Author: Henry Harland
Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5610] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on July 20, 2002]
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** Start of the project gutenberg EBOOK the Cardinal’s snuff-box ***
BY HENRY HARLAND
“The Signorino will take coffee?” old Marietta asked, as she set the fruit before him.
Peter deliberated for a moment; then burned his ships.
“Yes,” he answered.
“But in the garden, perhaps?” the little brown old woman suggested, with a persuasive flourish.
“No,” he corrected her, gently smiling, and shaking his head, “not perhaps—certainly.”
Her small, sharp old black Italian eyes twinkled, responsive.
“The Signorino will find a rustic table, under the big willow-tree, at the water’s edge,” she informed him, with a good deal of gesture. “Shall I serve it there?”
“Where you will. I leave myself entirely in your hands,” he said.
So he sat by the rustic table, on a rustic bench, under the willow, sipped his coffee, smoked his cigarette, and gazed in contemplation at the view.
Of its kind, it was rather a striking view.
In the immediate foreground—at his feet, indeed—there was the river, the narrow Aco, peacock-green, a dark file of poplars on either bank, rushing pell-mell away from the quiet waters of the lake. Then, just across the river, at his left, stretched the smooth lawns of the park of Ventirose, with glimpses of the many-pinnacled castle through the trees; and, beyond, undulating country, flourishing, friendly, a perspective of vineyards, cornfields, groves, and gardens, pointed by numberless white villas. At his right loomed the gaunt mass of the Gnisi, with its black forests, its bare crags, its foaming ascade, and the crenelated range of the Cornobastone; and finally, climax and cynosure, at the valley’s end, Monte Sfiorito, its three snow-covered summits almost insubstantial-seeming, floating forms of luminous pink vapour, in the evening sunshine, against the intense blue of the sky.
A familiar verse had come into Peter’s mind, and kept running there obstinately.
“Really,” he said to himself, “feature for feature, down to the very ‘cataract leaping in glory,’ the scene might have been got up, apres coup, to illustrate it.” And he began to repeat the beautiful hackneyed words, under his breath . . . .
But about midway of the third line he was interrupted.
“It’s not altogether a bad sort of view—is it?” some one said, in English.