“Leave it open,” she said. “It is hot this evening. Why did you shut it? You never do.”
“A window is an ear,” answered Nella mysteriously. “The nights are still and voices carry far.”
“What great secret are you going to talk of?” inquired Marietta, with a careless smile, as she drew the long pins from her hair and let the heavy braids fall behind her.
“Bad news, bad news!” Nella repeated. “The young master is doing things which he ought not to do, because they are very unjust and spiteful. I am only a poor serving-woman, but I would bite off my fingers, like this”—and she bit them sharply and shook them—“before I would let them do such things!”
“What do you mean, Nella?” asked Marietta. “You must not speak of my brother in that way.”
“Your brother! Eh, your brother!” cried Nella in a low and angry voice, quite unlike her own. “Do you know what your brother has done? He has been to Messer Jacopo Contarini, your betrothed husband, and he has told him that Zorzi is a liar, a thief and an assassin, and that he will have him arrested to-night, if he can, and Messer Jacopo promised that his father, who is of the Council, shall have Zorzi condemned! And your brother has seen the Governor of Murano in Venice, and has given him a great letter, and the Governor said that it should not be to-night, but to-morrow. That is the sort of man your brother is.”
Marietta was standing. She had turned slowly pale while Nella was speaking, and grasped the back of a chair with both hands. She thought she was going to faint.
Marrietta’s heart stood still, as she bent over the back of the chair holding it with both her hands, but feeling that she was falling. She had expected anything but this, when Nella had begun to speak. The blow was sudden and heavy, and she herself had never known how much she could be hurt, until that moment.
Nella looked at her in astonishment. The serving-woman had changed her mind about Zorzi of late, and had grown fond of him in taking care of him. But her anger against Giovanni was roused rather because what he was about to do was an affront to his father, her master, than out of mere sympathy for the intended victim. She was far from understanding what could have so deeply moved Marietta.
“You see,” she said triumphantly, “what sort of a brother you have!”
The sound of her voice recalled the young girl just when she felt that she was losing consciousness. Her first instinct was to go to Zorzi and warn him. He must escape at once. The Governor had said that it should be to-morrow, but he might change his mind and send his men to-night. There was no time to be lost, she must go instantly. As she stood upright she could see the porter’s light shining through the small grated window, for Pasquale was still awake, but in a few minutes the light would go out. She had often been at her own window at that hour, and had watched it, wondering whether Zorzi would work far into the night, and whether he was thinking of her.