“Sei buon’ Italiana?”
Across what chasm did the words come to her?
It seemed but a minutes and again many hours back, that she had asked that question of a little fellow, who, if he had looked up and nodded would have given her great joy, but who kept his face dark from her and with a sullen “Si” extinguished her last feeling of a desire for companionship with life.
“Si,” she replied, quite as sullenly, and without looking up.
But when her hand was taken and other words were uttered, she that had crouched there so long between death and life immovable, loving neither, rose possessed of a passion for the darkness and the void, and struggling bitterly with the detaining hand, crying for instant death. No strength was in her to support the fury.
“Merthyr Powys is with you,” said her friend, “and will never leave you.”
“Will never take me up there?” Emilia pointed to the noisy level above them.
“Listen, and I will tell you how I have found you,” replied Merthyr.
“Don’t force me to go up.”
She spoke from the end of her breath. Merthyr feared that it was more than misery, even madness, afflicting her. He sat on the wharf-bench silent till she was reassured. But at his first words, the eager question came: “You will not force me to go up there?”
“No; we can stay and talk here,” said Merthyr. “And this is how I have found you. Do you suppose you have been hidden from us all this time? Perhaps you fancy you do not belong to your friends? Well, I spoke to all of your ‘children,’ as you used to call them. Do you remember? The day before yesterday two had seen you. You said to one, ’From Savoy or Piedmont?’ He said, ‘From Savoy;’ and you shook your head: ’Not looking on Italy!’ you said. This night I roused one of them, and he stretched his finger down the steps, saying that you had gone down there. ’Sei buon’ Italiano?” you said. “And that is how I have found you. Sei buon’ Italiana?”