O, be gone!
By Heaven, I love thee better than myself,
For I came hither armed against myself.
—“Romeo and Juliet.”
The young actress and Gionetta had returned from the theatre; and Viola fatigued and exhausted, had thrown herself on a sofa, while Gionetta busied herself with the long tresses which, released from the fillet that bound them, half-concealed the form of the actress, like a veil of threads of gold. As she smoothed the luxuriant locks, the old nurse ran gossiping on about the little events of the night, the scandal and politics of the scenes and the tireroom. Gionetta was a worthy soul. Almanzor, in Dryden’s tragedy of “Almahide,” did not change sides with more gallant indifference than the exemplary nurse. She was at last grieved and scandalised that Viola had not selected one chosen cavalier. But the choice she left wholly to her fair charge. Zegri or Abencerrage, Glyndon or Zanoni, it had been the same to her, except that the rumours she had collected respecting the latter, combined with his own recommendations of his rival, had given her preference to the Englishman. She interpreted ill the impatient and heavy sigh with which Viola greeted her praises of Glyndon, and her wonder that he had of late so neglected his attentions behind the scenes, and she exhausted all her powers of panegyric upon the supposed object of the sigh. “And then, too,” she said, “if nothing else were to be said against the other signor, it is enough that he is about to leave Naples.”
“Yes, darling! In passing by the Mole to-day, there was a crowd round some outlandish-looking sailors. His ship arrived this morning, and anchors in the bay. The sailors say that they are to be prepared to sail with the first wind; they were taking in fresh stores. They—”
“Leave me, Gionetta! Leave me!”
The time had already passed when the girl could confide in Gionetta. Her thoughts had advanced to that point when the heart recoils from all confidence, and feels that it cannot be comprehended. Alone now, in the principal apartment of the house, she paced its narrow boundaries with tremulous and agitated steps: she recalled the frightful suit of Nicot,—the injurious taunt of Glyndon; and she sickened at the remembrance of the hollow applauses which, bestowed on the actress, not the woman, only subjected her to contumely and insult. In that room the recollection of her father’s death, the withered laurel and the broken chords, rose chillingly before her. Hers, she felt, was a yet gloomier fate,—the chords may break while the laurel is yet green. The lamp, waning in its socket, burned pale and dim, and her eyes instinctively turned from the darker corner of the room. Orphan, by the hearth of thy parent, dost thou fear the presence of the dead!