When, after two hours’ rowing, they reached the little bay of Capri, Antonio took the padre in his arms, and carried him through the last few ripples of shallow water, to set him reverently down upon his legs on dry land. But Laurella did not wait for him to wade back and fetch her.
Gathering up her little petticoat, holding in one hand her wooden shoes and in the other her little bundle, with one splashing step or two she had reached the shore. “I have some time to stay at Capri,” said the priest. “You need not wait—I may not perhaps return before tomorrow. When you get home, Laurella, remember me to your mother, I will come and see her within the week. You mean to go back before it gets dark?”
“If I find an opportunity,” answered the girl, turning all her attention to her skirts.
“I must return, you know,” said Antonio, in a tone which he believed to be one of great indifference. “I shall wait here till the Ave Maria. If you should not come, it is the same to me.”
“You must come,” interposed the little priest; “you never can leave your mother all alone at night. Is it far you have to go?
“To a vineyard by Anacapri.”
“And I to Capri. So now God bless you, child—and you, my son.”
Laurella kissed his hand, and let one farewell drop, for the padre and Antonio to divide between them. Antonio, however, appropriated no part of it to himself; he pulled off his cap exclusively to the padre, without even looking at Laurella. But after they had turned their backs, he let his eyes travel but a short way with the padre, as he went toiling over the deep bed of small, loose stones; he soon sent them after the maiden, who, turning to the right, had begun to climb the heights, holding one hand above her eyes to protect them from the scorching sun.
Deep Blue Splendor
Just before the path disappeared behind high walls, she stopped, as if to gather breath, and looked behind her. At her feet lay the marina; the rugged rocks rose high around her; the sea was shining in the rarest of its deep blue splendor. The scene was surely worth a moment’s pause. But, as chance would have it, her eyes, in glancing past Antonio’s boat, met Antonio’s own, which had been following her as she climbed.
Each made a slight movement, as persons do who would excuse themselves for some mistake; and then, with her darkest look, the maiden went her way.
Hardly one hour had passed since noon, and yet for the last two Antonio had been sitting waiting on the bench before the fishers’ tavern. He must have been very much preoccupied with something, for he jumped up every moment to step out into the sunshine, and look carefully up and down the roads, which, parting right and left, lead to the only two little towns upon the island.
He did not altogether trust the weather, he then said to the hostess of the osteria; to be sure, it was clear enough, but he did not quite like that tint of sea and sky. Just so it had looked, he said, before the last awful storm, when the English family had been so nearly lost; surely she must remember it?
No, indeed, she said, she didn’t.
Well, if the weather should happen to change before night, she was to think of him, he said.
‘‘Have you many fine folk over there?” she asked him, after a while.
“They are only just beginning; as yet, the season has been bad enough;, those who came to bathe, came late.”
“The spring came late. Have you not been earning more than we at Capri?”