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A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 18440

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


She slept late the next day, and woke with a feeling of utter weariness of body and prostration of spirit. When her dressing-maid Giovanna came at her summons, she informed her that a gentleman had twice called to see her, but left no name or card. "Let no one be admitted to-day but the manager of the opera," said Rosa. "I will dress now; and if Mamma Balbino is at leisure, I should like to have her come and talk with me while I breakfast."

"Madame has gone out to make some purchases," replied Giovanna. "She said she should return soon, and charged me to keep everything quiet, that you might sleep. The Signor is in his room waiting to speak to you."

"Please tell him I have waked," said Rosa; "and as soon as I have dressed and breakfasted, ask him to come to me."

Giovanna, who had been at the opera the preceding evening, felt the importance of her mission in dressing the celebrated Seńorita Rosita Campaneo, of whose beauty and gracefulness everybody was talking. And when the process was completed, the cantatrice might well have been excused if she had thought herself the handsomest of women. The glossy dark hair rippled over her forehead in soft waves, and the massive braids behind were intertwisted with a narrow band of crimson velvet, that glowed like rubies where the sunlight fell upon it. Her morning wrapper of fine crimson merino, embroidered with gold-colored silk, was singularly becoming to her complexion, softened as the contact was by a white lace collar fastened at the throat with a golden pin. But though she was seated before the mirror, and though her own Spanish taste had chosen the strong contrast of bright colors, she took no notice of the effect produced. Her face was turned toward the window, and as she gazed on the morning sky, all unconscious of its translucent brilliancy of blue, there was an inward-looking expression in her luminous eyes that would have made the fortune of an artist, if he could have reproduced her as a Sibyl. Giovanna looked at her with surprise, that a lady could be so handsome and so beautifully dressed, yet not seem to care for it. She lingered a moment contemplating the superb head with an exultant look, as if it were a picture of her own painting, and then she went out noiselessly to bring the breakfast-tray.

The Seńorita Campaneo ate with a keener appetite than she had ever experienced as Rosabella the recluse; for the forces of nature, exhausted by the exertions of the preceding evening, demanded renovation. But the services of the cook were as little appreciated as those of the dressing-maid; the luxurious breakfast was to her simply food. The mirror was at her side, and Giovanna watched curiously to see whether she would admire the effect of the crimson velvet gleaming among her dark hair. But she never once glanced in that direction. When she had eaten sufficiently, she sat twirling her spoon and looking into the depths of her cup, as if it were a magic mirror revealing all the future.

She was just about to say, "Now you may call Papa Balbino," when

Giovanna gave a sudden start, and exclaimed, "Signorita! a gentleman!"

And ere she had time to look round, Fitzgerald was kneeling at her feet. He seized her hand and kissed it passionately, saying, in an agony of entreaty: "O Rosabella, do say you forgive me! I am suffering the tortures of the damned."

The irruption was so sudden and unexpected, that for an instant she failed to realize it. But her presence of mind quickly returned, and, forcibly withdrawing the hand to which he clung, she turned to the astonished waiting-maid and said quite calmly, "Please deliver immediately the message I spoke of."

Giovanna left the room and proceeded directly to the adjoining apartment, where Signor Balbino was engaged in earnest conversation with another gentleman.

Fitzgerald remained kneeling, still pleading vehemently for forgiveness.

"Mr. Fitzgerald," said she, "this audacity is incredible. I could not have imagined it possible you would presume ever again to come into my presence, after having sold me to that infamous man."

"He took advantage of me, Rosa. I was intoxicated with wine, and knew not what I did. I could not have done it if I had been in my senses. I have always loved you as I never loved any other woman; and I never loved you so wildly as now."

"Leave me!" she exclaimed imperiously. "Your being here does me injury. If you have any manhood in you, leave me!"

He strove to clutch the folds of her robe, and in frenzied tones cried out: "O Rosabella, don't drive me from you! I can't live without-"

A voice like a pistol-shot broke in upon his sentence: "Villain!

Deceiver! What are you doing here? Out of the house this instant!"

Fitzgerald sprung to his feet, pale with rage, and encountered the flashing eyes of the Signor. "What right have you to order me out of the house?" said he.

"I am her adopted father," replied the Italian; "and no man shall insult her while I am alive."

"So you are installed as her protector!" retorted Fitzgerald, sneeringly. "You are not the first gallant I have known to screen himself behind his years."

"By Jupiter!" vociferated the enraged Italian; and he made a spring to clutch him by the throat.

Fitzgerald drew out a pistol. With a look of utter distress, Rosa threw herself between them, saying, in imploring accents, "Will you go?"

At the same moment, a hand rested gently on the Signor's shoulder, and a manly voice said soothingly, "Be calm, my friend." Then, turning to Mr. Fitzgerald, the gentleman continued: "Slight as our acquaintance is, sir, it authorizes me to remind you that scenes like this are unfit for a lady's apartment."

Fitzgerald slowly replaced his pistol, as he answered coldly: "I remember your countenance, sir, but I don't recollect where I have seen it, nor do I understand what right you have to intrude here."

"I met you in New Orleans, something more than four years ago," replied the stranger; "and I was then introduced to you by this lady's father, as Mr. Alfred King of Boston."

"O, I remember," replied Fitzgerald, with a slight curl of his lip. "I thought you something of a Puritan then; but it seems you are her protector also."

Mr. King colored to the temples; but he replied calmly: "I know not whether Miss Royal recognizes me; for I have never seen her since the evening we spent so delightfully at her father's house."

"I do recognize you," replied Rosabella; "and as the son of my father's dearest friend, I welcome you."

She held out her hand as she spoke, and he clasped it for an instant. But though the touch thrilled him, he betrayed no emotion. Relinquishing it with a respectful bow, he turned to Mr. Fitzgerald, and said: "You have seen fit to call me a Puritan, and may not therefore accept me as a teacher of politeness; but if you wish to sustain the character of a cavalier, you surely will not remain in a lady's house after she has requested you to quit it."

With a slight shrug of his shoulders, Mr. Fitzgerald took his hat, and said, "Where ladies command, I am of course bound to obey."

As he passed out of the door, he turned toward Rosabella, and, with a low bow, said, "Au revoir!"

The Signor was trembling with anger, but succeeded in smothering his half-uttered anathemas. Mr. King compressed his lips tightly for a moment, as if silence were a painful effort. Then, turning to Rosa, he said: "Pardon my sudden intrusion, Miss Royal. Your father introduced me to the Signor, and I last night saw him at the opera. That will account for my being in his room to-day." He glanced at the Italian with a smile, as he added: "I heard very angry voices, and I thought, if there was to be a duel, perhaps the Signor would need a second. You must be greatly fatigued with exertion and excitement. Therefore, I will merely congratulate you on your brilliant success last evening, and wish you good morning."

"I am fatigued," she replied; "but if I bid you good morning now, it is with the hope of seeing you again soon. The renewal of acquaintance with one whom my dear father loved is too pleasant to be willingly relinquished."

"Thank you," he said. But the simple words were uttered with a look and tone so deep and earnest, that she felt the color rising to her cheeks.

"Am I then still capable of being moved by such tones?" she asked herself, as she listened to his departing footsteps, and, for the first time that morning, turned toward the mirror and glanced at her own flushed countenance.

"What a time you've been having, dear!" exclaimed Madame, who came bustling in a moment after. "Only to think of Mr. Fitzgerald's coming here! His impudence goes a little beyond anything I ever heard of. Wasn't it lucky that Boston friend should drop down from the skies, as it were, just at the right minute; for the Signor's such a flash-in-the-pan, there 's no telling what might have happened. Tell me all about it, dear."

"I will tell you about it, dear mamma," replied Rosa; "but I must beg you to excuse me just now; for I am really very much flurried and fatigued. If you hadn't gone out, I should have told you this morning, at

breakfast, that I saw Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald at the opera, and that I was singing at them in good earnest, while people thought I was acting. We will talk it all over some time; but now I must study, for I shall have hard work to keep the ground I have gained. You know I must perform again to-night. O, how I dread it!"

"You are a strange child to talk so, when you have turned everybody's head," responded Madame.

"Why should I care for everybody's head?" rejoined the successful cantatrice. But she thought to herself: "I shall not feel, as I did last night, that I am going to sing merely to strangers. There will be one there who heard me sing to my dear father. I must try to recall the intonations that came so naturally last evening, and see whether I can act what I then felt." She seated herself at the piano, and began to sing, "Oh, di qual sei tu vittima." Then, shaking her head slowly, she murmured: "No; it doesn't come. I must trust to the inspiration of the moment. But it is a comfort to know they will not all be strangers."

* * * * *

Mr. King took an opportunity that same day to call on Mr. Fitzgerald. He was very haughtily received; but, without appearing to notice it, he opened his errand by saying, "I have come to speak with you concerning Miss Royal."

"All I have to say to you, sir," replied Mr. Fitzgerald, "is, that neither you nor any other man can induce me to give up my pursuit of her. I will follow her wherever she goes."

"What possible advantage can you gain by such a course?" inquired his visitor. "Why uselessly expose yourself to disagreeable notoriety, which must, of course, place Mrs. Fitzgerald in a mortifying position?"

"How do you know my perseverance would be useless?" asked Fitzgerald.

"Did she send you to tell me so?"

"She does not know of my coming," replied Mr. King. "I have told you that my acquaintance with Miss Royal is very slight. But you will recollect that I met her in the freshness of her young life, when she was surrounded by all the ease and elegance that a father's wealth and tenderness could bestow; and it was unavoidable that her subsequent misfortunes should excite my sympathy. She has never told me anything of her own history, but from others I know all the particulars. It is not my purpose to allude to them; but after suffering all she has suffered, now that she has bravely made a standing-place for herself, and has such an arduous career before her, I appeal to your sense of honor, whether it is generous, whether it is manly, to do anything that will increase the difficulties of her position."

"It is presumptuous in you, sir, to come here to teach me what is manly," rejoined Fitzgerald.

"I merely presented the case for the verdict of your own conscience," answered his visitor; "but I will again take the liberty to suggest for your consideration, that if you persecute this unfortunate young lady with professions you know are unwelcome, it must necessarily react in a very unpleasant way upon your own reputation, and consequently upon the happiness of your family."

"You mistook your profession, sir. You should have been a preacher," said Fitzgerald, with a sarcastic smile. "I presume you propose to console the lady for her misfortunes; but let me tell you, sir, that whoever attempts to come between me and her will do it at his peril."

"I respect Miss Royal too much to hear her name used in any such discussion," replied Mr. King. "Good morning, sir."

"The mean Yankee!" exclaimed the Southerner, as he looked after him. "If he were a gentleman he would have challenged me, and I should have met him like a gentleman; but one doesn't know what to do with such cursed Yankee preaching."

He was in a very perturbed state of mind. Rosabella had, in fact, made a much deeper impression on him than any other woman had ever made. And now that he saw her the bright cynosure of all eyes, fresh fuel was heaped on the flickering flame of his expiring passion. Her disdain piqued his vanity, while it produced the excitement of difficulties to be overcome. He was exasperated beyond measure, that the beautiful woman who had depended solely upon him should now be surrounded by protectors. And if he could regain no other power, he was strongly tempted to exert the power of annoyance. In some moods, he formed wild projects of waylaying her, and carrying her off by force. But the Yankee preaching, much as he despised it, was not without its influence. He felt that it would be most politic to keep on good terms with his rich wife, who was, besides, rather agreeable to him. He concluded, on the whole, that he would assume superiority to the popular enthusiasm about the new prima donna; that he would coolly criticise her singing and her acting, while he admitted that she had many good points. It was a hard task he undertook; for on the stage Rosabella attracted him with irresistible power, to which was added the magnetism of the admiring audience. After the first evening, she avoided looking at the box where he sat; but he had an uneasy satisfaction in the consciousness that it was impossible she could forget he was present and watching her.

The day after the second appearance of the Seńorita Campaneo, Mrs.

Delano was surprised by another call from the Fitzgeralds.

"Don't think we intend to persecute you," said the little lady. "We merely came on business. We have just heard that you were to leave Rome very soon; but Mr. Green seemed to think it couldn't be so soon as was said."

"Unexpected circumstances make it necessary for me to return sooner than I intended," replied Mrs. Delano. "I expect to sail day after to-morrow."

"What a pity your daughter should go without hearing the new prima donna!" exclaimed Mrs. Fitzgerald. "She is really a remarkable creature. Everybody says she is as beautiful as a houri. And as for her voice, I never heard anything like it, except the first night I spent on Mr. Fitzgerald's plantation. There was somebody wandering about in the garden and groves who sang just like her. Mr. Fitzgerald didn't seem to be much struck with the voice, but I could never forget it."

"It was during our honeymoon," replied her husband; "and how could I be interested in any other voice, when I had yours to listen to?"

His lady tapped him playfully with her parasol, saying: "O, you flatterer! But I wish I could get a chance to speak to this Seńorita. I would ask her if she had ever been in America."

"I presume not," rejoined Mr. Fitzgerald. "They say an Italian musician heard her in Andalusia, and was so much charmed with her voice that he adopted her and educated her for the stage; and he named her Campaneo, because there is such a bell-like echo in her voice sometimes. Do you think, Mrs. Delano, that it would do your daughter any serious injury to go with us this evening? We have a spare ticket; and we would take excellent care of her. If she found herself fatigued, I would attend upon her home any time she chose to leave."

"It would be too exciting for her nerves," was Mrs. Delano's laconic answer.

"The fact is," said Mrs. Fitzgerald, "Mr. Green has told us so much about her, that we are extremely anxious to be introduced to her. He says she hasn't half seen Rome, and he wishes she could join our party. I wish we could persuade you to leave her with us. I can assure you Mr. Fitzgerald is a most agreeable and gallant protector to ladies. And then it is such a pity, when she is so musical, that she should go without hearing this new prima donna."

"Thank you," rejoined Mrs. Delano; "but we have become so much attached to each other's society, that I don't think either of us could be happy separated. Since she cannot hear this musical wonder, I shall not increase her regrets by repeating your enthusiastic account of what she has missed."

"If you had been present at her début, you wouldn't wonder at my enthusiasm," replied the little lady. "Mr. Fitzgerald is getting over the fever a little now, and undertakes to criticise. He says she overacted her part; that she 'tore a passion to tatters,' and all that. But I never saw him so excited as he was then. I think she noticed it; for she fixed her glorious dark eyes directly upon our box while she was singing several of her most effective passages."

"My dear," interrupted her husband, "you are so opera-mad, that you are forgetting the object of your call."

"True," replied she. "We wanted to inquire whether you were certainly going so soon, and whether any one had engaged these rooms. We took a great fancy to them. What a desirable situation! So sunny! Such a fine view of Monte Pincio and the Pope's gardens!"

"They were not engaged last evening," answered Mrs. Delano.

"Then you will secure them immediately, won't you, dear?" said the lady, appealing to her spouse.

With wishes that the voyage might prove safe and pleasant, they departed. Mrs. Delano lingered a moment at the window, looking out upon St. Peter's and the Etruscan Hills beyond, thinking the while how strangely the skeins of human destiny sometimes become entangled with each other. Yet she was unconscious of half the entanglement.

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