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I'll go up to the Piazza with you and see Cazzi."
The affair was easily arranged; Cazzi was made to feel, by the consul's intervention, that the shield of American sovereignty had been extended over the young girl whom he was to escort from Genoa, and two days later he arrived with her. Mrs. Elmore's attack was now passing off, and she was well enough to receive Miss Mayhew, half-recumbent on the sofa, where she had been prone till her arrival. It was pretty to see her fond greeting of the girl, and her joy in her presence as they sat down for the first long talk; and Elmore realized, even in his dreamy withdrawal, how much the bright, active spirit of his wife had suffered merely in the restriction of her English. Now, it was not only English they spoke, but that American variety of the language of which I hope we shall grow less and less ashamed; and not only this, but their parlance was characterized by local turns and accents which all came welcomely back to Mrs. Elmore, together with those still more intimate inflections which belonged to her own particular circle of friends in the little town of Patmos, New York. Lily Mayhew was, of course, not of her own set, being five or six years younger; but women, more easily than men, ignore the disparities of age between themselves and their juniors, and, in Susy Stevens's absence, it seemed a sort of tribute to her to establish her sister in the affection which Mrs. Elmore had so long cherished. Their friendship had been of such a thoroughly trusted sort on both sides that Mrs. Stevens (the memorably brilliant Sue Mayhew in her girlish days) had felt perfectly free to act upon Mrs. Elmore's invitation to let Lily come out to her; and here the child was, as much at home as if she had just walked into Mrs. Elmore's parlor out of her sister's house in Patmos.
THEY briefly dispatched the facts relating to Miss Mayhew's voyage and her journey to Genoa, and came as quickly as they could to all those things which Mrs. Elmore was thirsting to learn about the town and its people.
"Is it much changed? I suppose it is," she sighed. "The war changes every
said Miss Mayhew. "But Patmos is gay, -perfectly delightful. We've got one of the camps there now; and such times as the girls have with the officers! We have lots of fun getting up things for the Sanitary. Hops on the parade-ground at the camp, and going out to see the prisoners-you never saw such a place."
The prisoners?" murmured Mrs. El
Why, yes!" cried Lily, with a gay laugh.. "Didn't you know that we had a prisoncamp, too? Some of the Southerners look
real nice. I pitied them," she added, with unabated gayety.
"Your sister wrote to me," said Mrs.. Elmore; "but I couldn't realize it, I suppose, and so I forgot it."
"Yes," pursued Lily, "and Frank Halsey's in command. You would never know by the way he walks that he had a cork leg. Of course he can't dance, though, poor fellow. He's pale, and he's perfectly fascinating. So's Dick Burton, with his empty sleeve; he's one of the recruiting officers, and there's nobody so popular with the girls. You can't think how funny it is, Professor Elmore, to see the old college buildings used for barracks. Dick says it's much livelier than it was when he was a student there."
"I suppose it must be," dreamily assented the professor. "Does he find plenty of volunteers ?"
"Well, you know," the young girl ex plained, "that the old style of volunteering is all over."
"No, I didn't know it."
"Yes. It's the bounties now that they rely upon, and they do say that it will come to the draft very soon. Some of the young men have gone to Canada. But everybody despises them. Oh, Mrs. Elmore, I should think you'd be so glad to have the professor off here, and honorably out of the way!"
"I'm dishonorably out of the way; I can never forgive myself for not going to the war," said Elmore.
"Why, how ridiculous!" cried Lily. Nobody feels that way about it now! As Dick Burton says, we've come down to business. I tell you, when you see arms and legs off in every direction, and women going about in black, you don't feel that it's such a romantic thing any more. There are mighty few engagements now, Mrs. Elmore, when a regiment sets off; no presen
'Oh, you don't notice the war much," | tation of revolvers in the town hall; and
some of the widows have got married again; and that I don't think is right. But what can they do, poor things? You remember Tom Friar's widow, Mrs. Elmore ?" "Tom Friar's widow! Is Tom Friar America seems changed, and the people dead?"
with it. We shouldn't have noticed it if we had staid there, but we feel it after this absence."
"I never realized it before, as I did from her babble! The letters have told us the same thing, but they were like the histories of other times. Camps, prisoners, barracks, mutilation, widowhood, death, sudden gains, social upheavals—it is the old, hideous story of war come true of our day and country. It's terrible!"
"She will miss the excitement," said Mrs. Elmore. "I don't know exactly what we shall do with her. Of course, she can't expect the attentions she's been used to in Patmos, with those young men."
Why, of course! One of the first. I think it was Ball's Bluff. Well, she's married. But she married his cousin, and, as Dick Burton says, that isn't so bad. Isn't it awful, Mrs. Clapp's losing all her boysall five of them? It does seem to bear too hard on some families. And then, when you see every one of those six Armstrongs going through without a scratch!"
"I suppose," said Elmore, "that business is at a stand-still. The streets must look rather dreary."
"Business at a stand-still!" exclaimed Lily. "What has Sue been writing you all this time? Why, there never was such prosperity in Patmos before! Everybody is making money, and people that you wouldn't hardly speak to a year ago are giving parties and inviting the old college families. You ought to see the residences and business blocks going up all over the place. I don't suppose you would know Patmos now. You remember George Fenton, Mrs. Elmore?'
"Mr. Haskell's clerk ?"
"Yes. Well, he's made a fortune out of an army contract; and he's going to marry -the engagement came out just before I left-Bella Stearns."
At these words Mrs. Elmore sat upright, -the only posture in which the fact could be imagined. "Lily!"
"Oh, I can tell you these are gay times in America," triumphed the young girl. She now put her hand to her mouth and hid a yawn.
"You're sleepy," said Mrs. Elmore. "Well, you know the way to your room. You'll find everything ready there, and I shall let you go alone. You shall commence being at home at once."
"Yes, I am sleepy," assented Lily; and she promptly made her good-nights and vanished; though a keener eye than Elmore's might have seen that her promptness had a color or say light-of hesitation in it.
But he only walked up and down the room, after she was gone, in unheedful distress.
"Gay times in America! Good heavens! Is the child utterly heartless, Celia, or is she merely obtuse?"
"She certainly isn't at all like Sue," sighed
Mrs. Elmore, who had not had time to formulate Lily's defense. "But she's excited now, and a little off her balance. She'll be different to-morrow. Besides, all
Elmore stopped, and stared at his wife. "What do you mean, Celia ?"
"We don't go into society at all, and she doesn't speak Italian. How shall we amuse her?"
"Well, upon my word, I don't know that we're obliged to provide her amusement! Let her amuse herself. Let her take up some branch of study, or of-of-research, and get something besides 'fun' into her head, if possible." He spoke boldly, but his wife's question had unnerved him, for he had a soft heart, and liked people about him to be happy. "We can show her the objects of interest. And there are the theaters," he added.
"Yes, that is true," said Mrs. Elmore. "We can both go about with her. I will just peep in at her now, and see if she has everything she wants." She rose from her sofa and went to Lily's room, whence she did not return for nearly three-quarters of an hour. By this time Elmore had got out his notes, and, in their transcription and classification, had fallen into forgetfulness of his troubles. His wife closed the door behind her, and said, in a low voice, little above a whisper, as she sank very quietly into a chair:
Why, it's no use even to discuss that, for it's perfectly absurd to suppose that it could ever come to that. But the case," added Mrs. Elmore, perceiving that further delay was only further suffering for her husband, and that any fact would now probably fall far short of his apprehensions, "is simply this, and I don't know that it amounts to anything; but at Peschiera, just before the train started, she looked out of the window, and saw a splendid officer walking up and down and smoking; and before she could draw back he must have seen her, for he threw away his cigar instantly, and got into the same compartment. He talked awhile in German with an old gentleman who was there, and then he spoke in Italian with Cazzi; and afterward, when he heard her speaking English with Cazzi, he joined in. I don't know how he came to join in at first, and she doesn't, either; but it seems that he knew some English, and he began speaking. He was very tall and handsome and distinguished looking, and a perfect gentleman in his manners; and she says that she saw Cazzi looking rather queer, but he didn't say anything, and so she kept on talking. She told him at once that she was an American, and that she was coming here to stay with friends; and, as he was very curious about America, she told him
all she could think of. It did her good to talk about home, for she had been feeling a little blue at being so far away from everybody. Now, I don't see any harm in it; do you, Owen ?"
"It isn't according to the custom here; but we needn't care for that. Of course it was imprudent."
"Of course," Mrs. Elmore admitted. "The officer was very polite; and when he found that she was from America, it turned out that he was a great sympathizer with the North, and that he had a brother in our army. Don't you think that was nice ?"
Probably some mere soldier of fortune, with no heart in the cause," said Elmore.
"And very likely he has no brother there, as I told Lily. He told her he was coming to Padua; but when they reached Padua, he came right on to Venice. That shows you couldn't place any dependence upon what he said. He said he expected to be put under arrest for it; but he didn't care,— he was coming. Do you believe they'll put him under arrest?"
"I don't know-I don't know," said Elmore, in a voice of grief and apprehension, which might well have seemed anxiety for the officer's liberty.
"I told her it was one of his jokes. He was very funny, and kept her laughing the whole way, with his broken English and his witty little remarks. She says he's just dying to go to America. Who do you suppose it can be, Owen ?”
"How should I know? We've no acquaintance among the Austrians," groaned Elmore.
"That's what I told Lily. She's no idea of the state of things here, and she was quite horrified. But she says he was a perfect gentleman in everything. He belongs to the engineer corps,-that's one of the highest branches of the service, he told her, and he gave her his card." "Gave her his card!"
Mrs. Elmore had it in the hand which she had been keeping in her pocket, and she now suddenly produced it; and Elmore read the name and address of Ernst von Ehrhardt, Captain of the Royal-Imperial Engineers, Peschiera.
"She says she knows he wanted hers, but she didn't offer to give it to him; and he didn't ask her where she was going, or anything."
"He knew that he could get her address from Cazzi for ten soldi as soon as her back was turned," said Elmore, cynically. "What then ?"
"Why, he said-and this is the only really bold thing he did do—that he must see her again, and that he should stay over a day in Venice in hopes of meeting her at the theater or somewhere."
"It's a piece of high-handed impudence!" cried Elmore. "Now, Celia, you see what these people are! Do you wonder that the Italians hate them? "
"You've often said they only hate their system."
"The Austrians are part of their system. He thinks he can take any liberty with us because he is an Austrian officer! Lily must not stir out of the house to-morrow.' "She will be too tired to do so," said Mrs. Elmore.
"Who has asked you to receive him, Owen? And as for the Italians dropping us, that doesn't frighten me. But what could he do if he did meet her again? She needn't look at him. She says he is very intelligent, and that he has read a great many English books, though he doesn't speak it very well, and that he knows more about the war than she does. But of course she wont go out to-morrow. All that I hate is that we should seem to be frightened into staying at home."
"She needn't stay in on his account. You said she would be too tired to go out."
"I see by the scattering way you talk, Owen, that your mind isn't on the subject, and that you're anxious to get back to your work. I wont keep you."
"Celia, Celia! Be fair, now!" cried Elmore. "You know very well that I'm only too deeply interested in this matter, and that I'm not likely to get back to my work to-night, at least. What is it you wish me to do?"
Mrs. Elmore considered a while.
"I don't wish you to do anything," she returned, placably. "Of course, you're perfectly right in not choosing to let an acquaintance begun in that way go any further. We shouldn't at home, and we sha'n't here. But I don't wish you to think that Lily has been imprudent, under the circumstances. She doesn't know that it was anything out of the way, but she happened to do the best that any one could. Of course it was very exciting and very romantic; girls like such things, and there's no reason they shouldn't. We must manage," added Mrs. Elmore, "so that she shall see that we appreciate her conduct, and trust in her entirely. I wouldn't do anything to wound her pride or self-confidence. I would rather send her out alone to-morrow."
"Of course," said Elmore.
"And if I were with her when she met him, I believe I should leave it entirely to her how to behave."
"Well," said Elmore, "you're not likely to be put to the test. He'll hardly force his way into the house, and she isn't going out."
"No," said Mrs. Elmore. She added, after a silence: "I'm trying to think whether I've ever seen him in Venice; he's here often. But there are so many tall officers with fair complexions and English beards. I should like to know how he looks! She said he was very aristocratic-looking."
"Yes, it's a fine type," said Elmore. "They're all nobles, I believe."
But, after all, they're no better looking than our boys, who come up out of nothing."
"Ours are Americans," said Elmore. "And they are the best husbands, as I told Lily."
Elmore looked at his wife, as she turned dreamily to leave the room; but, since the conversation had taken this impersonal turn, he would not say anything to change
its complexion. A conjecture, vaguely taking shape in his mind, resolved itself to nothing again, and left him with only the ache of something unascertained.
IN the morning Lily came to breakfast as blooming as a rose. The sense of her simple, fresh, wholesome loveliness might have pierced even the indifference of a man to whom there was but one pretty woman in the world, and who had lived since their marriage as if his wife had absorbed her whole sex into herself: this deep, unconscious constancy was a noble trait in him, but it is not so rare in men as women would have us believe. For Elmore, Miss Mayhew merely pervaded the place in her finer way, as the flowers on the table did, as the sweet butter, the new eggs, and the morning's French bread did; he looked at her with a perfectly serene ignorance of her piquant face, her beautiful eyes and abundant hair, and her trim, straight figure. But his wife exulted in every particular of her charm, and was as generously glad of it as if it were her own; as women are when they are sure that the charm of others has no designs.
The ladies twittered and laughed together, and as he was a man without small talk, he soon dropped out of the conversation into a reverie, from which he found himself presently extracted by a question from his wife.
"We had better go in a gondola, hadn't we, Owen ?" She seemed to be, as she put this, trying to look something into him.
He, on his part, tried his best to make out her meaning, but failed. He simply asked:
"Where? Are you going out?" "Yes. Lily has some shopping she must do. I think we can get it at Pazienti's, in San Polo."
Again she tried to pierce him with her meaning. It seemed to him a sudden advance from the position she had taken the night before in regard to Miss Mayhew's not going out; but he could not understand his wife's look, and he feared to misinterpret if he opposed her going. He decided that she wished him for some reason to oppose the gondola, so he said:
"I think you'd better walk, if Lily isn't too tired."
"Well, that will be very nice," said Mrs. Elmore, discontinuing her look, and leaving her husband with an uneasy sense of wantonly assumed responsibility.
"She can step into the Frari a moment, and see those tombs," he said. "I think it will amuse her."
"Oh, I'm not tired at all!" she cried. "I can go with you, in that direction, on my way to the library," he added.
Lily broke into a clear laugh.
"Is that the way you amuse yourselves in Venice?" she asked; and Mrs. Elmore hastened to re-assure her.
"That's the way Mr. Elmore amuses himself. You know his history makes every bit of the past fascinating to him."
"Oh, yes, that history! Everybody is looking out for that," said Lily.
"Is it possible," said Elmore, with a pensive sarcasm in which an agreeable sense of flattery lurked, "that people still remember me and my history?"
"Yes, indeed!" cried Miss Mayhew. "Frank Halsey was talking about it the night before I left. He couldn't seem to understand why I should be coming to you at Venice, because he said it was a history of Florence you were writing. It isn't, is it? You must be getting pretty near the end of it, Professor Elmore."
"I'm getting pretty near the beginning," said Elmore, sadly.
"It must be hard writing histories; they're so awfully hard to read," said Lily, innocently." Does it interest you?" she asked, with unaffected compassion.
"Yes," he said, "far more than it will ever interest anybody else."
"Oh, I don't believe that!" she cried, sweetly, seizing the occasion to get in a little compliment.
Mrs. Elmore sat silent, while things were thus going against Miss Mayhew, and perhaps she was then meditating the stroke by which she restored the balance to her own favor as soon as she saw her husband alone after breakfast. "Well, Owen," she said, "you've done it now."
"Done what?" he demanded.
"Oh, nothing, perhaps!" she answered, while she got on her things for the walk with unusual gayety; and, with the consciousness of unknown guilt depressing him, he followed the ladies upon their errand, subdued, distraught, but gradually forgetting his sin, as he forgot everything but his history. His wife hated to see him so miserable, and whispered at the shop-door where they parted: "Don't be troubled, Owen. I didn't mean anything."