“Because” (mark that because!) “thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife” (or thy woman, whoever she be), “and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it” (the tree or fruit being the evil suggested first to man by woman),” cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life!”
True enough! The curse is upon all who trust woman too far—the sorrow upon all who are beguiled by her witching flatteries. Of what avail her poor excuse in the ancient story—“The serpent beguiled me and I did eat!” Had she never listened she could not have been beguiled. The weakness, the treachery, was in herself, and is there still. Through everything the bitterness of it runs. The woman tempts—the man yields—and the gate of Eden—the Eden of a clear conscience and an untrammeled soul, is shut upon them. Forever and ever the Divine denunciation re-echoes like muttering thunder through the clouds of passing generations; forever and ever we unconsciously carry it out in our own lives to its full extent till the heart grows sick and the brain weary, and we long for the end of it all, which is death—death, that mysterious silence and darkness at which we sometimes shudder, wondering vaguely—Can it be worse than life?
More than ten days had passed since Stella’s death. Her mother had asked me to see to the arrangements for the child’s funeral, declaring herself too ill to attend to anything. I was glad enough to accede to her request, for I was thus able to avoid the Romani vault as a place of interment. I could not bear to think of the little cherished body being laid to molder in that terrific place where I had endured such frantic horrors. Therefore, informing all whom it concerned that I acted under the countess’s orders, I chose a pretty spot in the open ground of the cemetery, close to the tree where I had heard the nightingale singing in my hour of supreme misery and suffering. Here my little one was laid tenderly to rest in warm mother-earth, and I had sweet violets and primroses planted thickly all about the place, while on the simple white marble cross that marked the spot I had the words engraved—
“Una Stella svanita,”
[Footnote: A vanished star]