+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


            IN FIVE BOOKS

               BOOK III

VERONICA dismissed the woman and sat
down to consider the situation. She was
frightened to the bottom of her heart.

Paul coming from the Villa Reale at that
hour of the morning, and on that special
morning, was alarming. But Paul denying
that he had been there, and stating that he
had come from an opposite quarter, was more
alarming still! She had been watched
overheard; to what extent? How much had
Paul seen and listened to? She sat twisting
a ring round and round on her finger, and
pressing it pitilessly into the tender flesh
until a deep red mark grew beneath the gold
circletshe who was usually so sensitive to
bodily pain, and shrank from it with such
abject dread!

Above the great fear that seemed to
fill her being, there flashed now and again
a recurrent sentiment of anger; like white
foam surging over a dark sea. She was
angry with Barletti. Why had he chosen
that time to speak to her so unguardedly?
True, the appointment to meet him was of
her making, but she had never contemplated
having a love-scene. She wanted
sympathy and service; not a passionate
declaration! The passion was good in so
far as it lent zeal to the service, and
fervour to the sympathy. The moment
it lifted its voice to plead and demand
on its own account, passion was a hindrance
and an injury to her. It was
inopportune. There might come a moment
when it would be welcome. But now—!
Who could tell the extent of the ruin that
Barletti's rashness might bring upon her?
She pushed her hair up from her forehead,
thrusting her fingers through and through
the rich rippling locks, and rocked from
side to side on her chair.

"What shall I do? What shall I do?"
she murmured, in a kind of chant over and
over again, making her voice rise and fall
in a regular monotonous inflection:
as though she were trying to lull her terrors
to sleep as a nurse lulls a baby, by the
mechanical repetition.

The hours went by. All was quiet in the
house. Everything seemed to be going on
as usual. It was nearly twelve o'clock when
Veronica looked at her watch. She was a
little reassured by the calm that reigned
unreasonably reassured, as she told herself;
for the storm whose breaking she dreaded
was not likely to burst forth in such sort as
to startle the whole household.

Presently her maid tapped at the door
which Veronica had fastened on the inside.

"Will miladi please to dress for the
déjeuner?" said the woman. She had been
scandalised by the fact of her mistress
having dressed herself, and chose to ignore
the possibility of her appearing at breakfast
in a toilet achieved without due professional

Veronica admitted her.

"I shall not change my dress, Julienne,"
she said. "But you can throw a wrapper
over me and brush my hair. I have a
slight headache, and that will soothe me."

In fact the regular passage of the
skilfully-wielded brush through her long hair
did soothe her. And under its influence
she was enabled to collect herself and to
think a little, instead of merely feeling and
fearing, as she had done hitherto.

"Is Sir John coming to breakfast?" she
asked, after a while.