It was a strange sensation, he thought afterwards, when many other things had happened which were not long in following upon the events of that night. He could not quite believe that he was almost stupid with extreme fatigue, and yet he remembered that it had been more like a calm dream than anything else, a dream of peace and rest. At the time, it all seemed natural, as the strangest things do when one has been face to face with death for a few hours, and when one is so tired that one can hardly think at all.
There was less consternation in the Volterra household than might have been expected when Sabina did not return before bedtime. The servants knew that she had gone out with an old gentleman, a certain Signor Sassi, at about five o’clock, but until Volterra came in, the Baroness could not find out who Sassi was, and she insisted on searching every corner of the house, as if she were in quest of his biography, for the servants assured her that Sabina was still out, and they certainly knew. She carefully examined Sabina’s room too, looking for a note, a line of writing, anything to explain the girl’s unexpected absence.
She could find nothing except the short letter from Sabina’s mother to which reference has been made, and she read it over several times. Sabina received no letters, and had been living in something like total isolation. The Baroness had reached a certain degree of intimacy with her beloved aristocracy; but though she occasionally dropped in upon it, and was fairly well received, it rarely, if ever, dropped in upon her. It showed itself quite willing, however, to accept a formal invitation to a good dinner at her house.
She telephoned to the Senate and to a club, but Volterra could not be found. Then she went to dress, giving orders that Sabina was to be sent to her the moment she came in. She was very angry, and her sallow face was drawn into severe angles; she scolded her maid for everything, and rustled whenever she moved.
At last the Baron came home, and she learned who Sassi was. Volterra was very much surprised, but said that Sassi must have come for Sabina in connection with some urgent family matter. Perhaps some one of her family had died suddenly, or was dying. It was very thoughtless of Sabina not to leave a word of explanation, but Sassi was an eminently respectable person, and she was quite safe with him.
The Baron ate his dinner, and repeated the substance of this to his wife before the servants, whose good opinion they valued. Probably Donna Clementina, the nun, was very ill, and Sabina was at the convent. No, Sabina did not love her sister, of course; but one always went to see one’s relations when they were dying, in order to forgive them their disagreeable conduct; all Romans did that, said the Baroness, and it was very proper. By and by a note could be sent to the convent, or the carriage could go there to bring Sabina back. But the Baron did not order the carriage, and became very thoughtful over his coffee and his Havana. Sabina had been gone more than four hours, and that was certainly a longer time than could be necessary for visiting a dying relative. He said so.