“And to receive my wage, Excellency. But I did not know what work it was—Holy God, I would not have come for—”
Fra Giovanni cut him short with a gesture of impatience.
“Tell me,” he exclaimed, “the Count of Pisa, is he not the woman’s lover?”
“They say so, signore.”
“And he is at her house to-night?”
The man shook his head.
“Before Heaven, I do not know, Excellency. An hour ago, he sat at a cafe in the great square.”
“And the woman—was she alone when you left her?”
“There were three with her to sup.”
The priest nodded his head.
“It is good!” he said; “we shall even presume to sup with her.”
“To sup with her—but they will kill you, Excellency!”
“Ho, ho! see how this assassin is concerned for my life.
“Certainly I am. Have you not given me mine twice? I implore you not to go to the house—”
He would have said more, but the splash of an oar in the narrow canal by which they walked cut short his entreaties. A gondola was approaching them; the cry of the gondolier, awakening echoes beneath the eaves of the old houses, gave to Fra Giovanni that inspiration he had been seeking now for some minutes.
“Rocca Zicani,” he exclaimed, standing suddenly as the warning cry, “Stale,” became more distinct, “I am going to put your professions to the proof.”
“Excellency, I will do anything—”
“Then, if you would wake to-morrow with a head upon your shoulders, enter that gondola, and go back to those who sent you. Demand your wage of them—”
“Demand your wage of them,” persisted the priest, sternly, “and say that the man who was their enemy lies dead before the church of San Salvatore. You understand me?”
A curious look came into the bravo’s eyes.
“Saint John!” he cried, “that I should have followed such a one as you, Excellency!”
But the priest continued warningly:
“As you obey, so hope for the mercy of Venice. You deal with those who know how to reward their friends and to punish their enemies. Betray us, and I swear that no death in all Italy shall be such a death as you will die at dawn to-morrow.”
He raised his voice, and summoned the gondolier to the steps of the quay. The bravo threw himself down upon the velvet cushions with the threat still ringing in his ears.
“Excellency,” he said, “I understand. They shall hear that you are dead.”
Fra Giovanni stepped from his gondola, and stood at the door of the Palazzo Pisani exactly at a quarter to ten o’clock. Thirty minutes had passed since he had talked with the bravo, Rocca, and had put him to the proof. The time was enough, he said; the tale would have been told, the glad news of his own death already enjoyed by those who would have killed him.