“Good-bye? Why—?” Faustina checked herself and looked away to hide her pallor. She felt cold, and a slight shiver passed over her slender figure.
“I am going to the front to-morrow morning.”
There was a long silence, during which the two looked at each other from time to time, neither finding courage to speak. Since Gouache had been in the room it had grown dark, and as yet but one lamp had been brought. The young man’s eyes sought those he loved in the dusk, and as his hand stole out it met another, a tender, nervous hand, trembling with emotion. They did not heed what was passing near them.
As though their silence were contagious, the conversation died away, and there was a general lull, such as sometimes falls upon an assemblage of people who have been talking for some time. Then, through the deep windows there came up a sound of distant uproar, mingled with occasional sharp detonations, few indeed, but the more noticeable for their rarity. Suddenly the door of the drawing-room burst open, and a servant’s voice was heard speaking in a loud key, the coarse accents and terrified tone contrasting strangely with the sounds generally heard in such a place.
“Excellency! Excellency! The revolution! Garibaldi is at the gates! The Italians are coming! Madonna! Madonna! The revolution, Eccellenza mia!”
The man was mad with fear. Every one spoke at once. Some laughed, thinking the man crazy. Others, who had heard the distant noise from the streets, drew back and looked nervously towards the door. Then Sant’ Ilario’s clear, strong voice, rang like a clarion through the room.
“Bar the gates. Shut the blinds all over the house—it is of no use to let them break good windows. Don’t stand there shivering like a fool. It is only a mob.”
Before he had finished speaking, San Giacinto was calmly bolting the blinds of the drawing-room windows, fastening each one as steadily and securely as he had been wont to put up the shutters of his inn at Aquila in the old days.
In the dusky corner by the piano Gouache and Faustina were overlooked in the general confusion. There was no time for reflection, for at the first words of the servant Anastase knew that he must go instantly to his post. Faustina’s little hand was still clasped in his, as they both sprang to their feet. Then with a sudden movement he clasped her in his arms and kissed her passionately.
The girl’s arms were twined closely about him, and her eyes looked up to his with a wild entreaty.
“You are safe here, my darling—good-bye!”
“Where are you going?”
“To the Serristori barracks. God keep you safe till I come back— good-bye!”
“I will go with you,” said Faustina, with a strange look of determination in her angelic face.
Gouache smiled, even then, at the mad thought which presented itself to the girl’s mind. Once more he kissed her, and then, she knew not how, he was gone. Other persons had come near them, shutting the windows rapidly, one after the other, in anticipation of danger from without. With instinctive modesty Faustina withdrew her arms from the young man’s neck and shrank back. In that moment he disappeared in the crowd.