As he said the last words my gaze was caught and riveted by the figure of a man strolling leisurely past the door of the cafe. It was Guido Ferrari—my friend! I would have rushed out to speak to him—but something in his look and manner checked the impulse as it rose in me. He was walking very slowly, smoking a cigar as he went; there was a smile on his face, and in his coat he wore a freshly-gathered rose La Gloire de France, similar to those that grew in such profusion on the upper terrace of my villa. I stared at him as he passed—my feelings underwent a kind of shock. He looked perfectly happy and tranquil, happier indeed than ever I remembered to have seen him, and yet—and yet, according to his knowledge, I, his best friend, had died only yesterday! With this sorrow fresh upon him, he could smile like a man going to a festa, and wear a coral-pink rose, which surely was no sign of mourning! For one moment I felt hurt, the next, I laughed at my own sensitiveness. After all, what of the smile, what of the rose! A man could not always be answerable for the expression of his countenance, and as for the flower, he might have gathered it en passent, without thinking, or what was still more likely, the child Stella might have given it to him, in which case he would have worn it to please her. He displayed no badge of mourning? True!—but then consider—I had only died yesterday! There had been no time to procure all those outward appurtenances of woe which social customs rendered necessary, but which were no infallible sign of the heart’s sincerity. Satisfied with my own self-reasoning I made no attempt to follow Guido in his walk—I let him go on his way unconscious of my existence. I would wait, I thought, till the evening—then everything would be explained.
I turned to the landlord. “How much to pay?” I asked.
“What you will, amico” he replied—“I am never hard on the fisher folk—but times are bad, or you would be welcome to a breakfast for nothing. Many and many a day have I done as much for men of your craft, and the blessed Cipriano who is gone used to say that St. Peter would remember me for it. It is true the Madonna gives a special blessing if one looks after the fishers, because all the holy apostles were of the trade; and I would be loth to lose her protection—yet-”
I laughed and tossed him a franc. He pocketed it at once and his eyes twinkled.
“Though you have not taken half a franc’s worth,” he admitted, with an honesty very unusual in a Neapolitan—“but the saints will make it up to you, never fear!”
“I am sure of that!” I said, gayly. “Addio, my friend! Prosperity to you and our Lady’s favor!”
This salutation, which I knew to be a common one with Sicilian mariners, the good Pietro responded to with amiable heartiness, wishing me luck on my next voyage. He then betook himself anew to the polishing of his glasses—and I passed the rest of the day in strolling about the least frequented streets of the city, and longing impatiently for the crimson glory of the sunset, which, like a wide flag of triumph, was to be the signal of my safe return to love and happiness.