Caesara- (pages 13--14)
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'Miss Caesara,' Francesco introduced as they entered.

'Caesara?' Hyeronimo murmured in wonder, giving a long and serious look to the poor girlís bashful red face. He sat down on the corner of a sofa and seemed to be out of sorts Francesco left the room; Caesara threw herself at the young manís feet, hands joined together, trembling and very nearly weeping.

'Oh,' she said under her breath, as if afraid of what she was saying. Grasping his hand she raised it to her lips, 'can you bear my love? Just bear it, for I am not asking you to love me, but suffer yourself to be loved like a child. I hear you are a woman-hater, a solitary creature and I have despaired in loving you.'

He put his arm around her waist and gently raising her from the ground, sat her by him; then he cupped her head in his hand and gazed straight and long into her eyes. It seemed strange. He could hardly believe what he saw.

'Do you speak the truth?' he asked.

She bent her head. She had seen his smile and had seen enough to give up all hope. ęAh,Ľ she thought, ęa man like him, what pleasure should he find in a superficial doll, in this waxen mask of mine? It goes without saying. Another man would feel flattered; not he, not even flattered. He well knows love is his due and he just asks me, like a teacher to his pupil, in a friendly but cold enough way: ĎDo you speak the truth?íĽ

A nother woman, taking more pride in her beauty, would have left the room blue in the face with anger and injured to death. A woman does not offer her love to be refused. Caesara? She was just sad. She would have cried, wept her eyes, out, but could not be vexed with him.

He, the more he looked at her, the more beautiful she seemed. He pitied her, yet could not give her false hopes, as any other man but himself would have done.

'Itís not that you lack in beauty, Caesara. Let us talk quietly. I will address you personally, for you are dear to my heart, though I do not love you the way I would have it. Listen, I have never been in love, maybe I cannot. There is one thing I want you to believe. I do not love anyone. But were I to love somebody, you would surely be my beloved. I feel a king of worship for you in my heart which may possibly become love if, well, if you wouldnít love me yourself. I do not know how to describe the strange feeling that freezes my heart, not exactly makes it cold, but apathetic. I have no desires and you have taught me to have them. You think it strange so do I. Itís as if I would kiss you, were you not to kiss me back. Itís as if I could love you if you were angry with me.'

'I cannot be, I canít pretend, not ever,' she said. 'It is sad, 'she added quietly, her voice somewhat deeper, 'for your love is the key to the happiness of my whole life. Castelmare has now a free hand. There is no reason for me now to refuse to marry him since you do not care for me.

I no longer want to run away from my father, since I have to forget my misfortune, if possible, but means of another misfortune. I am a woman. I used to think I was beautiful. I no longer do. I used to think I had a right to despise the feelings of a man who loves me. I was cruelly and equally rewarded for my scorn.'

'Caesara,' he said gently, moved as he was, 'will you let me think this over? I have a strange heart and mind. Nothing ever enters them spontaneously. An idea stays with me for days, on the mindís surface; it does not affect me, not does it interest me. After a number of days only does it sink to the bottom of my head; there, in conjunction with other ideas that may be found there, it becomes firmly rooted. Caesara, it goes the same with my feelings. I may well see a man drop dead in the street with no reaction at first. Hours later, only, the scene reappears and I begin to weep, I weep profusely and an indelible trace is left in my heart. You want me to pity you. I say: pity me; for if ever love should enter my heart, I would die of it. You do not understand me, yet I do feel that love and death will be close together. Whatever is spontaneous in me is sympathy and this you have entire. Love me if you will, if (let me speak this sweet word) if you have the grace so to will. You think I would be unable to love you, do you? You are wrong. Just give me time: that your image may deep into my heart; that I may get accustomed to this idea, I, a man unloved, who has never loved anyone. Yet I still think I might go crazy in loving you.'

He kissed her forehead and went out. She smiled. She took a packet of playing cards, charmed them with a magic formula, to see if he would come the following day; she said softly as she was displaying the cards one after another:

'Were he to come tomorrow, I will love him; should he not come, then, then, I will love him all the same.'


Hyeronimo to Euthanasius

"I fondle a maidenís head in my own way, which is filling a sketchbook with the various expressions of a single face. It is a strange thing that my eyes, so clear, I may say of a heavenly clarity, cannot perceive anything in its entirety, on the spot. I scrawl all over the walls. I called on a maiden who is in love with me, but whom I do not love. I have seen her blushing, timid, upset. I have sketched that look in my book. She knelt by me asking me to suffer her love. I cannot possibly describe the expression of innocence, candour and love on her face, but I made a sketch of it. It is worth a kiss, my sketch is. It is, maybe, one of the truest that I ever drew. I keep it by my side. Perplexity and sweet resignation. An angelic profile. I said kind words to her. There was a flash of hope in that gentle sadness of that face. A treasure of a sketch. But I feel that sketches grow ever more familiar to my heart. I do not love her. No, I do not. Farewell, father."


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