We shall take a trip through Italy, but without haste, taking short journeys, enjoying every comfort, stopping where we please, seeing even the most insignificant things. We will thus occupy three months; no, that will not be enough, let us say four months; I shall be glad to get Lulu away for a certain time from the doleful society of Sofia. But, I ask, is it natural that that girl should be so serious at her age? She must be twenty-three. She is not plain.
In fact, she has beautiful eyes, and the carriage of a queen. If she were not so severe she would please. I wager that she will be an old maid; perhaps that is her secret torment, perhaps a love affair, some unfortunate love affair?—I am curious to know the cause of her seriousness—I shall ask Lulu when we are alone—“Lulu is fond of bonbons, she told me so that second evening I went to her house. How she nibbles them! How they disappear between her little red lips, and after a moment what a false air of compunction she assumes—because there are no more. She is dear, dear, dear!
She confided to me in a low tone that when it thunders she is frightened, and goes and hides her head among the pillows; that she has always dreamed of having a gown of black velvet, with a very long train, and with white lace at the neck and sleeves. She assures me that she shall be jealous, jealous as a Spaniard, and that she shall buy a little dagger with a handle inlaid with gold, with which to take vengeance. She is adorable when she repeats these absurdities to me, with her childish air of conviction. Even Sofia is forced to smile sometimes, and how it brightens her face! That Sofia, that Sofia! who will ever learn to know her!”
The book fell from his knees to the floor, the young man started at the sound, looked about in surprise, as though unable to recognize himself. It was actually he, Roberto Montefranco, caught in flagrante delicto, meditating.
Twilight was descehding like a rain of gray ashes. Sofia, standing at the window that opened out on to the balcony, was gazing down into the crowded, noisy street. It was the hour in which the Via Toledo becomes dangerous because of the great number of large and small carriages that pass up and down in a continuous stream. Sofia seemed looking for some one; suddenly a vivid flush passed over her face, she bent her head slightly, then suddenly paled, and turned back into the room. A minute later Lulu entered like a whirlwind, slamming doors, overturning chairs that she might hurry the more.