“I must therefore leave her!” said he.
“Your own welfare demands it.”
“But how is she to live during our absence? Our money will not suffice to the end. Alas! we had so surely calculated on this remittance from my estates, and now it fails us!”
“We will sell that costly ornament of brilliants which you had destined as a present for Natalie on her seventeenth birthday.”
“Ah,” sighed the count, “you have a means for the removal of every obstacle. I must therefore go!”
“And I go with you,” said Cecil. “I would, if it must be so, be able to die for you!”
“They will destroy all three of us!” said the count. “Believe me, the knife is already sharpened for our throats! Believe also, Cecil, that I tremble not from fear of death. But I fear for Natalie! Ah, I already seem to see the approach of her murderers, to see them seize her with their bloody hands, and I shall not be there to protect her!”
While Count Paulo thus spoke, with a sad, foreboding soul, those two mysterious men, who had so threateningly watched and listened to Natalie and her friend, still remained under the wall.
The one still held the dagger in his hand, and was unquietly walking back and forth near his companion, who had calmly thrown himself upon the ground.
“You did wrong to hinder me, Beppo,” he angrily said. “It would have been best to have finished them at once. The occasion could not have been more favorable—the solitary garden, the nightly stillness and obscurity. Ah, one blow would have done the business!”
“Well, and what if the gentleman who sat near her had seized you before the blow was struck? How then?” asked the other. “You are yet but a novice and a bungler, friend Giuseppo. You yet lack discretion, the tranquil glance, the sure hand! You always suffer yourself to become excited, which is unartistic and even dangerous. We went out today only to obtain information; we were only to discover and observe the signora, and perhaps to watch for an opportunity. But to fall upon her in this garden would have been the extreme of stupidity, for we had all the servants and the hounds against us, and it is one of the first principles of our profession to put others in danger, but never to incur it themselves.”
“Wherefore, then, have we come here?” cried Giuseppo, with vehemence.
“To see her and know her, that we may surely recognize her again when the right hour comes. And that hour will come—I will answer for it. Did not the signora tell us that this lady would probably attend the festival of Cardinal Bernis?”
“She said so.”
“Well, and we have come here that we might see and know her in advance. She is very beautiful, and a truly respectable person, Giuseppo. I am pleased with the idea of this festival of the French cardinal. I think it will afford much business in our line.”