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   Chapter 6 No.6

South Wind By Norman Douglas Characters: 31603

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


It stands to reason that the Duchess was not a Duchess at all. She was American by birth, from some Western state, and her first husband had been an army man. Her second spouse-he, too, had died long ago-was Italian. In view of his passionate devotion to the Catholic Church and of a further payment of fifty thousand francs, he had been raised to the rank of Papal Marquis. He died relatively young. Had his life been spared, as it ought to have been, he might well have become a Papal Duke in course of time. He was carried off by an accident not of his own contriving-run over by a tramcar in Rome-before that further ducal premium was even expected to be paid. But for this, he ought to have died a Duke. He would have been a Duke, by this time.

His widow, taking these things into consideration, felt it her duty to appropriate the more sonorous of the two titles open to her. Nobody contested her claim. All her friends, on the contrary, declared that she talked like a peeress and behaved like one; and in a world where the few remaining authentic specimens of that class fail to fulfil either the one or the other of these conditions, it was thought meet and proper that somebody should be good enough to carry on, if only in semblance, and if only in Nepenthe, the traditions of a race rapidly approaching extinction. It was pleasant to be able to converse with a Duchess at any hour of the day, and this one was nothing if not accessible so long as you were fairly well clothed, had a reasonably supply of small talk and did not profess violent anti-papal sentiments.

Some people said she dressed like a Duchess, but there was less unanimity on this point. Her handsome oval face and towering grey hair induced her to cultivate an antique pose, with a view to resembling "La Pompadour." La Pompadour stood for something courtly and powdered. She certainly dressed better and on far less money than Madame Steynlin, whose plump figure, round sunburnt cheeks, and impulsive manner would never have done for an old-world beauty, and who cared little what frocks she wore, so long as somebody loved her. The Duchess had all the aplomb of La Pompadour, but not much of her French accent. Her Italian, too, was somewhat embryonic. That mattered little. The external impression, the grand manner, was everything. She was not lame, though she generally leaned on somebody's arm or a stick. It was rather a pretty stick. She would have worm a pomander in her hair, or on a chatelaine, if anybody had told her what a pomander was. As her friends were unable to enlighten her-Mr. Keith even hinting that it was an object which could not be mentioned in polite society-she contented herself with a couple of patches.

Her rooms in that disused convent were an interminable suite of rectangular chambers, unpretentious but solidly built, with straight corridors running alongside. You beheld pretty pavements of old-fashioned tiles, not overmuch furniture, one or two portraits of the Pope, and abundance of flowers and crucifixes. The Duchess specialized in flowers and crucifixes. Everybody, aware of her fondness for them, gave her either the one or the other, or both. An elaborate arrangement for tea occupied one of the rooms; there was also a cold buffet for gentlemen-brandies and wines and iced soda-water and lobster sandwiches and suchlike.

A many-tongued conversation filled the air with pleasant murmurs. Various nationalities were represented, though the Russian colony was conspicuous by its absence. The Duchess, like Mr. Freddy Parker, drew the line at Russians. If only they would not dress so oddly, with those open collars, leathern belts, and scarlet blouses! The judge, also, was never asked to come-he was too outspoken a freethinker, and too fond of spitting on the floor. Nor did Mr. Eames put in an appearance. He avoided social obligations; his limited means preventing him from making any adequate return. But there was an ample display of ecclesiastics, together with a few other notabilities. Mr. Heard encountered some familiar faces, and made new friends. He felt drawn towards Madame Steynlin-she had such a cheerful bright face.

"And how delightfully cool these rooms are!" he was saying to the

Duchess. "I wonder how you manage to keep the sirocco out?"

"By closing the windows, Bishop. English people will not believe that.

They open their windows. In comes the heat."

"If English people closed their windows they would die," said Don Francesco. "Half the houses in England would be condemned by law in this country and pulled down, on account of their low ceilings. Low ceilings have given the Englishman his cult of fresh air. He likes to be cosy and familiar and exclusive; he has no sense for broad social functions. There is something of the cave-dweller in every Englishman. He may say what he likes, but the humble cottage will always remain his dream. You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. This country is pastoral. That is why our advertisements are so apt to portray commercial conditions-enormous factories and engines and chimneys; we are dissatisfied with our agricultural state. The Frenchman's aspiration is woman; Paris hoardings will tell you that. England is a land of industrial troglodytes, where every man's cavern is his castle. Its advertisements depict either gross masses of food such as cave-dwellers naturally relish, or else quiet country scenes-green lanes, and sunsets, and peaceful dwellings in the country. Home, sweet home! The cottage! That means open windows or suffocation…. I think I see the person who spoke to you on the steamer," he added to Mr. Heard. "I don't like his looks. He is coming our way."

"That must be Mr. Muhlen," exclaimed the Duchess. "They say he played beautifully at the hotel last night. I wonder whether I could induce him to try my Longwood? It's rather an old model, I fear, and out of tune."

The gentleman appeared, ostentatiously dressed and escorted by Mr. Richards, the Vice-President of the Alpha and Omega Club, who seemed to be fairly steady on his legs and was presently absorbed in an artistic examination of a number of silver ornaments, crucifixes, relics and suchlike objects of virtu, which the Duchess had gathered together. He handled them like a connoisseur. Others of that institution had promised to attend the party but, on being overhauled by the conscientious Vice-President, were found to be unpresentable at the last moment.

The Duchess moved away to greet him. Mr. Heard remarked to Don

Francesco:

"That middle-aged colleague of yours, yonder-he has an unusual face."

"Our parish priest. A sound Christian!"

The PARROCO'S thin lips, peaked nose, beady eyes and colourless cheeks proclaimed the anchorite, if not the monomaniac. He flitted about like a draught of cold air, refusing all refreshments and not daring to smell the flowers, lest he should derive too much pleasure from them. He was often called Torquemada, from his harsh and abstemious habits. The name had been given him, of course, by his brother priests who knew about such matters, and not by the common people to whom the word Torquemada would have suggested, if anything, a savoury kind of pudding. Torquemada was capable of any sacrifice, of any enormity, in defence of the faith. A narrow medieval type, he was the only person on Nepenthe who would have been hewn in pieces for his God-nobody allowing themselves to be even temporarily incommoded in so visionary a cause. He enjoyed a reputation of perfect chastity which differentiated him from all the remaining priests and contributed, more than anything else, to his unpopularity. It enraged the frankly carnal natives to such an extent that they made insinuations about his bodily health and told other horrible stories, swore they were true, and offered to give statistical figures in confirmation. They said, among other things, that after begging money from wealthy foreigners for alleged repairs to the parish organ and other godly purposes, he kept the proceeds himself on the principle that charity began at home and ought to end there. Nobody could deny his devotion to mother, sisters, and even distant relatives. So much was also certain, that the PARROCO'S family was poor.

Harp-like tinklings arose from an adjoining chamber; a general move took place in that direction. Mr. Keith was there. He sat beside Madame Steynlin who, being a fair performer herself, was listening with rapture to Muhlen's strains. During a pause he said:

"I wish I could make it out. It annoys me, Madame Steynlin, not to comprehend the charm of music. I would give almost anything to the person who can satisfy me that what I hear is not a succession of unnecessary noises."

"Perhaps you are not musical."

"That would not prevent my understanding the feelings of people like yourself. I don't want to be musical. I want to get a grip of this thing. I want to know. Tell me why you like it and why I don't. Tell me-"

The sounds began again.

"Ah!" said the Duchess, "that wonderful ANDANTE CON BRIO!"

Then, as the strains grew louder, she whispered to Don Francesco upon a subject which had always puzzled her.

"I would be glad to learn," she said, "why our parliamentary representative, Commendatore Morena, has never yet visited Nepenthe. Surely it is his duty to show himself now and then to his parishioners-constituents, I mean? This festival of Saint Dodekanus would have been such a good opportunity. His appearance would have been a discomfiture for the free-thinkers. Every year he promises to come. And every year he fails us. Why?"

"I cannot tell," replied the priest. "The animal has probably got other things to do."

"The animal? Ah, don't say that! And such a good Catholic!"

"Foreigners, dear Duchess, I leave to your judgment. They are of little account, anyhow. But you will be guided by me in your appreciation of the worldly qualities of natives. Otherwise, with all your intelligence, it will be impossible for you to avoid mistakes. Let us leave it at that."

"But why-"

"We will leave it at that, dear lady!"

"Indeed we will, Don Francesco," replied the Duchess, who loved to be ruled in matters of this kind.

At this moment, the performer rose from the piano with unexpected suddenness remarking SOTTO VOCE that if he had known he was to play on a spinet he would have brought some Lulli with him. He was beaming all over, none the less, and soon making arrangements with other guests for a series of picnics and boating excursions-getting on swimmingly, in fact, when the thoughtless Madame Steynlin captured him and began to talk music. He repeated that remark, too good to be lost, about the spinet; it led to Scarlatti, Mozart, Handel. He said Handel was the saviour of English music. She said Handel was its blight and damnation. Each being furnished with copious arguments, the discussion degenerated into technicalities.

Denis, meanwhile, was handing round tea-cakes and things, with the double object of making himself useful and of being as near as possible to Angelina, the hand-maiden of the Duchess, a bewitchingly pretty brunette, who was doing the same. Perhaps the existence of Angelin accounted for his respectful attentions and frequent visits to the Duchess. He felt he was really in love for the first time in his life.

He worshipped from afar. He would have liked to worship from a little nearer, but did not know how to set about it; he was afraid of troubling what he called her innocence. Hitherto he had scored no great success. Angelina, aged fifteen, with the figure of a fairy, a glowing complexion, and a rich southern voice, was perfectly aware of his idealistic sentiments. She responded to the extent of gazing at him, now and then, in a most disconcerting fashion. It was as though she cared little about idealism. She did not smile. There was neither love nor disdain in that gaze; it was neither hot nor cold, nor yet lukewarm; it was something else, something he did not want at all-something that made him feel childish and uncomfortable.

And another pair of eyes were watching all the time, her sinuous movements-those of Mr. Edgar Marten. This young scientist, too, cherished loving thoughts about Angelina, thoughts of a more earthly and volcanic tinge; certain definite projects which made him forget, at times, his preoccupation with biotite, perlite, magnetite, anorthite, and pyroxene.

"Denis," said Keith, in his usual pompous fashion. "Do put down that absurd tray and let people help themselves. Listen to me for a moment. How do you like this place? I am not asking out of vulgar curiosity; I am anxious to know the impressions of a person of your age and antecedents. You might collect them for me, will you? Not now. One day when you are in the mood. Somewhat terrestrial and palpitating, is it not, after the cloistered twilight of a University?"

"I came here from Florence," observed Denis.

"And even after Florence! Do you know why? Because mankind dominates in Tuscany. The land is encrusted with ephemeral human conceits. That is not altogether good for a youngster; it disarranges his mind and puts him out of harmony with what is permanent. Just listen a moment. Here, if you are wise, you will seek an antidote. Taken in over-doze, all these churches and pictures and books and other products of our species are toxins for a boy like you. They falsify your cosmic values. Try to be more of an animal. Try to extract pleasure from more obvious sources. Lie fallow for a while. Forget all these things. Go out into the midday glare. Sit among rocks and by the sea. Have a look at the sun and stars for a change; they are just as impressive as Donatello. Find yourself! You know the Cave of Mercury? Climb down, one night of full moon, all alone, and rest at its entrance. Familiarize yourself with elemental things. The whole earth reeks of humanity and its works. One has to be old and tough to appraise them at their true worth. Tell people to go to Hell, Denis, with their altar-pieces and museums and clock-towers and funny little art-galleries."

Everybody is always giving me advice, thought Denis. And the worst of it is, it's often sound.

A melodious voice added:

"If, after that lecture, you still have some crotchety appreciation left for the works of man, you may be interested, when next you visit the Old Town, to look at some busts and other curiosities of mine. There is a little Greek bronze I would like to show you, though perhaps we had better not talk too openly about it. Pray come. You will extract pleasure from that statuette. And I will extract pleasure from your company. Obvious sources of pleasure, aren't they, Keith?"

It was Count Caloveglia. He was referring to the Locri Faun, a wonderful antique which had recently been found on his property near the town of that name on the neighbouring mainland, and was about to be secretly smuggled out of Italy. He smiled in winning fashion as he spoke. Like everyone else, Denis had fallen under the spell of this attractive and courteous old aristocrat who was saturated to the very marrow in the lore of antiquity. There was sunshine in his glance-a lustrous gem-like grace; one realized from his conversation, from his every word, that he had discarded superfluities of thought and browsed for a lifetime, in leisurely fashion, upon all that purifies and exalts the spirit. Nothing, one felt, would avail to ruffle that deep pagan content.

"And how," he continued, addressing Denis, "are your Italian studies progressing?"

"Fairly well, thank you. My French puts me out a little. And I can't yet conjugate properly."

"That is certainly a drawback," said Don Francesc

o, appearing on the scene. "But don't let it trouble you," he added in paternal tones. "It will come in time. You are still young. You are learning Russian, Madame Steynlin?"

"Only a few words." She blushed becomingly. "There are certain sounds, like water being poured into a jug-neither easy nor pleasant. I am not as quick as some people. Mrs. Meadows always speaks Hindustani to her old Sicilian woman. She comprehends perfectly."

"So clever these people are, at languages!" said the Duchess.

Marten remarked:

"I don't bother to learn Italian. I talk Latin to them. They understand all right."

"And what Latin, Marten!" laughed Denis. "No wonder they understand.

I'm coming to you on Thursday morning. Don't forget."

"I have not had your public school advantages. But I manage to get what I want out of them, generally speaking," and he cast a fiery glance in the direction of Angelina, who returned it over her shoulder, unabashed. Denis, fortunately, was looking the other way.

"I wish I had enjoyed all your chances," observed the Duchess, with a little mock-sigh. "We were so carelessly brought up. I learnt practically nothing at school. It is a pity. Ah, Bishop! I forgot to tell you. Such a charming note from your cousin. She cannot come. The baby is teething and troublesome in this heat. You will have to drive up, I'm afraid…. Mr. Keith, I have not yet thanked you for those flowers and the book you sent. The flowers are quite too lovely. Look at them! You are spoiling me-you really are! But I don't think I shall like the book. Lady Cecilia and her maid and that man, I forget his name-they do all sorts of things. They don't seem to be very nice people."

"You have nothing but nice people round you, Duchess. Why should you want to read about them? There is so much goodness in real life. Do let us keep it out of our books."

"That sounds a dreadful doctrine. I see the PARROCO is about to take his departure. Why does everybody leave so soon?"

She wandered away.

"The English are supposed to be bad linguists," said Don Francesco. "It is one of those curious international fallacies, like saying the French are a polite nation-"

"Or that home-made marmalade tastes better than the stuff you buy in shops," added Denis. "I must help the Duchess to say good-bye to those people. She likes to have some one handy on such occasions. She needs an echo. I am becoming quite a good echo."

"You are," said Keith, rather sharply. "Quite a pretty echo. And you ought to be a voice. Follow my prescription, Denis. The Cave of Mercury."

Count Caloveglia remarked:

"What a pity that Latin, as scholars' language, for the definition and registration of ideas, was ever abandoned! It has the incalculable advantage that the meanings of words are irrevocably fixed by authority. New ones could be coined as occasion required. Knowledge would gain by leaps and bounds. There would be a cross-fertilization of cultures. As things now stand, half the intellectuals of this world are writing about matters which, unbeknown to themselves, have already been treated by the other half. One would think that Commerce, which has broken down geographical barriers, might have done the same to political ones. Far from it! In sharpening men's lust for gold, it has demarcated our frontiers with a bitterness hitherto unknown. The world of thought has not expanded; it has contracted and grown provincial. Men have lost sight of distant horizons. Nobody writes for humanity, for civilization; they write for their country, their sect; to amuse their friends or annoy their enemies. Pliny or Linneus or Humboldt-they sat on mountain-tops; they surveyed the landscape at their feet, and if some little valley lay shrouded in mist, the main outlines of the land yet lay clearly distended before them. You will say that it is impossible, nowadays, to gather up the threads of learning as did these men; they are too multifarious, too divergent. A greater mistake could not be imagined. For there is a contrary tendency at work-a tendency towards unification. The threads converge. Medieval minds knew many truths, hostile to one another. All truths are now seen to be interdependent; never was synthesis easier of attainment. Conflict of nationality and language hinders the movement. Mankind at large is the loser. The adoption of a universal scholars' tongue would do much to remove the obstacle. When these Southern races coalesce to form the great alliance which I foresee, when the Mediterranean basin is once more the centre of human activity as it deserves to be, some such plan will doubtless be adopted."

"Your notion would suit me down to the ground," said the bishop, who was a good Latinist. "I would love to converse in the old style with a student from Salamanca or Bergen or Khieff or Padua or-"

Don Francesco gave utterance to some wholly unintelligible speech. Then he observed:

"The student might not be able to catch your meaning, Mr. Heard. I was only talking Latin! You see, we would be obliged to standardize our pronunciation. I wonder, by the way, why the old scholars' language was ever discarded?"

"Patriotism destroyed it," replied the Count. "That narrow modern patriotism of the cock-on-the-dung-hill type."

Mr. Keith began:

"It is an atavistic and altogether discreditable phenomenon-this recent recrudescence of monarchical principles-"

"What did you promise about long words?" playfully enquired the

Duchess, who had just returned.

"I cannot help it, dear lady. It is my mother's fault. She was so very precise. I was carefully brought up."

"That is a pity, Mr. Keith."

"Northern people are very precise," said Don Francesco, folding his gown around his ample limbs. "Particularly in love affairs. We down here, who live in this sirocco, are supposed to be calculating and mercenary in matters of the heart. We want dowries for our daughters-they say we are always coming to the point: money, money! The capacity of an English girl for coming to the point will take some beating. She paralyses you with directness. I will tell you a true story. There was a young Italian whom I knew-yes, I knew him well. He had just arrived in London; very handsome in the face, though perhaps a little too fat. He fell in love with an elegant young lady who was employed in the establishment of Madame Elise in Bond Street. He used to wait for her to come out at six o'clock and follow her like a dog, not daring to speak. He carried a costly bracelet for her in his pocket, and every day fresh flowers, which he was always too shy and too deeply enamoured to present. She was his angel, his ideal. He dreamt of her by day and night, wondering whether he would ever have the courage to address so tall and queenly a creature. It was his first English love affair, you understand; he learnt the proper technique later on. For five or six weeks this unhappy state of things continued, till one day, when he was running after her as usual, she turned round furiously and said: 'What do you mean, sir, by following me about it this disgusting fashion? How day you? I shall call the police, if it occurs again.' He was deprived of speech at first: he could only gaze in what you call dumb amazement. Then he managed to stammer out something about his heart and his love, and to show her the flowers and the bracelet. She said: 'So that's it, is it? Well of all the funny boys. Why couldn't you speak up sooner? D'you know of a place round here-'"

"Ha, ha, ha!"

It was a formidable explosion on the part of the Commissioner, in an adjoining room.

He was talking to some friends about Napoleon.

They wanted a fellow like that on Nepenthe-a fellow who got things done. Napoleon would have made no bones about the Wilberforce woman over there. It was a scandalous state of affairs. What was the use of a Committee for trying to keep her in order and getting her locked up in a sanatorium? Everybody knew what a Committee meant. Committee! It was a preposterous word. Committees were the same all the world over. Committee! He was in charge of that particular one; they were dong all they could, but what did it amount to? Nothing. To begin with, there was not enough money coming in, unless somebody could wheedle a cheque out of that rich old Koppen sensualist whose yacht might be arriving at any moment. And then her own pig-headedness! She refused to be talked over into doing what was in her own interests. Napoleon, he reckoned, might have talked her over-ha, ha, ha!

The lady in question, all unaware of these humanitarian designs, had taken up a strategic position in the neighbourhood of the drinks, and was glancing shyly round the room in search of a likely male who would fetch her a stiff glass of something from the buffet, and that soon. She was groggy, but not sufficiently primed to go there herself; she knew that everybody's eye would be fixed upon her; she had been much talked about of late. Drunk, she was impossible; dead sober, almost as bad-haughty, sullen, logical, with a grieved and surprised air suggestive of wounded dignity.

People avoided Miss Wilberforce. And yet you could not help liking her in those rare moments when she was just a little disguised. She had a pretty wit, then; a residue of gentle nurture; tender instincts and a winsomeness of manner that captivated you. Nor were appearances against her. That frail, arrowy figure was invariably clothed in black. She wore the colour by instinct. They said she had lost her sailor fiance who was drowned, poor lad, in the Mediterranean; and that now she wandered about at night looking for him, or trying to forget him and seeking oblivion in tipple.

The story happened to be true, for a wonder. She had received a twist for life. The death of this young lover gave to her impressionable being a shock which never passed off again. The world was turned inside out for Amy Wilberforce. She seldom spoke of his fate. But she was always talking about the sea. She tried to drown herself, once or twice. Then, gradually, she put on a new character altogether and relapsed into queer ancestral traits, stripping off, like so many worthless rags, the layers of laboriously acquired civilization. The refined and bashful girl became brusque, supercilious, equivocal. When sympathizing friends said that they had also lost lovers, she laughed and told them to look for new ones. There were better fish in the sea, etc., etc.

Soon she found herself abandoned, in spite of a full banking account.

People had dropped her, right and left.

The years went by.

Calmly, without misgivings and without fervour, she took to the bottle.

Something drew her to Nepenthe-dim Mediterranean memories. Arrived there, she used to engulf three pints of Martell and Hennessey, one after the other, and then "wash them out"-such was her phraseology-with a magnum of Perrier Jouet; a proceeding which, while it heightened her complexion and gave a sparkle to her poor flustered eye, was not conducive to the preservation of equilibrium in the lower limbs. There resulted those periodical "nervous breakdowns" which necessitated seclusion and sometimes medical treatment. The collapses had become distressingly frequent with the last year or two. One of her many drawbacks was that she courted publicity in her cups. She was perfectly reckless as to what she then said, and had been known to bring a blush to the seasoned cheek of Don Francesco himself who, unaware of her condition at one particular moment, politely ventured to enquire why she always wore black and was told that she was in mourning, as everybody ought to mourn, for his lost innocence. Being an Englishwoman, she was a thorn in the side of her moral compatriot the Commissioner.

Her noctambulous habits often brought her into contact with the local police and sometimes with His Worship Signor Malipizzo. Greatly to the surprise of Mr. Parker, the magistrate was observed to take a lenient view of the case. None the less, she had passed several nights in the local gaol. Staggering about the lanes of Nepenthe in the silent hours before dawn, she was liable to be driven, at the bidding of some dark primeval impulse, to divest herself of her raiment-a singularity which perturbed even the hardiest of social night-birds who had the misfortune to encounter her. Taxed with this freakish behaviour, she would refer to the example of St. Francis of Assisi who did the same, and brazenly ask whether he wasn't good enough for them? Whether she couldn't give her last shirt to a beggar, as well as anybody else? In short, there was nothing to be done with her.

The dear lady, as Keith often called her, was becoming a real problem.

And now her eye, roving round the room, fixed itself with the drunkard's divine unerring instinct upon Denis. What a nice, modest, gentlemanly-looking boy! Just what she wanted.

"This sirocco!" she sighed, groping dramatically for a chair. "It makes me feel so funny. Oh, dear! I shall go off in a faint. Ah, do be a kind young man and fetch me some brandy and soda. A large tumbler. Ah, do! And very little soda, please-on account of my heart. Only the smallest drop!"

She took two or three sips, paused awhile as though undecided whether she could possibly swallow such nasty stuff and then, with a fine show of reluctance, gulped it all down. Denis was spell-bound; the dose, he artlessly imagined, was enough to kill a horse. Far from being damaged, Miss Wilberforce took a chair beside him, and began to converse. Charmingly she talked; all about England. As he listened he grew delighted, entranced. She was different, somehow, from all the other ladies he had lately met on the Continent. She was altogether different. Whence came it, he wondered?

Then, as the discourse proceeded, he began to realize what was the matter with them. It was odd, he thought, that he had not noticed it before. Miss Wilberforce made him realize wherein the difference lay. They spoke English, it was true; but they had all taken on a Continental outlook; alien phrases, expressions, affectations; cosmopolitan airs and graces that jarred on his frank, untarnished English nature. This one was otherwise. She was old England, through and through. The conversation cheered him to an unusual degree-among all those foreign people he felt strangely drawn towards this wistful lady who could talk so naturally and conjure up, by the mere power of words, a breath of his own homestead in the Midlands. He might have been sitting with an elder sister just then, eating strawberries and cream and watching a tennis match on some shady green lawn. He was happy; happier still when Angelina once more floated into his ken and, noticing Miss Wilberforce, raised her eyebrows mischievously and gave him something that looked like a real smile, for a change.

She had another smile, however, for Mr. Edgar Marten; and yet another one for Don Francesco who, as she passed near him, profited by the occasion to give her a paternal semi-proprietary chuck under the chin, accompanying the indecorous movement with an almost audible wink.

Mr. Heard had noticed everything. He frowned at first. It gave him a little twinge, and some food for thought. He was absurdly sensitive about women.

"A frolicsome child," he mused. "LASCIVA PUELLA. Possibly wanton."

What were this young man's relations with the girl? That contact of hand and chin-what did it imply? Was the action quasi-paternal, or pseudo-paternal? Regretfully he decided that it was only pseudo-paternal.

And yet-it was all so confoundedly natural!

"Nobody but our PARROCO could keep his hands off that girl," blithely remarked the priest.

Another little twinge….

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