She did not realize this. But the absorbing study she was giving to the old pictures, the intensity of which was surprising to Bettina, was an indication of it. Her quick endeavor to follow any line of thought suggested by Mr. Sumner—and her restlessness when she saw the long conversations he and Miss Sherman would so often hold, were others. It seemed to her lately as if Miss Sherman were always claiming his time and attention—even their visit to Santa Maria del Carmine to study the frescoes by Masaccio, who was the next artist they were to learn about, had been postponed because she wished Mrs. Douglas and Mr. Sumner to go somewhere with her. Barbara did not like it very well.
But to Howard she gave little thought when she was away from him. He was kind, his flowers were sweet, but they were all over the house,—given to others as well as to herself. It was very good of him to take herself and Betty in his fine new carriage so often; but, perhaps,—if he did not so continually ask them,—perhaps,—they would oftener drive with Mr. Sumner and Malcom; and she knew Betty would like that better, as well as she herself.
She was often annoyed because he evidently “admired” her so much, as Betty called it, and did wish he would not look at her as he sometimes did; and she felt very sensitively the signs of irritation that were so apparent in him when anything prevented them from being with him as he wished. But she was very sorry for his loneliness; for his exile from home on account of ill-health; for the weakness that he often felt and for which no pleasures purchased by money could compensate. She was grateful for his kindness, and would not wound him for the world; so she frankly and graciously accepted all he gave, and, in return, tried to bring all the happiness she could into his days.
the fight begins within himself,
A man’s worth something. God stoops o’er his head,
Satan looks up beneath his feet—both tug—
He’s left, himself, i’ the middle: the soul wakes
[Illustration: PONTE ALLA CARRAJA, FLORENCE.]
At last the morning came when the postponed visit to Santa Maria del Carmine, on the other side of the Arno, was to be made. Miss Sherman had so evidently desired to join in the study of the old painters that Mrs. Douglas suggested to her brother that she be invited to do so, but he had thought it not best.
“The others would not be so free to talk,” he said. “I do not wish any constraint. Now we are only a family party,—with the exception of Howard, and I confess that I sometimes wish he did not join us in this.” Malcom was again with them, for the first time since they were at Fiesole, and this was enough to make the occasion a particularly joyous one.