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It was one of the very chief of Italian for,” said the philosopher somewhat holydays, a festal Sunday in May, the morosely. “She's like none of the month of Mary. No wonder the two sad women you and me ken. I'm doubtful Protestant Scotchmen, with mourning in in my own mind whether that dutiful their dress and in their hearts, felt and obedient spirit has ever been our themselves grow sick and faint as they ideal in our country. Intellect's a grand went dutifully to the gardens of the Villa gift, callant, baith to man and woman; Conti, as they had been commanded. but you'll no fly in my face and assert They did not so much as exchange a that it's more than second-best." word with each other till they had passed “I am not up to argument to-day,” through all that sunshine and reached said Colin; and they walked back again the identical alley, a close arcaile, over- the whole length of the avenue in arched and shut in by the dense foliage silence. Perhaps a certain irritability, of ilex-trees, to which their little born of their mutual grief, was at the sovereign had directed them. There bottom of this momentary difference ; was not a soul there as she had prophe- but somehow, in the stillness, in the sied. A tunnel scooped out of the damp, subdued leafy shade, which at first sight dewy soil would scarcely have been more had been so congenial to his feelings, absolutely shut in from the sunshine, an indescribable shadow stole over scarcely could have been stiller or cooler, Colin's mind—a kinil of indistinct fear or more withdrawn from the blazing and reluctance, which took no definite noonday, with its noises and rejoicings, shape, but only crept over him like a than this narrow sombre avenue. They mist over the face of the sun. His strayed down its entire length, from one heart was profoundly touched at once blue arch of daylight to the other, before by the grief, and by the self-command they spoke ; and then it was Lauderdale of Alice, anil by her utter helplessness who broke the silence, as if his thoughts, and (lependence upon himself and his generally so busy and so vagrant, hal friend. Never before had he been so never got beyond Alice Meredith's last attracted towards her, nor felt so much words.
that dangerous softening sentiment of “Another time, Colin," said the phi- pity and admiration, which leads to losopher, “ you'll no make ony changes love. And yet, the two walked back in the lesson for the day. Whiles it's silently under the dark ilex-trees, and awfu' hard to put up with the con- across the piazza, which ditions o' a leemited intellect; but thronged with a gay and many-coloured whiles they're half divine. I'm no pre- crowd. The brighter the scene grew tending to be reasonable. She kens around them, the more they shut themno more about reason than—the angels, selves up in their own silence and maybe—no that I have ony personal sorrow, as was natural; and Colin at acquaintance with their modes o argu- length began to recognise a new element, ment. I admit it's a new development which filled him with vague uneasiness to me; but a woman like yon, callant, -an element not in the least new to would keep a man awfu' steady in the the perplexed cogitations of his guardian course of his life."
and anxious friend. “Yes,” said Colin ; and then with a strange premonition, for which he himself could not account, he added—“She CHAPTER XXXV. would keep a man steady, as you say ; but he would find little response in When they entered the salone on their her-not that I regard her less respect- return, the first object which met their fully, less reverentially than you do, eyes was the stately figure of Sora Lauderdale,” he went on, hurriedly, Antonia in full holiday costume, lately “but”
returned from mass. She had still her “It wasna your opinion I was asking fan and her rosary depending from her
wrist-adjuncts almost equally necessary table had been already arranged for to devotion, as that is understood at dinner, and this was the last day in the Frascati—and was still arrayed in the world on which the strangers were full splendours of the veil, which, fas- likely to desire society. Sora Antonia tened over her hair, fell almost to her took matters with a high hand, and in feet behindl, and gave grace and dignity case of opposition secured for herself at to her tall and stately person.
Sora least the first word. Antonia was a dependent of the family “Pardon, caro Signore mio," she Savvelli; scarcely a servant, though she said, "you are surprised to find me had once belonged to the prince's house- here. Very well; I am sorry to incomhold. She had charge of the palace at mode the gentlemen, but I have to do Frascati, which was never occupied except my duty. The Signorina is very young, by a solitary ecclesiastic, the prince's and she has no one to take care of her. brother, for whom the first-floor was kept The Signori are very good, very excellent, sacred. Even this sanctity, however, and kind. Ah yes, I know it-never was sometimes invaded when a good was there such devotion to the poor chance offered of letting the piano nobile sick friend ; nevertheless, the Signori to some rich foreigner, which was the are but men, senza complimenti, and I fate of all the other apartments in the am a woman who has been married and house. Sora Antonia had charge of all had children of my own, and know my the interests of the Savvelli in their de- duty. Until some proper person comes serted mansion. When the tenants did to take charge of the poor dear young any damage she made careful note of it, lady, the Signori will pardon me, but I and did not in any respect neglect the must remain here." interests of her master; nor was she in- “Does the Signorina wish it ?” asked considerate of her own, but regarded it Colin, with wondering looks, for the idea as a natural duty, when it proved ex- of another protector for Alice confounded pedient, to make a little money out of him, he scarcely knew why. the Forestieri. “They give one trouble “ The Signorina is not much more enough, the blessed Madonna knows,” than a chill," said Sora Antonia, loftily. the good woman said piously. But, not- “Besides, she has not been brought up withstanding these prudent cares, Sora like an Italian young lady, to know what Antonia was not only a very sensible
Poverina ! she does not woman according to her lights, but had understand anything about it; but the a heart, and understood her duty to her Signori will excuse me-I know my neighbours. She made her salutations duty, and that is enough.” to the two friends when they entered “Oh yes, certainly,” said Colin, “but with equal suavity, but addressed her then, in England, as you say, we have explanations to Colin, who was not different ideas, and if the Signorina does only her favourite in right of his youth not wish and good looks, but who could under- Here, however, he was interrupted by stand her best. Colin, whose Italian Lauderilale, who, having tardily apprewas limiterl, called the excellent house- hended the purport of Sora Antonia's keeper Ma'lama, a courtesy which natu- communication, took it upon himself to rally gained her heart; and she on her make instant response in the best Italian part appropriated to his use the title he could muster, “ Avete molto buono, of Signorino, which was not quite so molto buono !" cried Lauderdale, intendflattering—for Colin was still young ing to say that she was very kind, enough to object to being called young. and that he highly approved, though To-day, however, her address was more a chronic confusion in his mind, as to dignified, for the crisis was an important which was which of the auxiliary verbs, one. Before she began to speak the visitor made his meaning cloudy. sat down, which in itself was an act Abbiamo contento / Grazie,” he added, requiring explanation, especially as the with a little excitement and enthusiasm.
Though he had used the wrong verb, heavy gold ear-rings and coral necklace Sora Antonia graciously comprehended which completed and enriched the dress. his meaning.
She was used to such She sat apart and contemplated, if not little eccentricities of diction on the the “ Garden of the Soul,” at least the part of the Forestieri. She bowed her little pictures in borders of lace-paper stately head to him with a look of ap- which were placed thickly between the probation, and it would be vain to deny leaves, while the melancholy meal was that the sense of having thus expressed eaten at the table—for Sora Antonia himself clearly and eloquently in a had educazione, and had not come to foreign language conveyed a certain intrude upon the privacy of her lodgers. satisfaction to the mind of the philoso- Alice, for her part, made
no remark upon pher.
the presence of this new guardian ; she “Bravo! The Signore will speak accepted it as she accepted everything very well if he perseveres,” said Sora else, as a matter of course, without even Antonia, graciously; “not to say that showing any painful sense of the cirhis Excellency is a man of experience, cumstances which in Sora Antonia's and perceives the justice of what I pro- opinion made this last precaution necespose. No doubt, it will occupy a great sary. Her two companions, the only deal of my time, but the other Fores- friends she seemed to have in the world, tieri have not arrived yet, and how can bore vicariously on her account the pain one expect the Madonna Santissima and of this visible reminder that she was the blessed St. Antonio to take so much here in a false position and had no legitrouble in one's concerns if one will not timate protector; but Alice had not yet exert one's self a little for one's fellow- awaked to any such sense on her own creatures ? As the Signorina has not behalf. She took her place at the table left her room yet, I will take away and tried to swallow a morsel, and the inconvenience for a few minutes, interested herself in the appetite of the Scusa Signori,” said Sora Antonia, others as if she had been their mother. and she went away with stately bearing "Try to eat something; it will make and firm steps which resounded through you ill if you do not," poor Alice said, in the house, to take off her veil and put the abstraction and dead calm of her aside her rosary. She had seated herself grief. Her own feeling was that she again in her indoor aspect, with the had been lifted far away from them into “ Garden of the Soul” in her hand, an atmosphere of age and distance and a before Alice came into the room ; and, kind of sad superiority, and to minister to without doubt, she made a striking some one was the grand condition under addition to the party. She was a Fras- which Alice Meredith lived. As to the cati woman born, and her costume, con- personal suffering, which was confined sequently, was perfect-a costume less to herself, that did not so much matter; imposing than the scarlet Albano jacket, she had not been used to much symbut not less calculated to do justice to pathy, and it did not occur to her to the ample bust and stately head of the look for it. Consequently, the only Roman peasant. The dress itself, the natural business which remained to her actual gown, in this as in other Italian was to take a motherly charge of her costumes, was an indifferent matter, two companions, and urge them to eat. The important particulars were the long “ You are not to mind me,” she said, and delicate apron of embroidered with an attempt at a smile, after dinner. muslin, the busto made of rich brocado “This is Sunday, to be sure ; but, after and shaped to the exact Frascati model, to-day, you are just to go on as you used and the large, soft, snowy kerchief with to do, and never mind. Thank you, embroidered corners, which covered her I should like it better. I shall always full shoulders—not to speak of the long be here, you know, when you come back 1 “Levo l'incomodo," a homely expression
from Rome, or wherever you wish to go. of Italian politeness on leaving a room.
But you must not mind for me.”
need of me.
Lauderdale and Colin exchanged looks forgave him at the last. Oh, tell me, almost without being aware of it. “But please, what do you think I should you would like-somebody to be sent do ?” for—or something done?” said Lauder- “ If you would like to go home, I'll dale. He was a great deal more con- take you home," said Lauderdale. fused in having to suggest this than did not mean ony harm, poor callant, but Alice was, who kept looking at him, he's left an awfu' burden on you.”; her eyes dilated with weariness and “Go home!” said Alice, with a slight tears, yet soft and clear as the eyes of a shudder. “Do you think I ought-do child. He could not say to her, in so you think I must? I do not care for many words, “It is impossible for you myself, but Mrs. Meredith, you know" to remain with us." All he could do she added with a momentary blush ; was to falter and hesitate, and grow and then the friends began to perceive confused, under the limpid, sorrowful another unforeseen lion in the way. look which she bent upon him from the “Out of my own head,” said Lauderdistant heaven of her resignation and in- dale, who took the whole charge of this nocence. “You would like your friends business on himself, and would not --somebody to be written to,” said Lau- permit Colin to interfere, “I wrote your derdale; and then, afraid to have given father a kind of a letter. If you are her pain by the suggestion, went on able to hear the--the event which has hurriedly : “I'm old enough to be your left us a' mourning-named in common father, and no a thought in my mind words, I'll read you what I have written. but to do you service," he said. “Tell Poor bairn, you're awfu' young and awfu’ me what you would like best. Colin, tender to have such affairs in hand ! thank God! is strong, and has little
you sure you are able to bear it, and I'll take you home, or do can listen to what I have said ?" whatever you please; for I'm old enough “Ah, I have borne it," said poor to be your father, my poor bairn !” said Alice. “I cannot deceive myself, nor the tender-hearted philosopher, and think Arthur is still here. What does drew near to her, and put out his hand it matter then about saying it? Oh, yes, with an impulse of pitiful and protect- I can bear anything—it is only me to ing kindness which touched the heart of bear now,
and it doesn't matter. It was Alice, and yet filled her with momen- very kind of you to write. I should like tary surprise. She, on her own side, to know what you have said.” was roused a little, not to think of her- Colin, who could do nothing else for self
, but to remember what appeared to her, put forward the armchair with the her a duty unfulfilled.
cushions towards the table, and Sora Oh, Mr. Lauderdale! Arthur said I Antonia put down the “Garden of the might tell you,” said Alice. “Papa ! Soul" and drew a little nearer with her you heard what he said about papa ? I heavy, firm foot, which shook the house. ought to write and tell him what has She comprehended that something was happened. Perhaps I ought to tell you going on which would tax the Signorina's from the beginning,” she continued, strength, and brought her solid, steady after composing herself a little.
succour to be in readiness.
The pale left home without his consent-indeed, little girl turned and smiled upon them he did not know. For dear Arthur, both, as she took the chair Colin had said the poor girl, turning her appealing brought her. She was herself quite eyes from one to the other, “could not steady in her weakness and grief and approve of his ways. He did something loneliness. Sora Antonia was not wanted that Arthur thought was wrong. I can- there; and Colin drew her aside to the not tell you about it,” said Alice through window, where she told him all about her tears ;” it did not make so much the fireworks that were to be in the difference to me.
I think I ought to evening, and her hopes that after a while write and tell him, and that Arthur the Signorina would be able to “distract
herself” a little and recover her spirits ; due to a young creature of her tender to which Colin assented dutifully, watch- years; so that you may satisfy yourself ing from where he stood the pale looks she is safe until such time as you can of the friendless young woman-friend- communicate with me, which I will look less beyond disguise or possible self- for as soon as a reply is practicable, and deception, with a stepmother whom she in the meantime remain, blushed to mention reigning in her “ Your son's faithful friend and father's house. Colin's thoughts were mourner, many and tumultuous as he stood behind
“W. LAUDERDALE.” in the window, watching Alice and listening to Sora Antonia's description of the Alice lingered over this letter, readfireworks. Was it possible that perhaps ing it, and crying, and whispering to his duty to his neighbour required from Lauderdale a long time, as Colin thought. him the most costly of all offerings, the She found it easier, somehow, to tell rashest of all possible actions ? Ile stood her story fully to the elder man. She behind, growing more and more excited told him that Mrs. Meredith had “ come in the utter quiet. The thought that home suddenly,” which was her gentle had dawneil upon him under the ilex version of a sad domestic history, -that trees came nearer and grew more familiar, nobody had known of her father's second and as he contemplated it he seemed to marriage until the stepmother arrived, recognise all that visible machinery of without any warning, with a train of Providence bringing about the great children. Alice's mild words did not event which youth decides upon so give Lauderdale any very lively picture easily. While this vision grew before of the dismay of the household at this his mind, Alice was wiping off the tears unlooked-for apparition, but he underwhich obliterated Lauderdale's letter stood enough to condemn Arthur less even to her patient eyes; for, docile and severely than he had been disposed to dutiful as she was, it was yet terrible to do. This sudden catastrophe had hapread in calm distinct words, which put pened just after the other misery of the matter beyond all doubt, the an- the bank failure, which hal ruined so nouncement of “what had happened.” many; and poor Merellith had no alterThis is what Lauderulale said :
native between leaving his sister to the
tender mercies of an underbred and “SIR,—It is a great grief to me to possibly disreputable stepmother, or inform you of an event for which I have bringing her with him when he retired no way of knowing whether you are to die; and Alice, though she still cried preparell or not. Your son, Arthur poor papa,
,” recoiled a little from Meredith, has been living here for the the conclusion of Lauderdale's letter. last three months in declining health, “I have enough to live upon,” she said, and on Thursday last died in great com- softly, with an appealing glance at her fort anıl constancy of mind. It is not companion.
companion. “ If you were to say that for me, a stranger, to offer vain words of
I was quite safe, would not that be consolation, but his end was such as any enough ?” and it was very hard for man might be well content to have, and Lauderdale to convince her that her he entereil upon his new life joyfully, father's judgment must be appealed to without any shadow on his minil. As in such a matter. When she saw he far as love and friendship could soothe was not to be movel on this point, she the sufferings that were inevitable, he sighed and submitted; but it was clearly had both ; for his sister never left his apparent that as yet, occupied as she bedside, and myself and my friend Colin was by her grief, the idea that her situaCampbell were with him constantly, to tion here was embarrassing to her comhis satisfaction. His sister remains panions or unsuitable for herself had under our care. I who write am no not occurred to Alice. When she relonger a young man, and know what is tired, under the escort of Sora Antonia,