"What do I care about Italy?" Antonio said vehemently. Carmona is my country."
"Carmona is a city among others, and there are so many cities."
"Do you really mean what you're saying?"
"Yes, I mean it."
"How dare you continue to rule here then!" There was fire in his eyes. "What do you have in common with us? You're a foreigner in your own city."
I silently looked at him. A foreigner. He spoke the truth. I no longer belonged there. For him. Carmona was everything; he loved her with all his mortal heart. I had no right to stop him from fulfilling his destiny as a man, that destiny over which I had no control.
"You're right," I said sadly. "From this day on, it is you who shall rule Carmona."
I took Beatrice's arm and led her to the cascade. Behind me Antonio called in an uncertain voice: "Father!" But I did not turn. I sat down next to Beatrice on a stone bench.
"I suppose it had to happen sooner or later," I said.
"I can understand Antonio," she remarked defiantly.
"Do you love him?" I abruptly asked.
Her eyelashes fluttered. "You know I do."
"Beatrice... He doesn't love you."
"I know. But I love him nevertheless."
"Forget him. You weren't made to suffer."
"I'm not afraid of suffering."
"What idiotic pride!" I angrily exclaimed.
He asked for worries; she took pleasure in suffering. What demons possessed them?
"Will you always be the little girl who enjoys playing only forbidden games? Why do you have to ask for the only thing in the world I can't give you?
"I ask for nothing."
"You can have everything," I said. "The world is big, but it will be yours if only you say so."
"There's nothing I need."
She sat erect on the bench, holding herself rather stiffly; her hands were resting on her knees. Looking at her, it struck me that she really did not need anything. Gratified or deceived, she would always remain the same.
"You were made to be happy and all I want is to make you happy."
I grabbed hold of her wrist; she looked at me in astonishment. "Forget Antonio. Become my wife. Don't you realize I love you?"
"Do you think I'm incapable of loving?"
She withdrew her hand. "I don't know."
"I frighten you. You think I'm the devil."
"No, you're not the devil. I don't believe in the devil, but..." She abruptly cut herself off.
"What is it?" I asked.
"You're not a man," she replied with sudden violence. She looked at me steadily. "You're a corpse."
I seized her by the shoulders. I felt like crushing her in my hands. And suddenly, I saw myself in the depths of her eyes —dead. Dead as the cypresses, the unblooming cypresses which know neither winter nor summer, nor spring nor autumn. I let her loose and went off in silence. She remained motionless on the stone bench. She was dreaming of Antonio who was dreaming of his war. And I was alone again.
A few weeks later, Antonio, with the help of the armies of the duke of Anjou, captured Rivella. He was gravely wounded as he led the assault. While festivities were being organized in Carmona to celebrate the victory, I set out for Villana where he had been transported. I found him lying in his bed, ghostly white, his skin stretched taut over his bones. He had a hole in his belly.
"Father," he said with a smile, "are you proud of me?"
"Yes," I answered.
I returned his smile, but inside my breast a volcano was spewing burning lava. Just a hole in the belly, and twenty years of care, twenty years of hope and love were destroyed in one blow.
"Are they proud of me in Carmona?"
"In all Italy there has never been a festival more magnificent than the one that will celebrate your victory."
"If I die, please don't tell anyone until the festival is over. Festivals are so wonderful!"
When he closed his eyes for the last time, there was a look of happiness upon his face. He died, glorious and gratified, as if his victory had been a real victory, as if the word "victory" meant something. For him the future held no dangers; there was no longer any future. He died, having done what he wanted to do. He would forever be a triumphant hero. But I... I shall never see the end of it, I thought, looking up at the incandescent sky.
—Simone de Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal, p. 127