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ning. One day, tired with roaming about, that you had committed a crime--a crime I had wandered into a church to rest. It against another woman.' was not one of the great show churches,
call it a crime ! Then it sketched by artists and visited by tourists, must be- it must be—and I am guilty !” but a little quiet building in a narrow back And she flung herself down in an agony street, with nothing of much note in it of prayer and tears on the steps of an except a beautiful tomb by Mino da Fiesole, altar which stood close by. on which my eyes were wont to rest with I waited for a moment, then went to pleasure. I went close up to it, expecting her and said, “ Let me help you. You to find a bench on which I could sit for a thought you would find a priest ; I am little while, but the church was being not a priest, but I am a woman. Is there cleaned or prepared for some function, and not something I can do ? Tell me.” the benches had all been moved and put She raised herself and looked at me. aside in corners.
I looked round for a "The Signora is good, I think ; but ... chair, but none was to be seen, and at last I am in great trouble and great difficulty. I quietly opened the door of a confessional I thought I should find Father Girolamo. and sat down there, meaning to remain He is not here ; I fear he may be ill. I for a moment only. But I had walked heard something of it. And I must see far, the air was warm and relaxing, and some one, and ask for help." the church dark, and I fell asleep. I know “ Then let me help you,” I said, as not how long I had slept, but suddenly I gently as I could. "I will consider all was aroused quickly and fully. It was no you tell me as the deepest secret. I will dream. I heard a voice close to me say- say nothing, I promise.
Coine with me, ing, “ Father, I have forged letters which and tell me what it is that troubles you. will ruin a woman's life !" Then a pause. The woman looked at me fixedly, then I looked through the grating at the side rose from her knces. “Yes, I will come,' of the confessional, and I could distinguish she said, simply. “I think the Holy a woman's form kneeling there. She Mother has sent you to me. I prayed so seemed to be waiting for something—the hard to her to send me help before I came priest's response, no doubt—for she was here. I see that you are good ; your silent for a moment, but afterward she eyes are kind ; I will tell you my
trouble.” began, “Father, hear me." I stepped Her voice trembled, and as she bent hastily from the confessional out into the down to kiss my hand, a tear fell on to church. My movement surprised her, for it. I drew her with me from the church, she looked round, and then, on seeing me,
and in a few moments we were in my We looked at one another; apartment. She followed me quite quietthere was no one but ourselves in the ly, and expressed neither doubt nor hesichurch. For a moment her anxiety as to tation. Evidently she had made up her what I might have heard, and my remorse mind to trust me with her difficulties, at having thus surprised a secret, kept us whatever they were.
She was a small silent. Then I said, “I am sorry, I am slender woman, with curly dark-brown very sorry ; there was no chair. I fell hair, and large lustrous eyes ;—not exactasleep. Will you forgive me ?"
ly pretty, but with a very refined face, a She looked at me, and there was an look and expression which told of a nature expression of pathos and terror in her noble and generous, if also passionate and eyes which drew me to her. “ Did the proud. I said, “I am going to ask you Signora hear ?" she asked.
to tell me your story from beginning to Oh, forgive me,” I answered—and I end, and let me try to help you. put my hand on her arm—“ forgive me ; “I will tell you all, Signora, from the yes, I heard—something. I think I ought beginning, but it is a long story. Will to tell you.”
you have patience ?" " What did the Signora hear ?" she “Yes, I want to hear it all; tell me." asked, still with the same curious calm. So she began, and this is ber story.
I was becoming much interested. The Francesca was at this time about twentywoman's unusual behavior, and her look of threc years of age. Three years before misery, showed me that something more she bad married Andrea Vivaldi, a bookthan a common confession must have been binder by trade, and they lived together intended. I said, “I am afraid I heard very happily. Andrea's employment
brought him in a comfortable though small “ Is the wound dangerous ?'' asked income, he had also a little money of his Francesca in a tremulous whisper. own, while Francesca was able to earn The man shrugged his shoulders. " It something by working at embroidery, for seems so," he said. which she had a special talent. She had “ But do they fear for his life ?" she been well educated, and her marriage with asked again. Andrea had been considered hardly good “He is very bad ; we have sent for a enough for her. But she loved him pas- doctor, but—" and another expressive sionately, and her choice had been justi- gesture followed. fied, for they were looked upon by all their “ Has the doctor come? Does he give friends as models of married love and hap- hope ?” piness. The only cloud on Francesca's * He does not,” the man said slowly, sky was that Andrea had no religion. his eyes cast down ; " he says he is Francesca herself was a deeply religious dying.' woman, whose life was governed by her “Ah! Santa Maria, dying !" cried faith ; but Andrea shared in the unbelief Francesca, pressing her hands to her common in Italian towns at the present heart. “ Has a priest been sent for !" day, and always put aside good-humored- she continued eagerly. ly, but firmly, her arguments and her “No, no priest; he said he would not efforts to induce bim to attend Mass or to see one, he wished only for you." go to confession. He was rather wild too, She rushed forward and entered the litand reckless sometimes, but she knew he tle squalid inner room. On a bed in the was really good and upright ; and she corner lay Andrea, and she saw at once hoped and believed that in time, through that she had been told the truth, for his his love for her, he might be brought to white drawn face and pinched look showed see things as she did. Meanwhile their that the end could not be far off. She love and happiness seemed sufficient for threw herself on her knees by his side. them both.
“ Andrea, what is this, how has it hapOne day, some few months before I pened ?" she said with a sob. met her, she was surprised in her house The dying man lifted his hand and let by a violent knocking at the door. She it rest on her shoulder. “ Francesca, forhurried to open it, and found a small boy give me; I am dying ; I have something who had brought a note, written in An- to say to you before I die." drea's hand : “I am seriously wounded ; “Dying? Ah, no! it is impossible, come to me directly.' She at once fol. Andrea. I cannot believe it." lowed the boy, cross-questioning him on Dear, the doctor bas told me that I the way as to what had happened. He cannot live bove another hour. It is knew but little ; he told her, however, difficult to speak. ” that there had been some drinking, and a He paused for breath, and she moistquarrel in a small, rather low wine-shopened his lips with a cordial which stood in near the Porta Romana, and that her hus- a glass close by. Then she laid her hand band had been wounded—how badly he caressingly on his head—“ Andrea, you could not say. Francesca hurried through will send for a priest ?” the streets, and on arriving at the wine- The dying man shook his head. - No ; shop was met by the keeper of it, a low, it is you I want, not a priest. I want to cunning-looking man, who received her tell you something, to ask you to forgive effusively and conducted her into the The blood welled up to his lips, house. A police officer was standing in so that he had to stop once more.
After the room, where signs of the quarrel were a moment he went on. Listen, Franeverywhere apparent in the overturned cesca, I have committed a sin against you, tables and chairs, and pools of spilled a great sin." wine. A man was lying on a bench with "Never mind, Andrea,” she answered his head bandaged. Francesca approached gently ; “I do not want to know it now, him, thinking at first that he was Andrea ; I will forgive you ; we have loved each but the innkeeper laid a hand on her arm, other so well, let us think now of that saying, “ This way ; your husband is in alone.”
“ Perhaps you will not forgive when
you have heard what I must say,” he an- never looked round. The door opened, swered, turning away bis face.
and she was gone. ago, before I saw you, Francesca, I fell in Francesca left the room almost in a love with Giovanpa.
dream. As she passed out the landlord • Carlo's wife ?"
asked her how her husband was. “Yes, Carlo's wife. Her parents would swered at random that he was much the not hear of the marriage. I was poor, and they made her marry Carlo. I was mis- “Shall I send for a priest ?” asked the erable, but then my uncle left me some money, and I saw you, and we
“If you like, but I do not think he ried. I swear to you," and here he will see him," she replied, and passed turned his eyes pleadingly toward ber, quickly out. " that for the first two years I never Francesca walked hastily on, and as she thought of Giovanna again. Then you went her power of thought seemed to rewent to Bologna to your mother when she turn to her. What was this horrible thing died, and you were away several weeks. that she had heard ? Her husband untrue While you were away,”—he was speak- to her - her busband whom she had loved ing now with great difficulty,-"Giovanna with such single-minded devotion! And and I inet several times, and-and-I was Giovanna too, who had been her friend, unfaithful to you."
the wife of his best friend! It seemed an She was kneeling, her head bowed down age since she had passed along these on the bed, and only a little shiver now streets before ; then she was anxious only ; and then showed that she was listening. now she knew that all her fancied happiHe went on : “I saw her often after that, ness bad been a dream, that her idol was and then you came home, and I refused of commonest clay, that her trust had to see her. She was angry and upbraided been shamefully abused. This was the me, but I only met her again once. She truth, then, about their married life. It wrote me letters, and I have kept some of was the greatest failure—a thing for all to them." The increasing difficulty of speech scoff at. And she had always been so warned bim to be brief. “There are proud of her happiness, her successful life. three, in a secret drawer in my bureau ; But at least every one need not know of you will find them ; press the spring at her sorrow and her shame. The secret the back near the wall. Ah, forgive me ! could be hidden ; the letters could be desay that you forgive me.”
stroyed; people should think that her She never raised her head, but said in a husband was in truth what they all below voice, “I will destroy them if you lieved him to be. And then the thought wi: it, Andrea."
flashed across her, What if she were too “Yes, yes ;
you must go now, at late, -if the police got there first ! Suponce,
,” he said, “ because the police will posing they found the letters, and it was search the rooms. Some of the men I discovered that the model couple, as the quarrelled with here are thieves in the neighbors used to call them, were no bettown ; the police will suspect I am one of ter than the rest after all ! The thought them. It is not true ; but they will gave her wings ; she hurried on along the search, and if they find the letters— narrow streets, over the bridge, and
" Ah, yes,” she said, in a cold con- through the crowd which fills the piazzas strained tone ;
we must not let this be and streets round the Palazzo Vecchio and known. I will go now, Andrea.”
the Duomo. It was a holiday, and loiterShe moved as if to rise, but he caughters were everywhere, impeding her progher hand. “Say first that you have for- ress, sometimes speaking to her. But given me.”
she sped on, only just acknowledging their “ Yes, I forgive you,” she replied, still greeting, making her way steadily to her in the same quiet voice. He sighed deep- own home, hoping only to arrive in time. ly, and his hand dropped on the bed. It was with a feeling of intense relief that Good-by,” he said.
she opened ber door and went through into “Good-by, Andrea." She turned the bedroom where was Andrea's bureau. from him and went slowly to the door. She knew it well, but had never suspected Ho followed her with his eyes, but she the secret drawer, for prying was far from
her nature, and her trust in Andrea had befallen her, and Carlo's happiness should been complete. She pressed the lock as be undisturbed. She flew to the stove, Andrea bad told her to do, but no result where there was a small fire, and in one followed. Suddenly the thought came to instant the letters were blazing. Then, her, “ Could the whole thing have been a hastily, she left the room, knowing that it figinent of Andrea's brain—nothing but would be best that the police should not delirious raving ?” It was like a ray of find her there. When she returned from light in a dark room ; but a moment's an aimless wandering through the streets thought brought the certainty that there an hour or two afterward, she found the had been no trace of delirium or fever in police had come and had fruitlessly his manner.
She listened ; there was a searched the room, and had gone away noise on the stairs ; and this time, with again without giving any further trouble. renewed resolution, she bent herself to her The day of the funeral came, and at the task. She was successful. The spring funeral Mass, which took place in the little was forced, and the drawer opened. church where I first met Francesca, many In it lay an envelope tied with silk. of Andrea's friends were present.
It was She took it out and looked at it. Should here that she first saw Giovanna. Carlo she open
it ? Francesca was an honorable had been to see her at once ; he had been woman, and her instincts were against kind and full of deep grief for the death reading the letters. But there came the of his friend, and of sympathy with her in thought that she might have misunder- her bereavement. It had all felt like a stood Andrea ; that perhaps, after all, mockery, and it seemed to her that she things were not so bad as she fancied. could hardly bear his praises of Andrea as Who shall say what was her exact motive a friend or a husband, and his passionate -- whether it was good or bad ? She expressions of grief. But the severest opened the envelope and took out the let- trial was still to come. Francesca was ters. There were three. One was dated kneeling, trying to school herself to pray about a year ago, during the time she was fervenily, and to abandon the angry bitter at Bologna. It was an ordinary love-let- thoughts which assailed her, when suddenter, rather long, containing expressions of ly she looked up, and saw a woman's eyes affection, and railing at the fate which fixed on her with a strange expression of separated the writer from Andrea. The curiosity mingled with contemptuous pity. second was dated a few months back, and She knew well those large dark eyes, set ran thus :
in a handsome, rather Jewish countenance, “ Will you never come back to me? which was surrounded by a mass of coal
black hair. Think of our happiness last year ; do you
It was Giovanna, the woman no longer love me?
Have some pity on
her husband had loved—the only person me, I love you so. GIOVANNA.
besides herself who knew of his treachery.
Giovanna withdrew her glance as soon as The third, written a little later, was still Francesca looked up ; but it was too late, shorter.
Francesca had seen the expression, and “MY LOVED ANDREA,–Carlo is away.
knew too well the feeling that it implied.
“She is thinking that I am a poor creduI shall expect you to morrow. " Yours till death,
lous fool, weeping and praying for my “ GIOVANNA.”
husband, whose affection for me was only
a pretence, while she had his real love." Francesca stood with the letters in her But in the midst of her bitterness and hand, gazing at them. They seemed to jealousy the old religious feelings reassertbe written in characters of fire, which ed their power, and there swept over her burned themselves into her brain.
a sense of the sinfulness of her thoughts, the confirmation of her shame and mis- and of the duty laid upon her, net of ery ; no doubt could now remain ; all the mere silence, but of forgiveness. She past, with its love and happiness, had been gazed at Giovanna for a moment, then, as no more than a mockery. But she had to the bell gave warning that the supreme decide at once, for the police were at moment of the service had come, she band; she hardly hesitated ; the letters buried her face once more in her hands, should be destroyed at all events. No and prayed for pardon. But she had not one should know of the sorrow which had counted the cost. The victory was not
won ; the struggle was only just begin- is it, Giovanna ? he gave it to you, I ning. Each meeting with Giovanna know. Have you got it still ?” brought fresh jealousy with it-fresh tor- “Yes, yes, somewhere," said she, , ture. Whether it was imagination or not, hastily; never mind now. Francesca believed that she assumed an air “Yes, but I want Francesca to see it. of superiority, that she always recollected I recollect, it's up in the bedroom. I Andrea's love for her, and his desertion saw it the other day. I will get it ;” and of his wife. Giovanna was kind to her, he was gone. and Francesca did not dare refuse her Giovanna half rose, as if to stop bim, offers of hospitality, for Carlo believed but Francesca said, “Let him get it ; I them to be friends, and would have won- should like to see the frame.
You taught dered had Francesca refused to visit his him, I suppose ?'' wife. He was a bluff, kindly man, very Giovanna bit her lip. "Yes," she said, passionate and devoted to Giovanna ; but and she bent her eyes with a slight sinile he was inclined to be jealous, and Fran- on Francesca ; " and he was a clever cesca knew that it would be easy to arouse pupil.” his suspicions. So before him she was Francesca started ; but at this moment careful what she said ; but, when alone Carlo returned with the frame. " It is with Giovanna, she could not refrain at hardly a work of art,” he said, laughing, times from making allusions and insinua- “ but it has merits. Perhaps you would tions. One day she had gone to Carlo's like to keep it. 'You will let ber, won't little frame shop to leave a message, and you ? ?” he added, turning to Giovanna. had found only Giovanna. She gave her Francesca dropped it on the table with message, and followed Giovanna into the
“Thanks ! no, I will not rob sitting-room. Her glance at once fell on Giovanna," she said. a photograph of Andrea, which was stand- “ What is the matter ?” said Carlo ; ing on the table in an elaborately carved do
not like the frame ?!? frame.
"Perhaps she is angry because Andrea " Is this Carlo's work ?" she asked. did not tell her of his visits to us,” said
“ Yes," answered Giovanna ; “ he has Giovanna. just finished it."
Francesca felt that she had gone too “And you will keep it here ?” said far, and, incensed as she was, dared not Francesca, quickly.
trust herself to say more ; so, muttering 66 Yes,
observed Giovanna ; Carlo an excuse, she got up and took her dewishes to have Andrea's picture where he parture. But such scenes as these were can always see it.”
pot uncommon ; and while determined to 6. And so do you,
I suppose, ” said preserve her secret, both for her own sake Francesca. Giovanna glanced at her, with and for Carlo's, Francesca often allowed a slightly uneasy look. But she rejoined herself to dwell on the hateful words which at once, Why should I not ?"
she could not forget. What if she were “Oh, I don't know ; I thought, per- suddenly to turn upon Giovanna with haps, you might wish to forget him.” them ? “ Will you never come back to Giovanna was silent, and Francesca said no ine? Have some pity on me, I love you more.
“ Carlo is away, I shall expect you Another day Carlo had insisted on her to-morrow.” And she let these thoughts coming to take her mid-day meal with take possession of her, brooding upon them them. There was some desu!tory talk, constantly, and making no effort to conand all went well till Carlo said, “ Ah, quer them. At length one day, after a poor Andrea ! he used often to come here longer absence than usual, Francesca had for his dinner when you were away a year to go to the little frame shup. It was late ago,-let's sec, at Bologna, was it? You in the afternoon, the workman had gone had gone to nurse your mother. Poor hoine ; Carlo was out, and Giovanna was Andrea ! he was rather lonely, and liked alone. She was dusting the frames and coming here. You remember, Giovanna ?” putting them away for the night, and Giovanna assented, and Carlo went on : Francesca offered to help her.
For some “ He used to say he would learn carving, time they went on, only an occasional reand once he made a little frame. Where mark breaking the silence. All at once