O sollecito dubbio e
Che pensando l’accresci.
Tasso, Canzone vi.
(O anxious doubt and chilling fear that grows by thinking.)
She was seated outside her door,—the young actress! The sea before her in that heavenly bay seemed literally to sleep in the arms of the shore; while, to the right, not far off, rose the dark and tangled crags to which the traveller of to-day is duly brought to gaze on the tomb of Virgil, or compare with the cavern of Posilipo the archway of Highgate Hill. There were a few fisherman loitering by the cliffs, on which their nets were hung to dry; and at a distance the sound of some rustic pipe (more common at that day than at this), mingled now and then with the bells of the lazy mules, broke the voluptuous silence,—the silence of declining noon on the shores of Naples; never, till you have enjoyed it, never, till you have felt its enervating but delicious charm, believe that you can comprehend all the meaning of the Dolce far niente (The pleasure of doing nothing.); and when that luxury has been known, when you have breathed that atmosphere of fairy-land, then you will no longer wonder why the heart ripens into fruit so sudden and so rich beneath the rosy skies and the glorious sunshine of the South.
The eyes of the actress were fixed on the broad blue deep beyond. In the unwonted negligence of her dress might be traced the abstraction of her mind. Her beautiful hair was gathered up loosely, and partially bandaged by a kerchief whose purple colour served to deepen the golden hue of her tresses. A stray curl escaped and fell down the graceful neck. A loose morning-robe, girded by a sash, left the breeze. That came ever and anon from the sea, to die upon the bust half disclosed; and the tiny slipper, that Cinderella might have worn, seemed a world too wide for the tiny foot which it scarcely covered. It might be the heat of the day that deepened the soft bloom of the cheeks, and gave an unwonted languor to the large, dark eyes. In all the pomp of her stage attire,—in all the flush of excitement before the intoxicating lamps,—never had Viola looked so lovely.
By the side of the actress, and filling up the threshold,—stood Gionetta, with her arms thrust to the elbow in two huge pockets on either side of her gown.
“But I assure you,” said the nurse, in that sharp, quick, ear-splitting tone in which the old women of the South are more than a match for those of the North,—“but I assure you, my darling, that there is not a finer cavalier in all Naples, nor a more beautiful, than this Inglese; and I am told that all these Inglesi are much richer than they seem. Though they have no trees in their country, poor people! and instead of twenty-four they have only twelve hours to the day, yet I hear that they shoe their horses with scudi; and since they cannot (the poor heretics!) turn grapes into wine, for they have no grapes, they turn gold into physic, and take a glass or two of pistoles whenever they are troubled with the colic. But you don’t hear me, little pupil of my eyes,—you don’t hear me!”