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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

Mrs Walker’s party

Mrs Walker’s party was a few days later. Mrs Miller came alone. The poor lady was very nervous. ‘I’ve never been to a party alone before, especially in this country!’ she told Mrs Walker, ‘I wanted to bring Randolph or Eugenio, but Daisy told me to go alone!’

‘Is your daughter going to favour us with her company?’ asked Mrs Walker, but Mrs Miller did not notice her sarcasm.

‘Well, she’s dressed for the party. She got dressed before dinner. But her friend is there - the Italian gentleman. Daisy’s playing the piano and Mr Giovanelli’s singing. He sings splendidly. But I think they’ll come soon,’ said Mrs Miller hopefully.

Mrs Walker turned to Winterbourne and said, ‘This is horrible! Miss Miller is trying to punish me for criticising her in the Pincio the other day. When she comes, I won’t speak to her!’

Daisy came after eleven o’clock. ‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ she said to Mrs Walker with a smile. ‘Mr Giovanelli and I were practicing his songs so that he can sing for your guests. He has such a beautiful voice.’ Daisy looked very lovely as she said this in her sweet, bright voice. ‘Is there anyone here I know?’ she asked, looking around with interest at the other guests.

‘I think everyone knows who you are!’ said Mrs Walker coldly. Mr Giovanelli sang his songs very well, although no one had asked him to do so. Daisy talked as he sang. ‘I’d love to dance,’ she said to Winterbourne, ‘but these rooms are too small.’

‘I don’t want to dance,’ Winterbourne replied. ‘I can’t dance.’

‘Of course you can’t dance; you’re too stiff.’ said Miss Daisy. ‘I hope you enjoyed your ride in Mrs Walker’s carriage.’

‘No, I didn’t enjoy it. I preferred walking with you.’

‘You went with your friend, and I went with mine. That was much better. But really, Mrs Walker has such strange ideas!’ continued Daisy. ‘How could I get into her carriage and leave poor Mr Giovanelli?’

‘Mr Giovanelli was wrong to ask you to walk with him. No young Italian lady walks with gentlemen in the streets.’

‘In the streets?’ cried Daisy. ‘The Pincio is not “the streets”! And fortunately I’m not a young Italian lady! It seems to me they have a miserable time!’

‘People here think you’re a flirt,’ said Winterbourne seriously. ‘Of course I am!’ said Daisy with a smile. ‘All nice girls are flirts! But I suppose you’ll say that I’m not a nice girl.’

‘You’re a very nice girl,’ said Winterbourne, ‘but I want you to flirt with me and nobody else.’

‘Thank you!’ replied Daisy. ‘But I don’t want to flirt with you: you’re too stiff!’

‘Well, at least stop flirting with Giovanelli. They don’t understand that sort of thing here.’

‘I thought they understood nothing else!’ said Daisy.

‘Not in young unmarried women.’

‘It seems to me much more proper in young unmarried women than in old married ones,’ cried Daisy.

‘Well,’ said Winterbourne, ‘you must obey the customs of the place. Flirting is a purely American custom; it doesn’t exist here. So when you go out in public with Mr Giovanelli and without your mother, people are shocked.’

‘Poor Mother!’ said Daisy.

‘You are flirting, but Mr Giovanelli isn’t: he’s quite serious.’

‘At least he doesn’t tell me what to do!’ cried Daisy. ‘Anyway, I’m not flirting with Mr Giovanelli. We’re good friends, very intimate friends.’

‘Ah,’ replied Winterbourne, ‘it’s different if you’re in love with each other.’

To Winterbourne’s surprise, Daisy blushed and stood up angrily. ‘At least Mr Giovanelli never says such horrible things!’ she cried.

Daisy spent the rest of the evening sitting with Mr Giovanelli in a quiet corner of the room. When she came back to say goodbye to Mrs Walker, the lady ignored her. Daisy went pale and looked anxiously at her mother. Winterbourne felt very sorry for her.

‘That was very cruel,’ he said to Mrs Walker, after Daisy had left.

‘I’ll never invite her here again!’ Mrs Walker replied.

In the weeks that followed, Winterbourne often went to visit Daisy at her hotel. Giovanelli was always there, but Daisy did not seem disturbed by Winterbourne’s presence. It seemed that she could talk as happily with one gentleman or two.

One Sunday afternoon, Winterbourne went to St Peter’s with his aunt. When he saw Daisy and Giovanelli walking together in the great church, he said to his aunt, ‘There’s Miss Miller!’

Mrs Costello looked at Daisy for a moment then said, ‘Is that what makes you so distracted these days?’

‘I’m not distracted,’ replied Winterbourne.

‘You seem very preoccupied: you’re thinking of something.’

‘And what do you think I’m thinking of?’

‘Of Miss Miller’s intimacy with that ridiculous Italian,’ said Mrs Costello, indicating Giovanelli.

‘I don’t think it’s an “intimacy” in the sense you mean.’

‘Everyone else does. He’s very handsome, and she’s very vulgar. She thinks he’s the most elegant gentleman in the world. He’s even better than the courier! The courier probably introduced them, and when they’re married this man will give the courier a lot of money. Yes, I see how it is.’

‘I don’t believe she’s thinking of marrying him,’ said Winterbourne, ‘and I don’t think he hopes to marry her.’

‘She’s so vulgar that she probably doesn’t think at all,’ said Mrs Costello. ‘But believe me, very soon she’ll tell you that she’s engaged.’

‘I don’t think so,’ Winterbourne replied. ‘I’ve asked some questions about him. He’s a perfectly respectable little man, but he’s not from the best Italian society. He has no money and no title - he’s not a count or a marchese - so he knows that he cannot hope to marry her. He probably doesn’t realise that Daisy and her mother aren’t sophisticated enough to want to catch a count or a marchese.’

‘He thinks he can win her with his handsome face,’ said Mrs Costello.

‘No,’ replied Winterbourne. ‘He knows that he has nothing but his handsome face, and he knows that Mr Miller, in the mysterious land of dollars, will want his daughter to marry someone with more than that.’

Some of Mrs Costello’s American friends joined them then, and Winterbourne heard a lot of talk about the scandalous Miss Daisy Miller. He felt sorry for her. He was sorry to hear them talking about her like that: to him she seemed just pretty and unprotected and natural.

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