From Tales from the Italian and Spanish, Vol. III, Stories of Humor and Adventure, The Review of Reviews Co.; New York; 1920; pp. 13-30.13
“A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it.”
“IS the signore calling upon the Marchesa Giulia or the Marchesa Lucia?” demanded a tall, lank attendant in livery of an exceedingly correct, good-looking young man, in the antechamber of the Tolosana Palace.
“I am calling on —” Hereupon he paused to consider. “I am calling on the Marchesa Lucia,” he then added, as if quite sure, this time, of what he was doing.
“Then, if you will come this way,” and Battista — for, like all the other servants in the world, he too was called Battista — preceded the modish visitor into a reception-room of almost Oriental temperature and luxury, all flowers and bric-à-brac.
“Whom shall I announce”
“Gino de’ Recanati,”
Battista bent low once more and withdrew, leaving the visitor alone, who took advantage of the moment to readjust with skillful fingers the curling locks upon his brow, where the pressure of the hat had flattened them.
Besides being a good-looking young man, Gino de’ Recanati was also a young man of fashion and had quite the air of a person of consequence and a trained diplomat. And, as a matter of fact, he was attaché to the Italian legation 14 in Spain, and happened at present to be in Rome on leave, — to attend the races at Le Cappanelle.
While awaiting the Marchesa of Tolosana, he studied himself in a mirror, measuring his forces for siege or for assault, — for, to put it briefly, he had been for the past fourteen hours deeply enamored of the Marchesa Lucia; he had met her the previous evening, at the Duchess of Melikoff’s ball, had talked with her and had danced with her. Lucia was not a leading beauty of Rome; she suggested, rather, a dainty little lady suddenly springing to life from a chapter in one of Feuillet’s novels. A slender figure, full of grace, nervous, flexible, vivacious; an eye, now provocative, now languid, with at times an expression of challenge and of mischief. Her choice in dress was much like her method of arranging her abundant red-gold hair, that is to say, a compromise between good taste and audacity. She laughed, talked, gesticulated continuously, showing her small and glistening teeth, and the two dimples in her rounded cheeks. Two dimples that seemed made on purpose to encourage kisses, — many kisses.
Recanati had found no difficulty in having his head turned; but there was one merit, one great merit for which the charming marchesa had to give him credit, — that of having fallen in love, without wavering in his choice between her and her sister-in-law: — for it must be known that Lucia had a sister-in-law, the Marchesa Giulia, who was also, in a different type of beauty, a star of the first magnitude.
The two sisters were passing arm in arm, when Gino noticed them for the first time:
“Oh! There goes something worth while!” Then, “Do you know them?” he asked of Count Raiberti, a cavalry officer who was doing the honors of the capital to the new arrival in Rome.
“Vitalis introduced me to them half an hour ago.”
“Will you do the same service for me?”
“Who are they?”15
“LUCIA HAD A SISTER-IN-LAW, WHO WAS ALSO, IN A DIFFERENT TYPE OF BEAUTY, A STAR OF THE FIRST MAGNITUDE”
(The original “The Butterflies” from a painting by V. Corcos)
“The first is the Marchesa Giulia di Tolosana, a widow ——”
“What a pity! And the other?”
“The other is the Marchesa Lucia, also a Tolosana. They married cousins. One of the husbands, the Marchesa Giulia’s, is dead; the other, the husband of the Marchesa Lucia is alive and sound, ——”
“Nothing could be better! A hundred more days to him!”
Gino was presented to the ladies, He danced a square dance with the widow, as a matter of duty; then a mazurka, then a waltz with the other one: — and finally, during the cotillion, his heart, his happiness, his whole life passed into the fragrant little hands of the incomparable Lucia.
“When may I see you again, marchesa?”
“I am at home to my friends any day, from two until four.”
“Then will you permit me to call between four and five?”
“”Why? Don’t you care to be one of my friends?”
“Gladly, — but it is impossible!” and the attaché sighed. “Friendship is a sentiment much too tepid, ——”
“Oh, oh! A declaration?”
“No, a confession.”
“”That is to say, a sin, from which you need absolution?”
“I don’t know, because this is the first time I have ever felt — what I now feel.”
As soon s the cotillion was over, the Marchesa Lucia and the Marchesa Giulia were among the first to take their departure, and naturally Recanati also prepared to leave the ball.
“Look here, Gino,” said Count Raiberti, meeting him in the anteroom, “I ought to set you right in regard to those two sisters-in-law.”
“I mean those two cousins, that is to say, the two Marchese di Tolosana, who, I thought were cousins, while as a matter of fact, they are sisters-in-law, because they married brothers: one apiece.”16
“Oh, I understand! In matters of relationship, you mix things up as badly as ever!”
Upon leaving the Melikoff residence, Gino, contrary to his usual habit, did not on this particular night turn his steps towards his club. He felt the need of being alone, of giving rein to his fancy. He wandered up and down, through the deserted street and byways, splashing in his patent-leather shoes through the mud and the puddles; letting his overcoat swing open, notwithstanding that the night was bitterly cold; and with his umbrella closed, notwithstanding that a fine, drizzling rain was falling as thick as snowflakes. Four o’clock was sounding when he found himself at the door of his hotel. “Four o’clock! Twelve hours more! An eternity!” To shorten the time he had only one expedient, if it would work; and that was, to sleep. Gino put this expedient to the test, and the next day at two o’clock, when the valet opened the shutters in his bedroom, he was still dreaming about the wife of the surviving Tolosana.
“Bravo, Signor Recanati! I thought that you had forgotten your promise!” exclaimed the Marchesa Lucia, bringing new life into the reception-room with the rustle of her blue silk gown, and filling it with an insistent and intoxicating perfume; a perfume and a rustle that set the young diplomat’s delicate nerves to tingling.
“Forgotten my promise? Why, since last night I have done nothing but think of you! I have done nothing but long for this moment, and curse the time, the slow, boresome, everlasting time!”
“Good heavens! What a crescendo! — And four o’clock just struck!”
“You had said, marchesa, that you received between two and four ——”
“Precisely; as you see, you might have saved two whole hours of cursing the time that was so boresome and so everlasting. But come, don’t be down cast; just learn to be a little less eloquent and a little — a little more useful. Draw 17 those window curtains, that’s a good man, so that you won’t see me blush at your compliments.”
Gino obeyed. As a matter of fact, there came in through that window a persistent and shameless glare of sunshine.
“But now I no longer see you!” exclaimed the discomfited attaché. It was a winter sun just on the point of setting; the curtains being drawn, they remained almost in darkness.
“Be comforted; you are not losing much!”
“Perhaps not, since I have learned to see you even with my eyes shut.”
“So soon? But in that case you have taxed your imagination, and now when you see what I really am, I must seem quite homely to you!”
“You are divine! Adorable!” These two banalities Gino allowed to escape from between his set teeth, almost crushing his hat, with a convulsive movement, between his knees. Although at time he was as full of spirit as a thermometer, his spirits had now altogether deserted him. He felt himself deeply — deeply troubled. The obscurity of the small and cozy room, to which his eyes were gradually accustoming themselves, allowed him to distinguish, little by little the fair Marchesa of Tolosana, fantastically outlined in the glowing tints of her silks and velvets. Of the capricious lady herself, Gino could trace the pallid contour of throat and shoulders: a contour which varied in extent, accordingly as the marchesa’s ceaseless restlessness caused her low-cut gown to slip higher or lower. And through the obscurity he could also see the well-defined whiteness of her arms, bare to the elbow, issuing from her broad, short sleeves; and then — and then, all that hair; all that disorder, that confusion of hair, framing her face, her neck, her shoulders, with here and there an indiscreet lock penetrating within the margin of her gown: — and that intense, persistent perfume — and the warmth from the stove, — and all those flowers! — in short, if Gino lost his heart, we ought to sympathize with him!
“Adorable! — Divine!”18
“Why, really, Signor Recanati! This is the fourth declaration that you have made me within five minutes! At this rate you do not leave me sufficient time to appreciate them!”
“Cruel, cruel marchesa! From loving you too much, I shall end by hating you!”
“Your case would not be without precedent, but
“Oh, I protest! You won’t, by any chance, take my words seriously!”
“Well, if I don’t take your words seriously, you ought to be grateful, my dear Recanati,” — and here with her voice took on a very significant intonation, — “Otherwise, I am sorry, really very sorry, but at this time of day, — with all due respect to the diplomatic service ——”
“Marchesa, I had no intention of offending you.”
“I am sure you hadn’t, so don’t distress yourself. I enjoy a jest, and I infer that you enjoy one quite as much as I do, if not more, — and that is all there is to it.”
“You surely have no doubt of my esteem!”
“Oh no, because I am quite able to take care of myself! But for your part, how you could — ! You have known me barely twelve hours, and yet you not only profess to be in love with me, but even take it for granted that I have fallen in love with you!?”
“I don’t take it for granted, marchesa, I only hope for it.”
“Just a moment; let me finish. You were hardly introduced to me, when you immediately overwhelmed me with a tremendous declaration. I laughed at it. Then with an enviable self-possession, you followed it up with a second, a third, a fourth; a collection that, if not wholly original, was at least quite lavish. I continued to laugh, as the simplest way out of it: and the, with more talent than many a professional actor, you throw yourself into the rôle; of 19 despair and anger. Now, listen; so long as you let me laugh, frankly and heartily, I can still believe that — even while you jest — I can still believe that you have not been lacking in respect towards me; but if, on the contrary, you so much as imagine the possibility of my taking your — I sill be generous and call them your amiabilities, seriously; if you hope that I am going to accept at its face value, within my own realm, this passion of yours which is barely twelve hours old, out of which you have slept at least eight, you would force me to a conclusion rather far removed, I fancy, from your real wishes.”
The marchesa continued to laugh all the time she was speaking, with a fresh, resonant laugh, while the dimples in her cheeks became deeper and more tantalizing.
“Yes, twelve hours, I grant you; but twelve hours are more than enough time to allow a man to go mad!”
“In that case, how many hours do you think it will take you to become sane again?”
“At this rebuff, — because even though the marchesa smiled as she uttered it, while continuing to adjust the pretty hair above her neck, revealing her whole bare arm and bringing certain exquisite curves into prominence, it was none the less a rebuff, — the attaché found himself out of countenance.
“Who has made you so sure that the first time I ever saw you was last evening?” he asked, like a drowning man striking out at random, in search of some plank to cling to.
“Why, Signor Raiberti told me, not half an hour ago!”
Raiberti was a well-intentioned soul, but he certainly talked too much! He had repeated to the marchesa the explanation Gino had uttered upon hearing that her sister-in-law was a widow, — he had told of his own blunder about the relationship, — in short, he had repeated everything. On the other hand, it had been his first call, and he felt himself lucky to have a topic that would keep the conversation alive.
“But that was something that Raiberti could not have known.”
“Couldn’t he? Yet he told me that it is hardly two days 20 since you arrived in Rome, and that you had been absent from Italy for five years.”
“That makes no difference. This is not the first time I have been in Rome.”
“But five years ago, I — five years ago I was already engaged to be married.”
“Engaged? Unfortunately, yes!” As he spoke these words, Recanati assumed a melancholy expressions, drew closer to the marchesa who, quite sure of herself, did not even retreat, and: “If I were to tell you,” he continued, “that I carried with me, through all those five years of exile ——”
“Of exile? In Spain? At court? With a coronation, two marriages, and a funeral?”
“Five years of exile, because I could never forget what I had left behind me in Italy, — here in Rome.”
“Raiberti told me about it: a grandmother whom you adore!”
“Marchesa, that is unkind, that is cruel!”
“Come, come, show a bolder front! Such a rueful countenance I won’t even look at.” And Lucia extended one of her little hands to Gino, who took it and pressed it, — even a little too warmly.
“I had left behind me in Italy, a fair, pale young girl with a pair of large black eyes.”
“She could not be called an especially rare species; all fair, pale young girls, or pretty nearly all, have black eyes.”
“Then you — you have no recollections at all? Before proceeding further, Gino needed some sort of clew to guide him. — “What an idiot I was! Why didn’t I go to the club last night?” he said to himself. “Perhaps I might have met her husband and gathered in some useful information.”
“Then you have no recollection at all?”
“I? No, not at all.”
“You do not remember ever having seen me on the Pincian ——?”
“Nor at the Valle Theater?”
“At the Valle, five years ago? I was a mere girl.”
“Or rather at the Apollo, I meant to say.”
“I was there just once with my father; the opening night of Aïda.”
“And you don’t remember having seen me!” continued Gino, who felt at last that he was making headway.
“No, I don’t. I was engaged, and you will surely understand that I was not looking at anyone else than the Marquis of Tolosana.” So saying, Lucia dropped her eyes with a profound sigh, a very profound sigh.
Gino thought, with a certain guilty satisfaction, that here was another husband who was not on the best of terms with his wife.
“I did not know anyone at that time,” he continued. “I was in Rome for a very short time, taking my examinations. I entered the theater, glanced aimlessly around, and I saw — I saw you, marchesa, — in one of the boxes in the ——”
“In the second tier.”
“Precisely — in the second tier. To see you and to remain with my mouth open, absorbed in silent admiration, was one and the same action. The endless duets of Selika and Nelusko ——”
“That is to say, of Radames and Aïda ——”
“Of Radames and Aïda, fell on a heedless mind, on distraught senses. All my heart was in my eyes, my eyes that contemplated you, — and the divine music of Verdi was drowned beneath a celestial harmony of the soul that transported me into another world, into a mad tumult of desires and of dreams. Then it was that I knew for the first time the meaning of love. The performance over, I hurried from the auditorium in the hope of meeting you in the foyer. When I saw you pass by, blond, pale, delicate, like the figure of Ophelia as conceived in the mind of the enamored Shakspere, I asked a friend, ‘Do you know who that young lady is?’ and he answered, ‘She is —’ ” Hereupon, Recanati interrupted himself for an instant; for he 22 was ignorant of the Marchesa Lucia’s maiden name; — “She is the betrothed wife of the Marquis of Tolosana.’ he told me. Imagine, marchesa, the hand of ice that clutched me by the throat! — I felt as though I had been stabbed through the heart.”
Lucia made no reply; she seemed deeply moved, — so much so that all her gayety seemed to have left her.
“I remember that the evening I saw you, you were with — with a — —”
“With my father.”
“It must have been. A gentleman of somewhat advanced years ——”
“And rather tall?”
“Certainly, quite tall, — and somewhat ——”
“Somewhat thin, — with a ——”
“With a white beard.”
“Oh, very white! You see, don’t you, how I recall even the smallest particulars?”
Lucia looked at him with a glance which was a caress, and absently turning over the leaves of one of the albums lying on the table, showed a photograph to Gino:
“Do you recognize him”
“An excellent likeness.” (“All the same,” thought Gino to himself, looking at the portrait, “I certainly seem to know that beard!”) “You resemble your father very strongly.”
Lucia glanced at him, smiled, then let her head droop lower than before.
“Oh, if it were only true, — five whole years! — in that case, — in that case, it would be altogether different!”
Recanati, meanwhile, had been all the time moving closer and closer, until now his knee actually touched the marchesa’s dress.
“I could not hope, of course, I could not hope ever to be loved; but if all that I have suffered during these five years, all that I have suffered through grief, jealousy ——”23
“Jealousy?” At this, the marchesa sighed again. “At present you have no further reason to be jealous!”
“No? That’s odd!” thought the attaché. “There must be an estrangement between husband and wife!” — “Listen, marchesa!” he resumed, encouraged by the new discovery. “Listen. You owe it to me to answer frankly, seriously. Remember, you have not the right to play with a man’s passion, merely because you do have the right, unfortunately,” — here he sighed, — “not to reciprocate it”
Lucia answered him with a long and tender glance, and again allowed her eyes to fall.
“If I should do everything that your caprice might demand of me, if I should surmount all the tests two which it might please you to subject me, — then, after a year, or two years, or ten years! — might I by any chance, hope ——”
“Hope? What would you hope?”
“One word from you, only one single word, — say something to me, marchesa, — do not remain so silent, — I beg of you, — I supplicate you! What is it to be? Yes or no? — Speak! Answer me!”
“Perhaps! Who can tell!”
“Perhaps! Ah, thank you, thank you! You think, perhaps, the day will come when you will be kind, when you will have compassion on me. Do not make me wait too long for that day! It would be cruel!”
“But first we ought to understand each other concerning — concerning the meaning of the word you ask me to speak, ——”
“I ask you only to let me spend my life, my entire life, adoring you upon my knees. I ask you to care for me, as I care for you, always and always! Oh, if only I might take you away with me, out of the busy world, to some remote country spot, far, far, away ——”
“But, — if I should speak the word, — that is just what you might do!”
“You would be free to go?”
“As free as air!”
(“Undoubtedly, they have separated!” decided Gino, 24 and that rattle-pate of a Raiberti did not tell me! I’ll wager he did it on purpose!”)
“Well, then, all the better, if you are free ! — Speak, speak, at once! Put into words all that makes up my dream, a dream that has lasted for five years! Oh, how beautiful our life would be!”
“No, you must first learn to know be me better, to know me thoroughly, I have many faults, you see; I have been greatly spoiled, because I have been so much loved.”
“Know you better? Do you think I need to? The woman one loves, one understands by instinct!”
“It is serious, and I want to give you time to reflect —”
“Reflect? Reflect! — when I love you?”
“It is a question of your liberty, a question of your whole life; think of it!”
“But, since my whole life is already in your hands!”
“Then? — Well, well? — then?”
“No, no, leave me, signore! Some day you will thank me for not having consented, for not having taken advantage of a moment of impetuosity.”
“Leave you? Yes, I will leave you after you have spoken that one word, but not sooner, that is certain!”
“But if I should speak that word today, now at once, — in such hot haste, what would you think of me?”
“That you are an angel!” replied Gino, weighing his words, in order that every phrase should be a forward step in intimacy.
“No, I am not an angel,” and hereupon Lucia, trembling in her turn, with eyes moist and glowing, and flushed face, appeared a prey to her emotions, indeed, it would seem, in a state of strong nervous excitement. “No, I am not an angel; I am only a weak woman, capable of feeling, perhaps a little too keenly. An address so impassioned, the confession of a love that has endured for five years, in solitude, unwavering, yet without the slightest hope, — all this has moved me, — moved me powerfully! Oh, signore, 25 you must be good, because you are so strong! Then, have a little compassion upon me!”
“Well, what besides?”
“You remind me, in your voice, in your face, in your eyes, — you remind me ——”
“I remind you of whom?”
“No, no! Leave me, leave me, while I can still control myself! Leave me, don’t look at me in that way, — you only hurt me. No, it is useless; today, so suddenly, I will not speak the word. No, be good, be generous; don’t look at me like that!”
But the attaché was obstinately relentless, and while he kept his eyes fixed upon hers, as though he were trying to magnetize her, one hand had crept very, very softly between the back of the sofa and the fair shoulders of the marchesa; and all of sudden he drew her closely, very closely to his breast.”
“Oh! You monster!”
“Angel! That word! I demand it!”
“Yes, yes that word!”
“No! — Heavens! — Very well, then, — yes, — monster! I will be your wife!”
“My wife?” exclaimed Gino, and promptly freeing her from his arms, he sat up stiffly in his place. “My wife! How could that be? What do you mean?”
“I trust, sir, that you have not meant to offer me insult; I trust that you have not for an instant thought that you could obtain my heart without first obtaining my hand; I trust that it is not a blow that you have come to deal me, after five years of love!”
“No, no! Certainly not, Signora Marchesa! — only — they told me — that — your husband ——”
“My husband, up in heaven, will grant me his pardon.”26
“Up in heaven?” (“Oh, you imbecile, Raiberti, you imbecile!” thought Gino, feeling a strong desire to swallow his friend whole, ostrich-like. “He has mixed the two up: the one with a husband is the other!”) And the continued to beat a retreat, shrinking further and further into his corner of the sofa. He had ceased to know just what he was doing; he wiped his forehead with his gloves; he hunted for his glasses, only to find that he had them on; he tried to answer the marchesa, but could not find the words. What he would have liked to find, far more gladly, was the front door.
“Do you think — really, that — your husband will forgive you, up in heaven, if you ——”
“It is his living image that he has given back to me in you!”
(“Much obliged for the miracle!” muttered Gino between his teeth.”)
“You resemble him to an extraordinary degree.”
“I? — resemble him?”
“In your face, — in your eyes especially. That is why I realized at once that I cared for you.”
“Ah, then it was he, your husband, whom you said, a little while ago, I reminded you of?”
“Yes, now I can confess it, — now I can tell you everything, since after this we are to be united forever. No sooner had you been introduced to me last evening than I began almost to believe in a resurrection. I waited for some word of affection from you, as if ——”
“And yet, in the beginning, you treated me, if anything, rather meanly.”
“I wanted to put you to the test; and besides, I was afraid of something that did not exist, fortunately. I was afraid, for the sake of my whole future, for the sake of my happiness, that you were only a foolish trifle, presumptuous and fickle, with no opinion of women and no respect of their honour; a professionable lady-killer, a sort of cheap Don Juan, who fancies himself a grand sultan, who goes about with his pockets full of handkerchiefs, to ——”27
“Oh, my doubt was an insult to your character, as it was to the dear memory of him of whom you so strongly remind me!”
“And for that reason ——?”
“For that reason, I feel that I owe you some atonement! Well, I shall have to pray Tolosana to forgive me, — but there is a little villa, isolated from the world, a little villa that has been closed for many years, but which shall open again at your coming, because in you it will have again its adored host and master. You have waited for me so many years that I have not the right to be cruel, and I do not want to make you wait any longer. Here is my hand: it is yours. We will bid good-by forever to society, to the world, to festivities, balls, and theaters, to the court itself, just as you desired, to live, just we two together, in the country, in the midst of verdure — far, very far away, absorbed in our love, among
There will be no one except my children to enliven our precious solitude: — my children whom you will love as dearly, will you not, as those others, that will belong to us both, some day?”
“Your — did you say children?”
“Four little angels. And, of course, my mother will come with us to Tolosana.”
“The mother-in-law!” groaned Gino, longing for an express train to take him back to Madrid.
“She is a little nervous, irascible, somewhat sickly, — but she, too, is really an angel!”
“She, too! — Tolosana, my dear, will become a regular Jacob’s ladder!”
“Ah, my Gino, repeat once more those divine words you uttered a few minutes ago: how beautiful life is going to be!”28
Thus saying, Lucia edged over, on the sofa, nearer and nearer to the young attaché looking into his eyes with languid tenderness, — but, to poor Recanati, she no longer seemed the same woman. His eyes had become habituated to the darkness, and he could now see that the cheeks of the marchesa no longer preserved their early freshness, and that much of the whiteness of her skin was due to powder. Her hair was not blond, but auburn, the disorder of her coiffure was in shocking style, the audacious coloring of her dress was in the worst of taste, and the perfume she employed was the intolerable odor of ambergris, so strong that it made his head ache.”
“But, really, before leaving, — I should have, — I shall have to settle a few matters of business, — and besides, I am compelled to go back to Spain, for a few days at least, ——”
“Nothing could be better! We will go to Spain for our wedding trip! You have waited five years of mortal anguish, and I want to make it up to you by never, never leaving you again!”
“That is impossible, — my official position, — I am on a delicate mission for the government ——”
“I could go with you, — or else you could send in your resignation!”
“I won’t listen to excuses, I won’t admit any arguments, I won’t allow another word more. I am jealous, terribly jealous, and that is all there is to be said!”
“You are wrong there. I am not a — cheap Don Juan; I am not a — grand sultan, with his pockets full of handkerchiefs to ——”
“Oh, that I am sure you are not! Indeed, it looks as though you did not have any handkerchief at all; for the last half hour you have been wiping your forehead with your gloves.”
So saying, Lucia rang the bell, and Battista entered almost immediately.
“Raise the curtains. — Good heavens!” exclaimed Lucia to Gino, seeing him pale and agitated, “do you feel ill?”29
“It is nothing — nothing b-b-but emotion, — I feel the need of a little air, a little free air.”
“Does the Signora Marchesa wish anything else?” asked Battista.
“Are the children at home?”
“No, they have gone out, Signora Marchesa.”
“With Miss Blain”
“No, with the Signore Marquis.”
“As soon as they come in, tell my husband,” Lucia continued with her eyes on Recanati, whose eyes, at these words sent forth a gleam of joy, “tell my husband to bring them here, for I want to see them. You can go now.”
Battista, after another salutation, vanished again in quick order.
“What is this? Your husband?”
“Yes, the Marquis of Tolosana.”
“Then, in that case, you have been making sport of me!” exclaimed Gino, with an offended air.
“A little bit, I confess! At the same time, I must tell you that I never in my life went to the Apollo before my marriage, and that five years ago I was still living in Bologna.”
“Besides, my father is a man of very short stature, and he has never worn a beard.”
“But, surely that portrait?”
“That portrait? We were looking at my album of famous men; that portrait was one of Don Pedro d’Alcantara, Emperor of Brazil.”
“Then I was right, after all! I knew that beard looked familiar!”
“As for the rest, calm yourself,” continued Lucia, laughing, with an air of raillery that suited her admirably. “Even if he were the emperor, Don Pedro was a man of spirit, who never would take it ill if a diplomat happened to find a strong resemblance between his august countenance and that of a poor little marchesa.”
“Marchesa, — perfidious marchesa!”30
Gino, in his sad predicament, found no other loophole with any sort of dignity than to lose his temper and pose as the offended party. He took up his hat.
“And now, —” he murmured, preparing to take his leave of Lucia.
“Why, now, you also can call between two and four, — at the same time as the others do.”
“You will not see me again, Signora Marchesa.”
“Never again?” said Lucia, with an accent and an expression that conveyed sincere regret. “Never again?”
“I leave again this very morning, — for Spain.”
“Well, do you know, I am very sorry, — exceedingly sorry —” As she uttered these words Lucia had become quite serious, and her eyes had taken on such a bewitching expression that Gino, thinking that possibly she repented of her trick and was really grieved at his departure, turned back, came close to her, and taking her by the hand, questioned:
“Truly? Are you really very sorry that I am going back to Spain?”
“Yes, really, — because our diplomatic service seems to me to be in such bad hands!”