He would try to be patient until the night of the dinner on the island. He would be birbante, would play the fox, as Emilio surely had done. The Panacci temper should find out that one member of the family could control it, when such control served his purpose. He was on fire with a lust for action as he made his resolutions.
Was he never to be allowed a moment alone with Maddalena? "Oh, but I'm no good at " he began. Then he stopped. To-day he must be birbante on his guard. Once the auction was in full swing so he thought Salvatore and Gaspare would be as they were when they gambled beside the sea. They would forget everything. It would be easy to escape. But till that moment came he must be cautious.
We are children beside you, we who say all we feel, who show when we hate and when we love. We are babies. If I ever want to become really birbante, I shall become a worker."
"How do you know?" "I saw the smoke from his pipe. Look, there it is again!" A tiny trail of smoke curled up; and faded in the blue. "I will go first because of Maddalena. Girls are silly. If I do this at her she will understand. If not she may show her father you have been here before." He closed one eye in a large and expressive wink. "Birbante!" "It is good to be birbante sometimes."
Gaspare continued to explain with gathering excitement and persuasiveness, talking to his master as much by gesture as by the words that Maurice could only partially understand. "The sea is calm. Nito has the net, but he will not go into the sea. Per Dio, he is birbante. He will say he has the rheumatism, I know, and walk like that." Hasn't Nito asked for me, Sebastiano?"
And when Maurice went away with Gaspare in the night towards the white road where Tito, tied to a stake, was waiting to carry the empty pannier that had contained a supper up the mountain to the house of the priest, Salvatore stood handling his money, and murmuring: "Maledetto straniero! Madonna! Ma io sono più birbante di Lei, mille volte più birbante, Dio mio!"
Gaspare cast a sly glance at Maurice, warning him to be prepared for a comedy, and Maurice at once remembered the scene on the terrace when Gaspare had described Nito's "birbante" character, and looked out for rheumatics. "Who goes into the sea, Nito?" asked Gaspare, very seriously. Nito's wrinkled and weather-beaten face assumed an expression of surprise. "Who goes into the sea!" he ejaculated.
The boy worked himself up into a fever. His face was white. Drops of sweat stood on his forehead. He had set out to be deceptive what he would have called un poco birbante, and he had even deceived himself. He knew that it would be dangerous for his Padrona to live again near Marechiaro. Any day a chance scrap of gossip might reach her ears.
And he held out his hand with the notes. "Salvatore is birbante!" said Gaspare, sullenly. "He did not win it fairly. I saw him " "Never mind, Gaspare!" said Maurice. He put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "To-morrow I'll give you the same," he whispered. "And now," he added, aloud, "let's go to bed. I've been rowing Maddalena round the island and I'm tired. I shall sleep like a top."
Again his whole face laughed, as, nimbly, he brought his legs from the water and stood beside her. "Birbante, Signorina?" "Yes. Are you from Naples?" "I come from Mergellina, Signorina." Vere looked at him half-doubtfully, but still with innocent admiration. There was something perfectly fearless and capable about him that attracted her. He rowed in to shore. "How old are you?" she asked.