“Perhaps so. Doing is better than talking, and you have begun by doing good and trying to make people happy. You have succeeded in one case, already.”
She looked at him with a glance of inquiry.
“What case?” she asked.
“I mean myself—of course. You have made me perfectly happy to-day.”
“I am glad,” she answered. “I wish you to be always happy.”
She spoke thoughtfully, gravely, and gently, and then turned from him a little, and looked through the iron railing of the balcony, down at the deep distance of the valley. She was wondering, and justly, whether during the past hour she had not made a mistake, very cruel to him, in breaking down all at once the barrier of excessive formality which hitherto had stood between them when they met. Words rose to her lips, which with the utmost gentleness should quickly undeceive him, if he had been deceived; but when she looked at him and saw his happy, appealing eyes and his transparent face, her courage was not ready. Perhaps he was dying, as she had been told. She turned again and watched the misty depths.
“Don Gianluca—” she began, with a little hesitation. But as she spoke there was a footfall in the embrasure.
“What were you going to say?” asked Gianluca, knowing from her tone that she had meant to speak of some grave matter.
“Nothing!” she answered with a little sharpness. “Pray take my chair, Duchessa,” she said, turning to the good lady, who had come slowly forward till she stood with her head just out in the air. “It is time for luncheon,” she added, as she made the Duchessa sit down, nodded quickly to Gianluca, and went in.
The regularity of the existence at Muro pleased the old couple, and contributed in a measure to allay their perpetual anxiety about their son and to calm their uneasiness about the whole situation. They were both too wise and too courteous to press the question of marriage upon Veronica under the present circumstances, but they did not feel that they were led too far by their affection for Gianluca when they told each other, in the privacy of the Duchessa’s dressing-room, that after what Veronica had now done she was bound, in common self-respect, to marry him. That he would recover from his illness, they never doubted; for, as has been said, the truth had been kept from them, in so far as the prognostications of doctors could be looked upon as worthy of belief. He had certainly been much better since they had brought him to Muro, and they secretly wished that they might all stay where they were until the autumn.