An hour after the Princess had left the house with Paul Muniment, Madame Grandoni came down to supper, a meal of which she partook, in gloomy solitude, in the little back parlour. She had pushed away her plate, and sat motionless, staring at the crumpled cloth, with her hands folded on the edge of the table, when she became aware that a gentleman had been ushered into the drawing-room and was standing before the fire in an attitude of discreet expectancy. At the same moment the maid-servant approached the old lady, remarking with bated breath, “The Prince, the Prince, mum! It’s you he ’ave asked for, mum!” Upon this, Madame Grandoni called out to the visitor from her place, addressed him as her poor illustrious friend and bade him come and give her his arm. He obeyed with solemn alacrity, and conducted her into the front room, near the fire. He helped her to arrange herself in her arm-chair and to gather her shawl about her; then he seated himself near her and remained with his dismal eyes bent upon her. After a moment she said, “Tell me something about Rome. The grass in the Villa Borghese must already be thick with flowers.”
“I would have brought you some, if I had thought,” he answered. Then he turned his gaze about the room. “Yes, you may well ask, in such a black little hole as this. My wife should not live here,” he added.
“Ah, my dear friend, for all that she’s your wife!” the old woman exclaimed.
The Prince sprang up in sudden, passionate agitation, and then she saw that the rigid quietness with which he had come into the room and greeted her was only an effort of his good manners. He was really trembling with excitement. “It is true – it is true! She has lovers – she has lovers!” he broke out. “I have seen it with my eyes, and I have come here to know!”
“I don’t know what you have seen, but your coming here to know will not have helped you much. Besides, if you have seen, you know for yourself. At any rate, I have ceased to be able to tell you.”
“You are afraid – you are afraid!” cried the visitor, with a wild accusatory gesture.
Madame Grandoni looked up at him with slow speculation. “Sit down and be tranquil, very tranquil. I have ceased to pay attention – I take no heed.”
“Well, I do, then,” said the Prince, subsiding a little. “Don’t you know she has gone out to a house, in a horrible quarter, with a man?”
“I think it highly probable, dear Prince.”
“And who is he? That’s what I want to discover.”
“How can I tell you? I haven’t seen him.”
He looked at her a moment, with his distended eyes. “Dear lady, is that kind to me, when I have counted on you?”
“Oh, I am not kind any more; it’s not a question of that. I am angry – as angry, almost, as you.”
“Then why don’t you watch her, eh?”
“It’s not with her I am angry. It’s with myself,” said Madame Grandoni, meditatively.
“For becoming so indifferent, do you mean?”
“On the contrary, for staying in the house.”
“Thank God, you are still here, or I couldn’t have come. But what a lodging for the Princess!” the visitor exclaimed. “She might at least live in a manner befitting.”
“Eh, the last time you were in London you thought it was too costly!” she cried.
He hesitated a moment. “Whatever she does is wrong. Is it because it’s so bad that you must go?” he went on.
“It is foolish – foolish – foolish,” said Madame Grandoni, slowly, impressively.
“Foolish, chè, chè! He was in the house nearly an hour, this one.”
“In the house? In what house?”
“Here, where you sit. I saw him go in, and when he came out it was after a long time, with her.”
“And where were you, meanwhile?”
Again Prince Casamassima hesitated. “I was on the other side of the street. When they came out I followed them. It was more than an hour ago.”
“Was it for that you came to London?”
“Ah, what I came for! To put myself in hell!”
“You had better go back to Rome,” said Madame Grandoni.
“Of course I will go back, but if you will tell me who this one is! How can you be ignorant, dear friend, when he comes freely in and out of the house where I have to watch, at the door, for a moment that I can snatch? He was not the same as the other.”
“As the other?”
“Doubtless there are fifty! I mean the little one whom I met in the other house, that Sunday afternoon.”
“I sit in my room almost always now,” said the old woman. “I only come down to eat.”
“Dear lady, it would be better if you would sit here,” the Prince remarked.
“Better for whom?”
“I mean that if you did not withdraw yourself you could at least answer my questions.”
“Ah, but I have not the slightest desire to answer them,” Madame Grandoni replied. “You must remember that I am not here as your spy.”
“No,” said the Prince, in a tone of extreme and simple melancholy. “If you had given me more information I should not have been obliged to come here myself. I arrived in London only this morning, and this evening I spent two hours walking up and down opposite the house, like a groom waiting for his master to come back from a ride. I wanted a personal impression. It was so that I saw him come in. He is not a gentleman – not even like some of the strange ones here.”
“I think he is Scotch,” remarked Madame Grandoni.
“Ah, then, you have seen him?”
“No, but I have heard him. He speaks very loud – the floors of this house are not built as we build in Italy – and his voice is the same that I have heard in the people of that country. Besides, she has told me – some things. He is a chemist’s assistant.”
“A chemist’s assistant? Santo Dio! And the other one, a year ago – more than a year ago – was a bookbinder.”
“Oh, the bookbinder!” murmured Madame Grandoni.
“And does she associate with no people of good? Has she no other society?”
“For me to tell you more, Prince, you must wait till I am free,” said the old lady.
“How do you mean, free?”
“I must choose. I must either go away – and then I can tell you what I have seen – or if I stay here I must hold my tongue.”
“But if you go away you will have seen nothing,” the Prince objected.
“Ah, plenty as it is – more than I ever expected to!”
The Prince clasped his hands together in tremulous suppliance; but at the same time he smiled, as if to conciliate, to corrupt. “Dearest friend, you torment my curiosity. If you will tell me this, I will never ask you anything more. Where did they go? For the love of God, what is that house?”
“I know nothing of their houses,” she returned, with an impatient shrug.
“Then there are others – there are many?” She made no answer, but sat brooding, with her chin in her protrusive kerchief. Her visitor presently continued, in a soft, earnest tone, with his beautiful Italian distinctness, as if his lips cut and carved the sound, while his fine fingers quivered into quick, emphasising gestures, “The street is small and black, but it is like all the streets. It has no importance; it is at the end of an endless imbroglio. They drove for twenty minutes; then they stopped their cab and got out. They went together on foot some minutes more. There were many turns; they seemed to know them well. For me it was very difficult – of course I also got out; I had to stay so far behind – close against the houses. Chiffinch Street, N.E. – that was the name,” the Prince continued, pronouncing the word with difficulty; “and the house is number 32 – I looked at that after they went in. It’s a very bad house – worse than this; but it has no sign of a chemist, and there are no shops in the street. They rang the bell – only once, though they waited a long time; it seemed to me, at least, that they did not touch it again. It was several minutes before the door was opened; and that was a bad time for me, because as they stood there they looked up and down. Fortunately you know the air of this place! I saw no light in the house – not even after they went in. Who let them enter I couldn’t tell. I waited nearly half an hour, to see how long they would stay and what they would do on coming out; then, at last, my impatience brought me here, for to know she was absent made me hope I might see you. While I was there two persons went in – two men, together, smoking, who looked like artisti (I didn’t see them near), but no one came out. I could see they took their cigars – and you can fancy what tobacco! – into the presence of the Princess. Formerly,” pursued Madame Grandoni’s visitor, with a touching attempt at a jocular treatment of this point, “she never tolerated smoking – never mine, at least. The street is very quiet – very few people pass. Now what is the house? Is it where that man lives?” he asked, almost in a whisper.
He had been encouraged by her consenting, in spite of her first protests, to listen to him – he could see she was listening; and he was still more encouraged when, after a moment, she answered his question by a question of her own: “Did you cross the river to go there? I know that he lives over the water.”
“Ah, no, it was not in that part. I tried to ask the cabman who brought me back to explain to me what it is called; but I couldn’t make him understand. They have heavy minds,” the Prince declared. Then he pursued, drawing a little closer to his hostess: “But what were they doing there? Why did she go with him?”
“They are plotting. There!” said Madame Grandoni.
“You mean a secret society, a band of revolutionists and murderers? Capisco bene – that is not new to me. But perhaps they only pretend it’s for that,” added the Prince.
“Only pretend? Why should they pretend? That is not Christina’s way.”
“There are other possibilities,” the Prince observed.
“Oh, of course, when your wife goes away with strange men, in the dark, to far-away houses, you can think anything you like, and I have nothing to say to your thoughts. I have my own, but they are my own affair, and I shall not undertake to defend Christina, for she is indefensible. When she does the things she does, she provokes, she invites, the worst construction; there let it rest, save for this one remark, which I will content myself with making: if she were a licentious woman she would not behave as she does now, she would not expose herself to irresistible interpretations; the appearance of everything would be good and proper. I simply tell you what I believe. If I believed that what she is doing concerned you alone, I should say nothing about it – at least sitting here. But it concerns others, it concerns every one, so I will open my mouth at last. She has gone to that house to break up society.”
“To break it up, yes, as she has wanted before?”
“Oh, more than before! She is very much entangled. She has relations with people who are watched by the police. She has not told me, but I have perceived it by simply living with her.”
Prince Casamassima stared. “And is she watched by the police?”
“I can’t tell you; it is very possible – except that the police here is not like that of other countries.”
“It is more stupid,” said the Prince. He gazed at Madame Grandoni with a flush of shame on his face. “Will she bring us to that scandal? It would be the worst of all.”
“There is one chance – the chance that she will get tired of it,” the old lady remarked. “Only the scandal may come before that.”
“Dear friend, she is the devil,” said the Prince, solemnly.
“No, she is not the devil, because she wishes to do good.”
“What good did she ever wish to do to me?” the Italian demanded, with glowing eyes.
Madame Grandoni shook her head very sadly. “You can do no good, of any kind, to each other. Each on your own side, you must be quiet.”
“How can I be quiet when I hear of such infamies?” Prince Casamassima got up, in his violence, and, in a tone which caused his companion to burst into a short, incongruous laugh as soon as she heard the words, exclaimed, “She shall not break up society!”
“No, she will bore herself before the trick is played. Make up your mind to that.”
“That is what I expected to find – that the caprice was over. She has passed through so many follies.”
“Give her time – give her time,” replied Madame Grandoni.
“Time to drag my name into an assize-court? Those people are robbers, incendiaries, murderers!”
“You can say nothing to me about them that I haven’t said to her.”
“And how does she defend herself?”
“Defend herself? Did you ever hear Christina do that?” Madame Grandoni asked. “The only thing she says to me is, ‘Don’t be afraid; I promise you by all that’s sacred that you shan’t suffer.’ She speaks as if she had it all in her hands. That is very well. No doubt I’m a selfish old woman, but, after all, one has a heart for others.”
“And so have I, I think I may pretend,” said the Prince. “You tell me to give her time, and it is certain that she will take it, whether I give it or not. But I can at least stop giving her money. By heaven, it’s my duty, as an honest man.”
“She tells me that as it is you don’t give her much.”
“Much, dear lady? It depends on what you call so. It’s enough to make all these scoundrels flock around her.”
“They are not all scoundrels, any more than she is. That is the strange part of it,” said the old woman, with a weary sigh.
“But this fellow, the chemist – to-night – what do you call him?”
“She has spoken to me of him as a most estimable young man.”
“But she thinks it’s estimable to blow us all up,” the Prince returned. “Doesn’t he take her money?”
“I don’t know what he takes. But there are some things – heaven forbid one should forget them! The misery of London is something fearful.”
“Che vuole? There is misery everywhere,” returned the Prince. “It is the will of God. Ci vuol’ pazienza! And in this country does no one give alms?”
“Every one, I believe. But it appears that it is not enough.”
The Prince said nothing for a moment; this statement of Madame Grandoni’s seemed to present difficulties. The solution, however, soon suggested itself; it was expressed in the inquiry, “What will you have in a country which has not the true faith?”
“Ah, the true faith is a great thing; but there is suffering even in countries that have it.”
“Evidentemente. But it helps suffering to be borne, and, later, it makes it up; whereas here —!” said the old lady’s visitor, with a melancholy smile. “If I may speak of myself, it is to me, in my circumstances, a support.”
“That is good,” said Madame Grandoni.
He stood before her, resting his eyes for a moment on the floor. “And the famous Cholto – Godfrey Gerald – does he come no more?”
“I haven’t seen him for months, and know nothing about him.”
“He doesn’t like the chemists and the bookbinders, eh?” asked the Prince.
“Ah, it was he who first brought them – to gratify your wife.”
“If they have turned him out, then, that is very well. Now, if only some one could turn them out!”
“Aspetta, aspetta!” said the old woman.
“That is very good advice, but to follow it isn’t amusing.” Then the Prince added, “You alluded, just now, as to something particular, to quel giovane, the young artisan whom I met in the other house. Is he also estimable, or has he paid the penalty of his crimes?”
“He has paid the penalty, but I don’t know of what. I have nothing bad to tell you of him, except that I think his star is on the wane.”
“Poverino!” the Prince exclaimed.
“That is exactly the manner in which I addressed him the first time I saw him. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I felt that it would happen somehow. It has happened through his changing his opinions. He has now the same idea as you – that ci vuol’ pazienza.”
The Prince listened with the same expression of wounded eagerness, the same parted lips and excited eyes, to every added fact that dropped from Madame Grandoni’s lips. “That, at least, is more honest. Then he doesn’t go to Chiffinch Street?”
“I don’t know about Chiffinch Street; but it would be my impression that he doesn’t go anywhere that Christina and the other one – the Scotchman – go together. But these are delicate matters,” the old woman pursued.
They seemed much to interest her interlocutor. “Do you mean that the Scotchman is – what shall I call it? – his successor?”
For a moment Madame Grandoni made no reply. “I think that this case is different. But I don’t understand; it was the other, the little one, that helped her to know the Scotchman.”
“And now they have quarrelled – about my wife? It is all tremendously edifying!” the Prince exclaimed.
“I can’t tell you, and shouldn’t have attempted it, only that Assunta talks to me.”
“I wish she would talk to me,” said the Prince, wistfully.
“Ah, my friend, if Christina were to find you getting at her servants!”
“How could it be worse for me than it is now? However, I don’t know why I speak as if I cared, for I don’t care any more. I have given her up. It is finished.”
“I am glad to hear it,” said Madame Grandoni, gravely.
“You yourself made the distinction, perfectly. So long as she endeavoured only to injure me, and in my private capacity, I could condone, I could wait, I could hope. But since she has so recklessly thrown herself into the most criminal undertakings, since she lifts her hand with a determined purpose, as you tell me, against the most sacred institutions – it is too much; ah, yes, it is too much! She may go her way; she is no wife of mine. Not another penny of mine shall go into her pocket, and into that of the wretches who prey upon her, who have corrupted her.”
“Dear Prince, I think you are right. And yet I am sorry!” sighed the old woman, extending her hand for assistance to rise from her chair. “If she becomes really poor, it will be much more difficult for me to leave her. This is not poverty, and not even a good imitation of it, as she would like it to be. But what will be said of me if having remained with her through so much of her splendour, I turn away from her the moment she begins to want?”
“Dear lady, do you ask that to make me relent?” the Prince inquired, after an hesitation.
“Not in the least; for whatever is said and whatever you do, there is nothing for me in decency, at present, but to pack my trunk. Judge, by the way I have tattled.”
“If you will stay on, she shall have everything.” The Prince spoke in a very low tone, with a manner that betrayed the shame he felt at his attempt at bribery.
Madame Grandoni gave him an astonished glance and moved away from him. “What does that mean? I thought you didn’t care.”
I know not what explanation of his inconsequence her companion would have given her if at that moment the door of the room had not been pushed open to permit the entrance of Hyacinth Robinson. He stopped short on perceiving that Madame Grandoni had a visitor, but before he had time to say anything the old lady addressed him with a certain curtness: “Ah, you don’t fall well; the Princess isn’t at home.”
“That was mentioned to me, but I ventured to come in to see you, as I have done before,” Hyacinth replied. Then he added, as if he were retreating, “I beg many pardons. I was not told that you were not alone.”
“My visitor is going, but I am going too,” said Madame Grandoni. “I must take myself to my room – I am all falling to pieces. Therefore kindly excuse me.”
Hyacinth had had time to recognise the Prince, and this nobleman paid him the same compliment, as was proved by his asking of Madame Grandoni, in a rapid aside, in Italian, “Isn’t it the bookbinder?”
“Sicuro,” said the old lady; while Hyacinth, murmuring a regret that he should find her indisposed, turned back to the door.
“One moment – one moment, I pray!” the Prince interposed, raising his hand persuasively and looking at him with an unexpected, exaggerated smile. “Please introduce me to the gentleman,” he added, in English, to Madame Grandoni.
She manifested no surprise at the request – she had none left, apparently, for anything – but pronounced the name of Prince Casamassima, and then added, for Hyacinth’s benefit, “He knows who you are.”
“Will you permit me to keep you a very little minute?” the Prince continued, addressing the other visitor; after which he remarked to Madame Grandoni, “I will speak with him a little. It is perhaps not necessary that we should incommode you, if you do not wish to stay.”
She had for a moment, as she tossed off a satirical little laugh, a return of her ancient drollery: “Remember that if you talk long she may come back! Yes, yes, I will go upstairs. Felicissima notte, signori!” She took her way to the door, which Hyacinth, considerably bewildered, held open for her.
The reasons for which Prince Casamassima wished to converse with him were mysterious; nevertheless, he was about to close the door behind Madame Grandoni, as a sign that he was at the service of her companion. At this moment the latter extended again a courteous, remonstrant hand. “After all, as my visit is finished and as yours comes to nothing, might we not go out?”
“Certainly, I will go with you,” said Hyacinth. He spoke with an instinctive stiffness, in spite of the Prince’s queer affability, and in spite also of the fact that he felt sorry for the nobleman, to whose countenance Madame Grandoni’s last injunction, uttered in English, had brought a deep and painful blush. It is needless to go into the question of what Hyacinth, face to face with an aggrieved husband, may have had on his conscience, but he assumed, naturally enough, that the situation might be grave, though indeed the Prince’s manner was, for the moment, incongruously conciliatory. Hyacinth invited his new acquaintance to pass, and in a minute they were in the street together.
“Do you go here – do you go there?” the Prince inquired, as they stood a moment before the house. “If you will permit, I will take the same direction.” On Hyacinth’s answering that it was indifferent to him the Prince said, turning to the right, “Well, then, here, but slowly, if that pleases you, and only a little way.” His English was far from perfect, but his errors were mainly errors of pronunciation, and Hyacinth was struck with his effort to express himself very distinctly, so that in intercourse with a little representative of the British populace his foreignness should not put him at a disadvantage. Quick as he was to perceive and appreciate, Hyacinth noted how a certain quality of breeding that was in his companion enabled him to compass that coolness, and he mentally applauded his success in a difficult feat. Difficult he judged it because it seemed to him that the purpose for which the Prince wished to speak to him was one which must require a deal of explanation, and it was a sign of training to explain adequately, in a foreign tongue, especially if one were agitated, to a person in a social position very different from one’s own. Hyacinth knew what the Prince’s estimate of his importance must be (he could have no illusions as to the character of the people his wife received); but while he heard him carefully put one word after the other he was able to smile to himself at his needless precautions. Hyacinth reflected that at a pinch he could have encountered him in his own tongue; during his stay at Venice he had picked up an Italian vocabulary. “With Madame Grandoni I spoke of you,” the Prince announced, dispassionately, as they walked along. “She told me a thing that interested me,” he added; “that is why I walk with you.” Hyacinth said nothing, deeming that better by silence than in any other fashion he held himself at the disposal of his interlocutor. “She told me you have changed – you have no more the same opinions.”
“The same opinions?”
“About the arrangement of society. You desire no more the assassination of the rich.”
“I never desired any such thing!” said Hyacinth, indignantly.
“Oh, if you have changed, you can confess,” the Prince rejoined, in an encouraging tone. “It is very good for some people to be rich. It would not be right for all to be poor.”
“It would be pleasant if all could be rich,” Hyacinth suggested.
“Yes, but not by stealing and shooting.”
“No, not by stealing and shooting. I never desired that.”
“Ah, no doubt she was mistaken. But to-day you think we must have patience,” the Prince went on, as if he hoped very much that Hyacinth would allow this valuable conviction to be attributed to him. “That is also my view.”
“Oh, yes, we must have patience,” said Hyacinth, who was now smiling to himself in the dark.
They had by this time reached the end of the little Crescent, where the Prince paused under the street-lamp. He considered Hyacinth’s countenance for a moment by its help, and then he pronounced, “If I am not mistaken, you know very well the Princess.”
Hyacinth hesitated a moment. “She has been very kind to me.”
“She is my wife – perhaps you know.”
Again Hyacinth hesitated, but after a moment he replied, “She has told me that she is married.” As soon as he had spoken these words he thought them idiotic.
“You mean you would not know if she had not told you, I suppose. Evidently, there is nothing to show it. You can think if that is agreeable to me.”
“Oh, I can’t think, I can’t judge,” said Hyacinth.
“You are right – that is impossible.” The Prince stood before his companion, and in the pale gaslight the latter saw more of his face. It had an unnatural expression, a look of wasted anxiety; the eyes seemed to glitter, and Hyacinth conceived the unfortunate nobleman to be feverish and ill. He continued in a moment: “Of course you think it strange – my conversation. I want you to tell me something.”
“I am afraid you are very unwell,” said Hyacinth.
“Yes, I am unwell; but I shall be better if you will tell me. It is because you have come back to good ideas – that is why I ask you.”
A sense that the situation of the Princess’s husband was really pitiful, that at any rate he suffered and was helpless, that he was a gentleman and even a person who would never have done any great harm – a perception of these appealing truths came into Hyacinth’s heart, and stirred there a desire to be kind to him, to render him any service that, in reason, he might ask. It appeared to Hyacinth that he must be pretty sick to ask any service at all, but that was his own affair. “If you would like me to see you safely home, I will do that,” our young man remarked; and even while he spoke he was struck with the oddity of his being already on such friendly terms with a person whom he had hitherto supposed to be the worst enemy of the rarest of women. He found himself unable to consider the Prince with resentment.
This personage acknowledged the civility of his offer with a slight inclination of his high slimness. “I am very much obliged to you, but I will not go home. I will not go home till I know this – to what house she has gone. Will you tell me that?”
“To what house?” Hyacinth repeated.
“She has gone with a person whom you know. Madame Grandoni told me that. He is a Scotch chemist.”
“A Scotch chemist?” Hyacinth stared.
“I saw them myself – two hours, three hours, ago. Listen, listen; I will be very clear,” said the Prince, laying his forefinger on the other hand with an explanatory gesture. “He came to that house – this one, where we have been, I mean – and stayed there a long time. I was here in the street – I have passed my day in the street! They came out together, and I watched them, I followed them.”
Hyacinth had listened with wonder, and even with suspense; the Prince’s manner gave an air of such importance, such mystery, to what he had to relate. But at this he broke out: “This is not my business – I can’t hear it! I don’t watch, I don’t follow.”
The Prince stared a moment, in surprise; then he rejoined, more quickly than he had spoken yet, “But they went to a house where they conspire, where they prepare horrible acts. How can you like that?”
“How do you know it, sir?” Hyacinth inquired, gravely.
“It is Madame Grandoni who has told me.”
“Why, then, do you ask me?”
“Because I am not sure, I don’t think she knows. I want to know more, to be sure of what is done in that house. Does she go there only for the revolution,” the Prince demanded, “or does she go there to be alone with him?”
“With him?” The Prince’s tone and his excited eyes infused a kind of vividness into the suggestion.
“With the tall man – the chemist. They got into a hansom together; the house is far away, in the lost quarters.”
Hyacinth drew himself together. “I know nothing about the matter, and I don’t care. If that is all you wish to ask me, we had better separate.”
The Prince’s face elongated; it seemed to grow paler. “Then it is not true that you hate those abominations!”
Hyacinth hesitated a moment. “How can you know about my opinions? How can they interest you?”
The Prince looked at him with sick eyes; he raised his arms a moment, a certain distance, and then let them drop at his sides. “I hoped you would help me.”
“When we are in trouble we can’t help each other much!” our young man exclaimed. But this austere reflection was lost upon the Prince, who at the moment Hyacinth spoke had already turned to look in the direction from which they had proceeded, the other end of the Crescent, his attention apparently being called thither by the sound of a rapid hansom. The place was still and empty, and the wheels of this vehicle reverberated. The Prince peered at it through the darkness, and in an instant he cried, under his breath, excitedly, “They have come back – they have come back! Now you can see – yes, the two!” The hansom had slackened pace and pulled up; the house before which it stopped was clearly the house the two men had lately quitted. Hyacinth felt his arm seized by the Prince, who, hastily, by a strong effort, drew him forward several yards. At this moment a part of the agitation that possessed the unhappy Italian seemed to pass into his own blood; a wave of anxiety rushed through him – anxiety as to the relations of the two persons who had descended from the cab; he had, in short, for several instants, a very exact revelation of the state of feeling of a jealous husband. If he had been told, half an hour before, that he was capable of surreptitious peepings, in the interest of such jealousy, he would have resented the insult; yet he allowed himself to be checked by his companion just at the nearest point at which they might safely consider the proceedings of the couple who alighted. It was in fact the Princess, accompanied by Paul Muniment. Hyacinth noticed that the latter paid the cabman, who immediately drove away, from his own pocket. He stood with the Princess for some minutes at the door of the house – minutes during which Hyacinth felt his heart beat insanely, ignobly, he couldn’t tell why.
“What does he say? what does she say?” hissed the Prince; and when he demanded, the next moment, “Will he go in again, or will he go away?” our sensitive youth felt that a voice was given to his own most eager thought. The pair were talking together, with rapid sequences, and as the door had not yet been opened it was clear that, to prolong the conversation on the steps, the Princess delayed to ring. “It will make three, four, hours he has been with her,” moaned the Prince.
“He may be with her fifty hours!” Hyacinth answered, with a laugh, turning away, ashamed of himself.
“He has gone in – sangue di Dio!” cried the Prince, catching his companion again by the arm and making him look. All that Hyacinth saw was the door just closing; the Princess and Muniment were on the other side of it. “Is that for the revolution?” the trembling nobleman panted. But Hyacinth made no answer; he only gazed at the closed door an instant, and then, disengaging himself, walked straight away, leaving the Italian, in the darkness, to direct a great helpless, futile shake of his stick at the indifferent house.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10