That was the name and there was the address in Florence, in Via del Mandorlo.
“Ask the lady to come here,” said Sabina, quietly; but her face was suddenly very white.
Sabina and Malipieri sat in silence during the minutes that followed. From time to time, they looked at each other. His self-possession and courage had returned, now that something decisive was to take place, but Sabina’s heart was almost standing still. She felt that the woman had come to make a scene, to threaten a scandal and utterly to destroy the illusion of happiness. If not, and if she had merely had something of importance to communicate, why had she not gone to Malipieri first, or written to ask for this interview with Sabina? She had come suddenly, in order to take advantage of the surprise her appearance must cause. For once, Sabina wished that her mother were with her, her high and mighty, insolent, terrible mother, who was afraid of nobody in the world.
The door opened, and the footman admitted a quiet little woman, about thirty years old, already inclined to be stout. She was very simply but very well dressed, she had beautiful brown hair, and when she came forward Sabina looked into a pair of luminous and trustful hazel eyes.
“Donna Sabina Conti?” asked the Signora Malipieri in a gentle voice.
“Yes,” Sabina answered.
She and Malipieri had both risen. The Signora made a timid movement with her hand, as if she expected that Sabina would offer hers, which Sabina did, rather late, when she saw that it was expected. The lady glanced at Malipieri and then at Sabina with a look of enquiry, as he held out his hand to her and she took it. He saw that she did not recognize him.
“I am Marino Malipieri,” he said.
“You?” she cried in surprise.
Then a faint flush rose in her smooth cheeks, and Sabina, who was watching her, saw that her lip trembled a little, and that tears rose in her eyes.
“Forgive me,” she said, in an unsteady voice. “I should have known you, after all you have done for me.”
“I think it is nearly thirteen years since we met,” Malipieri answered. “I had no beard then.”
She looked at him long, evidently in strong emotion, but the tears did not overflow, and the clear light came back gradually in her gaze. Then the three sat down.
“I thought I had better come,” she said. “It seemed easier than to write.”
“Yes,” Sabina answered, not knowing what to say.
“You see,” said the Signora, “I could not easily write to you frankly, as I had never seen you, and I did not like to write to Signor Malipieri about what I wanted to know.”
“Yes,” said Sabina, once more, but this time she looked at Malipieri.
“What is it that you wish to know, Signora?” he asked kindly, “Whether it is all exactly as my letter told you? Is that it?”