“What think you, then?” I said. “Will you remain here or will you absent yourself for a few days?”
She rose from her chair and approaching me, knelt down at my side, clasping her two little hands round my arm. “With your permission,” she returned, softly, “I will go to the convent where I was educated. It is some eight or ten miles distant from here, and I think” (here she counterfeited the most wonderful expression of ingenuous sweetness and piety)—“I think I should like to make a ’retreat’—that is, devote some time solely to the duties of religion before I enter upon a second marriage. The dear nuns would be so glad to see me—and I am sure you will not object? It will be a good preparation for my future.”
I seized her caressing hands and held them hard, while I looked upon her kneeling there like the white-robed figure of a praying saint.
“It will indeed!” I said in a harsh voice. “The best of all possible preparations! We none of us know what may happen—we cannot tell whether life or death awaits us—it is wise to prepare for either by words of penitence and devotion! I admire this beautiful spirit in you, carina! Go to the convent by all means! I shall find you there and will visit you when the wrath and bitterness of our friend Ferrari have been smoothed into silence and resignation. Yes—go to the convent, among the good and pious nuns—and when you pray for yourself, pray for the peace of your dead husband’s soul—and—for me! Such prayers, unselfish and earnest, uttered by pure lips like yours, fly swiftly to heaven! And as for young Guido—have no fear— I promise you he shall offend you no more!”
“Ah, you do not know him!” she murmured, lightly kissing my hands that still held hers; “I fear he will give you a great deal of trouble.”
“I shall at any rate know how to silence him,” I said, releasing her as I spoke, and watching her as she rose from her kneeling position and stood before me, supple and delicate as a white iris swaying in the wind. “You never gave him reason to hope—therefore he has no cause of complaint.”
“True!” she replied, readily, with an untroubled smile. “But I am such a nervous creature! I am always imagining evils that never happen. And now, Cesare, when do you wish me to go to the convent?”
I shrugged my shoulders with an air of indifference.
“Your submission to my will, mia bella” I said, coldly, “is altogether charming, and flatters me much, but I am not your master--not yet! Pray choose your own time, and suit your departure to your own pleasure.”
“Then,” she replied, with an air of decision, “I will go today. The sooner the better—for some instinct tells me that Guido will play us a trick and return before we expect him. Yes—I will go to-day.”
I rose to take my leave. “Then you will require leisure to make your preparations,” I said, with ceremonious politeness. “I assure you I approve your resolve. If you inform the superioress of the convent that I am your betrothed husband, I suppose I shall be permitted to see you when I call?”