"What is your sister doing? Is she still at Barcelona?"
"Yes; but she will not be there long, for the bishop will not have her in the town or the diocese, and the bishop is stronger than the viceroy. She only returned to Barcelona on the plea that she wished to pass through Catalonia of her way home, but she does not need to stay there for nine or ten months on that account. She will have to leave in a month for certain, but she is not much put out, as the viceroy is sure to keep her wherever she goes, and she may eventually succeed in ruining him. In the meanwhile she is revelling in the bad repute she has gained for her lover."
"I know something of her peculiarities; but she cannot dislike a man who has made her rich."
"Rich! She has only got her diamonds. Do you imagine this monster capable of any feelings of gratitude? She is not a human being, and no one knows her as I do. She has made the count commit a hundred acts of injustice so that all Spain may talk of her, and know that she has made herself mistress of his body and soul, and all he has. The worse his actions are, the more certain she feels that people will talk of her, and that is all she wants. Her obligations to me are beyond counting, for she owes me all, even to her existence, and instead of continuing my husband in her service she has sent him about his business."
"Then I wonder how she came to treat me so generously."
"If you knew all, you would not feel grateful to her."
"Tell me all, then."
"She only paid for your keep at the inn and in prison to make people believe you were her lover, and to shame the count. All Barcelona knows that you were assassinated at her door, and that you were fortunate enough to run the fellow through."
"But she cannot have been the instigator of, or even the accomplice in, the plot for my assassination. That's against nature."
"I dare say, but everything in Nina is against nature. What I tell you is the bare truth, for I was a witness of it all. Whenever the viceroy visited her she wearied him with praise of your gallantry, your wit, your noble actions, comparing you with the Spaniards, greatly to their disadvantage.
"The count got impatient and told her to talk of something else, but she would not; and at last he went away, cursing your name. Two days before you came to grief he left her, saying,--
"'Valga me Dios! I will give you a pleasure you do not expect.'
"I assure you that when we heard the pistol-shot after you had gone, she remarked, without evincing the slightest emotion, that the shot was the pleasure her rascally Spaniard had promised her.
"I said that you might be killed.
"'All the worse for the count,' she replied, 'for his turn will come also.'
"Then she began laughing like a madcap; she was thinking of the excitement your death would cause in Barcelona.
"At eight o'clock the following day, your man came and told her that you had been taken to the citadel; and I will say it to her credit, she seemed relieved to hear you were alive."
"My man--I did not know that he was in correspondence with her."
"No, I suppose not; but I assure you the worthy man was very much attached to you."
"I am sure he was. Go on."
"Nina then wrote a note to your landlord. She did not shew it me, but it no doubt contained instructions to supply you with everything.
"The man told us that he had seen your sword all red with blood, and that your cloak had a bullet hole through it. She was delighted, but do not think it was because she loved you; she was glad you had escaped that you might take your revenge. However, she was troubled by the pretext on which the count had had you arrested.
"Ricla did not come to see her that day, but he came the next day at eight o'clock, and the infamous creature received him with a smiling face. She told him she had heard he had imprisoned you, and that she was obliged to him, as he had, of course, done so to protect you from any fresh attempts on your life.
"He answered, dryly, that your arrest had nothing to do with anything that might have happened the night before.