It is true that once or twice before Bardo's death, the sense that there was Tessa up the hill, with whom it was possible to pass an hour agreeably, had been an inducement to him to escape from a little weariness of the old man, when, for lack of any positive engagement, he might otherwise have borne the weariness patiently and shared Romola's burden.
Her eyes inevitably made a timid entreating appeal while she asked this, and Tito's met them with soft brightness as he said, "Assuredly," and, leaning forward, raised Bardo's hand to his curls, with a readiness of assent, which was the greater relief to her, because it was unaccompanied by any sign of embarrassment.
Bardo's whole frame seemed vibrating with passion, and no one dared to break silence again. Monna Brigida lifted her shoulders and her hands in mute dismay; then she rose as quietly as possible, gave many significant nods to Tito and Romola, motioning to them that they were not to move, and stole out of the room like a culpable fat spaniel who has barked unseasonably.
They made the tour of the room in silence after this; but Bardo's lip-born maxims were as powerless over the passion which had been moving him, as if they had been written on parchment and hung round his neck in a sealed bag; and he presently broke forth again in a new tone of insistance. "Inanis? yes, if it is a lying fame; but not if it is the just meed of labour and a great purpose.
"Ah, then, they are fine intagli," said Bardo. "Five hundred ducats! Ah, more than a man's ransom!" Tito gave a slight, almost imperceptible start, and opened his long dark eyes with questioning surprise at Bardo's blind face, as if his words a mere phrase of common parlance, at a time when men were often being ransomed from slavery or imprisonment had had some special meaning for him.
He took her place as Bardo's assistant, and served him with an easy efficiency that had been beyond her; and she, happier in her father's happiness, had given her love to Tito even before he ventured to offer her his own.
Bardo had stretched out his aged white hand, and Tito immediately placed his dark but delicate and supple fingers within it. Bardo's cramped fingers closed over them, and he held them for a few minutes in silence. Then he said "Romola, has this young man the same complexion as thy brother fair and pale?"
The secret feeling he had previously had that the tenacious adherence to Bardo's wishes about the library had become under existing difficulties a piece of sentimental folly, which deprived himself and Romola of substantial advantages, might perhaps never have wrought itself into action but for the events of the past week, which had brought at once the pressure of a new motive and the outlet of a rare opportunity.
'Tis no wonder that the old blind scholar, Bardo de' Bardi, in George Eliot's grand story of "Romola," knowing as he did the usual fate of private libraries, manifested a constant fear that his noble collection of books would be merged in some other library after his death. Every generous soul must heartily despise Tito Melema for basely disposing of Bardo's library for lucre.
By the way, my bel erudito," continued Nello, as he saw Tito moving towards the door, "here has been old Maso seeking for you, but your nest was empty. He will come again presently. The old man looked mournful, and seemed in haste. I hope there is nothing wrong in the Via de' Bardi." "Doubtless Messer Tito knows that Bardo's son is dead," said Cronaca, who had just come up.