“And why,” she asked, when she descended to the room below,—“why, my father, was your inspiration so sad, after the joy of last night?”
“I know not, child. I meant to be merry, and compose an air in honour of thee; but he is an obstinate fellow, this,—and he would have it so.”
E cosi i pigri e timidi
“Gerusal. Lib.,” cant. iv. lxxxviii.
(And thus the slow and timid passions urged.)
It was the custom of Pisani, except when the duties of his profession made special demand on his time, to devote a certain portion of the mid-day to sleep,—a habit not so much a luxury as a necessity to a man who slept very little during the night. In fact, whether to compose or to practice, the hours of noon were precisely those in which Pisani could not have been active if he would. His genius resembled those fountains full at dawn and evening, overflowing at night, and perfectly dry at the meridian. During this time, consecrated by her husband to repose, the signora generally stole out to make the purchases necessary for the little household, or to enjoy (as what woman does not?) a little relaxation in gossip with some of her own sex. And the day following this brilliant triumph, how many congratulations would she have to receive!
At these times it was Viola’s habit to seat herself without the door of the house, under an awning which sheltered from the sun without obstructing the view; and there now, with the prompt-book on her knee, on which her eye roves listlessly from time to time, you may behold her, the vine-leaves clustering from their arching trellis over the door behind, and the lazy white-sailed boats skimming along the sea that stretched before.
As she thus sat, rather in reverie than thought, a man coming from the direction of Posilipo, with a slow step and downcast eyes, passed close by the house, and Viola, looking up abruptly, started in a kind of terror as she recognised the stranger. She uttered an involuntary exclamation, and the cavalier turning, saw, and paused.
He stood a moment or two between her and the sunlit ocean, contemplating in a silence too serious and gentle for the boldness of gallantry, the blushing face and the young slight form before him; at length he spoke.
“Are you happy, my child,” he said, in almost a paternal tone, “at the career that lies before you? From sixteen to thirty, the music in the breath of applause is sweeter than all the music your voice can utter!”
“I know not,” replied Viola, falteringly, but encouraged by the liquid softness of the accents that addressed her,—“I know not whether I am happy now, but I was last night. And I feel, too, Excellency, that I have you to thank, though, perhaps, you scarce know why!”
“You deceive yourself,” said the cavalier, with a smile. “I am aware that I assisted to your merited success, and it is you who scarce know how. The why I will tell you: because I saw in your heart a nobler ambition than that of the woman’s vanity; it was the daughter that interested me. Perhaps you would rather I should have admired the singer?”