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The priest pursed up his mouth contemptuously. "In the second place, this same good-for-nothing fellow had the impertinence to fall in love with Nanina." Father Rocco started, and listened eagerly. "But I must do the girl the justice to say that she never gave him the slightest encouragement; and that, whenever he ventured to speak to her, she always quietly but very decidedly repelled him."

This circumstance was duly reported to Father Rocco by his correspondent at Florence; but, whether he was too much occupied among the statues, or whether it was one result of his cautious resolution never to expose himself unnecessarily to so much as the breath of detraction, he made no attempt to see Nanina, or even to justify himself toward her by writing her a letter.

Nanina promised compliance; but she spoke rather absently, and seemed scarcely conscious of the kind familiarity which marked the doctor's manner. The truth was, that all her thoughts were occupied with what he had been saying by Fabio's bedside. She had not lost one word of the conversation while the doctor was talking of his patient, and of the conditions on which his recovery depended.

The same day on which Fabio came back to the studio, he returned to it. Beyond boldly declaring that he thought Nanina had done quite right, and had acted like a good and virtuous girl, he would say nothing about her or her disappearance. It was quite useless to ask him questions he denied that any one had a right to put them.

As for any communications with his polite little friend from Florence, they had ceased months ago. The information speedily conveyed to him that Nanina was in the service of one of the most respectable ladies in the city seemed to relieve any anxieties which he might otherwise have felt on her account.

Visitors called at the studio, but were always sent away again by the disappointing announcement that there was nothing new to show them. So the days passed on until Nanina left her situation and returned to Pisa.

He looked again at the glass, and saw Fabio, after an instant of hesitation, beckon to Nanina to approach him. She left her seat, advanced half-way to his, then stopped. He stepped forward to meet her, and, taking her by the hand, whispered earnestly in her ear.

He was dusting his favorite busts and statues, after his long absence, with a feather-brush when she came in; and he continued this occupation all the while he was talking urging a fresh plea to induce Nanina to reconsider her refusal to sit at every fresh piece of sculpture he came to, and always receiving the same resolute apology from her as she slowly followed him down the studio toward the door.

She flew to the room in which the sick-nurse slept, and awoke her, almost roughly, in an instant. "He is ill!" she cried, breathlessly. "Oh, make haste, make haste! He is ill, and he has sent for you!" Marta inquired who had sent for her, and on being informed, promised to lose no time. Nanina ran downstairs to tell the servant that the sick-nurse was getting on her clothes.

In his present state of suspense, any occupation was better than sitting idle. So he took up the letter with a sigh, broke the seal, and turned inquiringly to the name signed at the end. It was "NANINA." He started, and changed color. "A letter from her," he whispered to himself. "Why does it come at such a time as this?" His face grew paler, and the letter trembled in his fingers.