“That reply is verily like this priest!” thought Giovacchino Gallo. “A man of ability, of intellect, of incorruptible temper, but a man as like as not to encourage and excuse sedition.”
Aloud he said, “You may go, Sarelli. Good morning.”
“May I be allowed a word, sir?”
“May it not well be, sir, that Don Silverio’s organisation or suggestion is underneath this insurrectionary movement of the young men in the Valdedera?”
“It is possible; yes. See to it.”
“Your servant, sir.”
Sarelli withdrew, elated. He loved tracking, like a bloodhound, for the sheer pleasure of the “cold foot chase.” The official views both layman and priest with contempt and aversion; both are equally his prey, both equally his profit: he lives by them and on them, as the galleruca does on the elm-tree, whose foliage it devours, but he despises them because they are not officials, as the galleruca doubtless, if it can think, despises the elm.
Of course his absence could not be hidden from any in his parish. The mere presence of the rector of an adjacent parish, who had taken his duties, sufficed to reveal it. For so many years he had never stirred out of Ruscino in winter cold or summer heat, that none of his people could satisfactorily account to themselves for his now frequent journeys. The more sagacious supposed that he was trying to get the project for the river undone; but they did not all have so much faith in him. Many had always been vaguely suspicious of him; he was so wholly beyond their comprehension. They asked Adone what he knew, or, if he knew nothing, what he thought. Adone put them aside with an impatient, imperious gesture. “But you knew when he went to Rome?” they persisted. Adone swung himself loose from them with a movement of anger. It hurt him to speak of the master he had renounced, of the friend he had forsaken. His conscience shrank from any distrust of Don Silverio; yet his old faith was no more alive. He was going rapidly down a steep descent, and in that downward rush he lost all his higher instincts; he was becoming insensible to everything except the thirst for action, for vengeance.