At the moment something had touched a Borodino —and in the most vital of spots. This was nothing less than the heart of young Vittorio, the pride and hope of his father. He had seen the “Rose of the Shipyards,” as she was now called, pass the traghetto of the Molo, off which lay his gondola awaiting custom,—it was on one of the days when the two-soldi boy acted as chaperon,—and his end had come.
It had only been a flash from out the lower corner of the left eye of Loretta as she floated along past the big columns of the Palazzo of the Doges, but it had gone through the young gondolier and out on the other side, leaving a wound that nothing would heal. She had not intended to hurt him, or even to attract him;—he only happened to be in the way when her search-light illumined his path.
Vittorio knew at a glance that she came from the rookeries and that he, the scion of a noble family, should look higher for his mate, but that made no difference. She was built for him and he was built for her, and that was the end of it: not for an intrigue—he was not constructed along those lines— but with a ring and a priest and all the rest of it. The main difficulty was to find some one who knew her. He would not,—could not, confront her; nor would he follow her home; but something must be done, and at once: a conclusion, it will be admitted, than an incalculable number of young Vittorios have reached, sooner or later, the world over.
When, therefore, a rumor came to his ears that Luigi the Primo was protecting her—the kind of protection that could never be misunderstood in Luigi’s case—a piece of news which his informer was convinced would end the projected intrigue of the young gondolier, then and there and for all time, Vittorio laughed so loud and so long, and so merrily, that he lost, in consequence, two fares to San Giorgio, and came near being reprimanded by the Gastaldo for his carelessness.