When he awoke he felt a pair of cold hands fumbling with his shirt-collar; trees were all about him and the blue moonlit sky above him. He arose, not without difficulty, and recognized Annunciata’s face close to his; she looked frightened and strove to avoid his glance.
“The Holy Virgin be praised, Signore Giovanni!” she whispered. “But Signore Enrico, he seems to be badly hurt.”
He suddenly remembered what had happened; but he could bring forth no sound; he had a choking sensation in his throat and his lips seemed numb and lifeless. He saw Annunciata stooping down over a form that lay outstretched on the ground, but the sight of her was repulsive to him and he turned away.
“Help me, Signore Giovanni,” she begged in a hoarse whisper. “He may be dead and there is no one to help him.”
Half mechanically he stooped down—gracious heavens! It was Vincent! In an instant all his anger and misery were forgotten.
“Hurry, Annunciata,” he cried; “run for a doctor. Great God! what have you done?”
Six weeks later two young Americans were sitting on the deck of the Cunarder Siberia, which had that morning left the Queenstown harbor.
“Jack,” said the one, laying his hand on the other’s shoulder in a way that expressed an untold amount of friendliness, “I don’t think it is good policy to keep silence any longer. I know I have committed my monumental piece of folly, as you prophesied, but I need hardly tell you, Jack, that I didn’t know at the time what—what I know now,” he finished, hurriedly.
“I never doubted that, Harry,” answered the other with a certain solemn impressiveness. “But don’t let us talk. I have not reached the stage yet when I can mention her name without a pang; and I fear—I fear I never shall.”
They sat for a long while smoking in silence and gazing pensively toward the dim coast-line of Europe, which was gradually fading away upon the eastern horizon.
“Jack,” began Vincent abruptly, “I feel as if I had passed through a severe illness.”
“So you have, Harry,” retorted Cranbrook.
“Oh, pshaw! I don’t mean that. That little physical suffering was nothing more than I deserved. But a fever, they say, sometimes purifies the blood, and mine, I think, has left me a cleaner and a wiser fellow than it found me.”
The steamer kept ploughing its broad pathway of foam through the billows; a huge cloud of fantastic shape loomed up in the east, and the vanishing land blended with and melted away among its fleecy embankments.
“Are you perfectly sure, Jack,” said Vincent, throwing the burning stump of his cigar over the gunwale, “that the experiences of the past year have not been all an excursion into the ‘Arabian Nights’? If it were not for that fine marble relief in my trunk which I bought of that miserable buffoon in the Via Sistina, I should easily persuade myself that the actual world were bounded on the east by the Atlantic and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. I was just considering whether I should try to smuggle it through the custom-house, or whether, perhaps, it would be wiser to give Uncle Sam his due.”