There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room.
Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was made of bronze and glistened in the rain. It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths…The motor cars were gone from the square by the war monument.
The American wife stood at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was crouched under one of the dripping green tables. The cat was trying to make herself so compact that she would not be dripped on.
“I’m going down and get that kitty,” the American wife said… “The poor kitty out trying to keep dry under a table.”
The wife liked [the hotel-keeper]. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity. She liked the way he wanted to serve her.
With the maid holding the umbrella over her, she walked along the gravel path until she was under their window. The table was there, washed bright green in the rain, but the cat was gone. She was suddenly disappointed.
“Ha perduto qualche cosa, Signora?”
“There was a cat,” said the American girl.
“Sì, il gatto.”
“A cat?” the maid laughed. “A cat in the rain?”
“Yes,” she said, “under the table.” Then, “Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty.”
When she talked English the maid’s face tightened.
As the American girl passed the office, the padrone bowed from his desk. Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. The padrone made her feel very small and at the same time really important.
“Don’t you think it would be a good idea if I let my hair grow out?” she asked, looking at her profile again.
George looked up and saw the back of her neck clipped close like a boy’s.
“I like it the way it is.”
“I get so tired of it,” she said. “I get so tired of looking like a boy.”
“I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I can feel,” she said. “I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her.”
“Yeah?” George said from the bed.
“And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring and I want to brush my hair out in from of a mirror and I want a kitty and I want some new clothes.”
“Oh, shut up and get something to read,” George said.
In the doorway stood the maid. She held a big tortoise-shell cat pressed tight against her and swung down against her body.
“Excuse me,” she said, “the padrone asked me to bring this for the Signora.”