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Marie Corelli
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 420 pages of information about Vendetta.

“I trust you were not offended at my remark concerning Nina Romani’s marriage with you?  I fear I was too hasty?”

“Not so, madame,” I answered, with all the earnestness I felt.  “Nothing is more pleasant to me than a frank opinion frankly spoken.  I have been so accustomed to deception—­” Here I broke off and added hastily, “Pray do not think me capable of judging you wrongly.”

She seemed relieved, and smiling that shadowy, flitting smile of hers, she said: 

“No doubt you are impatient, signor; Nina shall come to you directly,” and with a slight salutation she left me.

Surely she was a good woman, I thought, and vaguely wondered about her past history—­that past which she had buried forever under a mountain of prayers.  What had she been like when young—­before she had shut herself within the convent walls—­before she had set the crucifix like a seal on her heart?  Had she ever trapped a man’s soul and strangled it with lies?  I fancied not—­her look was too pure and candid; yet who could tell?  Were not Nina’s eyes trained to appear as though they held the very soul of truth?  A few minutes passed.  I heard the fresh voices of children singing in the next room: 

  “D’ou vient le petit Gesu? 
    Ce joli bouton de rose
    Qui fleurit, enfant cheri
   Sur le coeur de notre mere Marie.”

Then came a soft rustle of silken garments, the door opened, and my wife entered.

CHAPTER XXVII.

She approached with her usual panther-like grace and supple movement, her red lips parted in a charming smile.

“So good of you to come!” she began, holding out her two hands as though she invited an embrace; “and on Christmas morning too!” She paused, and seeing that I did not move or speak, she regarded me with some alarm.  “What is the matter?” she asked, in fainter tones; “has anything happened?”

I looked at her.  I saw that she was full of sudden fear, I made no attempt to soothe her, I merely placed a chair.

“Sit down,” I said, gravely.  “I am the bearer of bad news.”

She sunk into the chair as though unnerved, and gazed at me with terrified eyes.  She trembled.  Watching her keenly, I observed all these outward signs of trepidation with deep satisfaction.  I saw plainly what was passing in her mind.  A great dread had seized her—­ the dread that I had found out her treachery.  So indeed I had, but the time had not yet come for her to know it.  Meanwhile she suffered—­suffered acutely with that gnawing terror and suspense eating into her soul.  I said nothing, I waited for her to speak.  After a pause, during which her cheeks had lost their delicate bloom, she said, forcing a smile as she spoke—­

“Bad news?  You surprise me!  What can it be?  Some unpleasantness with Guido?  Have you seen him?”

“I have seen him,” I answered in the same formal and serious tone; “I have just left him.  He sends you this,” and I held out my diamond ring that I had drawn off the dead man’s finger.

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