And he let himself be dragged down by the caress of this wild beast, with thought lost and body inert and resigned, like a castaway who descends and descends the infinite strata of the abyss without ever reaching bottom.
THE WILES OF CIRCE
After that kiss, the lover believed that all his desires were about to be immediately realized. The most difficult part of the road was already passed. But with Freya one always had to expect something absurd and inconceivable.
The midday gun aroused them from a rapture that had lasted but a few seconds as long as years. The steps of the guard, growing nearer all the time, finally separated the two and unlocked their arms.
Freya was the first to calm herself. Only a slight haze flitted across her pupils now, like the vapor from a recently extinguished fire.
“Good-by.... They are waiting for me.”
And she went out from the Aquarium followed by Ferragut, still stammering and tremulous. The questions and petitions with which he pursued her while crossing the promenade were of no avail.
“So far and no further,” she said at one of the cross streets of Chiaja. “We shall see one another.... I formally promise you that.... Now leave me.”
And she disappeared with the firm step of a handsome huntress, as serene of countenance as though not recalling the slightest recollection of her primitive, passional paroxysm.
This time she fulfilled her promise. Ferragut saw her every day.
They met in the mornings near the hotel, and sometimes she came down into the dining-room, exchanging smiles and glances with the sailor, who fortunately was sitting at a distant table. Then they took strolls and chatted together, Freya laughing good-naturedly at the amorous vows of the captain.... And that was all.
With a woman’s skillfulness in sounding a man’s depth and penetrating into his secrets,—keeping fast-locked and unapproachable her own,—she gradually informed herself of the incidents and adventures in the life of Ulysses. Vainly he spoke, in a natural reciprocity, of the island of Java, of the mysterious dances before Siva, of the journeys through the lakes of the Andes. Freya had to make an effort to recall them. “Ah!... Yes!” And after giving this distracted exclamation for every answer, she would continue the process of delving eagerly into the former life of her lover. Ulysses sometimes began to wonder if that embrace in the Aquarium could have occurred in his dreams.
One morning the captain managed to bring about the realization of one of his ambitions. He was jealous of the unknown friends that were lunching with Freya. In vain she affirmed that the doctor was the only companion of the hours that she passed outside of the hotel. In order to tranquillize himself, the sailor insisted that the widow should accept his invitations. They ought to extend their strolls; they ought to visit the beautiful outskirts of Naples, lunching in their gay little trattorias or eating-houses.