Alexander laid the paper upon the table before him, and now he stared at it, and now he gazed at space beyond, and where he gazed seemed dark and empty. It was deep night when finally he dipped quill into ink and wrote:
IAN RULLOCK,—Stay or go as you will! I do not follow you now as I did before. I come to see the crudeness, the barrenness, of that. But within—oh, are you not my enemy still? I ask Justice that, and what can she do but echo back my words? “Within” is a universe.—ALEXANDER JARDINE.
Five days later he knew that Ian with the Frenchman in whose company he was had departed Rome. On that morning he went again without the city and lay among the grasses. But the sky to-day was closed, and all dead Rome that had been proud or violent or a lover of self seemed to move around him multitudinous. He fought the shapes down, but the sea in storm then turned sluggish, dead and weary.... What was he going to do? Scotland? Was he going back to Scotland? The glen, the moor, White Farm and the kirk, Black Hill and his own house—all seemed cold and without tint, gray, small, and withered, and yet oppressive. All that would be importunate, officious. He cried out, “O my God, I want healing!” For a long time he lay there still, then, rising, went wandering by arches and broken columns, choked doorways, graved slabs sunken in fairy jungles. Into his mind came a journey years before when he had just brushed a desert. The East, the Out-of-Europe, called to him now.
Ian guided the boat to the water steps. Above, over the wall, streamed roses, a great, soundless fall of them, reflected, mass and color, in the lake. Above the roses sprang deep trees, shade behind shade, and here sang nightingales. Facing him sat the Milanese song-bird, the singer Antonia Castinelli. She had the throat of the nightingale and the beauty of the velvety open rose.
“Why land?” she said. “Why climb the steps to the chatter in the villa?”
“They are not singing! They are talking. There is deep, sweet shadow around that point.”
The boat turned glidingly. Now it was under tall rock, parapeted with trees.
“Let Giovanni have the boat. Come and sit beside me! You are too far away for singing together.”
Old Giovanni at the helm, boatman upon this lake since youth, used long since to murmuring words, to touching hands, stayed brown and wrinkled and silent and unspeculative as a walnut. Perhaps his mind was sunk in his own stone hut behind vine leaves. The two under the rose-and-white-fringed canopy leaned toward each other.
“Tell me of your strange, foreign land! Have you roses there—roses—roses? And nightingales that sing out your heart under the moon?”
“I will tell you of the heather, the lark, and the mavis.”
She listened. “Oh, it does not taste as tastes this lake! Give me pain! Tell me of women you have loved.... Oh, hear! The nightingales stop singing.”