But as he grew familiar with his new life, and the novelty of all this adulation wore off, tenacious recollections rose again in his memory. At night, when sleep relaxed the will to forget, which his vigilance kept at painful tension, that blue house, the green, diabolical eyes of its principal denizen, that pair of fresh lips with their ironic smile that seemed to quiver between two rows of gleaming white teeth, would become the inevitable center of all his dreams.
Why resist any longer? He could think of her as much as he pleased—that, at least, his mother would never learn. And he gave himself up to the imagination of love, where distance lent an ever stronger enchantment to that woman.
He felt a vehement longing to return to his city. Absence seemed to do away with all the obstacles at home. His mother was not so formidable as he had thought. Who could tell whether, when he went back—changed as he felt himself to be by his new experiences—it would not be easier to continue the old relations? After so much isolation and solitude she might receive him in more cordial fashion!
The Cortes were about to adjourn, so, in obedience to repeated urging from his fellow-partisans, and from dona Bernarda, to do something—anything at all—to show interest in the home town—he took the floor one afternoon at the opening of the session, when only the president, the sergeant-at-arms, and a few reporters asleep in the press-gallery, were present, and, with his lunch rising in his throat from emotion, asked the Minister of Internal Affairs to show a little more despatch in the matter of flood protection at Alcira—a bill still in its in-fancy, though it had been pending some seventy years.
After this he was free to return with the halo of a “business-like” deputy shining about his head—“a zealous defender of the region’s interests,” the local weekly and party organ called him. And that morning, as he stepped off the train, the deputy, deaf to the Royal March and to the vivas, stood up on tiptoe, trying to descry through the waving banners the Blue House nestling in the distance among the orange-trees.
As he approached the place that afternoon he was almost sick with nervousness and emotion. For one last time he thought of his mother, so intent upon maintaining her prestige and so fearful of hostile gossip; of the demagogues who had thronged the doors of the cafes that morning, making fun of the demonstration in his honor; but all his scruples vanished at sight of the hedge of tall rose-bays and prickly hawthorns and of the two blue pillars supporting a barrier of green wooden bars. Resolutely he pushed the gate open, and entered the garden.
Orange-trees stretched in rows along broad straight walks of red earth. On either side of the approach to the house was a tangle of tall rose-bushes on which the first buds, heralds of an early spring, were already beginning to appear.