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There had been a time when the
vehemence of an angry woman's tongue, and
the impotent rebellion of a woman's
mortified spirit, would have mattered little to
him. He would have opposed passion to
passion, violence to violence, self-assertion
to self-assertion, and would even have
enjoyed his victory. But it was no longer
with him as it had been. It was still
dangerous to provoke him too far, and
Veronica's cheeks had once been blanched
by a torrent of invectives launched at her
by his quivering lips. Still, such an
ebullition of passion cost him too dear to be
indulged in often. He had grown very
feeble. He felt it, although he would not
acknowledge it. For some time he made
light of his illness, and refused to see a
physician.  But one day Veronica made the
alarming discovery that he did see one of
the leading doctors of the place daily. The
doctor came in a secret sort of way, and was
admitted to Sir John's apartment by Paul.

Veronica's maid (no longer Beppina,
but a Frenchwoman, the Tuscan servants
had all been dismissed on leaving Villa
Chiari) found this out, and told her
mistress: less by way of imparting information
than as a means of discovering whether
Veronica knew it, and co-operated with Sir
John in keeping the servants ignorant of
the gravity of the case.

Veronica was terrified. She turned her
thoughts this way and that way in search
of help. There was no one within reach,
no one to be relied on, but Barletti. What
better lot lay before her in any case than
an alliance with him? She had learned to
like him ; he was gentle, and he loved her.
The latter she could not doubt.

But yet that would avail her little, if she
missed her aim, and failed in her great
purpose. Any secret communication with
Barletti risked utter ruin and loss of all.

But on the evening of the day on which
she had learned the fact of the doctor's
visits, the need of sympathy and encouragement
became paramount, and when Barletti
was saying "good-night" she gave him her
hand, and, with a warning pressure,
conveyed into his, a little folded paper with
these words written on it, "To-morrow
morning at eight o'clock I shall be walking
in the Villa Reale. Be there. I wish
to consult you."

The moment Barletti was gone, with the
note in his hand, Veronica had a revulsion
of feeling. She would have done anything
to recal it. She trembled at the thought
of the risk she had run. But after a night's
sleep she awoke, still uneasy and frightened
indeed, but resolved to meet Barletti at the
hour appointed.

CHAPTER IX. IN THE VILLA REALE.

"Why do you not write to his family?"

"He has no living relatives; not one."

"To his friends?"

"His friends! I do not know any of his
friends."

"You do not know any of his friends!"

"III know a mana nobleman, in
England, who knew him years ago in Rome.
I know that Spanish attaché, and the
Russian who came to Villa Chiari. I know
the Duca di Terracina here, and his
sister-in-law, the withered little woman with the
pearls. These are scarcely the sort of
friends who would be likely to afford one
much comfort."

Barletti drew near her.

"I am only such a friend as these," he
said, "if one counts by date of acquaintance.
And yet you speak to me with
confidence."

Veronica raised her eyes to his sadly as
she answered: "Yes; because I think you
care for me, and feel for me, and would,
perhaps, do a friendly action for my sake,
if not for his."

She was not without a consciousness of
the effect she was producing on the man
beside her, nor without an enjoyment of
that consciousness. But there was truth
enough in her words, and reality enough in
her emotion, to send both the words and
the look that accompanied them, home to
Barletti's heart.

The exhibition of herself as Beauty in
distress, to an admiring spectator, had a
certain pleasure in it that could not be
altogether destroyed by the serious terrors
and troubles that encompassed her.

Barletti glanced around him with the
habitual caution of an Italian, (and, be it
said, of a lover. There is nothing that so
speedily forms an accomplished hypocrite
in small precautions as a clandestine
attachment). Seeing no one in the long alley
of the Villa Reale where they were pacing
side by side, he took Veronica's hand, and
pressed it to his lips. He was very pale,
and there were tears in his eyes, and his
voice was unsteady as he said :

"Ah, Veronica! There is nothing in all
the world I would not do for your sake."

"I think you are a true friend."

"No friend was ever so true, so devoted,
as I will be if you will trust me."

Certainly the words thus written down

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