Its effect upon Luigi was to make him protest to her, whimpering with pathos as if she heard and must be melted: ’Signorina! signorina, most dear! for charity’s sake! I am one of you; I am a patriot. Every man to his trade, but my heart is all with you.’ And so on, louder by fits, in a running murmur, like one having his conscience ransacked, from which he was diverted by a side-thought of Irma di Karski, la Lazzeruola, listening, taking poison in at her ears; for Luigi had no hesitation in ascribing her behaviour to jealousy. ’Does not that note drive through your bosom, excellent lady? I can fancy the tremble going all down your legs. You are poisoned with honey. How you hate it! If you only had a dagger!’
Vittoria sang but for a short space. Simultaneously with the cessation of her song Ammiani reached the door, but had scarcely taken his stand there when, catching sight of Luigi, he crossed the street, and recognizing him, questioned him sternly as to his business opposite the maestro’s house. Luigi pointed to a female figure emerging. ‘See! take her home,’ he said. Ammiani released him and crossed back hurriedly, when, smiting his forehead, Luigi cried in despair, ’Thirty napoleons and my professional reputation lost!’ He blew a whistle; the carriage dashed down from the head of the street. While Ammiani was following the swiftly-stepping figure in wonderment (knowing it could not be Vittoria, yet supposing it must be, without any clear aim of his wits), the carriage drew up a little in advance of her; three men—men of bulk and sinew jumped from it; one threw himself upon Ammiani, the others grasped the affrighted lady, tightening a veil over her face, and the carriage-door shut sharp upon her. Ammiani’s assailant then fell away: Luigi flung himself on the box and shouted, ’The signorina is behind you!’ And Ammiani beheld Vittoria standing in alarm, too joyful to know that it was she. In the spasm of joy he kissed her hands. Before they could intercommunicate intelligibly the carriage was out of their sight, going at a gallop along the eastern strada of the circumvallation of the city.
AMMIANI THROUGH THE MIDNIGHT
Ammiani hurried Vittoria out of the street to make safety sure. ‘Home,’ she said, ashamed of her excitement, and not daring to speak more words, lest the heart in her throat should betray itself. He saw what the fright had done for her. Perhaps also he guessed that she was trying to conceal her fancied cowardice from him. ‘I have kissed her hands,’ he thought, and the memory of it was a song of tenderness in his blood by the way.