In the singular and anomalous position she had created for herself, there was no one whom she could consult. As for asking Don Teodoro’s opinion, it never entered her head, for it would have been impossible to do so without confiding to him the nature of her friendship with Gianluca. She would not do that now. She had first told Bianca Corleone frankly enough of the exchange of letters, but she herself had not then known what that secret friendship was to mean in her life, nor how she and Gianluca would almost conceal it from each other. Besides, she was accustomed now to impose her will upon the old priest as she imposed it upon every one in her surroundings. When she asked his advice, it was about matters of expediency, and that happened every day, but she would not have thought of taking counsel with him about any action which concerned herself. If society chanced to be in opposition to her, society must either give way or make the best of it, or break with her. But it was certainly within the bounds of social tradition and custom that she should ask such of her friends as she chose, to stay with her under her own roof.
One small practical difficulty met her, and it was characteristic of her that it was the only one to which she paid any attention after she had made up her mind. She could have found fifty rooms for guests in the castle, but there were certainly not three which were now sufficiently furnished to be habitable as bedrooms. She had changed the face of the town in three months, but she had not at all improved her own establishment. There were foresters and men occupied upon the estates who came and went as their work required, and there were generally four or five of them in the house; but she was served by women, and there was not a man-servant in the place. She had only five horses in her stable. She glanced at the black frock she wore and smiled, realizing for the first time what Elettra had meant by protesting against her wearing it any longer.
But none of the details were of a nature to check such a woman in anything she really wished. If she chose to be waited on by women and to wear old clothes, that was her affair and concerned no one else. As for a little furniture more or less, she could get all she wanted from Naples in three or four days.
Veronica had little doubt but that her invitation would be accepted by the Della Spina. Had she been as worldly wise, as she was practical in most things, she would have had no doubts at all, though she would have hesitated long before writing to the Duchessa. For, of two things, one or the other must happen. Gianluca must either die, or not die; in the first case the least which his family could do would be to give him the opportunity of seeing the woman he loved, before his death, and, in the second, such an invitation on Veronica’s part was almost equivalent to consenting to marry him if he recovered. To every one except Veronica herself, the marriage would have seemed in every way as desirable as any that could be proposed to her, both for herself and for Gianluca.