“Annunciata,” he called softly, rising to follow her.
“Signore Giovanni,” she exclaimed wonderingly but without the slightest trace of the emotion which had so recently agitated her. “You should not sit here in the garden so late. The air of the night is not good for the foreigner.”
“The air is good for me wherever you are, Annunciata,” he answered warmly. “Come and walk with me here down the long plane tree avenue. Take my arm. I have much to say to you:
’* * * In such a night
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,’ etc.
’In such a night,
Troilus, methinks, mounter! the Trojan walls,
And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents
Where Cressid lay that night.’”
She took the arm which he offered her silently, but with a simple dignity which a princess might have envied her.
“I cannot stay out long,” she said. “My mother would miss me.”
“I shall not detain you long. I have only a confession to make to you. I was sitting on the loggia this afternoon when Padre Gregorio came, and I heard what you said to him.”
He had expected her to blush or show some sign of embarrassment. But she only lifted her calm, clear countenance toward him and said:
“You were kinder and better than all the men I had known, and it gave me trouble to think that you should be unhappy when you die. Therefore I asked the padre; but I do not believe any more that the padre is always right. God is better and wiser than he, and God will find a way where a priest would find none.”
There was something inexpressibly touching in the way she uttered these simple words. Cranbrook, although he was, for reasons of his own, disappointed at her perfect composure, felt the tears mounting to his eyes, and his voice shook as he answered:
“I am not afraid of my lot in the next world, Annunciata; and although it is kind of you to be troubled about it, I fear you can do nothing to improve it. But my fate in this world I yearn to lay in your hands. I love you very dearly, Annunciata, and all I need to make me what I aspire to be is to have you give me a little affection in return. What do you say, Annunciata? do you think you could? Would you be my wife, and go with me to my own country and share my life, whatever it may be.”
“But signore,” she replied, after a moment’s deliberation; “my mother would not like it, and Babetta would cry the whole day long when I was gone.”