Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/40

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[Jan. 2, 1864.

alone, with a phase of human nature that was new to her to study.

Lisa could have told her friend, if she had seen any necessity for doing so, that she would be disappointed in her hope that Corporal Tenda would not make his appearance that evening at the Palazzo Bollandini; for her own intention of returning was mainly due to an intimation to that effect, which she had found the means of conveying to Captain Brilli in the hall of the drawing; and there was very little doubt that the Corporal would accompany him.

La Signora Dossi's dinner, and therefore her siesta, took place at a later hour than usual that day, in consequence of the ceremony of the drawing for the conscription, which in the little city of Fano made that day an exceptional one. Giulia, when she went in to her mistress, was expected to give an account of all she had seen at the palazzo publico—how those who had escaped had rejoiced, and how those who had been hit bore their bad chance, &c. All which she did, poor girl, feeling all the time the heavy weight at her heart, not got rid of at all, but put by to be brought into the foreground again whenever she should have leisure to attend to it.

Then the dinner was got over; and Giulia had to be scolded because she did not eat, and had to tell lies as best she could about the heat of the room and the fatigue, and so on.

And then la Dossi went to her siesta; and the time for bringing out the great heavy sorrow came round, and Giulia sat down in the silent house all by herself to think.

"Had she been to blame in the matter of the Corporal? Had she been to blame in the matter of that last parting under the great cypress-tree—that greatest event of her life—that most precious memory for all her future years?" She feared that she could not quite acquit herself on this latter head. It was a break-down; a fall from the line of duty that she had chalked out for herself. Had she been stronger on that occasion—had she made a better fight, Beppo would have had no reason to call her false. He would have been spared the suffering of thinking her so. Yet would he on the whole have been happier? Was it not possible that the remembrance of that moonlight farewell might, despite all, be as precious to him as it was to her? Yes, she had been wrong and weak on that occasion, but she found it very difficult to repent of the wrong-doing.

With respect to the Corporal, her conscience acquitted her more easily. Care about the little man, in any such sort as could make any lover or husband in the world jealous? Che! She had spoken the truth from the very bottom of her heart, when she had said to Lisa on the staircase that she could have annihilated the Corporal, if by so doing she could have served or pleasured Beppo. He was less than nothing to her in comparison with him! Had she been pleased, more pleased than was right, with the evident admiration of the Corporal? Well! pleased? She had been amused by him. She had found it pleasant to talk to him; pleasant to laugh with him and at his joking. But her heart had been heavy, God knew it had been heavy, all the time! Would it have been judicious to remain glum and moody in la Dossi's house? She had come to the city with the firm determination not to wear the willow, to give no curious spy the slightest reason to sneer or suspect that she had left her heart at Bella Luce. Was it not absolutely necessary that she should do so? Would the Corporal have any right to think himself ill-used if she told him to-morrow that her heart was, and had long been, given to her cousin? Certainly not the least. If only there were no other reasons for not doing so, how gladly, how triumphantly, would she tell him so to-morrow.

But was there any possibility that what Lisa had said might be true? Was it possible that the lively little man had mistaken her good-humour and frank courtesy, and was seriously thinking of her? Giulia thought not. But it behoved her at all events to take care that such should not be the case. But he was one of those men whom it is very difficult to keep at a distance; how different from poor dear, dear, modest Beppo! It would be far more difficult to make Beppo believe that he was loved, than to make the Corporal understand that he was not. She wished with all her heart that he knew she had no love to give to any one—that it was all given away! She wished he knew all about Beppo, and her unhappiness. She felt sure that if he did, lie would not quiz Beppo any more, and would respect her unfortunate attachment. For after all he was a good, honest-hearted little man. She felt sure of that. But how was she to behave to him when he came there? Here was already Lisa taking notions into her head. Good Heaven! if any such reports should get about in the town, and should come to Beppo's ears! The mere thought made her blood run cold. It was evidently necessary that she should be more guarded in her manner to the Corporal, and when he came next——"

Exactly as Giulia reached that point in her meditations the bit of twine outside the magnificent walnut-wood door was pulled, and the little bell which hung on the inside of it tinkled. Before going across the great hall to