The Miss Spaldings were met at the station at Florence by their uncle, the American Minister, by their cousin, the American Secretary of Legation, and by three or four other dear friends and relations, who were there to welcome the newcomers to sunny Italy. Mr Glascock, therefore, who ten minutes since had been, and had felt himself to be, quite indispensable to their comfort, suddenly became as though he were nothing and nobody. Who is there that has not felt these sudden disruptions to the intimacies and friendships of a long journey? He bowed to them, and they to him, and then they were whirled away in their grandeur. He put himself into a small, open hackney-carriage, and had himself driven to the York Hotel, feeling himself to be deserted and desolate. The two Miss Spaldings were the daughters of a very respectable lawyer at Boston, whereas Mr Glascock was heir to a peerage, to an enormous fortune, and to one of the finest places in England. But he thought nothing of this at the time. As he went, he was meditating which young woman was the most attractive, Nora Rowley or Caroline Spalding. He had no doubt but that Nora was the prettier, the pleasanter in manner, the better dressed, the more engaging in all that concerned the outer woman; but he thought that he had never met any lady who talked better than Caroline Spalding. And what was Nora Rowley’s beauty to him? Had she not told him that she was the property of some one else; or, for the matter of that, what was Miss Spalding to him? They had parted, and he was going on to Naples in two days. He had said some half-defined word as to calling at the American Embassy, but it had not been taken up by either of the ladies. He had not pressed it, and so they had parted without an understanding as to a future meeting.
The double journey, from Turin to Bologna and from Bologna to Florence, is very long, and forms ample time for a considerable intimacy. There had, too, been a long day’s journeying together before that; and with no women is a speedy intimacy so possible, or indeed so profitable, as with Americans. They fear nothing, neither you nor themselves; and talk with as much freedom as though they were men. It may, perhaps, be assumed to be true as a rule, that women’s society is always more agreeable to men than that of other men except for the lack of ease. It undoubtedly is so when the women be young and pretty. There is a feeling, however, among pretty women in Europe that such freedom is dangerous, and it is withheld. There is such danger, and more or less of such withholding is expedient; but the American woman does not recognise the danger; and, if she withhold the grace of her countenance and the pearls of her speech, it is because she is not desirous of the society which is proffered to her. These two American sisters had not withholden their pearls from Mr Glascock. He was much their senior in age; he was gentle in his manners, and they probably recognised him to be a safe companion. They had no idea who he was, and had not heard his name when they parted from him. But it was not probable that they should have been with him so long, and that they should leave him without further thought of him, without curiosity, or a desire to know more of him. They had seen ‘C. G.’ in large letters, on his dressing-bag, and that was all they had learned as to his identity. He had known their names well, and had once called Olivia by hers, in the hurry of speaking to her sister. He had apologised, and there had been a little laugh, and a discussion about the use of Christian names such as is very conducive to intimacy between gentlemen and ladies. When you can talk to a young lady about her own Christian name, you are almost entitled for the nonce to use it.
Mr Glascock went to his hotel, and was very moody and desolate. His name was very soon known there, and he received the honours due to his rank and station. ‘I should like to travel in America,’ he said to himself, ‘if I could be sure that no one would find out who I was.’ He had received letters at Turin, stating that his father was better, and, therefore, he intended to remain two days at Florence. The weather was still very hot, and Florence in the middle of September is much preferable to Naples.
That night, when the two Miss Spaldings were alone together, they discussed their fellow-traveller thoroughly. Something, of course, had been said about him to their uncle the minister, to their aunt the minister’s wife, and to their cousin the secretary of legation. But travellers will always observe that the dear new friends they have made on their journey are not interesting to the dear old friends whom they meet afterwards. There may be some touch of jealousy in this; and then, though you, the traveller, are fully aware that there has been something special in the case which has made this new friendship more peculiar than others that have sprung up in similar circumstances, fathers and brothers and wives and sisters do not see it in that light. They suspect, perhaps, that the new friend was a bagman, or an opera dancer, and think that the affair need not be made of importance. The American Minister had cast his eye on Mr Glascock during that momentary parting, and had not thought much of Mr Glascock. ‘He was, certainly, a gentleman,’ Caroline had said. ‘There are a great many English gentlemen,’ the minister had replied.
‘I thought you would have asked him to call,’ Olivia said to her sister. ‘He did offer.’
‘I know he did. I heard it.’
‘Why didn’t you tell him he might come?’
‘Because we are not in Boston, Livy. It might be the most horrible thing in the world to do here in Florence; and it may make a difference, because Uncle Jonas is minister.’
‘Why should that make a difference? Do you mean that one isn’t to see one’s own friends? That must be nonsense.’
‘But he isn’t a friend, Livy.’
‘It seems to me as if I’d known him for ever. That soft, monotonous voice, which never became excited and never disagreeable, is as familiar to me as though I had lived with it all my life.’
‘I thought him very pleasant.’
‘Indeed, you did, Carry. And he thought you pleasant too. Doesn’t it seem odd? You were mending his glove for him this very afternoon, just as if he were your brother.’
‘Why shouldn’t I mend his glove?’
‘Why not, indeed? He was entitled to have everything mended after getting us such a good dinner at Bologna. By-the-bye, you never paid him.’
‘Yes, I did when you were not by.’
‘I wonder who he is! C. G.! That fine man in the brown coat was his servant, you know. I thought at first that C. G. must have been cracked, and that the tall man was his keeper.’
‘I never knew any one less like a madman.’
‘No but the man was so queer. He did nothing, you know. We hardly saw him, if you remember, at Turin. All he did was to tie the shawls at Bologna. What can any man want with another man about with him like that, unless he is cracked either in body or mind?’
‘You’d better ask C. G. yourself.’
‘I shall never see C. G. again, I suppose. I should like to see him again. I guess you would too, Carry. Eh?’
‘Of course, I should why not?’
‘I never knew a man so imperturbable, and who had yet so much to say for himself. I wonder what he is! Perhaps he’s on business, and that man was a kind of a clerk.’
‘He had livery buttons on,’ said Carry.
‘And does that make a difference?’
‘I don’t think they put clerks into livery, even in England.’
‘Nor yet mad doctors,’ said Olivia. ‘Well, I like him very much; and the only thing against him is that he should have a man, six feet high, going about with him doing nothing.’
‘You’ll make me angry, Livy, if you talk in that way. It’s uncharitable.’
‘In what way?’
‘About a mad doctor.’
‘It’s my belief,’ said Olivia, ‘that he’s an English swell, a lord, or a duke and it’s my belief, too, that he’s in love with you.’
‘It’s my belief, Livy, that you’re a regular ass;’ and so the conversation was ended on that occasion.
On the next day, about noon, the American Minister, as a part of the duty which he owed to his country, read in a publication of that day, issued for the purpose, the names of the new arrivals at Florence. First and foremost was that of the Honourable Charles Glascock, with his suite, at the York Hotel, en route to join his father, Lord Peterborough, at Naples. Having read the news first to himself, the minister read it out loud in the presence of his nieces.
‘That’s our friend C. G.,’ said Livy.
‘I should think not,’ said the minister, who had his own ideas about an English lord.
‘I’m sure it is, because of the tall man with the buttons,’ said Olivia.
‘It’s very unlikely,’ said the secretary of legation. ‘Lord Peterborough is a man of immense wealth, very old, indeed. They say he is dying at Naples. This man is his eldest son.’
‘Is that any reason why he shouldn’t have been civil to us?’ asked Olivia.
‘I don’t think he is the sort of man likely to sit up in the banquette; and he would have posted over the Alps. Moreover, he had his suite with him.’
‘His suite was Buttons,’ said Olivia. ‘Only fancy, Carry, we’ve been waited on for two days by a lord as is to be, and didn’t know it! And you have mended the tips of his lordship’s glove!’ But Carry said nothing at all.
Late on that same evening, they met Mr Glascock close to the Duomo, under the shade of the Campanile. He had come out as they had done, to see by moonlight that loveliest of all works made by man’s hands. They were with the minister, but Mr Glascock came up and shook hands with them.
‘I would introduce you to my uncle, Mr Spalding,’ said Olivia ‘only as it happens we have never yet heard your name.’
‘My name is Mr Glascock,’ said he, smiling. Then the introduction was made; and the American Minister took off his hat, and was very affable.
‘Only think, Carry,’ said Olivia, when they were alone that evening, ‘if you were to become the wife of an English lord!’
Last updated Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 20:26