Pelagia treats Corelli as horribly as she can. She spends two months attempting to provoke a fight with him, but he remains deferential to her. She thinks he doesn't even seem like a typical Italian; he's impulsive and gets drunk regularly, but he also seems sad and nostalgic. One day he leaves his pistol on the table. She considers stealing it and shooting him later, but realizes she's already passed up a number of opportunities to kill him. Instead, she decides to dunk it in water so it rusts. Corelli catches her and pretends to act patronizing, which makes her angry.
One of the reasons that Pelagia is so frustrated is that Corelli doesn't play into her idea of what a stereotypical Italian invader should be--instead, he's more human and individual. This shows that it's much harder to truly hate someone when the person in question is a full person, with thoughts and feelings, in another's eyes.
Corelli fishes his pistol out of the water and remarks that it must be hard for the Greeks to put up with the Italians. He says it's time to clean his pistol anyway, and Pelagia demands to know why he isn't angry that she's trying to sabotage him. Corelli suggests they think about more important things and just ignore each other, which Pelagia finds unacceptable. She slaps Corelli across the face and strides outside to throw things. She throws a few olives at Corelli and then disappears. Corelli is fascinated and thinks he should write an opera about feisty Greek girls.
Pelagia's decision to slap Corelli, knowing he won't do anything about it, again comes from the way that Dr. Iannis raised her to believe in her own worth and abilities. When Corelli indeed does nothing about it, it suggests that should this relationship come to fruition, he might not, like Mandras, see Pelagia's independence as a bad thing.
As time goes on, Pelagia becomes upset as she realizes she's less angry. She enjoys Corelli's greetings and he plays amusingly with Psipsina. He's also curious and can sit watching Pelagia work on her bedcover for hours. She begins to think he's a bit mad, which makes her life more interesting. Eventually, Pelagia becomes irritated with him because she keeps looking at him and he keeps catching her doing it. She realizes he's playing with her when he starts raising an eyebrow when their eyes meet, so she decides to begin a staring contest. It seems to go on for hours until he starts making faces at her and finally, she laughs. He cries that he won and she accuses him of cheating. Dr. Iannis sighs and wonders how to best deal with the budding romance.
The willingness to play with each other and enjoy each other's company, even under the guise of hatred and irritation, shows that the two are becoming still more human to each other. In other words, Pelagia is learning that Corelli likely doesn't believe in a grander, more violent narrative about what invaders are "supposed" to do in an invaded country, and instead, he's willing to make friends and enjoy his time in Greece.