She pushed through the crowd and placed herself near the man, so the smell of her body would reach his nostrils.
His eyes ranged the swelling lines of her body.
Their eyes met.
She half-smiled and gave him that look which had snared the soul of many another.
But he only gazed at her with passionless, judging intensity and repeated his cry, “Repent ye. Repent ye, for the day is at hand!”
Her reply, uttered soft and low, was this: “I would kiss thy lips!”
He moved away and she reached to seize his garment, repeating, “I would kiss thy lips—I would kiss thy lips!”
He turned aside, and forgot her, as he continued his warning cry, and went his way.
The next day she waylaid the youth again; as he came near she suddenly and softly stepped forth and said in that same low, purring voice, “I would kiss thy lips!”
He repulsed her with scorn.
She threw her arms about him and sought to draw his head down near hers.
He pushed her from him with sinewy hands, sprang as from a pestilence, and was lost in the pressing throng.
That night she danced before Herod Antipas, and when the promise was recalled that she should have anything she wished, she named the head of the only man who had ever turned away from her. “The head of John the Baptist on a charger!”
In an hour the wish was gratified.
Two eunuchs stood before Salome with a silver tray bearing its fearsome burden.
The woman smiled—a smile of triumph, as she stepped forth with tinkling feet.
A look of pride came over the painted face.
Her jeweled fingers reached into the blood-matted hair. She lifted the head aloft, and the bracelets on her brown, bare arms fell to her shoulders, making strange music. Her face pressed the face of the dead.
In exultation she exclaimed, “I have kissed thy lips!”
He who influences the thought
of his time influences
the thought of all the time that follows. And he has
made his impress upon eternity.
Giovanni Bellini was his name.
Yet when people who loved beautiful pictures spoke of “Gian,” every one knew who was meant; but to those who worked at art he was “The Master.” He was two inches under six feet in height, strong and muscular. In spite of his seventy summers his carriage was erect, and there was a jaunty suppleness about his gait that made him seem much younger. In fact, no one would have believed he had lived over his threescore and ten, were it not for the iron-gray hair that fluffed out all around under the close-fitting black cap, and the bronzed complexion—sun-kissed by wind and by weather—which formed a trinity of opposites that made people turn and stare.
Queer stories used to be told about him. He was a skilful gondolier, and it was the daily row back and forth from the Lido that gave him that face of bronze. Folks said he ate no meat and drank no wine, and that his food was simply ripe figs in the season, with coarse rye bread and nuts.