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Chapter III.13
ON THE day Mrs. Gould was going, in Dr. Monygham's words, to "give a
tertulia," Captain Fidanza went down the side of his schooner lying in Sulaco
harbour, calm, unbending, deliberate in the way he sat down in his dinghy and
took up his sculls. He was later than usual. The afternoon was well advanced
before he landed on the beach of the Great Isabel, and with a steady pace
climbed the slope of the island.
From a distance he made out Giselle sitting in a chair tilted back against the end
of the house, under the window of the girl's room. She had her embroidery in her
hands, and held it well up to her eyes. The tranquillity of that girlish figure
exasperated the feeling of perpetual struggle and strife he carried in his breast.
He became angry. It seemed to him that she ought to hear the clanking of his
fetters--his silver fetters, from afar. And while ashore that day, he had met the
doctor with the evil eye, who had looked at him very hard.
The raising of her eyes mollified him. They smiled in their flower-like freshness
straight upon his heart. Then she frowned. It was a warning to be cautious. He
stopped some distance away, and in a loud, indifferent tone, said--
"Good day, Giselle. Is Linda up yet?"
"Yes. She is in the big room with father."
He approached then, and, looking through the window into the bedroom for fear
of being detected by Linda returning there for some reason, he said, moving only
his lips--
"You love me?"
"More than my life." She went on with her embroidery under his contemplating
gaze and continued to speak, looking at her work, "Or I could not live. I could not,
Giovanni. For this life is like death. Oh, Giovanni, I shall perish if you do not take
me away."
He smiled carelessly. "I will come to the window when it's dark," he said.
"No, don't, Giovanni. Not-to-night. Linda and father have been talking together for
a long time today."
"What about?"
"Ramirez, I fancy I heard. I do not know. I am afraid. I am always afraid. It is like
dying a thousand times a day. Your love is to me like your treasure to you. It is
there, but I can never get enough of it."
He looked at her very still. She was beautiful. His desire had grown within him.
He had two masters now. But she was incapable of sustained emotion. She was
sincere in what she said, but she slept placidly at night. When she saw him she
flamed up always. Then only an increased taciturnity marked the change in her.
She was afraid of betraying herself. She was afraid of pain, of bodily harm, of
sharp words, of facing anger, and witnessing violence. For her soul was light and
tender with a pagan sincerity in its impulses. She murmured--
"Give up the palazzo, Giovanni, and the vineyard on the hills, for which we are
starving our love."
She ceased, seeing Linda standing silent at the corner of the house.