Glyndon, with a little embarrassment, accepted the compliment to his kindness, which he did not exactly deserve. “You have thought, then, of me, fair Fillide?”
“Yes,” answered the girl, colouring, but with that frank, bold ingenuousness, which characterises the females of Italy, especially of the lower class, and in the southern provinces,—“oh, yes! I have thought of little else. Paolo said he knew you would visit me.”
“And what relation is Paolo to you?”
“None; but a good friend to us all. My brother is one of his band.”
“One of his band!—a robber?”
“We of the mountains do not call a mountaineer ‘a robber,’ signor.”
“I ask pardon. Do you not tremble sometimes for your brother’s life? The law—”
“Law never ventures into these defiles. Tremble for him! No. My father and grandsire were of the same calling. I often wish I were a man!”
“By these lips, I am enchanted that your wish cannot be realised.”
“Fie, signor! And do you really love me?”
“With my whole heart!”
“And I thee!” said the girl, with a candour that seemed innocent, as she suffered him to clasp her hand.
“But,” she added, “thou wilt soon leave us; and I—” She stopped short, and the tears stood in her eyes.
There was something dangerous in this, it must be confessed. Certainly Fillide had not the seraphic loveliness of Viola; but hers was a beauty that equally at least touched the senses. Perhaps Glyndon had never really loved Viola; perhaps the feelings with which she had inspired him were not of that ardent character which deserves the name of love. However that be, he thought, as he gazed on those dark eyes, that he had never loved before.
“And couldst thou not leave thy mountains?” he whispered, as he drew yet nearer to her.
“Dost thou ask me?” she said, retreating, and looking him steadfastly in the face. “Dost thou know what we daughters of the mountains are? You gay, smooth cavaliers of cities seldom mean what you speak. With you, love is amusement; with us, it is life. Leave these mountains! Well! I should not leave my nature.”
“Keep thy nature ever,—it is a sweet one.”
“Yes, sweet while thou art true; stern, if thou art faithless. Shall I tell thee what I—what the girls of this country are? Daughters of men whom you call robbers, we aspire to be the companions of our lovers or our husbands. We love ardently; we own it boldly. We stand by your side in danger; we serve you as slaves in safety: we never change, and we resent change. You may reproach, strike us, trample us as a dog,—we bear all without a murmur; betray us, and no tiger is more relentless. Be true, and our hearts reward you; be false, and our hands revenge! Dost thou love me now?”
During this speech the Italian’s countenance had most eloquently aided her words,—by turns soft, frank, fierce,—and at the last question she inclined her head humbly, and stood, as in fear of his reply, before him. The stern, brave, wild spirit, in which what seemed unfeminine was yet, if I may so say, still womanly, did not recoil, it rather captivated Glyndon. He answered readily, briefly, and freely, “Fillide,—yes!”