Murietta Stood there looking at, and yet not half beholding the scene before him. He was devouring the thought that the consul had given him as if his soul had been hungry. He was turning it over, testing it, trying to prove that it was false, and yet at every turn of the gay equipages finding evidence of its truth.
From the first there was one carriage that had a special attraction for him. A little boy, with long light hair like gold and sunshine woven together, sat on a front seat dressed in blue velvet, and looking down at the happy peasant children as if he would like to join them and be happy too.
Beside this boy sat or lounged a great six-foot seaman-looking fellow in a white vest, pea-jacket, and sailor hat, which he was constantly lifting, and sometimes to people who did not respond, and a swagger in his air that spoke as plain as words could speak that his place and position in the world, whatever it was, was about as unsteady as the deck of a ship. Yet he had a powerful face, — powerful for Wickedness. He certainly had a chin like Dante. He as certainly had an eye like the devil. One hand was constantly employed in lifting his hat; the other kept a sort of reach and regard for the little boy at his side.
As this carriage whirled past, the consul lifted his hat to the very beautiful blonde lady dressed all in soft shades of pink and rose, who sat with her husband on the back seat; and the big man with the big chin lifted his hat in return and bowed twice to the consul.
The beautiful lady smiled with an expression of sadness that was even painful, but only smiled. The husband, a handsome, graceful, Italian-looking fellow, with a small hand and a small weak nose, and a small head which was getting bald, lifted his hat also, with that ease and composure which shows at least the gentleman bred and born.
"Beautiful!" said the consul.
"Sad!" sighed the artist
The two walked on together.
But Murietta could not forget that face. It was the face of a child. The eyes were large and liquid, yet soft and timid as those of a baby. Her complexion was rose and alabaster. She seemed to blush to her shoulders as she breathed. With her pure pitiful face, sad and sweet and lonesome, with its touch of tenderness for her little boy with hair so like her own, she to Murietta was by far the most beautiful of all the beautiful women of Genoa.
"Who are they?"
"It's a sad story."
"I knew it was sad. Let me imagine it. It will give me food for to-night whilst prowling through the silent city."
The sun had set on Genoa. The pretty dancers had disappeared, the bands had broken in pieces, and here and there a man with a great brass instrument coiled about him, stood bantering, cap in hand, with some fair woman.
The two men were leaving the garden as the carriage with the sad pretty face above the soft rose robes was passing. The consul bowed. The fair woman half turned her head to the man beside her, and he reached his arm and touched the footman. The footman turned his head to the coachman, and the carriage stopped.
The consul stepped up towards the carriage door, shook hands with the gentleman, and then took the extended hand of the big man with the big chin, while the little boy only looked down from the carriage at the doves that strutted about and pecked in the dust under the wheels and the horses' feet.
"Glad to see you here, consul," said the big man with the big chin as he clutched the hand in his. "Glad to see you," continued the deep bass voice. "I am a man who carries his heart in his hand, you know. A rough but honest sailor. Glad to see you looking so well, 'pon my word."
The lady looked in the consul's face with her great sad child's eyes, so full of wonder all the time, and then she looked at his companion, who had held back as if to escape an introduction.
"My friend Murietta — the Countess Edna."
The lady smiled sadly, sighed as if from habit, and bowed as the artist lifted his hat and held it poised in the air. Then he shook hands with the gentleman at her side who was introduced as "Count Edna," and was about to withdraw.
"You are not of the family of Alpho Murietta?"
The artist blushed and bowed in the affirmative.
The consul said something in a half whisper, and then the lady again reached her hand. The gentleman at her side was over civil; and, while the great captain by the little boy, who had just been introduced, was declaring that he was a man who carried his heart in his hand and was only a rough but honest sailor, the polite gendarme came with his finger to his cap, passed up the carriage from blocking the way, and the two parties were separated.Start reading Chapter 3 ofThe One Fair Lady