“Mademoiselle is too kind. She exaggerates. And yet, since she has put the question, I will say that I should forget my broken bones very soon if I might be permitted to paint Mademoiselle’s portrait. I am a painter,” he added, in modest explanation.
“Yes,” said the princess, “I know. But, really—this is a matter which would require great consideration—and my husband’s consent—and, for the present—–”
She paused significantly, intending to convey a polite refusal, but Gouache completed the sentence.
“For the present, until my bones are mended, we will not speak of it. When I am well again I will do myself the honour of asking the prince’s consent myself.”
Flavia leaned towards her mother and whispered into her ear. The words were quite audible, and the girl’s dark eyes turned to Gouache with a wicked laugh in them while she was speaking.
“Oh, mamma, if you tell papa it is for nothing he will be quite delighted!”
Gouache’s lip trembled as he suppressed a smile, and the elderly princess’s florid cheeks flushed with annoyance.
“For the present,” she said, holding out her hand rather coldly, “we will not speak of it. Pray let us know of your speedy recovery, Monsieur Gouache.”
As the artist took his leave he glanced once more at Donna Faustina. Her face was pale and her eyes flashed angrily. She, too, had heard Flavia’s stage whisper and was even more annoyed than her mother. Gouache went his way toward his lodging in the company of the surgeon, pondering on the inscrutable mysteries of the Roman household of which he had been vouchsafed a glimpse. He was in pain from his head and shoulder, but insisted that the walk would do him good and refused the cab which his companion had brought. A broken collar-bone is not a dangerous matter, but it can be very troublesome for a while, and the artist was glad to get back to his lodgings and to find himself comfortably installed in an easy chair with something to eat before him, of a more substantial nature than the Principessa Montevarchi’s infusions of camomile and mallows.
While Giovanni was at the Palazzo Montevarchi, and while Corona was busy with her dressmakers, Prince Saracinesca was dozing over the Osservatore Romano in his study. To tell the truth the paper was less dull than usual, for there was war and rumour of war in its columns. Garibaldi had raised a force of volunteers and was in the neighbourhood of Arezzo, beginning to skirmish with the outlying posts of the pontifical army along the frontier. The old gentleman did not know, of course, that on that very day the Italian Government was issuing its proclamation against the great agitator, and possibly if he had been aware of the incident it would not have produced any very strong impression upon his convictions. Garibaldi was a fact, and Saracinesca did not believe