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Full text of "The Venetians : a novel"

XI E) RARY 

OF THE 

UNIVLRSITY 

Of ILLINOIS 

82.3 
v.av 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2009 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/venetiansnovel02brad 



THE VENETIANS 



BY THE AUTHOR OF 

"LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET," "VIXEN," 
"ISKMAEL," Etc. 



IN THBEE VOLUMES 
VOL. EL 



LONDON 

SIMPKIN, MAESHALL, HAMILTON, E:ENT &^C0. 

STATIONEBS' HALL COURT 

1892 

lAll rights reserved] 



LONDON • 

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 



2^3 

V.2 



CONTEXTS OF VOL. II, 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. " Oke Thread in Life "^vorth spixxiyG" ... 1 

II. "One born to love tou, Sweet" ... 41 

III. "The Tdie of Lovers is brief" ... ... 53 

IV. As A Spirit from Dream to Dream ... 69 
V. "Love should be Absolute Love" ... 89 

VI. To LIVE forgotten and love forlorn... 123 

VII. "She was 3iore fair than Words can sat" 159 

VIII. " The Shadow passeth when" the Tree shall 

FALL" 186 

IX. " He said, ' She has a Lovely Face ' " 203 

X. Peggy's Chance ... ... ... ... 242 



THE VENETIANS. 



CHAPTER I. 



"'ONE THREAD IX LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 



Vansittart's heart was lighter than it had been 
for a long time, the day he left Charles Street 
for Waterloo on his way to Haslemere. He 
longed to see Eve Marchant, with all a lover's 
longing, and he told himself that he had tested 
his own heart severely enough by an absence of 
three months, and that he had now only to 
discover whether the lady's heart was in any 
way responsive to his own. He knew now that 
his love for Eve Marchant was no passing fancy, 
no fever of the moment ; and he also told himself 
that if he could be fairly assured of her worthi- 
VOL. II. a 



2 THE VENETIANS. 

ness to be bis wife, be would lose no time in offer- 
ing bimself as ber busband. Of ber fatber's 
cbaracter, wbatever it migbt be, of ber present 
surroundings, bowever sordid and sbabby, be 
would take no beed. He would ask only if sbe 
were pure and true and frank and bonest enougli 
for an bonest man's wife. Convinced on tbat 
point, be would ask no more. 

An bonest man's wife ? Was be wbo exacted 
absolute trutb in ber verily an bonest man? 
Was be going to give ber trutb in excbange for 
trutb? Was tbere notbing tbat be must needs 
bold back ; no secret fc bis past life tbat be 
must keep till bis life's end? Yes, tbere was 
one secret. He was not going to tell ber of bis 
Venetian adventure. It would grieve ber 
woman's beart too mucb to know tbat tbe man 
sbe loved bad to bear tbe burden of anotber 
man's blood. Nay, more, witb a woman's want 
of logic sbe migbt deem tbat impulse of a 
moment murder, and migbt refuse to give berself 
to a man wbo bore tbat stain upon bis past. 

He meant to keep bis secret. He could trust 
Lisa not to betray bim. Sbe and ber kinswoman 
bad pledged tbemselves to silence; and over 



'' ONE THEE AD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 3 

:and above tlie obligation of that promise he had 
bound them both to him by his services, had 
made their lives in some wise dependent on his 
own welfare. No, he had no fear of treachery 
from them. Nor had he any fear of what the 
chances of time and change might bring upon 
him from any other belongings of the dead man 
— so evidently had his been one of those isolated 
existences which drop out of life unlamented 
and unremembered. He was safe on all sides, 
he told himself ; and the one lie in his life, the 
He which he began when he told his mother 
that he had not been to Venice, must be main- 
tained steadily, whatever conscience might urge 
against it. 

Easter came late this year, and April, the 
^unny, the showery, the capricious, was flinging 
her restless lights and shadows over the meadows 
and copses as he drove from the station. He 
had to pass Fern hurst on his way to Kedwold 
Towers, and it was yet early in the afternoon as 
he drove past the quaint little cottage post- 
ofiSce in the dip of the hill, the tiny grave- 
yard on the higher ground, the church and 
parsonage. It was early enough for afternoon- 



4 THE VENETIANS. 

tea, and he had no need to hurry to Eedwold, 
His sister had sent a groom with a dog-cart 
instead of coming to meet him in her capacious 
landau, a lack of attention for which he thanked 
her heartily, since it left him his own master. 
He would have been less than human if he had 
not stopped at the Homestead, and being in hi& 
present frame of mind very human, he pulled up 
the eager homeward-going horse at the little 
wooden gate, and flung the reins to the groom. 

" I am going to make a call here ; wait B.Ye 
minutes, and if I am not out by that time take 
the horse to the inn and put him up for an 
hour." 

" Yes, sir." 

How lightly his feet mounted the steep garden 
path between the trim box borders. There were 
plenty of flowers in the garden now — sweet- 
smelling hyacinths, vivid scarlet tulips with wide 
open chalices, half full of rain; a snowy mes- 
philus flinging about its frail white blooms 
in the soft west wind; a crimson rhododondron 
making a blaze of colour. 

The long, low cottage, with its massive porch, 
was covered with flowering creepers, yellow 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 5 

jasmine, pale pink japonica, scented white honey- 
suckle. The cottage looked like a bower, and 
seemed to smile at him as he went up the path. 
He had a childish fancy that he would rather 
live in that cottage with Eve for his wife than 
at Merewood, which was one of the prettiest and 
most convenient houses of moderate size in all 
Hampshire. What dwelling could ever be so 
dear as this quaint old cottage, bent under the 
burden of its disproportionate thatch, with lattice 
windows peeping out at odd levels, and with 
dormers like gigantic eyes under overhanging 
brows. 

She was at home, everybody was at home, 
even that rare bird of undomestic habits, the 
Colonel. They were all at tea in their one 
spacious parlour — windows open, and all the 
perfume of flowers and growing hedgerows and 
budding trees blowing into the room. 

Colonel Marchant welcomed him with marked 
cordiality. The girls were evidently pleased at 
his coming. 

" How good of you to call on us on your way 
from the station," said Sophy. '' Lady Hartley 
told us you were to be met by the afternoon train." 



6 THE VENETIANS. 

Lo, a miracle ! The five IMiss Marcliants were 
all dressed alike — severely, in darkest blue 
serge. The red Garibaldis, the yellow and brown 
stripes, the scarlet, the magenta, the Keckitt's 
blue, which had made their sitting-room a feast 
of crude colour, had all vanished. Severe in 
darkest serge, with neat white linen collars, the 
Miss Marchants stood before him, a family to 
whose attire the most fastidious critic could take 
no objection. 

Eve was the most silent of the sisters, but 
she had blushed vividly at his advent, and she 
was blushing still. She blushed at every word 
he addressed to her, and seemed to find a painful 
difiiculty in managing the teapot and cups and 
saucers when she resumed her post at the tea- 
tray. 

Vansittart asked them for the news of the 
neighbourhood. How had they managed to 
amuse themselves after the frost, when there was 
no more skating ? 

"We were awfully sorry," said Sophy, "but 
the hunting men were awfully glad." 

*^ And had you any more balls ? " 

" No public ball — but there were a good many 



" ONE THREAD IX LIFE WOETH SPIN'XING." 7 

dances," with half a sigh. '* Lady Hartley gave 
one just before Lent, the only one to which we 
were invited, and I am happy to say it was out 
and away the best." 

"Lady Hartley has been more than kind to 
us/' said Eve, finding speech at last. "She is 
the most perfectly charming woman I ^ever met. 
You must be very 'proud of such a sister." 

"I am proud to know that you like her," 
answered Vansittart, in a low voice. 

He was sitting at her elbow, helping her by 
handing the cups and saucers, and very conscious 
that her hand trembled when it touched his. 

" My daughter is right," said the Colonel, with 
a majestic air ; " Lady Hartley is the one lady 
in this neighbourhood — the one womanly woman. 
She saw my girls snubbed or ignored, and she has 
made it her business to convince her neighbours 
that they are a little too good for such treat- 
ment. Other people have been very ready to 
follow her lead." 

*' Oh, but it's not for that we cave. It is Lady 
Hartley's friendship we value, not her influence 
on other people," protested Eve eagerly. 

"We are going to Eedwold to-morrow after- 



8 THE VENETIANS. 

noon," said Jenny ; " but I don't suppose we shall 
see you, Mr. Vansittart. You will be shooting, 
or fishing, or something." 

" Shooting there is none, Miss Vansittart. The 
pheasants are a free and unfettered company in 
the copses, among the primroses and dog-violets. 
Man is no longer their enemy. And I never felt 
the angler's passion since I fished for stickle- 
backs in the shrubbery at home." 

The Colonel chimed in at this point, as if 
thinking the conversation too childish. 

He begau to discuss the political situation — 
the chances of a by-election which was to come 
on directly after Easter. He expressed himself 
with the ferocity of an old-fashioned Tory. He 
would give no quarter to the enemy. He had 
just returned from Paris, he told Vansittart, and 
had seen what it was to live under a mob- 
ocracy. 

"They have been obliged to shut up one of 
their theatres — cut short the run of the finest 
play that has been produced in the last decade^ 
simply because their sans culottes object to any 
disparagement of Kobespierre. There are a 
dozen incipient Eobespierres in Paris at this 



" ONE THEEAD IN LIFE WOKTH SPINNING." 9 

ilay, I believe, only waiting for opportunity to 
burst into full bloom." 

He had been to Paris, then, thought Vansittart. 
He could afford to take his pleasure in that 
holiday capital, while his daughters were kept on 
short commons at Fernhnrst. 

" Was Paris very full ? " asked Vansittart. 

'' I don't know about that. I met a good many 
people I know. One meets more Englishmen than 
Parisians on the boulevards at this season. April 
is the Englishman's month. Tour neighbour, 
Mr. Sefton, was at the Continental — in point of 
fact, he and I went to Paris together." 

This explained matters to Vansittart. Xo 
■doubt Sefton paid the bills for both travellers. 

" Mr. Sefton is not a neighbour of mine, but of 
my sister's," he said. " My father and his father 
were^good friends before I was born, but I know- 
nothing of this gentleman." 

'• A mutual loss," replied the Colonel. '^ Sefton 
is a very fine fellow, as I told you the last time 
you were here. You can hardly fail to get on 
with him when you do make his acquaintance." 

" I saw him at the hunt ball, and 1 must con- 
fess that I was not favourably impressed by his 
manner." 



10 THE VENETIANS. 

"Sefton's manner is the worst part of him," 
conceded Colonel Marchant. "He has been 
spoilt by Dame Fortune, and is inclined to be 
arrogant. An only child, brought up in the 
assurance of future wealth, and taught by a very 
foolish mother to believe that a landed estate 
and a fine income constitute a kind of royalty. 
Sefton might easily be a worse fellow than he is. 
For my own part, I cannot speak too warmly of 
him. He has been a capital neighbour, the best 
neighbour we had, until Lady Hartley was good 
enough to take a fancy to my girls." 

" I hope you don't compare Lady Hartley with 
Mr. Sefton, father," cried the impulsive Hetty. 
"There is more kindness in a cup of tea from 
Lady Hartley than in all the game, and fruit, and 
trout, and things with which Mr. Sefton loads us." 

"They are enthusiasts, these girls of mine," 
said the Colonel, blandly. " Lady Hartley has 
made them her creatures." 

" Her name reminds me that I must be moving 
on," said Vansittart. " I hope you will all for- 
give this invasion. I was anxious to learn how 
you all were. It seems a long time since I was 
in this part of the world." 



"ONE THREAD IX LIFE WORTH SPIXXING." 11 

" It is a long time," said Eve, almost involun- 
tarily. 

Those few words rejoiced his heart. They 
sounded like a confession that she had missed 
him and reo:retted him, siuce those lonsr friendlv 
walks and talks in the clear cold January after- 
noons. He had never in all their conversation 
spoken to her in the words of a lover, but he had 
shown her that he liked her society, and it might 
be that she had thought him cold and cowardly 
when he left her without any token of warmer 
feeling than this casual friendship of the roads, 
lanes, and family tea-table. To go away, and 
stay away for three months, and make no sign I 
A cruel treatment, if, if, in those few familiar 
hours, he had touched her girlish heart by the 
magnetic power of his unacknowledged love. 

He left the Homestead happy in the thought 
that she was not indifferent to the fact of his 
existence; that he was something more to her 
than a casual acquaintance. 

He was to see her next day : and it would be 
his own fault if he did not see her the day after 
that ; and the next, and the next ; until the 
solemn question had been asked, and the low- 



12 THE VENETIANS. 

breathed answer had been given, and she was his 
own for ever. All was in his own hand now. 
He had but to satisfy himself upon one point — 
her acquaintance with Sefton, what it meant, 
and how far it had gone — and then the rest 
was peace, the perfect peace of happy and con- 
fiding love. 

He w^as unfilial enough to be glad that his 
mother was not at Redwold. There would be no 
restraining influence, no maternal arm stretched 
out to pluck him from his fate. He would be 
free to fulfil his destiny; and when the fair 
young bride was won, it would be easy for her to 
win her own way into that loving, motherly heart. 
Mrs. Vansittart was not a woman to withhold her 
affection from her son's wife. 

Lady Hartley appeared in the portico as the 
cart drove up to the door, 

" What a fright you have given me ! " she said. 
** Did anything happen to the train ? " 

" Nothing but what usually happens to trains." 

" But you are an hour late." 

*' I called on Colonel Marchant on my w^ay. It 
never occurred to me that you could be uneasy 
on my account, or, of course, I should have come 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING/' 1C> 

on straight. I am very sorry, my dear Maud,"^ 
he concluded, as he kissed her in the hall. 

" You are not cured of your infatuation, Jack.'* 

" Not cured, or likely to be cured, in your way. 
I have heard nothing but your praises, ]Maud, 
You seem to have been a kind of fairy godmother 
to those motherless girls." 

" Have I not ? How did you like their appear- 
ance ? Did you see any improvement ? " 

"A monstrous improvement. They were all 
neatly dressed, and in one colour." 

" That was all my doing, Jack." 

" Really ! But how did you manage it, without 
wounding their feelings ? " 

*' My tact, Jack, my exquisite tact," cried ^laud, 

gaily. 

They were in her morning-room by this time, 
and Vansittart sank into a low armchair, pre- 
pared to hear all she had to tell. Maud had 
generally a great deal to say to her brother after 
an interval of severance. 

"I'll tell you all about it," she began. "It 
grieved me to see those poor girls in their coats 
of many colours, or rathei in their assemblage of 
colours among the five sisters, so I felt I must do 



14 THE VENETIANS. 

sometliing. I was always looking at them, and 
thinking how much better I could dress them 
than they dressed themselves, and quite as 
•economically, mark you. So one day I said 
casually that I thought sisters — youthful sisters 
understood — looked to particular advantage when 
they were all dressed exactly alike, whereupon 
Eve, who is candour itself" — Yansittart's heart 
thrilled at this praise — " declared herself entirely 
of my opinion, but she explained that she and 
her sisters had very little money to dress upon, 
and they were all great bargain-hunters, and 
could get most wonderful bargains in stuffs and 
silks for their frocks at the great drapery sales, 
if they were not particular in their choice of 
colours. * And that is how we always look like a 
ragged regiment,' said Eve, ' but we certainly get 
good value for our poor little scraps of money.' " 

"A girl who ought to be dressed like a 
duchess," sighed Vansittart. 

"Well, on this I read her one of my lay 
sermons. I told her that so far from getting 
good value for her money, she got very bad value 
for her money ; that she and her sisters, in their 
thirst for stuff at a shilling a yard, reduced from 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 15 

three and sixpence, made themselves in a manner 
queens of shreds and patches. She was very 
ready to admit the force of my reasoning, poor 
child. And then she pleaded that her sisters 
were so young — they had no control over their 
feelings when they found themselves in a great 
drapery show. It seemed a kind of fairyland, 
where things were being given away. And then 
such a scramble, she tells me, women almost 
fighting with each other for eligible bits of stuff 
and last season's finery. I told her that I had 
hardly ever seen the inside of a big shop, and 
that I hated shopping. 'What,' she cried, 
' you who are rich ! I thought you would enjoy 
it above all things.' I told her no ; that Lewis 
or Kedfern sent me one of his people, and I chose 
my gown from his pattern book, and his fitter 
came and tried it on, and I had no more trouble 
about it ; or that I went to my dressmaker, and 
just looked over her newest things in a quiet 
drawing-room, without any of the distracting 
bustle of a great shop." 

" My sweetest Maud, what a dear little snob 
she must have thought you." 

"I don't think she did. She seemed pleased 



16 THE VENETIANS. 

to know my ways. And then I told her that I 
should like to see her and her sisters all dressed 
alike, in one of my favourite colours ; and then I 
told her that I knew of a most meritorious family 
— invented that moment — who were going to 
Australia, and whom I wanted to help. *In a 
colony, those bright colours your sisters wear 
would be most suitable,' I said. * Will you make 
an exchange with me— just in a friendly way — 
give me as many of your bright gowns as you 
can spare, and I will give you a piece of good 
serge and a piece of the very best cloth in 
exchange ? '" 

" Did she stand that ? " asked Yansittart. 

"Not very well. She looked at me for a 
moment or two, blushed furiously, and then got 
up and walked to the window, and stood there 
with her back towards me. I knew that she was 
crying. I went over to her and put my arm 
round her neck and kissed her as if she had been 
my own kith and kin. I begged her to forgive 
me if I had offended. * I really want to help 
those poor girls who are going to Melbourne,' 
I said ; ' and your bargains would be just the 
thino" for them. They could get nothing half as 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 17 

good for the same money.' I felt ashamed of 
myself the next moment. I had lied so well 
that she believed me." 

" Never mind, Maud ; the motive was virtuous " 
" * No, they couldn't,' she said ; * not till next 
July. The sales are all over.' And tnen, after 
a little more argument, she yielded, and it was 
agreed that I should drive over to the Home- 
stead next morning, and she and her sisters and 
I would hold a review of their frocks and furbe- 
lows, and whatever was suitable for my Australian 
emigrants I should take from them, giving them 
fair value in exchange. Eve stipulated that it 
should be only fair value. Well, the review was 
capital fun. The girls were charming — evidently 
proud of their finery, expatiating upon the 
miraculous cheapness of this and that, and the 
genuineness of the sales at the best houses. 
They had sales on the brain, I think. Of course 
I left them all the gay frocks suitable for home 
evenings ; but I swooped like a vulture on their 
outdoor finery. I had taken a large portmanteau 
over with me, and it was crammed as full as it 
would hold with frocks and fichus and Zouave 
jackets for my Australians. I am sorry to say 

VOL. II. c 



18 THE VENETIANS. 

the portmanteau is still upstairs in tlie box-room. 
And now, Jack, you know the history of the 
serge frocks." 

"You are a dear little diplomatist; but I'm 
afraid you must have made Miss Marchant suffer 
a good deal before your transmutation was 
accomplished." 

" My dear Jack, that girl is destined for suffer- 
ing — of that kind ; small social stings, the sense 
of the contrast between her surroundings and 
those of other girls no better born, only better off." 

" She will marry and forget these evil days," 
said Vansittart. 

" Let us hope so ; but let us hope that she 
will not marry you." 

" Why should you — or any one — hope that ? " 

" Because it ain't good enough. Jack ; believe 
me, it ain't. She is a very sweet girl — but her 
father's character is the very opposite of sweet. 
Hubert has made inquiries, and has been told, by 
men on whose good faith he can rely, that the 
Colonel is a black-leg ; that there is hardly any 
dishonourable act that a man can do, short of 
felony, which Colonel Marchant has not done. 
He is well known in London, where he spends 



"ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 19 

the greater part of his time. He is a hanger-on 
of rich young men. He shows them life. He 
wins their money — and like that other hanger-on, 
the leech, he drops away from them when he is 
gorged and they are empty. Can you choose the 
daughter of such a man for your wife ? " 

" I can, and do choose her, above all other 
women ; and if she is, in herself, as pure and true 
as I believe her to be, I shall ask her to be my 
wife. The more disreputable her father, the more 
it shall be my glory and delight to take her away 
from him " 

"And when her father is your father-in-law 
how will you deal with him ? " 

" Leave that social problem to me. I am not 
an idiot, or a youth fresh from the University. I 
shall know how to meet the difficulty." 

" You will not have that man at Merewood, 
Jack," cried Maud, excitedly, " to loaf about my 
mother's garden — the garden that is hers now — 
and to play cards in my mother's drawing-room ? " 

" You are running on very fast, Maud. No ; if I 
marry Eve Marchant be assured I shall not keep 
open house for her father. He has not been so 
good a father as to make his claim indisputable." 



20 THE VENETIANS. 

" Such a marriage will break mother's heart," 
sighed Maud. 

"You know better than that, Maud! You 
know that only a disreputable marriage would 
seriously distress my mother, and there can be 
nothing disreputable in a marriage with a good 
and pure-minded girl. I promise you that I will 
not offer myself to Eve Marchant until I feel 
assured of her perfect truth. There is only one 
point upon which I have the shadow of a doubt. 
It seemed to me, from certain trifling indications, 
that there had been some kind of flirtation be- 
tween her and Sefton." 

" I cannot quite make that out. Jack," answered 
Maud, thoughtfully. '* I have seen them together 
several times since you left. There is certainly 
something, on his side. He pursues her in a 
manner — contrives to place himself near her at 
every opportunity, and puts on a confidential air 
when he talks to her. I have watched them 
closely in her interest, for I really am fond of her 
in any capacity: except as a sister-in-law. I 
don't think she encourages him. Indeed I be- 
lieve she dislikes him ; but she is not as stand- 
offish as she might be ; and I have seen her 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 21 

occasionally talking very confidentially with him 
— as if they had a secret understanding." 

" That's it," cried Vansittart, inwardly raging. 
" There is a secret, and I must be possessed of 
that secret before I confess my love." 

"And how do you propose to pluck out the 
heart of the mystery ? " 

" In the simplest manner — by questioning Eve 
herself. If she is the woman I think her she 
will answer me truthfully. If she is false and 
shifty — why then — I whistle her down the wind, 
and you will never hear more of this fond dream 
of mine." 

** Well, Jack, you must go your own way. 
You were always my master, and I can't pretend 
to master you now. You'll have an opportunity 
of seeing Eve and Mr. Sefton to-morrow. He is 
coming to my afternoon. I hope you'll be civil 
to him." 

" As civil as I can. I'll break no bounds, 
Maud ; but I believe the man to be a scoundrel. 
If he were pursuing Eve with any good motive 
he would have spoken out before now." 

" Precisely my view of the case. It is shame- 
ful to compromise her by motiveless attentions. 



22 THE VENETIANS. 

There goes the gong. I am glad we have had 
this quiet talk. You will not act precipitately, 
will you, Jack ? " concluded his sister, appealingly, 
as she moved towards the door. 

" I will act as I have said, Maud, not other- 
wise." 

" Well," with a sigh, " I believe she will come 
through the ordeal, and that I am destined to 
have her for my sister." 

" You have made her love you already. That 
leaves less work for you in the future." 

" Poor mother ! She will be wofully disap- 
pointed." 

" True," said Vansittart ; " but as I couldn t 
marry all her protegees, perhaps it is just as well 
I should marry none of them ; and be assured I 
should not love Eve Marchant if I didn't believe 
that she would be a good and loving daughter to 
my mother." 

" Every lover believes as much. It is all 
nonsense," said Maud, as she ran off to her 
dressing-room. 

Mr. Sefton made an early appearance at Lady 
Hartley's afternoon. He arrived before the Mar- 
chants, and when there were only about a dozen 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 23 

people in the long drawing-room, and Vansittart 
guessed by the way he hung about the windows 
that looked towards the drive that he was on the 
watch for the coming of the sisters. 

Lady Hartley introduced her brother to Mr. 
Sefton, with the respect due to the owner of one 
of the finest estates in the county, a man of old 
family and aristocratic connections. Sefton was 
particularly cordial, and began to make conversa- 
tion in the most amiable way, a man not renowned 
for making himself amiable to his equals. The 
Miss Marchants were announced while he and 
Vansittart were talking, and Mr. Sefton's attention 
began to wander immediately, although he con- 
tinued the discussion of hopes and fears about 
that by-election which was disturbing every 
politician's mind ; or which at any rate served 
as a subject for talk among people who had 
nothing to say to each other. 

Only two out of the three grown-up sisters 
appeared, Eve and Jenny. They had too much 
discretion to appear too often as a triplet. 

Sefton broke away from the conversation at 
the first opening, and went straight to Eve, who 
was talking to little Mr. Tivett, who arrived that 



24 THE VENETIANS. 

afternoon, no holidays being complete in a 
country house without such a man as Tivett, 
with his little thin voice, good nature, and 
willingness to fetch and carry for the weaker sex. 

Vansittart stood aloof for a little while, talk- 
ing to a comfortable matron, who was evidently 
attached to the landed interest, as her conversa- 
tion dwelt upon the weather in its relation to 
agriculture and the lambing season. He could 
see that Eve received Mr. Sefton's advances with 
coldest politeness. On her part there was no 
touch of that eagerness, that confidential air which 
had so distressed him that afternoon by the lake. 
She talked with him for a few minutes, and then 
turned away, and walked into the adjoining room, 
where the wide French window stood open to the 
garden. Vansittart seized his opportunity and 
followed her. He found her with her sister, 
looking at a pile of new books on a large table 
in a corner, and he speedily persuaded them that 
the flower-beds outside were better worth looking 
at than magazines and books which were no less 
ephemeral than the tulips and hyacinths. 

He walked up and down the terrace with them 
for nearly half an hour, but never a hint of 



'• ONE THKEAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 25 

anything more than lightest society talk gave 
he in all that time. He had made up his mind 
to speak only after gravest deliberation, only in 
the calmest hour, when they two should be alone 
together under God's quiet sky ; but he so 
managed matters that Mr. Sefton had no further 
opportunity of offering his invidious attentions 
to Eve Marchant that afternoon. It was Yan- 
sittart who found seats for her and her sister in 
the drawing-room ; it was Vansittart who carried 
their teacups, only assisted by Mr. Tivett, who 
tripped about with plates of chocolate biscuits, 
and buttered buns, with such activity as to appear 
ubiquitous. 

The next day was Good Friday, a day of long 
church services and no visitors. On Saturday 
Vansittart went to Liss to spend the day with his 
mother, and to make a tour of inspection of 
grounds and home farm, a tour which the mother 
and son took together, and during which they 
talked of many things, but not of Eve Marchant. 
If Mrs. Vansittart wondered that her son should 
have chosen to spend the recess at Eedwold 
rather than at Merewood, she was too discreet to 
express either wonder or dissatisfaction. She was 



26 THE VENETIANS. 

going to Charles Street directly after Easter, and 
Jack was to join her there for the London season ; 
so she had no ground for dolefulness in being 
deprived of his society for just this one week. 

She found him looking well, and, to her fancy, 
happier than he had looked for a long time. 
There was an old ring of gaiety in his voice and 
laugh which she had missed of late years, and 
which she heard again to-day. They lunched 
together, and she drove him to the station in the 
late afternoon. 

" It delights me to see you looking so well and 
so happy, Jack," she said, as they walked up and 
down the platform. 

" Does it, mother ? " he asked earnestly. " Is 
my happiness really enough to gladden you? 
Are you content that I should be happy in my 
own way ? " 

Her answer lingered for a little, and then she 
said gravely, " Yes, Jack, I am content, for I 
cannot believe that your way would be a foolish 
way. You have seen enough of the world to 
judge between gold and dross, and you are not 
the kind of man to plunge wilfully into a morass, 
led by false lights." 



" ONE THEEAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 27 

" No, no, mother, you may be sure of that. My 
star shall be a true star — no Jack o'Lantem.'* 

The train steamed in opportunely, and cut 
short the conversation ; but enough had been said, 
Vansittart thought, to break the ice ; and it was 
evident to him that his mother had an inkling of 
the course which events were taking. 

The next day was Easter Sunday, a day of 
gladness, a day when the morning sun is said to 
dance upon the waters ; a day when the dawn 
seems more glorious, when the flowers that deck 
the churches seem fairer than mere earthly 
flowers, when the swelling chords of the organ 
and the voices even of the village choir have a 
sweetness that suggests the heavenly chorus. 
To John Vansittart, at least, among those who 
worshipped in the village church that Easter 
Day, there seemed a gladness in all things — a 
pure and thrilling gladness as of minds attuned 
to holiness and ready to believe. He had read 
much of that new and widenino^ school of thouo^ht 
which is gradually sapping the old foundations 
and pulling down the old bulwarks; but there 
was no remembrance of that modern school in 
his mind to-day as he stood up in the village 



28 THE VENETIANS. 

church to join in the Easter hymn. His thoughts 
had resumed the simplicity of early years. He 
was able to believe and to pray like a little child. 

He prayed to be forgiven for that unpre- 
meditated sin of which the world knew not. He 
prostrated himself in heart and mind at the feet 
of the Christ who died for sinners. But he did 
not go to the Altar. The Easter Communion was 
not for him whose hands were stained with blood. 

The Marchants were at the morning service, 
all ^Ye of them, fresh and blooming after their 
long walk, a bunch of English roses, redder or 
paler as Nature had painted each. Eve, tallest, 
fairest, loveliest, was conspicuous among the 
sisters. 

" By Jove ! how handsome that girl is ! " whis- 
pered little Tivett, as he ducked to put away his 
hat. 

He and Vansittart were sitting apart from the 
rest, the Redwold pew being full without them. 

" I want to walk home with them after church," 
whispered Vansittart, also intent upon the dis- 
posal of the Sunday cylinder. " Will you come 
too?" 

" With pleasure." 



"ONE THREAD IX LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 29 

This was before the service began, before the 
priest and choir had come into the chancel. 

The service was brief, a service of jubilant 
hymns and anthem and short flowery sermon, 
flowery as the chancel and altar, and pulpit and 
font, in all their glory of arums, azaleas, spireas, 
and lilies of the valley. The church clock was 
striking twelve as the major part of the con- 
gregation poured out. There was a row of 
carriages in the road, two of them from Redwold 
Towers ; but Vansittart and Tivett declined the 
accommodation of landau or waggonette. 

" We are going for a long walk," said Mr. 
Tivett. " It's such a perfect day." 

"But you will lose your lunch, if you go 
too far." 

" We must risk that, and make amends at 
afternoon-tea." 

" Tivett," said Vansittart, when the carriages 
had driven ofi", " I am going to make a martyr of 
you. It will be three o'clock at the earliest when 
we get back to Eedwold, and I know you enjoy 
your luncheon. It's really too bad." 

" Do you think I regret the sacrifice in the 
cause of friendship ? There go the Marchant 



30 THE VENETIANS. 

girls, steaming on ahead. We had better over 
haul them at once. Don't mind me, Vansittart. 
I have been doing gooseberry ever since I wore 
Eton jackets. Only one word — Is it serious ? " 

"Very serious — sink or swim — heaven or 
Hades." 

" And all in honour ? " 

" All in honour." 

" Then I am with you to the death. You want 
a long walk and a long talk with Miss Marchant ; 
and you want me to take the whole bunch of 
sisters off your hands." 

** Just so, dear Gussie." 

" Consider it done." 

They overtook the young ladies in the dip of 
the road, just where a lane branches off to Bexley 
Hill. Here they stopped to shake hands all 
round, and to talk of the church, and the weather 
— quite the most exquisite Easter Sunday that 
any of them could remember, or could remember 
that they remembered, for no doubt memory 
severely interrogated would have recalled Easter 
Days as fair. 

" Mr. Tivett and I are pining for a long walk," 
said Vansittart, "so we are going to see you 



"ONE THREAD IN LIFE WOETH SPINNING." 31 

home — if you will let us — or, if you are not tied 
for time, will you join us in a ramble on Bexley 
Hill ? It is just the day for the hill — the view s 
will be splendid — and I know that you young 
ladies are like Atalanta. Distance cannot tire 
you ! " 

" We could hardly help being good walkers," 
said Sophy, rather discontentedly. " ^Yalking is 
our only amusement." 

Hettie and Peggy clapped their hands. 
" Bexley Hill, Bexley Hill," they cried ; " hands 
up for Bexley Hill." 

There were no hands lifted, but they all turned 
into the lane. 

"We can go a little way just to look at the 
view," assented Eve ; and the younger girls went 
skipping off in their short petticoats, and the 
two elder girls were speedily absorbed in Mr. 
Tivett's animated conversation, and Eve and 
Vansittart were walking alone. 

" A little way." Who could measure distance 
or count the minutes in such an exhilarating 
atmosphere as breathed around that wooded hill- 
side in the balmy April morning ? Every step 
seemed to take them into a purer and finer air, 



32 THE VENETIANS. 

and to lift their hearts with an increasing glad- 
ness. All around them rippled the sea of furze 
and heather, broken by patches of woodland, and 
grassy glades that were like bits stolen out of 
the New Forest, and flung down here upon this 
swelling hillside. Here and there a squatter's 
cottage, with low cob wall and steep tiled roof, 
stood snug and sheltered in its bit of garden, 
under the shadow of a venerable beech or oak — 
here and there a little knot of children sprawled 
and sunned themselves in front of a cottage door. 
The rest was silence and solitude, save for the 
voices of those rare birds which inhabit forest 
and common land. 

" Gussie," whispered Vansittart, when they had 
passed one of these humble homesteads, and 
were ascending the crest of the hill, *' do you 
think you could contrive to lose yourself — and 
the girls — for half an hour ? " 

" Of course I can. You will have to cooey 
for us when you want to see our faces again." 

This little conversation occurred in the rear of 
the five girls, who had scattered themselves over 
the hillside, every one believing in her own par- 
ticular track as the briefest and best ascent. 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 33 

Eve had climbed highest of all the sisters, by 
a path so narrow, and so hemmed in by bramble 
and hawthorn, that only one, and that one a 
dexterous climber, could mount at a time. 

Vansittart followed her desperately, pushing 
aside the brambles with his stick. He was 
breathless when he reached the top, where she 
stood lightly poised, like Mercury. The ascent, 
since he stopped to speak to Tivett, had taken 
only ten minutes or so, but when he looked round 
him and downward over the billowy furze and 
broken rugged hillside there was not one vestige 
of Augustus Tivett or the four Miss Marchants 
in view. 

" What can have become of them all ? " ques- 
tioned Eve, gazing wonderingly around. "I 
thought they were only just behind me — I heard 
them talking and laughing a few minutes ago. 
Have they sunk into the earth, or are they 
hiding behind the bushes ? " 

"Neither. They are only going round the 
other side of the hill. They will meet us on 
the top." 

"It's very silly of them," said Eve, obviously 
distressed. " There is always some folly or 

VOL. II. D 



34 THE VENETIANS. 

mischief when Hettie is one of our party. 
Peggy is ever so much more sensible." 

" Don't blame poor Hettie till you are assured 
she is in fault. I shouldn't wonder if it were 
all Tivett's doing. You must scold good little 
Tivett. I hope you don't mind being alone with 
me for a quarter of an hour. I have been long- 
ing for the chance of a little serious talk with 
you. Shall we sit down for a few minutes on 
this fine old beech trunk ? You are out of breath 
after mounting the hill." 

She was out of breath, but the hill was not 
the cause. Her colour came and went, her heart 
beat furiously. She was speechless with con- 
flicting emotions — fear, joy, wonder, self-abase- 
ment. 

They were on the ridge of the hill. In front 
of them, far away towards the south stretched 
the Sussex Downs, purple in the distance, save 
for one pale shimmering streak of light which 
meant the sea. Below them lay the Sussex 
Weald, rippling meadows, and the vivid green of 
spacious fields where the young corn showed 
emerald bright in the sun — pools and winding 
streamlets, copses and grey fallows, cottage 



" ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINNING." 35 

roofs and village spires, a world lovely enough 
for Satan to use as a lure for the tempted. 

But for Vansittart that world hardly existed. 
He had eyes, thoughts, comprehension for nothing 
but this girl who sat mutely at his side, the 
graceful throat bending a little, the soft, shy 
violet eyes looking at the ground. 

So far there had been no word of love between 
them, not one word, not one silent indication, 
such as the tender pressure of hands, or even 
the looks that tell love's story. But love was 
in the air they breathed, love held them and 
bound them each to each, and each knew the 
other's unspoken secret. 

" Miss Marchant," began Vansittart with cere- 
monious gravity, " will you forgive me if I ask 
you a few questions which may seem somewhat 
impertinent on my part ? " 

This was so different from what her trembling 
heart had 'expected that she paled as at a sudden 
danger. He was watching her intently, and was 
quick to perceive that pallor. 

" I don't think you would ask me anything 
really impertinent," she faltered. 

" Not with an impertinent motive, be assured. 



36 THE VENETIANS. 

Well, I must even risk offending you. I want 
you to tell me frankly what you think of Mr. 
Sefton." 

At this the pale cheeks flushed, and she looked 
angry. 

"I don't like him, though he is my father's 
friend, and though he is always very kind — obtru- 
sively kind. He has even offered Sophy and me 
his horses to ride — to have the exclusive use of 
two of his best hacks, if father would let us ride 
them ; but of course that was out of the question. 
We could not have accepted such a favour from 
any one." 

"Not from any one but an affianced lover," 
said Vansittart. " Do you know, Miss Marchant, 
when I first saw you and Mr. Sefton together at 
the ball I thought you must be engaged." 

" How very foolish of you." 

" He had such an air of taking possession of you, 
as if he had a superior claim to your attentions." 

" Oh, that is only Mr. Sefton's masterful way. 
He cannot forget the extent of his acres or the 
length of his pedigree." 

" But he seems — always — on such confidential 
terms with you." 



'* ONE THREAD IN LIFE WORTH SPIXNIXG." 37 

" I have known him a long time." 

** Yes, but his manner — to a looker-on — implies 
something more than friendship. Oh, Miss Mar- 
chant, forgive me if I presume to question you. 
My motive is no light one. Last January by the 
lake I saw you and that man meet, with a look 
on both sides of a preconcerted meeting. I heard, 
accidentally, some few words which Mr. Sefton 
spoke to you, while you were walking with him 
by the lake; and those words implied a secret 
understanding between you and him — something 
of deep interest of which the outer world knew 
nothing. Be frank with me, for pity's sake. 
Speak openly to me to-day, from heart to heart, 
if you never speak to me again. Is not there 
something more between you and Wilfred Sefton 
than an everyday friendship ? " -- 

*' Yes," she answered, " there is something more. 
There is a secret imderstanding — not much of a 
secret, but Mr. Sefton has taken advantage of it 
to offer me meaningless attentions which I detest, 
and which, I dare say, ill-natured people may talk 
about They would be sure to think that Mr. 
Sefton could have no serious intentions about me, 
that he was only carrying on an idle flirtation." 



38 THE VENETIANS. 

"And if he were serious — if he asked you to 
be his wife ? " 

" To live in that grand house ; to rule over all 
those acres ; to have a wafer-space on that long 
pedigree! Could Colonel Marchant's daughter 
refuse such a chance ? " 

"Would Colonel Marchant's daughter accept 

it?" 

" Not this daughter," answered Eve, gaily. " I 
might hand him on to Sophy, perhaps. Poor 
Sophy hankers after the pomps and vanities of 
this wicked world." 

Her gaiety delighted her lover. It told of an 
unburdened conscience — a heart at peace with 

itself. 

"Tell me what it was you overheard, Mr. 
Eavesdropper, that afternoon by the lake ? " she 
asked. 

" I heard him say to you, very earnestly, * It 
was a false scent, you see;' and then he expressed 
his sorrow for your disappointment." 

" You have a good memory. I, too, remember 
those words, ' It was a false scent.' It was. He 
had need to be sorry for my disappointment, for 
he had cheated me with false hopes." 



" ONE THKEAD IN LIFE WORTH SPINXIXG." 39 

'' About what ? About whom ? " 
" About my brother." 

" Your brother ? I did not know you had a 
brother." 

*' We don't talk about him in a general way. 
He has been a wanderer over the earth for many 
years. He was never with us at Fernhurst. He 
and my father had a terrible quarrel before we 
left Yorkshire — chiefly about his college debts, I 
believe. There seemed to be dreadful difficulties 
at Cambridge. My father used all his influence 
to get him out of the country, and succeeded in 
getting him a berth in the Cape Mounted Police. 
Parting with him perhaps went nearer to break 
my mother's heart than our loss of home and 
fortune." 

*•' It must have been a hard parting " 
" It was indeed hard. He went away in dis- 
grace. My father would not speak to him or 
look at him. He lived at the Yicarage during 
those last weeks before the ship sailed away with 
him to Africa. The Yicar and his wife were very 
good to him, but everj'body felt that he was 
under a cloud. I fear — I fear that he had done 
something very wrong at Cambridge — something 



40 THE VENETIANS. 

for which he might have been arrested — for he 
seemed to be in hiding at the Vicarage. And he 
left one night, and was driven over to Hull, 
where he went on board a boat bound for Ham- 
burg, and he was to sail from Hamburg for the 
Cape. My mother and I went to say good-bye 
to him that last evening, after dark ; the others 
were too young to be told anything ; they hardly 
remember him. He kissed us, and cried over us, 
and promised mother that for her sake he would 
try to do well — that he would bear the hardest 
life in order to redeem his character. He pro- 
mised that he would write to her by every mail. 
The dog-cart was at the door while he was saying 
this. The Vicar came into the room to hurry 
him away. I have never seen him since that 
night." 



( 41 ) 



CHAPTER 11. 

" ONE BORX TO LOVE YOU, SWEET." 

** And Mr. Sefton," asked Yansittart, ••' what has 
he to do with this ? " 

"He was with my brother at Cambridge — in 
the same year, at the same college, Trinity. It 
was not till the year before last that he ever 
spoke to me about Harold, or that I knew they 
had been friends. But one summer afternoon 
"when he called and happened to find me in the 
garden, alone — a thing that seldom happens in 
our family — he began to talk to me, very kindly, 
with a great deal of good feeling, about Harold. 
He said he had been slow to speak about him, as 
he knew that he must be in some measure under 
a cloud. And then I told him how unhappy I 
was about my poor brother ; and how it was four 
or five years since anything had been heard of 
him directly or indirectly. His last letter had 



42 THE VENETIANS. 

told US that he was going to join a party of young 
men who were just setting out upon an exploring 
tour in the Mashona country. They were willing 
to take him with them on very easy terms, as he 
was a fine shot, and strong and active. He would 
be little better than a servant in the expedition, 
he told me." 

" It was to you he wrote, then ? " 

"Yes, after my mother's death, only to me. 
He never wrote to his father. I told Mr. Sefton 
how unhappy I was about Harold, and my fear — 
a growing fear — that he must be dead. He 
argued me out of this terror, and told me that 
when a man who was leading a wild life far away 
from home once became neglectful of his home 
obligations and let a long time slip without 
writing, the probabilities were that he would 
leave off writing altogether. His experience had 
shown him that this was almost a certainty. And 
then, seeing how distressed I was, he promised 
that he would try and find out Harold's where- 
abouts. He told me that the newspaper press 
and the electric cable had made the world a very 
small world, and that he certainly ought to be 
able to trace my brother's wanderings, and bring 
me some information about him." 



*'OXE BOEX TO LOVE YOU, SWEET." 4a 

" And did he succeed ? " 

" No ; lie failed always in getting any certain 
knowledge of Harold's wanderings, though he did 
bring me some scraps of information about his- 
adventures in Mashonaland; but that was all 
news of past weeks — ever so long ago. He could 
hear nothing about Harold in the present — not 
within the last four years — so there was very 
little comfort in his discoveries. Last November 
he told me that he had heard of a man at the 
diamond fields whose description seemed exactly 
to fit my brother, and he thought this time he 
was on the right track. He wrote to an agent 
at Cape Town, and took every means of putting 
himself in communication with this man — both 
through the agent and by advertisements in the 
local papers — and the result was disappointment. 
There was no Harold 3Iarchant among the 
diamond-seekers. That was what he had to tell 
me the afternoon you overheard our conversation. 
He had received the final letter which assured 
him he had been mistaken." 

" And that was all — and verily all ? " inquired 
Vansittart, taking her hand in his. 

" That was all, and verilv all." 



44 THE VENETIANS. 

"And beyond that association, Mr. Sefton is 
nothing in the world to you ? " 

" Nothing in the world." 

"And if there were some one else, quite as 
willing as Mr. Sefton, to hunt for this wandering 
brother of yours, some one else who loves you 
fondly " — his arm was round her now, and he 
was drawing her towards him, drawing the lovely 
blushing cheek against his own, drawing the 
slender form so near that he could hear the beat- 
ing of her heart — " some one else who longs to 
have you for his wife, would you listen to him. 
Eve ? And if that some one else were I, would 
you say * Yes' ? " 

She turned to answer him, but her lips 
trembled and were mute. There was no need of 
speech between lovers whose very life breathed 
love. His lips met hers, and took his answer 
there. 

"Dearest, dearest, dearest," he sighed, when 
that long kiss had sealed the bond ; and then 
they sat in silence, hand clasped in hand, in the 
face of the Sussex Weald, and the far-reaching 
Sussex Downs, and the silvery shimmer of the 
distant sea. 



"ONE BORN TO LOVE YOU, SWEET." 45 

Oh, Easter Day of deep content! Would 
either of these two souls ever know such perfect 
bliss again — the bliss of loving and being loved, 
while love was still a new thing ? 

A shrill long cooey broke the silent spell, and 
they both started up as if awakened out of 
deepest slumber. 

" They are looking for us,"' cried Eve, as she 
walked swiftly towards the other side of the ridge. 

Tivett and the four girls came toiling towards 
her. 

" Mr. Tivett has taken us a most awful round," 
cried Hetty. " He pretended to know the way, 
and he doesn't know it one little bit." 

" My dear young lady," apologized the gentle 
Tivett, " the truth of the matter is that I trusted 
to my natural genius for topography, for I have 
never been on Bexley Hill before." 

" And you pretended to pilot us, and have only 
led us astray." 

" Alas ! sweet child, the world is full of such 
pilots." 

"Shall I tell them?" whispered Yansittart, at 
Eve's ear. 

" If you like. They will make a dreadful fuss. 



46 THE VENETIANS. 

Can you ever put up with so many sisters-in- 
law?" 

"I would put up with them if you had as 
many sisters as Hypermnestra ; " and then, laugh- 
ing happily, he told these four girls that they 
were soon to have a sister less and a brother more. 

Hetty and Peggy received the news with 
whooping and clapping of hands, Sophy and 
Jenny with polite surprise. Was there ever 
anything so wonderful? Nothing could have 
been further from their thoughts. Little Mr. 
Tivett skipped and frisked like a young lamb 
in a meadow. Had Eve Marchant been his 
sister he could hardly have shown more delight. 

The descent of the hill for Eve and Vansittart 
was a progress through pure ether. They knew 
not that their feet touched the earth. They were 
like the greater gods and goddesses in the Homeric 
Olympus. They started and they arrived. The 
labour of common mortals was not for them. 

"Do you remember the legend of the blue 
flower of happiness which grows upon the 
mountain peak, and is said to fade and wither 
in the lower air ? " asked Vansittart, close at his 
fiancee's ear. " We have found the blue flower 



"ONE BORN TO LOVE YOU, SWEET." 47 

on the hilltop, Eve. God grant that for us the 
heaven-born blossom will keep its bloom even on 
the dull level of daily life." 

"Will our life be dull?" she questioned, in 
her shy sweet voice, as if she scarcely dared 
speak of her love louder than in a whisper. " I 
don't think I can ever find life dull so long as 
you really care for me." 

" No, Eve, life shall not be dull. It shall be 
as bright and varied, and as full of change and 
gladness, as devoted love can make it. Your 
youth has not been free from care, dearest ; and 
you have missed many of the pleasures which 
girls of your age demand as a right. But the 
arrears shall be made up. There shall be full 
measure of gladness in your married life, if I can 
make you glad. I am not what the modern 
world calls a rich man ; but I am very far from 
being a poor man. I have enough for all the 
real pleasures of life — for travel, and books, and 
music, and the drama, and gracious surroundings, 
and kindly charities. The sting of poverty can 
never touch my wife." 

"It can be a very sharp sting sometimes," 
said Eve; and then, dropping again into that 



48 THE VENETIANS. 

shy undertone, "But if you were ever so poor, 
and if you were a working man, and we had 
to live in that cottage under the beech tree, 
squatters, with only a key-holding, I think I 
could be perfectly happy." 

"Ah, that is what love always thinks, while 
the blue flower blooms; but when that mystic 
flower begins to fade there is some virtue in 
pleasant surroundings. Years hence, when you 
begin to be tired of me, and the blue flower 
takes a greyish shade, why, we can change the 
scene of our lives, wander far away, and in a 
new world I shall seem almost a new lover." 

" Will you ever take me to Italy ? " she asked. 
"Italy has been the dream of my life, but I 
never thought it would be realized." 

"Ah, that is just a girl's fancy, fed by old- 
fashioned poets — Byron, for instance. The Italy 
of to-day is very disappointing, and just like 
everywhere else." 

" Oh, Mr. Yansittart ! " 

" Mr. ! " he echoed. " Henceforward I am 
John, or Jack ; very soon, my husband. Never 
again Mr., except in your letters to tradespeople 
or your orders to servants." 



"ONE BORN TO LOVE YOU, SWEET." 49 

" Am I really to call you Jack ? " 

" Eeally. It is the name by which I best know 
myself. But if you think it is too vulgar " 

" Vulgar ; it is a lovely name. Jack ! Jack ! " 

She repeated the monosyllable as if it were 
a sound of infinite music, a sound on which to 
dwell lingeringly and lovingly for its very 
sweetness. To Vansittart also the sound was 
sweet, spoken by those lips. 

Colonel Marchant received Mr. Yansittart's 
offer for his eldest daughter politely, but with 
no excess of cordiality. He had set his hope 
upon a richer marriage, had encouraged Sefton's 
visits to the Homestead, with the idea that he 
would eventually propose to Eve. He might 
not mean matrimony in the first instance, per- 
haps, though he obviously admired the young 
lady, but he would be led on and caught before 
he was aware. Colonel Marchant had implicit 
faith in his daughter's power to ward off any 
evil purpose of her admirer ; and although he 
knew Sefton's character well enough to know 
that he would not willingly marry a penniless 
girl, he trusted to the power of Eve's beauty and 

VOL. II, E 



50 THE VENETIANS. 

personal charm to bring him to the right frame 
of mind. 

He was too shrewd a campaigner, however, 
to refuse the humble sparrow in the hand for 
the goldfinch in the bush. Sefton had been 
dangling about the family for nearly two years, 
and had scrupulously abstained from any serious 
declaration ; and here was a young man of good 
birth and breeding, with a very fair estate, who 
between January and April had made up his 
mind in the manliest fashion, and was willing 
to take Eve for his wife without a sixpence, 
and to settle three hundred a year upon her 
by way of pin money. Yansittart had offered 
himself in a frank and business-like manner, 
had declared the amount of his income, and 
his anxiety to marry as soon as possible. 

'* We have nothing in this world to wait for," 
he said. 

" Except a young lady's caprice," answered the 
Colonel. " Eve will be too happy in the pleasures 
of courtship to be anxious for the final step. 
And then there will be her trousseau to prepare. 
That will take time." 

** My mother can help her in all those details," 



•*ONE BORN TO LOVE YOU, SWEET." 51 

said Vansittart, thinking that in all probability his 
mother would have to pay for as well as to choose 
the wedding finery. " We can take all that 
trouble off your hands, Colonel Marchant." 

His mother ! He had yet to tell her that his 
fate was decided — his life companion chosen. 
There had been some hint of what was coming in 
their brief talk at the railway station. 

He wrote to his mother on Sunday night, when 
his sister's household and guests were hushed in 
their first sleep ; wrote at fullest length, dwelling 
fondly upon the graces and perfections of her 
whom he had chosen ; assuring and re-assuring 
his mother that the choice was a wise one. 

" She will love you dearly, if you will let her," 
he wrote; "she will be to you as a second daughter 
— nearer to you, perhaps, than Maud can now be ; 
for, if you will have it so, our lives may be spent 
mostly together, in a triple bond of love. I 
know not what your inclination may be, but for 
my own part I see no reason why we should not 
live together as one family. Merewood is large 
enough for a much larger family than ours could 
be for years to come. Eve has been so long 
motherless that she would the more gladly 



LIBRARY 

uNiVERsmr OF luiNon 



52 THE VENETIANS. 

welcome motherly love and solicitude. Think of 
it all, mother, and act in all things as may be 
most congenial to yourself. I would ask no 
sacrifices, but I do ask you to love my wife." 

This letter written, he could lay himself down 
to rest with an unburdened spirit, could freely 
surrender himself to dreamland, knowing that his 
love would be with him in the land of shadows. 

Strange, cruel, that the scene of his dreams 
should be Venice, where he and Eve were 
wandering confusedly, now on land, now on sea, 
greatly troubled by petty disturbances, and con- 
tinually losing each other in labyrinthine streets 
and on slimy sea-washed stairs. Stranger still 
that Venice should be unlike Venice, and indeed 
unlike any place he had ever seen in his life. 

The dream was but a natural sequence of Eve's 
talk about Italy. It had hurt him that one of 
her first utterances after their betrothal should 
express her desire to visit a land whose frontier 
he would never willingly cross again. He had 
loved Italy with all his heart ; but now the image 
of Venice burnt and festered in his mind like a 
plague spot on the breast of a man in full health. 
All except that one accursed memory was peace. 



( 53 ) 



CHAPTEK III. 

"THE TIME OF LOVERS IS BRIEF." 

When a man is sole master of his estate and 
thoroughly independent of his kindred, his choice 
of a wife, if not altogether outrageous and un- 
pardonable, must needs be submissively accepted 
by his belongings. Yansittart lost not an hour 
in telling his sister and her husband that hence- 
forth they must look upon Eve March ant as a 
very close connection. 

" We shall be married at midsummer," he said, 
"so you may as well begin to think of her as a 
sister-in-law." 

Sir Hubert, who was the very essence of good 
nature, received the announcement with unalloyed 
cordiality. 

" She is a bright, frank girl, very pretty, very 
winning, and very intelligent," he said. " I con- 



54 THE VENETIANS. 

gratulate you, Jack — though naturally one would 
have wished " 

" That she were the daughter of a duke, or that 
she had half a million of money," interjected 
Vansittart. "I understand you. It is a bad 
match from a worldly point of view. I, who have 
between three and four thousand a year, should 
have stood out for other three or four thousand 
with a wife, and thus solidified my income. I 
ought at least to have tried America ; seen if the 
heiress market there would have supplied the 
proper article. Well, you see, Hubert, I am of 
too impatient a temper for that kind of thing. 
I have found the woman I can love with all my 
heart and mind, and I have lost no time in 
winning her.*' 

"You are a paladin. Jack — a troubadour — all 
that there is of the most romantic and chival- 
rous," laughed Sir Hubert. 

" She is a dear, dear girl," sighed ^Maud, "and 
I could hardly be fonder of her if she were my 
sister — but it certainly is the most disappointing 
choice you could have made." 

"Is it? Why, I might have chosen a bar- 
maid." 



••THE TIME OF LOVERS IS BRIEF." 55 

" Not you. You are not that kind of man. 
But except a barmaid — or" — with the tips of 
her lips — "a chorus girl, you could scarcely have 
done worse than this. Now, don't rage and fume, 
Jack. I tell you I think the girl herself ador- 
able — but four sisters and an impossible father! 
Qtielle corvee ! " 

'* It is a corvee that need never trouble you," 
cried Vansittart, indignantly. 

" You are extremely ungrateful. Haven't I 
been forming her for you ? " 

" She needed no forming. She has never been 
less than a lady — pure and simple and straight- 
forward — never affecting to be rich when she was 
poor — or to be smarter than her surroundings 
warranted." 

"Yes, yes, she is perfect, that is understood. 
She is the betrothed of yesterday, a stage of 
being which touches the seraphic. But what 
will you do with her father, and what will you do 
with her sisters ? " 

" Her sisters are very good girls, and 1 hope to 
treat them in a not unbrotherly fashion. As for 
her father — there, though the obligation is small, 
I grant the difficulty may be great. However, I 



56 THE VENETIANS. 

shall know how to cope with it. No miner ever 
thought to get gold without some intermixture 
of quartz. The Colonel shall be to me as the 
gold-digger's quartz. I shall get rid of him as 
speedily as I can." 

Through all that Easter week Vansittart lived 
in the blissful dream which beginneth every 
man's betrothal. At such a time as this the 
dumpiest damsel of the pug-nosed milkmaid 
type is as fair as she who brought slaughter and 
burning upon Troy; but for Vansittart's abject 
condition there was the extenuating circumstance 
of undeniable beauty, and a charm of manner 
which even village gossip had never disputed. 
The young ladies who condemned the Miss Mar- 
chants en bloc as " bad style " had been fain to 
confess that Eve had winning ways, which made 
one almost forgive her cheap boots and mended 
gloves. 

Vansittart was happy. He had promised to 
join his mother in Charles Street on the Wednes- 
day after Easter ; but he wrote to her apologeti- 
cally on Tuesday, deferring his arrival till the 
beginning of the following week — and the 



"THE TIME OF LOVERS IS BRIEF." 0( 

beginning of a week is a term so lax that it is 
sometimes made to mean Wednesday. 

He was utterly happy. His mother's letter 
received on Tuesday morning was grave and 
kindly, and in no way damped his ardour. 

" You have been so good a son to me, my dear 
Jack, that I should be hard and ungrateful if I 
murmured at your choice, although that choice 
lias serious drawbacks in surrounding circum- 
stances. You are too honest and frank and true 
yourself not to be abJe to distinguish the difference 
between realities and semblances. I do not doubt, 
therefore, that your pretty Eve is all you think 
her. She certainly is a graceful and gracious 
creature, with a refined and delicate prettiness of 
the wild rose type, which I prefer greatly to the 
azalea or the camel ia order of beauty. She 
cannot fail to love you — nor can she fail to be 
deeply grateful to you for having rescued her 
from shabby surroundings and a neglectful father. 
God grant that this step which you have taken 
— the most solemn act in a man's life — may 
bring you the happiness which the marriage of 
true minds must always bring." 

There was much more, the outpouring of a 



58 THE VENETIANS. 

mother's love, which ran away with the mother's 
pen, and covered three sheets of paper ; but even 
this long letter did not suffice without a postscript. 

"P.S. — Miss Marchant spoke to me — inciden- 
tally — of a brother, and from her evident em- 
barrassment I fear that the brother is as 
undesirable a connection as the father. It would 
be well that you should know all that is to be 
known about him before he is your brother-in- 
law ; so as to avoid unpleasant surprises in the 
future." 

Happily the idea of this brother's existence 
was already familiar. In their very first ramble 
together as engaged lovers Eve had told Van- 
sittart a great deal about her brother. She dwelt 
with the younger sister's fond admiration upon 
his youthful gifts, which seemed to be chiefly of 
the athletic order ; his riding, his shooting, his 
rowing, his running : in all which exercises he 
appeared to have excelled. At Cambridge his 
chief sins, as Eve knew them, had been tandem 
driving, riding in steeplechases, with frequent 
absences at Newmarket. Whatever darker sins 
had distinguished his college career were but 
dimly suspected by Eve. 



"THE TIME OF LOVERS IS BRIEF." 59 

"My father was very proud of him while he 
was quite a boy," Eve told her lover, " but when 
he grew up, and began to spend money, they 
were always quarrelling. Poor mother I It was 
so sad to see her between them — loving them 
both, and trying to be loyal to both; her poor 
heart torn asunder in the struggle." 

"And he was fond of you, this brother of 
yours?" questioned Yansittart, to whom such 
fondness seemed a redeeming virtue. 

" Yes, he was very fond of me ; he was always 
good to me. When there was unhappiness in 
the dinino^-room and drawino^-room — when Harold 
was what father called sulky — he used to come 
to the school-room, and sit over the fire roasting 
chestnuts all the evening. He would go without 
his dinner rather than sit down with father, and 
would have some supper brought to the school- 
room at ten o'clock, and my good old governess 
and 1 used to share his supper and wait upon 
him. What merry suppers they were ! I was 
too thoughtless to consider that his being with 
us meant bad blood between him and father, and 
unhappiness for my poor mother. She used to 
look in at the school-room door sometimes, and 



60 THE VENETIANS. 

shake her head, and call us naughty children ; 
but I know it was a relief to her to see him 
eating and drinking and laughing and talking 
with dear little Mutterchen and me. But I am 
tiring you with these cbildish reminiscences." 

"No, love; there is no detail in your past life 
so trifling that I ^vould not care to know it. 1 
want to feel as if I had known you from your 
cradle. We will go to see the old place near 
Beverley some day, if you like, and you shall 
show me the gardens where you played, the 
rooms in which you lived. One can always get 
into another man's house by a little manage- 



That Easter week was a time of loveliest 
spring weather. Even the sun and the winds 
were gracious to these happy lovers, and for them 
April put on the guise of May. Vansittart spent 
almost all his days at the Homestead, or rambling 
with the sisters, Eve and he walking side by side, 
engrossed in each other's company, as if the 
world held no one else — the sisters ahead of them 
or in the rear, as caprice dictated. 

Everv lane and thicket and hillside between 



"THE TIME OF LOVERS IS BRIEF." 61 

Fernhurst and Blackdown was explored in those 
happy wanderings ; every pathway in Verdley 
Copse was trodden by those light footsteps ; and 
Henley Hill and its old Roman village grew as 
familiar to Vansittart as Pall Mall and the clubs. 
They revelled in the primroses which carpeted 
all those woodland ways ; they found the earliest 
bluebells, and a hollow which was white as snow 
with the fairy cups of the wood anemone. 

One morning, as they were walking over the 
soft brown carpet of fir needles and withered oak 
leaves in Verdley Copse, Vansittart opened a little 
dark-blue velvet box, and showed Eve a ring — a 
half-hoop of sapphires set with brilliants. 

" I chose the colour in memory of the blue 
flower of happiness that you and I found on the 
hilltop," he said, as he put the ring on the third 
finger of his sweetheart's slender hand. *' If ever 
you are inclined to be angry with me, or to care 
for me a little less than you do now, let the 
memory of the mystical blue flower plead for me, 
Eve, and the thought of how dearly we loved each 
other that Easter Sunday years and years ago." 

She gave a faint, shuddering sigh at the image 
those words evoked. 



62 THE VENETIANS. 

" Years and years ago ! Will this day when 
we are young and happy ever be years and years 
ago ? It seems so strange ! " 

"Age is strange and death is stranger; but 
they must come, Eve. All we have to hope for 
and to pray for is that we may go on loving each 
other to the end." 

After those ramblings in the coppices and over 
the hill, there was afternoon tea at the Homestead 
— a. feast for the gods. Colonel Marchant, well 
content with the progress of affairs, had gone to 
Brighton for the volunteer review, and was not 
expected home agaiu till the end of the week ; so 
the sisters were sovereign rulers of the house, 
and afternoon tea was the order of the day. It is 
doubtful whether dinner had any part in the 
scheme of their existence at this time. The 
short-petticoated youngsters generally carried 
some hunks of currant cake in a basket, and 
these hunks were occasionally shared with the 
elder sisters, and even with Vansittart, who went 
without his luncheon day after day, scarcely 
knowing that he had missed a meal. Then they 
all tramped home in their muddy boots — for 
however blue the sky and however dry the roads 



"THE TIME OF LOVERS IS BRIEF." 63 

there was always plenty of mud in the copses — 
and then they all sat round the big loo table to 
what Hettie called a stodgy tea. Stodgy being 
interpreted meant a meal of cake and toast, and 
eggs, and bread and jam, and a succession of 
teapots. Yansittart only left the Homestead in 
time to drive back to Kedwold to dress for 
dinner. 

On the Thursday evening the Miss March ants 
who were " out " were all bidden to dinner at 
Kedwold, and were to be driven thither by that 
very fly which had broken down on the crest of 
the snowy hill. It was a grand occasion, for an 
invitation to dinner rarely found its way to the 
Homestead. Cards for garden-parties were the 
highest form of courtesy to which the Miss 
Marchants had hitherto been accustomed. And 
this dinner was to be a solemn affair, for Eve 
was to appear at it in all the importance of her 
position as Vansittart's future wife. Mrs. Yan- 
sittart was coming from London for a night or 
two in order to be present at the festivity, which 
would be in a manner Eve's formal acceptance as 
a member of the family. 

It was only on Thursday morning that Yan- 



64 THE VENETIANS. 

sittart discovered with some vexation that Mr. 
Sefton had been asked to this family dinner. Sir 
Hubert had met him, and had invited him in a 
casual way, having not the faintest idea that his 
society would be displeasing either to Eve or her 
lover. The first person Eve's eyes lighted on 
when she and her sisters entered the drawing- 
room was Mr. Sefton. He was standing near the 
door, and she had to pass him on her way to her 
hostess. He stood waiting until Lady Hartley 
turned to greet the sisters, and then at once took 
possession of Eve. 

*'I have to congratulate you. As an old 
friend I venture to congratulate you most 
warmly," he said, holding her hand, after the 
inevitable shake-hands of old acquaintances. 
"You have done wonderfully well for yourself. 
It is really a brilliant match." 

" For me, you mean," she said, looking at him 
with an angry light in her eyes. " Why don't 
you finish your sentence, Mr. Sefton, and say, 
*for you. Miss Marchant, with your disad- 
vantages ' ? " 

" I am sorry I have ofiended you." 

" I don't like to be told I have done well for 



"THE TIME OF LOVEKS IS BRIEF." 65 

myself. God has given me the love of a good 
man. If he were not Mr. Yansittart, but Mr. 
Smith with only a hundred a year, I should be 
just as happy." 

Vansittart, that moment approaching, overheard 
the familiar British patronymic. " What are you 
saying about Mr. Smith ? " he asked, remembering 
how two men, one the slain and the other the 
slayer, had hidden their identity under that name. 

" I was only talking of an imaginary Smith," 
she answered, her face lighting up as she turned 
to her lover. " There is no such person." 

"Come and look at the azaleas," said Van- 
sittart ; " they are worth a visit ; " and so, after 
the lover's fashion, he who had only parted from 
her at six o'clock took her away to the conserva- 
tory at the other end of the room, and absorbed 
her into a solitude of azaleas and orange trees. 

Mr. Sefton in the mean while was talking to 
Mrs. Yansittart, and not having done over well 
with his congratulation of the future bride now 
. occupied himseK in congratulating the elder 
lady upon the advantage of having secured so 
charming a daughter-in-law. 

" I quite agree with you," replied Mrs. Yan- 

VOL. n. F 



66 THE VENETIANS. 

sittart. " She is very pretty, and altogether 
charming. The match is not of my making, but 
I am pleased to see my son happy, and pleased 
to welcome so fair a daughter. You talk as if 
you were an old friend of the family. Have you 
known Colonel Marchant long ? " 

"Ever since he came to this neighbourhood, 
nine years ago. He has been good enough to 
accept any little shooting I have had to offer — 
and he and I have seen a good deal of each other. 
I knew his son before I knew him. Harold Mar- 
chant and I were at Trinity together." 

" Harold Marchant is dead, I conclude ? " 

" That is more than I or any of his friends cau 
tell you. He is one of that numerous family — 
the lost tribe of society — the men who have 
dropped through." 

" I don't quite follow you." 

" My dear Mrs. Vansittart, the less said about 
Harold Marchant the better. If he is dead the 
good old saying comes in — de mortuis. If he is 
alive I think the less you, or your son, or your 
daughter-in-law have to do with him the happier 
it will be for you." 

" Mr. Sefton, it is not fair to talk to me in this 



"THE TIME OF LOVERS IS BRIEF." 67 

Tague strain. I am personally interested in 
Eve's brother. What do you mean ? " 

" Only what I might mean about a good many 
young men who have lived within the walls that 
sheltered Bacon and Xewton, Whewell and 
Macaulay. Harold Marchant's career at Cam- 
bridge was a foolish career. Instead of devoting 
himself to the higher mathematics he gave 
himself up to hunting, horse-racing, and other 
amusements of even a more dangerous order. 
He had to leave the University hurriedly — he 
had to leave the country still more hastily. He 
has never within my knowledge come back to 
England. Eve is, or was, passionately attached 
to him, and to gratify* her I have taken a good 
deal of trouble in trying to find out his present 
whereabouts and mode of life ; but without avail. 
It is nearly ten years since he left this country. 
He was then two and twenty years of age. He 
was last heard of more than five years ago with 
an exploring party in Mashonaland. He is 
exactly the kind of young man one would like to 
hear of in Central Africa, and intending to stay 
there ! " 

" Poor Eve ; how sad for her ! " 



68 THE VENETIANS. 

" But that is all over now. She has a new 
love, and will soon forget her brother." 

" I do not think she is so shallow as that.*' 

" Not shallow, but intense." 

Dinner was announced at this moment, and 
Sir Hubert came to offer Mrs. Vansittart his arm. 
He was to have his mother-in-law on his right 
hand and Eve on his left, and Mr. Sefton was 
to sit by his hostess on the other side of the 
table. This ended the conversation about Harold 
Marchant, and it was not renewed after dinner. 



( 69 ) 



CHAPTER ly. 

AS A SPIKIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 

Lady Hartley, once being reconciled to the 
inevitable, was full of kindness for her brother's 
future wife. Eve had seen nothing of London 
and its gaieties, and as the Hartleys had taken 
a house in Bruton Street for the season, it seemed 
only a natural thing to take her up to town 
with them, and initiate her into some of the 
pleasures to which her future position would 
entitle her. 

" And when you are married I can present 
you," she told Eve. " It isn't worth while going 
through that ordeal till next year. You will 
have plenty to do between now and midsummer 
in getting your trousseau ready." 

Eve blushed, and was silent for a few minutes, 
and then, as she was alone with Lady Hartley in 



70 THE VENETIANS, 

the morning room at Eedwold, she took courage, 
and said — 

" I'm afraid my trousseau will be a very small 
one. I asked my father last night what 
he could do for me, and he said fifty pounds 
would be the utmost he could give me. It 
wouldn't be overmuch if I were going to marry 
a curate, would it ? " 

** My dearest Eve, fifty pounds will go a long 
way, as I shall manage things. Kemember I am 
going to be your sister, a real sister, not a sham 
one, and while we are buying the trousseau your 
purse and mine shall be one." 

"Oh, I couldn't allow that. I couldn't let 
myself sponge upon you. I would rather be 
married in white alpaca." 

" My child, you shall not be married in alpaca. 
And as for sponging upon me, well, if you are 
so mightily proud you can pay me back every 
shilling I spend for you, a year or so hence, out 
of your pin-money." 

" My pin-money," repeated Eve. " Father told 
me how generously Mr. Vansittart had offered 
to settle an income upon me — upon me who bring 
him nothing, not even a respectable trousseau." 



AS A SPIRIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 71 

*• Now, Eve, I won't hear a word more about 
the trousseau, until we are going about shopping 
together." 

**You are too kind, yet I can't help feeling 
it hard to begin by taxing yonr generosity. Isn't 
it the custom for the bride to bring the house 
linen in her trousseau ? " 

" Oh, in bourgeois families no doubt, and with 
young people just setting up in the world ; but 
Merewold is very well provided with linen. You 
can't suppose mother and Jack have lived there 
without tablecloths or dusters. There is nothing 
for you to think about. Eve, but your own pretty 
frocks, and we will think about them together. 
I adore chiffons, and shopping, and all the 
frivolities of life." 

Ten days later Eve was in London, a petted 
guest in one of the prettiest houses in Bruton 
Street. Lady Hartley had the knack of beautify- 
ing any house she lived in, even a furnished 
house, a tent that was to be shifted in less than 
three months. Huge boxes of flowers were sent 
up from Redwold every other day to decorate 
those London rooms, and not content with this 



72 THE VENETIANS. 

floral decoration, Maud Hartley was always buying 
things — china, lamps, baskets, elegant frivolities 
of all kinds, to make the hired house homelike. 

She would apologize to her husband in an airy 
way for each fresh extravagance. " That pretty 
china plaque caught my eye at Howell and 
James's while Eve and I were looking at their 
silks," she would say. 

Sir Hubert complained laughingly that if the 
Kohinoor were for sale at a London jeweller's it 
would inevitably catch Maud's eye. 

*' And her eye once caught she is hypnotized," 
said Sir Hubert. " She must buy." 

Charles Street and Bruton Street are very 
near. Vansittart could run over, as his sister 
called it, at any and every hour of the day ; and 
the result of this vicinity was that he lived more 
in his sister's house than in his mother's. But 
Mrs. Yansittart was kind, and seemed really 
pleased with her future daughter-in-law ; so when 
Jack was not in Bruton Street Eve was in Charles 
Street, at luncheon sometimes, but oftener at 
afternoon tea, and at cosy little dinners, in the 
arrangement of which Mrs. Vansittart excelled. 
She knew a great many people in London, 



AS A SPIRIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 73 

military, clerical, legal, literary, and artistic, and 
she knew how to blend her society and bring 
people together who really liked to meet each 
other. 

This world of London in the season was a new 
world to Eve Marchant; these homes in which 
the pinch of poverty, the burden of debt, had 
never been felt, had a new atmosphere. Her 
spirits, gay even in the midst of household care, 
rose in these happier circles, and she charmed 
all who met her by her spontaneous graces of 
mind and manner, her quickness to perceive, her 
ready appreciation of wit and sense in others. 

For Yansittart that month of May in the great 
city was a period of consummate happiness. The 
freshness of Eve's feelings gave a new flavour 
to the commonest things. The parks and gardens, 
the picture-galleries, the concerts and theatres 
were all new to her. Only on the rarest occa- 
sions had she been gratified by an evening in 
London and the sight of a famous actor. Her 
father had always excused himself from taking 
his daughters to any public amusements on the 
plea of poverty. 

All the Marchant girls had known of London 



74 THE VENETIANS. 

began and ended in the drapers' shops and the 
after-season sales. To travel to town by an early- 
train, third classj to tramp about all day in mud 
or dust, as the case might be, and to eat a hurried 
luncheon at some homely pastry-cook's, was the 
utmost they had known of metropolitan pleasures ; 
and even days so unluxurious had been holidays 
to them. To see the shop windows, to have the 
spending of a little money, ever so little, meant 
happiness. It was only when they had emptied 
their purses that the shadow of care descended 
upon them, and they began to doubt whether 
they had invested their pittance wisely. 

Now Eve moved about like a queen among 
people who never had to think about money. 
She was taken to see everything that was worth 
seeing ; to hear everything that was worth hear- 
ing. She saw all the picture-galleries, and learnt 
to discriminate between all the schools of modern 
art. She heard Sarasate, and HoUmann, and 
Menter, and all the great instrumentalists of her 
epoch. She never heard of cabs or omnibuses, 
or fares, or money given for tickets. She was 
carried hither and thither in a luxurious barouche 
or a snug brougham, and her place at concert 



AS A SPIRIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 75 

and play was always ready for her — one of the 
best places in the hall or the theatre. The dress- 
makers, and bootmakers, and milliners to whom 
Lady Hartley took her never talked of money ; 
indeed they seemed almost to shudder at any 
allusion to that vulgar drudge 'twixt man and 
man. The people at the tailor's were as interested 
in the gowns and coats they were to make for 
her as if they had been works of art for which 
fame would be the sole recompense. The French- 
woman who was to make her wedding-gown pooh- 
poohed the question of cost. Expensive, this 
frise velvet for the train — yes, that might be, 
but she would rather make Mademoiselle a 
present of the fabric than that, with her tall and 
graceful figure, she should wear anything com- 
monplace or insignificant. Art for art's sake was 
ostensibly the motto for all Bond Street. 

And Eve had so much to think of that she 
could not think very seriously about her trousseau. 
She let Lady Hartley order what she pleased. 
She, Eve, had her lover to think about ; and that 
was an absorbing theme. She knew his footstep 
on the pavement below the open window; she 
knew the sound of the bell when he rang it. If 



76 THE VENETIANS. 

the weather were wet, and he came from Charles 
Street in a hansom, she knew his way of throwing 
back the cab doors before the wheels stopped. 
When he was absent, all her life was made up of 
thinking about him and listening for his coming. 
In that morning hour in the drawing-room before 
he arrived she might have sat to Sir Frederick 
Leighton for " Waiting " or " Expectancy." 

It was scarcely strange that while John Yan- 
sittart was so absorbed in the new delight of his 
life, John Smith was just a little neglectful of 
his protegees in Saltero's Mansion, Chelsea. John 
Smith had, indeed, no consciousness of being 
neglectful. If the image of Lisa flashed across 
his mind in any moment of his full and happy 
day it came and went together with the com- 
fortable thought that he had done his duty to 
that young woman. She had her aunt, her bright 
and pretty home, her singing master, and all the 
delightful hopes and ambitions of an artist who 
has discovered that she has fortune within her 
reach. Had he thought of Lisa all day long, he 
could never have pictured her otherwise than 
happy and contented. 



AS A SPIEIT FEOM DEE AM TO DEE AM. 77 

He was at Covent Garden one evening with his 
sister and his betrothed, and he saw the Venetian 
amidst her troops of companions. The opera was 
William Tell, and Lisa was in short petticoats 
and Swiss bodice, with gold chains about her 
neck and arms, and gold daggers in her hair. 
She looked very pretty, amidst that hetero- 
geneous crew of young, middle-aged, and elderly. 
He was in the stalls, and at a considerable dis- 
tance from the stage, and those dark eyes did not 
find him out and fasten upon him as they had 
done that other night when he was in Lady 
Davenant's box. The sight of her reminded him 
that it was nearly a month since he had called 
upon the aunt and niece, and that she ought to 
have made some progress with her musical train- 
ing in the interval, progress enough, at any rate, 
to make the childish creature anxious to report 
herself to him. 

Eve was to be engaged at her dressmaker's 
on the following afternoon, in a solemn ordeal 
described as " trying on ; " and Vansittart had 
been warned by his sister that he must not expect 
to be favoured with her society until the evening, 
when they were all to dine in Charles Street. It 



78 THE VENETIANS. 

seemed to him that he could hardly employ this 
afternoon better than in visiting Fiordelisa and 
her aunt, who would be wounded perhaps in their 
warm southern hearts if he should seem to have 
lost all interest in their welfare. 

The day was delightful — one of those brilliant 
afternoons in May which give to West End Lon- 
don the air of an earthly paradise ; a paradise of 
smart shops and smart people, thorough-bred 
horses and newly built carriages, liveries spick 
and span from the tailor's ; flowers everywhere — 
in the carriages, in the shops, on the kerbstone — 
flowers and fine clothes and spring sunshine. 
Vansittart walked to Chelsea, glad of an excuse 
for a walk after the habitual carriage or hansom. 
He had promised to look at some pictures in Tite 
Street upon this very afternoon — pictures of that 
advanced , Belgian school whose work he would 
scarcely care to show to Miss Marchant without 
a previous inspection — so he availed himself of 
the opportunity, and called at the painter's house 
on his way to Saltero's Mansion. 

He found a room full of people, looking at 
pictures set round on easels draped with terra- 
cotta silk, criticizing freely and talking pro- 



AS A SPIRIT FEOM DREAM TO DREAM. 79 

digiously. He found himself in the midst of an 
artistic tea-party. There was a copper kettle 
singing over a spirit-lamp on a table crowded 
with Spanish irises, and there was the painter's 
young English wife, in an orange-coloured Liberty 
gown, pouring out tea, and smiling at the praises 
of her husband. 

The painter was no phlegmatic Fleming, but a 
dark-eyed, fiery son of French Flanders, fie 
came from the red country between Namur and 
Liege, and had been reared and educated in the 
latter city. 

He was standing by the largest of his pictures 
— a scene from " Manon Lescaut " — and listening^ 
to the criticisms of a little knot of people, all 
apparently ecstatic, and among these elite of the 
art-loving world Vansittart was surprised to see 
Mr. Sefton. 

Sefton turned at the sound of Vansittart's 
voice. They had met a good many times since 
Easter, and in a good many houses, for it was one 
of Sefton's attributes to be seen everywhere ; but 
Vansittart had not expected to find him at a com- 
paratively imknown painter's tea-party. 

" Delightful picture, ain't it ? " he asked care- 



80 THE VENETIANS. 

lessly. "Full of truth and feeling. How is 
Miss Marchant to-day ? I thought she looked a 
little pale and fagged at Lady Heavyside's last 
night, as if her first season were taking it out of 
her." 

'* I don't think my sister would let her do too 
much." They had drifted towards the tea-table, 
and the crowd had stranded them in a corner, 
where they could talk at their ease. "I did 
not know you were by way of being an art 
critic." 

"I am by way of being everything. I give 
myself up to sport — body and bones — all the 
winter. I let my poor little scraps of intellect 
and taste hibernate from the first of September 
till I have been at the killing of a May fox ; and 
then I turn my back upon rusticity, put on my 
frock-coat and cylinder hat, and see as much as 
I can of the world of art and letters. To that 
end I have chosen this street for my summer 
habitation." 

" You live here— in Tite Street ? " 

**Is that so surprising? Tite Street is not a 
despicable locality. We consider ourselves 
rather smart." 



AS A SPIKIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 81 

*' I should have looked for you nearer the 
clubs." 

" I am by no means devoted to the clubs. I 
like my own nest and my own newspapers. Is 
not this little bit full of colour and feeling ? " 

He turned to admire a cabinet picture on a 
draped easel — "Esmeralda and the Captain of 
the Guard," one of those pictures which Yansit- 
tart would have preferred Eve Marchant not to 
see, but over which aesthetic maids and matrons 
were expatiating rapturously. 

Vansittart did not stop to take tea, meaning to 
gratify Lisa by allowing her to entertain him 
with the mild infusion she called by that name. 
He spoke to the two or three people he knew, 
praised the pictures in very good French to the 
artist, who knew no English, and slipped out 
of the sultry room, with its odour of violets 
and tea-cake, into the fresh air blowing up the 
river from the woods and pastures of Bucks 
and Berks. 

He had not walked above half a dozen yards 
upon the Embankment when he heard the sound 
of hurrying footsteps behind him, and an un- 
gloved hand was thrust through his arm, and a 

VOL. IT. G 



82 THE VENETIANS. 

joyous voice exclaimed breathlessly, " At last ! 
You were going to see me ? I thought you had 
forgotten us altogether." 

*'That was very wrong of you, Signora," he 
answered, gently disengaging himself from the 
olive-corn plexioned hand, plump and tapering, 
albeit somewhat broad, such a hand as Titian 
painted by the score, perhaps, before he began to 
paint Cardinal Princes and great ladies. 

He did not want to walk along the Chelsea 
Embankment, in the broad glare of day, with the 
Venetian hanging affectionately upon him. That 
kind of thing might pass on the Lido, or in the 
Koyal Garden by the canal, but here the local 
colour was wanting. 

" It is ages since you have been near us," pro- 
tested Fiordelisa, poutingly. "I am sure you 
must have forgotten us." 

**Not I, Signora. Englishmen don't forget 
their friends so easily. I have been in the 
country till — till quite lately. And you — tell 
me how you have been getting on with your 
singing master." 

" He shall tell you," cried Fiordelisa, flashing 
one of her brightest looks upon him. " He 



AS A SPIKIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 83 

pretends to be monstrously pleased with me. He 
declares that in a few months, perhaps even 
sooner, he will get me an engagement at one of 
the small theatres, to sing in a comic opera. 
They will give me ever so much more money 
than I am earning at Coveny Gardeny." 

The Venetian often put a superfluous vowel at 
the end of a word, not yet having mastered those 
sternly English terminations of hard consonants. 
" The maestro is to have some of the money for 
his trouble, but that is fair, is it not ? " 

" Fair that he should take a small percentage, 
perhaps, but not more." 

" A percentage ? What is that ? " 

Vansittart explained. 

"But to sing in your English comic opera I 
must speak English ever so much better than I 
do now," pursued Lisa, " and for that I am 
working, oh, so hard. I learn grammar. I read 
story books ; 'Bootle's Baby;' the ' Vicar of Wake- 
field.' Oh, how I have laughed and cried over 
that Vicar and his ^troubles — and Olivia — Olivia 
who was so ill-used — and so happy at last." 

"Happy, with a scoundrel," exclaimed Van- 
sittart. 



84 THE VENETIANS. 

" Ah, but she loved him. One does not mind 
how much scoundrel if one loves a man." 

" A bad principle, Signorina. It is better to 
love a good man ever so little than a scoundrel 
ever so much." 

"No, no, no. It is the loving much that 
means happiness," argued Lisa, and then she 
expatiated upon her English studies. " La Zia 
and I go to the theatre when there is no per- 
formance at Coveny Gardeny. We sit in the pit, 
where the people are kind, and make room for us 
because we are foreigners. Signor Zinco says 
there is no better way of learning English than 
in listening to the actors in good plays. Oh, 
how I listen ! In three months from this day 
people will take me for an Englishwoman," she 
said finally. 

" Never, Lisa, never," he said, laughingly con- 
templative of the sparkling olive face, the great 
dark eyes with golden lights in them, the care- 
less arrangement of the coarse black hair, the 
supple figure in its plain black gown, and the 
essentially foreign and southern air which years 
of residence in England would hardly obliterate. 
** Never, Si'ora ! Your every glance is eloquent 



AS A SPIEIT FROM DREAM TO DEEAM. 85 

of Venice and her sister isles. It seems almost 
a crime to keep you captive in this sunless city 
of ours." 

" Oh, but I adore London," she exclaimed, 
"and your London is not sunless. See how the 
sun is shining on the river this afternoon ; not as 
it shines on the lagunes in 3Iay, I grant you, but 
it is a very pretty piccolo sole." 

"And la Zia," asked Yansittart ; " she is uell, 
I hope ? " 

" She is more than well. She is getting fat. 
Oh, so fat. She is as happy as the day is long. 
She loves your London, the King's Koad most of 
all. At night there are barrows, fish, vegetables, 
everything. She can do her marketing by lamp- 
light, and the streets are almost as full and as 
gay as the Merceria. La Zia was never so happy 
in all her life as she is in London. She never 
had so much to eat." 

They were near Saltero's Mansion by this time. 

" You will come in and let me make you some 
tea, won't you ? " pleaded Lisa. 

" Not this afternoon, Si'ora. I wanted to see 
you, to know that all was going well with you. 
Having done that, I must go back to the West 
End to — to keep au appointment." 



86 THE VENETIANS. 

He was thinking that possibly Eve's "trying 
on " would be finished in time for him to snatch 
half an hour's tete-a-tete in one of the Bruton 
Street drawing-rooms, before she dressed for 
dinner. There were three drawing-rooms, in a 
diminishing perspective, dwindling almost to a 
point, the third and inner room too small to serve 
any purpose but flirtation, and here the lovers 
could usually find seclusion. 

Lisa pouted and looked unhappy. 

" You might stay and take tea with me," she 
said ; " la Zia will be home soon." 

" La Zia is out, then ? " 

" Yes ; she has taken Paolo to Battersea Park 
for the afternoon. The rehearsal for the new 
opera keeps me all day long, and la Zia takes 
the boy for his daily walk ; but it is past ^ve, 
and they will be home as soon as I am, I dare 
say." 

" I will come this way again in a week or so, 
Si'ora." 

" You are very unkind," protested Lisa, in her 
impulsive way ; and then, with one of those 
sudden changes which so well became her childish 
uncultured beauty, she exclaimed, " No, no ; 



AS A SPIRIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 87 

forgive me ; you are always kind — kind, kindest 
of men. Promise you will come again soon." 

"I promise," he said, stopping short and offer- 
ing his hand. 

" Then I'll walk back just a little piece of way 
with you — only as far as the big house with the 
swans." 

Lisa's company on Cheyne Walk was an 
honour which Vansittart would have gladly 
escaped. She was too pretty and too peculiar 
looking not to attract notice ; and there was the 
tea-party in Tite Street, with its little crowd of 
worldlings, any of whom would be curious as to 
his companion, should he by chance be seen in 
this society. He did not want to be rude, for the 
lace-girl from Burano was a creature of strong 
feelings, and was easily wounded. 

" I am in a desperate hurry, Si'ora." 

"You were not in a hurry when I overtook 
you just now. You were walking slowly. You 
cannot walk faster than I. At Burano I never 
used to walk. I always ran." 

" Poverina ! How quickly you must have used 
up your island." 

" Yes ; it was like a prison. I used to watch 



S8 THE VENETIANS. 

the painted sails of the fishing-boats, and long 
for them to carry me away to any place different 
from that island, where I knew every face and 
every stone, every window and every chimney. 
That is why I love your London, in spite of fogs 
and grey skies. It is so big, so big." 

She stopped, with clasped hands and flashing 
eyes. A street boy wheeled round to look at her, 
and gave a low whistle of admiring surprise ; and 
at the same instant Sefton turned a street corner, 
came across the road, and passed close to Van- 
sittart and his companion. 

Of all men living, this man was the last whom 
Vansittart would have cared to meet under such 
conditions. 



( 89 ) 



CHAPTER V. 



Sefton lifted his hat and passed quickly. Van- 
sittart stood mutely watching his retreating 
figure, till it was lost among other figures moving 
to and fro along the Embankment. An empty 
hansom came creeping slowly by the curb while 
he stood watching. 

" Here is a cab which will just do for me, 
Signorina," he said. " Good-bye. I'll see you on 
one of your maestro's days, so that I may hear 
his opinion of your chances." 

" He comes on Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 
three to four. Who is that gentleman who bowed 
to you ? A friend ? " 

" No ; only an acquaintance. Good-bye.'* 

" How vexed you look ! Are you ashamed of 
being seen with me ? " 



90 THE VENETIANS. 

" No, child, no ; only that man happens to be 
one of my particular aversions. A rivederci. 
Stay ! I will take you to your door. The cab 
can follow." 

It had occurred to him in a moment that Sefton 
was capable of turning and pursuing Lisa if he 
left her unprotected. He was just the kind of 
man, Yansittart thought, who, out of sheer 
devilry, would try to discover the name and 
antecedents of this lovely stranger. He had a 
deep-rooted distrust of Wilfred Sefton, which led 
him to anticipate evil. 

He walked with Lisa to Saltero's Mansion, and 
saw her vanish under the lofty doorway, with its 
Queen Anne portico, and then he turned and 
walked slowly back as far as Tite Street, with the 
cab following him. So far there was no sign of 
Sefton, who might, therefore, be supposed to have 
continued his way London wards ; but the rencontre 
had been a shock to Vansittart's nerves, and had 
set him thinking seriously upon the danger of 
his relations with Fiordelisa and her aunt, and 
more especially of the peril which must always 
attach to the use of an alias. 

Was it well, or wise, or safe that he. Eve Mar- 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE" 91 

chant's promised husband, should be the guardian 
angel of this wild, impulsive peasant girl — a 
guardian angel under the borrowed name of 
Smith, liable at any hour to be confronted with 
people who knew his real name and surroundings ? 
He considered his position very seriously during 
the drive to Bruton Street, and he resolved to do 
all in his power to narrow his relations with the 
Venetians, while fulfilling every promise and 
every obligation to the uttermost. 

Colonel Marchant was at the family dinner in 
Charles Street. It had been agreed between Mrs. 
Vansittart and her son that he should be invited 
to this one gathering, so that he should not have 
any ground for considering himself left out in the 
cold, albeit his future son-in-law's intention was 
to hold as little communion with him as possible. 
Eve's neglected girlhood had not fostered filial 
affection. The father's name had been a name 
of fear in the Marchant household, and the sisters 
had been happiest when their only parent was 
amusing himself in London, careless of whether 
the angry baker had stopped the daily supply, or 
the long-suffering butcher had refused to deliver 



92 THE VENETIANS. 

another joint. Such a man had but little claim 
upon a daughter's love, and Eve had confessed to 
Vansittart that her father was not beloved by his 
children, and that it would not grieve her if 
in her future life she and that father met but 
rarely. 

" You are going to be so generous to me,'* she 
said, "that I shall be able to help my sisters — 
in ever so many ways — with their clothes, and 
with their housekeeping ; for I can never spend 
a third part of the income you are settling upon 
me." 

" My frugal Eve ! Why, there are women 
with half your charms who would not be able to 
dress themselves upon such a pittance." 

" I have no patience with such women. They 
should be condemned to three gowns a year of 
their own making, as my sisters and I have been 
ever since we were old enough to handle needles 
and scissors. I am horrified at the extravagance 
I have seen at the dressmaker's— the reckless 
way some of your sister's friends spend money." 

" And my sister herself, no doubt. She has a 
rich husband, and I dare say is one of the worst 
offenders in this line ? " 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 93 

" Not she ! Lady Hartley dresses exquisitely, 
but she is not extravagant like the others. She 
is too generous to other people to be lavish upon 
herself. She is always thinking of doing a kind- 
ness to somebody." 

" Poor little Maud ! I remember when she was 
in the school-room all her pocket-money used to 
be spent upon dolls for the hospital children. 
She used to come and beg of me when she was 
insolvent." 

Vansittart met Wilfred Sefton at an evening 
party within a few days of that rencontre at 
Chelsea; and at the same party Vansittart was 
disturbed by seeing Sefton and his mother in 
close confabulation in one of those remote and 
luxurious corners where people are not obliged to 
listen to the music that is being performed in 
the principal room. 

He questioned his mother about Sefton at 
breakfast next morning. "You and he seemed 
uncommonly thick," he said. " What were you 
talking about ? " 

" About you, and your approaching marriage." 

"I am sure you said nothing that was not 



94 THE VENETIANS. 

kind, but I wish to Heaven you would not discuss 
my affairs with a stranger," said Vansittart, with 
some warmth. 

"Mr. Sefton is not a stranger. Your father 
and his father were very good friends. He is 
your sister's most influential neighbour, and they 
are on the friendliest terms. Why should you 
call him a stranger ? " 

" Because I don't like him, mother ; and 
because I wish never to feel myself on any other 
footing with him." 

" And yet he likes you." 

" Does he ? I am a very bad judge of humanity 
if my dislike of Sefton is not heartily reciprocated 
by Sefton's dislike of me. And no doubt the 
more he dislikes me the more he will assure 
other people — my kindred especially — that he 
likes me. You are too straight yourself, mother, 
in every thought and purpose, to understand the 
Seftonian mind. It is the kind of intellect 
which always works crookedly, which cannot go 
straight. He admired Eve March ant, allowed his 
admiration to be patent to everybody, and yet 
was not man enough to try to win her for his 
wife." 



"LOYE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 95 

*'He had not your courage, Jack, in facing 
unpleasant surroundings and disagreeable ante- 
cedents." 

"He had not manhood enough to marry for 
love. That is what you mean, mother. He was 
quite willing to compromise an innocent and 
pure-minded girl, by attentions which he would 
not have dared to offer to a girl with a watchful 
father or mother." 

" My dear Jack, you exaggerate Mr. Sefton's 
attentions. He assured me that his chief interest 
in Eve arose from his old companionship with her 
brother, with whom he was on very intimate 
terms until the unhappy young man turned out 
an irretrievable scamp." 

Yansittart winced at the phrase. It is not an 
agreeable thing for a man to be told that his 
future brother-in-law, the brother whom his 
future wife adores, is irretrievable. 

" Mr. Sefton has taken a great deal of trouble 
to trace Harold Marchant's career since he was 
last heard of," continued Mrs. Yansittart, "and 
would hold out a friendly hand to him if there 
were anything to be done." 

"He has no need to hold out a friendly hand. 



96 THE VENETIANS. 

If there is anything to be done for my brother- 
in-law I can do it." 

" How ready you are to take new burdens." 
" I think nothing a burden which comes to me 
with the woman I love." 

Mrs. Vansittart sighed, and was silent. The 
idea of these disreputable connections which her 
son was to take to himself in marrying Eve was 
full of pain for the country-bred lady, whose 
people on every side were of good birth and 
unblemished respectability. Never had there 
been any doubtful characters in her father's 
family, or among that branch of the Vansittarts 
to which her husband belonged. She had been 
born in just that upper middle class which feels 
disgrace most keenly. There is no section of 
society so self-conscious as your county gentry, 
so fixed in the idea that the eyes of Europe are 
upon them. The duke or the millionaire can 
live down anything — sons convicted of felony, 
daughters divorced — but the country gentleman 
who has lived all his life in one place, and knows 
every face within a radius of twenty miles from 
the family seat, to him, or still more to his wife 
or widow, the slightest smirch upon a relative's 
character means agony. 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOYE." 97 

Mrs. Vansittart liked and admired Eve 
Marchant ; but she did not let her heart go out 
to her as it ought to have gone to the girl who 
was so soon to be to her as a daughter. Colonel 
Marchant 's existence was a rock of offence which 
even maternal love could not surmount. She 
had talked to her family lawyer, an old and 
trusted friend, and from him she had heard all 
that was to be said for and against Eve's father. 
He was not quite so black, perhaps, as his 
neighbours in the country had painted him ; but 
his career had been altogether disreputable, and 
his present associations were among the most 
disreputable men, calling themselves gentlemen, 
about town. He was a familiar fisrure in the 
card-room at clubs where play was high, and 
was looked upon with unmitigated terror by the 
parents and guardians of young men of fortune 
or expectations. A youth who affected Colonel 
Marchant's society was known to be in a bad way. 

And now the question was not only of Colonel 
Marchant, but of his son, who was even a 
darker character than the father, and whose 
darkness might at any time communicate itself 
to his sister's name. It was easy enough to say 

VOL. II. H 



98 THE VENETIANS. 

that the sister was blameless, that it was no fault 
of hers that her father was a scamp, and her 
brother a swindler and a forger. Society does 
not easily forgive sisters or daughters for such 
relationships, and now that the pseudo-scientific 
oraze of heredity has taken hold of the English 
mind, society is less inclined even than of yore to 
ignore the black sheep in the fold. Every one 
who heard of Eve Marchant's antecedents would 
anticipate evil for her husband. The bad strain 
would show itself somehow before many years 
were gone. The duskiness in the parental wool 
would crop up in the fleece of the lamb. 

It was hard, very hard, for the mother who 
doated on her only son, to feel ashamed of his 
wife's relations and up-bringing ; and Mrs. Van- 
sittart feared that to the end of her life she must 
needs feel this shame. Already her neighbours 
at Merewood had tortured her by their keen 
interest in her son's betrothed, their eagerness to 
know every detail, their searching questions 
about her people, all veiled under that affec- 
tionate friendliness which justifies the most 
tormenting curiosity. 

Mrs. Yansittart was a good woman and a 



"LOYE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 99 

devoted mother, but she had the temperament 
which easily yields to worrying ideas, to dark 
apprehensions of possible evils, and her love of 
her son had just that alloy of jealousy which is 
apt to cause trouble. While John Yansittart 
was going about with his betrothed from one 
scene of amusement to another, utterly happy in 
her company, enchanted to show her places and 
people which were as new to her as if they had 
been in fairyland, his mother was brooding over 
her fears and fostering her forebodings, and 
affording 3Ir. Sefton every opportunity of im- 
proving his acquaintance with her. It was a 
shock to Vansittart to find that Sefton had estab- 
lished himself on the most familiar footing in 
Charles Street, a privileged afternoon dropper-in, 
who might call six days out of the seven if he 
<jhose, since Mrs. Vansittart had no allotted day 
for receiving, but was always at home to her 
friends between four and ^ye during the summer 
season, when the pleasantest hour for driving 
was after five. 

Sefton was clever, lived entirely in society 
and for society, during the brief London season, 
frequented the studios of artists and the tea 



100 THE VENETIANS. 

parties of litterateurs, knew, or pretended ta 
know, everything that was going to happen in 
the world of art and letters, and would have 
been welcome on his own merits in the circles of 
the frivolous. He contrived to amuse Mrs. Van- 
sittart, and to impress her with an exaggerated 
idea of his talent and versatility. 

"He can talk well upon every subject," she 
told her son. 

''My dear mother, you mean that he is an, 
adept in the season's jargon, and can talk of 
those subjects which came into fashion last 
month ; like the new cut of our coat collars, and 
the new colour of our neckties. A man of that 
kind always impresses people with his cleverness 
in May and the first half of June. Talk with him 
later, and you'll find him flat, stale, and unpro- 
fitable. By July he will have emptied his bag." 

It was scarcely a surprise to Vansittart, know- 
ing his mother's liking for Mr. Sefton, to find 
that gentleman seated in her drawing-room one 
Saturday evening when he returned rather late 
from a polo match at Hurlingham. It was to be 
Eve's last Saturday in London. June was at 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 101 

]iand, and she was to go back to Fernhurst on 
the first of the month, to spend the small 
remnant of her single life with her sisters. She 
was to be married on St. John's Day. 

They had lingered at the tea-table on the 
lawn, sighing sentimentally over the idea that 
this was positively the last Saturday ; that not 
again for nearly a year could they sit together 
<lrinking tea out of the homely little brown tea- 
pot, and watchicg the careless crowd come and 
go in the sunshine and the summery air. 

In Charles Street, the cups and saucers had 
not been cleared away, although it was past 
seven. A side window in the front drawing- 
Toom looked westward, up the old-fashioned 
street, towards the Park, and the low sunlight 
was pouring in through the Madras-muslin 
curtain, shining on the jardiniere of golden lilies 
and over the glittering toys on the silver table. 

Vansittart opened the drawing-room door, but 
changed his mind about going in when he saw 
Sefton established on the sofa, half hidden in a 
sea of pillows. 

" I'm very late," he said. " How do you do, 
Sefton?" with a curt nod. "I'm to dine in 



102 THE VENETIANS. 

Bmton Street, mother. Good night, if I don't 
see you again." 

" Pray come in, Jack. I have something very 
serious to tell you — or at least Mr. Sefton has. 
He has been waiting for you ever since five 
o'clock. I wanted him to tell you at once. It 
is too serious for delay." 

" If I hadn't left Miss Marchant and my sister 
five minutes ago I should think, by your solemnity, 
that one of them had been killed," exclaimed 
Vansittart, scornfully, crossing the room with 
leisurely step, and seating himself with his back 
to the yellow brightness of that western window. 
" And now, my dear mother, may I inquire the 
nature of the mountain which you and Mr. Sefton 
have conjured out of some innocent mole-hill ? 
Please don't be very slow and solemn, as I have 
only half an hour to dress and get to Bruton 
Street. Boito's Me])histoiiiheles will begin at 
half-past eight." 

"This is no trivial matter. Jack. Perhap& 
when you have heard what Mr. Sefton has to 
tell you may hardly care about the opera — or 
about seeing Miss Marchant, before you have 
had time for serious thought." 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 103 

" There is nothing that Mr. Sefton — or the four 
Evangelists — could tell me that would alter my 
feelings about Miss Marchant by one jot or one 
tittle," cried Yansittart, furiously, his angry feel- 
ing about this man leaping out of him like a 
sudden flame. 

'*' Wait," said the mother, gravely — ^' wait till 
you have heard." 

"Begin, Mr. Sefton. My mother's preamble 
is eminently calculated to give importance to 
your communication." 

" I am hardly surprised that you should take 
the matter somewhat angrily, Yansittart," said 
Sefton, in his smooth, persuasive voice. " I dare 
say I shall appear an officious beast in this 
business — and, had it not been for Mrs. Yan- 
sittart's express desire, I should not be here to 
tell you the facts which have come to my know- 
ledge within the last two days. I considered it 
my duty to tell your mother, because in our pre- 
vious conversations she has been good enough to 
allude to old ties of friendship between your father 
and my father — and this made a claim upon me." 

"Proem the second," cried Yansittart, im- 
patiently. " \Yhen are we coming to facts ? " 



104 THE VENETIANS. 

" The facts are so uncommonly disagreeable 
that I may be pardoned for approaching tbem 
diffidently. You know, I believe, that Miss 
Marchant has a brother " 

** Who disappeared some years ago, and about 
whose fate you have busied yourself," interrupted 
Vansittart, with ever-growing impatience. 

"All my efforts to trace Harold Marchant's 
movements after his departure from Mashonaland 
resulted in utter failure, until the day before 
yesterday, when one of the two men whom I 
employed to make inquiries turned up at my 
house in Tite Street as suddenly as if he had 
dropped from the moon. This man is a courier 
and jack-of-all- trades, as clever and handy a dog 
as ever lived, a man who has travelled in all the 
quarters of the globe, a Venetian. When I began 
the search for Miss Marchant's brother, I put the 
business in the first place into the hands of a 
highly respectable private detective ; but as a 
second string to my bow it occurred to me to 
send a full statement of the circumstances, and 
a careful description of the missing man, to my 
old acquaintance, Ferrari, the courier, guide, 
philosopher, and friend, who travelled with my 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE" 105 

poor father on the sea-board of Italy for several 
months, and who helped to nurse him on his 
sick-bed." 

Yansittart bridled his tongue, but could not 
kee^ himself from drumming with his fingers on 
the dainty silver table and setting all the toy 
harpsichords, and sofas, and bird-cages, and 
watering-pots, and bonbonuieres rattling. 

"I had half forgotten that I had employed 
this man in Harold Marchant's business when 
the fellow turned up in Tite Street, bronzed and 
bearded, irrepressibly cheerful, with the most 
unpleasant information." 

" What information ? For God's sake, come 
to the point ! " 

"He had traced Marchant's career — from 
Mashonaland to the diamond fields, where he 
picked up a goodish bit of money ; from the 
diamond fields to Xew York, from New York 
to Venice. For God's sake, leave those bibelots 
alone," as the silver toys leapt and rattled on 
the fragile table. " Do you think no one has 
nerves except yourself? " 

" Your man traced Marchant to Venice," said 
Yansittart, the restless hand suddenly motion- 
less ; " and what of him at Venice ? " 



106 THE VENETIANS. 

" At Venice Marcliant lived with a girl whom 
he had taken out of a factory. Pardon me, Mrs. 
Vansittart, for repeating these unpleasant facts — 
lived, gambled, drank, and enjoyed life after his 
own inclination, which always leaned to low 
company even when he was an undergraduate. 
From Venice he vanished suddenly, more than 
three years ago." 

Vansittart fancied they must needs hear that 
heavily beating heart of his thumping against 
his ribs. He fancied that, even in that dimly 
lighted room, they must needs see the ashen hue 
of his face, the beads of sweat upon his forehead. 
All he could do was to hold his tongue, and wait 
for that which was to come. 

" Do you happen to remember a murder, or, I 
will rather say, a scufifle ending in homicide, 
which occurred at Venice three years ago in 
Carnival time — an English tourist stabbed to 
death by another Englishman, who got away sa 
quickly and so cleverly that he was never brought 
to book for what he had done ? The row was 
about a woman, and the woman was Harold 
Marchant's mistress. Marchant was jealous of 
the stranger's attentions to the lady — he had 



**LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 107 

lived long enough in Italy to have learnt the 
use of the knife — and after a free fight of a few 
moments he stabbed his man to the heart. 
Ferrari heard the whole story from a Venetian, 
who was present in the Gaffe Florian when the 
thing happened." 

" Did the Venetian know Marchant ? " 

The words came slowly from dry lips, the voice 
was thick and husky ; but neither Mrs. Vansittart 
nor Mr. Sefton wondered that Eve Marchant's 
lover should be deeply moved. 

** I don't know ; but there were people in 
Venice who knew him, and from whom Ferrari 
heard his mode and manner of life." 

'•' But you said that Marchant was living under 
an assumed name." 

" Did I ? " asked Sefton, surprised. " I don't 
remember saying it, but it is the fact all the 
same. At Venice Harold Marchant called him- 
self Smith ; and Smith was the name he gave on 
board the P. and 0. steamer which took him to 
Alexandria." 

" Why did he go to Alexandria ? " 

*'' Why ? To get away from Venice in the 
quickest and completest manner he could. When 



108 THE VENETIANS. 

he saw that the knife had been fatal, he grasped 
the situation in an instant, made a dash for the 
door, ran through the crowd along the Piazzetta, 
jumped into the water, and swam to the steamer, 
which was getting up steam for departure. No 
one guessed that he would make for the steamer. 
It was a longish swim ; and while his pursuers 
were groping about among the gondolas the 
steamer was moving off with Harold on board 
her. Just like him — always quick at expedients ; 
ready at every point where his own interests 
were at stake; tricky, shifty, dishonest to the 
<3ore ; but a devil for pluck, and as strong as a 
young lion." 

*'I begin to remember the story, now you 
recall the details," said Vansittart, who had by 
this time mastered every sign of agitation, and 
was firm as iron. " But in all that you have said 
I see nothing to fix Harold Marchant as the 
homicide. He might as easily have been the 
man who was killed." 

" No, no ; the man who was killed was a 
stranger — a Cook's tourist, a nobody, about whose 
fate there were no inquiries. It was Marchant 
who was the Venetian girl's protector. It was 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 109 

Marchant who was jealous. The whole story is 
in perfect accord with Marchant's character. I 
have seen his temper in a row — seen him w^hen, if 
he had had a knife within his reach, by Heaven I 
he would have used it." 

"But where is the link between 3Iarchant — 
Marchant at the diamond fields, Marchant at 
New York — and the man at Venice calling him- 
self Smith ? You don't even pretend to show me 
that." 

" Ferrari shall show you that. The story is a 
long one, but there is no solution of continuity. 
Ferrari shall take you over the ground, step by- 
step, till he brings you from Marchant's return 
from Mashonaland to Marchant's landing at 
Alexandria." 

" And after the landing at Alexandria ? What 
then? The thing happened more than three 
years ago, you say. Did the earth open and 
swallow Harold Marchant after he landed at 
Alexandria ? Or, if not, what has he been doing 
since ? Why has not your Ferrari — this courier- 
guide who is so clever at tracing people — traced 
him a little further ? Why should the last link 
of the chain be the landing at Alexandria ? " 



110 THE VENETIANS. 

" Because, as I have been telling you, Harold 
Marchant is an uncommonly clever fellow ; and 
having got off with a whole skin — escaping the 
penalty of a crime which at the least was 
manslaughter — he would take very good care 
to sink his identity ever afterwards, and in all 
probability would bid a long farewell to the old 
world." 

" But your genius — your heaven-born detective 
— would track him down in the new world. My 
dear Sefton, the whole story is a farrago of 
rubbish ; and I wonder that you, as a man of the 
world, can be taken in by so vulgar a trickster as 
your incomparable Ferrari." 

" He is not a trickster. I have the strongest 
reasons, from past experience, for believing in his 
honesty and honour. Will you see him, Van- 
sittart ? Will you hear his story, calmly and 
dispassionately ? " 

'* I will not see him. I will not hear his story. 
I will see no man who trumps up a sensational 
charge against my future wife's brother. I can 
quite understand that you believe in this man — 
that you have brought this tissue of nonsense to 
my mother and me in all good faith." 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." Ill 

" Why tissue of nonsense ? You admit that 
you remember there was such a catastrophe — 
an English traveller killed by an English resident 
in a Venetian caffe in Carnival time." 

" Yes ; but plain fact degenerates into non- 
sense when your courier tries to fasten the crime 
upon Eve Marchant's brother." 

" Hear, or read his statement, before you pro- 
nounce judgment. He had his facts from people 
who knew this young man in New York as Harold 
Marchant, who met him afterwards in Venice, and 
visited him at his Venetian lodgings, and played 
cards with him, when he was calling himself 
Smith — respectable American citizens, whose 
names and addresses are set down in Ferrari's 
statement. I am not utterly wanting in logic, 
Mr. Vansittart, and if the circumstantial evidence 
in this matter had been obviously weak I should 
never have troubled Mr^. Vansittart or you with 
the story." 

The mother spoke now for the first time since 
Sefton had begun his revelation. Her voice was 
low and sympathetic. Her son might doubt her 
wisdom, but he could not doubt her love. 

" I am deeply sorry for you, Jack," she said, 



112 THE VENETIANS. 

" deeply sorry for poor Eve, who is a blameless 
victim of evil surroundings, but I cannot think 
that you will obstinately adhere to your engage- 
ment in the face of these dreadful acts. It would 
have been quite bad enough to be Colonel Mar- 
chant's son-in-law; but you cannot seriously 
mean to marry a girl whose brother has com- 
mitted murder." 

" It was not murder," cried Yansittart, furiously. 
" Even Mr. Sefton there acknowledges that the 
crime at moSt was only manslaughter — a fatal 
blow, struck in a moment of blind passion." 

"With a dagger against an unarmed man,"^ 
interjected Sefton. "You are inclined to mini- 
mize the crime when you call it manslaughter at 
the most. I said that at the least — taking the 
most indulgent view of the case — the crime was 
manslaughter ; and I doubt if an Italian tribunal 
would have dealt very leniently with that kind of 
manslaughter. I take it that quick run and long 
swim of his saved Harold Marchant some years 
of captivity in an Italian prison." 

" It is too horrible," said Mrs. Yansittart. " My 
dear, dear son, for God's sake don't underrate the 
horror of it all because of your love for this poor 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 113 

girl. You cannot marry a girl whose brother is 
an unconvicted murderer." 

How she harped upon the word murder ! Van- 
sittart ground his nails into the palms of his 
clasped hands, as he stood up, frowning darkly, 
in an agony of indignant feeling. His mother to 
be so womanish, so illogical, so foolish in her 
exaggeration of evil. 

"I say again, the man who struck that un- 
lucky blow was no murderer. The word is a 
cruel and a lying word applied to him," he pro- 
tested. " The story you have told me — the crime 
you try to fix upon Harold Marchant — can make 
no shadow of difference in my love for Harold 
Marchant's sister. Had she ten brothers, and 
every one of the ten were a felon, I would marry 
her. It is her I love, mother — not her surround- 
ings. And as for your modern fad of heredity, I 
believe in it no more than I do in table-turning. 
God made my Eve — as pure, and single, and 
primitive a being as that other Eve in His 
Garden of Eden ; and over the morning of her 
fair life no act of her kindred can cast a shadow." 

There was a silence. Sefton had risen when 
Vansittart rose. He took up his hat, and came 

VOL. II. I 



114 THE VENETIANS. 

through the flickering lights and shadows towards 
Mrs. Vansittart, who sat with drooping head and 
clasped hands, betwixt sorrow and anger — sorrow 
for her son's suffering, anger at his obstinate ad- 
herence to the girl he loved. She gave Sefton 
her hand mechanically, without looking up. 

"Good night, Yansittart," said Sefton, as he 
moved towards the door. " I can only admire 
your loyalty to Miss Marchant, though I may 
question your wisdom. She is a very charming 
person, I grant you ; but, after all " — with a little 
laugh — " she is not the only woman in the world." 

" She is the only woman in my world." 

"Keally?" 

The intonation of this one word, the slight 
shrug of the shoulders, were a revelation. Van- 
sittart perceived the covert sneer in that parting 
speech, and saw in it an allusion to that lovely 
foreigner whom Sefton had seen hanging affec- 
tionately upon his arm a few days ago on the 
Chelsea Embankment. 

" One word, Mr. Sefton," said Vansittart, in a 
peremptory tone. " I take it that your employ- 
ment of detectives and couriers — that all you 
have done in this business — has been done out of 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 115 

regard for an old schoolfellow and college chum, 
who was once your friend, and from a kindly- 
desire to relieve Miss Marchant's anxiety about a 
brother whom — whom she appears to have dearly 
loved. I think, under these circumstances, I 
need not urge upon you the necessity of keeping 
this unhappy business to yourself— so far as she 
is concerned." 

" You are right. I shall say nothing to Miss 
Marchant." 

" Kemember that, clever as your courier may 
be, he is not infallible. The case is only a case 
of suspicion. The Smith, of Venice, may be 
anybody. One missing link in your amateur 
detective's chain of evidence, and the whole 
fabrication would drop to pieces. Don't let Miss 
Marchant be tortured needlessly. Promise me 
that you will never tell her this story." 

*' On my honour, I will not." 

" I thank you for that promise, and I beg you 
to forgive any undue vehemence upon my part 
just now." 

"There is nothing to forgive — I can sym- 
pathize with your feelings. Good night." 

"Goodnight." 



116 THE VENETIANS. 

Vansittart dined in Bruton Street, as he had 
promised, sat by his betrothed, and listened to 
her happy talk of the things they had seen and 
the people they had met, sat behind her chair all 
through Boito's opera, unhearing, unseeing, his 
mind for ever and for ever travelling over the 
same ground, acting over and over again the same 
scene — the row at Florian's, the scuffle, the fall 
— his own fall — the knife ; and then that fatal 
fall of his adversary, that one gasping, surprised 
cry of the unarmed man, slain unawares. 

Her brother! His victim, and her brother. 
The nearest, dearest kin of this girl on whose 
milk-white shoulder his breath came and went, as 
he sat with bent head in the shadow of the velvet 
curtain, and heard the weird strange harmonies 
of Pandemonium, almost as if voices and orchestra 
had been interpreting his own dark thoughts. 

Charmed as she was with the music, Eve 
Marchant was far too sensitive to be unconscious 
of her lover's altered spirits. Once during the 
applause that followed that lovely duet at the 
beginning of the last act, and while Lady 
Hartley's attention was fixed upon the stage, 
Eve's hand crept stealthily into the hand of her 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 117 

lover, while she whispered, " What has happened. 
Jack ? I know there is something wrong. Why 
won*t you trust me ? " 

Trust her ? Trust her with a secret that must 
part them for ever, let her suffer the agony of 
knowing that this strong right hand which her 
slim fingers were caressing had stabbed her 
brother to the heart ? 

" There can be nothing wrong, dearest, while 
I have you," he answered, grasping the little 
hand, as if he would never let it go. 

" But outside me, you have been worried about 
something. You have quite changed from your 
gay spirits at Hurlingham." 

" My love, I exhausted myself at Hurlingham. 
You and I were laughing like children. That 
can't last. But for me there is no outside world. 
Be sure of that. My world begins and ends 
where you are." 

" My own dear love," she whispered softly. 

And so hand in hand they listened to the last 
act, while Lady Hartley amused herseK now 
with the stage, and now with the audience, and 
left these plighted lovers alone in their fool's 
paradise. 



118 THE VENETIANS. 

Sunday was given up to church and church 
parade, looking at people and gowns and bonnets 
in Hyde Park. Yansittart had to be observant 
and ready, amusing and amused, as he walked 
beside his sister and his betrothed. He had to 
say smart things about the people and the 
bonnets, to explain and give brief biographies of 
all the men whom he saluted, or with whom he 
spoke. He had to do this, and to be gay and 
light-hearted in the drive to Kichmond, and at 
the late luncheon in the pretty upstairs room at 
the Star and Garter, where the balcony hung 
high over the smiling valley, over the river that 
meanders in gracious curves through wooded 
meadows and past the rustic townlet of " Twicks." 
Happiness is the dominant in the scale of pros- 
perous love. Why or how should he fail to be 
happy, adored by this sweet girl, who in less 
than six weeks was to be his very own, to have 
and to hold till death ? 

He played his part admirably, was really 
happy during some of those frivolous hoursj 
telling himself that the thing which had hap- 
pened at Venice was a casualty for which Fate 
could never lean hardly upon him. 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 119 

" Even (Edipus Kex had a good time of it after 
lie killed his father at the cross roads," he told 
himself mockingly. " It was not till his daughters 
were grown up that troubles began. He had a 
long run of prosperity. And so, Dame Fortune, 
give me my darling, and let her not know for the 
next twenty years that this right hand is red 
with her kindred's blood. Let her not know ! 
And after twenty years of bliss — well, let the 
volcano explode, if need be, and bury me in the 
ashes. I shall have lived my life." 

He parted with Eve in Bruton Street after tea. 
She was going to an evening service with Lady 
Hartley. They were to hear a famous preacher, 
while the mundane Sir Hubert dined at Greenwich 
with some men. Eve was to leave Waterloo 
Station early next morning, and as Lady Hartley 
was sending her maid to see the young lady and 
her luggage safely lodged at the Homestead, 
Vansittart was told he would not be wanted. 

" This is a free country," he said. " You will 
find me at the station to say good-bye." 

He went home to dine with his mother, a very 
melancholy dinner. Mrs. Vansittart's pale cheeks 
bore traces of tears, and she was obviously un- 



120 THE VENETIANS. 

happy, although she struggled to keep up appear- 
ances, talked about the weather, the sermon she 
had heard in the morning, the dinner, anything 
to make conversation while the servants were in 
the room. 

Vansittart followed her to the drawing-room 
directly after dinner, and seated himself by her 
side in the lamplight, and laid his hand on hers 
as it turned the pages of the book upon her knee. 

" Canon Liddon is a delightful writer, mother ; 
logical, clear-headed, and eloquent, and you could 
hardly have a better book than his Bampton 
Lectures for Sunday evening; but you might 
spare a few minutes for your son." 

" As many minutes or as many hours as you 
like. Jack," answered his mother, as she closed 
the book. " My thoughts are too full of you to 
follow any writer who wants close attention. My 
dear son, what can I say to you ? Do you really 
mean to persist in this miserable alliance ? " 

" Oh, mother, how cruel you are even in your 
kindness! How cruel a mother's love can be! 
It is not a miserable alliance — it is the marriage 
of true minds. Kemember what your Shake- 
speare says, ' Let me not to the marriage of true 



"LOVE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 121 

minds admit impediments.' Will you, mother, 
admit impediments here, where practically there 
is none ? " 

" Jack, Jack, love has made you blind. Is the 
existence of that wicked young man no impedi- 
ment — a man who may at any day be tried for 
his life as a murderer ? " 

"Again, mother, I say he was no murderer. 
The utmost that can be urged against this wicked 
young man is that he was a hot-tempered athlete 
who killed a man in a scuffle. Let us forget his 
existence, if we can. There is nothing in this 
life more unlikely than that we shall ever hear 
of him again. From that night ia the Venetian 
caffe he ceased to exist — at any rate for England 
and his kindred. Be sure, mother, that Harold 
Marchant will never be heard of again." 

" You believe what you wish to believe. Jack, 
and you forget the French proverb that nothing 
is so likely to happen as the unexpected." 

" No, I don't, mother. That useful adage has 
been borne in upon me of late. But now, dearest 
and best, let us be at peace for ever upon this 
question. I mean to marry my beloved, and I 
mean you to love her, second only to Maud and 



122 THE VENETIANS. 

me. She is ready to love you with all her heart 
— with all the stored-up feeling of those mother- 
less years in which she has grown from child to 
woman, without the help of a mother's love. You 
are not going to shut your heart against her, are 
you, mother ? " 

" No, Jack, not if she is to be your wife. I 
love you far too well to withhold my love from 
your wife." 

*' That's my own true mother." 

On this mother and son, between whom there 
had hung a faint cloud of displeasure, kissed, not 
without tears ; and it was agreed that for these 
two henceforward the name of Harold Marchant 
should be a dead letter. 



( 123 ) 



CHAPTER VL 

TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FOELOEN. 

Vansittart had made up his mind. Were that 
which he accounted at present but a dark sus- 
picion made absolute certainty he meant still to 
cleave to the girl whom he had chosen for his 
wife, and who had given him her whole heart. 
He would marry her, even although his hand 
had shed her brother's blood, that brother whom 
of all her kindred she loved best, with the most 
ardent and romantic love, with the fond affection 
which clings round the image of a friend lost in 
childhood, when the feelings are warmest, and 
when love asks no questions. 

Once, in the little end room in Bruton Street, 
between two stolen kisses, he said to her, " You 
pretend to be very fond of me. Eve. I wonder 
whom you love next best ? " 



124 THE VENETIANS. 

" Harold," she answered quickly. " I used to 
think I should never give any one his place in 
my heart. But you have stolen the first place. 
He is only second now, poor dear — dead or living, 
only second." 

The tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke 
of him. A brother is not often loved so fondly ; 
hardly ever, unless he is a scamp. 

And would she marry him, Jack Vansittart, if 
she knew that he had killed her brother ? Alas, 
no ! That dark story would make an impassable 
gulf between them. Loving him with all her 
heart, dependent upon him for all the happiness 
and prosperity of her future life, she would 
sacrifice herself and him to the manes of that 
worthless youth, slain by the man his brutality 
had provoked to responsive violence. 

" There was not much to choose between us," 
Vansittart told himself; "rufiSans both. And 
are two lives to be blighted because of those few 
moments of fury, in which the brute got the 
upper hand of the man ? No, a thousand times 
no. I will marry her, and let Fate do the worst 
to us both. Fate can but part us. Why should 
I anticipate evil by taking the initiative? A 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FOELORN. 125 

man who has happiness in his hand and lets it 
go, for any compunctions of consciecne, may be a 
fine moral character, but he is not the less a fool. 
Life is not long enough for scruples that part 
faithful lovers." 

He looked the situation full in the face. He 
told himself that it was for Eve's welfare as well 
as for his own that he should keep from her the 
knowledge of his wrong-doing. Would she be 
happier, would mankind be any the better off for 
his self-abnegation, if he should tell her the truth, 
and accept his dismissal? Knowing what he 
knew she could scarcely lay her hand in his and 
take him for her husband ; but once the vow 
spoken, once his wife, he thought that she might 
even forgive him her brother's blood. 

She must never know ! He had blustered and 
raged in that troubled scene with Sefton; but 
sober reflection taught him that if he were to be 
safe in the future he must conciliate the man he 
hated. A word from Sefton could spoil his 
happiness ; and he could not afford to be ill 
friends with the man who had power to speak 
that word; nor could he afford to arouse that 
man's suspicions by any eccentricity of conduct 



126 THE VENETIANS. 

on his own part. He had refused to hear the 
story of Harold Marchant's life from the courier's 
lips, as Sefton suggested, had refused with scorn- 
ful vehemence. But reflection told him that he 
ought to examine the courier's chain of evidence, 
and to discover for himself if the links were 
strong enough to make Harold Marchant's identity 
with Fiordelisa's lover an absolute certainty. He 
wanted to know the worst, not to be fooled and 
made miserable by the illogical imaginings of an 
amateur detective. Again, it was natural that a 
man in his position should look closely into this 
story, testing its accuracy by the severest scrutiny; 
and he wanted to act naturally, to act as Sefton 
would expect him to act. 

Influenced by these considerations, he called 
in Tite Street on Monday afternoon, and found 
Sefton at home, in a room which occupied the 
entire first floor of a smallish house, but which 
could be made into two rooms by drawing a curtain. 

It was the most luxurious room that Vansittart 
had seen for a long time, but there was a studied 
sobriety in its luxury which marked the man of 
sense as well as the sybarite. The colouring was 
subdued — dull olive-green — without relief save 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 127 

from a few pieces of old Italian black and white 
inlaid furniture, a writing-table, a coffer, a book- 
case. Every inch of the floor was carpeted with 
dark-brown velvet pile. No slippery parquetry 
or sham oak here, no gaudy variety of Oriental 
prayer-rugs or furry trophies of the chase. 
Capacious armchairs tempted to idleness ; a choice 
selection of the newest and oldest books invited 
to study ; two large windows looking east and 
west flooded the room with light ; and a fireplace 
wide enough for a baronial hall promised heat 
and cheerfulness when frosts and fogs combine 
to make London odious. 

"You like my den,'* said Sefton, when Van- 
sittart murmured his surprise at finding so good 
a room in so small a house. " Comfortable, ain't 
it? The house is small, but I've reduced the 
number of rooms to three. Below I have only 
a dining-room ; above, only my bedroom. There 
is a rabbit-hutch at the back of the landing for 
my valet, and a garret in the roof for the women. 
Living in a colony of artists, I have taken 
pains to keep clear of everything artistic. I 
have neither stained glass nor tapestry, neither 
Kaffaelle ware nor bronze idols : but I can offer 



128 THE VENETIANS. 

my friends a comfortable chair and a decently- 
cooked dinner. I hope you'll put my professions 
to the test some evening, when I can get one or 
two of my clever neighbours to meet you." 

Yansittart professed himself ready to dine with 
Mr. Sefton on any occasion, and straightway 
proceeded to the business of his visit. 

" You were good enough to suggest that I 
should see the courier, Ferrari," he said, "and 
I was impolite enough to refase — rather roughly, 
I fear." 

" You were certainly a little rough," answered 
Sefton, with his suave smile, '•' but I could make 
allowances for a man in your position. I honour 
the warmth of yonr feelings ; and I admire the 
chivalry which makes you indifferent to the 
belongings of the woman you love." 

" That which you are pleased to call chivalry, 
I take to be the natural conduct of any man in 
such circumstances. Honestly, now, Mr. Sefton, 
would you give up the girl you love if you found 
her brother had been the — the chief actor in 
such a scene as that row in the Yenetian caffe ? 
Would you spoil her life and your own for 
such a reason ? " 



TO LITE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FOELORN. 129 

" Well, I suppose not ; if I were tremendously 
in love. But the sweets of life would be con- 
siderably soured, to my mind, by the apprehen- 
sion of such a brother-in-law's reappearance, or 
by any unlooked-for concatenation which might 
bring his personality into the foreground." 

"I am willing to risk such a concatenation. 
In the mean time it has occurred to me that I 
ought to see Ferrari, and look into his story dis- 
passionately. If you will kindly give me his 
address I will write and ask him to call upon me." 

"You will find him a very good fellow — a 
splendid animal, with a fair intelligence," said 
Sefton, writing an address. " And now I hope 
you have forgiven me for bringing an unpleasant 
train of circumstances under your notice. You 
must remember that the facts in question came 
to my knowledge solely from my wish to oblige 
Miss Marchant. It would not have been fair to 
you to leave you in ignorance of what so nearly 
concerned your future wife." 

" Certainly not ; but it would have been kinder, 
or wiser, on your part to have kept this know- 
ledge from my mother." 

" Mrs. Yansittart had won my warmest regard 

VOL. II, K 



1.30 THE VENETIANS. 

by her kindness to the son of an old friend. I 
felt my first duty was to her." 

"That was unwise; and your unwisdom has 
caused much pain. However, I thank you for 
having spared Miss Marchant the knowledge that 
would make her miserable. I may rely upon you 
to keep the secret always — may I not ? " asked 
Vansittart, earnestly. 

^' Always. You have my promise." 
" Thank you. Tliat sets my mind at rest. I 
know how to deal with my mother's prejudices; 
and I know that her affection for Eve will over- 
come those prejudices — in good time." 

Ferrari called at Charles Street at eleven 
o'clock next morning, in accordance with Van- 
sittart's request. As the clock struck the hour a 
tall, good-looking man, with reddish-brown hair, 
reddish-brown eyes, and a cheerful, self-satisfied 
smile, was ushered into Vansittart's study. 

" You are punctual, Signor Ferrari. Sit down, 
please, and come to business at once. Mr. Sefton 
tells me that you are the most precise and 
business-like of men, as well as the best of 
fellows." 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 181 

" Mr. Sefton Lave know me many years, sir. I 
have had the honour to nurse the of him father 
in his last illness. Ten years ago we was at 
Venice, at the Grand Hotel — Mr. Sefton's father 
threw himself out of the window in a paroxis of 
pain — I pick him out of the canal at risk of my 
life. The son does not forget what Ferrari did 
for the father." 

Those who knew Ferrari intimately discovered 
that this rescuing of would-be suicides from the 
Grand Canal was an idiosyncrasy of his. He 
affected to have saved half the distiaguished 
travellers of Europe in this manner. 

"Now, Signer Ferrari, you have no doubt 
considered that the charge you have brought 
against Mr, Harold Marchant is a very serious 
one " 

"Scusatemi, illustrissimo gentleman, I bring 
no charge," protested Ferrari, in his curious 
English, which he spoke with an American 
accent, having improved his knowledge of the 
language in the society of American travellers, 
few of whom condescended to Italian or even 
French. "I bring no charge. Mr. Sefton tell 
me, trace for me the movements of a young man 



132 THE VENETIANS. 

called 'Arol Marchant. Find him for me. He 
was last heard of with a party of explorers in 
Mashonaland. He good shot. Kill big game. 
With these bare facts I set to work. I am one 
who never stop. I am like the devil in Job, 
always going to and fro over the earth. I know 
men in all parts ; couriers, interpreters, servants 
of every class, money-changers, shipping agents. 
From among these I get my information, and 
here it is tabulated. It is for the illustrissimo 
to judge for herself, having seen my facts." 

He opened a neat little book, where, upon ruled 
paper, appeared a record of the movements of 
Harold Marchant from the hour of his appearing 
at the diamond fields to his return from New 
York with a party of Americans, in whose 
company he put up at the Hotel di Koma, 
Pension Suisse, on the Grand Canal. 

When he was at the Hotel di Koma he was 
known as Marchant. His signature was in the 
visitors' book at the hotel. Ferrari had seen it, 
and had recorded the date, which was in the 
September preceding that February in which 
Yansittart had shared in the gaieties of the 
Carnival at Yenice. A fortnio^ht later Mr. 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 133 

Marchant took a second floor in the Campo 
Goldoni, under the name of Smith. There was 
no doubt in the courier's mind as to the identity 
of the man in the Campo Goldoni with the man 
at the Hotel di Koma. He had talked with a 
New Yorker who had known Marchant under 
both names, and who knew of his relations with 
the pretty lace-maker. Bat there was nothing 
in Ferrari's statement which could be called 
proof positive of this identity. The facts rested 
on information obtained at second hand. It was 
open to Vansittart to doubt — since error was not 
impossible — error as complete as that mistake 
which had put the man who was killed in the 
place of the man who killed him. 

Ferrari tracked the fugitive on his voyage to 
Alexandria : recorded the name of Smith given 
to the captain of the P. and 0. After Alexandria 
there was nothing. 

'* Do you think he came back to Europe by 
another steamer ? " asked Vansittart, testing the 
all-knowing Venetian. 

" Not he, Altissimo. Having once set his foot 
upon the soil of Africa he would be too wise to 
risk a return to Europe. He might go to India, 



134 THE VENETIANS. 

to America — north or south — but he would not 
come to England, to answer for the English life 
which he had taken. You Englishmen set great 
store upon life." 

Vansittart dismissed the man with a present, 
but before he went Ferrari laid his card upon 
the table, and begged that if ever the illustris- 
simo required a courier or a travelling servant, 
he, Ferrari, might be remembered. 

When he was gone Vansittart took up his pen 
and wrote hastily to Sefton. 

"Dear Mr. Sefton, 

" Your excellent Ferrari has been here, 
and I have gone carefully through his statement. 
It is plausible, but by no means convincing ; 
and I see ample room for error in a chain of 
facts which rest upon hearsay. Under these 
conditions I am more than ever desirous that no 
hint of Ferrari's story should reach Miss Mar- 
chant, Forgive me for reminding you of your 
promise. It would be a deplorable business if 
this dear girl were made unhappy about a 
chimera. 

" I go to Kedwold to-morrow, and shall stay 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEX AND LOVE FORLORN. 135 

over Whitsuntide. We are to be married before 
the end of June, very quietly, at Fernhurst 
Church. 

** Yours sincerely, 

"J. Yansittabt." 

He rather despised himself for writing in this 
friendly strain to a man for whom he had an 
instinctive dislike ; but he tried to believe that 
his dislike was mere prejudice, and that Mr. 
Sefton's manner with Eve, to which he had 
taken such violent objection, was only Mr. 
Sefton's manner to young women in general ; a 
bad manner, but without any sinister feeling 
underlying it — only a bad manner. 

To-morrow he was to go to Eedwold, to be his 
sister's guest till after Whitsuntide, or until the 
wedding, if he pleased. And before June was 
pushed aside by her sultrier sister July, he was 
to be Eve Marchant's husband. Every day of 
his life brought that union a day nearer. It had 
come now to the counting of days. It seemed to 
him as if time and the calendar were no more — 
as if he and his love were being swept along in 
the strong current of their happiness. He could 



136 THE VENETIANS. 

think of nothing, care for nothing but Eve. His 
bailiff's letters, his lawyer's letters, remained 
unanswered. He could not bring himself even 
to consider his mother's suggestions as to this or 
that improvement or alteration at Merewood, 
whither Mrs. Vansittart was going at Whitsun- 
tide, to prepare all things for the coming of the 
bride, and to arrange for her own removal. 

" Do as much or as little as you like, mother," 
Vansittart said. " You need alter nothing. Eve 
will be pleased with things as they are." 

"It will be a great change for her from a 
cottage," sighed Mrs. Vansittart. "I'm afraid 
she will be bewildered and overpowered by a large 
household. She can have no idea of managing 
servants." 

" The servants can manage themselves, mother. 
I don't want a managing wife. Yet from what I 
have seen of Eve in her own home I take her to 
be well up in domestic matters. Everything at 
the Homestead seemed the essence of comfort." 

He remembered his wintry tea-drinking, the 
tea and toast, the cake and jam-pots, and Eve's 
radiant face ; the firelight on Eve's hair ; the 
sense of quiet happiness which pervaded the 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 137 

place where his love was queen. It seemed to 
him that there could not have been one inhar- 
monious note in that picture. Order and be auty 
and domestic peace were there. Should Fate 
reduce him to poverty he could be utterly happy 
with his love in just such a home. He wanted 
neither splendid surroundings nor brilliant 
society. 

Having heard all that Ferrari could tell him, 
he felt easier in his mind than he had felt since 
that unpleasant hour with his mother and Sefton 
on Saturday evening. The more he thought of 
the courier's chain of evidence, the weaker it 
seemed to him. No, he could not think that the 
man he had killed was the brother of the woman 
he was going to marry. He tried to recall the 
man's face ; but the suddenness and the fury of 
that brief encounter had afforded no time for 
minute observation. The man's face had flashed 
upon him out of the crowd — fair-haired, fair- 
skinned ; Saxon amidst all those olive com- 
plexions — a face and figure that bore down upon 
him with the impression of physical powder; 
handsome only as the typical gladiator is hand- 
some. What more could he remember ? Irre- 



138 THE VENETIANS. 

gular features, strongly marked ; a low forehead ; 
and light blue eyes. The Marchants were a 
blue-eyed race, but that went for little in a 
country where the majority of eyes are blue or 
grey. 

Vansittart remembered his promise to visit 
Fiordelisa and her aunt ; and as this was his last 
day in Loudon, perhaps, for some time — since 
London was but a wilderness of brick now Eve 
was gone — he gave up his afternoon to the per- 
formance of that promise. Tuesday was one of 
the Professor's days ; and he had promised to see 
the Professor and hear his opinion of Signora 
Vivanti's progress. 

Since that painful hour on Saturday he had 
thought much and seriously of the impulsive 
Venetian, and of his relations with her — relations 
which he felt to be full of peril. It had occurred 
to him that there was only one way to secure 
Fiordelisa's future welfare, while strictly main- 
taining his own incognito, and that was by the 
purchase of an annuity. It would cost him some 
thousands to capitalize that income of two 
hundred a year, which he had resolved to allow 
Lisa ; but he had reserves which he could afford 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 139 

to draw upon, the accumulations of his minority, 
at present invested in railway stock. Any lesser 
sacrifice would appear to him too poor an atone- 
ment ; for after all, it was possible that, but for 
him, Fiordelisa's Englisliman might have kept 
his promise and married her. No, Vansittart did 
not think he would be doing too much in securing 
these two women against poverty for the rest of 
their lives — and the annuity once bought he 
would be justified in disappearing out of Fiorde- 
lisa's life, and leaving h-er in ignorance of his 
name and belonojino^s. 

He spent an hour with his lawyer before going 
to Chelsea, and from that gentleman obtained all 
needful information as to the proper manner of 
purchasing an annuity, and the best people with 
whom to invest his money. 

This done, he walked across the Park, and 
arrived at Saltero's Mansion on the stroke of four. 
Lisa had told him that her lesson lasted from 
three to four, so he had timed himself to meet 
the maestro. 

The ripe round notes of Lisa's mezzo soprano 
rose full and strong in one of Conconi's exercises 



140 THE VENETIANS. 

as la Zia opened the door. She attacked a florid 
passage with force and precision, ran rapidly up 
the scale to A sharp, and held the high note long 
and clear as the call of a bird. 

"Brava, brava," cried Signor Zinco, banging 
down a chord and rising from the piano as Van- 
sittart entered. 

Lisa flew to meet him. She was in her plain 
black frock, with no collar, only a bit of scarlet 
ribbon tied round her throat, and another bit of 
scarlet tying up her great untidy knot of blue- 
black hair. The rusty black gown, the scarlet 
ribbons, the olive face, with its carnation flush 
and star-like eyes, made a brilliant picture after 
the school of Murillo. Yansittart could but see 
that she was strikingly handsome — just the kind 
of woman to take the town by storm, if she were 
once seen and heard in opera boufi'e. 

Zinco was a little old man, short and fat, with 
no more figure than an eighteen-gallon cask. He 
had a large bald head, and benevolent eyes. He 
was very shabby. His coat, which might once 
have been black, was now a dull green — his old 
grey trousers were kneed and frayed, his old fat 
hands were dirty. 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AXD LOVE FORLOEX. 141 

" Ah, I thought you had forgotten me again," 
said Lisa. " But you are here at last ; and now 
ask the master if he is pleased with me." 

" I am more than pleased," began Zinco, bowing 
and smiling at Yansittart as one who would fain 
have prostrated himself at the feet of so exalted 
a patron. 

" Stay," cried Lisa. " You shall not talk of me 
before my face. I will go and make the tea — 
and then Zinco will tell you the truth, Si'or mio, 
the very truth about me. He will not be obliged 
to praise." 

She dashed out of the room, as if blown out 
on a strong wind, so impetuous were her move- 
ments. La Zia began to clear a table for tea, 
a table heaped with sheets of music and play- 
books. Fiordelisa had been learning English out 
of Gilbert's librettos, which were harder work for 
her than Metastasio for an English student. 

"Well, Signor Zinco, what do you think of 
your pupil ? " asked Yansittart. 

" Sir, she is of a marvellous naturaL She has 
an enormous talent, and with that talent an 
enormous energy. She is destined to a pro- 
digious success upon the English scene." 



142 THE VENETIANS. 

" I am delighted to hear it." 

" She has all the qualities which succeed with 
your English people — a fine voice, a fine person, 
and pardon me if I add, an audacity, a vulgarity 
which will command applause. Were I more 
diplomatist I should say genius — where I say 
vulgarity — but this divine creature is adorably 
vulgar. She has no nerves. I say to her sing, 
and she sings. * Attack me the A sharp/ and 
she attacks, and the note rings out like a bell. 
She is without nerves, and she is without self- 
consciousness, and she has the courage of a lion. 
She has worked as no pupil of mine ever worked 
before. She is mastering your difficult language 
in as many months as it cost me years. She has 
laboured at the theory of music, and though she 
is in most things of a surprising ignorance, she 
has made no mean progress in that difficult 
science. She has worked as Garcia's gifted 
daughter worked ; and were this age worthy 
of a second Malibran, she has in her the stufi" 
to make a Malibran." 

The fat little maestro stopped for breath, not 
for words. He stood mopping his forehead and 
smiling at Yansittart, who was inclined to believe 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 143 

in his sincerity, for that roulade he had heard at 
the door just now displayed a voice of brilliant 
quality. 

" You are enthusiastic, Signor Zinco," he said 
quietly. *' And pray when you have trained this 
fine voice to the uttermost what do you intend to 
do with it ? " 

"I hope to place the Signora in the way of 
making her fortune. Were you English a nation 
of music lovers, I should say to this dear lady, 
give yourself up to hard study of classical opera 
for the next three years, before you allow your- 
self to be heard in public ; but pardon me if I 
say, Signor, you English are not connoisseurs. 
You are taken with show and brilliancy. You 
think more of youth and beauty in the prima 
donna than of finish or deep feeling in the singer. 
Before your winter season of opera bouffe shall 
begin the Signora will have learnt enough to 
ensure her a succes fou. I count upon getting 
her engaged at the Apollo Theatre in November. 
There is a new opera being written for the Apollo 
— an opera in which I am told there are several 
female characters, and there will be a chance for 
a new singer. I have already spoken to the 



144 THE VENETIANS. 

manager of the Apollo, and he has promised to 
hear the Signora sing before concluding his 
autumn engagements." 

" Festina lente, Signor Zinco. You are going 
at railroad pace. Do not spoil the Signora's 
future by a hasty debut'' 

"Have no fear, sir. She will have all the 
summer for practice, and for further progress in 
English. A foreiojn accent will be no disadvan- 
tage. It takes with an English audience. You 
have had so many sham Italians in opera that it 
will be well to have a real one." 

The Maestro bowed himself out, as Fiordelisa 
came in with the tea-tray, beaming with smiles, 
happy and important. She placed a chair for 
Vansittart by the open window. She arranged 
the light bamboo table in front of him, and 
began to pour out the tea, while la Zia seated 
herself at a little distance. 

" I have learnt to make tea in your English 
fashion," Lisa said gaily, as she handed the tea- 
cups. " Strong, oh, so strong. No xe vero ? 
Our neighbour on the upper floor taught me. 
She laughed at my tea one day when she came 
to see me. And now, what did little Zinco 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 145 

say? He always pretends to be satisfied with 
me." 

" He praised you to the skies. He says you 
will make your fortune in opera." 

** And do you like operas ? " Lisa asked, after 
a thoughtful pause. 

"I adore music of all kinds, except hurdy- 
gurdies and banjos," 

"And will you come sometimes to hear me 
sing ? " 

" Assuredly ! With the greatest pleasure." 

" I shall owe fame and fortune to you, if ever I 
am famous or rich," said Lisa, seating herself on 
a low stool by the window, in the full afternoon 
sunlight, basking in the brightness and warmth. 

" What has become of Paolo ? " asked Yansit- 
tart, looking round the room, where some scat- 
tered toys reminded him of the child's existence. 
. " Paolo has gone to tea with the lady on the 
top floor. She has three little girls and a boy, 
and they all love el puttelo. They let him play 
with their toys and pull their hair. Hark! there 
they go." 

A wild gallop of little feet across the ceiling 
testified to the animation of the party. 

VOL. II. L 



146 THE VENETIANS. 

** He has been there all the afternoon. He is 
a bold, bad boy, and so full of mischief," said Lisa, 
with evident pride. " He is very big for his age, 
people say, and as active as a monkey. You 
must go and fetch him directly you have had 
your tea, Carina mia," she added to her aunt. 
" He has been with those children nearly two 
hours. He will be awake all night with excite- 
ment." 

" Is he excitable ? " asked Vansittart, who felt 
a new and painful interest in this child of a 
nameless parent. 

" Oh, he is terrible. He is ready to jump out 
of the window when he is happy. He throws 
himself down on the floor, and kicks and screams 
till he is black in the face, when he is not allowed 
to do what he likes. He is only a baby, and yet 
he is our master. That is because he is a man, I 
suppose. We were created to be your slaves, 
were we not, Si'or mio ? La Zia spoils him." 

La Zia protested that the boy was goodness 
itself — a cherub, an angel. He wanted nothiDg 
in life but his own way. And he was so strong, 
so big, and so beautiful that people turned in the 
streets to look at him. 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AKD LOVE FORLORN. 147 

" Among all the children in Battersea Park I 
have never seen his equal. And he is not yet 
three years old. He fought with a boy of six, and 
sent him away howling. He is a marvel." 

" When he is old enough I shall send him to a 
gymnasium," said Lisa. " I want him to be an 
athlete, like his father. He told me once that he 
won cups and prizes at the University by his 
strength. Oh, how white you have turned ! " she 
cried, distressed at the ghastly change in Yan- 
sittart's face. " I foro^ot. I foro:ot. I ouc^ht not 
to have spoken of him. I never will speak of 
him again. We will forget that he ever existed." 

She hung over his chair. She took up his 
hand and kissed it. 

** Forgive me ! Forgive me ! " she murmured, 
with tears. 

Unmoved by this little scene, La Zia emptied 
her teacup, rose, and left the room ; and they 
two — Yansittart and Fiordelisa — were alone. 

" Tou know that I would not pain you for the 
world," she sighed. *' You have been so good to 
me, my true and only friend." 

" No, no, Si'ora ; I know that you would not 
willingly recall that memory which is branded 



148 THE VENETIANS. 

deep upon my heart and brain. I can never 
forget. Do not believe even that I wish to 
forget. I sinned ; and I must suffer for my sin. 
My friendship for you and for your good aunt 
arose out of that sin. I want to atone to you as 
far as I can for that fatal act. You understand 
that, I am sure." 

"Yes, yes; I understand. But you like us, 
don't you ? " she pleaded. " You are really our 
friend?" 

" I am really your friend. And I want to 
prove my friendship by settling an income upon 
you, in such a manner that you will not be 
dependent upon my will or forethought for the 
payment of that income. It will be paid to you 
as regularly as the quarter-day comes round. I 
am going to buy you an annuity, Lisa ; that is to 
say, an income which will be paid to you till the 
end of your life ; so that whether you make your 
fortune as a singer or not, you can never know 
extreme poverty." 

"But who will give me the money when 
quarter-day comes ? " 

" It will be sent to you from an oflSce. You 
will have no trouble about it." 



TO LIVE FOEGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 149 

" I should hate that. I would rather have the 
money from your hand. It is you who give it 
me — not the man at the office. I want to kiss 
my benefactor's hand. You are my benefactor. 
That was one of the first words I taught myself 
after I came to this house. Ben-e-factor ! " she 
repeated, with her Italian accent ; " it is easier 
than most of your English words." 

" Cara Si'ora, I may be far away. It would be 
a bad thing for you to depend on my memory 
for the means of living. Let us be reasonable 
and business-like. I shall see to this matter to- 
morrow. And now, good-bye." 

He rose, and took up his hat. Lisa hung 
about him, very pale, and with her full lower lip 
pouting and quivering like the lip of a child that 
is trying not to cry. 

" Why are you doing this ; why are you 
changing to me ? " she asked piteously. 

" I am not changing, Lisa. There is no thought 
of change in me. Only you must be reasonable. 
There is a dark secret between us — the memory 
of that fatal night in Venice. It is not well that 
we should meet often. We cannot see each other 
without remembering " 



150 THE VENETIANS. 

" I remember nothing when I am with you — 
gnente, gnente ! " she cried passionately. " No- 
thing except that I love you — love you with all 
my heart and soul.*' 

She tried to throw herself upon his breast, but 
as he recoiled, astonished and infinitely pained, 
she fell on her knees at his feet, and clasped his 
hand in both of hers, and kissed and cried over it. 

"I love you," she repeated; "and you — you 
have loved me — you must have laved me^ — a 
little. No man was ever so kind as you have 
been, except for love's sake. You must have 
cared for me. You cared for me that day in 
Venice — the happiest day in my life. Your 
heart turned to me as my heart turned to you, 
in the sunshine on the lagune, in the evening at 
the theatre. Every day that I have lived since 
then has strengthened my love. For God's sake, 
don't tell me that I am nothing to you." 

" You are very much to me, Lisa. You are a 
friend for whom I desire all good things that 
this world and the world that comes after death 
can give. Get off your knees, child. This is 
mere foolishness — a child's foolishness ; no wiser 
than Paolo's anger when you won't let him have 



TO LIVE FOKGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 151 

all his own way. Come, Si'ora mia, let us laugh 
and be friends." 

He tried to make light of her feelings ; but she 
gave him a look that frightened him, a look of 
unmitigated despair. 

"I thought you loved me; that by-and-by, 
when I was a famous singer, you would marry me. 
I should be good enough then to be your wife. 
You would forget that I was once a poor working 
girl at Burano. But I was foolish ; yes, foolish. 
I could never be good enough to be your wife — 
I, the mother of Paolo. Let me go on loving 
you. Only come to see me sometimes — once 
a week, perhaps! The weeks are so long when 
you don't come. Only care for me a little, just 
a little, and I shall be happy. See how little I 
am asking. Don't forsake me, don't abandon me." 

" There is nothing further from my thoughts 
than to forsake you ; but if you make scenes of 
this kind I can never trust myself to come here 
again," he answered sternly. 

" You will never come here again ! " she cried, 
looking at him with wild, wide-open eyes. " Then 
I will not live without you ; I cannot, I will not." 

The window stood open with its balcony and 



152 THE VENETIANS. 

flowers, and the sunlit river, and the sunlit park 
and dim blue horizon of house-tops and chimneys 
stretching away to the hills of Sydenham. The 
girl looked at him for a moment, clenched her 
teeth, clenched her hands, and made a rush for 
the balcony. Happily he was quick enough and 
strong enough to stop her with one outstretched 
arm. He took her by the shoulder, savagely 
almost, with something of the brutal roughness 
of her old lover it might be, but with no love. 
Beautiful as she was in her passionate self- 
abandonment, he felt nothing for her in that 
moment but an angry contempt, which he was 
at little pains to conceal. 

The revulsion of feeling upon that wild impulse 
towards self-destruction came quickly enough. 
The tears rolled down her flushed cheeks, she 
sank into the chair towards which Vansittart led 
her, and sat, helpless and unresisting, with her 
hands hanging loose across the arms of the chair, 
her head drooping on her breast, the picture of 
helpless grief. 

He could but pity her, seeing her so childlike, 
so unreasoning, swayed by passion as a lily is 
bent by the wind. He shut the window, and 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 153 

bolted it, against any second outbreak ; and then 
he seated himself at Lisa's side and took one of 
those listless hands in his. 

" Let us be reasonable, Si'ora," he said, " and 
let us be good friends always. If I were not in 
love with a young English lady whom I hope 
very shortly to make my wife I might have fallen 
in love with you." 

She gave a melancholy smile, and then a deep 
sigh. 

" No, no, impossible ! You would never have 
cared. I am too low — the mother of Paolo — only 
fit to be your servant." 

" Love pardons much, Lisa ; and if my heart 
had not been given to another your beauty and 
your frank generous nature might have won me. 
Only my heart was gone before that night at 
Covent Garden. It belonged for ever and for 
ever to my dear English love." 

" Your English love ! I should like to see 
her " — with a moody look. " Is she handsome, 
much handsomer than I ? " 

" There are some people who would think you 
the lovelier. Beauty is not all in all, Lisa. We 
love because we love." 



154 THE VENETIANS. 

"*We love because we love/" she repeated 
slowly. "Ah, that is what makes it so hard. 
We cannot help ourselves. Love is destiny." 

" Tour destiny was in the past, Lisa. It came 
to you at Burano." 

"No, no, no. I never cared for him as I 
have cared for you. I was happier in that one 
day on the Lido, and that one evening in Venice, 
than in all my life with him. There was more 
music in your voice when you spoke to me, ever 
so lightly, than in all he ever said to me of love. 
You are my destiny." 

" You will think the same about some one else 
by-and-by, Si'ora — some one whose heart will be 
free to love you as you deserve to be loved. You 
are so young and so pretty and so clever that 
you must needs win a love worth the winning by- 
and-by, if you will only be reasonable and live a 
tranquil, self-respecting life in the meanwhile." 

She shook her head hopelessly. 

"I shall never care for any one again,'* she 
said. "No other voice would ever sound sweet 
in my ears. Don't despise me ; don't think of 
me as a shameless creature. I was mad just now. 
I should never have spoken as I did ; but I 



TO LIVE FORGOTTEN AND LOVE FORLORN. 155 

thought you cared far me. You were so kind ; 
you did so much for us." 

" I have tried to do my duty, that was all." 

** Only duty ! Well, it was a dream, a lovely 
dream — and it is over." 

" Let it go with a smile, Lisa. You have so 
much to make life pleasant — a face that will 
charm every one ; a voice that may make your 
fortune." 

" I don't care about fortune." 

"Ah, but you will find it very pleasant when 
it comes — carriages and horses, a fine house, 
jewels, laurel wreaths, applause, all that is most 
intoxicating in life. It is for that you have been 
working so hard." 

" No, it is not for that. I have been working 
only to please you ; so that you should say by- 
and-by, ' This poor little Lisa, for whom I have 
taken trouble and spent money, is something 
more than a common lace-worker, after all.' " 

" This poor little Lisa is a genius, I believe, 
and will have the world at her feet, by-and-by. 
And now, Si'ora, I must say good-bye. I am 
going into the country to-morrow.'* 

" For long ? " 



156 THE VENETIANS. 

" Till after my marriage, perhaps." 

" Till after your marriage ! And when you 
are married will you ever come and see me ? " 

" Perhaps ; if you will promise never again to 
talk as foolishly as you have talked to-day." 

" I promise. I promise anything in this world 
rather than not see you." 

" If I come, be sure I shall come as your true 
and loyal friend. Ah, here is your son," as a 
babyish prattle made itself heard in the little 
vestibule. 

First came a rattling of the handle, and then 
the door was burst open, and Paolo rushed in — a 
sturdy block of a boy, with flaxen hair and great 
black eyes — a curious compromise between the 
Saxon father and the Venetian mother ; square- 
shouldered, sturdy, stolid, yet with flashes of 
southern impetuousness. He was big for his age, 
very big, standing straight and strong upon the 
legs of an infant Hercules. He excelled in 
everything but speech. 

Vansittart lifted him in his arms, and looked 
long and earnestly into the cherubic countenance, 
which first smiled and then frowned at him. He 
was trying, in this living picture of the dead, to 



TO LIVE FOEGOTTEN AND LOVE FOELOEN. 157 

see whether he could discover any trace of the 
Marchant lineaments. 

It might be that a foregone conclusion 
prompted the fancy — that the fear of seeing 
made him see — but in the turn of the eyebrow 
and the contour of cheek and chin he thought he 
recognized lines which were familiar to him in 
the faces of Eve and her sisters — lines which 
were not in Fiordelisa's face. 

He set the boy down with a sigh. 

" Don't spoil him, Signora," he said to la Zia. 
"He looks like a boy with a good disposition, 
but a strong temper. He will want judicious 
training by-and-by." 

Lisa followed him to the vestibule, and opened 
the door for him. 

"Tell me that you are not angry before you 
go," she said imploringly. 

" Angry ? No, no ; how could I be angry ? I 
am only sorry that you should waste so much 
warmth of feeling on a man whose heart belongs 
to some one else." 

" What is she like — that some one else ? Tell 
me that — I want to know." 

"Very lovely, very good, very gentle and 



158 THE VENETIANS. 

tender and dear. How can I describe her ? She 
is the only woman in the world for me." 

" Shall I ever see her ? " 

"I think not, Si'ora. It would do no good. 
There is that sad secret which you and I know, 
but which she does not know. I could not tejl 
her about you without making her wonder how 
you and I had come to be such friends ; and 
then " 

« You do not think that I would tell her ? " 
exclaimed Lisa, with a wounded air. 

" No, no ; I know you would not. Only secrets 
come to light, sometimes, imawares. Let the 
future take care of itself. Once more, good-bye." 

'* Once more, good-bye," she echoed, in tones 
of deepest melancholy. 



( 159 ) 



CHAPTEK VII. 

"SHE WAS MOEE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAT." 

If Easter had been a time of happiness for Yan- 
sittart and Eve, bringing with it the revelation of 
mutual love, "Whitsuntide was no less happy ; 
happier, perhaps, in its serene security, and in 
the familiarity of a love which seemed to have 
lasted for a long time. 

" Only seven weeks," exclaimed Eve, in one of 
their wanderings among the many cattle-tracks 
on Bexley Hill, no sound of life or movement in 
all the world around them save the hum of 
insects and the chime of cow bells. " To think 
that we have been engaged only seven weeks! 
It seems a long lifetime." 

" Because you are so weary of me ? " asked 
Vansittart, with a lover's fatuous smile. 

" No ; because our love is so colossal. How 



160 THE VENETIANS. 

can it have grown so tremendous in so short a 
time?" 

"Komeo and Juliet's love grew in a single 
night." 

" Ah, that was in Italy — and for stage effect. I 
don't think much of a passion that springs up in 
a night, like one of those great red fungi which 
one sees in this wood on an October morning. I 
should like our love to be as strong and as deep- 
rooted as that old oak over there, with its grey 
sprawling roots cleaving the ground." 

" Why, so it is ; or it will be by the time we 
celebrate our golden wedding." 

" Our golden wedding ! Yes, if we go on living 
we must be old and grey some day. It seems 
hard, doesn't it ? How happy those Greek gods 
and goddesses were, to be for ever young. It 
seems hard that we must change from what we 
are now. I cannot think of myself as an old 
woman, in a black silk gown and a cap. A cap !" 
she interjected, with ineffable disgust, and an in- 
voluntary movement of her ungloved hand to the 
coils of bright hair which were shining uncovered 
in the sun. "And you with grey hair and 
wrinkles ! Wrinkles in your face ! That is what 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 161 

your favourite Spencer calls * Unthinkable/ 
Stay " — looking at him searchingly in the merci- 
less summer light. " Why, I declare there is 
just one wrinkle already. Just one perpendicular 
wrinkle ! That means care, does it not ? " 

" What care can I have when I have you, except 
the fear of losing you ? " 

" Ah, you can have no such fear. I think, like 
Juliet, ' I should have had more cunning to be 
strange.' I let you see too soon that I adored 
you. I made myself very cheap." 

** No more than the stars are cheap. We may 
all see them and worship them." 

" But that deep perpendicular line. Jack. It 
must mean something. I have been reading 
Darwin on Expression, remember." 

" Spencer — Darwin. You are getting far too 
learned. I liked you better in your ignorance." 

^^ How ignorant I was" — with a long-drawn sigh 
— *'till you began to educate me. Poor dear 
Mutterchen never taught us anything but the 
multiplication table and a little French grammar. 
We used to devour Scott, and Dickens, and Bulwer, 
and Thackeray. The books on our shelves will 
tell you how they have been read. They have 

VOL. II. M 



162 THE VENETIANS. 

been done to rags with reading. They are drop- 
ping to pieces like over-boiled fowls. And we 
know our Shakespeare — we have learnt him by 
heart. We used to make our winter nights merry 
acting Shakesperean scenes to Nancy and the 
parlour-maid. They were our only audience. 
But, except those dear novelists and Shakespeare, 
we read nothing. History was a blank ; philo- 
sophy a word without meaning. You introduced 
me to the world of books and learned authors." 

" Was I wise ? Was it not something like 
Satan's introduction of Eve to the apple ?" 

** Wise or foolish, you gave me Darwin. And 
now I want to know what kind of trouble it was 
that made that line upon your forehead. Some 
foolish love affair, perhaps. You were in love — 
ever so much deeper in love than you are with me." 

" No, my dearest. All my earlier loves were 
lighter than vanity — no more than Komeo's boyish 
passion for that poor shadow Rosaline." 

"What other care, then? You, who are so 
rich, can have no money cares." 

" Can I not ? Imprimis, I am not rich ; and 
then what income I have is derived chiefly from 
agricultural land cut up into smallish farms, with 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 163 

homesteads, and barns, and cowhouses, that seem 
always ready to tumble about the tenant's ears, 
unless I spend half the annual rent in repairs." 

" Dear, picturesque old homesteads, I've no 
doubt." 

" Eminently picturesque, but very troublesome 
to own." 

" And did repairs — the cost of new thatch and 
new drainpipes — write that deep line on your 
brow ? " 

"Perhaps. Or it may be only a habit of 
frowning, and of trying to emulate the eagles in 
looking at the sun." 

"Ah, you have been a wanderer in sunny 
lands, in Italy. And now we had better go and 
look for the girls." 

They roamed over Bexley Hill or Blackdown 
during that happy Whitsuntide, favoured with 
weather that made these Sussex hills a paradise. 
It was the season of hawthorn blossom, and 
an undulating line of white may bushes came 
dancing down the hill like a bridal procession. 
It was the season of blue-bells; and all the 
woodland hollows were lakelets of azure bloom, 
luminous in sunlight, darkly purple in shadow ; 



164 THE VENETIANS. 

the season of blossoming trees in cottage gardens, 
of the laburnum's golden rain, the acacia's per- 
fumed whiteness, the tossing balls of the guelder 
rose, the mauve blossoms of wistaria glorifying 
the humblest walls, the small white woodbine 
scenting the balmy air. It was a season that 
seemed especially invented for youth and love ; 
for the young foals sporting in the meadow ; for 
the young lambs on the grassy hills ; and for 
Eve and Vansittart. 

They almost lived out of doors in this delicious 
weather. The four sisters were always ready to 
bear them company, and were always discreet 
enough to leave them alone for the greater part 
of every rambling expedition. Mr. Tivett had 
reappeared on the scene. He had been particu- 
larly useful in London, where he was full of 
information about the very best places for buy- 
ing everything, from a diamond bracelet to a 
tooth-brush, and had insisted upon taking Eve 
and Lady Hartley to some of his favourite shops, 
and upon having a voice in a great many of their 
purchases. He took as much interest in Eve's 
trousseau as if he had been her maiden aunt. 
The wedding was to be the simplest ceremonial 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 165 

possible. Neither Vansittart nor Eve wished 
to parade their bliss before a light-minded 
multitude. The Homestead was not a house in 
which to entertain a mixed company; and 
Colonel Marchant was not a man to make a fuss 
about anything in life except his own comfort. 
He ordered a frock-coat, and got himself a new 
hat for the occasion ; and the faithful Yorkshire 
Nancy, cook, housekeeper, and general manager, 
toiled for a week of industrious days in order 
that the house might be in faultless order, and 
the light collation worthy of the chosen who 
were invited to the wedding. There were to be 
no hired waiters, no stereotyped banquet from 
the confectioner's, only tea and coffee, cham- 
pagne of a famous brand — upon this the Colonel 
insisted — and such cakes and biscuits and delicate 
sandwiches as Nancy knew well how to prepare. 
For bridesmaids. Eve had her four sisters, all 
in white frocks, and carrying big bunches of 
Marechal Niel roses. Hetty and Peggy had 
been in ecstatic expectation of the day for a 
month, and full of speculation as to what 
manner of present the bridegroom would give 
them. They squabbled about this question 



166 THE VENETIANS. 

almost every night at bedtime, under the sloping 
roof of the attic which they occupied together, 
close to the overhanging thatch where there 
was such a humming and buzzing of summer 
insects in the June mornings. 

" He is bound to give us a present," said Peggy. 
"It's etiquette" — accentuating the first syllable. 
"You should say etiquette" reproved Hetty. 
" Lady Hartley lays a stress upon the kett." 

" Don't bother about pronounciation," muttered 
Peggy ; " one can never get on with one's talk 
when you're so fine-ladyfied." 

" Pronounciation ! " cried Hetty. " You pick 
up your language from Susan. No wonder 
Sophy is horrified at you." 

"Sophy is too fine for anything. Mr. Yan- 
sittart said so yesterday when she gave herself 
airs at the picnic, because there were no table 
napkins. I wonder what the present will be ! 
He's so rich, he's sure to give us something 
pretty. Suppose he gives us watches ? " 

A watch was the dream of Peggy's life. She 
thought the difference between no watch and 
watch was the difference between a joyless hum- 
drum existence and a life of exquisite bliss. 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 167 

"Suppose he doesn't," exclaimed her sister, 
contemptuously. " Did you ever hear of a bride- 
groom giving watches ? Of course, the brides- 
maids are supposed] to have watches. Their 
fathers give them watches directly they are in 
their teens, unless they are hard-up, like our 
father. I shouldn't wonder if he were to give 
us diamond arrow brooches." 

Hetty had seen a diamond arrow in Lady 
Hartley's bonnet-strings, and had conceived a 
passion for that form of ornament. 

"What do you bet that it will be diamond 
arrows ? " 

" There's no use in betting with you. If you 
lose, one never gets paid." 

" I don't often have any money," Peggy 
replied naively ; and then came a knocking at 
the lath and plaster partition, and Sophy's sharp 
voice remonstrating — 

"Are you children never going to leave off 
chattering? You are worse than the swallows 
in the morning." 

There was one blissfullest of days for Peggy 
daring the week before the wedding, a balmy 



168 THE VENETIANS. 

June morning on which Vansittart came in a 
dog-cart to take Eve and her youngest sister to 
Haslemere station, whence the train carried 
them through a smiling land, perfumed Avith 
bean blossoms and those fragrant spices which 
pine woods exhale under the summer sun, to 
Liss, where another dog-cart was waiting for 
them, and whence they drove past copse and 
common to Mere wood, Vansittart's very own 
house, to which he brought his future wife on a 
visit of inspection — "to see if she would like 
any alterations," he said. 

" As if any one could want to alter such a lovely 
house," exclaimed Peggy, who was allowed to 
run about and pry into every hole and corner, 
and open all the wardrobes and drawers, except 
in Mrs. Vansittart's rooms, where everything was 
looked at with an almost religious reverence. 

There were boxes packed already in this lady's 
dressing-room, the note of departure already 
sounded. 

" My mother talks of a house at Brighton," 
said Vansittart. " She has a good many friends 
settled there, and the winter climate suits her." 

" I am sorry she should feel constrained to go 



"MOKE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 169 

away," said Eve, looking ruefully round the 
spacious bedroom, with its three French windows 
opening on to a wide balcony, a room which 
could have swallowed up half the Homestead. 
" It seems as if I were turning her out. And I 
am sure there would have been ample room for 
both of us in this big house." 

"So I told her, love; but English mothers 
don't take kindly to the idea of a joint menage. 
She will come to us often as our guest, I have 
no doubt, but she insists upon giving up posses- 
sion to you and me." 

They loitered in all the lower rooms, drawing- 
room and anteroom, morning-room, library, bil- 
liard-room — an unpretentious country house, 
spread over a good deal of ground, roomy, airy, 
beautifully lighted, but boasting no art collec- 
tions, no treasures of old books, unpretentiously 
furnished after the fashion of a century ago, and 
with only such modern additions as comfort 
required. The drawing-room would have ap- 
peared shabby to eyes fresh from modern draw- 
ing-rooms ; but the colouring was harmonious, 
and the room was made beautiful by the abundance 
of flowers on tables, chimney-piece, and cabinets. 



170 THE VENETIANS. 

" I dare say you would like to refurnish this 
room by-and-by," said Vansittart. 

"Not for worlds. I would not change one 
detail that can remind you of your childhood. I 
remember the drawing-room in Yorkshire, and 
how dearly I loved the sofas and easy-chairs — 
the glass cabinets of old blue china. It would 
grieve me to go back and see strange furniture 
in that dear old room ; and I love to think that 
your eyes looked at these things when they were 
only on a level with that table " — pointing to a 
low table with a great bowl of roses upon it. 

" Not my eyes alone, but my father's and 
grandfather's eyes have looked from yonder low 
level. I am glad you don't mind the shabby fur- 
niture. I confess to a weakness for the old sticks." 

" Shabby furniture ! " repeated Eve. " One 
would think you were going to marry a princess. 
Why, this house is a palace compared with the 
Homestead ; and yet I have contrived to be 
happy even in the Homestead." 

"Because Heaven has given you one of its 
choicest gifts — a happy disposition," said Vansit- 
tart. "It is that happy temperament which 
irradiates your beauty. It is not that tip-tilted 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 171 

little nose, so slender in the bridge, so ethereal 
in its upward curve, nor yet those violet eyes, 
which make you so lovely. It is the happy soul 
for ever singing to itself, like the lark up yonder 
in the fathomless blue." 

" I shouldn't think you cared for me, if you 
didn't talk nonsense sometimes," answered Eve, 
gaily ; " but it is a privilege to be happy, isn't it ? 
Sophy and I have had the same troubles to bear, 
but they have hurt her ever so much more than 
they hurt me. Jenny and I sometimes call her 
Mrs. Gummidge. I think it is because she has 
never left off struo:orlinor to be smart, never left 
off thinking that we ought to be on the same 
level as the county families ; while Jenny and I 
gave up the battle at once, and confessed to each 
other frankly that we were poor and shabby, and 
the daughters of a scampish father. And so we 
have managed to be happy. I love to think 
that I am like Beatrice, and that I was born 
under a star that danced." 

" You were born under a star that brought me 
good luck." 

They were in the flower-garden, a delightful 
old garden of deep soft turf and old herbaceous 



172 THE VENETIANS. 

borders, a garden brimful of roses, standard roses 
and climbing roses and dwarf roses, arches of 
roses that made the blue sky beyond look bluer, 
alleys shaded with roses, like the vine-clad ber- 
ceaux of Italy. It was a garden shut in by walls 
of cypress and yew, and so secluded as to make 
an alfresco drawing-room for summer habitation ; 
a drawing-room in which one could breakfast or 
dine, without fear of being espied by any one 
approaching the hall door. 

Eve was enchanted with her new home. She 
poured out her confidence to him who was so 
soon to be her husband, with the right to know 
her inmost thoughts, her every impulse or fancy. 
It was not often that she talked of herself; but 
to-day she was full of personal reminiscences, and 
Vansittart encouraged her innocent egotism. 

** I don't think you realize that you are play- 
ing the part of King Cophetua, and marrying a 
beggar-maiden," she said. "I don't think you 
can have any idea what a struggle my life has 
been since I was twelve years old — how that dear 
Nancy and I have had to scheme and manage, in 
order to feed four hungry girls. You remember 
how Hetty and Peggy giggled when you talked 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 173 

about dinner. We scarcely ever had a meal 
which you and Lady Hartley would call dinner. 
We were vegetarians half our time — we abstained 
when it wasn't Lent. We had our Ember days 
all the year round. Oh, pray don't look so 
horrified. We had the kind of food we liked. 
Vegetable soups, and savoury stews, and salads, 
cakes and buns, bread and jam. We had meals 
that we all enjoyed tremendously — only we could 
not have asked a dropper-in to stay and lunch 
or dine — could we ? So it was lucky people took 
so little notice of us." 

"My darling, you were the pearls, and your 
neighbours were the swine." 

" And then our dress. How could we be stylish 
or tailor-made girls when a ten-pound note once 
in a way was all we could extort from father for 
the whole flock ? Ten pounds ! Lady Hartley 
would pay as much for a bonnet as would buy 
gowns for all ^ve of us. And then you bring me 
to this delicious old house — so spacious, so 
dignified, with such a settled air of wealth and 
comfort — and you ask if I can suggest any 
improvements in things which to my mind are 
perfect." 



174 THE VENETIANS. 

" My dearest, I want you to be happy, and very 
happy ; and to feel that this house is your house, 
to deal with as you please." 

"I only want to live in it, with you," she 
answered shyly, "and not to disappoint you. 
What should I do if King Cophetua were to 
repent his too-generous marriage, and were to 
think of all the brilliant matches he might have 
made ? " 

" When we are settled here I will show you 
the girls my mother would have liked me to 
marry, and you will see that they are not par- 
ticularly brilliant. And I do not even know if 
any of them would have accepted me, had I 
been minded to offer myself." 

" They could not have refused you. No one 
could. To know you is to adore you. Come, 
Jack, you have been talking rodomontade to me. 
It is my turn now. You are not extraordinarily 
handsome. I suppose, as a sober matter of fact, 
Mr. Sefton is handsomer. Don't wince at the 
sound of his name. You know I have always 
detested him. I doubt if you are even excep- 
tionally clever — but you have a kind of charm — 
you creep into a girl's heart unawares. I pity 



"MOEE FAIR THAX WORDS CAN SAY." 175 

the woman who loved you, and whom you did 
not love." 

Vansittart thought of Fiordelisa. Perhaps in 
every man's life there comes one such ordeal as 
that — love cast at his feet, love worthless to him ; 
but true love all the same, and the most precious 
of all earthly feelings in the abstract. 

Eve Marchant's wedding gifts were few but 
costly. She had no wide circle of friends and 
acquaintances to shower feather fans and ivory 
paper-knives, standard lamps and silver boxes, 
teapots and cream-jugs, fruit spoons and carriage 
clocks upon her, till she sat amoug her treasures, 
bewildered and oppressed, like Tarpeia under the 
rain of iron from rude warrior hands. Neigh- 
bours had stood aloof from the family at the 
Homestead, and could hardly come to the front 
with gifts in tlieir hands, now that the slighted 
girl was going to marry a man of some standing 
in an adjoining county, and to take her place for 
ever among the respectabilities. The givers 
therefore were few, but the gifts were worthy. 
Mrs. Vansittart gave the pearl necklace which 
she had worn at her own bridal — a single string 



176 THE VENETIANS. 

of perfect pearls, with a diamond clasp that had 
been in the family for a century and a half. Lady 
Hartley gave her future sister-in-law a set of 
diamond stars worthy to blaze in the fashionable 
firmament on a Drawing-Eoom day. Sir Hubert 
gave a three-quarter bred mare of splendid shape 
and remarkable power, perfect as hack or hunter, 
on whose back Eve had already taken her first 
lessons in equitation. And for the bridegroom ! 
His gifts were of the choicest and the best con- 
sidered; jewels, toilet necessaire, travelling bag, 
books innumerable. He watched for every 
want, anticipated every fancy. 

" Pray, pray don't spoil me," cried Eve. " You 
make me feel so horribly selfish. You load me 
with gifts, and you say you are not rich. You 
are ruining yourself for me.'* 

" A man can afford to ruin himself once in his 
life for his nearest and dearest," he answered 
gaily. *' Besides, if I give you all you want now, 
I shall cure you of any incipient tendency to 
extravagance." 

" I have no such tendency. My nose has been 
kept too close to the grindstone of poverty." 

" Poor, pretty little nose ! Happily the grind- 
stone has not hurt it." 



**MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 177 

" And as for wants, who said I wanted Tenny- 
son and Browning bound in vellum, or a travel- 
ling bag as big as a house ? I have no wants, 
or they are all centred upon one object, which 
isn't to be bought with money. I want you 
and your love." 

"I and my love are yours — have been yours 
since that night in the snowy road, when you 
entered into my life at a flash, like the sun- 
light through Newton's shutter, like Undine, 
like Titania." 

One of the few wedding presents was embar- 
rassing alike to bride and bridegroom, for it 
came from a man whom both disliked, but whom 
one of the two would rather not offend. 

Eve's appearance in the family sitting-room 
just a little later than usual one morning was 
loudly hailed by Hetty and Peggy, who were 
squabbling over a small parcel which had arrived, 
registered and insured, by the morning post. 

"It is a jeweller's box in the shape of a 
crescent," cried Peggy. " It must be a crescent 
brooch. How too utterly lovely! But it is 
not from Mr. Yansittart." 

VOL. n. M 



178 THE VENETIANS; 

They called him Mr. Yansittart still, although 
he had begged them to call him Jack. 

"It would be too awfully free and easy to 
call so superb a gentleman by such a vulgar 
name," Hetty said, when the subject came under 
discussion. 

"I say it is from Mr. Yansittart," protested 
Hetty. "Who else would send her a diamond 
crescent ? " 

" How do you know it's diamonds ? " 

"Oh, of course. Bridegrooms always give 
diamonds. Did you ever see anything else in 
the weddings in the Ladifs Pictorial ? " 

"Bother the Ladys Pictorial! it ain't his 
handwriting." 

"Ain't it, stupid? Who said it was? It's 
the jeweller's writing, of course — with Mr. Van- 
sittart's card inside." 

" Perhaps you will allow me to open the parcel, 
and see what it all means," said Eve, with the 
eldest sister's dignity. 

The two young barbarians had had the break- 
fast-table to themselves, Sophy and Jenny not 
having appeared. There were certain operations 
with spirit-lamp and tongs which made these 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 179 

young ladies later than the unsophisticated 
juniors. 

"I shall scold him savagely for sending me 
this, after what I told him yesterday," said Eve, 
as she tore open the carefully sealed parcel. 

She was of Hetty's opinion. The gift could 
be from none but her lover. 

" Oh, oh, oh ! " they cried, all three of them, 
in a chorus of rapture, as the box was opened. 

The crescent was of sapphires, deeply, darkly, 
beautifully blue, without flaw or feather. Small 
brilliants filled in the corners between the stones, 
but these hardly showed in that blue depth and 
darkness. The effect was of a solemn, almost 
mysterious splendour. It was a jewel such as 
Cleopatra might have worn, clasping a mantle 
of white and gold upon a peerless bust. It was 
beautiful enough for the loveliest wearer, costly 
enough for the greatest among royal ladies. 

" Oh, how wicked, how wilful of him, to waste 
such a fortune upon me ! " cried Eve, taking the 
crescent out of its white velvet bed. 

Under the jewel, like the asp under the fig- 
leaves, there lay a visiting-card. 

" From Mr. Sefton, with all best wishes." 



180 THE VENETIANS. 

Eve dropped the brooch as if it had stung her. 

" From him ? " she cried. " How horrid ! " 

" I call it utterly charming of him," protested 
Hetty, who had adopted as many of Lady 
Hartley's phrases as her memory would hold. 
"We all know that he admired you, and I 
think it too sweet of him to show that he bears 
no malice now that you are marrying somebody 
else. Had he sent you anything paltry — fish- 
knives or a scent-bottle, for instance — I should 
have loathed him. But such a present as this, 
so simple yet so distingue, in such perfect 
taste " 

"Cease your raptures, Hetty, for mercy's 
sake ! " cried Eve, wrapping the jewel-box in 
the crumpled paper, and tying the string round 
it rather roughly. *' Would you accept any gift 
from a man you hate ? " 

"It would depend upon the gift. I wouldn't 
advise my worst enemy to try me with a sapphire 
crescent — such sapphires as those ! " 

" You are a mighty judge of sapphires ! " said 
Eve, contemptuously; after which unkind re- 
mark she ate her breakfast of bread and butter 
and home-made marmalade in moody silence. 



"MOEE FAIR THAN WOEDS CAN SAY." 181 

And it was a rare thing for Eve to be silent or 
moody. 

Yansittart's step was heard upon the gravel 
before the curling-tongs were done with in the 
upper story, and Eve ran out to the porch to 
meet him, with the jeweller's parcel in her hand. 
They walked about the garden together, between 
rows of blossoming peas and feathery asparagus, 
by borders of roses and homely pinks, talking 
of Sefton and his gift. Eve wanted to send it 
back to the giver. 

" I can decline it upon the ground that I don't 
approve of wedding presents except from one's 
own and one's bridegroom's kindred," she said. 
" I won't be uncivil." 

" I fear he would think the return of his gift 
uncivil, however sweetly you might word your 
refusal. Wedding gifts are such a customary 
business; it is an unheard-of act to send one 
back. No, Eve, I fear you must keep the thing," 
with a tone of disgust ; " but you need not 
wear it." 

" Wear it ! I should think not ! Of course I 
shall obey you; but I hate the idea of being 
under an obligation to Mr. Sefton, who — well. 



182 THE VENETIANS. 

who always made me feel more than any one else 
that I wasn't one of the elect. His friendliness 
was more humiliating than other people's stand- 
ofiSshness. I wonder you mind offending him. 
Jack. I know you don't like him." 

" No ; but he is my sister's neighbour ; and he 
and the Hartleys are by way of being friendly." 

" Ah, I see ! That is a reason. I wouldn't 
for the world do anything to make Lady Hartley 
feel uncomfortable. He might go to her and 
tax her with having an unmannerly young woman 
for a sister-in-law. So I suppose I must write 
a pretty little formal letter to thank him for his 
most exquisite gift, the perfect taste of which is 
only equalled by his condescension in remem- 
bering such an outsider as Colonel Marchant's 
daughter. Something to that effect, but not 
quite in those words." 

She broke into gay laughter, the business being 
settled, and lifted herself on tiptoe to offer her 
rosy lips to Vansittart's kiss ; and all the invisible 
fairies in the peaseblossom, and all the microscopic 
Cupids lurking among the rose leaves, beheld 
that innocent kiss and laughed their noiseless 
laugh in sympathy with these true lovers. 



"MOKE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 183 

" I have a good mind," said Eve, as she ran 
back to the house, " to give Peggy the blue 
crescent to fasten her pinafore." 

The wedding at Femhurst Cottage was as 
pretty a wedding as any one need care to see, 
although it was a ceremony curtailed of all those 
surroundings which make weddings worthy to be 
recorded in the Society papers. There was no 
crowd of smart people, no assemblage of smart 
gowns stamped with the man mantua-maker's 
cachet, and marking the latest development of 
fashion. No long train of carriages choked the 
narrow rural road, or filled the little valley with 
clouds of summer dust. Only the kindred of 
bride and bridegroom were present; but even 
these made a gracious group in the village church, 
while the music of the rustic choir and the school 
children with their baskets of roses were enough 
to give a joyous and bridal aspect to the scene. 

Eve, in her severely simple satin gown, with 
no ornaments save the string of pearls round her 
full firm throat, and the natural orange blossoms 
in her bright hair, was a vision of youthful grace 
and beauty that satisfied every eye, and made 



184 THE VENETIANS. 

the handsome bridegroom in all his height, and 
breadth, and manly strength, a mere accessory, 
hardly worth notice. The four sisters, in their 
gauzy white frocks and Gainsborough hats, when 
clustered in a group at the church door, might 
have suggested four cherubic heads looking out 
of a fleecy cloud, so fresh and bright were the 
young faces, in the unalloyed happiness of the 
occasion — happiness almost supernal, for in 
defiance of conventionality, and perhaps divining, 
or overhearing, Peggy's desire, the bridegroom 
had given them watches, dainty little watches, 
with an " E " in brilliants upon each golden 
back— E, for Eve ; E, for Ecstasy ; E, for Ever- 
lasting bliss ! Peggy felt she had nothing more 
to ask of life. And for spectators who need have 
wished a friendlier audience than honest York- 
shire Nancy, and the cottagers who had seen 
Eve Marchant grow up in their midst, and had 
experienced many kindnesses from her — the cot- 
tagers whose children she had taught in the 
Sunday School, whose old people she had com- 
forted on their death-beds, and for whose sake 
she had often stinted herself in order to take a 
jug of good soup, or a milk pudding, to a sick 
child? 



"MORE FAIR THAN WORDS CAN SAY." 185 

Colonel Marchant made a dignified figure at 
the altar, in a frock-coat extorted from the reviving 
confidence of a tailor, who saw hope in Miss Mar- 
chant's marriage. He did all that was required 
of him with the grace of a man who, in a long 
association with scamps, had not forgotten the 
habits of good society. The modest collation at 
the Homestead was a success ; for everybody was 
in good spirits and good appetite. Even Mrs. 
Vansittart was now content with a marriage 
which gave her son so fair and lovable a bride, 
content to believe that, whatever evil Harold 
Marchant might have done upon the earth, no 
shadow from his dark past need ever fall across 
his innocent sister's pathway. 

And so in a great clash of joy bells, and in 
a shower of rice from girlish hands, Eve and 
Vansittart ran down the steep garden path to the 
carriage which was to take them to Haslemere, 
whence they were goiog to Salisbury, on the 
first stage of their journey to that rock-bound 
coast 

" Where that great vision of the guarded mount 
Looks o'er Namancos and Bayona's hold." 



186 THE VENETIANS. 



CHAPTEK YIII. 

"THE SHADOW PASSETH WHEN THE TREE SHALL 
FALL." 

What a happy honeymoon it was, along the 
porphyry walls of Western England ; what joyous 
days that were so long and seemed so short to 
those two revellers in the sea, and the sunshine, 
and the scent of those poor wild flowers that 
grow on the lips of the ocean. There never was 
a less costly honeymoon, for the bride's tastes 
were simple to childishness, and the bridegroom 
was too deeply in love to care for anything she 
did not desire. To ramble on that romantic 
shore, staying here a few days, and there a week, 
all along the wild north coast, from Tintagel to 
St. Ives, southward then to Penzance, and Eal- 
mouth, and Fowey, was more than enough for 
bliss. And yet in all Eve's childish talk with 
her sisters of what she would do if ever she 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 187 

married a rich man, the honeymoon tour in Italy 
had been a leading feature in her programme ; 
but in those girlish visions beside the school-room 
fire the husband had been a nonentity, a mere 
purse-bearer, and all her talk had been of the 
places she was to see. Now, with this very real 
husband, fondly, poetically dear, all earth was 
paradisaic, and Penzance was not one whit less 
lovely than Naples. She was exquisitely happy ; 
and what can the human mind require beyond 
perfect bliss ? 

These wedded lovers lingered long over that 
summer holiday. It was a glorious summer — a 
summer of sunshine and cloudless skies, varied 
only by the inevitable thunderstorm — tempest 
enjoyed by Yansittart and Eve, who loved Nature 
in her grand and awful as well as in her milder 
aspects — and a tempest from the heights above 
Boscastle, or from the grassy cliffs of the Lizard, 
is a spectacle to remember. They spun out the 
pleasures of that simple Cornish tour. There 
was nothing to call them home — no tie, no duty, 
only their own inclination ; for the dowager Mrs. 
Yansittart was staying at Eedwold, absorbed in 
worship of the third generation, and was to go 



188 THE VENETIANS. 

from Kedwold to Ireland for a round of visits to 
the friends of her early married life. The lovers 
were therefore free to prolong their wanderings, 
and it was only when the shortening days 
suggested fireside pleasures that Yansittart pro- 
posed going home. 

" Going home," cried Eve ; " how sweet that 
sounds. To think that your home is to be my 
home for evermore ; and the servants, your old, 
well-trained servants, will be bobbing to me as 
their mistress — I who never had any servant but 
dear old motherly Nancy, who treats me as if I 
were her own flesh and blood, and an untaught 
chit for a parlour-maid, a girl who was always 
dropping knives off her tray, or smashing the 
crockery, in a most distracting manner. We had 
only the cheapest things we could buy at White- 
ley's sales, with a few relics of former splendour; 
and it was generally the relics that suffered. I 
cannot imagine myself the mistress of a fine 
house, with a staff of capable servants. What an 
insignificant creature I shall seem among them ! " 
" You will seem a queen — a queen out of the 
great kingdom of poetry — a queen like Tenny- 
son's Maud, in a white frock, with roses in your 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 189 

hair, and an ostrich fan for a sceptre. Don't 
worry about the house, Eve. It will govern 
itself. The servants are all old servants, and 
have been trained by my mother, whose laws are 
the laws of Draco. Everything will work by 
machinery, and you and I can live in the same 
happy idleness we have tasted here." 

" Can we ? May we, do you think ? Is it not 
a wicked life ? We care only for ourselves ; we 
think only of ourselves." 

"Oh, we can mend that in some wise. I'll 
introduce you to all my cottage tenants ; and 
you will find plenty of scope for your benevolence 
in helping them through their troubles and sick- 
nesses. Tou can start a village readinD:-room : 
you can start — or revive — a working man's club. 
You shall be Lady Bountiful — a young and 
blooming Bountiful — not dealing in herbs and 
medicines, but in tea, and wine, and sago 
puddings, and chicken broth ; finding frocks for 
the children, and Sunday bonnets for the mothers 
— flashing across poverty's threshold like a ray 
of sunshine." 

Life that seems like a happy dream seldom 



190 THE VENETIANS. 

lasts very long. There is generally some kind of 
rough awakening. Fate comes like the servant 
bidden to call us of a morning, and shakes the 
sleeper by the shoulder. The happy dream 
vanishes through the ivory gate, and the waking 
world in all its harsh reality is there. 

Eve's awakening came in a most unexpected 
shape. It came one October morning in the first 
week of her residence at Merewood. It came in a 
letter from the old servant Nancy, a letter in a 
shabby envelope, lying hidden among that heap 
of letters, monogrammed, coronetted, fashionable, 
which lay beside Mrs. Vansittart's plate when 
she took her seat at the breakfast table. 

She left that letter for the last, not recognizing 
Nancy's penmanship, an article of which the 
faithful servant had always been sparing. Eve 
read all those other trivial letters — invitations, 
acceptances, friendly little communications of no 
meaning — and commented upon them to her 
husband as he took his breakfast — and then 
finally she opened Nancy's letter. It was 
October, and Vansittart was dressed for shooting. 
October, yet there was no house-party. Eve had 
pleaded for a little more of that dual solitude 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 191 

which, husband and wife had both found so de- 
lightful; and Vansittart had been nothing loth 
to indulge her whim. November would be time 
enough to invite his friends ; and in the mean 
time they had their pine woods and copses and 
common all to themselves ; and Eve could tramp 
about the covers with him when he went after his 
pheasants, without feeling herself in anybody's 
way. October had begun charmingly, with 
weather that was balmy and bright enough for 
August. They were breakfasting with windows 
open to the lawn and flower-beds, and the bees 
were buzzing among the dahlias, and the air was 
scented with the Dijon roses that covered the 
walL 

" Why, it is from Nancy," exclaimed Eve, look- 
ing at the signature. " Dear old Nancy. What 
can she have to write about ? " 

" Bead, Eve, read," cried Vansittart. " I be- 
lieve Nancy's letter will be more interesting than 
all those inanities you have been reading to me. 
There is sure to be some touch of originality, 
even if it is only in the spelling." 

Eve's eyes had been hurrying over the letter 
while he spoke. 



192 THE VENETIANS. 

" Oh, Jack," she exclaimed, in a piteous voice, 
" can there be any truth in this ? " 

The letter was as follows, in an oi-thography 
which need not be reproduced : — 

"Honoured Madam, 

" I should not take the liberty to write 
to you about dear Miss Peggy, only at Miss 
Sophy's and Miss Jenny's age they can't be ex- 
pected to know anything about illness, and I'm 
afraid they may pass things over till it's too late 
to mend matters, and then I know you would 
blame your old servant for not having spoken out." 

"What an alarming preamble," said Jack. 
" What does it all mean ? " 

"It means that Peggy is very ill. Peggy, 
who seemed the strongest of all of us.'* 

She went on reading the letter. 

"You know what beautiful weather we had 
after your marriage, honoured Madam. The 
young ladies enjoyed being out of doors all day 
long, and all the evening, sometimes till bed- 
time. They seldom had dinner indoors. It was 
'Picnic basket, Nancy,' every morning, and I 
had to make them Cornish pasties — any scraps of 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 193 

meat was good enough so long as there was 
plenty of pie-crust — and fruit turnovers ; and off 
they used to go to the copses and the hills 
directly after breakfast. They were all sunburnt, 
and they all looked so well, no one could have 
thought anv harm would come of it. But Miss 
Peggy she used to run about more than her sisters, 
and she used to get into dreadful perspirations, 
as Miss Hetty told me 'afterwards, and then, 
standing or sitting about upon those windy hills, 
no doubt she got a chill. Even when she came 
home, with the perspiration teeming down her 
dear little face, she didn't like the tew of chang- 
ing all her clothes, and I was too busy in the 
kitchen — cooking, or cleaning, or washing — to 
look much after the poor dear child, and so it 
came upon me as a surprise in the middle of 
August when I found what a bad cold she had 
got. I did all I could to cure her. You know, 
dear Miss Eve, that I'm a pretty good nurse — 
indeed, I helped to nurse your poor dear ma 
every winter till she went abroad — but, in spite 
of all my mustard poultices and hot footbaths, 
this cold and cough have been hanging about 
Miss Peggy for more than six weeks, and she 
VOL. n. 



194 THE VENETIANS. 

doesn't get any better. Miss Sopliy sent for the 
doctor about a month ago, and he told her to 
keep the child warmly clad, and not to let her go 
out in an east wind, and he sent her a mixture, 
and he called two or three times, and then he 
didn't call any more. But Miss Peggy's cough is 
worse than it was when the doctor saw her, and 
the winter will be coming on soon, and I can't 
forget that her poor ma died of consumption : so 
I thought the best thing I could do was to write 
freely to you. — Your faithful friend and servant, 

'' Nancy." 

" Died of consumption ! " The words came 
upon Yansittart like the icy hand of Death him- 
self, taking hold of his heart. 

" Is that true. Eve ? " he asked. " Did your 
mother die of consumption ? " 

" I never heard exactly what her complaint 
was. She was far away from us when she died. 
I remember she always had a cough in the 
winter, and she had to be very careful of herself 
— or, at least, people told her she ought to be 
careful. She seemed to fade away, and I thought 
her grief about Harold had a good deal to do 
with her early death." 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 195 

"Ah, that was it, no doubt. It was grief 
killed her. Her son's exile, her change of 
fortune, were enough to kill a sensitive woman. 
She died of a broken heart." 

Anything ! He would believe anything rather 
than accept the idea of that silent impalpable 
enemy threatening his beloved- — the horror of 
hereditary consumption — the shadow that walketh 
in noonday. 

" My sweet Peggy ! " cried Eve, with brimming 
eyes. " I have been home a week, and I have 
not been to see my sisters — only an hour's 
journey by road and rail ! It is nearly three 
months since I saw them, and we were never 
parted before in all our lives. May 1 go to-day 
— at once, Jack ? I shall be miserable " 

" Till you have discovered a mare's nest, which 
I hope and believe Nancy's letter will prove," 
her husband interjected soothingly. " Yes, 
dear, we'll go to Haslemere by the first train 
that will carry us, and we'll telegraph for a fly 
to take us on to Fernhurst. There shall not be 
a minute lost. You shall have Peggy in your 
arms before lunch-time. Dear young Peggy ! 
Do you suppose she is not precious to me, as 



196 THE VENETIANS. 

well as to you ? I promised I would be to her 
as a brother. Your sisters are my sisters. Eve." 

He rang the bell at the beginning of his 
speech, and ordered the dog-cart at the end. 

" We must catch the London train, at 10.15," 
he told the footman. " Let them bring round the 
cart as soon as it can be got ready. And now, 
dearest, your hat and jacket, and I am with you." 

There was comfort in this prompt action. Eve 
tore upstairs, threw on the first hat she could 
find, too eager to ring for her maid, with whose 
attendance she was always willing to dispense, 
as an altogether novel and not always pleasant 
sensation. She came flying down to the hall 
ten minutes before the cart drove round, and she 
and Vansittart walked up and down in front of 
the porch, talking of the sisters, she breathless 
and with fast-beating heart, protesting more 
than once at the slowness of the grooms. 

"My dearest, for pity's sake be calm. Why 
should you think the very worst, only because 
Nancy is an alarmist ? These people are always 
full of ghoulish imaginings. Peasants gloat 
over the idea of sickness and death. They will 
stab one to the heart unwittingly ; they will 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 197 

look at one's nearest and dearest, and say, * Poor 
Miss So-and-so does not look as if she was long 
for this world.' Long for this world, forsooth ! 
Thank Heaven the threatened life often outlasts 
the prophet's. Come, here is the cart. Jump 
in, Eve. The drive through the fresh air will 
revive your spirits." 

She was certainly in better spirits by the time 
the cart drew up at the railway station, and in 
better spirits all the way to Haslemere ; but it 
was her husband's hopefulness rather than the 
crisp autumnal air which revived her. Yes, she 
would take comfort. Jack was right. Xancy 
was the best of creatures, but very apt to dwell 
upon the darker aspects of life, and to prophesy 
evil. 

Yes, Jack was right ; for scarcely had the fly 
drawn up at the little gate when Peggy came 
dancing down the steep garden path, with out- 
stretched arms, and wild hair flying in the wind, 
and legs much too long for her short petticoats, 
that very Peggy whom Eve's fearful imaginings 
had depicted stretched on a sick-bed, faint 
almost to speechlessness. No speechlessness 
about this Peggy, the real flesh and blood 



198 THE VENETIANS. 

Peggy, whose arms were round Eve's neck 
before she had begun the ascent of the pathway, 
whose voice was greeting her vociferously, and 
who talked unintermittingly, without so much as 
a comma, till they were in the school-room. The 
arms that clung so lovingly were very skinny, 
and the voice was somewhat hoarse ; but the 
hoarseness was no doubt only the consequence of 
running fast, and the skinnyness was the normal 
condition of a growing girl. Yes, Peggy had 
grown during her sister's long honeymoon. 
There was decidedly an inch or so more leg under 
the short skirts. 

Eve wept aloud for very joy, as she sat on the 
sofa with Peggy on her lap — ^the dear old York- 
shire sofa — the sofa that had been a ship, an 
express train, a smart barouche, an opera-box, 
and ever so many other things, years ago, in 
their childish play. She could not restrain her 
tears as she thought of that terrible vision of a 
dying Peggy, and then clasped this warm, joyous, 
living Peggy closer and closer to her heart. The 
other sisters had gone to a morning service. 
She had this youngest all to herself for a little 
while. 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 199 

"I don't go to church on weekdays now," said 
Peggy, " only on Sundays. It makes my chest 
ache to sit so long." 

Ah, that was like the dull sudden sound of the 
death-bell. 

" That's because you're growing so fast, Peg," 
said Yansittart's cheery voice. "Growing girls 
are apt to be weak. I shall send you some port 
which will soon make you sit up straight." 

" You needn't trouble," said Peggy. " I could 
swim in port if I liked. Sir Hubert sent a lot 
for me — the finest old wine in his cellar — just 
because Lady Hartley happened to say I was 
growing too fast. And they have sent grapes, 
and game, and all sorts of delicious things from 
Eedwold, only because I grow too fast. It's. a 
fine thing for all of us that I grow so fast — ain't 
it. Eve ? — for, of course, I can't eat all the 
grapes or the game." 

Peggy looked from wife to husband, with a 
joyous laugh. She had red spots on her hollow 
cheeks, and her eyes were very bright. Yan- 
sittart heard the death-bell as he looked at her. 

The sisters came trooping in, having seen the 
fly at the door and guessed its meaning. They 



200 THE VENETIANS. 

were rapturous in their greetings, had worlds to 
say about themselves and their neighbours, and 
were more eager to talk of their own experiences 
than to hear about Eve's Cornish wanderings. 

" You should just see how the people suck up 
to us, now you are Lady Hartley's sister-in-law," 
said Hetty, and was immediately silenced for 
vulgarity, and to make way for her elder sisters. 

Vansittart left them all clustered about Eve, 
and all talking together. He went out into the 
garden — the homely mixed garden of shrubs and 
fruit and flowers and vegetables, garden which 
now wore its autumnal aspect of over-ripeness 
verging on decay, rosy-red tomatoes hanging low 
upon the fence, with flabby yellowing leaves, 
vegetable marrows grown out of knowledge, and 
cucumbers that prophesied bitterness, cabbage 
stumps, withering bean-stalks — a wilderness of 
fennel : everywhere the growth that presages the 
end of all growing, and the beginning of winter's 
death-sleep. 

It was not to muse upon decaying Nature that 
Vansittart had come out among the rose and 
carnation borders, the patches of parsley and 
mint. He had a purpose in his sauntering, and 



THE SHADOW PASSETH. 201 

made his way to the back of the straggling, 
irregular cottage, where the long-tiled roof of 
the kitchen and offices jutted out from under 
the thatch. Here through the open casement 
he saw Yorkshire Nancy bustling about in the 
clean, bright kitchen, her pupil and slave busy 
cleaning vegetables at the sink, and a shoulder 
of lamb slowly revolving before the ruddy coal 
fire — an honest, open fireplace. "Kone of your 
kitcheners for me," Nancy was wont to say, with 
a scornful emphasis which recalled the fox in 
his condemnation of unattainable grapes. 

Yansittart looked in at the window. 

" May I have a few words with you, Nancy ? " 
he asked politely. 

" Lor, sir, how you did startle me to be sure. 
Sarah, look to lamb and put pastry to rise," cried 
Nancy, whisking off her apron, and darting out 
to the garden. " You see, sir, you and Miss Eve 
have took us by surprise, and it's as much as we 
shall have a bit of lunch ready for you at half- 
past one." 

"Never mind lunch, my good soul. A crust 
of bread and a morsel of cheese would be enouofh." 

" Oh, it won't be quite so bad as that. Miss 



202 THE VENETIANS. 

Eve likes my chiss-cakes, and she shall have a 
matrimony cake to her afternoon tea." 

" Nancy, I want a little serious talk with you," 
Vansittart began gravely, when they had walked 
a little way from the house, and were standing 
side by side in front of the untidy patch where 
the vegetable marrows had swollen to great 
orange-coloured gourds. "I am full of fear 
about Miss Peggy." 

" Oh, sir, so am I, so am I," cried Nancy, 
bursting into tears. '^I didn't want to frighten 
dear Miss Eve — I beg pardon, sir, I never can 
think of her as Mrs. Vansittart." 

" Never mind, Nancy. You were saying " 

" I didn't want to frighten your sweet young 
lady in the midst of her happiness ; but when I 
saw that dear child beginning to go off just like 
her poor mother " 

" Oh, Nancy ! " cried Vansittart, despairingly, 
with his hand on the Yorkshire woman's arm. 
" Is that a sure thing ? Did Mrs. Marchant die 
of consumption ? " 

** As sure as you and 1 are standing here, sir. 
It was a slow decline, but it was consumption, 
and nothing else. I've heard the doctors say so." 



( 203 ) 



CHAPTEK IX. 



> j> 



"HE SAID, *SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE. 

December's fogs covered London as with a funeral 
pall, and hansom and four-wheeler crept along 
the curb more slowly than a funeral procession. 
It was the winter season, the season of cattle- 
shows, and theatres, and middle-class suburban 
gaieties, and snug little dinners and luncheons 
in the smart world, casual meetings of birds of 
passage, halting for a few days between one 
country yisit and another, or preparing for 
migration to sunnier skies. There were just 
people enough in Mayfair to make London 
pleasant ; and there were people enough in 
South Kensington and Tyburnia to fill the 
favourite theatres to overflowing. 

A new comic opera had been produced at the 
Apollo at the beginning of the month, and a new 
singer had taken the town by storm. 



204 THE VENETIANS. 

The opera was called Fanchonette, It was 
a story of the Kegency ; the Kegency of Philip 
of Orleans and his dissipated crew ; the age of 
red heels and lansquenet, of little suppers and 
deadly duels ; a period altogether picturesque, 
profligate, and adapted to comic opera. 

Fanchonette was a girl who sang in the streets ; 
a girl born in the gutter, vulgar, audacious, irre- 
sistible, and the good genius of the piece. 

Fanchonette was Fiordelisa — and Fiordelisa 
in her own skin; good-natured, impetuous, a 
creature of smiles and tears ; buoyant as a sea- 
gull on the crest of a summer wave ; rejoicing in 
her strength and her beauty as the Sun rejoiceth 
to run his race. 

What people most admired in this new song- 
stress was her perfect abandon, and that abundant 
power of voice which seemed strong enough to 
have sustained the most exacting role in the 
classic repertoire, with as little effort as the 
light and graceful music of opera bouffe— 
the power of a Malibran or a Tietjens. The 
music of Fanchonette was florid, and the part 
had been written up for the new singer. 
Manager, artists, and author had thought Mr. 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 205 

Merv}^ Hawberk, the composer, reckless almost 
to lunacy when he elected to entrust the leading 
part in his new opera to an untried singer ; but 
Hawberk had made Signora Yivanti rehearse the 
music in his own music-room, not once, but many 
times, before he resolved upon this experiment ; 
and having so resolved, he turned her over to 
Mr. Watling, the author of the libretto, to be 
coached in the acting of her part; and Mr. 
Watling was fain to confess that the young 
Venetian's vivacity and quickness of apprehension, 
the force and fire, the magnetism of her southern 
nature, made the work of dramatic education a 
very different thing to the weary labour of grind- 
ing his ideas into the bread and butter misses 
who were sometimes sent to him as aspirants for 
dramatic fame. This girl was so quick to learn 
and to perceive, and struggled so valiantly with 
the difficulties of a foreign language. And her 
Venetian accent, with its soft slurring of con- 
sonants, was so quaint and pretty. Mr. Watling 
took heart, and began to think that his friend 
and partner, Mervyn Hawberk, had some justi- 
fication for his faith in this untried star. 

The result fully justified Hawberk's confidence. 



206 THE VENETIANS. 

There were two principal ladies in the opera — the 
patrician heroine, written for a light soprano, and 
the gutter heroine, a mezzo soprano, whose music 
made a greater call upon the singer than the 
former character, which had been written espe- 
cially for the Apollo's established prima donna, 
a lady with a charming birdlike voice, flexible 
and brilliant, but a little worn with six years' 
constant service, and a handsome face which was 
somewhat the worse for those six years in a 
London theatre. There could have been no 
greater contrast to Miss Emmeline Danby, with 
her sharp nose, blonde hair, sylph-like figure and 
canary-bird voice, than this daughter of St. Mark, 
whose splendour of colouring and fulness of form 
seemed in perfect harmony with the power and 
compass of her voice. The town, without being 
tired of Miss Danby, was at once caught and 
charmed by this new singer. Her blue-black 
hair and flashing eyes, her easy movements, her 
broken English, her gay girlish laughter, were 
all new to the audience of the Apollo, who 
hitherto had been called upon to applaud only 
the highest training of voice and person. Here 
was a girl who, like the character she represented. 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOYELY FACE.'" 207 

had evidently sprung from the proletariat, and 
who came dancing on to the London stage, fresh, 
fearless, unsophisticated, secure of the friendly- 
feeling of her audience, and giving full scope to 
her natural gaiety of heart. 

Signora Yivanti's personality was a new sensa- 
tion, and to a hiase London public there is 
nothing so precious as a new sensation. Signor 
Zinco proved a true prophet. That touch of 
vulgarity which he had spoken of deprecatingly 
to Yansittart had made Lisa's fortune. Had she 
come straight from the Milan Conservatorio, 
cultivated to the highest pitch of artistic training, 
approved by Yerdi himself, she would hardly 
have succeeded as she had done, with all the rousrh 
edges of her grand voice unpolished, and all the 
little caprices and impertinences of a daughter of 
the people unchastened and unrestrained. 

Lisa took the town by storm, and " Fancho- 
nette," in her little mob cap and striped petticoat, 
appeared on half the match-boxes that were sold 
by the London tobacconists ; and " Fanchonette," 
with every imaginable turn of head and shoulder, 
smiled in the windows of the Stereoscopic Com- 
pany, and of alt the fashionable stationers. 



208 THE VENETIANS. 

Among the many who admired the new singer 
one of the most enthusiastic was Mr. Sefton, who 
generally spent a week or two of the early winter 
in his bachelor quarters at Chelsea, for the 
express purpose of seeing the new productions at 
the fashionable theatres, and of dining with his 
chosen friends. 

Sefton was passionately fond of music, and 
knew more about it than is known to most 
country gentlemen. The loftiest classical school 
was not too high or too serious for him ; and the 
lightest opera bouffe was not too low. He had a 
taste sufficiently catholic to range from Wagner 
to Offenbach. He was a profound believer in 
Sullivan, and he had a warm affection for 
Massenet. 

Fanchonette was by far the cleverest opera 
which Mr. Hawberk had written ; and Sefton was 
at the Apollo on the opening night, charmed with 
the music, and infinitely amused by the new 
singer. He went a second, a third, a fourth time 
during his fortnight in town ; and the oftener he 
heard the music the better he liked it ; and the 
oftener he saw Signora Vivanti the more vividly 
was he impressed by her undisciplined graces of 



" HE SAID, ' SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.' " 209 

person and manner. She had just that spon- 
taneity which had ever exercised the strongest 
influence over his mind and fancy. He had 
passed unmoved through the furnace of the best 
society, had danced and flirted, and had been on 
the best possible terms with some of the hand- 
somest women in London, and had yet remained 
heartwhole. He had never been so near falling 
in love in all seriousness as with Eve Marchant ; 
and Eve's chief charm had been her frank girlish- 
ness, her unsophisticated delight in life. 

Well, he was cured of his passion for Eve, 
cured by that cold douche of indifference which 
the young lady had poured upon him ; cured by 
the feeling of angry scorn which had been evoked 
by her preference for Yansittart ; for a man who, 
in worldly position, in good looks, and in culture, 
Wilfred Sefton regarded as his inferior. He 
could not go on caring for a young woman who 
had shown herself so utterly deficient in taste as 
not to prefer the dubious advances of a Sefton to 
the honest love of a Vansittart. He dismissed 
Eve from his thoughts for the time being; but 
not without prophetic musings upon a day when 
she might be wearied of her commonplace hus- 

VOL. II. p 



210 THE VENETIANS. 

band, and more appreciative of Mr. Sefton's finer 
qualities of intellect and person. He was thus in 
a measure fancy free as he lolled in his stall at 
the Apollo, and listened approvingly to Lisa's 
full and bell-like tones in the quartette, which 
was already being played on all the barrel-organs 
in London, a quartette in which the composer 
had borrowed the dramatic form of the famous 
quartette in Bigoletto, and adapted it to a serio- 
comic situation. He was free to admire this 
exuberant Italian beauty, free to pursue a 
divinity whom he judged an easy conquest. He 
and the composer were old friends — Hawberk 
being a familiar figure at all artistic gatherings 
in the artistic suburb of Chelsea — and from 
Hawberk Mr. Sefton had heard something of the 
new prima donna's history. He had been told 
that she was a daughter of the Venetian people, 
a lace-maker from one of the islands ; that she 
had come to London with her aunt, to seek her 
fortune ; and that her musical training had been 
accomplished within the space of a year, under 
the direction of Signer Zinco, the fat little Italian 
who played the 'cello at the Apollo. 
Such a history did not suggest inacessible 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 211 

beauty, and there was a touch of originality in it 
which awakened Sefton's interest. The very 
name of Venice has a touch of enchantment for 
some minds ; and Sefton, although a man of the 
world, was not without romantic yearnings. He 
was always glad to escape from the beaten way 
of life. 

He had been troubled and perplexed from the 
night of Signora Vivanti's debut by the con- 
viction that he had seen that brilliant face 
before, and by the inability to fix the when or 
the where. Yes, that vivid countenance was 
decidedly familiar. It was the individual and 
not the type which he knew — but where and 
when — where and when ? The brain did its work 
in the usual unconscious way, and one night, 
sitting lazily in his stall, dreamily watching the 
scene, and the actress whose image seemed to fill 
the stage to the exclusion of all other figures, the 
memory of a past rencontre flashed suddenly 
upon the dreamer. The face was the face of the 
foreign girl he had seen on the Chelsea Embank- 
ment, hanging upon Vansittart's arm. 

" By Heaven, there is something fatal in it," 
thought Sefton. " Are the threads always to 



212 THE VENETIANS. 

cross in the web of our lives ? He has worsted 
me with Eve ; and now — now am I to fall deep 
in love with his cast-off mistress ? " 

He had been quick to make inferences from 
that little scene on the Embankment ; the girl 
hanging on Yansittart's arm, looking up at him 
pleadingly, passionately. What could such a 
situation mean but a love affair of the most 
serious kind ? 

Had there been any doubt in Sefton's mind 
as to the nature of the intrigue Yansittart's 
evident embarrassment would have settled the 
question. Mr. Sefton was the kind of man who 
always thinks the worst about everybody, and 
prejudice had predisposed him to think badly of 
Eve's admirer. 

This idea of the singer's probable relations 
with Yansittart produced a strong revulsion of 
feeling. Sefton told himself that his affection 
was too good to be wasted upon any man's cast 
off mistress, least of all upon the leavings of a 
man he disliked. An element of scorn was now 
mixed with his admiration of the lovely Yenetiap. 
Until now he had approached her with deference, 
sending her a bouquet every evening, with his 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 213 

card, but making no other advance. But the 
day after his discovery he sent her a diamond 
bracelet, and asked with easy assurance to be 
allowed to call upon her. 

The bracelet was returned to him, with a 
stately letter signed Zinco ; a letter wherein the 
'cello player begged that his pupil might be 
spared the annoyance of gifts, which she could 
but consider as insults in disguise. 

This refusal stimulated Sefton to renewed 
ardour. He forgot everything except the rebuff, 
which had taken him by surprise. He put the 
bracelet in a drawer of his writing-table, and 
turned the key upon it with a smile. 

" She will be wiser by-and-by," he said to 
himself. 

He went back to the country next day, and 
tried to forget Signora Vivanti's eyes, and the 
thrilling sweetness of her voice, tried to banish 
that seductive image altogether from his mind, 
while he devoted himself to the conquest of an 
untried hunter, a fine bay mare, whose pace was 
better than her manners, and who showed the 
vulgar strain in her pedigree very much as 
Signora Vivanti showed her peasant ancestry. 



214 THE VENETIANS. 

The season was not a good one, and in the face 
of a hard frost Sefton had nothing to do but 
brood upon the image that had taken possession 
of his fancy. It was only when he found himself 
amidst the tranquil surroundings of his country 
seat that he knew the strength of his infatuation 
for the singer. 

He looked back upon his life as he strolled 
round the billiard table, cue in hand, trying a 
shot now and then yawningly, as the snow came 
softly down outside the Tudor windows, and 
gradually blotted out the view of garden and 
park. He looked back upon his life, wondering 
whether he had done the best for himself, starting 
from such an advantageous standpoint ; whether, 
in his own careless phraseology, he had got 
change for his shilling. 

He had always had plenty of money ; he had 
always been his own master; he had always 
studied his own pleasure ; and yet there had 
been burdens. His first love affair had turned 
out badly ; so badly that there were people in 
Sussex who still gave him the cold shoulder on 
account of that old story. He had admired — 
nay, adored — a good many women since he left 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 215 

Eton; but he had never seen the woman for 
whom he cared to sacrifice his liberty, for whose 
sake he could bind himself for all his life to 
come. He knew himself well enough to know 
that all his passions were short-lived, and that, 
however deeply he might be in love to-day, 
satiety might come to-morrow. 

He was ambitious, and he meant to marry a 
woman who could bring him increase of fortune 
and social status. He was not to be drifted into 
matrimony by the caprice of the hour. Much 
as he had admired Eve Marchant he had never 
thought of marrying her. A penniless girl with 
a disreputable father and a bevy of half-educated 
sisters was no mate for him. He had allowed 
himself full license in admiring her, and in letting 
her see that he admired her; and he had 
wondered that she should receive that open 
admiration as anything less than an honour. 

And then a fool had stepped in to spoil sport 
— a besotted fool who took this girl for his wife, 
careless of her surroundings, defiant of Fate, 
which might overtake him in the shape of a 
blackguard brother. He felt only contempt for 
Vansittart when he thought over the story. 



216 THE VENETIANS. 

"He might have been content with his 
Venetian sweetheart," he thought. " She is ever 
so much handsomer than Eve, and she obviously- 
adored him ; while that kind of menage has the 
convenience of being easily got rid of when a 
man tires of it." 

The snow lay deep on all the country round 
before nightfall, and Sefton went back to his 
nest in Chelsea on the following afternoon, and 
was in a stall at the Apollo in the evening. 
He tried to persuade himself that the music was 
the chief attraction. 

*' Your music is like a vice, Hawberk," he told 
the composer, at a tea-party next day. " It takes 
possession of a man's will. I go night after night 
to hear Fanchonette, though I know I am wasting 
my time." 

" Thanks for the doubtful compliment. Fan- 
chonette is a very pretty opera, quite the best 
thing I have done," replied Hawberk, easily; 
" and it is very well sung and acted. The 
singing is good all round, but Lisa Vivanti is a 
pearl." 

" You are enthusiastic," said Sefton ; and then 
smiling at the composer's young wife, who went 



'*HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 217 

everywhere with her husband, and whose province 
was to wear smart frocks and look prettv, " You 
must keep your eye upon him, Mrs. Hawberk, 
lest this Venetian siren should sing as fatal a 
song as the Lurlei." 

*'Ko fear," cried Hawberk. '• Little Lisa is as 
straight as an arrow and as good as gold. She 
lives as quietly as a nun, with a comfortable 
dragon in the shape of an aunt. She would 
hardly look at a ripping diamond bracelet which 
some cad sent her the other day. She just tossed 
bracelet and letter over to her old singing 
master, and told him to send it back to the 
giver. She has no greed of gain, no desire for 
carriages and horses and fine raiment. She 
comes to the theatre in a shabby little black 
frock, and she lives like a peasant on a third 
floor in this neighbourhood." 

" That will not last," said Seftou. '' Your vara 
avis will soon realize her own value. The 
management will be called upon to provide her 
with a stable and a chef, and diamonds^ will be 
accepted freely as fitting tribute to her talents." 

** I don't believe it. I think she is a genuine, 
honest, right-minded young woman, and that she 



218 THE VENETIANS. 

will gang her own gait in spite of all counter 
influences. There may have been some love 
affair in the past that has sobered her. I think 
there has been ; for there is a little boy who calls 
her mother, and for whom she takes no trouble 
to account. I will vouch for my little Lisa, and 
I have allowed Mrs. Hawberk to go and see her." 

" She is quite too sweet," assented the lady ; 
" so naive, so frank, so fresh, so child-like." 

" Upon my honour," said Hawberk, as his wife 
fluttered away and was absorbed in a group of 
acquaintances, "I believe Vivanti is a good 
woman, in spite of the little peccadillo in a serge 
frock and sailor collar." 

" I am very glad to hear it, for I want you to 
introduce me to the lady." 

" Oh, but really now that is just what I don't 
care about doing. She is keeping herself to 
herself, and is working conscientiously at her 
musical education. She is a very busy woman, 
and she has no idea of society, or its ways ajid 
manners. What can she want with such an 
acquaintance as you ? " 

" Nothing ; but I very much want to know 
her; and I pledge myself to approach her with 



"HE SAID, *SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 219 

all the respect due to the best woman in 
England." 

" To approach her, yes ; I can believe that. 
No doubt Lucifer approached Eve with all 
possible courtesy; yet the acquaintance ended 
badly. I don't see that any good could arise 
from your acquaintance with my charming 
Yenetian." 

" I understand," said Sefton, with an aggrieved 
air ; " she is so charming that you would like to 
keep her all to yourself." 

" Oh, come now, that's a very weak thing in 
the way of sneers," exclaimed the composer. " I 
hope I am secure from any insinuations of that 
sort. Look here, Sefton, I'm just a bit afraid of 
you ; but if you promise to act on the square I'll 
get my wife to send you a card for a Sunday 
evening, at which I believe she is going to get 
Yivanti to sing for her. That is always the first 
thing: Lavinia thinks of if I venture to introduce 
her to a singer." 

" That would be very friendly of you, and I 
promise to act on the square. I am not a married 
man, and I am my own master. If I were 
desperately in love " 



220 THE VENETIANS. 

*' You wouldn't marry a Venetian lace-maker, 
with a damaged reputation. I know you too well 
to believe you capable of that sort of thing." 

" Nobody knows of what a man is capable ; 
least of all the man himself," said Sefton, 
sententiously. 

Mr. and Mrs. Hawberk lived in a smart little 
house in that dainty and artistic region of 
Cheyne Walk, which even yet retains a faint 
flavour of Don Saltero, of Bolingbroke and 
Walpole, of Chelsea buns and Chelsea china, 
Ranelagh routs, and Thames watermen. Mr. 
Hawberk's house was in a terrace at right angles 
with the Embankment, but further west than 
Tite Street. It was a new house, with all the 
latest improvements, and all the latest fads, tiny 
panes to Queen Anne windows — admitting the 
minimum of light and not overmuch air; a 
spacious ingle nook in a miniature dining-room, 
whereby facetious friends had frequently been 
heard to ask Mrs. Hawberk which was the ingle 
nook and which was the dining-room. 

The house was quaint and pretty, and being 
entirely furnished with Japaneseries was a very 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 221 

fascinating toy, if not altogether the most com- 
modious thing in the way of houses. For party- 
giving it was delightful, for less than a hundred 
people choked every inch of space in rooms and 
staircase, and suggested a tremendous reception : 
so that the smallest of Mrs. Hawberk's parties 
seemed a crush. 

Sefton arriving at half-past ten, only half an 
hour after the time on Mrs. Hawberk's card, 
found the drawing-rooms blocked with people, 
mostly standing, and could see no more of Signora 
Vivanti than if she had been on the other side 
of the river ; but the people in the doorway were 
talking about her, and their talk informed him 
that she was somewhere in the innermost ansrle 
of the back drawing-room, behind the grand 
piano, and that she was going to sing. 

Then there came an authoritative "Silence, 
please," from Hawberk, followed by a sudden 
hush as of sentences broken off in the middle, 
and anon a firm hand played the symphony to 
Sullivan's Orpheus^ and the grand mezzo soprano 
voice rolled out the grand Shakesperean words 
set to exquisite music. The choice of the 
song was a delicate compliment to Hawberk's 



222 THE VENETIANS. 

master in art, who was among Mrs. Hawberk's 
guests. 

The Venetian accent was still present in Lisa's 
pronunciation, but her English had improved as 
much as her vocalization, under Hawberk's train- 
ing. He had taken extraordinary pains with 
this particular song, and every note rang out 
clear as crystal, pure as thrice-refined gold. Sir 
Arthur's " Brava, bravissima ! " was heard amidst 
the applause that followed the song. 

Sefton elbowed his way through the crowd — as 
politely as was consistent with a determination 
to reach a given point — and contrived to mingle 
with the group about the singer. She was 
standing by the piano in a careless attitude, 
dressed in a black velvet gown, which set off 
the yellowish whiteness of her shoulders and full 
round throat. Clasped round that statuesque 
throat, she wore a collet necklace of diamonds, 
splendid in size and colour, a necklace which 
could not have been bought for less than six or 
seven hundred pounds. 

" So," thought Sefton. " Those diamonds don't 
quite come into Hawberk's notion of the lady's 
moral character." 



" HE SAID, * SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.' » 223 

Mr. Sefton did not know that, after tlie manner 
of Venetian women, Lisa looked upon jewellery 
as the best investment for her capital, and that 
almost the whole of her professional earnings 
since her debut were represented by the diamonds 
she wore round her neck. She and la Zia were 
able to live on so little, and it was such a 
pleasure to them to save, first to gloat over the 
golden sovereigns, and then to change them into 
precious stones. There was such a delightful 
feeling in being able to wear one's fortune round 
one's neck. 

Mr. Hawberk had accompanied the singer, and 
he was still sitting at the piano, when Sefton's 
eager face reminded him of his promise. 

" Signora, allow me to introduce another of 
your English admirers. Mr. Sefton, a connoisseur 
in the way of music, and a cosmopolitan in the 
way of speech." 

Lisa turned smilingly to the stranger. " You 
speak Italian," she said in her own language, 
and Sefton replying in very good Tuscan, they 
were soon on easy terms ; and presently he had 
the delight of taking her down to the supper- 
room, where there was a long narrow table 



224 THE VENETIANS. 

loaded with delicacies, and a perpetual flow of 
champagne. 

Lisa enjoyed herself here as frankly as she had 
enjoyed herself at the sign of the Black Hat, in 
the Piazza di San Marco. She was the same 
unsophisticated Lisa still, in the matter of quails 
and lobster mayonnaise, creams and jellies. She 
stood at the table and eat all the good things 
that Sefton brought her, and drank three or four 
glasses of champagne with jovial unconcern, and 
talked of the people and the gowns they were 
wearing in her soft southern tongue, secure of 
not being understood, though Sefton warned her 
occasionally that there might be other people 
in the room besides themselves who knew the 
language of Dante and Boccaccio. 

Never had he talked to any beautiful woman 
who was so thoroughly unsophisticated ; and that 
somewhat plebeian nature had a curious charm 
for him. He could understand Vansittart's 
infatuation for such a woman, but could not 
understand his giving her up for the sake of 
Eve Marchant, whose charms as compared with 
Lisa's were 

" As moonlight unto sunlight, or as water unto wine." 



"HE SAID, *SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 225 

He hoped to discover all the history of that 
intrigue by-and-by, seeing how freely Lisa talked 
of herself to an acquaintance of an hour. He 
meant to follow up that acquaintance with all 
the earnestness of which he was capable. 

" There are no finer diamonds in the room than 
your necklace," he said, when she had been 
praising an ancient dowager's jewels, gems whose 
beauty was not enhanced by a neck that looked 
as if its bony structure had been covered with 
one of the family parchments. 

" Do you really like them ? " asked Lisa, with 
a flashing smile. 

" She doesn't even blush for her spoil," thought 
Sefton. 

" I'm so glad you think them good," continued 
Lisa. " They are all my fortune. The jeweller 
told me I should never repent buying them." 

" What, Signora, did you buy them ? I 
thought they were the offering of some devoted 
admirer." 

"Do you suppose I would accept such a gift 
from any one except — except somebody I cared 
for ? " she exclaimed indignantly. *•' A man 
sent me a diamond bracelet one nio^ht at the 

o 
VOL. II. Q 



226 THE VENETIANS. 

theatre — I found it in my dressing-room when I 
arrived — with his card. I sent it back next 
morning — or at least Zinco sent it back for me." 

" And I dare say you have even forgotten the 
man's name ? " said Sefton. 

" Yes. Your English names are very ugly, and 
very difficult to remember. They are so short ; 
so insignificant." 

And then she told him the history of her 
diamonds ; how the manager of the Apollo had 
first doubled, and then trebled, and then quad- 
rupled her salary ; how she had kept the money 
in her trunk, all in gold, sovereigns upon 
sovereigns, and how she and her aunt had 
counted the gold every week, and how only last 
Saturday she and la Zia had gone off in a cab 
to Piccadilly, with a bag full of gold, and had 
bought the diamonds, which were now shining 
on Fiordelisa's throat. 

" We had less than half the price of the neck- 
lace," concluded Lisa, " but when the jeweller 
heard who I was, he insisted that I should take 
it away with me, and pay him by degrees, just 
as I find convenient, so I shall pay him my salary 
every Saturday until 1 am out of debt." 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 227 

"It sounds like a fairy tale/' said Sefton. 
*' Do you and your aunt live upon rose leaves and 
dew, Signora ; or how is that you can afford to 
invest all your earnings in diamonds ? " 

"Oh, we have other money," answered Lisa, 
with a defiant glance at the questioner. " I need 
not sing unless I like." 

"Indeed!" exclaimed Sefton, strengthened in 
his conviction that Signora Vivanti was not alto- 
gether so " straight " as Hawberk believed, or 
affected to believe. 

Mr. Sefton was not so confiding as the com- 
poser. He was a man prone to think badly of 
women, and he was inclined to think the worst 
of this brilliant Venetian, much as he admired 
her. He followed her like a shadow for the rest 
of the evening, escorted her up the narrow stair- 
case, and stood near the piano while she sang, 
and then took her from the stifling atmosphere 
of the lamp-lit house to the semi-darkness of the 
garden, which Mrs. Hawberk had converted into 
a tent, shutting out the wintry sky, and enclosing 
the miniature lawn and surrounding shrubbery' ; 
a tent dimly lighted with fairy lamps, nestling 
among the foliasre. Here he sat talkins: with 



228 THE VENETIANS. 

Lisa in a shadowy corner, while three or four 
other couples murmured and whispered in other 
nooks and corners, and while Hawberk, feeling 
he had done his duty as host, smoked and drank 
whisky and soda with a little group of chosen 
friends — an actor, a journalist, a playwright, and 
a brace of musical critics, who had an inex- 
haustible flow of speech, and a delicious uncon- 
sciousness of time. 

Sefton too was unconscious of time, talking 
with Lisa in that soft Italian tongue, having to 
bend his head very near the full red lips in order 
to catch the Venetian elisions, the gentle, sliding 
syllables. 

The hum of voices, the occasional ripples of 
laughter, the music and song, dwindled and died 
into silence — even the lights in the lower 
windows grew dim, and gradually Sefton 
awakened to the fact that the party was at an 
end, and that he and Signora Yivanti, and Haw- 
berk's Bohemian group yonder, were all that 
remained of Mrs. Hawberk*s musical evening. 
He bent down to look at his watch by one of the 
fairy lamps. 

Three o'clock. 



" HE SAID, ' SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.' =' 229 

" By Jove, we are sitting out everybody else," 
he said, with a pleased laugh, triumphant at the 
thought that he had been able to amuse and 
interest his companion. " Three o'clock. Very 
late for a musical evening. You did not know it 
was so late, did you, Signora ? " 

" No," answered Lisa, carelessly ; *• but I don't 
mind. I've been enjoying myself." 

" So have I ; but it's rather rough on [Mrs. Haw- 
berk, who may want to rest from her labours." 

" I am quite ready to go home as soon as I get 
my shawl," said Lisa, rising from the low wicker 
chair, straight as a dart, her neck and shoulders 
and Ions: bare arms lookina: like marble in the 
faint glimmer of the toy lamps. Sefton stood 
and looked at her, drinking in her loveliness as if 
it had been a draught of wine from an enchanted 
cup. Oh, the charm of those Italian eyes ; so 
brilliant, yet so soft ; so darkly deep ! Could there 
be any magic in fairyland more potent than the 
spell this Calypso was weaving round him ? 

" May I call your carriage ? " he asked. 

" I have no carriage. I live close by." 

" Let me see you home, then." 

She shrugged her shoulders with a gesture 



230 THE VENETIANS. 

which meant that the thing wasn't worth dis- 
puting about, and Sefton followed her across the 
little bit of grass to the house door. Hawberk 
stopped her on her way. 

" What, my Yivanti not gone yet ! " he cried. 
" I would have had another song out of you if I 
had known you were there. What have you and 
Mr. Sefton found to say to each other all this 
time ? " 

" We have found plenty to say. He has been 
talking Italian, which none of you stupid others 
can talk. It is a treat to hear my own language 
from some one besides la Zia. Good nighty 
Signer. Shall I find la Signora to wish her good 
night ? " 

" No, child. La Signora Hawberkini retired to' 
rest an hour ago, when all the respectable people 
had gone. She did not wait to see the last of 
such night birds as you and Sefton, and these dis- 
reputable journalists here." 

" I love the night," said Lisa, in no wise abashed. 
" It is ever so much nicer than day.'' 

The servants had vanished, but she found her 
wrap lying on a sofa — an old red silk shawl, a 
Bellaggio shawl, whose dinginess went ill with 



*'HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 231 

her velvet gown and diamond necklace ; but she 
wrapped it about her head and shoulders, nothing 
caring, and she looked a real Italian peasant as 
she turned to Sefton in the light of the hall lamps. 
He admired her even more at this moment than 
he had admired her before — he liked to think of 
her as a peasant ; with no womanly sensitiveness 
to suffer, no pride to be wounded ; divided from 
him socially by a great gulf of difference ; and so 
much the more surely, and so much the more 
lightly to be won. 

They went out into the street together. It was 
moonlight, a February moon, cold, and sharp, and 
clear, with a hoar frost whitening the wintry shrubs 
and iron railings. Lisa caught up her velvet 
train, and tripped lightly along the pavement in 
bronze beaded slippers and bright red stocking?, 
Sefton at her side. She would not take his arm , 
both hands being occupied, one clutching the silk 
shawl, the other holding up her skirt. The walk 
was of the shortest, for Saltero's ^Mansion was only 
just round the corner; nor could Sefton detain 
her on the doorstep for any sentimentality about 
the moonlit river. She had her key in the door 
in a moment, and as he pushed the big, heavy 



232 THE VENETIANS. 

door open for her, she vanished behind it with 
briefest " Grazie, e buona notte, care Signor." 

There had not been time for the gentlest pres- 
sure of her strong, broad hand, or for his tender 
" Addio, bellissima mia," to be heard. 

But to know where she lived was something 
gained, and as he walked homeward humming 
" la donna e mobile," he meant to follow up that 
advantage. He had told her that he was her 
near neighbour. He had gone even farther, and 
had asked her if she would sing for him at a little 
tea-party, were he to give one in her honour ; on 
which she had only laughed, and said that she 
had never heard of a man giving a tea-party. 

The acquaintance begun so auspiciously gave 
Wilfred Sefton a new zest for London life. He 
hailed the hardening frosts of February with 
absolute pleasure, he for whom that month had 
hitherto been the cream of the huntins: season. 
He cared nothing that his latest acquisitions, the 
hunters in whose perfections he still believed, 
whose vices he had not had time to discover, were 
eating their heads off in his Sussex stables. He 
was in his stall at the Apollo every night ; and 
Lisa's singing and Lisa's beauty, and the " quips 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE."' 233 

and cranks and wanton wiles " which constituted 
Lisa's idea of acting, were enough for his con- 
tentment. 

He waited till Wednesday before he ventured 
to call upon his divinity. He would gladly have 
presented himself at her door on Monday after- 
noon ; but he did not want to appear too eager. 
Tuesday seemed a long blank day to his im- 
patience, although there was plenty to do in 
London for a man of intellect and taste ; pictures, 
people, politics, all manner of interests and 
amusements. 

Lisa had told him about the aunt who lived 
with her and kept house for her. There could 
be no shadow of impropriety in his visit. He 
made up his mind indeed to ask for the elder 
lady in the first instance ; but all uncertainty 
was saved him, as it was la Zia who opened the 
door. Those diamonds of Lisa's could not have 
been earned so speedily had the Venetians taken 
upon themselves the maintenance of a servant. 
What was she there for, argued la Zia, when 
Hawberk suggested the necessity of a parlour- 
maid, except to sweep and dust, and market and 
cook ? An English servant, who would want 



234 THE YENETIAXS. 

butcher's meat every day, and would object to 
the cuisine a Vhuile, would be an altogether 
ruinous institution. 

La Zia was not too tidy in her indoor apparel, 
since her love for finery was stronger than her 
sense of the fitness of things. She had one 
gown at a time, a gown of silk or plush or 
velveteen, which she wore as a best gown till it 
began to be shabby or dilapidated, when Lisa 
bought her another fine gown, and the old one 
was taken for daily use. 

Lisa's taste had become somewhat chastened 
since she had lived at Chelsea. A casual word 
or two from Yansittart, whose lightest speech she 
remembered, had made her scrupulously plain in 
her attire — save on such an occasion as Mrs. 
Hawberk's party, when her innate love of finery 
showed itself in scarlet stockings and beaded 
shoes. This afternoon Sefton found her sitting 
on ^the hearthrug in front of the bright little 
tiled grate, in the black stuff gown she had worn 
when he first saw her, and with just the same 
touch of colour at her throat, and in her blue- 
black hair. 

She and the little boy were sitting on the rug 



♦'HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 235 

together, dividing the caprices of a white kitten, 
the plaything of mother and son, mother and 
son laughing gaily, with laughter which mingled 
and harmonized in perfect music. The boy made 
no change in his sprawling attitude as Sefton 
entered ; but he looked up at the stranger with 
large dark eyes, wondering, and slightly resentful. 

" His boy," thought Sefton, and felt a malignant 
disposition to kick the sprawling imp, hangiog 
on to the mother's skirts, and preventiug her 
from rising to greet her visitor. 

" Let go, Paolo," said Lisa, laughing. '•' What 
with you and the kitten, I can't stir." 

She shook herself free, transferred the kitten 
to the boy's eager arms, rose, and gave Sefton 
her hand, with a careless grace which was charm- 
ing to contemplate from an artistic point of 
view, but which showed him how faint an 
impression all their talk and intimacy of Sunday 
night had made upon her. A woman who had 
thought of him in the interval would have 
blushed and been startled at his coming. Lisa 
took his visit much too easily. There was 
neither surprise nor gladness in her greeting. 

" I saw you in the stalls," she said, '• last nighty 



236 THE VENETIANS. 

and the night before. Aren't you tired of 
FancTionette ? " 

"Not in the least." 

" You must be monstrously fond of music," she 
said, always in Italian. 

" I am — monstrously ; but I have other reasons 
for liking Fanchonette, I like to see you act, as 
well as hear you sing." 

" So do other people," she answered, with frank 
vanity, tossing up her head. " They all applaud 
me when I first come on, before I have sung a 
note. I have to stand there in front of the 
lights for ever so long, while they go on applaud- 
ing like mad. And yet people say you English 
have no enthusiasm, that you care very little for 
anything." 

" We care a great deal for that which is really 
beautiful ; but most of all when it is fresh and 
new." 

"Ah! that's what Mr. Hawberk says — I am 
all the better because I am not highly trained 
like other singers. My ignorance is my strength." 

"' But she has worked," interposed la Zia ; " ah ! 
how hard she has worked ! At her piano ; at the 
English language. She has such a strong will. 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 237 

She has but to make up her mind, and the thing 
is done." 

" One can read as much, Signora, in those 
flashing eyes ; in that square brow and firmly 
moulded chin," said Sefton, putting down his 
hat and cane, and establishing himself in one of 
the prettily draped basket-chairs. "And pray 
how did it happen that you two ladies made up 
your minds to seek your fortunes in London ? " 

*• It was the impresario who brought us. "We 
were at Milan, and we came to London to sing in 
the chorus at Covent Garden. It was good 
fortune which brought us so far from home." 

" And you hate London, no doubt, after Italy ? " 

*' No, indeed. Signer. London is a city to love 
— the wide, wide streets ; the big, big houses ; 
the great squares — ah ! the Piazza is nothing to 
your squares— and the shops, the beautiful shops ! 
Your sky is often gloomy, but there are summer 
days — heavenly days — when the wind blows down 
to the sea, and sweeps all the darkness out of the 
heavens, and your sky grows blue, like Italy, 
Those are days to remember." 

" True ! They are rare enough to be counted 
on the finger^ of one hand," answered Sefton^ 



238 THE VENETIANS. 

stooping to take hold of the boy, who had been 
pursuing his kitten on all- fours, and had this 
moment plunged between Sefton's legs to extract 
the animated ball of white fluff from under his 
chair. He felt nothing but aversion for the 
handsome, dark-eyed brat; but he felt that he 
must take some notice of the creature, if he 
wanted to stand well with the mother. 

" Che sta facendo, padroncino ? " 

The boy was friendly, and explained himself 
in a torrent of broken speech. The cat was a 
bad cat, and wouldn't stay with him. Would 
the Signer make him stay ? Sefton had to stoop 
and risk a scratching from the tiny claws, in a 
vain endeavour to get hold of the rebellious 
beast, which rolled away from him, hissing and 
spitting, and finally rushed across the room and 
took refuge behind the piano. Sefton lifted the 
boy on to bis knee, and produced his watch, that 
unfailing object of interest to infancy, usually 
denominated, on the principle of all slang nomen- 
clature, "tick-tick." Once interested in the 
opening and shutting of the "tick-tick," Paolo 
sat on the visitor's knee, comme un image, and 
allowed Sefton to talk to Lisa and her aunt. 



'' HE SAID, ' SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.' " 239 

He was careful to make himself agreeable to 
the elder ladv, who was charmed to find an 
Englishman who understood her native tongue. 
She had contrived to learn a little English, but 
had made no such progress as her niece, and it 
was a labour to her to talk. What a pleasure, 
therefore, to find this suave, handsome English- 
man, with his courtly manners, quick compre- 
hension, and ready replies. 

From la Zia he heard a good deal about Lisa's 
early life ; yet there was a certain wise reticence 
even on that loquacious lady's part. She 
breathed no word of Lisa's Englishman, the first 
Mr. Smith, or of the second. In all her talk of 
their old life, in Venice, at Milan, there was no 
hint of any one but themselves. They appeared 
to have been alone, unprotected, dependent on 
their own small earnings. 

After waiting in vain for any allusion to Yan- 
sittart, Mr. Sefton came straight to the point, 
with a direct question. 

" I think you know a friend of mine, Signora," 
he said to Lisa. '• 3Ir. Yansittart ? " 

" Yansittart ? " 

Lisa repeated the name slowly, with a look of 
blank wonder. 



240 THE YENETTANS. 

" Have you never heard that name before ? " 

" Kever." 

" So," thought SeftOD, " she knew him under 
an alias. That means a good deal, and confirms 
my original idea." 

He put the boy off his knee almost roughly, 
and rose to take his leave. 

" Good-bye, Signora. You will let me drop in 
again some day, I hope ? " 

"If you like. Why did you think I knew 
your friend, Mr. Van — sit — tart ? " 

"Because last spring I saw you in Cheyne 
Walk talking to a man whom I took for Van- 
sittart. A tall man, with fair hair. You seemed 
very friendly with him ; your hands were clasped 
upon his arm ; you were smiling up at him." 

This time Lisa blushed a deep carnation, and 
her face saddened. 

" Oh, that," she stammered — " that was some 
one I knew in Italy." 

"Not Yansittart?" 

"No." 

"But the gentleman has a name of some 
kind," persisted Sefton. 

"Never mind his name," she answered 



"HE SAID, 'SHE HAS A LOVELY FACE.'" 241 

abruptly. " I don't want to talk about him. I 
may never see him again, perhaps." And then, 
brushing away a tear, and becoming suddenly 
frivolous, she asked, " How did you come to 
remember me — after so long ? " 

"Because that moment by the river yonder 
has lived in my memory ever since — because no 
man can forget the loveliest face he ever saw in 
his life." 

With that compliment, and with a lingering 
clasp of the strong hand, he concluded his first 
visit to Saltero's Mansion, la Zia accompanying 
him to the door and curtsying him out. 



VOL. II. 



242 THE VENETIANS. 



CHAPTEE X. 

Peggy's chance. 

If there were blue skies now and then in a 
London February, what was February along the 
Kiviera, but the most exquisite spring-time? 
And perhaps on all that favoured shore, Cannes 
has the richest firstfruits of the fertile year, for it 
is then that the mimosas are in their glory, and 
the hill of Californie is a kind of yellow fairy- 
land, an enchanted region, where all the trees 
drop golden rain. 

Eve and her lover husband were at Cannes. 
Delicious as the place was at this season, and 
new as the shores of the Mediterranean were to 
Eve, she and her husband had not come there 
for their own pleasure. They had come at the 
advice of the doctors — to give Peggy a chance. 
That was what it had come to. Peggy's only 



PEGGY'S CHAXCE 243 

chance of livinor tlirouo:li the winter was' to be 
found in the south. One doctor had suggested 
Capri, another Sorrento ; but for some unex- 
plained reason Yansittart objected to Italy, and 
then Xentone or Cannes had been talked 
about ; and finally Cannes was decided upon, for 
medical reasons, in order that Peggy might have 
the watchful care of Dr. Bright, which might 
give her an additional chance in the hand-to- 
hand struggle with her grim adversary. 

Yansittart had offered, in the first instance, to 
send Peggy to the south in the care of one of 
her elder sisters and an experienced travelling- 
maid, to be chosen especially for the invalid's 
comfort ; but Eve had been so distressed at the 
idea of parting with the ailing child, so fearful 
lest she should not be properly nursed, or lest 
she should droop and die of home-sickness, that 
of his own accord he had offered to accompany 
this youngest sister-in-law on the journey, that 
was to give her a chance — alas ! only a chance. 
None of the doctors talked of cure as a certainty. 
Peggy's family history was bad ; and Peggy's 
lungs were seriously affected. 

It was almost inevitable that the youngest 



244 THE VENETIANS. 

child — born after the mother's health had begun 
to fail — should inherit the mother's fatal tendency 
to lung disease; but things were altogether 
different in the case of Eve, the eldest daughter, 
born before her mother had begun to develop 
lung trouble. For Eve there was every chance. 
This was what a distinguished specialist told 
Vansittart, when he asked piteously if the 
hereditary disease shown too clearly by Peggy, 
were likely to appear by-and-by in Eve's consti- 
tution. He was obliged to take what comfort he 
could from this assurance. He would not alarm 
Eve by suggesting that her chest should be 
sounded by the physician who had just passed 
sentence upon her sister. Perhaps he did not 
want to learn too much. He was content to see 
his young wife fair and blooming, with all the 
indications of perfect health, and to believe that 
she must needs be exempt from inherited evil. 

She was enraptured when he offered to take 
her to the south with Peggy. 

" You are more than good, you are adorable," 
she cried. "Now I feel justified in having 
worshipped you. What, you will leave Hamp- 
shire just when the hunting is at its best? You 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 245 

will forego all your plans for the spring ? And 
you will put up with a sick child's company ? " 

" I shall have my wife's company, and that is 
enough. I shall see you happy and at ease, and 
not wearing yourself to death with anxieties and 
apprehensions about Peggy." 

" Yes, I shall be ever so much happier with 
her, should tilings come to the worst " — her eyes 
brimmed over with sudden tears at the thought— 
" it will be so much to be with her — to know 
that we have made her quite happy." 

They went to Haslemere next morning, and 
there was a grand scene with Peggy, who 
screamed with rapture on hearing that Eve and 
Jack were going to take her to Cannes their 
very own selves. She, who fancied she had lost 
Eve for ever, was to live with her, to sleep in the 
next room to her, to see her every day and all 
day long. 

Then came the journey — the long, long 
journey, which made Eve and Peggy open 
wondering eyes at the width of France from sea 
to sea. They travelled with all those luxuries 
which modern civilization provides for the 
traveller who is willing to pay for them. And 



246 THE VENETIANS. 

every detail of the journey was a new surprise 
and a new joy for Peggy, who brought upon her- 
self more than one bad fit of coughing by her 
absolute ecstasy. The luncheon and dinner on 
board the rushing Bapide; the comfortable 
wagon-lit to retire to at Lyons, when darkness 
had fallen over the eternal monotony of the 
landscape — and anon the surprise of awaking at 
midnight in a large bright room where two small 
beds were veiled like brides in white net curtains, 
and where a delightful wood fire blazed on a 
wide open hearth, such as Peggy only knew of 
in fairy tales. 

How comforting was the basin of hot soup 
which Peggy sipped, squatting beside this 
cavernous chimney, while Benson, the courier- 
maid, skilled in nursing invalids, who had been 
engaged chiefly to wait upon Peggy, unpacked 
the Gladstone bag, and made everything com- 
fortable for the night. Peggy had slept fitfully 
all the way from Lyons, hearing as in a dream 
the porters shouting " Avignon," at a place where 
they stopped in the winter darkness, and faintly 
remembering having heard of a city where Popes 
lived and tortured people once upon a time. 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 247 

She woke now aad again in her white-curtained 
bed at Marseilles ; for however happy her days 
might be her nights were generally restless and 
troubled. The new maid was very attentive to 
her, and gave her lemonade when her throat 
was parched, but the maid was able to sleep 
soundly between whiles, when Peggy was lying 
awake gazing through the white net curtains, 
and half expecting Kobin Goodfellow to come 
creeping out of the wide black chimney, where 
the last red glow had faded from the heap of pale 
grey ashes on the hearth. 

Towards morning Peggy fell into a refreshing 
slumber, and when she opened her eyes again 
the room was full of sunshine, and there was 
a band playing the " Faust Waltz " in the public 
gardens below. 

" Why, it's summer ! " cried Peggy, clapping 
her hands, and leaping out of the parted white 
curtains, and rushing to the open window. 

The maid was dressed, and Peggy's breakfast 
was ready for her. " Oh, such delicious coffee ! " 
she told Eve afterwards, " in a sweet little copper 
pot, and rolls such as were never made in hum- 
drum England." 



248 THE VENETIANS. 

Yes, it was summer, the February summer of 
that lovely shore. The Vansittarts stayed nearly 
a week at Marseilles, to rest Peggy after her 
forty-eight hours' journey ; and to see the Votive 
Church on the hill, and that famous dungeon 
on the rock which owes more of its renown to 
fiction than to fact ; and the parting of the ways 
where the ships sail east and west, to Orient or 
Afric, the two wonder-worlds for the untravelled 
European. Eve and Peggy looked longingly at 
the great steamers vanishing on the horizon, 
hardly knowing whether, if the choice were put 
to them, they would go right or left — to the 
country where the Great Moguls, the jewelled 
temples, the tiger hunts, the palanquins, the 
tame elephants with castles on their backs are 
to be found ; or to the country where the Moors 
live, and where modern civilization camps gipsy- 
fashion among the vestiges of earth's most ancient 
people. 

" Where would you like to go best, India or 
Africa?" asked Eve, as she and Peggy sat 
side by side in a fairy-like yawl, that went 
dipping and dancing over those summer 
waves, and seemed like a toy boat as it sailed 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 249 

under the lee of an Orient steamer bound for 
Alexandria. 

" Oh, T think I would rather go up a pyramid 
than anything," gasped Peggy, breathless at the 
mere thought. " Don't you remember * Belzoni's 
Travels,' that tattered little old book which 
once was mother's, and how they used to grope 
about, Belzoni and his people, and lose them- 
selves in dark passages, and make discoveries 
inside the Pyramids ? And then the Nile, and 
the crocodiles, which one could always run away 
from, because they can't turn, don't you know ? 
Oh, I think Egypt must be best of all." 

Peggy and her companions were out driving 
along the Corniche road or sailing over the blue 
waters every day, and all day long; and the 
invalid made a most wonderful recovery during 
that week. 

Her nights were ever so much quieter, her 
appetite had improved. Peggy's chance began 
to look like a certainty, and hope revived in Eve's 
breast. Hope had never died there. She could 
not believe that this bright, happy young 
creature was to be taken away from her. There 
was such vitality in Peggy, such vigour in those 



250 THE VENETIANS. 

thin arms when they clasped themselves round 
Eve's neck, such light and life in the full blue 
eyes when they looked out upon the movement 
and variety of the Rue Cannabiere, or the bustle 
of the quays. 

They went on to Cannes, and alighted first 
at one of the most comfortable hotels in Europe, 
the Mont Fleuri, so as to take their time in the 
selection of a home ; for they meant to stay in 
Provence till there was an end of cold weather 
in England, to go back only when an English 
spring should have done its worst, and the foot- 
steps of summer should be at hand. If Cannes 
should grow too warm, there was Grasse; and 
there were cool retreats perched still higher on 
the mountain slopes, where they might spend 
the last month or so of their sojourn. There 
were reasons why Eve would be glad to escape 
from the little world in which she was known, 
reasons why she should prefer the absolute re- 
tirement of a villa in a strange land, where she 
need receive no more visitors than she chose, 
where she might let it be known among the little 
community of British residents that she did not 
desire to be called upon. 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 251 

They found just the retreat that suited them, 
high on the fair hill, which at this season was 
cloaked with the mimosa's golden bloom as with 
a royal garment. The villa stood on higher 
ground than the Hotel Californie, and all the 
gulf of San Juan lay at its feet, and the ships at 
anchor looked like toy ships in the distance of 
that steep descent, where palm and pine, cypress 
and olive, lent their varying form and colour to 
the rough grey rocks, and where garden below 
garden spread a carpet of vivid flowers, hedges of 
roses, beds of pale pink and deep purple ane- 
mones, the scarlet and orange of the ranunculus, 
amidst the gloom of rocky gorge and pine forest. 

Beyond the gulf rose the islands, shadowy at 
eventide, clear and sunlit in those early mornings 
when Peggy watched the red fires of dawn light- 
ing up far away yonder towards Italy. She 
shared Eve's vivid imaginings about that neigh- 
bouring country, and thought with wonder of 
being so near the border of that mystical land. 
All her ideas of Italy were derived from " Childe 
Harold," the more famous passages of which she 
had read and learnt diligently under Eve's in- 
struction, the eldest daughter carrying on the 



252 THE YENETIANS. 

education of the youngest in a casual way, after the 
homely governess had vanished from the scene. 

The villa was a small house, flung down care- 
lessly, as it seemed, in a spacious garden, a garden 
which had been neglected of late years, since 
much smarter villas had risen up, white and 
ornamental, upon the heights of Californie. But 
the garden had once been cared for. It was full 
of roses and ivy-leaved geranium, anemones and 
narcissi, and, what pleased Peggy most of all, 
there was a grove of orange trees, where she could 
lie upon the grass and let the mandarin oranges 
drop into her lap. Eve and her young sister sat 
in this orange orchard for hours at a stretch. Eve 
working at one of those tiny garments which it 
was her delight to make — " dressing dolls," Van- 
sittart called it ; Peggy pretending to read, but 
for the most part gazing at sky or sea, watching 
the white clouds or the white ships sailing by in 
the blue. 

" Don't you think heaven must be very like 
this ? " Peggy asked, one sunshiny noontide, when 
the sky was of its deepest sapphire, and the 
balmy air had the warmth and perfume of an 
English midsummer. 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 253 

" What, Peg, do you suppose there are orange 
trees in the * Land of the Leal ' — orange trees, and 
smart villas, and afternoon parties ? " 

" No, no — only the blue sky, and the sea, and 
the hills jutting out, one beyond another, till 
they melt into the sky. It looks as if one could 
never come to the end of it all. It looks just 
like heaven." 

"Endless, and without limits, like Eternity," 
said Yansittart, smiling at her^ unconscious that 
Eve's head was bent lower and lower over her 
work to hide the streaming tears. " A pretty 
fancy. But that boundless-seeming sea is only 
a big round pool after all ; and think how clever 
it was of Columbus to find his way out of that 
mill-pond, and across the great ocean, and what 
triumph for Cortez to discover a second ocean, 
bigger than the first. And yet this earth of ours 
is only a round ball, a speck in the infinite." 

** Don't," cried Peggy, with her fingers in her 
ears. *' You make my head ache. I can't bear 
to think of the universe ; it's too big. Miitterchen 
used to tell me about it when I was a small child. 
She made me dream bad dreams. Why isn't 
there one nice, comfortable world for us to live 



254 THE VENETIANS. 

in, and one lovely heaven for us to go to after 
we are dead, and one horrid hell for the very bad 
people, just to prevent their mixing with the 
good ones ? That's what the Bible means, doesn't 
it ? I can't bear to think of anything more than 
that." 

" Don't think, darling," said Eve, sitting down 
on the grass beside her, and drawing the fragile 
form close against her own — " don't think. Only 
be happy. Breathe this delicious air, bask in 
this delightful sun, be happy, and get well." 

" Oh, I am getting well as fast as ever I can. 
Except for my tiresome cough, I am as well as 
anybody can be. I wonder what they are doing 
at Fernhurst. Skating on Farmer Green's pond, 
perhaps, or crouching over the fire. You know 
how Hetty would always sit with her head hang- 
ing over the coals, in spite of all you could say 
about spoiling her complexion. And here we 
spoil our complexions in the sun. Isn't it 
wonderful ? " 

" Everything in our lives is wonderful, Peggy. 
Most of all, that 1 should have such a husband as 
Jack." 

Eve held out her hand to that model husband. 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 255 

smiling at him, with eyes that were veiled in 
tears, more grateful for his goodness to this ailing 
child than for all the love that he had lavished 
upon herself. 

What a happy season this would have been in 
the lovely land beside the tideless sea, if hope 
had never been dashed with fear. But, alas ! 
there were moments, even at Peggy's best, when 
the shadow of earthly doom fell dark across the 
summer glory of a clime that knows not winter. 
Sometimes, in the midst of her joyous delight in 
the things around her, a sudden paroxysm of 
coughing would surprise the poor child, shaking 
and rending her as if some invisible demon had 
seized the wasted form by the narrow shoulders, 
and were trying to tear it piecemeal. 

" My enemy has been very cruel to me to-day," 
Peggy would say afterwards, with a serio-comic 
smile. "I thought Dr. Bright would get the 
better of him." 

At first she used to call that wearing cough 
her enemy, as she had heard old people talk of 
their gout or their rheumatism. Later, she talked 
of her cough as the dragon, and of Dr. Bright as 
St. George ; but although the medical champion 



256 THE VENETIANS. 

might get the better of the dragon now and again, 
he was a sturdy monster, and harder to kill than 
the toughest crocodile along the sandy shores of 
old Nile. Peggy was wonderfully patient, wonder- 
fully hopeful about herself, even when hope began 
to wax faint and dim in the hearts of her com- 
panions, when the trained attendant could tell 
of sleepless and sorely-troubled nights, and when 
Eve, creeping in from her adjoining bedchamber 
half a dozen times between night and morning, 
was saddened at finding the fevered head tossing 
unquietly upon the heaped-up pillows, the blue 
eyes wide open, and the parched lips uttering 
speech that told of semi- delirium. 

However bad Peggie's nights were, her days 
were generally cheerful. She was never tired 
of the hillside walks, the luxury of ferns, and 
palms, and aloes, the glory of the golden-tufted 
mimosas, the peach blossom, the anemones, the 
silvery threads of water creeping down the rocky 
gorges, such narrow streamlets, cleaving Titanic 
rocks. To Peggy these things brought no 
satiety ; while the more earthly and sensual 
enjoyment of afternoon tea at Kumpelmeyer's, 
sitting out of doors, and eating as many cakes 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. -257 

and bon-bons as ever she liked, was only a lesser 
revelation of a world where all was beauty. 
Eve and her husband saw the crowds at Eumpel- 
meyer's with an amused interest. They looked 
on at this curiously blended smart world, this 
olla-podrida of Royal Duchesses and Liverpool 
merchants, millionaires and impecunious eavaliere 
eerventey Parisian celebrities, the old nobility of 
France and England — old as the Angevin kings, 
when England and France were one monarchy — 
and the newly gotten wealth of New York and 
Chicago. Eve and Vansittart looked on and 
were amused, and then drove back to the villa 
on the hill, and rejoiced in the seclusion of their 
own garden, which it had been their delight to 
improve and beautify. Everything grew so 
quickly — the rose-trees they planted throve so 
well that it was like gardening in fairyland. 

They were not intruded upon by that smart 
world which they saw at the tea-shop on the 
Croisette. At Cannes two things only count as 
worthy of regard or reverence — the first, fashion ; 
the second, money. Eve and her husband had 
neither one nor the other. A Hampshire squire, 
with three thousand a year and a young wife, 

VOL. n. s 



258 THE VENETIANS. 

was a person who could interest nobody. Had 
he been a bachelor and a dancing man, he would 
have been eligible and even courted ; for dancing 
men are in a minority, and a ball at the Cercle 
Nautique is apt to recall Edwin Long's famous 
picture of the Babylonian Marriage Market, 
women of all nationalities waiting to be asked 
to dance. A married man, a Hampshire squire, 
living quietly with his wife and her sister in one 
of the cheapest villas in Californie was a person 
to seek, and not to be sought. If the Vansittarts 
wanted to be in society they should have brought 
letters of introduction, observed a Plutocrat 
whose garden joined the Vansittarts' modest 
enclosure. " We can't be expected to take any 
interest in people of whom we know absolutely 
nothing." 

It would have been difficult, if not impossible, 
for the leaders of Cannes society, the owners of 
palatial villas, and givers of luncheons and dances, 
to believe or understand that these pariahs did 
not desire to enter within the charmed circle 
where wealth was the chief qualification, and 
where the triple millionaire, however humble 
his origin, and however dubious the source of 



PEGGY'S CBL\NCE. 259 

his gold, was sure of admission and approval. 
Granted that such millionaires were talked of 
lightly as " good, fun.'* The smart people who 
laughed were pleased to eat their luncheons, and 
dance at their balls, or drive on their coaches, or 
sail in their yachts. For the smart world of 
Californie and La Route de Frejus February 
meant a continual round of luncheons and teas, 
dinners and dances. Everybody complained of 
the " strain," of being " dragged " from party to 
party, of having " so much to do ; " these butter- 
flies treating the futilities of life as if they were 
serious labour. To these the tranquil happiness 
of such a couple as Eve and Yansittart was un- 
thinkable. Of course the poor things would be 
in society if society would have them. Cannes 
must be very dreary for such as they. It was 
really a pity that this kind of people did not stop 
short at St. Raphael or go on to Alassio. 

While society — looking at the " pretty young 
woman with the rather handsome husband " from 
afar, through a tortoiseshell merveilleuse — com- 
passionated their forlorn condition. Eve and Yan- 
sittart found the resources of the neighbourhood 
inexhaustible, had schemes and delights for every 



260 THE VENETIANS. 

day, and Peggy was never tired of comparing 
the Maritime Alps to heaven. What less in 
loveliness than heaven could be a land where 
one could picnic in February ? For Peggy's 
sake there were many picnics — now in a rocky 
gorge on the road to Vallauris, where one could 
sit about the dry bed of a cataract, and set out 
one's luncheon on great rocky boulders, screened 
by feathery palm trees that suggested the South 
Sea Islands ; now on the hilltop at Mougins, 
with the great white hotel, and the pinnacled 
walls of Grasse looking at them, across the deep 
valley of flower fields and mulberry orchards, 
blossoming lilies and budding vines ; and now, 
with even more delight, in some sheltered inlet 
on the level shore of St. Honorat, some tiny cove 
where the water was clear and exquisite in colour- 
ing as ever dreamer imagined that jasper sea of 
the Apocalypse. Sometimes they landed and 
took their picnic luncheon under the pine trees, 
or on the edge of the sea — Peggy keenly interested 
in everything she saw, the time-worn fortress- 
monastery that rose tall above the level shore, 
and the modern building with its low-roofed cells 
and modest chapel, a building whose monastic 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 261 

rule forbade the entrance of Peggy and all her 
sex, and which therefore inspired the liveliest 
curiosity on her part. Not less delightful was 
the sister island of St. Marguerite, with its thrilling 
mystery of the nameless prisoner, whom Peggy 
would have to be none other than a twin brother 
of the great Louis, and whose faded red velvet 
chair she looked at with affection and awe. 

*' To think of his meekly worshipping in this 
chapel, with an iron mask upon his face, when 
he might have been reigning over France and 
making war all over Europe, like the great 
King." 

" But in that case Louis must have been here. 
Tou wouldn't have a brace of monarchs, Peggy. 
One brother must have gone to the wall," argued 
Van sit tart. 

" They needn't have shut him up in a dungeon, 
and made him wear a mask," said Peggy. 

" True, Peggy ; the whole story involves a 
want of common sense which makes it incredible. 
I no more believe in a twin brother of Louis 
Quatorze than in a twin brother of our Prince 
of Wales, languishing in the Tower of London 
at this present moment." 



262 THE VENETIANS. 

" But you believe there was a masked prisoner," 
exclaimed Peggy, with keen anxiety. 

" Oh, yes, I am willing to believe in the Italian 
exile. The record of that gentleman's existence 
seems tolerably reliable, and a very bad time he 
had of it. They managed things wonderfully 
well in those days. A political agitator, or the 
writer of an unpleasant epigram, could be 
promptly suppressed. They had prison walls 
for inconvenient people of all kinds." 

Peggy sighed. She did not care about the 
Italian politician. She had read her Dumas, 
and had a settled belief in the royal twin. She 
liked to think that he had lived and suffered in 
that cold grey fortress. She cared nothing for 
Marshal Bazaine, and his legendary leap from 
the parapet, which the soldier guide recited with 
his tongue in his cheek. She despised Vansittart 
for being so curious about an event which was 
utterly without romance — an elderly general 
creeping out of captivity under the nose of 
guardians who were wilfully blind, and going 
comfortably away in a steamer. 

Those tranquil days on the islands or on the 
sea would have been as exquisite for Eve as for 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 263 

Peggy if the heart of the elder sister had not 
been heavy with anxiety about the younger. 
During the first few weeks in that soft climate 
Peggy's chance had seemed almost a certainty 
of cure. Even Dr. Bright had been hopeful for 
those first weeks, surprised into hopefulness by 
the marked improvement in his patient; but of 
late he had been grave to despondency, and 
every consultation strengthened Eve's fears. 

Indeed, there was little need of medical science 
to reveal the cruel truth. Every week that went 
by left something of Peggy's youth and strength 
behind it. The walks which were easy for her 
in Eebruary were difficult in March, and impos- 
sible in April. The ground that was lost was 
never regained. Eve looked back, and remem- 
bered how Peggy had walked to the Signal with 
her a fortnight after their arrival. They had 
walked very slowly, and they had sat down to 
rest several times in the course of the journey ; 
but the ascent had been accomplished without 
pain, and Peggy had been wild with delight at 
the prospect which rewarded them at the top. 

" We'll come up here often, won't we, Eve ? " 

" As often as you like, darling." 



264 THE VENETIANS. 

The second ascent was made in March, when 
the peach trees and aDemones were all in bloom, 
and the gold of the mimosas was a glory of the 
past. This time Peggy found the winding walks 
long and wearisome, and although, in spite of 
Eve's entreaties, she persisted in reachiDg the 
summit, the journey had evidently been too much 
for her. She sank exhausted on a bench, and it 
was nearly an hour before she was rested enough 
to mount the little platform on which the tele- 
scope stood, and explore the distance, looking 
for the French squadron which was rounding the 
point of the Esterelles, on its way to Toulon. 
Poor little Peggy ! She was the only person 
who did not believe in the seriousness of her case. 

" You and Dr. Bright make too much fuss 
about me," she said to Eve, seeing tears in the 
fond sister's eyes. " I am only growing. See 
how short my frock is! I have grown inches 
since Christmas." 

She stretched out her thin legs — so thin as to 
make the feet look abnormally big, and con- 
templated the spectacle with a satisfied air. 

" I am going to be very tall," she said. " I 
have only outgrown my strength. That is all 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 265 

that is the matter with me. Sophy and Jenny 
always said as much. And as for the cough 
which seems to frighten you so, it's only a 
stomach cough. Sophy said so." 

Vansittart had procured every contrivance 
which could make Peggy's life easier. He bought 
her a donkey, on whose back she could be carried 
up to the Signal, and when her own back grew 
too weak to endure the fatigue of sitting on the 
donkey he bought her a wheel chair, which a 
patient Provenpal two-legged beast of burden 
was willing to drag about all day, if Peggy 
pleased. And at each stage of her weakness — at 
each step on the downward road — he found some 
contrivance to make locomotion easier, so that 
Peggy might live out of doors, in the sunshine 
and on the sea. 

Alas ! there came a day when Peggy no longer 
cared to be carried about, when even the ripen- 
ing loveliness of the land, the warmth and 
splendour of the southern spring, the white-sailed 
skiff with its quaint old sailors talking their 
unintelligible Cannois, and chivalrously attentive 
to Peggy's lightest wish — the time came when 
even these things could not tempt her from the 



266 THE VENETIANS. 

invalid couch in the garden, where she lay and 
watched the opening orange blossoms, and won- 
dered who would be there to mark the first 
change from green to gold in the turn of the 
year, or thought of Eve's wedding and the orange 
wreath in her hair, and marvelled to remember 
how strong her young limbs felt in that gladdest 
of midsummers, and how slight a thing it had 
been to walk to the Koman village upon Bexley 
flill, or to the pine-crowned crest of Blackdown. 
And now Vansittart had to carry her to the sofa 
in the orange grove, and she lay there supine 
all through the golden afternoon, while Eve, who 
was said to be herself in delicate health, sat in 
a low chair near her, and read aloud from Dumas' 
historical novels, or some fairy tale. 

But this increasing weakness of hers was of no 
consequence, Peggy protested, when she saw Eve 
looking anxious about her. She had only out- 
grown her strength. When she had done grow- 
ing she would be as strong as ever, and able to 
climb those Sussex hills just as well as ever. But 
she would not be here to see the flower change 
to the fruit. That miracle of Nature's handicraft 
would be for other eyes — for the eyes of some 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 267 

other weakling, perhaps, passing, like Peggy, 
through the ordeal of overgrowth. But there was 
something far more wonderful than tree or flower, 
which had been whispered about by Peggy's 
nurse. There was the hope of a baby nephew 
or a baby niece in the first month of summer, a 
baby that was to open its eyes on some cool 
Alpine valley, to which Mr. and Mrs, Yansittart 
and their charge would migrate, when the plane 
trees by the harbour had unfolded their broad 
leaves, and the sun that looked upon Cannes was 
too fierce for any but the hardy natives of the 
old fishing village. In that sweet summer time 
a baby was to appear among them, and take its 
place in all their hearts and on all their knees, 
and was to reign over them by the divine right 
of the firstborn. Peggy's nurse told her that, 
were it only for the sake of this new-comer, she 
ought to take care of herself, and get well 
quickly. 

" You wouldn't like not to see the baby, would 
you. Miss Margaret ? " 

Peggy always felt inclined to laugh when her 
prim attendant called her Miss Margaret. She 
had never been addressed by her baptismal name 



268 THE VENETIANS. 

by any one else; but Benson was a superior 
person, who had lived only in the best families, 
and who did everything in a superior way. 

" Like not to see Eve's baby ? Why, of course 
I shall see it — see it and nurse it, every day of 
my life," answered Peggy. 

" Of course, miss, if you are well enough when 
June comes." 

**If-^I — am — well — enough," Peggy repeated 
slowly, turning towards the nurse with an earnest 
gaze. "Perhaps you mean that I may not live 
till June. I heard you say something about me 
to the housemaid yesterday morning w^hen she 
was making your bed. I was only half asleep ; 
though I was too drowsy to speak and let you 
know I could hear all you were saying. You are 
quite wrong — both of you. I have only out- 
grown my strength. I shall grow up into a 
strong young woman, and I shall be very fond 
of Eve's baby. I shall be the first aunt he will 
know." 

She stopped to laugh — a hoarse little laugh, 
which it pained Benson to hear. 

" Isn't that absurd ? " she asked. " I am calling 
the baby 'he.' But I do hope it will be a boy — 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 269 

I adore little boys — and I'm afraid I rather hate 
little girls." 

"A son and heir," said the nurse, placidly. 
" That will look nice in the newspapers." 

" Yes, baby will have to be in the newspapers," 
agreed Peggy. " His first appearance upon any 
stage. I should so love to make something for 
him to wear. Eve is always working for him ; 
though she contrives to keep her work a secret, 
even from me. * Mothers'-meeting work,' she 
said, when I asked her what she was so busy 
about. As if I didn't know better than that ! 
One doesn't use the finest lawn and real Valen- 
ciennes for mothers'-meeting work. Let me 
make something for Eve's baby, Benson, there's 
a dear. I would take such pains with my 
stitches." 

" It would tire you too much, Miss Margaret." 

" No, no, it won't. My legs are weak — not my 
fingers. Let me make something, and surprise 
Eve with it when it is finished." 

" I don't think Mrs. Yansittart would like you 
to know, miss. It is a secret." 

" Yes, but Eve knows that I know. I told her 
that I had been dreaming about her, and that I 



270 THE VENETIANS. 

dreamt there was a baby. It was after I heard 
you and Paulette whispering — I really did 
dream — and Eve kissed me, and cried a little, 
and said perhaps my dream might come 
true." 

Peggy being very urgent, her nurse brought 
her some fine flannel, as soft as silk, and cut out 
a flannel shawl for the unknown, and instructed 
Peggy as to the manner in which it was to be 
made, and Peggy was propped up with pillows, 
and began a floss-silk scallop with neat little 
stitches, and with an earnest laboriousness which 
was a touching spectacle ; but, alas ! after tea 
minutes of strenuous labour, great beads of 
perspiration began to roll down Peggy's flushed 
face, and the thin arm and hand trembled with 
the efibrt. 

"Oh, Miss Margaret, you mustn't work any 
more," cried Benson, shocked at her appear- 
ance. 

" I'm afraid I can't, Nurse ; not any more 
to-day," sighed Peggy, sinking back into the 
pillows, breathless and exhausted. " But I'll go 
on with baby's shawl to-morrow. Please fold it 
up for me and keep it in your basket. Eve 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 271 

mustn't see it till it's finished. The stitches are 
not too long, are they ? " 

No, the stitches were very small, but crowded 
one upon another in a manner that indicated 
resolute effort and failing sight. 

"I feel as if I had been making shawls all 
day, like the poor woman in the poem," said 
Peggy. " * Stitch, stitch, stitch, with eyelids 
heavy and dim ! ' How odd it is that everything 
seems difficult when one is ill! I thought it 
was only my legs that were weak, but I'm afraid 
it's the whole of me. My finger aches with the 
weight of my thimble — the dear little gold 
thimble my brother-in-law gave me on Christmas 
Day." 

She put the little thimble to her lips, and 
kissed it as if it were a sentient thing. Yan- 
sittart came into the room while she was so 
engaged. 

*'0h, there you are," she said. ^'Do you 
know what I was thinking about ? " 

" Not I, quotha," said he, sitting down by 
Peggy's couch and taking her thin little hand 
in his. " Who can presume to thread the laby- 
rinth of a young lady's mind, without the least 



272 THE VENETIANS. 

little bit of a clue ? You must give me a clue, 
Peg, if you want me to guess." 

" Well, then, I was thinking of you. Is that 
a clue?" 

" Not much of a one, my pet. You might be 
tiiinking anything — that my last coat is a bad 
fit about the shoulders — a true bill, Peggy; 
that I am growing stupid and indolent in 
this inconsistent climate, where one sleeps half 
the day and lies awake more than half the 
night." 

" I was thinking of your goodness to Eve, and 
to all of us. My gold thimble ; your bringing 
us here when you would rather have stayed in 
Hampshire to hunt. And I was thinking how 
different our lives would have been if you had 
never come to Fernhurst. Eve would just have 
o-one on slaving to make both ends meet, cutting 
out all our frocks, and working her Wilcox and 
Gibbs, and bearing with father's temper, and 
going without things. I should have outgrown 
my strength all the same ; but there would have 
been no one to bring us to Cannes. I should 
never have seen the Mediterranean, or the Snow 
Alps, or mother's grave. I should never have 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 273 

seen Eve in pretty tea-gowns, with nothing in 
the world to do except sit about and look lovely. 
You have changed our lives." 

" For better, Peggy ? " he asked earnestly. 

" Yes, yes ; for worlds and worlds better," she 
answered, with her arms round his neck. 

Benson had crept off to her dinner; Peggy 
and her brother-in-law were alone. 

" God bless you for that assurance, Peggy 
dear. And — if — if I were not by any means a 
perfect Christian — if I had done wicked things 
in my life — given way to a wicked temper, and 
done some great wrong, not in treachery but in 
passion, to a fellow-man — could you love me all 
the same, Peggy ? '* 

" Of course I could. Do you suppose I ever 
thought you quite perfect ? You wouldn't be 
half so nice if you were outrageously good. I 
know you could never be false or treacherous. 
And as for getting in a passion, and even hitting 
people, I shouldn't love you one morsel the less 
for that. I have often wanted to hit people my- 
self. My own sister Sophy, for instance, when 
she has been too provoking, with her superior 
airs and high-flown notions. Kiss me. Jack, 

VOL. II. T 



274 THE VENETIANS. 

again and again. If you were ever so wicked I 
think I should love you all the same." 

That was Yansittart's last serious talk with 
Peggy. It was indeed Peggy's last serious talk 
upon this planet, save for the murmured con- 
versation in the dawn of an April day, when the 
London vicar, who was doing duty at St. George's, 
came in before an early celebration to sit beside 
Peggy's pillow and speak words of comfort and 
promise, words that told of a fairer world, whither 
Peggy's footsteps were being guided by an im- 
palpable Hand — a world where it might be she 
would see the faces of the loved and lost — those 
angel faces, missed here, to be regained there. 

" Do you really believe it, sir ? " Peggy asked 
eagerly, with her thin hand on the grave Church- 
man's sleeve, her imploring looks perusing 
the worn, elderly face. " Shall I really see 
my mother again — see her and know her in 
heaven ? " 

" We know only what He has told us, my dear. 
' In My Father's house there are many mansions ' 
— and it may be that the homes we have lost — 
the firesides we remember dimly — ^the faces that 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 275 

looked upon our cradles — will be found — again — 
somewhere." 

"Ah, you are crying," said Peggy. "You 
would like to believe — ^just as I would. That 
is the only heaven I care for — to be with 
mother — and for Eve and Jack to come to us 
by -and -by." 

This day, when the vicar came in the early 
morning, was thought to be Peggy's last on 
earth, but she lingered, rallied, and slowly sank 
again, a gradual fading — painless towards the 
end; for the stages of suffering which she had 
borne so patiently were past, and the last hours 
were peaceful. She could keep her arms round 
Eve's neck and listen to the soothing voice of 
sorrowing love, till even this effort was too much, 
and the weak arms "relaxed their hold, and were 
gently laid upon the bed in that meek attitude 
which looked like the final 'repose. She could 
hear Eve still — speaking or reading to her in 
the soft, low voice that was like falling waters — 
but her mind was wandering in a pleasant dream- 
land, and she thought she was drifting on a 
streamlet that winds through the valley between 



276 THE VENETIANS. 

Bexley Hill and Blackdown; through summer 
pastures where the meadow-sweet grew tall and 
white beside the water, and where the voices of 
haymakers were calling to each other across the 
newly cut grass. 

" I should like to have lived to see your child," 
were Peggy's last words, faltered brokenly into 
Eve's ear as she knelt beside the bed. 

There were long hours of silence; the mute 
faint struggles of the departing spirit ; but that 
wish was the last of Peggy's earthly speech. 

Eve was broken-hearted. She never knew till 
the end came how she had clung to some frail 
thread of hope ; in spite of the Destroyer's pal- 
pable advance ; in spite of the physician's sad 
certainty ; in spite of her husband's gentle warn- 
ings, striving to prepare her for the end. The 
blow was terrible. Vansittart trembled for life 
and reason when he saw the intensity of her 
grief. Always highly strung, she was in a con- 
dition of health which made hysteria more to be 
dreaded. The brief delay between death and 
burial horrified her ; yet to Vansittart that swift 
departure of the lifeless clay seemed an un- 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 277 

utterable relief. For just a few hours the wasted 
form lay on the rose-strewn bed; and then in 
the early dimness, before the mists had floated 
up from the valley, before harbour and parish 
church stood out clear and bright in the face of 
the morning sun, came the bearers of the coffin, 
and at nine o'clock Yansittart went alone to see 
the loved youngest sister laid in the cemetery on 
the hill, in the secluded corner he himself had 
chosen — near the mother's grave — as a spot 
where Eve might like to sit by-and-by, when 
sorrow should be less poignant, a nook from 
which she could see the shallow bay, and the 
cloud-capped islands jutting out into the sea, and 
the tall white lighthouse of Antibes, standing up 
above the crest of the hill, glorified in the after- 
noon sun, as if it were nearer heaven than earth. 
In everything that Vansittart did at this time 
his thought was of Eve and her feelings. His 
grief for her sorrow was no less keen than the 
sorrow itself. He had been very fond of poor 
little Peggy, and had grown fonder of her as her 
weakness increased, and strengthened her claim 
upon his compassion. But now he saw with 
Eve's eyes, thought with Eve's mind, and every 



278 THE VENETIANS. 

sigh and every tear of hers wrung his heart 
afresh. 

Those earnest words of Peggy's, spoken with 
the wasted arms about his neck, were very 
precious to him. It seemed as if they were in 
some wise his absolution for the wrong which he 
had done in keeping the secret of Harold Mar- 
chant's death. Peggy had told him that she and 
her sister owed comfort and happiness to him— 
that he had changed the tenor of their lives 
from struggling penury to luxury and ease. He 
knew that over and above all these material 
advantages he had given Harold Marchant's 
sister a profound and steadfast love — a love 
which would last as long as his life, and which 
was and would be the governing principle of his 
life — and he told himself that in keeping that 
dark secret he had done well. 

Tranquillized by this assurance he put aside the 
old fear as something to be forgotten. But there 
was a nearer fear, a fear which had grown out 
of Peggy's illness and death, which no casuistry 
could lessen or thrust aside. The fear of here- 
ditary phthisis came upon him in the dead of 
night, and flung its dark shadow across his path 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 279 

by day. He had talked long with Dr. Bright 
after Peggy's death, and the kind physician had 
calmly discussed the probabilities of evil; had 
held nothing back. Fear there must needs be, in 
such a case ; but there was also ground for hope. 
Yansittart told the doctor of Eve's buoyant 
spirits and energy, her long walks and untiring 
pleasure in natural scenery. "That does not 
look like hereditary disease, does it ? " he asked, 
pleading for a hopeful answer. 

" Those are good signs, no doubt. Your wife 
is of an active temperament, highly nervous, but 
with a very happy disposition. Her sister's fatal 
illness has tried her severely ; but we must look 
to the arising of a new interest as the best cure 
for sorrow." 

" Poor Peggy ! Yes, we shall brood less upon 
her loss when we have our little one to think 
about." 

The thought of Eve's coming happiness as a 
mother was his chief comfort. She could not 
fail to be consoled by the infant whose tender life 
would absorb her every thought, whose sleeping 
and waking would be a source of interest and 
anxiety. But before the consoler's coming there 



280 THE VENETIANS. 

was a dreary interval of weeks to be bridged over, 
and this was a cause of fear. 

There was a journey to be taken, for the 
climate of Cannes would be too hot for health, or 
even for endurance, before mother and child 
could be moved. Thus it was imperative that 
they should move without delay. Indeed, Van- 
sittart thought they could not too soon leave 
the house and garden so closely associated with 
the image of the dead — where everything recalled 
Peggy, and the alternating hopes and fears of 
those gradual, sad stages on her journey to the 
grave. On this path her feet had tripped so 
lightly last February, when her illness was 
talked of as " only a cough." Under this giant 
eucalyptus her couch had been established in 
April, when walking had become a painful effort, 
and she could only lie and absorb the beauty of 
ber surroundings, and talk of the coming days in 
which she would be strong again, and able to go 
up to the Signal with Jack. 

Vansittart fancied that Eve would catch eagerly 
at the idea of leaving that haunted house ; but 
her grief increased at the thought of going 
away. 



PEGGY'S CHANCE. 281 

" I like to be here in the place she loved. I 
can at least console myself with remembering 
how happy she was with us ; and what a joy 
Californie and the wild walks above Golfe Juan 
were to her. Sometimes I think she is in the 
garden still. I lie upon the sofa here and watch 
the window, expecting to see her come creeping 
in, leaning upon the stick you gave her — so 
white and weak and thin — but so bright, so 
patient, so lovable." 

Then came the inevitable burst of tears, with 
the threatening of hysteria, and it was all her 
husband could do to tranquillize her. 

" The comfort you get here is a cruel comfort, 
dearest," he said. " We shall both be ever so 
much better away from Cannes — at St. Martin de 
Lantosque, in the cool clear mountain air. Our 
rooms are ready for us, we shall have our own 
servants, and if the accommodation be somewhat 
rough " 

" Do you think I mind roughness with you ? 
I could be happy in a hut. Oh, Jack, you are 
so patient with my grief ; there are people who 
would say I am foolish to grieve so much for a 
young sister ; but it is the first time Death has 



282 THE VENETIANS. 

touched us since mother went. We were such a 
happy little band. I never thought that one of 
us could die, and that one the youngest, the most 
loving of us all." 

" Dearest, I shall never think your grief un- 
reasonable ; but I want you to grieve less, for my 
sake, for the sake of the future. Think, Eve, 
only think what it will be to have that new tie 
between us, a child, belonging equally to each, 
looking equally to each for all it has of safety 
and of gladness upon this earth." 



END or VOL. II. 



LOTDOX: FEIHTEI) BT WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONfi, LIMITED, 
ttTAMFOlU) 8TSEET ANI> CHAHINO CBOSe. 



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