She let them lie where they fell; she still crouched at my feet, and her restless movements loosened her cloak so far that it hung back from her shoulders, showing the jewels that flashed on her white neck and arms like points of living light. I touched the circlet of diamonds in her hair—I snatched it from her.
“These are mine!” I cried, “as much as this signet I wear, which was your love-gift to Guido Ferrari, and which you afterward returned to me, its rightful owner. These are my mother’s gems—how dared you wear them? The stones I gave you are your only fitting ornaments— they are stolen goods, filched by the blood-stained hands of the blackest brigand in Sicily! I promised you more like them; behold them!”—and I threw open the coffin-shaped chest containing the remainder of Carmelo Neri’s spoils. It occupied a conspicuous position near where I stood, and I had myself arranged its interior so that the gold ornaments and precious stones should be the first things to meet her eyes. “You see now,” I went on, “where the wealth of the supposed Count Oliva came from. I found this treasure hidden here on the night of my burial—little did I think then what dire need I should have for its usage! It has served me well; it is not yet exhausted; the remainder is at your service!”
At these words she rose from her knees and stood upright. Making an effort to fasten her cloak with her trembling hands, she moved hesitatingly toward the brigand’s coffin and leaned over it, looking in with a faint light of hope as well as curiosity in her haggard face. I watched her in vague wonderment—she had grown old so suddenly. The peach-like bloom and delicacy of her flesh had altogether disappeared—her skin appeared drawn and dry as though parched in tropical heat. Her hair was disordered, and fell about her in clustering showers of gold—that, and her eyes, were the only signs of youth about her. A sudden wave of compassion swept over my soul.
“Oh wife!” I exclaimed—“wife that I so ardently loved—wife that I would have died for indeed, had you bade me!—why did you betray me? I thought you truth itself—ay! and if you had but waited for one day after you thought me dead, and then chosen Guido for your lover, I tell you, so large was my tenderness, I would have pardoned you! Though risen from the grave, I would have gone away and made no sign—yes if you had waited—if you had wept for me ever so little! But when your own lips confessed your crime—when I knew that within three months of our marriage-day you had fooled me—when I learned that my love, my name, my position, my honor, were used as mere screens to shelter your intrigue with the man I called friend!—God! what creature of mortal flesh and blood could forgive such treachery? I am no more than others—but I loved you—and in proportion to my love, so is the greatness of my wrongs!”