Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (May 1, 1889)
THE COMLETED BEATRICE.
We were at the New York theatre, sweet Ethel and I,
with aunt Queen as chaperon. The orchestra had completed
its truly wonderful performance; the curtain had risen and
the drama had begun, but I paid no heed to the moving
figures upon the stage, not even when Rose Terry joined
the actors, for I was absorbed in the contemplation of an odd
purple dress in the opposite box. The lady's lace was hid
den behind the velvet curtain, but I knew she could not be
one of the Lalhrop young ladies, for they were celebrated for
their lack of taste in dress, and the garment I was studying
was a marvel in artistic simplicity and grace. The color
imparted a sense of luxury as the light and shadow shifted
in the folds of the fabric by any slight stir oi the wearer.
Who could the lady be?
At last she raised the curtain timidly and memty eyes
with a smile and recognition. Where had I met her years
and years ago, or was she simply the lady of whom I had
always dreamed? How familiar was her beautifu face.
"See, Ethel, there is Giovanna," I said suddenly. "And
who is Giovanna?" she asked half jealously, half curiously,
as she leveled her dainty opera glasses at the point I was
watching. I did not answer and she took a long survey.
"Why Ralph," she said, "there is positively no one in the
Lathrop box." "Impossible," I commenced, but stopped.
Perhaps after all Giovanna was visible only at my own angle
for there she still sat smiling.
I was vaguely conscious that the a:tors came and went as
n a dream, that Ethel watched me closely and that aunt
Queen openly sighed. So intently did I watch my long lost
love in her strange old purple dress that all things else in
life grew dim and wavered. I was aroused suddenly by the
thundering applause of the people, and was astonished to
find that the play was over and that the crowd was rapidly
melting away beneath the arches. "How -strikingly like the
Beatrice" I muttered as I picked up my haf Ethel looked
up at me with a cloud on her brow and a question in her
eyes but said nothing. As we passed under the last .arcade
into the moonlit street, I was surprised it should look odd
to me. "Dosn't the city look strange tonight?" I asked
"Just sec how very wide the streets are and the buildings
seem so new and small." There was an anxious silence
from my friends but I went on unheeding. "Aunt Quecn
was I ever in Venice old, ancient, musty Venice?" "Ralph,"
she answered, seriously, "you are studying too hard at your
art. You must stop it. What condition must your mind be
in to cunjurc up all these vagaries?" "But you have not
answered me. Was I ever in Venice?" "Well then no."
I reached home in a restless, dissatisfied mood and
decided to wander to the summer house and get my paint
box and a new canvas which I had neglected to carry into
the studio. It was such a delightful night that I gave up all
idea of returning to the house and slipped into my hammock
which hung temptingly in the. mottled light and shude.
Scarcely had I composed myself to dream when I caught
sight of a figure far down the gravel walk which emitted a
purple gleam even at that distance and dim in the moonlight.
Breathlessly, I awaited my love as she came nearer. .At last
she stood before me wbitc and panting. Then with a passion
ate movement she caught my hands. "Oh Nicoli," she
cried, in a quaint old Italian, "I have found yriu at last,"
and, with a happy laugh, she nestled closer to me. Then
for a. moment life stood still and my soul went out to her's in
a silent prayer; as, strong and restless, as an ocean tide.
Without a question I stopped and put my arm about her. It
occurred to me indistinctly that my name was not Nicoli,
that, so far as I know, I had never learned Italian but what
of that? At last I was living my natural life, the rest was
all a dream.
"Oh Nicoli," she exclaimed, breaking from me, "you
must be at work on the portrait." "Yes, I will hurry," I "
answered in the same quaint Italian. "Take your place
Giovanna." I reached for the new canvas which stood face
to the wall on the floor and then somewhat to my own sur
prise began her portrait by the moonlight.
Minute after minute slipped by in perfect silence. I
became so absorbed in my work that I did not notice when
my model turned her face full upon me with a roguish smile
and asked: "Dear heart. Have you forgotten the inter
mission?" "No" I answered, tossing my palette from me
"come and see if I have." I held out my h.nds to her eag
erly, but she laughingly evaded me and slipped behind my
bench. "How much and how well you have done" shc
exclaimed in pleased surprise. "Oh the picture will be fin
ished now." She clasped her hands and drew a deep long
breath .is though at last her only hope was about to be rea
lized. Then I caught her. "What makes you so cold,
Givonna? Here take the hammock quilt and throw it over
your shoulders. You arc dressed too lightly." Shc accepted
it with the protest "Why don't you remember I was always
cold?" "Yes. How strange that I should forget anything
about you. Throw it aside if you wish." And then we
drifted far away in thought. Through the long vista of trees
I could see in the moonlight a dim collonade from which
broad marble steps descended to the silver water, where
gondolas were plying slowly back and forth between the
city and its beautiful suburbs. Somptimes we would catch a
strain of music from a passing boat some old love serenade
played on the mandolin. There was a rich perfume un
known to me borne to us by the soft musical wind whose
low monitone we could hear in the great leaves of the palms
and magnolias above us. Behind us I could hear the gush
and tinkle of a fountain. Far off, by the dim eolonade, a
night bird was singing in rapture. And my love and I were
together after years of separation. What more could the
beautiful world add to my happiness? Soon, however, I was
obliged to renew my work, although reluctantly. After two
hours work I closed my paint box with a snap the sitting
was over. "Well done Nicholi," shc said, gazing intently at
the portrait. "Now, I must go. Sleep through the bare,
empty days; they have nothing for you. Good night."
She paused a moment, then, with a wistful smile, passed
down the path alone for I. remember that I was not to go
with her and that her gondolier waited foi her at the foot of
the marble steps and would row her safely home.
And so the strange days passed in sleep's oblivion the
fair nights in life's best happiness. Oh tropical scene, with
your myriad stars shining down from the faultless blue depth
of the ether; with your whispering winds of ceaseless summer'
rippling over the face of the river; with your white quivering
moonlight sifting through" the great leaves of the palm trees
which sway to each other and rustle Oh perfect nights why
were you brought to me, to the far northern prosaic New
York? Coming only to leave behind you years of ceaseless
regret. Oh love in the perfect sliape of a woman radiantly
beautiful speaking in tones that thrill through the soul with
their musicar cadence; showing tenderness in a trivial glance
or a gesture oh vanished love, why did you seek me out?
Did ycui think that the joy while it lasted would be worth a
long life of despair?
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