The latter, however, had gone down with a bad touch of malaria which he had picked up in the deadly Maremma, and I, as the only other Englishman in Leghorn, had been asked by the Consul-General in Florence to act as pro-Consul until Hutcheson's return. It was in mid-July, and the weather was blazing in the glaring sun-blanched Mediterranean town.

I opened my eyes, and saw the great swing of a long tail as it disappeared through the half-open doorway. I sprang after it. The creature had vanished quite. I shot down the stair, and into the hall of alabaster. The moon was high, and the place like the inside of a faint, sun-blanched moon. The princess was not there. I must find her: in her presence I might protect myself; out of it I could not!

With one accord we made a mad, reckless rush an instant later, and carried on by the thousands of my comrades behind, I found myself slashing to right and left under the high, sun-blanched walls of the enormous fortress.

"The reason the papers are all upset is because they were evidently in search of some blank form or other, which they hoped to find," remarked my friend. "As you say, the whole affair was most carefully and ingeniously planned." We crossed the great sunlit piazza together and entered the Questura, that sun-blanched old palace with its long cool loggia where the sentry paces day and night.

At last, having climbed the steep hill among the olives and vines which leads from the station of Signa that ancient little town of the long-ago Guelfs I came to the old Convent of San Domenico, a row of big sun-blanched buildings with a church and crumbling tower set upon the conical hill which overlooked the red roofs of Florence deep below.