CHAPTER I CELLINO
Lucia Rudini folded her arms across her gaily-colored bodice, tilted her dark head to one side and laughed.
"I see you, little lazy bones," she said. "Wake up!"
A small body curled into a ball in the grass at her feet moved slightly, and a sleepy voice whimpered, "Oh, Lucia, go away. I was having such a nice dream about our soldiers up there, and I was just killing a whole regiment of Austrians, and now you come and spoil it."
A curly black head appeared above the tops of the flowers, and two reproachful brown eyes stared up at her.
Lucia laughed again. "Poor Beppino, some one is always disturbing your fine dreams, aren't they? But come now, I have something far better than dreams for you," she coaxed.
"What?" Beppi was on his feet in an instant, and the sleepy look completely disappeared.
"Ha, ha, now you are curious," Lucia teased, "aren't you? Well, you shan't see what I have, until you promise to do what I ask."
Beppi's round eyes narrowed, and a cunning expression appeared in their velvety depth.
"I suppose I am not to tell Nana that you left the house before sunrise this morning," he said.
Lucia looked at him for a brief moment in startled surprise, then she replied quickly, "No, that is not it at all. What harm would it do if you told Nana? I am often up before sunrise."
"Yes, but you don't go to the mountains," Beppi interrupted. "Oh, I saw you walking smack into the guns. What were you doing?" He dropped his threatening tone, so incongruous with his tiny body, and coaxed softly, "please tell me, sister mine."
"Silly head!" Lucia was breathing freely again, "there is nothing to tell. I heard the guns all night, and they made me restless, so I went for a walk. Go and tell Nana if you like, I don't care."
Beppi's small mind returned to the subject at hand.
"Then if it isn't that, what is it you want me to do?" he inquired, and continued without giving his sister time to reply. "It's to take care of them, I suppose," he grumbled, pointing a browned berry-stained little finger at a herd of goats that were grazing contentedly a little farther down the slope.
"Yes, that's it, and good care of them too," Lucia replied. "You are not to go to sleep again, remember, and be sure and watch Garibaldi, or she will stray away and get lost."
"And a good riddance too," Beppi commented under his breath.
He did not share in the general admiration for the "Illustrious and Gentile Señora Garibaldi," the favorite goat of his sister's herd. Perhaps the vivid recollection of Garibaldi's hard head may have accounted for his aversion. Lucia heard his remark and was quick to defend her pet.
"Aren't you ashamed to speak so?" she exclaimed, "I've a good mind not to give you the candy after all."
"Oh, Lucia, please, please!" Beppi begged. "I will take such good care of them, I promise, and if you like, I will pick the tenderest grass for old crosspatch," he added grudgingly.
Lucia smiled in triumph, and from the pocket of her dress she pulled out a small pink paper bag....