It was her wedding ring.
Summer has faded, the gold of autumn has turned to brown, and the raw, cold winds of winter have whirled the dead leaves over rookeries, quay, and garden. The boats rock at their tethers and now and then a sea gull darts through the canal and sweeps on to the lagoon. In the narrow opening fronting the broad waters lawless waves quarrel and clash, forcing their way among the frightened ripples of San Giuseppe, ashy gray under the lowering sky.
All these months a girl has clung to an iron grating or has lain on a pallet in one corner of her cell. Once in a while she presses her lips to a ring on her left hand, her face lighting up. Sometimes she breaks out into a song, continuing until the keeper checks her.
Then spring comes.
And with it the painter from over the sea.
All the way from Milan as far as Verona, and beyond, there have been nothing but blossoms,— masses of blossoms,—oleander, peach, and almond.
When the train reaches Mestre and the cool salt air fans his cheek, he can no longer keep his seat, so eager is he to catch the first glimpse of his beloved city,— now a string of pearls on the bosom of the lagoon.
Luigi has the painter’s hand before his feet can touch the platform.
“Good news, Signore!” he laughs, patting my shoulder. “She is free!”
“Yes,—she and Vittorio are back in their garden. Borodini told the whole story to the good Queen Mother when she came at Easter, and the king pardoned her.”
“Pardoned her! And Francesco dead!”
“Dead! No such good luck, Signore,—that brute of a crab-fisher got well!”
My offices are on the top floor of a high building overlooking the East River and the harbor beyond— not one of those skyscrapers punctured with windows all of the same size, looking from a distance like huge waffles set up on end—note the water-line of New York the next time you cross the ferry and see if you don’t find the waffles—but an old-fashioned sort of a high building of twenty years ago—old as the Pyramids now, with a friendly janitor who comes to me when I send for him instead of my going to his “Office” when he sends for me; friendly elevator boys who poke their heads from out their iron cages and wait five seconds until I reach them, and an obliging landlord who lets me use his telephone.