Rafael noticed finally that the recluse was approaching, unable to restrain a desire to communicate his admiration to someone.
“What a woman!” the man cried, rolling his eyes to express his full enthusiasm.
She had given him a duro, one of those white discs which, in that atheistic age, so rarely ascended that mountain trail! And there the poor invalid sat at the door of the Hermitage, staring into her apron blankly, hypnotized by the glitter of all that wealth! Duros, pesetas, two-pesetas, dimes! All the money the lady had brought! Even a gold button, which must have come from her glove!
Rafael shared in the general astonishment. But who the devil was that woman?
“How do I know!” the rustic answered. “But judging from the language of the maid,” he went on with great conviction: “I should say she was some Frenchwoman ... some Frenchwoman ... with a pile of money!”
Rafael turned once more in the direction of the two parasols that were slowly winding down the slope. They were barely visible now. The larger of the two, a mere speck of red, was already blending into the green of the first orchards on the plain ... At last it had disappeared completely.
Left alone, Rafael burst into rage! The place where he had made such a sorry exhibition of himself seemed odious to him now. He fumed with vexation at the memory of that cold glance, which had checked any advance toward familiarity, repelled him, crushed him! The thought of his stupid questions filled him with hot shame.
Without replying to the “good-evening” from the recluse and his family, he started down the mountain, in hopes of meeting the woman again, somewhere, some time, he knew not when nor how. The heir of don Ramon, the hope of the District, strode furiously on, his arms aquiver with a nervous tremor. And aggressively, menacingly, addressing his own ego as though it were a henchman cringing terror-stricken in front of him, he muttered:
“You imbecile!... You lout!... You peasant! You provincial ass! You ... rube!”
Dona Bernarda did not suspect the reason why her son rose on the following morning pale, and with dark rings under his eyes, as if he had spent a bad night. Nor could his political friends guess, that afternoon, why in such fine weather, Rafael should come and shut himself up in the stifling atmosphere of the Club.
When he came in, a crowd of noisy henchmen gathered round him to discuss all over again the great news that had been keeping “the Party” in feverish excitement for a week past: the Cortes were to be dissolved! The newspapers had been talking of nothing else. Within two or three months, before the close of the year at the latest, there would be a new election, and therewith, as all averred, a landslide for don Rafael Brull. The intimate friend and lieutenant of the House of Brull was the