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List Of Contents | Contents of Nisida, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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of his lungs.  The young girl, called suddenly from her meditations
by the appearance of this strange person, raised herself sharply and
prepared to close the shutters.

"Stay, charming Nisida!" cried the prince, in the manner of a man
overcome by irresistible passion.

"What do you want with me, signor?" answered the maiden, amazed to
hear herself called by name.

"To adore you as a Madonna is adored, and to make you aware of my
sighs."

Nisida looked at him steadily, and, after a moment or two of
reflection, asked suddenly, as though in response to some secret
thought, "Do you belong to this country, or are you a foreigner?"

"I arrived in this island," replied the prince without hesitation,
"at the moment when the sun was writing his farewell to the earth and
dipping the rays that serves as his pen into the shadow that serves
as his inkstand."

"And who are you?" returned the young girl, not at all understanding
these strange words.

"Alas!  I am but a poor student, but I may become a great poet like
Tasso, whose verses you often hear sung by a departing fisherman who
sends his thrilling music as a last farewell that returns to die on
the beach."

"I do not know whether I am doing wrong to speak to you, but at least
I will be frank with you," said Nisida, blushing; "I have the
misfortune to be the richest girl on the island."

"Your father will not be inexorable," returned the prince ardently;
"one word from you, light of my eyes, goddess of my heart, and I will
work night and day, never pausing nor slackening, and will render.
myself worthy to possess the treasure that God has revealed to my
dazzled eyes, and, from being poor and obscure as you see me, I will
become rich and powerful."

"I have stayed too long listening to talk that a maiden should not
hear; permit me, signor, to withdraw."

"Have pity on me, my cruel enemy!  What have I done to you that you
should thus leave me with death in my soul?  You do not know that,
for months past, I have been following you everywhere like a shadow,
that I prowl round your home at night, stifling my sighs lest they
should disturb your peaceful slumber.  You are afraid, perhaps, to
let yourself be touched, at a first meeting, by a poor wretch who
adores you.  Alas!  Juliet was young and beautiful like you, and she
did not need many entreaties to take pity on Romeo."

Nisida suffered a sad and thoughtful look to fall upon this handsome
young man who spoke to her in so gentle a voice, and withdrew without
further reply, that she might not humiliate his poverty.

The prince made great efforts to suppress a strong inclination
towards laughter, and, very well satisfied with this opening, turned
his steps towards the spot where he had left his servant.  Trespolo,
after having emptied a bottle of lacryma with which he had provided
himself for any emergency, had looked long around him to choose a
spot where the grass was especially high and thick, and had laid
himself down to a sound sleep, murmuring as he did so, this sublime
observation, "O laziness, but for the sin of Adam you would be a
virtue!"

The young girl could not close her eyes during the whole night after
the conversation that she had held with the stranger.  His sudden
appearance, his strange dress and odd speech, had awakened in her an
uncertain feeling that had been lying asleep in the bottom of her
heart.  She was at this time in all the vigour of her youth and of
her resplendent beauty.  Nisida was not one of the weak and timid
natures that are broken by suffering or domineered over by tyranny.
Far otherwise: everything around her had contributed towards shaping
for her a calm and serene destiny; her simple, tender soul had
unfolded in an atmosphere of peace and happiness.  If she had not
hitherto loved, it was the fault, not of her coldness but of the
extreme timidity shown by the inhabitants of her island.  The blind
depth of respect that surrounded the old fisherman had drawn around
his daughter a barrier of esteem and submission that no one dared to
cross.  By means of thrift and labour Solomon had succeeded in
creating for himself a prosperity that put the poverty of the other
fishermen to the blush.  No one had asked for Nisida because no one
thought he deserved her.  The only admirer who had dared to show his
passion openly was Bastiano, the most devoted and dearest friend of
Gabriel; but Bastiano did not please her.  So, trusting in her
beauty, upheld by the mysterious hope that never deserts youth, she
had resigned herself to wait, like some princess who knows that her
betrothed will come from a far country.

On the day of the Assumption she had left her island for the first
time in her life, chance having chosen her among the maidens of the
kingdom vowed by their mothers to the special protection of the
Virgin.  But, overwhelmed by the weight of a position so new to her,
blushing and confused under the eyes of an immense crowd, she had
scarcely dared to raise her wondering looks, and the splendours of
the town had passed before her like a dream, leaving but a vague
remembrance.

When she perceived the presence of this handsome young man, so
slenderly and elegantly built, whose noble and calm demeanour
contrasted with the timidity and awkwardness of her other admirers,
she felt herself inwardly disturbed, and no doubt she would have
believed that her prince had come, if she had been unpleasantly
struck by the poverty of his dress.  She had, nevertheless, allowed
herself to listen to him longer than she ought to have done, and she
drew back with her bosom heavy, her cheek on fire, and her heart rent
by an ache that was both dull and sharp.

"If my father does not wish me to marry him," she said to herself,
tormented by the first remorseful feeling of her life.  "I shall have
done wrong to speak to him.  And yet he is so handsome!"

Then she knelt before the Virgin, who was her only confidante, the
poor child having never known her mother, and tried to tell her the
torments of her soul; but she could not achieve her prayer.  The
thoughts became entangled within her brain, and she surprised herself
uttering strange words.  But, assuredly, the Holy Virgin must have
taken pity upon her lovely devotee, for she rose with the impression
of a consoling thought, resolved to confide everything to her father.

"I cannot have a moment's doubt," she said to herself, as she unlaced
her bodice, "of my father's affection.  Well, then, if he forbids me
to speak to him, it will be for my good.  And indeed, I have seen him
but this once," she added, as she threw herself upon the bed, "and
now I think of it, I consider him very bold to dare to speak to me.
I am almost inclined to laugh at him.  How confidently he brought out
his nonsense, how absurdly he rolled his eyes!  They are really very
fine, those eyes of his, and so is his mouth, and his forehead and
his hair.  He does not suspect that I noticed his hands, which are
really very white, when he raised them to heaven, like a madman, as
he walked up and down by the sea.  Come, come, is he going to prevent
my sleeping?  I will not see him again!" she cried, drawing the sheet
over her head like an angry child.  Then she began to laugh to
herself over her lover's dress, and meditated long upon what her
companions would say to it.  Suddenly her brow contracted painfully,
a frightful thought had stolen into her mind, she shuddered from head
to foot.  "Suppose he were to think someone else prettier than me?
Men are so foolish!  Certainly, it is too hot, and I shall not sleep
to-night."

Then she sat up in her bed, and continued her monologue--which we
will spare the reader--till the morning.  Scarcely had the first rays
of light filtered through the interlacing branches of jasmine and
wavered into the room, when Nisida dressed herself hurriedly, and
went as usual to present her forehead to her father's kiss.  The old
man at once observed the depression and weariness left by a sleepless
night upon his daughter's face, and parting with an eager and anxious
hand the beautiful black hair that fell over her cheeks, he asked
her, "What is the matter, my child?  Thou hast not slept well?"

"I have not slept at all," answered Nisida, smiling, to reassure her
father; "I am perfectly well, but I have something to confess to
you."

"Speak quickly, child; I am dying with impatience."

"Perhaps I have done wrong; but I want you to promise beforehand not
to scold me."

"You know very well that I spoil you," said the old man, with a
caress; "I shall not begin to be stern to-day."

"A young man who does not belong to this island, and whose name I do
not know, spoke to me yesterday evening when I was taking the air at
my window."

"And what was he so eager to say to you, my dear Nisida?"

"He begged me to speak to you in his favour."

"I am listening.  What can I do for him?"

"Order me to marry him."

"And should you obey willingly?"

"I think so, father," the girl candidly replied.  "As to other
things, you yourself must judge in your wisdom; for I wanted to speak
to you before coming to know him, so as not to go on with a
conversation that you might not approve.  But there is a hindrance."

"You know that I do not recognise any when it is a question of making
my daughter happy."

"He is poor, father."

"Well, all the more reason for me to like him.  There is work here
for everybody, and my table can spare a place for another son.  He is
young, he has arms; no doubt he has some calling."

"He is a poet."

"No matter; tell him to come and speak to me, and if he is an honest
lad, I promise you, my child, that I will do anything in the world to
promote your happiness."

Nisida embraced her father effusively, and was beside herself with
joy all day, waiting impatiently for the evening in order to give the
young man such splendid news.  Eligi Brancaleone was but moderately
flattered, as you will easily believe, by the fisherman's magnanimous
intentions towards him; but like the finished seducer that he was, he
appeared enchanted at them.  Recollecting his character as a

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