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A Roman Singer by F. Marion Crawford

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blazing eyes. Lira took no notice of him, but turned to go.

Hedwig would try once more to soften him, though she knew it was
useless.

"Father," she said, in tones of passionate entreaty, "will you not say
you wish me well? Will you not forgive me?" She sprang to him and
would have held him back.

"I wish you no ill," he answered shortly, pushing her aside, and he
marched to the door, where he paused, bowed as stiffly as ever, and
disappeared.

It was very rude of us, perhaps, but no one accompanied him to the
stairs. As for me, I would not have believed it possible that any
human being could be so hard and relentlessly virtuous; and if I had
wondered at first that Hedwig should have so easily made up her mind
to flight, I was no longer surprised when I saw with my own eyes how
he could treat her.

I cannot, indeed, conceive how she could have borne it so long, for
the whole character of the man came out, hard, cold, and narrow,--such
a character as must be more hideous than any description can paint it,
when seen in the closeness of daily conversation. But when he was gone
the sun appeared to shine again, as he had shone all day, though it
had sometimes seemed so dark. The storms were in that little room.

As Lira went out, Nino, who had followed Hedwig closely, caught her in
his arms, and once more her face rested on his broad breast. I sat
down and pretended to be busy with a pile of old papers that lay near
by on the table, but I could hear what they said. The dear children,
they forgot all about me.

"I am so sorry, dear one," said Nino soothingly.

"I know you are, Nino. But it cannot be helped."

"But are you sorry, too, Hedwig?" he asked, stroking her hair.

"That my father is angry? Yes. I wish he were not," said she, looking
wistfully toward the door.

"No, not that," said Nino. "Sorry that you left him, I mean."

"Ah, no, I am not sorry for that. Oh, Nino, dear Nino, your love is
best." And again she hid her face.

"We will go away at once, darling," he said, after a minute, during
which I did not see what was going on. "Would you like to go away?"

Hedwig moved her head to say "Yes."

"We will go, then, sweetheart. Where shall it be?" asked Nino, trying
to distract her thoughts from what had just occurred. "London? Paris?
Vienna? I can sing anywhere now, but you must always choose, love."

"Anywhere, anywhere; only always with you, Nino, till we die
together."

"Always, till we die, my beloved," he repeated. The small white hands
stole up and clasped about his broad throat, tenderly drawing his face
to hers, and hers to his. And it will be "always," till they die
together, I think.

* * * * *

This is the story of that Roman singer whose great genius is making
such a stir in the world. I have told it to you, because he is my own
dear boy, as I have often said in these pages; and because people must
not think that he did wrong to carry Hedwig von Lira away from her
father, nor that Hedwig was so very unfilial and heartless. I know
that they were both right, and the day will come when old Lira will
acknowledge it. He is a hard old man, but he must have some affection
for her; and if not, he will surely have the vanity to own so famous
an artist as Nino for his son-in-law.

I do not know how it was managed, for Hedwig was certainly a heretic
when she left her father, though she was an angel, as Nino said. But
before they left Rome for Vienna there was a little wedding, early in
the morning, in our parish church, for I was there; and De Pretis, who
was really responsible for the whole thing, got some of his best
singers from St. Peter and St. John on the Lateran to come and sing a
mass over the two. I think that our good Mother Church found room for
the dear child very quickly, and that is how it happened.

They are happy and glad together, those two hearts that never knew
love save for each other, and they will be happy always. For it was
nothing but love with them from the very first, and so it must be to
the very last. Perhaps you will say that there is nothing in this
story either but love. And if so, it is well; for where there is
naught else there can surely be no sinning, or wrongdoing, or
weakness, or meanness; nor yet anything that is not quite pure and
undefiled.

Just as I finish this writing, there comes a letter from Nino to say
that he has taken steps about buying Serveti, and that I must go there
in the spring with Mariuccia and make it ready for him. Dear Serveti,
of course I will go.

THE END

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