of the Marquis. Leave me to myself-you have no idea of remorse-you have no idea of love."

66 Come,'

said the Marquis, "have you had enough of your sentimentals? Let us be reasonable; you are not serious about calling out this Henryet?"

"Quite serious," responded Leoni, 66 you were serious about assassinating him, eh?"

"That's quite another thing."

"It comes to the same thing precisely; he does not know how to handle a single weapon, and I am unrivalled at all." And do you imagine he will go out with you?"

"He will, he is brave."

"But he's not a fool.

as thieves."

He will begin by having us arrested

"He will begin by giving me satisfaction. I will give him a blow at the theatre."

"He will return it, and call you-forger, swindler, sharper." "He must prove it. He is not known here, whereas we have a distinguished position; I will say he is a lunatic and a dreamer, and when I kill him all the world will say I am right."

[ocr errors]

"You are a fool, my dear fellow," said the Marquis. 'Henryet has letters to all the first merchants in Italy. His family is well known to the commercial world. Doubtless he has his private friends in town, with whom his assertions will have due weight. Suppose now he does consent to meet you to-morrow evening. Well, he will spend the day in proclaiming that he is going to fight you, because he has seen you cheat at cards, and that you think yourself insulted because he attempted to prevent you."

"Well, let him say so-let them believe him--I shall kill him nevertheless."

"La Zagorola will dismiss you, and throw her will in the fire. The nobles will close their doors against you. And the police will beg of you to go and play the agreeable on some other ground."

"Well-I shall go and do so. Shall not the rest of the world be mine when I am delivered from this man.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Assuredly, and from his blood will rise up a fine set of accusers; instead of Monsieur Henryet, you will have all Milan at your heels."

"True," said Leoni with vehemence, "what is to be done?" "Allure him to a meeting, by a billet in the name of your

wife, and calm his blood with a stiletto.

paper I'll pen it myself."

Give me that slip of

Leoni, without heeding him, threw open a window and leant out, in a deep reverie, while the Marquis was writing.

"Listen Leoni and judge of my powers of inditing a billetdoux."



'My dear Henryet.-I cannot see you any more. knows all, and menaces me with the worst of ill usage-take me away or I am lost. Conduct me to my mother, or shut me up in a convent. Do with me as you may think proper, but for God's sake deliver me from the frightful situation in which I am placed. Meet me to-morrow at two o'clock in the morning, under the porch of the Cathedral. We shall concert measures for our departure. I shall have no difficulty in finding an opportunity for going, as Leoni spends all his time with La Zagorola. Do not be astonished at this hasty and almost illegible scribble, as Leoni in a fit of frantic passion has quite disabled my right hand.


"Now I flatter myself, that is very cleverly executed," said the Marquis ; it must appear genuine to the Fleming, whatever may be the nature of his intimacy. The expressions she used in her ravings show clearly that he has offered to reconduct her to her family. The hand writing is disguised, whether he knows'that of Juliet or not."

"Let us see!" said Leoni, bending over the table and examining the billet.

His countenance exhibited a frightful expression of mingled doubt and persuasion. I saw no more--my brain whirled round-my ideas became confused. I rega ned my couch and

sank back into my lethargy.

When I returned to myself, the vague light of the lamp fell upon the same objects; I rose and looked into the other room. The Marquis was in the same position as I left him when my senses failed me. It was still night. The bottles and glasses were still upon the table, together with the billet, and something which I could not clearly distinguish, but which appeared to me to be arms. Leoni was standing as before; I tried to recall their previous conversation, I did not know that between that conversation and the one that was then beginning, an interval of twenty-four hours had elapsed. The first sentences I could comprehend distinctly were these:

"He must have had his suspicions, for he was armed to the teeth." As he said this Leoni wiped his bloody hand with a handkerchief.

[ocr errors]

"Bah, that's only a scratch," said the Marquis, see here how the fellow has gashed my thigh, and yet I must dance tomorrow at the ball, for fear of attracting suspicion. Never mind your hand, bandage it and let us think of something else."

"I can't think of anything else but his blood, I fancy I see a lake of it before me!"

"Your nerves are too delicate Leoni, you are good for nothing."

"Canaille," retorted Leoni, in a tone of hatred and contempt, "but for me your mouth had been stopped for ever, you faltered like a coward, and you were near being stabbed in the back. If it had not been to save your life, and that I knew your death would have led to mine, I never would have touched that man, and in such a place. But your ferocious obstinacy has forced me to be your accomplice. An assassination was all that was necessary to render me worthy of your society.'

"Pooh! pooh!" said the Marquis, "when he showed fight, you flew at him like a tiger. This work was evidently to your liking.'

[ocr errors]

"To be sure I liked to see him defend himself, for it gave it the appearance of a duel. may fancy I killed him fairly." Very fairly-he begged of you to put it off until to-morrow, but you were in a hurry and could not wait, and so you killed him off-hand."

[ocr errors]


Villain, 'twas your doing; did you not fall upon him, at the moment we were about to separate with a mutual promise. But you turned when you saw he was armed, and thus I was forced to defend you, or to be denounced by him tomorrow for having drawn him into a snare, in order to assassinate him. As it is, I deserve to be hanged, and yet I don't consider myself an assassin. The weapons were even, the chances were even, our courage was even."

"Yes he fought hard for his life," said the Marquis. "You flourished your knife like one of Homer's heroes, though I must say that for a Venetian you manage that weapon badly." ""Tis not my usual weapon," returned Leoni; "and a propos, I think it would be best to conceal or destroy this one." "Nonsense, man, it has been seen with you by your servants, and if you put it away, it may create suspicion.'


'And yours ?"


“Oh! mine is spotless, I missed my first thrusts, and then you gave me no time to repeat them."

"True, you planned the deed, and fate made me the instrument of executing what I abhorred."

"Oh! you may say so, but you stepped nimbly enough to the rendez-vous."

"Because I had an instinctive presentment of what my evil genius was urging me to do. . . . After all it was his destiny and mine. We are now rid of him. But why did you rifle

his pockets?"


"Precaution and presence of mind when they find him stripped of his money and his pocket-book, they will seek the perpetrator among the lower classes, and never suspect gentlemen like ourselves. It will pass for a robbery, and not for an act of private revenge. Nerve yourself for to-morrow, when it shall be mentioned before you. Push me over that candle, and let me burn these papers, as for the coin it never betrayed anybody yet."

"Stop!" said Leoni, catching at a letter which the Marquis was going to burn with the rest. "I see the family name of Juliet !"


A letter to Madam Ruyter ?" said the Marquis.

see !"


"Let us

"Should this reach you, before your departure to join your daughter according to the advice conveyed in my last letter, you are requested to defer it. You may wait for her, or come to meet her at Strasbourg, as I shall be there with her in a few days. She has decided upon flying from the infamy and ill usage of her husband. I have just received a letter, announcing this resolution; I am to see her to-night, to fix the hour of departure; I shall leave my business to profit by the good disposition which she evinces, and in which the flatteries of her husband may not leave her for long! His influence over her is still very great; I fear the passion she still feels for the wretch will last for ever, and that both you and she have many a bitter tear to shed. Be kind and indulgent to her, it is your duty as a mother, and you will fulfill it easily. For my part, I am rough-spoken, and my indignation finds vent more easily than my pity. I wish I were more gentle, but I cannot become more agreeable; perhaps because I am not so fortunate as to be loved. "PAUL HENRYET."

"There now, Oh, my friend," said the Marquis, in a tone of mockery, holding the letter to the flame of the candle, "this proves that your wife is faithful, and that you are the happiest of husbands !"


"Poor woman, said Leoni, "and poor Henryet! would have made her happy, at least he would have honoured and respected her. But by what fatality was she thrown into the arms of an unprincipled adventurer, impelled towards her, from a land far, far away from hers, when she had beside her the heart of an honest man! Blind girl why did you choose me?"


"Bravo! excellent;" said the Marquis ironically. down and write a stanza upon it. An epitaph on the man you have just slaughtered will be something quite interesting and novel."

"Yes, I shall write one," said Leoni, "and the text shall be this

"Here lies a man, who wishing to be the defender of human justice against two villains, was suffered by divine justice to be assassinated by them."

Leoni fell into a gloomy reverie, during which he frequently pronounced the name of his victim.

"Paul Henryet," said he. "Twenty-two or twenty-four years of age-a cold countenance, handsome, though a rough honest character, yet something tender and melancholy, He loved Juliet, and always loved her. He struggled with his passion in vain. I see by that letter that he loved her still, and that he could have adored her could she be reclaimed, and be his Juliet. Juliet, you might have been happy with him, when I am gone. And I have killed him-I have torn from you the man who might have consoled you--your only defender is dead, and you remain the prey of a bandit."


Very fine,' ," said the Marquis. "I wish we had a shorthand writer to take down all your fine speeches. As it is, good night, I am sleepy. Go to your wife; but mind, there's a spot of blood upon your wristband!"

The Marquis left the room; Leoni remained motionless for a second, and when he moved I fled to my couch. He approached, drew back the curtains and looked at me. He was surprised to find my eyes open and fixed upon him. He shrunk from the contemplation of my livid face and fixed eye, He turned away with a look of terror, and in a feeble voice I called after him-" Assassin! assassin! assassin !"

« 上一页继续 »