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Milan very soon; perhaps to-morrow, perhaps the day after. Will it incommode you very much to seek another apartment in the morning?"

"You leave Milan?" he asked, astonished.

"Perhaps, signorino. There are reasons. I must not name them."

Douglas's presence of mind failed him for the time, thus confronted by the likelihood of fresh disappointments.

"Those tiresome reasons again!" he exclaimed. "Any one would think your father was-was not-” In some confusion, he stayed his tongue. "We will consider it in the morning. There will be time then. Good-night."

He turned for the stairs. The girl's eyes had enlarged with his words, and it would not have surprised him to hear another outburst from her. But none came. Perhaps it had lacked time to develop.

LIVING

AGE.

Alone in his little room, with the saints on the walls and Maria Bassano's patchwork bedcover, made in the days of her sublimely innocent early teens, Douglas put the candle on the toilettable and gave way to his irritation. The tap-tap of the cobbler upstairs still continued. It seemed to add to his annoyance. He was a fool to have let his personal feelings for one moment interfere with his prescribed duty as pursuer of evil-doers. He ought to have consulted the Cavaliere di Barese that evening. Were it not so late, even now he would, perhaps, have gone to him. What a fool to have allowed a pair of Venetian blue eyes to waste his time, and, again perhaps, involve the downfall of another life! This projected flight of the Bassano establishment confirmed all the portents. The Via Corta was at the root of the five horrible assassinations, and Bassano the cobbler at the very root of the root.

He went to bed with every determination to rise early and make amends for his negligence; and it was with the VOL. XXXV. 1832

tap-tapping of the cobbler still sounding in the house like a death-tick that sleep very considerately came to him. But, in fact, he did not wake early. That is to say, it was eight o'clock before he opened his eyes and turned towards the sunlit corner of the Castello and the patch of the Piazza d'Armi beyond his unblinded window.

He lay still for a few moments, gathering the threads of his life.

There was talking somewhere on the premises below. Outside, a fruitseller was proclaiming fresh apricots and other things.

Then Douglas jumped from his bed. The importance of the day thus begun had loomed large to his imagination. It behooved him to waste no more time. He could hear that persistent cobbler at work upstairs; not hammering, but moving weights, as it were. Most of all, however, he heard the voices downstairs. And it was with only one leg in his trousers that he suddenly realized whose voice it was as well as Maria's. Maria's had risen to a passionate and rather shrill pitch. The other's had also risen from a basso profondo to something like a hoarse tenor. And the other's was the Count Enzio Masuccio's.

At such an hour!

Still with the right leg in and the left leg outside his trousers, Douglas quietly opened his door. It relied on a latch only and a key which he never used.

"It is your last chance, carina," he now heard the Count say. "I shall bring a carriage to this end of the Via Legnano at ten o'clock. If you do not come to me I come for you. Ponder it well."

"No, signore," said Maria Bassano. "I have told you it cannot be."

"And I repeat that it is either that or there will be something that will make you sorry. I am not master of myself, iny dove."

"Have the courtesy to depart, sig

man.

a

on

now-men,

nore," then said Maria, lowering her Virgin, intercede for us in this our voice. "My father, I think, is descend- hour of greatest need!” While he ing."

paused, irresolute, Douglas heard this "Very well, signorina," said the Count much of the piteous little petition fly otr in a much more ordinary tone. “It is to heaven. understood. Addio!"

A shout from the cobbler broke upon Douglas heard the house door close, the girl's prayers like something sacriand shutting his own door, proceeded legious. "My daughter!" yelled the with his toilet. He stepped to the window. The Count lived at the ceme- Maria Bassano sprang up the stairs. tery end of the city, and would proba- “Oh, signore!" she gasped as she fled bly, as usual, pass towards the piazza. past Douglas. There he was, indeed, with the little par- A minute later she rushed down. cel under his armi, a gray felt Tyrolese In the meantime Douglas had waited hat on his head; for the rest, perfectly and resumed his dressing. There was gloved, and with a slender umbrella. crowd the piazza It had rained in the night, and there women, and boys looking about them as were puddles on the road. The Count if they were hunting for many lost was careful to avoid the puddles. pieces of money. At times one would

For maybe a full minute Douglas kept stoop, pick up something, and drop it the gentleman in sight, until he was again. Upstairs the cobbler and his near by the trees which here bordered daughter conversed strenuously. the great piazza.

And then the girl descended, and Douglas was buttoning his braces Douglas intercepted her. and about to turn away, when suddenly *Well?” he said. *The Count-you he seemed to freeze from head to foot. know, perhaps--he has been extermi('ould he believe his eyes? The unfor. nated: He, the sixth!" tunate Masuccio had disappeared, and Maria Bassano clasped her hands on instead of him there was a little cloud her bosom. The agony in her eyes was of particles which- But of course he dreadful to Douglas. Yet she spoke could believe his eyes. The report as calmly in assent. of a cannon which sounded a moment “Si, signore, the sixth! But it was a later told him everything.

mistake. It does not matter.

We are, Staring horror-stricken, he saw the of course, ruined this time. But it was cloud die away. There was no well- not Masuccio who was decreed to die. dressed Count Enzio Masuccio visible Dio mio! no. My father, in his agitawhere the cloud had been; but a gen- tion, placed it in the wrong boot-that darme and a man in an operative's of Masuccio. He has discovered that blue smock were running towards th: it was so." site of the explosion.

Looking up, Douglas saw the pallid Douglas slipped into his coat with- face of Bassano himself at the top of out troubling about anything else. the stairs. But in spite of his pallor

The silence of the house was almost there was an expression of vigor in the a stunning contrast to that fatal roar cobbler's eyes which was new to Dougwhose echo was still in his ears. Not las. He had the air, indeed, of a man a sound now came from the cobbler up- whose back was against a wall, and stairs. But when he opened his door who meant to fight. he heard a whisper from below, and a Thus standing, the cobbler spoke. subdued patter of prayers from Maria “Are you a friend to us, signorino." Bassano drifted towards him. "Holy he asked steadily.

"That is it, caro signorino,” whispered the girl, still with her fingers locked on her bosom. "You will not betray us, you who are so amiable and good? There is a train for Parma in an hour." "Ah!"

Douglas glanced from father to daughter, and from daughter to father. Then he turned to the window. It was their simplicity that had first impressed him. As if he could intervene between them and their fate in such a moment! But now, on further knowledge, he perceived that there was at present no evidence to connect this disintegrated Count Enzio with the house he had left five minutes ago. The crowd had swelled. There were several police, who seemed quite at a loss whether to look up to heaven or down upon the ground for information about the identity of the luckless sixth in this chain of calamities. That a sixth citizen of Milan, or otherwise, had been blown to uttermost fragments was no doubt clear to them; but how could they ascertain more than that?

"Tell me," said Douglas to the cobbler, who had come downstairs, "you are an instrument in the hands of others? Is it not so?"

"A most unhappy and unwilling instrument, signorinó,” replied Bassano, tremulously as of old, with shaking hands. "Before God, I swear it."

"And did not mean to murder that man?"

"His Excellency the Count, signore? No, by the bones of San Carlo! I confused them. I will confess to you, Signore Inglese, as to God Almighty. The man whom I must not name brought the thing which I must not talk about, and a certain boot. I was to put it in the heel of the boot. Undoubtedly there was a resemblance between the two boots, and being so fatigued last night, I- But your goodness understands without more words."

"An infernal machine in the heel of

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a boot?" said Douglas, almost incredulous.

"Si, signorino," replied the cobbler. "An invention of the devil! I know nothing about it, God be praised! I do but obey the commands which are forced upon me."

"But how"-Douglas lost sight of all else for the time save the ingenuity and energy of such murders-"how came he to put it on here-the boot?"

"That was an accident, caro signorino," said Maria. "It was his right foot, and he complained greatly of the tightness of the boot he was wearing. He changed it for the-the mended one, although it was not a perfect pair with the other one, and—”

She covered her face with her hands. "There is little time," protested the cobbler, with urgent eyes between their pink lids. "May we trust you, signorino?"

"Yes, you may trust me; but there is one thing more. These misadventures are they managed by clockwork?" The cobbler hesitated, sighed, and looked earnestly at his daughter.

"The signore is very inquisitive," he remarked. "Shall I tell him this also?" "He is our friend, father. He has said we may trust him. The English do not lie," replied Maria Bassano.

"That is so. I repeat it. I am your friend to the best of my powers," said Douglas. "But I am, as you say, inquisitive. Are they little boxes of witchcraft set to a time?"

"No, signore," replied the cobbler reluctantly. "There is a head to them which the heel presses. But they do not all go off immediately. The pressure has to be sufficient. Is that all the signore wishes to know?"

And then Douglas realized the cruelty of his questioning at such a crisis. "It is all," he said. "Make haste with your preparations, and good luck to you both. I also will pack my little bag." Maria Bassano began to call down

en

Heaven's blessings upon him; but he agent, was to come for it at noon. But urged her not to take that trouble. his visit will be useless."

There was still no indication outside "Bolla?" that any one had knowledge of the de- "Si, signore." ceased ('ount's movements before the “Happy man, then, this other, ehmat disaster. The crowd had swelled, and least for a time? Well, addio, in conincluded mounted officers of the king's clusion." army. The roar of voices in exclama- Downstairs he had but few words for tion could be heard through the win- Maria, whose tearful blue eyes and dow.

quivering lips disconcerted him. He A certain anxiety now seized Doug- merely repeated the precaution which las. Supposing this general exodus he had mentioned to her father, wished from the house were noticed, might not her every happiness amid more dangerous inferences be drawn?

lightened surroundings, and left the Of course it was so,

house. He decided at once to take with him A stream of people was in the Via only such things as he could conven- ('orta, making for the piazza; and on iently carry about his person; and thus the spur of the moment Douglas went lightly padded he left the room to say with the tide. "Good-bye" to the Bassanos.

He stayed for a few minutes on the “May I come up?" he called, and tak- outskirts of the crowd, quietly looking ing straightway to the stairs, he was about and listening to its comments and soon in the cobbler's workshop.

ejaculations. The police were busy "I am going. Once more, 'Good-luck,'" forming an enclosure, as exact as they he said. He gazed about him as he could guess at it, round the spot of held out his hand to the pink-eyed ac- ground which held conjecturable morcessory in such vile deeds. But there sels of the unfortunate Masuccio. But was nothing remarkable in the attic. this were a difficult matter if a certain A bed was in the corner, and the com- gossip of the crowd spoke truth in sayNionplace litter of a cobbler's workshop ing that he had seen no fragments of was all about. He observed, however, anything larger than a coat-button. a package which evidently contained a boot.

The cobbler wiped his hand on his Back at his hotel in the Corso Vittoapron ere, with profound respect ob- ria Emanuele, Douglas spent a quiet, vious in his pink-rimmed eyes, he re- thoughtful day and the subsequent sponded to Douglas's courtesy.

night. And the next morning he left "You are a noble benefactor to us, for London without paying a second signorino," he stammered.

visit to the Cavaliere di Barese. It “By no means," said Douglas. "Don't distressed him a little to act with such be rash in your movements, that's all. apparent incivility, but he feared to Let your daughter walk to the station face that experienced gentleman. He by herself, and you after her. And

could not hope to escape easily from don't overload yourself with things.” such questions as the Cavaliere would He fingered the parcel idly while he be bound to ask; and it were better that spoke, then lifted it with an inquiring the Cavaliere should wonder at bis smile. "Perhaps this also?" he whis- discourtesy than that he should by an pered.

involuntary word or look give him "That, caro signore," said the cobbler cause to suspect the Bassanos. Others lmskily, “is the other one. He, the might now take up the investigation of

the Via Corta's connection with the mysteries. They undoubtedly would do so at once, and Douglas could only hope that the cobbler and his daughter Chambers's Journal.

might successfully obliterate themselves in Parma or elsewhere.

His own short week in Milan was at any rate one to remember. Charles Edwardes.

(The End.)

STEVENSON'S POEMS.*

When "Underwoods" was first published critics did not quite know what to say about it. Nor has the world yet come to any very sure opinion about any of Stevenson's poems, except "A Child's Garden of Verses," which every one is content to enjoy without asking questions about it. One thing, however, is certain about Stevenson's poetry. It is nearly all good reading, and more interesting than a good deal of poetry with a higher reputation. Some of his blank verse pieces are a little dull-most blank verse is dulland only a Scotchman can read the Scotch poems with perfect ease; but the rest, when once you have begun them, lead you on to the end just like his stories and his essays. "I do not set up to be a poet," he said himself, “only an all-round literary man. A man who talks, not one who sings." And he knew how to talk in verse as well as in prose. Several times in his letters he insists that his verse was the verse of a prose writer. Writing to Henley in 1883 he says that he is now a great writer of verses. "Really, I have begun to learn some of the rudiments of that trade, I have written three or four pretty enough pieces of octosyllabic nonsense, semi-serious, semi-smiling. A kind of prose Herrick, divested of the gift of verse, and you behold the Bard. But I like it." He explained the success of "Underwoods" by saying "You

"Poems by Robert Louis Stevenson," in cluding "Underwoods," "Ballads," and "Songs of Travel" (Chatto and Windus, 28. net).

see the verses are sane, that is their strong point." It was their prose merits, he thought, that sent them into a second edition. As to the "Ballads," he had a sneaking idea that they were not altogether without merit. "I don't know if they are poetry; but they're good narrative or I'm deceived."

In fact he professed to be a prose writer who made verses for fun but knew enough of literature not to make dull ones. This may seem poor praise; but dullness is always a danger imminent to verse; and when verse is not dull, when it can be read with real pleasure and not merely by way of an attempt at plain living and high thinking, then we may be sure that it is good of its kind. Verse making was not Stevenson's peculiar craft; and therefore he could but seldom put all the weight of his thought and all the strength of his emotion into it; but he was not content either to prose in his verses. or to leave them rough, like some prose writers such as Emerson, and so commit them to the indulgence of the public as the work of an amateur. He knew that he was not a master of high lyric song, and he was too conscientious to publish mere rough material which he could not perfect. Whatever he wrote he finished as highly as he could; and so in verse he only attempted what he was capable of finishing with his limited craftsmanship. Being "an all-round literary man," he made no mistakes about what was fit for verse and what was not.

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