And now they sat together in this boat, like two most deadly enemies, while their hearts were beating fit to kill them. Antonio’s usually so good humored face was heated to scarlet; he struck the oars so sharply that the foam flew over to where Laurella sat, while his lips moved as if muttering angry words.
She pretended not to notice, wearing her most unconscious look, bending over the edge of the boat, and letting I lie cool water pass between her fingers. Then she threw off” her handkerchief again, and began to smooth her hair, as though she had been alone. Only her eyebrows twitched, and she held up her wet hands in vain attempts to cool her burning cheeks.
Now they were well out in the open sea. The island was far behind, mid the coast before them lay yet distant in the hot haze. Not a sail was within sight, far or near—not even a passing gull to break the stillness. Antonio looked all round, evidently ripening some hasty resolution. The color faded suddenly from his cheek, and he dropped his oars.
Laurella looked round involuntarily—fearless, yet attentive.
“I must make an end of this,” the young fellow burst forth. “It has lasted too long already! I only wonder that it has not killed me! You say you do not know me? All and this time you must have seen me pass you like a madman, my whole heart full of what I had to tell you; and then you only made your crossest mouth, and turned your back upon me.”
“What had I to say to you?” she curtly replied. “I may have seen that you were inclined to meddle with me, but I do not choose to be on people’s wicked tongues for nothing. I do not mean to have you for a husband—neither you nor any other.”
“Nor any other? So you will not always say! You say so now, because you would not have that painter. Bah, you were but a child! You will feel lonely enough yet, some day; and then, wild as you are, you will take the next best who comes to hand.”
“Who knows? which of us can see the future? It may be that I will change my mind. What is that to you?”
“What is it to me?” he flew out, starting to his feet, while the small boat leaped and danced. “What is it to me, you say? You know well enough! I tell you, that man shall perish miserably to whom you shall prove kinder than you have been to me!”
“And to you, what did I ever promise? Am I to blame if you be mad? What right have you to me?”
“Ah! I know,” he cried, “my right is written nowhere. It has not been put in Latin by any lawyer, nor stamped with any seal. But this I feel: I have just the right to you that I have to heaven, if I die an honest Christian. Do you think I could look on and see you go to church with another man, and see the girls go by and shrug their shoulders at me?”
“You can do as you please. I am not going to let myself be frightened by all those threats. I also mean to do as I please.”
“You shall not say so long!” and his whole frame shook with passion.
“I am not the man to let my whole life be spoiled by a stubborn wench like you! You are in my power here, remember, and may be made to do my bidding.”