“It is time I finished. If you have read this letter through to the end, I am sure you will excuse me if I have written it badly. There is no date to it, because I feel that it is safest and best for both of us that you should know nothing of where I am living. I bless you and pray for you, and bid you affectionately farewell. If you can think of me as a sister, think of me sometimes still.”
Fabio sighed bitterly while he read the letter. “Why,” he whispered to himself, “why does it come at such a time as this, when I cannot dare not think of her?” As he slowly folded the letter up the tears came into his eyes, and he half raised the paper to his lips. At the same moment, some one knocked at the door of the room. He started, and felt himself changing color guiltily as one of his servants entered.
“My mistress is awake,” the man said, with a very grave face, and a very constrained manner; “and the gentlemen in attendance desire me to say—”
He was interrupted, before he could give his message, by one of the medical men, who had followed him into the room.
“I wish I had better news to communicate,” began the doctor, gently.
“She is worse, then?” said Fabio, sinking back into the chair from which he had risen the moment before.
“She has awakened weaker instead of stronger after her sleep,” returned the doctor, evasively. “I never like to give up all hope till the very last, but—”
“It is cruel not to be candid with him,” interposed another voice—the voice of the doctor from Florence, who had just entered the room. “Strengthen yourself to bear the worst,” he continued, addressing himself to Fabio. “She is dying. Can you compose yourself enough to go to her bedside?”
Pale and speechless, Fabio rose from his chair, and made a sign in the affirmative. He trembled so that the doctor who had first spoken was obliged to lead him out of the room.
“Your mistress has some near relations in Pisa, has she not?” said the doctor from Florence, appealing to the servant who waited near him.
“Her father, sir, Signor Luca Lomi; and her uncle, Father Rocco,” answered the man. “They were here all through the day, until my mistress fell asleep.”
“Do you know where to find them now?”
“Signor Luca told me he should be at his studio, and Father Rocco said I might find him at his lodgings.”
“Send for them both directly. Stay, who is your mistress’s confessor? He ought to be summoned without loss of time.”
“My mistress’s confessor is Father Rocco, sir.”
“Very well—send, or go yourself, at once. Even minutes may be of importance now.” Saying this, the doctor turned away, and sat down to wait for any last demands on his services, in the chair which Fabio had just left.