A Roman Holiday

`Oh dear!' said Mrs Ashe, as she folded her letters and laid them aside, `I wish those Pages would go away from Nice, or else that the frigates were not there.'

`Why! What's the matter?' asked Katy, looking up from the many-leaved journal from Clover over which she was poring.

`Nothing is the matter except that those everlasting people haven't gone to Spain yet, as they said they would, and Ned seems to keep on seeing them,' replied Mrs Ashe petulantly.

`But, dear Polly, what difference does it make? And they never did promise you to go at any particular time, did they?'

`No, they didn't; but I wish they would, all the same. Not that Ned is such a goose as really to care anything for that foolish Lilly!' Then she gave a little laugh at her own inconsistency, and added: `But I oughtn't to abuse her when she is your cousin.'

`Don't mention it,' said Katy cheerfully. `But, really, I don't see why poor Lilly need worry you so, Polly dear.'

The room in which this conversation took place was on the very topmost floor of the Hotel del Mondo in Rome. It was large and many-windowed, and though there was a little bed in one comer half hidden behind a calico screen, with a bureau and washing-stand, and a sort of stout mahogany hat tree on which Katy's dresses and jackets were hanging, the remaining space, with a sofa and easy chairs grouped round a fire, and a round table furnished with books and a lamp, was ample enough to make a good substitute for the private sitting room which Mrs Ashe had not been able to procure on account of the near approach of the carnival and the consequent crowding of strangers to Rome. In fact, she was assured that under the circumstances she was lucky in finding rooms as good as these, and she made the most of the assurance as a consolation for the somewhat unsatisfactory food and service at the hotel, and the four long flights of stairs which must be passed every time they needed to reach the dining room or the street door.

The party had been in Rome only four days, but already they had seen a host of interesting things. They had stood in the strange sunken space with its marble floor and broken columns, which is all that is left of the great Roman Forum. They had visited the Coliseum, at that period still overhung with ivy garlands and trailing greeneries, and not, as now, scraped clean and bare and `tidied' out of much of its picturesqueness. They had seen the Baths of Caracalla and the Temple of Janus and St Peter's and the Vatican marbles, and had driven out on the Campagna and to the Pamphili-Doria Villa to gather purple and red anemones, and to the English cemetery to see the grave of Keats. They had also peeped into certain shops, and attended a reception at the American minister's - in short, like most unwarned travellers, they had done about twice as much as prudence and experience would have permitted, had those worthies been consulted.

All the romance of Katy's nature responded to the fascination of the ancient city - the capital of the world, as it may truly be called. The shortest drive or walk brought them face to face with innumerable and unexpected delights. Now it was a wonderful fountain, with plunging horses and colossal nymphs and Tritons, holding cups and horns from which showers of white foam rose high in air to fall like rushing rain into an immense marble basin. Now it was an arched doorway with traceries as fine as lace - sole remaining fragment of a heathen temple, flung and stranded as it were by the wave of time on the squalid shore of the present. Now it was a shrine at the meeting of three streets, where a dim lamp burned beneath the effigy of the Madonna, with always a fresh rose beside it in a vase, and at its foot a peasant woman kneeling in red bodice and blue petticoat, with a lace-trimmed towel folded over her hair. Or again, it would be a sunlit terrace lifted high on a hillside, and crowded with carriages full of beautifully- dressed people, while below all Rome seemed spread out like a panorama, dim, mighty, majestic, and bounded by the blue wavy line of the Campagna and the Alban hills. Or perhaps it might be a wonderful double flight of steps with massive balustrades and pillars with urns, on which sat a crowd of figures

  By PanEris using Melati.

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