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CHAPTER 2
The letter ran thus:

    "Dearest Love,—I have had my interview with Cesare Dias. What a man! His mere presence seemed to freeze me; it was enough if he looked at me, with his big clear blue eyes, for speech to fail me. There is something in his silence which frightens me; and when he speaks, his sharp voice quells me by its tone as well as by the hard things he says.

    "And yet this morning when he came for his usual visit, I was bold enough to speak to him of my marriage. I spoke simply, briefly, without trembling, though I could see that the courtesy with which he listened was ironical. Laura was present, taciturn and absent-minded as usual. She shrugged her shoulders indifferently, disdainfully, and then, getting up, left the room with that light footstep of hers which scarcely seems to touch the earth.

    "Cesare Dias smiled without looking at me, and his smile disconcerted me horribly, putting all my thoughts into confusion. But I felt that I ought to make the attempt—I ought. I had promised it to you, my darling, and to myself. My life had become insupportable; the more so because of my sister, who knew my secret, who tortured me with her contempt—the contempt of a person who has never loved for one who does—who might at any moment betray me, and tell the story of that wintry night.

    "Cesare Dias smiled, and didn't seem to care in the least to hear what I had to say. However, in spite of my emotion, in spite of the fact that I was talking to a man who cared nothing for me and for whom I cared nothing, in spite of the gulf that divides a character like mine from that of Cesare Dias, I had the courage to tell him that I adored you, that I wished to live and die with you, that my fortune would suffice for our needs, that I would never marry any one but you; and finally, that, humbly, earnestly, I besought him, as my guardian, my nearest relation, my wisest friend, to give his consent to our marriage.

    "He had listened, with his eyes cast down, giving no sign of interest. And now at the end he simply uttered a dry little 'No.'

    "And then took place a dreadful scene. I implored, I wept, I rebelled, I declared that my heart was free, that my person was free; and always I found that I was addressing a man of stone, hard and dry, with a will of iron, an utterly false point of view, a conventional standard based upon the opinion of the world, and a total lack of good feeling. Cesare Dias denied that I loved you, denied that you loved me, denied that any such thing as real love could exist—real love for which people live and die! He denied that love was a thing not to be forgotten; denied that love is the only thing that makes life worth while. His one word was No—no, no, no, from the beginning to the end of our talk. He made the most specious, extravagant, and cynical arguments to convince me that I was deceiving myself, that we were deceiving ourselves, and that it was his duty to oppose himself to our folly. Oh, how I wept! How I abased my spirit before that man, who reasoned in this cold strain! and how it hurts me now to think of the way I humiliated myself! I remember that while my love for you, dearest, was breaking out in wild utterance, I saw that he was looking admiringly at me, as in a theatre he might admire an actor who was cleverly feigning passion. He did not believe me; and two or three times my anger rose to such a point that I stooped to threaten him; I threatened to make a public scandal.

    "'The scandal will fall on the person who makes it,' he said severely, getting up, to cut short the conversation.

    "He went away. In the drawing-room I heard him talking quietly with Laura, as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn't left me broken-hearted, as if he didn't know that I was on my knees, in despair, calling upon the names of the Madonna and the Saints for help. But that man has no soul; and I am surrounded by people who think me a mad enthusiast.

    "My love, my darling love, my constant thought—it is then decided: we must fly. We must fly. Here, like this, I should die. Anything will be better than this house; it is a prison. Anything is better than the galleys.

    "I know that what I propose is very grave. According to the common judgment of mankind a young girl who elopes is everlastingly dishonoured. In spite of the sanctity of marriage, suspicion never leaves her. I know that I am throwing away a great deal for a dream of love. But that is my strange and cruel destiny—the destiny which has given me a fortune and taken away my father; given me a heart eager for affection and cut me off from all affection; given me the dearest and at the same time the least loving sister!

    "For whom ought I to sacrifice myself, since those who loved me are dead, and those who live with me do not love me? I need love; I have found it; I will attach myself to it; I will not let it go. Who will weep for me here? No one. Whose hands will be stretched out to call me back? No one's. What memories will I carry away with me? None. I am lonely and misunderstood; I am flying from ice and snow to the warm sunlight of love. You are the sun, you are my love. Don't think ill of me. I am not like other girls, girls who have a home, a family, a nest. I am a poor pilgrim, seeking a home, a family, a nest. I will be your wife, your sweetheart, your servant; I love you. A life passed in the holy atmosphere of your love will be an absolution for this fault that I am committing. I know, the world will not forgive me. But I despise people who can't understand one's sacrificing everything for love. And those who do not understand it will pity me. I shall care for nothing but your love; you will forgive me because you love me.

    "So, it is decided. On the third day after you receive this letter—that is, on Friday—leave your house as if you were going for a walk, without luggage, and take a cab to the railway station. Take the train that leaves Naples for Salerno at one o'clock, and arrives at Pompeii at two. I shan't be at the station at Pompeii—that might arouse suspicions; but I shall be in the streets of the dead city, looking at the ruins. Find me there—come as swiftly as you can—to the Street of Tombs, leading to the Villa of Diomedes, near to the grave of Nevoleia Tyche, 'a sweet Pompeiian child,' according to her epitaph. We will meet there, and then we will leave for Metaponto or Brindisi, and sail for the East. I have money. You know, Cesare Dias, to save himself trouble, has allowed me to receive my entire income for the past two years. Afterwards—when this money is spent—well, we will work for our living until I come of age.

    "You understand? You needn't worry about me. I shall get out of the house, go to the station, and arrive at Pompeii without being surprised. I have a bold and simple plan, which I can't explain to you. It would not do for us to meet here in town, the risk would be too great. But leaving for Pompeii by separate trains, how can any one suspect us? Does my clearness of mind astonish you? My calmness, my precision? For twenty days I have been thinking of this matter; I have lain awake at night studying it in detail.

    "Remember, remember: Friday, at noon, leave your house. At one, leave the station. At half-past two come to me at the grave of Nevoleia Tyche. Don't forget, for mercy's sake. If you shouldn't arrive at the right time, what would become of me, alone, at Pompeii, in anguish, devoured by anxiety?

    "My sweetest love, this is the last letter you will receive from me. Why, as I write these words, does a feeling of sorrow come upon me, making me bow my head? The word last is always sad, whenever it is spoken. Will you always love me, even though far from your country, even though poor, even though unhappy? You won't accuse me of having wronged you? You will protect me and sustain me with your love? You will be kind, honest, loyal. You will be all that I care for in the world.

    "This is my last letter, it is true, but soon now our wondrous future will begin—our life together. Remember, remember where I shall wait for you.

    "Anna."

Alone in his little house, Giustino Morelli read Anna's letter twice through, slowly, slowly. Then his head fell upon his breast. He felt that he was lost, ruined; that Anna was lost and ruined.

At that early morning hour the Church of Santa Chiara, white with stucco, rich with gold ornamentation, with softly carved marbles and old pictures, was almost empty. A few pious old women moved vaguely here and there, wrapped in black shawls; a few knelt praying before the altar. Anna Acquaviva and her governess, Stella Martini, were seated in the middle of the church, with their eyes bent on their prayer-books. Stella Martini had a worn, sunken face, that must have once been delicately pretty, with that sort of prettiness which fades before thirty. Anna wore a dark serge frock, with a jacket in the English fashion; and her black hair was held in place by a comb of yellow tortoise-shell. The warm pallor of her face was broken by no trace of colour. Every now and then she bit her lips nervously. She had held her prayer-book open for a long while without turning a page. But Stella Martini had not noticed this; she was praying fervently.

Presently the young girl rose.

"I am going to confession," she said, standing still, holding on to the back of her chair.

The governess did not seek to detain her. With a light step she crossed the church and entered a confessional.

There the good priest, with the round, childlike face and the crown of snow-white hair, asked his usual questions quietly, not surprised by the tremor in the voice that answered him. He knew the character of his penitent.

But Anna answered incoherently; often not understanding the sense of the simple words the priest addressed to her. Sometimes she did not answer at all, but only sighed behind the grating.

At last her confessor asked with some anxiety: "What is it that troubles you?"

"Father, I am in great danger," she said in a low voice.

But when he sought to learn what her danger was she would give him no details. He begged her to speak frankly, to tell him everything; she only murmured:

"Father, I am threatened with disgrace."

Then he became severe, reminding her that it was a great sin to come thus and trifle with a sacrament of the church, to come to the confessional and refuse to confess. He could not give her absolution.

"I will come another time," she said rising.

But now, instead of returning to her governess, who was still praying with her eyes cast down, Anna stole swiftly out of the church into the street, where she hailed a cab, and bade the cabman drive to the railway station. She drew down the blinds of the carriage windows, and there in the darkness she could scarcely suppress a cry of mingled joy and pain to find herself at last alone and free.

The cab rolled on and on; it was like the movement of a dream. The only thing she could think of was this beautiful and terrible idea, that she, Anna Acquaviva, had abandoned for ever her home and her family, carrying away only so much of her fortune as the purse in her pocket could hold, to throw herself into the arms of Giustino Morelli. No feeling of fear held her back. Her entire past life was ended, she could never take it up again; it was over, it was over.

In that sort of somnambulism which accompanies a decisive action, she was as exact and rigid in everything she had to do as an automaton. At the station she paid her cabman, and mechanically asked for a ticket to Pompeii at the booking-office.

"Single or return?" inquired the clerk.

"Single," she answered.

As almost every one who went to Pompeii took a return ticket, the clerk thought he had to do with an Englishwoman or an impassioned antiquary.

She put the ticket into the opening of her glove, and went into the first-class waiting-room. She looked about her quite indifferently, as if it was impossible that Cesare Dias or indeed any one of her acquaintance should see her there. She was conscious of nothing save a great need to go on, to go on; nothing else. It was the first time in her life that she had been out alone like this, yet she felt no surprise. It seemed to her that she had been travelling alone for years; that Cesare Dias, Laura Acquaviva, and Stella Martini were pale shadows of an infinitely distant past, a past anterior to her present existence; that they were people she had known in another world. She kept repeating to herself, like a child trying to remember a word,

"Pompeii, Pompeii, Pompeii."

But when she was climbing into the first-class compartment of the train, it seemed suddenly as if a force held her back, as if a mysterious hand forbade her going on. She trembled, and had to make a violent effort to enter the carriage, as if to brush aside an invisible obstacle. And, from that moment, a voice within her seemed to be murmuring confusedly to her conscience, warning her of the great moral crisis she was approaching; while before her eyes the blue Neapolitan coast was passing rapidly, where the wintry cold had given way to a warm scirocco. On, on, the morning train hurried her, over the land, by the sea, between the white houses of Portici, the pink houses of Torre del Greco, the houses, pink, white, and yellow, of Torre Annunziata—on, on. And Anna, motionless in her corner, gazing out of the window, beheld a vague, delicious vision of flowers and stars and kisses and caresses; and an icy terror, a sense of imminent peril, lay upon her heart. Oh, yes! In a brilliant vision she saw a future of love, of passion and tenderness, a fire-hued vision of all that soul and body could desire; yet constantly that still, small voice kept whispering to her conscience: "Don't go, don't go. If you go, you are lost."

And this presently became so unbearable that, when the train entered the brown, burnt-up country at the foot of Vesuvius, the country that surrounds the great ruin of Pompeii, despair was making her twist the handle of her purse violently with her fingers. The green vines and the laughing villages had disappeared from the landscape; the blue sea, with its dancing white waves, had disappeared; she was crossing a wide, desolate plain; and the volcano, with its eternal wreath of smoke, rose before her. And also had disappeared for ever the phantasms of her happiness! Anna was travelling alone, through a sterile land, where fire had passed, devastating all life, killing the flowers, destroying the people, their homes, their pleasures, their loves. And the voice within her cried: "This is a symbol of Passion, which destroys all things, and then dies itself."

And then she thought that she had chosen ominously in coming to Pompeii—a city of love, destroyed by fire, an everlasting reminder to those who saw it of the tragedy of life—Pompeii, with its hard heart of lava!

She descended from the carriage when the train stopped, and followed a family of Germans and two English clergymen out of the tiny station.

She went on, looking neither to right nor left, up the narrow, dusty lane that leads from the railway to the inn at the city's gate. Neither the Germans nor the clergymen noticed her; the solitary young woman, with the warm, pale face, and the great brown-black eyes that gazed straight forward, without interest in what they saw, the eyes of a soul consumed by an emotion. When they had all entered the house, she ensconced herself in a corner near a window, and looked out upon the path she had followed, as if waiting for somebody, or as if wishing to turn back.

And Anna was praying for the safe coming of Giustino. If she could but see him, if she could but hear his voice, all her doubts, all her pains, would fly away.

"I adore him! I adore him!" she thought, and tried thus to find strength with which to combat her conscience. Her heart was filled with a single wish—to see Giustino; he would give her strength; he was the reason for her life—he and love. She looked at her little child's watch, the only jewel she had brought away; she had a long time still to wait before two o'clock.

An old guide approached her, and offered to show her the ruins. She followed him mechanically. They traversed the Street of Hope, the Street of Fortune, where there are the deep marks of carriage wheels in the stone pavement; they entered houses and shops and squares; she looked at everything with vacant eyes. Twice the guide said: "Now let us visit the Street of Tombs and the Villa of Diomedes." Twice she had answered: "Later on; by-and-by."

Two or three times she had sat down on a stone to rest; and then her poor old guide had sat down also, at a distance, and let his head fall forward on his breast, and dozed. She was strangely fatigued; she had exhausted her forces in making the journey hither; the tumult of emotion she had gone through had prostrated her. Now she felt utterly alone and abandoned—a poor, unfortunate creature bearing through this dead city a heavy burden of solitude and weariness: and when, after a long rest, she got up to go on again, a great sigh broke from her lips.

But somehow she must pass the time, and so she went on. She climbed to the top of the Amphitheatre, seeking to devour the minutes that separated her from two o'clock.

Presently the old man said, for the third time: "Now let us visit the Street of Tombs and the Villa of Diomedes."

"Let us go," she responded.

The hours had passed at last; only one more remained. With her watch in her hand, as the guide pointed out to her the magnificence of the Villa of Diomedes, she was saying to herself, "Now Giustino is leaving Naples."

Impatient, no longer able to endure the voice or presence of the old man, no longer able to hide her own perturbation, she paid and dismissed him. He hesitated, reluctant to leave her, telling her that it was forbidden to make sketches, and, above all, to carry anything away; but he said it timidly, humbly, knowing very well that it was needless to fear any such infractions from this pale girl with the dreamy eyes. And he moved off, slowly, slowly, turning back every now and then to see what she was doing. She sat down on a stone in front of the tomb of the "sweet freed-woman," Nevoleia Tyche, and waited there, her hands in her lap, her head bent; nor did she look up when a party of English passed her, accompanied by a guide. This last hour seemed interminable to her; it seemed covered by a great shadow, in which all things were obscured. The name of Giustino, constantly repeated, was like a single ray of light. She neither heard nor saw what was going on round about her; her consciousness of the external world was put out.

Suddenly a shadow fell between her and the grey tomb of the freed-woman. She looked up, and saw Giustino standing before her, gazing down on her with an infinite despairing tenderness.

Anna, unable to speak, gave him her hand, and rose. And a smile of happiness, like a great light, shone from her eyes, and a warm colour mantled her cheeks. Giustino had never seen her so beautiful. In an ecstasy of joy, feeling all her doubts die within her, feeling all the glory of her love spring to full life again, Anna could not understand why there was an expression of sorrow on Giustino's face.

"Do you love me—a great deal?"

"A great deal."

"You will always care for me?"

"Always."

It was like a sad, soft echo, but the girl did not notice that; a veil of passion dimmed her perceptions. They walked on together, she close to him, so happy that her feet scarcely touched the earth, enjoying this minute of intense love with all the force of feeling that she possessed, with all the self-surrender of which human nature is capable. They walked on through the streets of Pompeii, without seeing, without looking. Only again and again she said softly: "Tell me that you love me—tell me that you love me!"

Two or three times he had answered simply, "Yes," then he was silent.

Suddenly, Anna, not hearing his answer, stood still, and taking his arms in her hands, looked deep into his honest eyes, and asked, "What is the matter?"

Her voice trembled. He lowered his eyes.

"Nothing," he said.

"Why are you so sad?"

"I'm not sad," he answered with an effort.

"You're telling the truth?"

"I'm telling the truth."

"Swear that you love me."

"Do you need me to swear it?" he exclaimed with such sincerity and such pain that she was convinced, perceiving the sincerity, but not the pain.

But she was still troubled; there was still a bitterness in her joy. They were near the Street of the Sea, which leads out of the dead city.

"Let us go away, let us go away," she said impatiently.

"The train for Metaponto doesn't leave till six o'clock; we've plenty of time."

"Let us go away! I don't want to stay here any longer. I beg of you, let us go."

He obeyed her passively and was silent. They entered the inn on their way to the station, at the same time as the two English clergymen. Anna was frightened; she didn't care to talk of love to Giustino before such witnesses, but she looked at him with fond, supplicating eyes. The two clergymen seated themselves at the table which is always laid in the chief room of the inn, and while they ate their dinner one of them read his Bible, the other his Baedeker. The two lovers were near the window, looking through the glass at the road that leads to the station; and Anna was holding on to Giustino's arm, and he, confused, nervous, asked her if she would not like to dine, taking refuge from his embarrassment in the commonplace. "No; she did not wish to dine, she wasn't hungry. Afterwards, by-and-by." And her voice failed her as she looked at the two ecclesiastics.

"I wish——" she began, whispering into Giustino's ear.

"What do you wish?"

"Take me away somewhere else, where I can say something to you."

He hesitated; she blushed; then he left the room to speak to the landlord; returning presently, "Come," he said.

"Where are we going?"

"Upstairs."

"Upstairs?"

"You will see."

They went upstairs to the first floor, where the waiter who conducted them opened the door of an apartment consisting of a bedroom and sitting-room—a big bedroom, a tiny sitting-room—both having balconies that looked off over the country, and there the waiter left them alone.

Each of them was pale, silent, confused.

She looked round. The sitting-room was vulgarly furnished with a green sofa, two green easy-chairs, a centre-table covered with a nut-coloured jute tablecloth, and a marble console. The thought of the many strangers who had inhabited it inspired her with a sort of shame. Then she glanced into the bedroom. It was very large, with two beds at the farther end, a dressing-table, a sofa, and a wardrobe. These pieces of furniture seemed lost in the vast bare-looking chamber. It gave her a shudder merely to look into it; and yet again she blushed.

She raised her eyes to Giustino's, and she noticed anew that he was gazing at her with an expression of great sadness.

"What is the matter?" she asked.

He did not answer. He sat down and buried his face in his hands.

"Tell me what it is," she insisted, trembling with anger and anguish.

He remained silent. Perhaps he was weeping behind his hands.

"If you don't tell me what it is, I'll go back to Naples," she said.

He did not speak.

"You despise me because I have left my home."

"No, Anna," he murmured.

"You think I'm dreadful—you think of me as an abandoned creature."

"No, dear one—no."

"Perhaps—you—love another woman."

"You can't think that."

"Perhaps—you have—another tie—without love."

"None; I am bound to no one."

"You have promised yourself to no one?"

"To no one."

"Then why are you so sad? Why do you weep? Why do you tremble? It is I who ought to weep and tremble, and yet I don't weep unless to see you weep. Your weeping breaks my heart, makes me desperate."

"Anna, listen to me. By the memory of your mother I implore you to listen, to understand. I am miserable because of you, on your account—in thinking of what I have allowed you to do, of how you are throwing away your future, of the unhappiness that awaits you; without a home, without a name, persecuted by your family——"

"If you loved me, you wouldn't think these things; you wouldn't say them."

"I have always said them, Anna; I have always repeated them. I have ruined you. For three days I have been in an agony of remorse; it is the same to-day. Though you are the light of my life, I must say it to you. To-day I can't forgive myself; to-morrow you will be unable to forgive me. Oh, my love! I am a gentleman, I am a Christian; and yet I have been weak enough to allow you and me to commit this sin, this fault."

Speaking thus, with an infinite earnestness, all the honesty of his noble soul showed itself, a soul bowed down by remorse. She looked at him and listened to him with stupefaction, amazed at this spectacle of a rectitude, of a virtue that was greater than love, for she believed only in love.

"I don't understand you," she said.

"And yet you must—you must. If you don't see the reasons for my conduct you will despise me, you will hate me. You must try, with all your heart, with all your mind, to understand. You mustn't let yourself be carried away by your love. You must be calm, you must be cool."

"I can't."

"O God!" he said in despair.

Again he was silent. She mechanically, to overcome the trembling of her hands, pulled at the fringe of the tablecloth. She tried to reflect, to understand. And always, always, she had the same feeling, the same idea, and she could not help trying to express it in words: "You don't love me enough." She looked into his eyes as she spoke, concentrating her whole soul in her voice and in her gaze.

"It is true, I don't love you enough," he answered.

She made no sound: she was cut to the heart. The little sitting-room, the inn, Pompeii, the whole world appeared to go whirling round her dizzily. She had a feeling as if her temples would burst open, and pressed her hands to them instinctively.

"Ah, then," she said, after a long pause, in a broken voice—"ah, then, you have deceived me?"

"I have deceived you," he murmured humbly.

"You haven't loved me?"

"Not enough to forget everything else. I have already said so."

"I understand. What was the use of lying?"

"Because you were beautiful and good, and you loved me, and I didn't see this danger. I didn't dream that you would wish to give up everything in this way, that I should be unable to prevent you——"

"Words, words. The essential is, you don't love me."

"As you wish to be loved, as you deserve to be loved—no."

"That is, without blind passion?"

"Without blind passion."

"That is, without fire, without enthusiasm?"

"Without fire, without enthusiasm."

"Then, with what?"

"With tenderness, with affection, with devotion."

"It is not enough, not enough, not enough," she said monotonously, as if talking in her sleep. "Don't you know how to love differently. More—as I love——?"

"No, I don't know how."

"Do you think you never can? Perhaps you can to-morrow, or in the future?"

"No, I never can, Anna. I shall always prefer duty to happiness."

"Poor, weak creature," she murmured with immense scorn.

He lifted his eyes towards heaven, as if seeking strength to endure his martyrdom.

"So," Anna went on, slowly, "if we were to live together, you would be unhappy?"

"We should both be unhappy, and the sight of your unhappiness, of which I should be the cause, would kill me."

"Well, then?"

"It's for you to say what you wish."

The cruel, the terrible reality was clear to her; there was only one thing to be said, and that was so unexpectedly dreadful that she hesitated to say it. The truth was so horrible, she could not bear to give it shape in speech. She looked at him—at this man who, to save her, inflicted such inexpressible pain upon her. And he understood that Anna could not pronounce the last words. He himself, in spite of his great courage, could not speak them, those last words, for he loved the girl wildly. The terrible truth appalled them both.

She got up stiffly and went to the window and leaned her forehead against the glass, looking out over the country and down the lane that led to the little station. Twice before that day she had looked at the same silent landscape; but in the morning, when she was alone, waiting, thrilling with hope, and again, only an hour ago, leaning on Giustino's arm, she had possessed entire the priceless treasure of a great love. Now, now all was over; nevermore, nevermore would she know the delight of love: all was over, all, all.

Giustino had not moved from where he sat with his face buried in his hands. Suddenly Anna seized him by the shoulders, forced him to raise his head, and began to speak, so close to him that he could feel her warm breath on his cheek.

"And yet you did love me," she said, passionately. "You can't deny it; I know it. I have seen you turn pale when you met me, as pale as I myself. If I spoke to you my voice made your eyes brighten, as your voice made my heart leap. You looked for me everywhere, as I looked for you, feeling that the world would be colourless without love. And your letters bore the imprint of a great tenderness. But that is love, true love, passionate love, which isn't forgotten in a day or in a year, for which a whole life-time is not sufficient. It isn't possible that you don't love me any more. You do love me; you are deceiving me when you say you don't. I don't know why. But speak the truth—tell me that it is impossible for you to have got over such a passion."

He felt all his courage leaving him under this tumult of words.

"Giustino, Giustino, think of what you are doing in denying our love. Think of the two lives you are ruining; for you yourself will be as miserable as I. Giustino, you will kill me; if you leave me here, I shall kill myself. Let us go away; let us go away together. Take me away. You love me. Let us start at once; now is the time."

It seemed for a moment as if he were on the point of giving way. He was a man with a man's nerves, a man's senses, a man's heart; and he loved her ardently. But when again she begged him to fly with her, and he felt himself almost yielding, he made a great effort to resist her.

"I can't, Anna; I cannot," he said in a low voice.

"Then you wish me to die?"

"You won't die. You are young. You will live to be happy again."

"All is over for me, Giustino. This is death."

"No, it's not death, Anna."

"You talk like Cesare Dias," she cried, moving away from him. "You speak like a sceptic who has neither love nor faith. You are like him—corrupt, cynical——"

"You insult me; but you're right."

"I am dishonoured: do you realise that? I am a fugitive from my people; I am alone here with you in an hotel. I am dishonoured, dishonoured, coward that you are. You can go home quietly, having had an amusing adventure; but I—I have no home any more. I was a good girl; now I am lost."

"Your people know where you are and what you have done—that you have done nothing wrong. They know that you have done it in response to a generous impulse for one who was not worthy of you, but who has respected you."

"And who told them?"

"I."

"When?"

"This morning."

"To whom did you tell it?"

"To your sister and your guardian."

"Did they come to ask you?"

"No, I went to them."

"And what did you agree upon amongst you?"

"That I should come here and meet you."

"And then?"

"That I should leave you."

"When?"

"When Cesare Dias was ready to come and fetch you."

"It's a beautiful plan," she said, icily. "The plan of calm, practical men. Bravo, bravo! You—you ran to my people, to exculpate yourself, to accuse me, to reassure them. Good, good! I am a mad child, guilty of a youthful escapade, which fortunately hasn't touched my reputation. You denounced me, told them that I wanted to elope with you; and you are a gentleman! Good! The whole thing was wonderfully well combined. I am to return home with Cesare Dias as if I had made a harmless little excursion, and what's done is done. You're right, of course; Cesare Dias is right; Laura Acquaviva, who has never loved and who despises those who love, Laura is right; you are all right. I alone am wrong. Oh, the laughable adventure! To attempt an elopement, and to fail in it, because the man won't elope. To return home because your lover has denounced you to your family! What a comedy! You are right. There has been no catastrophe. The solution is immensely humorous: I know it. I am like a suicide who didn't kill herself. You are right. I am wrong. You—you——" And she looked him full in the face, withering him with her glance. "Begone! I despise you. Begone!"

"Anna, Anna, don't send me away like this."

"Begone! The cowardly way in which you have behaved is past contempt. Begone!"

"We mustn't part like this."

"We are already parted, utterly separated. We have always been separated. Go away."

"Anna, what I have done I have done for your sake, for your good. Now you send me away. Afterwards you will do me justice. I am an honourable man—that is my sin."

"I don't know you. Good-day."

"But what will you do alone here?"

"That doesn't concern you. Good-day."

"Let me wait for Cesare Dias."

"If you don't go at once I'll open the window and throw myself from the balcony," she said, with so much firmness that he believed her.

"Good-bye, then."

"Good-bye."

She stood in the middle of the room, a small red spot burning in each of her cheeks, and watched him go out, heard him descend the staircase, slowly, with the heavy step of one bearing a great burden. She leaned from the window and saw the shadow of a man issue from the door of the inn—it was Giustino. He stood still for a moment, and then turned into the high road that leads to Pompeii from Torre Annunziata, and again stood still, as if to wait for somebody there. Anna saw him turn towards the windows of the hotel, and gaze up at them earnestly. At last he moved slowly away and disappeared.

Anna came back into the room, and threw herself upon the sofa, biting its cushions to keep herself from screaming. Her head was on fire, but she couldn't weep—not a tear, not a single tear.

And in the midst of her trouble, constantly—whether, as at one moment, she was pitying herself as a poor child to whom a monstrous wrong had been done, or as, at the next, burning with scorn as a great lady offended in her pride; or again, blushing with shame as she thought of the imminent arrival of Cesare Dias—in the midst of it all, through it all, constantly, one little agonising, implacable phrase kept repeating itself: "All is over, all is over, all is over!"

Presently a servant brought in a light.

"Please, madam, do you mean to stay the night?" he asked.

"No."

"The last train for Naples has already left. You can go back by way of Torre Annunziata in a carriage."

"Some one is coming for me," she said.

The servant left the room.

By-and-by she heard her name called: "Anna! Anna!"

She fell on her knees before Cesare Dias, sobbing: "Forgive me, forgive me."

He, with a tremor in his voice, murmured, "My poor child."

And at home, in her own house, she said to her sister: "Laura, forgive me."

"My poor Anna."
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