* * * * *
“But Muzio cannot have returned from the town, surely,” flashed through Fabio’s head, and he darted into the pavilion....
What did he behold?
Coming to meet him, along the path brilliantly flooded with the radiance of the moonlight, also with arms outstretched and lifeless eyes staring widely—was Muzio.... Fabio ran up to him, but the other, without noticing him, walked on, advancing with measured steps, and his impassive face was smiling in the moonlight like the face of the Malay. Fabio tried to call him by name ... but at that moment he heard a window bang in the house behind him.... He glanced round....
In fact, the window of the bedroom was open from top to bottom, and with one foot thrust across the sill stood Valeria in the window ... and her arms seemed to be seeking Muzio, her whole being was drawn toward him.
Unspeakable wrath flooded Fabio’s breast in a suddenly-invading torrent.—“Accursed sorcerer!” he yelled fiercely, and seizing Muzio by the throat with one hand, he fumbled with the other for the dagger in his belt, and buried its blade to the hilt in his side.
Muzio uttered a piercing shriek, and pressing the palm of his hand to the wound, fled, stumbling, back to the pavilion.... But at that same instant, when Fabio stabbed him, Valeria uttered an equally piercing shriek and fell to the ground like one mowed down.
Fabio rushed to her, raised her up, carried her to the bed, spoke to her....
For a long time she lay motionless; but at last she opened her eyes, heaved a deep sigh, convulsively and joyously, like a person who has just been saved from inevitable death,—caught sight of her husband, and encircling his neck with her arms, pressed herself to his breast.
“Thou, thou, it is thou,” she stammered. Gradually the clasp of her arms relaxed, her head sank backward, and whispering, with a blissful smile:—“Thank God, all is over.... But how weary I am!”—she fell into a profound but not heavy slumber.
Fabio sank down beside her bed, and never taking his eyes from her pale, emaciated, but already tranquil face, he began to reflect upon what had taken place ... and also upon how he ought to proceed now. What was he to do? If he had slain Muzio—and when he recalled how deeply the blade of his dagger had penetrated he could not doubt that he had done so—then it was impossible to conceal the fact. He must bring it to the knowledge of the Duke, of the judges ... but how was he to explain, how was he to narrate such an incomprehensible affair? He, Fabio, had slain in his own house his relative, his best friend! People would ask, “What for? For what cause?...” But what if Muzio were not slain?—Fabio had not the strength to remain any longer in uncertainty, and having made sure that Valeria was asleep, he cautiously rose from his arm-chair, left the house, and directed his steps toward the pavilion. All was silent in it; only in one window was a light visible. With sinking heart he opened the outer door—(a trace of bloody fingers still clung to it, and on the sand of the path drops of blood made black patches)— raversed the first dark chamber ... and halted on the threshold, petrified with astonishment.