D'Arbino had been watching Brigida's face intently from the moment of Nanina's appearance, and had quietly stolen close to her side. This was a fortunate movement; for the doctor's last words were hardly out of his mouth before Brigida seized a heavy ruler lying, with some writing materials, on the table. In another instant, if D'Arbino had not caught her arm, she would have hurled it at Nanina's head.
"You may let go your hold, sir," she said, dropping the ruler, and turning toward D'Arbino with a smile on her white lips and a wicked calmness in her steady eyes. "I can wait for a better opportunity."
With those words she walked to the door; and, turning round there, regarded Nanina fixedly.
"I wish I had been a moment quicker with the ruler," she said, and went out.
"There!" exclaimed the doctor; "I told you I knew how to deal with her as she deserved. One thing I am certainly obliged to her for--she has saved us the trouble of going to her house and forcing her to give up the mask. And now, my child," he continued, addressing Nanina, "you can go home, and one of the men-servants shall see you safe to your own door, in case that woman should still be lurking about the palace. Stop! you are leaving the bag of scudi behind you."
"_She_ would have taken money!" Saying those words, Nanina reddened, and looked toward the door.
The doctor glanced approvingly at D'Arbino. "Well, well, we won't argue about that now," he said. "I will lock up the money with the mask for to-day. Come here to-morrow morning as usual, my dear. By that time I shall have made up my mind on the right means for breaking your discovery to Count Fabio. Only let us proceed slowly and cautiously, and I answer for success."
THE next morning, among the first visitors at the Ascoli Palace was the master-sculptor, Luca Lomi. He seemed, as the servants thought, agitated, and said he was especially desirous of seeing Count Fabio. On being informed that this was impossible, he reflected a little, and then inquired if the medical attendant of the count was at the palace, and could be spoken with. Both questions were answered in the affirmative, and he was ushered into the doctor's presence.