It is only this confounded ready blood of mine, that always makes a thing look worse than it is.”
“Let me come and bind it up, comparello. Stop one moment; I will go and fetch the herbs, and come to you directly.”
“Never trouble yourself, compare. It has been dressed already; tomorrow morning it will be all over and forgotten. I have a healthy skin, that heals directly.”
“Addio!” said Laurella, turning to the path that goes winding up the cliffs. “Goodnight!” he answered, without looking at her; and then taking his oars and baskets from the boat, and climbing up the small stone stairs, he went into his own hut.
He was alone in his two little rooms, and began to pace them up and down. Cooler than upon the dead calm sea, the breeze blew fresh through the small unglazed windows, which could only be closed with wooden shutters. The solitude was soothing to him. He stooped before the little image of the Virgin, devoutly gazing upon the glory round the head (made of stars cut out in silver paper). But he did not want to pray. What reason had he to pray, now that he had lost all he had ever hoped for?
And this day appeared to last forever. He did so long for night! for he was weary, and more exhausted by the loss of blood than he would have cared to own. His hand was very sore. Seating himself upon a little stool, he untied the handkerchief that bound it; the blood, so long repressed, gushed out again; all round the wound the hand was swollen high.
He washed it carefully, cooling it in the water, then he clearly saw the marks of Laurella’s teeth.
“She was right,” he said; “I was a brute, and deserved no better. I will send her back the handkerchief by Giuseppe tomorrow. Never shall she set eyes on me again.” And he washed the handkerchief with the greatest care, and spread it out in the sun to dry.
And having bound up his hand again, as well as he could manage with his teeth and his left hand, he threw himself upon his bed, and closed his eyes.
He was soon waked up from a sort of slumber by the rays of the bright moonlight, and also by the pain of his hand; he had just risen for more cold water to soothe its throbbings, when he heard the sound of someone at the door. Laurella stood before him.
She came in without a question, took off the handkerchief she had tied over her head, and placed her little basket upon the table; then she drew a deep breath.
“You are come to fetch your handkerchief,” he said. “You need not have taken that trouble. In the morning I would have asked Giuseppe to take it to you.”
“It is not the handkerchief,” she said quickly. “I have been up among the hills to gather herbs to stop the blood; see here.” And she lifted the lid of her little basket.
“Too much trouble,” he said, not in bitterness—“far too much trouble. I am better, much better; but if I were worse, it would be no more than I deserve. Why did you come at such a time? If any one should see you? You know how they talk, even when they don’t know what they are saying.”
“I care for no one’s talk,” she said, passionately. “I came to see your hand, and put the herbs upon it; you cannot do it with your left.”
“It is not worth while, I tell you.”
“Let me see it then, if I am to believe you.”