Malipieri saw that he must wake Sabina, and explain to her through the door that she must dress. He reflected a moment, and was about to ask the detective to go back to the study, when a sound of voices came from that direction, and one was a woman’s.
“It seems that there is another lady in the house,” said the detective. “Perhaps she can help us. Surely you will allow a lady to enter your wife’s room and wake her.”
But Malipieri was speechless at that moment and was leaning stupidly against the jamb of the study door. He had recognized the voice of the Baroness talking excitedly with her husband. Fate had caught him now, and there was no escape. Instinctively, he was sure that the Baroness had come in search of Sabina, and would not leave the house till she had found her, do what he might.
The Baroness had been called to the telephone five minutes after Volterra had gone out with the porter, leaving word that he was going to the Palazzo Conti and would be back within two hours. The message she received was from the Russian Embassy, and informed her that the dowager Princess Conti had arrived at midnight, was the guest of the Ambassador, and wished her daughter Sabina to come and see her between eleven and twelve o’clock. In trembling tones the Baroness had succeeded in saying that Sabina should obey, and had rung off the connection at once. Then, for the first time in her life, she had felt for a moment as if she were going to faint.
The facts, which were unknown to her, were simple enough. The Ambassador had been informed that a treasure had been discovered, and had telegraphed the fact in cipher to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in St. Petersburg, who had telegraphed the news to Prince Rubomirska, who had telegraphed to the Ambassador, who was his intimate friend, requesting him to receive the Princess for a few days. As the Prince and his sister were already in the country, in Poland, not far from the Austrian frontier, it had not taken her long to reach Rome. Of all this, the poor Baroness was in ignorance. The one fact stared her in the face, that the Princess had come to claim Sabina, and Sabina had disappeared.
She had learned that the porter had come to say that the cellars of the Palazzo Conti were flooded, and she knew that her husband would be there some time. She found Sassi’s card, on which his address was printed, and she drove there in a cab, climbed the stairs and rang the bell. The old woman who opened was in terrible trouble, and was just going out. She showed the Baroness the news of Sassi’s mysterious accident shortly given in a paragraph of the Messaggero, the little morning paper which is universally read greedily by the lower classes. She was just going to the accident hospital, the “Consolazione,” to see her poor master. He had gone out at half past four on the previous afternoon, and she had sat up all night, hoping that he would come in. She was quite sure that he had not returned at all after he had gone out. She was quite sure, too, that he had been knocked down and robbed, for he had a gold watch and chain, and always carried money in his pocket.