Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/285

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Feb. 27, 1864.]
277
ONCE A WEEK.

chant, and, in the next minute, Giulia stepped into the grey light, plodding along with manifest weariness, but still pressing eagerly onward. Beppo's surprise was so great that it nearly overmastered and replaced his indignation. What could be the meaning of it! She had evidently, like himself, been walking all the night; and it seemed impossible to doubt that her journey must, in some way or other, and for some purpose or other, have reference to himself. But for what conceivable object could she have chosen to have come thus far away from the spot where he had appointed to meet her? Not, as it seemed to him certain, with any view of falling in with him. That could scarcely be, inasmuch as his being there at all arose from circumstances which even he himself could not have foretold a few hours ago. If she had had any communication with the priest, he would have told her that there was no chance of meeting him just where, by the unexpected effect of circumstances, she had met him. And again, without communication with the priest, she could have had, he thought, no knowledge of his whereabouts whatsoever. Nor could he suppose that she had been directed by the priest to the monastery of Santa Maria della Valle di Abisso, and was on her way thither; for he had told her in his letter, sent by the messenger, that he would be at the ruined tower at Santa Lucia that Sunday evening; and she could not, therefore, expect to find him at Santa Maria.

She came along the road, emerging from the tunnel into the light of the dawn, intent only on pursuing her way, and did not see him. In fact, it was hardly possible that she should see him unless she had turned her head so as to look backwards as she came out from the dark passage. Standing on the bit of ground that has been described, he was in fact behind her when she stepped out from it. And she would have passed ou without observing him if he had remained silent, for she was walking quickly, and manifestly anxious only to press onwards.

Beppo's first impulse was to fling himself into the road in front of her, and at her feet. But the thought of the next second reminded him that his present business with her was of a different kind; that he was there as an accuser and denouncer, and not as a lover.

"Giulia!" he cried, rather in the voice and tone of a judge arraigning a prisoner before him than in one of passion or tenderness.

She started so violently as almost to fall to the ground, yet her surprise was very far less than his had been; in fact, except the startling suddenness of the call from behind her, and the strangeness of the manner in which he spoken to her, she had no cause for surprise at all. She was travelling in the hope and expectation of meeting him; and if she had known anything about the distances of the places in question, she would have been expecting to meet him much about then and there.

He added no word to the one he had so sternly uttered, but remained standing drawn up to his full height, with his gun on his arm, glaring down on her from the higher ground, about three feet above the level of the road on which he stood.

"Oh, Beppo! thank God I have found you! I have been walking all night in the hope of meeting you, to warn you——to warn you "—she went on out of breath with eagerness and hurry—"not to come to the tower in the churchyard!——There are soldiers at Santa Lucia——"

"In what house?" demanded he, sternly.

"In our house, at Bella Luce."

"What soldiers? he said in the same tone.

"Bersaglieri! an officer and four men."

"Who is the officer?" said Beppo, with a concentrated fury, increased by what appeared to him her attempt at subterfuge and evasion.

"I don't know how it came about"——she began, hesitating and greatly distressed, not because she had had the slightest intention of concealing the fact from him, but because she perceived that he had already conceived the suspicions which she would have given her life to disabuse him of; and because the information would have to reach him, if indeed it had not reached him already, in so unfortunate a manner, and one so calculated to confirm him in them.

"You do know!" he said, interrupting her with stern harshness. "Who is the officer living with you at Bella Luce?"

"Living with me!—oh, Heaven, Beppo!" she said, with a sob.

"Who is the officer?" he said for the third time, with increasing harshness and even ferocity of manner.

"It is Corporal Tenda, Beppo. I came here——

"Vile! shameless! perjured woman!" began he in a slow, grating voice, with a crescendo weight of scorn on each word; but she interrupted him with an energy that broke through the violence of his invective.

"Beppo! Beppo! I mu3t speak! You shall say what you will to me afterwards! I will bear it all! But there is no time to lose. Beppo, I have walked all night,—all night as fast as I could, but I am sure I have had some-