" I STOOD in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand;
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smi--"
Suddenly Bea felt a huge shove from behind her and the poem fell out of her startled hands.
"OH!, I-I-I, -DO forgive me..." a man stuttered breathlessly as he had lost his balance and attempted to recover himself. Bea could not make out the man's face as he stooped to pick up her paper and she pressed her hand to her heart and muttered, "Oh, my!" she said and instantly recalled to mind the various warnings her aunts had given her about pick-pockets in Italy. Her hands gripped tightly around her clutch as she received the poem back into her hands.
"I say, I- I was after my wife's camera..." the man went on as he stood and looked back in the direction he had been running, "Although, I suppose it's gone now. Bloody man ran off with it," he muttered half to himself, "still, doesn't excuse my clumsiness all the same. I do apologize, I hope you're not hurt." He inquired as he folded his hands behind his back and looked earnestly at her.
"Oh, no, I-" she said, almost stuttering, "I am alright."
"You're very gracious-" the man said and was cut off by a women's shrill voice in a marked English accent; "Henry! Henry! Have you got it?" The women was mounting the stairs with much effort, but her face was obscured initially by a large floppy hat.
"No, dear. I'm afraid I lost him here on the bridge and made a damned fool of myself bumping into this nice lady here," the man said with a melancholy sigh.
Bea attempted to wave off the remark, but the women, gulped in a breath of air, "Oh! And that camera had all our nice pictures!" Her face finally coming into the light so Bea could see the couple clearly. They were a middle aged couple, clearly not in their prime physique by their deep breaths. They both spoke in a remarkably refined British accent that puts an American instantly in their best posture. "I do hope you find him..." Bea said, although somewhat regretting the phrase since it seemed a silly thing to say as it suddenly struck her odd that they gave chase to the thief in the first place. "I had my camera stolen my first day here as well," she said absentmindedly trying to correct her gaffe, while her mind simultaneously tried to work out if this wasn't a pick-pocketers ploy as well. "They often work in pairs," her aunt's voice rang out in her ears.
"Frightful!" said the women, regaining her composure, and straightening her hat. "I, I do apologize for our inconveniencing you- Oh! I see you're reading Lord Byron's Poetry!" she said in great pleasure, glancing down at Bea's upturned paper.
"Oh, yes," said Bea.
"I teach at College, you know," and just last year wrote a dissertation on Byron and his architectural imagery."
"Oh!" Bea said, convinced this could not be a ploy to steal her handbag, as she reasoned, the women's own handbag appeared to have cost approximately five thousand dollars more than Bea's. "I just came to Venice for the first time, I'm a journalist in Atlanta, in America, and this is my first real vacation on my own and vowed I would read all the poetry about place that I came to."
"What a marvelous idea," the professor said, drawing out the first syllable of the word so that Bea smirked, recalling such comical aunt skits as Jeeves and Wooster and Downton Abby fans would only know.
Suddenly their conversation became quite academic, and the gentleman of the duo slowly interjected into the pairs conversation, "I say, do forgive me for butting in on this frightfully fascinating conversation, but I'm afraid I've banged up my knee rather badly in this last exchange and I'm starting to get quite hungry. Couldn't we invite this young lady to come have a cocktail with us and you may both continue your conversation and I can rest my nerves over a scotch and soda?" He inquired of his wife amiably.
"Oh, of course!" said the women without even looking at Bea's face to gauge her ascent, "yes, do come--" she said hurriedly looking around for a cafe in sight. "There!" she said pointing, let's go there." she and her husband turned and began to move, "I-Oh!" she stopped suddenly, "I dare sawy, you probably have dinner plans of your own, no? What's that, you don't? OOhh excellent, " she said again drawing out the first syllables in now, somewhat of a ridiculous tone. If Bea didn't know this women taught at Oxford now, she would seemingly think her a total aristocratic idiot. "Then you won't turn down a cocktail and bite with us? " She continued. Bea accented and began walking with them.
"What an interesting bunch of tourists are in Venice this time of year, " Bea thought to herself, and unbeknownst to herself walked off with the limping Viscount of Shrewsbury and his wife, the Lady of Shrewsbury, for dinner on her first full day in Italy. What things awaited Miss Beatrice on this trip, indeed!