But other recollections awakened by this survey gave him pause and pointed to mysteries as yet unguessed. For was it possible that this tender-natured woman, who had mourned her husband so bitterly but nine months before, could now enter with such light-hearted joy into union with another man? Was it reasonable to see Jenny Pendean, as he remembered her in the agony of her bereavement, already the happy and contented bride of one a stranger to her until so recently?
It was indeed possible, because it had happened; but reasons for so untimely an event existed. They might, if understood, absolve the widow for an apparent levity not consonant with her true and steadfast self. It cast him down, almost as much as his own vanished dream and everlasting loss, that hard-hearted love could work such a miracle and banish the wedded past of this woman’s life so completely in favour of a doubtful future with a foreign spouse.
There were things hidden, and he felt a great desire to penetrate them for the credit of the woman he had loved so well.
Dawn had broken over Italy and morning, in honeysuckle colours, burned upon the mountain mists. Far beneath a lofty hillside the world still slumbered and the Larian lake, a jewel of gold and turquoise, shone amid her flowery margins. The hour was very silent; the little towns and hamlets scattered beside Como, like clusters of white and rosy shells, dreamed on until thin music broke from their campaniles. Bell answered bell and made a girdle of harmony about the lake, floating along the water and ascending aloft until no louder than the song of birds.
Two women climbed together up the great acclivity of Griante. One was brown and elderly, clad in black with an orange rag wrapped about her brow—a sturdy, muscular creature who carried a great, empty wicker basket upon her shoulders; the other was clad in a rosy jumper of silk: she flashed in the morning fires and brought an added beauty to that beautiful scene.
Jenny ascended the mountain as lightly as a butterfly. She was lovelier than ever in the morning light, yet a misty doubt, a watchful sadness, seemed to hover upon her forehead. Her wonderful eyes looked ahead up the precipitous tract that she and the Italian woman climbed together. She moderated her pace to the slower gait of the elder and presently they both stopped before a little grey chapel perched beside the hill path.
Mr. Albert Redmayne’s silkworms, in the great airy shed behind his villa, had nearly all spun their cocoons now, for it was June again and the annual crop of mulberry leaves in the valleys beneath were well-nigh exhausted.
Therefore Assunta Marzelli, the old bibliophile’s housekeeper, made holiday with his niece, now upon a visit to him, and together the women climbed, where food might be procured for the last tardy caterpillars to change their state.