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JERRY




_BY THE SAME AUTHOR._
UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME
Daddy-Long-Legs.
Just Patty.
Patty and Priscilla.
The Four Pools Mystery.
The Wheat Princess.
Dear Enemy.
Much Ado about Peter.
LONDON: HODDER & STOUGHTON.




JERRY

By
JEAN WEBSTER
Author of "Dear Enemy," etc


HODDER AND STOUGHTON
LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO




Copyright, 1907, by
THE CENTURY CO.

* * * * *

Copyright, 1906, 1907, by
THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY.




CHAPTER I


The courtyard of the Hotel du Lac, furnished with half a dozen tables and
chairs, a red and green parrot chained to a perch, and a shady little
arbour covered with vines, is a pleasant enough place for morning coffee,
but decidedly too sunny for afternoon tea. It was close upon four of a
July day, when Gustavo, his inseparable napkin floating from his arm,
emerged from the cool dark doorway of the house and scanned the burning
vista of tables and chairs. He would never, under ordinary circumstances,
have interrupted his siesta for the mere delivery of a letter; but this
particular letter was addressed to the young American man, and young
American men, as every head waiter knows, are an unreasonably impatient
lot. The courtyard was empty, as he might have foreseen, and he was
turning with a patient sigh towards the long arbour that led to the lake,
when the sound of a rustling paper in the summer-house deflected his
course. He approached the doorway and looked inside.

The young American man, in white flannels with a red guide-book
protruding from his pocket, was comfortably stretched in a lounging
chair engaged with a cigarette and a copy of the Paris _Herald_. He
glanced up with a yawn - excusable under the circumstances - but as his eye
fell upon the letter he sprang to his feet.

'Hello, Gustavo! Is that for me?'

Gustavo bowed.

'_Ecco_! She is at last arrive, ze lettair for which you haf so moch
weesh.' He bowed a second time and presented it. 'Meestair Jayreen
Ailyar!'

The young man laughed.

'I don't wish to hurt your feelings, Gustavo, but I'm not sure I should
answer if my eyes were shut.'

He picked up the letter, glanced at the address to make sure - the name
was Jerymn Hilliard, Jr. - and ripped it open with an exaggerated sigh of
relief. Then he glanced up and caught Gustavo's expression. Gustavo came
of a romantic race; there was a gleam of sympathetic interest in his eye.

'Oh, you needn't look so knowing! I suppose you think this is a
love-letter? Well it's not. It is, since you appear to be interested, a
letter from my sister informing me that they will arrive to-night, and
that we will pull out for Riva by the first boat to-morrow morning. Not
that I want to leave you, Gustavo, but - Oh thunder!'

He finished the reading in a frowning silence while the waiter stood at
polite attention, a shade of anxiety in his eye - there was usually
anxiety in his eye when it rested on Jerymn Hilliard, Jr. One could never
foresee what the young man would call for next. Yesterday he had rung the
bell and demanded a partner to play lawn tennis, as if the hotel kept
partners laid away in drawers like so many sheets.

He crumpled up the letter and stuffed it in his pocket.

'I say, Gustavo, what do you think of this? They're going to stay in
Lucerne till the tenth - that's next week - and they hope I won't mind
waiting; it will be nice for me to have a rest. A _rest_, man, and I've
already spent three days in Valedolmo!'

'_Si_, signore, you will desire ze same room?' was as much as Gustavo
thought.

'Ze same room? Oh, I suppose so.'

He sank back into his chair and plunged his hands into his pockets with
an air of sombre resignation. The waiter hovered over him, divided
between a desire to return to his siesta, and a sympathetic interest in
the young man's troubles. Never before in the history of his connexion
with the Hotel du Lac had Gustavo experienced such a munificent,
companionable, expansive, entertaining, thoroughly unique and
inexplicable guest. Even the fact that he was American scarcely accounted
for everything.

The young man raised his head and eyed his companion gloomily.

'Gustavo, have you a sister?'

'A sister?' Gustavo's manner was uncomprehending but patient. '_Si_,
signore, I have eight sister.'

'Eight! Merciful saints. How do you manage to be so cheerful?'

'Tree is married, signore, one uvver is betrofed, one is in a convent,
one is dead, and two is babies.'

'I see - they're pretty well disposed of; but the babies will grow up,
Gustavo, and as for that betrothed one, I should still be a little
nervous if I were you; you can never be sure they are going to stay
betrothed. I hope she doesn't spend her time chasing over the map of
Europe making appointments with you to meet her in unheard of little
mountain villages where the only approach to Christian reading matter is
a Paris _Herald_ four days old, and then doesn't turn up to keep her
appointments?'

Gustavo blinked. His supple back achieved another bow.

'Sank you,' he murmured.

'And you don't happen to have an aunt?'

'An aunt, signore?' There was vagueness in his tone.

'Yes, Gustavo, an aunt. A female relative who reads you like an open
book, who sees your faults and skips your virtues, who remembers how
dear and good and obliging your father was at your age, who hoped great
things of you when you were a baby, who had intended to make you her heir
but has about decided to endow an orphan asylum - have you, Gustavo, by
chance an aunt?'

'_Si_, signore.'

'I do not think you grasp my question. An _aunt_ - the sister of your
father, or perhaps your mother.'

A gleam of illumination swept over Gustavo's troubled features.

'_Ecco_! You would know if I haf a _zia_ - a aunt - yes, zat is it. A aunt.
_Sicuramente_, signore, I haf ten - leven aunt.'

'Eleven aunts! Before such a tragedy I am speechless; you need say no
more, Gustavo, from this moment we are friends.'

He held out his hand. Gustavo regarded it dazedly; then, since it seemed
to be expected, he gingerly presented his own. The result was a shining
newly-minted two-lire piece. He pocketed it with a fresh succession of
bows.

'_Grazie tanto_! Has ze signore need of anysing?'

'Have I need of anysing?' There was reproach, indignation, disgust in the
young man's tone. 'How can you ask such a question, Gustavo? Here am I,
three days in Valedolmo, with seven more stretching before me. I have
plenty of towels and soap and soft-boiled eggs, if that is what you
mean; but a man's spirit cannot be nourished on soap and soft-boiled
eggs. What I need is food for the mind - diversion, distraction,
amusement - no, Gustavo, you needn't offer me the Paris _Herald_ again. I
already know by heart the list of guests in every hotel in Switzerland.'

'Ah, it is diversion zat you wish? Have you seen zat ver' beautiful Luini
in ze chapel of San Bartolomeo? It is four hundred years old.'

'Yes, Gustavo, I have seen the Luini in the chapel of San Bartolomeo. I
derived all the pleasure to be got out of it the first afternoon I came.'

'Ze garden of Prince Sartonio-Crevelli? Has ze signore seen ze cedar of
Lebanon in ze garden of ze prince?'

'Yes, Gustavo, the signore has seen the cedar of Lebanon in the garden of
the prince, also the ilex tree two hundred years old and the india-rubber
plant from South America. They are extremely beautiful, but they don't
last a week.'

'Have you swimmed in ze lake?'

'It is lukewarm, Gustavo.'

The waiter's eyes roved anxiously. They lighted on the lunette of
shimmering water and purple mountains visible at the farther end of the
arbour.

'Zere is ze view,' he suggested humbly. 'Ze view from ze water front is
consider ver' beautiful, ver' nice. Many foreigners come entirely for
him. You can see Lago di Garda, Monte Brione, Monte Baldo wif ze ruin
castle of ze Scaliger, Monte Maggiore, ze Altissimo di Nago, ze snow
cover peak of Monte - - '

Mr. Jerymn Hilliard, Jr., stopped him with a gesture.

'That will do; I read Baedeker myself, and I saw them all the first night
I came. You must know at your age, Gustavo, that a man can't enjoy a view
by himself; it takes two for that sort of thing. - Yes, the truth is that
I am lonely. You can see yourself to what straits I am pushed for
conversation. If I had your command of language, now, I would talk to the
German Alpine climbers.'

An idea flashed over Gustavo's features.

'Ah, zat is it! Why does not ze signore climb mountains? Ver' helful;
ver' diverting. I find guide.'

'You needn't bother. Your guide would be Italian, and it's too much of a
strain to talk to a man all day in dumb show.' He folded his arms with a
weary sigh. 'A week of Valedolmo! An eternity!'

Gustavo echoed the sigh. Though he did not entirely comprehend the
trouble, still he was of a generously sympathetic nature.

'It is a pity,' he observed casually, 'zat you are not acquaint wif ze
Signor Americano who lives in Villa Rosa. He also finds Valedolmo
undiverting. He comes - but often - to talk wif me. He has fear of
forgetting how to spik Angleesh, he says.'

The young man opened his eyes.

'What are you talking about - a Signor Americano here in Valedolmo?'

'_Sicuramente_, in zat rose-colour villa wif ze cypress trees and ze
_terrazzo_ on ze lake. His daughter, la Signorina Costantina, she live
wif him - ver' young, ver' beautiful' - Gustavo rolled his eyes and clasped
his hands - 'beautiful like ze angels in Paradise - and she spik Italia
like I spik Angleesh.'

Jerymn Hilliard, Jr., unfolded his arms and sat up alertly.

'You mean to tell me that you had an American family up your sleeve all
this time and never said a word about it?' His tone was stern.

'_Scusi_, signore, I have not known zat you have ze plaisir of zer
acquaintance.'

'The pleasure of their acquaintance! Good heavens, Gustavo, when one
shipwrecked man meets another shipwrecked man on a desert island must
they be introduced before they can speak?'

'_Si_, signore.'

'And why, may I ask, should an intelligent American family be living in
Valedolmo?'

'I do not know, signore. I have heard ze Signor Papa's healf was no good,
and ze doctors in Americk' zay say to heem, "You need change, to breave
ze beautiful climate of Italia." And he say, "All right, I go to
Valedolmo." It is small, signore, but ver' _famosa_. Oh, yes, _molto
famosa_. In ze autumn and ze spring foreigners come from all ze
world - Angleesh, French, German - _tutti_! Ze Hotel du Lac is full. Every
day we turn peoples away.'

'So! I seem to have struck the wrong season. - But about this American
family, what's their name?'

'La familia Veeldair from Nuovo York.'

'Veeldair.' He shook his head. 'That's not American, Gustavo, at least
when you say it. But never mind, if they come from New York it's all
right. How many are there - just two?'

'But no! Ze papa and ze signorina and ze - ze - ' he rolled his eyes in
search of the word - 'ze aunt!'

'Another aunt! The sky appears to be raining aunts to-day. What does she
do for amusement - the signorina who is beautiful as the angels?'

Gustavo spread out his hands.

'Valedolmo, signore, is on ze frontier. It is - what you say - garrison
_città_. Many soldiers, many officers - captains, lieutenants, wif
uniforms and swords. Zay take tea on ze _terrazzo_ wif ze Signor Papa and
ze Signora Aunt, and most _specialmente_ wif ze Signorina Costantina. Ze
Signor Papa say he come for his healf, but if you ask me, I sink maybe he
come to marry his daughter.'

'I see! And yet, Gustavo, American papas are generally not so keen as you
might suppose about marrying their daughters to foreign captains and
lieutenants even if they have got uniforms and swords. I shouldn't be
surprised if the Signor Papa were just a little nervous over the
situation. It seems to me there might be an opening for a likely young
fellow speaking the English language, even if he hasn't a uniform and
sword. How does he strike you?'

'_Si_, signore.'

'I'm glad you agree with me. It is now five minutes past four; do you
think the American family would be taking a siesta?'

'I do not know, signore.' Gustavo's tone was still patient.

'And whereabouts is the rose-coloured villa with the terrace on the
lake?'

'It is a quarter of a hour beyond ze Porta Sant' Antonio. If ze gate is
shut you ring at ze bell and Giuseppe will open. But ze road is ver' hot
and ver' dusty. It is more cooler to take ze paf by ze lake. Straight to
ze left for ten minutes and step over ze wall; it is broken in zat place
and quite easy.'

'Thank you, that is a wise suggestion; I shall step over the wall by all
means.' He jumped to his feet and looked about for his hat. 'You turn to
the left and straight ahead for ten minutes? Good-bye then till dinner.
I go in search of the Signorina Costantina who is beautiful as the angels
in Paradise, and who lives in a rose-coloured villa set in a cypress
grove on the shores of Lake Garda - not a bad setting for romance, is it,
Gustavo? - Dinner, I believe, is at seven o'clock?'

'_Si_, signore, at seven; and would you like veal cooked Milanese
fashion?'

'Nothing would please me more. We have only had veal Milanese fashion
five times since I came.'

He waved his hand jauntily and strolled whistling down the arbour that
led to the lake. Gustavo looked after him and shook his head. Then he
took out the two-lire piece and rang it on the table. The metal rang
true. He shrugged his shoulders and turned back indoors to order the
veal.




CHAPTER II


The terrace of Villa Rosa juts out into the lake, bordered on three sides
by a stone parapet, and shaded above by a yellow-ochre awning. Masses of
oleanders hang over the wall and drop pink petals into the blue waters
below. As a study in colour the terrace is perfect, but, like the
courtyard of the Hotel du Lac, decidedly too hot for mid-afternoon. To
the right of the terrace, however, is a shady garden set in alleys of
cypress trees, and separated from the lake by a strip of beach and a low
balustrade. There could be no better resting-place for a warm afternoon.

It was close upon four - five minutes past to be accurate - and the usual
afternoon quiet that enveloped the garden had fled before the garrulous
advent of four girls. Three of them, with black eyes and blacker hair,
were kneeling on the beach thumping and scrubbing a pile of linen. In
spite of their chatter they were working busily, and the grass beyond the
water-wall was already white with bleaching sheets, while a lace-trimmed
petticoat fluttered from a near-by oleander, and rows of silk stockings
stretched the length of the parapet. The most undeductive observer would
have guessed by this time that the pink villa, visible through the trees,
contained no such modern conveniences as stationary tubs.

The fourth girl, with grey eyes and yellow-brown hair, was sitting at
ease on the balustrade, fanning herself with a wide-brimmed hat and
dangling her feet, clad in white tennis shoes, over the edge. She wore a
suit of white linen cut sailor fashion, low at the throat and with
sleeves rolled to the elbows. She looked very cool and comfortable and
free as she talked, with the utmost friendliness, to the three girls
below. Her Italian, to an unaccustomed ear, was exactly as glib as
theirs.

The washer-girls were dressed in the gayest of peasant clothes - green and
scarlet petticoats, flowered kerchiefs, coral beads and flashing
earrings; you would have to go far into the hills in these degenerate
days before meeting their match on an Italian highway. But the girl on
the wall, who was actual if not titular ruler of the domain of Villa
Rosa, possessed a keen eye for effect; and - she plausibly argued - since
one must have washer-women about, why not, in the name of all that is
beautiful, have them in harmony with tradition and the landscape?
Accordingly, she designed and purchased their costumes herself.

There drifted presently into sight from around the little promontory that
hid the village a blue and white boat with yellow lateen sails. She was
propelled gondolier fashion, for the wind was a mere breath, by a
picturesque youth in a suit of dark blue with white sash and flaring
collar - the hand of the girl on the wall was here visible also.

The boat fluttering in toward shore, looked like a giant butterfly; and
her name, emblazoned in gold on her prow, was, appropriately, the
_Farfalla_. Earlier in the season, with a green hull and a dingy brown
sail, she had been, prosaically enough, the _Maria_. But since the advent
of the girl all this had been changed. The _Farfalla_ dropped her yellow
wings with the air of a salute, and lighted at the foot of the
water-steps under the terrace. The girl on the parapet leaned forward
eagerly.

'Did you get any mail, Giuseppe?' she called.

'_Si_, signorina.' He scrambled up the steps and presented a copy of the
London _Times_.

She received it with a shrug. Clearly, she felt little interest in the
London _Times_. Giuseppe took himself back to his boat and commenced
fussing about its fittings, dusting the seats, plumping up the cushions,
with an air of absorption which deceived nobody. The signorina watched
him a moment with amused comprehension, then she called peremptorily -

'Giuseppe, you know you must spade the garden border.'

Poor Giuseppe, in spite of his nautical costume, was man of all work. He
glanced dismally toward the garden border which lay basking in the
sunshine under the wall that divided Villa Rosa from the rest of the
world. It contained every known flower which blossoms in July in the
kingdom of Italy, from camellias and hydrangeas to heliotrope and
wall-flowers. Its spading was a complicated business and it lay too far
off to permit of conversation. Giuseppe was not only a lazy, but also a
social soul.

'Signorina,' he suggested, 'would you not like a sail?'

She shook her head. 'There is not wind enough and it is too hot and too
sunny.'

'But yes, there's a wind, and cool - when you get out on the lake. I will
put up the awning, signorina, the sun shall not touch you.'

She continued to shake her head and her eyes wandered suggestively to the
hydrangeas, but Giuseppe still made a feint of preoccupation. Not being a
cruel mistress, she dropped the subject, and turned back to her
conversation with the washer-girls. They were discussing - a pleasant
topic for a sultry summer afternoon - the probable content of Paradise.
The three girls were of the opinion that it was made up of warm sunshine
and cool shade, of flowers and singing birds and sparkling waters, of
blue skies and cloud-capped mountains - not unlike, it will be observed,
the very scene which at the moment stretched before them. In so much they
were all agreed, but there were several debatable points. Whether the
stones were made of gold, and whether the houses were not gold too, and,
that being the case, whether it would not hurt your eyes to look at them.
Marietta declared, blasphemously, as the others thought, that she
preferred a simple grey stone villa or at most one of pink stucco, to all
the golden edifices that Paradise contained.

It was by now fifteen minutes past four, and a spectator had arrived,
though none of the five were aware of his presence. The spectator was
standing on the wall above the garden border examining with appreciation
the idyllic scene below him, and with most particular appreciation, the
dainty white-clad person of the girl on the balustrade. He was
wondering - anxiously - how he might make his presence known. For no very
tangible reason he had suddenly become conscious that the matter would be
easier if he carried in his pocket a letter of introduction. The purlieus
of Villa Rosa in no wise resembled a desert island; and in the face of
that very fluent Italian, the suspicion was forcing itself upon him that,
after all, the mere fact of a common country was not a sufficient bond of
union. He had definitely decided to withdraw, when the matter was taken
from his hands.

The wall - as Gustavo had pointed out - was broken; it was owing to this
fact that he had been so easily able to climb it. Now, as he stealthily
turned, preparing to re-descend in the direction whence he had come, the
loose stone beneath his foot slipped and he slipped with it. Five
startled pairs of eyes were turned in his direction. What they saw, was a
young man in flannels suddenly throw up his arms, slide into an azalea
bush, from this to the balustrade, and finally land on all fours on the
narrow strip of beach, a shower of pink petals and crumbling masonry
falling about him. A momentary silence followed; then the washer-girls,
making sure that he was not injured, broke into a shrill chorus of
laughter, while the _Farfalla_ rocked under impact of Giuseppe's mirth.
The girl on the wall alone remained grave.

The young man picked himself up, restored his guide-book to his pocket,
and blushingly stepped forward, hat in hand, to make an apology. One knee
bore a splash of mud, and his tumbled hair was sprinkled with azalea
blossoms.

'I beg your pardon,' he stammered, 'I didn't mean to come so suddenly;
I'm afraid I broke your wall.'

The girl dismissed the matter with a polite gesture.

'It was already broken,' and then she waited with an air of grave
attention until he should state his errand.

'I - I came - - ' He paused and glanced about vaguely; he could not at the
moment think of any adequate reason to account for his coming.

'Yes?' Her eyes studied him with what appeared at once a cool and an
amused scrutiny. He felt himself growing red beneath it.

'Can I do anything for you?' she prompted with the kind of desire of
putting him at his ease.

'Thank you - - ' He grasped at the first idea that presented itself. 'I'm
stopping at the Hotel du Lac, and Gustavo, you know, told me there was a
villa somewhere around here that belongs to Prince Someone or Other. If
you ring at the gate and give the gardener two francs and a visiting
card, he will let you walk around and look at the trees.'

'I see!' said the girl, 'and so now you are looking for the gate?' Her
tone suggested that she suspected him of trying to avoid both it and the
two francs. 'Prince Sartorio-Crevelli's villa is about half a mile
farther on.'

'Ah, thank you,' he bowed a second time, and then added out of the
desperate need of saying something, 'There's a cedar of Lebanon in it and
an india-rubber plant from South America.'

'Indeed!'

She continued to observe him with polite interest, though she made no
move to carry on the conversation.

'You - are an American?' he asked at length.

'Oh, yes,' she agreed easily. 'Gustavo knows that.'

He shifted his weight.

'I am an American too,' he observed.

'Really?' The girl leaned forward and examined him more closely, an
innocent, candid, wholly detached look in her eyes. 'From your appearance
I should have said you were German - most of the foreigners who visit
Valedolmo are German.'

'Well, I'm not,' he said shortly. 'I'm American.'

'It is a pity my father is not at home,' she returned, '_he_ enjoys
meeting Americans.'

A gleam of anger replaced the embarrassment in the young man's eyes. He
glanced about for a dignified means of escape; they had him pretty well
penned in. Unless he wished to reclimb the wall - and he did not - he must
go by the terrace, which retreat was cut off by the washer-women, or by
the parapet, already occupied by the girl in white and the washing. He
turned abruptly and his elbow brushed a stocking to the ground.

He stooped to pick it up and then he blushed still a shade deeper.

'This is washing day,' observed the girl with a note of apology. She rose
to her feet and stood on the top of the parapet while she beckoned to
Giuseppe, then she turned and looked down upon the young man with an
expression of frank amusement. 'I hope you will enjoy the cedar of
Lebanon and the india-rubber tree. Good afternoon.'

She jumped to the ground and crossed to the water-steps, where Giuseppe,
with a radiant smile, was steadying the boat against the landing. She
settled herself comfortably among the cushions and then for a moment
glanced back towards shore.

'You would better go out by the gate,' she called. 'The wall on the
farther side is harder to climb than the one you came in by; and
besides, it has broken glass on the top.'

Giuseppe raised the yellow sail and the _Farfalla_, with a graceful dip,


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