Miriam pondered, then said quietly:
“We have different thoughts, Mr. Mallard, and speak different languages.”
“But we know a little more of each other than we did. For my part, I feel it a gain.”
During the rest of the drive they scarcely spoke at all; the few sentences exchanged were mere remarks upon the scenery. Both carriages drew up at the gate of the villa, where Miriam and Mallard alighted. Spence, rising, called to the latter.
“Will you accompany Miss Doran the rest of the way?”
Mallard took his seat in the other carriage; and, as it drove off, he looked back. Miriam was gazing after them.
Cecily was a little tired, and not much disposed to converse. Her companion being still less so, they reached the Mergellina without having broached any subject.
“It has been an unforgettable day,” Cecily said, as they parted.
He had taken leave of the Spences and Mrs. Baske, yet was not sure that he should go. He had said good-bye to Mrs. Lessingham and to Cecily herself, yet made no haste to depart. It drew on to evening, and he sat idly in his room in Casa Rolandi, looking at his traps half packed. Then of a sudden up he started. “Imbecile! Insensate! I give you fifteen minutes to be on your way to the station. Miss the next train—and sink to the level of common men!” Shirts, socks— straps, locks; adieux, tips—horses, whips! Clatter through the Piazzetta Mondragone; down at breakneck speed to the Toledo; across the Piazza del Municipio; a good-bye to the public scriveners sitting at their little tables by the San Carlo; sharp round the corner, and along by the Porto Grande with its throng of vessels. All the time he sings a tune to himself, caught up in the streets of the tuneful city; an air lilting to the refrain—
“Io ti voglio bene assaje
E tu non pienz’ a me!”
Just after nightfall he alighted from the train at Pompeii. Having stowed away certain impedimenta at the station, he took his travelling-bag in his hand, broke with small ceremony through porters and hotel-touts, came forth upon the high-road, and stepped forward like one to whom the locality is familiar. In a minute or two he was overtaken by a little lad, who looked up at him and said in an insinuating voice, “Albergo del Sole, signore?”
“Prendi, bambino,” was Mallard’s reply, as he handed the bag to him. “Avanti!”
A divine evening, softly warm, dim-glimmering. The dusty road ran on between white trunks of plane-trees; when the station and the houses near it were left behind, no other building came in view. To the left of the road, hidden behind its long earth-rampart, lay the dead city; far beyond rose the dark shape of Vesuvius, crested with beacon-glow, a small red fire, now angry, now murky, now for a time extinguished. The long rumble of the train died away, and there followed silence absolute, scarcely broken for a few minutes by a peasant singing in the distance, the wailing song so often heard in the south of Italy. Silence that was something more than the wonted soundlessness of night; the haunting oblivion of a time long past, a melancholy brooding voiceless upon the desolate home of forgotten generations.