Jan. 2, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.
CHAPTER XVIII. A CONFESSION.
When Lisa was left alone with Giulia, at the corner of the little lane leading to the osteria frequented by the contadini from the Santa Lucia part of the country, in the manner that has been described at the close of the last book of this history, she was not a little frightened at the state in which Giulia was, and not a little indignant against Beppo for his conduct. She was not aware, it will be remembered, how much reason he had for being angry. She knew nothing, in the first place, of the scene under the cypress, which alone gave Beppo any right to tax Giulia with falsehood; nor, in the second place, had she witnessed the unfortunate scene in the great hall of la Dossi's house, having been more agreeably occupied herself the while in that slumbering lady's quiet sitting-room; nor could she guess that Beppo's mind had been poisoned by the malicious insinuations, to which what he had himself seen lent such unlucky confirmation.
Giulia had swooned, and, to Lisa's great terror, did not recover herself for some minutes. Fainting fits are not so common on the shores of the Adriatic as they are in some other latitudes, and the nature of them, consequently, is not so well understood. Lisa feared that her friend was dying, killed by Beppo's cruel words!
The two girls were on their way from the palazzo publico—where poor Giulia had already received a shock from the announcement of Beppo's bad number, which, despite all her efforts, she had been unable to conceal from Lisa—to the house of la Signora Dossi, when they had met Beppo on his way to his inn. The spot was an unfrequented one; and today, when everybody in the city was in the great square before the palazzo publico, it was absolutely solitary. There was not a human being within sight or within call. It was a great comfort to Giulia as soon as she recovered her senses; but it considerably increased little Lisa's embarrassment and distress in the meantime. She hung over her, calling to her again and again by her name in increasing terror, and imploring her to answer her, or at least make some sign, if she could not speak.
At last the colour began to come back into her ghastly pale cheeks, and she opened her eyes. After wearily and languidly looking round her for a moment or two she said:
"Oh yes! I remember it all now! Lisa, dear, how long have I been asleep? Why did you not wake me up? Did I fall down, or how was it?"
"Yes, dear, you fell down! And, oh me! I was so frightened! I thought you were dead or dying! Do you think you can stand up? Do you feel ill?"
"I can get up now," said Giulia, doing so as she spoke by the help of Lisa's hand.
"Are you ill, dear?"
"I feel very strange—much as if I had been stunned. But I am better now; I can walk home I think, though I feel a little giddy."
"Lean on me, dear! It will be a long time before I can forgive Signor Beppo, I can tell him. E proprio da contadino!" said Lisa, using the townsfolk's usual expression for signifying anything bearish, or unmannered or ignorant.
"Ah! now it all comes back to me!" said Giulia, with a long-drawn sigh. "Ah, yes! now I remember it all! Poor Beppo!"
"Poor Beppo davvero! He ought to be ashamed of himself! I never heard of a man behaving in such a way. To say such horrid words!"
"Yes, Lisa dear, they were very dreadful words to hear; but—but—but it is not all his fault."
"It is true, he had just drawn a bad number, and no doubt he was much put about. But that's no excuse for treating a girl as he did you!"
"Yes, he drew a bad number; and he won't like to leave the country; poor Beppo! but—but that was not all that vexed him, Lisa."
"Let what would vex him, he had no business to speak as he did!"
"He said I was false and worthless! But I have not been false!" sobbed poor Giulia, and the tears began to overflow her eyes.
"False! how should you be false? I have been hearing any time this two years from him of his love for you, and how you never would listen to him, nor look at him! What business can he have to talk about falseness then, I should like to know? I was all in his favour, and hoped you and he might come together,—mainly because I didn't want him myself, as you know, dear! But now, upon my word, I think you had better listen to the Corporal. Signor Giocopo says he is as good a little man as ever stepped, and will have a