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*English, truly ?" she exclaimed. of his room. The coverlet to his beil “Oh, then, perhaps, if you will wait a was her own workmanship, about the little moment. One is not disposed to time of her first communion. Andbe doubtful about an Englishman. In she hoped he thought her much handEngland every one is very honest and somer now than as she appeared in very rich; is it not so? My Marco, to a certain full-length portrait on the whom I am affianced, cannot be ex- toilet-table, taken eighteen months prepected to object to an Englishman. viously. And without question, the signore has a Thus prattling about herself and the spouse of his own in his own country?" furniture, she already seemed to DougAll this with enchanting dimples com- las quite precious human material. ing and going on both cheeks, and elec- Her ingenuous—if ingenuous-gossip ditric flashes in Maria's blue eyes.
verted him so much that he was late in Douglas parried the little imperti- seeking his supper. Yet when he went nence about a spouse. He said, with he carried with him a certain astonishsome solemnity, that he was in Milan ment that cast his mind's energies back for art's sake; also, with less solemnity, into the channel to which he had so he congratulated the happy Marco on lately consecrated them. so desirable a sweetheart. And, sol. He had referred almost casually to emn again, he informed the girl that the affair Banti of seven weeks ago be would regularly dine and sup out, and asked her what she thought of it: so that there might be scant trouble and all at once she had clutched his with him on the premises. A room arm and implored him, by his love of baving a good light and a reasonable God, not to name those hororrs. With amount of service were all his require the brightness of her blue eyes all ments. He mentioned the weekly fif- clouded as if by a storm-mist of fear, teen lire that he was to pay the Sig she had further conjured him never. nora Colla.
never, never to say another word on That won the girl.
that terrible subject either to her or her "Fifteen lire? What extortion!" she father. cried; and straightway she ran and "There are reasons, caro signore," she called to her father.
had whispered, with the scare still all It was soon settled.
over her. "Promise, always, to be Cirilo Bassano was a meek-and-mild silent about such calamities, whatever cobbler with spectacles, and pink rims happens." to his eyes under his spectacles. “Why, yes, naturally, I promise," he man of premature wrinkles and ner- bad responded, after hesitation. vous lips, with very few words indeed, And now, as he made his way to the and much in the hands of his daughter. Trattoria Bellini in the Via Broletto, be Her arguments in Douglas's interest, smiled at the absurdity of such a promset forth with flattering favor, scarcely ise. Yet even while he smiled he marseemed needed; and so that evening velled why this blue-eyed little MilanSignora Colla was indulged with an ese butterfly had been so profoundly eternal farewell and a whole week's moved. Reasons, forsooth! As if such rent, and Douglas took possession of reasons were to be nothing to him! his new quarters. Maria herself drew Was her emotion due merely to the exhis attention to the peep of the Castello treme sensibility of the Italian temperin the Piazza d'Armi to be enjoyed ament and its unwillingness to confrom his window; also, to the various template the sad or horrible in life? highly emblazoned saints on the walls Or had the Bassano family perchances some blood-relationship with one of the seen substance for real drama in the victims?
giddy girl's partitioned friendship beHe ate macaroni and Milanese cut tween two such men. On but very lets and drank good Chianti wine, and feeble encouragement he believed she was of course no wiser on this head would have admitted him as a third when comfortably repleted. But he sharer in the affections of her too-large determined to be in no hurry to seek heart. a third lodging in the Via Corta.
So far from bidding for this privilege,
however, he had ventured to point out CHAPTER II.
to her some of the dangers she was, in Four other days passed, and Douglas his opinion, confronting so gaily with was distressed to realize that he still the Count. She had told him that he knew no more about the secret history loved her, and that it was an amuseof the exploded five than the average ment to her. man in Milan's streets. Other investi. “Signorino mio," she had said, “one is gators were at work with more suc- not young for ever, and why should cess. On his third evening in the the rich have the pick of the pleasures? house of Bassano the cobbler he read All in good time I shall settle myself an engrossing column on the subject down with Marco; but before then I in the Gazzetta of the day. Andrea am free to enjoy the sunshine in my Guisano's executors had found among own way." his papers an unsigned letter convey. "You like to play with fire--is it not ing a distinct warning that something so?" he had asked, shaking his head, would happen to him if he persisted yet smiling as he thought of the miracin refusing a certain demand for ulous luck by which Southern ladies do money. It was dated three days be- escape the shipwreck they seem to fore his death, and he was given one court. day to decide his fate. The Gazzetta "Why not?" she had responded, with now boldly charged the Mafia with his ready laughter. "One need only warm murder. There were circumstances, one's hands at the flame, not scorch also, connected with the second of the them." tragedies which seemed to point to sim “And your Marco—if he were to ilar influences; and the Gazzetta urged know?" the authorities to do their utmost with "Ah, but what prudence, caro signor !" this one very significant and unques- she had exclaimed, with a reproving tionable piece of evidence. The arti- click of tongue to teeth, as if he were cle was entitled "Barbarism in Excel- quite a baby in the ways of a world sis," and was throughout a plain chals like hers. "Il Signor Conte has many lenge to the Mafia to deny responsibil- pairs of boots in his wardrobe. Where ity for the atrocities, if it dared.
there are so many, repairs are always Hitherto Douglas had, greatly against necessary. My Marco does not know inclination, kept his promise to Maria the gentleman, but my father is celeBassano about these horrors. He had brated for his work. There is no more found her very interesting in other re- clever repairer of boots in this quarter spects. She had introduced him to her of the city. You understand, signorino? lover, Marco Merano, a somewhat sim- Masuccio is but a customer like others. ple-faced greengrocer of the Via S. He pays me for my smiles, signor, Giuseppe, and also to a certain sleek even as he pays my father for his but not simple-faced Count Enzio Ma- stitches. What would you have?" succio; and bis imagination had easily Douglas had seen the count twice in
these four days, the second time with "Well, you might like to glance at it,"' a parcel in his hand. And he had said Douglas; and, rising, he went to liked his looks less the second time than his window and its finger's-breadth the first. He had also summed up the view of the Castello in the distance. simple Marco as a youth of spirit when He lit a cigarette. A street-seller beroused, though his nose was a coarse, low sang "Beautiful sardines, fresh thick, snub thing, and his eyes were from the sea!” and proclaimed his beaudownright Italian, with immense eye: tiful sardines three times thus ere brows to them which suggested much Douglas turned to look at his landlord. latent power of action.
Instantly he saw that something was But this was all mere castle-building troubling the man. The cobbler's hands of a sort, and outside his own especial were shaking violently, and the paper province. Now, with the Gazzetta be between them, as if he and it had before him, he rang his bell in the Via come palsied. His face was bent over Corta, and in spite of his promise the sheet, and his lower jaw had fallen meant to show the news to Maria. He so that Douglas could see the very posi. rang again after a time. Perhaps a tive ruin of his teeth far back. Then. customer was keeping the girl.
before Douglas could utter a word, the And then, with a deferential murmur, paper slipped to the floor, and the cobthe cobbler himself appeared from his bler pressed his palms to his head. workshop in the attic, with his leather "Mother of God!" he wailed, "protect apron on.
me and my poor little house! Oh, my "Oh, never mind," said Douglas; "it daughter! What misery! What mis is not so important. I will not disturb - He stopped abruptly, stared at you, Signor Bassano.”
Douglas with his pink-rimmed eyes, and "My daughter has gone to the church, almost regained his composure. "It is signore," said the cobbler, pink-eyed as nothing, signorino," he whispered. “The usual, and with a trembling lower lip. signorino will graciously excuse me?" Douglas always felt sorry for the man, And, with a very humble bow, he sidled and his air as of one silently begging away and shut the door behind him. for mercy after judicial or other con- Douglas heard his irregular footfalls demnation. He viewed him some on the staircase, then a shuffling anil what as a genius in his own humble a thud. And then hearing other way, whose nerves were ridiculously sounds below, and supposing Maria sacrificed to the task of maintaining his had returned from her devotions, he fame as an unrivalled mender of boots opened the door and all but collided -a cobbler with ideals. Well, that was with a gray-bearded dwarf of a man 110 something, even though his constitution higher than his armpits, with large, might be too weak for an easy pur close-laid ears that deepened the grosuit of such excellence in the control tesque impression he made. "Oh!" of leather.
Douglas exclaimed. But in the act of dismissing the cob. But with a curt gesture the little man bler to his last he changed his mind. passed him,
"By the way, have you seen this, Sig. "I am of the family," he said grutfly, nor Bassano?” he asked, pointing to the and went on up to the cobbler's den. "Barbarism in Excelsis" column of the Feeling excited, he scarcely knew paper.
why, Douglas now took bis hat and the "Your goodness wishes me to read paper and descended the stairs, this it?" questioned the cobbler, fumbling time to find Maria herself, prayer-book at his spectacles.
in hand, on the threshold of the house.
"I am going for a little walk," he told greengrocer's countenance. Marco was her. "Your father has a visitor. Per- gritting his white teeth like a dog, and haps it were not uncivil to call him half there was a passionate beetling of a visitor, he is so small. He came in those marked eyebrows of his. without knocking."
"What is it now?” Douglas asked. The girl hastily crossed herself.
• "A man so high, with a white beard?" “A deformed old man, sigorino ?” retorted Marco. she asked in a low voice, with fear in "A man just so high, with a white or her eyes.
gray beard.” “Precisely. But what is the matter?" "Then," said Marco, "may the Evil
Maria Bassano was briefly convulsed One seize bim!" He whisked to the like her father. While she shook, her righta bout. "I go your way now, sigbosom swelled and swelled; and then, nore,” he added. "She will not speak with a sob of breath, she rushed into to me for days, I think. She will weep the house.
and go to church more than ever, and Douglas would have followed her, but I shall be to her as if I were not a live she waved him back.
man. It has been so before. This "Go, caro signore!" she whisperel, Bolla--he has a power over her father with the fear still spoiling her beauty. which it torments her to see. The last “Go away!" She snatched at her ro- time was when the poor Banti met sary, and he left her clinging to the with her end. She was then so ill, sig. beads and rapidly parting them, with more, that-- But why talk of it, eslips that seemed to be struggling pecially when she would not forgive me dumbly in an effort to pray.
if she could hear me? Do not tell her But yet another slight sensation was that you have seen me, signore. She in store for Douglas this day.
has her moods, like other girls. It is Ravelling at the meaning of these nothing worse than that.” extraordinary agitations in Bassano and But Douglas's mind was now keenly his daughter, he marched down the on the alert. street towards the centre of the city, "La Bella Banti, you say?" he asked. and was met by Marco Merano in his "She was of this street, was she not?” workaday blue blouse. He did not The young greengrocer pointed over recognize him until the man lifted his his shoulder. cap, stopped, and spoke.
“Yes,” he said. “That is where she "You have your thoughts, signore, any lived with her mother as a young girl. one can see,” he said jocosely.
She always retained an affection for "Oh, it's you!" said Douglas. "Yes, the neighborhood. When she wore dia. I have my thoughts, as you say." monds like a princess and drove in her
He would have gone on; but the oth- own carriage, it was still to Bassano er's question, "Is my little girl in the that her boots and little shoes came to house, signore?" checked him.
be repaired. From sympathy with the “Yes," he said. “But-perhaps you friends of her youth, signore." will not be welcome to her at this mo- "Yes?” said Douglas, disguising his ment. It is a guess of mine. There avidity. "And that other, Andrea (uiis a visitor, a small, stunted man with sano? He also lived here?" ears like an elephant's, who has upset “That is true, signore; and"- Marco her. He is with her father; but laughed rather bitterly, as if he resented she--"
the inclination at such a time - "it was He got thus far before he realized the the same with him, signore, as touching intensity of the change in the young his boots. Bassano worked for him as for the poor Banti. Corpo santo! that is From the wine-shop window he comwhat disquiets me. After the Guisano nanded a view of the cobbler's door at tragedy I jested with Maria in saying the end of the street. He watched that it was a fatality for her father to zealously for five more minutes, with mend a man's boots, and she was furi- bis back to the advertisements of the ous with me. It will be the same good and excellent wine; zealously, yet again unless I hold my tongue. Name with dissimulation, smoking and readof a she-dog! And that ugly little Bolla ing to some extent at the same time. here as before! But I turn off by this Then, whom should he see come round street. To the pleasure of seeing you the corner from the Piazza d'Armi but again, signorino!"
the well-groomed Count Enzio! He just “One moment," said Douglas. "This obtained a glimpse of the gentleman's Bolla, you call him? Do you tell me he slender form, pinched at the waist, and is, as it were, a coincidence with these of the red flower in his button-hole. mishaps?"
The next moment the man had entered "I do not know, signore," replied the the house without knocking. To be young greengrocer, with the appearance sure, the door was generally thus open of suspicion now in his eyes. “It is to the turn of a handle; but Douglas not to be talked about. A rivedere!” had learnt that the conventional thing He strode across the road.
to do was to knock before entering. Douglas turned to the window of a Leaving the wine-shop, Douglas relittle wineshop and understood why his turned slowly to his lodging. He had heart beat so fast. He read the card- some notion that a general embroilment board slips in the window about the might ensue in that modest house; and good red wine at twenty, thirty, and if so, it were perchance some advanforty centesimi the litre, and told him- tage to him to take a hand in it. self that at last he had a clue to the Nor were his intuitions altogether at mystery of the exploded five. He frult here also. He found the door could see not at all whither the clue open, and the Count, with an intlamel positively pointed. He knew only that l'ace, on the point of passing towards a voice had cried joyfully within him, the pavement. Farther inside Wits and that his whole brain approved the Varia. also red-faced and excited. cause for such exultation. For many though with tears on her cheeks. minutes he gazed absorbedly at these The separation between them was intimations about cheap red wine. immediate when Douglas appeared. The wine-vendor himself showed a head With a sweep of his hat, the elaboratebehind them without disturbing hini. ness of which hinted at irony, MaslicEven when the man hung up a new cio stepped from the house, and, after card, announcing excellent white wine cu unfriendly gaze at Douglas, vanof Asti at fifty centesimi the litre, side ished round the corner. The girl by side with the others, Douglas paiet rushed from the hall into the little heed neither to it nor the cunning mer- shop to the right; and there, when he chant's face.
presumed to follow her, Douglas found He was groping all the time, like it her almost doubled on a chair, rocking Tuan in the dark who knows for a truth herself and shedding abundant tears. that there is something to be found. “My dear child," he said, “what is it What should he do? And then he de- all about? What has happened to discided that he would take the most ob- tress you?" vious of courses. He would wait and She did not reply, but wept on. follow this deformed imp of a Bolla. ('pon the counter was a neat parcel.