A Lady of Rome by F. Marion Crawford

A Lady of Rome

byF. Marion Crawford

Kobo ebook | March 10, 2015

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Maria Montalto was dressed as a Neapolitan Acquaiola and kept the lemonade stall at the Kermess in Villa Borghese. The villa has lately changed its official name, and not for the first time in its history, but it will take as long to accustom Romans to speak of it as Villa Umberto as it once did before they could give up calling it Villa Cenci. For the modern Romans are conservative people, who look with contempt or indifference on the changes of nomenclature which are imposed from time to time by their municipal representatives.

The lady was selling iced lemonade, syrup of almonds, and tamarind to the smart and the vulgar, the just and the unjust alike; and her dress consisted of a crimson silk skirt embroidered with gold lace, a close-fitting low bodice that matched it more or less and confined the fine linen she wore, which was a little open at the throat and was picked up with red ribband at the elbows, besides being embroidered in the old-fashioned Neapolitan way. She had a handsome string of pink corals round her neck, Sicilian gold earrings hung at her ears, and a crimson silk handkerchief was tied over her dark hair with a knot behind her head.

She was very good-looking, and every one said the costume was becoming to her; and as she was not at all vain, she enjoyed her little success of prettiness very much. After all, she was barely seven-and-twenty and had a right to look five years younger in a fancy dress. She was not really a widow, though many of her friends had fallen into the habit of treating her as if she were. It was seven years since Montalto had left her and had gone to live with his mother in Spain.

They had only lived together two years when he had gone away, and observant people said that Maria had not grown a day older since, whereas they had noticed a very great change in her appearance soon after she had been married. It was quite absurd that at twenty she should have had a little patch of grey by her left temple just where the dark hair waved naturally. At that rate we should all be old at thirty.

The observant ones had noticed another odd thing about Maria Montalto. Her girl friends remembered especially a certain fearless look in her eyes, which were not black, though they were almost too dark to be called brown, and used to be most wonderfully full of warm light in her girlhood. But she had not been married many months, perhaps not many weeks, when a great change had come into them, and instead of fearlessness her friends had seen the very opposite in them, a look of continual terror, a haunted look, the look of a woman who lives in perpetual dread of a terrible catastrophe. It had been there before her boy was born, and it was there afterwards; later she had been ill for some time, after which Montalto had gone away, and since that day her eyes had changed again.

There was no terror in them now, but there was the perpetual remembrance of something that had hurt very much. I once knew a man who had been tortured by savages for twenty-four hours, and his eyes had that same expression ever afterwards. In the Middle Ages, when torture was the common instrument of the law, many persons must have gone about with that memory of suffering in their eyes, plain for every one to see. Maria looked as if she had undergone bodily torture, which she remembered, but no longer feared.

After all, her trouble had left no lines in her young features, nor anything but that singular expression of her eyes and that tiny patch of white in her hair. Her face was rather pale, but with that delicious warm pallor which often goes with perfect health in dark people of the more refined type, and the crimson kerchief certainly set it off very well, as the corals did, too, and the queer little Sicilian earrings.

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Title:A Lady of RomeFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:March 10, 2015Publisher:THE MACMILLAN COMPANYLanguage:English

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