THE YELLOW MASK. 5.
“Come!” he said, ‘‘ speak frankly tome. Say what you ought to say
to yeur father and your friend. What was his answer, my child, when
you reminded him of the difference between you?”
‘* He said I was born to be a lady,” faltered the girl, still struggling to
turn her face away, “and that I might make myself one if I would learn
and be patient. He said that if he had all the noble ladies in Pisa to
cnouse from on one side, and only little Nanina on the other, he would
hold out his hand to me and tell them, ‘ This shall be my wife.’ He said
Love knew no difference of rank; and thatif he was a nobleman and
rich, it was all the more reason why he should please himself. He was
so kind that I thought my heart would burst while he was speaking, and
my little sister liked him so, that she got upon his knee and kissed him.
Even our dog, who growls at other strangers, stole to his side and licked
his hand. Oh, Father Rocco! Father Rocco!” The tears burst out
afresh, and the lovely head dropped once more, wearily, on the priest’s
jpather Rocco smiled to himself, and waited to speak again till she was
‘** Supposing,” he resumed, after some minutes of silence, “‘ supposing
Signor Fabio really meant all he said to you——”
Nanina started up, and confronted the priest boldly for the first time
since she had entered the room.
“Supposing!” she exclaimed, her cheeks beginning to redden, and her
dark blue eyes flashing suddenly through her tears. ‘‘ Supposing! Father
Rocco, Fabio would never deceive me. I would die here at your feet,
rather than doubt the least word he said to me!”
The priest signed to her quietly to return to the stool. ‘I never sus-
pected the child had so much spirit in her,” he thought to himself.
“I would die,” repeated Nanina, in a voice that began to falter now.
‘sI would die rather than doubt him.”
“*T will not ask you to doubt him,” said Father Rocco, gently; ‘‘and IT
‘ will believe in him Inyself as firmly as you do. Letus suppose, my child,
that you have learnt patiently all the many things of which you are now
ignorant, and which it is necessary fora lady to know. Let us suppose
that Signor Fabio has really violated all the laws that govern people in
his high station, and has taken you to him publicly as his wife. You
would be happv then, Nanina; but would he? He has no father or mother
to control him, it is true; but he has friends—many friends, and intimates
in his own rank—proud, heartless people, who know nothing of your
worth and goodness; who, hearing of your low birth, would look on you,
and on your husband too, my child, with contempt. He has not your Ps
tience and fortitude. Think how bitter it would be for him to bear that
contempt—to see you shunned by proud women, and carelessly pitied or
patronized by insolent men. Yet all this, and more, he would have to en-
ure, or else to quit the world he has lived m from his boyhood—the
world he was born to live in. You love him, I know——”
Nanina’s tears burst out afresh. ‘‘Oh, how dearly!--how dearly!”
she murmured. .
“Yes, you love him dearly,” continued the priest; ‘but would all
your love compensate him for everything else that he must lose? It
might, at first; but there would come a time when the world would assert
its influence over him again; when he would feel a want which you could
not supply—a weariness which you could not solace. Think of his life,
then, and of yours. Think of the first day when the first secret doubt
whether he had done rightly in marrying you would steal into his mind.
We are not masters of all our impulses. The lightest spints have their
moments of irresistible depression; the bravest hearts are not always su-
perior to doubt. My child, my child, the world is ‘strong, the pride of
rank is rooted deep, and the human will is frail at best! Be warned!
For your own sake, and for Fabio’s, be warned in time.”
anina stretched out her hands towards the priest, in despair.
“Oh, Father Rocco! Father Rocco!” she cried; ‘* why did-you not tell
me this before?”
“* Because, my child, I only knew of the necessity for telling you, to-
day. But it is not tvo late, it is never too late todo a good action. You
love Fabio, Nanina? Will you prove that loye by making a great sacri-
fice for his good?”
“T would die for his good!”
“Will you nobly cure him of a passion which will, be his ruin, if not
yours, by leaving Pisa to-morrow?”
‘Leave Pisal” exclaimed Nanina. Her face grew deadly pale; she
rose and moved back a step or two from the Priest.
‘Listen tome,” pursued Father Rocco, ‘I have heard you complain
that you could net get regular employment at needlework. You shall
have that employment, if you will go with me—you and your little sister
too, of course—to Florence, to-morrow.”
‘*T promised Fabio to go to the studio,” began Nanina, affrightedly.
**T promised to go at ten o’clock. n ”
she stopped suddenly, as if her breath were failing her.
“T myself will take you and your sister to Florence,” said Father
Rocco, without noticing the interruption. ‘I will place you under the
care of a lady who will be as kind as a mother toyouboth. I will answer
for your getting such work to do as will cnable you to keep yourself hon-
estly and independently; and I will undertake, 1f you do not like your
life at Florence, to bring you back to Pisa afiera lapse of three months
only. Three months, Nanina. It is not a long exile.”
abi! Fabio!” cried the girl, sinking again on the scat, and hiding
“Iti for his good,” said Father Rocco, calmly; ‘‘ for Fabio’s good, re-
“ What would he think of meif I went away? O, if Thad but learnt
to write. If I could only write Fabio a Jetter! ” 8
‘ “ Am I not to be depended on to explain to him all that ho ought to
“How can I go away from him? O, Father Rocco, how can you ask
me to go away from him?”
“T will ask you to no nothing hastily. I will leave you till to-morrow
morning to decide, At nine o’clock I shall be in tho street; and I will not
even so much as enter this house, unless I know beforehand that you
have resolved to follow my advice. Give mea sign from your window,
If I see you wave your white mantilla ont of it, 1 shall know that you
have taken tho noble resolution to save Fabio and to save yourself. I
will say no more, my child; for, unless I am gricvously mistaken in you,
Ihave already said enough.”
eee ee bee AE
He went out, leaving her still weeping bitterly.
Not far from the house he met La Biondella and the dog on their way
back. _ The litile girl stopped to report to him the safe delivery of her
dinner-mats; but he pasped on quickly with anod and a smile. His in-
terview with Nanina had left some influence behind it which unfitted him
just then for the occupation of talking to a child.
Nearly half an hour before nine o’clock on the following morning,
Father Rocco set forth for the street in which Nanina lived. On his wa;
thither he overtook a dog walking lazily a few paces ahead in the road-
way, and saw at the same time an elegantly dressed lady advancing to-
wards him. The dog stopped suspiciously as she approached, and growled
and showed his teeth when she passed him.
tered an exclamation of disgust, but did not seem to be either astonished
or frightened by the animal’s threatening attitude. Father Rocco looked
after her with some curiosity as she walked byhim. She was a handsome
woman, and ho admired her courage. ‘‘I know that growling brute well
enough,” he said to himself, ‘‘ but who can that lady be?”
e dog was Scarammuccia, returning from one of his marauding ex~
peditions. The lady was Brigida, on her way to Luca Lomi’s studio.
Some minutes before nine o’clock the priest took his post in the street,
opposite Nanina’s window. It was open, but neither she:nor her little
sister appeared atit. He looked up anxiously as the church clocks struck
the hour, but there was no sign for a minute or so after they were all si-
lent. ‘is she hesitating still?” said Father Rocco to himself.
Just as the words passed his lips the white mantilla was waved out of
Even the master-stroke of replacing the treacherous Italian fore.
woman Ly a French dressmaker, engaged direct from Paris, did not at
first avail to elevate the great Grifoni establishment above the reach of
minor calamities: Mademoiselle Virginie had not occupied her new situ-
ation at Pisa quite a week before she -fell ill. sorts of reports ‘were
circulated as to the cause of this illness; and the Demoiselle Grifoni even
went so far as to suggest that the health of the new forewoman had fallen
a sacrifice to some nefarious practices of the chemical sort, on the part of
her rival in the trade. But, however the misfortune had been produced,
it was a fact that Mademoiselle Virginie was ccrtainly very ill, and another
fact, that the doctor insisted on her being sent to the Baths of Lucca as
soon as she could be moved from her bed.
Fortunately for the Demoiselle Grifoni, the Frenchwoman had suc-
ceeded in producing three specimens of her art before her health broke
down. They comprised the evening dress of yellow brocaded silk, to
which she bad devoted herself on the morning when she first assumed
er duties at Pisa; a black cloak and a hood of an entirely new shape;
and an irresistibly fascinating dressing-gown, said to have been first
brought into fashion by the princesses of the blood-royal of France. These
articles of costume, on being exhibited in the show-room, electrified the
ladies of Pisa; and orders from all sides flowed in immediately on the
Grifoni establishment. They were, of course, easily executed by the in-
ferior workwomen, from the specimen designs of the French dressmaker.
So that the illness cf Mademoiselle Virginie, though it might cause her
mistress some temporary inconyenience, was, after all, productive of no
absolute loss. :
Two months at the Baths of Lucca restored the new forewoman to
health. She returned isa, and resumed her place in the private
work-room. Once re-established there, she discovered that an important
change had taken place during her absence. Her friend and assistant,
Brigida, had resigned her situation. All inquiries made of the Demoi-
selle Grifoni only elicited one answer; the missing workwoman had ab-
ruptly Jeft her place at five minutes’ warning, and had departed without
confiding to any one what she thought of doing, or whither she intended
to turn her steps.
Months elapsed. The new year came; but no explanatory letter ar-
rived from Brigida. Tho spring season passed off, with all its accompa-
niments of dressmaking and Aress-buying: but stili there was no news of
her. The first anniversary of Mademoiselle Virginie’s engagement with
the Demorselle Grifoni came round; and then, at last, a note arrived, stat-
ing that Brigida had returned to Pisa, and that, if the French forewoman
would send an auswer, mentioning where her private lodgings were, she
would visit her old friend that evening after business-hours. The infor-
mation was gladly enough given; and punctually to tho appointed time,
Brigida arrived in Mademoiselle Virginie’s little sitting-room.
Advancing with her usual indolent stateliness of gait, the Italian asked
after her friend’s health as coolly, and sat down in tho nearest chair as
carelessly, as if they had not been separated for more than a few days.
Mademoiselle Virginie laughed in her liveliest manner, and raised her
mobile French eyebrows in sprightly astonishment. coo,
** Well, Brigida! ”? she exclaimed, “ they certainly did you no injustice
when they nicknamed you ‘ Care-for-nothing,’ in old Grifoni’s work-room.
Where have you been? Why have you never written to me?””
sT had nothing particular to write about; and besides, I always in-
tended to come back to Pisa and see you,” answered Brigida, leaning back
luxuriously in her chair.
“But where have you been for nearly a whole year past? In Italy?”
“No; at Paris. You know I can sing ?—not very well; but I have a
yoice, and most Frenchwomen (excuse the impertinence) have none; I
met with a friend, and got introduced toa manager; and I have been sing-
ing at the theatre—not the great parts, only the second. Your amiable
countrywomen could not sereech me down on the stage, but they intrigued
against me successfully behind the scenes. In short, I quarrelled with
our principal lady, quarrelled with the manager, quarrelled with my
friend; and here Tam back at Pisa, with a little money saved in my
pocket, and no great notion what I am to do next.”
‘Back at Pisal Why did you leave it?” .
Brigida’s eyes begapto lose their indolent expression. She sat up
suddenly in her chay* and ect one of her hands heavily on a littlo table
by her side,
“Way?” she pepeated.
me, I prefer givi;
“Because when I find the same going against
git up at once to waiting to be beaten. .
ker to that last year's project of yours for making your
The lady, on her side, ut-~
oe cee gn ne ae et MOE Mt tment
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