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XI E) RARY
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2009 with funding from
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET," "VIXEN,"
IN THBEE VOLUMES
SIMPKIN, MAESHALL, HAMILTON, E:ENT &^C0.
STATIONEBS' HALL COURT
lAll rights reserved]
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.
CONTEXTS OF VOL. II,
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
IX. " He said, ' She has a Lovely Face ' " 203
X. Peggy's Chance ... ... ... ... 242
"'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
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
" 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
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
" 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
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-
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-
"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
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-
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-
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,
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
"You are a dear little diplomatist; but I'm
afraid you must have made Miss Marchant suffer
a good deal before your transmutation was
" 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,"
" 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,"
"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
** 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
" 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-
" 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-
" 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
" Every lover believes as much. It is all
nonsense," said Maud, as she ran off to her
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
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
" 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
" By Jove ! how handsome that girl is ! " whis-
pered little Tivett, as he ducked to put away his
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
" 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
" We must risk that, and make amends at
" 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
" 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
" 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
"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-
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.
At this the pale cheeks flushed, and she looked
"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
"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
" 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
"Tell me what it was you overheard, Mr.
Eavesdropper, that afternoon by the lake ? " she
" 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
*' 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
*•' 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
( 41 )
" 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
"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
"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
" 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
" 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
"Shall I tell them?" whispered Yansittart, at
" If you like. They will make a dreadful fuss.
46 THE VENETIANS.
Can you ever put up with so many sisters-in-
"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
" 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
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,"
" 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
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 )
"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
Sir Hubert, who was the very essence of good
nature, received the announcement with unalloyed
" 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
"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-
••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
"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
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
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
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
" 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 )
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
" 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
**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
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
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
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
'* 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
"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
" You live here— in Tite Street ? "
**Is that so surprising? Tite Street is not a
despicable locality. We consider ourselves
AS A SPIKIT FROM DREAM TO DREAM. 81
*' I should have looked for you nearer the
" 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
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
" 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 ? "
"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-
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
" 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
" 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
" I will come this way again in a week or so,
" 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
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
( 89 )
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
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
" 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
" 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
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
"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
"LOYE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE LOVE." 95
*'He had not your courage, Jack, in facing
unpleasant surroundings and disagreeable ante-
"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
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
"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
'*' Wait," said the mother, gravely — ^' wait till
you have heard."
"Begin, Mr. Sefton. My mother's preamble
is eminently calculated to give importance to
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
" 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
*'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
" 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
" 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
" 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 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-
" 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."
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
" 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
" You are right. I shall say nothing to Miss
" 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
"There is nothing to forgive — I can sym-
pathize with your feelings. Good night."
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
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
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
*' 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 )
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,
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
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,
" 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
^' 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
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
"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
" 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
" 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
** Yours sincerely,
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
" 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
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
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
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 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-
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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
" 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
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-
" Is he excitable ? " asked Vansittart, who felt
a new and painful interest in this child of a
" 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,
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
" 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
"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
"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
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
" 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
" 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
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
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
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
« 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 )
"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
"Komeo and Juliet's love grew in a single
" 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
" Eminently picturesque, but very troublesome
" 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
" 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
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
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
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
" 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,
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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 ! 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
"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
" Where that great vision of the guarded mount
Looks o'er Namancos and Bayona's hold."
186 THE VENETIANS.
"THE SHADOW PASSETH WHEN THE TREE SHALL
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
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
" 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 : —
" 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
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,
" 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
" 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
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
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
" 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
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-
"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 )
"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
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
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
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
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
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
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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,
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
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
" 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
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
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
" 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
" 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
"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
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 ;
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
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
" 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-
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
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
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-
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
" We care a great deal for that which is really
beautiful ; but most of all when it is fresh and
"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
" 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
240 THE YENETTANS.
" Have you never heard that name before ? "
" 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."
"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
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.
242 THE VENETIANS.
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
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
" 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-
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
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
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
"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
" 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
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
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
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
" 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
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
" 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
**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
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
"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
" 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
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
"Oh, Miss Margaret, you mustn't work any
more," cried Benson, shocked at her appear-
" 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
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
*'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
" 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
" 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 —
"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
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
" Poor Peggy ! Yes, we shall brood less upon
her loss when we have our little one to think
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
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
" 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.
A>1 V>1 ^ IT