The details of Harriet's crime were never known. In her illness she
spoke more of the inlaid box that she lent to Lilia--lent, not given--than of
recent troubles. It was clear that she had gone prepared for an interview
with Gino, and finding him out, she had yielded to a grotesque temptation.
But how far this was the result of ill-temper, to what extent she had been
fortified by her religion, when and how she had met the poor idiot--these
questions were never answered, nor did they interest Philip greatly.
Detection was certain: they would have been arrested by the police of Florence
or Milan, or at the frontier. As it was, they had been stopped in a
simpler manner a few miles out of the town.
As yet he
could scarcely survey the thing. It was too great. Round the Italian
baby who had died in the mud there centred deep passions and high hopes.
People had been wicked or wrong in the matter; no one save himself had been
trivial. Now the baby had gone, but there remained this vast apparatus of
pride and pity and love. For the dead, who seemed to take away so much,
really take with them nothing that is ours. The passion they have aroused
lives after them, easy to transmute or to transfer, but well-nigh impossible to
destroy. And Philip knew that he was still voyaging on the same
magnificent, perilous sea, with the sun or the clouds above him, and the tides
The course of the moment--that, at all events,
was certain. He and no one else must take the news to Gino. It was
easy to talk of Harriet's crime--easy also to blame the negligent Perfetta or
Mrs. Herriton at home. Every one had contributed--even Miss Abbott and
Irma. If one chose, one might consider the catastrophe composite or the
work of fate. But Philip did not so choose. It was his own fault,
due to acknowledged weakness in his own character. Therefore he, and no
one else, must take the news of it to Gino.
prevented him. Miss Abbott was engaged with Harriet, and people had sprung
out of the darkness and were conducting them towards some cottage. Philip
had only to get into the uninjured carriage and order the driver to
return. He was back at Monteriano after a two hours' absence.
Perfetta was in the house now, and greeted him cheerfully. Pain, physical
and mental, had made him stupid. It was some time before he realized that
she had never missed the child.
Gino was still
out. The woman took him to the reception-room, just as she had taken Miss
Abbott in the morning, and dusted a circle for him on one of the horsehair
chairs. But it was dark now, so she left the guest a little
"I will be as quick as I can," she told
him. "But there are many streets in Monteriano; he is sometimes difficult
to find. I could not find him this
"Go first to the Caffè Garibaldi," said
Philip, remembering that this was the hour appointed by his friends of
He occupied the time he was left alone not
in thinking--there was nothing to think about; he simply had to tell a few
facts--but in trying to make a sling for his broken arm. The trouble was
in the elbow-joint, and as long as he kept this motionless he could go on as
usual. But inflammation was beginning, and the slightest jar gave him
agony. The sling was not fitted before Gino leapt up the stairs,
"So you are back! How glad I am!
We are all waiting--"
Philip had seen too much to be
nervous. In low, even tones he told what had happened; and the other, also
perfectly calm, heard him to the end. In the silence Perfetta called up
that she had forgotten the baby's evening milk; she must fetch it. When
she had gone Gino took up the lamp without a word, and they went into the other
"My sister is ill," said Philip, "and Miss
Abbott is guiltless. I should be glad if you did not have to trouble
Gino had stooped down by the way, and was
feeling the place where his son had lain. Now and then he frowned a little
and glanced at Philip.
"It is through me," he
continued. "It happened because I was cowardly and idle. I have come
to know what you will do."
Gino had left the rug, and
began to pat the table from the end, as if he was blind. The action was so
uncanny that Philip was driven to intervene.
man, gently; he is not here."
He went up and touched
him on the shoulder.
He twitched away, and began to
pass his hands over things more rapidly--over the table, the chairs, the entire
floor, the walls as high as he could reach them. Philip had not presumed
to comfort him. But now the tension was too great--he
"Break down, Gino; you must break down.
Scream and curse and give in for a little; you must break
There was no reply, and no cessation of the
"It is time to be unhappy.
Break down or you will be ill like my sister. You will
The tour of the room was over. He had
touched everything in it except Philip. Now he approached him. He
face was that of a man who has lost his old reason for life and seeks a new
for a moment; then he came nearer. Philip stood his
"You are to do what you like with me,
Gino. Your son is dead, Gino. He died in my arms, remember. It
does not excuse me; but he did die in my arms."
left hand came forward, slowly this time. It hovered before Philip like an
insect. Then it descended and gripped him by his broken
Philip struck out with all the strength of his
other arm. Gino fell to the blow without a cry or a
"You brute!" exclaimed the Englishman.
"Kill me if you like! But just you leave my broken arm
Then he was seized with remorse, and knelt
beside his adversary and tried to revive him. He managed to raise him up,
and propped his body against his own. He passed his arm round him.
Again he was filled with pity and tenderness. He awaited the revival
without fear, sure that both of them were safe at
Gino recovered suddenly. His lips
moved. For one blessed moment it seemed that he was going to speak.
But he scrambled up in silence, remembering everything, and he made not towards
Philip, but towards the lamp.
"Do what you like; but
The lamp was tossed across the room,
out through the loggia. It broke against one of the trees below.
Philip began to cry out in the dark.
from behind and gave him a sharp pinch. Philip spun round with a
yell. He had only been pinched on the back, but he knew what was in store
for him. He struck out, exhorting the devil to fight him, to kill him, to
do anything but this. Then he stumbled to the door. It was
open. He lost his head, and, instead of turning down the stairs, he ran
across the landing into the room opposite. There he lay down on the floor
between the stove and the skirting-board.
grew sharper. He could hear Gino coming in on tiptoe. He even knew
what was passing in his mind, how now he was at fault, now he was hopeful, now
he was wondering whether after all the victim had not escaped down the
stairs. There was a quick swoop above him, and then a low growl like a
dog's. Gino had broken his finger-nails against the
Physical pain is almost too terrible to
bear. We can just bear it when it comes by accident or for our good--as it
generally does in modern life--except at school. But when it is caused by
the malignity of a man, full grown, fashioned like ourselves, all our control
disappears. Philip's one thought was to get away from that room at
whatever sacrifice of nobility or pride.
Gino was now
at the further end of the room, groping by the little tables. Suddenly the
instinct came to him. He crawled quickly to where Philip lay and had him
clean by the elbow.
The whole arm seemed red-hot, and
the broken bone grated in the joint, sending out shoots of the essence of
pain. His other arm was pinioned against the wall, and Gino had trampled
in behind the stove and was kneeling on his legs. For the space of a
minute he yelled and yelled with all the force of his lungs. Then this
solace was denied him. The other hand, moist and strong, began to close
round his throat.
At first he was glad, for here, he
thought, was death at last. But it was only a new torture; perhaps Gino
inherited the skill of his ancestors--and childlike ruffians who flung each
other from the towers. Just as the windpipe closed, the hand fell off, and
Philip was revived by the motion of his arm. And just as he was about to
faint and gain at last one moment of oblivion, the motion stopped, and he would
struggle instead against the pressure on his
Vivid pictures were dancing through the
pain--Lilia dying some months back in this very house, Miss Abbott bending over
the baby, his mother at home, now reading evening prayers to the servants.
He felt that he was growing weaker; his brain wandered; the agony did not seem
so great. Not all Gino's care could indefinitely postpone the end.
His yells and gurgles became mechanical--functions of the tortured flesh rather
than true notes of indignation and despair. He was conscious of a horrid
tumbling. Then his arm was pulled a little too roughly, and everything was
quiet at last.
"But your son is dead, Gino.
Your son is dead, dear Gino. Your son is
The room was full of light, and Miss Abbott
had Gino by the shoulders, holding him down in a chair. She was exhausted
with the struggle, and her arms were trembling.
is the good of another death? What is the good of more
He too began to tremble. Then he turned
and looked curiously at Philip, whose face, covered with dust and foam, was
visible by the stove. Miss Abbott allowed him to get up, though she still
held him firmly. He gave a loud and curious cry--a cry of interrogation it
might be called. Below there was the noise of Perfetta returning with the
"Go to him," said Miss Abbott,
indicating Philip. "Pick him up. Treat him
She released him, and he approached Philip
slowly. His eyes were filling with trouble. He bent down, as if he
would gently raise him up.
"Help! help!" moaned
Philip. His body had suffered too much from Gino. It could not bear
to be touched by him.
Gino seemed to
understand. He stopped, crouched above him. Miss Abbott herself came
forward and lifted her friend in her arms.
foul devil!" he murmured. "Kill him! Kill him for
Miss Abbott laid him tenderly on the couch and
wiped his face. Then she said gravely to them both, "This thing stops
"Latte! latte!" cried Perfetta,
hilariously ascending the stairs.
continued, "there is to be no revenge. I will have no more intentional
evil. We are not to fight with each other any
"I shall never forgive him," sighed
"Latte! latte freschissima!
bianca come neve!" Perfetta came in with another lamp and a little
Gino spoke for the first time. "Put the
milk on the table," he said. "It will not be wanted in the other
room." The peril was over at last. A great sob shook the whole body,
another followed, and then he gave a piercing cry of woe, and stumbled towards
Miss Abbott like a child and clung to her.
through the day Miss Abbott had seemed to Philip like a goddess, and more than
ever did she seem so now. Many people look younger and more intimate
during great emotion. But some there are who look older, and remote, and
he could not think that there was little difference in years, and none in
composition, between her and the man whose head was laid upon her breast.
Her eyes were open, full of infinite pity and full of majesty, as if they
discerned the boundaries of sorrow, and saw unimaginable tracts beyond.
Such eyes he had seen in great pictures but never in a mortal. Her hands
were folded round the sufferer, stroking him lightly, for even a goddess can do
no more than that. And it seemed fitting, too, that she should bend her
head and touch his forehead with her lips.
looked away, as he sometimes looked away from the great pictures where visible
forms suddenly become inadequate for the things they have shown to us. He
was happy; he was assured that there was greatness in the world. There
came to him an earnest desire to be good through the example of this good
woman. He would try henceforward to be worthy of the things she had
revealed. Quietly, without hysterical prayers or banging of drums, he
underwent conversion. He was saved.
milk," said she, "need not be wasted. Take it, Signor Carella, and
persuade Mr. Herriton to drink."
Gino obeyed her, and
carried the child's milk to Philip. And Philip obeyed also and
"Is there any
"A little," answered
"Then finish it." For she was determined
to use such remnants as lie about the world.
you not have some?"
"I do not care for milk; finish
"Philip, have you had enough
"Yes, thank you, Gino; finish it
He drank the milk, and then, either by accident
or in some spasm of pain, broke the jug to pieces. Perfetta exclaimed in
bewilderment. "It does not matter," he told her. "It does not
matter. It will never be wanted any more."