The notary’s brother and son, notaries themselves, were named as guardians. The income was to be paid to Sabina at once, the capital on her marriage. The newspaper paragraph recalled the ruin of the great family, and spoke of the will as a rare instance of devotion in an old and trusted servant.
Sabina and the Princess learned the news at dinner that evening from a young attache of the Embassy who always read the Italie because it is published in French, and he had not yet learned Italian. He laughingly congratulated Sabina on her accession to a vast fortune. To every one’s amazement, Sabina’s eyes filled with tears, though even her own mother had scarcely ever seen her cry. She tried hard to control herself, pressed her lids hastily with her fingers, bit her lips till they almost bled, and then, as the drops rolled down her cheeks in spite of all she could do, she left the table with a broken word of excuse.
“She is nothing but a child, still,” the Princess explained in a tone of rather condescending pity.
The young attache was sorry for having laughed when he told the story. He had not supposed that Donna Sabina knew much about the old agent, and after dinner he apologized to his ambassador for his lack of tact.
“That little girl has a heart of gold,” answered the wise old man of the world.
The Princess had a profoundly superstitious belief in luck, and was convinced that Sabina’s and her own had turned with this first piece of good fortune, and that on the following day Malipieri would appear and tell her that he had caught the writer of the letter and was ready to divorce his wife in order to marry Sabina. Secure in these hopes she slept eight hours without waking, as she always did.
But she was destined to the most complete disappointment of her life, and to spend one of the most horribly unpleasant days she could remember.
Long before she was awake boys and men, with sheaves of damp papers, were yelling the news in the Corso and throughout Rome.
“The Messaggero! The great scandal in Casa Conti! The Messaggero! One sou!”
Toto had done it. In his heart, the thick-headed, practical fellow had never quite believed in Gigi’s ingenious scheme, and the idea of getting a hundred thousand francs had seemed very visionary. Since Gigi had got himself locked up it would be more sensible to realize a little cash for the story from the Messaggero, saying nothing about the carpenter. The only lie he needed to invent was to the effect that he had been standing near the door of the palace when Sabina had come out. The porter, being relieved from the order to keep the postern shut against everybody had been quite willing to gossip with Toto about the detective’s visit, the closed room and Malipieri’s refusal to let any one enter it. As for what had happened in the vaults, Toto could reconstruct the exact truth much more accurately than Gigi could have done, even with his help. It was a thrilling story; the newspaper paid him well for it and printed it with reservations.