The only persons who were oblivious to the talk were the two lovers. Their minds were made up. Father Garola had promised, and they knew exactly what to do, and when and where to do it. In the meantime the Riva was a pathway of rose-tinted clouds constructed for the especial use of two angels, one of whom wore a straw hat with a red ribbon canted over his sunburnt face, and the other a black shawl with silken fringe, whose every movement suggested a caress.
The one disgruntled person was Francesco.
He had supposed at first that, like the others, Vittorio would find out his mistake;—certainly when he looked closely into the pure eyes of the girl, and that then, like the others, he would give up the chase;— he not being the first gay Lothario who had been taught just such a lesson.
Loretta’s answer to the schemer, given with a toss of her head and a curl of her lips, closed Francesco’s mouth and set his brain in a whirl. In his astonishment he had long talks with his father, the two seated in their boat against the Garden wall so no one could overhear.
Once he approached Luigi and began a tale, first about Vittorio and his escapades and then about Loretta and her coquetry, which Luigi strangled with a look, and which he did not discuss or repeat to me, except to remark—“They have started in to bite, Signore,” the meaning of which I could but guess at. At another time he and his associates concocted a scheme by which Vittorio’s foot was to slip as he was leaving Loretta at the door, and he be fished out of the canal with his pretty clothes begrimed with mud;—a scheme which was checked when they began to examine the young gondolier the closer, and which was entirely abandoned when they learned that his father was often employed about the palace of the king. In these projected attacks, strange to say, the girl’s mother took part. Her hope in keeping her home was in Loretta’s marrying Francesco.
Then, dog as he was, he tried the other plan—all this I got from Luigi, he sitting beside me, sharpening charcoal points, handing me a fresh brush, squeezing out a tube of color on my palette: nothing like a romance to a staid old painter; and then, were not both of us in the conspiracy as abettors, and up to our eyes in the plot?
This other plan was to traduce the girl. So the gondoliers on the traghetto began to talk,—behind their hands, at first: She had lived in Francesco’s house; she had had a dozen young fishermen trapesing after her; her mother, too, was none too good. Then again, you could never trust these Neapolitans, —the kitten might be like the cat, etc., etc.