“Evil befall his little dead ones, whatever he is,” returned the other, by way of welcome to the young man who had moved into the palace.
“He advanced me ten francs to buy wood for the shelves,” said Gigi, who was by far the more cheerful of the two.
“Come and drink,” returned Toto, relevantly or irrelevantly. “That is much better.”
So they turned into the wine shop.
Baron Volterra introduced Marino Malipieri to the two ladies. The guest had come punctually, for the Baron had looked at his watch a moment before he was announced, and it was precisely eight o’clock.
Malipieri bowed to the Baroness, who held out her hand cordially, and then to Sabina.
“Donna Sabina Conti,” said the Baron with extreme distinctness, in order that his guest should be quite sure of the young girl’s identity.
Sabina looked down modestly, as the nuns had told her to do when a young man was introduced to her. At the same moment Malipieri’s eyes turned quietly and quickly to the Baron, and a look of intelligence passed between the two men. Malipieri understood that Sabina was one of the family in whose former palace he was living. Then he glanced again at the young girl for one moment, before making a commonplace remark to the Baroness, and after that Sabina felt that she was at liberty to look at him.
She saw a very dark man of average height, with short black hair that grew rather far back from his very white forehead, and wearing a closely clipped black beard and moustache which did not by any means hide the firm lines of the mouth and chin. From the strongly marked eyebrows downward his face was almost of the colour of newly cast bronze, and the dusky hue contrasted oddly with the clear whiteness of his forehead. He was evidently a man who had lately been living much out of doors under a burning sun. Sabina thought that his very bright black eyes and boldly curved features suggested a young hawk, and he had a look of compact strength and a way of moving which betrayed both great energy and extreme quickness.
But there was something more, which Sabina recognized at the first glance. She felt instantly that he was not like the Baron and his wife; that he belonged in some way to the same variety of humanity as herself; that she would understand him when he spoke, that she would often feel intuitively what he was going to say next, and that he would understand her.
She listened while he talked to the Baroness. He had a slight Venetian accent, but his voice had not the soft Venetian ring. It was a little veiled, and though not at all loud it was somewhat harsh. Sabina did not dislike the manly tone, though it was not musical, nor the Venetian pronunciation, although that was unfamiliar. In countries like Italy and Germany, which have had many centres and many historical capital cities, almost all educated people speak with the accents of their several origins, and are rather tenacious of the habit than anxious to get rid of it, generally maintaining that their own pronunciation is the right one.