"The sun's set. You're not afraid, my dear?"

    "Afraid!"

    "Of Roman fever or pneumonia! I remember how ill you were that winter. As a girl you had a very delicate throat, hadn't you?"

    "Oh, we're all right up here. Down below, in the Forum, it does get deathly cold, all of a sudden . . . but not here."

    "Ah, of course you know because you had to be so careful." Mrs. Slade turned back to the parapet. She thought: "I must make one more effort not to hate her." Aloud she said: "Whenever I look at the Forum from up here, I remember that story about a great-aunt of yours, wasn't she dreadfully wicked great-aunt"

    "Oh, yes; Great-aunt Harriet. The one who was supposed to have sent her young sister out to the Forum after sunset to gather a nightblooming flower for her album. All our great-aunts and grandmothers used to have albums of dried flowers."

    Mrs. Slade nodded. "But she really sent her because they were in love with the same man--"

    "Well, that was the family tradition. They said Aunt Harriet confessed it years afterward. At any rate, the poor little sister caught the fever and died. Mother used to frighten us with the story when we were children."

    "And you frightened me with it, that winter when you and I were here as girls. The winter I was engaged to Delphin."

    Mrs. Ansley gave a faint laugh. "Oh, did I! Really frightened you? I don't believe you're easily frightened."

    "Not often; but I was then. I was easily frightened because I was too happy. I wonder if you know what that means?"

    "I - yes ..." Mrs. Ansley faltered.

    "Well, I suppose chat was why che story of your wicked aunt made such an impression on me. And I thought: 'There's no more Roman fever, but the Forum is deathly cold after sunset - especially after a hot day. And the Colosseum's even colder and damper.'"

    "The Colosseum?"

    "Yes. It wasn't easy to get in, after the gates were locked for the night. Far from easy. Still, in those days it could be managed; it was managed, often. Lovers met there who couldn't meet elsewhere. You knew that?"

    "I - I daresay. I don't remember."

    "You don't remember? You don't remember going to visit some ruins or other one evening, just after dark, and catching a bad chill! You were supposed to have gone to see the moonrise. People always said that expedition was what caused your illness."

Back Index Next

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.