’Medole has money and rank and influence, and a kind of I-don’t-know-what womanishness, that makes him push like a needle for the lead, and he will have the lead and when he has got the lead, there ’s the last chapter of him,’ said Luciano. ’His point of ambition is the perch of the weather-cock. Why did he set upon you, my Carlo? I saw the big V running up your forehead when you faced him. If you had finished him no great harm would have been done.’
’I saw him for a short time last night, and spoke to him in my father’s style,’ said Carlo. ’The reason was, that he defended Barto Rizzo for putting the ring about the Signorina Vittoria’s name, and causing the black butterfly to be pinned to her dress.’
Luciano’s brows stood up.
‘If she sings to-night, depend upon it there will be a disturbance,’ he said. ’There may be a rising in spite of Medole and such poor sparks, who’re afraid to drop on powder, and twirl and dance till the wind blows them out. And mind, the chance rising is commonly the luckiest. If I get a command I march to the Alps. We must have the passes of the Tyrol. It seems to me that whoever holds the Alps must ride the Lombard mare. You spring booted and spurred into the saddle from the Alps.’
Carlo was hurt by his friend’s indifference to the base injury done to Vittoria.
‘I have told Medole that she will sing to-night in spite of him,’ he was saying, with the intention of bringing round some reproach upon Luciano for his want of noble sympathy, when the crash of an Austrian regimental band was heard coming up the Corso. It stirred him to love his friend with all his warmth. ’At any rate, for my sake, Luciano, you will respect and uphold her.’
‘Yes, while she’s true,’ said Luciano, unsatisfactorily. The regiment, in review uniform, followed by two pieces of artillery, passed by. Then came a squadron of hussars and one of Uhlans, and another foot regiment, more artillery, fresh cavalry.
’Carlo, if three generations of us pour out our blood to fertilize Italian ground, it’s not too much to pay to chase those drilled curs.’ Luciano spoke in vehement undertone.
’We ’ll breakfast and have a look at them in the Piazza d’Armi, and show that we Milanese are impressed with a proper idea of their power,’ said Carlo, brightening as he felt the correction of his morbid lover’s anger in Luciano’s reaching view of their duties as Italian citizens. The heat and whirl of the hour struck his head, for to-morrow they might be wrestling with that living engine which had marched past, and surely all the hate he could muster should be turned upon the outer enemy. He gained his mother’s residence with clearer feelings.