At the sight of the confessor Fabio was somewhat startled; but the experienced old man had already thought out beforehand how he ought to proceed. On being left alone with Fabio, he did not, of course, betray the secrets of the confessional; but he advised him to banish from his house, if that were possible, his invited guest who, by his tales, songs, and his whole conduct, had upset Valeria’s imagination. Moreover, in the old man’s opinion, Muzio had not been firm in the faith in days gone by, as he now recalled to mind; and after having sojourned so long in regions not illuminated by the light of Christianity, he might have brought thence the infection of false doctrines; he might even have dabbled in magic; and therefore, although old friendship did assert its rights, still wise caution pointed to parting as indispensable.
Fabio thoroughly agreed with the venerable monk. Valeria even beamed all over when her husband communicated to her her confessor’s counsel; and accompanied by the good wishes of both husband and wife, and provided with rich gifts for the monastery and the poor, Father Lorenzo wended his way home.
Fabio had intended to have an explanation with Muzio directly after supper, but his strange guest did not return to supper. Then Fabio decided to defer the interview with Muzio until the following day, and husband and wife withdrew to their bed-chamber.
Valeria speedily fell asleep; but Fabio could not get to sleep. In the nocturnal silence all that he had seen, all that he had felt, presented itself to him in a still more vivid manner; with still greater persistence did he ask himself questions, to which, as before, he found no answer. Was Muzio really a magician? And had he already poisoned Valeria? She was ill ... but with what malady? While he was engrossed in painful meditations, with his head propped on his hand and restraining his hot breathing, the moon again rose in the cloudless sky; and together with its rays, through the semi-transparent window-panes, in the direction of the pavilion, there began to stream in—or did Fabio merely imagine it?—there began to stream in a breath resembling a faint, perfumed current of air....
Now an importunate, passionate whisper began to make itself heard ... and at that same moment he noticed that Valeria was beginning to stir slightly. He started, gazed; she rose, thrust first one foot, then the other from the bed, and, like a somnambulist, with her dull eyes strained straight ahead, and her arms extended before her, she advanced toward the door into the garden! Fabio instantly sprang through the other door of the bedroom, and briskly running round the corner of the house, he closed the one which led into the garden.... He had barely succeeded in grasping the handle when he felt some one trying to open the door from within, throwing their force against it ... more and more strongly ... then frightened moans resounded.