It was a scene to bewilder the brain and dazzle the eyes, and I was just turning away from it out of sheer fatigue, when a sudden cessation of movement in the swaying, whirling crowd, and a slight hush, caused me to look out once more. I perceived the cause of the momentary stillness—a funeral cortege appeared, moving at a slow and solemn pace; as it passed across the square, heads were uncovered, and women crossed themselves devoutly. Like a black shadowy snake it coiled through the mass of shifting color and brilliance—another moment, and it was gone. The depressing effect of its appearance was soon effaced—the merry crowds resumed their thousand and one freaks of folly, their shrieking, laughing and dancing, and all was as before. Why not?
The dead are soon forgotten; none knew that better than I! Leaning my arms lazily on the edge of the balcony, I finished smoking my cigar. That glimpse of death in the midst of life had filled me with a certain satisfaction. Strangely enough, my thoughts began to busy themselves with the old modes of torture that used to be legal, and that, after all, were not so unjust when practiced upon persons professedly vile. For instance, the iron coffin of Lissa—that ingeniously contrived box in which the criminal was bound fast hand and foot, and then was forced to watch the huge lid descending slowly, slowly, slowly, half an inch at a time, till at last its ponderous weight crushed into a flat and mangled mass the writhing wretch within, who had for long agonized hours watched death steadily approaching. Suppose that I had such a coffin now! I stopped my train of reflection with a slight shudder. No, no; she whom I sought to punish was so lovely, such a softly colored, witching, gracious body, though tenanted by a wicked soul—she should keep her beauty! I would not destroy that—I would be satisfied with my plan as already devised.
I threw away the end of my smoked-out cigar and entered my own rooms. Calling Vincenzo, who was now resigned and even eager to go to Avellino, I gave him his final instructions, and placed in his charge the iron cash-box, which, unknown to him, contained 12,000 francs in notes and gold. This was the last good action I could do: it was a sufficient sum to set him up as a well-to-do farmer and fruit-grower in Avellino with Lilla and her little dowry combined. He also carried a sealed letter to Signora Monti, which I told him she was not to open till a week had elapsed; this letter explained the contents of the box and my wishes concerning it; it also asked the good woman to send to the Villa Romani for Assunta and her helpless charge, poor old paralyzed Giacomo, and to tend the latter as well as she could till his death, which I knew could not be far off.
I had thought of everything as far as possible, and I could already foresee what a happy, peaceful home there would be in the little mountain town guarded by the Monte Vergine. Lilla and Vincenzo would wed, I knew; Signora Monti and Assunta would console each other with their past memories and in the tending of Lilla’s children; for some little time, perhaps, they would talk of me and wonder sorrowfully where I had gone; then gradually they would forget me, even as I desired to be forgotten.