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首页 » 经典英文小说 » All along the River » CHAPTER XXI.
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It was their last day at San Remo. Everything had been packed for the journey, and the drawing-room at Lauter Brunnen had a dreary look now that it was stripped of all those decorations and useful prettinesses with which Allegra had made it so gay and home-like.

The morning was brilliant, and Martin, Allegra, and Captain Hulbert set off at nine o'clock upon a long-deferred expedition to San Romolo. They would be home in good time for the eight-o'clock dinner; and Isola promised to amuse herself all day, and to be in good spirits to welcome them on their return.

"You have a duty to do for your sister," she said, when her husband felt compunction at leaving her. "Think of all she has done for us, her devotion, her unselfishness. The least we can do is to help her to be happy with her lover; and all the burden of that duty has fallen upon you. I think you ought to be called Colonel Gooseberry."

She looked a bright and happy creature as she stood on the mule-path in the olive wood, waving her hand to them as they went away—Allegra riding a donkey, the two men walking, one on each side of her bridle, and the guide striding on ahead, leading a second donkey which was to serve as an occasional help by-and-by, if either of the pedestrians wanted a lift. Her cheeks were flushed with walking, and her eyes were bright with a new gladness.

She was full of a childish pleasure in the idea of their journey, and the realization of a dream which most of us have dreamt a long time before it assumed the shape of earthly things—the dream of Rome.

Isola stood listening to their footsteps, as they passed the little painted shrine on the hill path. She heard them give the time of day to a party of peasant women, with empty[Pg 242] baskets on their heads, going up to gather the last of the olives. Then she roamed about the wooded valley and the slope of the hill towards Colla for an hour or two, and then, growing suddenly tired, she crept home, in time to sit beside her baby while he slept his placid noontide sleep. She bent over the little rosebud mouth and kissed it, in a rapture of maternal love.

"So young to see Rome," she murmured. "And to think that those star-like eyes will see and take no heed; to think that such a glorious vision will pass before him, and he will remember nothing."

The day was very long, something like one of those endless days at Trelasco, when her husband was in Burmah and she had only the dog and the cat for her companions. She thought of those fond friends to-day with a regretful sigh—the sleepy Shah, so calm and undemonstrative in his attachment, but with a placid, purring delight in her society which seemed to mean a great deal; the fox-terrier, so active and intense in his affection, demanding so much attention, intruding himself upon her walks and reveries with such eager, not-to-be-denied devotion. She had no four-footed friends here; and the want of them made an empty space in her life.

In the afternoon the weather changed suddenly. The sky became overcast, the sea a leaden colour; and the mistral came whistling up the valley with a great rustling and shivering of the silver-green foliage and creaking of the old bent branches, like the withered arms of witch or sorceress. All the glory of the day was gone, and the white villas on the crest of the eastward hill stood out in livid distinctness against the blackened sky.

Isola wandered up the hill-path, past the little shrine where the way divided, the point at which she had seen her husband and his party vanish in the sunny morning. She felt a sudden sense of loneliness now the sun was gone; a childish longing for the return of her friends, for evening and lamplight, and the things that make for cheerfulness.[Pg 243] She was cold and dull, and out of spirits. She had left the house while the sun was shining, and she had come without shawl or wrap of any kind, and the mistral made her shiver. Yet she had no idea of hurrying home. The loneliness of the house had become oppressive before she left it; and she knew there would be some hours to wait for the return of the excursionists. So she mounted the steep mule-path, slowly and painfully, till she had gone two-thirds of the way to Colla; and then she sat down to rest on the low stone wall which enclosed a little garden in a break of the wood, from which point there was a far-stretching view seaward.

She was very cold, but she was so tired as to be glad to rest at any hazard of after-suffering. Drowsy from sheer exhaustion, she leant her head against a great rugged olive, whose roots were mixed up with the wall, and fell fast asleep. She awoke, shivering, from a confused dream of sea and woods, Roman temples and ruined palaces. She had been wandering in one of those dream-cities that have neither limit nor settled locality. It was here in the woods below Colla, and yet was half Rome and half Trelasco. There was a classic temple upon a hill that was like the Mount, and the day was bleak, and dark, and rainy, and she was walking on the footpath through Lord Lostwithiel's park, with the storm-driven rain beating against her face, just as on that autumn evening, when the owner of the soil had taken compassion upon her and had given her shelter. The dream had been curiously vivid—a dream which brought the past back as if it were the present, and blotted out all that had come afterwards. She woke bewildered, forgetting that her husband had come back from India, and that she was in Italy, thinking of herself as she had been that October evening when she and Lostwithiel met for the first time.

Tho sea was darker than when she fell asleep. There was the dull crimson of a stormy sunset yonder, behind the jutting promontory of Bordighera, while the sky above was[Pg 244] barred with long, black clouds, and the wind was howling across the great deep valley like an evil spirit tortured and imprisoned, shrieking to his gods for release. Exactly opposite her, as she stood in the deep cleft of the hills, a solitary vessel was labouring under press of canvas towards the point upon whose dusky summit the chapel of the Madonna della Guardia gleamed whitely in the dying day. The vessel was a schooner yacht, of considerable tonnage, certainly larger than the Vendetta.

Isola stood, still as marble, watching that labouring boat, the straining sails, the dark hull beaten by the stormy dash of the waves. She watched with wide, open eyes, and parted lips, quivering as with an over-mastering fear, watched in momentary expectation of seeing those straining sails dip for the last time, that labouring hull founder and vanish betwixt black wave and white surf. She watched in motionless attention till the boat disappeared behind the shoulder of the hill; and then, shivering, nervous, and altogether over-strung, she hurried homewards, feeling that she had stayed out much too long, and that she had caught a chill which might be the cause of new trouble.

If those narrow mule-paths had been less familiar, she might have lost her way in the dusk; but she had trodden them too often to be in any difficulty, and she reached the villa without loss of time, but not before the return of the picnic party.

Allegra and Captain Hulbert were watching at the gate. Colonel Disney had gone into the wood to look for her, and had naturally taken the wrong direction.

"Oh, Isola; how could you stop out so late, and on such a stormy evening?" remonstrated Allegra.

"I fell asleep before the storm came on."

"Fell asleep—out-of-doors—and at sunset! What dreadful imprudence."

"I went out too late, I'm afraid; but I was so tired of waiting for you. A kind of horror of the house and the silence came upon me—and I felt I must go out into the[Pg 245] woods. I walked too far—and fell asleep from sheer fatigue; and when I woke I saw a yacht fighting with the wind. I'm afraid she'll go down."

"What, you noticed her too?" exclaimed Hulbert. "I didn't think you cared enough about yachts to take notice of her. I was watching her as we came down the hill; rather too much canvas; but she's right enough. She's past Arma di Taggia by this time, I dare say. I'll go and look for Disney, and tell him you're safe and sound. Perhaps I shall miss him in the wood. It's like a Midsummer Night's Dream, isn't it, Allegra?" he said, laughing, as he went out of the gate.

"If it were only mid-summer, I shouldn't care," answered his sweetheart, with her arm round Isola, who stood beside her, pale and shivering. "Come in, dear, and let me make you warm, if I can."

"If they should all go down in the darkness!" said Isola, in a low, dreamy voice. "The boat looked as if it might be wrecked at any moment."

Allegra employed all her arts as a sick-nurse in the endeavour to ward off any evil consequence from that imprudent slumber in the chill hour of sunset; but her cares were unavailing. Isola was restless and feverish all night, yet she insisted on getting up at her usual hour next morning, and declared herself quite capable of the journey to Genoa. Allegra and her brother, however, insisted on her resting for a day or two. So the departure was postponed, and the doctor sent for. He advised at least three days' rest, with careful nursing; and he reproved his patient severely for her imprudence in exposing herself to the evening air.

Captain Hulbert appeared at teatime, just returned from a railway journey to Allassio.

"I've a surprise for you, Mrs. Disney," he said, seating himself by the sofa where Isola was lying, surrounded by invalid luxuries, books, lemonade, fan, and eau de Cologne flask, her feet covered with a silken rug.

[Pg 246]

"A surprise!" she echoed faintly, as if life held no surprises for her. "What can that be?"

"You remember the yacht you saw last night?"

"Yes," she cried, roused in an instant, and clasping her hands excitedly. "Did she go down?"

"Not the least little bit. She is safe and sound at Allassio. She is called the Eurydice, she hails last from Syracuse, and my brother is on board her. He wired to me this morning to go over and see him. I'm very glad I went, for he is off to Corfu to-morrow. The Flying Dutchman isn't in it with him."

There was a curious silence. Martin Disney was sitting on the other side of his wife's sofa, where he had been reading selected bits of the Times, such portions of the news of men and nations as he fancied might interest her. Allegra was busy with a piece of delicate needlework, and did not immediately reply; but it was she who was first to speak.

"How frightened you would have been yesterday evening had you known who was on board the boat," she said.

"I don't know about being frightened, but he was certainly carrying too much canvas. I told him so this morning."

"What did he say?"

"Laughed at me. 'You sailors never believe that a landsman can sail a ship,' he said. I wanted to talk to his sailing-master, but he told me he was his own sailing-master. If his ship was doomed to go down, he meant to be at the helm himself."

"That sounds as if he were foolhardy," said Allegra.

"I told him I did not like the rig of his boat, nor the name of his boat, and I reminded him how I saw the Eurydice off Portland with all her canvas spread the day she went down. I was with the Governor of the Prison, a naval man, who had been commander on my first ship, and we stood side by side on the cliff, and watched her as she went by. 'If this wind gets much stronger, that ship will[Pg 247] go down,' said my old captain, 'unless they take in some of their canvas.' And a few hours later these poor fellows had all gone to the bottom. I asked Lostwithiel why he called his boat the Eurydice. 'Fancy,' he said; he had a fancy for the name. 'I've never forgotten the old lines we used to hammer out when we were boys,' he said—'Ah, miseram, Eurydicen! anima fugiente vocabat; Eurydicen toto referebant flumine rip?.'"

"I don't think the name matters, if she is a good boat," said Allegra, with her calm common sense.

"Well, she is, and she isn't. She is a finer boat than the Vendetta; but I'd sooner handle the Vendetta in a storm. There are points about his new boat that I don't quite like. However, he had her built by one of the finest builders on the Clyde, and it will be hard if she goes wrong. He has given me the Vendetta as a wedding-present—in advance of the event—on condition that I sink her when I'm tired of her; and he said he hoped she'd be luckier to me than she had been to him."

Martin Disney sat silent by his wife's sofa. He could never hear Lord Lostwithiel's name without a touch of pain. His only objection to Hulbert as a brother-in-law was the thought that the two men were of the same race—that he must needs hear the hated name from time to time; and yet he believed his wife's avowal that she was pure and true. His hatred of the name came only from the recollection that she had been slandered by a man whom he despised. He looked at the wasted profile on the satin pillow, so wan, so transparent in its waxen pallor, the heavy eyelid drooping languidly, the faintly coloured lips drawn as if with pain—a broken lily. Was this the kind of woman to be suspected of evil—this fair and fragile creature, in whom the spiritual so predominated over the sensual? He hated himself for having been for a moment influenced by that underbred scoundrel at Glenaveril, for having been base enough to doubt his wife's purity.

He had pained and humiliated her, and now the stamp of[Pg 248] death was on the face he adored, and before him lay the prospect of a life's remorse.

They left San Remo three days afterwards, Isola being pronounced able to bear the journey, though her cough had been considerably increased by that imprudent slumber in the wood. She was anxious to go; and doctor and husband gave way to her eagerness for new scenes.

"I am so tired of this place," she said piteously. "It is lovely; but it is a loveliness that makes me melancholy. I want to be in a great city where there are lots of people moving about. I have never lived in a city, but always in quiet places—beautiful, very beautiful, but so still—so still—so full of one's self and one's own thoughts."


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