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flowers, he evaded Jubb and crossed the Ponte Sant' Angelo. When he reached Fontana's door he found it closed, an unusual spectacle. He knocked: there was no answer; he knocked again, then turned the handle. The door was not locked, and he concluded that Fontana had only gone out for a moment. He entered, sat down, and began to look at the religious prints in primary colors. He longed to unpack the Venus, but felt that such an act, in the absence of its owner, would be illegitimate.

Five minutes passed, and Fontana did not appear. Sanderson wearied hugely of the religious prints, and began to inspect the pictures on the walls. Whilst he was thus employed he thought that he heard a slight sound beyond the inner door. It occurred to him then that Fontana was inside it and had not heard him knock. He hesitated for a moment, and then tapped the door gently. There was no sound from within. He tapped again, then he pushed the door. It yielded; he called Fontana by name and looked into the room.

For a moment he thought that either he was mad or that Fontana had played him a fantastic trick. In the centre of a long, light room that was hung, apparently, with all the greatest masterpieces of Italian art, sat a young girl in a plain black dress, mending a stocking. She raised her eyes when Sanderson entered and looked at him steadily. There was a certain surprise, but no alarm in her expression; she had the air of a queen who contemplates an awkward courtier,-an air neither of amusement nor of irritation but simply one of superb indifference. Her glance did not falter, though Sanderson stared at her for a full minute without speaking, open-mouthed, with the glare of an immense question in his eyes. His lips moved, but no sound issued from them. His heart was beat

ing furiously. was a dream, a hallucination! For the face of the girl with the stocking was the face of the Montegrigio Madonna and the face of the Venus. She had the same coils of yellow hair, the soaring throat, the slender hands. Sanderson gasped; a voice within him seemed to be saying: "What luck! if only it's not a dream, what wonderful, heavenly luck!"

Surely, he thought, it

He collected himself at last, and began to stammer out excuses for his intrusion. She smiled faintly (Sanderson nearly shouted when he saw her smile), rose from her chair, and replied that the fault was hers; she had heard him moving in the shop, but had imagined that it was her grandfather, who had gone to be shaved by the barber across the road. Her voice was low and soft, and made Sanderson feel that he had been bellowing. And always she contemplated him with those great gray eyes. Sanderson was young, tall, looked honest and kind, and was certainly unlike most of her neighbors in the Borgo. No doubt that she found a new type interesting. When he began to explain his identity she said, with a smile that was less faint than at first, that she had guessed him at once to be her grandfather's English friend. "One of them," corrected Sanderson, and she laughed, showing the two little rows of pearly teeth which the smile of the Venus revealed. other Englishman is not a friend," she explained, "but when my grandfather begins to speak of him he can say nothing, he can only laugh and laugh. If you will condescend to sit down, signore," she added, "I will go and tell him that you are here. He is fond, after he is shaved, of lecturing to the poor barber about pictures."

"The

"Ah! pictures!" cried Sanderson. He was silent for a moment, then said: "Signorina, you have many beautiful pictures here."

Indeed, the walls were crowded with extraordinarily fine copies of immortal things: the Fornarina, the Gioconda, the Sacred and Profane Love, Julius the Second, and the great Botticellis of Florence. He was not in a condition at that moment to judge their merit dispassionately, but it seemed to him that placed side by side with the originals they would have deceived many experts. He had never imagined that the art of imitation could be raised to such an excellence.

"They are all by my grandfather," she said. "When he was young he painted a little, but afterwards he did nothing but copy. My father used to say that he knew all the secrets of the great masters. But surely, signore, they had no secrets? they were geniuses; that was all. My grandfather will never show these pictures to any one. He keeps them, he says, as furniture for me. He knows that I love them. It is very kind, for he is not rich."

In the whirling vortex of Sanderson's brain a singular idea was at that moment born. He stood there silently, looking from picture to picture, then he turned towards the girl, She, too, was looking at the pictures, and he was able to observe her profile. It was beautiful enough to engross him completely, but after an instant he saw something which made him forget it. The black dress exposed all her throat, and just where her neck curved to meet her shoulders was a small pink stain, like the fallen petal of a flower.

IV.

Sanderson gave her no chance of going to summon her grandfather. They were still talking together when the old man entered ten minutes later. He uttered an abrupt exclamation when he caught sight of Sanderson's figure. Sanderson turned to meet him.

"I know," he said, "I'm a base intruder. I've behaved like a lowminded inquisitive tourist. You have every right to assassinate me or throw me out. But I believe the signorina will intercede for me, and at any rate," he added, looking significantly at the old man, "I've asked no questions."

The signorina smiled at her grandfather, and affirmed that the English stranger was molto gentile. The old man regarded Sanderson for some moments with raised eyebrows and a whimsically puckered mouth.

"Ah, signore, signore!" he murmured. Then he turned to the girl.

"Assunta mia," he said, patting her arm, "the signore and I have a certain affair to settle." Assunta nodded quickly, sent a smile to Sanderson, who made a profound bow, and disappeared through another door which she closed behind her.

The old man paced the room several times with his hands clasped behind his back. "Well, you have seen her, -my little Assunta," he said at last, confronting Sanderson, "though it was not my intention that you should do so."

"She is very beautiful," said Sanderson. "More beautiful, even, than I had expected." And he gazed at the old man with wonderfully innocent eyes. Fontana seemed to be puzzled.

"Than you expected," he repeated, in the tone of someone who learns a sentence by heart. "Than you expected. Then, my dear signore, you had heard of her?"

"No," Sanderson answered. "Not a word. I had only seen her portrait -the portrait, you know, which hangs in the piano nobile of the most excellent Prince Montegrigio."

"Ah!" cried Fontana. He paced the room again, turned up his hands to Heaven, inflated his chest, and smiled brilliantly at Sanderson.

"Is it not the most wonderful of all

coincidences,-a marvel, a miracle!" he cried. Sanderson contemplated him silently. His smile died suddenly; he approached the painter and waved an impressive finger. "A re-incarnation, even!" he said very solemnly.

"That would be interesting," said Sanderson. "But as a matter of fact it's nothing of the kind. The Prince's Madonna is only a very good portrait. I suppose it was painted when Signorina Assunta was about three years younger?"

The old man wagged his head sadly. "Then, signore, you refuse to believe in the coincidence?" he asked.

Sanderson nodded.

"I refuse," he said. "I might have believed in it-I never saw two more skilful imitations of the antique, but there is one thing which decides the question."

"And that?"

"You will excuse me from telling you."

"I insist, if you will permit me."
"You will be annoyed."

"I can promise the contrary." "Well," said Sanderson, "it is the little rosy mark on the divine neck of the signorina."

"Ah!" said Fontana, blinking rapidly. He folded his arms, looked Sanderson up and down, and after a moment remarked, "This will be a sad affair for the Signor Djiubb."

"It will kill him," Sanderson answered.

"But, after all, why should he be told?" said Fontana. "It is true that he will continue to write articles on the Montegrigio Madonna, and he will run up and down the beautiful land of Tuscany in search of other works by that very great unknown painter. Yet such things are happiness to him. Decidedly, he shall not be told. never see Assunta."

He shall

Sanderson shook his head. "Sooner

or later they are certain to meet," he asserted.

"And why?" Fontana demanded. "An accident like that of to-day shall not occur again. I have had a warning; I shall guard the little one." (Assunta was a head taller than her grandfather.)

Sanderson frowned gloomily. "They will meet," he said. "And it will be rather awkward. I wish he had never seen that picture the Venus, I mean. Of course the other doesn't matter."

"But you, too, have seen it, signore," said the old man. "I admire your delicacy. But Assunta need never know. I told her when I painted it that I would not sell it, but, unfortunately, I am not rich. Rather than strip her room I am prepared to part with it-under the conditions."

"Whether the signorina knows or not doesn't matter," said Sanderson. "The point is that Signor Jubb has seen the picture and will see the signorina."

The old man made wonderful gestures.

"But how, in the name of Heaven, how," he cried, "if I refuse to permit it?"

"The signorina will not be always in your power," said Sanderson. "Because I shall die?" asked Fon

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"I should think I have," answered Sanderson. He looked extremely pink, fresh, and cheerful. "The best

of all possible news," he added, and smiled fatuously at Jubb, who was inclined to be irritable.

"What is it?" demanded the great critics. "Has that old rascal consented to sell the picture without those ridiculous conditions? It's all a trick to make us offer him a higher price." "No," Sanderson answered. "He won't alter the conditions. And I'm afraid I'm obliged to tell you, Jubb, that he has given up the idea of selling the picture altogether. He finds that, after all, it's too precious to himself and to members of his family."

"His family," echoed Jubb. "I don't believe he has one! He's only trying to put up the price."

Sanderson smiled. "I am able to inform you," he said, "that he really has a small but increasing family. In fact, it is going to increase next week."

"Oh, one baby-in-arms can't make any difference," growled Jubb, biting a pen.

"There are other methods of increasing one's family circle," said Sanderson sweetly; "adoption, for instance, and marriage. It's no good, my dear fellow. You had better abandon all hope of ever possessing the Venus. Fontana is prepared to cut it into a thousand strips rather than let you have it."

"Then I shall appeal to the Italian Government," said Jubb. "I consider that Fontana's disgusting behavior has exonerated me from any promise that I may have been foolish enough to make. Anyhow, I would sacrifice my own honor rather than allow such a picture to be hidden away by an old miser."

"I suppose you're quite convinced that it is a genuine fifteenth-century thing?" asked Sanderson.

"I stake my whole reputation as a

critic on it," replied Jubb. "I don't profess to be infallible as regards æsthetic judgment, but there are certain mechanical tests which cannot be refuted. That, as you know, is where I come in. I've come in over this picture. It's my greatest find."

Sanderson did not trouble to remind him that he was not the true discoverer of the Venus. He was silent for a moment, then said: "I suppose you never have thought that you attached too much importance to the Turkish oil test?"

"Hardly!" said Jubb, looking at him with the eyes of a savage whose god has been outraged. "Hardly!" he repeated with terrible emphasis.

"Good!" said Sanderson. "By the way, old Fontana says that though you can't ever hope to possess the picture, he doesn't mind you writing about it." "Very handsome of old Fontana," snorted Jubb. "I'll write about him, too, if he doesn't mend his ways. As a matter of fact, I've written about it already."

Sanderson looked alarmed. "You haven't published anything?" he asked quickly.

"No," said Jubb. "But it's all ready. I've only got to post it, and old Fontana 'll have all the rich amateurs in Italy buzzing round his wicked old head."

I

Sanderson spoke very seriously. "Listen," he said, "do me a favor. ask you in your own interest. Don't post a line until-until you've seen me again." He looked at his watch. "Can you meet me on the Pincian at six this evening?" he demanded. "I will wait for you on the terrace above the Piazza del Popolo. After that you can post your article."

Jubb surveyed him with the eye of suspicion. "This is all very mysterious," he said. "If we weren't to meet on the Pincian I should suspect you of wishing to knife me and put me

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Jubb muttered inarticulate curses, for he was in a bad temper. opened a drawer and took a little pile of manuscript from it. He read through the pages, occasionally altering a word and adding a footnote. When he had finished this task he wrote another page, pinned it to the end of the manuscript, and placed the whole in a large envelope, which he addressed, stamped, and put into his pocket. Then he took his hat and cane and went out.

The Pincian hill, as is usual shortly before sunset, was bright with flowers, frocks, and uniforms. A band was playing Puccini, and all the chairs near it were occupied. Jubb leant against the parapet watching the crowd with moody eyes, and wondering why Sanderson was late. He was well known in Rome, and many people bowed to him, but he did not approach any of the gracious ladies at whose parties he was accustomed to monopolize the artistic chatter.

At last he saw Sanderson threading his way through the crowd. Sanderson moved very slowly, and presently Jubb saw that he was not alone, but was accompanied by an old man who made difficult progress with the aid of two sticks. Jubb recognized the sinister personality of Fontana and ground his teeth. On the other side

of the old man walked a tall young girl of attractive aspect.

Jubb went towards them, raising his hat. Then he waved his envelope.at Fontana. "It's no use protesting," he said. "It's all written, and it's going!" And he thrust the envelope back into his pocket. Exactly at the same moment his glance fell on the young girl. She was looking at him steadily with her grave, gray eyes. For a moment the Pincian seemed to reel like a volcano in eruption, the music of the band changed to a hideous blare, and the colors of the flowers and frocks whirled like the fragments of glass in a kaleidoscope. Then he realized that Sanderson was speaking.

"I'm so sorry we're late," he said. "I want to introduce you to my fiancée, the Signorina Assunta Fontana."

Jubb made a wild gesture with his hat towards the lady, who did not seem to observe his confusion and smiled,smiled exactly as the Venus smiled. Jubb gasped, and rolled haggard eyes towards Sanderson and Fontana.

"What on earth-what does it mean?" he said feebly. And the horrible Sanderson laughed.

"It means that you mustn't post your article," he said. "It also means that we are the happiest people on the Pincian."

"It

Old Fontana limped forward. also means, dear signore," he said, "that your painful toil is at an end. Our young friend here has discovered the original of the Montegrigio Madonna. After all, it was only a modern work. I hope that you will break the news gently to the poor Princess."

Jubb glared at him for a moment, then he muttered something which might have been congratulations but sounded like "Turkish oil," took off his hat once more, and almost ran for the steps of the Pincian. Friends who have seen him recently assert that he is far less insufferable during artistic

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