The other painters were furious with envy when they learned how often the Spanish ambassador and his wife, the consul and prominent people connected with the Vatican visited his studio. They denied his talent, attributing these distinctions to Josephina's position. They called him a courtier and a flatterer, alleging that he had married to better his position.
Josephina closed her eyes as if she wanted to flee from the shame of her nakedness. On the smooth sheet, her graceful form was outlined in a slightly rosy tone, intoxicating the eyes of the artist. Josephina's face was not much to look at, but her body! If he could only overcome her scruples some time and paint her! Renovales kneeled down beside the bed in a transport of admiration.
After this kiss came the other, formal and cold, exchanged with the indifference of habit, without any novelty except that Josephina's mouth drew back from his, as if she wanted to avoid any contact with him. They went out, the mother leaning on Rafaelito's arm with a sort of languor, as if she could hardly drag her weak body, her pale face unrelieved by the least sign of blood.
Renovales brought with him as his whole capital some few thousand lire, that represented Josephina's savings and the product of his sale of part of the furniture that decorated the poorly furnished halls of the Foscarini palace. At first it was hard. Doña Emilia died a few months after they reached Madrid. Her funeral did not come up to the dreams the illustrious widow had always fashioned.
He looked at the chair beside the fireplace, where the dead woman had often sat. That chair with its open arms seemed to be waiting for her trembling, bird-like little body. But the painter did not feel any emotion. He could not even remember Josephina's face exactly. She had changed so much!
After her came her mother clad in the same fashion, small and insignificant beside the girl, who seemed to overwhelm her with her health and grace. Renovales approved of these trips. Josephina's legs were troubling her; a sudden weakness sometimes kept her in her chair for days at a time.
He spied on his wife, studying her cough, watching her closely when she did not see him. They no longer spent the night together. Since Milita's marriage, the father occupied her room. They had broken the slavery of the common bed that tormented their rest. Renovales made up for this departure by going into Josephina's chamber every morning. "Did you have a good night? Do you want something?"
The colors changed her; she was a new woman, so he would declare with a vehemence which his wife took for admiration and which was merely the desire for a model. Josephina's whole life had been fixed by her husband's hand.
Now she appeared in a pale pink dress, almost like some clothes put away in the closets of his house; now she entered in a hat trimmed with flowers and cherries, much larger, but still something like a certain straw hat which he could find amid the confusion of Josephina's old finery. Oh, how it reminded him of her! Every night he was struck with some renewed memory.
"I won't, I won't," she moaned with an accent of protest. The painter had jumped out of bed, full of anxiety, going from one side to the other without knowing what to do, trying to pull her hands away from her eyes, giving in, in spite of his strength, to Josephina's efforts to free herself from him. "But what's the matter? What is it you won't do? What's happened to you?"