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us, than she came straight up to us, and as I was the first of the party she passed by, she stopped before me, and asked me if I would have my fortune told, and then she looked hard at me and said, 'No, no! pretty one, I won't draw back the veil yet from your future. Let it be-let it be! bright woof woven with a dark web. Let it be-let it be l' and she went on to someone else. I was glad when she went, and when her eye was off me: not that she was fierce looking, but she seemed to chill and sadden me, and she made me turn pale, for Charley came running up the glen to join our party, just at that moment, and he said to me, “Why are you so pale, and where is your brightness vanished to, Lena?' (My name is Aileen Mary Villiers, but I am always called Lena.) As he said this to me, the gipsy woman turned herself round, and she gave him such a look, and muttered half aloud, “Young hearts--young hearts! Ever the same tale. But the gift to read the days yet in the dim distance is mine—mine by inheritance; and I see deep gloom mingled with the bright sunshine of your two lives.' 'Hush, hush !' said Charley; 'stop this nonsense, we don't believe in charms, and fates, and predictions. You have got no disciples here, my good woman, so you may as well go on your way.' “Rash youth-rash youth!' the woman answered; 'your fate will meet you, say what you will; no one escapes from their doom. And then she turned and went.
• What can she mean, Charley?' I asked. Just nothing,' he answered. What have we to do with doom, and fate, and such trash? we have brighter and better hopes, than she with her half heathen belief, can enter into;' then very gently he said to me, “ The Lord is my Shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing.” Remember that, dear child; and ever lean on that. Now then,' he went on, suppose we were to sing some glees, and so chase these shadowy fears away.' To this we all consented, and sang very heartily for some time. When we had finished singing, as the sun was still hot, we proposed that everybody should tell a story, or something very pretty, equal to a story. Some said they could, and some said they couldn't; and those that could and would, did; and so we amused ourselves till Papa called to us to move, and begin our walk; and a very scrambling walk we had, right through the lonely wild glen, and when we arrived at the other end, we found that Herbert and Harry Leslie had lighted a fire and put a kettle on to boil, with water in it from one of the fresh springs in the glen; and they called to us girls to come and arrange the table-cloth, and the tea-cups, and the cakes, and bread and butter, and hard eggs; which were the only things we had brought with us, because Mamma said we should find a beautiful supper ready for us when we returned. We had great fun over our tea, and it really was delicious, and so refreshing—some of us had four and five cups. Then, before we left the glen, the sky was so magnificent, with such a grand sunset, that I don't think I ever saw anything so beautiful as it was; but it made Papa hurry us on, for he said such clouds predicted storms, and heavy ones too. We went home as we came, and only think! just as we were leaving the glen, the gipsy woman overtook us, and opened the gate for us, and as we passed by her, Herbert threw her a shilling, and said, 'Good luck to you, old crone: now wish us good luck in return, out of civility's sake.' 'Ah, ah !' said she, 'my wishes won't turn the wheel of fate; there is a dark woof woven with a bright thread for all of you. Poor bairns—poor bairns ! Herbert gave the pony a touch, and it started on, and carried us quickly out of the sound of her voice; but the same chill came over me that had come before, when she said those same mysterious words.
• Cross old witch !' exclaimed Herbert. "Ditto,' said both Charley and Edith ; and I said, 'I wish she had not met us at all, and spoiled all our fun. "Spoiled all our fun, Lena?' answered Charley; 'surely, dear child, you have had a happy day in spite of her.' “Yes, I have,' then I said, 'but not nearly so happy a one as if she had never come.' 'Lena is apt to brood, Charley, as you know,' said Edith; "as for me, I don't care a fig for the old woman's words, and she included us all four in her dark spell, as you know, Herbert.' 'So she had the impudence to include me, had she, Edith ?' answered Herbert. "Much I care about her predictions including me, indeed! I did not understand that before; I thought it was Lena's dreamy balf-sad face that tempted her to say ridiculous things.' I did not like Herbert to call my face half-sad and dreamy. I know it is not so bright a face as Edith's, because Mamma has often said so, and often called Edith “Sunshine.' She looks so exceedingly happy, generally speaking; and then her hair shines like gold, whereas mine is quite brown; and her eyes twinkle like little stars, and mine, Mamma says, 'hare the tear and the smile in tliem.'
Whilst we were talking about the old witch and her cross words, Bruno, that's our pony, chose to take fright at a great lumbering fieldroller, that came making such a noise along the road, drawn by four horses and off he started. Herbert was taken by surprise, and so he could not hold him in all in a moment, and on we flew. Charley said very quietly to us, “Sit quite still, it will be all right in a minute or two;' and then being older and stronger than Herbert, he took the reins into his own hands, and before long he managed to bring Bruno to a standstill, so that we did not tear down the hill as we thought we should have done. Then when Bruno did stop, Herbert got out and patted him, and spoke to him, and put the harness right, which had got a little wrong; and he told us the pony was more frightened than we were, for it was trembling all over. I was so glad, when we started again, that Charley kept the reins, and drove us all the way home. Herbert then said, “That old witch, with her spells, and her charms, and her black words, has caused this : for I never knew the pony run away before.' 'Perhaps,' answered Charley, “it had never before met so liuge a roller, nor heard its crashing din.' ‘Coming events do cast their shadow, Charley,' said Edith ; ‘so perhaps that old woman did indeed VOL. 7.
see the shadow.' 'I see the Hall windows peeping through the trees, which is much more to the point,' Charley said, in reply to Edith, and no more; as though he did not choose to begin again about the old woman.
In a few more minutes we got home, and before we told anything that had happened to us, Mamma sent us all away to get ready for supper, because some of our guests had to go away afterwards, and it was getting quite late. I found Nursie bad put all my white things out, so I was obliged to wear them to please her; and the wreath too, made only of white flowers. When I went down-stairs, Herbert exclaimed, 'What a swell ! Charley made me a low bow; and Mamma just kissed me in her own dear way, and said, “Nurse's wreath is very successful ;' then Papa called me ‘his little nun,' and made me sit by him at the bottom of the table. We were all very hungry, and rather tired; and Charley told about the pony, and Mamma turned so pale, and Papa gave Herbert such a look, and said, 'Were you frightened, my boy?' 'Oh, just a bit, for a minute,' he answered ; 'but Charley managed Bruno so right down well, that it was soon over; and besides which, it was all that old witch's fault.' Mamma asked him what he meant, and so he told her about the old woman and her words, and I saw Mamma did not like it, and looked so sad; and Papa saw it too, and did not like it either, for he said in the quick way he speaks in when he is not pleased, 'Such people were nuisances, and if he met the woman, he, as a magistrate, would either fine or imprison her.'
After supper, the carriages came round for those who were going home that night, and we ended the day by walking up and down the terrace, and watching the moon and the stars. Herbert was telling some wonderful stories, which I did not want to hear, so Charley took me away, and we two walked about together; and I told him, (because I can always tell Charley everything,) that in the morning I had felt as though I should never never be old, and that that witch woman, and the fright about the pony, together, had really made me feel old, and quite different. “Which feeling will all go away, dear child,' he said so gently, and you will forget it, and be as young as ever again ; but I don't promise you such feelings won't return, and you must not be surprised if they do. Life is sunshine and shade, winter and summer, day and night, smiles and tears.' As we were talking, we heard Papa calling to us to come in. I wanted to stay out longer, but Charley said, “No! Uncle wishes you to go in.' I was soon sent off to bed, and had no time to write in my journal till to-day; and now I have told all about my birth-day, and shall not write any more at present.
(To be continued.)
All the short spring day the sun had blazed over Florence, unshadowed by a cloud. Not a breath of wind from the hills had stirred the acacia leaves, or blown aside the spray from the fountains in the Boboli gardens. The lizards had swarmed over the red walls, and the birds had sought the shade of the close-cut hedges.
But these were times when the sun itself was not as hot as the hearts and heads on which it shone; when liberty burned fiercely in the bosoms of the people, and, fired by the example of all Italy, Tuscany was ripe for revolt. The Grand-duke, weak and vacillating, granted his people an inch of liberty one day, only to withdraw an ell the next. The state prisons were full of prisoners suspected of liberal principles, and the streets and houses even of the nobles of the land were not free from the encroachments of that most noxious of all human beings—the spy!
It was evening now, the great heat of the day was waning, the inhabitants were stealing out one by one, either for business or recreation. The venetian shutters were thrown open, and carriages stood in the palace court-yards to carry the great and gay to the green walks of the Cascine. In the markets, on the bridges along the river side, people began to gather in clusters and discuss beneath their breaths the progress of the great social change they had at heart.
There were those who spoke with a fool-hardy energy, and eyes kindled already with the fire of success: there were others pale with suppressed emotion, and glancing warily around them; others again who said little, listening with apparent apathy, but whose ears were wide open, drinking in every word and treasuring them up for purposes base and cruel.
The bell in the campanile had just finished tolling the hour of five, when Zanina Maratelli came down the road from the ducal gardens of Boboli, and traversed the quarter of the town, close by the Porta San Miniato.
She looked pale and out of sorts this evening, poor Zanina, the flowergirl of Florence, and the pet and favourite of the town. There was scarcely a tinge of rose on her lemon cheek, and her long black eyes were fireless and dull; she was one of those who had come out for business this evening, and not for pleasure.
Before crossing the river on her way to the flower-market, Zanina stopped in front of a door in a narrow street, and set her basket on the ground; the floor of this house was let to a working jeweller of the name of Giulio Zarti, the uppermost floor of all to a young artist named Andrea Palero.
It was towards the upper windows that Zanina, moving back a step or so into the narrow street, cast anxious inquiring glances. The jalousies lay wide open, and the evening air was stirring the white curtains within, but nothing further testified as to the life or state of its occupants.
Zanina could not be satisfied to go away in ignorance of the thing she most cared to know and hear. Raising her basket again from the ground, she entered the door-way and turned in at the shop to the left.
Ah! Zanina, is it thou ? On thy way to the market ?' asked the jeweller, raising his head from the works of a large silver watch he was inspecting
Zanina nodded her head silently, and laid her basket on the counter.
• Poverina! Poverina! nay, how pale thou art to-day; here, sit thee down. The old man touched her kindly on the arm, and pointed to a low chair beside the counter. 'Sit thee down; I guess thy errand, poor child, and I will tell thee all, though I fear my news will not mend matters. Thy Andrea is no better since daylight; there is a great change, the fever has taken a malignant turn, the woman who has nursed him so far has fled, the people on the second floor are gone also. I do not blame them, poor souls, with their flock of pretty children; the house, in fact, is empty. I only remain and my good woman, who is even now gone up to watch by his bed-side; but he does not know her, poor soul, only calls loudly for thee, Poverina. Hark! even now thou canst hear him.'
The flower-girl knew the fevered voice well, which resounded hoarsely through the empty house. She started suddenly from the chair, and made a movement towards the door.
Nay! nay! child, thou must not go up, it might be thy death ; besides, thou wouldst spread the infection. To-morrow, perhaps, if he is better!
Zanina shuddered at the name of death, and her cheek flushed as she said hastily, 'I was not going; I must hasten on, I am late for the flower-market as it is; good evening, Zarti. To-morrow, as thou sayest, if he is better!' She stretched out her hand towards her basket, but in drawing it towards her with nervous haste the cover became detached and rolled upon the floor.
Chi, chi! what need to go to the market, my child, when thy basket is full of flowers? seldom have I seen such rare beauties as these. From whence hast thou procured them ?'
Zanina stooped to recover the lid of her basket, which had rolled beneath the counter ; when she raised her face again it was pale as before, and her manner cold and composed, though her lips trembled as she answered,
I have been to the market already, but returned that I might have news of Andrea; my basket is not full, I have still some flowers to add ; good evening, Zarti-to-morrow, as thou sayest, to-morrow!
• Ay, to-morrow,' replied Zarti, somewhat perplexed by the girl's hesitating manner, 'to-morrow, if-'