And I laughed. My young companion looked startled, almost frightened, and over her fair face there flitted an expression of something like aversion. I did not care—why should I?—and there was no time for more words between us, for we had reached the outer vestibule of the theater.
My wife’s carriage was drawn up at the entrance—my wife herself was stepping into it. I assisted her, and also her two friends, and then stood with uncovered head at the door wishing them all the “felicissima notte.” Nina put her tiny jeweled hand through the carriage window—I stooped and kissed it lightly. Drawing it back quickly, she selected a white gardenia from her bouquet and gave it to me with a bewitching smile.
Then the glittering equipage dashed away with a whirl and clatter of prancing hoofs and rapid wheels, and I stood alone under the wide portico of the theater—alone, amid the pressing throngs of the people who were still coming out of the house—holding the strongly scented gardenia in my hand as vaguely as a fevered man who finds a strange flower in one of his sick dreams.
After a minute or two I suddenly recollected myself, and throwing the blossom on the ground, I crushed it savagely beneath my heel— the penetrating odor rose from its slain petals as though a vessel of incense had been emptied at my feet. There was a nauseating influence in it; where had I inhaled that subtle perfume last? I remembered—Guido Ferrari had worn one of those flowers in his coat at my banquet—it had been still in his buttonhole when I killed him!
I strode onward and homeward; the streets were full of mirth and music, but I heeded none of it. I felt, rather than saw, the quiet sky bending above me dotted with its countless millions of luminous worlds; I was faintly conscious of the soft plash of murmuring waves mingling with the dulcet chords of deftly played mandolins echoing from somewhere down by the shore; but my soul was, as it were, benumbed—my mind, always on the alert, was for once utterly tired out—my very limbs ached, and when I at last flung myself on my bed, exhausted, my eyes closed instantly, and I slept the heavy, motionless sleep of a man weary unto death.
“Tout le monde vient a celui qui sait attendre.” So wrote the great Napoleon. The virtue of the aphorism consists in the little words ‘qui sait’. All the world comes to him who knows how to wait, I knew this, and I had waited, and my world—a world of vengeance— came to me at last.