“You are a sorcerer: how did you know? Did you guess it?”
“If you will look down this street from where I stand, you will perceive that I could distinctly see any carriage which turned out of the Piazza Barberini towards the Capuchins,” replied Ugo. “She was there nearly an hour, and you only stayed five minutes.”
“How dreadful it is to be watched like this!” exclaimed Donna Tullia, with a little laugh, half expressive of satisfaction and half of amusement at Del Fence’s devotion.
“How can I help watching you, as the earth watches the sun in its daily course?” said Ugo, with a sentimental intonation of his soft persuasive voice. Donna Tullia looked at his smooth face, and laughed again, half kindly.
“The Astrardente had been confessing her sins,” she remarked.
“Again? She is always confessing.”
“What do you suppose she finds to say?” asked Donna Tullia.
“That her husband is hideous, and that you are beautiful,” answered Del Ferice, readily enough.
“Because she hates her husband and hates you.”
“Because you took Giovanni Saracinesca to your picnic yesterday; because you are always taking him away from her. For the matter of that, I hate him as much as the Astrardente hates you,” added Del Ferice, with an agreeable smile. Donna Tullia did not despise flattery, but Ugo made her thoughtful.
“Do you think she really cares—?” she asked.
“As surely as that he does not,” replied Del Ferice.
“It would be strange,” said Donna Tullia, meditatively. “I would like to know if it is true.”
“You have only to watch them.”
“Surely Giovanni cares more than she does,” objected Madame Mayer. “Everybody says he loves her; nobody says she loves him.”
“All the more reason. Popular report is always mistaken—except in regard to you.”
“Since it ascribes to you so much that is good, it cannot be wrong,” replied Del Ferice.
Donna Tullia laughed, and took his hand to descend from her carriage.
Monsieur Gouache’s studio was on the second floor. The narrow flight of steps ended abruptly against a green door, perforated by a slit for the insertion of letters, by a shabby green cord which, being pulled, rang a feeble bell, and adorned by a visiting-card, whereon with many superfluous flourishes and ornaments of caligraphy was inscribed the name of the artist—Anastase gouache.