Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/38

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[Jan. 2, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.

snug little bit of land of his own when his uncle dies."

"Nonsense, Lisa;—what nonsense you are talking. You can't really think that there can ever be anything serious between Corporal Tenda and me! He has no more thought of it than I have."

"Well! I am sure I don't see why you should not, nor why he should not. My belief is that he thinks a great deal about you in serious earnest."

"Oh, don't, Lisa, don't say such things; I don't like it!"

"Why not? If there was nothing between you and the Corporal, what was it put Signor Beppo into such a dreadful passion? And why did you say it was not all his fault? Whose fault was it, then?"

"Why,—Corporal Tenda's fault!" said Giulia, blushing a little and speaking with some hesitation. "He will go on in such a way! And Beppo made me angry that day. And I spoke unkindly to him," said Giulia; and the tears again ran down her cheeks, and her voice was broken by suppressed sobbing; "—and when the Corporal laughed at him, I laughed too; and I could have knocked my head against the wall afterwards. And I hate Corporal Tenda, Lisa!"

"I am sure you don't seem to hate him, Giulia! What is he always coming to the house for? And why do you let him come into the kitchen, and talk and laugh and go on?" said Lisa, the last phrase having in similar context, it will be observed, the force of an "et cetera," and being capable of a very extended significance.

"How can I help it?" replied Giulia, not without a certain amount of self-consciousness, which imparted a degree of embarrassment to her manner, and a little extra colour to her cheeks. "He will go on in such a way, and he makes me laugh in spite of myself; and he is so different, you know, from our own paesani (the people of our village); and Beppo does not understand such ways; and—and—what could I do, you know, Lisa dear? Could I seem for all the world as if I was breaking my heart, because I had been sent away from Bella Luce, and I sent away because they were afraid that I—that I should listen to Beppo? Could I now, Lisa dear? And Don Evandro himself told me the night before I came away" (here a pause, while certain other reminiscences connected with that same night caused a little half-suppressed but audible sob, not perfectly intelligible to Lisa)—"the night before I came away, that I was not to shut myself up like a nun, but was to make acquaintance with any people that fell in my way; and—and—and that's all I did, you know, Lisa!"

"Any way, let Signor Beppo have been pleased or not pleased with your knowing the Corporal, he had no business to speak in that way, seeing that he never had any right to think that you cared about him!" said Lisa, still indignant at the way she had seen poor Giulia treated. "And I, like a fool, to go telling him that you took on so when he drew the bad number! I don't wonder you were vexed at me for saying so!"

"But, Lisa dear—come in just a moment." They had, as Lisa was speaking, reached the great entrance of the Bollandini palace. "Just come up-stairs a moment; I want—I want to speak to you."

So the two girls went up the great stairs together, and sat down on the stone window-seat of the large window at right angles with the door of la Dossi's apartment, by which the staircase was lighted. The great staircase was as silent and as solitary as the grave, and la Dossi was doubtless busy in superintending the progress of her casseroles.

"Look here," continued Giulia, who had taken her pocket-handkerchief from her pocket, and busied her hands and eyes with folding it and refolding it on her lap, "Lisa dear. You must not be too hard on Beppo. I—suppose he thought that—that I was different from when we parted at Bella Luce."

"Different! How different? If you had always refused to listen to him, why should you not be free to listen as much as you pleased to the Corporal or to anybody else?"

There is nothing so provoking in some circumstances as a confidant who will see nothing but the plain logical meaning of what is said to them. Lisa would be so deplorably reasonable. Giulia could not fold her handkerchief to her satifaction. Yet it was not for want of giving all her eyes to the operation. She tried again and again; and even her shoulders seemed to writhe and twist themselves with the difficulty of the task. Presently, too, her foot began to beat the pavement with nervous impatience. The handkerchief would not get folded right.

"But—perhaps—Beppo—thought—that—thought—that—I did care for him!" and each word came as if it had been squeezed out of her by some mechanical means that forced out a little panting groan with it.

"But the question is, what right had he to think so?" said the pitilessly logical Lisa.

"And—and you said just now, Lisa, yourself, that I did not seem to hate Corporal Tenda."