劳里到尼斯市来时，原 打算呆一个星期的，结果逗留了一个月。他厌倦了独自游荡、艾美熟悉的身影似乎为异国风景增添了令人感到亲切的魅力。他十分怀念以前常受到的"宠爱"，并很 高兴能再次品味到它。因为，陌生人给予的关注，无论怎样讨人欢喜，一半都赶不上家里那几个姑娘给予的姐妹般的赞赏。艾美从不像几个姐姐那样宠爱他，但是她 现在见到他很高兴，而且相当依恋他，她感到他代表着亲爱的家人，她嘴上不说，心里却渴盼见到他们。他们两人自然地相互为伴，寻求安慰。他们很多时候在一 起，骑马，散步，跳舞或者打发时光。在尼斯市欢乐的季节，没有谁能非常勤恳地工作。然而，他们明显地是在无忧无虑地消遣着，他们隐隐约约地对对方作出了发 现，得出了看法。在她朋友的估量下，艾美的形象日渐高大，而他却低矮下去。没用只言片语，两人都悟到了那个事实。艾美试图取悦于他，她也成功了。她感激他 给予了她许多快乐，她以小小的照顾报答他，温柔的妇人们懂得如何给那种照顾加上描述不出的迷人成份。
劳里没做任何努力，只是尽可能舒服地随心而为。他试图忘却，他感到所有的女人都欠着他一个亲切的字眼，因为一个女人曾经对他冷淡过。慷慨在他来说并 不费力，要是艾美愿意接受，他会送给艾美尼斯市所有的小饰物。可是，他同时又感到改变不了艾美对他产生的看法，他十分害怕那双敏锐的蓝眼睛，它们注视着 他，流露出那种半是痛苦、半是轻蔑的惊奇神色。
驾车沿着蜿蜒的马路行驶使人赏心悦目，马路两旁如画的风景愉悦着艾美的眼睛。这里经过的是一座古寺，寺里传来僧侣们肃穆的颂经声。那里有个光腿穿木 鞋的牧羊人，他头戴尖角帽，肩搭着粗布夹克衫，坐在石头上吹着笛子。他的羊儿们有的在石头间蹦跳，有的躺在他的脚下，逆来顺受的鼠灰色毛驴们驮着刚刚割下 来的青草走过来了，青草堆中间要么坐着一个漂亮的戴着遮阳阔边软帽的女孩子，要么便坐着一位织着针线活的老妇人。目光柔和、皮肤棕色的孩子们从那古雅的石 头小屋里跑出来，为路人提供花束，或者是还连在枝上的一串串柑橘。疙疙瘩瘩的橄榄树带着浓荫覆盖群山，果园里金黄的水果挂在枝头，大片红色的银莲花缀满路 边。而绿色山坡和多石的山丘那边，近海的阿尔卑斯山映衬着意大利的蓝色晴空，银装素裹，直插云霄。
玫瑰谷名符其实。在那永恒的夏日气候里，到处盛开着玫瑰。它们悬垂在拱道上，从大门栅栏中伸出头来快乐地欢迎着路人。它们布满道旁，蜿蜒着穿过柠檬 树和轻软的棕榈树直达山上的别墅。在每一处有荫凉的角落，座位吸引着路人驻足歇息，这里也有着满捧的玫瑰。在每一个凉爽的洞穴里，都有大理石的美女像，隔 着玫瑰面纱展露笑容。每一眼泉都映出红色、白色、粉色的玫瑰花，它们俯身笑看自己美丽的身影。玫瑰花布满了房屋四壁，装饰着飞檐，攀上了柱子，蔓延到那宽 阔气台的扶栏上。在那平台上，人们可以俯视阳光下的地中海，以及海岸边那座白墙环绕的城市。
“把枝子弯下来，摘那些不带刺的，“艾美说着，从她身后点缀在墙上的那些花儿中采下三朵乳白色的小玫瑰，然后插进劳里的钮扣眼，作为和平的礼物。劳 里站了一会儿，带着古怪的神情看着小白花，因为，在他性格里的意大利部分有点迷信色彩。此刻他正处于一种半是甜蜜半是痛苦的忧郁心境中。想像力丰富的年轻 人能从琐碎小事发现意义，无论从哪儿都能找到浪漫题材。当他伸手去摘那朵带刺的红玫瑰时，心里想到了乔，因为颜色鲜艳的花适合她，在家里她常佩戴从温室采 来的那种红玫瑰，而意大利人放置死者手中的正是艾美给他的那种白玫瑰，这种白玫瑰从不见于新娘的花环上。有好一会儿，他想着这个预兆是乔的还是他自己的。 可是转瞬间，他的美国人常识占了多愁善感心绪的上风。他开怀大笑，这种笑声从他来后艾美就没有听到过。
“不，不，我是问你打算或者希望做什么。““抽支烟，要是你允许的话。““你真气人！我反对抽烟，只有在你让我画下你的情况下，才能允许你抽。我需 要一个人体模型。““万分乐意。你要画我什么--全身还是四分之三？头还是脚？我倒想敬提建议，采用横卧姿势，然后画上你，把它叫做 'Ｄｏｌｃｅ?eａｒｎｉｅｎｔｅ'。““就这样呆着，想睡就睡罢。我可要努力工作了，“艾美精力充沛地说。
“老调子：'走开，特迪，我忙着呢！'"他边说边笑着，但是笑声不自然，一道阴影掠过他的脸庞，因为说出的那个名字触及了他那还未愈合的伤口。那语 调和阴影都打动了艾美，她以前听过也见过。现在她抬头看着他，及时捕捉到了劳里脸上一种新的表情--一种不容置疑的酸楚表情，充满痛苦、不满与悔恨。她还 没来得及研究，它便消失了，那种无精打采的表情重又恢复。她带着艺术的情趣注视了他一会儿，觉得他看上去多像一个意大利人。他光着头躺在那里，沐浴在阳光 中，眼里充满了南国的梦幻神色。此刻他似乎已经忘记了艾美，正在想得出神。
她犹豫着表达出的充满爱意的焦虑，劳里既看出来了，也懂得了。他直盯着她的眼睛，像过去常对她母亲说的那样说道：“没事的，夫人。“这使她满意，并 打消了最近开始使她担心的疑虑。这也使她感动。她表露出这些，用热诚的语调说--“那样我很高兴。我想你不会是一个非常坏的男孩。不过，我想象你在那邪恶 的巴当-巴当丢了钱，爱上了某个有丈夫的法国女人，或者陷入了某种困境，那种困境年轻人似乎都认为是旅外生活的一个必要部分。别呆在太阳底下，过来躺到草 地上，就像我们以前坐在沙发的角落里倾诉秘密时乔常说的那样：'让我们友好相处吧。'"劳里顺从地躺到了草地上，开始往近旁艾美帽子的丝带上贴雏菊，以此 消遣。
“根本不会了，“她带着心灰意懒但是决然的神情回答，“罗马去掉了我所有的虚荣心，因为看过了那里的奇迹，我感到自己太微不足道了，也就绝望地放弃 了所有愚蠢的愿望。““你为什么放弃呢？你有那么富有的精力和天赋。““那正是原因--天赋不是天才。再多的精力也不能使天赋产生天才。我要么当伟人，要 么什么也不当。我不要做那种平庸的拙劣画家。因此，我不打算再试了。““我可以问一下，你现在打算怎么办吗？““如果有机会的话，完善我其他的天赋，为社 会增添光彩。“这话很有个性，听起来不乏进取心。勇敢属于青年人，艾美的抱负有着良好的基矗劳里笑了。艾美很早就怀有的希望消亡了，她不花时间悲叹，马上 又确立新的目标，劳里喜欢这种精神。
“好！我猜想这里有弗雷德·沃恩插进来了。“艾美用心深远地保持了沉默，但是阴郁的脸上有一种感觉得到的神色，使劳里坐了起来，严肃地说：“现在我 来扮哥哥，向你提问，可以吗？““我不保证回答。““你舌头不回答，脸会回答的。你不是那种精通世故的女人，不能隐瞒感情，亲爱的。我听到过去年有关你和 弗雷德的传闻，我私下认为，要不是他那样突然被召回家，又耽搁这么长时间，可能会发生什么事的--嘿！““那可不好，“艾美一本正经地回答，可是她的嘴唇 绽出笑意，眼睛里放射出亮光。这泄露了她内心的秘密：她知道自己有魅力，并且对此感觉很不错。
那样开始，就世事而言，相当正确，也很妥当。但这话听起来奇怪，不像出自你妈妈的几个女儿们口中。““不过，也的确如此。“回答简短，但是说出这话 时的平静与断然神态和年轻的说话者形成了奇妙的反差。劳里本能地感到了这一点，他带着一种他自己无法解释的失望感又躺了下去。他的神态、沉默以及某种内心 的自我否定使艾美着急，也促使她决心赶快进行她的讲座。
“我从来不和你生气。一个巴掌拍不响，你像白雪一样又冷又软。““你不知道我能做什么。如果使用得当，白雪能发光，也能刺痛人。你的不在乎神情一半 是装出来的，好好激一激就可以证明出来。““来吧，那伤不了我，也许能逗乐你，就像那个大个子男人在他的小女人打他时说的那样。你把我看成一个丈夫或一块 地毯吧，假如那种运动适合你，你就打到累了为止。“艾美十分恼火，她也渴盼他能摆脱那种使他产生这种变化的冷淡。她磨快了舌锋，也削尖了铅笔。她开了口： “我和弗洛给你取了个新名字，叫'懒劳伦斯'，喜欢吗？“她以为这会惹恼他，可他只是支票手枕到头下，冷静地说：“这不坏。谢谢，女士们。““你想知道我 对你的坦率看法吗？““非常想知道。““好吧，我看不起你。“要是她带着闹气或者是调情的语调说"我恨你"，他可能会笑起来，并十分欣赏。可是，她那严 肃、几近悲哀的语气使他睁开了眼，赶忙问道--“为什么，请问？““因为，你有各种机会成为善良、有用、幸福的人，却在这样犯错误、懒散、痛苦着。““言 辞激烈，小姐。““你要是喜欢，我就继续说。““请吧，相当有趣。““我就知道你会这样认为的，自私的人总喜欢谈论自己。““我自私了？“问题脱口而出， 语调充满惊奇，因为劳里引以为豪的一大美德便是慷慨。
“是的，非常自私，“艾美以沉着冷静的语调接着说，这比愤怒的语调效果强似两倍，“我指给你看，我们一起嬉戏时我研究过你，我对你一点儿都不满意。 你已经到国外来了近六个月了，啥事不干，只是浪费时间和金钱，使你的朋友们失望。““人家苦学了四年后，就不能稍稍放纵一下？““看上去你不像是享受了许 多乐趣。依我看，无论如何，你的感觉一点也不好。我们初次见面时，我说你有了长进，现在我收回原话，我认为你不如我离开家前的一半好。你变得令人可恶地懒 散起来，你喜欢闲聊，在毫无意义的事情上浪费光阴。你满足于让一些愚蠢的人宠爱你，赞赏你，而不要聪明人爱你，尊重你。你有金钱、天赋、地位、健康，还有 相貌--噢，你就像那个老虚荣鬼！这是真话，我忍不住要说出来--你有那么多美好的东西享用，却游手好闲。你不去做一个你可能做也应该做的人，你只是 --"说到这儿，她住了口，表情里既有痛苦，也有同情。
过了一会儿，一只手放到她的画页上，她没法画了，只听见劳里的声音滑稽地模仿着一个悔过的孩子：“我会听话的，哦，我会听话的。“可是艾美没笑，她 是认真的。她用铅笔敲着那只伸开的手，严肃地说：“你不为这样的手感到羞愧吗？它就像妇人的手一样柔软白皙，看着就像从不干事，只是戴着最好的手套，为女 人们采花。谢天谢地，你还不是个花花公子，我很高兴，这手上没有钻戒或大图章戒指，只有乔很早以前给你的那又小又旧的指环。天哪！真希望她在这帮帮我！ “我也希望！“那只手消失了，像伸过来时同样突然。在对她愿望的附和声里，那种生气是一种共鸣。她怀着新的想法低头注视着他。他躺在那，帽子半遮着脸，像 是用来遮阳。他的小胡子盖住了嘴。只见他的胸膛起伏着，长长地喘着气，像是叹息。
戴着指环的手贴在草地里，像是要藏起什么太宝贵、太温柔、连提都不能提的东西。顷刻间，各种各样的线索与琐事都在艾美的脑中成了型，有了意义，并且 告诉了她姐姐从未向她吐露的心事。她回想起来，劳里从来没有主动提起过乔。她记起了刚才劳里脸上的阴影、他性情的变化，以及他手上戴着的那又小又旧的指 环。那个指环并不配装饰那只漂亮的手。
“我真的这样以为。可是他们从来没说起过这事，你又离开了。我猜想我弄错了。乔不愿对你表示亲切？怎么回事？我肯定她深爱着你。““她确实亲切，可 是方式不对头。要是我像你认为的那样一无是处，她不爱我是她的运气。可我现在这样是她的过错，你可以这么告诉她。“说着他脸上又恢复了那种不容置疑的酸楚 表情。艾美急了，她不知道用什么来安慰他。
劳里本来自以为十分出色地接受了他的失恋。他没有悲叹，没有要求同情，他将烦恼带走了，独自化解。可艾美的讲座使他对这件事有了新的认识。他第一次 看清楚了，首次失败便灰心丧气，将自己封闭在郁闷、冷漠的心境中，真的是意志薄弱，而且自私。他感到仿佛突然从忧愁的梦境中挣脱出来，不可能再睡了。他很 快坐了起来，慢慢地问道：“你认为乔会像你那样看不起我吗？““要是她看到你这个样子，会的。她讨厌懒散的人。你为什么不去做些出色的事，使她爱上你 呢？““我尽力了，可是没用。““你是指以优异的成绩毕业？这没什么了不起。为了你爷爷，你本来就应该这样做。花了那么多时间、金钱，每个人都认为你能学 好，要是失败那真是耻辱了。““你爱怎么说就怎么说，我真的失败了，因为乔不肯爱我，“劳里说。他手托着头摆出一副心灰意懒的样子。
“不，你还没有，到最后你才能这么说。学业这件事对你有好处，它证明只要你去做，就能做出成绩。只要你着手去干一件事，不久你就又会回归到以前那个 幸福愉快的自我。你会忘掉烦恼的。““那不可能。““试试看吧。你不必耸肩，想着：‘她对这种事知道得还不少。'我不是自作聪明，但是我在观察着，我看到 的要比你想象的多得多。尽管我无法解释原因，我对别人的经历以及自相矛盾的言行感兴趣，我记住这些，作为自己的借鉴。你愿意的话，始终爱着乔吧，但别让它 毁了你。因为得不到你所要的便仍掉那么多优良天赋，这样做不道德。好了，我不再教训你了，我知道，尽管那女孩无情，但你会清醒过来，做个男子汉的。“有几 分钟时间两人都没说话。劳里坐在那儿，转动着手指上的那个小指环，艾美为刚才一边说一边匆匆勾勒的草图做最后的润色。过了一会儿，她把画放在他膝上，问 道：“你觉得怎么样？“他看着便笑了起来，也由不得他不笑。画画得极好--草地上躺着个长长的、懒洋洋的身影，无精打采的面孔，半闭的双眼，一只手捏着支 香烟，发出的小小烟圈在做梦者的头顶上缭绕着。
这一张没有刚才那一张画得那么好，但是画面有活力，有生气，弥补了许多不足。它那样生动，使人回忆起过去。年轻人看看画，脸上突然掠过一丝变化。这 只是一张劳里驯马的草图：他的帽子和外衣都脱下了，活跃的身段，坚定的脸孔，威风凛凛的姿势，每一根线条都充满精力与意义。那匹漂亮的马儿刚被驯服，它立 在那儿，在拽得很紧的缰绳下弓着脖颈，一只蹄子不耐烦地在地上刨着，竖着的耳朵仿佛在倾听它的征服者的声音。马被弄乱了的鬃毛，骑士飘拂的头发以及直立的 姿势，这些都暗示着引人注目的突然运动，那种运动具有力量、勇气与青春的活力。这和那张"无所事事乐悠悠"画像中懒洋洋的优雅姿态形成了鲜明的对照。劳里 什么也没说，但是他的目光从一张画扫到另一张。艾美看到他脸红了，他抿住嘴唇，好像在读着艾美给他的小小功课，并加以接受了。这使艾美满意。她不等他开 口，便轻快地说--“你可记得那天你装扮成带顽皮小妖的牧马人，我们都在旁观看？梅格和贝恩吓坏了，乔却拍着手欢跳。我坐在篱笆上画下了你。前些天我在画 夹里发现了那张草图，润了色，留着给你看呢。““非常感谢。从那时起你的画技有了很大的长进，恭贺你。
他试图恢复他先前那种懒散、冷淡的神气，但现在却是做作出来的了，因为那个刺激比他愿意承认的还要有效。艾美感觉到了他态度里的一丝冷淡。她自言自 语道--“我冒犯了他。好吧，要是对他有好处，我感到高兴。要是使他恨我，我感到遗憾。但是，我说的是实情，我一个字也不能收回。“回家的一路上，他们谈 笑风生，令站在车后的小巴普蒂斯特以为先生和小姐处于愉快的情绪中。但是两个人都感到不安：友好的坦率被搅和了，阳光中有了一道阴影，而且，尽管表面上十 分欢快，两个人内心都暗自不满。
Laurie went to Nice intending to stay a week, and remaineda month. He was tired of wandering about alone, and Amy'sfamiliar presence seemed to give a homelike charm to theforeign scenes in which she bore a part. He rather missed the`petting' he used to receive, and enjoyed a taste of it again,for no attentions, however flattering, from strangers, were halfso pleasant as the sisterly adoration of the girls at home. Amynever would pet him like the others, but she was very glad tosee him now, and quite clung to him, feeling that he was therepresentative of the dear family for whom she longed morethan she would confess. They naturally took comfort in eachother's society and were much together, riding, walking, dancing,or dawdling, for at Nice no one can be very industrious duringthe gay season. But, while apparently amusing themselves inthe most careless fashion, they were half-consciously makingdiscoveries and forming opinions about each other. Amy rosedaily in the estimation of her friend, but he sank in hers,and each felt the truth before a word was spoken. Amy triedto please, and succeeded, for she was grateful for the manypleasures he gave her, and repaid him with the little servicesto which womanly women know how to lend an indescribablecharm. Laurie made no effort of any kind, but just lethimself drift along as comfortably as possible, trying toforget, and feeling that all women owed him a kind word becauseone had been cold to him. It cost him no effort to begenerous, and he would have given Amy all the trinkets inNice if she would have taken them, but at the same time hefelt that he could not change the opinion she was forming ofhim, and he rather dreaded the keen blue eyes that seemed towatch him with such half-sorrowful, half-scornful surprise.
"All the rest have gone to Monaco for the day. I preferredto stay at home and write letters. They are done now,and I am going to Valrosa to sketch, will you come?' said Amy,as she joined Laurie one lovely day when he lounged in as usualabout noon.
"Well, yes, but isn't it rather warm for such a long walk?"he answered slowly, for the shaded salon looked inviting afterthe glare without.
"I'm going to have the little carriage, and Baptiste candrive, so you'll have nothing to do but hold your umbrella,and keep your gloves nice," returned Amy, with a sarcasticglance at the immaculate kids, which were a weak point withLaurie.
"Then I'll go with pleasure." And he put out his hand forher sketchbook. But she tucked it under her arm with a sharp...
"Don't trouble yourself. It's no exertion to me, but youdon't look equal to it."
Laurie lifted his eyebrows and followed at a leisurely paceas she ran downstairs, but when they got into the carriage he tookthe reins himself, and left little Baptiste nothing to do but foldhis arms and fall asleep on his perch.
The two never quarreled. Amy was too well-bred, and just nowLaurie was too lazy, so in a minute he peeped under her hatbrimwith an inquiring air. She answered him with a smile, and theywent on together in the most amicable manner.
It was a lovely drive, along winding roads rich in the picturesquescenes that delight beauty-loving eyes. Here an ancientmonastery, whence the solemn chanting of the monks came down tothem. There a bare-legged shepherd, in wooden shoes, pointed hat,and rough jacket over one shoulder, sat piping on a stone whilehis goats skipped among the rocks or lay at his feet. Meek,mouse-colored donkeys, laden with panniers of freshly cut grasspassed by, with a pretty girl in a capaline sitting between thegreen piles, or an old woman spinning with a distaff as she went.Brown, soft-eyed children ran out from the quaint stone hovelsto offer nosegays, or bunches of oranges still on the bough.Gnarled olive trees covered the hills with their dusky foliage,fruit hung golden in the orchard, and great scarlet anemonesfringed the roadside, while beyond green slopes and craggy heights,the Maritime Alps rose sharp and white against the blue Italian sky.
Valrosa well deserved its name, for in that climate of perpetualsummer roses blossomed everywhere. They overhung thearchway, thrust themselves between the bars of the great gatewith a sweet welcome to passers-by, and lined the avenue, windingthrough lemon trees and feathery palms up to the villa on the hill.Every shadowy nook, where seats invited one to stop and rest, wasa mass of bloom, every cool grotto had its marble nymph smilingfrom a veil of flowers and every fountain reflected crimson, white,or pale pink roses, leaning down to smile at their own beauty.Roses covered the walls of the house, draped the cornices, climbedthe pillars, and ran riot over the balustrade of the wide terrace,whence one looked down on the sunny Mediterranean, and the white-walledcity on its shore.
"This is a regular honeymoon paradise, isn't it? Did youever see such roses?" asked Amy, pausing on the terrace to enjoythe view, and a luxurious whiff of perfume that came wandering by.
"No, nor felt such thorns," returned Laurie, with his thumbin his mouth, after a vain attempt to capture a solitary scarletflower that grew just beyond his reach.
"Try lower down, and pick those that have no thorns," saidAmy, gathering three of the tiny cream-colored ones that starredthe wall behind her. She put them in his buttonhole as a peaceoffering, and he stood a minute looking down at them with acurious expression, for in the Italian part of his nature therewas a touch of superstition, and he was just then in that stateof half-sweet, half-bitter melancholy, when imaginative youngmen find significance in trifles and food for romance everywhere.He had thought of Jo in reaching after the thorny red rose, forvivid flowers became her, and she had often worn ones like thatfrom the greenhouse at home. The pale roses Amy gave him werethe sort that the Italians lay in dead hands, never in bridalwreaths, and for a moment he wondered if the omen was for Jo orfor himself, but the next instant his American common sense gotthe better of sentimentality, and he laughed a heartier laughthan Amy had heard since he came.
"It's good advice, you'd better take it and save your fingers,"she said, thinking her speech amused him.
"Thank you, I will," he answered in jest, and a few monthslater he did it in earnest.
"Laurie, when are you going to your grandfather?" she askedpresently, as she settled herself on a rustic seat.
"You have said that a dozen times within the last threeweeks."
"I dare say, short answers save trouble."
"He expects you, and you really ought to go."
"Hospitable creature! I know it."
"Then why don't you do it?"
"Natural depravity, I suppose."
"Natural indolence, you mean. It's really dreadful!"And Amy looked severe.
"Not so bad as it seems, for I should only plague him if Iwent, so I might as well stay and plague you a little longer,you can bear it better, in fact I think it agrees with you excellently."And Laurie composed himself for a lounge on the broad ledge of the balustrade.
Amy shook her head and opened her sketchbook with anair of resignation, but she had made up her mind to lecture`that boy' and in a minute she began again.
"What are you doing just now?"
"No, no. I mean what do you intend and wish to do?"
"Smoke a cigarette, if you'll allow me."
"How provoking you are! I don't approve of cigars and I will only allowit on condition that you let me put you into my sketch. I need a figure."
"With all the pleasure in life. How will you have me, fulllength or three-quarters, on my head or my heels? I shouldrespectfully suggest a recumbent posture, then put yourselfin also and call it `Dolce far niente'."
"Stay as you are, and go to sleep if you like. I intend towork hard," said Amy in her most energetic tone.
"What delightful enthusiasm!" And he leaned against a tallurn with an ir of entire satisfaction.
"What would Jo say if she saw you now?" asked Amy impatiently,hoping to stir him up by the mention of her still moreenergetic sister's name.
"As usual, `Go away, Teddy. I'm busy!'" He laughed as hespoke, but the laugh was not natural, and a shade passed overhis face, for the utterance of the familiar name touched thewound that was not healed yet. Both tone and shadow struck Amy,for she had seen and heard them before, and now she looked upin time to catch a new expression on Laurie's face--a hard bitterlook, full of pain, dissatisfaction, and regret. It was gone beforeshe could study it and the listless expression back again.She watched him for a moment with artistic pleasure, thinkinghow like an Italian he looked, as he lay basking in the sunwith uncovered head and eyes full of southern dreaminess, forhe seemed to have forgotten her and fallen into a reverie.
"You look like the effigy of a young knight asleep on histomb," she said, carefully tracing the well-cut profile definedagainst the dark stone.
"Wish I was!"
"That's a foolish wish, unless you have spoiled your life.You are so changed, I sometimes think--" There Amy stopped,with a half-timid, half-wistful look, more significant than herunfinished speech.
Laurie saw and understood the affectionate anxiety whichshe hesitated to express, and looking straight into her eyes,said, just as he used to say it to her mother, "It's all right, ma'am."
That satisfied her and set at rest the doubts that had begunto worry her lately. It also touched her, and she showedthat it did, by the cordial tone in which she said...
"I'm glad of that! I didn't think you'd been a very badboy, but I fancied you might have wasted money at that wickedBaden-Baden, lost your heart to some charming Frenchwomanwith a husband, or got into some of the scrapes that young menseem to consider a necessary part of a foreign tour. Don'tstay out there in the sun, come and lie on the grass here and`let us be friendly', as Jo used to say when we got in the sofacorner and told secrets."
Laurie obediently threw himself down on the turf, andbegan to amuse himself by sticking daisies into the ribbons ofAmy's hat, that lay there.
"I'm all ready for the secrets." And he glanced up witha decided expression of interest in his eyes.
"I've none to tell. You may begin."
"Haven't one to bless myself with. I thought perhaps you'dhad some news from home.."
"You have heard all that has come lately. Don't you hearoften? I fancied Jo would send you volumes."
"She's very busy. I'm roving about so, it's impossible tobe regular, you know. When do you begin your great work of art,Raphaella?' he asked. changing the subject abruptly afteranother pause, in which he had been wondering if Amy knew hissecret and wanted to talk about it.
"Never," she answered, with a despondent but decided air."Rome took all the vanity out of me, for after seeing thewonders there, I felt too insignificant to live and gave upall my foolish hopes in despair."
"Why should you, with so much energy and talent?"
"That's just why, because talent isn't genius, and noamount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing.I won't be a common-place dauber, so I don't intend to try any more."
"And what are you going to do with yourself now, if I may ask?"
"Polish up my other talents, and be an ornament to society,if I get the chance."
It was a characteristic speech, and sounded daring, butaudacity becomes young people, and Amy's ambition had a goodfoundation. Laurie smiled, but he liked the spirit withwhich she took up a new purpose when a long-cherished onedied, and spent no time lamenting.
"Good! And here is where Fred Vaughn comes in, I fancy."
Amy preserved a discreet silence, but there was a consciouslook in her downcast face that made Laurie sit up and say gravely,"Now I'm going to play brother, and ask questions. May I?"
"I don't promise to answer."
"Your face will, if your tongue won't. You aren't woman ofthe world enough yet to hide your feelings, my dear. I heardrumors about Fred and you last year, and it's my private opinionthat if he had not been called home so suddenly and detainedso long, something would have come of it, hey?"
"That's not for me to say," was Amy's grim reply, but her lipswould smile, and there was a traitorous sparkle of the eyewhich betrayed that she knew her power and enjoyed the knowledge.
"You are not engaged, I hope?" And Laurie looked veryelder-brotherly and grave all of a sudden.
"But you will be, if he comes back and goes properly downon his knees, won't you?"
"Then you are fond of old Fred?"
"I could be, if I tried."
"But you don't intend to try till the proper moment? Blessmy soul, what unearthly prudence! He's a good fellow, Amy, butnot the man I fancied you'd like."
"He is rich, a gentleman, and has delightful manners,"began Amy, trying to be quite cool and dignified, but feelinga little ashamed of herself, in spite of the sincerity of herintentions.
"I understand. Queens of society can't get on without money,so you mean to make a good match, and start in that way? Quiteright and proper, as the world goes, but it sounds odd from thelips of one of your mother's girls."
A short speech, but the quiet decision with which it wasuttered contrasted curiously with the young speaker. Lauriefelt this instinctively and laid himself down again, with asense of disappointment which he could not explain. His lookand silence, as well as a certain inward self-disapproval,ruffled Amy, and made her resolve to deliver her lecturewithout delay.
"I wish you'd do me the favor to rouse yourself a little,"she said sharply.
"Do it for me, there's a dear girl."
"I could, if I tried." And she looked as if she would likedoing it in the most summary style.
"Try, then. I give you leave," returned Laurie, who enjoyedhaving someone to tease, after his long abstinence fromhis favorite pastime.
"You'd be angry in five minutes."
"I'm never angry with you. It takes two flints to make a fire.You are as cool and soft as snow."
"You don't know what I can do. Snow produces a glow and a tingle,if applied rightly. Your indifference is half affectation,and a good stirring up would prove it."
"Stir away, it won't hurt me and it may amuse you, as thebig man said when his little wife beat him. Regard me in thelight of a husband or a carpet, and beat till you are tired,if that sort of exercise agrees with you."
Being decidedly nettled herself, and longing to see himshake off the apathy that so altered him, Amy sharpened bothtongue and pencil, and began.
"Flo and I have got a new name for you. It's Lazy Laurence.How do you like it?"
She thought it would annoy him, but he only folded hisarms under his head, with an imperturbable, "That's not bad.Thank you, ladies."
"Do you want to know what I honestly think of you?"
"Pining to be told."
"Well, I despise you."
If she had even said `I hate you' in a petulant or coquettishtone, he would have laughed and rather liked it, butthe grave, almost sad, accent in her voice made him open hiseyes, and ask quickly...
"Why, if you please?"
"Because, with every chance for being good, useful, andhappy, you are faulty, lazy, and miserable."
"Strong language, mademoiselle."
"If you like it, I'll go on."
"Pray do, it's quite interesting."
"I thought you'd find it so. Selfish people always like totalk about themselves."
"Am I selfish?" The question slipped out involuntarily andin a tone of surprise, for the one virtue on which he pridedhimself was generosity.
"Yes, very selfish," continued Amy, in a calm, cool voice,twice as effective just then as an angry one. "I'll show youhow, for I've studied you while we were frolicking, and I'mnot at all satisfied with you. Here you have been abroadnearly six months, and done nothing but waste time and moneyand disappoint your friends."
"Isn't a fellow to have any pleasure after a four-yeargrind?"
"You don't look as if you'd had much. At any rate, you arenone the better for it, as far as I can see. I said when wefirst met that you had improved. Now I take it all back, for Idon't think you half so nice as when I left you at home. Youhave grown abominably lazy, you like gossip, and waste time onfrivolous things, you are contented to be petted and admiredby silly people, instead of being loved and respected by wiseones. With money, talent, position, health, and beauty, ahyou like that old Vanity! But it's the truth, so I can't helpsaying it, with all these splendid things to use and enjoy, youcan find nothing to do but dawdle, and instead of being the manyou ought to be, you are only..." There she stopped, witha look that had both pain and pity in it.
"Saint Laurence on a gridiron," added Laurie, blandlyfinishing the sentence. But the lecture began to take effect,for there was a wide-awake sparkle in his eyes now and ahalf-angry, half-injured expression replaced the former indifference.
"I supposed you'd take it so. You men tell us we areangels, and say we can make you what we will, but the instantwe honestly try to do you good, you laugh at us and won'tlisten, which proves how much your flattery is worth." Amyspoke bitterly, and turned her back on the exasperatingmartyr at her feet.
In a minute a hand came down over the page, so that shecould not draw, and Laurie's voice said, with a droll imitationof a penitent child, "I will be good, oh, I will be good!"
But Amy did not laugh, for she was in earnest, and tappingon the outspread hand with her pencil, said soberly, "Aren'tyou ashamed of a hand like that? It's as soft and white as awoman's, and looks as if it never did anything but wear Jouvin'sbest gloves and pick flowers for ladies. You are not a dandy,thank Heaven, so I'm glad to see there are no diamonds or bigseal rings on it, only the little old one Jo gave you so longago. Dear soul, I wish she was here to help me!"
"So do I!"
The hand vanished as suddenly as it came, and there wasenergy enough in the echo of her wish to suit even Amy. Sheglanced down at him with a new thought in her mind, but hewas lying with his hat half over his face, as if for shade, andhis mustache hid his mouth. She only saw his chest rise andfall, with a long breath that might have been a sigh, and thehand that wore the ring nestled down into the grass, as if tohide something too precious or too tender to be spoken of.All in a minute various hints and trifles assumed shape andsignificance in Amy's mind, and told her what her sister neverhad confided to her. She remembered that Laurie never spokevoluntarily of Jo, she recalled the shadow on his face justnow, the change in his character, and the wearing of the littleold ring which was no ornament to a handsome hand. Girls arequick to read such signs and feel their eloquence. Amy hadfancied that perhaps a love trouble was at the bottom of thealteration, and now she was sure of it. Her keen eyes filled,and when she spoke again, it was in a voice that could bebeautifully soft and kind when she chose to make it so.
"I know I have no right to talk so to you, Laurie, and ifyou weren't the sweetest-tempered fellow in the world, you'd bevery angry with me. But we are all so fond and proud of you,I couldn't bear to think they should be disappointed in you athome as I have been, though, perhaps they would understandthe change better than I do."
"I think they would," came from under the hat, in a grimtone, quite as touching as a broken one.
"They ought to have told me, and not let me go blunderingand scolding, when I should have been more kind and patientthan ever. I never did like that Miss Randal and now I hateher!" said artful Amy, wishing to be sure of her facts this time.
"Hang Miss Randal!" And Laurie knocked the hat off hisface with a look that left no doubt of his sentiments towardthat young lady.
"I beg pardon, I thought..." And there she pauseddiplomatically.
"No, you didn't, you knew perfectly well I never cared foranyone but Jo," Laurie said that in his old, impetuous tone,and turned his face away as he spoke.
"I did think so, but as they never said anything about it,and you came away, I supposed I was mistaken. And Jo wouldn'tbe kind to you? Why, I was sure she loved you dearly."
"She was kind, but not in the right way, and it's lucky forher she didn't love me, if I'm the good-for-nothing fellow youthink me. It's her fault though, and you may tell her so."
The hard, bitter look came back again as he said that, andit troubled Amy, for she did not know what balm to apply.
"I was wrong, I didn't know. I'm very sorry I was so cross,but I can't help wishing you'd bear it better, Teddy, dear."
"Don't, that's her name for me!" And Laurie put up hishand with a quick gesture to stop the words spoken in Jo'shalf-kind, half-reproachful tone. "Wait till you've tried ityourself," he added in a low voice, as he pulled up the grassby the handful.
"I'd take it manfully, and be respected if i couldn't beloved," said Amy, with the decision of one who knew nothingabout it.
Now, Laurie flattered himself that he had borne it remarkablywell, making no moan, asking no sympathy, and taking histrouble away to live it down alone. Amy's lecture put theMatter in a new light, and for the first time it did lookweak and selfish to lose heart at the first failure, and shuthimself up in moody indifference. He felt as if suddenlyshaken out of a pensive dream and found it impossible to goto sleep again. Presently he sat up and asked slowly, "Doyou think Jo would despise me as you do?"
"Yes, if she saw you now. She hates lazy people. Why don'tyou do something splendid, and make her love you?"
"I did my best, but it was no use."
"Graduating well, you mean? That was no more than youought to have done, for your grandfather's sake. It wouldhave been shameful to fail after spending so much time andmoney, when everyone knew that you could do well."
"I did fail, say what you will, for Jo wouldn't love me,"
began Laurie, leaning his head on his hand in a despondentattitude.
"No, you didn't, and you'll say so in the end, for it didyou good, and proved that you could do something if you tried.If you'd only set about another task of some sort, you'd soonbe your hearty, happy self again, and forget your trouble."
"Try it and see. You needn't shrug your shoulders, andthink, `Much she knows about such things'. I don't pretendto be wise, but I am observing, and I see a great deal morethan you'd imagine. I'm interested in other people's experiencesand inconsistencies, and though I can't explain, I rememberand use them for my own benefit. Love Jo all your days,if you choose, but don't let it spoil you, for it's wickedto throw away so many good gifts because you can't have theone you want. There, I won't lecture any more, for I knowyou'll wake up and be a man in spite of that hardhearted girl."
Neither spoke for several minutes. Laurie sat turningthe little ring on his finger, and Amy put the last touches tothe hasty sketch she had been working at while she talked.Presently she put it on his knee, merely saying, "How do youlike that?"
He looked and then he smiled, as he could not well helpdoing, for it was capitally done, the long, lazy figure on thegrass, with listless face, half-shut eyes, and one hand holdinga cigar, from which came the little wreath of smoke that encircledthe dreamer's head.
"How well you draw!" he said, with a genuine surpriseand pleasure at her skill, adding, with a half-laugh,"Yes, that's me."
"As you are. This is as you were." And Amy laid anothersketch beside the one he held.
It was not nearly so well done, but there was a life andspirit in it which atoned for many faults, and it recalled thepast so vividly that a sudden change swept over the youngman's face as he looked. Only a rough sketch of Laurie taminga horse. Hat and coat were off, and every line of the activefigure, resolute face, and commanding attitude was full ofenergy and meaning. The handsome brute, just subdued, stoodarching his neck under the tightly drawn rein, with one footimpatiently pawing the ground, and ears pricked up as iflistening for the voice that had mastered him. In the ruffledmane. The rider's breezy hair and erect attitude, there was asuggestion of suddenly arrested motion, of strength, courage,and youthful buoyancy that contrasted sharply with the supinegrace of the `DOLCE FAR NIENTE' sketch. Laurie said nothingbut as his eye went from one to the other, Amy say him flushup and fold his lips together as if he read and accepted thelittle lesson she had given him. That satisfied her, andwithout waiting for him to speak, she said, in her sprightlyway...
"Don't you remember the day you played Rarey with Puck,and we all looked on? Meg and Beth were frightened, but Joclapped and pranced, and I sat on the fence and drew you. Ifound that sketch in my portfolio the other day, touched itup, and kept it to show you."
"Much obliged. You've improved immensely since then,and I congratulate you. May I venture to suggest in ` ahoneymoon paradise' that five o'clock is the dinner hour atyour hotel?"
Laurie rose as he spoke, returned the pictures with a smileand a bow and looked at his watch, as if to remind her thateven moral lectures should have an end. He tried to resume hisformer easy, indifferent air, but it was an affectation now, forthe rousing had been more effacious than he would confess. Amyfelt the shade of coldness in his manner, and said to herself . ..
"Now, I've offended him. Well, if it does him good, I'mglad, if it makes him hate me, I'm sorry, but it's true, andI can't take back a word of it."
They laughed and chatted all the way home, and littleBaptist, up behind, thought that monsieur and madamoisellewere in charming spirits. But both felt ill at ease. Thefriendly frankness was disturbed, the sunshine had a shadowover it, and despite their apparent gaiety, there was a secretdiscontent in the heart of each.
"Shall we see you this evening, mon frere?" asked Amy, asthey parted at her aunt's door.
"Unfortunately I have an engagement. Au revoir, madamoiselle."And Laurie bent as if to kiss her hand, in the foreign fashion,which became him better than many men. Something in his facemade Amy say quickly and warmly...
"No, be yourself with me, Laurie, and part in the good old way.I'd rather have a hearty English handshake than all thesentimental salutations in France."
"Goodbye, dear." And with these words, uttered in the tone she liked,Laurie left her, after a handshake almost painful in its heartiness.
Next morning, instead of the usual call, Amy received anote which made her smile at the beginning and sigh at the end.
My Dear Mentor,
Please make my adieux to your aunt, and exult withinyourself, for `Lazy Laurence' has gone to his grandpa, likethe best of boys. A pleasant winter to you, and may the godsgrant you a blissful honeymoon at Valrosa! I think Fredwould be benefited by a rouser. Tell him so, with my congratulations.
Yours gratefully, Telemachus
"Good boy! I'm glad he's gone," said Amy, with an approving smile.The next minute her face fell as she glanced about the empty room,adding, with an involuntary sigh, "Yes, I am glad, but how I shall miss him."