“Thanks. Do you know? I really cannot help liking you, though I think you are behaving abominably. I am sure you could get a divorce in Switzerland.”
“We will not talk about that,” Malipieri answered, a little harshly.
When she was gone, he called Masin, and then, instead of explaining what he wanted, he threw himself into an armchair and sat in silence for nearly half an hour. Masin was used to his master’s ways and did not speak, but occupied himself in noiselessly dusting the mantelpiece at least a hundred times over.
Volterra had not explained to the Princess the reason why her acceptance of his offer would make it so much easier for him to help her out of her difficulty. He had only said that it would, for he never explained anything to a woman if an explanation could be avoided, and he had found that there are certain general ways of stating things to which women will assent rather than seem not to understand. If the Princess had asked questions, he would have found plausible answers, but she did not. She refused his offer, saying that she had other views for her daughter. She promptly invented a rich cousin in Poland, who had fallen in love with Sabina’s photograph and was only waiting for her to be eighteen years old in order to marry her.
She had gone to Malipieri as a last resource, not thinking it probable that he could help her, or that he would change his mind and try to free himself in order to marry Sabina. She came back with the certainty that he would not do the latter and could not give any real assistance. So far, she had not spoken to Sabina of her interview with the Baron, but she felt that the time had come to sound her on the subject of the marriage, since there might not be any other way. She had not lost time since her arrival, for she had at once seen one of the best lawyers in Rome, who looked after such legal business as the Russian Embassy occasionally had; and he had immediately applied for a revision of the settlement of the Conti affairs, on the ground of large errors in the estimates of the property, supporting his application with the plea that many of the proceedings in the matter had been technically faulty because certain documents should have been signed by Sabina, as a minor interested in the estate, and whose consent was necessary. He was of opinion that the revision would certainly be granted, but he would say nothing as to the amount which might be recovered by the Conti family. As a matter of fact, the settlement had been made hastily, between Volterra, old Sassi and a notary who was not a lawyer; and Volterra, who knew what he was about, and profited largely by it, had run the risk of a revision being required. For the rest, Malipieri’s explanation of his motives was the true one.
At the first suggestion of a marriage with Volterra’s son Sabina flatly refused to entertain the thought. She made no outcry, she did not even raise her voice, nor change colour; but she planted her little feet firmly together on the footstool before her chair, folded her hands in her lap and looked straight at her mother.