She was startled at seeing a lady and gentleman sitting inside. The place she was looking through was not high enough up to enable her to see their faces, but she recognized, or thought she recognized, the pattern of the lady’s dress as one which she had noticed in former days in the Demoiselle Grifoni’s show-room. Rising quickly, her eye detected a hole in the boards about the level of her own height, caused by a knot having been forced out of the wood. She looked through it to ascertain, without being discovered, if the wearer of the familiar dress was the person she had taken her to be; and saw, not Brigida only, as she had expected, but Father Rocco as well. At the same moment the carpenters left off hammering and began to saw. The new sound from the firework stage was regular and not loud. The voices of the occupants of the summer-house reached her through it, and she heard Brigida pronounce the name of Count Fabio.
Instantly stooping down once more by the dog’s side, she caught his muzzle firmly in both her hands. It was the only way to keep Scarammuccia from growling again, at a time when there was no din of hammering to prevent him from being heard. Those two words, “Count Fabio,” in the mouth of another woman, excited a jealous anxiety in her. What could Brigida have to say in connection with that name? She never came near the Ascoli Palace—what right or reason could she have to talk of Fabio?
“Did you hear what I said?” she heard Brigida ask, in her coolest, hardest tone.
“No,” the priest answered. “At least, not all of it.”
“I will repeat it, then. I asked what had so suddenly determined you to give up all idea of making any future experiments on the superstitious fears of Count Fabio?”
“In the first place, the result of the experiment already tried has been so much more serious than I had anticipated, that I believe the end I had in view in making it has been answered already.”
“Well; that is not your only reason?”
“Another shock to his mind might be fatal to him. I can use what I believe to be a justifiable fraud to prevent his marrying again; but I cannot burden myself with a crime.”
“That is your second reason; but I believe you have another yet. The suddenness with which you sent to me last night to appoint a meeting in this lonely place; the emphatic manner in which you requested—I may almost say ordered—me to bring the wax mask here, suggest to my mind that something must have happened. What is it? I am a woman, and my curiosity must be satisfied. After the secrets you have trusted to me already, you need not hesitate, I think, to trust me with one more.”
“Perhaps not. The secret this time is, moreover, of no great importance. You know that the wax mask you wore at the ball was made in a plaster mold taken off the face of my brother’s statue?”
“Yes, I know that.”