“My mother very ill.... I must go home for a day or two ... my duty as a son ... we’ll soon meet again.” And then all the cowardly, conventional excuses that chivalry has created to soften the harshness of desertion—the promise to join her again as soon as possible; passionate protestations that she was the only woman in the world he loved.
Her first thought was to go back to Alcira at once, walk there if necessary, find the scamp somewhere, throw the letter into his face, beat him, claw him to pieces!
“Ah, the wretch! The infamous, cowardly, unspeakable wretch!” she cried.
Beppa had found a candle. She lighted it. And there her mistress was—staggering, deathly pale, her eyes wide open, her lips white with anguish! Leonora began to walk up and down the apartment, taut and strained, as if her feet were not moving at all, as if she were being thrust about by an invisible hand.
“Beppa,” she groaned finally, “he has gone. He is deserting me.”
The maid did not care about the desertion particularly. She had been through that before. She was thinking about Leonora, waiting for the impending crisis, studying the anguished countenance of her mistress with her own placid, bovine eyes.
“The wretch!” Leonora hissed, pacing back and forth in the chamber. “What a fool, what a complete, unconscionable fool I have been! Giving myself to that man, believing in that man, trusting that man, giving up my peace of mind, the last relative I had in the world for that man!... And why would he not let me go off alone? He made me dream of an eternal springtime of love, and now he deserts me.... He has tricked me ... he is laughing at me ... and I can not hate him. Why did he insist on rousing me when I was there alone, quite peaceful, forgetting everything, sunk in a placid indulgent calm!... The cool fraud that he was!... But what do I care, after all?... It’s all over. Come Beppa, cheer up! Hah-hah! Come, Beppa! We’re off! We’re off! We’re going to sing again! Off over the whole globe. Good-bye to this rat-hole forever! I’m through educating children! Now for life again! And we’ll drain them dry, the brutes! Kick them about like the selfish donkeys they are! Well, well! I can’t believe I’ve been taken in this way! Isn’t it a joke? The best joke you ever heard! Ha, ha, ha! And I thought I knew the world ...! Ha, ha! Ha, ha!...”
And her laugh was audible distinctly down in the square. It was a wild, shrill, metallic laughter, that seemed to be rending her flesh! The whole hotel was in commotion, while the actress, with foaming lips, fell to the floor and began to writhe in fury, overturning the furniture and bruising her body on the iron trimmings of her trunks.
“Don Rafael, the gentlemen of the Committee on the Budget are waiting for you in the second section.”