Read CHAPTER II - Music on the Pincio of His Own People , free online book, by Booth Tarkington, on ReadCentral.com.

The following afternoon found him still in that enviable condition as he stood listening to the music on the Pincian Hill.  He had it of rumor that the Fashion of Rome usually took a turn there before it went to tea, and he had it from the lady herself that Madame de Vaurigard would be there.  Presently she came, reclining in a victoria, the harness of her horses flashing with gold in the sunshine.  She wore a long ermine stole; her hat was ermine; she carried a muff of the same fur, and Mellin thought it a perfect finish to the picture that a dark gentleman of an appearance most distinguished should be sitting beside her.  An Italian noble, surely!

He saw the American at once, nodded to him and waved her hand.  The victoria went on a little way beyond the turn of the drive, drew out of the line of carriages, and stopped.

“Ah, Monsieur Mellin,” she cried, as he came up, “I am glad!  I was so foolish yesterday I didn’ give you the address of my little apartment an’ I forgot to ask you what is your hotel.  I tol’ you I would come here for my drive, but still I might have lost you for ever.  See what many people!  It is jus’ that Fate again.”

She laughed, and looked to the Italian for sympathy in her kindly merriment.  He smiled cordially upon her, then lifted his hat and smiled as cordially upon Mellin.

“I am so happy to fin’ myself in Rome that I forget” ­Madame de Vaurigard went on ­“ever’sing! But now I mus’ make sure not to lose you.  What is your hotel?”

“Oh, the Magnifique,” Mellin answered carelessly.  “I suppose everybody that one knows stops there.  One does stop there, when one is in Rome, doesn’t one?”

“Everybody go’ there for tea, and to eat, sometime, but to stay ­ah, that is for the American!” she laughed.  “That is for you who are all so abomin-ab-ly rich!” She smiled to the Italian again, and both of them smiled beamingly on Mellin.

“But that isn’t always our fault, is it?” said Mellin easily.

“Aha!  You mean you are of the new generation, of the yo’ng American’ who come over an’ try to spen’ these immense fortune’ ­those ’pile’ ­your father or your gran-father make!  I know quite well.  Ah?”

“Well,” he hesitated, smiling.  “I suppose it does look a little by way of being like that.”

“Wicked fellow!” She leaned forward and tapped his shoulder chidingly with two fingers.  “I know what you wish the mos’ in the worl’ ­you wish to get into mischief.  That is it!  No, sir, I will jus’ take you in han’!”

“When will you take me?” he asked boldly.

At this, the pleasant murmur of laughter ­half actual and half suggested ­with which she underlined the conversation, became loud and clear, as she allowed her vivacious glance to strike straight into his upturned eyes, and answered: 

“As long as a little turn roun’ the hill, now.  Cavaliere Corni ­”

To Mellin’s surprise and delight the Italian immediately descended from the victoria without the slightest appearance of irritation; on the contrary, he was urbane to a fine degree, and, upon Madame de Vaurigard’s formally introducing him to Mellin, saluted the latter with grave politeness, expressing in good English a hope that they might meet often.  When the American was installed at the Countess’ side she spoke to the driver in Italian, and they began to move slowly along the ilex avenue, the coachman reining his horses to a walk.

“You speak Italian?” she inquired.

“Oh, not a great deal more than a smattering,” he replied airily ­a truthful answer, inasmuch as a vocabulary consisting simply of "quanty costy" and "troppo" cannot be seriously considered much more than a smattering.  Fortunately she made no test of his linguistic attainment, but returned to her former subject.

“Ah, yes, all the worl’ to-day know’ the new class of American,” she said ­“your class.  Many year’ ago we have another class which Europe didn’ like.  That was when the American was ter-ri-blé!  He was the ­what is that you call? ­oh, yes; he ‘make himself,’ you say:  that is it.  My frien’, he was abominable!  He brag’; he talk’ through the nose; yes, and he was niggardly, rich as he was!  But you, you yo’ng men of the new generation, you are gentlemen of the idleness; you are aristocrats, with polish an’ with culture.  An’ yet you throw your money away ­yes, you throw it to poor Europe as if to a beggar!”

“No, no,” he protested with an indulgent laugh which confessed that the truth was really “Yes, yes.”

“Your smile betray’ you!” she cried triumphantly.  “More than jus’ bein’ guilty of that fault, I am goin’ to tell you of others.  You are not the olé-time ­what is it you say? ­Ah, yes, the ‘goody-goody.’  I have heard my great American frien’, Honor-able Chanlair Pedlow, call it the Sonday-school.  Is it not?  Yes, you are not the Sonday-school yo’ng men, you an’ your class!”

“No,” he said, bestowing a long glance upon a stout nurse who was sitting on a bench near the drive and attending to twins in a perambulator.  “No, we’re not exactly dissenting parsons.”

“Ah, no!” She shook her head at him prettily.  “You are wicked!  You are up into all the mischief!  Have I not hear what wild sums you risk at your game, that poker?  You are famous for it.”

“Oh, we play,” he admitted with a reckless laugh, “and I suppose we do play rather high.”

“High!” she echoed. “Souzands! But that is not all.  Ha, ha, ha, naughty one!  Have I not observe’ you lookin’ at these pretty creature’, the little contadina-girl, an’ the poor ladies who have hire’ their carriages for two lire to drive up and down the Pincio in their bes’ dress an’ be admire’ by the yo’ng American while the music play’?  Which one I wonder, is it on whose wrist you would mos’ like to fasten a bracelet of diamon’s?  Wicked, I have watch’ you look at them ­”

“No, no,” he interrupted earnestly.  “I have not once looked away from you, I could n’t.”  Their eyes met, but instantly hers were lowered; the bright smile with which she had been rallying him faded and there was a pause during which he felt that she had become very grave.  When she spoke, it was with a little quaver, and the controlled pathos of her voice was so intense that it evoked a sympathetic catch in his own throat.

“But, my frien’, if it should be that I cannot wish you to look so at me, or to speak so to me?”

“I beg your pardon!” he exclaimed, almost incoherently.  “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.  I wouldn’t do anything you’d think ungentlemanly for the world!”

Her eyes lifted again to his with what he had no difficulty in recognizing as a look of perfect trust; but, behind that, he perceived a darkling sadness.

“I know it is true,” she murmured ­“I know.  But you see there are time’ when a woman has sorrow ­sorrow of one kind ­when she mus’ be sure that there is only ­only rispec’ in the hearts of her frien’s.”

With that, the intended revelation was complete, and the young man understood, as clearly as if she had told him in so many words, that she was not a widow and that her husband was the cause of her sorrow.  His quickened instinct marvelously divined (or else it was conveyed to him by some intangible method of hers) that the Count de Vaurigard was a very bad case, but that she would not divorce him.

“I know,” he answered, profoundly touched.  “I understand.”

In silent gratitude she laid her hand for a second upon his sleeve.  Then her face brightened, and she said gayly: 

“But we shall not talk of me! Let us see how we can keep you out of mischief at leas’ for a little while.  I know very well what you will do to-night:  you will go to Salone Margherita an’ sit in a box like all the wicked Americans ­”

“No, indeed, I shall not!”

“Ah, yes, you will!” she laughed.  “But until dinner let me keep you from wickedness.  Come to tea jus’ wiz me, not at the hotel, but at the little apartment I have taken, where it is quiet.  The music is finish’, an’ all those pretty girl’ are goin’ away, you see.  I am not selfish if I take you from the Pincio now.  You will come?”