He shook hands cordially—I responded to his farewell salutations with the brief coldness which was now my habitual manner, and we parted. From the window of my saloon I could see him sauntering easily down the hotel steps and from thence along the street. How I cursed him as he stepped jauntily on—how I hated his debonair grace and easy manner! I watched the even poise of his handsome head and shoulders, I noted the assured tread, the air of conscious vanity— the whole demeanor of the man bespoke his perfect self-satisfaction and his absolute confidence in the brightness of the future that awaited him when that stipulated six months of pretended mourning for my untimely death should have expired. Once, as he walked on his way, he turned and paused—looking back—he raised his hat to enjoy the coolness of the breeze on his forehead and hair. The light of the moon fell full on his features and showed them in profile, like a finely-cut cameo against the dense dark-blue background of the evening sky. I gazed at him with a sort of grim fascination—the fascination of a hunter for the stag when it stands at bay, just before he draws his knife across its throat. He was in my power—he had deliberately thrown himself in the trap I had set for him. He lay at the mercy of one in whom there was no mercy. He had said and done nothing to deter me from my settled plans. Had he shown the least tenderness of recollection for me as Fabio Romani, his friend and benefactor—had he hallowed my memory by one generous word—had he expressed one regret for my loss—I might have hesitated, I might have somewhat changed my course of action so that punishment should have fallen more lightly on him than on her. For I knew well enough that she, my wife, was the worst sinner of the two. Had she chosen to respect herself, not all the forbidden love in the world could have touched her honor. Therefore, the least sign of compunction or affection from Ferrari for me, his supposed dead friend, would have turned the scale in his favor, and in spite of his treachery, remembering how she must have encouraged him, I would at least have spared him torture. But no sign had been given, no word had been spoken, there was no need for hesitation or pity, and I was glad of it! All this I thought as I watched him standing bareheaded in the moonlight, on his way to—whom? To my wife, of course. I knew that well enough. He was going to console her widow’s tears—to soothe her aching heart—a good Samaritan in very earnest! He moved, he passed slowly out of my sight. I waited till I had seen the last glimpse of his retreating figure, and then I left the window satisfied with my day’s work. Vengeance had begun.
Quite early in the next day Ferrari called to see me. I was at breakfast—he apologized for disturbing me at the meal.
“But,” he explained, frankly, “the Countess Romani laid such urgent commands upon me that I was compelled to obey. We men are the slaves of women!”