HAD Lady Harefel been able to see the slopes above Amalfi on one of the brightest mornings of spring, her fears would have been strengthened. Tired of climbing up the steep path, Marion Archer had seated herself on the green bank, and was looking far out to sea with wide open eyes. She had taken off her hat, that she might feel the light air on her temples, but her lips were not smiling. There was a quaint look of gravity on the fair young face.

“And why should not a woman be able to live for art ?" she asked.

Irvine had thrown himself down beside her little feet, and was looking up at her face with most lively curiosity. For days he had thought so much about this girl, that he had scarcely found time to

think about himself. “Why not?” he asked. “But they never do,” he added. He wished to make her pour out all her thoughts; but she seemed not to hear him, as she looked over the water blue and green, gleaming like a serpent's scales in the sun. So he was irritated into talk by her unconcern, and began to pour forth his ideas on women, saying some things which he really thought, some which were fragments of other people's speeches, some which he thought he believed, some which sounded striking. She paid little attention to all this : only it caused in her a sudden consciousness that there was an element of unreality in her own little speech about living for art, and she began to move her foot impatiently. Then he too became silent, and rather sulky, until presently she began to murmur a song; and then his eyes grew dark and moist again, as he felt that strange attraction which her tones had for him. He was sure that her voice affected him, and him alone, in that peculiar manner. It was with a sense of rebellion against this influence that he said abruptly, when she paused, “I suppose I must leave this place.”

“Oh, I shall be so sorry!" she said. “Why?” he asked, curiously.

“There is nobody else here;” and, after a pause, she added, “Besides, I sing better to you. I don't know why, but I am sure that I do.”

He felt a thrill of pride; but he said, with an affectation of indifference, “I am good for your art ? I suppose I ought to be very proud. Would you sacrifice all your friends to your voice ?"

“I would give anything to be a great artist. And I will be if I can.” “You can be if you will." “You really think I can ?” she asked, eagerly.

“Oh, of course I know nothing about it,” he said, with a little laugh.

She jumped up impatiently, and with her chin and eyebrows raised, looked far away to sea. “I cannot understand why you talk like that to me,” she said. “You are not really so modest.”

“Thank you," he said. “At least you may trust me to know my faults, if I know nothing else.”

She was perched on the edge of the path, and absorbed by the beauty of the scene. A fishingboat was riding toward the beach below, and in the bows stood a young fisherman, tall and brown, bearing a coil of rope, in act to throw. Lithe, erect, and lightly poised, he seemed an antique bronze,

but full of life. As she looked, she was listening to the music of Masaniello.

“Take care,” said Irvine; "you are on dangerous ground.” As she spoke, a tuft of grass fell from under her foot: she gave a little cry, and tottered : he sprang to her, caught her in his arms, and drew her hastily backward.

At that moment a young man, who was climbing the path from the inn, came in sight of them, and stood still in amazement. It was Ned Harefel. The young diplomatist, whose head was full of artful means by which he should succeed in carrying off his cousin, was so surprised, that he cried out, “Good gracious, Irvie! what are you at?” And Irvine Dale, whose feelings, were in a tumultuous state, glared at his best friend across the young girl's lifeless form, and found no pleasanter greeting than the sharp question, “ What have you come here for?” So these two young men stood and looked at each other, until Miss Archer opened her eyes, and moved quietly from her supporter's arm.

"I am sorry I was so silly,” she said. Then she turned to him with charming frankness, and held out her hand, saying, “Thank you for saving me.”

“It is only a steepish slope,” said Irvine, almost sulkily, and looking at his cousin.

The girl smiled, and walked down the path, passing Mr Harefel as if she did not see him. Ned was rather annoyed. He could not see her eyes, and did not know whether she had heard his imprudent exclamation. When the two cousins were left alone, an awkward pause ensued.

“Do you mean to stay here long ?” asked Irvine, with a fine appearance of unconcern.

"I thought I would join you for a week or two. Easter is a good time for the Continent, I think, and— ” here he suddenly perceived a chance for diplomacy, “I thought, perhaps, that we might go home together.” He looked out to sea, as if it were a matter of little importance whether or no Mr Irvine Dale settled at Amalfi for life.

“Oh, thanks,” said Irvine, inspecting the horizon, “but my movements are rather uncertain.”

Ned was inclined to agree with this last statement, but he contented himself with observing, in an off-hand manner, “I suppose that was the young lady you mentioned in one of your letters ?”

Harefel took credit to himself for his respectful manner of mentioning this designing person; but he did not make great progress in his mission-for his cousin, who seemed to think that an observation required no answer, merely said, “You were

« ForrigeFortsett »