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"I saw you coming," she greeted him. "Riverisco! Beata Lei! Mamma mia! And do you know how I saw you? Come here."
She led the way to the back, where the window-door stood open on to the roof of the portico, which formed a terrace.
"See? I've had it glassed in for tomorrow night. We could n't say we had n't plenty of rooms before, and plenty of room in them. That 's just the trouble: there are n't any nooks in this big, square house. So I've made one. This is Flirtation Alcove." "You are very busy, I am afraid, Mrs. Hawthorne. I ought not to take your time."
"Can't you sit down a minute?"
"I guess I can say it's granted even before you ask."
"I should like to retract my refusal of your very kind invitation for to-morrow evening. I have explained to you my weak avoidance of crowds. I have determined to overcome it in this case, and I want your permission to bring a friend with me."
"That? How can you ask? Bring ten! Bring twenty! Bring as many as you 've got! As for coming yourself, I 'm tickled to death that you 've reconsidered."
"It's not quite as simple as it seems, Mrs. Hawthorne. I shall have to tell you more."
At her indication, he took the other half of the little dumpling sofa which had seemed to her an appropriate piece of furniture for Flirtation Alcove, and which, with a rug on the floor, formed so far its only decoration. In the clear, bare morning light of outdoors, which bathed them, she still looked triumphantly fresh, but he looked tired.
"It is Lieutenant Giglioli for whom I have come to beg an invitation. You perhaps know whom I mean." "Let me see. I can't tell. Quite a few officers have been introduced, but I never
can get their names."
"Has n't Mrs. Foss or Leslie ever spoken of him?"
"They evidently have not." He seemed to be given pause by this and need to gather force from reflection before going on, as he did after a moment, overcoming his repugnance. "He is the reason for poor Brenda being packed off to America." "Oh, is that it?"
"He came to see me last evening and spent most of the night talking of her. We were barely acquainted before; but he knew I am a close friend of the Fosses, and in that necessity to ease their hearts with talk which Italians seem to feel he chose me. I felt sorry for him."
"She 's turned him down?" "No; she loves him."
Again Gerald stopped, as after making a communication of great gravity. Mrs. Hawthorne, listening with breathless interest, made no sound that urged him to
"But he has nothing beside his officer's pay," Gerald went on when the surprise of his revelation had been allowed time to pass, "and she on her side has nothing. but what her parents might give her, who, you probably know, have no great abundance. His proposals were made to them, as is the custom in this country, and have been formally declined."
"They are both too poor. I see," said Mrs. Hawthorne; but added quickly, as if she had not really seen, "It seems sort of funny, though, does n't it, to let that keep them, if they 're fond of each other?"
"Oh, it's not that. However fond, they could n't marry without her bringing her husband a fixed portion. It is the law in this country, in the case of officers of the army, to keep up the dignity of that impressive body, you understand. In the case of a lieutenant the dote, or dowry, must be forty thousand francs. I learned the exact sum for the first time last night."
"How much is that? Let me see, Mrs. Hawthorne did mental arithmetic rather quickly for a woman,-"eight thousand dollars. And the Fosses can't give it."
"Of their ability to give it if they
wished to I am no judge. But they are not convinced that the sacrifice ought to be made." He frowned at the pattern on the rug, and suddenly cut at it impatiently with his stick. "It is a singular story, in which everybody is right and the result wrong, horribly wrong!"
"Oh, dear me!" sighed Mrs. Hawthorne, feeling with him even before understanding.
"I ought perhaps to say," he corrected, "everybody is good and well-meaning, but has been unwise. And everybody now has to pay."
"I've thought right along that the Fosses had some reason for not being very happy," said Mrs. Hawthorne, "and I guessed it was something about Brenda. But they never said anything, and I did n't try to make out. Brenda does n't take to me, somehow, as the others do. I'm not her kind, of course; but I do adore her from afar. She's so beautiful! She's like a person in a story-book, who at the end dies, looking at the sunset over the sea, or else marries the prince."
"Yes, Brenda is wonderful."
"I never should take her for an American."
"She's not like one, and yet she is. She has grown up in this country and breathed in its ideas and feelings till she even looks Italian. Her parents are the sort of Americans that fifty years of foreign countries would n't budge; but they began later. Still, it is because Brenda is American, after all, that cruelties are being committed. Her family have taken it for granted that one of them could n't really be in love with an Italian, least of all that joke, a dapper and decorative Italian officer that a girl buys at a fixed price for her husband. And Brenda can't say to them: 'But I am. I am in love with just such a man. The happiness of my life depends upon your finding the vulgar sum of money with which to buy him for me.' Because of the American-ness all round, Brenda can't say that to them, and because she does n't say it, they are in doubt, they only half apprehend, they don't understand. The one thing they are
sure of is that to marry a foreigner is a mistake. And the one safe thing they see to do, when Brenda's face, combined with her entire reserve toward them, has begun to torment them seriously, is to send her away, where, if the truth be that she mysteriously is 'interested in' an Italian, the change of scene may help to put him out of her head."
"So that's why they 're sending her home!"
"There are no better or dearer people in the world, kind, true, just; but-" Gerald held in, and showed how much he hated to make any sort of reservation"in this they have been to blame. They bring growing girls to Italy, where, such is their confidence in I don't know what quality supposed to be inherent and to produce immunity from love of Italian men, they never dream that there may happen to them an Italian son-in-law."
He gave her a moment to realize how rash this was; then hurried, as if wishing to get through as quickly as possible with the disagreeable, if not disgraceful, task of criticizing his friends and of gossiping:
"During the progress of the affair Mrs. Foss lets all go on as the little affairs and flirtations of her own youth were allowed to go on at home. She likes her daughters to be admired. With Mrs. Foss's knowledge, Brenda, during a whole summer at the seaside, receives Giglioli's letters, written at first, or partly, in English, which he is learning with her help. With this excuse of English, it is a correspondence and courtship dans toutes les règles. Brenda is not asked by an American mother to show her letters or his. Giglioli, with his traditions, could not have imagined such a thing if the parents were unwilling to reIceive him as a suitor. Brenda herselfone will never know about Brenda, how it began, what she thought or hoped. She is very young; no doubt she did hope. Children seldom know much about their parents' means. She very likely thought hers could make her the present of a dowry, as they had made her other presents. But when she discovered their attitude toward the whole matter, with dig
nity and delicacy she let all be as they desired, incapable of pressing them to tax their resources to give her a thing their prejudice is so strongly set against."
For a moment Mrs. Hawthorne had nothing to say, busy with pondering what she had heard. In conclusion, "I don't see how, if she really loves this Italian, she could give him up so gracefully," she said. "She has not given him up, Mrs. Hawthorne," said Gerald. "Believe me, she has not. She has some plan, some dream, for bringing about the good end in time without aid from her parents. I am sure of it. No, she has not given him up.” He had before him, vivid in memory, the image of Brenda in the little church, and was looking at that, though his eyes were on Mrs. Hawthorne's friendly and attentive face. "She is at the wonderful hour of her love," he said, "when the world is transfigured and life lifted above the every-day into regions of poetry. When to wait a hundred years for him would seem no more difficult than to wait a day. She is sure of him, the immortality of his passion, as she is sure of herself."
"How wonderful!" breathed Mrs. Hawthorne, after a little silence in which Gerald had been thinking with a very sickness of sympathy of Brenda and the sinister propensity of the Fates for bringing to nothing the most valiant dreams and hopes; and Mrs. Hawthorne had been thinking entirely of Gerald, whose own heart was so much more certainly revealed by what he said than could be anybody else's.
"Unfortunately," he turned abruptly to another part of his subject,-"he is not of the same temperament. She has some project, I imagine, for earning the money for her dowry, poor child, by music, singing, painting. But he does not know her vows of fidelity, because her parents did use their authority so far as gently to request her not to write to him or see him; and she promised, and a promise with Brenda is binding. And he has felt his honor involved in not writing or meeting her. But, though separated, they have been in the same city; they could hope to
catch a glimpse of each other now and then. I dare say, too, he cherished the hope of some miracle,-it is so natural to hope. But now they are sending her away, and it seems to him the black end of everything."
And what you want is-"
"To be driven half a world apart for indefinite periods, more than probably forever, without one look, one word of leavetaking, is truly too much. Granted that they are not to have each other, they ought not to be torn in two like a bleeding body. Let them have to remember a few last beautiful moments!"
Mrs. Hawthorne had become pensive. He watched her sidewise, trying to divine. what turn her thoughts were taking. Her prolonged silence made him uneasy.
"It would n't be wrong, you think?" she asked finally. "Mrs. Foss would n't be cross with us?"
"If it is wrong, my dear Mrs. Hawthorne, let it be wrong!" he cried impetuously. "If any one is cross, we will bow our heads meekly-after having done what we regarded as merciful. Let us not permit a cruelty it was in our power to prevent!"
But Mrs. Hawthorne continued to disquiet him by hesitating, while her face suggested the travels of her thought all around and in and out of the question under consideration.
"You don't think it would perhaps be cruel to Brenda?" she laid before him another difficulty in the way of making up her mind. "Might n't it just ruin the evening for her, with the painfulness of good-bys? Or, if she does n't in the least expect him, the shock of the surprise?"
"If I know that beautiful girl, passionate as an Italian under her American selfcontrol, it will be the blessed shock of an answered prayer."
He was growing afraid of the calm. common sense that tried to see the thing from every side and weigh the merits of each person's point of view. Feeling it intolerable to be refused, he suddenly appealed to her pity, away from her justice. "O Mrs. Hawthorne, life is so unkind,
and to be always wise simply deadly! A few memories to treasure is all the good we finally have of our miserable days, and to catch at a moment of gold without care that it will have to be paid for is the only way to have in our hands in all our lives anything but copper and lead; yes, dull lead, common copper." He covered his face and pressed his eyes in a way he had when the world seemed too hopeless and baffling; then as suddenly straightened out, remarking more quietly, "The Fosses are too wise."
"They have my sympathy, I must say, Mr. Fane." Mrs. Hawthorne hurriedly defended herself against being moved. "I should be just as much afraid as they to have my daughter marry a foreigner."
"Mrs. Hawthorne, you ought to be afraid to have your daughter marry anybody." He gathered heat again and vehe
"As regards Italians, we are all one mass of superstitions. We are always comparing our best with their bad. As a matter of truth, our best and their best and the best the world over are one as good as the other, and our worst can't be exceeded by anything Italy can show. If you make the difficulty that we are different, our point of view different, I object that Brenda's is not so different. The international marriages that turn out well make no noise, but there are plenty of them. I have seen any number in the ordinary middle classes. No, parents are twice as old as their children; that is the trouble and always will be. The older people by prudence secure a certain thing, but it's not the thing youth wanted. The older see a certain thing as preferable, because they are old; but the young were right for themselves, for a time, at least, until they, too, grew old and saw a long peace and comfort as superior to a brief love and rapture. Brenda is not shallow or changeable; it may be her one chance of happiness that her parents in their anxious affection are trying to remove her from, and which she will cling to with every invisible fiber of her being until she conquers, or turns into a dismal old maid."
"You seem to like him. Is he such a fine man really?"
"I don't know a finer, in his way." "Good looking?"
"Mrs. Hawthorne, what a frivolous. question! But he is. He is one of the most completely handsome men I know. Rather short, that 's all."
"Oh, what a pity!"
"But, if you must insist on that sort of symmetry, Brenda is not tall. He is a kind of Italian, more common than one thinks, that does n't get into literature, having nothing exciting, mysterious, wicked, or even conspicuously picturesque about him. After being a good son, they are very often good sons, - he will be a good husband and a good father, like his own father before him. He is without vanity, while looking like a square-built, stocky, responsible Romeo. Devoted to duty, passionate for order, absolutely punctilious in matters of honor and courtesy, he is a good citizen, a good soldier. He belongs to excellent people, I gathered, whose fortune, once larger, is very small. They live in the Abruzzi, I think he said. He is the eldest son and hope of the house. His gratitude to them comes first of all, he made me understand. He would be an indegno, unworthy of esteem and love, if that were not so. He had never cared for pleasures, he told me; even in the time not demanded by the service he studied. He wished to be useful to his country; he looked for the advancement to be gained by solid capacity in military things. But he had friends, for he is of a manly, modest sort. One evening during Carnival last year certain of these friends dropped. in on their way to a dance, a costumeparty at the house of Americans, and seeing him so absorbed by duties and studies, thought it a lark to tempt him from these and take him along. And he, to astonish them for once, he says, let it happen, they assuring him that he would be well received if presented as their friend. One of them had on two costumes, one on top of the other, of which he lent him one, a monk's frock and cowl. So they went. At the ball was Brenda as the Snow