Matilde stood beside him, and gently stroked his hair where it was streaked with grey. He moved impatiently, as though to shake off her strong hand.
“No,” she said, and her voice grew as soft as velvet. “It is to save me—to save us all.”
He shook her off, and rose to his feet with spasmodic energy.
“I cannot—I will not—never!” he cried, walking away from her with irregular steps.
“But it will be so much better—for Veronica, too,” she said softly, for she knew how to frighten him.
He turned with startled eyes. Then, with the impulse of a man escaping from something which he is not strong enough to face, he reached the door in two quick strides, and went out without looking back.
Matilde watched the door, as it closed, and stood still a few seconds before she left the room. Her eyes wandered to the clock, and she saw that it was nearly midnight.
The look of triumph faded slowly from her face, and the brows contracted in a look which no one could easily have understood, except Bosio himself, perhaps, had he still been there. The smooth lips were drawn in and tightly compressed; and she held her breath, while her right hand strained upon her left with all her might. Then the lips parted with a sort of little snap as she drew breath again; and she turned her head suddenly, and looked behind her, growing a trifle paler, as though she expected to see something startling.
She tried to smile, and roused herself, rang the bell for the servant to put out the lights, and left the room. It was long before she slept that night. In the next room she could hear Gregorio’s slow and regular footsteps, as he walked up and down without ceasing. In his own room upstairs, Bosio Macomer sat staring at the ashes of the burnt-out fire on his hearth. Only Veronica was asleep, dreamless, young, and restful.
Naples, more than any other city of Italy, is full of the violent contrasts which belong to great old cities everywhere, and the absence of which makes new cities dull, be they as well built, as well situated, as civilized and as beautiful as they can be made by art handling nature for the greater glory of modern humanity.
In Naples, there is a fashionable new quarter, swept, watered, and garnished with plants and trees, but many of the great palaces stand in old and narrow streets, rising up, grim and solemn and proud, out of the recklessly vital life of one of the worst populaces in the world. Fifty paces away, again, is a wide thoroughfare, perhaps, raging and roaring with traffic from the port. A hundred yards in another direction, and there is a clean, deserted court, into which the midday sun pours itself as into a reservoir of light,—a court with a quiet church and simple old houses, through the doors of which pale-faced ecclesiastics silently come and go.