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Aaron's Rod by D. H. Lawrence

The little Marchese was hovering near his wife


husband, the Marchese, was a little intense Italian in a colonel's grey uniform, cavalry, leather gaiters. He had blue eyes, his hair was cut very short, his head looked hard and rather military: he would have been taken for an Austrian officer, or even a German, had it not been for the peculiar Italian sprightliness and touch of grimace in his mobile countenance. He was rather like a gnome--not ugly, but odd.

Now he came and stood opposite to Signor di Lanti, and quizzed him in Italian. But it was evident, in quizzing the old buck, the little Marchese was hovering near his wife, in ear-shot. Algy came up with cigarettes, and she at once began to smoke, with that peculiar heavy intensity of a nervous woman.

Aaron did not say anything--did not know what to say. He was peculiarly conscious of the woman sitting next to him, her arm near his. She smoked heavily, in silence, as if abstracted, a sort of cloud on her level, dark brows. Her hair was dark, but a softish brown, not black, and her skin was fair. Her bosom would be white.--Why Aaron should have had this thought, he could not for the life of him say.

Manfredi, her husband, rolled his blue eyes and grimaced as he laughed at old Lanti. But it was obvious that his attention was diverted sideways, towards his wife. Aaron, who was tired of nursing a tea-cup, placed in on a table and resumed his seat in silence. But suddenly

the little Marchese whipped out his cigarette-case, and making a little bow, presented it to Aaron, saying:

"Won't you smoke?"

"Thank you," said Aaron.

"Turkish that side--Virginia there--you see."

"Thank you, Turkish," said Aaron.

The little officer in his dove-grey and yellow uniform snapped his box shut again, and presented a light.

"You are new in Florence?" he said, as he presented the match.

"Four days," said Aaron.

"And I hear you are musical."

"I play the flute--no more."

"Ah, yes--but then you play it as an artist, not as an accomplishment."

"But how do you know?" laughed Aaron.

"I was told so--and I believe it."

"That's nice of you, anyhow--But you are a musician too."

"Yes--we are both musicians--my wife and I."

Manfredi looked at his wife. She flicked the ash off her cigarette.

"What sort?" said Aaron.

"Why, how do you mean, what sort? We are dilettanti, I suppose."

"No--what is your instrument? The piano?"

"Yes--the pianoforte. And my wife sings. But we are very much out of practice. I have been at the war four years, and we have had our home in Paris. My wife was in Paris, she did not wish to stay in Italy alone. And so--you see--everything goes--"

"But you will begin again?"

"Yes. We have begun already. We have music on Saturday mornings. Next Saturday a string quartette, and violin solos by a young Florentine woman--a friend--very good indeed, daughter of our Professor Tortoli, who composes--as you may know--"

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