By and by Barbara, her eyes dark with unwonted feeling, turned impulsively to her sister and began to talk of that which had been so often in her mind,—her visit to Howard just before he died. Something now impelled her to tell that of which she had before kept silence. Her voice trembled as she described the scene—the eyes that spoke so much when the voice was already forever silent—and the wonderful love she saw in them when she gave the tender kiss.
“He did love you, did he not, Bab dear?” said Bettina, in a hushed, awestricken voice.
“Should you ever have loved him?” she asked timidly after a pause, looking at her sister as if she were invested with a new, strange dignity, that in some way set her apart and hallowed her.
“No, dear, I am sure—not as he loved me. I wish, oh! so much, that I could have made him happy; but since I know that could never have been, do you know, Betty, I am beginning to be glad that he has gone from us; that I can never give him any more pain. I never before dreamed what it may be to love. You know, Betty, we have never had time to think of such things; we have been too young. Somehow,” and her fingers caressed the roses in her belt, “things seem different lately.”
From court to the cottage,
In bower and in hall,
From the king unto the beggar,
Love conquers all.
Though ne’er so stout and lordly,
Strive or do what you may,
Yet be you ne’er so hardy,
Love will find out the way.
[Illustration: RUINS OF FORUM, ROME.]
Mr. Sumner and Mrs. Douglas had been most fortunate in getting possession of extremely pleasant apartments close to the Pincio. These were in the very same house in which they had lived with their parents twenty years before, when Mrs. Douglas was a young girl of eighteen years. Here she had first met and learned to love young Kenneth Douglas, so that most tender memories clustered about the place, and she was glad that her children should learn to know it.
She soon began to pick up the old threads of life. “Ah me! what golden threads they then were,” she often sighed. Mr. Sumner was at home here in Rome almost as much as in Florence, and was busy for a time making and receiving calls from artist friends.
Malcom had his own private guide, and from morning until night they hardly saw him. He averred himself to be in the seventh heaven, and there was little need that he should proclaim the fact; it was evident enough. Julius Caesar’s Commentaries, Cicero’s Orations, Virgil, all Roman history were getting illuminated for him in such a way that they would never grow dim.
But at first the others felt sensibly the change from dear, familiar little Florence. Rome is so vast in her history, legend, and romance! The city was oppressive at near sight.