He shook hands with Bianca, nodded to the two men, and turned away towards the door. He had not reached it, walking a little less painfully in his excitement, when he was aware that he had left his stick leaning against the chair in which he had sat. He stopped and looked back to be sure that it was there, before returning to get it. Veronica was watching him, saw what he had done, picked up the stick and carried it swiftly to him before he could come for it.
Taquisara had seen her movement and had tried to get the stick before she could, to take it to his friend. He had been too far out of reach, and she had been before him. But he followed her, and he saw that as she handed Gianluca his property, she looked up into his face and smiled very kindly. Gianluca thanked her, smiling too, and the impression any one would have had was that they thoroughly understood each other. He bowed again and went out. Veronica turned to come back to the tea-table and found herself facing Taquisara’s fiery eyes. She was surprised, and looked into his face, very near to him, and waiting for him to stand aside.
“You are playing with him,” he said in a low and angry voice.
The room was long, and Bianca and Ghisleri were at the other end of it. After he had spoken, Veronica stared at him a moment, in genuine amazement at his words and manner. Then her eyes gleamed, too, and the delicate nostrils quivered.
“You are insolent,” she said coldly, and turning a little to the right, she passed him.
“No. I am his friend,” he answered, scarcely above a whisper, as she went by.
He came back, shook hands with Bianca, bowed coldly to Veronica, and left the room within two minutes after Gianluca.
“What is the matter with Taquisara?” asked Ghisleri, carelessly. “He seems irritable.”
Bianca looked at Veronica.
“Does he? I suppose he is anxious about Don Gianluca.”
Veronica was still pale when she spoke, but the tone was cold and indifferent.
Veronica had felt herself mortally insulted by Taquisara’s manner, much more than by his words, though they had been offensive enough. Her impression of the man was completely changed, in a moment, and she hoped that she might never see him again, so long as she lived. It had been one thing to praise Gianluca to her, and to press his suit for him; it was quite another to lie in wait for her, as it were, at the end of a drawing-room and to reproach her brutally and angrily with wishing to break Gianluca’s heart. As she thought of his eyes, and his face, and his low voice, she grew pale with anger herself, at the mere memory of his insolence.