Friday, 12 October 2012
This is a long-forgotten short story written by the first female novelist to rise to fame in Italy. Matilde Serao had a unique style, and this story was typical of her work.
Guido certainly looked perfectly happy; indeed, anyone would have thought that he had not a care in the world. He was on his way home from a political banquet, where he had been explaining in detail his programme to his electors. He had been complimented on all sides, and, added to this, the dinner itself had been excellent and the champagne all that could be desired. Guido felt quite easy in his own mind about the result of the election, and now this evening he was going to a ball, where he would enjoy a flirtation with the Baroness Stefania. He was just returning home now to have an hour’s rest and a nap, like Napoleon on the eve of battle. On entering the dining-room his faithfull old servant, Giuseppe, followed him respectfully in, and stood for a minute evidently desiring to speak to his master.
“What is it, Giuseppe?” asked Guido.
“If you will excuse me, sir, I wanted…..”
“Be quick about it, my good fellow, for I have not much time.”
“Do you remember what day it is, Sir?”
“No…what do you mean?”
“It is your birthday…..”
“Ah! So it is,” said Guido, and his face clouded over.
“There always used to be flowers everywhere, sir.”
“There used to be, but that’s over, there are none in these days,” and Guido smiled bitterly.
“You’ll please to excuse me, sir,” said the old man, stepping forward and uncovering a huge bouquet on the table.
“Oh, Giuseppe, there’s no need to apologize, my good fellow. Thank you very much; this little surprise has given me great pleasure.
Guido could not help feeling melancholy all the same at the thought that on this day, when he was accustomed to being feted, there was only his old servant now to remember it. It was only a passing regret, for Guido was too much a man of the world not to be able to throw off all appearance of emotion.
“I am going to my room to get a little rest,” he said to Giuseppe; “you can wake me at eight.”
“You’d better not, sir,” said the servant earnestly.
“And why not, pray?”
“Because, sir, when Girolamo was here alone this morning a lady called, and when she found that you were out she said: ‘Tell your master, when he comes in that I will call again at seven, and ask him to be sure and wait in for me, as I want to see him on particular business.’”
“And her name?”
“She would not give it.”
“H..m! more and more mysterious! Did Girolamo say what she was like?”
“Yes, she was young, tall, dark, and very well dressed.”
“Oh! it’s getting decidedly interesting and I feel curious. And you think, then, Giuseppe, for the sake of this unknown lady, I ought to forgo my nap?”
“Well, it is just seven o’clock, sir. If she is anything like punctual, you wouldn’t have time to lie down before she was here.”
“Oh, well. I will make the sacrifice. Get my newspaper, Giuseppe, and I’ll read until she arrives. Dark!…the Baroness Stefania is fair, nothing like a change,” murmured Guido to himself when the old man had left the room.
It certainly sounds very much as though the young politician was a veritable Don Juan, but in reality it was nothing of the kind. Guido had had a great deal of disappointment in his life. He had loved one woman passionately and devotedly, but his happiness had been suddenly snatched away from him, and the love still smouldered in his heart, half smothered and stifled as it had been. For the last two years Guido had been striving to forget, and he had thrown himself headlong into all the gaieties and diversions of society life.
“If you please, sir! Exclaimed Giuseppe, re-entering the dining-room hastily.
“Has she arrived?”.....
If you would like to read more of this story please click HERE