فصل 07

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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Innocent or Immoral?

A few days later, Winterbourne went to see Mrs Miller at her hotel, hoping to persuade her to take better care of her daughter.

‘I’m sorry, Daisy isn’t here,’ said Mrs Miller. ‘She’s gone somewhere with Mr Giovanelli. She’s always going somewhere with Mr Giovanelli.’

‘I’ve noticed that they’re very intimate,’ said Winterbourne.

‘Oh! It seems as if they couldn’t live without each other!’ said Mrs Miller. ‘Well, at least he’s a real gentleman. I keep telling Daisy that she’s engaged!’

‘And what does Daisy say?’

‘Oh, she says she isn’t engaged, but she acts as if she is! I asked Mr Giovanelli to tell me if they get engaged, so that I can write and tell Mr Miller.’

Winterbourne had never heard a parent speak of a daughter’s behaviour in such a distant way. He found Mrs Miller’s attitude so strange and confusing that he gave up the idea of warning her.

After that, Winterbourne noticed that Daisy was no longer invited to people’s houses. Society had decided that Miss Daisy Miller had gone too far. How did she feel about that? Sometimes he thought she did not care: she was too childish and superficial to notice what people thought of her. At other moments he thought she knew perfectly well the impression she produced, but she refused to change because she knew that she was innocent. But then he thought perhaps she refused to change because she was irresponsible. It was becoming more and more difficult for him to believe in her innocence.

He was angry with himself because he could not decide what kind of young lady Miss Daisy Miller was. He had no idea whether her eccentricities were personal or national. By not inviting her to their parties, the other American residents in Rome were sending a clear message to their Italian friends, who were all aristocrats. They were telling the Italians that, though Miss Daisy Miller was an American young lady, she was not typical. So perhaps Daisy’s eccentricities were purely personal. But was she innocent or immoral? Did she understand the consequences of her actions, or was she ignorant of them? Was she simply a child, or was she a rebellious young woman?

One day, he met her in the Palace of the Caesars. She was walking through the flowers in the beautiful deserted gardens with Mr Giovanelli.

‘Aren’t you lonely?’ asked Daisy.

‘Lonely?’

‘Yes. You’re always walking around alone. Can’t you find anyone to walk with you?’

‘I’m not as fortunate as your companion,’ replied Winterbourne.

From the first, Giovanelli had treated Winterbourne with great courtesy and respect. He had listened to Winterbourne s conversation and laughed whenever Winterbourne said something amusing. He gave the impression that he considered Winterbourne a superior young man. He did not act like a jealous lover. Obviously, Giovanelli was very diplomatic. He did not mind showing a little humility in front of the American. At times, it even seemed to Winterbourne that Giovanelli wanted to talk to him privately - to explain that of course he, Giovanelli, knew that this young lady was too good for him. On this occasion, he walked away from his companions and went to pick some flowers for his buttonhole.

‘I know why you say that,’ said Daisy. ‘You think I spend too much time with Mr Giovanelli.’

‘Everyone thinks so.’

‘They don’t really care what I do,’ Daisy replied.

‘Oh yes, they do, and they’ll be very unpleasant to you. They’re already being unpleasant to you. Haven’t you noticed?’

‘I’ve noticed you,’ said Daisy. ‘But I noticed that you were very stiff and conventional the first time I saw you!’

‘I’m not as stiff as some of the others,’ said Winterbourne, smiling. ‘Haven’t you noticed that they don’t invite you to their houses anymore?’

‘Why do you let people be so unkind?’ cried Daisy.

‘What can I do?’ replied Winterbourne.

‘You could say something to them.’

‘I do say something. I say that your mother thinks you’re engaged.’

‘Well, she does,’ said Daisy very simply.

‘And does Randolph believe it?’ asked Winterbourne, laughing.

‘I don’t know. I don’t think he believes anything,’ she replied, ‘and since you’ve mentioned it, I am engaged.’

Winterbourne stopped laughing and looked at her in surprise. ‘You don’t believe it!’ cried Daisy.

He was silent a moment and then said, ‘Yes, I believe it.’

‘Oh no, you don’t!’ she replied. ‘Well, then - I’m not!’

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