I really enjoyed this novel and thought others might too. If you’re into writing, it’s a clinic on character voice and show don’t tell. If you’re not, it’s still an engaging story with likeable characters, told with humour. And I guarantee it's clean.
What happens when 18-year-old Jane Jones leaves her small town in Pennsylvania to travel to Florence to study with a master piano teacher?
Project Gutenberg information can be found at the end of the final chapter or online at www.gutenberg.org
HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC.
CHAPTER ONE - APPREHENSIONS
As I look back through my experience of eighteen years, I realize that many of my apprehensions have been foolish, because so many of the things that I dreaded turned out all right. Almost every one of the parties I thought would be stiff - and I am not very happy at the sort! - proved to be the kind where everyone grew lively. I remember one that Elaine McDonald had, particularly, because I had said to mother, “I don’t want to go. They’ll all wear gloves and it will be miserable!” But I did go, and they had a Paul Jones that was so rough that they broke a chair and knocked over a table, and it was fine!
While, on the other hand, there have been parties that I thought would be nice and informal, and we just went and sat in one place and talked, and at that sort I smile until my face feels as if it were covered with shellac, because I don’t feel like smiling at all.
And this all shows - or it should, because I am trying to make it - that I never should take my apprehensions seriously. But I seem to have to, and I always do, and so I felt as if I had real reason for misery, when Mrs. Hamilton, who had looked after me as I crossed the Atlantic upon the Steamship Carpatia, called me back into the stateroom and said, “By the way, child, I am not going to Florence, after all.”
Well, I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, which is what I often do while waiting.
“But,” she went on, as she fussed with the little jars that contribute quite a lot toward her beauty, “I shall hunt up someone who is, and see that you are looked after.”
“Thank you,” I said, and then I went back to the foot I had originally been standing on.
“My friends, the Wiltons, want me to go to Mentone with them,” she stated as she picked up a little brush she has for her eyebrows and began to use it, “and their plans sound rather jolly, and so I’ve taken them up. I’m really sorry not to see you entirely settled, but there’ll be someone on board who is going up, no doubt.”
“I suppose so,” I answered in a flat tone that I use while miserable. Then I wondered what in the world would happen if there was no one on board who was headed for Florence, because the only Italian I knew was, “La luna bella,” which is “The beautiful moon,” and I didn’t see what that would do on a railroad train, and especially since I was going to travel by day.
“How do you say Florence in Italian?” I asked, after I changed feet again.
“Firenze,” Mrs. Hamilton responded, as she powdered the back of her hands, “and don’t worry, we’ll surely locate someone who will care for you.”
But that only half cheered me, because I had been but a day out of Boston when I realized that Mrs. Hamilton is like a lot of people who talk a good deal. She is a good promiser, and she promises so much that she can’t do a third of all she intends to. Really the only thing she did do that she had forecast doing, was getting seasick, and she, herself, didn’t entirely cause that. A couple of days of rough weather helped her.
However, to go back, I blamed her unjustly this time, for while I was idling around the deck after dinner, wishing that I had nothing on my mind to keep me from enjoying the salt tang in the air, and the pretty phosphorescent, silver lights that gleam in the water where the prow of the boat cuts it, she came toward me, and said she had found someone who would help me reach Florence safely.
“A Mr. Terrance Wake,” she said, “probably you’ve never heard of him, but he is rather noted. Writes on art, all that sort of thing, and has a perfect love of a villa near Florence. He says he’ll he delighted to be of any service to you.”
“Well, if he’ll just let me follow him, it’ll be all right,” I answered, and Mrs. Hamilton laughed.
“Funny child,” she said, and then, “I must go in; I was dummy. I’ll present Mr. Wake in the morning.”
After that she vanished in one of the bright-lit doorways from which came the energetic voices of people who were fondly telling each other that they had played the wrong card, and again I was alone. I felt better and I could breathe with more ease. Before she came I had felt as if my lungs were a size too small for my breath. Being anxious always makes me feel that way. And I walked around the deck I had learned so well, speaking to people as I passed them, exchanging plans, and promising to send postcards.
I was awake when Mrs. Hamilton came down to go to bed, which was unusual for me, for insomnia is not one of my troubles, and I sat up in the berth to talk.
“What’s Mr. Wake like?” I asked, as I leaned out and looked down.
“Fascinating man,” she responded, “but fearfully indifferent!”
“Does he smoke?” I asked, for I had begun to get anxious again, and I had actually supposed up a bad awake-dream that had to do with his going off to smoke, and the train being broken up, and my being left in a strange country with nothing to help me but a remark about the moon.
“I don’t know, Jane,” Mrs. Hamilton answered, with an easy little laugh. Then she added the “Funny child!” she says at me so often, and I lay back and stared up at the ceiling again.
“You won’t forget to introduce us, will you?” I asked, as she switched off the lights.
“Ho hum,” she yawned, deeply. “No, dear, certainly not! Now go to sleep, for you’ll have lots that’s new to see to-morrow. ’Night.”
“Goodnight,” I answered. But I couldn’t take her advice about sleep, and in the dark I lay wide eyed, and half unhappy, which is, I suppose, silly to confess. But I had never met a strange country before; in fact, I had never been anywhere much before, and the whole experience was almost overpowering. And it was only after quite an hour of wakefulness that my eyes grew heavy and I began to dream.
When I woke up it was morning, a bright, sunny, warm morning, and there were voices outside which called in a way that was new to me; there were songs in the calls, even when they were angry. And the ship was still, so I knew that we must be in the harbor at Genoa.
Because I was green - and still am and always will be! - I went down to the bathroom, and ran a tub full of water, and then decided not to bathe, for no one but a mud turtle could have bathed in that sort of water! It came right out of the harbor! And so I contented myself with the washbowl instead - the water from that was all right - and then went back to my stateroom; dressed, closed my steamer trunk and my bag, and hurried in to breakfast.
I found Mrs. Hamilton finishing hers, and she pointed out Mr. Wake to me. He sat at the Captain’s table, and there was a beautiful woman devoting herself in the most unselfish way to talking to him, and he ate all the time she did it, and only nodded! I felt certain then that my day would be a silent one! However, that didn’t worry me.
“Marvelous man,” Mrs. Hamilton sort of breathed out in a way she does.
“He certainly can eat oatmeal,” I answered, because that was the only thing I noticed about him. Mrs. Hamilton laughed - she does a great deal - and turned to tell a young man with a funny little mustache what I had said, and he laughed. Then Mrs. Hamilton got up, and hurried off, and I finished my breakfast.
As I left the dining saloon, I heard her hail me, and I found that she had actually come back to see that I met Mr. Wake.
“Mr. Wake!” she called, as he came toward us, “here is my little charge.” Then she laughed, but he didn’t laugh. He didn’t even smile, he just bowed from the waistline in a manner that was very impressive, and yet chilling.
“And it is Miss Jones, whom I am to look out for?” he asked, in a sort of bored way.
“Jane,” I answered. “I should think you could call me Jane, because you are so much older than I am.”
And then he did laugh.
“Bully,” he said, “I will! And look here, Jane, I say, you won’t talk Art to me, will you? Or quote my books?”
“I didn’t know you wrote any until last night,” I answered, seriously, and again he laughed. I laughed too, but just to be sociable, because I didn’t see the joke.
“We’ll have a fine day!” he said in the kindest and most enthusiastic manner, and I felt that we would too, but neither of us had any idea of how fine it would be, nor of all the many, many happy happenings it was to preface!