Meanwhile her aunt was living all alone at the Palazzo Macomer. Many communications passed between the two, about matters of business, during the earlier weeks after their final separation, but they did not meet. As neither of them ever went into the world, it was extremely improbable that they should meet at all, except by agreement.
Gianluca came to the villa again, ten days after the visit last spoken of. And after that he came often, at irregular intervals, generally once or twice a week. The first disappointing impression, which Veronica had retained so long, gradually wore away, and she liked him very much better than she had ever thought possible. Bianca never left the two alone together. She felt more than ever responsible for Veronica, now, and bound to observe the customs and traditions in which both had been brought up. She was wise enough to know, too, that after such an unlucky beginning, it would be better for Gianluca if a long time passed before he had another chance of pouring out his heart to the young girl. Things might go by contraries, she thought. Contempt might turn to familiarity, familiarity to friendship, and friendship to love. The first change had already taken place, and the others might come in time.
Before the spring came, Veronica knew that Taquisara had not been guilty of exaggeration in describing his friend’s character. Gianluca was all that his friend had painted him, and perhaps more. Unfortunately, he was not at all the kind of man whom Veronica would ever be inclined to fancy for a husband. It was easy for her to respect him, as she came to know him better; it would have been hard not to like him, but it seemed impossible to her that she should ever love him.
Taquisara came very rarely—not more than three or four times in the course of the winter. He came alone, and did not stay long. Veronica saw that he avoided her on those few occasions, and preferred to talk with Bianca, though she was sometimes aware that he was looking at her earnestly, when her eyes were half turned from him.
Gianluca seemed to grow a little stronger towards the spring. At least, he was less transparently thin; but the difficulty he had in walking was more apparent than before.
As Gianluca’s spirits revived, and he began to take courage again and find new hope that Veronica might marry him after all, her position as a permanent guest in Bianca’s house became a subject of especial displeasure to the Della Spina family. They wished to renew their proposals for a marriage, and they found themselves stopped by the fact that Veronica was no longer under the charge of any relative to whom they could have communicated their offer.