Part 3 out of 3
remaining space, with a sofa and easy-chairs grouped round a fire, and a
round table furnished with books and a lamp, was ample enough to make a
good substitute for the private sitting-room which Mrs. Ashe had not
been able to procure on account of the near approach of the Carnival and
the consequent crowding of strangers to Rome. In fact, she was assured
that under the circumstances she was lucky in finding rooms as good as
these; and she made the most of the assurance as a consolation for the
somewhat unsatisfactory food and service of the hotel, and the four long
flights of stairs which must be passed every time they needed to reach
the dining-room or the street door.
The party had been in Rome only four days, but already they had seen a
host of interesting things. They had stood in the strange sunken space
with its marble floor and broken columns, which is all that is left of
the great Roman Forum. They had visited the Coliseum, at that period
still overhung with ivy garlands and trailing greeneries, and not, as
now, scraped clean and bare and "tidied" out of much of its
picturesqueness. They had seen the Baths of Caracalla and the Temple of
Janus and St. Peter's and the Vatican marbles, and had driven out on the
Campagna and to the Pamphili-Doria Villa to gather purple and red
anemones, and to the English cemetery to see the grave of Keats. They
had also peeped into certain shops, and attended a reception at the
American Minister's,--in short, like most unwarned travellers, they had
done about twice as much as prudence and experience would have
permitted, had those worthies been consulted.
All the romance of Katy's nature responded to the fascination of the
ancient city,--the capital of the world, as it may truly be called. The
shortest drive or walk brought them face to face with innumerable and
unexpected delights. Now it was a wonderful fountain, with plunging
horses and colossal nymphs and Tritons, holding cups and horns from
which showers of white foam rose high in air to fall like rushing rain
into an immense marble basin. Now it was an arched doorway with
traceries as fine as lace,--sole-remaining fragment of a heathen temple,
flung and stranded as it were by the waves of time on the squalid shore
of the present. Now it was a shrine at the meeting of three streets,
where a dim lamp burned beneath the effigy of the Madonna, with always a
fresh rose beside it in a vase, and at its foot a peasant woman kneeling
in red bodice and blue petticoat, with a lace-trimmed towel folded over
her hair. Or again it would be a sunlit terrace lifted high on a
hillside, and crowded with carriages full of beautifully dressed people,
while below all Rome seemed spread out like a panorama, dim, mighty,
majestic, and bounded by the blue wavy line of the Campagna and the
Alban hills. Or perhaps it might be a wonderful double flight of steps
with massive balustrades and pillars with urns, on which sat a crowd of
figures in strange costumes and attitudes, who all looked as though they
had stepped out of pictures, but who were in reality models waiting for
artists to come by and engage them. No matter what it was,--a bit of
oddly tinted masonry with a tuft of brown and orange wallflowers hanging
upon it, or a vegetable stall where endive and chiccory and curly
lettuces were arranged in wreaths with tiny orange gourds and scarlet
peppers for points of color,--it was all Rome, and, by virtue of that
word, different from any other place,--more suggestive, more
interesting, ten times more mysterious than any other could possibly be,
so Katy thought.
This fact consoled her for everything and anything,--for the fleas, the
dirt, for the queer things they had to eat and the still queerer odors
they were forced to smell! Nothing seemed of any particular consequence
except the deep sense of enjoyment, and the newly discovered world of
thought and sensation of which she had become suddenly conscious.
The only drawback to her happiness, as the days went on, was that
little Amy did not seem quite well or like herself. She had taken a
cold on the journey from Naples, and though it did not seem serious,
that, or something, made her look pale and thin. Her mother said she
was growing fast, but the explanation did not quite account for the
wistful look in the child's eyes and the tired feeling of which she
continually complained. Mrs. Ashe, with vague uneasiness, began to talk
of cutting short their Roman stay and getting Amy off to the more
bracing air of Florence. But meanwhile there was the Carnival close at
hand, which they must by no means lose; and the feeling that their
opportunity might be a brief one made her and Katy all the more anxious
to make the very most of their time. So they filled the days full with
sights to see and things to do, and came and went; sometimes taking Amy
with them, but more often leaving her at the hotel under the care of a
kind German chambermaid, who spoke pretty good English and to whom Amy
had taken a fancy.
"The marble things are so cold, and the old broken things make me so
sorry," she explained; "and I hate beggars because they are dirty, and
the stairs make my back ache; and I'd a great deal rather stay with
Maria and go up on the roof, if you don't mind, mamma."
This roof, which Amy had chosen as a playplace, covered the whole of the
great hotel, and had been turned into a sort of upper-air garden by the
simple process of gravelling it all over, placing trellises of ivy here
and there, and setting tubs of oranges and oleanders and boxes of gay
geraniums and stock-gillyflowers on the balustrades. A tame fawn was
tethered there. Amy adopted him as a playmate; and what with his company
and that of the flowers, the times when her mother and Katy were absent
from her passed not unhappily.
Katy always repaired to the roof as soon as they came in from their long
mornings and afternoons of sight-seeing. Years afterward, she would
remember with contrition how pathetically glad Amy always was to see
her. She would put her little head on Katy's breast and hold her tight
for many minutes without saying a word. When she did speak it was always
about the house and the garden that she talked. She never asked any
questions as to where Katy had been, or what she had done; it seemed to
tire her to think about it.
"I should be very lonely sometimes if it were not for my dear little
fawn," she told Katy once. "He is so sweet that I don't miss you and
mamma very much while I have him to play with. I call him Florio,--don't
you think that is a pretty name? I like to stay with him a great deal
better than to go about with you to those nasty-smelling old churches,
with fleas hopping all over them!"
So Amy was left in peace with her fawn, and the others made haste to see
all they could before the time came to go to Florence.
[Illustration: Amy was left in peace with her fawn.]
Katy realized one of the "moments" for which she had come to Europe when
she stood for the first time on the balcony overhanging the Corso, which
Mrs. Ashe had hired in company with some acquaintances made at the
hotel, and looked down at the ebb and surge of the just-begun Carnival.
The narrow street seemed humming with people of all sorts and
conditions. Some were masked; some were not. There were ladies and
gentlemen in fashionable clothes, peasants in the gayest costumes,
surprised-looking tourists in tall hats and linen dusters, harlequins,
clowns, devils, nuns, dominoes of every color,--red, white, blue, black;
while above, the balconies bloomed like a rose-garden with pretty faces
framed in lace veils or picturesque hats. Flowers were everywhere,
wreathed along the house-fronts, tied to the horses' ears, in ladies'
hands and gentlemen's button-holes, while venders went up and down the
street bearing great trays of violets and carnations and camellias for
sale. The air was full of cries and laughter, and the shrill calls of
merchants advertising their wares,--candy, fruit, birds, lanterns, and
_confetti_, the latter being merely lumps of lime, large or small, with
a pea or a bean embedded in each lump to give it weight. Boxes full of
this unpleasant confection were suspended in front of each balcony, with
tin scoops to use in ladling it out and flinging it about. Everybody
wore or carried a wire mask as protection against this white, incessant
shower; and before long the air became full of a fine dust which hung
above the Corso like a mist, and filled the eyes and noses and clothes
of all present with irritating particles.
Pasquino's Car was passing underneath just as Katy and Mrs. Ashe
arrived,--a gorgeous affair, hung with silken draperies, and bearing as
symbol an enormous egg, in which the Carnival was supposed to be in act
of incubation. A huge wagon followed in its wake, on which was a house
some sixteen feet square, whose sole occupant was a gentleman attended
by five servants, who kept him supplied with _confetti_, which he
showered liberally on the heads of the crowd. Then came a car in the
shape of a steamboat, with a smoke-pipe and sails, over which flew the
Union Jack, and which was manned with a party wearing the dress of
British tars. The next wagon bore a company of jolly maskers equipped
with many-colored bladders, which they banged and rattled as they went
along. Following this was a troupe of beautiful circus horses,
cream-colored with scarlet trappings, or sorrel with blue, ridden by
ladies in pale green velvet laced with silver, or blue velvet and gold.
Another car bore a bird-cage which was an exact imitation of St.
Peter's, within which perched a lonely old parrot. This device evidently
had a political signification, for it was alternately hissed and
applauded as it went along. The whole scene was like a brilliant,
rapidly shifting dream; and Katy, as she stood with lips apart and eyes
wide open with wonderment and pleasure, forgot whether she was in the
body or not,--forgot everything except what was passing before her gaze.
She was roused by a stinging shower of lime-dust. An Englishman in the
next balcony had take courteous advantage of her preoccupation, and had
flung a scoopful of _confetti_ in her undefended face! It is generally
Anglo-Saxons of the less refined class, English or Americans, who do
these things at Carnival times. The national love of a rough joke comes
to the surface, encouraged by the license of the moment, and all the
grace and prettiness of the festival vanish. Katy laughed, and dusted
herself as well as she could, and took refuge behind her mask; while a
nimble American boy of the party changed places with her, and
thenceforward made that particular Englishman his special target, plying
such a lively and adroit shovel as to make Katy's assailant rue the hour
when he evoked this national reprisal. His powdered head and rather
clumsy efforts to retaliate excited shouts of laughter from the
adjoining balconies. The young American, fresh from tennis and college
athletics, darted about and dodged with an agility impossible to his
heavily built foe; and each effective shot and parry on his side was
greeted with little cries of applause and the clapping of hands on the
part of those who were watching the contest.
Exactly opposite them was a balcony hung with white silk, in which sat a
lady who seemed to be of some distinction; for every now and then an
officer in brilliant uniform, or some official covered with orders and
stars, would be shown in by her servants, bow before her with the utmost
deference, and after a little conversation retire, kissing her gloved
hand as he went. The lady was a beautiful person, with lustrous black
eyes and dark hair, over which a lace mantilla was fastened with diamond
stars. She wore pale blue with white flowers, and altogether, as Katy
afterward wrote to Clover, reminded her exactly of one of those
beautiful princesses whom they used to play about in their childhood and
quarrel over, because every one of them wanted to be the Princess and
"I wonder who she is," said Mrs. Ashe in a low tone. "She might be
almost anybody from her looks. She keeps glancing across to us, Katy. Do
you know, I think she has taken a fancy to you."
Perhaps the lady had; for just then she turned her head and said a word
to one of her footmen, who immediately placed something in her hand. It
was a little shining bonbonniere, and rising she threw it straight at
Katy. Alas! it struck the edge of the balcony and fell into the street
below, where it was picked up by a ragged little peasant girl in a red
jacket, who raised a pair of astonished eyes to the heavens, as if sure
that the gift must have fallen straight from thence. Katy bent forward
to watch its fate, and went through a little pantomime of regret and
despair for the benefit of the opposite lady, who only laughed, and
taking another from her servant flung with better aim, so that it fell
exactly at Katy's feet. This was a gilded box in the shape of a
mandolin, with sugar-plums tucked cunningly away inside. Katy kissed
both her hands in acknowledgment for the pretty toy, and tossed back a
bunch of roses which she happened to be wearing in her dress. After that
it seemed the chief amusement of the fair unknown to throw bonbons at
Katy. Some went straight and some did not; but before the afternoon
ended, Katy had quite a lapful of confections and trifles,--roses,
sugared almonds, a satin casket, a silvered box in the shape of a
horseshoe, a tiny cage with orange blossoms for birds on the perches, a
minute gondola with a _marron glacee_ by way of passenger, and,
prettiest of all, a little ivory harp strung with enamelled violets
instead of wires. For all these favors she had nothing better to offer,
in return, than a few long-tailed bonbons with gay streamers of ribbon.
These the lady opposite caught very cleverly, rarely missing one, and
kissing her hand in thanks each time.
"Isn't she exquisite?" demanded Katy, her eyes shining with
excitement. "Did you ever see any one so lovely in your life, Polly
dear? I never did. There, now! she is buying those birds to set them
free, I do believe."
It was indeed so. A vender of larks had, by the aid of a long staff,
thrust a cage full of wretched little prisoners up into the balcony; and
"Katy's lady," as Mrs. Ashe called her, was paying for the whole. As
they watched she opened the cage door, and with the sweetest look on her
face encouraged the birds to fly away. The poor little creatures cowered
and hesitated, not knowing at first what use to make of their new
liberty; but at last one, the boldest of the company, hopped to the door
and with a glad, exultant chirp flew straight upward. Then the others,
taking courage from his example, followed, and all were lost to view in
the twinkling of an eye.
"Oh, you angel!" cried Katy, leaning over the edge of the balcony and
kissing both hands impulsively, "I never saw any one so sweet as you are
in my life. Polly dear, I think carnivals are the most perfectly
bewitching things in the world. How glad I am that this lasts a week,
and that we can come every day. Won't Amy be delighted with these
bonbons! I do hope my lady will be here tomorrow."
How little she dreamed that she was never to enter that balcony again!
How little can any of us see what lies before us till it comes so near
that we cannot help seeing it, or shut our eyes, or turn away!
The next morning, almost as soon as it was light, Mrs. Ashe tapped at
Katy's door. She was in her dressing-gown, and her eyes looked large and
"Amy is ill," she cried. "She has been hot and feverish all night, and
she says that her head aches dreadfully. What shall I do, Katy? We
ought to have a doctor at once, and I don't know the name even of any
Katy sat up in bed, and for one bewildered moment did not speak. Her
brain felt in a whirl of confusion; but presently it cleared, and she
saw what to do.
"I will write a note to Mrs. Sands," she said. Mrs. Sands was the wife
of the American Minister, and one of the few acquaintances they had
made since they came to Rome. "You remember how nice she was the other
day, and how we liked her; and she has lived here so long that of
course she must know all about the doctors. Don't you think that is the
best thing to do!"
"The very best," said Mrs. Ashe, looking relieved. "I wonder I did not
think of it myself, but I am so confused that I can't think. Write the
note at once, please, dear Katy. I will ring your bell for you, and then
I must hurry back to Amy."
Katy made haste with the note. The answer came promptly in half an hour,
and by ten o'clock the physician recommended appeared. Dr. Hilary was a
dark little Italian to all appearance; but his mother had been a
Scotch-woman, and he spoke English very well,--a great comfort to poor
Mrs. Ashe, who knew not a word of Italian and not a great deal of
French. He felt Amy's pulse for a long time, and tested her temperature;
but he gave no positive opinion, only left a prescription, and said that
he would call later in the day and should then be able to judge more
clearly what the attack was likely to prove.
Katy augured ill from this reserve. There was no talk of going to the
Carnival that afternoon; no one had any heart for it. Instead, Katy
spent the time in trying to recollect all she had ever heard about the
care of sick people,--what was to be done first and what next,--and in
searching the shops for a feather pillow, which luxury Amy was
imperiously demanding. The pillows of Roman hotels are, as a general
thing, stuffed with wool, and very hard.
"I won't have this horrid pillow any longer," poor Amy was screaming.
"It's got bricks in it. It hurts the back of my neck. Take it away,
mamma, and give me a nice soft American pillow. I won't have this a
minute longer. Don't you hear me, mamma! Take it away!"
So, while Mrs. Ashe pacified Amy to the best of her ability, Katy
hurried out in quest of the desired pillow. It proved almost an
unattainable luxury; but at last, after a long search, she secured an
air-cushion, a down cushion about twelve inches square, and one old
feather pillow which had come from some auction, and had apparently lain
for years in the corner of the shop. When this was encased in a fresh
cover of Canton flannel, it did very well, and stilled Amy's complaints
a little; but all night she grew worse, and when Dr. Hilary came next
day, he was forced to utter plainly the dreaded words "Roman fever." Amy
was in for an attack,--a light one he hoped it might be,--but they had
better know the truth and make ready for it.
Mrs. Ashe was utterly overwhelmed by this verdict, and for the first
bewildered moments did not know which way to turn. Katy, happily, kept
a steadier head. She had the advantage of a little preparation of
thought, and had decided beforehand what it would be necessary to do
"in case." Oh, that fateful "in case"! The doctor and she consulted
together, and the result was that Katy sought out the padrona of the
establishment, and without hinting at the nature of Amy's attack,
secured some rooms just vacated, which were at the end of a corridor,
and a little removed from the rooms of other people. There was a large
room with corner windows, a smaller one opening from it, and another,
still smaller, close by, which would serve as a storeroom or might do
for the use of a nurse.
These rooms, without much consultation with Mrs. Ashe,--who seemed
stunned and sat with her eyes fixed on Amy, just answering, "Certainly,
dear, anything you say," when applied to,--Katy had arranged according
to her own ideas of comfort and hygienic necessity, as learned from Miss
Nightingale's excellent little book on nursing. From the larger room she
had the carpet, curtains, and nearly all the furniture taken away, the
floor scrubbed with hot soapsuds, and the bed pulled out from the wall
to allow of a free circulation of air all round it. The smaller one she
made as comfortable as possible for the use of Mrs. Ashe, choosing for
it the softest sofa and the best mattresses that were obtainable; for
she knew that her friend's strength was likely to be severely tried if
Amy's illness proved serious. When all was ready, Amy, well wrapped in
her coverings, was carried down the entry and laid in the fresh bed with
the soft pillows about her; and Katy, as she went to and fro, conveying
clothes and books and filling drawers, felt that they were perhaps
making arrangements for a long, hard trial of faith and spirits.
By the next day the necessity of a nurse became apparent, and in the
afternoon Katy started out in a little hired carriage in search of one.
She had a list of names, and went first to the English nurses; but
finding them all engaged, she ordered the coachman to drive to a convent
where there was hope that a nursing sister might be procured.
Their route lay across the Corso. So utterly had the Carnival with all
its gay follies vanished from her mind, that she was for a moment
astonished at finding herself entangled in a motley crowd, so dense
that the coachman was obliged to rein in his horses and stand still for
There were the same masks and dominos, the same picturesque peasant
costumes which had struck her as so gay and pretty only three days
before. The same jests and merry laughter filled the air, but somehow
it all seemed out of tune. The sense of cold, lonely fear that had
taken possession of her killed all capacity for merriment; the
apprehension and solicitude of which her heart was full made the gay
chattering and squeaking of the crowd sound harsh and unfeeling. The
bright colors affronted her dejection; she did not want to see them.
She lay back in the carriage, trying to be patient under the detention,
and half shut her eyes.
A shower of lime dust aroused her. It came from a party of burly figures
in white cotton dominos, whose carriage had been stayed by the crowd
close to her own. She signified by gestures that she had no _confetti_
and no protection, that she "was not playing," in fact; but her appeal
made no difference. The maskers kept on shovelling lime all over her
hair and person and the carriage, and never tired of the sport till an
opportune break in the procession enabled their vehicle to move on.
Katy was shaking their largesse from her dress and parasol as well as
she could, when an odd gibbering sound close to her ear, and the
laughter of the crowd attracted her attention to the back of the
carriage. A masker attired as a scarlet devil had climbed into the hood,
and was now perched close behind her. She shook her head at him; but he
only shook his in return, and chattered and grimaced, and bent over till
his fiery mask almost grazed her shoulder. There was no hope but in good
humor, as she speedily realized; and recollecting that in her
shopping-bag one or two of the Carnival bonbons still remained, she took
these out and offered them in the hope of propitiating him. The fiend
bit one to insure that it was made of sugar and not lime, while the
crowd laughed more than ever; then, seeming satisfied, he made Katy a
little speech in rapid Italian, of which she did not comprehend a word,
kissed her hand, jumped down from the carriage and disappeared in the
crowd to her great relief.
Presently after that the driver spied an opening, of which he took
advantage. They were across the Corso now, the roar and rush of the
Carnival dying into silence as they drove rapidly on; and Katy, as she
finished wiping away the last of the lime dust, wiped some tears from
her cheeks as well.
"How hateful it all was!" she said to herself. Then she remembered a
sentence read somewhere, "How heavily roll the wheels of other people's
joys when your heart is sorrowful!" and she realized that it is true.
The convent was propitious, and promised to send a sister next morning,
with the proviso that every second day she was to come back to sleep and
rest. Katy was too thankful for any aid to make objections, and drove
home with visions of saintly nuns with pure pale faces full of peace and
resignation, such as she had read of in books, floating before her eyes.
Sister Ambrogia, when she appeared next day, did not exactly realize
these imaginations. She was a plump little person, with rosy cheeks, a
pair of demure black eyes, and a very obstinate mouth and chin. It soon
appeared that natural inclination combined with the rules of her convent
made her theory of a nurse's duties a very limited one.
If Mrs. Ashe wished her to go down to the office with an order, she was
told: "We sisters care for the sick; we are not allowed to converse with
porters and hotel people."
If Katy suggested that on the way home she should leave a prescription
at the chemist's, it was: "We sisters are for nursing only; we do not
visit shops." And when she was asked if she could make beef tea, she
replied calmly but decisively, "We sisters are not cooks."
In fact, all that Sister Ambrogia seemed able or willing to do, beyond
the bathing of Amy's face and brushing her hair, which she accomplished
handily, was to sit by the bedside telling her rosary, or plying a
little ebony shuttle in the manufacture of a long strip of tatting. Even
this amount of usefulness was interfered with by the fact that Amy, who
by this time was in a semi-delirious condition, had taken an aversion to
her at the first glance, and was not willing to be left with her for a
"I won't stay here alone with Sister Embroidery," she would cry, if her
mother and Katy went into the next room for a moment's rest or a private
consultation; "I hate Sister Embroidery! Come back, mamma, come back
this moment! She's making faces at me, and chattering just like an old
parrot, and I don't understand a word she says. Take Sister Embroidery
away, mamma, I tell you! Don't you hear me? Come back, I say!"
The little voice would be raised to a shrill scream; and Mrs. Ashe and
Katy, hurrying back, would find Amy sitting up on her pillow with wet,
scarlet-flushed cheeks and eyes bright with fever, ready to throw
herself out of bed; while, calm as Mabel, whose curly head lay on the
pillow beside her little mistress, Sister Ambrogia, unaware of the
intricacies of the English language, was placidly telling her beads and
muttering prayers to herself. Some of these prayers, I do not doubt,
related to Amy's recovery if not to her conversion, and were well meant;
but they were rather irritating under the circumstances!
CLEAR SHINING AFTER RAIN.
When the first shock is over and the inevitable realized and accepted,
those who tend a long illness are apt to fall into a routine of life
which helps to make the days seem short. The apparatus of nursing is got
together. Every day the same things need to be done at the same hours
and in the same way. Each little appliance is kept at hand; and sad and
tired as the watchers may be, the very monotony and regularity of their
proceedings give a certain stay for their thoughts to rest upon.
But there was little of this monotony to help Mrs. Ashe and Katy through
with Amy's illness. Small chance was there for regularity or exact
system; for something unexpected was always turning up, and needful
things were often lacking. The most ordinary comforts of the sick-room,
or what are considered so in America, were hard to come by, and much of
Katy's time was spent in devising substitutes to take their places.
Was ice needed? A pailful of dirty snow would be brought in, full of
straws, sticks, and other refuse, which had apparently been scraped from
the surface of the street after a frosty night. Not a particle of it
could be put into milk or water; all that could be done was to make the
pail serve the purpose of a refrigerator, and set bowls and tumblers in
it to chill.
Was a feeding-cup wanted? It came of a cumbrous and antiquated pattern,
which the infant Hercules may have enjoyed, but which the modern Amy
abominated and rejected. Such a thing as a glass tube could not be found
in all Rome. Bed-rests were unknown. Katy searched in vain for an
India-rubber hot-water bag.
But the greatest trial of all was the beef tea. It was Amy's sole food,
and almost her only medicine; for Dr. Hilary believed in leaving Nature
pretty much to herself in cases of fever. The kitchen of the hotel sent
up, under that name, a mixture of grease and hot water, which could not
be given to Amy at all. In vain Katy remonstrated and explained the
process. In vain did she go to the kitchen herself to translate a
carefully written recipe to the cook, and to slip a shining five-franc
piece in his hand, which it was hoped would quicken his energies and
soften his heart. In vain did she order private supplies of the best of
beef from a separate market. The cooks stole the beef and ignored the
recipe; and day after day the same bottle-full of greasy liquid came
upstairs, which Amy would not touch, and which would have done her no
good had she swallowed it all. At last, driven to desperation, Katy
procured a couple of stout bottles, and every morning slowly and
carefully cut up two pounds of meat into small pieces, sealed the bottle
with her own seal ring, and sent it down to be boiled for a specified
time. This answered better, for the thieving cook dared not tamper with
her seal; but it was a long and toilsome process, and consumed more time
than she well knew how to spare,--for there were continual errands to be
done which no one could attend to but herself, and the interminable
flights of stairs taxed her strength painfully, and seemed to grow
longer and harder every day.
At last a good Samaritan turned up in the shape of an American lady with
a house of her own, who, hearing of their plight from Mrs. Sands,
undertook to send each day a supply of strong, perfectly made beef tea,
from her own kitchen, for Amy's use. It was an inexpressible relief, and
the lightening of this one particular care made all the rest seem easier
Another great relief came, when, after some delay, Dr. Hilary succeeded
in getting an English nurse to take the places of the unsatisfactory
Sister Ambrogia and her substitute, Sister Agatha, whom Amy in her
half-comprehending condition persisted in calling "Sister Nutmeg
Grater." Mrs. Swift was a tall, wiry, angular person, who seemed made of
equal parts of iron and whalebone. She was never tired; she could lift
anybody, do anything; and for sleep she seemed to have a sort of
antipathy, preferring to sit in an easy-chair and drop off into little
dozes, whenever it was convenient, to going regularly to bed for a
Amy took to her from the first, and the new nurse managed her
beautifully. No one else could soothe her half so well during the
delirious period, when the little shrill voice seemed never to be still,
and went on all day and all night in alternate raving or screaming or,
what was saddest of all to hear, low pitiful moans. There was no
shutting in these sounds. People moved out of the rooms below and on
either side, because they could get no sleep; and till the arrival of
Nurse Swift, there was no rest for poor Mrs. Ashe, who could not keep
away from her darling for a moment while that mournful wailing sounded
in her ears.
Somehow the long, dry Englishwoman seemed to have a mesmeric effect on
Amy, who was never quite so violent after she arrived. Katy was more
thankful for this than can well be told; for her great underlying
dread--a dread she dared not whisper plainly even to herself--was that
"Polly dear" might break down before Amy was better, and then what
_should_ they do?
She took every care that was possible of her friend. She made her eat;
she made her lie down. She forced daily doses of quinine and port-wine
down her throat, and saved her every possible step. But no one, however
affectionate and willing, could do much to lift the crushing burden of
care, which was changing Mrs. Ashe's rosy fairness to wan pallor and
laying such dark shadows under the pretty gray eyes. She had taken small
thought of looks since Amy's illness. All the little touches which had
made her toilette becoming, all the crimps and fluffs, had disappeared;
yet somehow never had she seemed to Katy half so lovely as now in the
plain black gown which she wore all day long, with her hair tucked into
a knot behind her ears. Her real beauty of feature and outline seemed
only enhanced by the rigid plainness of her attire, and the charm of
true expression grew in her face. Never had Katy admired and loved her
friend so well as during those days of fatigue and wearing suspense, or
realized so strongly the worth of her sweetness of temper, her
unselfishness and power of devoting herself to other people.
"Polly bears it wonderfully," she wrote her father; "she was all broken
down for the first day or two, but now her courage and patience are
surprising. When I think how precious Amy is to her and how lonely her
life would be if she were to die, I can hardly keep the tears out of my
eyes. But Polly does not cry. She is quiet and brave and almost cheerful
all the time, keeping herself busy with what needs to be done; she never
complains, and she looks--oh, so pretty! I think I never knew how much
she had in her before."
All this time no word had come from Lieutenant Worthington. His sister
had written him as soon as Amy was taken ill, and had twice telegraphed
since, but no answer had been received, and this strange silence added
to the sense of lonely isolation and distance from home and help which
those who encounter illness in a foreign land have to bear.
So first one week and then another wore themselves away somehow. The
fever did not break on the fourteenth day, as had been hoped, and must
run for another period, the doctor said; but its force was lessened, and
he considered that a favorable sign. Amy was quieter now and did not
rave so constantly, but she was very weak. All her pretty hair had been
shorn away, which made her little face look tiny and sharp. Mabel's
golden wig was sacrificed at the same time. Amy had insisted upon it,
and they dared not cross her.
"She has got a fever, too, and it's a great deal badder than mine is,"
she protested. "Her cheeks are as hot as fire. She ought to have ice on
her head, and how can she when her bang is so thick? Cut it all off,
every bit, and then I will let you cut mine."
"You had better give ze child her way," said Dr. Hilary. "She's in no
state to be fretted with triffles [trifles, the doctor meant], and in ze
end it will be well; for ze fever infection might harbor in zat doll's
head as well as elsewhere, and I should have to disinfect it, which
would be bad for ze skin of her."
"She isn't a doll," cried Amy, overhearing him; "she's my child, and you
sha'n't call her names." She hugged Mabel tight in her arms, and glared
at Dr. Hilary defiantly.
So Katy with pitiful fingers slashed away at Mabel's blond wig till her
head was as bare as a billiard-ball; and Amy, quite content, patted her
child while her own locks were being cut, and murmured, "Perhaps your
hair will all come out in little round curls, darling, as Johnnie Carr's
did;" then she fell into one of the quietest sleeps she had yet had.
It was the day after this that Katy, coming in from a round of errands,
found Mrs. Ashe standing erect and pale, with a frightened look in her
eyes, and her back against Amy's door, as if defending it from somebody.
Confronting her was Madame Frulini, the _padrona_ of the hotel. Madame's
cheeks were red, and her eyes bright and fierce; she was evidently in a
rage about something, and was pouring out a torrent of excited Italian,
with now and then a French or English word slipped in by way of
punctuation, and all so rapidly that only a trained ear could have
followed or grasped her meaning.
"What is the matter?" asked Katy, in amazement.
"Oh, Katy, I am so glad you have come," cried poor Mrs. Ashe. "I can
hardly understand a word that this horrible woman says, but I think she
wants to turn us out of the hotel, and that we shall take Amy to some
other place. It would be the death of her,--I know it would. I never,
never will go, unless the doctor says it is safe. I oughtn't to,--I
couldn't; she can't make me, can she, Katy?"
"Madame," said Katy,--and there was a flash in her eyes before which the
landlady rather shrank,--"what is all this? Why do you come to trouble
madame while her child is so ill?"
Then came another torrent of explanation which didn't explain; but Katy
gathered enough of the meaning to make out that Mrs. Ashe was quite
correct in her guess, and that Madame Frulini was requesting, nay,
insisting, that they should remove Amy from the hotel at once. There
were plenty of apartments to be had now that the Carnival was over, she
said,--her own cousin had rooms close by,--it could easily be arranged,
and people were going away from the Del Mondo every day because there
was fever in the house. Such a thing could not be, it should not
be,--the landlady's voice rose to a shriek, "the child must go!"
"You are a cruel woman," said Katy, indignantly, when she had grasped
the meaning of the outburst. "It is wicked, it is cowardly, to come thus
and attack a poor lady under your roof who has so much already to bear.
It is her only child who is lying in there,--her only one, do you
understand, madame?--and she is a widow. What you ask might kill the
child. I shall not permit you or any of your people to enter that door
till the doctor comes, and then I shall tell him how you have behaved,
and we shall see what he will say." As she spoke she turned the key of
Amy's door, took it out and put it in her pocket, then faced the
_padrona_ steadily, looking her straight in the eyes.
"Mademoiselle," stormed the landlady, "I give you my word, four people
have left this house already because of the noises made by little miss.
More will go. I shall lose my winter's profit,--all of it,--all; it will
be said there is fever at the Del Mondo,--no one will hereafter come to
me. There are lodgings plenty, comfortable,--oh, so comfortable! I will
not have my season ruined by a sickness; no, I will not!"
Madame Frulini's voice was again rising to a scream.
"Be silent!" said Katy, sternly; "you will frighten the child. I am
sorry that you should lose any customers, madame, but the fever is here
and we are here, and here we must stay till it is safe to go. The child
shall not be moved till the doctor gives permission. Money is not the
only thing in the world! Mrs. Ashe will pay anything that is fair to
make up your losses to you, but you must leave this room now, and not
return till Dr. Hilary is here."
Where Katy found French for all these long coherent speeches, she could
never afterward imagine. She tried to explain it by saying that
excitement inspired her for the moment, but that as soon as the moment
was over the inspiration died away and left her as speechless and
confused as ever. Clover said it made her think of the miracle of
Balaam; and Katy merrily rejoined that it might be so, and that no
donkey in any age of the world could possibly have been more grateful
than was she for the sudden gift of speech.
"But it is not the money,--it is my prestige," declared the landlady.
"Thank Heaven! here is the doctor now," cried Mrs. Ashe.
The doctor had in fact been standing in the doorway for several moments
before they noticed him, and had overheard part of the colloquy with
Madame Frulini. With him was some one else, at the sight of whom Mrs.
Ashe gave a great sob of relief. It was her brother, at last.
When Italian meets Italian, then comes the tug of expletive. It did not
seem to take one second for Dr. Hilary to whirl the _padrona_ out into
the entry, where they could be heard going at each other like two
furious cats. Hiss, roll, sputter, recrimination, objurgation! In five
minutes Madame Frulini was, metaphorically speaking, on her knees, and
the doctor standing over her with drawn sword, making her take back
every word she had said and every threat she had uttered.
"Prestige of thy miserable hotel!" he thundered; "where will that be
when I go and tell the English and Americans--all of whom I know, every
one!--how thou hast served a countrywoman of theirs in thy house? Dost
thou think thy prestige will help thee much when Dr. Hilary has fixed a
black mark on thy door! I tell thee no; not a stranger shalt thou have
next year to eat so much as a plate of macaroni under thy base roof! I
will advertise thy behavior in all the foreign papers,--in Figaro, in
Galignani, in the Swiss Times, and the English one which is read by all
the nobility, and the Heraldo of New York, which all Americans peruse--"
"Oh, doctor--pardon me--I regret what I said--I am afflicted--"
"I will post thee in the railroad stations," continued the doctor,
implacably; "I will bid my patients to write letters to all their
friends, warning them against thy flea-ridden Del Mondo; I will apprise
the steamboat companies at Genoa and Naples. Thou shalt see what comes
of it,--truly, thou shalt see."
Having thus reduced Madame Frulini to powder, the doctor now
condescended to take breath and listen to her appeals for mercy; and
presently he brought her in with her mouth full of protestations and
apologies, and assurances that the ladies had mistaken her meaning, she
had only spoken for the good of all; nothing was further from her
intention than that they should be disturbed or offended in any way, and
she and all her household were at the service of "the little sick angel
of God." After which the doctor dismissed her with an air of
contemptuous tolerance, and laid his hand on the door of Amy's room.
Behold, it was locked!
"Oh, I forgot," cried Katy, laughing; and she pulled the key out of
"You are a hee-roine, mademoiselle," said Dr. Hilary. "I watched you as
you faced that tigress, and your eyes were like a swordsman's as he
regards his enemy's rapier."
"Oh, she was so brave, and such a help!" said Mrs. Ashe, kissing her
impulsively. "You can't think how she has stood by me all through, Ned,
or what a comfort she has been."
"Yes, I can," said Ned Worthington, with a warm, grateful look at Katy.
"I can believe anything good of Miss Carr."
"But where have _you_ been all this time?" said Katy, who felt this
flood of compliment to be embarrassing; "we have so wondered at not
hearing from you."
"I have been off on a ten-days' leave to Corsica for moufflon-shooting,"
replied Mr. Worthington. "I only got Polly's telegrams and letters day
before yesterday, and I came away as soon as I could get my leave
extended. It was a most unlucky absence. I shall always regret it."
"Oh, it is all right now that you have come," his sister said, leaning
her head on his arm with a look of relief and rest which was good to
see. "Everything will go better now, I am sure."
"Katy Carr has behaved like a perfect angel," she told her brother when
they were alone.
"She is a trump of a girl. I came in time for part of that scene with
the landlady, and upon my word she was glorious! I didn't suppose she
could look so handsome."
"Have the Pages left Nice yet?" asked his sister, rather irrelevantly.
"No,--at least they were there on Thursday, but I think that they were
to start to-day."
Mr. Worthington answered carelessly, but his face darkened as he spoke.
There had been a little scene in Nice which he could not forget. He was
sitting in the English garden with Lilly and her mother when his
sister's telegrams were brought to him; and he had read them aloud,
partly as an explanation for the immediate departure which they made
necessary and which broke up an excursion just arranged with the ladies
for the afternoon. It is not pleasant to have plans interfered with; and
as neither Mrs. Page nor her daughter cared personally for little Amy,
it is not strange that disappointment at the interruption of their
pleasure should have been the first impulse with them. Still, this did
not excuse Lilly's unstudied exclamation of "Oh, bother!" and though she
speedily repented it as an indiscretion, and was properly sympathetic,
and "hoped the poor little thing would soon be better," Amy's uncle
could not forget the jarring impression. It completed a process of
disenchantment which had long been going on; and as hearts are sometimes
caught at the rebound, Mrs. Ashe was not so far astray when she built
certain little dim sisterly hopes on his evident admiration for Katy's
courage and this sudden awakening to a sense of her good looks.
But no space was left for sentiment or match-making while still Amy's
fate hung in the balance, and all three of them found plenty to do
during the next fortnight. The fever did not turn on the twenty-first
day, and another weary week of suspense set in, each day bringing a
decrease of the dangerous symptoms, but each day as well marking a
lessening in the childish strength which had been so long and severely
tested. Amy was quite conscious now, and lay quietly, sleeping a great
deal and speaking seldom. There was not much to do but to wait and hope;
but the flame of hope burned low at times, as the little life flickered
in its socket, and seemed likely to go out like a wind-blown torch.
Now and then Lieutenant Worthington would persuade his sister to go
with him for a few minutes' drive or walk in the fresh air, from which
she had so long been debarred, and once or twice he prevailed on Katy
to do the same; but neither of them could bear to be away long from
Intimacy grows fast when people are thus united by a common anxiety,
sharing the same hopes and fears day after day, speaking and thinking of
the same thing. The gay young officer at Nice, who had counted so little
in Katy's world, seemed to have disappeared, and the gentle,
considerate, tender-hearted fellow who now filled his place was quite a
different person in her eyes. Katy began to count on Ned Worthington as
a friend who could be trusted for help and sympathy and comprehension,
and appealed to and relied upon in all emergencies. She was quite at
ease with him now, and asked him to do this and that, to come and help
her, or to absent himself, as freely as if he had been Dorry or Phil.
He, on his part, found this easy intimacy charming. In the reaction of
his temporary glamour for the pretty Lilly, Katy's very difference from
her was an added attraction. This difference consisted, as much as
anything else, in the fact that she was so truly in earnest in what she
said and did. Had Lilly been in Katy's place, she would probably have
been helpful to Mrs. Ashe and kind to Amy so far as in her lay; but the
thought of self would have tinctured all that she did and said, and the
need of keeping to what was tasteful and becoming would have influenced
her in every emergency, and never have been absent from her mind.
Katy, on the contrary, absorbed in the needs of the moment, gave little
heed to how she looked or what any one was thinking about her. Her habit
of neatness made her take time for the one thorough daily dressing,--the
brushing of hair and freshening of clothes, which were customary with
her; but, this tax paid to personal comfort, she gave little further
heed to appearances. She wore an old gray gown, day in and day out,
which Lilly would not have put on for half an hour without a large
bribe, so unbecoming was it; but somehow Lieutenant Worthington grew to
like the gray gown as a part of Katy herself. And if by chance he
brought a rose in to cheer the dim stillness of the sick-room, and she
tucked it into her buttonhole, immediately it was as though she were
decked for conquest. Pretty dresses are very pretty on pretty
people,--they certainly play an important part in this queer little
world of ours; but depend upon it, dear girls, no woman ever has
established so distinct and clear a claim on the regard of her lover as
when he has ceased to notice or analyze what she wears, and just accepts
it unquestioningly, whatever it is, as a bit of the dear human life
which has grown or is growing to be the best and most delightful thing
in the world to him.
The gray gown played its part during the long anxious night when they
all sat watching breathlessly to see which way the tide would turn with
dear little Amy. The doctor came at midnight, and went away to come
again at dawn. Mrs. Swift sat grim and watchful beside the pillow of her
charge, rising now and then to feel pulse and skin, or to put a spoonful
of something between Amy's lips. The doors and windows stood open to
admit the air. In the outer room all was hushed. A dim Roman lamp, fed
with olive oil, burned in one corner behind a screen. Mrs. Ashe lay on
the sofa with her eyes closed, bearing the strain of suspense in
absolute silence. Her brother sat beside her, holding in his one of the
hot hands whose nervous twitches alone told of the surgings of hope and
fear within. Katy was resting in a big chair near by, her wistful eyes
fixed on Amy's little figure seen in the dim distance, her ears alert
for every sound from the sick-room.
So they watched and waited. Now and then Ned Worthington or Katy would
rise softly, steal on tiptoe to the bedside, and come back to whisper to
Mrs. Ashe that Amy had stirred or that she seemed to be asleep. It was
one of the nights which do not come often in a lifetime, and which
people never forget. The darkness seems full of meaning; the hush, of
sound. God is beyond, holding the sunrise in his right hand, holding the
sun of our earthly hopes as well,--will it dawn in sorrow or in joy? We
dare not ask, we can only wait.
A faint stir of wind and a little broadening of the light roused Katy
from a trance of half-understood thoughts. She crept once more into
Amy's room. Mrs. Swift laid a warning finger on her lips; Amy was
sleeping, she said with a gesture. Katy whispered the news to the still
figure on the sofa, then she went noiselessly out of the room. The great
hotel was fast asleep; not a sound stirred the profound silence of the
dark halls. A longing for fresh air led her to the roof.
There was the dawn just tingeing the east. The sky, even thus early,
wore the deep mysterious blue of Italy. A fresh _tramontana_ was
blowing, and made Katy glad to draw her shawl about her.
Far away in the distance rose the Alban Hills above the dim Campagna,
with the more lofty Sabines beyond, and Soracte, clear cut against the
sky like a wave frozen in the moment of breaking. Below lay the ancient
city, with its strange mingling of the old and the new, of past things
embedded in the present; or is it the present thinly veiling the rich
and mighty past,--who shall say?
Faint rumblings of wheels and here and there a curl of smoke showed that
Rome was waking up. The light insensibly grew upon the darkness. A pink
flush lit up the horizon. Florio stirred in his lair, stretched his
dappled limbs, and as the first sun-ray glinted on the roof, raised
himself, crossed the gravelled tiles with soundless feet, and ran his
soft nose into Katy's hand. She fondled him for Amy's sake as she stood
bent over the flower-boxes, inhaling the scent of the mignonette and
gilly-flowers, with her eyes fixed on the distance; but her heart was at
home with the sleepers there, and a rush of strong desire stirred her.
Would this dreary time come to an end presently, and should they be set
at liberty to go their ways with no heavy sorrow to press them down, to
be care-free and happy again in their own land?
A footstep startled her. Ned Worthington was coming over the roof on
tiptoe as if fearful of disturbing somebody. His face looked resolute
"I wanted to tell you," he said in a hushed voice, "that the doctor is
here, and he says Amy has no fever, and with care may be considered out
"Thank God!" cried Katy, bursting into tears. The long fatigue, the
fears kept in check so resolutely, the sleepless night just passed, had
their revenge now, and she cried and cried as if she could never stop,
but with all the time such joy and gratitude in her heart! She was
conscious that Ned had his arm round her and was holding both her hands
tight; but they were so one in the emotion of the moment that it did not
"How sweet the sun looks!" she said presently, releasing herself, with a
happy smile flashing through her tears; "it hasn't seemed really bright
for ever so long. How silly I was to cry! Where is dear Polly? I must go
down to her at once. Oh, what does she say?"
Lieut. Worthington's leave had nearly expired. He must rejoin his
ship; but he waited till the last possible moment in order to help his
sister through the move to Albano, where it had been decided that Amy
should go for a few days of hill air before undertaking the longer
journey to Florence.
It was a perfect morning in late March when the pale little invalid was
carried in her uncle's strong arms, and placed in the carriage which was
to take them to the old town on the mountain slopes which they had seen
shining from far away for so many weeks past. Spring had come in her
fairest shape to Italy. The Campagna had lost its brown and tawny hues
and taken on a tinge of fresher color. The olive orchards were budding
thickly. Almond boughs extended their dazzling shapes across the blue
sky. Arums and acanthus and ivy filled every hollow, roses nodded from
over every gate, while a carpet of violets and cyclamen and primroses
stretched over the fields and freighted every wandering wind with
When once the Campagna with its long line of aqueducts, arches, and
hoary tombs was left behind, and the carriage slowly began to mount the
gradual rises of the hill, Amy revived. With every breath of the fresher
air her eyes seemed to brighten and her voice to grow stronger. She held
Mabel up to look at the view; and the sound of her laugh, faint and
feeble as it was, was like music to her mother's ears.
Amy wore a droll little silk-lined cap on her head, over which a downy
growth of pale-brown fuzz was gradually thickening. Already it showed a
tendency to form into tiny rings, which to Amy, who had always hankered
for curls, was an extreme satisfaction. Strange to say, the same thing
exactly had happened to Mabel; her hair had grown out into soft little
round curls also! Uncle Ned and Katy had ransacked Rome for this
baby-wig, which filled and realized all Amy's hopes for her child. On
the same excursion they had bought the materials for the pretty spring
suit which Mabel wore, for it had been deemed necessary to sacrifice
most of her wardrobe as a concession to possible fever-germs. Amy
admired the pearl-colored dress and hat, the fringed jacket and little
lace-trimmed parasol so much, that she was quite consoled for the loss
of the blue velvet costume and ermine muff which had been the pride of
her heart ever since they left Paris, and whose destruction they had
scarcely dared to confess to her.
So up, up, up, they climbed till the gateway of the old town was passed,
and the carriage stopped before a quaint building once the residence of
the Bishop of Albano, but now known as the Hotel de la Poste. Here they
alighted, and were shown up a wide and lofty staircase to their rooms,
which were on the sunny side of the house, and looked across a walled
garden, where roses and lemon trees grew beside old fountains guarded by
sculptured lions and heathen divinities with broken noses and a scant
supply of fingers and toes, to the Campagna, purple with distance and
stretching miles and miles away to where Rome sat on her seven hills,
lifting high the Dome of St. Peter's into the illumined air.
Nurse Swift said that Amy must go to bed at once, and have a long rest.
But Amy nearly wept at the proposal, and declared that she was not a bit
tired and couldn't sleep if she went to bed ever so much. The change of
air had done her good already, and she looked more like herself than for
many weeks past. They compromised their dispute on a sofa, where Amy,
well wrapped up, was laid, and where, in spite of her protestations, she
presently fell asleep, leaving the others free to examine and arrange
their new quarters.
Such enormous rooms as they were! It was quite a journey to go from one
side of them to another. The floors were of stone, with squares of
carpet laid down over them, which looked absurdly small for the great
spaces they were supposed to cover. The beds and tables were of the
usual size, but they seemed almost like doll furniture because the
chambers were so big. A quaint old paper, with an enormous pattern of
banyan trees and pagodas, covered the walls, and every now and then
betrayed by an oblong of regular cracks the existence of a hidden door,
papered to look exactly like the rest of the wall.
These mysterious doors made Katy nervous, and she never rested till she
had opened every one of them and explored the places they led to. One
gave access to a queer little bathroom. Another led, through a narrow
dark passage, to a sort of balcony or loggia overhanging the garden. A
third ended in a dusty closet with an artful chink in it from which you
could peep into what had been the Bishop's drawing-room but which was
now turned into the dining-room of the hotel. It seemed made for
purposes of espial; and Katy had visions of a long line of reverend
prelates with their ears glued to the chink, overhearing what was being
said about them in the apartment beyond.
The most surprising of all she did not discover till she was going to
bed on the second night after their arrival, when she thought she knew
all about the mysterious doors and what they led to. A little
unexplained draught of wind made her candle flicker, and betrayed the
existence of still another door so cunningly hid in the wall pattern
that she had failed to notice it. She had quite a creepy feeling as she
drew her dressing-gown about her, took a light, and entered the narrow
passage into which it opened. It was not a long passage, and ended
presently in a tiny oratory. There was a little marble altar, with a
kneeling-step and candlesticks and a great crucifix above. Ends of wax
candles still remained in the candlesticks, and bunches of dusty paper
flowers filled the vases which stood on either side of them. A faded
silk cushion lay on the step. Doubtless the Bishop had often knelt
there. Katy felt as if she were the first person to enter the place
since he went away. Her common-sense told her that in a hotel bedroom
constantly occupied by strangers for years past, some one _must_ have
discovered the door and found the little oratory before her; but
common-sense is sometimes less satisfactory than romance. Katy liked to
think that she was the first, and to "make believe" that no one else
knew about it; so she did so, and invented legends about the place which
Amy considered better than any fairy story.
Before he left them Lieutenant Worthington had a talk with his sister
in the garden. She rather forced this talk upon him, for various
things were lying at her heart about which she longed for explanation;
but he yielded so easily to her wiles that it was evident he was not
averse to the idea.
"Come, Polly, don't beat about the bush any longer," he said at last,
amused and a little irritated at her half-hints and little feminine
_finesses_. "I know what you want to ask; and as there's no use
making a secret of it, I will take my turn in asking. Have I any chance,
do you think?"
"Any chance?--about Katy, do you mean? Oh, Ned, you make me so happy."
"Yes; about her, of course."
"I don't see why you should say 'of course,'" remarked his sister, with
the perversity of her sex, "when it's only five or six weeks ago that I
was lying awake at night for fear you were being gobbled up by that
"There was a little risk of it," replied her brother, seriously. "She's
awfully pretty and she dances beautifully, and the other fellows were
all wild about her, and--well, you know yourself how such things go. I
can't see now what it was that I fancied so much about her, I don't
suppose I could have told exactly at the time; but I can tell without
the smallest trouble what it is in--the other."
"In Katy? I should think so," cried Mrs. Ashe, emphatically; "the two
are no more to be compared than--than--well, bread and syllabub! You can
live on one, and you can't live on the other."
"Come, now, Miss Page isn't so bad as that. She is a nice girl enough,
and a pretty girl too,--prettier than Katy; I'm not so far gone that I
can't see that. But we won't talk about her, she's not in the present
question at all; very likely she'd have had nothing to say to me in any
case. I was only one out of a dozen, and she never gave me reason to
suppose that she cared more for me than the rest. Let us talk about this
friend of yours; have I any chance at all, do you think, Polly?"
"Ned, you are the dearest boy! I would rather have Katy for a sister
than any one else I know. She's so nice all through,--so true and sweet
"She is all that and more; she's a woman to tie to for life, to be
perfectly sure of always. She would make a splendid wife for any man.
I'm not half good enough for her; but the question is,--and you haven't
answered it yet, Polly,--what's my chance?"
"I don't know," said his sister, slowly.
"Then I must ask herself, and I shall do so to-day."
"I don't know," repeated Mrs. Ashe. "'She is a woman, therefore to be
won:' and I don't think there is any one ahead of you; that is the best
hope I have to offer, Ned. Katy never talks of such things; and though
she's so frank, I can't guess whether or not she ever thinks about them.
She likes you, however, I am sure of that. But, Ned, it will not be wise
to say anything to her yet."
"Not say anything? Why not?"
"No. Recollect that it is only a little while since she looked upon you
as the admirer of another girl, and a girl she doesn't like very much,
though they are cousins. You must give her time to get over that
impression. Wait awhile; that's my advice, Ned."
"I'll wait any time if only she will say yes in the end. But it's hard
to go away without a word of hope, and it's more like a man to speak
out, it seems to me."
"It's too soon," persisted his sister. "You don't want her to think
you a fickle fellow, falling in love with a fresh girl every time you
go into port, and falling out again when the ship sails. Sailors have
a bad reputation for that sort of thing. No woman cares to win a man
"Great Scott! I should think not! Do you mean to say that is the way my
conduct appears to her, Polly ?"
"No, I don't mean just that; but wait, dear Ned, I am sure it is
Fortified by this sage counsel, Lieutenant Worthington went away next
morning, without saying anything to Katy in words, though perhaps eyes
and tones may have been less discreet. He made them promise that some
one should send a letter every day about Amy; and as Mrs. Ashe
frequently devolved the writing of these bulletins upon Katy, and the
replies came in the shape of long letters, she found herself conducting
a pretty regular correspondence without quite intending it. Ned
Worthington wrote particularly nice letters. He had the knack, more
often found in women than men, of giving a picture with a few graphic
touches, and indicating what was droll or what was characteristic with
a single happy phrase. His letters grew to be one of Katy's pleasures;
and sometimes, as Mrs. Ashe watched the color deepen in her cheeks
while she read, her heart would bound hopefully within her. But she was
a wise woman in her way, and she wanted Katy for a sister very much; so
she never said a word or looked a look to startle or surprise her, but
left the thing to work itself out, which is the best course always in
Little Amy's improvement at Albano was something remarkable. Mrs. Swift
watched over her like a lynx. Her vigilance never relaxed. Amy was made
to eat and sleep and walk and rest with the regularity of a machine; and
this exact system, combined with the good air, worked like a charm. The
little one gained hour by hour. They could absolutely see her growing
fat, her mother declared. Fevers, when they do not kill, operate
sometimes as spring bonfires do in gardens, burning up all the refuse
and leaving the soil free for the growth of fairer things; and Amy
promised in time to be only the better and stronger for her hard
She had gained so much before the time came to start for Florence, that
they scarcely dreaded the journey; but it proved worse than their
expectations. They had not been able to secure a carriage to themselves,
and were obliged to share their compartment with two English ladies, and
three Roman Catholic priests, one old, the others young. The older
priest seemed to be a person of some consequence; for quite a number of
people came to see him off, and knelt for his blessing devoutly as the
train moved away. The younger ones Katy guessed to be seminary students
under his charge. Her chief amusement through the long dusty journey was
in watching the terrible time that one of these young men was having
with his own hat. It was a large three-cornered black affair, with sharp
angles and excessively stiff; and a perpetual struggle seemed to be
going on between it and its owner, who was evidently unhappy when it was
on his head and still more unhappy when it was anywhere else. If he
perched it on his knees it was sure to slide away from him and fall with
a thump on the floor, whereupon he would pick it up, blushing furiously
as he did so. Then he would lay it on the seat when the train stopped at
a station, and jump out with an air of relief; but he invariably forgot,
and sat down upon it when he returned, and sprang up with a look of
horror at the loud crackle it made; after which he would tuck it into
the baggage-rack overhead, from which it would presently descend,
generally into the lap of one of the staid English ladies, who would
hand it back to him with an air of deep offence, remarking to her
"I never knew anything like it. Fancy! that makes four times that hat
has fallen on me. The young man is a feedgit! He's the most feegitty
creature I ever saw in my life."
The young _seminariat_ did not understand a word she said; but the
tone needed no interpreter, and set him to blushing more painfully than
ever. Altogether, the hat was never off his mind for a moment. Katy
could see that he was thinking about it, even when he was thumbing his
Breviary and making believe to read.
At last the train, steaming down the valley of the Arno, revealed fair
Florence sitting among olive-clad hills, with Giotto's beautiful
Bell-tower, and the great, many-colored, soft-hued Cathedral, and the
square tower of the old Palace, and the quaint bridges over the river,
looking exactly as they do in the photographs; and Katy would have felt
delighted, in spite of dust and fatigue, had not Amy looked so worn out
and exhausted. They were seriously troubled about her, and for the
moment could think of nothing else. Happily the fatigue did no permanent
harm, and a day or two of rest made her all right again. By good
fortune, a nice little apartment in the modern quarter of the city had
been vacated by its winter occupants the very day of their arrival, and
Mrs. Ashe secured it for a month, with all its conveniences and
advantages, including a maid named Maria, who had been servant to the
just departed tenants.
Maria was a very tall woman, at least six feet two, and had a splendid
contralto voice, which she occasionally exercised while busy over her
pots and pans. It was so remarkable to hear these grand arias and
recitatives proceeding from a kitchen some eight feet square, that Katy
was at great pains to satisfy her curiosity about it. By aid of the
dictionary and much persistent questioning, she made out that Maria in
her youth had received a partial training for the opera; but in the end
it was decided that she was too big and heavy for the stage, and the
poor "giantess," as Amy named her, had been forced to abandon her
career, and gradually had sunk to the position of a maid-of-all-work.
Katy suspected that heaviness of mind as well as of body must have stood
in her way; for Maria, though a good-natured giantess, was by no means
quick of intelligence.
"I do think that the manner in which people over here can make homes for
themselves at five minutes' notice is perfectly delightful," cried Katy,
at the end of their first day's housekeeping. "I wish we could do the
same in America. How cosy it looks here already!"
It was indeed cosy. Their new domain consisted of a parlor in a corner,
furnished in bright yellow brocade, with windows to south and west; a
nice little dining-room; three bedrooms, with dimity-curtained beds; a
square entrance hall, lighted at night by a tall slender brass lamp
whose double wicks were fed with olive oil; and the aforesaid tiny
kitchen, behind which was a sleeping cubby, quite too small to be a good
fit for the giantess. The rooms were full of conveniences,--easy-chairs,
sofas, plenty of bureaus and dressing-tables, and corner fireplaces like
Franklin stoves, in which odd little fires burned on cool days, made of
pine cones, cakes of pressed sawdust exactly like Boston brown bread cut
into slices, and a few sticks of wood thriftily adjusted, for fuel is
worth its weight in gold in Florence. Katy's was the smallest of the
bedrooms, but she liked it best of all for the reason that its one big
window opened on an iron balcony over which grew a Banksia rose-vine
with a stem as thick as her wrist. It was covered just now with masses
of tiny white blossoms, whose fragrance was inexpressibly delicious and
made every breath drawn in their neighborhood a delight. The sun
streamed in on all sides of the little apartment, which filled a
narrowing angle at the union of three streets; and from one window and
another, glimpses could be caught of the distant heights about the
city,--San Miniato in one direction, Bellosguardo in another, and for
the third the long olive-hung ascent of Fiesole, crowned by its gray
It was astonishing how easily everything fell into train about the
little establishment. Every morning at six the English baker left two
small sweet brown loaves and a dozen rolls at the door. Then followed
the dairyman with a supply of tiny leaf-shaped pats of freshly churned
butter, a big flask of milk, and two small bottles of thick cream, with
a twist of vine leaf in each by way of a cork. Next came a _contadino_
with a flask of red Chianti wine, a film of oil floating on top to keep
it sweet. People in Florence must drink wine, whether they like it or
not, because the lime-impregnated water is unsafe for use without some
Dinner came from a _trattoria_, in a tin box, with a pan of coals inside
to keep it warm, which box was carried on a man's head. It was furnished
at a fixed price per day,--a soup, two dishes of meat, two vegetables,
and a sweet dish; and the supply was so generous as always to leave
something toward next day's luncheon. Salad, fruit, and fresh eggs Maria
bought for them in the old market. From the confectioners came loaves of
_pane santo_, a sort of light cake made with arrowroot instead of flour;
and sometimes, by way of treat, a square of _pan forte da Siena_,
compounded of honey, almonds, and chocolate,--a mixture as pernicious
as it is delicious, and which might take a medal anywhere for the sure
production of nightmares.
Amy soon learned to know the shops from which these delicacies came.
She had her favorites, too, among the strolling merchants who sold
oranges and those little sweet native figs, dried in the sun without
sugar, which are among the specialties of Florence. They, in their
turn, learned to know her and to watch for the appearance of her little
capped head and Mabel's blond wig at the window, lingering about till
she came, and advertising their wares with musical modulations, so
appealing that Amy was always running to Katy, who acted as
housekeeper, to beg her to please buy this or that, "because it is my
old man, and he wants me to so much."
"But, chicken, we have plenty of figs for to-day."
"No matter; get some more, please do. I'll eat them all; really, I
And Amy was as good as her word. Her convalescent appetite was something
There was another branch of shopping in which they all took equal
delight. The beauty and the cheapness of the Florence flowers are a
continual surprise to a stranger. Every morning after breakfast an old
man came creaking up the two long flights of stairs which led to Mrs.
Ashe's apartment, tapped at the door, and as soon as it opened, inserted
a shabby elbow and a large flat basket full of flowers. Such flowers!
Great masses of scarlet and cream-colored tulips, and white and gold
narcissus, knots of roses of all shades, carnations, heavy-headed trails
of wistaria, wild hyacinths, violets, deep crimson and orange
ranunculus, _giglios_, or wild irises,--the Florence emblem, so deeply
purple as to be almost black,--anemones, spring-beauties, faintly tinted
wood-blooms tied in large loose nosegays, ivy, fruit
blossoms,--everything that can be thought of that is fair and sweet.
These enticing wares the old man would tip out on the table. Mrs. Ashe
and Katy would select what they wanted, and then the process of
bargaining would begin, without which no sale is complete in Italy. The
old man would name an enormous price, five times as much as he hoped to
get. Katy would offer a very small one, considerably less than she
expected to give. The old man would dance with dismay, wring his hands,
assure them that he should die of hunger and all his family with him if
he took less than the price named; he would then come down half a franc
in his demand. So it would go on for five minutes, ten, sometimes for a
quarter of an hour, the old man's price gradually descending, and Katy's
terms very slowly going up, a cent or two at a time. Next the giantess
would mingle with the fray. She would bounce out of her kitchen, berate
the flower-vender, snatch up his flowers, declare that they smelt badly,
fling them down again, pouring out all the while a voluble tirade of
reproaches and revilings, and looking so enormous in her excitement that
Katy wondered that the old man dared to answer her at all. Finally,
there would be a sudden lull. The old man would shrug his shoulders, and
remarking that he and his wife and his aged grandmother must go without
bread that day since it was the Signora's will, take the money offered
and depart, leaving such a mass of flowers behind him that Katy would
begin to think that they had paid an unfair price for them and to feel a
little rueful, till she observed that the old man was absolutely dancing
downstairs with rapture over the good bargain he had made, and that
Maria was black with indignation over the extravagance of her ladies!
"The Americani are a nation of spend-thrifts," she would mutter to
herself, as she quickened the charcoal in her droll little range by
fanning it with a palm-leaf fan; "they squander money like water. Well,
all the better for us Italians!" with a shrug of her shoulders.
"But, Maria, it was only sixteen cents that we paid, and look at those
flowers! There are at least half a bushel of them."
"Sixteen cents for garbage like that! The Signorina would better let me
make her bargains for her. _Gia! Gia!_ No Italian lady would have paid
more than eleven sous for such useless _roba_. It is evident that the
Signorina's countrymen eat gold when at home, they think so little of
casting it away!"
Altogether, what with the comfort and quiet of this little home, the
numberless delightful things that there were to do and to see, and
Viessieux's great library, from which they could draw books at will
to make the doing and seeing more intelligible, the month at
Florence passed only too quickly, and was one of the times to which
they afterward looked back with most pleasure. Amy grew steadily
stronger, and the freedom from anxiety about her after their long
strain of apprehension was restful and healing beyond expression to
both mind and body.
Their very last excursion of all, and one of the pleasantest, was to the
old amphitheatre at Fiesole; and it was while they sat there in the soft
glow of the late afternoon, tying into bunches the violets which they
had gathered from under walls whose foundations antedate Rome itself,
that a cheery call sounded from above, and an unexpected surprise
descended upon them in the shape of Lieutenant Worthington, who having
secured another fifteen days' furlough, had come to take his sister on
"I didn't write you that I had applied for leave," he explained,
"because there seemed so little chance of my getting off again so soon;
but as luck had it, Carruthers, whose turn it was, sprained his ankle
and was laid up, and the Commodore let us exchange. I made all the
capital I could out of Amy's fever; but upon my word, I felt like a
humbug when I came upon her and Mrs. Swift in the Cascine just now, as I
was hunting for you. How she has picked up! I should never have known
her for the same child."
"Yes, she seems perfectly well again, and as strong as before she had
the fever, though that dear old Goody Swift is just as careful of her as
ever. She would not let us bring her here this afternoon, for fear we
should stay out till the dew fell. Ned, it is perfectly delightful that
you were able to come. It makes going to Venice seem quite a different
thing, doesn't it, Katy?"
"I don't want it to seem quite different, because going to Venice was
always one of my dreams," replied Katy, with a little laugh.
"I hope at least it doesn't make it seem less pleasant," said Mr.
Worthington, as his sister stopped to pick a violet.
"No, indeed, I am glad," said Katy; "we shall all be seeing it for
the first time, too, shall we not? I think you said you had never
been there." She spoke simply and frankly, but she was conscious of
an odd shyness.
"I simply couldn't stand it any longer," Ned Worthington confided to his
sister when they were alone. "My head is so full of her that I can't
attend to my work, and it came to me all of a sudden that this might be
my last chance. You'll be getting north before long, you know, to
Switzerland and so on, where I cannot follow you. So I made a clean
breast of it to the Commodore; and the good old fellow, who has a soft
spot in his heart for a love-story, behaved like a brick, and made it
all straight for me to come away."
Mrs. Ashe did not join in these commendations of the Commodore; her
attention was fixed on another part of her brother's discourse.
"Then you won't be able to come to me again? I sha'n't see you again
after this!" she exclaimed. "Dear me! I never realized that before. What
shall I do without you?"
"You will have Miss Carr. She is a host in herself," suggested Ned
Worthington. His sister shook her head.
"Katy is a jewel," she remarked presently; "but somehow one wants a man
to call upon. I shall feel lost without you, Ned."
The month's housekeeping wound up that night with a "thick tea" in honor
of Lieutenant Worthington's arrival, which taxed all the resources of
the little establishment. Maria was sent out hastily to buy _pan forte
da Siena_ and _vino d'Asti_, and fresh eggs for an omelette, and
chickens' breasts smothered in cream from the restaurant, and artichokes
for a salad, and flowers to garnish all; and the guest ate and praised
and admired; and Amy and Mabel sat on his knee and explained everything
to him, and they were all very happy together. Their merriment was so
infectious that it extended to the poor giantess, who had been very
pensive all day at the prospect of losing her good place, and who now
raised her voice in the grand aria from "Orfeo," and made the kitchen
ring with the passionate demand "Che faro senza Eurydice?" The splendid
notes, full of fire and lamentation, rang out across the saucepans as
effectively as if they had been footlights; and Katy, rising softly,
opened the kitchen door a little way that they might not lose a sound.
The next day brought them to Venice. It was a "moment," indeed, as Katy
seated herself for the first time in a gondola, and looked from beneath
its black hood at the palace walls on the Grand Canal, past which they
were gliding. Some were creamy white and black, some orange-tawny,
others of a dull delicious ruddy color, half pink, half red; but all, in
build and ornament, were unlike palaces elsewhere. High on the prow
before her stood the gondolier, his form defined in dark outline against
the sky, as he swayed and bent to his long oar, raising his head now and
again to give a wild musical cry, as warning to other approaching
gondolas. It was all like a dream. Ned Worthington sat beside her,
looking more at the changes in her expressive face than at the palaces.
Venice was as new to him as to Katy; but she was a new feature in his
life also, and even more interesting than Venice. They seemed to float
on pleasures for the next ten days. Their arrival had been happily timed
to coincide with a great popular festival which for nearly a week kept
Venice in a state of continual brilliant gala. All the days were spent
on the water, only landing now and then to look at some famous building
or picture, or to eat ices in the Piazza with the lovely facade of St.
Mark's before them. Dining or sleeping seemed a sheer waste of time! The
evenings were spent on the water too; for every night, immediately after
sunset, a beautiful drifting pageant started from the front of the
Doge's Palace to make the tour of the Grand Canal, and our friends
always took a part in it. In its centre went a barge hung with
embroideries and filled with orange trees and musicians. This was
surrounded by a great convoy of skiffs and gondolas bearing colored
lanterns and pennons and gay awnings, and managed by gondoliers in
picturesque uniforms. All these floated and shifted and swept on
together with a sort of rhythmic undulation as if keeping time to the
music, while across their path dazzling showers and arches of colored
fire poured from the palace fronts and the hotels. Every movement of the
fairy flotilla was repeated in the illuminated water, every torch-tip
and scarlet lantern and flake of green or rosy fire; above all the
bright full moon looked down as if surprised. It was magically beautiful
in effect. Katy felt as if her previous sober ideas about life and
things had melted away. For the moment the world was turned topsy-turvy.
There was nothing hard or real or sordid left in it; it was just a fairy
tale, and she was in the middle of it as she had longed to be in her
childhood. She was the Princess, encircled by delights, as when she and
Clover and Elsie played in "Paradise,"--only, this was better; and, dear
me! who was this Prince who seemed to belong to the story and to grow
more important to it every day?
Fairy tales must come to ending. Katy's last chapter closed with a
sudden turn-over of the leaf when, toward the end of this happy
fortnight, Mrs. Ashe came into her room with the face of one who has
unpleasant news to communicate.
"Katy," she began, "should you be _awfully_ disappointed, should
you consider me a perfect wretch, if I went home now instead of in
Katy was too much astonished to reply.
"I am grown such a coward, I am so knocked up and weakened by what I
suffered in Rome, that I find I cannot face the idea of going on to
Germany and Switzerland alone, without Ned to take care of me. You are a
perfect angel, dear, and I know that you would do all you could to make
it easy for me, but I am such a fool that I do not dare. I think my
nerves must have given way," she continued half tearfully; "but the very
idea of shifting for myself for five months longer makes me so miserably
homesick that I cannot endure it. I dare say I shall repent afterward,
and I tell myself now how silly it is; but it's no use,--I shall never
know another easy moment till I have Amy safe again in America and under
your father's care."
"I find," she continued after another little pause, "that we can go down
with Ned to Genoa and take a steamer there which will carry us straight
to New York without any stops. I hate to disappoint you dreadfully,
Katy, but I have almost decided to do it. Shall you mind very much? Can
you ever forgive me?" She was fairly crying now.
Katy had to swallow hard before she could answer, the sense of
disappointment was so sharp; and with all her efforts there was almost a
sob in her voice as she said,--
"Why yes, indeed, dear Polly, there is nothing to forgive. You are
perfectly right to go home if you feel so." Then with another swallow
she added: "You have given me the loveliest six months' treat that ever
was, and I should be a greedy girl indeed if I found fault because it is
cut off a little sooner than we expected."
"You are so dear and good not to be vexed," said her friend, embracing
her. "It makes me feel doubly sorry about disappointing you. Indeed I
wouldn't if I could help it, but I simply can't. I _must_ go home.
Perhaps we'll come back some day when Amy is grown up, or safely married
to somebody who will take good care of her!"
This distant prospect was but a poor consolation for the immediate
disappointment. The more Katy thought about it the sorrier did she feel.
It was not only losing the chance--very likely the only one she would
ever have--of seeing Switzerland and Germany; it was all sorts of other
little things besides. They must go home in a strange ship with a
captain they did not know, instead of in the "Spartacus," as they had
planned; and they should land in New York, where no one would be waiting
for them, and not have the fun of sailing into Boston Bay and seeing
Rose on the wharf, where she had promised to be. Furthermore, they must
pass the hot summer in Burnet instead of in the cool Alpine valleys; and
Polly's house was let till October. She and Amy would have to shift for
themselves elsewhere. Perhaps they would not be in Burnet at all. Oh
dear, what a pity it was! what a dreadful pity!
Then, the first shock of surprise and discomfiture over, other ideas
asserted themselves; and as she realized that in three weeks more, or
four at the longest, she was to see papa and Clover and all her dear
people at home, she began to feel so very glad that she could hardly
wait for the time to come. After all, there was nothing in Europe quite
so good as that.
"No, I'm not sorry," she told herself; "I am glad. Poor Polly! it's no
wonder she feels nervous after all she has gone through. I hope I wasn't
cross to her! And it will be _very_ nice to have Lieutenant Worthington
to take care of us as far as Genoa."
The next three days were full of work. There was no more floating in
gondolas, except in the way of business. All the shopping which they had
put off must be done, and the trunks packed for the voyage. Every one
recollected last errands and commissions; there was continual coming and
going and confusion, and Amy, wild with excitement, popping up every
other moment in the midst of it all, to demand of everybody if they were
not glad that they were going back to America.
Katy had never yet bought her gift from old Mrs. Redding. She had
waited, thinking continually that she should see something more tempting
still in the next place they went to; but now, with the sense that there
were to be no more "next places," she resolved to wait no longer, and
with a hundred francs in her pocket, set forth to choose something from
among the many tempting things for sale in the Piazza. A bracelet of old
Roman coins had caught her fancy one day in a bric-a-brac shop, and she
walked straight toward it, only pausing by the way to buy a pale blue
iridescent pitcher at Salviate's for Cecy Slack, and see it carefully
rolled in seaweed and soft paper.
The price of the bracelet was a little more than she expected, and quite
a long process of bargaining was necessary to reduce it to the sum she
had to spend. She had just succeeded and was counting out the money when
Mrs. Ashe and her brother appeared, having spied her from the opposite
side of the Piazza, where they were choosing last photographs at Naga's.
Katy showed her purchase and explained that it was a present; "for of
course I should never walk out in cold blood and buy a bracelet for
myself," she said with a laugh.
"This is a fascinating little shop," said Mrs. Ashe. "I wonder
what is the price of that queer old chatelaine with the bottles
hanging from it."
The price was high; but Mrs. Ashe was now tolerably conversant with
shopping Italian, which consists chiefly of a few words repeated many
times over, and it lowered rapidly under the influence of her _troppo's_
and _e molto caro's_, accompanied with telling little shrugs and looks
of surprise. In the end she bought it for less than two thirds of what
had been originally asked for it. As she put the parcel in her pocket,
her brother said,--
"If you have done your shopping now, Polly, can't you come out for a
"Katy may, but I can't," replied Mrs. Ashe. "The man promised to bring
me gloves at six o'clock, and I must be there to pay for them. Take
her down to the Lido, Ned. It's an exquisite evening for the water,
and the sunset promises to be delicious. You can take the time, can't
Mrs. Ashe turned to leave them, but suddenly stopped short.
"Katy, look! Isn't that a picture!"
The "picture" was Amy, who had come to the Piazza with Mrs. Swift, to
feed the doves of St. Mark's, which was one of her favorite amusements.
These pretty birds are the pets of all Venice, and so accustomed to
being fondled and made much of by strangers, that they are perfectly
tame. Amy, when her mother caught sight of her, was sitting on the
marble pavement, with one on her shoulder, two perched on the edge of
her lap, which was full of crumbs, and a flight of others circling round
her head. She was looking up and calling them in soft tones. The
sunlight caught the little downy curls on her head and made them
glitter. The flying doves lit on the pavement, and crowded round her,
their pearl and gray and rose-tinted and white feathers, their scarlet
feet and gold-ringed eyes, making a shifting confusion of colors, as
they hopped and fluttered and cooed about the little maid, unstartled
even by her clear laughter. Close by stood Nurse Swift, observant and
The mother looked on with happy tears in her eyes. "Oh, Katy, think
what she was a few weeks ago and look at her now! Can I ever be
She squeezed Katy's hand convulsively and walked away, turning her head
now and then for another glance at Amy and the doves; while Ned and Katy
silently crossed to the landing and got into a gondola. It was the
perfection of a Venice evening, with silver waves lapsing and lulling
under a rose and opal sky; and the sense that it was their last row on
those enchanted waters made every moment seem doubly precious.
I cannot tell you exactly what it was that Ned Worthington said to Katy
during that row, or why it took so long to say it that they did not get
in till after the sun was set, and the stars had come out to peep at
their bright, glinting faces, reflected in the Grand Canal. In fact, no
one can tell; for no one overheard, except Giacomo, the brown
yellow-jacketed gondolier, and as he did not understand a word of
English he could not repeat the conversation. Venetian boatmen, however,
know pretty well what it means when a gentleman and lady, both young,
find so much to say in low tones to each other under the gondola hood,
and are so long about giving the order to return; and Giacomo, deeply
sympathetic, rowed as softly and made himself as imperceptible as he
could,--a display of tact which merited the big silver piece with which
Lieutenant Worthington "crossed his palm" on landing.
Mrs. Ashe had begun to look for them long before they appeared, but I
think she was neither surprised nor sorry that they were so late. Katy
kissed her hastily and went away at once,--"to pack," she said,--and
Ned was equally undemonstrative; but they looked so happy, both of them,
that "Polly dear" was quite satisfied and asked no questions.
Five days later the parting came, when the "Florio" steamer put into the
port of Genoa for passengers. It was not an easy good-by to say. Mrs.
Ashe and Amy both cried, and Mabel was said to be in deep affliction
also. But there were alleviations. The squadron was coming home in the
autumn, and the officers would have leave to see their friends, and of
course Lieutenant Worthington must come to Burnet--to visit his sister.
Five months would soon go, he declared; but for all the cheerful
assurance, his face was rueful enough as he held Katy's hand in a long
tight clasp while the little boat waited to take him ashore.
After that it was just a waiting to be got through with till they
sighted Sandy Hook and the Neversinks,--a waiting varied with peeps at
Marseilles and Gibraltar and the sight of a whale or two and one distant
iceberg. The weather was fair all the way, and the ocean smooth. Amy was
never weary of lamenting her own stupidity in not having taken Maria
Matilda out of confinement before they left Venice.
"That child has hardly been out of the trunk since we started," she
said. "She hasn't seen anything except a little bit of Nice. I shall
really be ashamed when the other children ask her about it. I think I
shall play that she was left at boarding-school and didn't come to
Europe at all! Don't you think that would be the best way, mamma?"
"You might play that she was left in the States-prison for having done
something naughty," suggested Katy; but Amy scouted this idea.
"She never does naughty things," she said, "because she never does
anything at all. She's just stupid, poor child! It's not her fault."
The thirty-six hours between New York and Burnet seemed longer than all
the rest of the journey put together, Katy thought. But they ended at
last, as the "Lake Queen" swung to her moorings at the familiar wharf,
where Dr. Carr stood surrounded with all his boys and girls just as they
had stood the previous October, only that now there were no clouds on
anybody's face, and Johnnie was skipping up and down for joy instead of
grief. It was a long moment while the plank was being lowered from the
gangway; but the moment it was in place, Katy darted across, first
ashore of all the passengers, and was in her father's arms.
Mrs. Ashe and Amy spent two or three days with them, while looking up
temporary quarters elsewhere; and so long as they stayed all seemed a
happy confusion of talking and embracing and exclaiming, and
distributing of gifts. After they went away things fell into their
customary train, and a certain flatness became apparent. Everything had
happened that could happen. The long-talked-of European journey was
over. Here was Katy at home again, months sooner than they expected; yet
she looked remarkably cheerful and content! Clover could not understand
it; she was likewise puzzled to account for one or two private
conversations between Katy and papa in which she had not been invited to
take part, and the occasional arrival of a letter from "foreign parts"
about whose contents nothing was said.
"It seems a dreadful pity that you had to come so soon," she said one
day when they were alone in their bedroom. "It's delightful to have you,
of course; but we had braced ourselves to do without you till October,
and there are such lots of delightful things that you could have been
doing and seeing at this moment."
"Oh, yes, indeed," replied Katy, but not at all as if she were
"Katy Carr, I don't understand you," persisted Clover. "Why don't you
feel worse about it? Here you have lost five months of the most
splendid time you ever had, and you don't seem to mind it a bit! Why,
if I were in your place my heart would be perfectly broken. And you
needn't have come, either; that's the worst of it. It was just a whim
of Polly's. Papa says Amy might have stayed as well as not. Why aren't
you sorrier, Katy?"
"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps because I had so much as it was,--enough to
last all my life, I think, though I _should_ like to go again. You can't
imagine what beautiful pictures are put away in my memory."
"I don't see that you had so awfully much," said the aggravated Clover;
"you were there only a little more than six months,--for I don't count
the sea,--and ever so much of that time was taken up with nursing Amy.
You can't have any pleasant pictures of _that_ part of it."
"Yes, I have, some."
"Well, I should really like to know what. There you were in a dark room,
frightened to death and tired to death, with only Mrs. Ashe and the old
nurse to keep you company--Oh, yes, that brother was there part of the
time; I forgot him--"
Clover stopped short in sudden amazement. Katy was standing with her
back toward her, smoothing her hair, but her face was reflected in the
glass. At Clover's words a sudden deep flush had mounted in Katy's
cheeks. Deeper and deeper it burned as she became conscious of Clover's
astonished gaze, till even the back of her neck was pink. Then, as if
she could not bear it any longer, she put the brush down, turned, and
fled out of the room; while Clover, looking after her, exclaimed in a
tone of sudden comical dismay,--
"What does it mean? Oh, dear me! is that what Katy is going to do next?"