Yet another drop of honey was added to my cup of sweetness. On the first morning of May, 1882, our child was born—a girl-babe, fair as one of the white anemones which at that season grew thickly in the woods surrounding out home. They brought the little one to me in the shaded veranda where I sat at breakfast with Guido—a tiny, almost shapeless bundle, wrapped in soft cashmere and old lace. I took the fragile thing in my arms with a tender reverence; it opened its eyes; they were large and dark like Nina’s, and the light of a recent heaven seemed still to linger in their pure depths. I kissed the little face; Guido did the same; and those clear, quiet eyes regarded us both with a strange half-inquiring solemnity. A bird perched on a bough of jasmine broke into a low, sweet song, the soft wind blew and scattered the petals of a white rose at our feet. I gave the infant back to the nurse, who waited to receive it, and said, with a smile, “Tell my wife we have welcomed her May-blossom.”
Guido laid his hand on my shoulder as the servant retired; his face was unusually pale.
“Thou art a good fellow, Fabio!” he said, abruptly.
“Indeed! How so?” I asked, half laughingly; “I am no better than other men.”
“You are less suspicious than the majority,” he returned, turning away from me and playing idly with a spray of clematis that trailed on one of the pillars of the veranda.
I glanced at him in surprise. “What do you mean, amico? Have I reason to suspect any one?”
He laughed and resumed his seat at the breakfast-table.
“Why, no!” he answered, with a frank look. “But in Naples the air is pregnant with suspicion—jealousy’s dagger is ever ready to strike, justly or unjustly—the very children are learned in the ways of vice. Penitents confess to priests who are worse than penitents, and by Heaven! in such a state of society, where conjugal fidelity is a farce”—he paused a moment, and then went on—“is it not wonderful to know a man like you, Fabio? A man happy in home affections, without a cloud on the sky of his confidence?”
“I have no cause for distrust,” I said. “Nina is as innocent as the little child of whom she is to-day the mother.”
“True!” exclaimed Ferrari. “Perfectly true!” and he looked me full in the eyes, with a smile. “White as the virgin snow on the summit of Mont Blanc—purer than the flawless diamond—and unapproachable as the furthest star! Is it not so?”
I assented with a certain gravity; something in his manner puzzled me. Our conversation soon turned on different topics, and I thought no more of the matter. But a time came—and that speedily—when I had stern reason to remember every word he had uttered.