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PART II CHAPTER 1
Anna wore a pink dressing-gown of soft wool, with a low-cut sailor's collar and monk's-sleeves, so that her throat and wrists, round and pale with the warm pallor of ivory, were left uncovered. Her hair was drawn up in a rich mass on the top of her head, and confined by two or three pins of yellow tortoise-shell. Her black eyes were radiant with youth and love.

She opened the door of her room.

She had a little clock in a case of blue velvet lightly ornamented with silver; Cesare had given it to her during their honeymoon, and she always kept it by her. She looked at this, and saw that it was already eleven. The April sunshine poured merrily into the room, brightening the light colours of the upholsteries, touching with fire her bronze jewel-case, her hanging lamp of ancient Venetian wrought iron, and the silver frame of her looking-glass, and giving life to the blue forget-me-nots on the white ground of her carpet.

It was eleven. And from the other end of the apartment (where, with Stella Martini she occupied two or three rooms) Laura had sent to ask at what hour they were to start for the Campo di Marte. Anna had told the servant to answer that they would start soon after noon, and that she was getting ready.

For a moment she stood still in the middle of her room, undecided whether or not to move in the direction that her feet seemed inclined to take of their own will—pretty little feet, in black slippers embroidered with pearls.

Then she opened the door.

A short passage separated her room from her husband's. Her husband's room had a second door, letting into a small hall, whence he could leave the house without Anna's knowing it, without her hearing so much as a footstep.

She crossed the passage slowly, and leaned against the door, not to listen, but as if she lacked courage to knock. At last, very softly, she gave two quick raps with her knuckles.

There was a minute of silence.

She would never have dared to knock a second time, already penitent for having ventured to disturb her lord and master.

A cold quiet voice from within inquired, "Who is it?"

"It's I, Cesare," she said, bending down, as if to send the words through the keyhole.

"Wait a moment, please."

Patiently, with her bejewelled hand on the knob, and the train of her pink dressing-gown heaped about her feet, she waited. He never allowed her to come in at once, when she knocked at his door, he seemed to take a pleasure in prolonging and subduing her impatience.

Presently he opened the door. He was already dressed for the Campo di Marte, in the appropriate costume of a lover of horse-racing.

"Ah, my dear lady," he said, bowing with that fine gallantry which he always showed to women, "aren't you dressed yet?"

And as he spoke he looked at her with admiring eyes. She was so young and fresh, and living, with her beautiful round throat, her flower-like arms issuing from her wide monk's sleeves, and her tiny feet in their black slippers, that he took her hand, drew her to him, and kissed her on the lips. A single kiss; but her eyes lightened softly, and her red lips remained parted.

He stretched himself in an easy-chair, near his writing-desk, and puffed a cigarette. All the solid and simple yet elegant furniture of the big room which he occupied, was impregnated with that odour of tobacco, which solitary smokers create round themselves like an atmosphere.

Anna sat down, balancing herself on the arm of a chair covered with Spanish leather. One of her feet played with the train of her gown. She looked about, marvelling as she always did, at the vast room a little bleak with its olive plush, its arms, its bookcase, its handful of books in brown bindings, and here and there a bit of carved ivory or a bright-coloured neck-tie, and everywhere the smell of cigarette-smoke. His bed was long and narrow, with a head-piece of carved wood; its coverlet of old brocade fell to the floor in folds, and mixed itself with the antique Smyrna carpets that Cesare Dias had brought home from a journey in the East. Attached to the brown head-piece there was a big ivory crucifix, a specimen of Cinquecento sculpture, yellow with age. The whole room had a certain severe appearance, as if here the gallant man of the world gave himself to solitary and austere reflections, while his conscience took the upper hand and reminded him of the seriousness of life.

The big drawers of his writing desk surely contained many deep and strange secrets. Anna had often looked at them with burning, eager eyes, the eyes of one anxious to penetrate the essence of things; but she had never approached them, fearing their mysteries. Only, every day, after breakfast, when her husband was away, she had put a bunch of fresh, fragrant flowers in a vase of Satsuma, whose yellow surface was crossed by threads of gold, and placed them on the dark old desk, which thereby gained a quality of youth and poetry. He treated the flowers with characteristic indifference. Now and then he would wear one of them in his button-hole; oftener he seemed unconscious of their existence. For a week at a time jonquils would follow violets and roses would take the place of mignonette in the Satsuma vase, but Cesare would not deign to give them a look. This morning, though, he had a tea-rose bud in his button-hole, a slightly faded one that he had plucked from the accustomed nosegay; and Anna smiled at seeing it there.

"At what time are we going to the races?" she asked, remembering the business that had brought her to his room.

"In about an hour," he answered, looking up from a memorandum-book in which he was setting down certain figures with a pencil.

"You are coming with us, aren't you?"

"Yes. And yet—we shall look like a Noah's ark. Perhaps I'd better go with Giulio on the four-in-hand."

"No, no; come with us. When we are there you can go where you like."

"Naturally," he said, making another entry in his note-book.

She looked at him with shining eyes; but he continued his calculations, and paid her no attention. Only presently he asked:

"Aren't you going to dress?"

"Yes, yes," she answered softly.

And slowly she went away.

While her maid was helping her to put on her English costume of nut-coloured wool, she was wondering whether her husband would like it; she never dared to ask him what his tastes were in such matters; she tried to divine them. Before dressing, she secured round her throat by a chain an antique silver reliquary, which enclosed, however, instead of the relics of a saint, the only love letters that he had ever written to her, two little notes that had given her unspeakable pain when she had received them. And as she moved about her room at her toilet, she cast repeated glances at his portrait, which hung over her writing-table. Round her right arm she wore six little golden bracelets with pearls suspended from them; and graven upon each bracelet was one letter of his name, Cesare. Her right hand gleamed with many rings set with precious stones; but on her left hand her wedding-ring shone alone.

When she had adjusted her veil over her English felt hat, trimmed with swallows' wings, she looked at herself in the glass, and hesitated. She was afraid she wouldn't please him; her dress was too simple; it was an ordinary morning street costume.

Suddenly the door opened, and Laura appeared. As usual, she wore white, a frock of soft white wool, exquisitely delicate and graceful. Her hat was covered with white feathers, that waved with every breath of air. And in her hands she held a bunch of beautiful fresh tea-roses.

"Oh, how pretty you are!" cried Anna. "And who gave you those lovely roses?"

"Cesare."

"Give me one—give me one." And she put out her hand.

She put it into her button-hole, inexpressibly happy to possess a flower that he had brought to the house and presented to her sister.

"When did you see Cesare?" she asked, taking up her purse, across which Anna Dias was stamped, and her sunshade.

"I haven't seen him. He sent these flowers to my room."

"How kind he is."

"Very kind," repeated her sister, like an echo.

They went into the drawing-room and waited for Cesare. He came presently, drawing on his gloves. He was somewhat annoyed at having to go to the races with his family—he who had hitherto always gone as a bachelor, on a friend's four-in-hand, or alone in his own ph?ton. His bad humour was only partially concealed.

"Ah, here is the charming Minerva!" he cried, perceiving Laura. "How smart we are! A proper spring toilet, indeed. Good, good! Well, let's be off."

Anna had hoped for a word from him too, but she got none. Cesare had seen her dress of nut-coloured wool, and he deemed it unworthy of remark. For a moment all the beauty of the April day was extinguished, and she descended the stairs with heavy steps. But out of doors the air was full of light and gaiety; the streets were crowded with carriages and with pedestrians; on every balcony there were ladies in light colours, with red parasols; and a million scintillating atoms danced in every ray of sunshine. Anna told herself she must bear in patience the consequences of the error she had made in putting on that ugly brown frock. Laura's face was lovely as a rose under her white hat; and Anna rejoiced in her sister's beauty, and in the admiring glances that everybody gave her.

"It's going to be beastly hot," said Cesare, as they drove into the Toledo, where a crowd had gathered to watch the procession of carriages.

"The Grand Stand will be covered. We'll find a good place," said Anna.

"Oh, I'm to leave you when we get there," he reminded her. He was determined to put an end to this family scene as soon as he could. "I must leave a clear field for Laura's adorers. I give place to them because I am old."

Laura smiled.

"So, Anna, I'll leave you to your maternal duties. I recommend you to keep an especial eye upon Luigi Caracciolo—upon him in particular."

"What do you mean?" Anna asked absently.

"Nothing, dear."

"I thought——" she began, without finishing her sentence.

Bows and smiles and words of greeting were reaching them from every side. They passed or overtook numberless people whom they knew, some in carriages, some on foot. Cesare was inwardly mortified by the conjugal exhibition of himself that he was obliged to make, and looked with secret envy at his bachelor friends.

But his regret was sharpest when a handsome four-in-hand dashed past, with Giulio Carafa on the box and the Contessa d'Alemagna beside him. That dark, vivacious, blue-eyed lady wore a costume of pale yellow silk, and a broad straw hat trimmed with cream-coloured feathers. She carried a bunch of lilac in her hands, lilac that lives but a single day in our ardent climate, and is rich with intoxicating fragrance. All the men on Carafa's coach bowed to Dias, and the Contessa d'Alemagna smiled upon him and waved her flowers; and his heart was bitten by a great desire to be there, with them, instead of here, in this stupid domestic party.

He was silent; and Anna's eyes filled with tears, for she understood what his silence meant. At the sight of her tears his irritation increased.

"Well, what is it?" he asked, looking at her with his dominating coldness.

"Nothing," she said, turning her head away, to hide her emotion.

That question and answer were equivalent to one of the long and stormy discussions that are usual between husbands and wives. Between them such discussions never took place. Their life was regulated according to the compact they had made on that moonlit night at Sorrento; she realised now that what had then seemed to her a way of being saved was only a way of dying more slowly; but he had kept his word, and she must keep hers. He had married her; she must not reproach him. Only sometimes her sorrow appeared too plainly; then he never failed to find a word or a glance to remind her of her promise.

To-day, for the thousandth time, he regretted the sacrifice he had made, and cursed his generosity.

The whole distance from the Toledo to the Campo di Marte was passed in silence. As they approached the Reclusorio, Luigi Caracciolo drove by them with his tandem. He bowed cordially to them. Anna dropped her eyes; Laura smiled upon him.

"What a handsome fellow!" exclaimed Dias, with the sincere admiration of one man of the world for another.

"Very handsome," said Laura, who was accustomed to speak her girlish mind with sufficient freedom.

"He pleases you, eh?" inquired Cesare, with a smile.

"He pleases me," she said, with her habitual freedom and her habitual indifference.

"It's a pity he was never able to take Anna's fancy," Cesare a............
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