Goneril by A. Mary F. Robinson

CHAPTER I THE TWO OLD LADIES

On one of the pleasant hills round Florence, a little beyond Camerata, there stands a house so small that an Englishman would probably take it for a lodge of the great villa behind, whose garden trees at sunset cast their shadow over the cottage and its terrace on to the steep white road. But any of the country people could tell him that this, too, is a casa signorile, despite its smallness. It stands somewhat high above the road, a square white house with a projecting roof, and with four green-shuttered windows overlooking the gay but narrow terrace. The beds under the windows would have fulfilled the fancy of that French poet who desired that in his garden one might, in gathering a nosegay, cull a salad, for they boasted little else than sweet basil, small and white, and some tall gray rosemary bushes. Nearer to the door an unusually large oleander faced a strong and sturdy magnolia-tree, and these, with their profusion of red and white sweetness, made amends for the dearth of garden flowers. At either end of the terrace flourished a thicket of gum-cistus, syringa, stephanotis, and geranium bushes; and the wall itself, dropping sheer down to the road, was bordered with the customary Florentine hedge of China roses and irises, now out of bloom. Great terra-cotta flower-pots, covered with devices, were placed at intervals along the wall; as it was summer, the oranges and lemons, full of wonderfully sweet white blossoms and young green fruit, were set there in the sun to ripen.

It was the 17th of June. Although it was after four o'clock, the olives on the steep hill that went down to Florence looked blindingly white, shadeless, and sharp. The air trembled round the bright green cypresses behind the house. The roof steamed. All the windows were shut, all the jalousies shut, yet it was so hot that no one could stir within. The maid slept in the kitchen; the two elderly mistresses of the house dozed upon their beds. Not a movement; not a sound.

Gradually along the steep road from Camerata there came a roll of distant carriage-wheels. The sound came nearer and nearer, till one could see the carriage, and see the driver leading the tired, thin, cab-horse, his bones starting under the shaggy hide. Inside the carriage reclined a handsome, middle-aged lady, with a stern profile turned toward the road; a young girl in pale pink cotton and a broad hat trudged up the hill at the side.

"Goneril," said Miss Hamelyn, "let me beg you again to come inside the carriage."

"Oh no, Aunt Margaret; I'm not a bit tired."

"But I have asked you; that is reason enough."

"It's so hot!" cried Goneril.

"That is why I object to your walking."

"But if it's so hot for me, just think how hot is must be for the horse."

Goneril cast a commiserating glance at the poor, halting, wheezing nag.

"The horse, probably," rejoined Miss Hamelyn, "does not suffer from malaria, neither has he kept his aunt in Florence nursing him till the middle heat of the summer."

"True!" said Goneril. Then, after a few minutes, "I'll get in, Aunt Margaret, on one condition."

"In my time young people did not make conditions."

"Very well, auntie; I'll get in, and you shall answer all my questions when you feel inclined."

The carriage stopped. The poor horse panted at his ease, while the girl seated herself beside Miss Hamelyn. Then for a few minutes they drove on in silence past the orchards; past the olive-yards, yellow underneath the ripening corn; past the sudden wide views of the mountains, faintly crimson in the mist of heat, and, on the other side, of Florence, the towers and domes steaming beside the hazy river.

"How hot it looks down there!" cried Goneril.

"How hot it feels!" echoed Miss Hamelyn, rather grimly.

"Yes, I am so glad you can get away at last, dear, poor old auntie." Then, a little later, "Won't you tell me something about the old ladies with whom you are going to leave me?"

Miss Hamelyn was mollified by Goneril's obedience.

"They are very nice old ladies," she said; "I met them at Mrs. Gorthrup's." But this was not at all what the young girl wanted.

"Only think, Aunt Margaret," she cried, impatiently, "I am to stay there for at least six weeks, and I know nothing about them, not what age they are, nor if they are tall or short, jolly or prim, pretty, or ugly, not even if they speak English!"

"They speak English," said Miss Hamelyn, beginning at the end. "One of them is English, or at least Irish: Miss Prunty."

"And the other?"

"She is an Italian, Signora Petrucci; she used to be very handsome."

"Oh!" said Goneril, looking pleased. "I'm glad she's handsome, and that they speak English. But they are not relations?"

"No, they are not connected; they are friends."

"And have they always lived together?"

"Ever since Madame Lilli died," and Miss Hamelyn named a very celebrated singer.

"Why!" cried Goneril, quite excited; "were they singers too?"

"Madame Petrucci; nevertheless a lady of the highest respectability. Miss Prunty was Madame Lilli's secretary."

"How nice!" cried the young girl; "how interesting! O auntie, I'm so glad you found them out."

"So am I, child; but please remember it is not an ordinary pension. They only take you, Goneril, till you are strong enough to travel, as an especial favour to me and to their old friend, Mrs. Gorthrup."

"I'll remember, auntie."

By this time they were driving under the terrace in front of the little house.

"Goneril," said the elder lady, "I shall leave you outside; you can play in the garden or the orchard."

"Very well."

Miss Hamelyn left the carriage and ascended the steep little flight of steps that leads from the road to the cottage garden.

In the porch a singular figure was awaiting her.

"Good-afternoon, Madame Petrucci," said Miss Hamelyn.

A slender old lady, over sixty, rather tall, in a brown silk skirt, and a white burnoose that showed the shrunken slimness of her arms, came eagerly forward. She was rather pretty, with small refined features, large expressionless blue eyes, and long whitish-yellow ringlets down her cheeks, in the fashion of forty years ago.

"Oh, dear Miss Hamelyn," she cried, "how glad I am to see you! And have you brought your charming young relation?"

She spoke with a languid foreign accent, and with an emphatic and bountiful use of adjectives, that gave to our severer generation an impression of insincerity. Yet it was said with truth that Giulia Petrucci had never forgotten a friend nor an enemy.

"Goneril is outside," said Miss Hamelyn. "How is Miss Prunty?"

"Brigida? Oh, you must come inside and see my invaluable Brigida. She is, as usual, fatiguing herself with our accounts." The old lady led the way into the darkened parlour. It was small and rather stiff. As one's eyes became accustomed to the dim green light one noticed the incongruity of the furniture: the horsehair chairs and sofa, and large accountant's desk with ledgers; the large Pleyel grand piano; a bookcase, in which all the books were rare copies or priceless MSS. of old-fashioned operas; hanging against the wall an inlaid guitar and some faded laurel crowns; moreover, a fine engraving of a composer, twenty years ago the most popular man in Italy; lastly, an oil-colour portrait, by Winterman, of a fascinating blonde, with very bare white shoulders, holding in her hands a scroll, on which were inscribed some notes of music, under the title Giulia Petrucci. In short, the private parlour of an elderly and respectable diva of the year '40.

"Brigida!" cried Madame Petrucci, going to the door. "Brigida! our charming English friend is arrived!"

"All right!" answered a strong, hearty voice from upstairs. "I'm coming."

"You must excuse me, dear Miss Hamelyn," went on Madame Petrucci. "You must excuse me for shouting in your presence, but we have only one little servant, and during this suffocating weather I find that any movement reminds me of approaching age." The old lady smiled as if that time were still far ahead.

"I am sure you ought to take care of yourself," said Miss Hamelyn. "I hope you will not allow Goneril to fatigue you."

"Gonerilla! What a pretty name! Charming! I suppose it is in your family?" asked the old lady.

Miss Hamelyn blushed a little, for her niece's name was a sore point with her.

"It's an awful name for any Christian woman," said a deep voice at the door. "And pray, who's called Goneril?"

Miss Prunty came forward: a short, thick-set woman of fifty, with fine dark eyes, and, even in a Florentine summer, with something stiff and masculine in the fashion of her dress.

"And have you brought your niece?" she said, as she turned to Miss Hamelyn.

"Yes, she is in the garden."

"Well, I hope she understands that she'll have to rough it here."

"Goneril is a very simple girl," said Miss Hamelyn.

"So it's she that's called Goneril?"

"Yes," said the aunt, making an effort. "Of course I am aware of the strangeness of the name, but—but, in fact, my brother was devotedly attached to his wife, who died at Goneril's birth."

"Whew!" whistled Miss Prunty. "The parson must have been a fool who christened her!"

"He did, in fact, refuse; but my brother would have no baptism saving with that name, which, unfortunately, it is impossible to shorten."

"I think it is a charming name!" said Madame Petrucci, coming to the rescue. "Gonerilla—it dies on one's lips like music! And if you do not like it, Brigida, what's in a name? as your charming Byron said."

"I hope we shall make her happy," said Miss Prunty.

"Of course we shall!" cried the elder lady.

"Goneril is easily made happy," asserted Miss Hamelyn.

"That's a good thing," snapped Miss Prunty, "for there's not much here to make her so!"

"O Brigida! I am sure there are many attractions. The air, the view, the historic association! and, more than all, you know there is always a chance of the signorino!"

"Of whom?" said Miss Hamelyn, rather anxiously.

"Of him!" cried Madame Petrucci, pointing to the engraving opposite. "He lives, of course, in the capital; but he rents the villa behind our house,—the Medici Villa,—and when he is tired of Rome he runs down here for a week or so; and so your Gonerilla may have the benefit of his society!"

"Very nice, I'm sure," said Miss Hamelyn, greatly relieved; for she knew that Signor Graziano must be fifty.

"We have known him," went on the old lady, "very nearly thirty years. He used to largely frequent the salon of our dear, our cherished Madame Lilli."

The tears came into the old lady's eyes. No doubt those days seemed near and dear to her; she did not see the dust on those faded triumphs.

"That's all stale news!" cried Miss Prunty, jumping up. "And Gon'ril (since I'll have to call her so) must be tired of waiting in the garden."

They walked out on to the terrace. The girl was not there, but by the gate into the olive-yard, where there was a lean-to shed for tools, they found her sitting on a cask, whittling a piece of wood and talking to a curly-headed little contadino.

Hearing steps, Goneril turned round. "He was asleep," she said. "Fancy, in such beautiful weather!"

Then, remembering that two of the ladies were still strangers, she made an old-fashioned little courtesy.

"I hope you won't find me a trouble, ladies," she said.

"She is charming!" said Madame Petrucci, throwing up her hands.

Goneril blushed; her hat had slipped back and showed her short brown curls of hair, strong regular features, and flexile scarlet mouth laughing upward like a faun's. She had sweet dark eyes, a little too small and narrow.

"I mean to be very happy," she exclaimed.

"Always mean that, my dear," said Miss Prunty.

"And now, since Gonerilla is no longer a stranger," added Madame Petrucci, "we will leave her to the rustic society of Angiolino while we show Miss Hamelyn our orangery."

"And conclude our business!" said Bridget Prunty.





CHAPTER II

THE SIGNORINO

One day, when Goneril, much browner and rosier for a week among the mountains, came in to lunch at noon, she found no signs of that usually regular repast. The little maid was on her knees polishing the floor; Miss Prunty was scolding, dusting, ordering dinner, arranging vases, all at once; strangest of all, Madame Petrucci had taken the oil-cloth cover from her grand piano, and, seated before it, was practising her sweet and faded notes, unheedful of the surrounding din and business.

"What's the matter?" cried Goneril.

"We expect the signorino," said Miss Prunty.

"And is he going to stay here?"

"Don't be a fool!" snapped that lady; and then she added, "Go into the kitchen and get some of the pasty and some bread and cheese—there's a good girl."

"All right!" said Goneril.

Madame Petrucci stopped her vocalising. "You shall have all the better a dinner to compensate you, my Gonerilla!" She smiled sweetly, and then again became Zerlina.

Goneril cut her lunch, and took it out of doors to share with her companion, Angiolino. He was harvesting the first corn under the olives, but at noon it was too hot to work. Sitting still there was, however, a cool breeze that gently stirred the sharp-edged olive-leaves.

Angiolino lay down at full length and munched his bread and cheese in perfect happiness. Goneril kept shifting about to get herself into the narrow shadow cast by the split and writhen trunk.

"How aggravating it is!" she cried. "In England, where there's no sun, there's plenty of shade; and here, where the sun is like a mustard-plaster on one's back, the leaves are all set edgewise on purpose that they sha'n't cast any shadow!"

Angiolino made no answer to this intelligent remark.

"He is going to sleep again!" cried Goneril, stopping her lunch in despair. "He is going to sleep, and there are no end of things I want to know. Angiolino!"

"Si, signora," murmured the boy.

"Tell me about Signor Graziano."

"He is our padrone; he is never here."

"But he is coming to-day. Wake up, wake up, Angiolino. I tell you, he is on the way!"

"Between life and death there are so many combinations," drawled the boy, with Tuscan incredulity and sententiousness.

"Ah!" cried the girl, with a little shiver of impatience. "Is he young?"

"Che!"

"Is he old then?"

"Neppure!"

"What is he like? He must be something."

"He's our padrone," repeated Angiolino, in whose imagination Signor Graziano could occupy no other place.

"How stupid you are!" exclaimed the young English girl.

"Maybe," said Angiolino, stolidly.

"Is he a good padrone? Do you like him?"

"Rather!" The boy smiled and raised himself on one elbow; his eyes twinkled with good-humoured malice.

"My babbo had much better wine than quel signore," he said.

"But that is wrong!" cried Goneril, quite shocked.

"Who knows?"

After this conversation flagged. Goneril tried to imagine what a great musician could be like: long hair, of course; her imagination did not get much beyond the hair. He would of course be much older now than his portrait. Then she watched Angiolino cutting the corn, and learned how to tie the swathes together. She was occupied in this useful employment when the noise of wheels made them both stop and look over the wall.

"Here's the padrone!" cried the boy.

"Oh, he is old!" said Goneril. "He is old and brown, like a coffee-bean."

"To be old and good is better than youth with malice," suggested Angiolino, by way of consolation.

"I suppose so," acquiesced Goneril.

Nevertheless she went in to dinner a little disappointed.

The signorino was not in the house; he had gone up to the villa; but he had sent a message that later in the evening he intended to pay his respects to his old friends. Madame Petrucci was beautifully dressed in soft black silk, old lace, and a white Indian shawl. Miss Prunty had on her starchiest collar and most formal tie. Goneril saw it was necessary that she, likewise should deck herself in her best. She was much too young and impressionable not to be influenced by the flutter of excitement and interest which filled the whole of the little cottage. Goneril, too, was excited and anxious, although Signor Graziano had seemed so old and like a coffee-bean. She made no progress in the piece of embroidery she was working as a present for the two old ladies, jumping up and down to look out of the window. When, about eight o'clock, the door-bell rang, Goneril blushed, Madame Petrucci gave a pretty little shriek, Miss Prunty jumped up and rang for coffee. A moment afterward the signorino entered. While he was greeting her hostesses Goneril cast a rapid glance at him. He was tall for an Italian, rather bent and rather gray; fifty at least—therefore very old. He certainly was brown, but his features were fine and good, and he had a distinguished and benevolent air that somehow made her think of an abbe, a French abbe of the last century. She could quite imagine him saying, "Enfant de St. Louis, montez au ciel!"

Thus far had she got in her meditations when she felt herself addressed in clear, half-mocking tones:

"And how, this evening, is Madamigella Ruth?"

So he had seen her this evening binding his corn.

"I am quite well, padrone," she said, smiling shyly.

The two old ladies looked on amazed, for of course they were not in the secret.

"Signor Graziano, Miss Goneril Hamelyn," said Miss Prunty, rather severely.

Goneril felt that the time had come for silence and good manners. She sat quite quiet over her embroidery, listening to the talk of Sontag, of Clementi, of musicians and singers dead and gone. She noticed that the ladies treated Signore Graziano with the utmost reverence, even the positive Miss Prunty furling her opinions in deference to his gayest hint. They talked too of Madame Lilli, and always as if she were still young and fair, as if she had died yesterday, leaving the echo of her triumph loud behind her. And yet all this had happened years before Goneril had ever seen the light.

"Mees Goneril is feeling very young!" said the signorino, suddenly turning his sharp, kind eyes upon her.

"Yes," said Goneril, all confusion.

Madame Petrucci looked almost annoyed—the gay, serene little lady that nothing ever annoyed.

"It is she that is young!" she cried, in answer to an unspoken thought. "She is a baby!"

"Oh, I am seventeen!" said Goneril.

They all laughed, and seemed at ease again.

"Yes, yes; she is very young," said the signorino.

But a little shadow had fallen across their placid entertainment: the spirit had left their memories; they seemed to have grown shapeless, dusty, as the fresh and comely faces of dead Etruscan kings crumble into mould at the touch of the pitiless sunshine.

"Signorino," said Madame Petrucci, presently, "if you will accompany me we will perform one of your charming melodies."

Signor Graziano rose a little stiffly and led the pretty, withered little diva to the piano.

Goneril looked on, wondering, admiring. The signorino's thin white hands made a delicate, fluent melody, reminding her of running water under the rippled shade of trees, and, like a high, sweet bird, the thin, penetrating notes of the singer rose, swelled, and died away, admirably true and just even in this latter weakness. At the end Signor Graziano stopped his playing to give time for an elaborate cadenza. Suddenly Madame Petrucci gasped; a sharp discordant sound cracked the delicate finish of her singing. She put her handkerchief to her mouth.

"Bah!" she said, "this evening I am abominably husky."

The tears rose to Goneril's eyes. Was it so hard to grow old? This doubt made her voice loudest of all in the chorus of mutual praise and thanks which covered the song's abrupt finale.

And then there came a terrible ordeal. Miss Prunty, anxious to divert the current of her friend's ideas, had suggested that the girl should sing. Signor Graziano and madame insisted; they would take no refusal.

"Sing, sing, little bird!" cried the old lady.

"But, madame, how can one—after you?"

The homage in the young girl's voice made the little diva more good-humouredly insistent than before, and Goneril was too well-bred to make a fuss. She stood by the piano wondering which to choose, the Handels that she always drawled or the Pinsuti that she always galloped. Suddenly she came by an inspiration.

"Madame," she pleaded, "may I sing one of Angiolino's songs?"

"Whatever you like, cara mia."

And, standing by the piano, her arms hanging loose, she began a chant such as the peasants use working under the olives. Her voice was small and deep, with a peculiar thick sweetness that suited the song, half humourous, half pathetic. These were the words she sang:

     "Vorrei morir di morte piccinina,
     Morta la sera e viva la mattina.
     Vorrei morire, e non vorrei morire,
     Vorrei veder chi mi piange e chi ride;
     Vorrei morir, e star sulle finestre,
     Vorrei veder chi mi cuce la veste;
     Vorrei morir, e stare sulla scala,
     Vorrei veder chi mi porta la bara:
     Vorrei morir, e vorre' alzar la voce,
     Vorrei veder chi mi porta la croce."

"Very well chosen, my dear," said Miss Prunty, when the song was finished.

"And very well sung, my Gonerilla!" cried the old lady.

But the signorino went up to the piano and shook hands with her.

"Little Mees Goneril," he said, "you have the makings of an artist."

The two old ladies stared, for, after all, Goneril's performance had been very simple. You see, they were better versed in music than in human nature.





CHAPTER III

SI VIEILLESSE POUVAIT!

Signor Graziano's usual week of holiday passed and lengthened into almost two months, and still he stayed on at the villa. The two old ladies were highly delighted.

"At last he has taken my advice!" cried Miss Prunty. "I always told him those premature gray hairs came from late hours and Roman air."

Madame Petrucci shook her head and gave a meaning smile. Her friendship with the signorino had begun when he was a lad and she a charming married woman; like many another friendship, it had begun with a flirtation, and perhaps (who knows?) she thought the flirtation had revived.

As for Goneril, she considered him the most charming old man she had ever known, and liked nothing so much as to go out a walk with him. That, indeed, was one of the signorino's pleasures; he loved to take the young girl all over his gardens and vineyards, talking to her in the amiable, half-petting, half-mocking manner that he had adopted from the first; and twice a week he gave her a music lesson.

"She has a splendid organ!" he would say.

"Vous croyez?" fluted Madame Petrucci, with the vilest accent and the most aggravating smile imaginable.

It was the one hobby of the signorino's that she regarded with disrespect.

Goneril too was a little bored by the music lesson, but, on the other hand, the walks delighted her.

One day Goneril was out with her friend.

"Are the peasants very much afraid of you, signore?" she asked.

"Am I such a tyrant?" counter-questioned the signorino.

"No; but they are always begging me to ask you things. Angiolino wants to know if he may go for three days to see his uncle at Fiesole."

"Of course."

"But why, then, don't they ask you themselves? Is it they think me so cheeky?"

"Perhaps they think I can refuse you nothing."

"Che! In that case they would ask Madame Petrucci."

Goneril ran on to pick some China roses. The signorino stopped confounded.

"It is impossible!" he cried. "She cannot think I am in love with Giulia! She cannot think I am so old as that!"

The idea seemed horrible to him. He walked on very quickly till he came up to Goneril, who was busy plucking roses in a hedge.

"For whom are those flowers?" he asked.

"Some are for you and some are for Madame Petrucci."

"She is a charming woman, Madame Petrucci."

"A dear old lady," murmured Goneril, much more interested in her posy.

"Old, do you call her?" said the signorino, rather anxiously. "I should scarcely call her that, though of course she is a good deal older than either of us."

"Either of us!" Goneril looked up astounded. Could the signorino have suddenly gone mad?

He blushed a little under his brown skin that had reminded her of a coffee-bean.

"She is a good ten years older than I am," he explained.

"Ah, well, ten years isn't much."

"You don't think so?" he cried, delighted. Who knows? she might not think even thirty too much.

"Not at that age," said Goneril, blandly.

Signor Graziano could think of no reply.

But from that day one might have dated a certain assumption of youthfulness in his manners. At cards it was always the signorino and Goneril against the two elder ladies; in his conversation, too, it was to the young girl that he constantly appealed, as if she were his natural companion—she, and not his friends of thirty years. Madame Petrucci, always serene and kind, took no notice of these little changes, but they were particularly irritating to Miss Prunty, who was, after all, only four years older than the signorino.

That lady had, indeed, become more than usually sharp and foreboding. She received the signorino's gay effusions in ominous silence, and would frown darkly while Madame Petrucci petted her "little bird," as she called Goneril. Once, indeed, Miss Prunty was heard to remark that it was tempting Providence to have dealings with a creature whose very name was a synonym for ingratitude. But the elder lady only smiled and declared that her Gonerilla was charming, delicious, a real sunshine in the house.

"Now I call on you to support me, signorino," she cried one evening, when the three elders sat together in the room, while Goneril watered the roses on the terrace. "Is not my Gonerilla a charming little bebe?"

Signor Graziano withdrew his eyes from the window.

"Most charming, certainly, but scarcely such a child. She is seventeen, you know, my dear signora."

"Seventeen! Santo Dio! And what is one at seventeen but an innocent, playful, charming little kitten?"

"You are always right, madame," agreed the signorino, but he looked as if he thought she were very wrong.

"Of course I am right," laughed the little lady. "Come here, my Gonerilla, and hold my skein for me. Signor Graziano is going to charm us with one of his delightful airs."

"I hoped she would sing," faltered the signorino.

"Who? Gonerilla? Nonsense, my friend. She winds silk much better than she sings."

Goneril laughed; she was not at all offended. But Signor Graziano made several mistakes in his playing. At last he left the piano. "I cannot play to-night," he cried. "I am not in the humour. Goneril, will you come and walk with me on the terrace?"

Before the girl could reply Miss Prunty had darted an angry glance at Signor Graziano.

"Good Lord, what fools men are!" she ejaculated. "And do you think, now, I'm going to let that girl, who's just getting rid of her malaria, go star-gazing with any old idiot while all the mists are curling out of the valleys?"

"Brigida, my love, you forget yourself," said Madame Petrucci.

"Bah!" cried the signorino. He was evidently out of temper.

The little lady hastened to smooth the troubled waters. "Talking of malaria," she began, in her serenest manner, "I always remember what my dearest Madame Lilli told me. It was at one of Prince Teano's concerts. You remember, signorino?"

"Che! How should I remember?" he exclaimed. "It was a lifetime ago, dead and forgotten."

The old lady shrank, as if a glass of water had been rudely thrown in her face. She said nothing, staring blindly.

"Go to bed, Goneril!" cried Miss Prunty, in a voice of thunder.





CHAPTER IV

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

A few mornings after these events the postman brought a letter for Goneril. This was such a rare occurrence that she blushed rose red at the very sight of it and had to walk up and down the terrace several times before she felt calm enough to read it. Then she went upstairs and knocked at the door of Madame Petrucci's room.

"Come in, little bird."

The old lady, in pink merino and curl-papers, opened the door. Goneril held up her letter.

"My cousin Jack is coming to Florence, and he is going to walk over to see me this afternoon. And may he stay to dinner, cara signora?"

"Why, of course, Gonerilla. I am charmed!"

Goneril kissed the old lady, and danced downstairs brimming over with delight.

Later in the morning Signor Graziano called.

"Will you come out with me, Mees Goneril?" he said. "On my land the earliest vintage begins to-day."

"Oh, how nice!" she cried.

"Come, then," said the signorino, smiling.

"Oh, I can't come to-day, because of Jack."

"Jack?"

"My cousin; he may come at any time."

"Your cousin!" The signorino frowned a little. "Ah, you English," he said, "you consider all your cousins brothers and sisters!"

Goneril laughed.

"Is it not so?" he asked, a little anxiously.

"Jack is much nicer than my brothers," said the young girl.

"And who is he, this Jack?"

"He's a dear boy," said Goneril, "and very clever; he is going home for the Indian civil-service exam; he has been out to Calcutta to see my father."

The signorino did not pay any attention to the latter part of this description, but he appeared to find the beginning very satisfactory.

"So he is only a boy," he muttered to himself, and went away comparatively satisfied.

Goneril spent most of the day watching the road from Florence. She might not walk on the highway, but a steep short cut that joined the main road at the bottom of the hill was quite at her disposal. She walked up and down for more than an hour. At last she saw some one on the Florence road. She walked on quickly. It was the telegraph-boy.

She tore open the envelope and read: "Venice.—Exam. on Wednesday. Start at once. Arivederci."

It was with very red eyes that Goneril went in to dinner.

"So the cousin hasn't come?" said Miss Prunty, kindly.

"No; he had to go home at once for his examination."

"I dare say he'll come over again soon, my dear," said that discriminating lady. She had quite taken Goneril back into her good graces.

They all sat together in the little parlor after dinner. At eight o'clock the door-bell rang. It was now seven weeks since Goneril had blushed with excitement when first she heard that ring, and now she did not blush.

The signorino entered. He walked very straight and his lips were set. He came in with the air of one prepared to encounter opposition.

"Mees Goneril," he said, "will you come out on the terrace?—before it is too late," he added, with a savage glance at Miss Prunty.

"Yes," said Goneril; and they went out together.

"So the cousin did not come?" said the signorino.

"No."

They went on a little way in silence together. The night was moon-lit and clear; not a wind stirred the leaves; the sky was like a sapphire, containing but not shedding light. The late oleanders smelled very sweet; the moon was so full that one could distinguish the peculiar grayish-pink of the blossoms.

"It is a lovely night!" said Goneril.

"And a lovely place."

"Yes."

Then a bird sang.

"You have been here just eight weeks," said the signorino.

"I have been very happy."

He did not speak for a minute or two, and then he said:

"Would you like to live here always?"

"Ah, yes! but that is impossible."

He took her hand and turned her gently, so that her face was in the light.

"Dear Mees Goneril, why is it impossible?"

For a moment the young girl did not answer. She blushed very red, and looked brave.

"Because of Jack!" she said.

"Ah!"

"Nothing is settled," added the young girl, "but it is no use pretending not to know."

"It is no use," he repeated, very sadly.

And then for a little while they listened to the bird.

"Mees Goneril," said the signorino at last, "do you know why I brought you out here?"

"Not at all," she answered.

It was a minute before he spoke again.

"I am going to Rome to-morrow," he said, "and I wanted to bid you good-bye. You will sing to me to-night, as it will be the last time?"

"Oh, I hope not the last time!"

"Yes, yes," he said, a little testily; "unless—and I pray it may not be so—unless you ever need the help of an old friend."

"Dear Signor Graziano!"

"And now you will sing me my 'Nobil Amore'?"

"I will do anything you like."

The signorino sighed and looked at her for a minute. Then he led her into the little parlour, where Madame Petrucci was singing shrilly in the twilight.