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N one of the pleasant hills round Florence, a little beyond Camerata, there stands a house so small that an Englishman would probably take it for a lodge of the great villa behind, whose garden trees at sunset cast their shadow over the cottage and its terrace on to the steep white road. But any of the country people could tell him that this, too, is a Casa Signorile, spite of its smallness. It stands somewhat high above the road, a square, white house with a projecting roof, and with four green-shuttered windows overlooking the gay but narrow terrace. The beds under the windows would have fulfilled the fancy of that French poet who desired that in his garden one might, in gathering a nosegay, cull a salad, for they boasted little else than sweet basil, small and white, and some tall grey rosemary bushes. Nearer to the door an unusually large oleander faced a strong and sturdy magnolia-tree, and these, with their profusion of red and white sweetness, made amends for the dearth of garden flowers. At either end of the terrace flourished a thicket of gum-cistus, syringa, stephanotis, and geranium bushes, and the wall itself, dropping sheer down to the road, was bordered with the customary Florentine hedge of China roses and irises, now out of bloom. Great terra-cotta flower-pots, covered with devices, were placed at intervals along the wall; as it was summer, the oranges and lemons, full of wonderfully sweet white blossoms and young green fruit, were set there in the sun to ripen.

It was the 17th of June. Although it was after four o'clock, the olives on the steep hill that went down to Florence looked blindingly white, shadeless, and sharp. The air trembled round the bright green cypresses behind the house. The roof steamed. All the windows were shut, all the jalousies shut, yet it was so hot that no one could stir within. The maid slept in the kitchen; the two elderly mistresses of the house dozed upon their beds. Not a movement; not a sound.

Gradually, along the steep road from Camerata there came a roll of distant carriage-wheels. The sound came nearer and nearer, till one could see the carriage, and see the driver leading the tired, thin, cab-horse, his bones starting under the shaggy hide. Inside the carriage reclined a handsome middle-aged lady, with a stern profile

turned towards the road; a young girl in pale pink cotton and a broad hat trudged up the hill at the side.

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'Goneril,' said Miss Hamelyn, let me beg you again to come inside the carriage.'

'Oh no, Aunt Margaret; I'm not a bit tired.'
'But I have asked you; that is reason enough.'

It's so hot!' cried Goneril.

That is why I object to your walking.'

'But if it's so hot for me, just think how hot it must be for the horse.'

Goneril cast a commiserating glance at the poor halting, wheezing nag.

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'The horse, probably,' rejoined Miss Hamelyn, does not suffer from malaria, neither has he kept his aunt in Florence nursing him till the middle heat of the summer.'

'True!' said Goneril. Then, after a few minutes, 'I'll get in, Aunt Margaret, on one condition.'

In my time young people did not make conditions.'

Very well, auntie; I'll get in, and you shall answer all my questions when you feel inclined.'

The carriage stopped. The poor horse panted at his ease, while the girl seated herself beside Miss Hamelyn. Then for a few minutes they drove on in silence past the orchards, past the olive-yards, yellow underneath with ripening corn; past the sudden wide views of the mountains, faintly crimson in the mist of heat, and, on the other side, of Florence, the towers and domes steaming beside the hazy river.


'How hot it looks down there!' cried Goneril.

'How hot it feels!' echoed Miss Hamelyn rather grimly.


Yes, I am so glad you can get away at last, dear, poor oldauntie.' Then, a little later, Won't you tell me something about the old ladies with whom you are going to leave me?'

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Miss Hamelyn was mollified by Goneril's obedience.

They are very nice old ladies,' she said; I met them at Mrs. Gorthrup's.' But this was not at all what the young girl wanted.

'Only think, Aunt Margaret,' she cried impatiently, 'I am to stay there for at least six weeks, and I know nothing about them, not what age they are, nor if they are tall or short, jolly or prim, pretty or ugly; not even if they speak English!'

"They speak English,' said Miss Hamelyn, beginning at the end. 'One of them is English, or at least Irish: Miss Prunty.'

'And the other?'

'She is an Italian, Signora Petrucci; she used to be very handsome.'

'Oh,' said Goneril, looking pleased.

I'm glad she's handsome,

and that they speak English. But they are not relations?' 'No, they are not connected; they are friends.'


And have they always lived together?'

'Ever since Madame Lilli died,' and Miss Hamelyn named a very celebrated singer.

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'Why?' cried Goneril, quite excited; were they singers too?"

'Madame Petrucci; nevertheless a lady of the highest respectability. Miss Prunty was Madame Lilli's secretary.'

"How nice!' cried the young girl, 'how interesting! Oh, auntie, I'm so glad you found them out.'

'So am I, child; but please remember it is not an ordinary pension. They only take you, Goneril, till you are strong enough to travel, as an especial favour to me and to their old friend, Mrs. Gorthrup.'

'I'll remember, auntie.'

By this time they were driving under the terrace in front of the little house.

'Goneril,' said the elder lady, I shall leave you outside; you can play in the garden or the orchard.'

'Very well.'

Miss Hamelyn left the carriage and ascended the steep little flight of steps that leads from the road to the cottage garden.

In the porch a singular figure was awaiting her.

'Good afternoon, Madame Petrucci,' said Miss Hamelyn.

A slender old lady, over sixty, rather tall, in a brown silk skirt, and a white burnouse that showed the shrunken slimness of her arms, came eagerly forward. She was still rather pretty, with small refined features, large expressionless blue eyes, and long whitishyellow ringlets down her cheeks, in the fashion of forty years ago.

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Oh, dear Miss Hamelyn,' she cried, how glad I am to see you! And have you brought your charming young relation?'

She spoke with a languid foreign accent, and with an emphatic and bountiful use of adjectives, that gave to our severer generation an impression of insincerity. Yet it was said with truth that Giulia Petrucci had never forgotten a friend nor an enemy.

'Goneril is outside,' said Miss Hamelyn. 'How is Miss Prunty?'

'Brigida? Oh, you must come inside and see my invaluable Brigida. She is as usual fatiguing herself with our accounts.' The old lady led the way into the darkened parlour. It was small and rather stiff. As one's eyes became accustomed to the dim green light one noticed the incongruity of the furniture; the horsehair chairs and sofa, and large accountant's desk with ledgers; the large Pleyel grand piano, a bookcase, in which all the books were rare copies or priceless MSS. of old-fashioned operas; hanging against the wall an inlaid guitar and some faded laurel crowns; moreover, a fine engraving of a composer, twenty years ago the most popular man in Italy; lastly, an oil-colour portrait, by Winterman, of a fascinating blonde, with very bare white shoulders, holding in her hands a scroll, on which were inscribed some notes of music, under the title Giulia

Petrucci. In short, the private parlour of an elderly and respectable Diva of the year '40.

'Brigida!' cried Madame Petrucci, going to the door. 'Brigida! our charming English friend is arrived!"

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All right!' answered a strong hearty voice from upstairs. I'm coming.'


'You must excuse me, dear Miss Hamelyn,' went on Madame Petrucci. You must excuse me for shouting in your presence, but we have only one little servant, and during this suffocating weather I find that any movement reminds me of approaching age.' The old lady smiled, as if that time were still far ahead.


I am sure you ought to take care of yourself,' said Miss Hamelyn. I hope you will not allow Goneril to fatigue you.' 'Gonerilla! What a pretty name! Charming! I suppose it is in your family?' asked the old lady.

Miss Hamelyn blushed a little, for her niece's name was a sore point with her.

'It's an awful name for any Christian woman,' said a deep voice at the door. 'And pray who's called Goneril ? '

Miss Prunty came forward; a short, thick-set woman of fifty, with fine dark eyes, and, even in a Florentine summer, with something stiff and masculine in the fashion of her dress.

'And have you brought your niece?' she said, turning to Miss Hamelyn.

'Yes, she is in the garden.'

'Well; I hope she understands that she'll have to rough it here.' 'Goneril is a very simple girl,' said Miss Hamelyn.

'So it's she that's called Goneril?'


'Yes,' said the aunt, making an effort. Of course I am aware of the strangeness of the name, but-but in fact my brother was devotedly attached to his wife, who died at Goneril's birth.'

Whew!' whistled Miss Prunty. The parson must have been a fool who christened her!'

'He did, in fact, refuse; but my brother would have no baptism saving with that name, which, unfortunately, it is impossible to shorten.'

'I think it is a charming name!' said Madame Petrucci, coming to the rescue. 'Gonerilla: it dies on one's lips like music! And if you do not like it, Brigida, what's in a name? as your charming Byron said.'

'I hope we shall make her happy,' said Miss Prunty.

'Of course we shall!' cried the elder lady.

'Goneril is easily made happy,' asserted Miss Hamelyn.

'That's a good thing,' snapped Miss Prunty; 'for there's not much here to make her so!'

'Oh, Brigida! I am sure there are many attractions. The air! the view the historic association! and, more than all, you know there is always a chance of the Signorino!'

'Of whom?' said Miss Hamelyn, rather anxiously.

'Of Him!' cried Madame Petrucci, pointing to the engraving opposite. He lives, of course, in the capital; but he rents the villa behind our house-the Medici Villa; and when he is tired of Rome he runs down here for a week or so; and so your Gonerilla may have the benefit of his society!'

'Very nice, I'm sure!' said Miss Hamelyn, greatly relieved; for she knew that Signor Graziano must be fifty.

We have known him,' went on the old lady, very nearly thirty years. He used to largely frequent the salon of our dear, our cherished Madame Lilli.'

The tears came into the old lady's eyes. No doubt those days seemed near and dear to her; she did not see the dust on those faded triumphs.


'That's all stale news!' cried Miss Prunty, jumping up. Gon'ril (since I'll have to call her so) must be tired of waiting in the garden.'

They walked out on to the terrace. The girl was not there; but by the gate into the olive-yard, where there was a lean-to shed for tools, they found her sitting on a cask, whittling a piece of wood and talking to a curly-headed little contadino.

Hearing steps, Goneril turned round. He was asleep,' she said. 'Fancy, in such beautiful weather!'

Then, remembering that two of the ladies were still strangers, she made an old-fashioned little curtsey.

'I hope you won't find me a trouble, ladies,' she said.

'She is charming!' said Madame Petrucci, throwing up her hands.

Goneril blushed; her hat had slipped back and showed her short brown curls of hair, strong, regular features, and flexile scarlet mouth, laughing upwards like a faun's. She had sweet dark eyes, a little too small and narrow.

'I mean to be very happy,' she exclaimed.

'Always mean that, my dear,' said Miss Prunty.


'And now, since Gonerilla is no longer a stranger,' added Madame Petrucci, we will leave her to the rustic society of Angiolino, while we show Miss Hamelyn our orangery.'

'And conclude our business!" said Bridget Prunty.

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ONE day when Goneril, much browner and rosier for a week among the mountains, came in to lunch at noon, she found no signs of that usually regular repast. The little maid was on her knees, polishing the floor; Miss Prunty was scolding, dusting, ordering

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