They turned from the sea into the broad walk of the Villa, and walked towards the kiosk. Near it, on the small, green chairs, were some ladies swathed in gigantic floating-veils, talking to two or three very smart young men in white suits and straw hats, who leaned forward eying them steadily with a determined yet rather vacuous boldness that did not disconcert them. One of the ladies, dressed in black-and-white check, was immensely stout. She seemed to lead the conversation, which was carried on with extreme vivacity in very loud and not melodious voices.
"Ecco the gathering of the geese!" said the Marchesino, touching Artois on the arm. "And that"--he pointed to the stout lady, who at this moment tossed her head till her veil swung loose like a sail suddenly deserted by the wind--"is the goose-mother. Buona sera, Marchesa! Buona sera--molto piacere. Carlo, buona sera--a rivederci, Contessa! A questa sera."
He showed his splendid teeth in a fixed but winning smile, and, hat in hand, went by, walking from his hips. Then, replacing his hat on his head, he added to his friend:
"The Marchesa is always hoping that the Duchessa d'Aosta will come one day, if only for a moment, to smile upon the geese. But--well, the Duchessa prefers to climb to the fourth story to see the poor. She has a heart. Let us sit here, Emilio."
They sat down under the trees, and the Marchesino looked at his pointed boots for a moment in silence, pushing forward his under lip until his blond mustache touched the jaunty tip of his nose. Then he began to laugh, still looking before him.
"Emilio mio! And that you should be asking me to show you Naples! It is too good! C'est parfait!"
The Marchesino turned towards Artois.
"And Maria Fortunata! Santa Maria of the Toledo, the white-haired protectress of the strangers! Emilio--you might have come to me! But you do not trust me. Ecco! You do not--"