Temptation overcame him; as it was a fate that he would suffer all the abomination of his sin.

To give the family a pretext, Loretta pretended to be sick, to be collapsed by one of those spring evils that come with the first heat. Her brother then proposed to take her with him to breathe some healthy air, in some hill town or on the shores of a quiet lake; and although Arrigo’s unusual concern should have surprised them a little, nevertheless the honest father ended by acquiescing to that departure.

The hotel where they went down had a large garden, which swung its backs of wild rose bushes over the blue water; an exuberant garden, which then, at the end of the lake in May, had more flowers than leaves, more shadows than sun. The hotel was almost full, but of those rather gloomy foreigners, who travel all their lives, hermetically sealed in themselves, mistreated and insensitive as their trunks. They eat, sleep, look at the sky, try to gather in their own eyes the greatest possible confusion of things seen: they are punctual like the timetable, as detailed as the topographical map, full of memories like a register of illustrated postcards; they care little about the things of others, their own, it would seem, even less so.

And the lake swung its calm light waves before the contemplation of their colorless eyes; the mountains, swathed in blue vapors, dark with forests, white [271]of villas, they raised their impetuous vertexes against the flaming sky; the shore, planted with vines, gilded with wheat, poured out its lazy fecundity under the magnificence of the sun.

They had therefore left, but not without disagreements, as the family did not welcome this unexpected departure. Certainly no doubt contaminated those simple souls; but, perhaps a dark presentiment, a suspicion without precision, also generated by their hesitation, persuaded the parents not to favor this excessive familiarity of the brother with the younger sister.

Also, for some time now, Loretta had changed in a singular way; she could see something ambiguous, unusual in the expression on her face; and she had changed just since Arrigo had begun to take care of her. She involuntarily hated this family of hers, with narrow, severe, mean ideas, this family which was the only stumbling block to the possibility of her every desire, and obscurely let this hate felt, she let it be understood that she was only happy when she could go out with Arrigo, escape from family prison, get away from their mediocre habits.

And the eldest son, who once haunted so seldom in his father’s house, now came almost every day, sometimes dazed, sometimes with the attitude and on the pretext of someone who wants to hide the real reason for his visit. He had never been tender with family affections, and his more than fraternal attentions to his younger sister seemed at least singular. Then, this arrogant man, who had never suffered any interference in his actions, now sometimes appeared hesitant, almost humble, and was trying to give a reason for every step he took; sometimes he looked at his old father, his old mother, with a frighteningly filial look which his eyes had never been able to express.

Paolo, the younger brother, the young man with a round skull, with slightly stunned eyes, Paolo, who showed an irreducible dislike for his sister, a certain contempt for his brother, did not spare his somewhat coarse ironies about that two who acted like gentlemen, borrowing [272]the feathers of the peacock. And then there was that terrible Riotti, who for nothing in the world would have renounced to blow such malice about what was happening in the neighbor’s house. Not that his sober mind could ever come to conceive of the possibility of such a love; but he saw it from another point of view, that is, he saw that the last daughter of the optician was about to become a female what the firstborn had been a male. And he understood very well that those two leaders were making a good league together and helping each other as best they could to scandalize the good people.

Oh, he had said so in Ferrante’s house! said and repeated loudly! «But yes! it was precisely to a man of that kind that they had to confide their girlfriend! and a girl – without wronging her – who really didn’t even have a hair. Why didn’t they rather teach her to be a good mother of a family? Other than dresses and powders and trinkets and theaters and holidays! Even the holidays now! But sure, at the end of May, when it’s still not very hot – in fact, in the evening it is better with the coat than without, and it is the best time for the city – at the end of May you feel the need to go to get some fresh air on the lakes. Let’s imagine! … a trip to places and elegant hotels, to learn other whims, as if he didn’t have enough! But, yes, when you are rich! … when you can! … Mr. Arrigo, he has plenty of money! He spends, spreads, travels, keeps the apartment and the waiter. Poor thing! And why doesn’t he invite her father, or rather her mother, to see a little lake, which would be good health for her? No sir! Invite her sister instead; and why? Because she has elegant “toilettes”, because she goes around like a butterfly, because she is an owl, the young lady, and he likes this, you know, he! … that wasteful! to that arrogant! He would finish with the scandals, and she would think once and for all about repairing her ailments! Or she didn’t at least try to corrupt her sister too, who, joking aside, she already knew more than Bertoldo! And he, the old man, also weak in this, as in everything, weak to the point of cowardice! After all, let them do it, So why doesn’t she invite her father, or rather her mother, to see a little lake, which would be great health for her? No sir! She invites her sister instead; and why? Because she has elegant “toilettes”, because she goes around like a butterfly, because she is an owl, the young lady, and he likes this, you know, he! … that wasteful! to that arrogant! He would finish with the scandals, and she would think once and for all about repairing her ailments! Or he didn’t at least try to corrupt his sister too, who, joking aside, already knew more than Bertoldo! And he, the old man, also weak in this, as in everything, weak to the point of cowardice! After all, let them do it, So why doesn’t she invite her father, or rather her mother, to see a little lake, which would be great health for her? No sir! She invites her sister instead; and why? Because she has elegant “toilettes”, because she goes around like a butterfly, because she is an owl, the young lady, and he likes this, you know, he! … that wasteful! to that arrogant! He would finish with the scandals, and she would think once and for all about repairing her ailments! Or he didn’t at least try to corrupt his sister too, who, joking aside, already knew more than Bertoldo! And he, the old man, also weak in this, as in everything, weak to the point of cowardice! After all, let them do it, because she goes around like a butterfly, because she is an owl, the young lady, and he likes this, you know, he! … that wasteful! to that arrogant! He would finish with the scandals, and she would think once and for all about repairing her ailments! Or she didn’t at least try to corrupt her sister too, who, joking aside, she already knew more than Bertoldo! And he, the old man, also weak in this, as in everything, weak to the point of cowardice! After all, let them do it, because she goes around like a butterfly, because she is an owl, the young lady, and he likes this, you know, he! … that wasteful! to that arrogant! He would finish with the scandals, and she would think once and for all about repairing her ailments! Or she didn’t at least try to corrupt her sister too, who, joking aside, she already knew more than Bertoldo! And he, the old man, also weak in this, as in everything, weak to the point of cowardice! After all, let them do it, [273]that he, Riotti, as was his principle, did not want to put his beak in the affairs of others … ”

But Loretta had no patience with her family; when they barely contradicted her, she gave into insanity, declaring that she intended to be free and live in her own way. They would stop bothering her once and for all for her too elegant clothes, for her hats and capes, since a girl of her age could not already convene the family council before choosing a blouse! … So they made her. the holy pleasure of not wanting to mix even with her “toilettes”, since they could not even reproach her for spending too much, and this thanks to her good taste, her great ability to shop. That if Arrigo gave her some gifts from time to time, in the end no one had the right to find fault with you. And they wanted to know why he and she got along so well? … But it was natural! They had the same tastes, and after all they were brother and sister. Useless! did not try to make her a shopkeeper, because a husband of theirs would never marry him. Leave her alone! leave her alone! As for her, she would know how to get out of her own way. And she finally she indeed she had decided: she wanted to study and become a singer. This would have served at least to be free of her.

Singer!? … His brother Paolo burst out laughing, with a bad, insulting laugh. She went to tell Riotti about it, who, as soon as he saw her, began by calling her Adelina Patti. On the contrary, he gave a long and detailed account of an evening in which he had heard the famous singer; he criticized the modern school, modern diction, barbaric music and the grotesque theories of the Wagnerians; then he explained all the inconveniences he may encounter a woman on the theater. But then he concluded that, in the end, if this was precisely his unchanging vocation, he would at least start studying seriously, because on the theater, as in all things, one succeeds or fails, but when one cannot, since the money is needed all the same, mostly women get to do another job … And the voice? But did you know how long it takes to find the right pitch? And the [274]movements? gestures? mastery of the scene? So did he have a rough idea of ​​the assiduity it takes to learn all this? Years and years of study! Then you must have been born on the theater, or enter it very young …

According to him it was already too late for Anna Laura.

Regarding this trip, Arrigo had some trouble with Clara Michelis for his part.

A vague suspicion began to stir obscurely in his alert and jealous heart. She had also noticed some fleeting circumstances, worthless in themselves, which might seem accidental, but which, tied together by that subtle intuition that a woman has when she loves and when she feels threatened in her love, ended up giving her a strange clairvoyance about heart of Arrigo.

She also found incomprehensible this sudden care that the lover took on her fraternal duties, and found it strange that a girl of twenty and a young man like him would leave together, with no other aim or goal than to see her. spring bloom on the shores of a quiet lake.

Moreover, she could read him with singular penetration, and for some time she had seen him changed, somber, irascible, as if a fatal thought stirred behind his cold impassiveness. These two facts, his change and his brotherly concerns, were born together. The rare times she had been able to induce him to speak of Anna Laura, her lover’s eyes had no longer dared to look her in the face, they had become oblique and fleeting, filled with suspicion and flashes at the same time. In his lover’s house he had discovered some trace of another visitor; in her own bed she had felt that this man was no longer of her, no longer of any of her, except for a terrible hidden love of her.

But he was violent, she resigned. She could not prevent him from leaving, indeed she confessed nothing about her to him about her ‘anguished doubts about her, and she waited for his return with forgiveness on her lips, death in her heart.

She could not be seen, she no longer felt young; her old age, this is perhaps the most terrible torture, [275]the most irrevocable condemnation of love made her understand that by now she only had to resign herself and forgive and suffer in silence, because she could no longer fight or rebel. Arrigo had been her last episode in her history, and women perhaps remember only two men: the last and the first.

Now that suspicion was born in her, she no longer had peace. She felt herself fading as his youth shone more luxuriantly. This man, who had first fought for her, then she had contended for him, contended for him with others of her by every means, to keep him close to her. From dominatrix she had become her slave to her; so that he would not tire of her he had allowed him all the whims of her, seconded all the vices of her; because she was her lover, she had alienated many acquaintances, she had seen herself ill-received in some room of the most severe society; to spend a few long nights, until dawn, with him, to sit on his knees and kiss him, in her own house, when he came to visit her, she had hardly cared for the domestic witnesses or for the child who was growing up and saw; in order for him to be rich, she had made herself poorer;

And now he was content with little; she knew that he was young, that he needed to live, that he was ambitious, a man at the mercy of a precarious fate, and he forgave him many things, too many things. He waited for him sometimes for days without seeing him, and then his nights were sleepless, but he struggled desperately against the urge to cry so as not to spoil his face. He often betrayed her; and although she was sure of it, she dared not rebel or rebuke him. She knew that her loves were straw fires, gallantry to which she gave herself sometimes on whim, sometimes for opportunity, and she resignedly waited to see the last sparks, the ashes.

By now he was content with little, with so little! That he would come and kiss her in the evening, before dinner, and sometimes sit at the table with her, or come after dinner, [276]before going to the theater, without even taking off his overcoat, without her being able to kiss him freely, so as not to spoil his white tie, so as not to ruffle his well-waved hair. She was happy to go to her house sometimes, when she was too jealous, too sad or too in love … she Most of the time she couldn’t find him. She was waiting for him; she tidied up, looked at everything about her; she brought him bouquets of flowers, arranged them in vases. She removed her dust from her trinkets, rearranged her clothes, her books; she set the time on her watch with his watches. She spoke with Filippo familiarly; Filippo was a friend to her. She often gave him some money or brought him a present, and in the meantime, between speeches, she tried to get the servant to tell everything she knew about her master’s habits.

But the servant knew little, then he was shrewd. When she had nothing more to do, she would sit in an armchair in the dark and wait. She was patient; she felt almost happy.

Her days of love became more and more sparse, and yet it was enough for her to know that he really did not love another, that he remained to her even only out of habit or out of gratitude; it was enough that every now and then he smiled at her, with that beautiful violent mouth of his under his thin mustache, and every now and then he took her in his arms, cradled her, he so strong, she so fine, and told her again, perhaps to deceive her, that her ‘he loved, who loved her, with that same voice that she had heard him in the early days, when it was not yet his. And it was enough for her that once in a while she could cover him with her greedy and jealous kisses, with her kisses in which she put all the desperation of her last love, since she was sicker than ever, more in love, more ardent than ever. . There was certainly a great sadness in all this, but she did not complain about it; she tried to be good, humble, to overwhelm him with her sweetness; and with that little she was happy with her, because she loved above all the love she had for him.

But now a terrible fear had opened in his soul; he thought she guessed the awful thing, she guessed, [277]she was now almost certain. No longer did her play distract him from her, not the lovers of one night, not her dinners, theaters, her friends, not her tenacious ambition, not her violent youth. Looking at him sometimes, she now discovered in her eyes a flame she had never seen before, and standing in her arms she felt the enmity, the aversion of her, which this man now concealed against her. She then she had fallen in love with her, so they had taken it away from her; a wild passion was born in his numb heart … And for whom? for who?

He had spent days and days observing, investigating his life with that feminine patience that we do not know; then a glimmer, a doubt had flashed into her mind, had lodged itself in her heart, seducing herself, while terrifying her, with her nefarious power.

That he had loved another woman, even a young woman, even a beautiful one, this was perhaps the natural fate of things; she seemed to her that in this case she would be able to understand him, forgive him and resign herself to this new pain. For she herself was still desirable and she could hope to win with patience, with her love stronger than her, with her indulgence greater than her, finally with any of those feminine means that are worth to regain a lost possession.

But instead the most unpredictable thing happened, the most unexpected and formidable enemy rose up against her. For he had not fallen in love with a woman who was only beautiful or young, that she might have a fresher mouth than hers, a softer skin, a more voluptuous body; not only of a lover who among the blankets knew how to caress him better, who among the people could better flatter her vanity; in short, not one of those many who are all destined to perish, to pass, to also know the torment of the end … , was struggling in a fierce struggle against the demon of his own guilt, he wanted to pluck the sweet poisoned fruit, the one that twists, that loses, that drives mad,

He didn’t love just one woman; he loved his sister, [278]a twenty-year-old sister, still intact, who perhaps, who certainly loved him; a sister who, more than all the others, had the gift of being sin, the gift of carrying sacrilege in her womb, damnation in her kisses, and of calling herself “sister”, that is, to hide in this transparent name as purity the most divine and most terrible meaning that is in love.

Perhaps the great sins propagate around themselves a kind of evil atmosphere, of almost tangible ambiguity, for which they inevitably come to be warned by the vigilance of others. The first day this doubt had flashed into her mind, she had immediately rejected it, she was indignant against herself, she had found herself abominable for having conceived such a thought. She was almost afraid that she thought such a thing would make such a thing real.

And he set about looking for another explanation, to discover another truth, less horrible … less fascinating! If this assiduous thought hammered into her head, she made an almost physical effort to push him away from herself.

And yet he returned, perhaps only recalled by the fear he had of it; he came back, because we unintentionally administer to ourselves, with a cruel joy, all the imaginations that give us more torment; because the horrid attracts us, because sin, even the sin of others, is the greatest suggestion that can corrupt our spirit. She came back, because thinking of the possibility of this love, of her joys more than her human ones, she felt the roots arise in herself, the torments of this unconfessable love quiver in herself.

And since we are sometimes our own worst enemies, she began to think what her torture would be if this doubt took the substance of the truth. The sensual wave of that ineffable guilt of her intermixed with her fear, her jealousy, ran into her, making her understand the intoxication that those two could feel if they really loved each other. And while she went looking for evidence that this love was not, she was in truth tempted and subjugated by the voluptuous fear of discovering its existence.

On the other hand, Arrigo was not cautious enough with her, as he did not believe she could have suspected. He himself, very rarely, liked to talk to her about her sister, which never happened before. She had described it to him in warm phrases, but watching his words together, he almost feared he might betray himself. He had also shown her a portrait of her, a recent portrait of her, made her do in those days. Then, sometimes, it is the strangers, who with an innocuous sentence reveal a great truth to us. Many of her had come, in the most natural way, to talk to her about him and her, telling her futile details, things devoid of any guilt for herself.

They had seen them together in the street, in theaters, at racing, elsewhere; they had also admired them, because they seemed to love each other very much. There were those who had described her to him: a blonde, but of an ash-colored blonde, with a fresh face, a profile not entirely pure and yet very pretty, her mouth always smiling, her body admirable.

He didn’t look like him at all; he looked a little scapatella, and so some, at first, had assumed that she was a little lover of him … Well, sometimes, how easy it is to be deceived! …


– Teach me to row! She said cheerfully on the afternoon of that first day.

– Don’t you think it’s still a little hot? It would be better to wait later.

– No, right away, right away!

And dressed in white, with a white cloth skirt, which uncovered her ankles, a straw hat folded over her face, she hilariously went down the paths of the fragrant garden, which had as many perfumes and as many colors as one can gather together. Italian spring.

She enjoyed herself; all this was new to her; perhaps she had never found herself in an elegant hotel, she had rarely heard of foreign languages, she had never felt so free and so happy as she was on that day.

He had a nice room, with a terrace facing the lake, [280]and the Arrigo room was communicating with his. On the terrace, which was covered with a white and blue striped awning, they had put her a wicker chair with many cushions. As soon as she got there she lay there, a little tired, and she began to look around, to dream.

The immutably blue lake opened before her, with its banks dense with villages, scattered with steeples and towers, the lake furrowed in every direction by a swarm of boats, as light as flower petals over a fountain. A very sweet wind seemed to move them, not the fatigue of the oars, and lulled the sleep of idle people. Every now and then she heard a rattle of horses ringing, far away by the white glitter of the highways; she saw the automobiles go by fast, noisy, leaving behind a swollen cloud of dust, the boats arriving at intervals, laden with a joyful crowd, who thronged up the assembled stairs and landed on the landing piers.

And for her all this was new, it doubled in her heart the sense of youth; she wanted in one day all to see, all to enjoy.

A beautiful bouquet of yellow roses had been picked up in the garden, Arrigo had removed the thorns and put them on his belt. They were now going towards the dock to get into a boat and get away from the shore.

He was no longer as bleak as in days gone by; a sense of bliss and peace returned to him; it almost seemed to him that that sky so open was indulgent to his fault, and in truth a healthier breath dilated his capable chest. While she became more of a girl and seemed to forget her turbid love among her novelty, he was pleased to surround her with so many small cares, as one does for a lover of hers.

The city was far away, almost forgotten; no one knew them in that serene lake gulf, in the midst of exuberant flowers, surrounded by the almost glaucous range of mountains, among the vegetal scent of the maggenghi meadows, in the clear and healthy air. He was no longer terrified that anyone would surprise his secret, and close to all the simple things of the earth it seemed to him that she had entered into his feeling [281]some purity. He didn’t want to think about anything anymore, but only to enjoy those days of oblivion with complete abandon.

Basically he understood that our conscience is sometimes a simple fear of the opinion of others.

They went down towards the dock by the paths of the overflowing garden, while the sun had just passed the noon hour and drew an unbearable splendor from all things. In her white cloth dress, short skirt, a blue veil over her shoulders, her large wide-brimmed straw hat, she looked a few years younger and her restlessness was truly that of a child.

He bent down among the flowers, jumped the small hedges, threw pebbles to break the mirror of the fountains, took a short run, came back. She was a little hot, her eyes shone, her chest swelled to breathe in long sips that fragrant air, and she talked, talked, and every little thing made her burst into laughter so clear that the taciturn strangers turned around smiling to look at it.

He did not live of himself, but of her alone he lived, with a profound tremor of soul and of carnal love. Hearing her laugh, a great joy filled the recess of her heart; if she ran through the garden, he too would have liked to run like a child; if something gave her pleasure, he too enjoyed it, she never remembered before her having conceived in such an elementary way her sense of happiness.

But there was in his watchful spirit a part that remained incapable of joy and where the sun of the beautiful afternoon did not send any clarity; a religious and hidden part, which weighed in him like a coffin on the earth: the one where his lost heart measured with fear and cowardice the remorse of inexorable guilt.

But when he heard him speak, his own voice lavished joy on him, ran through his veins, descended into him like music that had become pleasure; him when he saw her [282]moving, laughing, living, shining, it seemed to him that every movement undressed his perfect nakedness of those light clothes, and a thousand times, in that intoxicated garden, among the flowers swollen with polylines, his white youth lay in wonderful sin .. .

– Are you rowing well? – She asked her brother about her, jumping into the boat and clinging to him so as not to lose her balance.

– Once, yes, I rowed well; but now maybe I will have lost the habit of it.

However, they did not want a boatman; they went alone, so that no disturbing vigilance would disturb their intimate enjoyment. He rowed slowly until they were clear of the shore, and she, singing, held the rudder. The lake was still, without a wave or a wake. In its clarity, the high mountains cast a motionless shadow that seemed underwater. The villas, the gulfs, the banks, the air, the water, the mountains, everything in the space shone with a glorious trémito.

Arrigo looked at her: he had placed his feet on the same support against which he himself pressed in arching to row; her short skirt had slipped up a little, and he saw her thin ankles emerge from the low-cut shoes, then rise with equal symmetry, like perfect spindles, and disappear among the laces of the skirt in a beginning of darkness. She wore silk, ash-colored, pierced, shiny stockings. With the toes of her restless feet, occasionally as a joke, she touched his. And they laughed, they both laughed, without speaking to each other.

In that peace, in the slowness of the rowing, in the rocking of the sailing boat, they understood how the sweetest thing was to look at each other and be silent.

He watched it. In the sun, in the great blaze, his flesh was impregnated with a blond transparency, like the cálici of rose tee; the velvety skin of her shone minutely, the shadows seemed darker. He examined it, [283]and he noticed, perhaps for the first time, that she did not have a pure mouth, not the mouth of her twenties, clear and almost light like her, but a sensual mouth, warm, too red, too lively, a mouth of a woman already very kissed, already an expert in all the lusts that love teaches. And loosening in the stroke of the row, with his body back and his eyes half closed, he lay down with a long sensual thrill under the kiss of that impure mouth.

In the heat of the day, between the glare of the sparkling sun, she also let her eyelids fall halfway over her eyes a little drunk with light; a sense of blissful tiredness spread through her face, throughout her body, flooding her with rest as if after an effort. And he no longer saw in her the one who hopped among the flowers throwing pebbles into the fountains, but another, who had the laughter of the lost woman on her mouth, and seemed almost to fall asleep after having suffered a violent pleasure, another , that he pictured himself lying in a bed of love, naked, with his arms slow at his sides, abandoned in the sweet rest of the pleasure suffered, naked and tired in a bed of love, with his head turned to one side between the half-loose hair, the wet mouth, the withered eyes, dark as violets …

He rowed slowly, slowly, in the infinite light. One bank was moving away, the other was far away, everything seemed to give way to sleep, to feel oppressed by the splendor, in that sunny afternoon. They passed by a fisherman who had his boat stationary and the line in the water. Slowly, without making a noise, they slip over.

He watched her: he held the two rudder ropes in one hand and in the other; but her two hands rested in her lap, half open, almost asleep, so that at the slightest pull of the rudder they might have let the two canapi escape. Of her Those hands of her, the sun was golden; they looked a little dark on the whiteness of her skirt. They too, like her mouth, revealed no purity. They were made for all sins, they were meant to inflict tormenting caresses, [284]they had some sign in their innocent form which betrayed their attitude to vice. And on his warm face, on his slightly parched mouth, all over his body tired from long desire, he felt the caress of those lascivious hands pass, a caress that unnerved and twisted him, lavishing a voluptuousness full of death, from the roots of her hair down to her last veins. He then he released the oars, leaned forward and kissed her.

– What are you doing? … – she said as if waking up, amazed.

“I love you,” he replied, encircling her with his arms, and looking into her sun-filled eyes, all stretched out and bent over her, his mouth immersed in her lively breath. To shake herself from that torpor, she stretched indolently under him who weighed a little against her, and raised her arms, with a movement full of love from her, she tightened them around her neck, throwing her head back. , closing her eyes, blessed.

Over the water, over all the water, the heartbeat of their loving souls seemed to run in a tremor of light.

“Báciami …” she proffered, as if she wanted to translate into words that fullness of joy that intoxicated her senses. – Kiss me one more time, as you did before … so … so …

He kissed her again on her moist mouth, greedily, as one sucks a honeycomb. And she ran her fingers through her hair, uncovered his temples, her forehead, gently combing her hair with a prolonged caress.

– I feel happy … – he repeated, swelling his young throat in his breath. – I would like to say so many inexpressible things … I would almost like to sing, yes, to sing for joy! …

And she turned her eyes all around, for that infinite blaze, and she seemed to embrace in herself all the splendor she saw.

He stared at her deeply, with firm power in his eyes:

– Are you mine, or what do you think? – she asked with breathlessness, [285]almost with anger. And so tightly he held her in her rough arms that she seemed to feel pain.

– Why are you asking me this? why are you doing this? … – she said, with a hint of fear.

– Nothing, it’s nothing … don’t pay attention to what I say. Laugh, Loretta, laugh again!

And he got up and began to row again. That expression of violence and torment that often counterfeited him had fallen on his face again; his whole body, his extraordinarily agile, bent, stretched, with impetus in the effort to trudge on the oars; the slender little boat ran; the lashing water leapt with rapid rainbows.

– What do you have? Why do you get so tired?

He didn’t answer, in fact he rowed harder.

“Let me try,” she said; – I want to row too.

And he acted to get up.

– Do not move, do not move, otherwise you will fall.

– I want to row too; let me try.

– Yes, wait. And panting, he abandoned the oars.

– How strong you are! Now it was running!

He smiled at her as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

– So you want to row?

– Yup.

– Well, let’s try: I sit on the other bench and you will come here.

He changed his seat, put another pair of oars in the water, and reached out a hand to support her as he passed. When she was seated, he kissed her again on the nape of her neck and temple, wrapped her around, held her imprisoned. Laughing, she pressed her cheek against her bare neck; then she said:

– Why did you ask me that question, Rigo?

– I wanted to know if you love me, if you really love me … – he replied with a lover’s shyness.

– And you don’t know then?

The other did not answer; he taught her to hold her oars, accompanied her arm in the row.

– It’s easy! Replied the girl. – Do you see that I can row too?

– Slowly, take it easy, without getting tired … Don’t sink the oar too far into the water; so, look. She twists your wrist when you lean forward, flex your hand down when you row … So, that’s okay.

She enjoyed herself; she looked at one oar, then the other, which did not go together.

– Why don’t you walk? – She said, annoyed.

– We walk slowly.

– I want to do as you do.

– Have patience, now I’ll help you.

He also took to the oars and sailed until evening; until on the two banks, scattered with indigo and blond gold, the bells of all the churches began to ring from afar.