She kept saying this over and over, sitting on the ground and staring out into the darkness, starting at every rustle of the wind, afraid of everything. It was a long time before she uttered a word except exclamations of terror, and every once in a while she broke down in convulsive sobbings.
Far away in the obscurity of eastern twilight glared the smouldering cone of Vesuvius a crimson blot upon the darkness a Cyclop's eye, bloodshot and menacing. The company in the Piccola Sentinella, young and old, were decrepit, with an odd, rheumatic, shrivelled look upon them. The dining-room reminded me, as certain rooms are apt to do, of a ship's saloon.
'This is so bright we can't see beyond. He turned his face to hers and through the darkness smiled into her eyes that were so close to his. Then he kissed her long and lovingly. He lay, with her head on his shoulder looking through her hair at the stars. 'I wonder how it is you have such a fine natural perfume, he said, always in the same abstract, inquiring tone of happiness.
Let the earth cover her and hide it! . . . and either the merciful earth had opened or a merciful darkness had descended. She remembered sinking into it sinking her hands held aloft, as by ropes. Then the ropes had parted. . . . She had fallen, plumb. . . .
"What are you doing here?" she continued, inhospitably addressing the darkness before her. "I went to sleep" the voice explained, "on the other side of the pillar." "How silly!" said Peggy, severely, "didn't you see me here?" "It was a little dim," the voice apologized and, Peggy's silence still condemning, "you should have snored," it continued extenuatingly.
Would it come in the form of a bullet, or a deadly thrust from an unseen knife? I did not think so. For, to say nothing of the darkness, there was one reassuring fact which recurred constantly to my mind in connection with the murders I was endeavouring to trace to this den of iniquity.
Never did the Papal court at Avignon or Rome, even in the worst ages of mediaeval darkness, witness more scandalous enormities than those which disgraced the whole reign of Louis XV., either in the days of his minority, when the kingdom was governed by the Duke of Orleans, or in his latter years, when the Duke of Choiseul was the responsible adviser of the crown.
Put out of sight the severe teaching of Catholicism in the schools of Painting, as men now would put it aside in their philosophical studies, and in no long time you would have the hierarchy of the Church, the Anchorite and Virgin-martyr, the Confessor and the Doctor, the Angelic Hosts, the Mother of God, the Crucifix, the Eternal Trinity, supplanted by a sort of pagan mythology in the guise of sacred names, by a creation indeed of high genius, of intense, and dazzling, and soul-absorbing beauty, in which, however, there was nothing which subserved the cause of Religion, nothing on the other hand which did not directly or indirectly minister to corrupt nature and the powers of darkness.
Apparently satisfied by the keen scrutiny, he turned his broad back upon us and strode off with contemptuous dignity. "Come," he said shortly; and without further word we followed across that dim plain and through the thickening darkness.
As we gain in the sensitive recognition of universal laws, every petty bit of self-contraction disappears as darkness before the rising of the sun. WORK for the better progress of the human race is most effective when it is done through the children; for children are future generations.