Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/41

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Jan. 2, 1864.
33
ONCE A WEEK.

open the door, she stepped lightly to the door of la Dossi's room, for the allotted time for her nap was just about completed, and, looking in, saw that, faithful to her habitudes, her mistress was awake and on the point of rising.

"There is somebody at the door, signora," she said, "so I thought I would look to see if you were ready to receive any visitors. Shall I let them come in?"

"Yes! Let them come in, whoever it is, my girl! I have been alone all day till you came home, and I want to wag my tongue a little! Let them come in! I am coming out into the salottino in two minutes."

So Giulia went to the door, and there, as she had feared, were Captain Brilli, and his shadow, Corporal Tenda.

"Good evening, Signora Giulia! Are we too early? Is the padrona stirring yet? May we come in?"

"Si, Signor Capitano! Walk in; my mistress is awake; she will be in the salottino in a minute! Good evening, Signor Caporale!"

"Gentilissima Signora Giulia!" said the Corporal, with a military salute, performed in a slightly exaggerated fashion; "I am delighted to see that you have not altogether deserted this sublunary world for your native skies, as I begun to fear must be the case, when you vanished so suddenly from your place in the palazzo to-day! I was coming through the crowd to speak to you after your—guardian—ahem!—drew his bad number; and when I got across the hall, to that private box sort of a place they had put you to sit in, you had vanished, and the Signorina Lisa too!"

"Did the Signorina Lisa say she was coming here this afternoon?" asked Captain Brilli.

"Si, signore. At least, she said that it was very likely she might come. She said, Signor Capitano, that she would come to see me!" said Giulia, looking at him with a smile in her eye.

"Of course! For what else should she come?" said Brilli, in the same tone. "Did she say about what time she would be here?"

"Oh! I suppose about the hour of the paneggiato," replied Giulia. "Will your worships be pleased to walk in to the drawing-room? I dare say la Signora Dossi has come out from her room by this time."

"I like a large airy room like this, I do," said the Corporal. "I think I had rather stay here while my officer goes to pay his respects to la Signora Dossi," he added, giving Giulia a look as he spoke that plainly uttered a very earnestly pleading entreaty that she would remain there also.

"As you please, Signor Caporale! The room is entirely at your service!" said Giulia, speaking with perfect good-humour, but evidently about to precede Captain Brilli into the sitting-room.

The Corporal stood looking after her as she crossed the great hall to the opposite door till she had just reached it, then springing after her with a hop, skip, and jump, he said:

"I think I won't stay here after all; I am disappointed in the big room. All its charm is leaving it,—leaving it now at this moment, and it seems very dull and cold all of a sudden. I think I shall like the sitting-room best!"

"As you please, Signor Caporale!" said Giulia, again with unaltering good-humour; "or if your worship prefers to remain here, to being exposed to the cold of the great room, you are welcome to shut yourself in with the old sedan-chair in the corner!"

"Oh, Signora Giulia, you are cruel today! What have I done to offend you? Perhaps you were displeased at the result of the drawing this morning. But remember that I am not commander-in-chief,—at least not yet. I need hardly assure you that when I am, nobody shall be drawn except those whom your ladyship has no objection to see in the ranks. But in the meantime I confess I thought the blind goddess had done very well in sending the big cousin, who takes it upon himself to superintend the comings in and goings out of the most discreet as well as the loveliest young lady in all Romagna, to learn proper subordination in the ranks. It's a capital school, signora, for teaching presumptuous people to mind their own business and not their neighbours'."

"And you have had the advantage of some years' education in it?" said Giulia, raising her eyebrows with an affected expression of surprise.

"Yes, Signora Giulia; and accordingly I am, I assure you, minding my own business at this moment—and the most pressing and important business to me in all the world!"

"Dear me! I never should have guessed that, if you had not told me so!" retorted Giulia; "but as to the drawing to-day," she added after a little pause, in a more serious tone, "it was in all earnest and seriousness a matter of great sorrow to me. I would have given much to have saved my cousin from drawing his bad number. It was because I was so vexed," she added, with a manner that seemed to indicate a determination to speak what she felt reluctant to confess, "that I left the hall in such a hurry. And la Signora Lisa was kind enough to come with me."

"Excuse me, signora, I was not aware that