39. CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE
Valrosa well deserved its name, for in that climate of perpetual
summer roses blossomed everywhere. They overhung the
archway, thrust themselves between the bars of the great gate
with a sweet welcome to passers-by, and lined the avenue, winding
through lemon trees and feathery palms up to the villa on the hill.
Every shadowy nook, where seats invited one to stop and rest, was
a mass of bloom, every cool grotto had its marble nymph smiling
from a veil of flowers and every fountain reflected crimson, white,
or pale pink roses, leaning down to smile at their own beauty.
Roses covered the walls of the house, draped the cornices, climbed
the pillars, and ran riot over the balustrade of the wide terrace,
whence one looked down on the sunny Mediterranean, and the white-walled
city on its shore.
"This is a regular honeymoon paradise, isn't it? Did you
ever see such roses?" asked Amy, pausing on the terrace to enjoy
the view, and a luxurious whiff of perfume that came wandering by.
"No, nor felt such thorns," returned Laurie, with his thumb
in his mouth, after a vain attempt to capture a solitary scarlet
flower that grew just beyond his reach.
"Try lower down, and pick those that have no thorns," said
Amy, gathering three of the tiny cream-colored ones that starred
the wall behind her. She put them in his buttonhole as a peace
offering, and he stood a minute looking down at them with a
curious expression, for in the Italian part of his nature there
was a touch of superstition, and he was just then in that state
of half-sweet, half-bitter melancholy, when imaginative young
men find significance in trifles and food for romance everywhere.
He had thought of Jo in reaching after the thorny red rose, for
vivid flowers became her, and she had often worn ones like that
from the greenhouse at home. The pale roses Amy gave him were
the sort that the Italians lay in dead hands, never in bridal
wreaths, and for a moment he wondered if the omen was for Jo or
for himself, but the next instant his American common sense got
the better of sentimentality, and he laughed a heartier laugh
than Amy had heard since he came.
"It's good advice, you'd better take it and save your fingers,"
she said, thinking her speech amused him.