There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they went through on the flight of steps to and from their room. Their room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the stone work in the memory of war. There were big trees and green long seats in the public garden. In the good weather there was always a painter with his support for picture. Painters liked the way the trees grew and the bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea. Italians came from a long way off to look up at the work of art in the memory of war. It was made of metal of copper and tin and was bright in the rain. It was raining. The rain came drop by drop from the trees. Water was in small stretches of water on the small-stone path. The sea came loose in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the edge of sea to come up and loose again in a long line in the rain. The motor cars were gone from the square by the work of art in the memory of war. Across the square in the doorway of the café a waiter was looking out at the square with nobody and nothing in.
The American wife was at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was bent over under one of the green tables from which water was coming drop by drop. The cat was attempting to make herself take up the least possible space that the drops would not come on her.
"I'm going down and get that young cat," the American wife said.
"I'll do it," her husband offered from the bed.
"No, I'll get it. The poor young cat out attempting to keep dry under a table."
The husband went on reading, being at rest supported with the two cushions at the foot of the bed.
"Don't get wet," he said.
The wife went down steps and the hotel owner got on his feet and bent to her as she went through the office. His desk was at the far end of the office. He was an old man and very tall.
"Il piove," the wife said. She liked the hotel-keeper.
"Si, Si, Signora, brutto tempo. It is very bad weather."
He was behind his desk in the far end of the room that wasn't bright. The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he took any protest. She liked his self-respect. She liked the way he desired to give help to her. She liked the way he was conscious about being a hotel-keeper. She liked his old, face having great force and big hands.
Liking him she opened the door and looked out. It was raining harder. A man in a rubber cape was passing through the square with nobody in to the café. The cat would be about to the right. Possibly she could go along under the overhanging edge of roof. As she was in the doorway an umbrella opened behind her. It was the maid who looked after their room.
"You must not get wet," she smiled, speaking Italian. Of course, the hotel-keeper had sent her.
With the maid keeping the umbrella over her, she walked along the small-stone footway until she was under their window. The table was there, washed bright green in the rain, but the cat was gone. She hadn't suddenly come up to hopes. The maid looked up at her.
"Ha perduto qualque cosa, Signora?"
"There was a cat," said the American girl.
"Si, 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 young cat."
When she talked English the maid"s face tightened.
"Come, Signora," she said. "We must get back inside. You will be wet."
"I take it as probable," said the American girl. They went back along the small-stone footway and went through in the door. The maid was outside to shut the umbrella. As the American girl went through the office, the padrone bent his head 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. She had a momentary feeling of being of greatly important. She went on up the stairs. She opened the door of the room. George was on the bed, reading.
"Did you get the cat?" he asked, putting the book down.
"It was gone."
"Interested where it went to," he said, resting his eyes from reading. She took a seat on the bed.
"I wanted it so much," she said. "I don't know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor young cat. It isn't any amusement to be a poor young cat out in the rain."
George was reading again.
She went over and took a seat in front of the mirror of the dressing table looking at herself with the hand glass. She made observations of her profile, first one side and then the other. Then she made observations of the back of her head and her neck.
"Don't you have an opinion it would be a good idea if I let my hair grow out?" she put a question, looking at her profile again.
George looked up and saw the back of her neck, cut 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."
George changed his position in the bed. He hadn't looked away from her since she started to make statements.
"You look pretty darn nice," he said.
She put the mirror down on the dresser and went over to the window and looked out. It was getting dark.
"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 desire to have a young cat to sit on my lap and purr when I rub her softly."
"Yes?" George said from the bed.
"And I desire to take food at a table with my own silver and I desire wax light. And I desire it to be spring and I want to brush my hair out in front of a mirror and I desire a young cat and I desire some new clothes."
"Oh, shut up and get something to read," George said. He was reading again.
His wife was looking out of the window. It was quite dark now and still raining in the trees.
"Anyway, I want a cat," she said, "I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can't have long hair or any amusement, I can have a cat."
George was not giving an ear to it. He was reading his book. His wife looked out of the window where the light had come on in the square.
Someone gave a sign of having come at the door.
"Avanti," George said. He looked up from his book. In the doorway was the maid. She had a big cat with black, cream and brownish markings pushed tight against her and hung down against her body.
"Excuse me," she said, "the padrone requested me to bring this for the Signora."