Suddenly I heard a convulsive gasp. The woman in black was on her feet leaning over the table. Her eyes blazed in a frenzy of delight. She was sweeping into her open hands the piles of gold before her. By some marvelous stroke of luck, and with almost her last louis, she had won every franc on the cloth!
Then she drew herself up defiantly, covered her face with her veil, hugged the money to her breast, and staggered from the room.
So deep an impression had the gambling scene of the night before made upon me that the next morning I loitered under the Noah’s-ark trees, hoping I might identify the woman, and in some impossible, improbable way know more of her history. I even lounged into the Casino, tried the door at which I had knocked the night before, and, finding it locked and the scrubwoman suspicious, strolled out carelessly into the garden, and, sitting down under the palms, tried to pick out the windows that opened into the gaming-room. But they were all alike, with pots of flowers blooming in each.
Still burdened with these memories, I entered the church,—the old church with square towers and deep-receding entrance, that stands on the crest of a steep hill overlooking the Casino, and within a short distance of the Noah’s-ark trees. Every afternoon, near the hour of twilight, when the shadows reach down Mount Pilatus, and the mists gather in the valley, a broken procession of strollers, in twos and threes and larger groups, slowly climb its path. They are on their way to hear the great organ played.
The audience was already seated. It was at the moment of that profound hush which precedes the recital. Even my footfall, light as it was, reechoed to the groined arches. The church was ghostly dark,—so dark that the hundreds of heads melted into the mass of pews, and they into the gloom of column and wall. The only distinguishable gleam was the soft glow of the dying day struggling through the lower panes of the dust-begrimed windows. Against these hung long chains holding unlighted lamps.
I felt my way to an empty pew on a side aisle, and sat down. The silence continued. Now and again there was a slight cough, instantly checked. Once a child dropped a book, the echoes lasting apparently for minutes. The darkness became almost black night. Only the clean, new panes of glass used in repairing some break in the begrimed windows showed clear. These seemed to hang out like small square lanterns.
Suddenly I was aware that the stillness was broken by a sound faint as a sigh, delicate as the first breath of a storm. Then came a great sweep growing louder, the sweep of deep thunder tones with the roar of the tempest, the rush of the mighty rain, the fury of the avalanche, the voices of the birds singing in the sunlight, the gurgle of the brooks, and the soft cadence of the angelus calling the peasants to