You have the use of it then?
Oh, yes. If it wasnt for that! And she gave a shy, melancholy smile.
Isnt it a luxury, precisely? Thats why, intending to be in Venice some weeks, possibly all summer, and having some literary work, some reading and writing to do, so that I must be quiet, and yet if possible a great deal in the open airthats why I have felt that a garden is really indispensable. I appeal to your own experience, I went on, smiling. Now cant I look at yours?
I dont know, I dont understand, the poor woman murmured, planted there and letting her embarrassed eyes wander all over my strangeness.
I mean only from one of those windowssuch grand ones as you have hereif you will let me open the shutters. And I walked toward the back of the house. When I had advanced halfway I stopped and waited, as if I took it for granted she would accompany me. I had been of necessity very abrupt, but I strove at the same time to give her the impression of extreme courtesy. I have been looking at furnished rooms all over the place, and it seems impossible to find any with a garden attached. Naturally in a place like Venice gardens are rare. Its absurd if you like, for a man, but I cant live without flowers.
There are none to speak of down there. She came nearer to me, as if, though she mistrusted me, I had drawn her by an invisible thread. I went on again, and she continued as she followed me: We have a few, but they are very common. It costs too much to cultivate them; one has to have a man.
Why shouldnt I be the man? I asked. Ill work without wages; or rather Ill put in a gardener. You shall have the sweetest flowers in Venice.
She protested at this, with a queer little sigh which might also have been a gush of rapture at the picture I presented. Then she observed, We dont know youwe dont know you.
You know me as much as I know you: that is much more, because you know my name. And if you are English I am almost a countryman.
We are not English, said my companion, watching me helplessly while I threw open the shutters of one of the divisions of the wide high window.
You speak the language so beautifully: might I ask what you are? Seen from above the garden was certainly shabby; but I perceived at a glance that it had great capabilities. She made no rejoinder, she was so lost in staring at me, and I exclaimed, You dont mean to say you are also by chance American?
I dont know; we used to be.
Used to be? Surely you havent changed?
Its so many years agowe are nothing.
So many years that you have been living here? Well, I dont wonder at that; its a grand old house. I suppose you all use the garden, I went on, but I assure you I shouldnt be in your way. I would be very quiet and stay in one corner.
We all use it? she repeated after me, vaguely, not coming close to the window but looking at my shoes. She appeared to think me capable of throwing her out.
I mean all your family, as many as you are.
There is only one other; she is very oldshe never goes down.
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