Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral

Author: Margaret Pollock Sherwood

Chapter I

"Her Excellency,—will she have the politeness," said Daphne slowly, reading from a tiny Italian-English phrase-book, "the politeness to"—She stopped helpless. Old Giacomo gazed at her with questioning eyes. The girl turned the pages swiftly and chose another phrase.

"I go," she announced, "I go to make a walk."

Light flashed into Giacomo’s face.

"Si, si, Signorina; yes, yes," he assented with voice and shoulders and a flourish of the spoon he was polishing. "Capisco; I understand."

Daphne consulted her dictionary.

"Down there," she said gravely, pointing toward the top of the great hiII on whose side the villa stood.

"Certainly," answered Giacomo with a bow, too much pleased by understanding when there was no reason for it to be captious in regard to the girl’s speech. "The Signorina non ha paura, not ’fraid?"

"I’m not afraid of anything," was the answer in English. The Italian version of it was a shaking of the head. Then both dictionary and phrase-book were consulted.

"To return," she stated finally, "to return to eat at six hours." Then she looked expectantly about.

"Assunta?" she said inquiringly, with a slight shrug of her shoulders, for other means of expression had failed.

"Capisco, capisco," shouted Giacomo in his excitement, trailing on the marble floor the chamois skin with which he had been polishing the silver, and speaking in what seemed to his listener one word of a thousand syllables.

"The-Signorina-goes-to-walk-upon-the-hills-above-the-villa-becaus e-it-is-a-most-beautiful-day.-She-returns-to-dine-at-six-and-wish es-Assunta-to-have-dinner-prepared.-Perhaps-the-Signorina-wouldtell-what-she-would-like-for-her-dinner?-A-roast-chicken,-yes?- A-salad,-yes?"

Daphne looked dubiously at him, though he had stated the case with entire accuracy, and had suggested for her solitary meal what she most liked. There was a slight pucker in her white forehead, and she vouchsafed no answer to what she did not understand.

"Addio, addio," she said earnestly.

"A rivederla!" answered Giacomo, with a courtly sweep of the chamois skin.

The girl climbed steadily up the moist, steep path leading to the deep shadow of a group of ilex trees on the hill. At her side a stream of water trickled past drooping maidenhair fern and over immemorial moss. Here and there it fell in little cascades, making a sleepy murmur in the warm air of afternoon.

Halfway up the hill Daphne paused and looked back. Below the yellow walls of the Villa Accolanti, standing in a wide garden with encompassing poplars and cypresses, sketched great grassy slopes and gray-green olive orchards. The water from the stream, gathered in a stone basin at the foot of the hill, flowed in a marble conduit through the open hall. As she looked she was aware of two old brown faces anxiously gazing after her. Giacomo and Assunta were chattering eagerly in the doorway, the black of his butler’s dress and the white of his protecting apron making his wife’s purple calico skirt and red shoulder shawl look more gay. They caught the last flutter of the girl’s blue linen gown as it disappeared among the ilexes.

"E molto bello, very beautiful, the Signorina," remarked Assunta. "What gray eyes she has, and how she walks!"

"But she knows no speech," responded her husband.

"Ma che!" shouted Assunta scornfully, "she talks American. You couldn’t expect them to speak like us over there. They are not Romans in America."

"My brother Giovanni is there," remarked Giacomo. "She could have learned of him."

"She is like the Contessa," said Assunta. "You would know they are sisters, only this one is younger and has something more sweet."

"This one is grave," objected Giacomo as he polished. "She does not smile so much. The Contessa is gay. She laughs and sings and her cheeks grow red when she drinks red wine, and her hair is more yellow."

"She makes it so!" snapped Assunta.

"I have heard they all do in Rome," said Giacomo. "Some day I would like to go to see."

"To go away, to leave this girl here alone with us when she had just arrived!" interrupted Assunta. "I have no patience with the Contessa."

"But wasn’t his Highness’s father sick? And didn’t she have to go? Else they wouldn’t get his money, and all would go to the younger brother. You don’t understand these things, you women." Giacomo’s defense of his lady got into his fingers, and added much to the brightness of the spoons. The two talked together now, as fast as human tongues could go.

Assunta. She could have taken the Signorina.

Giacomo. She couldn’t. It’s fever.

Assunta. She could have left her maid.

Giacomo. Thank the holy father she didn’t!

Assunta. And without a word of language to make herself understood.

Giacomo. She can learn, can’t she?

Assunta. And with the cook gone, too! It’s a great task for us.

Giacomo. You’d better be about it!... Going walking alone in the hills! And calling me "Excellency." There’s no telling what Americans will do.

Assunta. She didn’t know any better. When she has been here a week she won’t call you Excellency"! I must make macaroni for dinner.

Giacomo. Ma che! Macaroni? Roast chicken and salad.

Assunta. Niente! Macaroni!

Giacomo. Roast chicken! You are a pretty one to take the place of the cook!

Assunta. Roast chicken then! But what are you standing here for in the hall polishing spoons? If the Contessa could see you!

Assunta dragged her husband by the hem of his white apron through the great marble-paved dining-room out into the smoke-browned kitchen in the rear.

"Now where’s Tommaso, and how am I going to get my chicken?" she demanded. "And why, in the name of all the saints, should an American signorina’s illustrious name be Daphne?"


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Chicago: Margaret Pollock Sherwood, "Chapter I," Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral, ed. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 and trans. Boswell, Robert Bruce in Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed May 10, 2021, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ITVPYKFAN87YNZ2.

MLA: Sherwood, Margaret Pollock. "Chapter I." Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral, edited by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, and translated by Boswell, Robert Bruce, in Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 10 May. 2021. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ITVPYKFAN87YNZ2.

Harvard: Sherwood, MP, 'Chapter I' in Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 10 May 2021, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ITVPYKFAN87YNZ2.