They had loitered some while over dessert, and Ruth’s eye sought Donna Maria’s, to signal her before rising and leaving the gentlemen to their wine. But Donna Maria was running a preoccupied glance around the table and counting with her fingers. . . . Presently the glance grew distraught and the silly woman fell back in her chair with a cry.
“Jesus! We are thirteen!”
“Faith, so we are,” said Sir Oliver with an easy laugh, after counting.
“And I the uninvited one! The calamity must fall on me—there is no other way!”
“But indeed there is another way,” said Ruth, rising with a smile. “In my country the ill-luck falls on the first to leave the table. And who should that be, here, but the hostess?”
The auto-da-fe was but a preliminary to the festivities and great processions of All Saints. For a whole week Lisbon had been sanding its squares and streets, painting its signboards, draping its balconies and windows to the fourth and fifth stories with hangings of crimson damask. Street after street displayed this uniform vista of crimson, foil for the procession, with its riot of gorgeous dresses, gold lace, banners, precious stones.
Ruth leaned on the balustrade of her villa garden, and looked down over the city, from which, made musical by distance, the bells of thirty churches called to High Mass. Their chorus floated up to her on the delicate air; and—for the chimneys of Lisbon were smokeless, the winter through, in all but severest weather, and the citizens did their cooking over braziers—each belfry stood up distinct, edged with gold by the brilliant morning sun. Aloft the sky spread its blue bland and transparent; far below her Tagus mirrored it in a lake of blue. Many vessels rode at anchor there. The villas to right and left and below her, or so much of them as rose out of their embosoming trees, took the sunlight on walls of warm yellow, with dove-coloured shadows.
She was thinking. . . . He had tried to discover how much she suspected; and when neither in word or look would she lower her guard, he had turned defiant. This very morning he had told her that, if she cared to use it, a carriage was at her disposal. For himself, the Countess of Montalegre had offered him a seat in hers, and he had accepted. . . . He had told her this at the last moment, entering her room in the full court dress the state procession demanded; and he had said it with a studied carelessness, not meeting her eyes.
She had thanked him, and added that she was in two minds about going. She was not dressed for the show, and doubted if her maid could array her in time.
“We go to the Cathedral,” said he. “I should recommend that or the Church of St. Vincent, where, some say, the Mass is equally fine.”
“If I go, I shall probably content myself with the procession.”