“Don’t try it again,” she whispered.
“I am only over for six weeks, you know, health–”
“Yes? and there is a girl in Lowell,”–she read his mind impudently.
“Was,” he emended, with an uneasy blush.
“Poor, starved one! Here is our fish and spaghetti. To-night is a night of feast.”
The dusk grew grayer, more powderish; the mountains faded away, and the long Lido banks disappeared into lines pointed by the lights of Torcello and Murano. Sant’ Elena became sea, and the evening wind from the Adriatic started in toward the city. A few sailors who had come for a glass were sitting under the arbor of the Buon Pesche smoking, with an occasional stinging word dropped nonchalantly into the dusk. Their hostess was working in the garden patch behind the house. At last the artist moved off with his companion through the grove of laurel between the great well- heads. Bastian loitered suggestively near.
So they gathered their thoughts and followed the gondolier to the bank. Miss Barton lingered by one of the well-heads to peer at the pitchy bottom.
“Here they came for fresh water, the last gift of Venice before they took sail. And sometimes a man never went farther–it was a safe kind of a grave.” She laughed unconcernedly.
“Perhaps you came out of the locusts and took a hand in pitching the bodies in.”
The woman shivered.
“No! no! I only brought them here.”
Bastian turned the prow into the current, heading to weather Sant’ Elena. Lawrence took an oar silently. He liked the rush on the forward stroke, the lingering recovery. The evening puffs were cool. They slid on past a ghostly full-rigged ship from the north, abandoned at the point of Sant’ Elena, until the black mass of trees in the Giardino Pubblico loomed up. A little off the other quarter the lights from the island of San Lazzaro gleamed and faded. It was so very silent on the waste of waters!
Lawrence looked back at his companion; she was holding her hat idly, huddled limply on the cushions.
“Come,” she said again, adding mockingly—-
“If you are so ferocious, we shall get there too soon.”
Lawrence gave up his oar and lay down at her feet. Bastian’s sweep dipped daintily in and out; the good current was doing his work. They drifted silently on near Venice. The halo of light above the squares grew brighter. San Giorgio Maggiore appeared suddenly off the quarter.
Miss Barton signed to the gondolier to wait. They were outside the city wash; the notes of the band in San Marco came at intervals; the water slipped noiselessly around the channels, and fire-fly lights from the gondolas twinkled on the Grand Canal. San Giorgio was asleep.
Miss Barton’s head was leaning forward, her eyes brooding over the black outlines, her ears sensuously absorbing the gurgle of the currents. A big market boat from Palestrina winged past them, sliding over the oily water. Several silent figures were standing in the stern.
Lawrence looked up; her eyes seemed lit with little candles placed behind. Her face gleamed, and one arm slipped from her wrap to the cushion by his side.
“Bella Venezia,” he murmured.
She smiled, enveloping him, mastering him, taking him as a child with her ample powers.
“You will never go back to ‘that’!”
Her arm by his side filled out the thought.
“Never,” he heard himself say as on a stage, and the dusky lights from that radiant face seemed very near.
“Because I am—-”
“Sh,” she laid her fingers lightly on his forehead. “There is no thine and mine.”
Bastian dipped his sweep once more. San Giorgio’s austere facade went out into the black night. One cold ripple of Adriatic wind stirred the felza curtains.
The garden on the Giudecca was a long narrow strip on the seaward side, blossoming profusely with flowers. A low vine-covered villino slanted along the canal; beyond, there was a cow-house where a boy was feeding some glossy cows. The garden was full of the morning sun.
Lawrence could see her from the open door, a white figure, loitering in a bed of purple tulips. Her dark hair was loosely knotted up; stray wisps fell about her ears.