Adone was still silent.
His thoughts were not such as he could utter aloud in the priest’s presence; and he heard nothing that was said; he heard only little Nerina’s voice saying: “Could we not kill these men?” That flutelike whisper seemed to him to sigh with the very voice of the river itself.
Don Silverio rose, his patience, great as it was, exhausted.
“My son, as you do not give ear to me it is useless for me to speak. I must go to my office. The friar from San Beda desires to return this evening. I have done all I can. I have told you the facts as they stand. Take courage, Be peaceable for your mother’s sake and restrain yourself for your own. It is a frightful calamity which hangs over us all. But it is our duty to meet it like men.”
“Like men!” muttered Adone as he rose to his feet; had not the child from the Abruzzo rocks a better sense of men’s duty than this priest so calm and wise?
“Men resist,” he said very low.
“Men resist,” repeated Don Silverio. “They resist when their resistance serves any purpose, but when it can only serve to crush them uselessly under a mass of iron they are not men if they resist, but madmen.”
“Farewell, sir,” said Adone.
And with an obeisance he went out of the chamber.
“Poor boy! Poor, passionate, dear youth!” thought Don Silverio as the door closed. “He thinks me cold and without emotion; how little he knows! He cannot suffer as I suffer for him and for my poor wretched people. What will they do when they shall know? They will mourn like starved sheep bleating in a field of stones, and I, their shepherd, shall not have a blade of grass wherewith to comfort them!”
Adone’s sight was troubled as soon as he passed out of the dusky room into the blaze of noonday sunshine. His eyes seemed filled with blood. His brain was dizzy. That which had been his sheet-anchor in all doubts and contrition, his faith in and his reverence for Don Silverio, availed him nothing now. A blind sympathy with his most violent instincts was the only thing which could now content or console him.
He was in that state to which all counsels of moderation appear but so much treason and unkindness. As he went out of the priest’s house in that dazzling light, a hand caught his sleeve and that young flutelike voice of which he had thought murmured to him —
“Adone! what tidings? What has he told you?”
Nerina, having run across the bridge and up the street after the little dog, had seen him and Don Silverio enter, and had waited for Adone to come out of the house.
Adone pushed her away.
“Let me be!” he said impatiently. “It is all bad — bad — bad. Bad as ill-blood. Bad as crime.”
She clung to his arm nevertheless.
“Come into the church and tell me. No one cares as I do.”