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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Waters Of Edera - Chapter XI
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The Waters Of Edera - Chapter XI Post by :NicheProf Category :Long Stories Author :Ouida Date :April 2012 Read :1336

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The Waters Of Edera - Chapter XI

Adone's sight was troubled as soon as he passed out of the dusky room into the blaze of noonday sunshine. His eyes seemed filled with blood. His brain was dizzy. That which had been his sheet-anchor in all doubts and contrition, his faith in and his reverence for Don Silverio, availed him nothing now. A blind sympathy with his most violent instincts was the only thing which could now content or console him.

He was in that state to which all counsels of moderation appear but so much treason and unkindness. As he went out of the priest's house in that dazzling light, a hand caught his sleeve and that young flutelike voice of which he had thought murmured to him --

"Adone! what tidings? What has he told you?"

Nerina, having run across the bridge and up the street after the little dog, had seen him and Don Silverio enter, and had waited for Adone to come out of the house.

Adone pushed her away.

"Let me be!" he said impatiently. "It is all bad -- bad -- bad. Bad as ill-blood. Bad as crime."

She clung to his arm nevertheless.

"Come into the church and tell me. No one cares as I do."

"Poor little soul!"

He let her draw him into the great porch of the church and thence into the church itself; it was dark, as it always was, cold as an autumn evening, damp even in the canicular heat.

"No one will hear; tell me!" said the child.

He told her.

"And what are you to do?" she asked, her eyes dilated with horror.

"According to him," said Adone bitterly, "I am to be meek and helpless as the heifer which goes to the slaughter. Men must not resist what the law permits."

Nerina was mute. To dispute what Don Silverio said was like blasphemy to her; she honoured him with all her soul, but she loved Adone.

She loved the Edera water too; that fair green rippling water, on whose bank she had sat naked under the dock leaves the day the two rams had fought. That which was threatened was an unholy, wicked, cruel robbery. Was it indeed necessary to yield to it in submission?

She remembered a saying of Baruffo's: "If a man stand up to me I leave him some coins in his pocket, some life in his body; but if he crouch and cringe I stick him in the throat. He is a craven."

The doctrine of Baruffo seemed to her the more sound. It warmed the blood of the little Abruzzo-born maiden to recall it. In the high mountains and forests the meeker virtues are not greatly honoured.

She stood by Adone's side, knitting her brows under her auburn curling locks, clenching her hands.

"Is there _one who does this evil most of all?" she said at length. "_One we could reach?"

"You are a brave child, Nerina!" said Adone, and his words made her proud. "I fear there is a crowd. Such men are like locusts; they come in swarms. But the first man who touches the water--"

"Shall sup of it and drown!"

The little girl added the words with a fierce joy in her great bright eyes.

"Hush!" said Adone, "and get you homeward, and tell my mother that Don Silverio has returned, and that I will come back to my work in a little while. Tell her he says there is no hope."

Nerina obeyed him instantly, her bare feet flying over the stones of the street. He was left alone in the sombre church, with the great winged angels of stone above his head.

He was grateful for its gloom. He shrank from the light of the morning. Every drop of blood in his body, and in his brain, and in his limbs, seemed to him to turn to fire -- a fire which all the waters of the Edera would never quench.

How could they be accused of rebellion or wrong-doing because they wanted to keep the water running in the channel which it had made for itself in the very beginning of the world?

The Edera was ancient as its neighbours, the Fiumicino which heard the voice of Cæsar, or the Marecchia which was bridged by Augustus; ancient as the fountain of Arethusa, as the lake of Diana Nemorensis. What sacrilege could be more heinous than to chase it from its chosen course? No Lucumon of Etruria, or Esarch of Ravenna, or Pope or Rome, had ever dared to touch it. Revolutionists! they, who only sought to preserve it? The revolutionists were those who with alien hands and vampire's greed would seek to disturb its peace.

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All that day the people of Ruscino crowded round the Presbytery."What of the Edera water, sir?" they asked him a hundred times in the shrill cries of the women, in the rude bellow of the men, in the high-pitched, dissonant clamour of angry speakers. And all the day his patience and kindness were abused, and his nerves racked and strained, in the effort to persuade them that the river which ran beneath their walls was no more theirs than the stars which shone above it.It was hopeless to bring home to their intelligence either the invalidity of their claim, or the
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"I SHALL not write," Don Silverio had said to Adone. "As soon as I know anything for certain I shall return. Of that you may be sure."For he knew that letters took a week or more to find their slow way to Ruscino, and he hoped to return in less than that time; having no experience of "what hell it is in waiting to abide," and of the endless doublings and goings to earth of that fox-like thing, a modern speculation; he innocently believed that he would only have to ask a question to have it answered.Day after day Adone mounted
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