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ruminations. Shrug and explosion signalled two stark facts: Baldassare was fifty-four, and Vanna had no portion.

Yet he remained watching on the bridge, his chin buried in his knotty hands, his little eyes. blinking under stress of the inner fire he had. So it befell that La Testolina saw him, and said something shrill and saucy to her neighbour. The wind tossed him the tone but not the sense. He saw the joke run crackling down the line, all heads look brightly up. The joke caught fire; he saw the sun-gleam on a dozen perfect sets of teeth. Vanna's head was up with the rest, sooner up and the sooner down. Even from that height the little twinkling beacons from the bridge shot her through. He saw her colour deepen, head droop: she was busy long before the others had wrung their joke dry. "Soul of a cat!" grunted Baldassare between his teeth, "what a rosy baggage it is!" waited a little longer, then deliberately passed the bridge, rounded the pillar by the steps, and went down to the women like a man who had made up his mind. Lisabetta of the roving eye caught the first hint of his shadow. Her elbow to Nonna's ribs, Nonna's "Pst!" in Nina's ear, spread the news. Vanna's cheeks flew the flag.

linen hung out to dance itself dry in the wind. Most of all he noticed Vanna, whom he knew well enough, because when she knelt upright she was taller and more wayward than the rest, and because the wind made so plain the pretty figure she had. She was very industrious, but no less full of talk: there seemed so much to say! The pauses were frequent in which she straightened herself from the hips and turned to thrust chin and voice into the debate. You saw then the sharp angle and fine line of light along that raised chin, the charming turn of the neck, her free young shoulders and shapely head ; also you heard her lively tones of ci and si, and saw how her shaking finger drove them home. The wind would catch her yellow hair sometimes and wind it across her bosom like a scarf; or it streamed sideways like a long pennon; or being caught by a gust from below, sprayed out like a cloud of litten gold. Vanna always joined in the laugh at her mishap, tossed her tresses back, pinned them up (both hands at the business); and then, with square shoulders and elbows stiff as rods, set to working the dirt out of Don Urbano's surplice. Baldassare brooded, chewing straws. What a clear colour that girl had, to be sure! What a lissom rascal it was! A fine long girl like that should be married; by all accounts she would make a man a good wife. If he were a dozen years the better of four-and-fifty he might- Then came a Vanna, very busy, grew as


"Buon' giorno, Ser Baldassare!" shrilled La Testolina, plump and black-eyed leader of mischief.

"Giorno, giorno, La Testolina," growled the old man.

shrug, and "Ma!" to conclude red as a rose.
in true Veronese Baldassare's

The others knelt

back on their heels; compli

Yet for all his adventuring he got little reward: she turned him no more than the round of her cheek. Vanna never stayed her work, and he, ordinarily a silent man, paid no more compliments-yet ceased not to look.

ments of a homely sort flew music. The scent was too hot about, sped on by flashing for that. teeth. Baldassare's own were black as old channel-posts in the Lagoon, but in tonguework he gave as sharp as he got. Then a wicked wind blew Vanna's hair like a whip across her throat, fit to strangle her. She had to face the day. Baldassare pondered her straight young back.

"When Vanna's a nun she'll have no more trouble with her hair,' quoth La Testolina, matchmaker by race.

"When Vanna's a nun the river will be dry," said Vanna from between her elbows.

"When Vanna's a nun the river, on the contrary, will be in flood." This from Baldassare.

"Hey! what's this?" Caterina cried; and Nonna pinched her



Adige will go crying that she comes no more to dip her arms," said the old man, with the utmost gravity and a broad grin. The women pealed their delight, slapped their knees, or raised witnessing hands to heaven: La Testolina caught Vanna round the waist, and gave her a resounding kiss.

"Compliments, my little Vanna, compliments!" Her voice was a braying trumpet.

“Vi ringrazio, signore," said Vanna under her breath, and La Testolina held up a tress of her long hair to the light.

"When Vanna's a nun you would bid for that, eh, Baldassare?"

"I will bid for whatever she will sell me," says he, with a blink. Whereupon the matchmaker made no more


Going up the street at dinnertime, he made his bid. limped by the tall girl's side without speech from either; but at the door he looked up queerly at her and pinched her


"Go in and feed the youngsters, my chuck," said he; "I know where to meet Don Urbano, and please Madonna you shall feed your own before long."

"Yes, Ser Baldassare," says pretty Vanna in a twitter.

The conference between the high contracting parties was wordy, bristled with the gesticulations of two pair of hands, and was commented on by all the guests in the "Fiore del Marinajo." The girl, said Don Urbano, was the very pride of his eye, prop of his failing years, a little mother to the children. She had had a most pious bringing-up, never missed the Rosary, knew the Little Hours of the Virgin, could do sums with notches in a stick, market like a Jew's housekeeper, sew like a nun, and make a stew against any wife in the contrada. Dowry, dowry! What did such a girl as that want with a dowry? She was her own dowry, by Bacchus the Thracian. Look at the shape of her-was that not a dowry? The work she could do, the pair

of shoulders, the deep chest, the long legs she had — pick your dowry there, my friends! A young woman of her sort carried her dowry on her back, in her two hands, in her mouth-ah! and in what she could put into yours, by our Lord. Rather, it should be the other way. What, now, was Ser Baldassare prepared to lay out upon such a piece of goods? Baldassare shivered, grinned fearfully, and shook his head many times. Money was money; it was


limited; it bore its value in plain figures upon its face : you knew where you were with money. But you could get wives cheaper than ducats, and find them cheaper value, soul of a cat! Besides, what was he? A poor pedlar, by his faith! At this he spread out his arms and dropped them with a flop upon his knees. The priest sat back in his chair and cast appealing looks at the rafters ; the company chuckled, nudged each other, guffawed. Baldassare was made to feel that he had over coloured his True, he admitted, he had a roof over his head, shared fortune with the rats in that. But look at the thing reasonably, comrades. Vanna would make another to keep; a girl of her inches must be an eater, body of a dog! Had his reverence thought of that? reverence made a supreme effort; held up one pudgy forefinger, and with the other marked off two joints of it. "Of mortadella so much," he said; "of polenta so much"and he shut his fist; "of pasta so much”—and he coupled the


two fists; "and of wine, by the soul of the world, not enough to drown a flea! I tell you, Baldassare," he said finally, emboldened by the merchant's growing doubt "I tell you that you ask of me a treasure which I would not part with for a cardinal's hat. No indeed! Not to be Bishop of Verona, throned and purpled on Can Grande's right hand, will I consent to traffic my Vanna. Eh, sangue di sangue,

because I am a man of the Church must I cease to be a man of bowels, to have a yearning, a tender spot here?" He prodded his his cushioned ribs. "Go you, Ser Baldassare Dardicozzo," he cried, rising grandly in his chair "go you; you have mistaken your man. father flies superbly out of the curate's cassock, and points the door to the chafferer of virgins!"


The tavern- room, on Don Urbano's side to a man, beat the tables with their glasses; Baldassare had to surrender at discretion. The bargain, finally struck, was written out by an obliging notary on the scoringslate. In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity it was declared to all men living and to be born, that Baldassare Dardicozzo, merchant of Verona, was obliged to pay to the reverend father in God, Urbano, curate of Santa Toscana in the Borgo San Giorgio, the sum of sixty florins Veronese and two barrels of wine of Val Pulicella, under condition that if within thirty days from those presents he did not lead in marriage Giovanna, daughter of the said

reverend, he should be bound to pay the sum of one hundred and twenty florins Veronese, and four barrels of wine of Val Pulicella.

The notary executed a monstrous flourish at the bottoma foliated cross rising out of steps. On the last step he wrote his own name, Bartolo de Thomasinis; and then Baldassare, smiling as he should, but feeling as he should not, stuck his seal upon the swim

ming wax, and made a cross with the stile like the foundations of a spider's web.

The affair was thus concluded before the thirty days were up Vanna was taken to church by her father, and taken from it by her new master. Within a month she appeared at the doorway of Baldassare's little shop, very pretty, very sedate, quite the housewife-to sit there sewing and singing to herself from grey dawn to grey dusk.


A year passed, two years passed. Vanna was three-andtwenty, no more round but no less blooming in face and figure, still a reedy, golden-haired girl. But Baldassare was fifty-seven, and there was no sign of issue. The neighbours, who had nudged each other at one season, whose heads had wagged as their winks flew about, now accepted the sterile mating as of the order of things. Pretty Vanna, mother as she had been to her brothers and sisters, was to be a mother no more. There was talk of May and December; Baldassare was advised to lock up other treasure beside his florins; some, indeed, of the opposite camp gave hints none too honest to the forlorn young wife. The Piazza Sant' Anastasia at the falling-in of the day, for instance. Thus they put it. All girls-and what else was Vanna, a wife in name? -walked there arm in arm. Others walked there also, she must know. By-and-by some pretty lad, an archer, perhaps,


from the Palace, some roistering blade of a gentleman's lackey, a friar or twinkling monk out for a frolic, came along with an "Eh, la bellina!" and then there was another arm at work. So, for one, whispered La Testolina, wagging a head full of confidence and mystery close to Vanna's as the girl sat working out the summer twilight. The Via Stella was narrow and gloomy. The tall houses nearly met in that close way. Looking up, you saw the two jagged edges of the eaves, like great tattered wings spread towards each other. When the green sky of evening deepened to blue, and blue grew violet, these shadowing wings were always in advance, more densely dark. There it was that Vanna worked incessantly, sewing seam after seam, patching, braiding, and fitting the pieces. By no chance at all did a hint of the sun fall about her; yet she always sang softly to

herself, always wore her pretty
fresh colours, and still showed
the gold sheen in her yellow
hair. Her hair was put up
now, pulled smoothly back
over her temples; she spoke
in a low, sober, measured voice,
and to La Testolina's sly sug-
gestions responded with a little
blush, a little shake of the
head, and a very little sigh.
"Ser Baldassare is good to
me," she would say; "would
you have me do him a wrong?
Last Friday he gave me а
silver piece to spend in what-
soever I chose. I bought a
little holy-water stoup with a
Gesulino upon it bowered in
roses. On Sunday morning he
patted my cheek and called
me a good girl. To say noth-
ing of the many times he has
pinched my ear, all this was
very kind, as you must see.
With what do you ask me
to reward him? Fie!" La
Testolina snorted, and shrugged
herself away.
Vanna went on
with her sewing and her little

"Giovanottin, che te ne vai di fuora,
Stattene allegro, e così vo' far io.
Se ti trovassi qualche dama nuova,
L'ha da saper che tua dama son io."

So sang she, innocently enough, whose sweethearting went no farther than her artless lips. There was not a spice of mischief in the girl. What she had told La Testolina had been no more than the truth: Master Baldassare was good to her-better than you would have believed possible in such a crabbed old stub of a man. He was more of a father to her than ever Don Urbano had

been to anything save his own belly; but it was incontestable that he was not father to anything else. That alone might have been a grievance for Vanna, but there is no evidence that it was. Baldassare was by nature gruff, by habit close-fisted: like all such men, the more he felt the deeper he hoarded the thought under his ribs. The most he would venture would be a hand on her hair, and a grunt when she did well; so sure as she looked up gratefully at him the old man drew off, with puckered brows and jaws

working together. He may have been ashamed of his weakness; it is dead certain that no one in Verona, least of all Vanna herself, suspected him of any affection for his young wife. Mostly he was silent; thus she became silent too whenever he was in the house. This was against nature, for by ordinary her little songs bubbled from her like a bird's. But to see him so glum and staring within doors awed her she set a finger to her lips as she felt the tune on her tongue, and went about her business mute. Baldassare would go abroad, stooping under his pack: she took her seat at the shop-door, threaded her needle, her fingers flew and her fancy with them. The spring of her music was touched, and all the neighbours grew to listen for the gentle cadences she made.



So passed a year, so years passed. Vanna twenty-three, looking less, when along there came


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