Two Bites at a Cherry


As they both were Americans, and typical Americans, it ought to have happened in their own country. But destiny has no nationality, and consequently no patriotism ; so it happened in Naples.

When Marcus Whitelaw strolled out of his hotel that May morning, and let himself drift with the crowd along the Strada del Duomo until he reached the portals of the ancient cathedral, nothing was more remote from his meditation than Mrs. Rose Mason. He had not seen her for fifteen years, and he had not thought of her, except in an intermittent fashion, for seven or eight. There had, however, been a period, covering possibly four years, when he had thought of little else. During that heavy interim he had gone about with a pang in his bosom, — a pang that had been very keen at the beginning, and then had gradually lost its edge. Later on, that unmaterialized hand which obliterates even the deep-carved grief on headstones effectually smoothed out the dent in Whitelaw’s heart.

Rose Jenness at nineteen had been singularly adapted to making dents in certain kinds of hearts. Her candor and unselfishness, her disdain of insincerity in others, and her unconsciousness of the spells she cast had proved more fatal to Whitelaw than the most studied coquetry would have done. In the deepest stress of his trouble he was denied the consolation of being able to reproach her with duplicity. He had built up his leaning tower of hopes without any aid from her. She had been nothing but frank and unmisleading from first to last. Her beauty she could not help. She came of a line of stately men and handsome women. Sir Peter Lely painted them in Charles the Second’s time, and Copley found them ready for his canvas in the colonial period. Through some remote cross of Saxon and Latin blood the women of this family had always been fair and the men dark. In Rose Jenness the two characteristics flowered. When New England produces a blonde with the eyes of a brunette, the world cannot easily match her, especially if she have that rounded slenderness of figure which is one of our very best Americanisms.

Without this blended beauty, which came to perfection in her suddenly, like the blossoms on a fruit-tree, Whitelaw would have loved Rose all the same. Indeed, her physical loveliness had counted for little in his passion, though it had afterwards haunted him almost maliciously. That she was fair of person who had so many gracious traits of mind and disposition was a matter of course. He had been slower than others in detecting the charm that wrapt her as she slipped into womanhood. They had grown up together as children, and had known no separation, except during the three years Whitelaw was with the Army of the Potomac,— an absence broken by several returns to the North on recruiting service, and one long sojourn after a dangerous hurt received at Antietam. He never knew when he began to love Rose, and he never knew the exact moment when he ceased to love her. But between these two indefinable points he had experienced an unhappiness that was anything but indefinite. It had been something tangible and measurable; and it had changed the course of his career.

Next to time there is no surer medicine than hard work for the kind of disappointment we have indicated. Unfortunately for Whitelaw, he was moderately rich by inheritance, and when he discovered that Rose’s candid affection was not love, he could afford to indulge his wretchedness. He had been anxious for distinction, for her sake; but now his ambition was gone. Of what value to him were worldly prizes, if she refused to share them ? He presently withdrew from the legal profession, in which he had given promise of becoming a brilliant pleader, who had pleaded so unsuccessfully for himself, and went abroad. This was of course after the war.

It was not her fault that all communication between them ceased then and there. He would have it so. The affair had not been without its bitterness for Rose. Whitelaw was linked in some way with every agreeable reminiscence of her life ; she could not remember the time when she was not fond of him. There had been a poignancy in the regret with which Rose had seen the friend who was dear to her transforming himself into a lover for whom she did not care in the least. It had pained her to give him pain, and she had done it with tears in her eyes.

Eighteen months later Rose was Mrs. Mason, tears and all. Richard Mason was a Pacific Railroad king en herbe, with a palace in San Francisco, whither he immediately transported his bride. The news reached Whitelaw in Seville, and gave him a twinge. His love, according to his own diagnosis, was already dead ; it was presumably, then, a muscular contraction that caused it to turn a little in its coffin. The following year some question of investment brought him back to the United States, where he traveled extensively, carefully avoiding California. He visited Salt Lake City, however, and took cynical satisfaction in observing what a large amount of connubial misery there was to the square foot. Yet when a rumor came to him, some time subsequently, that Rose herself was not very happy in her marriage, he had the grace to be sincerely sorry. “ The poor transplanted Rose ! ” he murmured. " She was too good for him ; she was too good for anybody.”

This was four years after she had refused to be his wife; time had brought the philosophic mind, and he could look back upon the episode with tender calmness, and the desire to do justice to every one. Meanwhile, Rose had had a boy. Whitelaw’s feelings in respect to him were complicated.

Seven or eight years went by, the greater part of which Whitelaw passed in England. There he heard nothing of Mrs. Mason, and when in America he heard very little. The marriage had not been fortunate, the Masons were enormously wealthy, and she was a beauty still. The Delaneys had met her, one winter, at Santa Barbara. Her letters home had grown more and more infrequent, and finally ceased. Her father had died, and the family was broken up and scattered. People whom nobody knew occupied the old mansion on the slope of Beacon Hill. One of the last spells of the past was lifted for Whitelaw when he saw strange faces looking out of those sun-purpled window-panes.

If Whitelaw thought of Mrs. Mason at intervals, it was with less distinctness on each occasion ; the old love-passage, when he recalled it of an evening over his cigar, or in the course of some solitary walk, had a sort of phantasmal quality about it. The sharp grief that was to have lasted forever had resolved itself into a painless memory. He was now on that chilly side of forty where one begins to take ceremonious leave of one’s illusions, and prefers Burgundy to Champagne.

When the announcement of Richard Mason’s death was telegraphed East, Whitelaw read the telegram in his morning paper with scarcely more emotion than was shown by the man who sat opposite him reading the stock quotations. This was in a carriage on the Sixth Avenue elevated railway ; for Whitelaw chanced to be in New York at the moment, making preparations for an extended tour in Russia and its dependencies. The Russian journey proved richer in novelty than he had anticipated, and he remained nearly three years in the land of the Tsars. On returning to western Europe he was seized with the humor to revisit certain of the Italian cities, — Ravenna, Rome, Venice, and Naples. It was in Naples that he found himself on that particular May morning to which reference has been made.

Whitelaw had never before happened to be in the city during the festa of San Gennaro. There are three of these festivals annually, — in May, September, and December. He had fallen upon the most picturesque of the series. The miracle of the Liquefaction of the Blood of St. Januarius was to take place at nine o’clock that forenoon in the cathedral, and it was a spectacle which Whitelaw had often desired to witness.

So it was that he followed the crowd along the sunny strada, and shouldered his way into the church, where the great candles were already lighted. The cool atmosphere of the interior, pleasantly touched with that snuffy, musky odor which haunts Italian churches, was refreshing after the incandescent heat outside. He did not mind being ten or twelve minutes too early.

Whitelaw had managed to secure a position not far from the altar-rail, and was settling himself comfortably to enjoy the ceremony, with his back braced against a marble column, when his eyes fell upon the profile of a lady who was standing about five yards in advance of him in an oblique line.


For an instant that face seemed to Whitelaw a part of the theatric unreality which always impresses one in Roman Catholic churches abroad. The sudden transition from the white glare of the street into the semi-twilight of the spacious nave ; the soft bloom of the stained windows ; the carving and gilding of choir and reredos ; the draperies and frescoes; and the ghostly forms of incense slowly stretching upward, like some of Blake’s-weird shapes, to blend themselves with the shadows among the Gothic arches, — all these instantly conspire to lift one from the commonplace level of life. With such accessories, and in certain moods, the mind pliantly lends itself to the incredible.

During possibly thirty seconds Whitelaw might have been mistaken for the mate of one of those half-length figures in alto-relievo set against the neighboring pilasters, so grotesque and wooden was his expression. Then he gave a perceptible start. That gold hair, in waves of its own on the low brows, the sombre eyelashes, —he could not see her eyes from where he stood, — the poise of the head, the modeling of the throat, — whom could that be but Rose Jenness ? He had involuntarily eliminated the Mason element, for the sight of her had taken him straight back to the days when there were no Pacific Railroad despots.

Fifteen years (good heavens ! was it fifteen years ?) had not touched a curve of the tall, slight figure. He was struck by that, as she stood there, with her satin basque buttoned up to the lace neckerchief knotted under her chin, for an insidious chill lurked in the air. The garment fitted closely, accentuating every line of the slender waist and flower-like full bust. At the left of the corsage was a bunch of violets, held by a small silver clasp, — the self-same violets, he was tempted to believe, that she had worn the evening be parted with her tragically in the back drawing-room of the house on Beacon Hill. Neither she nor they had faded. All the details of that parting flashed upon him with strange vividness: the figure-piece by Hunt above the funereal fireplace ; the crimson India shawl hurriedly thrown over the back of a chair and trailing on the floor; Rose standing in the middle of the dimly-lighted room and holding out to him an appealing hand, which he refused to take. He remembered noticing, as he went home, dazed, through the moonlight, that the crisp crocuses were in bloom in the little front yards of the houses on Mount Vernon Street. It was May then, and it was May now, and there stood Rose. As he gazed at her a queer sense of old comradeship — the old friendship that had gone to sleep when love awakened — began softly to stir in his bosom.

Rose in Italy ! Then he recollected one of the past rumors that had floated to him touching her desire for foreign travel, and Mason’s sordid absorption in his railway schemes. Now that she was untrammeled, she had come abroad. She had probably left home with her son soon after Mason’s death, and had been flitting from one Continental city to another ever since, in the tiresome American fashion. That might well have befallen without Whitelaw hearing of it in Russia. The lists of new arrivals were the things he avoided in reading Galignani, just as he habitually avoided the newly arrived themselves.

There was no hesitation in his mind as to the course he should pursue. The moment he could move he would go to Rose, and greet her without embarrassment or any arrière pensée. It was impracticable to move at present, for the people were packed about him as solidly as dates in a crate. Meanwhile, he had the freedom of his eyes. He amused himself with recognizing and classifying one by one certain evidences of individuality in Rose’s taste in the matter of dress. The hat, so subdued in color and sparing of ornament as to make it a mystery where the rich effect came from,— there was a great deal of her in that. He would have identified it at once as Rose’s hat if he had picked it up in the Desert of Sahara. Noting this, and the long mouse-colored gloves which reached to the elbow, and would have reached to the shoulder if they had been drawn out smooth, Whitelaw murmured to himself, “ Rue de la Paix ! " He had a sensation of contiguity to a pair of high-heeled kid boots with rosettes at the instep, such as are worn in all weathers by aristocratic shepherdesses in Watteau’s pink landscapes. That, however, was an unprovoked incursion into the territory of conjecture, for Whitelaw could see only the upper portion of Rose.

He was glad, since accident had thrown them together, that accident had not done it in the first twelvemonth of Rose’s widowhood. Any mortuary display on her part would, he felt, have jarred the wrong note in him, and spoiled the pleasure of meeting her. But she was out of mourning now ; the man was dead, had been dead three years, and ought to have lived and died in the pterodactyl period, to which he properly belonged. Here Whitelaw paused in his musing, and smiled at his own heat, with a transient humorous perception of it. Let the man go; what was the use of thinking about him?

Dismissing the late Richard Mason, who really had not been a prehistoric monster, and had left Mrs. Mason a large fortune to do what she liked with, Whitelaw fell to thinking about Rose’s son. He must be quite thirteen years old, our friend reflected. What an absurdly young-looking woman Rose was to be the mother of a thirteen-year-old boy ! —doubtless a sad scapegrace, answering to the definition which Whitelaw remembered that one of his strongminded countrywomen had given of the typical bad boy, — a boy who looks like his mother and behaves like his father. Did Rose’s son look like his mother?

Just then Rose slightly turned her head, and Whitelaw fancied that he detected an inquiring, vaguely anxious expression in her features, as if she were searching for some one in the assemblage. “ She is looking for young Mason,” he soliloquized; which was precisely the fact. She glanced over the church, stared for an instant straight past Whitelaw, and then resumed her former position. He had prepared himself to meet her gaze ; but she had not seen him. And now a tall Englishman, with an eyeglass that gleamed like a head-light, came and planted himself, as if with malice prepense, between the two Americans.

“ The idiot! ” muttered Whitelaw, between his teeth.

Up to the present point he had paid no attention whatever to St. Januarius. The apparition of his early love, in what might be called the bloom of youth, was as much miracle as he could take in at once. Moreover, the whole of her was here, and only a fragment of the saint. Whitelaw was now made aware, by an expectant surging of the crowd in front and the craning of innumerable necks behind him, that something important was on the tapis.

A priest, in ordinary non-sacramental costume, had placed on the altar, from which all but the permanent decorations had been removed, a life-size bust of St. Januarius in gold and silver, inclosing the remains of the martyr’s skull. Having performed this act, the priest, who for the occasion represented the archbishop, took his stand at the left of the dais. Immediately afterwards a procession of holy fathers, headed by acolytes bearing lighted candelabra, issued from behind the high altar, where the saints’ relics are kept in a tabernacle on off days and nights. An imposing personage half-way down the file carried a tall brass monstrance, in which was suspended by a ring an oblong flat crystal flask, or case, set in an antique reliquary of silver, with handles at each end. This contained the phenomenal blood.

Having deposited the monstrance on the altar, the custodian reverently detached the relic, and faced the audience. As he held up the flask by the handles and slowly turned it round, those nearest could distinguish through the blurred surface a dark yellowish opaque substance, occupying about two thirds of the vessel. It was apparently a solid mass, which in a liquid form might have filled a couple of sherry glasses. The legend runs that the thoughtful Roman lady who gathered the blood from the ground with a sponge inadvertently let drop a bit of straw into the original phial. This identical straw, which appears when the lump is in a state of solution, is considered a strong piece of circumstantial evidence. It is a remarkable fact, and one that by itself establishes the authenticity of San Gennaro, that several of his female descendants always assist at the liquefaction, — a row of very aged and very untidy Neapolitan ladies, to whom places of honor are given on these occasions.

Shut out from Rose, — for the obnoxious Englishman completely blockaded her, — Whitelaw lent himself with faintly stimulated interest to the ceremony, which was now well under way. He was doubtful of many things, and especially skeptical as to matters supernatural. Accepting the miracle at its own valuation, — at par value, as he put it, — what conceivable profit could accrue to mankind from the smelting of that poor old gentleman’s coagulated blood? How had all this mediæval mummery survived the darkness in which it was born !

With half - listless eye, Whitelaw watched the priest as he stood at the rail, facing the spectators and solemnly reversing the reliquary. From time to time he paused, and held a lighted candle behind the flask in order to ascertain if any change had taken place, and then resumed operations amid the breathless silence. An atmosphere charged with suspense seemed to have settled upon the vast throng.

Six — eight—ten minutes passed. The priest had several times repeated his investigation ; but the burnt-siennalike mass held to its consistency. In life St. Januarius must have been a person of considerable firmness, a quality which his blood appeared still to retain, even after the lapse of more than fourteen centuries.

A thrill of disappointment and dismay ran through the multitude. The miracle was not working; in fact, had refused to work! The attendants behind the chancel rail wore perturbed faces. Two of the brothers turned to the altar and began saying the Athanasian Creed, while here and there a half-inarticulate prayer or a deep muttering of protest took flight from the congregation ; for the Neapolitans insist on a certain degree of punctuality in St. Januarius. Any unreasonable delay on his part is portentous of dire calamity to the city, — earthquake or pestilence. The least that can be predicted is an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Even so late as the eighteenth century a failure of the miracle usually led to panic and violence. To-day such a result is hardly possible, though in the rare instances when the martyr procrastinates a little the populace fall to upbraiding their patron saint with a vehemence that is quite as illogical in its way.

Whitelaw himself was nearly ripe to join in some such demonstration. Transfixed to the marble column,—like a second St. Sebastian, — and pierced with innumerable elbows, he had grown very impatient of the whole business. There was Rose within twenty feet of him, and he could neither approach her nor see her ! He heartily wished that when Proconsul Dracontius threw St. Januarius to the lions, in the amphitheatre of Pozzuoli, the lions had not left a shred of him, instead of tamely lapping his hand. Then Dracontius would not have been obliged to behead the man ; then that Roman lady would not have come along with her sponge; then he, Marcus Whitelaw, a free-born American citizen, would not have been kept standing there a lifetime, waiting for an opportunity to say a word to his old love !

He felt that he had much to say to Rose. The barrier which had separated him from her all these years had been swept away. The whole situation was changed. If she were willing to accept the friendship which she once stipulated as the only tie possible between them, he was ready to extend it to her now. If she had not altered, if she remained her old candid, cordial self, what a pleasure it would be to him to act as her cicerone in Naples ! —for Naples was probably terra incognita to Rose. There were delightful drives along the Riviere di Chiaia ; excursions to Pompeii, Baiæ, and Solfatara; trips by steamer to Capri, Sorrento, and Amalfi. He pictured the two of them drifting in a boat into the sapphirine enchantment of the Blue Grotto at Capri, — the three of them, rather ; for “ By Jove ! ” he reflected, “ we should have to take the boy with us.” This reflection somewhat dashed his spirits. The juvenile Mason would be a little bore; and if he didn’t look like his mother, and did look like his father, the youth would be a great bore. Now as Whitelaw had never seen the late Mr. Mason, or even a counterfeit presentment of him, any resemblance that might chance to exist between the father and the son was not likely to prove aggressive. This reflection also occurred to Whitelaw, and caused him to smile. He had a touch of that national gift of humorous self-introspection which enables Americans, almost alone among human bipeds, to smile at their own expense.

While these matters were passing through his mind, and he had given up all hope of extricating himself from his predicament until the end of the ceremony, a sudden eddy swirled round the column, the crowd wavered and broke, and Whitelaw was free. The disintegration of the living mass was only momentary, but before it could close together again he had contrived to get three yards away from the site of his martyrdom. Further advance then became difficult. By dint of pushing and diplomatic elbowing he presently gained another yard. The goal was almost won.

A moment later he stood at Rose’s side.


Rose had her head turned three quarters to the right, and was unaware that any one had supplanted the tall English gentleman recently looming on her left. Whitelaw drew a long breath, and did not speak at once, but stood biting his under lip with an air of comic irresolution. He was painfully conscious that it was comic. He had, in fact, fallen into an absurd perplexity. How should he address her? He did not quite dare to call her “ Rose,” and every fibre of his being revolted against calling her “ Mrs. Mason.” Yet he must address her in some fashion, and instantly. There was one alternative, — not to address her. He bent down a little, and touched her lightly on the shoulder.

The lady wheeled sharply, with a movement that must have been characteristic of her, and faced him. There was no hesitation or reservation in voice or manner as she exclaimed, “Marc!” and gave one of the mouse-colored gloves into his keeping for twenty seconds or so. She had spoken rather loud, forgetting circumstance and place in her surprise, and several of the masculine bystanders smiled sympathetically on la bella Americana. There was the old ring to her voice, and it vibrated musically on Whitelaw’s ear.

“ Rose,” he said, in an undertone, “ I can’t tell you how glad I am of this. I begin to believe that things are planned for me better than I can plan them.”

“ This was planned charmingly, — but it was odd to make us meet in Naples, when we have so much room at home to meet in.”

“ The odd feature of it to me is that it does n’t appear odd. I don’t see how anything else could have happened without breaking all the laws of probability.”

“It seems much too good to be true,” said Rose gayly.

She was unaffectedly happy over the encounter, and the manner of it. She had caused Whitelaw a deep mortification in days passed, and though it had been the consequence of no fault of her own — had, indeed, been entirely Whitelaw’s — she had always wanted the assurance of his forgiveness. That he had withheld through long years ; and now he forgave her. She read the pardon in his voice and eyes. Rose scanned him a little curiously, though with no overt act of curiosity. He had grown stouter, but the added fullness was not unbecoming : he used to be too spare for his stature. His sharp New England face belonged to a type that seldom loses its angles. The scar, in the shape of a cross, on his left cheek was decorative. The handsomely moulded upper lip was better without the mustache. There were silvery glints here and there where the chestnut hair was brushed back from the temples. These first few scattering snowflakes of time went well with his bronzed complexion ; for he was as brown as an Indian, from travel. On the whole, fifteen years had decidedly adorned him.

“ How long have you been here ? — in Naples, I mean,” questioned Whitelaw, again under his breath.

“ A week ; and you ? ”

“ Since yesterday. I came chiefly for this festa.”

“ I did n’t dream you were so devout.”

“ The conversion is recent; but henceforth I swear by St. Januarius through thick and thin, though as a general thing I prefer him thin, — when it does n’t take too long.”

“ If any one should hear you! ” whispered Rose, glancing round furtively.

“ Why, the Church itself does n’t cling very strongly to the miracle nowadays, and would gladly be rid of it; but the simple folk of the Santa Lucia quarter and the outlying volcanoes insist on having their St. Januarius. I imagine it would cost a revolution to banish him. Rose, when did you leave home? ”

“ Last March. Hush ! ” she added, laying a finger to her lip. “ Something is happening in the chancel.”

The martyr’s blood had finally given signs of taking the proper sanguine hue, to the intense relief of the populace, from which arose a dull multitudinous murmur, like that of a distant swarm of bees. The priest, with a gleam of beatific triumph in his cavernous eyes, was holding the reliquary high aloft. The vast congregation swayed to and fro, and some tumult was created by devotees in the background endeavoring to obtain coignes of vantage nearer the altar.

“ Surely, you have not trusted yourself alone in this place,” said Whitelaw.

“ No, I’m with you,” Rose answered, smiling.

“ But you did n’t come unattended ? ”

“ Richard came with me : we got separated immediately on entering the cathedral, and lost each other.”

“ Richard, — that ’s the name of your son,” remarked Whitelaw, after a pause. The father’s name !

“ Yes, and I want you to see him. He’s a fine fellow.”

“ I should like to see him,” said Whitelaw, perfunctorily.

“He is very clever, — not like me.”

“ I hope he’s as unaware of his cleverness as you are of yours, Rose.”

“ I 'm quite aware of mine. I only said that his was different. That spoils your compliment. He’s to remain over here at school, — in Germany, — if I can make up my mind in the autumn to leave him. When do you return to America, Marc ? ”

“ In the autumn,” said Whitelaw, promptly, a little to his own surprise, for until then he really had had no plan.

“ Perhaps we can arrange to go back on the same steamer,” suggested Rose. “ We crossed in the Cuba, and liked her. She’s advertised to sail on the 17th of September: how would that suit you, for example ? ”

The suggestion smiled upon Whitelaw, and he was about to reply, when a peal from the great organ, announcing the consummation of the miracle, reverberated through the church and cut him short. As the thunders died away, the voices of chanting priests ascended from the chancel, where some choir-boys were strewing rose leaves over the marble steps leading to the altar. At the same moment the boom of a heavy gun, fired from the ramparts of the Castel dell’ Ovo, shook the windows. The city ordnance was saluting St. Januarius, — a custom that has since fallen into desuetude.

“ Look ! ” exclaimed Rose, laying her hand impulsively on Whitelaw’s arm. “ See the birds ! That’s an exquisite fancy ! ”

A flock of sparrows had been let loose, and were beating the misty air with uncertain wings, darting hither and thither through the nave and under the arches, in search of resting-places on frieze and cornice and jutting stonework. Meanwhile the priest had stepped down from the dais, and was passing among the people, who crowded round him to press their lips and foreheads to the flask inclosed in the reliquary. The less devotional, and those who had already performed the rite, were slowly wending their way to the various outlets on the strada.

“ I am glad it’s over,” declared Whitelaw.

“ To think,” observed Rose, reflectively, “ that he has got to go all through it again to-morrow ! ”

“ Who?”

“ That poor dear saint.”

“Oh,” laughed Whitelaw, “ I thought you meant me. He does n’t mind it; it’s his profession. There are objects more deserving of your pity : I, for instance, who have no sort of talent for martyrdom. You should have seen me, — pinned to that column, like an entomological specimen, for forty mortal minutes ! I would n’t go through it again for a great deal.”

“ Not for the sake of meeting an old friend ? ”

“ It was the old friend that made it particularly intolerable. To be so near her, and not able to speak to her; and part of the time not to have even the consolation of seeing the sweep of the ring-dove’s wing on the left side of her new Paris hat!”

Rose looked up into his face, and smiled in a half-absent way. She was far from averse to having a detail of her toilet noticed by those she liked. In former days Whitelaw had had a quick eye in such trifles, and his remark seemed to her a veritable little piece of the pleasant past, with an odd, suggestive flavor about it. She had slipped her hand through his arm, and the pair were moving leisurely with the stream towards one of the leather-screened doors opening upon the vestibule. The manner in which Rose lent herself to his step, and a certain subtile something he recognized in the light pressure of her weight, carried him, in his turn, very far back into the olden time. The fifteen years, like the two and thirty years in Tennyson’s lyric, were as a mist that rolls away. It appeared to Whitelaw as if they had never been separated, or had parted only yesterday. How naturally and sweetly she had picked up the dropped thread of the old friendship ! The novelty of her presence had evaporated at the first words she had spoken ; only the pleasure of it remained. To him there was nothing strange or unexpected in their wholly unexpected and entirely strange meeting. As he had told her, he did not see how anything else could have happened. Already he had acquired the habit of being with her!

“ Good heavens ! ” he said to himself, “it can’t be that I am falling in love with Rose over again ! ”

The idea brought a flickering smile to Whitelaw’s lips, — the idea of falling in love at first sight, after a decade and a half !

“ What are you smiling at ? ” she demanded, looking up alertly.

“ I did n’t know I was smiling.”

“ But you were ; and an unexplained smile, when two persons are alone together, with two thousand others, is as inadmissible as whispering in company.”

Whitelaw glanced at her with an amused, partly embarrassed expression, and made no response. They were passing at the instant through a narrow strip of daylight slanted from one of the great blazoned windows, and he was enabled to see Rose’s face with more distinctness than he hitherto had done. If it had lost something of its springtide bloom and outline,—and he saw that that was so, — it had gained a beauty of a rarer and richer sort. There was a deeper lustre to the dark-fringed eyes, as if they had learned to think, and a greater tenderness in the curves of the mouth, as if it had learned to be less imperious. How handsome she was, — handsomer than she had been at nineteen ! In his rapid survey Whitelaw’s eye had lighted on the small clasp holding the violets to her corsage, — and rested there. The faint flush that came to his cheek gradually deepened.

“ Is that the clasp I gave you when you were a girl ? ” he finally asked.

“ You recognize it ? — yes.”

“ And you’ve kept the trifle all these centuries ! ”

“ That’s not polite, — when I was a girl ! I kept it because it was a birthday gift, because it was a trifle; then from habit, and now the centuries have turned it into a bit of priceless bric-àbrac.”

Somehow Rose’s explanation did not seem to him quite so exquisite as the fact itself.

Whitelaw was now conscious of a very perceptible acceleration in the flow of the current that was bearing them towards the cathedral entrance. It was not his purpose that they should reach it just yet. Their brief dialogue, carried on in undertone, and the early part of it with ecclesiastical interruptions, had been desultory and unsatisfying. He should of course see much of Rose during her stay in Naples, for he had no intention of leaving it while she remained ; but the opportunity of having her to himself might not re-occur, and he had certain things to say to her which could not be said under any other condition. So many opportunities of various kinds had escaped him in the course of life that he resolved not to let this one slip. On the right of the eastern transept, he remembered, was a heavenly little chapel, — the chapel of the Seripandis, — where they might converse without restraint, if once they could get there.

Watching his chance, Whitelaw began a skillful oblique movement, and in a few minutes the two found themselves free of the crowd and in front of a gilded iron fencing, the gate of which stood open.

“ But this is n’t the way out! ” exclaimed Rose.

“ I’m aware of it,” said Whitelaw. “You 've never visited the church before, have you ? ”


“ Then you ought to see some of the chapels. They contain things by Spagnoletto, Domenichino, and others. In this one, for instance, is an Assumption by Perugino. It would be a pity to miss that, now you are on the spot.”

“ I 'm afraid I have n’t time for sightseeing, Marc,” she answered, drawing out a diminutive watch and pressing a spring in the stem. “ I’ve an engagement at ten ” —

“ Well, that leaves you more than half an hour,” he interrupted, glancing over Rose’s shoulder at the timepiece.

“ But meanwhile, Richard will be searching for me everywhere.”

“ Then he can’t fail to find you here,” said Whitelaw adroitly, “He has probably given you up, however, and gone back to the hotel.”

“ Perhaps he has,” assented Rose, irresolutely.

“ In which case, I’ll take you home, or wherever you wish to be taken, when it’s necessary for you to go.”

“ Oh, I ’ll not trouble you. The carriage was ordered to wait at the corner just below the church, — the driver was n’t able to get nearer. That was to be our point of rendezvous. I don’t know—perhaps I ought to go now.”

Rose stood a second or two in an attitude of pretty hesitation, with her hand resting on one of the spear-heads of the gate; then she stepped into the chapel.


“ It is n’t Perugino at his best,” said Whitelaw, after a silence ; “it has been restored in places, and not well done. I like some of his smaller canvases ; but I don’t greatly care for Perugino.”

“ Then why on earth have you dragged me in here to see it ? ” cried Rose.

“ Because I care for you,” he answered, smiling at the justice of her sudden wrath. As he turned away from the painting his countenance became grave.

“You’ve an original way of showing it. If I cared for any one, I wouldn’t pick out objects of no interest for her to look at.”

“Frankly, Rose, I wasn’t willing to let you go so soon. I wanted a quiet half hour’s talk with you. I had two or three serious things to say, — things that have long been on my mind,— and a chapel seemed the only fitting place to say them in.”

This rather solemn exordium caused Rose to lift her eyelashes curiously.

“ I want to speak of the past,” said Whitelaw.

“ No, don’t let us speak of that,” she protested hurriedly.

“ After all this time, Rose, I think I have a kind of right ” —

“ No, Mare, you have no right whatever ” —

— “ to ask your forgiveness.”

“ My forgiveness — for what ? ”

“ For my long silence, and sullenness, and brutality generally. It wasn’t a crime in you not to love me in the old days, and I acted as if I regarded it as one. I was without any justification in going away from you in the mood I did that night.”

“ I was very, very sorry,” said Rose gently.

“ I should at once have accepted the situation, and remained your friend. That was a man’s part, and I failed to play it. After a while, when I had recovered my reason, it was too late. It appears to be one of the conditions, if not the sole condition, of my existence that I should be too late. The occasion always slips away from me. When your — when I heard of Mr. Mason’s death, if I had been another man, I 'd have written to you, — sent you some sort of kindly message, for the old time’s sake. The impulse to do so came to me three months afterwards. I sat down one day and began to write ; then the futility and untimeliness of the whole thing struck me, and I tore up the letter.”

“ I wish you had not,” said Rose. “ A word from you then, or before Mr. Mason’s death, would have been welcome to me. I was never willing to lose your friendship. After your first return from Europe, and you were seeing something of your own country, as every American ought to do, I hoped that you would visit San Francisco. I greatly desired that you should come and tell me, of your free will, that I was not to blame. If I had been, perhaps I would n’t have cared.”

“ You were blameless from beginning to end. I don’t believe you ever said or did an insincere thing in your life, Rose. I simply misunderstood. The whole story lies in that. You were magnanimous to waste any thought whatever upon me. When I reflect on my own ungenerous attitude I am ashamed to beg your pardon.”

“ I’ve not anything to forgive,” Rose replied; and then she added, looking at him with a half-rueful smile, " I suppose it was unavoidable, under the circumstances, that we should touch on this matter. Perhaps it was the only way to exorcise the ghost of the past. At all events. I am glad that you’ve said what, you have ; and now let it go. Tell me about yourself, Marc.”

“ I wish I could. There’s no more biography to me than if I were Shakespeare.”

“ What have you done all this while ? ”

“ Nothing.”

“ Where have you been ? ”

“ Everywhere.”

“ No pursuit, no study, no profession ? ”

“ Oh, yes ; I’m a professional nomad, — an alien wherever I go. I’m an Englishman in America, and an American in England. They don’t let up on me in either country.”

“ Is n’t there a kind of vanity in selfdisparagement, Marc ? Seriously, if you are not doing your own case injustice, has n’t this been a rather empty career ? A colonel at twenty-four, and nothing ever after ! ”

“Precisely, — just as if I had been killed at Antietam.” He wanted to say, “ on Beacon Hill.”

“ With your equipment, every path was open to you. Most men have to earn their daily bread with one hand, while they are working for higher things with the other. You had only the honors to struggle for. To give up one’s native land, and spend years in aimless wandering from place to place, — it seems positively wicked.”

“ I ’ve had some conscience in the matter,”pleaded Whitelaw: “I might have written books of travel, and made a stock-company of my ennui.”

“ You ought to have married, Marc,” said Rose sententiously.

“ I ? ” Whitelaw stared at her. How could Rose say a thing like that!

“ Every man ought to marry,” she supplemented.

“ I admit the general proposition,” he returned, slowly, “but I object to the personal application. To the mass of mankind, — meaning also womankind, — marriage may be the only possible thing; but to the individual, it may be the one thing impossible. I would put the formula this way : Every one ought to wish to marry; some ought to be allowed to marry ; and others ought to marry twice, — to make the average good.”

“ That sounds Shakespearean. — like your biography; but I don’t think I’ve quite caught the idea.”

“ I’m positive that I haven’t,” said Whitelaw, with a short laugh. “ It was my purpose to pay a handsome tribute to matrimony, and to beg to be excused.”

Rose remained silent a moment, with one finger pressed against her cheek, making a little round white dent in it, and her eyes fixed upon the kneelingfigure of Cardinal Carafa at the left of Perugino’s picture. Then she turned, and fixed her eyes upon Whitelaw’s figure.

“ Have you never,” she asked, — “ have you never, in all your journeyings, met a woman whom you liked ?”

“ I cannot answer you,” he responded gravely, “ without treading on forbidden ground. May I do that ? When I first came abroad, I fancy I rather hated women, — that was one of the mild manifestations of my general insanity. Later, my hatred changed to morbid fastidiousness. My early education had spoiled me. I have, of course, met many admirable women, and admired them — at a safe distance.”

“ And thrown away your opportunities.”

“ But if I loved no one ? ”

“ Admiration would have served.”

“ I don’t agree with you, Rose.”

“A man may do worse than make what the world calls a not wholly happy marriage.”

Whitelaw glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Was that an allusion to the late Richard Mason ? The directness was characteristic of Rose ; but the remark was a trifle too direct for convenance. If there were any esoteric intent in the words, her face did not betray it. But women can look less conscious than men.

“ It seems to me,” she went on, “ that even an unromantic, commonplace union would have been better than the lonely, irresponsible life you have led, accepting your own statement of it,— which I don’t, wholly. A man should have duties outside of himself ; without them he is a mere balloon, inflated with thin egotism, and drifting nowhere.”

“ I don’t accept the balloon,” protested Whitelaw, not taking kindly to Rose’s metaphor. “ That presupposes a certain internal specific buoyancy which I have n’t, if I ever had it. My type in the inanimate kingdom would be a diving-machine continually going down into wrecks in which there, is n’t anything to bring up. I would have it ultimately find the one precious ingot in the world.”

“ Oh, Marc,” cried Rose, earnestly, with just a diverting little touch of maternal solicitude in the gesture she made, — “oh, Marc, I hope some day to see you happily married.”

“ You don’t think it too late, then? ” “ Too late ? Why, you are only fortythree ; and what if you were seventythree ? On a l’âge de son cœur.”

“ Mine throws no light on the subject,” said Whitelaw, with a thrill which he instantly repressed. “ I suspect that my heart must be largely feminine, for it refuses to tell me its real age. At any rate, I don’t trust it. Just now it is trying to pass itself off for twentyfive or thirty.”

From time to time, in the course of this conversation, a shadow, not attributable to any of the overhanging sculpture of the little Gothic chapel, had rested on Whitelaw’s countenance. He had been assailed by strange surprises and conflicting doubts. Five or ten minutes before, the idea of again falling in love with Rose had made him smile. But was he not doing it, had he not done it, or, rather, had he not always loved her, more or less unconsciously ? And Rose? Her very candor perplexed and baffled him, as of old. She had always been a stout little Puritan, with her sense of duty ; but that did not adequately explain the warmth with which she had reproved him for his aimless way of life. Why should his way of life so deeply concern her, unless . . . unless ... In certain things she had said there had been a significance that seemed perfectly clear to him, though it had not lain upon the surface of the spoken words. Why had she questioned him so inquisitorially ? Why had she desired to know if he had formed any new lines of attachment? That indirect reference to her own unfortunate marriage ? And then — though she explained it lightly — had she not worn his boyish gift on her bosom through all those years ? The suggestion that they should return home on the same steamer contained in itself a whole little drama. What if destiny had brought him and Rose together at last! He did not dare think of it; he did not dare acknowledge to himself that he wished it.

Whitelaw was now standing in the centre of the contracted apartment, a few feet from his companion, and regarding her meditatively. The cloud was gone from his brow, and a soft light had come into the clear gray eyes. Her phrase curled itself cunningly about his heart, — on a l’âge de son cœur! He was afraid to speak again, lest an uncontrollable impulse should hurry him into speaking of his love ; and that, he felt, would indeed be precipitate. But the silence which had followed his last remark was growing awkwardly long. He must break it with some platitude, if he could summon one.

“ Now that my anatomization is ended,” he said, tentatively, “isn’t it your turn, Rose ? I have made a poor showing, as I warned you I should.”

“ My life has been fuller than yours,” she returned, bending her eyes upon him seriously, “ and richer. I have had such duties and pleasures as fall to most women, and such sorrow as falls to many. ... I have lost a child.”

The pathos of the simple words smote Whitelaw to the heart. “I — I had not heard,” he faltered ; and a feeling of infinite tenderness for her came over him. If he had dared, he would have gone to Rose and put his arm around her; but he did not dare. He stood riveted to the marble floor, gazing at her mutely.

“ I did not mean to refer to that,” she said, looking up, with a lingering dimness in the purple lashes. “ No, don’t let us talk any more of the past. Speak to me of something else, please.”

“ The future,” said Whitelaw: “that can give us no pain—until it comes, and is gone. What are your plans for the summer ? ”

“ We shall travel. I want Richard to see as much as he can before he’s tied down to his studies, poor fellow ! ”

“ Where do you intend to leave him at school?” inquired Whitelaw, with a quite recent interest in Richard.

“At Heidelberg or Leipsic: it is not decided.”

“And meanwhile what’s to be your route of travel? ”

“ We shall go to Sweden and Norway, and perhaps to Russia. I don’t know why, but it has been one of the dreams of my life to see the great fair at Nijni-Novgorod.”

“It is worth seeing,” said Whitelaw.

“ It will be at its height in August, — a convenient time for us. We could scarcely expect to reach St. Petersburg before August.”

“ I have just returned from Russia,” he said, “ after three years of it.”

“ Then you can give me some suggestions.”

“Traveling there has numerous drawbacks, unless one knows the language. French, which serves everywhere in western Europe, is nearly useless in the majority of places. All educated Russians, of course, speak French or German ; but railway-guards and drosky-drivers, and the persons with whom the mere tourist is brought most in contact, know only Russian.”

“ But we’ve an excellent courier,” rejoined Rose, “who speaks all the tongues of Babel. His English is something superb.”

“ When do you start northward ? ” asked Whitelaw, turning on her quickly, with a sudden subtile prescience of defeated plans.

“ To-morrow.”

“ To-morrow! ” he echoed, in consternation. “ Then I am to see nothing of you ! ”

“ If you’ve no engagement for tonight, come to the hotel. I should be very glad to ” —

“ Where are you staying? ”

“ At the United States, on the Chiatamone, like true patriots.”

“ I 've no engagement,” said Whitelaw, bewilderedly.

Rose to leave Naples to-morrow ! That killed all his projects, — the excursions in the environs, and all! She was slipping through his fingers . . . he was losing her forever ! There was no time for temporizing or hesitation. He must never speak, or speak now. Perhaps it would not seem abrupt or even strange to her. If so, Rose should remember that his position as a lover was exceptional, — he had done his wooing fifteen years before ! He confessed to himself — and he had often confessed it to that same severe critic of manners — that possibly his wooing had been somewhat lacking in dash and persistence then. But to-day he would win her, as he might perhaps have won her years ago, if he had not been infirm of purpose, or pigeon-livered, or too proud, — which was it? He had let a single word repulse him, when the chances were he might have carried her by storm, or taken her by siege. How young he must have seemed, even in her young eyes! Now he had experience and knowledge of the world, and would not be denied. The doubts and misgivings that had clouded his mind for the last quarter of an hour were blown away like meadow-mists at sunrise. At last he saw clearly. He loved Rose; he had never really loved her until this moment! For other men there were other methods ; there was but one course for him. No ; he would not go to the hotel that night—as a suitor. His fate should be sealed then and there, in the chapel of the Seripandis.

Whitelaw straightened himself, wavering for an instant, like a jib-sheet when it loses the wind ; then he crossed the narrow strip of tessellated pavement that lay between him and Rose, and stood directly in front of her.

“ Rose,” he said, and there was a strange pallor creeping into his cheeks, “ there have been two miracles wrought in this church to-day. It is not only St. Januarius who has, in a manner, come to life again. I, too, have come to life. I’ve returned once more to the world of living men and women. Do not send me back ! Let me take you and your boy to Russia, Rose ! ”

Rose gave a start, and cast a swift, horrified look at Whitelaw’s face.

“ Marc ! ” she cried, convulsively grasping the wrist of the hand which he had held out to her, “ is it possible you have n’t heard — has no one told you — don’t you know that I have married again ” —

She stopped abruptly, and released his wrist.

A man in a frayed, well-brushed coat, with a courier’s satchel depending from a strap over his shoulder, was standing outside the iron grille which separated the chapel from the main church.

“ Madama,” said the courier, as he respectfully approached through the gate, “ it is ten o’clock. The Signor Schuyler and Master Richard are waiting with the carriage at the corner of the Strada dell’ Anticgolia. They bade me inform Madama.”

Thomas Bailey Aldrich.