Read SIENA : CHAPTER X of Olive in Italy , free online book, by Moray Dalton, on ReadCentral.com.

“Filippo! Let me go! Let me breathe, carissimo! I want to speak to you.”

He did not seem to hear her. He had drawn the long steel pins out of her hat and had thrown the pretty thing down on the floor, and the loosened coils of shining hair fell over his hands as his strong lips bruised the pale, flower-like curves of her mouth.

Filippo had loved many women in the only way possible to him, and they had been won by his brutality and his insolence, and by the glamour of his name. The annals of mediaeval Italy were stained with blood and tears because of the Tor di Rocca, and their loves that ended always in cruelty and horror, and Filippo had all the instincts of his decadent race. In love he was pitiless; no impulses of tenderness or of chivalry restrained him, and his methods were primeval and violent. Probably the Rape of the Sabines was his ideal of courtship, but the subsequent domesticity, the settling down of the Romans with their stolen wives, would have been less to his taste.

“Filippo!” Gemma cried again, and this time he let her go.

“You may breathe for one minute,” he said, looking at his watch. “There is not much time.”

He drew the chair towards the table and sat down. “Come!” he said imperatively, but she shook her head.

“Ah, Filippo, I love you, but you must listen. Did you see my fidanzato in our box at the theatre last night?”

“Yes, and I am glad he is so ugly. I shall not be jealous. You must give me your address in Lucca,” he said coolly.

Her face fell. “You will let me marry him? You you do not mind?”

He made a grimace. “I do not like it, but I cannot help it.”

“But he makes me sick,” she said tremulously. “I hate him to touch me.”

It seemed that her words lit some fire in him. His hot eyes sparkled as he stretched out his arms to her. “Ah, come to me now then.”

She stood still by the table watching him fearfully. “Filippo, I hoped I thought you would take me away.”

“It is impossible. I cannot even see you again until after Christmas. It will be safer better not. But in January I will come to Lucca, and then ”

He hesitated, weighing his words, weighing his thought and his desire.

“And then?” she said.

He looked at her closely, deliberately, divining the beauty that was half hidden from him. Her parted lips were lovely, and the texture of her white skin was satin smooth as the petals of a rose; there was no fault in the pure oval of her face, in the line of her black brows. He could see no flaw in her now, and he believed that she would still seem unsurpassably fair after a lapse of time.

“Then, if you still wish it, I will take you away. You shall have a villa at San Remo ”

“I understand,” she said hurriedly, and she covered her face with her hands.

She had hoped to be the Princess Tor di Rocca, and he had offered to keep her still as his amica. Presently, if she wished it and it still suited him, he would set her feet on the way that led to the streets. “Then if you wish it ” To her the insult seemed to lie in the proposed delay. She loved him, and she had no love for virtue. She loved him, and if he had urged her to go with him on the instant she would have yielded easily. But she must await his convenience; next year, perhaps; and meanwhile she must go to Lucca, she must be married to the other man.

She was crying, and tears oozed out between her fingers and dripped on the floor. “He is horrible to me,” she said brokenly.

Filippo rose then and came to her; he loved her in his way, and she moved him as no woman had done yet.

“Why need you marry him? Do not. Wait for me here and I will surely come for you,” he said as he drew her to him.

She hid her face on his shoulder. “I dare not send him away,” she whispered. “All Siena would laugh at me, and I should be ashamed to be seen. No other man would ever take me after such a scandal. Besides, you know I must be married. You know that, Filippo! And if you did not come ”

“I shall come.”

She clung to him in silence for a while before she spoke again.

“Why not until January?”

“You will be good if I tell you?” he asked when he had kissed her.

“Yes, yes; only hold me.”

“Gemma, you must know that I am poor. I have told you often how the palace in Florence is shabby, eaten up with moth and rust. The Villa at Certaldo is falling into ruins too. I am poor.”

“You have an automobile, servants, horses; you stay here at the best hotel.”

“I should not be poor for a contadino but I am for a prince,” he said impatiently and with emphasis. “Believe me, I want money, and I must have it. I cannot steal it or earn it, or win it in the lottery unfortunately, so I must marry it.”

She cowered down as though he had struck her, and made an effort to escape from him, but he held her fast. She tried to speak, but the pain in her throat prevented her from uttering an articulate sound.

“Do not think of the woman,” he said hurriedly. “You need not. I do not. Once I am married I shall go my own way, of course, but her father is in Naples now, and he is a tiresome old fool.”

Santissimo Dio!” she gasped presently. “When when ”

“In December.”

“Is she beautiful?”

He laughed as he gave the answer she hoped for. “She is an American,” he added, “and it sets one’s teeth on edge to hear her trying to talk Italian. Her accent! She is a small dry thing like a grasshopper.”

“I wish she was dead.”

He set himself to soothe and comfort her, but it was not easy.

“I might as well be ugly,” she cried again and again.

It was the simple expression of her defeat. The beauty she had held to be a shield against sorrow and a key to the garden of delights was but a poor thing after all. It had not availed her, and she had nothing else. She was stripped now, naked, alone and defenceless in a hard world.

Carissima, be still. Have patience. I love you, and I shall come for you,” whispered Tor di Rocca, and she tried to believe him, and to persuade herself that the flame in his brown eyes would burn for her always.

Slowly, as the passion of grief ebbed, the tide of love rose in her and flushed her wan, tear-stained face and made it beautiful. The door of the room was opened, but neither she nor the man heard it, or saw it closed again. It was their last hour, this bare room was their world and they were alone in it.