“Laurella!” cried the priest. “And what has she to do in Capri?” Antonio shrugged his shoulders. She came up with hasty steps, her eyes fixed straight before her.
“Ha! Arrabiata! goodmorning!” shouted one or two of the young boatmen. But for the curato’s presence, they might have added more; the look of mute defiance with which the young girl received their welcome appeared to tempt the more mischievous among them.
“Goodday, Laurella!” now said the priest. “How are you? Are you coming with us to Capri?”
“If I may, padre.”
“Ask Antonio there; the boat is his. Every man is master of his own, I say, as God is master of us all.”
“There is half a carlino, if I may go for that?” said Laurella, without looking at the young boatman.
“You need it more than I,” he muttered, and pushed aside some orange baskets to make room: he was to sell the oranges in Capri, which little isle of rocks has never been able to grow enough for all its visitors.
“I do not choose to go for nothing,” said the girl, with a slight frown of her dark eyebrows.
“Come, child,” said the priest; “he is a good lad, and had rather not enrich himself with that little morsel of your poverty. Come now, and step in,” and he stretched out his hand to help her, “and sit you down by me. See, now, he has spread his jacket for you, that you may sit the softer. Young folks are all alike; for one little maiden of eighteen they will do more than for ten of us reverend fathers. Nay, no excuse, Tonino. It is the Lord’s own doing, that like and like should hold together.”
Meantime Laurella had stepped in, and seated herself beside the padre, first putting away Antonio’s jacket without a word. The young fellow let it lie, and, muttering between his teeth, he gave one vigorous push against the pier, and the little boat flew out into the open bay.
“What are you carrying there in that little bundle?” inquired the padre, as they were floating on over a calm sea, now just beginning to be lighted up with the earliest rays of the rising sun.
“Silk, thread, and a loaf, padre. The silk is to be sold at Anacapri, to a woman who makes ribbons, and the thread to another.”
“Spun by yourself?”
“You once learned to weave ribbons yourself, if I remember right?”
“I did, sir; but mother has been much worse, and I cannot stay so long from home; and a loom to ourselves we are not rich enough to buy.”
“Worse, is she? Ah! dear, dear! when I was with you last, at Easter, she was up.”
“The spring is always her worst time. Ever since those last great storms, and the earthquakes she has been forced to keep her bed from pain.”
“Pray, my child. Never slacken your prayers and petitions that the Blessed Virgin may intercede for you; and be industrious and good, that your prayers may find a hearing.”
After a pause: “When you were coming toward the shore, I heard them calling after you. ‘Good morning, ’Arrabiata!’ they said. What made them call you so? It is not a nice name for a young Christian maiden, who should be meek and mild.”
The young girl’s brown face glowed all over, while her eyes flashed fire.
“They always mock me so, because I do not dance and sing, and stand about to chatter, as other girls do. I might be left in peace, I think; I do them no harm.”
“Nay, but you might be civil. Let others dance and sing, on whom this life sits lighter; but a kind word now and then is seemly even from the most afflicted.”
Her dark eyes fell, and she drew her eyebrows closer over them, as if she would have hidden them.