Enchanter's Nightshade

I

FRÄULEIN ROSA GELSICHER was sitting on a low stool, wrapped in a thick dressing gown of purple flannel, cutting her corns after her bath, in the apartment of Count Carlo di Castellone in Gardone. But in spite of her apparent absorption in her feet, Fräulein Gelsicher was really thinking very hard about several other things at the same time. She had come into the Castellone family twelve years beforeas governessto Elena, Count Carlo’s daughter, then a little girl of six. When Elena was twelve the Countess died, and since her death Fräulein Gelsicher had gradually assumed a position very different from that of the ordinary governess. The whole administration of the household had come, bit by bit, into her competent Swiss hands; her shrewd Swiss common sense had made her the Count’s valued consultant and adviser on matters extending far beyond the household and the health and morals of Elena and Giulio, Count Carlo’s only son, three years older than Elena. The Count both valued her and liked her — he had nicknamed her ’La Gelosia’ (Jealousy) at the outset, partly because he never could either remember or pronounce foreign names, partly out of a whimsical pleasure in giving her a name which he recognized as being completely foreign to her character.

La Signorina Gelosia’s preoccupations, that morning, were mainly domestic in character. The family was about to make its usual spring migration from Gardone, where they spent the winter, to Odredo, the Count’s property in the country some eighteen miles away. As a rule Anna the cook was sent out there in advance with a team of underlings, to prepare the house for their reception; but this year Anna had strained her ankle, and it was a problem whom to send in her place. Fräulein Gelsicher would really have liked to go herself for a couple of nights; but it was of course unthinkable in Italy, thirty years ago, that a girl of Elena’s age should be left for forty-eight hours without more adequate chaperonage than that of her father and her brother. She supposed they would have to send Umberto, though it was most inconvenient to do without him here.

Then she must send round word quickly to Mme. Joséphine about Elena’s dress for the opera to-night. It had not arrived according to promise yesterday evening, and the child would be so disappointed.

Mme. Joséphine was an important element in the life of the province. Every autumn and every spring she arrived from Paris with her models from the ‘great houses,’ and with two assistants took up her quarters in a small apartment in Gardone, where she showed frocks, produced materials, advised, cut out, fitted, and made, for a few hurried weeks. Except for one or two families, who were either politically or socially important, the provincial nobility did not go to Rome for the winter — but neither did they remain in their large, rambling, unheated, and unheatable country houses. No, they moved in, ten, twelve, fifteen, or twenty miles, in their broughams, victorias, and wagonettes, followed by long, narrow farm carts containing their plate and linen, to Gardone, where each family had either its own town house or an apartment. Various members of the same family would establish themselves, each with his household, under the roof which bore their common name. So the Castellone house in the Via Vittoria contained at this moment, besides Count Carlo and his establishment on the first and second floors, Countess Livia di Castellone, the widow of the eldest son, on the ground floor; the third floor would normally have been occupied by Ernest Castellone, son of Count Carlo’s younger brother — but Ernest had married a smart rich Belgian wife who insisted on going to Rome or Paris for the winter, so the terzo piano was empty; finally, on the fourth floor, in the smaller and lower rooms, lived two spinster cousins of Count Carlo, the Countesses Aspasia and Roma di Castellone.

Fräulein Gelsicher’s self-communings on the subject of Mme. Joséphine and the green dress were interrupted by a knock on the door.

‘Who is there?’

‘Me!’ called a girl’s voice, and without waiting for further permission Elena di Castellone ran into the room. She too was not yet dressed, but was wearing a cambric dressing jacket over her petticoat; her black hair, however, was perfectly arranged in a large pompadour roll above her glowing complexion, with a thick twisted chignon, like a teapot handle, on the top of her head. Her mouth was already open in laughter as she came into the room, showing irregular but deliciously white teeth; her brown eyes were sparkling with mischief; she carried two envelopes in her hand.

‘Gela cara, such news!’ she began. ‘Zia Suzy is coming back! This very next week, to Vill’ Alta! And listen! Marietta is to have a governess!’

Fräulein Gelsicher took this information very quietly. ‘What sort of a governess?’

‘English! An English governess! She will have thick boots and flat hair and tweeds and spectacles, and will teach Marietta algebra! She will be much older and sterner than our Gelosia, and will make Marietta much cleverer than me!’

‘The good God has already made Marietta that,’ observed Fräulein Gelsicher serenely. ‘ Senti, who tells you all this?’

‘Marietta! I have a letter just now. Princess Asquini has recommended the governess to Zia Suzy, and they have written, and it is all arranged. And they will be here on Tuesday.’

Fräulein Gelsicher heard this piece of news with rather mixed feelings. She always felt more comfortable, breathed more freely, when the Marchcsa di V ill’ Alta, whom Elena referred to as Zia Suzy, was out of the province. Although Elena called her ‘aunt,’ the relationship was in reality less close—through a Vill’ Alta-Castellone marriage two generations before, Count Carlo and the Marchese Francesco di Vill’ Alta, Suzy’s husband, were second cousins. But in this case, as the Castello di Vill’ Alta happened to be barely a couple of miles from Odredo, the two families lived on terms of close intimacy, and Elena and Marietta had been brought up almost together, with much more cousinly feeling than often obtains between real first cousins. Still, there the relationship was, and in Fräulein Gelsicher’s opinion it made the relations between Elena’s father and Marietta’s mother even more deplorable than she would have thought them otherwise. She had been deeply attached to Elena’s mother, and knew Count Carlo to have been really devoted to her too. But the Count was weak and, viticulture apart, silly — it had not been difficult for that Circe of a woman, who could not leave one human being within her reach unpossessed, the governess often thought bitterly, to play upon his weakness, his sorrow, and his loneliness, and so to enslave him. Disapproving profoundly his part in the affair, she nevertheless understood.

But now, really, it was time that it should come to an end. Elena was eighteen, she was getting more and more observant; it was shocking and unseemly to a degree that the slightest risk should be run of her recognizing for what it was the state of affairs between her father and the woman whom she spoke of and treated as an aunt. She had picked up, as it was, the nickname by which the Marchesa Suzy was known in the entire province — ‘the Enchantress’; she laughed her bubbling ready laugh, clear as water, over any fresh instance of some unlucky male falling under the Enchantress’s spell. And now, after several months’ absence, with Elena by that much older and sharper, they were coming back from Rome, that whole party, a full two months earlier than usual, to trouble the peace of the province of Gardone. Something ought to be done about it.

The only person who would be likely to have the courage to tackle such a thorny business, or the wisdom to do it with any hope of success, was Suzy’s mother-in-law, the aged Marchesa di Vill’ Alta, known everywhere in affectionate respect as ‘La Vecchia Marchesa.’ The old Marchesa was very, very old — ninety-nine; if she lived till next September she would see her century out. And she showed every sign of doing that and more. Her powers of mind and body were unimpaired to an extraordinary degree. Her brilliant black eyes, untinged by rheum, saw everything; she heard whatever she wanted to hear, but quenched unwelcome statements by a sudden and arbitrary deafness; she remembered what she wished to, and ignored the rest; her mind still moved like a rapier among such affairs as she deigned to take an interest in — a rather limited category which included her own relations, high Italian society, German royal houses, old lace, diplomatic memoirs, and French novels, but which excluded all social and political movements since the Republic, Americans, religious thought, and modern inventions of every kind. If La Vecchia Marchesa chose, she could probably deal with the situation

— if not through Suzy, through Count Carlo. But who or what was to move La Vecchia Marchesa to such a choice? She must have seen, long since, what was going on, since at Vill’ Alta she lived always in her son’s house; certainly she was not deceived, yet she held her ancient, wrinkled, bediamonded, but still distinguished hand. How then on earth could she be persuaded to move? There was no record, in the long chronicles of provincial gossip, of anything but La Vecchia Marchesa’s own initiative having ever moved her in any direction whatever.

All this passed through Fräulein Gelsicher’s mind as Elena laid before her one of the two letters she had brought in, beseeching her, with an impish giggle, to read it.

Fräulein Gelsicher took up the letter — it was unstamped and unsealed, and addressed to Marietta di Vill’ Alta. She knew the writing — it was that of the younger of the Count’s two unmarried cousins who occupied the top floor in the house, the Contessa Roma di Castellone.

‘What is this? It is Marietta’s. I am to read it?’ she asked, puzzled.

‘ Ma si! Ma si! You have the writer’s permission!’ Elena answered, almost suffocated with laughter. ‘Read it out, Gela.’

Fräulein Gelsicher did as her pupil bade her. Countess Roma was a foolish woman; like her sister, Countess Aspasia, an impassioned gossip, but without the self-restraint which restricted the latter lady’s communications to the affairs of others, Roma liked to talk about her own uninteresting concerns and doings, and nothing was more likely than that she should wish both Elena and Fräulein Gelsicher to read a letter in which she took an ill-founded pride.

MY DEAREST MARIETTA! Your cousin Aspasia and I have both learned with fondest pleasure the good news of your educational future. A great opportunity opens before you now, of forming your mind, adding to your accomplishments, and improving your character. I hope that in everything you will show docility to your new instructress. The English are a race of considerable learning, I believe, and no doubt your dear mother has chosen for you a woman worthy of your deepest respect. It is to be hoped that you will not fail to profit by such a chance. Your cousin Aspasia and I have often felt that you have lacked, in the past, both those full opportunities for study which young girls should have, and any steady model at hand on which to mould yourself. Your mother’s household is so social! But you will in all probability not inherit those qualities which make her what she is, and you may well expect your life, for that reason, to be different from hers. Indeed I dare almost say that I hope this will be the case! Beauty is a dangerous possession!! I embrace you warmly, Marietta cara.
ROMA CASTELLONE

P.S. Your cousin Elena is going to the opera to-night — she has a most expensive dress from Joséphine. I should not have thought this extravagance necessary for a young girl, but no doubt Signorina Gelsicher knows what she is about.

A faint flush of annoyance tinged the governess’s worn face as she put the letter back in its envelope, but, ‘Very characteristic,’ was all she said, rather dryly. Elena exploded with laughter.

‘Is n’t it? Oh, Gela, I have caught you too! Isn’t it perfect? Won’t it vex Marietta beautifully?’

The governess wheeled round on her stool to face the young girl.

‘Elena! You have n’t been doing that again? No, that is too naughty! You promised me you would give up that silly trick,’ she said reproachfully.

‘For six months! I only promised for six months, and I have n’t done one since Giulio’s last October! But what does it matter? I can write to Marietta tomorrow, before she has time to answer it — she never answers letters for days and days!’ Elena answered airily. ‘Don’t spoil sport, Gela darling. Is n’t it good? “I should not have thought this extravagance necessary,” ’ she read out, and giggled again. ‘ Gela, you were quite hurt! But you know it is just what they would say, the old cats! ’

‘You will get into serious trouble one of these days, if you go on with this,’ Fräulein Gelsicher said repressively. One of her pupil’s few, and more disconcerting, talents was a quite brilliant gift for forgery. She could imitate any handwriting if she had it before her for a few hours, in the most completely convincing fashion — and, as now, she was equally successful at reproducing the epistolary style of people she knew. For years this gift had been a source of anxiety and annoyance to Fräulein Gelsicher, perhaps the only serious cause of annoyance her charge had ever given her, and she made ceaseless struggles to force or persuade the child to give it up.

On this occasion Fräulein Gelsicher triumphed over Elena, using the green taffeta dress to drive a bargain about the suppression of the letter to Marietta. She put it away in the black Russia leather bag, topped with silver, which hung from a silver hook attached to the belt that marked the junction between her skirt and her blouse, along with the household keys, her handkerchief, her silver bottle of digestive pills, and a slip with memoranda for the day written on it. There was a sentence in the letter which had vaguely worried her, and she wished to read it again. What was it that Elena had written about Marietta’s mother, and the tone of that household? As a statement by Countess Roma it had seemed natural enough — from Elena, if she remembered it aright, it was extremely disconcerting. She had no time now, but later she must reread it and consider it.

II

The same spring sun which had illuminated Fräulein Gelsicher’s purple dressing gown and curling pins was pouring, on that May morning, into another room in the Casa Castellone, where Giulio di Castellone sat by the window reading Croce’s Estetica. There was a look of eager peaceful concentration about him as he read, flicking the pages over with one hand, pushing back his hair when it fell into his eyes with the other — absorbed, satisfied; turning back now to reread a passage, then turning forward again. Giulio was tasting one of the purest of human satisfactions — the taking in of a new intellectual conception which, though unfamiliar, is instantly sympathetic to the mind receiving it. He felt that this was right, this conception of the spiritual faculty in man as fourfold: the æsthetic, that which seeks for beauty; the logical, that which seeks for knowledge; the practical or economic, where will passes into action; the ethical, which strives towards righteousness in action and involves the whole idea of duty and obligation. Yes — and these four, though distinct, were yet one, and of an equal validity; a series, and yet a circle. And how profound too Croce’s contention that that series develops in individuals as in races, in a certain sequence — first the æsthetic, then the logical or intellectual, only last the ethical.

But how splendid, how satisfying, the sweep and range of Croce’s vision, setting the facts of a small individual experience in relation to a mighty whole; how fortifying to find his, Giulio’s, own hatreds and prejudices, as well as his most dear and secret aspirations, given the sanction of clear philosophic expression. Putting down his book, leaning forward to the open window to breathe in the fresh spring air, he propped his head on his hand and thought, carefully relating his own instinctive feelings and ideas to this new theory, as young thinkers do. He suddenly remembered how as a little boy of eleven he had once protested against going into the salone to see Zia Suzy, and when pressed for a reason had mumbled: ‘She’s so ugly.’ He had been scolded and derided — what a silly boy! Everyone knew how beautiful she was. ‘To me, she is ugly! ’ he had insisted stubbornly. Then he had not in the least formulated his dislike of his aunt, but now — he tapped the open book — here it was! Spiritual ugliness — greediness, selfishness.

Austere, unpractical, absorbed in his books, Giulio was wont to pay very little heed to the proceedings of Suzy di Vill‘ Alta; the gossip of the province hardly entered his careless ears, and if he heard it, he forgot it — he was very far from assessing her relationship to his father, or to anyone else, with any exactitude; indeed he thought about her as little as possible. But he had been aware of a vague feeling, lately, that there was a point at which something morally disagreeable really touched his life. That is it, he thought now — at least there is moral ugliness there somewhere, and that is why I can’t stand her. But suddenly he felt that he had read enough; he must get out into the wind and sun, walk and clear his head — these patches and scraps of ideas were not good! Banging the door behind him, he went out.

Down at the great arched doorway, through which a coach could be — and often had been — driven into the inner courtyard, he met the Countess Livia emerging from her apartment on the ground floor. Though Livia di Castellone had been a widow for six years, her tall slight figure was still perpetually clothed in sweeping black, with hints of crape here and there; her face, once beautiful, now rather pinched and worn, looked out from the austere backward-sweeping lines of a widow’s bonnet; there was a curious mixture of resignation and discontent about the expression of her eyes and mouth, a sort of rigid refinement breathed from her whole person. She greeted her nephew with a conscientious show of affection. Giulio kissed her hand perfunctorily, and said ‘ Good morning, Zia Livia. Are you going to Mass?’ He did not want to know, he wished he had not met her, but one had to say something to people. It was not that Giulio particularly objected to his Aunt Livia, but when he was about to go anywhere or do anything he had a nervous dislike of meeting anyone, for fear of being hindered or stopped. People talked to you, involved you — he never could think quickly enough of the decided word which would set him free; and was likely to get carried off, from sheer irresolution and incompetence, on some horrible enterprise of other people’s. Or they asked him questions, to which he never knew the answers!

This morning, as usual, he failed at the questionnaire.

‘How unfortunate about dear Elena’s dress. Will Joséphine really have it ready for to-night?’ the Countess began, laying a detaining hand, delicate and small in its black kid glove, on his arm. ‘Dear child — it would be such a pity for her to be disappointed, would it not?’

Giulio ran his free hand through his hair. ‘Zia Livia, Elena has already too many dresses!’ he said, his voice harsh with nervousness. ‘I cannot keep up with them! Pardon me— I must leave you‘ — and he bent over her hand again, to kiss it in farewell.

‘Your hat! Giulio, you are not going out without a hat!’ the Countess exclaimed, as he straightened himself and took a step towards the doorway.

‘Dio mio! What does it matter? Scusi, Zia Livia,’ he jerked out, and fairly ran through the great arch and out into the street. Oh, Holy Virgin, what a world to live in! ‘Dresses! Hats!’ he exclaimed loudly, as he passed with his rapid stride out of the Via Vittoria and into the broad boulevard, with its clipped avenues of horse chestnuts on either side, which led out of the town towards the north.

The province of Gardone forms part of the great plain of North Italy which stretches, roughly, from the Gulf of Genoa to the Adriatic, under the mighty rampart of the Alps. Most of the province, like the rest of the plain, is flat as a board; but a few kilometres north of Gardone the earth, approaching the mountains, begins to ruffle and crumple into small hills and eminences, with wide spaces between. Out in this direction lay Odredo, Castellone, and Vill’ Alta, each with its formality of white walls, ilexes, and cypresses crowning some dominating ridge; but Giulio, striding out of the town that morning, still found himself in the characteristic flatness of the plain when he at last checked his pace and began to look about him.

He sauntered on, more quietly now; the fit of acute nervous irritation engendered by the impact of Countess Livia’s world on Croce’s had worn off, and he was able to enjoy what he saw. The monotonous simplicity and familiarity of the landscape soothed him — he knew this road so well, it was one of his constant winter walks. It was pleasant to see it in this spring dress. But it had also, for Giulio, this road, its special associated idea, and this idea entered his mind now, unsummoned, as he walked along. It was essential that he should go away and study seriously somewhere, for a couple of years. This reading alone was not enough — at his age one needed lectures, criticism, teaching, the disciplined life of thought. Somehow his father must be made to see the necessity of it.

A couple of years at the Sorbonne, or three years at Oxford — that was what he wanted. It would not cost much; he could manage on a very small allowance — less than a third of what would gladly be allotted him the moment he decided to marry. Marriage! He jerked back his head, in a sort of angry disgust — yes, that his father would think perfectly sensible, that would seem to him well worth while, for his son to marry and breed yet more Castellones!

If only his English were better, he thought, pursuing his idea, Oxford would really be the best. He could read English easily enough; but speaking it, and understanding it when spoken — that was difficult. How those two young Englishmen, Roffredo’s friends, who had stayed at Castellone last year, had laughed at his English when he tried to talk to them — laughed in fits!

Roffredo’s name, coming into his mind, again deflected the current of his thoughts. Roffredo was his cousin, Countess Livia’s only child, and some five years older than himself— and with his name his image stood up in Giulio’s mind: his broad shoulders, his flaming red head, his good healthy mouth, opened in frequent laughter, the air of careless easy dominance that he carried about with him wherever he went. Giulio’s own face softened curiously as the thought of Roffredo came to him. He had for this cousin of his the devotion, inexplicable but so common, of the complicated intellectual for the athletic and simple-minded type, which is also physically splendid and morally robust. Mentally the two had nothing in common — Roffredo Castellone never opened a book that was not concerned with engineering, and seldom indulged in the process of thought at all, unless in connection with the internal-combustion engine, now in process of considerable development in Italy. On such matters he was no fool; he had had one minor invention accepted by a firm in Milan, and was wrestling with another now. But he accepted with unquestioning readiness and even enjoyment those aspects of everyday life which seemed to Giulio so incomprehensible; and the relative beauty or ugliness of people’s souls troubled him not at all. Of faces and figures, yes! — very much so; but minds didn’t interest him.

How much better Roffredo had managed his life, Giulio thought now, as he wandered along between the looped vines and the formal mulberry trees, than he himself. He had, apparently without any particular trouble, forced the Countess Livia to let him become an engineer, and to make him a handsome allowance; he lived a completely independent life, and had just spent the whole winter in Paris studying the latest developments in four-cylinder engines. He had a car — one of the only two in the province; it was just a one-cylinder car, but it had chugged triumphantly about the roads last summer, raising clouds of dust, and terrifying every horse and bullock team that it met. Roffredo — how homesick Giulio was for his face and voice, after all these months! — Roffredo was doing the thing he was made for, and doing it well.

Giulio pulled out his watch. It was past twelve o’clock — then he would be wildly late for colazione, he thought, with irritated resignation. Well, there were more important things than meals. But for all that he set out with hurried strides towards the town.

Colazione, leisurely meal though it was, was more than half over when Giulio returned. The Count, handsome, urban, and urbane in a spring suit of light gray, sat at the head of the table — Fräulein Gelsicher at the foot, Elena on her father’s right. Giulio, coming in, stood beside his father, bowed, made a formal apology to him and to Fräulein Gelsicher, and was waved to his seat by the Count with a fine gesture.

The Count, his napkin tucked carefully in under his splendid iron-gray beard, masticating salad, at once resumed a long monologue on a theory of root-pruning of vines which he had culled from a new French volume; Elena saluted this theme with a minute wink at her brother. He did not, however, make the response she expected, and after enduring the vines for a few moments she interrupted her father’s scientific flow gayly and brusquely with, ‘ Senti, Paparut‘, do let the vines grow in peace for one moment! Giulio has not heard one word about Marietta.’

Elena could take almost any liberties with her father, especially when she called him by the local dialect word for a father, paparuto; the Count, amused, said benignly, ‘Speak, then, on this great theme! ’

Elena, thus unleashed, bubbled out her news.

Dunque, Marietta is to have a governess! And senti, it is an Englishwoman.’

Giulio was interested. An Englishwoman in the province might really help his plans. He interrupted Elena’s elaborations on the probable appearance of the governess by asking: —

‘When does she come?’

‘Tuesday — they all come on Tuesday to Vill’ Alta.’

‘But the governess?’

‘Oh, I don’t know—soon —perhaps they meet her in Gardone. But in any case very soon. Will it not be nice for Gela?’

‘ That depends on whether she is a nice person,’ said the Count.

‘Papa! Marietta says Zia Suzy says Princess Asquini says she knows the family, and they are very comme il faut; and the governess is very learned — she has been at Oxford!’

‘How at Oxford? Women don’t go to Oxford.’

‘Yes they do! In England now they do since many years! They learn like men. Marietta will end by knowing everything.’

Giulio was considerably exhilarated by Elena’s news. If this new governess of Marietta’s really was an educated woman, had really studied at Oxford, — magical word! — there was no telling what might not come of it. At least he could take regular English lessons with her. His imagination lit up: he saw himself on his bicycle flying over daily to Vill’ Alta, to spend long industrious hours with a learned woman in spectacles, who would introduce him to the English philosophers, to Locke and Hume and Bentham; coming back laden with books to write English essays, and above all talking with the Englishwoman, till his English would be good enough to go to Oxford. He came down out of the clouds when they moved into the salone, which looked on to the courtyard, for coffee, and began to cross-examine Elena as to the academic qualifications of the new governess. Elena could tell him little more — she had shot her bolt of information at once, as she usually did. There remained only speculation, in which, when the Count went off to his study, they indulged delightfully.

III

A few days after Giulio and Elena di Castcllone, out in Gardone, were so gayly discussing their cousin’s future governess, that personage herself, in her bedroom in England, was occupied in packing, while her younger sister May looked on.

‘ I think we’d better begin on the hats,’ Almina said to May. ‘Mother doesn’t seem to be coming, and I must get on. But she won’t want to see them.’ May agreed, and both girls bent consideringly over the hat box. After some thought — ‘I should put the green at the bottom,’ said May.

‘Right. Hand it out, will you?’ said Almina. May opened the door of the hat cupboard, and pulled out the green hat, a huge thing of drooping silky horsehair, the crown smothered in yellow and white roses. She held it up. ‘It is lovely,’ she said, gazing at it with envy. ‘Do stick it on, Al, just for a second, and let me see.’

Almina, taking the hat, moved to the dressing table. It was obvious before she put it on that it would suit her very well. She was small and rather pale, with a great deal of very fine soft hair almost the color of raw silk — what we now call ‘ashen blonde’ and admire greatly, but which was then called ‘flaxen‘ and considered rather dull. In addition she had a neat straight little nose, a neat firm little chin, rather a large pale mouth, and large grayish eyes set very far apart under eyebrows much darker than her hair. To-day these things would make her the envy of all her acquaintances, but Almina was not considered in the least pretty by her family — not nearly so pretty as May, who in spite of rather rough-and-tumble features had a bright color, vivid blue eyes, a red mouth, and proper golden hair, which curled by itself.

Almina’s lack of the accepted standard of prettiness did not trouble her quite as much as it would have done most of her contemporaries. She had been to Oxford for three years, and had there become serious-minded and slightly dowdy; she had taken a first in Modern Languages, which had given her a good deal of sellconfidence independently of her appearance; she had become ambitious, had views on the economic independence of women, and hoped to have a career. It is true that she did occasionally study her face in the glass, half critically and half wistfully — she usually decided privately that her features were really rather good, except for her mouth, and that if her hair was n‘t as curly and golden as it might have been, at least it was very fine and silky, and there was a great deal of it. And anyhow there were more important things than looks. But now, when she combed up the fine pale stuff before the glass and placed the big green hat on her head, she could not resist a little tremor of pleasure at the image which confronted her. And when she swung round to face May, that young person gazed at her with most flattering astonishment before she said, ‘Al, it does suit you! You really look quite —‘

‘Quite what?’Almina asked, pleased, and anxious for more.

‘Well, nearly beautiful.‘

‘It will go with a lot of things, said Almina, turning to look into the glass again; ‘the green, and the white, and the white and yellow.‘

‘Are they very smart, these people? I suppose they are, said May, if she’s a marchioness.‘

‘She is n’t a marchioness — she’s only a marchesa — it does n‘t mean the same abroad,’said Almina, with fine British depreciation of foreign titles. ‘But I expect they are very smart — foreigners always are. The Princess told Mother they entertained a lot.‘

’P’raps you’ll marry an Italian count, May was beginning, — her mind always ran to the social aspect of things,— when the door opened and her mother came in.

At the sound of the door opening Almina turned round on the chair towards it; and, as May had been. Mrs. Prestwich was startled by her daughter’s appearance. Certainly at that moment, in the hat, Almina looked extraordinarily pretty. Since by the time she went to Italy it would be several months since her father died, and as black in summer was so hot, and presented such difi culties with dust, and moreover as she was to be in the country, Mrs. Prestwich had rather brusquely decided that it would be best to let her daughter go out of mourning, and get an outfit at once which would last a couple of years. But after the months of seeing her in black or black and white, which killed her delicate coloring, leaving it cold and crude, the picture now before Mrs. Prestwich was startling. It flashed into her mind that Almina had improved, that after all she might, in the right clothes, be going to be a very pretty girl — and with the thought came a vague disquiet. Tacitly and affectionately, Almina had always been allowed to believe herself plain; if now she was going to be pretty, might not she be rather unprepared for the consequences — for admiration, for advances? Mrs. Prestwich, sending her daughter alone, at twenty-two, among strangers and foreigners, had had some natural anxiety; but she had banked on the girl’s plainness as much as on her upbringing to see her safely through. And if one of these bulwarks were removed, it would be disquieting. However, she reflected later in the day, it was too late to do anything about it now — you could n’t make a girl believe herself pretty all in a minute. And her upbringing would remain.

At the moment, all she said was: ‘How nice that looks, my child. But had n’t you better pack it? Have you got everything ready?’

‘ Yes, Mother. I was waiting for you. It’s all here.’ She took off the hat and laid it on a chair.

There began the careful process of ‘going through’ Almina’s things. Mrs. Prestwich, with a certain enterprising practicality which always characterized her actions, had felt it right and worth while to lay out a good deal of money on Almina’s outfit, to give her a fair start — a policy to which the green hat bore eloquent witness. She passed her daughter’s frocks in review, seeing her in her mind in each garment; wondering if they were, after all, exactly what she would need, and of the sort to give her the reassurance of being ‘right’ in new and alarming surroundings. She handled every one, giving a little discourse on the sort of occasion on which it should, in her opinion, be worn; now and then she sighed and said: ‘I hope it will do’ — about some particular garment. Almina listened with admirable patience. Neither of them, she felt in her heart, knew in the least if the clothes would be suitable or not; but she was sufficiently nervous herself about the whole enterprise not to be antagonized by her mother’s fussing. Her family’s attitude to her appearance had never led her to take an excessive interest in her clot lies, and at Oxford the prevailing concern with higher matters had made her more indifferent than over: but she was prepared to believe that in this new sphere they would matter, and therefore she accepted her mother’s outlook, and even shared it. At all costs, she was determined to make a success of this governessing job — save money, pay back her mother for her wardrobe, and even perhaps put by enough to keep herself while she worked at some research later. Her independence beckoned and gleamed ahead of her.

And the moment had its emotional quality, too. She was leaving her home to enter an unknown world, and her mother was doing the last thing she could to equip her for it; exercising for the last time, for who knew how long, that gentle protecting care which had been like sheltering arms round her girlhood. Perhaps for the first time in her life Almina consciously realized the love behind this care, and what it had meant to her; and each time that she said, ‘ Yes, Mother, I will remember,’ in her dutiful quiet voice, her heart within her was crying, ‘Darling Mother, I will be what you want, do all you wish. I won‘t fail you or disappoint you.’ At the last she did say a little of what she meant. She threw her arms round her mother’s neck and kissed her worn gentle face. ‘I will do my best,’ she murmured, her face hidden. ‘I really will.’

‘I’m sure you will, my darling,’ Mrs. Prestwich answered, moved in her turn. Holding her eldest daughter, her good trustworthy learned child, in her arms, she felt suddenly that she ought to give her a word of advice, of warning, before sending her off to the Continent alone. She sought in her mind for the right thing to say — these things were so difficult. At last — ‘My child, you will be prudent, won’t you?‘ she said with some embarrassment. ‘I mean—’ she paused. ‘Always remember to behave like a lady, and you will be all right.’

‘Yes, Mother,’said Almina, aware of her mother’s embarrassment, which communicated itself to her. But she knew only dimly what her mother meant.

IV

La Vecchia Marchesa was making her usual morning progress down on to the terrace at Vill’ Alta. She always emerged, if the weather was fine, soon after eleven, and took her accustomed seat in a high-backed wicker chair under the great ilex, with its thick triple trunk — close enough to the low terrace parapet to be able to use it as a table on which to place her book, her lorgnette for reading, her ivory paper knife, and the wineglass containing a raw egg beaten up with a dash of maraschino which Roberto, her manservant, invariably brought out to her when she was settled. Her progress was very slow and extremely dignified, as befitted an old lady of ninety-nine. For her age she walked surprisingly strongly, once she reached level ground — just steadying herself on an ebony stick, with a plain smooth ball of ivory for its head. Roberto flung open both the study doors, and announced, ‘.La Marchesa di Vill‘ Alta,’ more as if he were proclaiming her arrival at Court than in her son’s silting room; while the small figure, bent awkwardly at the hips but still beautifully upright at the shoulders, passed across the tiled floor.

On this, as on all other mornings, Francesco di Vill‘ Alta rose to greet his mother, pushing back his chair; he bowed over her hand, kissed it, and asked how she did, with as much formality as if she were a total stranger.

‘Well; well,’the old lady replied, with a hint of impatience. ‘ I am always well.‘

‘You slept well?‘ the son further asked, solicitously.

‘Sufficiently. Sleep is for the young!’ the old lady answered, with a tiny laugh that was as frail as the ring of fine glass. ‘And what are you painting this morning, my son?‘

‘ Pipo has sent me this from Brioni‘ — the Marchese indicated a rather ugly purplish flower in a specimen glass. ‘I am making a sketch of it before it fades. I have revived it with aspirin, but it will not last.‘

The old lady glanced at the plant. ‘And what is it?‘

The Marchese Francesco, peering through thick-lensed spectacles, took up a small gray paper-covered magazine, opened it at the place where a slip of paper protruded from the pages, and showed a very delicate and precise reproduction of the flower on the table. ‘Hyacinthus comosus,’ he said triumphantly. ‘I am sure it is that.’

‘Giacinta! My glass!’ the old lady said. The gray-haired maid, an elderly woman with a sour faithful face, hurried into the room and handed a lorgnette with a long tortoise-shell handle to her mistress; the old Marchesa raised it to her eyes and examined the illustration. ‘It resembles it,’she said. ‘And where and how does it grow?’

The Marchese Francesco shook his head regretfully, and tapped the page. ‘It is all in English,’ he said. ‘I cannot read it. I must get Giulio to come over and tell me what it says.’

The Marchesa laughed her tiny thin laugh again. ‘Figlio caro, you need not do that any more — Marietta’s anylaise comes to-day; she can translate it for you.’

The Marchese Francesco’s face brightened. ‘I had forgotten,’ he said. ‘Excellent! She will be able to translate the whole series to me.’

But the old Marchesa was now examining her son’s own drawing through her lorgnette. ‘What do you think of it?’ he asked, rather wistfully.

‘Molto bene! But why do you spend the whole morning making a drawing, when you have such a good one here already?’ She touched the gray magazine.

‘But Mama, you know that I am making my own collection of sketches,’ the Marchese protested. His mother always tormented him in this way, and after nearly seventy years of it he was still always caught, always hurt; always reassured when, as now, she laughed at him.

‘But yes — I know! Francesco, it is charming. Finish it! Giacinta! Take my glass!‘ And resuming her stick, the old lady, very slowly and carefully, moved back across the room and out towards the terrace.

The Marchese Francesco di Vill‘ Alta was the eldest of his mother’s fourteen children. He was a tall thin man, with hair already snow-white, and more of a stoop than his mother. He had spent his life as Italian noblemen were very wont to spend their lives, half in society in Rome, half in giving a vague attention to his very considerable property in Cardone. At one time he had ornamented the diplomatic service, and an appointment in a Northern capital had brought him into contact with his wife, the daughter of a Danish financier and an American mother.

Francesco di Vill‘ Alta might really have been quite a good botanist but for his weak eyes. These, even with the strongest lenses, prevented him from ever being much good at discovering for himself the smaller and rarer plants; he was obliged to rely on others for that. But people who found a plant which aroused their curiosity either sent, it to him, as his brother Pipo had sent, the purple grape hyacinth from Brioni, or took him to see it grow. For a secondhand botanist, as one might say, his knowledge was considerable; and whatever he found he drew — delicate, slightly mannered drawings, accurately and carefully colored; he had albums full of them. People really meant so much less to him than his flowers, which he worshiped with the singular passion of a man who has been, on the whole, a failure with human beings. He was not incapable of affection, or even of devotion— it was just that Life had gradually taught him that his affection and his devotion were somehow not much good; did not bring in, as it were, the dividend which he vaguely realized that other people got on theirs. Now, when his mother had left the room, he drew his kitchen chair up again to the deal table; adjusted his spectacles, dipped a fine brush into the jug of stained water, and went on with his exquisite coloring of the tasseled grape hyacinth, an expression of supreme and blissful contentment on his gentle, intelligent face.

The old Marchesa, meanwhile, went out on to the terrace. Very old people only really see what immediately concerns them — so the old Marchesa never noticed, as she passed across the terrace, how the shape of the triple ilex cut like a great dark green balloon into the clear pale tones of the view away to the northeast; what she did notice, immediately, was whet her her chair had been placed exactly right or not, and whether the rugs and footstool were properly arranged. She also noticed Susy’s empty hammock — a brightly striped gaudy affair with hanging fringes, slung under the tree — with amused disapproval!; she thought lounging in hammocks both feeble and slightly undignified. All the same, she made Roberto shift her chair a few inches, so that she could see the hummock without turning her head — she liked being able to look at her daughter-in-law. A decorative creature, Suzy! It was really small wonder, she thought, that Suzy should — well, should interest herself! It was not only that Francesco was thirty-five years older than she — at no age would he have been the man for Suzy. He had n‘t enough vitality. Suzy was all vitality — it was what one enjoyed about her. The old lady was actually waiting, in a little pleasant stir of anticipation, for the younger woman to come, to warm her with her swiftness of life, merely by lying near her in the hammock. Her relations with her daughter-in-law were curious. When Suzy began to interest herself elsewhere, La Vecchia Marchesa watched with dispassionate attention. If there had been any serious inconvenance she would have disapproved profoundly, would have taken whatever steps she thought appropriate. But there was not — Suzy was very clever. She had done no injury to the family, or to the traditions which it upheld — there was no overt ugliness or roughness, nothing was damaged, there was no fuss. The old Marchesa hated fuss. How much better Suzy managed than Pipe’s wife, tiresome creature, who was making all this outcry about Pipo’s affair with Livia Panelli. She had had a most tiresome letter from her only this morning. She was a Russian, though, and they had so little self-control!

Out through the doors on to the terrace came, at last, Suzy di Vill‘ Alta. She was a true Nordic blonde, with cendré-fair hair, immense gray eyes, and a thick opaque skin of a tone more tender than white, unvarying all over. Her figure was beautiful, rising to a queenly magnificence of bust and shoulders, above a rounded slenderness below; all her movements had the finished grace of extreme sophistication. It was difficult to decide whether her face was really beautiful or not, and few people bothered to try—it had, in any case, the quality which makes beauty itself interesting. What was at once arresting about her was the whole impression of finished charm, of a completed work of art, from the elaboration of puffs and rolls of her coiffure down to the small cream-colored kid shoes that appeared below her soft pale dress.

She came over to her mother-in-law, stooped to give her an affectionate kiss, and said, ‘Good morning, Bonne-Mama. How well you look,’ in her warm, caressing, contralto voice.

‘So do you, my dear Suzy,’ said the old lady, pleased. Suzy never bothered one with tiresome inquiries about one’s health; she assumed that one was well, she said so, and at once one felt well.

‘Have you had any amusing letters.?’ the young Marchesa asked, seating herself gracefully on the parapet.

‘ I have had one extremely unamusing one from Nadia,’replied the old Marchesa.

‘What does Nadia say now?‘

‘Oh, such folly! That she knows that Livia is in Brioni with Pipo, and that if such public humiliation goes on, she will leave him! Fublic humiliation, indeed! No one but she need know it. Brioni is not Rome or I aris.‘

‘She would do much better not to know it herself,’said Suzy tranquilly, taking a gold cigarette case out of a large gold-mesh bag, and opening it. ‘Bonne-Mama, vous permettez?‘ And receiving a bow and wave of permission, she lit a minute Russian cigarette and went on: ‘But no doubt she has made every effort to find out. Poor Nadia!‘ She spoke the last words in a tone of real sympathy.

‘Do you like her?‘ the old Marchesa asked, a little surprised.

‘Yes, Bonne-Mama, I do—very much. She is simpatica, and she is generous and intelligent.‘

‘ Intelligent!‘

Yes, Bonne-Mama, very intelligent, even. It is only that she has no savoirfaire. And she is full of idealism - she wanted a perfect marriage, and thought that to give Pipo‘everything was the way to get it. That was silly of her. But she is not stupid.‘

‘ It was a ridiculous marriage,’ said t he old lady impatiently. ‘Pipo would have done far better to take my advice.‘

‘Poor Bonne-Mama! All your sons will marry foreigners, won‘t they?‘ Suzy said, smiling. ‘But you know, mariages de convenance are going out, even here. People want to arrange these things for themselves nowadays.’

‘Yes, my dear Suzy, and only look at the manages d‘inconvenance they arrange for themselves! But Nadia cannot leave Pipo like that. It would make a scandal.‘

‘No, it would be unwise. But she is in pain, and people are unwise then.

‘In pain! What of it? Is she the first woman whose husband has a liaison? And what did she expect? Ça arrive, enfin! But she writes quite wildly. Let me show you her letter.’ She fumbled in a little bag, very much like the Signorina Gelsicher’s, attached to the middle of her person, and produced a thick-looking envelope. Suzy di Vill’ Alta took it, and read through the many thin sheets, attentively, a charming wrinkle of concentration between her fine darkened eyebrows; the old lady watched her, and at the end said, ‘ Well ?‘

‘I am sorry she bothers you with all this, but she is right to,’the younger woman said smoothly. ‘She is very wretched.’

‘ My dear Suzy, I cannot slop her being wretched!‘

‘Perhaps not. I think you could advise her wisely, though. I wonder if we should not have her here.’

‘You really think so?’

‘I believe it might be wise. And Bonne-Mama, Pipo is also stupid! This is partly his fault, you know. I think he must be scolded! After all, he need not —‘ she broke off, with a faint expression of irritation. ‘Ecco Marietta,’ she said.

I alike the very old, when one is fifteen one sees all sorts of things which do not personally concern one— indeed at that age impersonal things have an importance, a power to stir and move the heart, which very few human beings then possess. Marietta di Vill’ Alta, pausing for a moment at the door leading on to the terrace, just registered the picture of her mother and her grandmother sitting there, the pale figure on the wall, the black figure in the chair; but what she really saw, with eyes and heart., was what neither of the other two had noticed — the picture formed by the terrace as a whole. As she stood for a moment, looking at it, she drew in a long breath, as if to inhale its beauty; then, shaking her head, she skipped down the steps, and ran forward to greet, her elders.

She made her two little curtsies, offered her two little kisses, with her warm red mouth in her thin colorless face. If you have seen any of Donatello’s youthful St. John the Baptists, you have seen Marietta di Vill‘ Alta — the thin young neck, the eyes wide apart, the sensitive down-drawing of the upper lip, the soft uncertain fall of hair about a forehead too big and too nobly mature for the rest of the face. The old Marehesa took the child’s hand, as she kissed her, and retained it; Suzy was young, but Marietta was younger, too young still to have developed any of those adult perversities which were so annoying, those perversities with which she watched people muddling and spoiling their lives — had watched them, with impatient disapproval, for over half a century. Free as the old woman was from so many of the customary weaknesses of great age, of this one she was not free — of its instinctive tender delight in the warmth of simple affection, such as the very young alone give. She held Marietta’s small thin hand, the characterless hand of a very young girl, while she talked to her. Marietta perched on the wall, close to her grandmother’s chair.

Suzy moved slowly over and arranged herself in the gay striped affair, her full skirts flowing over the edge, showing hints of filmy lace petticoat, her little cream shoes poised above the fringe.

‘Well, child, and how are you?’ the old lady asked.

‘Oh, Bonne-Mama, I am so impatient for Miss Prestwich to come!’

‘You are always impatient, Marietta, and your mother never — at least never before lunch!’ said the old lady, with a touch of mischief. Suzy laughed, but with a slight effort: she always found it easier to get on with her mother-in-law when Marietta was not there — the old Marchesa doted quite absurdly on the child, would have spoilt her utterly, left to herself.

‘Yes, I am impatient about her,’ the girl said eagerly. ‘I want to see her. I look forward so to having a governess! I shall learn so much.’

Senta, Suzy,’the old Marchesa asked, ‘of what age is this Miss Prestwich?’

‘I have no idea. Bonne-Mama. Whatever age governesses are,’replied Suzy casually, putting down a foot and making the hammock swing a little. ‘Lydia Asquini wrote that she was in every way suitable, and I asked no more. She has studied at Oxford, so she must, be very well educated.’

The old Marchesa disapproved of women going to college to be educated, and said so. Governesses at home, masters and classes, perhaps, in Rome, were all that was required for the most ample female education. Marietta and the Marchesa Suzy had to listen to a long account of various accomplished women whom the old Marchesa had known. Suzy hardly heard. She lay smoking another tiny Russian cigarette, and thinking about Nadia, Pipo’s wife, and her troubles. Marietta listened politely, but with one ear open for sounds of a carriage on the road behind the house. She would have liked to look at her watch, but that would not have been polite. It was with a sense of release that she caught sight of two figures coming round the eastern wing of the house. ‘ There are Elena and Giulio!‘ she exclaimed, and sprang up to meet them.

V

La Vecchia Marchesa watched the throe cousins benevolently as they came strolling along the terrace, Marietta and Elena arm-in-arm and chattering like birds, Giulio looking quite animated. Suzy observed him with raised eyebrows and an air of indolent amusement. She knew quite well that he disliked her, but though this surprised her a little, she never bothered as to the reason, and she was both too lazy and too goodtempered to dislike him in return. The ill opinion of a bookish boy did no harm to anyone. She was, however, quite prepared to tease him.

‘Well, Giulio, this is an unwonted pleasure,’ she observed, holding out a white and much-ringed hand to be kissed as he approached her. ‘ I thought you always studied all the morning.’

‘Not always, Zia Suzy,’ Giulio replied, obediently kissing the hand. ‘Come sta?‘

He’s come to catch sight of Marietta’s governess, Zia Suzy,’Elena observed mischievously. ‘Because she has been at Oxford, where the philosophers come from, he hopes she will be a philosopher too!‘

‘She will be a rather unusual governess if she is,’Suzy said.

‘On the contrary, my dear Suzy, I think governesses are a race of philosophers they certainly need to be,’ said the old Marchesa.

‘He wants her to teach him English,’ Elena chattered on, while Giulio fetched a couple of chairs from under the ilex she was in tearing spirits, as usual. ‘Shall you mind if he does lessons with Marietta, Zia Suzy? Because that is his idea!’

Giulio was at once upset by this unveiling of his secret plans. ‘Idiot!‘ he muttered to his sister as he set down the chairs. ‘Zia Suzy, I hope you do not believe —‘ he began, and paused, at a loss how to finish, since this was so very like what he did wish.

‘My dear Giulio, if Miss Prestwich can be of any service to you in her spare time, of course I shall be delighted,’the young Marchesa said smoothly.

Marietta intervened. She saw that Giulio was vexed, and she hated him to be vexed. ‘Giulio, come round to the torrino and let us watch for the carriage,’ she said. ‘Come on.‘

The torrino was a small stone turret, once a part of the earlier castle, which had occupied a site far larger than the present house — it stood some hundred yards away from it, on the opposite side of the building, beyond the eastern wing. The broken masonry had been repaired, a roof put on, and stone seats placed inside, making a sort of small summerhouse. It overhung the road, which wound up the hill some sixty feet below; to reach the front door the visitor must either ascend several long flights of stone steps, flanked by cypresses, which rose up from a small gate with a wrought-iron grille in the wall at the foot of the slope, or else follow the road round the shoulder of the hill right up into the village of Vill‘ Alta itself, with its gaudy-fronted white church and ancient elm tree — and from there double back along the level, through the great entrance gates.

Walking up to the summerhouse to watch for the carriage, still irritated by Elena’s indiscretion, Giulio turned his mind with relief to the picture; he had formed of the woman whom the carriage was bringing — the governess, middle-aged and wise, in whom the female principle was subordinated to learning and goodness, as it was in Fräulein Gelsicher. Only with more learning than Gelosia had. She would be restful and helpful, as such women alone were.

Marietta followed him. So far Marietta had two great loves in her life — Vill‘ Alta and her cousin Giulio. She loved, with a child’s wistful passion, all the external aspects of her home, clinging to them with youth’s haunting desire for permanence; any alteration was agony to her — she mourned a tree cut down as women mourn a lost child. All the winter, in Rome, where the bright golden light beat on the warm golden buildings, she was homesick for Vill‘ Alta; walking in the Pincio gardens, she looked wistfully at the unfamiliar beautiful ilexes and stone pines, and longed for the known identifiable shapes of the trees at home — the triple ilex on the northern terrace, the irregular rising ranks of the cypresses beside the southern steps, the gnarled olives round the torrino, the squat umbrella pines on the grassy ridge along which one walked to Odredo.

Within the last year her feeling for Giulio had become less a rival to than an extension of this passion — the two were linked, since it was only at Vill‘ Alta that she saw Giulio. It is hardly possible to find words to put down secretly and delicately enough the first stirring of love in a young girl — grave, distant, shy, and yet intense; a selfless strange enchantment!, fed on music, on poetry, on the shape and name of beauty asking nothing but its own secret life of memory and anticipation; as moving and as remote from actualities as the song of birds. Then, to be spoken to is to be honored; to serve, a rapturous privilege; to be alone in his company a silencing delight.

Marietta, however, knew Giulio too well to be readily silenced by his presence, and at the moment her desire to soothe him was stronger than any other feeling. Sitting in the torrino, hanging out over the road to watch for the carriage, she said: —

‘Elena is a tease. But you heard what Mama said.‘

‘Elena is idiotic!’ Giulio returned, kicking his heels moodily against the stone wall. ‘She has no idea of what will go and what won’t.’

‘But Mama didn’t mind. She said you could work with her. So that is all right, Giulio. It is arranged!’ she said earnestly, pushing her grave little face forward to gaze into his, willing him to be reassured and happy. ‘I shall not do so many lessons, and I shall explain to Miss Prestwich about you.’

‘She may have her own ideas about your lessons! But teachers usually like to teach,’ he said, thoughtfully, ‘and perhaps Gela could coax Papa to let her have a fee, if she does much. I wonder what books she will bring?’

They discussed, in an ignorance as complete as hers about them, what books the unknown Miss Prestwich was likely to bring, and gradually Giulio’s spirits rose again, and he began to talk of his ambitions and his difficulties.

While the talked the girl sat in supreme contentment, her elbow on the back of t he stone seat, her chin cupped in her hand, staring out with absent eyes over the flatter country to the south, which was becoming steadily more colorless and indistinct in the noonday heat and haze — nodding her head now and then in emphatic comprehension. She had actually forgotten about the new governess, so absorbed was she in Giulio’s ideas and plans, and when a cloud of white dust began to boil up through the trees at the foot of the hill, where the road wound round the corner, it was a moment or two before she paid any attention to it. Down there the trees hid the road itself, but below them it became visible; noticing the dust at last, Marietta twisted round and craned out over the parapet of the torrino, to catch the first glimpse of the advancing vehicle. Yes, there were the fat white horses, with yellow sweat stains down their necks and flanks, and the straw Homburg hat of Tommaso, the equally fat coachman, foreshortened by the angle from which she saw him. ‘Giulio! Here she is!’ the girl said, in a low excited tone. ‘Here is the carriage!’

Giulio came and craned out too, over her shoulder. There was little to reward his scrutiny. Tommaso had thoughtfully taken one of the driving sunshades, a plain affair of natural Shantung silk lined with green, and Miss Prestwich had put it up; the summer carriage rug, of striped green and fawn linen, with fringed ends, was spread over her knees — so that all that the watchers from the torrino could see was a circle of fawn above a patch of stripes, with one dark blue arm, and a hand in a brown suède glove, projecting on to the striped lap. Nevertheless, they watched the carriage in its slow progress up the hill with grave attention. Giulio, who had a natural gift for the portentous, spoke at last. ‘There goes someone who is going to make a great difference to our lives, yours and mine, Marietta,’ he said solemnly. Marietta nodded in silence. The solemn remark was truer than either of them knew.

But Marietta, even at the most solemn moments, had always an eye to the practical. ‘Giulio! Should we not go down to meet her at the little gate, and bring her up? It is prettier that way — and it will be more welcoming, no?’

Giulio too straightened himself. ‘Yes, but quick, or we shan’t be in time.’ They set off along a little path, took a short cut through the bushes, cascaded together down the long flights of steps under the cypresses like two dogs chasing the same ball, and reached the small gate just as the carriage drew level with it. So it happened that Almina Prestwich, who, ever since Tommaso pointed out the rather grim bulk of Vill‘ Alta among its cypresses on the hill, had been sitting under the sunshade in the corner of the victoria, hot, thirsty, and nervous, bracing herself to encounter a majestic Marchesa, as gray and grim as the house, now found herself confronted by a boy and girl, flushed, laughing, breathless, and extremely untidy, who tugged together at a small wroughtiron gate in a wall. ‘Ecco la signorina inglese!’ said Tommaso, beaming, by way of introduction. But at the sight of the figure in the carriage, small and slight, in a navy-blue coat and skirt and a broad-brimmed sailor hat, the two eager creatures checked, in the plainest astonishment. Only for a moment— then the girl sprang forward, made a little quick curtsy, and, seizing Almina by the hand, cried: ‘Oh, you are young! But that is lovely! I expect I should have loved you anyhow, as Elena does Gela; but now that you are young, of course I shall!’

A little overwhelmed by the warmth of this greeting, Almina suffered herself to be taken out of the carriage and led through the gate. Up the steps, flight after flight, they went, her new pupil chattering all the way in voluble explanations, which to Almina’s confused mind explained very little. But Giulio walked silent behind them, in an astonishment that was tinged both with disappointment and with some other feeling. This a governess? This small creature in the youthful clothes and hat? And her hair! Clouds of it, like sunshine — and those great blue eyes — she was like a child! Could anyone so young know anything, teach anything? This was not the sober counterpart of Gela that he had been looking forward to. But her eyes and mouth were grave,— when Marietta made some reference to him, and she turned and looked in his direction,—and her forehead broad and calm. She might after all be wise, for all her air of simplicity and innocence. They went on up the steps.

Out on the northern terrace, La Vecchia Marchesa still sat in her chair, Suzy lolled in her hammock, Elena sat holding a skein of silk which the old lady was plaiting with her fine wrinkled hands. As she approached the group, and during the introductions which followed, Almina studied these strangers with whom she was to live with curiosity tinged with anxiety. Sitting rather stiffly on her chair, she started slightly when the very old lady tapped her with an ivory paper knife and said, ‘You speak very good Italian. Where did you learn it?’

‘At Oxford,’ Almina replied.

‘How old are you?‘

‘Twenty-two,’ Almina replied, readily enough.

‘Hm! Are you serious?‘ the old lady next inquired.

Almina was rather taken aback. ‘I have always thought so —‘ she began gravely.

The young Marchesa exploded with laughter. ‘Oh, Bonne-Mama!’ she said, going over and kissing the old lady. ‘Come, Miss Prestwick, come to your room. You will want to wash before luncheon.’

She swept her off. On the way upstairs she was all charm and kindness, explaining the party: ‘Elena and Giulio are my niece and nephew—they live next door to us, at Odredo. — My mother-in-law is wonderful, isn’t she? Do you know that if she lives till September, she will be a hundred?’ The kindness, the charm, the being ‘taken into’ things a little, fell like balm on Almina’s spirit, tired, nervous, and bewildered as she was. In the immense room to which she was finally conducted, she turned to her hostess, in reply to a hope that she would be really comfortable, and said fervently, ‘I am sure I shall. Thank you so much.‘ Suzy smiled a little to herself as she closed the door and went downstairs. It would be all right about the little governess—she would be devoted, there would be no trouble with her.

‘Well, Bonne-Mama, what do you think of her?‘ Suzy asked, as she returned to the terrace. ‘Marietta, go and get tidy for lunch, my child. Your hair is a sight and your blouse is so dirty.’ Marietta went. ‘Well?‘ Suzy continued, still looking amused and lighting a cigarette.

‘She looks very well-bred, but as a governess, the thing is ridiculous!’ the old lady pronounced.

Suzy burst out laughing again. Her laughter was enchanting—rather high, but with a warm quality of mirth in it. The old Marchesa, as if reluctantly, gave a faint chuckle too, as she listened to her daughter-in-law.

‘Oh, Bonne-Mama cara, I think she will do quite well. I know about English girls. They are very serious.’

‘Her hair is lovely,’ Elena here put in. ‘Nearly the color of yours, Zia Suzy.‘

‘Yes — if she could do it,’Suzy said, looking slightly less amused.

‘I might teach her to,’ said Elena.

‘It is her business to leach.‘ said the old lady, rather tartly. ‘Governesses need not have fashionably dressed hair.‘

‘We will get Gela to give her some lessons in coiffure, then,’ said Elena, irrepressibly, ‘and teach her how to look like a governess. Zia Suzy, we must go, or we shall be late for lunch.‘

VI

That first day at Vill‘ Alta seemed as long as an ordinary week to Almina Prest wich— it was so crammed with new impressions, new people, and new things as to be very exciting and exhausting. Her room, in which the Marchesa had left her, telling her that luncheon would be in three quarters of an hour, was highly novel, to begin with. Left alone, she looked round it. There was a large bed, with a high pointed back of carved and painted wood and a rich lace coverlet, a writing table, a highbacked couch, a tall chest of drawers, a cheval glass, three armchairs, and several quite large tables — but there was no dressing table, washstand, or wardrobe. Except for the bed and the cheval glass, it was like a large and richly furnished boudoir. Moreover, it had three doors in the three corners of the room, besides the one by which she had entered.

Cautiously, she went and opened one of them and stood in surprise. The door led into a very small square room, arranged as an oratory, with a crucifix, prie-dieu, flowers, and a variety of holy statues and pictures. Almina, whose sober Low-Church upbringing had been modified at Oxford into the fashionable High-Church tendency, was charmed with the oratory. She shut the door gently, and tried another. Ah, this was better. Here was the cabinet de toilette, with washstand, dressing table, commode, and a hip bath painted white propped against the wall. She noticed with admiration the exquisite quality of the linen on the towel horse, the vast monograms — S. d. V. A. — on the face towels and even on the bath towel, with a coronet above. Thinking that this was rather like Bluebeard’s palace, Almina opened the third door. There in a third little corner room, fitted up all round with hanging cupboards with sliding doors, and a glorious array of shelves, was her luggage. She carried her dressing case into the cabinet de toilette, got out her things, and washed: hurried back to the clothes cupboard, opened her new and exciting suitcase, in which she had prudently put a dress for emergencies, and pulled it out — a bolero and skirt of pale yellow embroidered linen, with a soft white broderie anglaise blouse to go with it. She did her hair and then changed into these garments, wishing, as she did so, that she had got some white suède shoes like Elena di Castellone’s. However, her new black glacékid ones were very nice, and she put them on. Now, even if there was a lunch party, she would do, she thought, glancing at herself in the cheval glass.

She looked round her room, so luxurious, formal, and pretty, with a sorl of startled pleasure — really, this did seem a nice place. But before she went downstairs she slipped for a moment into the oratory, and, kneeling at the prie-dieu, prayed with real earnestness that she might not be led away by fashion and luxury, but might serve her employer faithfully, and be of real use to her pupil.

There was no luncheon party. But it seemed almost like one to Almina when they sat down in the great dining room with its high painted ceiling—the old Marchesa, the young Marchesa, herself, Marietta, and the Marchese Francesco. Two menservants in white cotton gloves moved round the room, handling food which was all strange, and by no means all of it nice, Almina thought.

Even more disconcerting were the table manners of some of her companions. The old lady, the young Marchesa, and Marietta ate normally enough, except that the old Marchesa, who belonged to an age before table napkins came into fashion, ignored the fine lacebordered object by her plate and wiped her fingers, daintily as a bird cleaning its beak, on the tablecloth. But the Marchese! He tucked his napkin into his collar at the beginning of the meal, a sensible foreign habit which, being unfamiliar, seemed to the English girl rather ill-bred: she failed to perceive the skill, the really brilliant technique, which underlay his manipulation of the spaghetti, that deft movement of the fork by which a lump the size of a duck’s egg was coiled round the implement and thrust into the mouth; she only observed, with dismay, the subsequent process of collecting the stragglers by suction. At dessert the Marchese Francesco, who, apart from asking his mother as each dish was offered her if it was what she liked, had made no contribution to the conversation, asked Almina if she could translate a paragraph from an English book for him. He seemed surprised when she said that she could, and relapsed into silence.

But when they had taken coffee, out on the terrace under the ilex, he rose and asked .Marietta to bring the signorina into his room to look at the book. Escorted by Marietta, — Almina only realized later that. it. would not have been strictly comme il faut for her to enter his study alone, — she was introduced to the little paper-covered volume and the picture of the tasseled grape hyacinth, He set a chair for her, and stood listening gravely while, after a moment’s pause, she read out the whole paragraph in clear Italian. Then he rubbed his hands with pleasure. That was famous! Would she write it down for him? With pleasure, Almina said. With some trouble a space was cleared among the litter on the table, and with a quill pen Almina wrote out the translation. TheMarchese held the sheet up close to his thick spectacles and read it—he thanked her with the delighted expression of a child.

Almina asked if the tasseled grape hyacinth grew near Vill‘ Alta. ‘Alas, no — in Brioni. The signorina is interested in wild flowers?‘ Very, Almina said: her mother was rather a good botanist, and she collected wild flowers herself. ‘Dunque, Papa, now you will have someone to find flowers for you! That is marvelous! Marietta said. ‘Papa is mad about botany,’ she confided to Almina as they left the room, ‘but he is so blind he can find nothing for himself, and I am too ignorant to know what is worth picking. But with you, I shall learn. Will you teach me?’ Almina gladly promised, thinking with satisfaction and gratitude how well it was that her mother had made her bring her Bentham and Hooker. To teach this eager-faced nice pupil to know the wild flowers would be a charming occupation on their walks.

Indeed her first concern now was to have a talk with the young Marchesa; to find out what was expected of her, and to organize her own and her pupil’s day. But this was not so easy. When she and Marietta went out on to the terrace again, the old Marchesa had retired to take her afternoon nap, and a tall handsome man with grizzled hair and beard was sitting beside the hammock where the Marchesa Suzy lay, talking to her with great animation. Marietta checked on the steps. ‘Oh! Zio Carlo has come,’ she said, hesitating; ‘then perhaps we had better not disturb Mama.’

‘Who is Zio Carlo?’ Almina asked.

‘He is Elena’s and Giulio’s father. He is very amiable, but rather silly,’ said Marietta, with startling candor.

‘Then he is your mother’s brother?‘

‘Oh dear no!’ Marietta replied, laughing— the idea seemed to amuse her. ‘He is n’t really an uncle at all. BonneMama’s husband’s mother, my greatgrandmother, was a Castellone, so Papa and Zio Carlo arc cousins. But we call him “Uncle,” because it is more suitable and Elena and Giulio call Mama “Zia Suzy.” We call all the Castellones “Uncle” and “Aunt” — Zia Livia, Roffredo’s mother, and‘ — she giggled again —‘the Sorellone. You will see them all very soon, especially the Sorellone. They are great gossips and very curious— they will come to see you at once.‘

Almina felt that this fresh lot of names might safely be left till their appearance to be unraveled. ‘Well, since I cannot see your mother now, I think I will go and unpack,’ she said.

‘Yes indeed — shall I come with you and help?’ Marietta said. Almina would rather have been alone, but she felt that this was a good opportunity of making friends with her pupil, and agreed. As they went upstairs, the young Marchesa’s clear pealing laugh rang out from the terrace.

The reason for the young Marchesa’s laughter had been Count Carlo’s incurable habit of getting names wrong. When the two girls came out on to the steps above the terrace he noticed them and said, ‘ Who is the pretty creature with Marietta, Suzy?‘

‘That is her new English governess, Miss Prestwich,’ Suzy responded.

The Count put up an eyeglass on a riband, and gazed. ‘Cara, anything less like a governess I never saw,’ he then observed, turning back to Suzy again. ‘She has the appearance of being exactly eighteen. ’

‘She’s twenty-two, my dear Carlo, and has a university degree,’ Suzy said, half amused and half impatient — she was already becoming a little bored with the inevitable comments on Almina’s youthful appearance.

Tiens! Well, she is charming — that hair is delicious,’ the Count now said. ‘What do you say her name is?’

‘Prestwich — and it is not very ingratiating of you to praise her hair to me, lovely as it is,’ said Suzy, with lazy coquetry.

‘Cara e bella! You know that I see no one but you,’ the Count protested — from long practice he played this particular game with considerable skill and great satisfaction. ‘Suzy, will it not be — inconvenient — having this young girl here?’ he asked, in a different, tone. ‘At that age they see everything, and I am told that the English have no — ma, no comprehension, no savoir-faire. And if this little Postiche is like the rest —’

It was then that Suzy’s laughter had pealed out. ‘ Prestwich, my poor Carlo — her name is Prestwich.’

He mouthed at it. ‘Prestveech. It is impossible to say — it is a foolish name,’ he pronounced. ‘I shall call her the Signorina Postiche. She will get used to it, as Gelosia has done. But now, earn, tell me — you think this will be all right?

‘Quite all right,’ Suzy assured him — she would arrange everything. And the conversation went off on to viticulture.

The afternoon seemed very long to Almina. She hoped for a summons to tea, but none came. When they had finished the clothes they arranged the books, in neat rows on one of the large tables—lesson books, some solid biographies, English poets, and a few novels: E. F. Benson, Robert Hichens, Mrs. Humphry Ward. Almina showed Marietta the two volumes of Bentham and Hooker, one with illustrations and one with the text, and explained how to use them. Marietta was delighted. At last — ‘Where shall we work?’ Almina asked, when all was done, and they were sitting on the couch, resting after their labors.

‘Oh, but in the schoolroom. I will show you,’ and she led her off to a pretty room on the same floor, reached by passing through Marietta’s bedroom, which was next to Almina’s. Almina duly admired the schoolroom.

‘Yes. It, is to the south, so we may find it a little hot,’ said Marietta, ‘but there was no very convenient room on the north, Mama thought.’ (In fact, the Marchesa Suzy had been very careful not to install the schoolroom party in a room overlooking the terrace, where her afternoon sessions with Count Carlo took place.) ‘But if we are hot, we can work out of doors, in the shade, no?‘ Then she passed on to the subject that was uppermost in her thoughts.

‘Miss Prestwich, I have something very important to ask you.’

‘What is it?’ Almina asked, surprised and amused at her grave face.

‘It is about Giulio, my cousin, whom you saw this morning. Giulio is molto serio; he is learned; he wants to be a philosopher — he reads such books! And he wishes to go and study at Oxford. But his English is so bad — if he went as in is, he could not understand the leelures, or read the books. And so, while you are here, he is most anxious to study with you also —just English; to read it and to speak it. Not while you work with me, but at some other time. Do you think this could be arranged? Would you be willing? It means so much to him!’ she said, clasping her hands and looking at Almina with intense gravity.

‘I think it might perhaps be possible,’ she said rather doubtfully, ‘but I can’t really say until I have talked to your mother, Marietta. You see we have not arranged your own work yet —and that must come first.’

‘Of course, of course. Cut Mama has already said yes. And I know she will leave you to arrange my lessons as you like! So do say you will do it.’ Then, seeing Almina still hesitate, the astonishing child went on: ‘And you need not be afraid I hat Giulio will begin a flirt with you, because he hates girls! He is not like Roffredo. I think he is horrified that you are young — I saw his face when you came! He was hoping that you would be like Gela!’ She laughed.

‘Who is Gela?’ Almina asked.

‘Gela is Elena’s governess — her real name is Fraülein Gelsicher — at least she was,’ Marietta explained, not very grammatically. ‘Elena does no lessons now, of course — she is just, beginning to be in society. But Gela is still with them — they could not live without her! She does everything. And she keeps my uncle in order too, as much as she can!’ Marietta said, with a giggle.

Almina listened to this account of another governess with far more interest than she had to Marietta’s versions of her various relations. From the young girl’s odd, lively expressions, and still more from her tone of voice, she gathered a deep impression of the respect and love which the Swiss woman had earned from all about her. If she could do the same it would make this job of governessing something worthy of her very best efforts. Inwardly she resolved to do her utmost, for this nice child beside her, for the pretty charming woman who was her mother.

‘And you will see Gela to-morrow,’ Marietta ran on, ‘for we are to lunch at Odredo. So then, if you are willing, we can settle with Giulio about his lesson. He will be dying with anxiety about it.’

And, after further pressure, Almina eventually agreed that, subject to the Marchesa’s formal approval, she would be willing to coach Giulio for an hour a day.

Marietta proved to be perfectly right in her prediction that the matter of lessons would be left mainly to Almina’s discretion. When the girls eventually went downstairs, Almina managed to catch the young Marchesa, and in Suzy’s boudoir attempted to find out what her employer’s educational views were. It was not very successful. ‘Oh, my dear Miss Prestwich, I leave all that to you,’ Suzy said.

‘How much work do you want her to do?’ Almina asked. ‘Six hours a day, about? ’

‘O Dio mio, no! Poor child, she must not be driven like a slave,’ Suzy said. Three hours in the morning, perhaps, proved to be the young Marchesa’s idea, and a little light reading in the evenings.

This view of her duties slightly discouraged Almina. But she turned to the next point, with her usual conscientious steadiness.

‘There is one other thing, Marchesa,’ she said. ‘Marietta says that your nephew, Count Giulio di Castellone, is most anxious to improve his English and to do a little work with me. I told her that I could not arrange anything till I had spoken to you about it. Have you any objection? Provided, of course, that I do not let it interfere in any way with Marietta’s work? Naturally, I only want to do exactly what you wish about this.’

The young Marchesa laughed a little. ‘Poor Giulio!’ she said. ‘He is so ambitious, and so bored, here in the province. No, Miss Presiwich, I have no objection — pray help him if you have the time. Only he must come here for his lessons,’ said Suzy, suddenly alert; ‘otherwise it will take too long. But the children all live in one another’s pockets anyhow, in the summer.’ Then she looked very kindly at the young girl. ‘You look tired,’ she said, with pleasant concern — and then a thought struck her.

‘Tea!’ she exclaimed suddenly, looking at her watch. ‘Of course, you want tea! And it is after five o’clock!’ She rang a bell, and gave an order to the servant. ‘You and Marietta shall always have tea,’ she said, ‘in the schoolroom. I know the English cannot live without it;.’

Much restored by the tea, and more charmed than ever by the young Marchesa’s thoughtful kindness, Almina’s spirits had risen a little when Marietta took her out afterwards to see the grounds. They went out through the olives, came on to the ridge that led towards Odredo, and Marietta pointed out a long building, standing up in the foreground. ‘That is Castellone, where Zia Livia lives.’

‘Why is one end of it red, and all the rest white?’ Almina asked.

‘Ah — that is the story! Long ago, one branch of the Caslellones had a cpiarrel with the Vill‘ Atlas, but the rest of the family had not. And they made war on one another. But so that the Vill’ Alias should only shoot and bombard at I he right part of the castle, those Castellones painted their own part red, so that it should be clear what was theirs and what not. And it has been kept painted red ever since.’ She paused and laughed. ‘The Sorellone—Aspasia and Roma Castellone—live in it now. They are the two I told you about. They will come to look at you very soon.’

She was right. When the two girls returned to Vill’ Alta to dress for dinner, they saw a small pony carriage drawn up by the front door. Marietta checked at the sight,

‘Per carità! There they are!’ she said in a whisper.

‘Who?’

‘The Sorellone. Now they will stay to dinner you will see! That is why they have called so late.’

Again she was right. On descending to the great salone where the family assembled before dinner, Almina found two strange middle-aged ladies added to the party. Countess Aspasia was tall and thin, with something martial about her appearance; Countess Roma shorter and very stout, with a rather foolish face and a frequent needless laugh. And they fully lived up to Marietta’s rather unpromising account of them. ‘They were full of information, and their frequent and direct questions showed how they obtained it. There was a great deal about Roffredo, whose name Marietta had also mentioned.

“And senta, cara Suzy, Roffredo is coming back almost at once; did you know?’ This was Roma.

‘And he has taken this small villa that stood empty so long, on the Pisignacco road — so that he can work more freely.’

‘He is setting up for himself,’ giggled Roma.

‘I advised it,’ Aspasia said magisterially. ‘Indeed, I urged it on Livia. He is of an age to be — enfin, to be alone, to have some freedom!’

’Old Alba is to be his cook and look after him,’ Roma added, ‘and he is bringing a chauffeur person, who will also be his manservant.’

Presently Countess Aspasia inquired of the Marchese Francesco how his painting was getting on — he went off and fetched the sketch of the tasseled grape hyacinth to show her.

‘And where does that grow?’ she inquired.

‘In Brioni — Pipo sent it me.’

‘Ah. Pipo is in Brioni? Roma, do you hear that? And is dear Nadia there too;’ the Countess Aspasia asked.

‘No, Nadia is in Rome. She is not very well, and is having some treatment,’ interposed Suzy smoothly.

‘And Pipo is all alone in Brioni? But why should he go there?‘ Roma asked.

La Vecchia Marchesa here took a hand. ‘Cara Contessa, when my sons reach the age of thirty, I cease asking why they do anything,’ she said trenchantly. ‘I regard their lives then as their own concern, Pipo,’she added, ‘is fortynine.’

Almina, watching all these manoeuvres, felt with dismay that one would have to be very clever and very ready to live successfully in such surroundings. She also thought with relief, when the sisters had packed themselves into their little pony carriage and driven off through the warm dusk, that with them, at any rate, she need have little to do. But here she was wrong.

VII

Eräulein Gelsicher, after some days of careful observation, was inclined to bestow a tempered approbation on the new régime at Vill’ Alta. Like everyone else, she had been staggered at first by Almina’s youth, and by what — among the dark Italian hair and complexions — counted as an almost dazzling prettiness: also she was inclined to feel that the becoming clothes of Mrs. Prestwich’s careful providing erred on the side of fashion, for a governess. But she did not let any of these things bias her natural just and kindly judgment; she approved of the neat table of hours and subjects pinned to the schoolroom wall, of Alinina’s routine of work from nine-thirty to twelve-thirty, walks or tennis in the afternoon, and an hour or more of preparation before dinner, during which time Giulio Castellone had his lesson; and she applauded her young colleague’s resolute insistence that her pupil should present herself for work in the morning fully dressed, and not in a dressing jacket or wrapper. She decided that Miss Prestwich was, in fact, ‘serious,’ and told Count Carlo so, roundly, when he started some rather crude witticisms about the beauty of‘the little Postiche.’ She saw, far more clearly than Almina herself, how difficult the girl’s position might easily become if she relaxed for a moment that wise discretion which she had so far displayed; she took occasion, once or twice, to praise her quietly, when she had observed her refusing the pressing invitations of some of the young men of the province, who, ignorant of her exact position, had wished her to join them in a set of tennis or a game of croquet. And to the old Marchesa, who rapped out at her one day, ‘What do you think of Suzy’s idea of a governess, eh, Signorina Gelsicher?‘ she answered with perfect sincerity that she thought the young Marchesa had been extremely fortunate in her choice.

‘Tiens! Well, I trust your opinion,’ said the old lady. ‘I am glad. I wish Marietta to be in good hands. All the same, she is a great deal too pretty. Governesses should not be pretty!’ she said, with an amiable chuckle. ‘Giulio or someone will be falling in love with her.’

‘I think she is discreet,’ Fräulein Gelsicher replied.

‘Hm! Well, she can’t do more,’ said La Vecchia Marchesa.

One afternoon when Almina had been at Vill’ Alta nearly a fortnight, she and Fräulein Gelsicher, with Elena and Marietta, undertook a walk to the village of Macerbo, whose churchyard, set high on a hill, commanded an unusually wide and lovely view — from it, Marietta said, you could look right into the bed of the river Serpiglione, flowing southwestwards across the plain from the mountains. They walked at first by pleasant paths across past ures or through the maize fields, but for the last part of the way they had to take to the road, which wound, white and dusty, up the slope of the hill on which Macerbo stood. Another road, coming in from the west from the direction of Verona, met theirs in the square at the top. Along this second road, as they climbed, they saw a white cloud of dust rising, hurtling along at a surprising speed.

‘It must be a motor car,’said Elena. ‘I wonder if it is Roffredo?’

When they reached the village, the question as to the ownership of the car was soon settled. In the open piazza before the church a small crowd had gathered about a motor and some object on the ground; as the party approached, an old woman, with loud screechings, raised the object, revealing it as the corpse of a turkey. Her screeches — it was clear that she was the owner of the bird — were directed partly to the late lamented, partly at a tall, vigorouslooking young man with Titian-red hair, wearing a long pale dust coat like an umpire’s, who stood, lighting a cigarette and looking enormously amused, and occasionally remonstrating very goodnaturedly with the old woman under the title of ‘Grandmother.’ At sight of him, both the cousins cried ‘Roffredo!’ and ran forward. Almina and Fräulein Gelsicher, following, saw him greet them with a sort, of careless pleasure; (hen he turned in their direction, saying, ‘And La Gelosia. — ’ and checked in mid-sentence. ‘ Who is that?‘ he muttered to Elena, looking at Almina.

‘That’s my new governess, Miss Prestwich,’ Marietta said.

‘She’s not your governess?’ the young man said, incredulous.

‘Ma si. E così cara,‘ she whispered to him.

E così bella!‘ he returned, in an undertone, as he allowed himself to be led over towards the two governesses. He greeted Fräulein Gelsicher and suffered the introduction to Miss Prestwich with the same careless ease; then, the matter of the turkey having been liquidated for a few lire, the whole party went into the churchyard. There, sure enough, about half a mile away was the Serpiglione, its broad bed cut deeply into the green landscape, with blue threads of water twining through the bare white expanse of stones. The party strung out along the parapet, the three cousins calling observations to one another; Almina stood a little apart, looking at the view.

Then a flower caught her eye, growing among the stones of the parapet in small trailing tufts of green, starred with mauve. She stooped and picked a piece and examined it; it was the creeping Linaria. And at that moment Roffredo di Castellone strolled over and addressed her.

And what is that?‘ he asked, touching the flower in her hand.

‘Linaria cymbalaria,‘ she answered.

Corpo di Bacco! You are a real botanist! What a boon you will be to my Uncle Francesco,’ he said, with a laugh which showed a set of very strong white teeth. Easy and assured, he let his blue eyes rest on her in a glance of verv direct appraisal. ‘You do not look like a learned person, you know, mademoiselle,’ he said.

Almina, disconcerted, blushed a little.

‘All the same, I am; learning is my profession,’ she said. And to turn the conversation, ‘Signor Conte, what is the name of that mountain?’ she asked in Italian, indicating the big peak with the blunt summit.

‘The Monte Canone. It is a very good climb by the western ridge,’ he said, still talking English. ‘Do you climb?’

‘No, I never had the chance.’

Ah, you should. There is nothing like it.’ He pointed out various peaks to her, telling her their names; presently he said, ‘And do you see that lump of hill at the entrance to the gorge, there where the river comes out?’

‘Yes.’

‘Can you see that there is a building on it? It is clear to-day — you should.’

‘Yes, I can.’

‘That is a fortress — it was built by my great-grandfather, another Roffredo di Castellone,’ he said. ‘You see it was by that valley that the Austrians were always coming in, to harry our poor Italy. So he built, that, fortress — it is a huge place, really—to defend this entrance; he did it entirely at his own — what is the word? —fraift’

‘Expense,’ Almina said.

‘Si — at his own expense. Dunque, the government, was very grateful, and offered him all sorts of titles and rewards, but his answer was that he only wanted one reward.’

‘And what was that?’ Almina asked.

‘That when he was dead, they should build him into the northern wall, upright, and facing Austria!’ the young man said, with a sudden ring in his voice. ‘So that was done, and there he is, to this day. È bello, no?‘ he said, looking at her.

‘Yes, rather!’ said Almina with enthusiasm, using the idiom of her day.

The others now came up and joined them — it was time to return. Roffredo offered to drive them back to Vill’ Alta in his car, but Fräulein Gelsicher declared cheerfully that nothing would induce her to enter it. ‘I have no mind to go about murdering fowls,’ she said. Almina thought it expedient to follow her example, and as the two girls could not go unescorted, the plan fell through. The car was laboriously ground and started; they watched it. chugging dustily and noisily off along the Castellone road, and then set out on their return walk. And on the way Almina found herself thinking a good deal about that patriotic and romantic figure, the builder of the fortress. He cast a certain glamour over his descendants — he was, she thought, a most, satisfactory ancestor to have.

Roffredo turned up to call the next day at Vill’ Alta; when Miss Prestwich and Marietta returned from tennis at Odredo they found him sitting on the terrace with Suzy and the old Marchesa, drinking Madeira. His manner to the old lady was very attractive, courteous and attentive; to the young Marchesa he was gallant, with the rather artificial and blatant gallantry which Almina was gradually becoming accustomed to see handed out to her employer and Elena by their compatriots. At dinner the talk was of him. ‘it is pleasant to have Roffredo here again,’the old Marchesa said to her son. ‘We missed him last summer.’

‘He is improved,’ said Suzy. ‘He has more manner.’

‘He always had a good manner — and how working in a motor factory can improve it, I can’t think,’ said the old lady. ‘But he is certainly none the worse. He is a very fine young man.‘

‘How are his inventions going?’ the Marchese wanted to know.

‘So-so, I think,’ Suzy said indifferently.

‘He has one — it is something to do with the ignition of the petrol, I think — that is being tested now,’ Marietta put in eagerly. ‘It is something to do with the position of the little points that make the spark, and the metal you use. And if it goes well, it may be that the N.S.A. will take it. They are trying it; they are interested.’

‘And how do you know all this?’ her father asked her fondly.

‘He explained it to Giulio, and Giulio told me.’

‘I did not think Giulio was able to understand such things; his head is always in the clouds,’ said Suzy lazily, peeling a fig.

‘Mama! Giulio has a very good brain,’said Marietta, with slight indignation. ‘Hasn’t he, Miss Prestwich?’

The old Marchesa fixed her black eyes on Miss Prestwich at this point—the girl was aware of her glance, and knew that she was waiting to see how she would deal with the situation in which Marietta had put her.

‘I think he has a gift for languages,’ she said quietly; ‘that is all I have had the opportunit y of judging, so far.’

The old lady gave a tiny nod, and Almina knew that she had passed. She constantly had the sense, with the old Marchesa, of being given a test question in an examination; it was a little unnerving, but rather to her own surprise she did not mind it much. Without knowing why, she found herself both liking and trusting the old woman.

A few days later there was a further addition to the collection of relations which was gradually gathering for the summer, as usual, in the province. This was the Marchesa Nadia di Vill’ Alta. Suzy had carried her point with her mother-in-law, and had invited Nadia to come for a visit, to see whether something could not be done to improve the situation between her and her husband, the Marchese Pipo. The old lady, while agreeing that it was the right thing to do, — how often, she reflected, it was the women like Suzy, and not the rigidly virtuous ones, who saw the right thing to do, and bestirred themselves to do it,

— dreaded the visit a good deal; her Russian daughter-in-law, with her intensity of emotion, was always fatiguing to her, and in this crisis she was certain to be very difficult. On the day of Nadia’s arrival she was restless and a little irritable — her eggnog was not right; her shawls were too hot; she did not get her nap in the afternoon, being too fret ted to sleep.

The Marchesa Nadia appeared that night at dinner, a tall graceful creature, beautifully built, with black hair parted close and smoothly off one of those square white Russian faces, and immense eyes of a curious pale blue, like glass; she wore the length of her hair in a great plait, pinned round her head like a tiara. This severe coiffure, among the puffs and chignons then prevalent, gave her an archaic look, like a queen out of the past, Almina thought. She was very beautiful. Her hands were beautiful too

— long and white; she did not use them for conversational purposes, as her inlaws did, but left them lying, in her lap or on the table, as though they hardly belonged to her — but Almina noticed that they trembled a little, sometimes, even while she talked with a rather feverish animation to the Marchese Francesco. Suzy noticed it too, and sighed to herself — ‘Dio mio, she is in a bad state,’ she thought. ‘I must warn her that she must really control herself when she talks to Bonne-Mama; Bonne-Mama isn’t as strong as I thought. We can’t have her upset.’ Like all the rest of the family, Suzy attached enormous importance to La Vecchia Marchesa’s reaching her hundredth birthday safely. It was now early June, and the birthday was in mid-September — only three and a half months to go.

The old Marchesa’s talk with Nadia took place next morning in the former’s sitting room, before she went downstairs. This was by Suzy’s wise arrangement. She realized that both were dreading the interview, and decided that it would upset the old woman least in the morning, when she had most strength, and would give her longer to get over it before night, and a better chance to sleep. La Veechia Marchesa was sitting, fully dressed, in one of the upright chairs she preferred when her daughter-in-law came in; after the usual greetings she motioned her to another chair and said without any beating about the bush, ‘Now, my dear, let us have a talk about Pipo. ’

‘Yes, Marchesa. I shall be glad of your advice,’ Nadia said dutifully.

‘That is well — usually advice is more easily given than taken,’ the old lady said. ‘Well, I have had your letters, Nadia, and I think I understand the situation. Pipo does not want to give up this liaison at present, I take it ?’

The Russian bowed her head in assent.

‘But when you are together in Bologna he behaves well — accompanies you everywhere, is properly attentive?’

‘Yes — but all that is such a mockery,’ Nadia said, lifting her head and looking now at the old woman.

‘A very useful mockery,’ the old Marchesa said dryly. ‘Very well, my dear, then it seems to me that the only thing for you to do is to have patience. These affairs do not last.’

‘Marchesa, I cannot! I have been patient for a whole year, and I am a bout,‘ the younger woman said, with a sort of weary desperation.

The old Marchesa stretched out one of her fine frail hands and put it on the other’s knee. ‘Nadia, will you listen to me?’ she said. ‘You may as well, since you have come all this way to see me,’ she added, with a little laugh. And as the Russian again bent her head in assent with a slow grave gesture, she went on: ‘Figlia mia, I think you are looking at this thing in the wrong way. You think it more important than it is. All men, or nearly all, do this from time to time — many women do it too. But the point is that it. does not really matter.’

‘Not matter? That one’s husband ceases to love one, gives all his thought elsewhere — this does not matter?’ Nadia said, still slowly, still quietly.

‘No — it does n’t — not for our purpose,’ the old Marchesa said firmly. ‘We are talking of your marriage, Nadia. Marriage is one thing — love is another. They may exist together, but that is a happy accident. Love does not last, not often; marriage does. What, matters is that one’s marriage should be conducted with courtesy, with amiability—ma, con decenza! That is of importance. It may be that this affair of Pipo’s will pass. I think so, myself. They are not really volages, the Vill‘ Atlas — they have a strong family sense. But even if you do not regain his love, — and that seldom happens, — his friendship and his companionship and his respect you can keep, if you will be sensible.’

‘What do you think I should do, then?’ Nadia asked.

‘Be patient. Keep quiet. Be amiable, when he is with you,’ the old lady replied unhesitatingly.

‘Let this go on? Make no protest?’

‘You have protested, have you not? And has it done any good?’ the old woman asked. And as the Russian again made her beautiful weary gesture of agreement — ‘Of course not,’ the old Marchesa went on. ‘ It never does. You would have done far better to ignore the whole thing.’

‘But that would be such utter hypocrisy,’the young woman protested. ‘I could not live a lie to him, when he once loved me.’

‘You call it hypocrisy — I call it common sense,’ the old lady retorted. ‘What is your own idea?‘

‘I thought we might separate,’ the Russian said. ‘At least, then, I should not be in his house, be with him — always reminded of what is gone!’ she said, in a low tone.

‘And will that bring him back to you, to separate? Nadia, this is utter folly,’ the old woman said. ‘You will make a scandal, destroy your marriage, and injure the child’s prospects — and for nothing! That will not help you in the least. No — do as I say — be patient, be cheerful, be a little indifferent. Know as little about it as you can. Above all, say nothing more. I will write to Pipo myself, and tell him to be prudent, considerate— there need be no scandal. Will you do this?’

Nadia sat looking at her hands, which lay, so detached, in her lap. At length, without raising her eyes, she said, ‘I will consider it, Marchesa. And I am grateful to you for all the trouble you have taken.’

‘If you take my advice, when it is all over you will be grateful for it,’ the old woman said, as the other rose. ‘Ring for Giacinta, will you, my dear? I want my eggnog.’

VIII

‘Well, how did it go?’ Suzy said to La Vecchia Marchesa before lunch, when the old lady, fortified by her eggnog, had installed herself on the terrace.

‘She was at least quite quiet,’ the old Marchesa replied. ‘That was something to be thankful for. She said she would think it over. But she is full of most strange ideas — when I asked her if Pipo was at ten live, enfin, behaved conrenablement, when he is at home with her, she said that it was hypocrisy that he should do so!’

‘Poor Nadia!’ Suzy said, with a little sigh.

‘We, I think, are also to be pitied,’ La Vecchia said, ‘to have anyone so unreasonable in the family.’

‘Ah, Bonne-Mama, you must not be too hard on her. Her ideas of marriage are quite different to ours,’ Suzy said. ‘I am half American, so I understand all that — Americans think the same about these things.’

The old lady gave her a shrewd look. ‘Well, my dear Suzy, your americanismo has not prevented you from fitting very satisfactorily into our Italian way of living,’ she said, ‘and very acceptably,’ she added, with a little smile.

The trouble, of course, about all these discussions between the Marchesa Nadia and her husband’s relations was that they were actually talking about two different conventions of marriage. Nadia, brought up by an English governess in one of the nicest, of the old-fashioned Russian country families, held it us axiomatic (as indeed it is generally held in England) that the only respect-worthy basis for marriage is not suitability, or general and private convenience, or a high probability of a comfortable union, but romantic love. The Vill‘ Altas took a quite different view. In the society in which they moved, mariages de conrenance, though becoming less frequent, still often occurred; and even where the marriage was a matter of choice between the young people themselves, they regarded it, once made, as not wholly their own affair: they accepted unquestioningly the claim of their relations that every marriage in a family was to some extent the whole family’s concern; they recognized a certain responsibility, not only to one another, but to their whole circle of relatives.

Now the disadvantage of the English convention of marriage is that it puts a premium on personal feelings. If these alter, the stability of the marriage is threatened; its accepted basis, romantic love, has failed, and the unhappy participants are almost bound in consequence to regard the whole venture as a failure. They are probably wrong—looked at biologically, or as a part of the social structure, the marriage is very likely perfectly adequate or even an undoubted success; an Italian wife, bred up in a saner and more practical theory, would complacently regard it as such, and be a better and a more cheerful wife in consequence.

Another thing which tended to put the Italian woman in a stronger position than her English contemporaries was the accepted convention that, women should go on being admired, treated with gallantry, and even courted after marriage. That shutting-down of all male attention but the husband’s, once the vestry door has closed behind the bride, had —and has— no place in the Italian scheme of things; nor had the Germano-British tradition of the subservience of the wife. Her opinions were as much valued as those of her husband, and as freely expressed. This, and the further tradition of habitual courtesy, of being socially adequate and entertaining even within the family circle, added greatly to the pleasantness of marriage — Almina, accustomed to her father’s brusque monosyllables, his lack of response to her mother’s conversational openings, had already noted with surprise, and reported in a letter home, that the Marchese Francesco treated his wife ‘like a visitor.’

Life in Gardone was full of these minor surprises for Miss Prestwich. And she had another, and a rather more severe one, in connection with the visit of the Marchesa Nadia. In England thirty years ago the bare possibility of difficulties or disasters in marriage was as far as possible concealed from girls; divorces occurred only among ‘people one did n’t know,’ unfaithfulness only, and but rarely, in novels, and in the sort of novel one was not supposed to read at that. But that day at Odredo, when she and Marietta and Elena were sitting out under the stone pine after lunch, having coffee at the big square stone table which stood under it, Almina was suddenly and painfully enlightened. The three girls were alone, and because they were alone were sewing their underclothes. One carried such work about in large silk bags with hoop handles, or in round flatfish sewing baskets of scented grass, into which the slightly risqué objects could be thrust at the advent of a male relation. The stone table was covered with scraps of lace and embroidery, the resinous shade under the great umbrella pine was full of the hum of insects, broken by fragments of talk and little clear peals of laughter. Presently Elena asked, ‘And how is Zia Nadia, Marietta? Does she seem depressed.‘ ’

‘Not particularly,’ Marietta replied, looking a little conscious.

‘There is no sign of Zio Pipe, I suppose?’ Elena went on, with a mischievous glance.

‘Elena, of course not! You know he is in Brioni,’ Marietta said, in a lone of faint protest. ‘He would hardly come just now, besides.’

‘No, hardly — and leave his cara amorosetta! Well, and what are they all doing? Discussing it, up and down?‘

‘Zia Nadia and Bonne-Mama had a long talk this morning, but naturally I don’t know what they said,’ Marietta replied.

‘I wonder how they will settle it,’ Elena said. ‘Aspidistra was telling Gela the other day that she believes Zia Nadia means to leave him.’ (Aspidistra was the cousins’ impertinent name for the Countess Aspasia.)

‘Surely she could not do that?’ Marietta said, looking startled.

‘Oh yes, she could. It would make a greal scandal, of course, but it can be done. The Tito Serbellonis had a separation — there was a consiglio di famiglia and all sorts of fuss, but they got one in the end! Only there, it was she,’ said Elena significantly.

‘I think Zio Pipo is horrible!‘ Marietta burst out, with a sudden passion which startled Almina. ‘How he can make Zia Nadia so unhappy! She is so kind, and clever, and beautiful — such a darling; and she used to be so gay! It is hateful of him, I think.’

Almina’s conscientious scruples told her at this point that she ought to intervene in this most unsuitable conversation. She knew, of course, nothing about the Marehesa Nadia’s affairs, and was greatly shocked by Elena’s revelations; casual and elliptical as they were, she could not fail to gather the gist of them

— and she was scandalized at the open way in which the two girls were discussing a situation which at home would have been a matter for hushed voices and dark hints, even among her elders. However, before she had found a suitable phrase of remonstrance, there was an interruption. ‘The Three Graces! And all at needlework!’ exclaimed a loud cheerful voice — looking round, they saw Roffredo di Castellone bearing down upon them.

‘Buon giorno! Buon giorno!‘ he said generally, approaching the table. ‘You too diligent, Elena? What is it? No, let me see!’ he said, grasping the shred of cambric, and laughing at her.

‘It is two pocket handkerchiefs,’ Elena said gayly, as he spread it out

— the little garment was indeed, in its untrimmed state, sufficiently noncommittal.

‘Where is my uncle?’ the young man now asked, seating himself.

‘He is gone to Meden with Gela,’ Elena said, ‘but Giulio is indoors. Did you want Papa?’

‘I did. Is Ospedi about?’

‘No, he is gone too. We are to grow French wine soon at Meden!’ Elena said. ‘I will fetch Giulio,’ and she ran off to find her brother.

‘Well, signorina, have you found any more rare flowers r’ the young Count asked, turning to Almina.

‘We are going to find some to-day,’Marietta put in. ‘All sorts of things grow out by the Monte Sant’ Antonio, and we are going there to see what we can find.‘

‘What, where old Trino lives? Is he still alive?’ Roffredo asked.

‘Very much so. He is Zio Carlo’s bird catcher, you know,’ she explained to Almina.

Almina, who had never heard of the profession of bird catcher, asked if she meant a keeper.

Caccialore? No — not that. He snares the small birds for the table. You had better take Miss Prestwich to see Trino, Marietta, while you are out there. It might amuse her.‘

But when Giulio came down, joyful at the sight; of his cousin, and suggested a game of tennis to him, rather to everyone’s surprise the young man said abruptly that, it was on the whole too hot, and proposed that they should accompany the girls on their walk. ‘I should like to see old Trino again,’ he said. So the whole party set out, down through the park which lay to the north of the house. They made a pretty group, the young people, as they strolled along, the young men in I heir white flannels, the girls in their pale summer dresses and shady flowery hats. Almina’s hat was a broad-brimmed thing of white straw, with floating green ribbons — it suited her extraordinarily well, and Elena noticed with sly amusement that Roffredo kept his eyes firmly fixed on it and its owner. Passing through a little wood, Miss Prestwich suddenly darted aside, with a cry of pleasure, to pick a flower — it was the white butterfly orchis, with its delicate straggling blossoms, writhing like small white limbs.

‘Does it smell?’ Roffredo asked her, and took it from her hand. ‘No, it does not,’ he said, giving it back.

‘Not now, but it does at dusk. If you came here in the evening, the whole wood would be sweet with them,’ she told him.

‘Then will you bring me here one evening, so that I may smell it? Then I shall believe you,’ he said, standing still and smiling down at her; it occurred to him with sudden force that it would be delightful beyond words to wander through a scented copse at dusk with this delicious little creature, with her face as pale as the flower she held, her great gray eyes, and her hair like spring sunshine. And to engage her attention and keep it for himself, he began to pick every flower and weed he could find, and bring them to her to ask their names — common things like scarlet pimpernel, shepherd’s-purse, and a small speedwell.

Presently they left the park, which was vaguely bounded, here by a broad weed-filled ditch, there by a straggling and indefinite hedge, and emerged on to open pastures; ahead of them rose a little hill, long, low, and green — the Monte Sant’ Antonio. On the top of it they found the bird catcher’s house, a rather tumble-down hovel of gray stone, with quite as much rags as glass in its small windows, and an earthen floor. Old Trino appeared, a small and rather bent old man, incredibly dirty in person, with brilliant black eyes peeping out of a face that was almost all gray hair and grime-filled wrinkles. He greeted the cousins with enthusiasm, and was delighted to show the English young lady his whole establishment.

Out at the back of the house was a square enclosure surrounded by high hornbeam hedges, clipped and trimmed with most un-Italian neatness; the hedges were double, with a four-foot space between, and Trino explained how he hung his nets between the hedges, and showed Almina the wires, cords, and pulleys by which, when the enclosure was full of birds, he could pull one large net along over the whole, through holes in the cottage wall, and then show himself and scare the little creatures into the surrounding nets, to be caught at his leisure.

He was not using the nets at the moment, he said; the crop of rape which was to lure the birds into the enclosure was not yet ripe — ‘But the Signor Conto will be able to have uccellini tomorrow,’ he said triumphantly to Elena.

‘ I am using my lime.’ And he led them off to a bushy place on the eastward slope of the hill, where small grain was strewn on the ground among innocentlooking twigs. But the twigs had a dark glossy surface; they were covered with birdlime and firmly pegged to the ground — a hedge sparrow and a couple of chaffinches were entangled among them, fluttering and struggling, their desperate movements only exposing more of their feathers to the cruel clinging glue.

Almina, horrified, turned away — the piteous twitterings and helpless struggles of the little creatures made her feel sick. But the others took it quite calmly: Roffredo touched the lime to test its strength, went to wipe his finger on his handkerchief, and laughed when the linen stuck to his hand; while Elena, always inquisitive, made old Trino show her how he dipped the twigs in the bucket, and the rough brush of coarse grass which he used to spread the viscous stuff on the leaves of bushes where the birds were wont to roost. Trino presently caught the three minute creatures, and with a deft movement wrung their necks. Once all movement in those little bodies was stilled, Almina felt curiously relieved.

They walked back by the other side of the hill, Roffredo pointing out to the party the pink roof of his new villa, just to be seen in the distance through the trees. He was getting settled in, he told them, bit by bit — ‘When I am properly installé, you must all come and have lunch with me. You will come too, and bring Marietta, won’t you?‘ he said, turning his bright, glance on to Almina. A little further on, at a cross path, he left them, turning off eastward to Ids house, remarking that he should see them again that night, as he was dining at Vill‘ Alta — an announcement which caused Almina a sensation of pleasure and expectancy which rather startled her.

He came, looking more arrogant and handsome than ever in his evening clothes. But the evening brought Almina no special pleasure. Beyond a civil greeting on his arrival, he barely spoke to her. She told herself sensibly that this was only natural. She was the governess, and when his elders were present, it was right and proper that his attention should all be given to them. But a slight sensation of discomfort persisted — he had been so empressé in his manner all the afternoon that the contrast was painful. And his conversation with his hostess went almost beyond the usual gallantry — in England, Almina thought, one would have called it a flirtation. The Marchesa Suzy did her share— she was lazily mocking, delicately provocative, and the young man reacted violently to this stimulus. It made Almina rather uncomfortable.

All the unpleasant impressions of the day came back to her as she sat in the high salon — the talk of the two girls about the Marchesa Nadia, which had distressed her more than she realized at the time, the struggles of the little birds among the limed twigs. All the rest of the day, she had not been able to get that picture out of her head — it thrust itself up between her and whatever she saw, unbidden; and now it returned to her with fresh force. She was glad when Marietta’s bedtime came and she was able to escape with her. But her escape was not complete — our escapes seldom are. She went at once to bed, but only to dream all night of herseli caught in a limed thicket, her plumage befouled by something horrible which held her fast, while Roffredo hovered over her, smiling his bright imperious smile, ready to wring her neck.

(To be continued)

RUMFORD PRESS CONCORD, N H.