“What do you mean?” asked Taquisara, for he saw a strange look in the old man’s clear eyes.
“I shall not end my life here,” he said quietly.
“You? End your life? You, commit suicide? Are you mad, Don Teodoro?”
“Oh no! I may live many years yet. I hope that I may, for I have much to repent of. But I shall not live here.”
“I hope you will,” said Taquisara. “But if you know my secret—keep it.”
“As I have kept mine till now,” answered the old man.
So they parted, and Taquisara went back to the castle, leaving the lonely priest among his books.
Veronica did not wish the people of Muro to believe that she was marrying a cripple. That was the reason why she did not at once agree to Gianluca’s proposal and send for the syndic to perform the legal ceremony. She had persuaded herself that by quick degrees of improvement, he would recover the power to stand upright, at least to the extent to which he had still retained his strength when he had first arrived. Since he had lived through the crisis, she grew sanguine for him and hoped much.
Her feeling was natural enough in the matter, though it was made up of several undefined instincts about which she troubled herself very little—pride of race, pride of personal wholeness and soundness, pride of womanhood in the manhood of a husband. Veronica named none of these in her thoughts, but they were all in her heart. Few women would not have felt the same in her place.
She was sure that he was to get better, if not quite well, and she wished that he might be well enough to stand beside her on his feet when they should be formally married. If he continued to improve as rapidly as during the past fortnight, she believed that the day could not be far off. When he could stand, in another month, perhaps, the syndic should come. It was even possible that by that time he might be able to walk a little with her in the village.
Her people were a sort of family to her. That was a remnant of feudalism in her character, perhaps, which had suddenly developed during the months she had spent in Muro. But that, too, was natural, as it was natural that they should love her and almost worship the ground she trod. For the poorer classes of Italians are sometimes very forgetful of benefits, but are rarely ungrateful. She had done in a few months, for their real advantage, so that they felt it, enough to make up for the oppression of generations of Serra, and almost enough to atone for the extortions of Gregorio Macomer. She was the last of her name, and her husband, if he lived, was to be the father of a new stock, which would be called Serra della Spina, and whose men would hold the lands and take the rents and do good, or not, according to their hearts, each in his generation. It seemed to her that the people had a right to see Gianluca standing on his feet beside her, since her marriage was to mean so much to them.