They arose, and began to saunter along over the broad avenue that led from the gate to the little square. The house was soon behind them, lost in the thick crests of the orange-trees. Leonora smiled mischievously and lifted a forefinger in warning.
“I took it for granted you had returned from your trip a more serious, a more well-behaved person. No nonsense, no familiarities, eh? Besides, you know already that I’m strong, and can fight—if I have to.”
Rafael spent a sleepless night tossing about in his bed.
Party admirers had honored him with a serenade that had lasted beyond midnight. The “prominents” among them had shown some pique at having cooled their heels all afternoon at the Club waiting for the deputy in vain. He put in an appearance well on towards evening, and after shaking hands once more all around and responding to speeches of congratulation, as he had done that morning, he went straight home.
He had not dared raise his head in Dona Bernarda’s presence. He was afraid of those glowering eyes, where he could read, unmistakably, the detailed story of everything he had done that afternoon. At the same time he was nursing a resolve to disobey his mother, meet her domineering, over-bearing aggressiveness with glacial disregard.
The serenade over, he had hurried to his room, to avoid any chance of an accounting.
Snug in his bed, with the light out, he gave way to an intense, a rapturous recollection of all that had taken place that afternoon. For all the fatigue of the journey and the bad night spent in a sleeping-car, he lay there with his eyes open in the dark, going over and over again in his feverish mind all that Leonora told him during that final hour of their walk through the garden. Her whole, her real life’s story it had been, recorded in a disordered, a disconnected way—as if she must unburden herself of the whole thing all at once—with gaps and leaps that Rafael now filled in from his own lurid imagination.
Italy, the Italy of his trip abroad, came back to him now, vivid, palpitant, vitalized, glorified by Leonora’s revelations.
The shadowy majestic Gallery of Victor Emmanuel at Milan! The immense triumphal arch, a gigantic mouth protended to swallow up the Cathedral! The double arcade, cross-shaped, its walls covered with columns, set with a double row of windows under a vast crystal roof. Hardly a trace of masonry on the lower stories; nothing but plate glass—the windows of book-shops, music shops, cafes, restaurants, jewelry stores, haberdasheries, expensive tailoring establishments.
At one end, the Duomo, bristling with a forest of statues and perforated spires; at the other, the monument to Leonardo da Vinci, and the famous Teatro de la Scala! Within the four arms of the Gallery, a continuous bustle of people, an incessant going and coming of merging, dissolving crowds: a quadruple avalanche flowing toward the grand square at the center of the cross, where the Cafe Biffi, known to actors and singers the world over, spreads its rows of marble tables! A hubbub of cries, greetings, conversations, footsteps, echoing in the galleries as in an immense cloister, the lofty skylight quivering with the hum of busy human ants, forever, day and night, crawling, darting this way and that, underneath it!