“No, no,” said she, courageously, “I will not flee—I shall at least know how to die!”
A shriek resounded from Carlo’s lips, his arms relaxed and fell from his enemy, leaving his brother free.
“Ah, finally, finally!” gasped the panting Joseph. “That was an amusing carnival farce, my virtuous brother! Farewell! I am this time triumphant!”
With a wild leap he sprang to the door; brandishing his bloody dagger in his right hand, he ran through the corridor, down the stairs, and out into the garden.
“Saved!” said he, breathing more freely. “I think this Russian will be satisfied with me! I bring the money and the diamonds, and at the same time have effectually opened a vein for this troublesome protector! Ah, it seems to me I have very successfully put in practice my studies in the high-school of the galleys!”
And, humming a jovial song, Joseph Ribas swung himself into a tree close to the wall, and let himself down on the other side.
Above, in Natalie’s chamber, Carlo long lay stretched on the floor, pale, with the death-rattle in his throat. In a bright stream flowed the blood from the wound made by his brother’s dagger. Natalie knelt by him. No tear was in her eye, no lamentation escaped her lips. She seemed perfectly calm and collected in her excess of sorrow; she only sought with her robe and her hair to cover Carlo’s wound and stop the flow of blood.
A happy smile played upon Carlo’s blue lips.
“I die,” he murmured, “but I die for thee! Thy vapo has kept his word, he has defended thee until his last breath! How good is God! He lets me die in thy service!”
“No, no, you must not die!” cried Natalie, her calmness giving way to the wildest sorrow. “No, Carlo, you must live! Oh, say not that you die! Ah, you love me, and yet you would leave me alone! Only live, and I also will love you, Carlo, as warmly and as glowingly as you love me! Do but remain with me, and my heart, my life shall be yours!”
“Too late! too late!” murmured Carlo, with dying lips. “Remember me, Natalie—I have dearly loved you. I die happy, for I die in your arms!”
“No, no, you shall live in my arms!” sobbed she. “I will be yours—your bride!”
“Kiss me, my bride,” he falteringly stammered.
She bent over him, and with hers she touched his lips, already stiffening in death. She laid her warm, glowing cheek to his cold and marble-pale face; that full, fresh life pressed that which was cold and expiring to her bosom in an ardent struggle with death! In vain!
Death is inexorable. What he has once touched with his hand, that is past recovery, it is his.
The blood no longer flowed from Carlo’s wound, the breath no longer rattled in his throat—it was silent; but a blessed smile still lay upon his lips. With this smile had he died, happy, blessed in the embrace of her he had so truly loved.