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Chapter 3
 The last chapter has given the discerning reader sufficient insight into the state of things at Cheverel Manor1 in the summer of 1788. In that summer, we know, the great nation of France was agitated2 by conflicting thoughts and passions, which were but the beginning of sorrows. And in our Caterina’s little breast, too, there were terrible struggles. The poor bird was beginning to flutter and vainly dash its soft breast against the hard iron bars of the inevitable3, and we see too plainly the danger, if that anguish4 should go on heightening instead of being allayed5, that the palpitating heart may be fatally bruised6.  
Meanwhile, if, as I hope, you feel some interest in Caterina and her friends at Cheverel Manor, you are perhaps asking, How came she to be there? How was it that this tiny, dark-eyed child of the south, whose face was immediately suggestive of olive-covered hills and taper-lit shrines8, came to have her home in that stately English manor-house, by the side of the blonde matron, Lady Cheverel—almost as if a humming-bird were found perched on one of the elm-trees in the park, by the side of her ladyship’s handsomest pouter-pigeon? Speaking good English, too, and joining in Protestant prayers! Surely she must have been adopted and brought over to England at a very early age. She was.
During Sir Christopher’s last visit to Italy with his lady, fifteen years before, they resided for some time at Milan, where Sir Christopher, who was an enthusiast9 for Gothic architecture, and was then entertaining the project of metamorphosing his plain brick family mansion10 into the model of a Gothic manor-house, was bent11 on studying the details of that marble miracle, the Cathedral. Here Lady Cheverel, as at other Italian cities where she made any protracted12 stay, engaged a maestro to give her lessons in singing, for she had then not only fine musical taste, but a fine soprano voice. Those were days when very rich people used manuscript music, and many a man who resembled Jean Jacques in nothing else, resembled him in getting a livelihood13 ‘à copier la musique à tant la page’. Lady Cheverel having need of this service, Maestro Albani told her he would send her a poveraccio of his acquaintance, whose manuscript was the neatest and most correct he knew of. Unhappily, the poveraccio was not always in his best wits, and was sometimes rather slow in consequence; but it would be a work of Christian14 charity worthy15 of the beautiful Signora to employ poor Sarti.
The next morning, Mrs. Sharp, then a blooming abigail of three-and-thirty, entered her lady’s private room and said, ‘If you please, my lady, there’s the frowsiest, shabbiest man you ever saw, outside, and he’s told Mr. Warren as the singing-master sent him to see your ladyship. But I think you’ll hardly like him to come in here. Belike he’s only a beggar.’
‘O yes, show him in immediately.’
Mrs. Sharp retired16, muttering something about ‘fleas and worse’. She had the smallest possible admiration17 for fair Ausonia and its natives, and even her profound deference18 for Sir Christopher and her lady could not prevent her from expressing her amazement19 at the infatuation of gentlefolks in choosing to sojourn20 among ‘Papises, in countries where there was no getting to air a bit o’ linen21, and where the people smelt22 o’ garlick fit to knock you down.’
However she presently reappeared, ushering23 in a small meagre man, sallow and dingy24, with a restless wandering look in his dull eyes, and an excessive timidity about his deep reverences25, which gave him the air of a man who had been long a solitary26 prisoner. Yet through all this squalor and wretchedness there were some traces discernible of comparative youth and former good looks. Lady Cheverel, though not very tender-hearted, still less sentimental27, was essentially28 kind, and liked to dispense29 benefits like a goddess, who looks down benignly30 on the halt, the maimed, and the blind that approach her shrine7. She was smitten31 with some compassion32 at the sight of poor Sarti, who struck her as the mere33 battered34 wreck35 of a vessel36 that might have once floated gaily37 enough on its outward voyage to the sound of pipes and tabors. She spoke38 gently as she pointed39 out to him the operatic selections she wished him to copy, and he seemed to sun himself in her auburn, radiant presence, so that when he made his exit with the music-books under his arm, his bow, though not less reverent40, was less timid.
It was ten years at least since Sarti had seen anything so bright and stately and beautiful as Lady Cheverel. For the time was far off in which he had trod the stage in satin and feathers, the primo tenore of one short season. He had completely lost his voice in the following winter, and had ever since been little better than a cracked fiddle41, which is good for nothing but firewood. For, like many Italian singers, he was too ignorant to teach, and if it had not been for his one talent of penmanship, he and his young helpless wife might have starved. Then, just after their third child was born, fever came, swept away the sickly mother and the two eldest42 children, and attacked Sarti himself, who rose from his sick-bed with enfeebled brain and muscle, and a tiny baby on his hands, scarcely four months old. He lodged43 over a fruit-shop kept by a stout44 virago45, loud of tongue and irate46 in temper, but who had had children born to her, and so had taken care of the tiny yellow, black-eyed bambinetto, and tended Sarti himself through his sickness. Here he continued to live, earning a meagre subsistence for himself and his little one by the work of copying music, put into his hands chiefly by Maes............
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