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IT WAS at a masquerade at Galinberti’s
studio, in one of the old Roman
palaces ; there was music, the tripping
sound of dancing feet, laughter, and the
unintelligible hum of conversation mingled
in a gay medley.
Carson, an American, a new arrival in
the city and a stranger to that colony of
sculptors and painters, had been accident
ally separated from the friend who
brought him, in the crowd, shortly after
his entrance to the ballroom. He was
wandering listlessly among the merry
maskers, quite regardless of their gibes
and laughter at his expense. Tired at
length of his aimless peregrinations, he
turned aside from the glaring lights and
heat to the shade and coolness of the bal
cony. The wide casements at the end of
the room were open and gave an unob
structed view of the kaleidoscopic scene
within. A divan near the balustrade
offered a place for repose, but it was not
until he was seated that he was aware of
the presence of a lady. She occupied the
further end of the divan, and was par
tially concealed by the drooping tree-ferns
and palms with which the balcony was
decorated. She moved slightly in her
nest of tri-colored cushions, and her fan
fell with a slight clatter upon the stone
floor. Carson picked it up and gave it to
her with a courteous bow. She thanked
him, speaking in English, with just the
slightest Italian accent.
“1 fear that 1 am intruding, signora,” he
“Not so. The balcony is free to all who
come. There can be no intrusion.”
She reached up her hand as she spoke,
and pushed aside the feathery branches
that swayed between them. Then he
saw that she was young and very fair to
look upon. Her face was decidedly En
glish. She wore an indescribable swath
ing garment of soft texture that was
gathered up closely about her neck and
fell to her feet in long, clinging folds—
strongly suggestive of a Bernhardt cos
tume. Two beautifully shaped arms
were bare to the shoulder, and the small
hands that lay in her lap looked as though
they had been modeled in wax. She
leaned back, resting her head upon the
stuccoed pillar, her fan waving languidly
to and fro.
“Permit me,” said the American, tak
ing the dainty lace-and-ivory trifle from
her hand and fanning her gently.
She smiled a gracious assent, and then
It was so warm in the ballroom, and
one grew so tired dancing, she said. Did
the gentleman dance? Perhaps he was
not acquainted with many ladies —a
stranger in Rome. Was he an artist or a
“Neither, signora. 1 am an attache.”
“From what country—England?”
“America! Ah, that marvelous land!”
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She chatted on in an open, friendly
manner, until a bevy of tired dancers
invaded their retreat. Among them was
his friend Tarro.
“Great heavens, Carson ! Where have
you been ? I have looked everywhere for
you. Everybody is unmasking, and it is
time for supper. No doubt you are
starving. Come, I have secured a table,
and you are to meet some charming
women. What have you been doing
here all alone ? It was exceedingly stupid
in us to get separated.”
“I have not been alone,” replied Mr.
Carson. He glanced around, but the
lady was gone.
“Not alone? Why, who was with
“The lady. Did you not see her when
“A caprice, my dear boy. 1 saw no
lady. No; you sat there mooning, star
ing in a most sentimental manner at that
Moorish lantern hanging over there.
Come along, they are waiting for us.”
They lingered long over their supper.
There was merry, high-pitched talking
and much laughter, but Carson was not
in a state of hilarity. His restless, bored
glance wandered over the assembly, and
once he started and turned sharply in his
chair at the low voice of a woman who,
with her escort, passed close beside him.
Tarro tried to rally him on his abstraction,
but his brow contracted fretfully, and he
nervously fingered a spray of flowers that
lay by his plate. He was not sorry when
the ball was over and he found himself on
the pavement outside of the palace.
A cab was waiting; but, without know
ing why, he declined to accompany his
friend, saying he preferred to walk to his
hotel. He sauntered along slowly, with
bowed head, absently staring at the dim
shadows cast by the waning moon. As
he was passing across the Piazza de Far
nese, he heard a low voice speaking:
“So we meet again !”
He halted. She, his new acquaintance,
was beside him.
“Signora! You here at this hour, and
alone ! Where are your friends ?”
She smiled. “You will walk with me
to the street below, will you not ?”
“Certainly; but your friends? Their
carelessness is criminal.”
They walked through the square and
down several streets almost in silence.
Presently she stopped before the entrance
of a house.
“Here, signor,” she said.
Almost simultaneously she swayed for
ward and caught his arm, at the same
time uttering a smothered cry.
“You are hurt!” he exclaimed, anx
iously. “You have twisted your ankle
on these wretched stones.”
“1 fear so.” She pressed her hand
upon her bosom and looked into his eyes
with mute appeal.
“You can not walk.” He stooped and
gathered her up into his arms. “1 will
carry you. Which floor?”
“The fourth,” she replied, her face
flushing as the light of the early day fell
A drowsy janitor answered his ring.
He ascended the first flight of stairs with-
out pausing, carrying her as a nurse might
a child, happy at the delicious touch of
her bare arms against his neck as she
On the second flight ascent was not so
easy. Her weight grew heavier, and the
head that had now fallen on his shoulder
pressed like a ball of iron; her arms were
relaxing their clasp and lay against his
neck with startling coldness. She seemed
to be letting herself go, and at each step
grew heavier in proportion. He was no
longer carrying a lissome maiden, but
something burdensome and horrible
something that was bearing him down
and suffocating him with a sensation as
though his chest was bursting.
On the third landing he felt her slip
“Signora,” he faltered.
He sought to renew his hold, but the
burden, now a dead weight, slid from his
arms, and she fell with a heavy thud to
“What noise is this?” called a mascu
line voice in Italian. Carson began a
hasty explanation to the man whose head
protruded from a partially open door.
The man came forward and bent over
“She does not belong here,” he said.
“She is a stranger. She is pale as death.
Unfasten her clothing, she must have
fainted. Where is the janitor? The fool
—he never is here when he is needed.
Call him, signor, and send for a physi
cian.” His hasty hand broke the knot
of ribbon that confined her bodice. With
a wild exclamation he instantly loosened
his hold on her dress and started
backward. The full throat and white
bust where exposed. There were deep
bluish-purple bands around the throat and
a gaping dagger-wound, dark with coagu
lated blood, on the snowy bosom.
Their cries aroused the janitor, who
hastened to call the police. Presently he
returned, panting up the stairs, accom
panied by an officer. Carson drew aside
the curtain, and the bright light of day
fell upon the body.
“Holy Virgin!” cried the policeman, as
he saw the dead women.
“Can you identify her?” asked Car
“Yes,” returned the man; “she is the
woman who was found murdered on the
Corso night before last. How came she
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