“A good shot?” inquired the marquis, with the indifference of a practiced duelist.
“Ach! a good shot indeed!” replied the little German doctor, shaking his head as he rose from his examination of the wound. “Excellent! He will be dead in ten minutes. The bullet has passed through the lungs close to the heart. Honor is satisfied certainly!”
At that moment a deep anguished sigh parted the lips of the dying man. Sense and speculation returned to those glaring eyes so awfully upturned. He looked upon us all doubtfully one after the other—till finally his gaze rested upon me. Then he grew strangely excited—his lips moved—he eagerly tried to speak. The doctor, watchful of his movements, poured brandy between his teeth. The cordial gave him momentary strength—he raised himself by a supreme effort.
“Let me speak,” he gasped faintly, “to him!” And he pointed to me— then he continued to mutter like a man in a dream—“to him—alone— alone!—to him alone!”
The others, slightly awed by his manner, drew aside out of ear-shot, and I advanced and knelt beside him, stooping my face between his and the morning sky. His wild eyes met mine with a piteous beseeching terror.
“In God’s name,” he whispered, thickly, “Who are you?”
“You know me, Guido!” I answered, steadily. “I am Fabio Romani, whom you once called friend! I am he whose wife you stole!—whose name you slandered!—whose honor you despised! Ah! look at me well! your own heart tells you who I am!”
He uttered a low moan and raised his hand with a feeble gesture.
“Fabio? Fabio?” he gasped. “He died—I saw him in his coffin—”
I leaned more closely over him. “I was buried alive,” I said with thrilling distinctness. “Understand me, Guido—buried alive! I escaped—no matter how. I came home—to learn your treachery and my own dishonor! Shall I tell you more?”
A terrible shudder shook his frame—his head moved restlessly to and fro, the sweat stood in large drops upon his forehead. With my own handkerchief I wiped his lips and brow tenderly—my nerves were strung up to an almost brittle tension—I smiled as a woman smiles when on the verge of hysterical weeping.
“You know the avenue,” I said, “the dear old avenue, where the nightingales sing? I saw you there, Guido—with her!—on the very night of my return from death—she was in your arms—you kissed her--you spoke of me—you toyed with the necklace on her white breast!”
He writhed under my gaze with a strong convulsive movement.
“Tell me—quick!” he gasped. “Does—she—know you?”
“Not yet!” I answered, slowly. “But soon she will—when I have married her!”
A look of bitter anguish filled his straining eyes. “Oh, God, God!” he exclaimed with a groan like that of a wild beast in pain. “This is horrible, too horrible! Spare me—spare—” A rush of blood choked his utterance. His breathing grew fainter and fainter; the livid hue of approaching dissolution spread itself gradually over his countenance. Staring wildly at me, he groped with his hands as though he searched for some lost thing. I took one of those feebly wandering hands within my own, and held it closely clasped.