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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 222 pages of information about Dona Perfecta.

The engineer sprang from the balcony into the garden.  Observing attentively, he saw the hand and the face of his cousin.  He thought he could perceive the gesture commonly employed of imposing silence by laying the finger on the lips.  Then the dear shade pointed downward and disappeared.  Pepe Rey returned quickly to this room, entered the hall noiselessly, and walked slowly forward.  He felt his heart beat with violence.  He waited for a few moments, and at last he heard distinctly light taps on the steps of the stairs.  One, two, three—­the sounds were produced by a pair of little shoes.

He walked in the direction whence they proceeded, and stretched out his hands in the obscurity to assist the person who was descending the stairs.  In his soul there reigned an exalted and profound tenderness, but—­why seek to deny it—­mingling with this tender feeling, there suddenly arose within him, like an infernal inspiration, another sentiment, a fierce desire for revenge.  The steps continued to descend, coming nearer and nearer.  Pepe Rey went forward, and a pair of hands, groping in the darkness, came in contact with his own.  The two pairs of hands were united in a close clasp.

CHAPTER XVII

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

The hall was long and broad.  At one end of it was the door of the room occupied by the engineer, in the centre that of the dining-room, and at the other end were the staircase and a large closed door reached by a step.  This door opened into a chapel in which the Polentinos performed their domestic devotions.  Occasionally the holy sacrifice of the mass was celebrated in it.

Rosario led her cousin to the door of the chapel and then sank down on the doorstep.

“Here?” murmured Pepe Rey.

From the movements of Rosarito’s right hand he comprehended that she was blessing herself.

“Rosario, dear cousin, thanks for allowing me to see you!” he exclaimed, embracing her ardently.

He felt the girl’s cold fingers on his lips, imposing silence.  He kissed them rapturously.

“You are frozen.  Rosario, why do you tremble so?”

Her teeth were chattering, and her whole frame trembled convulsively.  Rey felt the burning heat of his cousin’s face against his own, and he cried in alarm: 

“Your forehead is burning!  You are feverish.”

“Very.”

“Are you really ill?”

“Yes.”

“And you have left your room——­”

“To see you.”

The engineer wrapped his arms around her to protect her from the cold, but it was not enough.

“Wait,” he said quickly, rising.  “I am going to my room to bring my travelling rug.”

“Put out the light, Pepe.”

Rey had left the lamp burning in his room, through the door of which issued a faint streak of light, illuminating the hall.  He returned in an instant.  The darkness was now profound.  Groping his way along the wall he reached the spot where his cousin was sitting, and wrapped the rug carefully around her.

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