When she came back her eyes were sparkling and her cheeks were flushed, and, that night, when she took away her black and white whimple and gorget on going to bed, she stood before a looking-glass and wound her beautiful light hair round her finger and curled it over her forehead in the way it was worn by the ladies we saw in the streets.
I think it was two nights later that she told me I was to go to bed early because Father Giovanni was not well and she would have to go over to see him.
She went, and I got into bed, but I could not sleep, and while I lay waiting for Sister Angela I listened to some men who as they crossed the piazza were singing, in tremulous voices, to their mandolines and guitars, what I believed to be love songs, for I had begun to learn Italian.
“Oh bella Napoli.
Oh suol beato
Onde soiridere volta il creato.”
It was late when Sister Angela came back and then she was breathing hard as if she had been running. I asked if Father Giovanni’s sickness was worse, and she said no, it was better, and I was to say nothing about it. But she could not rest and at last she said:
“Didn’t we forget to say our prayers, Mary?”
So I got up again and Sister Angela said one of the beautiful prayers out of our prayer-book. But her voice was very low and when she came to the words:
“O Father of all mankind, forgive all sinners who repent of their sins,” she broke down altogether.
I thought she was ill, but she said it was only a cold she had caught in crossing the garden and I was to go to sleep like a good girl and think no more about her.
But in the middle of the night I awoke, and Sister Angela was crying.
Most of the girls were depressed when they returned to school, but Alma was in high spirits, and on the first night of the term she crept over to my bed and asked what we had been doing during the holidays.
“Not a thing, eh?”
I answered that we had done lots of things and been very happy.
“Happy? In this gloomy old convent? You and Sister Angela alone?”
I told her we had two lay sisters-and then there was Father Giovanni.
“Father Giovanni? That serious old cross-bones?”
I said he was not always serious, and that on Christmas Day he had come to tea and kissed me under the mistletoe.
“Kissed you under the mistletoe!” said Alma, and then she whispered eagerly,
“He didn’t kiss Sister Angela, did he?”
I suppose I was flattered by her interest, and this loosened my tongue, for I answered:
“He kissed her hand, though.”
“Kissed her hand? My! . . . Of course she was very angry . . . wasn’t she angry?”
I answered no, and in my simplicity I proceeded to prove this by explaining that Sister Angela had taken Father Giovanni down to the door, and when he was ill she had nursed him.