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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Idyl at a Close
By Giovanni Domenico Ruffini (1807–1881)
 
From ‘Dr. Antonio’

IT was one of those hot sultry days in the month of August, so trying to the nerves of sensitive people, and during which Nature, as it were, herself exhausted, seems to come to a standstill. Shooting through a thin veil of white clouds, as through a burning-glass, the rays of the sun poured down upon the earth volumes of heavy malignant heat. No leaf stirred, no bird was singing; the very cicadas had suspended their shrill chirp. The only sound that occasionally broke the ominous stillness was the plaintive cry of the cuckoo calling to its mate.  1
  Lucy had tried drawing, gardening, practicing, sleeping, all with no success; and now lay panting on a sofa. “Here you are at last!” said she, as Dr. Antonio walked in: “I have been longing for you these two hours. I feel so ill.”  2
  “Indeed!” exclaimed Antonio, turning white: “what is the matter with you? I met Sir John on his way to the count’s not an hour ago, and he never breathed a syllable about your being unwell.”  3
  “I said nothing about the matter to papa,” answered Lucy: “he is uneasy enough already at not having heard from Aubrey.”  4
  “You mean your brother?”  5
  “Yes: Aubrey was to write by the Indian mail, which we see has arrived, and without bringing any letter from him.”  6
  “I am very sorry for that,” said Antonio. “But tell me all about yourself. You have not been coughing, have you?”  7
  “No, but I feel very uncomfortable: so faint—so oppressed—so hot.”  8
  “No wonder. Everybody suffers more or less from this weather. Let me feel your pulse.—There is no fever. It is this confounded sirocco that tells on your nerves. Now just lie down again quietly,”—and he arranged the pillows under her head,—“and I will try to make you more comfortable. Miss Hutchins,” he added, walking away, “will you make a glass of strong lemonade for Miss Davenne? the juice of two lemons in half a tumbler of water—lukewarm water, if you please.”  9
  “Yes, sir,” answered the lady’s-maid, in the most mellifluous voice at her command. Miss Hutchins, be it known, was quite conquered: a hard conquest, but Antonio had achieved it. The once stiff abigail now courted his notice, and prided herself in carrying out his directions.  10
  Presently Antonio reappeared, followed by Speranza, both of them looking like Jacks-in-the-green on a May morning, or like a bit of Birnam Wood, from the quantity of cut boughs they were carrying. They spread them all over the floor; then, Rosa bringing in a watering-pot, the doctor watered the branches several times, saying, “This will soon cool us, provided we let in no air from the furnace without.” He shut up the glass door, and let down the green curtain over it so as to create a twilight. “Do you like your lemonade?” he asked, as Lucy put down her glass.  11
  “Very much: it is so refreshing.”  12
  “Do you feel inclined to go to sleep?”  13
  “No,” said Lucy: “are you going?”  14
  “Not unless you feel sleepy. You do not? Very well. Shall I read to you?” continued Antonio, going to the book-shelves near the piano, and coming back with a book; “shall I read you something from your favorite poet, Giusti?”  15
  “What a clever man you are!” said Lucy, instead of answering the question. “I feel better already. What is to become of me when you are no long—” The rest of the phrase was lost in a burst of tears.  16
  Poor Antonio stood still, with the book in his hand and large tears in his eyes,—within an ace of crying also. Fortunately for him, something stuck in his throat at this moment and necessitated his clearing it violently. Having by this means recovered his voice, he said, “See how nervous you are: you weep without the least cause, as if you were going away to-morrow. Don’t you know the Italian proverb, ‘Prendi tempo e camperai’?” His tone was that of a mother chiding her pet child. There ensued a pause, during which Lucy by degrees recovered from her emotion.  17
  “Doctor,” said she all at once, “do you believe in presentiments?”  18
  “Not a bit,” replied Antonio briskly; “I believe in the sirocco.”  19
  “You are wrong, then,” said Lucy gravely. “Did you not tell me once of sensitive plants which foretold storms? Well, I am one of them. I am sure that some misfortune is about to happen to me. I feel it in the air.”  20
  “You feel the treacherous south wind, that is what you feel. A shower of rain will put your discomfort and presentiments all to flight.”  21
  Lucy shook her head incredulously; then said, “Will you read to me? anything you choose.”  22
  “Let us try ‘Il Brindisi di Don Girella.’ It is so droll, it will make you laugh;” and carrying a chair close to the glass door, in order to profit by the little light that stole in through it, he began reading.  23
  We have reasons of our own for particularizing as minutely as possible the details of this domestic scene, and the position with regard to each other of reader and listener. A little to the right of the glass door, at some five or six paces from it, stood sidewise the sofa on which Lucy was lying, her face towards the light. She had on a white muslin gown with a blue sash; her broad-brimmed straw hat was hanging by its blue ribbons on a corner of the back of the sofa, just over her head. Miss Hutchins, her arms crossed before her, sat at the large table in the centre of the room, busily engaged in trying to swallow a series of obstinate yawns that would not be suppressed. Opposite to Lucy—that is, to the left of the glass door, but so close to it that the green curtain touched his book—was seated Antonio.  24
  Well, the reading had been going on for some time, and more than once had the condensed vis comica of the inimitable poet brought a faint smile on Lucy’s pale face. By degrees, however, her perception of the author’s meaning became fainter and fainter; and the rich melodious voice of the reader, soothing her like the murmuring of a brook, lulled the sweet girl into that state which is not yet sleep, yet neither is it waking, but a voluptuous compound of the two. All on a sudden a heavy footstep is heard coming up the stairs. Lucy started up: “Who can that be?” faltered she with a shudder. At the same instant the glass door is flung open with a crash, a colossal figure stalks in noisily, and “Halloa, Lucy, my girl,” roars out a voice like thunder, as the living tower stoops down to kiss the prostrate form. “Here you are at last! Heyday! What is all this? By Jove! with your green boughs and watering-pots you look as pastoral as one of the shepherdesses in a ballet. Une chaumière et ton cœur. Ah! ah! nothing is wanting to the idyl, as they used to say at Eton; d—— it, not even the shepherd!”  25
  “Aubrey!” cried Lucy in a tone of reproach, but could say no more. The oath and witty sally, we need scarcely remark, were aimed at our friend the doctor. Antonio had received such a violent slap from the door, when Aubrey entered, as to be nearly felled to the ground; and in the effort to recover his balance, his chair was upset. The new-comer turned round at the noise, saw Antonio, and uttered the silly vapid joke about the shepherd.  26
  The eyes of the two men met in no friendly way. Aubrey’s haughty scowl, curled lip, and somewhat aggressive demeanor, evinced little good-will to the object of his present scrutiny. Antonio’s firm-set lips, ashy-pale countenance, and collected look of self-defense, gave evidence of his scenting the near approach of a foe. Thus they stood, confronting each other, types of two fine races, two such as even Greece and Rome had seldom seen the like of: the one, fair, rosy, blue-eyed; (Lucy’s very eyes!) the other, dark as a tempest: the Englishman taller by nearly a head than his tall antagonist, square-chested, broad-shouldered in proportion, the very ne plus ultra of muscular development and strength; the Italian less bulky but as firmly knit, springy and supple as a tiger, with iron nerves and sinews, ready servants of the indomitable will betrayed in the sombre fire of his eyes. God grant that they may never meet in anger, for theirs will be like the meeting of two thunder-clouds!  27
  This mutual survey did not last ten seconds; but even that time sufficed to develop between the two a strong feeling of antipathy. Lucy, woman-like, divined it, and her increasing terror loosened her tongue. “My brother, Captain Davenne: Dr. Antonio, my doctor,—papa’s best friend.” The words broke the spell. Captain Davenne bowed slightly, as did Dr. Antonio. A parting recommendation to Lucy to keep quiet, and to go to bed early if she did not feel better in the evening, and the doctor withdrew.  28
  Aubrey began kicking about in the most uproarious manner all the chairs and arm-chairs that were in the room, every fresh kick eliciting a fresh start from Lucy; till at last, having disposed them somewhat symmetrically by the side of the sofa, he stretched his ponderous limbs on this extempore couch, talking loudly all the while. Lucy was thus made aware, between one kick and the other, of the string of lucky circumstances which had procured for her so unexpectedly the blessing of her brother’s company. They were briefly these: The invalid brother officer, whose duties had devolved upon Aubrey, recovering more rapidly than had been anticipated, Captain Davenne had in consequence been enabled to sail by the very Indian mail the arrival of which, without a letter from him, had caused Sir John’s uneasiness in the morning. What was the use of writing when he should reach England at the same time as his letter? In London he had met Tom Carnifex,—eldest son of Lord Carnifex,—who had just received a hasty summons from his father to join him at Florence as quickly as he could. Tom had offered Aubrey a place in his britschka; Aubrey had accepted it, and here he was. Of the stranger he had found in his sister’s company, of the pleasant or unpleasant impression made on him by the sight, not a single word.  29
  Who so surprised and happy and elated as Sir John, when on entering the room soon after, the first thing his eyes fell upon was his long-missed treasure, Aubrey, seated by the side of his sister? Sir John would, had his sense of decorum permitted, have done foolish things. How proudly and fondly he gazed on the “boy,” as he called him! Truth to say, Aubrey’s Herculean proportions and handsome features must have excited the admiration of a more impartial judge than his father. The baronet’s eager inquiries immediately brought forth a second edition of Aubrey’s statements just related; and then began between father and son a brisk fire of queries and answers, like hammers plying in quick succession on an anvil. No wonder they had much to say to one another, considering their ten years’ separation. They rattled on uninterruptedly, until John Ducket’s advent to lay the cloth for dinner put an end to their effusions. Captain Davenne complimented John on his good looks; an honor which spread on John’s grave face a grin of intense complacency. The two gentlemen then adjourned to Sir John’s own room, from whence they were shortly after summoned forth by the announcement that dinner was on the table. Aubrey ate and drank enough for two; and as he ate and drank, his praises of the fare, the wines, the situation, rendered still more impressive by sundry oaths and tremendous peals of laughter, which made plates, glasses, decanters, and the very glass door ring again, grew louder and louder.  30
  “By-the-by, my dear boy,” said the baronet, “at what inn did Carnifex leave you?”  31
  “At none,” was the answer. “I left my portmanteau at a kind of pot-house, where he changed horses. I say, John, you must go there after dinner and have my portmanteau brought here.”  32
  “I am afraid,” said Sir John, “that there is no room for you here: it is a mere nutshell; there is not a hole to spare, I know.”  33
  “Never mind,” retorted Aubrey: “à la guerre comme à la guerre; I can sleep on the sofa, or on the ground, anywhere. Here I am, and here I mean to stay; for I suppose you won’t turn me out by force.”  34
  This being Aubrey’s ultimatum, from which it was clear that no reasons, however good, would divert him, a short consultation ensued between Sir John and John Ducket, the upshot of which was that John should manage to find a resting-place for himself where he could, and that his room should be made as comfortable as possible for his young master. To be of service to Aubrey, John would have willingly slept in the fields.  35
  Dinner over, Captain Davenne, to Sir John’s great amazement and consternation, lighted an enormous cigar. “First-rate cigar,” said he, puffing away: “I hope you don’t dislike the smell, Lucy; I know my father doesn’t.” Lucy protested she had no objection to it—she rather liked it than not. Now the truth was that she could not bear it. What was it that forced from her an assertion so little consonant with the truth? Lucy almost unconsciously felt a sort of necessity to humor her brother. Poor, timid, weak Lucy! How many of thy sisters have I seen, as candid and artless as thou art, sin in a like and worse way, to propitiate such bears as this brother of thine! For all which sins, let us hope, not the weak, sensitive things will be called to account some day, but the blustering, overbearing rulers in whose violence the sins originated.  36
  Sir John neither openly admitted nor contradicted Aubrey’s declaration as to himself: it might be he did not feel sure how a flat denial on his part would be received, or it might be that he chose on the first day of reunion to be indulgent. He only prudently proposed a levée en masse to the garden, where they would have coffee.  37
  The usual hour for Antonio’s evening call was now past, and no Antonio had appeared. “I hope the doctor is not going to give us the slip,” said Sir John, after he had consulted his watch two or three times. “My son’s company is no good reason why I should not have my friend’s also. I wish you very much to make his acquaintance, Aubrey: as nice a man, this Dr. Antonio, as you could meet anywhere,—quite a gentleman; we are under infinite obligations to him.” And then Sir John told his son all over again the story of the overturn, and the Italian’s timely help, already related in sundry letters to India; and warming with the subject, the baronet went on to enlarge on all the unremitting attention Antonio had paid to Lucy, and how ingeniously he had contrived to amuse her during her confinement to the house. The lending of books, the lectures on botany, the lessons on the guitar, were all set forth; the catalogue winding up with that stupendous master-stroke, the easy-chair invented by the doctor. To all of which discourse Aubrey listened with an attention quite edifying, and an appearance of great gratification,—a gratification made more evident as he watched the pleasure the details afforded to his darling sister, on whose glowing countenance the sympathizing brother’s eyes rested all the while.  38
  “I long to shake hands with this phœnix of doctors,” said Aubrey, “and apologize for my rudeness. I suppose it was he I found here this morning?”  39
  “Yes,” said Lucy.  40
  “What do you say,” continued Aubrey, speaking to Sir John, but looking at his sister, “to our going and laying violent hands on this forgetful friend of yours, and dragging him captive here? ha! ha! ha!”  41
  “Ah, do!” said Lucy, with sparkling eyes, and inwardly calling herself all sorts of names for having so unkindly misjudged her brother. Sir John agreeing immediately to the proposal, Captain Davenne lit a fresh cigar, and out they sallied. As they passed through the garden-gate, Aubrey was seized by a violent fit of laughing.  42
  “What are you laughing at?” asked Sir John, perplexed.  43
  “Why, this is such a devilish queer house—such a wrong-sided look about it. I would give something to carry it bodily to London, and show it at a shilling a head. I bet something no one would credit that Sir John and Miss Davenne had lived contentedly weeks in it. I verily believe Hutchins and John have forgotten what a decent room is like.”  44
  Sir John felt his son’s words as a personal reproach. He hung his head.  45
  “Àpropos de bottes” (Aubrey had been in love with a French actress at Madras, and spoke French fluently, and liked to show that he did), “the old Duke of B—— asked after you.”  46
  “Very kind of him,” said the baronet, his features expanding. “How is the old gentleman?”  47
  “As fresh as ever,” said Aubrey. “He wondered what had become of you. Indeed, everybody does: Lady Deloraine most of all, at whose house I met the ——ian ambassadress, and her daughter-in-law Lady Charlotte Tuicy, both of them full of suspicions about your absence, and willing to join in any conspiracy for carrying you off by force from your mysterious hiding-place.”  48
  “God forbid they should put their threat in execution!” said the baronet chuckling. “But talking of carrying off, have you heard of that pretty business of Fanny Carnifex’s elope—”  49
  “Blast the cowardly Italian beggar!” yelled out Aubrey. “I have heard all about it.”  50
  “Are they—married, at least?” asked Sir John with an effort.  51
  “They are; but it is a matrimonial alliance that won’t last long. Fanny will soon be a jolly widow, I can tell her.”  52
  “How do you mean?” inquired Sir John, surprised.  53
  Aubrey stopped short, slowly raised his right arm, held it out as if taking aim, and with a clack of his tongue, imitated the report of a pistol. “Tom Carnifex is one of the best shots in England, my dear sir,” said he carelessly, by way of explanation.  54
  The acting of this little scene was so splendidly natural, there was in the look of the performer something so savage, that Sir John could not help a shudder. However desirable it might have once seemed to him that the offender should be made an example of, it was no part of Sir John’s programme of to-day to be present at the execution.  55
  Engrossed by such pleasant converse and anticipations, the chief of the Davenne dynasty and his heir had come in sight of Dr. Antonio’s poor dwelling just as its tenant, in no very pleasant mood, was issuing from the door. Antonio was little prepared for the present warm greeting from the surly stranger of a few hours back, who now, shaking him heartily by the hand, made a sort of laughing apology for having been so unceremonious in the morning. Though rather taken by surprise, the Italian returned Aubrey’s advances in as kindly a spirit as he could summon on such short notice; and the three, Antonio in the middle, walked back to the Osteria, where they found the count, between whom and young Davenne an introduction in due form took place. The evening passed, if not as quietly as usual, not the less agreeably, perhaps, for being rather noisy. Captain Davenne was in the most communicative of humors, and rattled away famously, laughing a good deal at his own jokes and stories, drinking freely all the while of what he called lemonade; and so it was, only with a strong infusion of old Jamaica rum. Some of his tiger-hunting adventures, which he told with great spirit, were listened to with thrilling interest,—Antonio translating for the count, who had learnt about as much English as Sir John had Italian. Lucy retired early, but not before she had seen a real good-will and friendship springing up between her brother and her doctor and friend. Let us hope that she slept well, poor girl. As ten struck, Sir John and Antonio according to habit sat down to their game of chess, which was on the baronet’s part a series of continual blunders. His thoughts were otherwise engaged.  56
  When Lucy, about eight next morning, after her early bath and one or two hours of additional rest, crossed the anteroom on her way out, she found her brother already installed on the sofa, and yawning violently.  57
  “Where are you going?” asked Aubrey.  58
  “To water my flowers. I have a nice little garden of my own: come and look at it.”  59
  Aubrey raised his long length, went, looked at it, and admired it. The garden was not her own making, was it? Oh no! Speranza had made it; Speranza, the landlady’s daughter, a very nice girl. Dr. Antonio had given Lucy most of the plants. “Are they not beautiful?”  60
  “Very,” said Aubrey; adding, “Do you know, Lucy, I am quite in love with that doctor of yours?”  61
  “Are you?” said Lucy, looking up at him with such beaming eyes!  62
  “I have seldom seen a more commanding figure than his; and he is very gentleman-like, certainly. I wish he were an English duke.”  63
  “Why?” said Lucy. “I assure you he is quite contented with his lot.”  64
  “Because if he were, young lady, you would make a handsome couple.” Lucy grew scarlet. “As it is,” pursued Aubrey slowly, in a clear, cruel, stern voice,—“as it is, I would rather see you dead and buried than married to that man.”  65
  The little watering-pot slipt out of her hand, and her knees gave way.  66
  “D—— it!” cried Aubrey, raising her from the ground, “you needn’t take fright at a mere supposition!” And without another word he passed his powerful arm round his sister’s waist, and led her up the stairs to the sofa. This was the first and the last time that Antonio’s name was mentioned between them.  67
  The doctor called, as was his wont, during the morning; but instead of his usual warm recognition from Lucy he received a silent bow. Her cheeks were dreadfully pale, her eyes red. He inquired about her health, and got a hurried answer that she was very well. He would have felt her pulse: there was no need, she assured him,—she was very comfortable. When he stooped over her shoulder to examine her drawing, she recollected that she had left a brush in her room which was indispensable at that moment, and got up to fetch it. There was a constraint about poor Lucy which Antonio had never seen. His heart contracted painfully. That Aubrey was the cause of the sweet girl’s altered looks and manner, Antonio had not the least doubt; but how and why? Was he, Antonio, in any way connected with this new state of things? To solve the mystery he would have willingly shed his blood. Oh for ten seconds alone with her,—but ten, to ask one question, receive one answer! He loitered longer than he generally did, to take advantage of a possible chance. In vain. There stood between him and her a moving Chinese wall.  68
  Four days passed without the situation mending. Aubrey had taken such a fancy to the wretched Osteria that neither the count’s pressing invitations, nor his father’s exhortations to take his horse and go and enjoy the fine scenery, could prevail upon the colossal dragoon to leave its precincts for a moment; unless Lucy did, which was commonly the case in the evening, when he would put her arm under his and fondly support her steps. All the rest of the day, from seven in the morning to eleven at night, Aubrey would spend indoors, most of the time stretched at full length, smoking and indulging in his favorite beverage; or shaking the poor inn with his ponderous strides. His most gracious smile and heartiest squeeze of the hand was for Antonio, to whom he had taken such a liking that for nothing in the world would Aubrey have missed a minute of his new friend’s company. A boisterous, rather vulgar, lively, good-tempered, companionable fellow, this young Davenne, easily satisfied with everything and everybody, making light of the inconveniences of his far from comfortable room down-stairs, never hinting by word or look at any the least wish on his part to leave his present quarters. His conversation with Sir John turned almost exclusively, it is true, on London (the London, we mean, whose existence is acknowledged by people of rank and fashion), London gayeties, the illustrious relatives and acquaintances of the Davenne family, or the general regret at the baronet’s prolonged absence, and so on. But nine times out of ten it was Sir John himself who broached the subject; and then, was it not natural and proper for a dutiful son to dwell on such topics as were palpably the most agreeable to his father?  69
  Meanwhile the healthy bloom was fading fast from Lucy’s cheek, and her head drooped like a lily deprived of sunshine. It was not enough that poor Lucy was to be weaned all at once from the joys and benefits of the friendly intercourse which habit had made a sweet necessity to her. But she had to wear a mask, and act a part too cruelly at variance with her feelings. Why she was compelled to do so she scarcely knew; but a mysterious warning from within told her that only at such a cost might something awful be averted. Her heart was full of strange misgivings and fears. Aubrey’s show of friendship to Antonio, far from reassuring her, added to her uneasiness. It was clear, even to her inexperienced eye, that all that extreme good-will was assumed,—a mere display; and being so, what could be Aubrey’s motive? And the saddened girl brooded till her head grew giddy over the hostility of the two young men’s first meeting, the significant hint given to her on the morrow, and Aubrey’s sudden change of manner.  70
  No pleasant early associations connected with the boy came to counteract the painful impressions aroused by the full-grown man. Aubrey, be it remembered, had spent his boyhood at Eton; and of his holidays Lucy recalled little, excepting her terrors for her doll, and for a favorite kitten it had been his delight to torment. But there was no want of clearness in her perceptions with regard to his six-months’ stay at home previous to his entering the army. The almost daily quarrels between father and son, her mother all in tears, the gloom that pervaded the family, Aubrey’s angry scowl, and something worse, in return for her childish attempts at conciliation (she was scarcely ten years old at the time), and the fear in which she stood of him: such were Lucy’s sole recollections, such the images and feelings linked in her memory with that brother of hers. Intervening years had softened, but not obliterated, these impressions; and the Aubrey that to the day of his arrival figured in his sister’s mind was anything but the type of youthful dutifulness and affection. What she had now seen of him brought the conviction home to her that the man had kept the promise of the boy. Lucy from the first had felt afraid of him. His boisterous ways and overbearing manners, his frequent oaths and coarse mirth, told cruelly on her nerves, and wounded all the sympathies of her refined nature.  71
  Delicate, sensitive organizations like Lucy’s have an inborn horror of violence in any shape: it is with them a dissolving element,—something incompatible with their being, from which they shrink as instinctively as those plants to which Miss Davenne had likened herself in her last conversation with Dr. Antonio,—shrink from the touch of a hand. On these grounds alone would the pressure of Aubrey’s presence have been too much for Lucy. How incomparably more so when fancy obscurely hinted at the possible bursting of that violence, of which she stood in such awe, in a direction where much of her grateful affection and reverence lay!  72
  On the fourth day from his son’s arrival, Sir John gave a farewell dinner, and announced to the small but select party—the count, the mayor, Dr. Antonio, etc.—that his departure was fixed for the day after the next. Aubrey might watch his sister as much as he pleased, Lucy did not wince. Indeed, her misery was such that she felt almost relieved by the announcement.  73
  So that she may but say, “Thank you, Dr. Antonio: God bless you and your country!”—so that she may but say this to him freely, as her heart prompts, without restraint, with no eye upon her, Lucy will depart in peace. This thought is ever uppermost in her mind; nay, she has no thought but this one, which presses on her temples like a crown of thorns,—to thank and bless him. It would look so unfeeling not to do so. This man has been all forbearance, all gentleness, all kindness to her. What could a friend, a brother, a father, do more than he has done for her! “Bless you and your country.” She murmurs the words to herself; she would fain write them down for him, but that they look so cold on paper. He has no idea, she is sure, of the depth of her gratitude, of all that she is feeling. Fool that she was, not to have let him know when time was her own,—when no dark cloud cast its shadow between them; on one of these bright mornings frittered away in general conversation on the balcony; on one of these moonlit evenings spent by the water’s edge, so near that the silvery wave came creeping lovingly to their very feet. Oh, those sweet strolls in the garden,—those boatings on the blue sea,—that blessed trip to Lampedusa! Oh that she could recall one minute, only one, of that past!  74
  Vain yearnings, vain imaginings! Unrelenting time rolls on, the day is come, the very hour of departure is at hand, and Lucy has found no opportunity of unburdening her heart. She sits on her invalid-chair looking vacantly before her, as though in a dream; Aubrey and Antonio stand in the balcony and discuss the English policy in India, Antonio with a very pale face and unwonted animation of manner; Sir John paces the room, meditating a farewell speech, casting now and then a disconsolate glance at his daughter; Hutchins is bustling up and down, in and out, in a state of flurry and excitement; John Ducket left for Nice in the morning to make room for the captain in the rumble; and poor Hutchins has been working for two. She announces that the horses are to the carriage. “Now, Lucy,” says the baronet encouragingly. Aubrey is already at his sister’s side, and helps her to rise. Hutchins has noticed a small basket hanging on Lucy’s arm, and offers to carry it for her; Lucy draws it back hurriedly, and frowns on her maid. A handful of poor withered, almost colorless flowers, once so blue,—such is the treasure she clings to so closely.  75
  As Sir John and the doctor go down the steps, followed by Aubrey and Miss Davenne, a number of persons assembled in the garden take off their hats and caps and wave them in the air. Sir John’s tongue cleaves to his palate, and he gives up his speech. He even thinks it prudent to proceed to the shaking of hands in silence. Those who choose to kiss his hand—Prospero, his younger brother, their aged mother—all are free to do so now. Sir John offers no resistance. Meanwhile Aubrey hurries Lucy on to the little gate where the carriage is waiting. Rosa and Speranza, and a little in the rear, Battista, are crying like fountains. Lucy returns half unconsciously the warm caresses of the two women, who kiss her hands and clothes, and cling desperately to their young benefactress, until Aubrey with an oath jerks her into the carriage. Antonio helps the baronet in. “Pleasant journey, Sir John; buon viaggio, signorina, take care of yourself.” The signorina does not say a word, does not smile, does not bow, but stares at the kind face—the kind face that dares not even smile, alas! for it feels the evil eye resting on it. A clack from the postilion; a shout from the assembled bystanders, “Buon viaggio, il signore gli accompagni;”—the ponderous machine rolls up the lane, and the kind face disappears. Lucy arouses from her trance: “Papa, are we going?” and she bursts into a passion of tears. It was like the giving way of a dam in a river. Papa fairly gives way too, hugs the suffering child to his bosom, and father and daughter mingle their tears. While this passes within, Aubrey, in the rumble, lights a fresh cigar from the one he had been smoking.  76
  Those left behind stood on the highway watching the fast diminishing carriage. They watched till it disappeared. Poor Antonio was sick at heart, and would fain throw off his mask. But no: he must listen to the idle verbiage of the count and the mayor, who insisted on accompanying him home. He reached it at last, threw himself upon his bed, and—man is but man after all—wept like a child.  77
 
 
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