“‘I must see the contessa,’ said the young signor, Giacomo blinked like an owl, and coughed as though the devil scratched in his throat.
“‘The contessa!’ he said. ‘She is gone!’
“The signor then threw himself upon Giacomo and shook him to and fro as though he were a bag of loose wheat.
“‘Gone!’ and he screamed like a madman! ’Where? Tell me where, dolt! idiot! driveler! before I twist your neck for you!’
“Truly, eccellenza, I would have gone to the rescue of the poor Giacomo, but respect for your commands kept me silent. ’A thousand pardons, signor!’ he whispered, out of breath with his shaking.’ I will tell you instantly—most instantly. She is at the Convento dell’ Annunziata—ten miles from here—the saints know I speak the truth—she left two days since.’
“The Signor Ferrari then flung away the unfortunate Giacomo with so much force that he fell in a heap on the pavement and broke his lantern to pieces. The old man set up a most pitiful groaning, but the signor cared nothing for that. He was mad, I think. ’Get to bed!’ he cried, ’and sleep—sleep till you die! Tell your mistress when you see her that I came to kill her! My curse upon this house and all who dwell in it!’ And with that he ran so quickly through the garden into the high-road that I had some trouble to follow him. There after walking unsteadily for a few paces, he suddenly fell down, senseless.”
Vincenzo paused. “Well,” I said, “what happened next?”
“Eccellenza, I could not leave him there without aid. I drew my cloak well up to my mouth and pulled my hat down over my eyes so that he could not recognize me. Then I took water from the fountain close by and dashed it on his face. He soon came to himself, and, taking me for a stranger, thanked me for my assistance, saying that he had a sudden shock. He then drank greedily from the fountain and went on his way.”
“Yes, eccellenza—at a little distance. He next visited a common tavern in one of the back streets of the city and came out with two men. They were well dressed—they had the air of gentlemen spoiled by bad fortune. The signor talked with them for some time—he seemed much excited. I could not hear what they said except at the end, when these two strangers consented to appear as seconds for Signor Ferrari, and they at once left him, to come straight to this hotel. And they are arrived, for I saw them through a half-opened door as I came in, talking with the Marquis D’Avencourt.”
“Well!” I said, “and what of Signor Ferrari when he was left alone by his two friends?”
“There is not much more to tell, eccellenza. He went up the little hill to his own studio, and I noticed that he walked like a very old man with his head bent. Once he stopped and shook his fist in the air as though threatening some one. He let himself in at his door with a private key—and I saw him no more. I felt that he would not come out again for some time. And as I moved away to return here, I heard a sound as of terrible weeping.”