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The conference lasted for some time longer, but we omit what followed as not being necessary to a clear understanding of our story. At last they separated, Senor Don Inocencio remaining to the last, as usual. Before the canon and Dona Perfecta had had time to exchange a word, an elderly woman, Dona Perfecta's confidential servant and her right hand, entered the dining-room, and her mistress, seeing that she looked disturbed and anxious, was at once filled with disquietude, suspecting that something wrong was going on in the house.
"I can't find the senorita anywhere," said the servant, in answer to her mistress' questions.
"Good Heavens—Rosario! Where is my daughter?"
"Virgin of Succor protect us!" cried the Penitentiary, taking up his hat and preparing to hurry out with Dona Perfecta.
"Search for her well. But was she not with you in her room?"
"Yes, senora," answered the old woman, trembling, "but the devil tempted me, and I fell asleep."
"A curse upon your sleep! What is this? Rosario, Rosario! Librada!"
They went upstairs and came down again, they went up a second time and came down again; carrying a light and looking carefully in all the rooms. At last the voice of the Penitentiary was heard saying joyfully from the stairs:
"Here she is, here she is! She has been found."
A moment later mother and daughter were standing face to face in the hall.
"Where were you?" asked Dona Perfecta, in a severe voice, scrutinizing her daughter's face closely.
"In the garden," answered the girl, more dead than alive.
"In the garden at this hour? Rosario!"
"I was warm, I went to the window, my handkerchief dropped out, and I came down stairs for it!"
"Why didn't you ask Librada to get it for you? Librada! Where is that girl? Has she fallen asleep too?"
Librada at last made her appearance. Her pale face revealed the consternation and the apprehension of the delinquent.
"What is this? Where were you?" asked her mistress, with terrible anger.
"Why, senora, I came down stairs to get the clothes out of the front room—and I fell asleep."
"Every one here seems to have fallen asleep to-night. Some of you, I fancy, will not sleep in my house to-morrow night. Rosario, you may go."
Comprehending that it was necessary to act with promptness and energy, Dona Perfecta and the canon began their investigations without delay. Questions, threats, entreaties, promises, were skilfully employed to discover the truth regarding what had happened. Not even the shadow of guilt was found to attach to the old servant; but Librada confessed frankly between tears and sighs all her delinquencies, which we will sum up as follows:
Shortly after his arrival in the house Senor Pinzon had begun to cast loving glances at Senorita Rosario. He had given money to Librada, according to what the latter said, to carry messages and love-letters to her. The young lady had not seemed angry, but, on the contrary, pleased, and several days had passed in this manner. Finally, the servant declared that Rosario and Senor Pinzon had agreed to meet and talk with each other on this night at the window of the room of the latter, which opened on the garden. They had confided their design to the maid, who promised to favor it, in consideration of a sum which was at once given her. It had been agreed that Senor Pinzon was to leave the house at his usual hour and return to it secretly at nine o'clock, go to his room, and leave it and the house again, clandestinely also, a little later, to return, without concealment, at his usual late hour. In this way no suspicion would fall upon him. Librada had waited for Pinzon, who had entered the house closely enveloped in his cloak, without speaking a word. He had gone to his room at the same moment in which the young lady descended to the garden. During the interview, at which she was not present, Librada had remained on guard in the hall to warn Pinzon, if any danger should threaten; and at the end of an hour the latter had left the house enveloped in his cloak, as before, and without speaking a word. When the confession was ended Don Inocencio said to the wretched girl:
"Are you sure that the person who came into and went out of the house was Senor Pinzon?"
The culprit answered nothing, but her features expressed the utmost perplexity.
Her mistress turned green with anger.
"Did you see his face?"
"But who else could it be but he?" answered the maid. "I am certain that it was he. He went straight to his room—he knew the way to it perfectly well."
"It is strange," said the canon. "Living in the house there was no need for him to use such mystery. He might have pretended illness and remained in the house. Does it not seem so to you, senora?"
"Librada," exclaimed the latter, in a paroxysm of anger, "I vow that you shall go to prison."
And clasping her hands, she dug the nails of the one into the other with such force as almost to draw blood.
"Senor Don Inocencio," she exclaimed, "let us die—there is no remedy but to die."
Then she burst into a fit of inconsolable weeping.
"Courage, senora," said the priest, in a moved voice. "Courage—now it is necessary to be very brave. This requires calmness and a great deal of courage.
"Mine is immense," said Senora de Polentinos, in the midst of her sobs.
"Mine is very small," said the canon; "but we shall see, we shall see."
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