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'An old friend?' said the Signora. 'I who have no friends, old or new! Tell him that it is impossible.'
'Guido told him that it is impossible, but he will not be denied.'
The Signora rose, the look of trouble in her dark eyes deepening into apprehension. Someone was coming rapidly down the garden path, and the footstep was one to which her whole being long had vibrated.
'You!' said the Signora, standing close to a tall cypress as if for refuge.
The appeal of the deep voice was almost as potent as everso the name, which only he had used.
'Go! You must not come here!' But her voice faltered, and her words lacked power.
'Giulietta mia, to see you again is like
'The nethermost hell,' suggested the woman, her eyes cast down. She did not need to lift them, for she knew all too well-the broad forehead, the full lips, and the appeal of the deep eyes. It was a poet's undisciplined face, alive now with the power of a rekindled passion.
'I-I have come back, Giulietta.'
'I see that you have,' said the woman simply.
you not ask me to sit down ? '
She shook her head, drawing away from him.
'I have much to confess, and there is much for you to forgive. I left you'
'It was the kindest deed you ever did,' interrupted the Signora passionately. 'You are too late, too late! An angel from heaven has come between us!'
'You refer, I presume, to the young lady from England ? '
'She has been all, all, filling up completely the measure of my empty life. Since she came I have had no thought, save her, no hope, save for her future. She'
Interferes badly with your acting,' finished the man gently. 'Why do you say that?'
'Surely you know what all the world knows-that it is beginning to fall off?'
'Glad, Giulietta! You are mad, you, the greatest woman on the stage to-day!'
'Don't you see, can you not see, what an escape it is from one's own life to care like that?
Signor Rodini eyed her thoughtfully; among the thousand charms of this wonderful woman this was something new. 'Her infinite variety,' he murmured appreciatively. 'Why did you come?' demanded the Signora Reale, facing him.
'I came for you,' he answered steadily, his full glance drawing her with its old power. When one has lost a possession of great
price one naturally seeks for it.'
'I am no possession of yours; I am Katharine's, Katharine's, Katharine's.' Yet, through the open window, she saw Maria coming and going, packing the girl's clothing. Katharine was going away, to-day, perhaps, and it meant for ever.
Are you 'No, Giulietta, I am not legally free-you have no need to be told that our Church refuses divorce-but she never cared, never! You and I are morally free to seek out our lost paradise among the olive slopes.'
free to ask me to come back?' He shook his head.
'You and I!' she retorted disdainfully; then spoke wistfully, a cry of loneliness welling up in her throat: Why did you leave me? '
'Because I was a thrice-mocked fool! But when I heard you last night I knew, as I long have known, that there was but one voice in the world for me.'
'That voice says, Go!'
Guido at this minute interrupted. The Signorina Caterina had asked him to look up trains for her. It was Paris she wished to reach via Milan, was it not? Then the afternoon express was what she wanted. The depth of sorrow in the Signora Reale's face betrayed to her unbidden guest the significance of the question.
'Ah, the young lady from England is going away?'
'Yes.' In all the Signora's acting of tragedy there had never been such depth of appeal in a single word.
'Do you love your wooden doll so much?' he asked lightly. 'May I ask why she is going?'
'Because I told her of you, and of the past.' The anguish of the dark eyes moved him.
" Then, beloved, I come at the right moment.'
Through no moment shall you enter into my life again!
Ah, but I have entered into it again,' he said exultantly. 'You
have not for many months been so much yourself as you were last night. Who wrote your play?'
One Edmondo Colonne; I do not know him.' The woman's eyes were wide with wonder; Signor Rodini pointed one finger significantly to his bosom.
He bowed in triumph.
"The protection of a nom de plume enabled me.'
'But you could not!'
'It was because I could not bear to see you losing ground in this mad passion for a girl. I have followed your life more closely than you think, and, understanding the situation, I wanted to give you something that you could do. Your range has narrowed, Giulietta!'
"You wrote that play, which was as the very soul of my life laid bare! The thought of it is intolerable.'
'Don't you think I deserve some reward for comprehending? Does your protégée understand you as I understand?'
A look came into the Signora's face that the man had never seen there.
'I need no one to understand; I am a woman—and I need only something on which I can pour out all that is in the depth of my heart. The love I have to give could not ask return.'
'Giulietta, stop this foolishness! You are mine, mine for ever; fate, not I, has spoken. You are tired, tired, and I can give you such rest as no one else can.'
For a moment there was silence. The long-delayed rain began to fall imperceptibly, and wheeling, darting swallows skimmed the air above the red-brown roofs and shadowy cypresses, while all the air grew sweet with the fragrance of the gentle shower falling on vine and leaf and blossom.
You hope, then,' the man's voice began.
'I have no hope of any kind,' answered the woman steadily. There was a little rustle near at hand; the rose branches parted and the tall white lilies gave way for advancing feet. Katharine stood before them, her parted hair a little less severe than was its wont, her eyes soft with traces of tears. Now that there was something to do her puzzling path was clear. Signor Rodini watched her, his expression of interest deepening to anxiety.
'Caterina mia!' The Signora's words were full of the grief of
Demeter, yet hinted a springtime of laughter. The girl hesitated, looked at the stranger, then crossed to the Signora's side and bent her head.
'You have come back, Proserpina !
'If you will take me,' said Katharine humbly. Passionate kisses were rained on the pale golden hair.
'Take you back, carissima! Ah, angelo d'oro, take you back!' The girl turned and faced Signor Rodini, fine and strong as an avenging angel, a protecting young hand on the Signora's shoulder as she spoke.
'I could not help hearing part of what you were saying. I think, sir, you had not reckoned with me.'
He bowed, not without admiration.
'I fancy that Mademoiselle had hardly reckoned on some unexpected qualities in herself."
He saluted politely and left them, though the dimmed eyes of the Signora failed to see. With lightest finger-tips the girl touched the grey-flecked hair of the woman at her side.
I have been a beast,' said Katharine, 'thinking only of myself.' Beyond the green vineyard, over the soft grey water, two little, noiseless boats went softly gliding, each with a slender sail of flame, hope's very colour.
'THAT DAY AT NAVARINO.
THE riverside was a study in sharp contrasts. The squalid dingy streets seemed almost to fester in the brilliant aching sunshine, and the small drab houses stretched away like rabbit-hutches in endless lines with maddening regularity. Upon the pavement and in the narrow yards exceedingly dirty children were playing with an unquenchable cheeriness that was almost inexplicable, entirely disregarding the occasional shrill reproofs of slatternly mothers with terribly untended hair. Everywhere was there squalor, discomfort, and scorching heat. And then a few yards brought you to the cool, blue, flickering river.
Somehow one began at once to understand the invincible gaiety of those bedraggled infants. The kindly gods have woven a thread of delicate beauty into the harsh grey fabric of their lives; they have given to their eyes something of great price, a vision very fair and gracious, that may atone for other sights. It is not suggested, of course, that the children realise their fortune, that they are grateful for this perpetual gift; but it is there, and its influence must be felt.
The river is seldom the same, but it is always worth the seeing. Sombre or gay, mist-clad or sparkling, stern or gentle, it has always something of beauty, something that is healing to the eye. That afternoon it was a picture, stored as no human artist, not even Turner's self, could have stored it, with lavish splendid colour and swift vivid movement. Down the long bend the sails of the hoys were flashing in the sunlight, ringing the changes upon every shade of colour between rich red and dingy black. And still the riot of contrasts endured, as is ever the way upon the Thames. In the middle distance a black brigantine was following her tug down stream, just such a long, low, dark craft' as one used to read of with delightful thrills in the books of brave adventure. The pirate ship was always long, and dark, and low. Behind her a huge slate-grey giant of a steamer, like a great ringing tank of metal, bustled down the river with much noisy hooting and splashing of white foam. Out there in mid-stream the water was the deep and lovely blue of the unshadowed sky, but near to the bank, in the