Adone went onward northward to his tryst: his soul was dark as night; it enraged him to have been forced by his conscience and his honour to obey the command of Don Silverio. But she did not go over the bridge to Ruscino. She waited a little while then followed on his track. Gianna was right. She was a wild bird. She had been caught and tamed for a time, but she was always wild.
You see, at Ansalda, where he came from, it was snow eight months out of the twelve, so the heats and the mists killed him: for the air you are born in you want, and if you do not get it in time you sicken." "Like enough," said Gianna, who herself had never been out of sight of the river Edera ever since she had been a babe in swaddling clothes. "Tell me, gossip, was the child born in wedlock?"
So the child remained there; but her presence troubled Adone's mother, though Nerina was humble as a homeless dog, was noiseless and seldom seen, was obedient, agile, and became useful in many manners, and learned with equal eagerness the farm work taught her by Gianna, and the doctrine taught her by Don Silverio, for she was intelligent and willing in every way.
She says she must be where she can serve Adone. If she be shut up, she will escape and run into the woods. Three years ago she was a wild thing; she will turn wild again." "Like enough! But we must do what we can. I am going home. I will come or send to you in a few hours." Gianna reluctantly let him go.
"He will not kill me," he thought; "and if he did, it would not matter much; except for you, my poor little man," he added to his dog Signorino, who was running gleefully in his shadow. Gianna saw him approaching as she looked from the kitchen window, and cried her thanks to the saints with passionate gratitude. Then she went out and met him.
"Don Silverio is absent," Adone called back to her; and he passed on under the olive-trees towards his home. Gianna paused on the bridge and watched him till he was out of sight; then she went back herself by another path which led to the stables. A thought had struck her: Nerina was too devoted to the cattle to have let them suffer; possible she was even now attending to them in their stalls.
Gianna shook her grey head in solemn denial and disbelief. "Sior'a, Clelia, do not say such words or think such thoughts of your son or of the child. She is as harmless as any flower that blows out there in the garden, and he is a noble youth, though now, by the wickedness of me, distraught and off his head. What makes you revile them so?" "They are both out this night. Is not that enough?"
"What you feel at liberty to tell me, let me hear," he said to the old servant. Gianna told him in her picturesque, warmly-coloured phrase what had passed between Sior' Clelia and the little girl in the night; and what she had herself said to Adone at dawn; and how Nerina was lying asleep in the hay-loft, being afraid, doubtless, to come up to the house.
He told me he went to a meeting of men at the Three Pines, at what they call the Tomb of the Barbarian." Don Silverio was silent. "It is very grave," he said at last. "Aye, sir, grave indeed," said Gianna. "Would that it were love between them, sir. Love is sweet and wholesome and kind, but there is no such thing in Adone's heart. There it is only, alas!
And she was so dexterous, so sure, so silent; even the sharp eyes of old Gianna never detected her nocturnal absence, even the shrewd observation of Clelia Alba never detected any trace of fatigue in her or any negligence in her tasks.