Above the chattering of the sparrows and the rustle of the wind in the trees, Rafael could hear the sound of a piano—the keys barely touched by the player’s fingers—and a soft, timid voice, as if the song were meant for the singer alone.
It was she. Rafael knew the music: a Lied by Schubert—the favorite composer of the day; a master “whose best work was still unknown,” as she said in the cant she had learned from the critics, alluding to the fact that only the least subtle of the melancholy composer’s works had thus far been popularized.
The young man advanced slowly, cautiously, as if afraid lest the sound of his footsteps break in upon that melody which seemed to be rocking the garden lovingly to sleep in the afternoon’s golden sunlight.
He reached the open space in front of the house and once more found there the same murmuring palms, the same rubblework benches with seats and backs of flowered tile that he knew so well. There, in fact, she had so often laughed at his feverish protestations.
The door was closed; but through a half-opened window he could see a patch of silk; a woman’s back, bending slightly forward over the music.
As Rafael came up a dog began to bark at the end of the garden. Some hens that had been scratching about in sand of the drive, scampered off cackling with fright. The music stopped. A chair scraped as it was pushed back. The lady was rising to her feet.
At the balcony a flowing gown of blue appeared; but all that Rafael saw was a pair of eyes—green eyes, that seemed to fill the entire window with a flood of light.
“Beppa! Beppina!” cried a firm, a warm, a sonorous, soprano voice. “Apri la porta. Open the door.”
And with a slight inclination of her splendid head of thick auburn hair that seemed to crown her with a helmet of old gold, she smiled to him with a friendly, somewhat mocking, intimacy:
“Welcome, Rafaelito. I don’t know why, but I was expecting you this afternoon. We have heard all about your triumphs; the music and the tumult reached even to our desert. My congratulations to the Honorable don Rafael Brull. Come right in, I su senoria.”
From Valencia to Jativa, in all that immense territory covered with rice-fields and orange groves which Valencians embrace under the general and rather vague designation of La Ribera, there was no one unfamiliar with the name of Brull and the political power it stood for.
As if national unity had not yet been effected and the country were still divided into taifas and waliatos as in the days when one Moorish King reigned over Carlet, another over Denia, and a third over Jativa, the election system maintained a sort of inviolable rulership in every district; and when the Administration people came to Alcira in forecasting their political prospects, they always said the same thing: