“Good Lord, what fools men are!” she ejaculated. “And do you think, now, I’m going to let that girl, who’s but just getting rid of her malaria, go star-gazing with any old idiot while all the mists are curling out of the valleys?”
“Brigida, my love, you forget yourself,” said Madame Petrucci.
“Bah!” cried the signorino. He was evidently out of temper.
The little lady hastened to smooth the troubled waters. “Talking of malaria,” she began in her serenest manner, “I always remember what my dearest Madame Lilli told me. It was at one of Prince Teano’s concerts. You remember, signorino?”
“Che! How should I remember,” he exclaimed. “It is a lifetime ago, dead and forgotten.”
The old lady shrank, as if a glass of water had been rudely thrown in her face. She said nothing, staring blindly.
“Go to bed, Goneril!” cried Miss Prunty in a voice of thunder.
* * * * *
BIRDS OF A FEATHER.
A few mornings after these events the postman brought a letter for Goneril. This was such a rare occurrence that she blushed rose red at the very sight of it, and had to walk up and down the terrace several times before she felt calm enough to read it. Then she went upstairs and knocked at the door of Madame Petrucci’s room.
“Come in, little bird.”
The old lady, in pink merino and curl-papers, opened the door. Goneril held up her letter.
“My cousin Jack is coming to Florence, and he is going to walk over to see me this afternoon. And may he stay to dinner, cara signora?”
“Why, of course, Gonerilla. I am charmed!”
Goneril kissed the old lady, and danced downstairs brimming over with delight.
Later in the morning Signor Graziano called.
“Will you come out with me, Mees Goneril,” he said; “on my land the earliest vintage begins to-day.”
“Oh, how nice!” she cried.
“Come, then,” said the signorino, smiling.
“Oh, I can’t come to-day, because of Jack.”
“My cousin: he may come any time.”
“Your cousin?” the signorino frowned a little. “Ah, you English,” he said, “you consider all your cousins brothers and sisters!”
“Is it not so?” he asked a little anxiously.
“Jack is much nicer than my brothers,” said the young girl.
“And who is he, this Jack?”
“He’s a dear boy,” said Goneril, “and very clever; he is going home for the Indian Civil Service Exam; he has been out to Calcutta to see my father.”
The signorino did not pay any attention to the latter part of this description, but he appeared to find the beginning very satisfactory.
“So he is only a boy,” he muttered to himself, and went away comparatively satisfied.