"You are alone to-day, Marietta," said he, "and your husband will not interrupt our conversation."
"My husband!" said she, reproachfully, "Taliazuchi is not my husband. I despise him; I know nothing of him; I am even willing that he should know I adore you."
"Oh woman, woman!" said Ranuzi, laughing; "how treacherous, how dangerous you are! When you love happily, you are like the anaconda, whose poisonous bite one need not fear, when it is well fed and tended, but when you have ceased to love, you are like the tigress who, rashly awaked from sleep, would strangle the unfortunate who disturbed her repose. Come, my anaconda, come; if you are satisfied with my love, let us talk and dream." He drew her tenderly toward him, and, kissing her fondly, seated her by his side; but Marietta glided softly to his feet.
"Let it be so," she said; "let me lie at your feet; let me adore you, and read in your face the history of these last three terrible days, in which I have not seen you. Where were you, Carlo? why have you forgotten me?"
"Ah," said he, laughing, "my anaconda begins to hunger for my heart's blood! how long before she will be ready to devour or to murder me?"
"Do not call me your anaconda," she said, shaking her head; "you say that, when we are satisfied with your love, we are like the sleeping anaconda. But, Carlo, when I look upon you, I thirst for your glances, your sweet words, your assurances of love. And has it not been thus all my life long? Have I not loved you since I was capable of thought and feeling? Oh, do you remember our happy, glorious childhood, Carlo? those days of sunshine, of fragrance, of flowers, of childish innocence? Do you remember how often we have wandered hand in hand through the Campagna, talking of God, of the stars, and of the flowers?--dreaming of the time in which the angels and the stars would float down into our hearts, and change the world into a paradise for us?"
"Ah! we had a bitter awaking from these fair dreams," said Ranuzi, thoughtfully. "My father placed me in a Jesuit college; your mother sent you to a cloister, that the nuns might make of you a public singer. We had both our own career to make, Marietta; you upon the stage, I on the confessor's stool. We were the poor children of poor parents, and every path was closed to us but one, the church and the stage; our wise parents knew this."
"And they separated us," sighed Marietta; "they crushed out the first modest flame of our young, pure hearts, and made us an example of their greed! Ah, Carlo; you can never know how much I suffered, how bitterly I wept on your account. I was only twelve years old, but I loved you with all the strength and ardor of a woman, and longed after you as after a lost paradise. The nuns taught me to sing; and when my clear, rich voice pealed through the church halls, no one knew that not God's image, but yours, was in my heart; that I was worshipping you with my hymns of praise and pious fervor. I knew that we were forever separated, could never belong to each other, so I prayed to God to lend swift wings to time, that we might become independent and free, I as a singer and you as my honored confessor."