‘That’s a pretty bit of steel,’ said the innkeeper, but could not get a word out of him. It was plain to Angelo that this fellow had suspicions. Angelo had been careful to tie up his clothes in a bundle; there was nothing for the innkeeper to see, save a young man in bed, who had a terrible weapon near his hand, and a look in his eyes of wary indolence that counselled prudent dealings. He went out, and returned a second and a third time, talking more and more confusedly and fretfully; but as he was again going to leave, ‘No, no,’ said Angelo, determined to give him a lesson, ’I have taken a liking to your company. Here, come here; I will show you a trick. I learnt it from the Servians when I was three feet high. Look; I lie quite still, you observe. Try to get on the other side of that door and the point of this blade shall scratch you through it.’
Angelo laid the blue stilet up his wrist, and slightly curled his arm. ‘Try,’ he repeated, but the innkeeper had stopped short in his movement to the door. ‘Well, then, stay where you are,’ said Angelo, ’and look; I’ll be as good as my word. There’s the point I shall strike.’ With that he gave the peculiar Servian jerk of the muscles, from the wrist up to the arm, and the blade quivered on the mark. The innkeeper fell back in admiring horror. ‘Now fetch it to me,’ said Angelo, putting both hands carelessly under his head. The innkeeper tugged at the blade. ‘Illustrious signore, I am afraid of breaking it,’ he almost whimpered; ‘it seems alive, does it not?’
‘Like a hawk on a small bird,’ said Angelo; ’that’s the beauty of those blades. They kill, and put you to as little pain as a shot; and it ’s better than a shot in your breast—there’s something to show for it. Send up your wife or your daughter to take orders about my breakfast. It ’s the breakfast of five mountaineers; and don’t “Illustrious signore” me, sir, either in my hearing or out of it. Leave the knife sticking.’
The innkeeper sidled out with a dumb salute. ’I can count on his discretion for a couple of hours,’ Angelo said to himself. He knew the effect of an exhibition of physical dexterity and strength upon a coward. The landlord’s daughter came and received his orders for breakfast. Angelo inquired whether they had been visited by Germans of late. The girl told him that a German chasseur with a couple of soldiers had called them up last night.
‘Wouldn’t it have been a pity if they had dragged me out and shot me?’ said Angelo.
‘But they were after a lady,’ she explained; ’they have gone on to Bormio, and expect to catch her there or in the mountains.’
‘Better there than in the mountains, my dear; don’t you think so?’
The girl said that she would not like to meet those fellows among the mountains.
’Suppose you were among the mountains, and those fellows came up with you; wouldn’t you clap your hands to see me jumping down right in front of you all?’ said Angelo.