He passed slowly into the chamber where Fillide yet sat, with gloomy thought on her brow and tears standing in her dark eyes. She looked up eagerly as the door opened, and turned from the rugged face of Nicot with an impatient movement of disappointment.
“Glyndon,” said the painter, drawing a chair to Fillide’s, “has left me to enliven your solitude, fair Italian. He is not jealous of the ugly Nicot!—ha, ha!—yet Nicot loved thee well once, when his fortunes were more fair. But enough of such past follies.”
“Your friend, then, has left the house. Whither? Ah, you look away; you falter,—you cannot meet my eyes! Speak! I implore, I command thee, speak!”
“Enfant! And what dost thou fear?”
“Fear!—yes, alas, I fear!” said the Italian; and her whole frame seemed to shrink into itself as she fell once more back into her seat.
Then, after a pause, she tossed the long hair from her eyes, and, starting up abruptly, paced the room with disordered strides. At length she stopped opposite to Nicot, laid her hand on his arm, drew him towards an escritoire, which she unlocked, and, opening a well, pointed to the gold that lay within, and said, “Thou art poor,—thou lovest money; take what thou wilt, but undeceive me. Who is this woman whom thy friend visits,—and does he love her?”
Nicot’s eyes sparkled, and his hands opened and clenched, and clenched and opened, as he gazed upon the coins. But reluctantly resisting the impulse, he said, with an affected bitterness, “Thinkest thou to bribe me?—if so, it cannot be with gold. But what if he does love a rival; what if he betrays thee; what if, wearied by thy jealousies, he designs in his flight to leave thee behind,—would such knowledge make thee happier?”
“Yes!” exclaimed the Italian, fiercely; “yes, for it would be happiness to hate and to be avenged! Oh, thou knowest not how sweet is hatred to those who have really loved!”
“But wilt thou swear, if I reveal to thee the secret, that thou wilt not betray me,—that thou wilt not fall, as women do, into weak tears and fond reproaches, when thy betrayer returns?”
“Tears, reproaches! Revenge hides itself in smiles!”
“Thou art a brave creature!” said Nicot, almost admiringly. “One condition more: thy lover designs to fly with his new love, to leave thee to thy fate; if I prove this to thee, and if I give thee revenge against thy rival, wilt thou fly with me? I love thee!—I will wed thee!”
Fillide’s eyes flashed fire; she looked at him with unutterable disdain, and was silent.
Nicot felt he had gone too far; and with that knowledge of the evil part of our nature which his own heart and association with crime had taught him, he resolved to trust the rest to the passions of the Italian, when raised to the height to which he was prepared to lead them.
“Pardon me,” he said; “my love made me too presumptuous; and yet it is only that love,—my sympathy for thee, beautiful and betrayed, that can induce me to wrong, with my revelations, one whom I have regarded as a brother. I can depend upon thine oath to conceal all from Glyndon?”