“Only three,” answered the young girl, rapidly pacified. “Three thousand, if you please. Thank you very much, Aunt Matilde! A woman always understands a woman in questions of charity. One wishes to act at once. Thank you.”
And in order to end an unpleasant situation, she nodded and left the room. Husband and wife waited a moment after the door was closed. Then Matilde, before Gregorio could speak, went and opened it suddenly and looked out, but there was no one there.
“She would not listen at the door!” exclaimed Gregorio, with some contempt for his wife’s caution.
“She? No! But I distrust that woman she has.”
“And how do you propose to get this money?” asked the count.
“Have I no diamonds?” inquired Matilde. “She would have ruined us. Order the carriage, and I will go to a jeweller at once.”
“Yes,” said Macomer. “You are very wise. I thought there was going to be trouble. It was clever of you to restore her confidence by offering her more. But—” he lowered his voice—“something must be done at once.”
“Yes,” answered Matilde, looking behind her. “It shall be done at once.”
He went out half an hour later, and before four o’clock Veronica despatched Elettra to Don Teodoro with three thousand francs in bank notes. But the diamonds which Matilde had left at the jeweller’s were worth far more than that, and she had got more than that for them.
Veronica was well satisfied, and slept peacefully, dreaming of the pleasure she had given the old priest, and of the good which he could do with her money. And then in her dream, the scene of his first visit was acted over, and suddenly Veronica started up awake in the dark. She must have uttered an unconscious exclamation, just as she awoke, for in a moment the door opened and she heard Elettra’s voice asking her if she needed anything, but in a tone so anxious and changed that it seemed to Veronica to belong to her dream rather than to any reality.
“Are you there?” she asked, in the darkness, surprised that the woman should have come in so unexpectedly.
“Yes,” answered Elettra, briefly, and she groped for the matches on the little table beside the bed.
She struck a light and lit a candle. Veronica saw that her face was very pale, and that she was half dressed, wearing a black skirt and a white cotton jacket. As the young girl looked at her she realized how strange it was that she should have appeared at the slightest sound.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, with a little smile. “What time is it?” She looked at the watch, holding it up to the flame of the candle. “Three o’clock! What is the matter, Elettra? Why have you come?”
Elettra looked down, in real or pretended confusion.
“Excellency,” she said in a humble tone, “my room is very cold and damp in this rainy weather. For some nights I have slept on the sofa in the dressing-room. I hope your Excellency will pardon me. And I heard you cry out, just now. Then, forgetting that I ought not to have been sleeping there, I got up and came.”