He knew the difference between her and Veronica, and he straightened himself, till he looked rigid, and an unnatural smile just wreathed his lips, half hidden in his silky beard. He told himself that he had fallen the last fall, to the very depths; yet he knew that there was a depth below them, and he tried to turn his face from her, seeking refuge in the thought of what he had done, from the evil he still might do.
“I have been thinking over all I said to you yesterday afternoon,” she said gently. “I meant it, you know—I meant it all.”
“I trust to Heaven you did!” answered Bosio.
“Yes, dear, I meant it,” she said in a voice of gold and velvet. “I will try to mean it still. But—Bosio—look at me!”
He turned his eyes, but not his face.
“Yes?” His voice was not above his breath.
“Yes—but can you? Can I? Can we live without each other?”
“Yes, we must.” He spoke louder, with an effort.
She drew nearer to him, strong and soft.
“Yes? Well—but say goodbye—not as yesterday—not as though it were good bye—one kiss, Bosio, only one kiss—one, dear—one—”
And in it, her voice was silent, for it had done its tempting, and she had her will, on the selfsame spot where he had kissed Veronica. Then he trembled from head to foot, and his heart stood still. An instant later he was gone, and she had not tried to keep him. She watched him as he left her and went to the door without turning.
He walked quickly when he had shut the door behind him, and his face was livid. The depth below the depths had been too deep. He had but one thought as he went through the rooms, and the antechamber, and hall, and out upon the cold staircase, and up to his own door, and on, and in, till he turned the key of his own room behind him. There was no stopping then, either, between the door and the table, between key and lock, and hand and weapon.
Before the woman’s kiss had been upon his lips two minutes, Bosio Macomer lay dead, alone, under the green-shaded lamp in his own remote room.
Peace upon him, if there be peace for such men, in the mercy of Almighty God. He did evil all his life, but there was an evil which even he would not do upon the innocent life of another. He died lest he should do it, and desperately grasping at the universal strength of death, he cast himself and his weakness into the impregnable stronghold of the grave.
It was still early in the morning, and all Naples knew that Count Bosio Macomer had committed suicide on the preceding evening. Every morning newspaper had a paragraph about the shocking tragedy, but few ventured to guess at any reason for the deed. It was merely stated that Count Bosio’s servant had been alarmed by the report of a pistol about nine o’clock in the evening, and on finding the door of his master’s room locked had broken in, suspecting some terrible accident. He had found the count stretched upon the floor, in evening dress, with his own revolver lying beside him.