“About noon next Saturday,” she said, scarcely audibly, “I shall be in the Piazza del Fiori. My father will be there, too.”
With a swift movement she tore the garden-gate open, slammed it behind her and ran up the path toward the terrace.
March, the very name of which makes a New Englander shiver, is a glorious month in Rome. Then a warmer tone steals into the sky, the clouds become airier and more buoyant in color and outline, and the Sabine Mountains display, with the varying moods of the day, tints of the most exquisite softness and delicacy. Cranbrook, from his lofty hermitage, had an excellent opportunity to observe this ever-changing panorama of earth and sky; but it had lost its charm to him. The long, cool vistas between the cloud-banks no more lifted the mind above itself, pointing the way into a great and glorious future. A vague dread was perpetually haunting him; he feared that Annunciata did not love him as he wished to be loved; that she regretted, perhaps, having bound herself to him and was not unwilling to break loose from him. But what was life to him without Annunciata? He must bide his time, and by daily kindness teach her to love him. That she was not happy might have other causes, unknown to him. Her vehement self-accusations and tearful protestations that she was not true to him might be merely the manifestations of a morbidly sensitive conscience.
Vincent in the meanwhile had changed his attitude completely toward the old masters. After his first meeting with Annunciata, his artistic sense had been singularly quickened. He might be seen almost daily wending his way, with a red-covered Baedeker under his arm, to the gate of a certain villa, where he would breathe the musty air of the deserted gallery for hours together, gaze abstractedly out of the windows, and sometimes, when he was observed, even make a pretence of sketching. Usually it was Monna Nina or Pietro who came to open the gate for him on such occasions, but, at rare intervals, it happened that Annunciata was sent to be his cicerone. She always met him with fear and trembling, but so irresistible was the fascination which he exerted over her, that he seemed to be able to change her mood at will. When he greeted her with his lazy smile her heart gave a great thump, and she laughed responsively, almost in spite of herself. If he scowled, which he was sometimes pleased to do when Monna Nina or Pietro had taken her place for several successive days, she looked apprehensive and inquired about his health. The costly presents of jewelry which he had given her, she hid guiltily in the most secret drawer of her chest, and then sat up late into the night and rejoiced and wept over them.