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- The Beautiful Lady - 10/10 -


At this I cried out suddenly. The sting and surprise of it were more than I could bear. In my shame I would even have tried to drown his voice with babblings but after this one cry I could not speak for a while. He went on triumphantly:

"This rascal, my dear ladies, who has persuaded you to ask him to dinner, this camel who claims to be my excellent brother, he, for a few francs, in Paris, shaved his head and showed it for a week to the people with an advertisement painted upon it of the worst ballet in Paris. This is the gentleman with whom you ask Caravacioli to dine!"

It was beyond my expectation, so astonishing and so cruel that I could only look at him for a moment or two. I felt as one who dreams himself falling forever. Then I stepped forward and spoke, in thickness of voice, being unable to lift my head:

"Again it is true what he says. I was that man of the painted head. I had my true brother's little daughters to care for. They were at the convent, and I owed for them. It was also partly for myself, because I was hungry. I could find not any other way, and so--but that is all."

I turned and went stumblingly away from them.

In my agony that she should know, I could do nothing but seek greater darkness. I felt myself beaten, dizzy with beatings. That thing which I had done in Paris discredited me. A man whose head-top had borne an advertisement of the Folie-Rouge to think he could be making a combat with the Prince Caravacioli!

Leaning over the railing in the darkest corner of the terrace, I felt my hand grasped secondarily by that good friend of mine.

"God bless you!" whispered Poor Jr.

"On my soul, I believe he's done himself. Listen!"

I turned. That beautiful lady had stepped out into the light from the salon door. I could see her face shining, and her eyes --ah me, how glorious they were! Antonio followed her.

"But wait," he cried pitifully.

"Not for you!" she answered, and that voice of hers, always before so gentle, rang out as the Roman trumpets once rang from this same cliff. "Not for you! I saw him there with his painted head and I understood! You saw him there, and you did nothing to help him! And the two little children--your nieces, too,-- and he your brother!"

Then my heart melted and I found myself choking, for the beautiful lady was weeping.

"Not for you, Prince Caravacioli," she cried, through her tears, --"Not for you!"

Chapter Ten

All of the beggars in Naples, I think, all of the flower-girls and boys, I am sure, and all the wandering serenaders, I will swear, were under our windows at the Vesuve, from six o'clock on the morning the "Princess Irene" sailed; and there need be no wonder when it is known that Poor Jr. had thrown handfuls of silver and five-lire notes from our balcony to strolling orchestras and singers for two nights before.

They wakened us with "Addio, la bella Napoli, addio, addio!" sung to the departing benefactor. When he had completed his toilet and his coffee, he showed himself on the balcony to them for a moment. Ah! What a resounding cheer for the signore, the great North-American nobleman! And how it swelled to a magnificent thundering when another largess of his came flying down among them!

Who could have reproved him? Not Raffaele Ansolini, who was on his knees over the bags and rugs! I think I even made some prolongation of that position, for I was far from assured of my countenance, that bright morning.

I was not to sail in the "Princess Irene" with those dear friends. Ah no! I had told them that I must go back to Paris to say good-bye to my little nieces and sail from Boulogne--and I am sure they believed that was my reason. I had even arranged to go away upon a train which would make it not possible for me to drive to the dock with them. I did not wish to see the boat carry them away from me.

And so the farewells were said in the street in all that crowd. Poor Jr. and I were waiting at the door when the carriage galloped up. How the crowd rushed to see that lady whom it bore to us, blushing and laughing! Clouds of gold-dust came before my eyes again; she wore once more that ineffable grey pongee!

Servants ran forward with the effects of Poor Jr. and we both sprang toward the carriage.

A flower-girl was offering a great basket of loose violets. Poor Jr. seized it and threw them like a blue rain over the two ladies.

"Bravo! Bravo!"

A hundred bouquets showered into the carriage, and my friend's silver went out in another shower to meet them.

"Addio, la bella Napoli!" came from the singers and the violins, but I cried to them for "La Luna Nova."

"Good-bye--for a little while--good-bye!"

I knew how well my friend liked me, because he shook my hand with his head turned away. Then the grey glove of the beautiful lady touched my shoulder--the lightest touch in all the world --as I stood close to the carriage while Poor Jr. climbed in.

"Good-bye. Thank you--and God bless you!" she said, in a low voice. And I knew for what she thanked me.

The driver cracked his whip like an honest Neapolitan. The horses sprang forward. "Addio, addio!"

I sang with the musicians, waving and waving and waving my handkerchief to the departing carriage.

Now I saw my friend lean over and take the beautiful lady by the hand, and together they stood up in the carriage and waved their handkerchiefs to me. Then, but not because they had passed out of sight, I could see them not any longer.

They were so good--that kind Poor Jr. and the beautiful lady; they seemed like dear children--as if they had been my own dear children.

THE END


The Beautiful Lady - 10/10

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