Classic Fiction News

“The Guiding Miss Gowd” by Edna Ferber

A gaurd at speaks to a woman in a city

Weekly Publication

One of the best of The Saturday Night Submit in your inbox!

Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Ferber moved in the identical circles as Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward within the Algonquin Spherical Desk. Ferber wrote Present Boat, So Huge, and Big, along with a number of different novels tailored into musicals and Oscar-winning movies. Her story “The Guiding Miss Gowd,” revealed in 1914, follows an getting older British tour information in Rome as she saves an American household from an Italian shyster.

Revealed on August 15, 1914

 

It has lengthy been the canny customized of writers on journey bent to defray the expense of their journeyings by dashing off tales full of overseas taste. Dickens did it, and Dante. It has been tried all the best way from Tasso to Twain; from Ruskin to Roosevelt. A lovely customized it’s and thrifty withal, and one which has saved many a one however poorly ready for the European robber in uniform the moist and unsightly activity of swimming house.

Your author spends seven days, say, in Paris. Outcome? The Latin Quarter story. Oh,mes enfants! That Parisian student-life story! There’s the gorgeous younger American woman — lovely, however as earnest and good as she is gorgeous, and as gifted as she is earnest and good. And wedded, be it understood, to her artwork — ideally portray or singing. From New York! Her identify have to be one thing prim, but winsome. Lois will do — Lois, la belle Americaine. Then the hero — American too. Head over heels in love with Lois. Tall he’s and all the time clean-limbed — not good-looking, however with a type of robust, rugged faces. His identify, too, have to be robust and plain, but snappy. David is all the time good. The villain is French, fascinating, and wears a tiny black mustache to cover his mouth, which is merciless.

The remaining is straightforward. Slightly French restaurant — Henri’s. Know you not Henri’s? Tiens! However Henri’s just isn’t for the vacationer. A dim little store and tacky, modestly tucked away within the shadows of the Rue Brie. However the meals I Ah, the — whadd’youcall’ems — within the savory sauce, that’s Henri’s secret! The tender, broiled poularde, achieved to a flip! The bottle of purple wine! Mais oui; there one can dine beneath the watchful glare of Rosa, the plump, black-eyed spouse of the concierge. With a snowy apron about her buxom waist, and a pot of purple geraniums someplace, and a modern, lazy cat contentedly purring within the sunny window!

Then Lois ravenous in a garret. Temptation! Sacre bleu! Zut! Additionally nom d’un nom! Enter David. Bon! Oh, David, take me away! Take me again to pricey previous Schenectady. Love is greater than all else, particularly when nobody will purchase your footage.

The Italian story recipe is even easier. A pearl necklace; a low, clear whistle. Was it the decision of a fowl or a sign? His-s-s-st! Once more! A black cape; the flash of metal within the moonlight; the sound of a splash within the water; a sickening gurgle; a stifled cry; Silence! His-st! Vendetta!

There’s the story made in Germany, full of college students and steins and scars; with beer and blond, blue-eyed Mädchen garbed — the Mädchen, that’s — in black velvet bodice, white chemisette, scarlet skirt with two rows of black ribbon on the backside, and one yellow braid over the shoulder. Particularly is that this simply completed if truly written within the Vaterland, German typewriting machines being outfitted with umlauts.

And but not considered one of these formulation would appear to suit the story of Mary Gowd. Mary Gowd, together with her frumpy English hat and her dreadful English fringe, and her brick-red English cheeks, which not even the enervating Italian solar, the years of dangerous Italian meals or the damp and dim little Roman room had been capable of sallow. Mary Gowd, together with her shabby blue go well with and her mangy little bit of fur, and the glint of humor in her pale-blue eyes. Many, many occasions that very same glint of humor had saved English Mary Gowd from in search of peace within the muddy previous Tiber.

Her card learn imposingly thus: Mary M. Gowd, Cicerone. Certificated and Licensed Lecturer on Artwork and Archaeology. By way of del Babbuino, Roma.

In plain language Mary Gowd was a information. Now, Rome is swarming with guides; however they’re males guides. They besiege you in entrance of Prepare dinner’s. They perch on the prime of the Capitoline Hill, able to pounce on you if you arrive panting out of your climb up the shallow steps. They lie in wait within the doorway of St. Peter’s. Bland, suave, smiling, quiet, however insistent, they canine you from the Vatican to the Catacombs.

A whole lot there are of those little males — undersized, even on this land of small males — dapper, agile, low-voiced, artful. In his inside coat pocket every carries his credentials, greasy, thumb-worn paperwork, however valuable. He glances at your footwear — this insinuating one — or at your hat, or at any of these myriad indicators by which he marks you for his personal. Then up he steps and speaks to you within the language of your nation, be you French, German, English, Spanish or American.

And every one among this clan — every slim, feline little man in blue serge, white-toothed, gimlet-eyed, smooth-tongued, brisk — hated Mary Gowd. They hated her with the hate of an Italian for an outlander — with the hate of an Italian for a lady who works together with her mind — with the hate of an Italian who sees one other taking the bread out of his mouth. All this, coupled with the truth that your Italian is a natural-born hater, might point out that the lifetime of Mary Gowd had not the lyric lilt that life is usually reputed to have in sunny Italy.

Oh, there isn’t any formulation for Mary Gowd’s story. Within the first place, the story of how Mary Gowd got here to be the one lady information in Rome runs like melodrama. And Mary herself, from her white cotton gloves, darned on the fingers, to her determine, which mysteriously remained the identical regardless of fifteen years of scant Italian fare, doesn’t match gracefully into the position of heroine.

Maybe that story, scraped to bedrock, shorn of all floral options, might achieve in pressure what it loses in artistry.

She was twenty-two when she got here to Rome — twenty-two and art-mad. She had been fairly, with that pink-cheesecloth prettiness of the provincial English woman, who degenerates into blowsiness at thirty. Since seventeen she had saved and scrimped and contrived for this modest Roman vacation. She had given portray classes — even painted on loathsome china — that the little hoard may develop. And when finally there was sufficient she had come to this Rome towards the protests of the fussy English father and the spinster English sister.

The person she met fairly casually one morning within the Sistine Chapel — maybe he bumped her elbow as they stood staring up on the superb ceiling. A thousand pardons! Ah, an artist too? In 5 minutes they have been chattering like mad — she in dangerous French and beautiful English; he in dangerous English and beautiful French. He knew Rome — its footage, its glories, its historical past — as solely an Italian can. And he taught her artwork, and he taught her Italian, and he taught her love.

And they also have been married, or ostensibly married, although Mary didn’t know the reality till three months later when he left her fairly as casually as he had met her, taking with him the little hoard, and Mary’s English trinkets, and Mary’s English roses, and Mary’s damaged delight.

A gaurd at speaks to a woman in a citySo! There was no going again to the fussy father or the spinster sister. She got here very close to resting her head on Father Tiber’s breast in these days. She would sit within the nice galleries for hours, staring on the wonderworks. Then, at some point, once more within the Sistine Chapel, a fussy little American lady had approached her, her eyes snapping. Mary was sketching, or making an attempt to.

“Do you speak English?”

“I am English,” stated Mary.

The feathers within the hat of the fussy little lady quivered.

“Then tell me, is this ceiling by Raphael?”

“Ceiling!” gasped Mary Gowd. “Raphael!”

Then, very gently, she gave the grasp’s identify.

“Of course!” snapped the excited little American. “I’m one of a party of eight. We’re all school-teachers. And this guide” — she waved a hand within the course of a rapt little group standing within the agonizing place the ceiling calls for — ” simply knowledgeable us that the ceiling is by Raphael. And we’re paying him ten lire!”

“Won’t you sit here?” Mary Gowd made a spot for her. “I’ll tell you.”

And she or he did inform her, discovering a sure aid from her ache in unfolding to this commonplace little lady the glory of the masterpiece amongst masterpieces.

“Why — why,” gasped her listener, who had lengthy since beckoned the opposite seven with frantic finger, “how beautifully you explain it! How much you know! Oh, why can’t they talk as you do?” she wailed, her eyes filled with contempt for the despised information.

“I am happy to have helped you,” stated Mary Gowd.

“Helped! Why, there are hundreds of Americans who would give anything to have someone like you to be with them in Rome.”

Mary Gowd’s entire physique stiffened. She stared fixedly on the grateful little American school-teacher.

“Someone like me — ”

The little instructor blushed very purple.

“I beg your pardon. I wasn’t thinking. Of course you don’t need to do any such work, but I just couldn’t help saying — ”

“But I do need work,” interrupted Mary Gowd. She stood up, her cheeks pink once more for the second, her eyes vibrant. “I thank you. Oh, I thank you!”

“You thank me!” faltered the American.

However Mary Gowd had folded her sketchbook and was off, by way of the vestibule, down the luxurious hall, previous the enormous Swiss guard, to the noisy, sunny Piazza di San Pietro.

That had been fifteen years in the past. She had taken her information’s examinations and handed them. She knew her Rome from the crypt of St. Peter’s to the highest of the Janiculum Hill; from the Campagna to Tivoli. She learn and studied and discovered. She delved into the previous and introduced up unusual and fascinating truths. She might inform you bizarre tales of these white marble males who lay so peacefully beneath St. Peter’s dome, their ringed palms crossed on their breasts. She discovered to juggle dates with an ease that introduced gasps from her American shoppers, with their historical past that went again little multiple hundred years.

She discovered to designate as new something that did not have its origin stamped B. C.; and the Magnificent Augustus, he who boasted of discovering Rome brick and leaving it marble, was a mere nouveau riche together with his depressing A. D. 14.

She was as a lot at house within the Thermæ of Caracalla as you in your white-and-blue-tiled tub. She might juggle the historical past of emperors with one hand and the scandals of half a dozen kings with the opposite. No break was too unimportant for her consideration — no image too pale for her analysis. She had the centuries at her tongue’s finish. Michelangelo and Canova have been her brothers in artwork, and Rome was to her as your back-garden patch is to you.

Mary Gowd hated this Rome as solely an English lady can who has spent fifteen years in that nest of intrigue. She fought the entire race of Roman guides day after day. She not turned sick and faint once they hissed after her vile Italian epithets that her American or English shoppers fairly failed to know. Fairly unconcernedly she would jam down the lever of the taximeter the wily Italian cabby had pulled solely midway in order that the meter may register double. And when that foul-mouthed one topped his heap of abuse by screaming “Camorrista! Camor-r-rista!” at her, she would merely shrug her shoulders and say “Andate presto!” to point out him she was above quarreling with a cabman.

She ate eggs and bread, and drank the purple wine, by no means having conquered her disgust for Italian meat since first she noticed the filthy carcasses, fly-infested, dust-covered, loathsome, being carted by means of the swarming streets.

It was six o’clock of a night early in March when Mary Gowd went house to the murky little room within the By way of Babbuino. She was too drained to note the sundown. She was too drained to smile on the red-eyed child of the cobbler’s spouse, who lived within the rear. She was too drained to ask Tina for the letters that seldom got here. It had been a very making an attempt day, spent with a celebration of twenty Germans, who had stated “Herrlich!” when she confirmed them the marvels of the Vatican and “Kolossal!” on the grandeur of the Colosseum and, for the remaining, had stored their noses buried of their guidebooks.

She groped her method cautiously down the black corridor. Tina had a behavior of leaving sundry brushes, pans or infants mendacity about. After the heat of the March solar outdoor the home was chilly with that clammy, penetrating, tomblike chill of the Italian house. “Tina!” she referred to as.

From the rear of the home got here a cackle of voices. Tina was gossiping. There was no odor of supper within the air. Mary Gowd shrugged affected person shoulders. Then, earlier than taking off the dowdy hat, earlier than eradicating the white cotton gloves, she went to the window that ignored the noisy By way of Babbuino, closed the huge picket shutters, fixed the heavy home windows and closed the thick curtains. Then she stood a second, eyes shut. In that little room the roar of Rome was tamed to a uninteresting buzzing. Mary Gowd, born and bred amid the inexperienced of Northern England, had by no means turn out to be hardened to the maddening noises of the By way of Babbuino: The rattle and clatter of cab wheels; the clack-clack of hundreds of iron-shod hoofs; the shrill, excessive cry of the road venders; the blasts of motor horns that appeared to rend the slender road; the roar and rumble of the electrical trams; the wail of fretful infants; the chatter of gossiping ladies; and above and thru and under it all of the cracking of the cabman’s whip — that scepter of the Roman cabby, that wand which is one half whip and 9 elements crack. Typically it appeared to Mary Gowd that her mind was seared and welted by the pistol-shot stories of these everlasting whips.

Woman smilingShe got here ahead now and lighted a candle that stood on the desk and one other on the dresser. Their dim mild appeared to make dimmer the darkish little room. She seemed about with somewhat shiver. Then she sank into the chintz-covered chair that was the one little bit of England within the somber chamber. She took off the dusty black velvet hat, handed a hand over her hair with a gesture that was extra drained than tidy, and sat again, her eyes shut, her physique inert, her head sagging on her breast.

The voices behind the home had ceased. From the kitchen got here the slipslop of Tina’s slovenly ft. Mary Gowd opened her eyes and sat up very straight as Tina stood within the doorway. There was nothing picturesque about Tina. Tina was not a type of earringed, olive-tinted, melting-eyed daughters of Italy that one meets in fiction. Taking a look at her yellow pores and skin and her wrinkles and her coarse palms, one questioned whether or not she was fifty, or sixty, or 100, as is the best way with Italian ladies of Tina’s class at thirty-five.

Ah, the signora was drained! She smiled pityingly. Drained! Under no circumstances, Mary Gowd assured her briskly. She knew that Tina despised her as a result of she labored like a person.

“Something fine for supper?” Mary Gowd requested mockingly. Her Italian was like that of the Romans themselves, so smooth, so liquid, so good. Tina nodded vigorously, her lengthy earrings shaking. “Vitello” — she started, her tongue clinging lovingly to the double l sound — ”Vee-tail-loh — ”

“Ugh!” shuddered Mary Gowd. That everlasting veal and mutton, pinkish, flabby, sickening!

“What then?” demanded the outraged Tina.

Mary Gowd stood up, making gestures, hat in hand.

“Clotted cream, with strawberries,” she stated in English, an unknown language, which all the time roused Tina to fury. “And a steak — a real steak of real beef, three inches thick and covered with onions fried in butter. And creamed chicken, and English hothouse tomatoes, and fresh peaches and little hot rolls, and coffee that isn’t licorice and ink, and — and — ”

Tina’s dangling earrings disappeared in her shoulders. Her outspread palms have been eloquent.

“Crazy, these English!” stated the shoulders and palms. “Mad!”

Mary Gowd threw her hat on the mattress, pushed apart a display and busied herself with just a little alcohol range.

“I shall prepare an omelet,” she stated over her shoulder in Italian. “Also, I have here bread and wine.”

“Ugh!” grunted Tina.

“Ugh, veal!” grunted Mary Gowd. Then, as Tina’s flapping ft turned away: “Oh, Tina! Letters?”

Tina fumbled on the bosom of her robe, thought deeply and drew out a crumpled envelope. It had been opened and clumsily closed once more. Fifteen years in the past Mary Gowd would have raged. Now she shrugged philosophic shoulders. Tina stole hairpins, opened letters that she couldn’t hope to decipher, rummaged bureau drawers, rifled cabinets and fingered books; however then, so did a lot of the different Tinas in Rome. What use to complain?

Mary Gowd opened the thumb-marked letter, bringing it near the candlelight. As she learn, a smile appeared.

“Huh! Gregg,” she stated, “Americans!” She glanced once more on the lodge letterhead on the stationery — one of the best lodge in Naples. “Americans — and rich!”

The happy little smile lingered as she beat the omelet briskly for her supper.

The Henry D. Greggs arrived in Rome on the 2 o’clock practice from Naples. And all of the Roman knights of the waving palm espied them from afar and hailed them with whoops of pleasure. The season was nonetheless younger and the Henry D. Greggs appeared like cash — not Italian cash, which is reckoned in lire, however American cash, which mounts grandly to dollars. The postcard males within the Piazza delle Terme sped after their motor taxi. The swarthy brigand, together with his picket field of tawdry souvenirs, marked them as they rode previous. The cripple who lurked behind a pillar within the colonnade threw apart his coat with a practiced hitch of his shoulder to disclose the sickeningly maimed arm that was his inventory in commerce.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry D. Gregg had left their snug house in Batavia, Illinois, with its sleeping porch, veranda and garden, and seven-passenger automotive; with its two glistening loos, and its Oriental rugs, and its laundry within the basement, and its Sunday fried hen and ice cream, as a result of they felt that Miss Eleanora Gregg should take pleasure in overseas journey. Miss Eleanora Gregg thought so too; the truth is, she had thought so first.

Her identify was Eleanora, however her mother and father referred to as her Tweetie, which actually didn’t sound so dangerous as it’d if Tweetie had been one whit much less fairly. Tweetie was so amazingly, Americanly fairly that she might have triumphed over a pet identify twice as absurd.

The Greggs got here to Rome, as has been said, at 2 p.m. Wednesday. By 2 p.m. Thursday Tweetie had purchased a pair of lengthy, dangling earrings, a fancy dress with a Roman striped collar and sash, and had discovered to loll again in her cab in imitation of the dashing, black-eyed, sallow ladies she had seen driving on the Pincio. By Thursday night she was teasing Papa Gregg for a sprig of white aigrets, resembling those self same languorous women wore in feathery mists atop their hats.

“But, Tweet,” argued Papa Gregg, “what’s the use? You can’t take them back with you. Customhouse regulations forbid it.”

The relatively pale however well dressed Mrs. Gregg asserted herself:

“They’re barbarous! We had moving-pictures at the club showing how they’re torn from the mother birds. No daughter of mine — ”

“I don’t care!” retorted Tweetie. “They’re perfectly stunning; and I’m going to have them.”

And she or he had them — not that the aigret incident is necessary; however it might serve to put the Greggs of their respective niches.

At eleven o’clock Friday morning Mary Gowd referred to as on the Greggs’ lodge, based on appointment. In far-away Batavia, Illinois, Mrs. Gregg had heard of Mary Gowd. And Mary Gowd, together with her information of every part Roman — from the Discussion board to the most effective place at which to purchase pearls — was to be the employees on which the Greggs have been to lean.

“My husband,” stated Mrs. Gregg; “my daughter Tweee — Eleanora. We’ve heard such wonderful things of you from my dear friend Mrs. Melville Peters, of Batavia.”

“Ah, yes!” exclaimed Mary Gowd. “A most charming person, Mrs. Peters.”

“After she came home from Europe she read the most wonderful paper on Rome before the Women’s West End Culture Club, of Batavia. We’re affiliated with the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, as you probably know; and — ”

“Now, mother,” interrupted Henry Gregg, “the lady can’t be interested in your club.”

“Oh, but I am!” exclaimed Mary Gowd very vivaciously. “Enormously!”

Henry Gregg eyed her via his cigar smoke with all of a sudden narrowed lids.

“M-m-m! Well, let’s get to the point anyway. I know Tweetie here is dying to see St. Peters, and all that.”

Tweetie had settled again inscrutably after one complete, disdainful take a look at Mary Gowd’s go well with, hat, gloves and footwear. Now she sat up, her bewitching face glowing with curiosity.

“Tell me,” she stated, “what do they call those officers with the long pale-blue capes and the silver helmets and the swords? And the ones in dark-blue uniform with the maroon stripe at the side of the trousers? And do they ever mingle with the — that is, there was one of the blue capes here at tea yesterday — ”

Papa Gregg laughed an amazing, snug chuckle.

“Oh, so that’s where you were staring yesterday, young lady! I thought you acted kind of absent-minded.” He obtained as much as stroll over and pinch Tweetie’s blushing cheek.

So it was that Mary Gowd started the method of pouring the bloody, spiritual, wanton, pious, thrilling, dreadful historical past of Rome into the beautiful and unheeding ear of Tweetie Gregg.

On the fourth morning after that introductory assembly Mary Gowd arrived on the lodge at ten, as typical, to take cost of her celebration for the day. She encountered them within the lodge lobby, an animated little group centered a few very tall, very dashing, very black-mustachioed determine who wore an extended pale-blue cape thrown gracefully over one shoulder as solely an Italian officer can put on such a garment. He was wanting down into the brilliantly glowing face of the beautiful Eleanora, and the beautiful Eleanora was wanting up at him; and Pa and Ma Gregg have been standing by, placidly happy.

A grim little line appeared about Miss Gowd’s mouth. Blue Cape’s black eyes noticed it, whilst he bent low over Mary Gowd’s hand on the phrases of introduction.

“Oh, Miss Gowd,” pouted Tweetie, “it’s too bad you haven’t a telephone. You see, we shan’t need you today.”

“No?” stated Miss Gowd, and glanced at Blue Cape.

“No; Signor Caldini says it’s much too perfect a day to go poking about among old ruins and things.”

Henry D. Gregg cleared his throat and took up the reason. “Seems the — er — Signore thinks it would be just the thing to take a touring car and drive to Tivoli, and have a bite of lunch there.”

“And come back in time to see the Colosseum by moonlight!” put in Tweetie ecstatically.

“Oh, yes!” stated Mary Gowd.

Pa Gregg checked out his watch.

“Well, I’ll be running along,” he stated. Then, in reply to one thing in Mary Gowd’s eyes: “I’m not going to Tivoli, you see. I met a man from Chicago here at the hotel. He and I are going to chin a while this morning. And Mrs. Gregg and his wife are going on a shopping spree. Say, ma, if you need any more money speak up now, because I’m — ”

Mary Gowd caught his coat sleeve.

“One moment!”

Her voice was very low. “You mean — you mean Miss Eleanora will go to Tivoli and to the Colosseum alone with — with Signor Caldini?”

Henry Gregg smiled indulgently.

“The young folks always run round alone at home. We’ve got our own car at home in Batavia, but Tweetie’s beaus are always driving up for her in — ”

Mary Gowd turned her head in order that solely Henry Gregg might hear what she stated.

“Step aside for just one moment. I must talk to you.”

“Well, what?”

“Do as I say,” whispered Mary Gowd.

One thing of her earnestness appeared to convey a which means to Henry Gregg.

“Just wait a minute, folks,” he stated to the group of three, and joined Mary Gowd, who had chosen a seat a dozen paces away. “What’s the trouble?” he requested jocularly. “Hope you’re not offended because Tweet said we didn’t need you today. You know young folks — ”

“They must not go alone,” stated Mary Gowd.

“But — ”

“This is not America. This is Italy — this Caldini is as Italian.”

“Why, look here; Signor Caldini was introduced to us last night. His folks really belong to the nobility.”

“I know; I know,” interrupted Mary Gowd. “I tell you they cannot go alone. Please believe me! I have been fifteen years in Rome. Noble or not, Caldini is an Italian. I ask you” — she had clasped her palms and was wanting pleadingly up into his face — ” I urge of you, let me go together with them. You needn’t pay me in the present day. You — ”

Henry Gregg checked out her very thoughtfully and just a little puzzled. Then he glanced over on the group once more, with Blue Cape wanting down so eagerly into Tweetie’s beautiful face and Tweetie wanting up so raptly into Blue Cape’s melting eyes and Ma Gregg standing so placidly by. He turned once more to Mary Gowd’s earnest face.

“Well, maybe you’re right. They do seem to use chaperons in Europe — duennas, or whatever you call ‘em. Seems a nice kind of chap, though.”

He strolled again to the ready group. From her seat Mary Gowd heard Mrs. Gregg’s stunned exclamation, noticed Tweetie’s pout, understood Caldini’s shrug and sneer. There adopted a bit of burst of dialog. Then, with a bit frown which melted right into a smile for Blue Cape, Tweetie went to her room for motor coat and trifles that the lengthy day’s outing demanded. Mrs. Gregg, nonetheless voluble, adopted.

Blue Cape, with an extended take a look at Mary Gowd, went out to discuss with the porter concerning the motor. Papa Gregg, hand in pockets, cigar tilted, eyes narrowed, stood irresolutely within the middle of the good, gaudy lobby. Then, with a decisive little hunch of his shoulders, he got here again to the place Mary Gowd sat.

“Did you say you’ve been fifteen years in Rome?”

“Fifteen years,” answered Mary Gowd.

Henry D. Gregg took his cigar from his mouth and regarded it thoughtfully.

“Well, that’s quite a spell. Must like it here.” Mary Gowd stated nothing. “Can’t say I’m crazy about it — that is, as a place to live. I said to mother last night: ‘Little old Batavia’s good enough for Henry D.’ Of course it’s a grand education, traveling, especially for Tweetie. Funny, I always thought the fruit in Italy was regular hothouse stuff — thought the streets would just be lined with trees all hung with big, luscious oranges. But, Lord! Here we are at the best hotel in Rome, and the fruit is worse than the stuff the pushcart men at home feed to their families — little wizened bananas and oranges. Still, it’s grand here in Rome for Tweetie. I can’t stay long — just ran away from business to bring ‘em over; but I’d like Tweetie to stay in Italy until she learns the lingo. Sings, too, Tweetie does; and she and ma think they’ll have her voice cultivated over here. They’ll stay here quite a while, I guess.”

“Then you will not be here with them?” requested Mary Gowd.

“Me? No.”

They sat silent for a second.

“I suppose you’re crazy about Rome,” stated Henry Gregg once more. “There’s a lot of culture here, and history, and all that; and — ”

“I hate Rome!” stated Mary Gowd.

Henry Gregg stared at her in bewilderment.

“Then why in Sam Hill don’t you go back to England?”

“I’m thirty-seven years old. That’s one reason why. And I look older. Oh, yes, I do. Thanks just the same. There are too many women in England already — too many half-starving shabby genteel. I earn enough to live on here — that is, I call it living. You couldn’t. In the bad season, when there are no tourists, I live on a lira a day, including my rent.”

Henry Gregg stood up.

“My land! Why don’t you come to America?” He waved his arms. “America!”

Mary Gowd’s brick-red cheeks grew redder.

“America!” she echoed. “When I see American tourists here throwing pennies in the Fountain of Trevi, so that they’ll come back to Rome, I want to scream. By the time I save enough money to go to America I’ll be an old woman and it will be too late. And if I did contrive to scrape together enough for my passage over I couldn’t go to the United States in these clothes. I’ve seen thousands of American women here. If they look like that when they’re just traveling about, what do they wear at home!”

“Clothes?” inquired Henry Gregg, mystified. “What’s wrong with your clothes?”

“Everything! I’ve seen them look at my suit, which hunches in the back and strains across the front, and is shiny at the seams. And my gloves! And my hat! Well, even though I am English I know how frightful my hat is.”

“You’re a smart woman,” stated Henry D. Gregg.

“Not smart enough,” retorted Mary Gowd, “or I shouldn’t be here.”

The 2 stood up as Tweetie got here towards them from the raise. Tweetie pouted once more at sight of Mary Gowd, however the pout cleared as Blue Cape, his preparations accomplished, stood within the doorway, splendid hat in hand.

It was ten o’clock when the three returned from Tivoli and the Colosseum — Mary Gowd silent and shabbier than ever from the mud of the street; Blue Cape smiling; Tweetie frankly pettish. Pa and Ma Gregg have been listening to the after-dinner live performance within the lobby.

“Was it romantic — the Colosseum, I mean — by moonlight?” requested Ma Gregg, patting Tweetie’s cheek and making an attempt to not look uncomfortable as Blue Cape kissed her hand.

“Romantic!” snapped Tweetie. “It was as romantic as Main Street on Circus Day. Hordes of people tramping about like buffaloes. Simply swarming with tourists — German ones. One couldn’t find a single ruin to sit on. Romantic!” She glared on the silent Mary Gowd.

There was a wierd little glint in Mary Gowd’s eyes, and the grim line was there concerning the mouth once more, grimmer than it had been within the morning.

“You will excuse me?” she stated. “I am very tired. I will say good night.”

“And I,” introduced Caldini.

Mary Gowd turned swiftly to take a look at him.

“You!” stated Tweetie Gregg.

“I trust that I may have the very great happiness to see you in the morning,” went on Caldini in his cautious English. “I cannot permit Signora Gowd to return home alone through the streets of Rome.” He bowed low and elaborately over the palms of the 2 ladies.

“Oh, well; for that matter — ” started Henry Gregg gallantly.

Caldini raised a protesting, white-gloved hand.

“I cannot permit it.”

He bowed once more and appeared exhausting at Mary Gowd. Mary Gowd returned the look. The brick-red had fairly pale from her cheeks. Then, with a nod, she turned and walked towards the door. Blue Cape, sword clanking, adopted her.

In silence he handed her into the fiacchero. In silence he seated himself beside her. Then he leaned very shut.

Woman sitting on a bench“I will talk in this damned English,” he started, “that the pig of a fiaccheraio may not understand. This — this Gregg, he is very rich, like all Americans. And the little Eleanora! Bellissima! You must not stand in my way. It is not good.” Mary Gowd sat silent. “You will help me. Today you were not kind. There will be much money — money for me; also for you.”

Fifteen years earlier than — ten years earlier than — she would have died prior to take heed to a plan reminiscent of he proposed; however fifteen years of Rome blunts one’s English sensibilities. Fifteen years of privation dulls one’s ethical sense. And cash meant America. And little Tweetie Gregg had not lowered her voice or her snort when she spoke that afternoon of Mary Gowd’s absurd English fringe and her pink wrists above her too-short gloves.

“How much?” requested Mary Gowd. He named a determine. She laughed.

“More — much more!”

He named one other determine; then one other.

“You will put it down on paper,” stated Mary Gowd, “and sign your name tomorrow.”

They drove the rest of the best way in silence. At her door within the By way of Babbuino:

“You mean to marry her?” requested Mary Gowd.

Blue Cape shrugged eloquent shoulders:

“I think not,” he stated fairly merely.

It was to be the Appian Method the subsequent morning, with a cease on the Catacombs. Mary Gowd reached the lodge very early, however not so early as Caldini.

“Think the five of us can pile into one carriage?” boomed Henry Gregg cheerily.

“A little crowded, I think,” stated Mary Gowd, “for such a long drive. May I suggest that we three” — she smiled on Henry Gregg and his spouse — “take this larger carriage, while Miss Eleanora and Signor Caldini follow in the single cab?”

A lightning message from Blue Cape’s eyes.

“Yes; that would be nice!” cooed Tweetie.

So it was organized. Mary Gowd quite outdid herself as a information that morning. She had 100 little intimate tales at her tongue’s finish. She appeared pretty to individuals these previous ruins once more with the women and men of a thousand years in the past. Even Tweetie — little frivolous, detached Tweetie — was impressed and .

As they have been returning to the carriages after inspecting the Baths of Caracalla, Tweetie even skipped forward and slipped her hand for a second into Mary Gowd’s.

“You’re simply wonderful!” she stated virtually shyly. “You make things sound so real. And — and I’m sorry I was so nasty to you yesterday at Tivoli.”

Mary Gowd seemed down on the glowing little face. A silly little face it was, however very, very fairly, and exquisitely younger and recent and candy. Tweetie dropped her voice to a whisper:

“You should hear him pronounce my name. It is like music when he says it — El-e-a-no-ra; like that. And aren’t his kid gloves always beautifully white? Why, the boys back home — ”

Mary Gowd was nonetheless staring down at her. She lifted the slim, ringed little hand which lay inside her white-cotton paw and stared at that too.

Then with a jerk she dropped the woman’s hand and squared her shoulders like a soldier, in order that the dowdy blue go well with strained greater than ever at its seams; and the road that had settled about her mouth the night time earlier than pale slowly, as if a muscle too tightly drawn had relaxed.

Within the carriages they have been seated as earlier than. The horses began up, with the smaller cab however a dozen paces behind. Mary Gowd leaned ahead. She started to talk — her voice very low, her accent clearly English, her brevity splendidly American.

“Listen to me!” she stated. “You must leave Rome tonight!”

“Leave Rome tonight!” echoed the Greggs as if rehearsing a duet.

“Be quiet! You must not shout like that. I say you must go away.”

Mamma Gregg opened her lips and shut them, wordless for as soon as. Henry Gregg laid one huge hand on his spouse’s shaking knees and eyed Mary Gowd very quietly.

“I don’t get you,” he stated.

Mary Gowd seemed straight at him as she stated what she needed to say:

“There are things in Rome you cannot understand. You could not understand unless you lived here many years. I lived here many months before I learned to step meekly off into the gutter to allow a man to pass on the narrow sidewalk. You must take your pretty daughter and go away. Tonight! No — let me finish. I will tell you what happened to me fifteen years ago, and I will tell you what this Caldini has in his mind. You will believe me and forgive me; and promise me that you will go quietly away.”

When she completed Mrs. Gregg was white-faced and by chance too frightened to weep. Henry Gregg began up within the carriage, his fists white-knuckled, his lean face turned towards the carriage crawling behind.

“Sit down!” commanded Mary Gowd. She jerked his sleeve. “Sit down!”

Henry Gregg sat down slowly. Then he moist his lips barely and smiled.

“Oh, bosh!” he stated. “This — this is the twentieth century and we’re Americans, and it’s broad daylight. Why, I’ll lick the — ”

“This is Rome,” interrupted Mary Gowd quietly, “and you will do nothing of the kind, because he would make you pay for that too, and it would be in all the papers; and your pretty daughter would hang her head in shame forever.” She put one hand on Henry Gregg’s sleeve. “You do not know! You do not! Promise me you will go.” The tears sprang instantly to her English blue eyes. “Promise me! Promise me!”

“Henry!” cried Mamma Gregg, very gray-faced. “Promise, Henry!”

“I promise,” stated Henry Gregg, and he turned away.

Mary Gowd sank again in her seat and shut her eyes for a second.

“Presto!” she stated to the half-sleeping driver. Then she waved a homosexual hand on the carriage within the rear. “Presto!” she referred to as, smiling. “Presto!”

At six o’clock Mary Gowd entered the little room within the By way of Babbuino. She went first to the window, closed the huge shutters, the double home windows; drew the heavy curtains. The roar of Rome was hushed to a buzzing. She lighted a candle that stood on the desk. Its dim mild emphasised the gloom. She took off the battered black velvet hat and sank into the chintz-covered English chair. Tina stood within the doorway. Mary Gowd sat up with a jerk.

“Letters, Tina?”

Tina thought deeply, fumbled on the bosom of her robe and drew out a sealed envelope grudgingly.

Mary Gowd broke the seal, glanced on the letter. Then, underneath Tina’s startled gaze, she held it to the flaming candle and watched it burn.

“What is it that you do?” demanded Tina.

Mary Gowd smiled.

“You have heard of America?”

“America! A thousand — a million time! My brother Luigi — ”

“Naturally! This, then” — Mary Gowd intentionally gathered up the ashes right into a neat pile and held them in her hand, a crumpled heap — “this then, Tina, is my trip to America.”

Turn into a Saturday Night Submit member and luxuriate in limitless entry.
Subscribe now