On the other side of the track the stands looked like immense human beehives, crowded with the stairways, the stands, the terraces; marvel of colors among the green trees, under the crystal clear sky.

A few days later it was the Sunday of the Grand Prix. A sparkling racecourse awaited the greatest test of the year. The meadow, invaded by a tumultuous multitude like a sea, disappeared under the swaying of the open umbrellas and light-colored hats, which glistened in the blaze of the sun. Along the fences the cars overloaded with people were arranged in a triple row, who, standing upright on their seats, trembled and fidgeted in anticipation of the solemn trial. Under the blazing canopies the bettors shouted the odds, girded on the shoulder of a bag full of money, and from the high bench they dominated the crowd like frenzied harangue.

On the other side of the track the stands looked like immense human beehives, crowded with the stairways, the stands, the terraces; marvel of colors among the green trees, under the crystal clear sky.

The whole city had come out of its walls to invade the hippodrome: Latin people, mindful of their Roman circuses, applauders of charioteers, lovers of competitions, partisan of one color. From the royal tribune a prince assisted with his court; around him, ladies and gentlemen occupied the tiers. Among the climbing roses, which attacked the railings and terraces of the stands, hung clusters of beautiful women, who came out in spring dress with spring on their faces; hidden jewels that the industrious city can rarely collect together.

Down was a running, a swaying, a hasty exchange of greetings and predictions. Serious gentlemen, with [233]the gray long-brimmed dress, the top hat, the telescope over the shoulder, gathered in a group to discuss animatedly; bellimbusti and Mammagnúccoli, real gentlemen of the runway, who willingly affected, according to the English fashion, to arrive at that solemn meeting in morning dress; young patricians, tight-fitting, composed as if at a reception, in the wake of one or more noblewomen, dispensing smiles, advancing their collected predictions, offering to play in society; young men of the first hair, still uncertain whether to choose Lord Brummel or Don Giovanni Tenorio as a model for their lives, who went around darting with irresistible glances at all the beautiful girls, with the membership card well on display in the buttonhole, a pair of binoculars huge, and certain still dubious poses between the “dandy” and the coach; old bachelors,

Avid gamers who hate the crowd, would like the racecourse turned into a gambling den, go, come, consult, count money, quarrel with public bettors or draw the horoscope of the race after having devised all the possibilities. Stable owners who are very busy; then they allow themselves to steal some mysterious information from some beautiful lady, walk with the coach speaking English, a very strict English, and irreproacibly dressed before the race they go to caress the muzzle of their horse and review its bit. Jockeys very pleasant in their smallness, fed on blood-colored flesh, burned by whiskey, already girded with their colors, with a very short hazelnut-colored overcoat, somewhat similar to the clowns of equestrian circuses, when, already floured and painted,

Cavalry officers who hope for this as on any other occasion to fall in love with a rich girl or [234]eradicate a reluctant beauty; enriched shopkeepers, who came with lucid crews, scholars of accessing the closed worldly Olympians by means of slow traps; courtesans a little worn out by the night on the eve of the Grand Prix, usually a very sensational and irrigated night in Sciampagna; Minor courtiers, dressed by the seamstresses of the fourth floors, who have freshened up an evening hat as best as possible, have bought themselves a new umbrella, and annoy with important familiarities those who would not at all want to remember having met them one evening by chance. Free courtesans, come alone, with a certain “sportswoman” confidence, in English-style dress, armed with binoculars, with the program and a pencil in the gloved hand. Cheerful, talkative, adorned with rich jewels that they wear with simplicity, regardless of wearing their clothes,

Among all these people, those poor beasts who pay the price: the racehorses, very unhappy with being pure blood, that is, having gradually lost, in a slow evolution, everything that made them look like horses, to close their thin carcass of dividers in a skimpy skin and gallop like damned under the whip and the spur, carrying on the rump, curled up, a small, bent and light monkey.

On the dirt road around the stands Loretta walked with her brother, having fun with every little thing, asking him for an infinity of explanations. Arrigo had chosen for her a dress that was a small masterpiece of grace and rarity, of an almost blond color, that color that sometimes the Rhine wine has in the glass under the light of a red lampshade, and which also sometimes have some roses, in opening, between the yellow of the tea rose and the complexion [235]of the rose of France; a color that resembled her, as it was voluptuous, soft and light.

He wore a large straw hat, flowered, very graceful, with the wing on one side curved over the ear and over the face, on the other swept back boldly to the carabiniera; he wore a tall umbrella with a handle, matching the color of the suit. From that silk and among those flowers her little person, a little frivolous, full of restlessness, beautiful with natural harmonies, shone like a well-modeled statuette, which had just been wrapped in tissue paper. He walked this way, that way curiously; everything about her interested her, everything she liked.

She was born to be among those luxuries, to enjoy those amusements, to see herself in the eyes of others desired with a certain insolence. Her paternal shop was already so far from her and her imagination that it seemed to her that she had never been a prisoner of it. By a feminine instinct, very awakened in her, he had observed elegant women in their dresses and attitudes, so that he found it very easy to imitate them; she no longer envied them; she knew she possessed in her youth, in her freshness, an inestimable value.

She wore a tuft of curls put back on the nape of her neck; and that suited her well; she had picked up the blond weight of her hair on the side that remained uncovered by the overturning of the wing, and so they seemed more voluminous still.

Arrigo felt sad near her; a deep sadness, almost an evil, assailed his guilty heart; for his beauty insidiously stung him, like a rose with a stem bristling with thorns.

She pricked him with her too clear voice, which at times was veiled with turbid sounds as she spoke to him, with the light look of her laughing eyes, which constantly had a hidden fire under their lashes; with the shape of his female body, he who was too agile, too arched, too eager to offer himself to men’s pleasure.

It seemed to him that everyone was guessing his unconfessable suffering, they clearly saw the monstrous guilt in him, and behind his back they talked about it, softly, but [236]continuously. A kind of dark jealousy began to arise in his heart, in his troubled senses, and he sometimes looked at his sister’s admirers with the irritation of a suspicious lover.

He would have liked to lead her away, for himself alone, to a hidden house, to a distant land, and there, perhaps, to dare … to dare that great inconsumable sin.

– Tell me, Arrigo: where do the horses leave?

– You do not see? They leave there.

They were standing on the grandstand, close together, among the crowds. He pointed towards the bottom of the straight at the lowered ribbons, where the starting judge ordered the competitors.

– What is the name of our horse?

– Dómino.

– Did we win or place it?

– One and the other.

– What colors are you wearing?

– Red jacket, black shoulder strap. It is the third, near the fence.

– Give me the telescope.

To look, he leaned forward, grabbing hold of his arm.

“He doesn’t want to sit still,” he said.

– He’s a bizarre horse: if he starts well he wins, if not …

– They are gone! … – she exclaimed, squeezing his arm. – Dómino is in front!

“There is time,” he said; and he began to look.

They passed in a tight group, raising a quick rumble from the ground; at the bend they bent like one body on the fence.

“Domino yields,” said Loretta, who was following them throbbing.

“No, it is obligatory,” replied Arrigo. – The ride is great for him.

They merged there, among the trees. Every now and then, in the thicket, a little white, yellow, red, and some mane. They appeared far away, at the last curve, already distanced from each other, and low, flattened on the ground, between a dart of scudisci, they emerged in a straight line.

[237]
“There are three, I think, together,” said Loretta.

“No, Domino is always in the lead, but for a little while,” said Arrigo, attentive to the telescope.

They came. Some clamor rose from the crowd, some indistinct name:

– Dómino! Domino! Canopic! Smallah! ….

– Vince! wins! Loretta exclaimed, nervously clutching her brother’s arm.

They were in the stands, four of them, fighting, neighbors. And the crowd seemed to push with his breath, with his strength, the horse he was on the side of.

– Smallah! … Smallah! … – was a cry from many quarters.

– To the devil! Arrigo exclaimed. – Dómino is beaten.

A few meters from the finish line, the little black girl in a green jacket had sprinted out, for a short glue, and won.

– Smallah! Smallah! – She yelled from various quarters, applauding. And in the air she swayed that kind of pause that follows the prolonged excitement, as happens in the sea after the wave.

– What a shame! Loretta said. – Have you lost then?

– I have Dómino placed and I do not lose anything; but I thought I was winning.

– Does it bother you a lot? – She asked her brother about her, seeing him a little gloomy.

– Bah! this is nonsense! Here we go.

They got out. At the foot of the steps they met face to face with Rafa. All three, by an instinctive motion, were perplexed.

“Goodbye, Giuliani,” Arrigo said dryly.

“Good morning, Ferrante,” replied the other, very embarrassed, taking off his hat with a ceremonious greeting. Loretta, who was more in control of herself, sent him a quick smile. Arrigo acted to continue further, but Rafa, having overcome the first confusion, showed that he did not want to abandon them. After a long reflection he had concluded to himself that the best expedient was to be introduced to Loretta by the same brother, and he spied on the opportunity.

[238]
– Did you win, Arrigo? – She asked him.

He stood in front of them, between the two railings of the staircase, and blocked the passage.

“I have Domino placed,” he replied, unable to do without it.

– And now what games? Give me a good tip.

– In the Grand Prix I have already taken Arianna: but I want to cover myself on the French horse.

– Which? Fontenay?

– No, Gabriel. Fontenay can do nothing. I have seen the gallops.

Loretta had remained a step away, almost hidden in the clump of roses that climbed up the columns of the tribune. She drew some arabesque in the gravel with the tip of the umbrella and listened to the speeches of the two with an indifferent air.

“I have heard that Missolongi can win,” she said suddenly, raising her face, with the most natural air in the world.

– Do you want to introduce me to your sister? Rafa asked, in a hesitant voice, blushing a little.

Arrigo hesitated for a moment, imperceptibly.

“Willingly,” he said. And he made the presentation:

– Count Raffaele Giuliani; my sister Anna Laura.

Loretta held out her hand to him, politely, with the greatest tranquility; he bowed deeply, to hide the emotion that troubled him.

At that moment Arrigo’s face darkened, became treacherous and threatening.

“Let’s go see the odds,” he said harshly.

– So you believe in Missolongi, miss? Asked Rafa, who meanwhile had stood beside her.

– I don’t understand at all, you know! … But I meant that this horse can win.

– Missolungi undoubtedly has many odds in his favor; above all the weight – affirmed Giuliani.

– Missolungi is a nag! – Arrigo said harshly. – The course will be over.

– Sorry, he won the Derby last year, – observed Rafa.

[239]
– Yeah … a case! Missolungi, here, can do nothing. This race is between three horses: Arianna, Gabriel and Bloomy Boy. I see them arriving in this order.

– You racing connoisseurs – said Rafa – you often see the reverse of what happens next.

– Bah! … and what do you see, if it is permissible?

– I usually play an “outsider”. I choose the name I like best, and if I make money, they pay me a lot.

– A nice system, I don’t mean to say! And here what do you choose then?

– I’m uncertain between Eglantine and Thermosiphon.

– For bacchus! there is no hesitation: choose Thermosiphon.

“I’m of this opinion too,” said Loretta, laughing.

– In fact, they give it to twenty: it is a good altitude.

They approached the bettor; Rafa took two hundred bills out of his pocket and handed them to the bookmaker.

“Thermosiphon winning,” he said aloud, to make some friends who were around laugh.

– Four thousand for two hundred winning Termosiphon! Replied the gambler, signing the card.

And he screamed:

– Two and a half Arianna! Gabriel two … Four Bloomy Boys! ….

“The Frenchman is the favorite,” observed Arrigo. – Three days ago they gave it to five.

– Bloomy Boy at four-fifths placed … Gabriel placed in the middle … – announced the gambler.

Arrigo stepped forward through the crowd, with a five hundred dollar bill in his hand, and asked the gambler quietly:

– Bloomy even placed?

– I can not.

– Go! … five hundred lire ….

– They go!

Rafa, who was alone with Loretta for a moment, took advantage of it to tell her:

– Come tomorrow, please! I haven’t seen you again for many days … What ever happens?

[240]
– Silence, silence, please!

– Tell me at least what happened? I don’t know anything anymore, don’t write to me ….

– For the love of God, Rafa …

– At least promise me you’ll write.

– I will write, I will write, but shut up now. – And he added loudly: – It would be a nice surprise if Thermosiphon came!

“If it comes, you will have brought me luck,” he observed lovingly, leaning a little towards her. And he whispered he said to her: – How beautiful you are!

– Oh, well … what is this ?! She exclaimed, banging her parasol on the ground with sudden irritation.

Rafa took a very correct attitude, as his brother was returning.

– What have you played again? Loretta asked.

– Bloomy Boy placed.

– And Gabriel?

– Gabriel no. I can’t play all the horses, do you think?

“You told me before yourself …” she observed, intimidated by that harsh tone.

– Of course; but I didn’t know that he was starting favorite. If it comes then, so much the worse for me!

– Can I offer you a glass of Sciampagna? – Rafa proposed.

– Do you want to drink, Loretta? Arrigo asked.

– Yes, gladly: I’m thirsty.

– Then let’s drink.

Loretta noticed that her brother was in a bad mood; as she walked she put her hand on her arm, squeezed it furtively.

– What do you have? – She asked him in a low voice.

He shook his head without answering.

They passed in front of the stands, along the large enclosure, which in the imminence of the great race was encumbered by a restless and changing crowd.

The sky had covered a little; certain heavy clouds, of a color of lead and gold, rose over the distant city, [241]darkening the sun. Like big charged nostrils, they advanced up the sky from various sides and clashed together, engulfing each other; or the wind divided them, tore them up in flakes, like enormous mounds of wadding. The trees of the racecourse were beginning to disarrange; the human crowd, which, like herds of animals, does not like water, posed all together with that smiling fear which gives, under the open sky, the imminence of a storm.

A rushing gust of wind ruffled the ladies’ skirts, threatened to break their slender umbrellas, and blew some men’s hats into the air. The Argentine laughter of the hit girls could be heard ringing above the roar of the multitude.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t rain,” said Rafa, entering the cellar room; – a downpour would spoil the return.

– Patience! Said Arrigo; – we’ll get a little wet.

– How did you come to the races?

– With my tilburi.

– If anything, – said Rafa – my car can be closed. If you want to take advantage of it ….

– Thank you thank you; maybe it won’t rain.

The sun returned, disappeared, among clouds of lead and gold; the wind raged in the ancient trees.

Standing near the counter, they had the Sciampagna served, which had been mixed with a bowl from a large tray, in which it was frozen, mixed with snow and fruit slices.

“We must hurry to see the race,” said Loretta.

– Are you very interested in horses, miss?

– I am very interested in it; but I come to the races very rarely.

– Bad! I hope that from now on you will become an assiduous one.

Arrigo carefully read a newspaper of predictions, slowly sipping the chilled drink. And both, while they were so close, Loretta watched them.

His brother was a little taller than Rafa; he had a better built person, and more agile, while being stronger. Rafa’s face, clean-shaven, smooth, similar to so many others that i [242]hairdressers and fashion almost seem to be the same, contrasted and pale in front of Arrigo’s lively beauty. She observed her brother’s face, intent on reading: the light mustache, on the well-drawn lip, accentuated the whiteness of his beautiful teeth; the very black, shining eyes, with that look that could be cold as a blade or sweet as a caress, the compact, soft hair, through which he plowed a very bright wave, the healthy complexion, that expression that he had at the same time of virility and boldly, they were in singular contrast with the slightly worn mouth of the other, with his eyes of a dull color, with his hair too obedient to the comb.

But (something that Loretta perhaps could not well evaluate) in the whole person of Rafa, in his less precise features, in his less beautiful limbs, there was a delicacy that was lacking in the other, a sign of ancient elegance, which the son of the optician had badly been able to imitate. However, she, who was of the same race as her, felt attracted to that robust and beautiful statue, because her female body felt in him the imperious force of the male vibrating more vehemently.

“Let’s go find a good corner on the stands,” said Arrigo.

– Do you mind if I stay with you for a while? Rafa asked politely.

“Far from it,” replied Loretta. – Come on.

“Come, come,” added Arrigo, no longer angry.

They climbed up the grandstand, squeezing themselves into the crowd, and with great difficulty found a place in one of the first steps.

Half of the sky was cluttered with clouds, all the rest was a patch of sunshine. The lawn, often with people like an immense market, swarming like an anthill, swayed with human heads, raised a great din of confused voices. From the trees scattered here and there hung clusters of boys; the tall carriages, in a row, like a long bastion, were loaded with people who climbed on them, standing upright on the drawers, among the coachmen who had taken off their livery, while [243]the patient horses waved their tails with a rhythmic movement, to free themselves from the intrusive flies.

The bell of the saddlebag rang. A long murmur went through the crowd, people were seen rushing from all sides. The stands, like immense wide open windows, overflowed with spectators; the fences and gates seemed to bend under the weight of the people who leaned against them.

Above that great expectation, the wind, rider of clouds, lit and extinguished the glory of the spring sun. The two starting judges came out on the track, and at a gallop they climbed up to go towards the middle of the straight. Another bell rang, and the horses entered the field, led by hand by the trainers, for the parade.

They were fourteen competitors, sponged, polished, beautiful, almost aware of the solemn test they were about to compete; some meek to the hand that held them back, others impatient, with beautiful tails in the wind, arched necks, restless eyes, already white with foam. The impassive jockeys seemed to be mortally bored of that walk.

In those hard faces, scorched by the wind, used to the lash of speed, bent over the manes, among the sprays of drool, in those eyes always attentive to a goal, it was not possible to guess any disturbance. They were the little human machine, fragile yet strong, on that bundle of equine muscles; they seemed to represent nothing but a thin whip, a fine spur, a flying color; and yet it was not the horse often, but he, that dwarf, who in a desperate fury of rivalry, for a longer breath, stupendously won.

Arrigo knew the horses and named them by order.

– Brenno, the first; he is the son of Marcus: he will play the game of his teammate, Versilia, the fifth. The second is Moloch, fast but bottomless; the third is Fontenay, the fourth Gabriel. A beautiful horse, the most beautiful of all. The sixth is Samaritan, a very generous beast; he can make a surprise; I believe in her rather than in Missolungi, what comes after her. He is a poor pony, but well built. Here is Bloomy Boy; Symson mounts it, the best jockey in Italy today. Here, see Arianna: she is the last.

[244]
It was a tall chestnut dressed in white at one of the front extremities, very graceful and capricious in every movement, which hopping got angry with the mouthpiece and with the hand of the person who was leading it. In her jumps, her mane fluffed out on her arched neck, like the hair of a blond woman. It was mounted in white, with two black bands over the shoulder, crossed.

“She’s small,” Loretta said.

– Near Gabriel yes, for example; but it is not a small mare; then can’t you see how it’s made?

– Where is my Thermosiphon? Rafa asked.

– There he is, by the fence, in a jacket with red bullets.

– That black? Asked Loretta?

“Yes, that dark bay,” Arrigo corrected.

– But it’s a nice horse you know! Loretta exclaimed.

– For the cars in the square … not bad!

– Oh, don’t despise me! … – Rafa sighed. – I have all my faith in him.

Having completed the tour in front of the stands, one by one they would gallop to go to the starting pole. The crowd of the meadow gradually cheered their favorites. When Gabriel took the gallop, it was a clamor of envious admiration. He stretched out on the ground like a long springy spring, in an easy gallop, and he seemed clearly the strongest.

– What a beautiful horse that Gabriel! Arrigo exclaimed.

– Why didn’t you play Gabriel then? Loretta repeated.

“I believe in Arianna,” the latter asserted, with a firm and stubborn tone.

Bloomy Boy, who belonged to the Italian team preferred by the public, had started at a fast gallop, raising applause of admiration.

Arianna, very nervous, and Missolungi near her, tried to free themselves from the coach by launching strides. They left together, suddenly, amidst a roar of applause.

– Look Arianna! what a marvelous action! Arrigo exclaimed.

[245]
– I see – sang Rafa – that Missolungi is also doing very well.

“The race is from Missolungi,” said one of those anonymous interlocutors who are always in the crowd.

– Do you think so? – Arrigo said, ironic.

– Of course!

– Did he play it?

– Of course. Look: five tickets in the tote.

– Congratulations then!

And aiming the telescope he began to look towards the starting line.

– How nervous that beast is! I’m afraid it starts badly.

– Who?

– Arianna.

At that moment Rafa, seeing Arrigo turned towards the departing horses, tried to speak in a low voice to Loretta. But she, after giving him some sign to stop her, deliberately turned her back to him, and, leaning against her brother, leaned out of her to see the horses.

– Here: they leave! Arrigo exclaimed. – Then immediately: – No, they tore the tapes. False start. Pity! Arianna started well.

– And Missolungi? – asked the interlocutor, who, small, without a seat, squeezed in the crowd, could not aim his binoculars.

“Missolungi also,” replied Arrigo.

The departure was long and laborious; finally a cry was heard from many quarters: They have left! And the doorbell rang.

– A magnificent start! Arrigo said. Loretta had leaned on his arm and looked over her shoulder.

A sun in which the pale gold of the first wheat seemed to shine broke through the serene and again flooded the whole field. In front of the flying handpiece, a dull roar came across the earth of sound.

They were all in a group, at a very fast pace, with Missolungi in the lead and then Samaritana, the two Frenchmen on the wing, Arianna at the fence, Bloomy Boy in line. They passed [246]in this order to the stands, with no one yielding an inch. At the first corner Bloomy Boy earned three places; at the other bend the group loosened a little. In the meadow people ran chasing the horses; in the stands there was a confused gesticulation, a very loud shouting. Missolungi was always in the lead and galloped with vigor. This name already filled the air.

– Where is Arianna? Loretta asked.

– It is fifth; but she is fine.

– How do you see it?

– I see her; she is silent.

Fontenay came forward; Gabriel tightened on him; Bloomy Boy, who had passed from the rear to the leading group, was no more than a few lengths behind Gabriel. Arianna invariably held the fence, without losing or gaining ground. They were already sprouting at the right-hand bend, at the bottom; the pale coat of Missolungi was first white, with those of the two French close behind, so close that they seemed confused in one, while the Samaritan woman was already about to yield. Bloomy Boy had overtaken Arianna, but the first three, in the curve, had both of them a little apart.

“Missolungi is over,” said Arrigo, a little panting because he saw the two French prevail.

Gabriel in fact with strong throws was about to take the head.

– Gabriel! – thundered the crowd, who saw them emerge from the last curve, in the straight. – Gabriel! Gabriel!

– How’s Missolungi doing? Asked the little man, unable to extol himself, overwhelmed all around by a kind of human wall.

Arrigo did not reply. Fontenay yielded, Gabriel was clearly in the lead, Bloomy Boy at two points, Arianna and Versilia at paro. Versilia, under a storm of whipping, was seen throwing itself forward, equalizing Bloomy Boy, threatening the winner. It was a discordant, deafening cry of two parties fighting each other:

– Gabriel! Versilia! Versilia! ….

The suspension of all hearts was in the electric air.

They were in the first stands, and Bloomy Boy gave way, Versilia [247]by now she seemed incapable of contending for the victory to the more robust Frenchman, although tormented by the screams of her partisans, when Arianna was seen, on whom no one counted anymore, with a magnificent sprint leaping out of the group, and whipped, and spurred, and carried by weight from his jockey, attack the first three, reach Gabriel’s tail with his nose. The crowd, which suddenly changes idols, in the racecourses as in the squares, only gave a frantic shout: – Arianna! Arianna!….

– Vince! Wins! – Shouted Loretta, full of trepidation, to her brother that she felt slightly tremble.

He did not answer: with his strength he wanted to push the generous exhausted beast.

Gabriel had not counted on this unexpected opponent, he believed the victory for himself and that exit had been so lightning that he had let himself be approached by surprise. The two jockeys beat, they beat with the strength of their arms, fists, spurs, for that inch that would have made them win.

There were a few meters to the finish line, and Arianna was now with her muzzle on Gabriel’s belly, on his shoulder, on his neck … she was almost with him.

The crowd swayed roughly, screaming, cheering. They were no longer two horses, but two races, two countries, two competing countries. The whole sky was cluttered with this name Ariadne, which at that moment sounded like the name of Italy.

Exhausted, almost convulsed, their racing animal hearts, noble as a human heart, held them up, made them fight desperately for that last inch of ground.

Then it was the power of the crowd that brought her, it was the thrust of those hundred thousand souls reaching out to her, it was the tremendous, immense, physical will of the multitude, which made her make the longest leap in the last meter, which made her to have the longest breath in the extreme tension, and perhaps because in her name there was a cry of country, with her little gazelle’s face, on the edge of the finish line, Arianna passed.

A kind of delirium raised the crowd; we saw people running, [248]dancing, invading the floor, rushing down from the stands, clapping hands, shouting.

Mare and jockey returned amidst an ovation of the people.

And the little Briton, with a dry face, which did not mark a definable age, bent over in the saddle, with the bridle released, passed in the midst of that triumph, wiping his wet mouth, his dripping nose in his palm, and replied with a simple: ” All right! ” to his red trainer, who had taken the mare by the hand and stroked the beautiful wild chestnut on the neck.

Her heart throbbed like an eardrum under her fragile, blood-streaked hips; her sweat dripped from her belly as if a bucket of water had been thrown on her kidneys; her smoking nostrils seemed to breathe blood and all her swollen veins dressed her in a very dense live net. But, as if understanding her victory, she turned her little nervous head around, stretched out her white muzzle, looking at her crowd with her big black-rimmed gazelle eyes.

Third was Bloomy Boy, fourth Versilia, fifth Missolungi.

Loretta, hanging playfully on her brother’s arm, rejoiced at her win, which was a few thousand lire, and asked Arrigo without respite:

– You’re happy? You’re happy? – as they went to see the jockeys come down to pass the balance check.

She had grown talkative, a little impertinent; in their petty bourgeois nature, both she and her brother could not hide the pleasure they received from the money they won. And Loretta harassed Rafa:

– So you don’t collect anything on Thermosiphon?

– Laugh, laugh, miss! You can make fun of me! At one time or another I’ll show you what you win by betting on the underdogs!

– I wish you so with all my heart. But that poor Thermosiphon, I hope he will have played it for the last time! Yep, how is it possible to give a similar name to a racehorse? I, if I had a racehorse, I would call it ….

– What would you call it, let’s hear?

[249]
– I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it yet, because I don’t have any.

– Well, think about it.

– Here, I found! She exclaimed maliciously. – I would call him Rafa! ….

As soon as the name was said, both of them, all three of them, remained as if terrified, and Arrigo, turning his face, struck his sister with a quick glance.

She did not know how to hide her confusion. Because, in fact, she should not have known that Count Raffaele Giuliani was called Rafa by her friends.

It was Arrigo who arranged the matter.

– How do you know that Giuliani is called Rafa? – She asked naturally. – Did I call you that by chance? – He added, turning to Giuliani.

– I understood that you called him by that name, and this made me laugh a little … sorry, you know, Mr. Giuliani! She replied, getting out of her way with exquisite impertinence.

– But I don’t take offense at all, miss. In fact, call me Rafa, if you want … This will amuse you!

Ariadne, without saddle and without bridle, with a halter of braided rope, came out of the weight fence led by hand by her groom.