Artois hesitated, passing in mental review the various ristoranti on the hill.
"Take me to the Ristorante della Stella," he said, at length.
Pasqualino cracked his whip, and drove once more merrily onward.
When Artois came to the ristorante, which was perched high up on the side of the road farthest from the sea, he had almost all the tables to choose from, as it was still early in the evening, and in the summer the Neapolitans who frequent the more expensive restaurants usually dine late. He sat down at a table in the open air close to the railing, from which he could see a grand view of the Bay, as well as all that was passing on the road beneath, and ordered a dinner to be ready in half an hour. He was in no hurry, and wanted to finish his cigar.
There was a constant traffic below. The tram-bell sounded its reiterated signal to the crowds of dusty pedestrians to clear the way. Donkeys toiled upward, drawing carts loaded with vegetables and fruit. Animated young men, wearing tiny straw hats cocked impertinently to one side, drove frantically by in light gigs that looked like the skeletons of carriages, holding a rein in each hand, pulling violently at their horses' mouths, and shouting "Ah--ah!" as if possessed of the devil. Smart women made the evening "Passeggiata" in landaus and low victorias, wearing flamboyant hats, and gazing into the eyes of the watching men ranged along the low wall on the sea-side with a cool steadiness that was almost Oriental. Some of them were talking. But by far the greater number leaned back almost immobile against their cushions; and their pale faces showed nothing but the languid consciousness of being observed and, perhaps, desired. Stout Neapolitan fathers, with bulging eyes, immense brown cheeks, and peppery mustaches, were promenading with their children and little dogs, looking lavishly contented with themselves. Young girls went primly past, holding their narrow, well-dressed heads with a certain virginal stiffness that was yet not devoid of grace, and casting down eyes that were supposed not yet to be enlightened. Their governesses and duennas accompanied them. Barefooted brown children darted in and out, dodging pedestrians and horses. Priests and black-robed students chattered vivaciously. School-boys with peaked caps hastened homeward. The orphans from Queen Margherita's Home, higher up the hill, marched sturdily through the dust to the sound of a boyish but desperately martial music. It was a wonderfully vivid world, but the eyes of Artois wandered away from it, over the terraces, the houses, and the tree-tops. Their gaze dropped down to the sea. Far off, Capri rose out of the light mist produced by the heat. And beyond was Sicily.
Why had that woman, Ruffo's mother, wept just now? What was her tragedy? he wondered. Accurately he recalled her face, broad now, and seamed with the wrinkles brought by trouble and the years.
He recalled, too, Ruffo's attitude as the boy listened to her vehement, her almost violent harangue. How boyish, how careless it had been--yet not unkind or even disrespectful, only wonderfully natural and wonderfully young.
Suddenly those words started into Artois' mind. Had he read them somewhere? For a moment he wondered. Or had he heard them? They seemed to suggest speech, a voice whose intonations he knew. His mind was still fatigued by work, and would not be commanded by his will. Keeping his eyes fixed on the ethereal outline of Capri, he strove to remember, to find the book which had contained these words and given them to his eyes, or the voice that had spoken them and given them to his ears.