But the signorino went up to the piano and shook hands with her.
“Little Mees Goneril,” he said, “you have the makings of an artist.”
The two old ladies stared, for after all Goneril’s performance had been very simple. You see they were better versed in music than in human nature.
SI VIEILLESSE POUVAIT!
Signor Graziano’s usual week of holiday passed and lengthened into almost two months, and still he stayed on at the villa. The two old ladies were highly delighted.
“At last he has taken my advice!” cried Miss Prunty. “I always told him those premature grey hairs came from late hours and Roman air.”
Madame Petrucci shook her head and gave a meaning smile. Her friendship with the signorino had begun when he was a lad and she a charming married woman; like many another friendship, it had begun with a flirtation, and perhaps (who knows?) she thought the flirtation had revived.
As for Goneril, she considered him the most charming old man she had ever known, and liked nothing so much as to go out a walk with him. That, indeed, was one of the signorino’s pleasures; he loved to take the young girl all over his gardens and vineyards, talking to her in the amiable, half-petting, half-mocking manner that he had adopted from the first. And twice a week he gave her a music lesson.
“She has a splendid organ!” he would say.
“Vous croyez?” fluted Madame Petrucci with the vilest accent and the most aggravating smile imaginable.
It was the one hobby of the signorino’s that she regarded with disrespect.
Goneril, too, was a little bored by the music lesson; but, on the other hand, the walks delighted her.
One day Goneril was out with her friend.
“Are the peasants very much afraid of you, signore?” she asked.
“Am I such a tyrant?” counter-questioned the signorino.
“No; but they are always begging me to ask you things. Angiolino wants to know if he may go for three days to see his uncle at Fiesole.”
“But why, then, don’t they ask you themselves? Is it they think me so cheeky?”
“Perhaps they think I can refuse you nothing.”
“Che! In that case they would ask Madame Petrucci.”
Goneril ran on to pick some china roses. The signorino stopped confounded.
“It is impossible!” he cried; “she cannot think I am in love with Giulia! She cannot think I am so old as that!”
The idea seemed horrible to him. He walked on very quickly till he came to Goneril, who was busy plucking roses in a hedge.
“For whom are those flowers?” he asked.
“Some are for you, and some are for Madame Petrucci.”
“She is a charming woman, Madame Petrucci.”
“A dear old lady,” murmured Goneril, much interested in her posy.