which they caught glimpses of ruins 
and tall dark cypresses. Then the walls disap- 
peared and bushy green hedge-rows, covered with 
creepers, bordered the road, and presently the 
Campagna lay before them, an endless, rolling, 
green carpet, with its attractive melancholy, and 
the poisonous beauty of orchids and asphodels 
with which each returning spring decks its waste 
monotony, like a wilderness in a fevered dream. 

Sterzl sat in silence on the back seat, facing 
his two friends. He did not even pretend to be 
cheerful. A brave man may sometimes face death 
with indifference, but hardly with a light heart. 
Death is a great king to whom we must need do 
homage. His soul was heavy ; but his two com- 
panions, who knew not only his '^staunch nature 
but all the circumstances of the duel, knew that it 
was not from anxiety as to his own fate. He could 
not forget that this catastrophe was, at last, due 



250 OUR OWN SET. 

solely and entirely to his own violence and loss of 
self-command. He never once reflected that this 
engagement — brought about by a series of make- 
shifts and accidents — could hardly have resulted 
in a happy marriage; he had forgotten Sempaly's 
sins and remembered one thing only : that his sis- 
ter might have had the moon she had longed for, 
and that he alone had snatched it from her grasp. 

A powerful fragrance filled the air, coming up 
from the orchids, from the blossoming hedges, 
from the fresh greenery of the gardens, like the 
very soul of the spring, bringing a thousand mem- 
ories to his brooding brain and aching heart. It 
reminded him of the great untended orchard at 
home, and of one morning in the last May he had 
spent there before going to school. The apple- 
trees were clothed with rosy blossom ; butterflies 
were flitting through the air, and the first forget- 
me-nots peeped bluely among the trailing bram- 
bles on the brink of the brook that danced across 
the garden, murmuring sleepily to the shadowy, 
whispering alders. There was a fragrance of the 
soil, of the trees, of the flowers — just as there was 
now — and Zinka, then a mere baby, had come 
tripping to meet him and had said with her little 
confidential and important air : 

" I do believe that God must have set the 



OUR OWN SET. 251 

gates of heaven open for once, there is such a good 
smell." He could see her now, in her white pina- 
fore and long golden hair, clinging to her big 
brother with her soft, weak little hands. And he 
had lifted her up and said : " Yes, God left the 
door open and you slipped out my- little cherub.*' 
With what large, wondering eyes she had looked 
into his face. 

She had always been his particular pet ; his 
father had given her into his special charge and 
now ..." poor, sweet butterfly ! " he said to him- 
self, half audibly. 

"Do not be too strict in your fence," said a 
deep voice close to him. It was Crespigny who 
thus startled him from his dream of the past: — 
" Do not be too scientific. You have everything 
in your favor — practice, skill, and strength ; but 
Sempaly — I know his sword-play well — has one 
dangerous peculiarity : you never know what he 
will be at." Sterzl looked over his shoulder. The 
tomb of Cecilia Metella was standing before them. 



Opposite the tomb of Cecilia Metella is a de- 
serted and half-ruined early Gothic structure, a 
singular mixed character of heathen grandeur and 



252 OUR OWN SET. 

of mediaeval strength, lonely and roofless under 
the blue sky. A weather-beaten cross, let into 
the crumbling stone- work above the door- way, be- 
tokens it a sanctuary of the primitive Christian 
times ; on entering we see a still uninjured apse 
where the altar table once stood. No ornament 
of any kind, not even a scrap of bas-relief, is to be 
seen; nothing but frail ferns — light plumes of 
maiden hair that deck the old walls with their 
emerald fronds. The floor is smooth and covered 
with fine turf, from which, in spring-time, white 
and red daisies smile up at the sky, and dead net- 
tles grow from every chink and along the foot of 
the walls. 

The other party were already on the spot; 
Sempaly was talking unconcernedly, but with no 
affectation of levity, to the Russian, and bowed 
politely to the three men as they came in. His 
manner and conduct were admirable ; in spite of 
his irritable nervousness, there were moments 
when he had — and in the highest degree — that 
unshaken steadfastness which is part of the dis- 
cipline of a man of the world, to whom it is a 
matter of course that under certain circumstances 
he must fight, just as under certain others he must 
take off* his hat. 

Siegburg changed color a good deal; the 



OUR OWN SET. 253 

Others were quite cool. They made a careful 
survey lest some intruding listener should be 
within hearing, but all was still as death. The 
vineyard behind the little chapel was deserted. 

The formalities were soon got through ; Sem- 
paly and Sterzl took off their coats and waistcoats, 
and took the places assigned to them by their 
seconds. 

The signal was given. — The word of com- 
mand was heard in the silence and, immediately 
after, the first click of the swords as they en- 
gaged. 

Any one who has lived through the prolonged 
anticipation of a known peril or ordeal, knows that, 
when the decisive moment has arrived, the ten- 
sion of the nerves suddenly relaxes; anxiety 
seems lifted from the soul, fear vanishes and all 
that remains is a sort of breathless curiosity. This 
was the case with the general and Siegburg ; they 
watched the sword-play attentively, but almost 
calmly. Sempaly was the first to attack, and was 
extraordinarily nimble. Sterzl stood strictly on the 
defensive. He fenced in the German fashion, giv- 
ing force to his lunge with the whole weight of 
his body ; and this, with his skill and care, gave 
him a marked advantage over his lighter adversary. 
The sense of superior strength seemed at first to 



254 OUR OWN SET. 

hinder his freedom ; in fact, the contest, from a 
mere technical point of view, was remarkably in- 
teresting. Sempaly displayed a marvellous and 
— as Crespignyhad said— quite irresponsible sup- 
pleness, which had no effect against Sterzl's im- 
perturbable coolness. It was evident that he 
hoped to weary out his antagonist and then to 
end the duel by wounding him slightly. He had 
pricked Sempaly just under the arm, but Sempaly 
would not be satisfied; it was nothing he said, 
and after a short pause they began again. 

Sempaly was beginning to look pale and ex- 
hausted, his feints were short, straight, and violent ; 
Sterzl, on the contrary, looked fresher. Like every 
accomplished swordsman, in the course of a long 
fight he had warmed to his work and was fighting 
as he would have done with the foils, without duly 
calculating the strength of his play ; things looked 
ill for Sempaly. 

Suddenly, through the silence, a song was 
heard in the distance, in a boy's thin piping 
soprano : 

" Bright May — the sweetest month of Spring; 
The trees and fields with flowers are strown — " 

It sent a thrill through SterzFs veins, remind- 
ing him of the evening when Zinka had sung 



OUR OWN SET. 25s 

those words to Sempaly. The romantic element 
that was so strong in him surged to his brain ; he 
lost his head ; fearing to wound Sempaly mortally, 
he forgot to cover himself and for a second he 
suddenly stood as awkward and exposed as though 
he had never had a sword in his hand. 

The seconds rushed forward — too late. 

With the scarcely audible sound that the sharp 
steel makes as it pierces the flesh, Sempaly's sword 
ran into his adversary's side. SterzFs flannel shirt 
was dyed with blood — his eyes glazed — he stag- 
gered forward a step or two — then he fell sense- 
less. The duel was over. 



A quarter of an hour later and the wound 
had been bound up as best it might, and in the 
closed landau, which they had made as comforta- 
ble as they could by arranging the cushions so as 
to form a couch — the general supporting the 
groaning man's head on his arm, and opposite to 
him the surgeon — they were driving homewards* 
slowly — slowly. 

Dusk had fallen on the Campagna, from time 
to time the general looked out anxiously to see 
how far they were still from Rome. The road was 



2 $6 OUR OWN SET. 

emptier and more deserted every minute ; a cart 
rattled past them full of peasants, shouting and 
singing at the top of their voices ; then they met 
a few white-robed monks, wending their way witli 
flaring torches to some church ; and then the road 
was perfectly empty. The cypresses stood up tall 
and black against the dull-hued sky and the wide 
plain was one stretch of grey. 

At last the arch of Constantine bends over 
them for a minute and the horses hoofs clatter on 
the stones — slowly — slowly. . The lamps of 
Rome twinkle in the distance — they have reached 
the Corso, at this hour almost empty of vehicles 
but crowded with idlers, and the caf^s.are bril- 
liantly lighted up. The slowly-moving landau 
excites attention, the gapers crowd into knots, and 
stare and whisper. At last they reach the palaz- 
etto, turn into the court-yard and get out. The 
porter comes out of his den, his dog at his heels 
barking loudly. 

" Hush, silence !** says the general — the ser- 
vants come rushing down, the women begin to 
sob and cry, and again the general says : 

" Hush, hush !" as if it were worth while to 
keep Zinka in ignorance for a minute more or 
less. 

With some difficulty the heavy man is lifted 



OUR OWN SET. 257 

out and carried up-stairs — the heavy shuffling 
steps sound loud in the silence. Suddenly they 
hear Zinka's voice loud in terror, then the baron- 
ess's in harsh reproof — a door is flung open and 
Zinka rushes out to meet them — a half-smothered 
cry of anguish breaks from her very heart — the 
cry with which we wake from a hideous dream. 

They carried him into his room, and while they 
carefully settled him in bed the servant announced 
Dr. E . . . , the famous German physician of whom 
mention has already been made. Sempaly, who 
had driven back at full speed and had reached 
Rome more than an hour sooner than the general 
with the wounded man, had sent him at once. Dr. 
E . . . examined the patient with the greatest care, 
adjusted the bandage with admirable skill, wrote 
a prescription, and ordered the application of ice. 
He gave a sympathetic hand to each of the ladies, 
who were standing anxiously at the door as he left 
the room, and reassured them with an encouraging 
smile ; promising them, with that kindly hopeful- 
ness to which he owed half his fashionable prac- 
tice, that the wounded man would pass a quiet 
night. 

But when he was face to face with the general, 
who escorted him down stairs, the smile vanished. 

"The wound is dangerous?" asked the old man 

17 



258 OUR OWN SET. 

with a trembling heart. The surgeon shook his 
head. 

" Are you a relation ?*' he asked. 

" No, but a very old friend." 

"It is mortal," said Dr. E . . . "I maybe mis- 
taken — of course, I may be wrong . . . nature 
sometimes works miracles and the patient has a 
splendid physique. What fine limbs ! I have 
rarely seen so powerful a man — but so far as 
human science can foresee ..." and he left the 
death-warrant unspoken. " It is always a comfort 
to the survivors to know that all that can be done 
has been done ; I will come early to-morrow morn- 
ing to enquire. Send the prescription to the 
French chemist's — it is the best. Good-night." 
And he got into the carriage that was waiting for 
him. 

The general gave the prescription to the por- 
ter, who, with the readiness and simplicity that are 
so characteristic of the Italians, rushed off at once 
without his hat. As if there were really any 
hurry ! . . . 

The old soldier, composing himself by an effort, 
returned to the bedroom. Zinka was standing very 
humbly at the foot of the bed, pale and tearless, 
but trembling from head to foot. The baroness 
was pacing the room and sobbing violently, wring- 



OUR OWN SET. 259 

ihg her hands and pushing her hair back from her 
temples. Of course she flew at the general with 
questions as to the surgeon's prognosis. His eva- 
sive answers were enough to fill her with unreason- 
able hope and to revive the worldly instincts which 
her terrors had for a moment cast into the back- 
ground. 

'*Yes, yes, he will pass a quiet night," she 
whimpered; "he will get well again — it would 
have been too bad with such a brilliant career 
before him; — but this is an end to Constanti- 
nople. . ." 

Zinka, on the contrary, had turned still paler 
at the general's report but she said nothing. 

That there had been a duel she and her mother 
had of course understood. What did she infer 
from that? What did she' think — what did she 
feel? She herself never rightly knew; in her soul 
all was dark — in her heart all was cold. Her 
whole being was concentrated in horror. 

After much and urgent persuasion the general 
succeeded in inducing the baroness to leave the 
room and to lie down for a time, "to spare herself 
for her son's sake." 

She had hardly closed the door when the ser- 
vant came quietly in and said that Count Truyn 
had come. Zinka looked up. 

17* 



260 OUR OWN SET. 

" Shall I let him come in ?" asked the general. 
Zinka nodded. 

Siegburg had told him, and though it was now 
eleven Truyn had hurried off to the palazetto. He 
came into the room without speaking and straight 
up to Zinka. The simple ifeeling with which he 
took her hands in both his, the deep and tender 
sorrow at being unable to help or to reassure her 
that spoke in his eyes comforted and warmed her 
heart ; the frozen horror that had held her in its 
clasp seemed to thaw ; tears started to her eyes, 
a tremulous sob died on her lips ; then, controlling 
herself with great difficulty, she murmured intel- 
ligibly : " There is no hope — no hope !" 

His mother's loud lam&ntations had not roused 
the wounded man but the first sound from Zinka 
recalled him to consciousness ; he began to move 
uneasily and opened his sunken eyes. The whites 
shone dimly, like polished silver, as he fixed them 
on his sister's face ; from thence they wandered to a 
blood-stained handkerchief that had been forgot- 
ten, and then to the general. Slowly and painfully 
he seemed to comprehend the situation. He strug- 
gled for breath, with an impatient movement of 
his hands and shoulders, and then shivered as 
with a spasm. He was conscious now, and sighed 
deeply. 



OUR OWN SET. 261 

The first thing that occurred to him was his 
official duty: 

" Have you sent word to the ambassador ?" he 
asked the general almost angrily. 

" No, not yet" 

" Then make haste, pray ; they must telegraph 
to Vienna." 

" Yes, yes," said Von Klinger soothingly, *' I 
will see to it at once. Would you be good 
enough to stay till I return ?" he added to Truyn 
and he hurried away. 

For a few minutes not a word was spoken, then 
Sterzl began : 

" Do you know how it all happened, Count ?" 
Truyn bowed. " And you, Zini ?" asked Cecil, 
looking sadly at the girl's white face. " I know 
that you are suffering — that is all I want to 
know," she replied. 

" Oh I Zini. . . " Sterzl struggled for breath 
and held out his hand to Zinka, then he went on 
in a hoarse and hardly audible voice : " Zini . . . 
Butterfly ... it was all my doing ... I have spoilt 
your life ... I did it . ." 

She tried to stop him : " You must not excite 
yourself," she said, leaning over him tenderly; 
** forget all that till you are better — '- 1 know that 
you have always loved me and that you would 



262 OUR OWN SET. 

have fetched the stars from heaven for me if you 
cotrid have reached them." 

He shuddered convulsively : " No, Zini, no. . . 
you might have had the stars/' he said in a pant- 
ing staccato ; " the finest stars. Sempaly was not 
to blame . . . only I . . . the prince had agreed . . . 
but I ... I forgot myself . . . and I spoilt it all . . . 
oh, a drink of water, Zini, please ! . . ." 

She gave him the water and he drank it 
greedily ; but when she gently tried to stop his 
mouth with her hand he pushed it away, and went 
on eagerly, though with a fast failing voice: 
" No ... I must tell you ... it is a weight upon 
my soul. There, in my desk . . . Count ... in the 
little pocket on the left . . . there is a letter for 
Zinka. — Give it her. . ." 

Truyn did his bidding. The letter was sealed 
and addressed to Zinka in Cecil's fine firm hand. 
She opened it ; it contained the note that Sem- 
paly had written before starting for Frascati and 
Sterzl had added a few words of explanation in 
case it should not fall into Zinka's hands till after 
his death. 

She read it all while the dying man anxiously 
watched her face, but her expression did not alter 
by a shade. Sempaly's words glided over her 
heart without touching it; even when she had 



OUR OWN SET. 263 

read both notes she did not speak. Two red 
flames burnt in her pale cheeks. 

'* I got . . . the note . . . too late/* said Sterzl 
sadly, " the general . . . can tell you how . . . how 
it all happened ... I lost my head . . . but he ... , 
he is safe, so you must forgive me . . . and do . . . 
act ... as if I had never existed . . .then . . . I 
shall rest ... in peace . . . and be happy in . . . 
my grave ... if I know . . . that you are . . . 
happy." 

Still she did not speak ; her eyes were strangely 
overcast; but it was not with grief for her lost 
happiness. Suddenly she tore the note across and 
dropped the pieces on the floor. 

" If he had written ten letters," she cried, " it 
would have made no difference now ; do not let 
that worry you, Cecil — it is all at an end. Even 
if there were no gulf between us I could never be 
his wife ! I have ceased to love him. — How mean 
he is in my eyes — compared with you !" 

And so the brother and sister were at one 
again ; the discord was resolved. 

For more than four and twenty hours Cecil 
wrestled with death and Zinka never left his side. 
The certainty of their mutual and complete devo- 
tion was a melancholy consolation in the midst of 
this cruel parting. The pain he suffered was agoniz- 



264 OUR OWN SET. 

ing ; particularly during the night and the early- 
morning ; but he bore it with superb fortitude and 
it was only by the nervous clenching of his hands 
and the involuntary distortion of his features that 
he betrayed his suffering. He hardly for a moment 
slept ; he refused the opiate sent by the surgeon ; 
he wished to " keep his head" as long as possible. 

When Zinka — with a thousand tender circum- 
locutions — suggested to him that he should re- 
ceive the last sacraments of the Church he agreed. 
** If it will be any comfort to you, Butterfly," he 
sighed ; and he received the priest with reverent 
composure. 

In the afternoon he was easier — Zinka began 
to hope. 

"You are better," she whispered imploringly, 
" you are better, are you not ?" 

" I am in less pain," he said, and then she be- 
gan making plans for the future — he smiled 
sadly. 

No man could die with a better grace, and yet 
it was hard to die. 

The catastrophe had roused universal sympathy. 
The terrible news had spread like wildfire through 
the city and a sort of panic fell on the rank and 
fashion of Rome. No one, that day, who had 
ever spoken a spiteful or a flippant word against 



OUR OWN SET. 265 

Sterzl or his sister, failed to feel a prick of remorse. 
Every one came or sent to the palazetto to enquire 
for them. Now and again the baroness would 
come in triumphantly, in her hand a particularly 
distinguished visiting-card with its comer turned 
down, and rustle up to the bedside : " Ilsenbergh 
came himself to the door to ask after you !*' 

Late in the day he fell into an uneasy sleep ; 
Zinka and the general did not quit the room. The 
window was open but the air that blew in through 
the Venetian blinds was damp and sultry. The 
street was strewn with straw ; the roll of the car- 
riages in the Corso came, dulled by distance, up to 
the chamber of death. Then twilight fell and the 
rumbling echoes were still. Presently, the slow ir- 
regular tramp of a crowd broke the silence, with 
the accompaniment of a solemn but dismal chant 
Zinka sprang up to close the window ; but she was 
not quick enough. The sleeper had opened his 
weary eyes and was listening — : '* A funeral !" 
he muttered. 

After this he could not rest, and his sufferings 
began once more. He tossed on his pillow, talked 
of his will, begging the general to make a note of 
certain trifling alterations ; and when Zinka en- 
treated him not to torment himself but to think of 
that by-and-bye, he shook his head, and mur- 



266 OUR OWN SET. 

mured in a voice that was hoarse and tremulous 
with pain : " No, I am in a hurry . . . time 
presses , . . railway fever . . . railway fever ..." 

When Zinka, unable to control herself, was 
leaving the room to hide her tears, he desired her 
to remain : 

" Only stop by me ... do not leave me, Zini,"' 
he said. " Cry if it is a relief to you . . . but stay 
here . . . poor little Butterfly I . . . yes, you will miss 
me. . . 

Once only did he lose his self-command. It 
was late in the evening. He had begged them to- 
send to the embassy for an English newspaper 
which would give some information as to a certaia 
political matter in which he was particularly inter- 
ested ; the ambassador himself brought it to his 
bedside. 

" How are you ?. . . how are you now ?" he asked 
with sincere emotion ..." You were quite right, 
Sterzl. Ignatiev has done exactly as you Sciid ; 
you have a wonderful power of divination ... I 
shall miss you desperately when you go to Con-^ 
stantinople. . ." and his excellency fairly broke 
down. 

There was a painful pause. " I am going fur- 
ther than Constantinople. . .*' Sterzl murmured at 
length. " I should like to know who will get my^ 



OUR OWN SET. 267 

place . . ." His voice failed him and he groaned 
as he hid his face in the pillow. 

The end came at midnight. Dr. E . . . had 
warned the general that it would be terrible ; but 
it was in vain that they tried to persuade Zinka to 
leave the room. The whole night through she 
knelt by the dying man's bed in her tumbled 
white dressing-gown — praying. 

At about five in the morning his moaning 
ceased. Was all over ? No, he spoke again ; a 
strange, far-away look, peculiar to the dying, came 
into his eyes. " Do not cry, little one — it will all 
come right ..." and then he felt about with his hands 
as if he were seeking for something — for some 
idea that had escaped him. He gazed at his sister. 
"Go to bed, Zini — I am better . . . sleepy . . . 
Constanti. . ." He turned his head to the wall and 
breathed deeply. He had started on his journey. 

The general closed his eyes and drew Zink^. 
away. Outside in the corridor stood a crushed 
and miserable man — it was Sempaly. Pale, 
wretched, and restless, he had stolen into the pal- 
azetto, and as he stood aside his hands trembled, 
his eyes were haggard. She did not shrink from 
him as she went by — she did not see him ! 

A glorious morning shone on the little garden- 
court. In a darkly-shady corner a swarm of blue 



268 OUR OWN SET. 

butterflies were fluttering over the grass like atoms 
fallen from the sky. It was the corner in which 
the Amazon stood. 



CHAPTER VII. 

Thanks to Siegburg*s always judicious indis- 
cretion all Rome knew ere long that Prince Sem- 
paly had consented to Zinka's marriage with his 
brother the evening before the duel, and at the 
same time it heard of Sterzl's burst of anger and 
its fearful expiation. Princess Vulpini's unwaver- 
ing friendship, which during these few days she 
took every opportunity of displaying, silenced evil 
tongues and saved Zinka's good name. Now, in- 
deed, there was a general and powerful revulsion 
of feeling in Sterzl's favor. It suddenly became 
absurd, petty, in the very worst taste, to doubt 
Zinka — Zinka and Cecil had always been excep- 
tional natures ... 

Sterzl had expressed a wish to be buried at 
home ; the body was embalmed and laid in a large 
empty room, where, once upon a time, the 



OUR OWN SET. 269 

baroness had wanted to give a ball. There were 
flowers against the wall, and on the floor. The 
bier was covered with them ; it was a complete 
Roman Infiorata, The windows were darkened 
with hangings and the dim ruddy light of dozens 
of wax-tapers filled the room. Countess Ilsenbergh 
and the Jatinskys came to this lying in state ; dis- 
tinguished company, in ceremonial black, crowded 
round the cofiin. Never had the baroness had so full 
a *day ' and her sentimental graces showed that, 
even under these grim circumstances, she felt this 
as a satisfaction. She stood by the bier in flowing 
robes loaded with crape, a black-bordered hand- 
kerchief in her hand, and a tear on each cheek, 
and — received her visitors. They pressed her 
hand and made sympathetic speeches and she 
murmured feebly : " You are so good — it is so 
comforting." 

Having spoken to the mother, they turned to 
look for the sister ; every one longed to express, 
or at least to show, their sincere sympathy for her 
dreadful sorrow. But she was not in the crowd — 
not to be seen, till a lady whispered : " There she 
is," and in a dark recess. Princess Vulpini was dis- 
covered with a quivering, sobbing creature, as pale 
as death and drowned in tears ; but no one ven- 
tured to intrude on her grief No one but Nini, 



270 OUR OWN SET. 

who looked almost as miserable as Zinka herself, 
and who went up to her, and put her arms round 
her, and kissed her. 

Next day mass was performed in the chapel of 
San-Marco, adjoining the embassy, and a quartette 
of voices sang the same pathetic allegretto from 
the seventh symphony that had been played, 
hardly three months since, for the ' Lady Jane 
Grey ' tableau. 

A week later the Sterzls quitted Rome. Up 
to the very last the baroness was receiving visits 
of condolence, and to the very last she repeated 
her monotonous formula of lament : 

" And on the threshold of such a splendid 
career 1" 

Zinka was never in the drawing-room, and very 
few ventured to go to her little boudoir. Wasted 
to a shadow, with sunken, cried-out eyes and 
pinched features, it was heart-rending to see her ; 
and after the first violence of her grief was spent 
she seemed even more inconsolable. It is so with 
deep natures. Our first sorrow over the dead is 
always mixed with a certain rebellion against 
fate — it is a paroxysm in which we forget every- 
thing — even the cause of our passionate tears. It 
is not till we have dried our eyes and our heart has 
raged itself into weariness — not till we have at 



OUR OWN SET. 271 

last said to ourselves : " submit," that we can 
measure the awful gap that death has torn in our 
life, or know how empty and cold and silent the 
world has become. 

Every day made Zinka feel more deeply what 
it was that she had lost. She was always feeling 
for the strong arm which had so tenderly sup- 
ported her. The general and Princess Vulpini 
did everything in their power to help her through 
this trying phase, but the person with whom she 
felt most at her ease was Truyn ; and very often, 
after seven in the evening, when she was sure of 
meeting no one, she stole off to visit Gabrielle ; it 
was touching to see how the little girl understood 
the trouble of her older friend, and how sweetly 
she would caress and pet her. 

On the morning of their departure Truyn and 
the general saw them off from the station. After 
the ladies were in the carriage Truyn got in too, 
to open or close the windows and blinds ; when he 
had done this Zinka put out her hand : 

" God bless you, for all your kindness," she 
said, and as she spoke she put up her face to give 
him a kiss. 

For an instant he hesitated then he signed her 
forehead with a cross, and bending down touched 
her hair with his lips. 



272 OUR OWN SET. 

" Au revoir,'* he murmured in a half-choked 
voice, he bowed to the baroness and jumped out. 
As he watched the train leave the station his face 
was crimson and his eyes sparkled strangely ; and 
he stood bareheaded to catch the last glimpse of a 
pale little face at the window. 

" If only I had the right to care for her and 
protect her/* he muttered. 



273 



CHAPTER VIII. 

And now to conclude. 

Baroness Sterzl was one of those happily rare 
natures who have not one redeeming point. In her 
Moravian estate, whither they now retired, she was 
sick of her life, and treated Zinka with affectionate 
austerity. Bored and embittered, she was always 
bewailing herself and made every one miserable 
by her sour mien and doleful, appearance. When 
the year of mourning was ended she began to 
crave for some excitement ; she made excursions 
to watering places, and to Vienna, where she 
gathered round her the fragmentary remains of 
her old circle of acquaintance and tried to aston- 
ish them by magnificent reminiscences of her 
sojourn in Rome. At the same time she still 
wore deep furbelows of crape, and wrote her invi- 
tations on black-edged paper ; she talked inces- 
santly of her broken mother's-heart wearing, as it 
were, a sort of Niobe nimbus ; while, in fact, her 
display of mourning was nothing more than a last 
foothold for her vanity. General von Klinger 

l8 



274 OUR OWN SET. 

always declared that at the bottom of her heart 
she was very proud of her son having been run 
through by a Sempaly. 

She died, about three years after the catas- 
trophe, of bronchitis, which only proved fatal 
because, though she already had a severe cold, 
nothing could dissuade her from going on a keen 
April morning to see the ceremony of washing 
the beggars feet at the Burg, with a friend from 
the convent of the Sacred Heart. 

Zinka felt the loss of her mother more deeply 
than could have been expected. Year after year 
she spent summer and winter in her country 
house, where Gabrielle Truyn, with her English 
governess, sometimes passed a few weeks with 
her — her only visitors. Truyn very rarely went 
to see her, and never stayed more than a few 
hours ; and the sacrifice it was to him to lend his 
little companion for those visits can only be appre- 
ciated by those who have understood how com- 
pletely his life was bound up in hers. 

With Princess Vulpini Zinka kept up an affec- 
tionate correspondence. Very, very, slowly did 
her grief fade into the background ; but — as is 
always the case with a noble nature — it elevated 
and strengthened her. She gave up her whole 
time to acts of kindness and benevolence ; the only 



OUR OWN SET. 27s 

pleasure in which, for years, she could find any- 
real comfort was alleviating the woes of others. 



Not long after the death of the baroness, Gen- 
eral von Klinger left Europe to travel, and did not 
return till the following spring twelvemonths. He 
disembarked at Havre and proceeded to Paris, 
where he proposed spending a few days to see the 
Salon before going home. By the obliging inter- 
vention of a friend he was admitted to the " vernis 
sage'' — varnishing day, or, more properly, the 
private view — the day before the galleries were 
opened to the public. Among the little crowd of 
fashionable ladies who had gained admittance by 
the good offices of a drawing- master or an artist 
friend, he observed a remarkably pretty young girl 
who, with her nose in the air, was skipping from 
one picture to another with a light and vigorous 
step, and pronouncing judgment on the works 
exhibited with the inexorable severity and inno- 
cent conceit of a fanatical novice. This fair young 
critic was so thoroughly aristocratic in her bear- 
ing, there was something so engaging in her 
girlish arrogance, so like a spoilt child in her 

confidential chat with her companion — an elderly 

18 * 



276 OUR OWN SET. 

man, and one of the best known artists of Paris — 
that the old soldier-painter could not help watch- 
ing her with kindly interest. Presently she hap- 
pened to see him ; scrutinized him for a moment, 
and came to meet him with gay familiarity. 

"Why, General ! are you back at last? How 
glad papa will be — and you have not altered in 
the very least !. . ." 

" I cannot say the same of you. Countess 
Gabrielle," he replied. 

" Well, of course. We last met four years ago 
at Zini's I think, . . ."she chattered on. "Then 
I was a child, and now I am grown up ; and I will 
tell you something. General, I have exhibited a 
picture — quite a small water color drawing," and 
she blushed, which made her look like her father, 
" you will come and look at it will you not ?" 

" Of course," he declared; and then, glancing 
at her dress: "You are in mourning?" he said 
hesitatingly. 

"Yes," she replied, " in half mourning now — 
for poor mamma; it is nearly a year since she 
died.. ." and a shade crossed her face — "ah, 
there is papa !" she exclaimed, suddenly brighten- 
ing, "we are always losing each other — our tastes 
are different — papa is old fashioned you know — 
quite behind the times ..." 



OUR OWN SET. 277 

Truyn greeted the general very heartily; 
Gabrielle stood looking from one to the other; 
little roguish dimples played in her cheeks, and at 
last she stood on tiptoe and whispered something 
to her father. At first he seemed doubtful, and it 
was not without a. shade of embarrassment that he 
said: 

*' We are going on to the Hotel Bristol, where 
we are to breakfast with my sister. It will, I am 
sure, give her the greatest pleasure if you will join 
her party." 

The general made some excuses — it was an 
intrusion, and so forth — but he allowed himself 
to be persuaded and drove off with them through 
the flowery and well-watered alleys of the Champs 
Elysees to the hotel in the Place Vendome. 

" Aunt Marie,'* said Gabrielle as she danced 
into the room, " guess who is here with us !" 

" Ah, General !" said the princess warmly, 
*' you are the right man in the right place." 

But another figure caught his eye — a little way 
behind his hostess stood Zinka. The sorrow she 
had experienced had stamped its lines indelibly on 
her face; still, there was in her eyes a light of 
calm and assured happiness that blended very 
sweetly with the traces of past grief The bright 
May-morning of her life had been brief and it 



2/8 OUR OWN SET. 

was past, but there was so tender a charm in her 
face and manner that even Gabrielle, with the 
radiance of eighteen, could not vie with her. 

Truyn went up to her and there was an awk- 
ward silence. Then Gabrielle began to laugh 
heartily. 

"And cannot you guess. General?" she ex- 
claimed. 

*' It is not yet announced to the world," Truyn 
stammered out, " but you have always taken such a ' 
kind interest. . ." and he took Zinka's hand. The 
old man's face beamed — he positively hugged 
Zinka and shook hands vehemently with Truyn. 

But Zinka burst into tears — : "Oh, uncle,'* 
she said, " if only Cecil were here !" 



And Sempaly ? 

After the catastrophe he vanished from the 
scene — went to the East, and there again came 
to the surface. A Sempaly may do anything. He 
is now considered one of our most brilliant diplo- 
matists. 

But he has gone through a singular change ; 
from a dandified, frivolous attach^ he became a 
hard-and-fast official. He looks if possible more 



OUR OWN SET. 279 

distinguished than ever and his features are more 
sharply cut. He is irritable, arrogant and ruthless ; 
never sparing man or woman the biting sarcasms 
that dwell on the tip of his tongue, and yet, still — 
nay, more than ever — he exercises an almost ir- 
resistible spell over all who come in contact with 
him. 

One day, when the general was waiting at 
some frontier station in Hungary for a train to 
Vienna, he was struck by the full rich voice of a 
traveller in a seal-skin coat, with a fur cap pulled 
down over his brows, who was giving peremptory 
orders to his servant. The old man looked round 
and his eyes met those of the stranger — it was 
Sempaly, also on his way to Vienna, from the 
East. They spoke — exchanging a few common- 
place remarks, but without any cordiality. Pres- 
ently Sempaly began with the abruptness for 
which his name was a by- word : 

" You have just come from Paris. You were 
present at the wedding ? What do you think of 
Truyn's marriage ?" 

" I am delighted at it," said the general. 

" Well, everybody seems satisfied. Marie Vul- 
pini is enchanted, and Gabrielle pleaded for her 
papa — so I hear. — So everything is for the best 
in this best of all possible worlds !" he added in 



280 OUR OWN SET. 

his sharp, hasty tones — " and Zinka — how is she 
looking ? The papers said she was lovely." 

" She is still very charming," said the general, 
with the facile garrulity of old age, " and happi- 
ness always beautifies a woman — she had but one 
regret: that Cecil had not lived to see it." 

He was suddenly conscious of his stupendous 
want of tact; so, to put the conversation on 
neutral ground, he eagerly began to compliment 
Sempaly on the wonderful rapidity of his advance- 
ment, remarking that it must afford him great 
satisfaction to have so fitting a sphere for the ex- 
ercise of his peculiar talents. 

Sempaly looked at him keenly, and shrugging 
his shoulders, with a singular smile, he said : 

"It is a strange thing, General — when we are 
young we claim happiness at the hands of Destiny, 
as if it were our right ; as we grow older we hum- 
bly sue, only for peace, as an alms. — We get 
what we demand more easily than what we beg 
for — but it slips through our fingers." 



THE END. 



ADVERTISEMENTS 



THE AMAZON. — An Art-Novel, by Carl Vosmaer, 

from the Dutch by E. J. Irving, with frontispiece by Alma 
Tadema, R. A., and preface by Georg Ebers. In one voL 
Paper, 40 cts. Cloth, 75 cts, 

" Among the poets who never overstep the limits of probability 
and yet aspire to realize the ideal, in whose works we breathe a 
purer air, who have power to enthral and exalt the reader's soul, 
to stimulate and enrich his mind, we must number the Nether- 
lander Vosmaer. 

"The Novel 'Amazon,' which attracted great and just attention 
in the author's fatherland, has been translated into our tongue at 
my special request. In Vosmaer we find no appalling incident, 
no monstrous or morbid psychology, neither is the worst side of 
human nature portrayed in glaring colots. The reader is afforded 
ample opportunity of delighting himself with delicate pictures of 
the inner life and spiritual conflicts of healthy-minded men and 
women. In this book a profound student of ancient as well as 
modern art conducts us from Paestum to Naples, thence to Rome, 
making us participators in the highest and greatest the Eternal 
City can offer to the soul of man. 

** Vosmaer is a poet by the grace of God, as he has proved by 
poems both grave and gay; by his translation of the Iliad into 
Dutch hexameters, and by his lovely epos * Nanno,' His numer- 
ous essays on aesthetics, and more especially his famous * Life of 
Rembrandt,* have secured him an honorable place among the art- 
historians of our day. As Deputy Recorder of the High Court 
of Justice he has, during the best years of his life (he was born 
March 20, 1826), enjoyed extensive opportunities of acquiring a 
thorough insight into the social life of the present, and the laby- 
rinths of the human soul. That *The Amazon,' perhaps the ma- 
turest work of this author, should — like Vosmaer's other writings — 
be totally unknown outside Holland, is owing solely to the circum- 
stance that most of his works are written in his mother-tongue, and 
are therefore accessible only to a very small circle of readers. 

" It is a painful thing for a poet to have to write in a language 
restricted to a small area ; ana it is the bounden duty of the lover 
of literature to bring what is excellent in the literature of other 
lands within the reach of his own countrymen. Among these 
excellent works Vosmaer's 'Amazon' must unquestionably be 
reckoned. It introduces us to those whom we cannot fail to 
consider an acquisition to our circle of acquaintances. It permits 
us to be present at conversations which — and not least when they 
provoke dissent — stimulate our minds to reflection. No one who 
listens to them can depart without having gained something; for 
Vosmaer's novel is rich in subtle observations and shrewd re- 
marks, in profound thoughts and beautifully-conceived situations." 
JExtract from Georg Ebers* Preface to the German Edition, 



FBIDOLLN'S MYSTICAL. MARRIAGE,— A Study 

of an Original, founded on Reminiscences of a Friend, by 
Adolf Wilbrandty from the German by Clara Bell. One 
vol. Paper, 50 cts. Cloth, 90 cts. 



"One of the most entertaining of the recent translations of 
German fiction is * Fridolin*s Mystical Marriage,' by Adolf Wil- 
brandt. The author calls it ' a study of an original, founded on 
reminiscences of a friend,* and one may easily believe that the 
whimsical, fascinating, brilliant heir must have been drawn more 
lar|[ely from life than fancy. He is a professor of art, who re- 
mams single up to his fortieth year because he is, he explains to a 
friend 'secretly married.' * When you consider all the men of 
your acquaintance,' he says, *does it strike you that every man is 
thorougnly manly and every woman thoroughly womanly ? Or, 
on the contrary, do you not find singular deviations and excep- 
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series, sorting them by the shades of difference in their natural 
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a piercing glance into their souls, you would perceive . . . beings 
with masculine intellect and womanly feelings, or womanly gifts 
and masculine character.' The idea is very cleverly worked out 
that in these divided souls marriage is possible only between the 
two natures, and that whenever one of the unfortunates given this 
mixed nature, cannot contract an outward alliance. How the 
events of the story overthrow this ingenious theory need not be 
told here, but the reader will find entertainment in discovery for 
himself." — Courier, Boston, 

** A quaint, dry and highly diverting humor pervades the book, 
and the characters are sketcned with great force and are admira- 
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crispness of the conversations, and the constant movement of the 
plot hold the interest of the reader in pleasant attention through- 
out. It provides very bright and unfatiguing reading for a dull 
summer day." — Gazette, Boston, 

**The scenes which are colored by the art atmosphere of the 
studio of Fridolin, a professor of art and the principal character, 
are full of pure humor, through the action and situations that the 
theory brings about. But no point anywhere for effective humor 
is neglected. It runs through the story, or comedy, from begin- 
ning to end, appearing in every available spot. And the charac- 
terization is evenly strong. It is an uncommonly clever work in 
its line, and will be deliciously enjoyed by the best readers." 
Globe, Boston, 



CLiümA« — A Romance of the Sixteenth Century, by 
Greorge Taylor, from the German by Mary J. Safford, 
in one vol. Paper, 50 cts. Cloth, 90 cts. 



" If report may be trusted * George Taylor,* though 
writing in German, is an Englishman by race, and not 
merely by the assumption of a pseudonym. The state- 
ment is countenanced by the general physiognomy of 
his novels, which manifest the artistic qualities in which 
German fiction, when extending beyond the limits of a 
short story, is usually deficient. * Antinous ' was a re- 
markable book ; ' Clytia ' displays the same talent, and 
is, for obvious reasons, much better adapted for general 
circulation. Notwithstanding its classical title, it is a 
romance of the post-Lutheran Reformation in the sec- 
ond half of the sixteenth century. The scene is laid 
in the Palatinate ; the hero, Paul Laurenzano, is, like 
John Inglesant, the pupil, but, unlike John Inglesant, 
the proselyte and emissary, of the Jesuits, who send him 
to do mischief in the disguise of a Protestant clergy- 
man. He becomes confessor to a sisterhood of re- 
formed nuns, as yet imperfectly detached from the old 
religion, and forms the purpose of reconverting them. 
During the process, however, he falls in love with one 
of their number, the beautiful Clytia, the original, Mr. 
Taylor will have it, of the lovely bust in whose genuine- 
ness he will not let us believe. Clytia, as is but reason- 
able, is a match for Loyola ; the man in Laurenzano 
overpowers the priest, and, after much agitation of 
various kinds, the story concludes with his marriage. It 
is an excellent novel from every point of view, and, like 
* Antinous ' gives evidence of superior culture and 
though tfulness." — T/ie London Saturday Review, 

William S, Gottsberger^ Publisher^ New York. 



TBAFALGAR.-^A Tale, by B. Perez Galdös, from 
the Spanish by Clara Bell, in one vol. Paper, 50 cents. 
Cloth, 90 cents. 



" This is the third story by Galdös in this series, and 
it is not inferior to those which have preceded it, 
although it differs from them in many particulars, as 
it does from most European stories with which we are 
acquainted, its interest rather depending upon the action 
with which it deals than upon the actors therein. To 
subordinate men to events is a new practice in art, and if 
Galdös had not succeeded we should have said that 
success therein was impossible. He has succeeded 
doubly, first as a historian, and then as a novelist, for 
while the main interest of his story centres in the 
great sea-fight which it depicts — the greatest in which 
the might of England has "figured since her destruction 
of the Grand Armada — there is no lack of interest in 
the characters of his story, who are sharply individual- 
ized, and painted in strong colors. Don Alonso and his 
wife Doiia Francisca — a simple-minded but heroic old 
sea-captain, and a sharp-minded, shrewish lady, with a 
tongue of her own, fairly stand out on the canvas. 
Never before have the danger and the doom of battle 
been handled with such force as in this spirited and 
picturesque tale. It is thoroughly characteristic of the 
writer and of his nationality." — The Mail and Express^ 
New York. 

William S. Gottsbergery Publisher ^ New l^ork. 



A ORAY£YABD FLOWER. — By Wilhelmine 

von HUllem» from the German by Clara Bell, in one 
vol, Paper, 40 cts. Cloth, 75 cts. 



" The pathos of this story is of a t3rpe too delicate 
to be depressing. The tale is almost a poem, so fine is 
its imagery, so far removed from the commonplace. 
The character of Marie is merely suggested, and yet 
she has a most distinct and penetrating individuality. 
It is a fine piece of work to place, without parade or 
apparent intention, at the feet of this ideal woman, three 
loves so widely different from each other. There is 
clever conception in the impulse that makes Marie turn 
from the selfish, tempestuous love of the Count, and 
the generous, holy passion of Anselmo, to the narrower 
but nearer love of Walther, who had perhaps fewer 
possibilities in his nature than either of the other two. 
The quality of the story is something we can only de- 
scribe by one word — spirituelle. It has in it strong 
suggestions of genius coupled with a rare poetic feel- 
ing, which comes perhaps more frequently from Ger- 
many than from anywhere else. The death of Marie 
and the sculpture of her image by Anselmo, is a passage 
of great power. The tragic end of the book does not 
come with the gloom of an unforeseen calamity; it 
leaves with it merely a feeling of tender sadness, for it 
is only the fulfilment of our daily expectations. It is in 
fact the only end which the tone of the story would 
render fitting or natural." — Godeys Lady's Book, 

William S, Gottsberger, Publisher^ New York. 



PRU81AS. — A Romance of Ancient Rome under the Republic, 
by iiSmst fiCksteill» from the German by Clara Bell. 
Authorized edition. In two vols. Paper, $1.00. Cloth, $1.75. 

" The date of * Prusias ' is the latter half of the first century 
B. C. Rome is waging her tedious war with Mithridates. There 
are also risings in Spain, and the home army is badly depleted. 
Prusias comes to Capua as a learned Armenian, the tutor of a 
noble pupil in one of the aristocratic households. Each member 
of this circle is distinct. Some of the most splendid traits of 
human nature develop among these grand statesmen and their 
dignified wives, mothers, and daughters. The ideal Roman maiden 
is Psyche ; but she has a trace of Greek blood and of the native 
gentleness. Of a more interesting type is Fannia, who might, 
minus her slaves and stola, pass for a modern and saucy New York 
beauty. Her wit, spirit, selfishness, and impulsive magnanimity 
might easilv have been a nineteenth-century evolution. In the 
family to wnich Prusias comes are two sons, one of military lean- 
ings, the other a student. Into the ear of the latter Prusias whis- 
pers the real purpose of his coming to Italv. He is an Armenian 
and in league witn Mithridates for the reduction of Roman rule. 
The unity which the Senate has tried to extend to the freshly-con- 
quered provinces of Italy is a thing of slow growth. Prusias by 
his strategy and helped by Mithridates*s gold, hopes to organize 
slaves and disaffected provincials into a force which will oblige 
weakened Rome to make terms, one of which shall be complete 
emancipation and equality of every man before the law. His har- 
angues are in lofty strain, and, save that he never takes the coarse, 
belligerent tone of our contemporaries, these speeches might have 
been made by one of our own Abolitionists. The one point that 
Prusias never forgets is personal dignity and a regal consideration 
for his friends. But after all, this son of the gods is befooled by 
a woman, a sinuous and transcendently ambitious Roman belle, 
the second wife of the dull and trustful prefect of Capua ; for 
this tiny woman had all men in her net whom she found it useful 
to have there. 

"The daughter of the prefect — hard, homely-featured, and hat- 
ing the supple stepmother with an unspeakable hate, tearing her 
beauty at last like a tigress and so causing her death — is a repul- 
sive but very strong figure. The two brothers who range them- 
selves on opposite sides in the servile war make another unforget- 
table picture ; and the beautiful slave Brenna, who follows her 
noble lover into camp, is a spark of light against the lurid back- 
ground. The servile movement is combined with the bold plans 
of the Thracian Spartacus. He is a good fip^ure and perpetually 
surprises us with his keen foresight and disciplinary power. 

"The book is stirring, realistic in the even German way, and 
full of the fibre and breath of its century. " Boston Ev*g Transcript,