“No heart, no conscience, no memory!” I cried. “Great Heaven! that such a thing should live and call itself woman! The lowest beast of the field has more compassion for its kind! Listen: before Guido died he knew me, even as my child, neglected by you, in her last agony knew her father. She being innocent, passed in peace; but he!- -imagine if you can, the wrenching torture in which he perished, knowing all! How his parted spirit must curse you!”
She raised her hands to her head and pushed away the light curls from her brow. There was a starving, hunted, almost furious look in her eyes, but she fixed them steadily on me.
“See,” I went on—“here are more proofs of the truth of my story. These things were buried with me,” and I threw into her lap as she sat before me the locket and chain, the card-case and purse she herself had given me. “You will no doubt recognize them. This—“and I showed her the monk’s crucifix—“this was laid on my breast in the coffin. It may be useful to you—you can pray to it presently!”
She interrupted me with a gesture of her hand; she spoke as though in a dream.
“You escaped from this vault?” she said, in a low tone, looking from right to left with searching eagerness. “Tell me how—and—where?”
I laughed scornfully, guessing her thoughts.
“It matters little,” I replied. “The passage I discovered is now closed and fast cemented. I have seen to that myself! No other living creature left here can escape as I did. Escape is impossible.”
A stifled cry broke from her; she threw herself at my feet, letting the things I had given her as proofs of my existence fall heedlessly on the floor.
“Fabio! Fabio!” she cried, “save me, pity me! Take me out to the light—the air—let me live! Drag me through Naples—let all the crowd see me dishonored, brand me with the worst of names, make of me a common outcast—only let me feel the warm life throbbing in my veins! I will do anything, say anything, be anything—only let me live! I loath the cold and darkness—the horrible—horrible ways of death!” She shuddered violently and clung to me afresh. “I am so young! and after all, am I so vile? There are women who count their lovers by the score, and yet they are not blamed; why should I suffer more than they?”
“Why, why?” I echoed, fiercely. “Because for once a husband takes the law into his own hands—for once a wronged man insists on justice—for once he dares to punish the treachery that blackens his honor! Were there more like me there would be fewer like you! A score of lovers! ’Tis not your fault that you had but one! I have something else to say which concerns you. Not content with fooling two men, you tried the same amusement on a supposed third. Ay, you wince at that! While you thought me to be the Count Oliva—while you were betrothed to me in that character, you wrote to Guido Ferrari in Rome. Very charming letters! here they are,” and I flung them down to her. “I have no further use for them—I have read them all!”