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Marchesa! Her lip - her beautiful lip trembles: tears are gathering in her eyes - those eyes which, like Pliny's
acanthus, are "soft and almost liquid." Yes! tears are gathering in those eyes - and see! the entire woman
thrills throughout the soul, and the statue has started into life! The pallor of the marble countenance, the
swelling of the marble bosom, the very purity of the marble feet, we behold suddenly flushed over with a tide
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of ungovernable crimson; and a slight shudder quivers about her delicate frame, as a gentle air at Napoli about
the rich silver lilies in the grass.
Why should that lady blush! To this demand there is no answer - except that, having left, in the eager haste
and terror of a mother's heart, the privacy of her own boudoir, she has neglected to enthral her tiny feet in
their slippers, and utterly forgotten to throw over her Venetian shoulders that drapery which is their due. What
other possible reason could there have been for her so blushing? - for the glance of those wild appealing eyes?
for the unusual tumult of that throbbing bosom? - for the convulsive pressure of that trembling hand? - that
hand which fell, as Mentoni turned into the palace, accidentally, upon the hand of the stranger. What reason
could there have been for the low - the singularly low tone of those unmeaning words which the lady uttered
hurriedly in bidding him adieu? "Thou hast conquered," she said, or the murmurs of the water deceived me;
"thou hast conquered - one hour after sunrise - we shall meet - so let it be!"
* * * * * * *
The tumult had subsided, the lights had died away within the palace, and the stranger, whom I now
recognized, stood alone upon the flags. He shook with inconceivable agitation, and his eye glanced around in
search of a gondola. I could not do less than offer him the service of my own; and he accepted the civility.
Having obtained an oar at the water-gate, we proceeded together to his residence, while he rapidly recovered
his self-possession, and spoke of our former slight acquaintance in terms of great apparent cordiality.
There are some subjects upon which I take pleasure in being minute. The person of the stranger - let me call
him by this title, who to all the world was still a stranger - the person of the stranger is one of these subjects.
In height he might have been below rather than above the medium size: although there were moments of
intense passion when his frame actually expanded and belied the assertion. The light, almost slender
symmetry of his figure, promised more of that ready activity which he evinced at the Bridge of Sighs, than of
that Herculean strength which he has been known to wield without an effort, upon occasions of more
dangerous emergency. With the mouth and chin of a deity - singular, wild, full, liquid eyes, whose shadows
varied from pure hazel to intense and brilliant jet - and a profusion of curling, black hair, from which a
forehead of unusual breadth gleamed forth at intervals all light and ivory - his were features than which I have
seen none more classically regular, except, perhaps, the marble ones of the Emperor Commodus. Yet his
countenance was, nevertheless, one of those which all men have seen at some period of their lives, and have
never afterwards seen again. It had no peculiar - it had no settled predominant expression to be fastened upon
the memory; a countenance seen and instantly forgotten - but forgotten with a vague and never-ceasing desire
of recalling it to mind. Not that the spirit of each rapid passion failed, at any time, to throw its own distinct
image upon the mirror of that face - but that the mirror, mirror-like, retained no vestige of the passion, when
the passion had departed.
Upon leaving him on the night of our adventure, he solicited me, in what I thought an urgent manner, to call
upon him very early the next morning. Shortly after sunrise, I found myself accordingly at his Palazzo, one of [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]