He sat and gazed at her. She was a lithe, supple-looking woman, at once graceful and fully developed; a dark beauty of the style peculiar to the South, with wonderful animation in her face, and dark flashing eyes. At the same time the play of her features was not pleasing, Salve thought. It reminded him too much of her brother—it was not feminine; and he was further repelled by the way in which she repeatedly allowed her eyes to rest upon him. He didn’t know why, but Elizabeth’s deep, true northern face came so vividly before him then, that he felt he could have drawn it to the life.
The not very flattering expression which this comparison had caused his face unconsciously to assume as he looked at her, was caught, unfortunately, by Paolina, as she was on the point of tendering him her thanks in her impetuous way for what she heard he had done for her brother. She stopped short in surprise, and evidently repressed a vehemently resentful impulse, while a look unpleasant for him came into her eyes. She went over then and took him by the hand in the same way she had seen him take her own on his arrival, and spoke coldly enough a few words which were meant to convey her thanks. She didn’t look at him again, not even when she presently said good-night to him, after having woke up the old mulatto woman who, with herself and her mother, were the only other inhabitants of the house, and told her to make up a couple of mat beds in the adjoining room. Federigo had before that gone in to his mother, and they could be heard in eager conversation.
In Salve’s mind a new impulse had been unexpectedly given to thoughts from which the novelty of his situation should have afforded him at least a temporary relief; and he lay long awake, thinking drearily about Elizabeth. When he did fall asleep at last, he dreamed that he had come into a serpent’s nest, and that he was engaged in a life and death conflict with a huge snake, that was thrusting its forked tongue at him from walls, from roof, from every side; and in the gleam of its vindictive eyes, he seemed all at once to recognise Paolina.
With a view to bring himself into harmony with his surroundings, he appeared next day in his suit of fine blue cloth, which he had brought with him in his bundle, together with sundry other articles, and what money he had still remaining from the pay which he had received at Monte Video. That he looked well in his handsome sailor dress was evident enough, from the surprised look with which he was greeted by Federigo’s mother, when he was presented to her. She had evidently expected to see in her son’s friend something in the style of the raw Brazilian sailor, a class of men who down there were generally drawn from the lowest dregs of the populace.
She herself was a withered old woman, yellow as parchment, with a mass of thick grey hair gathered in a single knot at the back of her head. She wore heavy rings on her fingers, and large earrings; her small piercing eyes had a look of burnt-out passion; and her countenance wore in a stronger degree the furtive, ratlike expression which her son’s occasionally displayed.