The water was golden under the reflections of the sun as he spoke; the great net was swaying in it, clear of the sword rush and iris; a kingfisher like a jewel was threading its shallows; there was the fresh smell of the heather and the wild tulips on the air.
“You do not know what it is to love a thing! — how should you? — you, a priest!” said Adone.
Don Silverio did not reply. He went on down the course of the stream.
One morning in early April Adone received a printed invitation to attend in five days’ time at the Municipality of San Beda to hear of something which concerned him. It was brought by the little old postman who went the rounds of the district once a week on his donkey; the five days had already expired before the summons was delivered. Adone’s ruddy cheeks grew pale as he glanced over it; he thrust it into the soil and drove his spade through it. The old man waiting, in hopes to get a draught of wine, looked at him in dismay.
“Is that a way to treat their Honours’ commands?” he said aghast.
Adone did not answer or raise his head; he went on with his digging; he was turning and trenching the soil to plant potatoes; he flung spadefuls of earth over the buried summons.
“What’s amiss with you, lad?” said the old fellow, who had known him from his infancy.
“Leave me,” said Adone, with impatience. “Go to the house if you want to drink and to bait your beast.”
“Thank ye,” said the old man. “But you will go, won’t you, Adone? It fares ill with those who do not go.”
“Who told you to say that?”
“Nobody; but I have lived a’ many years, and I have carried those printed papers a’ many years, and I know that those who do not go when they are called rue it. Their Honours don’t let you flout them.”
“Their Honours be damned!” said Adone. “Go to the house.”
The little old man, sorely frightened, dropped his head, and pulling his donkey by its bridle went away along the grass path under the vines.
Adone went on delving, but his strong hands shook with rage and emotion as they grasped the handle of the spade. He knew as well as if he had been told by a hundred people that he was called to treat of the sale of the Terra Vergine. He forced himself to go on with his forenoon’s labour, but the dear familiar earth swam and spun before his sight.
“What?” he muttered to it, “I who love you am not your owner? I who was born on you am not your lawful heir? I who have laboured on you ever since I was old enough to use a tool at all am now in my manhood to give you up to strangers? I will make you run red with blood first!”
It wanted then two hours of noon. When twelve strokes sounded from across the river, tolled slowly by the old bronze bell of the church tower, he went for the noonday meal and rest to the house.