“I am in my right!” morosely answered Stephano. “Here is the command to attach this villa. It has fallen to the Russian crown as the property of the traitor Rasczinsky.”
“There is only the one error to be corrected,” said Joseph Ribas, “that this villa was not the property of Count Rasczinsky, as he some months ago sold it to his friend, my master. And as, so far as I know, the illustrious count, my master, never was a traitor, you will please to respect his property!”
“You will have first to authenticate your assertions!” responded Stephano, with a rude laugh.
“Here is the documental authentication!” said Joseph Ribas, handing a paper to Stephano. The latter, after attentively reading the documents, bowed reverentially, and said: “Sir, it appears that I was certainly mistaken. This deed of gift is en regle, and is undersigned by his grace the Russian ambassador. You will pardon me, as I only acted according to my orders.”
Joseph Ribas answered Stephano’s reverential bow with a haughty nod. “Go,” said he, “take off the seals in the quickest possible time, and then away with you!”
But as Stephano was about retiring with his people, Joseph Ribas beckoned him back again.
“You have, therefore, recognized this deed of gift?” asked he, and as Stephano assented, he continued: “You therefore cannot deny that my master is the undisputed possessor of this villa, and can do with it according to his pleasure?”
“I do not deny it at all!” growled Stephano.
Joseph Ribas then drew forth another paper, which he also handed Stephano. “You will also recognize this deed of gift to be regular and legal! It is likewise undersigned and authenticated by our ambassador.”
Stephano, having attentively read it, almost indignantly said:
“It is all right. But the count is crazy, to give away so fine a property!”
And still grumbling, he departed with his people.
Clinging to Marianne’s side, Natalie had observed the whole proceeding with silent wonder; and, with the astonishment of innocence and inexperience, she comprehended nothing of the whole scene, nor was a suspicion awakened in her childishly pure soul.
“He is, then, really going?” she asked, as Stephano was slowly moving off.
“Yes, he is going,” said Joseph Ribas, “and will never venture to disturb you again. Henceforth you will be in undisputed possession of your property. My lord has made this villa and garden forever yours by a regular legal deed of gift.”
“And who is your lord?” asked Natalie. “Tell me his name—tell me where I may find him, that I may return him my thanks?”
“Yes, conduct us to him,” said the weeping Marianne. “Let me clasp his feet and implore his further protection for my poor helpless princess.”
“My lord desires no thanks,” proudly responded Ribas. “He does good for his own sake, and protects innocence because that is the duty of every knight and nobleman.”