“Very well, my dear,” Volterra answered, dropping the end of his cigar and preparing to rise. “That will be very charitable of you. But your friendly interest can never marry her to Malipieri.”
“Perhaps not. But it might have been done, if she had not been so foolish.”
“No,” said the Baron, getting to his feet, “it never could have been done.”
“Why not?” asked his wife, surprised by the decision of his tone.
“Because there is a very good reason why Malipieri cannot marry her, my dear.”
“A good reason?”
“A very good reason. My dear, I am sleepy. I am going to bed.”
Volterra rang the bell by the fireplace, and a man appeared almost instantly.
“You may put out the lights,” he said. “We are going to bed.”
“Shall any one sit up, in case Donna Sabina should come in, Excellency?” asked the servant.
He went towards the door, and his wife followed him meekly.
Sabina’s strength revived in the warm night air, out in the courtyard, under the stars, and the awful danger from which Malipieri had saved her and himself looked unreal, after the first few moments of liberty. She got his watch out of her glove where it had been so many hours, and by the clear starlight they could see that it was nearly twenty minutes past two o’clock. Malipieri had put out the lamp, and the lantern had gone out for lack of oil, at the last moment. It was important that Sabina should not be seen by the porter, in the very unlikely event of his being up at that hour.
They had not thought that it could be so late, for it was long since Sabina had looked at the watch. The first thing that became clear to Malipieri was that it would be out of the question for him to take her home that night. The question was where else to take her. She was exhausted, too, and needed food at once, and her clothes were wet from the dampness. It would be almost a miracle if she did not fall ill, even if she were well taken care of at once.
There was only one thing to be done: she must go up to his apartment, and have something to eat, and then she must rest. In the meantime they would make some plan in order to explain her absence.
The porter’s wife might have been of some use, if she could have been trusted with what must for ever remain a dead secret, namely, that Sabina had spent the night in Malipieri’s rooms; for that would be the plain fact to-morrow morning. What had happened to Sassi and Masin was a mystery, but it was inconceivable that either of them should have been free to act during the past eight or nine hours and should have made no effort to save the two persons to whom they were respectively devoted as to no one else in the world.
Exhausted though he was, Malipieri would have gone down into the cellars at once to try and find some trace of them, if he had not felt that Sabina must be cared for first; and moreover he was sure that if he found them at all, he should find them both dead.