Laura nodded, as if in full agreement with him, and said, after meditating a minute, “What sort of a lover is this!”
She added a little laugh to the singular interjection.
“Yes, I have also thought of a secret marriage,” said Carlo, stung by her penetrating instinct so that he was enabled to read the meaning in her mind.
“The best way, when you are afflicted by a dilemma of such a character, my Carlo,” the signora looked at him, “is to take a chess-table and make your moves on it. ‘King—my duty;’ ‘Queen—my passion;’ ’Bishop—my social obligation;’ ’Knight—my what-you-will and my round-the-corner wishes.’ Then, if you find that queen may be gratified without endangering king, and so forth, why, you may follow your inclinations; and if not, not. My Carlo, you are either enviably cool, or you are an enviable hypocrite.”
“The matter is not quite so easily settled as that,” said Carlo.
On the whole, though against her preconception, Laura thought him an honest lover, and not the player of a double game. She saw that Vittoria should have been with him in the critical hour of defeat, when his passions were down, and heaven knows what weakness of our common manhood, that was partly pride, partly love-craving, made his nature waxen to every impression; a season, as Laura knew, when the mistress of a loyal lover should not withhold herself from him. A nature tender like Carlo’s, and he bearing an enamoured heart, could not, as Luciano Romara had done, pass instantly from defeat to drill. And vain as Carlo was (the vanity being most intricate and subtle, like a nervous fluid), he was very open to the belief that he could diplomatize as well as fight, and lead a movement yet better than follow it. Even so the signora tried to read his case.
They were all, excepting Countess Ammiani ("who will never, I fear, do me this honour,” Violetta wrote, and the countess said, “Never,” and quoted a proverb), about to pass three or four days at the villa of Countess d’Isorella. Before they set out, Vittoria received a portentous envelope containing a long scroll, that was headed “Your crimes,” and detailing a lest of her offences against the country, from the revelation of the plot in her first letter to Wilfrid, to services rendered to the enemy during the war, up to the departure of Charles Albert out of forsaken Milan.
“B. R.” was the undisguised signature at the end of the scroll.
Things of this description restored her old war-spirit to Vittoria. She handed the scroll to Laura; Laura, in great alarm, passed it on to Carlo. He sent for Angelo Guidascarpi in haste, for Carlo read it as an ante-dated justificatory document to some mischievous design, and he desired that hands as sure as his own, and yet more vigilant eyes, should keep watch over his betrothed.