been struck with the circumstance in talking with her before I took possession) that it was impossible to overestimate her simplicity.
You speak as if you were lost in the backwoods, I said, laughing. How you manage to keep out of this charming place when you have only three steps to take to get into it is more than I have yet been able to discover. You hide away mighty well so long as I am on the premises, I know; but I had a hope that you peeped out a little at other times. You and your poor aunt are worse off than Carmelite nuns in their cells. Should you mind telling me how you exist without air, without exercise, without any sort of human contact? I dont see how you carry on the common business of life.
She looked at me as if I were talking some strange tongue, and her answer was so little of an answer that I was considerably irritated. We go to bed very earlyearlier than you would believe. I was on the point of saying that this only deepened the mystery when she gave me some relief by adding, Before you came we were not so private. But I never have been out at night.
Never in these fragrant alleys, blooming here under your nose?
Ah, said Miss Tita, they were never nice till now! There was an unmistakable reference in this and a flattering comparison, so that it seemed to me I had gained a small advantage. As it would help me to follow it up to establish a sort of grievance I asked her why, since she thought my garden nice, she had never thanked me in any way for the flowers I had been sending up in such quantities for the previous three weeks. I had not been discouragedthere had been, as she would have observed, a daily armful; but I had been brought up in the common forms and a word of recognition now and then would have touched me in the right place.
Why I didnt know they were for me!
They were for both of you. Why should I make a difference?
Miss Tita reflected as if she might by thinking of a reason for that, but she failed to produce one. Instead of this she asked abruptly, Why in the world do you want to know us?
I ought after all to make a difference, I replied. That question is your aunts; it isnt yours. You wouldnt ask it if you hadnt been put up to it.
She didnt tell me to ask you, Miss Tita replied without confusion; she was the oddest mixture of the shrinking and the direct.
Well, she has often wondered about it herself and expressed her wonder to you. She has insisted on it, so that she has put the idea into your head that I am insufferably pushing. Upon my word I think I have been very discreet. And how completely your aunt must have lost every tradition of sociability, to see anything out of the way in the idea that respectable intelligent people, living as we do under the same roof, should occasionally exchange a remark! What could be more natural? We are of the same country, and we have at least some of the same tastes, since, like you, I am intensely fond of Venice.
My interlocutress appeared incapable of grasping more than one clause in any proposition, and she declared quickly, eagerly, as if she were answering my whole speech: I am not in the least fond of Venice. I should like to go far away!
Has she always kept you back so? I went on, to show her that I could be as irrelevant as herself.
She told me to come out tonight; she has told me very often, said Miss Tita. It is I who wouldnt come. I dont like to leave her.
Is she too weak, is she failing? I demanded, with more emotion, I think, than I intended to show. I judged this by the way her eyes rested upon me in the darkness. It embarrassed me a little, and to turn
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