Caesara- (pages 9-10)
As Hyeronimus and Onufrey were coming out of an old building, Francesco, having seen them, picked up a conversation with the first, asking him to sit as a model for one of his pictures. Seeing no impediment to the old maestro’s proposition, Hyeronimo agreed and the three of them made for the latter’s home. On the way, father Onufrey touched the painter’s hand as if by chance. It enclosed a few fold coins and Onufrey thought that whatever is found, naturally falls to the finder. Pressing the painter’s hand with warm friendship and purloining intention, he thought it vest to go his own way, the more so as the play of backgammon at the pub was fondly inviting; so he found some pretext or other and was gone.
Meanwhile Caesara, curious and restless, was messing about in the painter’s room. She went up to the picture covered with a piece of linen, lifted it and looked how far the work representing ‘The Fall of the Angels’ had progressed. The Archangel Michael, his face serenely serious, was brandishing his fiery sword in the air. His fair locks fluttered around his marble-white face and protruding brow and his blue eyes were shining with strength and energy. His extended arm was pointing to chaos. The long white wings seemed to form an ellipsis over his shoulders and a diadem of blue stars floated over his brow. The background was chaos, in the upper part pierced by some dying star, dark and cold, in the lower region. Yet, a gray stripe, an empty space, stood round the angel’s sword, for the figure of the chased demon.
She heard the sound of footsteps in the lobby. A screen concealed the artist’s bed. She slipped behind it, sat on the bed and peeped. Francesco and the young monk come in. Her heart beat against her ribs as if to smash them. Francesco showed Hyeronimo the picture and the place his figure was to occupy on that canvas. Then they both entered a recess. Caesara did not move, she was as still as a mouse.
Francesco came back, looked for his painter’s palette and brushes, lowered a blue silken curtain over the window giving the room a violet-blue hue, and set a black wooden pedestal in a convenient spot; the door of the dressing room opened and Caesara very nearly yelled, but she stopped her mouth with a tiny hand, covering her eyes with the other. Let us whisper; my readers, at least, should imagine I whisper in their eras. Let us see: did Caesara’s hand stay upon her eyes? Her breasts had swollen under her heartbeats so that a button of that rather tight black velvet vest flew open. Why had she buttoned it? Yet, who was to know that her heart would under such a shock? She unbuttoned her vest, the snow-white breasts became free of their velvet prison, and she took a deep, silent breath. Then she quickly covered her eyes again, the time to cool the turmoil in her soul. After which she raised a tiny finger, the little one, over her covered eyes and peeped through her fingers. She saw a fine head on broad white shoulders, a bust that seemed to be cut in marble. It was her girdle that was now very nearly bursting. She unhooked the buckle and breathing ever more freely, she began to consider the whole of that handsome model, whose muscles and shape breathed handsome pride and nobility. Her arms dropped, her hands in her lap, she was overcome with deep feelings, but had not yet looked her fill. She shook in every limb and you might have heard her teeth chattering had she not kept her mouth shut tight.
The painter’s brush simply flew across the empty space that he had left on the canvas and Hyeronimo’s features came to life, from the top of his head, one feature after another, down to the shoulders where the painter sketched two long, radiating black wings. It was a long sitting. Meanwhile Hyeronimo was standing on the pedestal, upright, motionless, proud as an ancient Apollo, in the half-light of the room that the painter had purposefully created to catch the fundamental tone of the face.
'Hyeronimo,' Francesco broke the silence in the room.
At these sounds, Caesara was startled. A strange idea that the painter intended to put the screen aside came into her head. She would then be discovered, in her disordered attire, her hair disheveled, her eyes burning in her head, her face blood-red. But it was not that.
The painter said:
'I am now working on the head. You must have been in doubt over something sometime in your life. Remember that situation so I can see that look on your face.'
Hyeronimo called to mind old Euthanasius’s letter. His lips slightly parted in a cold, skeptical smile. Oh, could he thus have turned to marble? His face expressed an arrogant pain; a tear fell from poor Caesara’s eyes.
«Yes, quite! That’s the right look!» said Francesco, inspired.
His eyes gleamed and his brush hurriedly sketched those features of sorrowful bitterness on the face His eyes gleamed and his brush hurriedly sketched those features of sorrowful bitterness on the face of his somber infernal genius.
«Deeply unhappy he must have been, since remembering this changes his face,» Caesara thought and sweet quiet tenderness filled her soul. She was so longer the same person. Out of the turmoil she had been through, she was now calm. She loved him. In that beautiful white marble statue, in that stone-still Adonis, she supposed there was a soul. She now felt like crying. Her lips parted in a sweet expression of sorrow and love, she buried her head in cushions and closed her eyes. She felt she was crying despite herself.
'I will want a few more sitting,' Francesco said.
Caesara opened her eyes. Francesco had pulled the curtain aside and once more she saw her Adonis in full daylight. She covered her eyes again and heard the painter and Hyeronimo entering the adjoining dressing room. She sprang up stealthily, softly, rushed into her boudoir, threw herself on the bed, and buried her face in pillows crumpling anything that she could grasp. As Francesco came into her room, she hung around his neck, hugged him spasmodically, fondled and kissed him.
'What is it, child?'
'Do you like him?'
She mumbled something, her eyes full of tears and desire.