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      She could see her young mistress's face distinctly in the lamplight. Isola was very pale, and her face was full of trouble; not the face of a woman amusing herself with an idle flirtation, playing with fire without the least intention of burning her fingers. There were plenty of flirtations of that order going on in the Talbot ball-room; but this was not one of them. This meant peril of some kind. This was all evil. That pale face, those heavy eyelids, shrouding eyes which dared not look up. That tremulous, uncertain movement of the snowy ostrich fan! All these were danger signals.

      Lamps were burning in dining-room and drawing-room. He saw the table laid for dinner through the open door as he and Isola passed by; but the idea of eating and drinking seemed very far off just now. They went into the drawing-room together, where a solitary lamp was shining upon a table crowded with flowers, and where the scents of the garden came in through the open window. Here he satisfied the longing of his hungry heart, and took that fragile form in his arms, and kissed the pale cold lips. She lay upon his breast unresistingly; helpless, unresponsive, like a dead thing.

      [Pg 105]

      Esmeraldas brows were drawn straight, and her lips closed. She felt troubled and uncertain. She had only been made love to once beforebut how differently! Her heart was beating fast, for his words, his voice, made sweet music in her ears.

      "Have you pretty cabins?" she asked childishly.[158]


      Isola stood listening to their footsteps, as they passed the little painted shrine on the hill path. She heard them give the time of day to a party of peasant women, with empty[Pg 242] baskets on their heads, going up to gather the last of the olives. Then she roamed about the wooded valley and the slope of the hill towards Colla for an hour or two, and then, growing suddenly tired, she crept home, in time to sit beside her baby while he slept his placid noontide sleep. She bent over the little rosebud mouth and kissed it, in a rapture of maternal love.


      It seemed to him like dancing with a young school-girl, perfectly frank, and almost boyish. Somehow, he found, rather to his surprise, that he was enjoying it. When the music ceased she drew a little breath of enjoyment.