IN 188- the American Consul at Venice was occupying the second story of an old palace on the Grand Canal. It was the story which is called by Italians the piano nobile, or noble floor. Beneath this piano nobile there is a large low ...
Author: Constance Fenimore Woolson
Publisher: Library of Alexandria
"WELL, now, with Gooster at work in the per-dairy, and Bepper settled at last as help in a good family, and Parlo and Squawly gone to Perugia, and Soonter taken by the nuns, and Jo Vanny learning the carpenter's trade, and only Nounce left for me to see to (let alone Granmar, of course, and Pipper and old Patro), it doos seem, it really doos, as if I might get it done sometime; say next Fourth of July, now; that's only ten months off. 'Twould be something to celebrate the day with, that would; something like!" The woman through whose mind these thoughts were passing was sitting on a low stone-wall, a bundle of herbs, a fagot of twigs, and a sickle laid carefully beside her. On her back was strapped a large deep basket, almost as long as herself; she had loosened the straps so that she could sit down. This basket was heavy; one could tell that from the relaxed droop of her shoulders relieved from its weight for the moment, as its end rested on a fallen block on the other side of the wall. Her feet were bare, her dress a narrow cotton gown, covered in front to the hem by a dark cotton apron; on her head was a straw bonnet, which had behind a little cape of brown ribbon three inches deep, and in front broad strings of the same brown, carefully tied in a bow, with the loops pulled out to their full width and pinned on each side of her chin. This bonnet, very clean and decent (the ribbons had evidently been washed more than once), was of old-fashioned shape, projecting beyond the wearer's forehead and cheeks. Within its tube her face could be seen, with its deeply browned skin, its large irregular features, smooth, thin white hair, and blue eyes, still bright, set amid a bed of wrinkles. She was sixty years old, tall and broad-shouldered. She had once been remarkably erect and strong. This strength had been consumed more by constant toil than by the approach of old age; it was not all gone yet; the great basket showed that. In addition, her eyes spoke a language which told of energy that would last as long as her breath. These eyes were fixed now upon a low building that stood at a little distance directly across the path. It was small and ancient, built of stone, with a sloping roof and black door. There were no windows; through this door entered the only light and air. Outside were two large heaps of refuse, one of which had been there so long that thick matted herbage was growing vigorously over its top. Bars guarded the entrance; it was impossible to see what was within. But the woman knew without seeing; she always knew. It had been a cow; it had been goats; it had been pigs, and then goats again; for the past two years it had been pigs steadily—always pigs. Her eyes were fixed upon this door as if held there by a magnet; her mouth fell open a little as she gazed; her hands lay loose in her lap. There was nothing new in the picture, certainly. But the intensity of her feeling made it in one way always new. If love wakes freshly every morning, so does hate, and Prudence Wilkin had hated that cow-shed for years.