Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

Violet Page (Vernon Lee): Dionea

Violet Page, Dionea, Vernon Lee, John Singer Sargent, Relatos de misterio, Tales of mystery, Relatos de terror, Horror stories, Short stories, Science fiction stories, Anthology of horror, Antología de terror, Anthology of mystery, Antología de misterio, Scary stories, Scary Tales, Salomé Guadalupe Ingelmo
Vernon Lee by John Singer Sargent

From the Letters of Doctor Alessandro De Rosis to the Lady Evelyn
Savelli, Princess of Sabina.
Montemiro Ligure, June 29, 1873.
I take immediate advantage of the generous offer of your Excellency (allow an old Republican who has held you on his knees to address you by that title sometimes, 'tis so appropriate) to help our poor people. I never expected to come a-begging so soon. For the olive crop has been unusually plenteous. We semi-Genoese don't pick the olives unripe, like our Tuscan neighbors, but let them grow big and black, when the young fellows go into the trees with long reeds and shake them down on the grass for the women to collect—a pretty sight which your Excellency must see some day: the grey trees with the brown, barefoot lads craning, balanced in the branches, and the turquoise sea as background just beneath…. That sea of ours—it is all along of it that I wish to ask for money. Looking up from my desk, I see the sea through the window, deep below and beyond the olive woods, bluish-green in the sunshine and veined with violet under the cloud-bars, like one of your Ravenna mosaics spread out as pavement for the world: a wicked sea, wicked in its loveliness, wickeder than your grey northern ones, and from which must have arisen in times gone by (when Phoenicians or Greeks built the temples at Lerici and Porto Venere) a baleful goddess of beauty, a Venus Verticordia, but in the bad sense of the word, overwhelming men's lives in sudden darkness like that squall of last week.
To come to the point. I want you, dear Lady Evelyn, to promise me some money, a great deal of money, as much as would buy you a little mannish cloth frock—for the complete bringing-up, until years of discretion, of a young stranger whom the sea has laid upon our shore. Our people, kind as they are, are very poor, and overburdened with children; besides, they have got a certain repugnance for this poor little waif, cast up by that dreadful storm, and who is doubtless a heathen, for she had no little crosses or scapulars on, like proper Christian children. So, being unable to get any of our women to adopt the child, and having an old bachelor's terror of my housekeeper, I have bethought me of certain nuns, holy women, who teach little girls to say their prayers and make lace close by here; and of your dear Excellency to pay for the whole business.
Poor little brown mite! She was picked up after the storm (such a set-out of ship-models and votive candles as that storm must have brought the Madonna at Porto Venere!) on a strip of sand between the rocks of our castle: the thing was really miraculous, for this coast is like a shark's jaw, and the bits of sand are tiny and far between. She was lashed to a plank, swaddled up close in outlandish garments; and when they brought her to me they thought she must certainly be dead: a little girl of four or five, decidedly pretty, and as brown as a berry, who, when she came to, shook her head to show she understood no kind of Italian, and jabbered some half-intelligible Eastern jabber, a few Greek words embedded in I know not what; the Superior of the College De Propagandâ Fide would be puzzled to know. The child appears to be the only survivor from a ship which must have gone down in the great squall, and whose timbers have been strewing the bay for some days past; no one at Spezia or in any of our ports knows anything about her, but she was seen, apparently making for Porto Venere, by some of our sardine-fishers: a big, lumbering craft, with eyes painted on each side of the prow, which, as you know, is a peculiarity of Greek boats. She was sighted for the last time off the island of Palmaria, entering, with all sails spread, right into the thick of the storm-darkness. No bodies, strangely enough, have been washed ashore.

July 10.
I have received the money, dear Donna Evelina. There was tremendous
excitement down at San Massimo when the carrier came in with a registered
letter, and I was sent for, in presence of all the village authorities, to sign my
name on the postal register.
The child has already been settled some days with the nuns; such dear little
nuns (nuns always go straight to the heart of an old priest-hater and
conspirator against the Pope, you know), dressed in brown robes and close,
white caps, with an immense round straw-hat flapping behind their heads
like a nimbus: they are called Sisters of the Stigmata, and have a convent
and school at San Massimo, a little way inland, with an untidy garden full of
lavender and cherry-trees. Your protégée has already half set the convent,
the village, the Episcopal See, the Order of St. Francis, by the ears. First,
because nobody could make out whether or not she had been christened. The
question was a grave one, for it appears (as your uncle-in-law, the Cardinal,
will tell you) that it is almost equally undesirable to be christened twice over
as not to be christened at all. The first danger was finally decided upon as
the less terrible; but the child, they say, had evidently been baptized before,
and knew that the operation ought not to be repeated, for she kicked and
plunged and yelled like twenty little devils, and positively would not let the
holy water touch her. The Mother Superior, who always took for granted
that the baptism had taken place before, says that the child was quite right,
and that Heaven was trying to prevent a sacrilege; but the priest and the
barber's wife, who had to hold her, think the occurrence fearful, and suspect
the little girl of being a Protestant. Then the question of the name. Pinned to
her clothes—striped Eastern things, and that kind of crinkled silk stuff they
weave in Crete and Cyprus—was a piece of parchment, a scapular we
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thought at first, but which was found to contain only the name Dionea—
Dionea, as they pronounce it here. The question was, Could such a name be
fitly borne by a young lady at the Convent of the Stigmata? Half the
population here have names as unchristian quite—Norma, Odoacer,
Archimedes—my housemaid is called Themis—but Dionea seemed to
scandalize every one, perhaps because these good folk had a mysterious
instinct that the name is derived from Dione, one of the loves of Father
Zeus, and mother of no less a lady than the goddess Venus. The child was
very near being called Maria, although there are already twenty-three other
Marias, Mariettas, Mariuccias, and so forth at the convent. But the sister-
bookkeeper, who apparently detests monotony, bethought her to look out
Dionea first in the Calendar, which proved useless; and then in a big vellum-
bound book, printed at Venice in 1625, called "Flos Sanctorum, or Lives of
the Saints, by Father Ribadeneira, S.J., with the addition of such Saints as
have no assigned place in the Almanack, otherwise called the Movable or
Extravagant Saints." The zeal of Sister Anna Maddalena has been rewarded,
for there, among the Extravagant Saints, sure enough, with a border of palm-
branches and hour-glasses, stands the name of Saint Dionea, Virgin and
Martyr, a lady of Antioch, put to death by the Emperor Decius. I know your
Excellency's taste for historical information, so I forward this item. But I
fear, dear Lady Evelyn, I fear that the heavenly patroness of your little sea-
waif was a much more extravagant saint than that.
December 21, 1879.
Many thanks, dear Donna Evelina, for the money for Dionea's schooling.
Indeed, it was not wanted yet: the accomplishments of young ladies are
taught at a very moderate rate at Montemirto: and as to clothes, which you
mention, a pair of wooden clogs, with pretty red tips, costs sixty-five
centimes, and ought to last three years, if the owner is careful to carry them
on her head in a neat parcel when out walking, and to put them on again
only on entering the village. The Mother Superior is greatly overcome by
your Excellency's munificence towards the convent, and much perturbed at
being unable to send you a specimen of your protégée's skill, exemplified in
an embroidered pocket-handkerchief or a pair of mittens; but the fact is that
poor Dionea has no skill. "We will pray to the Madonna and St. Francis to
make her more worthy," remarked the Superior. Perhaps, however, your
Excellency, who is, I fear but a Pagan woman (for all the Savelli Popes and
St. Andrew Savelli's miracles), and insufficiently appreciative of
embroidered pocket-handkerchiefs, will be quite as satisfied to hear that
Dionea, instead of skill, has got the prettiest face of any little girl in
Montemirto. She is tall, for her age (she is eleven) quite wonderfully well
proportioned and extremely strong: of all the convent-full, she is the only
one for whom I have never been called in. The features are very regular, the
hair black, and despite all the good Sisters' efforts to keep it smooth like a
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Chinaman's, beautifully curly. I am glad she should be pretty, for she will
more easily find a husband; and also because it seems fitting that
your protégée should be beautiful. Unfortunately her character is not so
satisfactory: she hates learning, sewing, washing up the dishes, all equally. I
am sorry to say she shows no natural piety. Her companions detest her, and
the nuns, although they admit that she is not exactly naughty, seem to feel
her as a dreadful thorn in the flesh. She spends hours and hours on the
terrace overlooking the sea (her great desire, she confided to me, is to get to
the sea—to get back to the sea, as she expressed it), and lying in the garden,
under the big myrtle-bushes, and, in spring and summer, under the rose-
hedge. The nuns say that rose-hedge and that myrtle-bush are growing a
great deal too big, one would think from Dionea's lying under them; the fact,
I suppose, has drawn attention to them. "That child makes all the useless
weeds grow," remarked Sister Reparata. Another of Dionea's amusements is
playing with pigeons. The number of pigeons she collects about her is quite
amazing; you would never have thought that San Massimo or the
neighboring hills contained as many. They flutter down like snowflakes, and
strut and swell themselves out, and furl and unfurl their tails, and peck with
little sharp movements of their silly, sensual heads and a little throb and
gurgle in their throats, while Dionea lies stretched out full length in the sun,
putting out her lips, which they come to kiss, and uttering strange, cooing
sounds; or hopping about, flapping her arms slowly like wings, and raising
her little head with much the same odd gesture as they;—'tis a lovely sight, a
thing fit for one of your painters, Burne Jones or Tadema, with the myrtle-
bushes all round, the bright, white-washed convent walls behind, the white
marble chapel steps (all steps are marble in this Carrara country) and the
enamel blue sea through the ilex-branches beyond. But the good Sisters
abominate these pigeons, who, it appears, are messy little creatures, and they
complain that, were it not that the Reverend Director likes a pigeon in his
pot on a holiday, they could not stand the bother of perpetually sweeping the
chapel steps and the kitchen threshold all along of those dirty birds….
August 6, 1882.
Do not tempt me, dearest Excellency, with your invitations to Rome. I
should not be happy there, and do but little honor to your friendship. My
many years of exile, of wanderings in northern countries, have made me a
little bit into a northern man: I cannot quite get on with my own fellow-
countrymen, except with the good peasants and fishermen all round.
Besides—forgive the vanity of an old man, who has learned to make triple
acrostic sonnets to cheat the days and months at Theresienstadt and
Spielberg—I have suffered too much for Italy to endure patiently the sight
of little parliamentary cabals and municipal wranglings, although they also
are necessary in this day as conspiracies and battles were in mine. I am not
fit for your roomful of ministers and learned men and pretty women: the
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former would think me an ignoramus, and the latter—what would afflict me
much more—a pedant…. Rather, if your Excellency really wants to show
yourself and your children to your father's old protégé of Mazzinian times,
find a few days to come here next spring. You shall have some very bare
rooms with brick floors and white curtains opening out on my terrace; and a
dinner of all manner of fish and milk (the white garlic flowers shall be
mown away from under the olives lest my cow should eat it) and eggs
cooked in herbs plucked in the hedges. Your boys can go and see the big
ironclads at Spezia; and you shall come with me up our lanes fringed with
delicate ferns and overhung by big olives, and into the fields where the
cherry-trees shed their blossoms on to the budding vines, the fig-trees
stretching out their little green gloves, where the goats nibble perched on
their hind legs, and the cows low in the huts of reeds; and there rise from the
ravines, with the gurgle of the brooks, from the cliffs with the boom of the
surf, the voices of unseen boys and girls, singing about love and flowers and
death, just as in the days of Theocritus, whom your learned Excellency does
well to read. Has your Excellency ever read Longus, a Greek pastoral
novelist? He is a trifle free, a trifle nude for us readers of Zola; but the old
French of Amyot has a wonderful charm, and he gives one an idea, as no
one else does, how folk lived in such valleys, by such sea-boards, as these in
the days when daisy-chains and garlands of roses were still hung on the
olive-trees for the nymphs of the grove; when across the bay, at the end of
the narrow neck of blue sea, there clung to the marble rocks not a church of
Saint Laurence, with the sculptured martyr on his gridiron, but the temple of
Venus, protecting her harbor…. Yes, dear Lady Evelyn, you have guessed
aright. Your old friend has returned to his sins, and is scribbling once more.
But no longer at verses or political pamphlets. I am enthralled by a tragic
history, the history of the fall of the Pagan Gods…. Have you ever read of
their wanderings and disguises, in my friend Heine's little book?
And if you come to Montemirto, you shall see also your protégée, of whom
you ask for news. It has just missed being disastrous. Poor Dionea! I fear
that early voyage tied to the spar did no good to her wits, poor little waif!
There has been a fearful row; and it has required all my influence, and all
the awfulness of your Excellency's name, and the Papacy, and the Holy
Roman Empire, to prevent her expulsion by the Sisters of the Stigmata. It
appears that this mad creature very nearly committed a sacrilege: she was
discovered handling in a suspicious manner the Madonna's gala frock and
her best veil of pizzo di Cantù, a gift of the late Marchioness Violante
Vigalcila of Fornovo. One of the orphans, Zaira Barsanti, whom they call
the Rossaccia, even pretends to have surprised Dionea as she was about to
adorn her wicked little person with these sacred garments; and, on another
occasion, when Dionea had been sent to pass some oil and sawdust over the
chapel floor (it was the eve of Easter of the Roses), to have discovered her
seated on the edge of the altar, in the very place of the Most Holy
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Sacrament. I was sent for in hot haste, and had to assist at an ecclesiastical
council in the convent parlor, where Dionea appeared, rather out of place, an
amazing little beauty, dark, lithe, with an odd, ferocious gleam in her eyes,
and a still odder smile, tortuous, serpentine, like that of Leonardo da Vinci's
women, among the plaster images of St. Francis, and the glazed and framed
samplers before the little statue of the Virgin, which wears in summer a kind
of mosquito-curtain to guard it from the flies, who, as you know, are
creatures of Satan.
Speaking of Satan, does your Excellency know that on the inside of our little
convent door, just above the little perforated plate of metal (like the rose of a
watering-pot) through which the Sister-portress peeps and talks, is pasted a
printed form, an arrangement of holy names and texts in triangles, and the
stigmatized hands of St. Francis, and a variety of other devices, for the
purpose, as is explained in a special notice, of baffling the Evil One, and
preventing his entrance into that building? Had you seen Dionea, and the
stolid, contemptuous way in which she took, without attempting to refute,
the various shocking allegations against her, your Excellency would have
reflected, as I did, that the door in question must have been accidentally
absent from the premises, perhaps at the joiner's for repair, the day that
your protégée first penetrated into the convent. The ecclesiastical tribunal,
consisting of the Mother Superior, three Sisters, the Capuchin Director, and
your humble servant (who vainly attempted to be Devil's advocate),
sentenced Dionea, among other things, to make the sign of the cross twenty-
six times on the bare floor with her tongue. Poor little child! One might
almost expect that, as happened when Dame Venus scratched her hand on
the thorn-bush, red roses should sprout up between the fissures of the dirty
old bricks.
October 14, 1883.
You ask whether, now that the Sisters let Dionea go and do half a day's
service now and then in the village, and that Dionea is a grown-up creature,
she does not set the place by the ears with her beauty. The people here are
quite aware of its existence. She is already dubbed La bella Dionea; but that
does not bring her any nearer getting a husband, although your Excellency's
generous offer of a wedding-portion is well known throughout the district of
San Massimo and Montemirto. None of our boys, peasants or fishermen,
seem to hang on her steps; and if they turn round to stare and whisper as she
goes by straight and dainty in her wooden clogs, with the pitcher of water or
the basket of linen on her beautiful crisp dark head, it is, I remark, with an
expression rather of fear than of love. The women, on their side, make horns
with their fingers as she passes, and as they sit by her side in the convent
chapel; but that seems natural. My housekeeper tells me that down in the
village she is regarded as possessing the evil eye and bringing love misery.
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"You mean," I said, "that a glance from her is too much for our lads' peace
of mind." Veneranda shook her head, and explained, with the deference and
contempt with which she always mentions any of her country-folk's
superstitions to me, that the matter is different: it's not with her they are in
love (they would be afraid of her eye), but where-ever she goes the young
people must needs fall in love with each other, and usually where it is far
from desirable. "You know Sora Luisa, the blacksmith's widow? Well,
Dionea did a half-service for her last month, to prepare for the wedding of
Luisa's daughter. Well, now, the girl must say, forsooth! that she won't have
Pieriho of Lerici any longer, but will have that raggamuffin Wooden Pipe
from Solaro, or go into a convent. And the girl changed her mind the very
day that Dionea had come into the house. Then there is the wife of Pippo,
the coffee-house keeper; they say she is carrying on with one of the
coastguards, and Dionea helped her to do her washing six weeks ago. The
son of Sor Temistocle has just cut off a finger to avoid the conscription,
because he is mad about his cousin and afraid of being taken for a soldier;
and it is a fact that some of the shirts which were made for him at the
Stigmata had been sewn by Dionea;" … and thus a perfect string of love
misfortunes, enough to make a little "Decameron," I assure you, and all laid
to Dionea's account. Certain it is that the people of San Massimo are terribly
afraid of Dionea….
July 17, 1884.
Dionea's strange influence seems to be extending in a terrible way. I am
almost beginning to think that our folk are correct in their fear of the young
witch. I used to think, as physician to a convent, that nothing was more
erroneous than all the romancings of Diderot and Schubert (your Excellency
sang me his "Young Nun" once: do you recollect, just before your
marriage?), and that no more humdrum creature existed than one of our little
nuns, with their pink baby faces under their tight white caps. It appeared the
romancing was more correct than the prose. Unknown things have sprung
up in these good Sisters' hearts, as unknown flowers have sprung up among
the myrtle-bushes and the rose-hedge which Dionea lies under. Did I ever
mention to you a certain little Sister Giuliana, who professed only two years
ago?—a funny rose and white little creature presiding over the infirmary, as
prosaic a little saint as ever kissed a crucifix or scoured a saucepan. Well,
Sister Giuliana has disappeared, and the same day has disappeared also a
sailor-boy from the port.
August 20, 1884.
The case of Sister Giuliana seems to have been but the beginning of an
extraordinary love epidemic at the Convent of the Stigmata: the elder
schoolgirls have to be kept under lock and key lest they should talk over the
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wall in the moonlight, or steal out to the little hunchback who writes love-
letters at a penny a-piece, beautiful flourishes and all, under the portico by
the Fishmarket. I wonder does that wicked little Dionea, whom no one pays
court to, smile (her lips like a Cupid's bow or a tiny snake's curves) as she
calls the pigeons down around her, or lies fondling the cats under the
myrtle-bush, when she sees the pupils going about with swollen, red eyes;
the poor little nuns taking fresh penances on the cold chapel flags; and hears
the long-drawn guttural vowels, amore and morte and mio bene, which rise
up of an evening, with the boom of the surf and the scent of the lemon-
flowers, as the young men wander up and down, arm-in-arm, twanging their
guitars along the moonlit lanes under the olives?
October 20, 1885.
A terrible, terrible thing has happened! I write to your Excellency with
hands all a-tremble; and yet I must write, I must speak, or else I shall cry
out. Did I ever mention to you Father Domenico of Casoria, the confessor of
our Convent of the Stigmata? A young man, tall, emaciated with fasts and
vigils, but handsome like the monk playing the virginal in Giorgione's
"Concert," and under his brown serge still the most stalwart fellow of the
country all round? One has heard of men struggling with the tempter. Well,
well, Father Domenico had struggled as hard as any of the Anchorites
recorded by St. Jerome, and he had conquered. I never knew anything
comparable to the angelic serenity of gentleness of this victorious soul. I
don't like monks, but I loved Father Domenico. I might have been his father,
easily, yet I always felt a certain shyness and awe of him; and yet men have
accounted me a clean-lived man in my generation; but I felt, whenever I
approached him, a poor worldly creature, debased by the knowledge of so
many mean and ugly things. Of late Father Domenico had seemed to me less
calm than usual: his eyes had grown strangely bright, and red spots had
formed on his salient cheekbones. One day last week, taking his hand, I felt
his pulse flutter, and all his strength as it were, liquefy under my touch.
"You are ill," I said. "You have fever, Father Domenico. You have been
overdoing yourself—some new privation, some new penance. Take care and
do not tempt Heaven; remember the flesh is weak." Father Domenico
withdrew his hand quickly. "Do not say that," he cried; "the flesh is strong!"
and turned away his face. His eyes were glistening and he shook all over.
"Some quinine," I ordered. But I felt it was no case for quinine. Prayers
might be more useful, and could I have given them he should not have
wanted. Last night I was suddenly sent for to Father Domenico's monastery
above Montemirto: they told me he was ill. I ran up through the dim twilight
of moonbeams and olives with a sinking heart. Something told me my monk
was dead. He was lying in a little low whitewashed room; they had carried
him there from his own cell in hopes he might still be alive. The windows
were wide open; they framed some olive-branches, glistening in the
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moonlight, and far below, a strip of moonlit sea. When I told them that he
was really dead, they brought some tapers and lit them at his head and feet,
and placed a crucifix between his hands. "The Lord has been pleased to call
our poor brother to Him," said the Superior. "A case of apoplexy, my dear
Doctor—a case of apoplexy. You will make out the certificate for the
authorities." I made out the certificate. It was weak of me. But, after all, why
make a scandal? He certainly had no wish to injure the poor monks.
Next day I found the little nuns all in tears. They were gathering flowers to
send as a last gift to their confessor. In the convent garden I found Dionea,
standing by the side of a big basket of roses, one of the white pigeons
perched on her shoulder.
"So," she said, "he has killed himself with charcoal, poor Padre
Something in her tone, her eyes, shocked me.
"God has called to Himself one of His most faithful servants," I said
Standing opposite this girl, magnificent, radiant in her beauty, before the
rose-hedge, with the white pigeons furling and unfurling, strutting and
pecking all round, I seemed to see suddenly the whitewashed room of last
night, the big crucifix, that poor thin face under the yellow waxlight. I felt
glad for Father Domenico; his battle was over.
"Take this to Father Domenico from me," said Dionea, breaking off a twig
of myrtle starred over with white blossom; and raising her head with that
smile like the twist of a young snake, she sang out in a high guttural voice a
strange chant, consisting of the word Amor—amor—amor. I took the branch
of myrtle and threw it in her face.
January 3, 1886
It will be difficult to find a place for Dionea, and in this neighborhood well-
nigh impossible. The people associate her somehow with the death of Father
Domenico, which has confirmed her reputation of having the evil eye. She
left the convent (being now seventeen) some two months back, and is at
present gaining her bread working with the masons at our notary's new
house at Lerici: the work is hard, but our women often do it, and it is
magnificent to see Dionea, in her short white skirt and tight white bodice,
mixing the smoking lime with her beautiful strong arms; or, an empty sack
drawn over her head and shoulders, walking majestically up the cliff, up the
scaffoldings with her load of bricks…. I am, however, very anxious to get
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Dionea out of the neighborhood, because I cannot help dreading the
annoyances to which her reputation for the evil eye exposes her, and even
some explosion of rage if ever she should lose the indifferent contempt with
which she treats them. I hear that one of the rich men of our part of the
world, a certain Sor Agostino of Sarzana, who owns a whole flank of marble
mountain, is looking out for a maid for his daughter, who is about to be
married; kind people and patriarchal in their riches, the old man still sitting
down to table with all his servants; and his nephew, who is going to be his
son-in-law, a splendid young fellow, who has worked like Jacob, in the
quarry and at the saw-mill, for love of his pretty cousin. That whole house is
so good, simple, and peaceful, that I hope it may tame down even Dionea. If
I do not succeed in getting Dionea this place (and all your Excellency's
illustriousness and all my poor eloquence will be needed to counteract the
sinister reports attaching to our poor little waif), it will be best to accept
your suggestion of taking the girl into your household at Rome, since you
are curious to see what you call our baleful beauty. I am amused, and a little
indignant at what you say about your footmen being handsome: Don Juan
himself, my dear Lady Evelyn, would be cowed by Dionea….
May 29, 1886.
Here is Dionea back upon our hands once more! but I cannot send her to
your Excellency. Is it from living among these peasants and fishing-folk, or
is it because, as people pretend, a skeptic is always superstitious? I could not
muster courage to send you Dionea, although your boys are still in sailor-
clothes and your uncle, the Cardinal, is eighty-four; and as to the Prince,
why, he bears the most potent amulet against Dionea's terrible powers in
your own dear capricious person. Seriously, there is something eerie in this
coincidence. Poor Dionea! I feel sorry for her, exposed to the passion of a
once patriarchally respectable old man. I feel even more abashed at the
incredible audacity, I should almost say sacrilegious madness, of the vile old
creature. But still the coincidence is strange and uncomfortable. Last week
the lightning struck a huge olive in the orchard of Sor Agostino's house
above Sarzana. Under the olive was Sor Agostino himself, who was killed
on the spot; and opposite, not twenty paces off, drawing water from the
well, unhurt and calm, was Dionea. It was the end of a sultry afternoon: I
was on a terrace in one of those villages of ours, jammed, like some hardy
bush, in the gash of a hill-side. I saw the storm rush down the valley, a
sudden blackness, and then, like a curse, a flash, a tremendous crash, re-
echoed by a dozen hills. "I told him," Dionea said very quietly, when she
came to stay with me the next day (for Sor Agostino's family would not
have her for another half-minute), "that if he did not leave me alone Heaven
would send him an accident."
July 15, 1886.
Page 14
My book? Oh, dear Donna Evelina, do not make me blush by talking of my
book! Do not make an old man, respectable, a Government functionary
(communal physician of the district of San Massimo and Montemirto
Ligure), confess that he is but a lazy unprofitable dreamer, collecting
materials as a child picks hips out of a hedge, only to throw them away,
liking them merely for the little occupation of scratching his hands and
standing on tiptoe, for their pretty redness…. You remember what Balzac
says about projecting any piece of work?—"C'est fumier des cigarettes
enchantées…." Well, well! The data obtainable about the ancient gods in
their days of adversity are few and far between: a quotation here and there
from the Fathers; two or three legends; Venus reappearing; the persecutions
of Apollo in Styria; Proserpina going, in Chaucer, to reign over the fairies; a
few obscure religious persecutions in the Middle Ages on the score of
Paganism; some strange rites practiced till lately in the depths of a Breton
forest near Lannion…. As to Tannhäuser, he was a real knight, and a sorry
one, and a real Minnesinger not of the best. Your Excellency will find some
of his poems in Von der Hagen's four immense volumes, but I recommend
you to take your notions of Ritter Tannhäuser's poetry rather from Wagner.
Certain it is that the Pagan divinities lasted much longer than we suspect,
sometimes in their own nakedness, sometimes in the stolen garb of the
Madonna or the saints. Who knows whether they do not exist to this day?
And, indeed, is it possible they should not? For the awfulness of the deep
woods, with their filtered green light, the creak of the swaying, solitary
reeds, exists, and is Pan; and the blue, starry May night exists, the sough of
the waves, the warm wind carrying the sweetness of the lemon-blossoms,
the bitterness of the myrtle on our rocks, the distant chant of the boys
cleaning out their nets, of the girls sickling the grass under the
olives, Amor—amor—amor, and all this is the great goddess Venus. And
opposite to me, as I write, between the branches of the ilexes, across the
blue sea, streaked like a Ravenna mosaic with purple and green, shimmer
the white houses and walls, the steeple and towers, an enchanted Fata
Morgana city, of dim Porto Venere; … and I mumble to myself the verse of
Catullus, but addressing a greater and more terrible goddess than he did:—
"Procul a mea sit furor omnis, Hera, domo; alios; age incitatos, alios age
March 25, 1887.
Yes; I will do everything in my power for your friends. Are you well-bred
folk as well bred as we, Republican bourgeois, with the coarse hands
(though you once told me mine were psychic hands when the mania of
palmistry had not yet been succeeded by that of the Reconciliation between
Church and State), I wonder, that you should apologize, you whose father
fed me and housed me and clothed me in my exile, for giving me the horrid
Page 15
trouble of hunting for lodgings? It is like you, dear Donna Evelina, to have
sent me photographs of my future friend Waldemar's statue…. I have no
love for modern sculpture, for all the hours I have spent in Gibson's and
Dupré's studio: 'tis a dead art we should do better to bury. But your
Waldemar has something of the old spirit: he seems to feel the divineness of
the mere body, the spirituality of a limpid stream of mere physical life. But
why among these statues only men and boys, athletes and fauns? Why only
the bust of that thin, delicate-lipped little Madonna wife of his? Why no
wide-shouldered Amazon or broad-flanked Aphrodite?
April 10, 1887.
You ask me how poor Dionea is getting on. Not as your Excellency and I
ought to have expected when we placed her with the good Sisters of the
Stigmata: although I wager that, fantastic and capricious as you are, you
would be better pleased (hiding it carefully from that grave side of you
which bestows devout little books and carbolic acid upon the indigent) that
your protégée should be a witch than a serving-maid, a maker of philters
rather than a knitter of stockings and sewer of shirts.
A maker of philters. Roughly speaking, that is Dionea's profession. She lives
upon the money which I dole out to her (with many useless objurgations) on
behalf of your Excellency, and her ostensible employment is mending nets,
collecting olives, carrying bricks, and other miscellaneous jobs; but her real
status is that of village sorceress. You think our peasants are skeptical?
Perhaps they do not believe in thought-reading, mesmerism, and ghosts, like
you, dear Lady Evelyn. But they believe very firmly in the evil eye, in
magic, and in love-potions. Every one has his little story of this or that
which happened to his brother or cousin or neighbor. My stable-boy and
male factotum's brother-in-law, living some years ago in Corsica, was seized
with a longing for a dance with his beloved at one of those balls which our
peasants give in the winter, when the snow makes leisure in the mountains.
A wizard anointed him for money, and straightway he turned into a black
cat, and in three bounds was over the seas, at the door of his uncle's cottage,
and among the dancers. He caught his beloved by the skirt to draw her
attention; but she replied with a kick which sent him squealing back to
Corsica. When he returned in summer he refused to marry the lady, and
carried his left arm in a sling. "You broke it when I came to the Veglia!" he
said, and all seemed explained. Another lad, returning from working in the
vineyards near Marseilles, was walking up to his native village, high in our
hills, one moonlight night. He heard sounds of fiddle and fife from a
roadside barn, and saw yellow light from its chinks; and then entering, he
found many women dancing, old and young, and among them his affianced.
He tried to snatch her round the waist for a waltz (they play Mme. Angot at
our rustic balls), but the girl was unclutchable, and whispered, "Go; for these
Page 16
are witches, who will kill thee; and I am a witch also. Alas! I shall go to hell
when I die."
I could tell your Excellency dozens of such stories. But love-philters are
among the commonest things to sell and buy. Do you remember the sad
little story of Cervantes' Licentiate, who, instead of a love-potion, drank a
philter which made him think he was made of glass, fit emblem of a poor
mad poet? … It is love-philters that Dionea prepares. No; do not
misunderstand; they do not give love of her, still less her love.
Your seller of love-charms is as cold as ice, as pure as snow. The priest has
crusaded against her, and stones have flown at her as she went by from
dissatisfied lovers; and the very children, paddling in the sea and making
mud-pies in the sand, have put out forefinger and little finger and screamed,
"Witch, witch! ugly witch!" as she passed with basket or brick load; but
Dionea has only smiled, that snake-like, amused smile, but more ominous
than of yore. The other day I determined to seek her and argue with her on
the subject of her evil trade. Dionea has a certain regard for me; not, I fancy,
a result of gratitude, but rather the recognition of a certain admiration and
awe which she inspires in your Excellency's foolish old servant. She has
taken up her abode in a deserted hut, built of dried reeds and thatch, such as
they keep cows in, among the olives on the cliffs. She was not there, but
about the hut pecked some white pigeons, and from it, startling me foolishly
with its unexpected sound, came the eerie bleat of her pet goat…. Among
the olives it was twilight already, with streakings of faded rose in the sky,
and faded rose, like long trails of petals, on the distant sea. I clambered
down among the myrtle-bushes and came to a little semicircle of yellow
sand, between two high and jagged rocks, the place where the sea had
deposited Dionea after the wreck. She was seated there on the sand, her bare
foot dabbling in the waves; she had twisted a wreath of myrtle and wild
roses on her black, crisp hair. Near her was one of our prettiest girls, the
Lena of Sor Tullio the blacksmith, with ashy, terrified face under her
flowered kerchief. I determined to speak to the child, but without startling
her now, for she is a nervous, hysteric little thing. So I sat on the rocks,
screened by the myrtle-bushes, waiting till the girl had gone. Dionea, seated
listless on the sands, leaned over the sea and took some of its water in the
hollow of her hand. "Here," she said to the Lena of Sor Tullio, "fill your
bottle with this and give it to drink to Tommasino the Rosebud." Then she
set to singing:—
"Love is salt, like sea-water—I drink and I die of thirst…. Water! water! Yet
the more I drink, the more I burn. Love! thou art bitter as the seaweed."
April 20, 1887.
Page 17
Your friends are settled here, dear Lady Evelyn. The house is built in what
was once a Genoese fort, growing like a grey spiked aloes out of the marble
rocks of our bay; rock and wall (the walls existed long before Genoa was
ever heard of) grown almost into a homogeneous mass, delicate grey,
stained with black and yellow lichen, and dotted here and there with myrtle-
shoots and crimson snapdragon. In what was once the highest enclosure of
the fort, where your friend Gertrude watches the maids hanging out the fine
white sheets and pillow-cases to dry (a bit of the North, of Hermann and
Dorothea transferred to the South), a great twisted fig-tree juts out like an
eccentric gargoyle over the sea, and drops its ripe fruit into the deep blue
pools. There is but scant furniture in the house, but a great oleander
overhangs it, presently to burst into pink splendor; and on all the window-
sills, even that of the kitchen (such a background of shining brass saucepans
Waldemar's wife has made of it!) are pipkins and tubs full of trailing
carnations, and tufts of sweet basil and thyme and mignonette. She pleases
me most, your Gertrude, although you foretold I should prefer the husband;
with her thin white face, a Memling Madonna finished by some Tuscan
sculptor, and her long, delicate white hands ever busy, like those of a
mediaeval lady, with some delicate piece of work; and the strange blue,
more limpid than the sky and deeper than the sea, of her rarely lifted glance.
It is in her company that I like Waldemar best; I prefer to the genius that
infinitely tender and respectful, I would not say lover —yet I have no other
word—of his pale wife. He seems to me, when with her, like some fierce,
generous, wild thing from the woods, like the lion of Una, tame and
submissive to this saint…. This tenderness is really very beautiful on the
part of that big lion Waldemar, with his odd eyes, as of some wild animal—
odd, and, your Excellency remarks, not without a gleam of latent ferocity. I
think that hereby hangs the explanation of his never doing any but male
figures: the female figure, he says (and your Excellency must hold him
responsible, not me, for such profanity), is almost inevitably inferior in
strength and beauty; woman is not form, but expression, and therefore suits
painting, but not sculpture. The point of a woman is not her body, but (and
here his eyes rested very tenderly upon the thin white profile of his wife) her
soul. "Still," I answered, "the ancients, who understood such matters, did
manufacture some tolerable female statues: the Fates of the Parthenon, the
Phidian Pallas, the Venus of Milo."…
"Ah! yes," exclaimed Waldemar, smiling, with that savage gleam of his
eyes; "but those are not women, and the people who made them have left as
the tales of Endymion, Adonis, Anchises: a goddess might sit for them."…
May 5, 1887.
Page 18
Has it ever struck your Excellency in one of your La Rochefoucauld fits (in
Lent say, after too many balls) that not merely maternal but conjugal
unselfishness may be a very selfish thing? There! you toss your little head at
my words; yet I wager I have heard you say that other women may think it
right to humor their husbands, but as to you, the Prince must learn that a
wife's duty is as much to chasten her husband's whims as to satisfy them. I
really do feel indignant that such a snow-white saint should wish another
woman to part with all instincts of modesty merely because that other
woman would be a good model for her husband; really it is intolerable.
"Leave the girl alone," Waldemar said, laughing. "What do I want with the
unaesthetic sex, as Schopenhauer calls it?" But Gertrude has set her heart on
his doing a female figure; it seems that folk have twitted him with never
having produced one. She has long been on the look-out for a model for
him. It is odd to see this pale, demure, diaphanous creature, not the more
earthly for approaching motherhood, scanning the girls of our village with
the eyes of a slave-dealer.
"If you insist on speaking to Dionea," I said, "I shall insist on speaking to
her at the same time, to urge her to refuse your proposal." But Waldemar's
pale wife was indifferent to all my speeches about modesty being a poor
girl's only dowry. "She will do for a Venus," she merely answered.
We went up to the cliffs together, after some sharp words, Waldemar's wife
hanging on my arm as we slowly clambered up the stony path among the
olives. We found Dionea at the door of her hut, making faggots of myrtle-
branches. She listened sullenly to Gertrude's offer and explanations;
indifferently to my admonitions not to accept. The thought of stripping for
the view of a man, which would send a shudder through our most brazen
village girls, seemed not to startle her, immaculate and savage as she is
accounted. She did not answer, but sat under the olives, looking vaguely
across the sea. At that moment Waldemar came up to us; he had followed
with the intention of putting an end to these wranglings.
"Gertrude," he said, "do leave her alone. I have found a model—a fisher-
boy, whom I much prefer to any woman."
Dionea raised her head with that serpentine smile. "I will come," she said.
Waldemar stood silent; his eyes were fixed on her, where she stood under
the olives, her white shift loose about her splendid throat, her shining feet
bare in the grass. Vaguely, as if not knowing what he said, he asked her
name. She answered that her name was Dionea; for the rest, she was an
Innocentina, that is to say, a foundling; then she began to sing:—
Page 19
"Flower of the myrtle!
My father is the starry sky,
The mother that made me is the sea."
June 22, 1887.
I confess I was an old fool to have grudged Waldemar his model. As I watch
him gradually building up his statue, watch the goddess gradually emerging
from the clay heap, I ask myself—and the case might trouble a more subtle
moralist than me—whether a village girl, an obscure, useless life within the
bounds of what we choose to call right and wrong, can be weighed against
the possession by mankind of a great work of art, a Venus immortally
beautiful? Still, I am glad that the two alternatives need not be weighed
against each other. Nothing can equal the kindness of Gertrude, now that
Dionea has consented to sit to her husband; the girl is ostensibly merely a
servant like any other; and, lest any report of her real functions should get
abroad and discredit her at San Massimo or Montemirto, she is to be taken
to Rome, where no one will be the wiser, and where, by the way, your
Excellency will have an opportunity of comparing Waldemar's goddess of
love with our little orphan of the Convent of the Stigmata. What reassures
me still more is the curious attitude of Waldemar towards the girl. I could
never have believed that an artist could regard a woman so utterly as a mere
inanimate thing, a form to copy, like a tree or flower. Truly he carries out
his theory that sculpture knows only the body, and the body scarcely
considered as human. The way in which he speaks to Dionea after hours of
the most rapt contemplation of her is almost brutal in its coldness. And yet
to hear him exclaim, "How beautiful she is! Good God, how beautiful!" No
love of mere woman was ever so violent as this love of woman's mere
June 27, 1887.
You asked me once, dearest Excellency, whether there survived among our
people (you had evidently added a volume on folk-lore to that heap of half-
cut, dog's-eared books that litter about among the Chineseries and mediaeval
brocades of your rooms) any trace of Pagan myths. I explained to you then
that all our fairy mythology, classic gods, and demons and heroes, teemed
with fairies, ogres, and princes. Last night I had a curious proof of this.
Going to see the Waldemar, I found Dionea seated under the oleander at the
top of the old Genoese fort, telling stories to the two little blonde children
who were making the falling pink blossoms into necklaces at her feet; the
pigeons, Dionea's white pigeons, which never leave her, strutting and
pecking among the basil pots, and the white gulls flying round the rocks
overhead. This is what I heard… "And the three fairies said to the youngest
son of the King, to the one who had been brought up as a shepherd, 'Take
Page 20
this apple, and give it to her among us who is most beautiful.' And the first
fairy said, 'If thou give it to me thou shalt be Emperor of Rome, and have
purple clothes, and have a gold crown and gold armor, and horses and
courtiers;' and the second said, 'If thou give it to me thou shalt be Pope, and
wear a miter, and have the keys of heaven and hell;' and the third fairy said,
'Give the apple to me, for I will give thee the most beautiful lady to wife.'
And the youngest son of the King sat in the green meadow and thought
about it a little, and then said, 'What use is there in being Emperor or Pope?
Give me the beautiful lady to wife, since I am young myself.' And he gave
the apple to the third of the three fairies."…
Dionea droned out the story in her half-Genoese dialect, her eyes looking far
away across the blue sea, dotted with sails like white sea-gulls, that strange
serpentine smile on her lips.
"Who told thee that fable?" I asked.
She took a handful of oleander-blossoms from the ground, and throwing
them in the air, answered listlessly, as she watched the little shower of rosy
petals descend on her black hair and pale breast—
"Who knows?"
July 6, 1887.
How strange is the power of art! Has Waldemar's statue shown me the real
Dionea, or has Dionea really grown more strangely beautiful than before?
Your Excellency will laugh; but when I meet her I cast down my eyes after
the first glimpse of her loveliness; not with the shyness of a ridiculous old
pursuer of the Eternal Feminine, but with a sort of religious awe—the
feeling with which, as a child kneeling by my mother's side, I looked down
on the church flags when the Mass bell told the elevation of the Host…. Do
you remember the story of Zeuxis and the ladies of Crotona, five of the
fairest not being too much for his Juno? Do you remember—you, who have
read everything—all the bosh of our writers about the Ideal in Art? Why,
here is a girl who disproves all this nonsense in a minute; she is far, far more
beautiful than Waldemar's statue of her. He said so angrily, only yesterday,
when his wife took me into his studio (he has made a studio of the long-
desecrated chapel of the old Genoese fort, itself, they say, occupying the site
of the temple of Venus).
As he spoke that odd spark of ferocity dilated in his eyes, and seizing the
largest of his modeling tools, he obliterated at one swoop the whole
exquisite face. Poor Gertrude turned ashy white, and a convulsion passed
over her face….
Page 21
July 15.
I wish I could make Gertrude understand, and yet I could never, never bring
myself to say a word. As a matter of fact, what is there to be said? Surely
she knows best that her husband will never love any woman but herself. Yet
ill, nervous as she is, I quite understand that she must loathe this unceasing
talk of Dionea, of the superiority of the model over the statue. Cursed statue!
I wish it were finished, or else that it had never been begun.
July 20.
This morning Waldemar came to me. He seemed strangely agitated: I
guessed he had something to tell me, and yet I could never ask. Was it
cowardice on my part? He sat in my shuttered room, the sunshine making
pools on the red bricks and tremulous stars on the ceiling, talking of many
things at random, and mechanically turning over the manuscript, the heap of
notes of my poor, never-finished book on the Exiled Gods. Then he rose,
and walking nervously round my study, talking disconnectedly about his
work, his eye suddenly fell upon a little altar, one of my few antiquities, a
little block of marble with a carved garland and rams' heads, and a half-
effaced inscription dedicating it to Venus, the mother of Love.
"It was found," I explained, "in the ruins of the temple, somewhere on the
site of your studio: so, at least, the man said from whom I bought it."
Waldemar looked at it long. "So," he said, "this little cavity was to burn the
incense in; or rather, I suppose, since it has two little gutters running into it,
for collecting the blood of the victim? Well, well! they were wiser in that
day, to wring the neck of a pigeon or burn a pinch of incense than to eat
their own hearts out, as we do, all along of Dame Venus;" and he laughed,
and left me with that odd ferocious lighting-up of his face. Presently there
came a knock at my door. It was Waldemar. "Doctor," he said very quietly,
"will you do me a favor? Lend me your little Venus altar—only for a few
days, only till the day after tomorrow. I want to copy the design of it for the
pedestal of my statue: it is appropriate." I sent the altar to him: the lad who
carried it told me that Waldemar had set it up in the studio, and calling for a
flask of wine, poured out two glasses. One he had given to my messenger
for his pains; of the other he had drunk a mouthful, and thrown the rest over
the altar, saying some unknown words. "It must be some German habit,"
said my servant. What odd fancies this man has!
July 25.
You ask me, dearest Excellency, to send you some sheets of my book: you
want to know what I have discovered. Alas! dear Donna Evelina, I have
Page 22
discovered, I fear, that there is nothing to discover; that Apollo was never in
Styria; that Chaucer, when he called the Queen of the Fairies Proserpine,
meant nothing more than an eighteenth century poet when he called Dolly or
Betty Cynthia or Amaryllis; that the lady who damned poor Tannhäuser was
not Venus, but a mere little Suabian mountain sprite; in fact, that poetry is
only the invention of poets, and that that rogue, Heinrich Heine, is entirely
responsible for the existence of Dieux en Exil…. My poor manuscript can
only tell you what St. Augustine, Tertullian, and sundry morose old Bishops
thought about the loves of Father Zeus and the miracles of the Lady Isis,
none of which is much worth your attention…. Reality, my dear Lady
Evelyn, is always prosaic: at least when investigated into by bald old
gentlemen like me.
And yet, it does not look so. The world, at times, seems to be playing at
being poetic, mysterious, full of wonder and romance. I am writing, as
usual, by my window, the moonlight brighter in its whiteness than my mean
little yellow-shining lamp. From the mysterious greyness, the olive groves
and lanes beneath my terrace, rises a confused quaver of frogs, and buzz and
whirr of insects: something, in sound, like the vague trails of countless stars,
the galaxies on galaxies blurred into mere blue shimmer by the moon, which
rides slowly across the highest heaven. The olive twigs glisten in the rays:
the flowers of the pomegranate and oleander are only veiled as with bluish
mist in their scarlet and rose. In the sea is another sea, of molten, rippled
silver, or a magic causeway leading to the shining vague offing, the
luminous pale sky-line, where the islands of Palmaria and Tino float like
unsubstantial, shadowy dolphins. The roofs of Montemirto glimmer among
the black, pointing cypresses: farther below, at the end of that half-moon of
land, is San Massimo: the Genoese fort inhabited by our friends is profiled
black against the sky. All is dark: our fisher-folk go to bed early; Gertrude
and the little ones are asleep: they at least are, for I can imagine Gertrude
lying awake, the moonbeams on her thin Madonna face, smiling as she
thinks of the little ones around her, of the other tiny thing that will soon lie
on her breast…. There is a light in the old desecrated chapel, the thing that
was once the temple of Venus, they say, and is now Waldemar's workshop,
its broken roof mended with reeds and thatch. Waldemar has stolen in, no
doubt to see his statue again. But he will return, more peaceful for the
peacefulness of the night, to his sleeping wife and children. God bless and
watch over them! Good-night, dearest Excellency.
July 26.
I have your Excellency's telegram in answer to mine. Many thanks for
sending the Prince. I await his coming with feverish longing; it is still
something to look forward to. All does not seem over. And yet what can he
Page 23
The children are safe: we fetched them out of their bed and brought them up
here. They are still a little shaken by the fire, the bustle, and by finding
themselves in a strange house; also, they want to know where their mother
is; but they have found a tame cat, and I hear them chirping on the stairs.
It was only the roof of the studio, the reeds and thatch, that burned, and a
few old pieces of timber. Waldemar must have set fire to it with great care;
he had brought armfuls of faggots of dry myrtle and heather from the
bakehouse close by, and thrown into the blaze quantities of pine-cones, and
of some resin, I know not what, that smelt like incense. When we made our
way, early this morning, through the smoldering studio, we were stifled with
a hot church-like perfume: my brain swam, and I suddenly remembered
going into St. Peter's on Easter Day as a child.
It happened last night, while I was writing to you. Gertrude had gone to bed,
leaving her husband in the studio. About eleven the maids heard him come
out and call to Dionea to get up and come and sit to him. He had had this
craze once before, of seeing her and his statue by an artificial light: you
remember he had theories about the way in which the ancients lit up the
statues in their temples. Gertrude, the servants say, was heard creeping
downstairs a little later.
Do you see it? I have seen nothing else these hours, which have seemed
weeks and months. He had placed Dionea on the big marble block behind
the altar, a great curtain of dull red brocade—you know that Venetian
brocade with the gold pomegranate pattern—behind her, like a Madonna of
Van Eyck's. He showed her to me once before like this, the whiteness of her
neck and breast, the whiteness of the drapery round her flanks, toned to the
color of old marble by the light of the resin burning in pans all round….
Before Dionea was the altar—the altar of Venus which he had borrowed
from me. He must have collected all the roses about it, and thrown the
incense upon the embers when Gertrude suddenly entered. And then, and
We found her lying across the altar, her pale hair among the ashes of the
incense, her blood—she had but little to give, poor white ghost!—trickling
among the carved garlands and rams' heads, blackening the heaped-up roses.
The body of Waldemar was found at the foot of the castle cliff. Had he
hoped, by setting the place on fire, to bury himself among its ruins, or had
he not rather wished to complete in this way the sacrifice, to make the whole
temple an immense votive pyre? It looked like one, as we hurried down the
hills to San Massimo: the whole hillside, dry grass, myrtle, and heather, all
burning, the pale short flames waving against the blue moonlit sky, and the
old fortress outlined black against the blaze.
Page 24
August 30.
Of Dionea I can tell you nothing certain. We speak of her as little as we can.
Some say they have seen her, on stormy nights, wandering among the cliffs:
but a sailor-boy assures me, by all the holy things, that the day after the
burning of the Castle Chapel—we never call it anything else—he met at
dawn, off the island of Palmaria, beyond the Strait of Porto Venere, a Greek
boat, with eyes painted on the prow, going full sail to sea, the men singing
as she went. And against the mast, a robe of purple and gold about her, and a
myrtle-wreath on her head, leaned Dionea, singing words in an unknown
tongue, the white pigeons circling around her.

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