When day dawned, they were still sitting there weaving fanciful plans for the future, arranging all the details of their elopement. She would leave Alcira as soon as possible. He would join her two days later, when all suspicion had been quieted, when everybody would imagine she was far, far away. Where would they meet? At first they thought of Marseilles, but that was a long way off! Then they thought of Barcelona. But that, too, meant hours of travel, when hours, minutes, counted for so much. It seemed utterly incredible that they could live two days without each other! No, the sooner they met again the better! And, bargaining with time like peasants in a market, at last they chose the nearest city possible, Valencia.
For love—true love—is fond of brazenness!
They had just finished lunch among the trunks and boxes that occupied a great part of Leonora’s room in the Hotel de Roma in Valencia.
For the first time they were at a table in familiar intimacy, with no other witness than Beppa, who was quite accustomed to every sort of surprise in her mistress’s adventurous career. The faithful maid was examining Rafael with a respectful kindliness, as if he were a new idol that must share the unswerving devotion she showed for Leonora.
This was the first moment of tranquillity and happiness the young man had tasted for some days. The old hotel, with its spacious rooms, its high ceilings, its darkened corridors, its monastic silence, seemed to him a veritable abode of delight, a grateful place of refuge where for once he would be free of the gossip and the strife that had been oppressing him like a belt of steel. Besides, he could already feel the exotic charm that lingers around harbors and great railroad terminals. Everything about the place, from the macaroni of the lunch, and the Chianti in its straw-covered, heavy-paunched bottle, to the musical, incorrect Spanish of the hotel-proprietors—fleshy, massive men with huge mustaches in Victor Emmanuel style—spoke of flight, of delightful seclusion in that land so glowingly described by Leonora.
She had made an appointment with him in that hotel, a favorite haunt of artists. Somewhat off the main thoroughfares, the “Roma” occupies one whole side of a sleepy, peaceful, aristocratic square with no noise save the shouting of cab-drivers and the beating of horses’ hoofs.
Rafael had arrived on the first morning train—and with no baggage; like a schoolboy playing truant, running off with just the clothes he had on his back. The two days since Leonora left Alcira had been days of torture to him. The singer’s flight was the talk of the town. People were scandalized at the amount of luggage she had. Counted over in the imagination of that imaginative city, it eventually came to fill all the carts in the province.