Nevertheless, for the last five years, Ginevra, grown wiser than her father, avoided such scenes. Her faithfulness, her devotion, the love which filled her every thought, and her admirable good sense had got the better of her temper. And yet, for all that, a very great evil had resulted from her training; Ginevra lived with her father and mother on the footing of an equality which is always dangerous.
Piombo and his wife, persons without education, had allowed Ginevra to study as she pleased. Following her caprices as a young girl, she had studied all things for a time, and then abandoned them,—taking up and leaving each train of thought at will, until, at last, painting had proved to be her dominant passion. Ginevra would have made a noble woman had her mother been capable of guiding her studies, of enlightening her mind, and bringing into harmony her gifts of nature; her defects came from the fatal education which the old Corsican had found delight in giving her.
After marching up and down the room for some time, Piombo rang the bell; a servant entered.
“Go and meet Mademoiselle Ginevra,” said his master.
“I always regret our carriage on her account,” remarked the baroness.
“She said she did not want one,” replied Piombo, looking at his wife, who, accustomed for forty years to habits of obedience, lowered her eyes and said no more.
Already a septuagenarian, tall, withered, pale, and wrinkled, the baroness exactly resembled those old women whom Schnetz puts into the Italian scenes of his “genre” pictures. She was so habitually silent that she might have been taken for another Mrs. Shandy; but, occasionally, a word, look, or gesture betrayed that her feelings still retained all the vigor and the freshness of their youth. Her dress, devoid of coquetry, was often in bad taste. She usually sat passive, buried in a low sofa, like a Sultana Valide, awaiting or admiring her Ginevra, her pride, her life. The beauty, toilet, and grace of her daughter seemed to have become her own. All was well with her if Ginevra was happy. Her hair was white, and a few strands only were seen above her white and wrinkled forehead, or beside her hollow cheeks.
“It is now fifteen days,” she said, “since Ginevra made a practice of being late.”
“Jean is so slow!” cried the impatient old man, buttoning up his blue coat and seizing his hat, which he dashed upon his head as he took his cane and departed.
“You will not get far,” said his wife, calling after him.
As she spoke, the porte-cochere was opened and shut, and the old mother heard the steps of her Ginevra in the court-yard. Bartolomeo almost instantly reappeared, carrying his daughter, who struggled in his arms.
“Here she is, my Ginevra, Ginevrettina, Ginevrola, mia Ginevra bella!” cried the old man.