Zorzi had not left the glass-house since he had been hurt, but he foresaw that he might be obliged to leave the laboratory for an hour or more, now that he was better. He could walk, with one crutch and a stick, resting a little on the injured foot, and he felt sure that in a few days he should be able to walk with the stick alone. He had the certainty that he was lame for life, and now and then, when it was dusk and he sat under the plane-tree, meditating upon the uncertain future, he felt a keen pang at the thought that he might never again walk without limping; for he had been light and agile, and very swift of foot as a boy.
He fancied that Marietta would pity him, but not as she had pitied him at first. There would be a little feeling of repulsion for the cripple, mixed with her compassion for the man. It was true that, as matters were going now, he might not see her often again, and he was quite sure that he had no right to think of loving her. Zuan Venier’s visit had recalled very clearly the obligations by which he had solemnly bound himself, and which he honestly meant to fulfil; and apart from them, when he tried to reason about his love, he could make it seem absurd enough that he should dream of winning Marietta for his wife.
But love itself does not argue. At first it is seen far off, like a beautiful bird of rare plumage, among flowers, on a morning in spring; it comes nearer, it is timid, it advances, it recedes, it poises on swiftly beating wings, it soars out of sight, but suddenly it is nearer than before; it changes shapes, and grows vast and terrible, till its flight is like the rushing of the whirlwind; then all is calm again, and in the stillness a sweet voice sings the chant of peace or the melancholy dirge of an endless regret; it is no longer the dove, nor the eagle, nor the storm that leaves ruin in its track—it is everything, it is life, it is the world itself, for ever and time without end, for good or evil, for such happiness as may pass all understanding, if God will, and if not, for undying sorrow.
Zorzi had forgotten his small resentment against Marietta, for not having given him a sign nor sent one word of greeting. He knew only that he loved her with all his heart and would give every hope he had for the pressure of her hand in his and the sound of her answering voice; and he dreaded lest she should pity him, as one pities a hurt creature that one would rather not touch.
It would not be in the hope of seeing her that he might leave the laboratory before long. He felt quite sure that Giovanni would make some further attempt to get possession of the little book that meant fortune to him who should possess it; and Giovanni evidently knew where it was. It would he easy for him to send Zorzi on an errand of importance, as soon as he should be so far recovered as to walk a little. The great glass-houses had dealings with the banks