“Not enough to give me macaroni twice a week, if I had had nothing but the boat—only a letter now and then to take to Naples, or a gentleman to row out into the open sea, that he might fish. But you know I have an uncle who is rich; he owns more than one fine orange garden; and, ‘Tonino,’ says he to me, ‘while I live you shall not suffer want; and when I am gone you will find that I have taken care of you.’ And so, with God’s help, I got through the winter.”
“Has he children, this uncle who is rich?”
Long in Foreign Parts
“No, he never married; he was long in foreign parts, and many a good piaster he has laid together. He is going to set up a great fishing business, and set me over it, to see the rights of it.”
“Why, then you are a made man, Tonino!”
The young boatman shrugged his shoulders. “Every man has his own burden,” said he, starting up again to have another look at the weather, turning his eyes right and left, although he must have known that there can be no weather side but one.
“Let me fetch you another bottle,” said the hostess; “your uncle can well afford to pay for it.”
“Not more than one glass; it is a fiery wine you have in Capri, and my head is hot already.”
“It does not heat the blood; you may drink as much of it as you like. And here is my husband coming; so you must sit a while, and talk to him.”
And in fact, with his nets over his shoulder, and his red cap upon his curly head, down came the comely padrone of the osteria. He had been taking a dish of fish to that great lady, to set before the little curato.
As soon as he caught sight of the young boatman, he began waving a most cordial welcome; and he came to sit beside him on the bench, chattering and asking questions. Just as his wife was bringing her second bottle of pure unadulterated Capri, they heard the crisp Natid crunch, and Laurella was seen approaching from the left-hand road to Anacapri. She nodded slightly in salutation; then stopped, and hesitated.
Antonio sprang from his seat. “I must go,” he said. “It is a young Sorrento girl, who came over with the signor curato in the morning. She has to get back to her sick mother before night.”
“Well, well, time enough yet before night,” observed the fisherman; “time enough to take a glass of wine. Wife, I say, another glass!”
“I thank you! I had rather not”; and Laurella kept her distance.
“Fill the glasses, wife; fill them both, I say; she only wants a little pressing.”
“Don’t,” interposed the lad. “It is a willful head of her own she has; a saint could not persuade her to do what she does not choose.” And, taking a hasty leave, he ran down to the boat, loosened the rope, and stood waiting for Laurella. Again she bent her head to the hostess, and slowly approached the water, with lingering steps. She looked around on every side, as if in hopes of seeing some other passenger.
But the marina was deserted.
The fishermen were asleep, or rowing about the coast with rods or nets; a few women and children sat before their doors, spinning or sleeping; such strangers as had come over in the morning were waiting for the cool of the evening to return. She had not time to look about her long; before she could prevent him, Antonio had seized her in his arms and carried her to the boat, as if she had been an infant. He leaped in after her, and with a stroke or two of his oar they were in deep water.