« PoprzedniaDalej »
tion, is it not ? When we last moment very gently, almost lovmet, it was you who guided me, ingly. Where was the use of tryand 1 humbly followed your in- ing to conceal what would not be structions. I did precisely as you hidden? Every word he spoke told me."
told of his unchanged love, al“Had I doubted that you would though the phrases were short and do as I asked, I would not have simple. Why should she conceal spoken,” answered Corona.
what she felt? She knew it was “ There was one thing you ad- a foregone conclusion. They loved vised me to do which I have not each other, and she would certainly even attempted."
marry him in the course of a year. " What was that ?''
The long-pent - up forces of her “ You told me to forget you. nature were beginning to assert I have spent six months in con- themselves; she had so long constantly remembering you, and in quered and fought down her natlooking forward to this moment. ural being in the effort to be all Was I wrong?”
things to her old husband, to “Of course," replied the Duch- quench her growing interest in essa, with a little laugh. You Giovanni, to resist his declared should by this time have forgotten love, to drive him from her in her my existence, They said you were widowhood ; but now it seemed as gone to the North Pole—why did though suddenly all obstaces were you change your mind.?”
removed. She saw clearly how “I followed my load-star. It well she loved him, and it seemed led me from Rome to Sarracinesca folly to try and conceal it. As by the way of Paris. I should she sat by his side she was unhave remained at Sarracinesca— boundedly happy, as she had never but you also changed your mind. been in her life before : the cool I began to think you never would.” morning breeze fanned her dark
“How long do you think of cheeks, and the music of his low staying up there ?" asked Corona, voice soothed her, while the delito turn the conversation.
cious sense of rapid motion lent a “ Just so long as you stay at thrill of pleasure to every breath Astrardente," he answered. " You she drew. It was no matter what will not forbid me to follow you to she said ; it was as though she Rome?"
spoke unconsciously. It all seemed “How can I prevent you if you predestined and foreplanned from choose to do it !"
all time, to be acted out to the end. “By a word, as you did be- The past vanished slowly as a refore."
treating landscape : as some weary “Do you think I would speak traveller, exhausted with the heat that word ?'' she asked.
of the scorching Campagna, slowly " I trust not. Why should you climbs the ascent towards Tivoli, cause me needless pain and suffer- the haven of cool waters, and ing? If it was right then, it is pausing now and then upon the not right now. Besides, you know path, looks back and sees the me too well to think that I would dreary waste of undulating hillocks annoy you or thrust myself upon beneath him gradually seeming to you. But I will do as you wish.” subside into a dim flat plain, and
" Thank you," she said, quietly. in the far distance the mighty But she turned her dark face to- domes and towers of Rome, dwinward him, and looked at him for a dled to an unreal mirage in the
warm haze of the western sky, and sprang wildly forward up the last again advancing, feels the breath incline till their hoofs struck of the mountains upon him, and noisily upon the flagstones of the hears the fresh plunge of the cold bridge, and with a rush and a cataract, till at last, when his plunge they dashed under the strength was almost failing, it is black archway, and halted in the renewed within him, and the dust broad court beyond. and the heat of the day's journey Corona was surprised at the size are forgotten in the fulness of re- of the old fortress. It seemed an freshment,—so Corona d'Astrar- endless irregular mass of towers dente, wearied out but not worn and buildings, all of rough grey by the fatigues and the troubles stone, surrounded by battlements and the temptations of the past and ramparts, kept in perfect refive years, seemed suddenly to be pair, but destitute of any kind of taken up and borne swiftly through ornament whatever. It might the gardens of an earthly paradise, have been even now a military where neither care nor temptation stronghold, and it was evident was, and where, in the cool air of that there
traditions of a new life, the one voice she loved precision and obedience within was ever murmuring gentle things its walls which would have done to her willing ear.
credit to any barracks. The domAs the road began to rise higher, inant temper of the master made sweeping round the base of the itself felt at every turn, and the mountain and ascending by even servants moved quickly and silentgradation upon its southern flank, ly about their duties.
There was the sun rose higher in the heavens, something intensely attractive to and the locusts broke into their Corona in the air of strength that summer song among the hedges- pervaded the place, and Giovanni that even, long-drawn, humming had never seemed to her so manly sound, so sweet to southern ears. and so much in his element as But Corona did not feel the heat, under the grey walls of his annor notice the dust upon the way; cestral home. The place, too, was she was in a new state, where such associated in history with so many things could not trouble her. The events,—the two men, Leone Sarrafirst embarrassment of a renewed cinesca the father, and Giovanni, intimacy was fast disappearing, stood there beside her, where their and she talked easy to Giovanni ancestors of the same names had of many things, reviewing past stood nearly a thousand years bescenes and speaking of mutual fore, their strong dark faces havacquaintances, turning the conver- ing the same characteristics that sation when it concerned too di- for centuries had marked their rectly Giovanna or herself, yet ever race, features familiar to Romans and again coming back to that sweet by countless statues and pictures, ground which was no longer dan- as the stones of Rome themselves gerous now. And at last, at a but for a detail of dress, it seemed turn in the road, the grim towers to Corona as though she might of ancient Sarracinesca loomed in have been suddenly transported the distance, and the carriage en- back to the thirteenth century. . tered a vast forest of chestnut The idea fascinated her. The trees, shady and cool after the two men led her up the broad sunny ascent.
So they reached stone staircase, and ushered her the castle, and the sturdy horses and Sister Gabrielle into the apart
ments of state which had been tation : she was not in Rome, prepared for them.
where her every movement was a r. We have done our best,” said subject for remark; moreover, she the Prince, “but it is long since was not only a married woman, we have entertained ladies at but a widow, and she had known Sarracinesca."
Giovanni for years—it would be “It is magnificent !” exclaimed ridiculous to refuse. Corona, as she entered the ante- Very well," said she. chamber. The walls were hung us see the view before it is too from end to end with priceless late.” tapestries, and the stone floor was Sister Gabrielle and old Sarracovered with long eastern carpets. cinesca sat down on a stone seat Corona paused.
upon the rampart to wait, and “You must show us all over the Duchessa disappeared with the castle by-and-by," she said. Giovanni through the low door
“Giovanni will show you every- that led into the great tower. thing," answered the Prince. "If
"What wonderful woman it pleases you, we will breakfast in you are !” exclaimed Giovanni, as half-an-hour." He turned away they reached the top of the windwith his son, and left the two ing stair, which was indeed broad ladies to refresh themselves before er than the staircase of many the mid-day meal.
great houses in
Rome. "You Giovanni kept his word, and seem to be never tired.” spared his guests no detail of the “No_I am very strong," anvast stronghold, until at last poor swered Corona, with a smile. She Sister Gabrielle could go no far
out of breath. ther. Giovanni had anticipated “What a wondersnl view !" she that she would be tired, and with exclaimed, as they emerged upon the heartlessness of a lover seek- the stone platform at the top of ing his opportunity, he had secret- the tower. Giovanni was silent ly longed for the moment when for a moment. The two stood she should be obliged to stop. together and looked far out at the
“ You have not yet seen the purple mountains to eastward that view from the great tower,” he caught the last rays of the sun said. “ It is superb, and this is high up above the shadows of the the very best hour for it. Are valley; and then looking down, you tired, Duchessa ?”
they saw the Prince and the sister " No-I am never tired," an- a hundred feet below them upon swered Corona.
the rampart. “Why not go with Giovanni ?" Both were thinking of the same suggested the Prince. “I will thing; three days ago their meetstay with Sister Gabrielle, who ing had seemed infinitely far off, has nearly exhausted herself with a thing dreamed of and hoped for seeing our sights."
-and now they were standing Corona hesitated. The idea of alone upon the topmost turret of being alone with Giovanni for a Giovanni's house, familiar with quarter of an hour was delightful, each other by a long day's conbut somehow it did not seem al- versation, feeling as though they together fitting for her to be had never been parted, feeling also wandering over the castle with that most certainly they would him. On the other hand, to re- not be parted again. fuse would seem almost an affec
“It is very strange," said Gio
vanni, “ how things happen in this at first she made a slight moveworld, and how little ever ment — not of resistance, but of know of what is before us. Last timid reluctance, utterly unlike week I wondered whether I should herself—she suffered him to hold ever see you—now I cannot ima- her hand. He drew closer to her, gine not seeing you. Is it not himself more diffident in the mostrange?"
ment of success than he had ever " Yes," answered Corona, in a been when he anticipated failure ; low voice.
she was so unlike any woman he " That yesterday we should had ever known before. Very have seemed parted by an insur- gently he put his arm about her, mountable barrier, and that to- and drew her to him. day—” he stopped. “Oh, if to- “My beloved—at last," he whisday could only last for ever!” he pered, as her head sank upon his exclaimed, suddenly.
shoulder. Corona gazed out upon the purple Then with a sudden movement, hills in silence, but it seemed as she sprang to her height, and for though her face caught some of one instant gazed upon him. Her the radiance of the distant glow, whole being was transfigured in and her dark eyes had strange the might of her passion : her dark lights in them. She could not face was luminously pale, her lips have prevented him from speak- almost white, and from her eyes ing; she had loosed the bonds that there seemed to flash a blazing had held her life so long; the an- fire. For one instant she gazed chor was up, and the breath of love upon him, and then her arms went fanned the sails, and gently bore round his neck, and she clasped the craft in which she trusted out him fiercely to her breast. to seaward over the fair water. "Ah, Giovanni," she cried, pasIn seeing him she had resigned sionately, “you do not know what herself to him, and she could not love means !" again get the mastery if she A moment later her arms would. It had come too soon, but dropped from him; she turned it was sweet.
and buried her face in her hands, “And why not?” he said, very leaning against the high stone softly. “Why should it not re- parapet of the tower.
She was main so for ever — till our last not weeping, but her face was breath? Why will you not let it white, and her bosom heaved with last ?"
quick and strong-drawn breath. Still she was silent; but the Giovanni went to her side and tears gathered slowly in her eyes, took her strongly in his right arm, and welled over and lay upon her and again her head rested upon velvet cheeks like dew-drops on the his shoulder. leaves of a soft, dark tulip. Gio- " It is too soon—too soon,” she vanni saw them, and knew that murmured. “ But how can I help they were the jewels which crowned it? I love you so that there is no his life.
counting of time. It seems years “You will,” he said, his broad since we met last night, and I brown hand gently covering her thought it would be years before small fingers and taking them in I told you. Oh, Giovanni, I am his. " You will — I know that so happy! Is it possible that you you will."
love me as I love you ?" She said nothing, and though It is a marvellous thing to see
" Do you
how soon two people who love I will go and live in the town at each other learn the gentle confi- Astrardente, and play the engineer, dence that only love brings. A and build your roads for you. few moments later Giovanni and “I hardly know,” said Corona, Corona were slowly pacing the with a doubtful smile. « You platform, and his arm was about could not do that.
But you may her waist and her hand in his. come and spend the day once-in
“Do you know," she was say- a week, perhaps." ing, “I used to wonder whether “We will arrange all that," anyou would keep your word, and swered Giovanni, laughing." "If
" never try to see The days you think I can exist by only seewere so long at Astrardente." ing you once a week-well, you do
“Not half so long as at Sarra- not know me.” cinesca,” he answered.
"We shall see," returned Cor. going to call my aqueduct the ona, laughing too. “ By the by, Bridge of Sighs; I will christen how long have we been here?" it now the Spring of Love."
“I do not know,''said Giovanni ; “I must go and see it to-mor- " but the view is magnificent, is row," said she.
it not ?" Or the next day
“Enchanting," she replied, look“ The next day!” she exclaimed, ing into his eyes. Then suddenly with a happy laugh.
the blood mounted to her cheeks, think I am going to stay
_?" “Oh, Giovanni,” she said, “how “For ever," interrupted Gio- could I do it?" vanni.
" We have a priest here, "I should have died if you had you know,—he can marry us to- not,” he answered, and clasped her morrow, and then you need never once more in his arms. go away.”
" Come,” said she, “ let us be Corona's face grew grave.
going down. It is growing late." “ We must not talk of that yet,” When they reached the foot of she said, gently, “even in jest." the tower, they found the Prince
“No; you are right. Forgive walking the rampart alone. Sister me," he answered ; "I forget many Gabrielle was afraid of the eventhings-it seems to me I have ing air, and had retired into the forgotten everything, except that house. Old Sarracinesca faced I love you."
them suddenly He looked like “ Giovanni,”_she lingered on an old lion, his thick white hair the name,—“Giovanni, we must and beard bristling about his dark tell your father at once."
features. Are you willing I should ?” he “My father," said Giovanni, asked, eagerly.
coming forward, "the Duchessa “Of course_he ought to know; d'Astrardente has consented to be and Sister Gabrielle, too. But no my wife. I crave your blessing.” one else must be told, There must The old man started and then be no talk of this in Rome until stood stock - still. His son had until next year."
fairly taken his breath away, for "We will stay in the country he had not expected the news for until then, shall we not?” asked three or four months to come. Giovanni, anxiously. “ It seems Then he advanced and took Coto me so much better. We can rona's hand, and kissed it. meet here, and nobody will talk. “Madame," he said, “ you have