Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/35

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Dec. 26, 1863.
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ONCE A WEEK.

he does in his wisdom nevertheless think fit to lead us into. Your cousin was placed in no circumstances of exceptional temptation, beyond that which most girls are exposed to, but—we know the result. I think it must have at last convinced you, my son, that those who strove to prevent you from so placing your affections were your best friends and wisest counsellors."

"At all events, father, it was in consequence of the wish of those friends to prevent me from doing so, that she was sent away from her home to the life which has been fatal to her. At all events, she has been sacrificed to what those friends considered to be my advantage. But now that that advantage has been secured," said the young man, speaking with increasing bitterness, "now that I have been made miserable, and she has been made worthless, surely some effort might be made to remedy as far as may be yet possible, the evil that has been done."

"I tell you, my son, such a mode of looking at the matter is mistaken. The evil you speak of was not done, it was discovered only. The girl was a bad girl, would have been a bad girl under any circumstances. The circumstances which occurred gave us an opportunity of seeing that such was the case, that is all. And as for remedy, the matter is past that, I am afraid."

"Nevertheless, although we may be afraid that it is past remedy, let us at least try. Let us at least do our part, by taking her away from the temptations which have been fatal to her!"

It is true that if poor Beppo's heart could have been anatomised and analysed, there would have been found a very considerable and indestructible residuum of Corporal Tenda in the ashes of it;—true that when he spoke of removing Giulia from temptation, the temptation he had in his mind was Corporal Tenda;—true also that, despite his representations to his own heart, all was for ever over between him and Giulia, and this talk to the priest about the object of sending her away having been secured, he would that instant have thought himself the happiest of men, and have rushed into her arms, if only Giulia would have told him that she did love him, and did not love the Corporal; nevertheless he was perfectly sincere in representing, that he had no notion of there ever more being a question of love between them; and in basing his wish that she should be taken from Fano on the ground of the simple moral and religious duty of endeavouring to reform her conduct

Poor Beppo! his mind had been so entirely abused by the report of the priest, joined to what he had himself seen, and to the few words dropped by the attorney, which, though they spoke of the Corporal in different terms from those used by the priest, yet equally testified to Giulia's monstrous falseness to himself (and when was ever lover, who did not deem that the one damning and irremissible sin against morality!), that he really felt that it was a question of snatching a brand from the burning. But I am glad for both their sakes that Giulia did not hear her respectable and moral cousin thus treating her as a Magdalen, and making her the subject of reformatory philanthropy.

"But even supposing, that any good were to be done by so removing her, what is it you would propose Signor Beppo," asked the priest in reply to his companion's last words?"

They had strolled up, during their talk, about half-way to Santa Lucia, and were now under the great cypress tree in the path. Oh! If Giulia could have known that it was just there, of all places in the world, that Beppo was concerting a scheme for rescuing her from the moral dangers of improper flirtations with—other men! Oh! if the little green lizards which were basking in the sun among the crevices of the old trunk, and were perking up their heads every now and then, evidently to listen to what was being said, could have blabbed to her what they heard,—that, if anything, might have given Corporal Tenda a chance, and the freehold farm at Cuneo a mistress!

"What would I propose, your reverence? Why simply to undo what was done. To recall Giulia back again to Bella Luce."

"Have her back again here!" said the priest, thoughtfully.

"I should be absent, you know, padre mio," urged Beppo, ruefully.

"You would be absent!" said the priest, pulling his under-lip with his forefinger and thumb, as he considered the matter.

"Since I should be either in the ranks, or away among the hills," rejoined Beppo.

"But what would Signor Paolo say?" asked the priest.

"Oh! your reverence knows that my father would be entirely guided by you in the matter. A word from you would bring her back, just as a word from you sent her away."

"And if I were to see no objection to acting in this matter as you would have me—," said the priest.

"I should see none in acting as you would have me, your reverence," said Beppo.

"I presume you would wish that Giulia should not return home till after you have left