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来源: 南方日报网络版     时间: 2020-01-22 14:14:35
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One was her Shelley—her much-read Shelley—a shabby, cloth-bound volume, bought in her girlhood at the book-seller's in the Place Duguesclin, where English books could be got by special order, and at special prices. The other was an Italian Testament, which her husband had bought her at San Remo, and in which she had read with extreme diligence and with increasing fervour as her mind became more deeply moved by Father Rodwell's sermons. It was not that she had ever been one of those advanced thinkers who will accept no creed which does not square with their own little theories and fit in to their own narrow circle of possibilities. She had never doubted the creed she had been taught in her childhood, but she had thought very[Pg 254] little about serious things, since she was a young girl, preparing for her confirmation, touched with girlish enthusiasm, and very much in earnest. In these fair spring days, and in this city of many memories, all young thoughts had reawakened in her mind. She pored over the familiar Gospel-stories, and again, as in the first freshness of her girlhood, she saw the sacred figure of the Redeemer and Teacher in all the vivid light and colour of a reality, close at hand. Faith stretched a hand across the abyss of time, and brought the old world of the Gospel-story close to her; the closer, because she was in Rome, not far from that church which enshrines the print of the Divine footstep, when He who was God and Man, appeared to His disciple, to foreshadow approaching martyrdom, to inspire the fortitude of the martyr. Yes, although the Saviour's earthly feet never entered the city, every hill and every valley within and without those crumbling walls has interwoven itself so closely with the story of His life—through the work of His saints and martyrs—that it is nowise strange if the scenes and images of the sacred story seem nearer and more vivid in Rome than in any other place on earth, not excepting Jerusalem. It was from Rome, not from Jerusalem, that the Cross went out to the uttermost ends of the world. It is the earth of the Colosseum and the Borgo that is steeped in the blood of those who have died for Christ. It was Rome that ruled the world, through the long night of barbarism and feudal power, by the invincible force of His name.Captain Hulbert was made happy with Allegra, and Colonel Disney was honoured by his hostess, to whom strict etiquette would have prescribed the peer's son. There was surplus female population in the persons of Alicia Crowther and Mary Baynham, who agreeably adorned each side of[Pg 173] the table with a little extra sweetness and light; Miss Baynham, buxom and rosy in a white cashmere frock which she had grown out of since her last dinner-party; Miss Crowther, square shouldered and bony, in a black confection by Worth, with a bloated diamond heart making a mirage upon a desert waste of chest, it being a point of honour with thin girls to be more décoletées than their plumper sisters.

"Is the storm over?" she asked, by-and-by, with her face turned towards the loggia and the starlight above the garden.What had she to do with this torturing recital of thousands and millions, this everlasting heaping up of figures?"Yes, love, we must coax the roses back to your cheeks. I must have a good mount ready for you when the cubbing begins, and a few morning gallops will soon make a change in my fragile wife's appearance. And I'll charter a yacht and steep you in ozone."She thought that if she were to appeal to Lostwithiel's honour some spark of better feeling would prevail over that madness which had wrecked her, and he would let her go, he would take her back to England, and facilitate her secret return to the home she had dishonoured. But could she trust herself to make that appeal? Could she stand fast against his pleading, if he implored her to stay with him, to live the life that he had planned for her, the life that he had painted so eloquently, the dreamy, beautiful life amidst earth's most romantic scenes, the life of love in idleness? Could she resist him if he should plead—it might be with tears—he, whom she adored, her destroyer and her divinity? No, she must leave the yacht before he came back to her. But how?


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