“I—I?” I stammered.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m going to make the aged parent shout with unmanly glee. I’m going to ask him to take me on as a hand. He’ll take you, too. He uses something like a thousand Italians, and a man to manage them who can talk to them like a Dutch uncle is what he has always needed. He liked you, and he’ll be glad to get you.”
He was a good friend, that Poor Jr., you see, and I shook the hand that he offered me very hard, knowing how great would have been his embarrassment had I embraced him in our own fashion.
“And perhaps you will sail on the ‘Princess Irene,’ after all,” I cried.
“No,” he shook his head sadly, “it will not happen. I have not been worth it.”
That Naples of mine is like a soiled coronet of white gems, sparkling only from far away. But I love it altogether, near or far, and my heart would have leaped to return to it for its own sake, but to come to it as we did, knowing that the only lady in the world was there. . . . Again, this is one of those things I possess no knowledge how to tell, and that those who know do know. How I had longed for the time to come, how I had feared it, how I had made pictures of it!
Yet I feared not so much as my friend, for he had a dim, small hope, and I had none. How could I have? I—a man whose head had been painted? I—for whom her great heart had sorrowed as for the thin, beaten cab-horses of Paris! Hope? All I could hope was that she might never know, and I be left with some little shred of dignity in her eyes!
Who cannot see that it was for my friend to fear? At times, with him, it was despair, but of that brave kind one loves to see — never a quiver of the lip, no winking of the eyes to keep tears back. And I, although of a people who express everything in every way, I understood what passed within him and found time to sorrow for him.
Most of all, I sorrowed for him as we waited for her on the terrace of the Bertolini, that perch on the cliff so high that even the noises of the town are dulled and mingle with the sound of the thick surf far below.