The priest looked after him, spoke rapidly to his companions, and burst into a throaty laugh which was loudly echoed.
"Maria Fortunata is in luck to-night!" said some one.
Then the band began again, the waiter came with more ices, and the tall, long-bearded forestiere was forgotten.
Without glancing at the woman, Artois strolled slowly on. Many people looked at him, but none spoke to him, for he was known now, as each stranger who stays long in Naples is known, summed up, labelled, and either ignored or pestered. The touts and the ruffiani were aware that it was no use to pester the Frenchman, and even the decrepit and indescribably seedy old men who hover before the huge plate-glass windows of the photograph shops, or linger near the entrance to the cinematograph, never peeped at him out of the corners of their bloodshot eyes or whispered a word of the white slaves in his ear.
When he was beneath the dome, and could see the light gleaming upon the wings of the pointing angels, Artois seemed to be aware of an individual step among the many feet behind him, a step soft, furtive, and obstinate, that followed him like a fate's. He glanced up at the angels. A melancholy and half-bitter smile came to his lips. Then he turned to the right and made his way still slowly towards the Via Roma, always crowded from the early afternoon until late into the night. As he went, as he pushed through the mob of standing men at the entrance of the Galleria, and crossed the street to the far side, from which innumerable narrow and evil-looking alleys stretch away into the darkness up the hill, the influence of the following old woman increased upon him, casting upon him like a mist her hateful eagerness. He desired to be rid of it, and, quickening his walk, he turned into the first alley he came to, walked a little way up it, until he was in comparative solitude and obscurity, then stopped and abruptly turned.
The shiny, grayish mauve gown and the white-trimmed bonnet were close to him. Between them he faintly perceived a widely smiling face, and from this face broke at once a sickly torrent of speech, half Neapolitan dialect, half bastard French.
"Silenzio!" Artois said, sternly.
The old harridan stopped in surprise, showing her tooth.