Read FLORENCE : CHAPTER V of Olive in Italy , free online book, by Moray Dalton, on

Cardinal Jacopo of Portugal was buried in a side chapel of the church of San Miniato al Monte, and his counterfeit presentment, wrought in stone, lies on the tomb Rossellino made for him. Rossellino, who loved to carve garlands of acanthus and small sweet amorini, has conferred immortality on some of the men whose tombs he adorned in basso-rilievo, and they are remembered because of him; but the cardinal has another claim. He is beautiful in himself as he rests there, his young face set in the peace that passes all understanding, his thin hands folded on his breast.

Mourners were kneeling in the central aisles of the church, and women carrying wreaths passed through it on their way to the Campo Santo beyond, for this was the day of All Souls, and there were fresh flowers on the new graves, and little black lamps were lit on those that were grass grown and decked only with the bead blossoms that are kept in glass cases and need not be changed once a year. The afternoon was passing, but still Olive lingered by the cardinal’s monument. Looking at him understandingly she saw that there had been lines of pain about the firm mouth. He had suffered in his short life, he had suffered until death came to comfort him and give him quiet sleep. The mother-sense in her yearned over him, lying there straight and still, with closed eyes that had never seen love; and, womanlike, she pitied the accomplished loneliness that yet seemed to her the most beautiful thing in the world. The old familiar words were in her mind as she looked down upon this saint uncanonised: “Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit!” and she remembered Astorre, for whose sake she had come to this church to pray. Once when she had been describing a haggard St Francis in the Sienese gallery to him, he had said: “Ah, women always pity him and admire his picturesque asceticism, but if married men look worried they do not notice it. Their troubles are no compliment to your sex.”

Poor Astorre had not been devout in any sense, but he had written his friend a long letter on the day after Gemma’s suicide, and he had asked for her prayers then. “Fausto told me how you knelt there in the street beside the dead Odalisque and said the Pater-noster and the Miserere. Perhaps you will do as much for me one day. Your prayers should help the soul that is freed now from the burden of the flesh. I cannot complain of flesh myself, but my bones weigh and I shall be glad to be rid of them. Come and see me soon, carissima ...”

The next morning his mother sent for the girl, but when she came into the darkened room where he lay he had already passed away.

“He asked for you, but he would not see a priest. You know they refused to bury his father because he fought for united Italy. Ah! Rome never forgets.”

After the funeral Signora Aurelia had sold her furniture and gone away, and she was living now with a widowed sister in Rome. The Menotti had left Siena too and had gone to Milan, and Olive, not caring to stay on alone in the place where everyone knew what had happened, had come to the Lorenzoni in Florence. She had had a letter from Carmela that morning.

“We like Milan as the streets are so gay, and the shops are beautiful. We should have got much better mourning here at Bocconi’s if we could have waited, but of course that was impossible. Our apartment is convenient, but small and rather dark. Maria hopes you are fatter. She is going to send you some panforte and a box of sugared fruits at Christmas. La Zia has begun to crochet another counterpane; that will be the eighth, and we have only three beds. Pazienza! It amuses her.”

Though Olive was not happy at the Palazzo Lorenzoni, she could not wish that she had stayed with her cousins. She felt that their little life would have stifled her. Thinking of them, she saw them, happier than before, since poor Gemma had not been easy to live with, and quite satisfied to do the same things every day, waddling out of a morning to early mass and the marketing, eating and sleeping during the noon hours, and in the evenings going to hear the music in piazza.

Olive was not happy. She was one of those women whose health depends upon their spirits, and of late she had felt her loneliness to be almost unbearable. Her youth had cried for all, or nothing. She would have her love winged and crowned; he should come to her before all the world. Never would she set her foot in secret gardens, or let joy come to her by hidden ways, but now she faced the future and saw that it was grey, and she was afraid.

It seemed to her that she was destined to live always in the Social Limbo, suspended between heaven and earth, an alien in the drawing-room and not received in the kitchen. One might as well be declassee at once, she thought, and yet she knew that that must be hell.

If Avenel came to Florence and sought her out would she be weak as Gemma had been, light as Mamie was? Olive knelt for a while on the stones, and her lips moved, though her prayer was inarticulate.

Sunset was burning across the Val d’Arno, and the river flowed as a stream of pure gold under the dark of the historic bridges. Already lights sparkled in the windows of the old houses over the Ponte Vecchio, and the bells of all the churches were ringing the Ave Maria as she passed through the whining crowd of beggars at the gate of the Campo Santo and went slowly down the hill. The blessed hour of peace and silence was over now, and she must trudge back through the clamorous streets to be with Mamie, to meet the Marchese’s horribly observant eyes, and to be everlastingly quiet and complacent and useful. She was paid for that.

She was going up to her room when the lodge porter ran up the stairs after her with a letter. “For you, signorina.”

It was from Edna.

“DEAR OLIVE” she had written, “I could not wait for trains so papa has hired a car, and we shall motor straight to Genoa and catch the boat there. I want to go home to America pretty badly. Your loving friend,


P.S. I am still right down glad you told me. E. M.”

One of the servants came to Olive’s room presently.

“La Signora Marchesa wishes to see you at once in her boudoir.”

The Marchesa had come straight from the motor to her own room, her head was still swathed in a white veil, and she had not even taken off her heavy sable coat. She had switched on the light on her entrance, and now she was searching in the drawers of her bureau for her cheque-book.

“Ah, well, gold perhaps,” she said after a while, impatiently, as she snapped open the chain purse that hung from her wrist. “Is that you, Miss Agar?”

Olive, seeing her counting out her money, like the queen in the nursery rhyme, had stopped short near the door. She paled a little as she understood this must be the sequel to what she had done, but she held her head high, and there was a light of defiance in the blue eyes.

“I have to speak to you very seriously.”

The Marchesa, a large woman, was slow and deliberate in all her movements. She took her place on a brocaded settee with the air of a statue of Juno choosing a pedestal, and began to draw off her gloves. “I greatly regret that this should be necessary.” She seemed prepared to clean Augean stables, and there was something judicial in her aspect too, but she did not look at Olive. “You know that I took you into my house on the recommendation of the music-teacher, Signora Giannini. It was foolish, I see that now. It has come to my knowledge that you had no right to enter here, no right to be with my daughter.” She paused. “You must understand perfectly what I mean,” she said impressively.

“No, I do not understand,” the girl said. “Will you explain, Marchesa?”

“Can you deny that you were involved in a most discreditable affair in Siena before you came here? That your intrigue I hate to have to enter into the unsavoury details, Miss Agar, but you have forced me to it that your intrigue with your cousin’s fiance drove her to suicide, and that you were obliged to leave the place in consequence?”

“It is not true.”

“Ah, but your cousin killed herself?”


“Her lover was in the house at the time, and you were there too?”


“You were at the theatre the night before and everyone noticed that he paid you great attention?”

“He? Oh,” cried Olive, “how horrible, and how clever!”

The hard grey eyes met hers for a moment.

The girl’s pale face was flushed now with shame and anger. “So clever! Will you congratulate the Prince for me, Marchesa?” she said very distinctly.

“You are impertinent. Of course, I cannot keep you. My daughter ”

The Marchesa saw her mistake as she made it and would have passed on, but Olive was too quick for her. She smiled. “Your daughter! I do not think I can have harmed her.”

“You can take your money; I have left it there for you on the bureau. Please pack your boxes and be off as soon as possible.”

“I am to leave to-night? It is dark already, and I have no friends in Florence.”

The Marchesa shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t help that,” she said.

Olive went slowly out into the hall, and stood there hesitating at the head of the stairs. She scarcely knew what to do or where to turn, but she was determined not to stay longer than she could help under this roof. She went down to the porter’s lodge in the paved middle court.


The old woman came hobbling out to greet her with a toothless smile. “Ah, bella signorina, there are no more letters for you to-night. Have you come to talk to me for a little?”

“I am going away,” the girl answered hurriedly. “Will your husband come in to fetch my luggage soon? At eight o’clock?”

Gigia laid a skinny hand on Olive’s arm, and her sharp old eyes blinked anxiously as she said, “Where are you going, nina mia?”

“I don’t know.”

“Not to the Prince?”

“Good heavens! No!”

“Ah, the padrona is hard and you are pretty. I thought it might be that, perhaps. Don Filippo is like his old wolf of a father, and young lambs should beware of him.”

“Can you tell me of some quiet, decent rooms where I can go to night?”

Sicuro! My husband’s brother keeps the Aquila Verde, and you can go there. Giovanni will give you his best room if he hears that you come from us, and he will not charge too much. I am sorry you are going, cara.”

Olive squeezed her hand. “Thank you, Gigia. You are the only one I am sorry to say good-bye to. I shall not forget you.”

The Marchese was coming down the stairs as Olive went up again. He smiled at her as he stood aside to let her pass. “You are late, are you not? I shall not tell tales but I hope for your sake that my wife won’t see you.”

“She won’t see me again. I am going,” she answered.

He would have detained her. “One moment,” he said eagerly, but she was not listening. “I shall miss you.”

After all she heard him. “Thank you,” she said gravely.

A door was closed on the landing below, and the master of the house glanced at it apprehensively. He was not sure