Count Karl Lenkenstein—the story of the Guidascarpi—the victory of the volunteers
The smoke of a pistol-shot thinned away while there was yet silence.
“It is a saving of six charges of Austrian ammunition,” said Pericles.
Vittoria stared at the scene, losing faith in her eyesight. She could in fact see no distinct thing beyond what appeared as an illuminated copper medallion, held at a great distance from her, with a dead man and a towering female figure stamped on it.
The events following were like a rush of water on her senses. There was fighting up the street of the village, and a struggle in the space where Rinaldo had fallen; successive yellowish shots under the rising moonlight, cries from Italian lips, quick words of command from German in Italian, and one sturdy bull’s roar of a voice that called across the tumult to the Austro-Italian soldiery, “Venite fratelli!—come, brothers, come under our banner!” She heard “Rinaldo!” called.
This was a second attack of the volunteers for the rescue of their captured comrades. They fought more desperately than on the hill outside the village: they fought with steel. Shot enfiladed them; yet they bore forward in a scattered body up to that spot where Rinaldo lay, shouting for him. There they turned,—they fled.
Then there was a perfect stillness, succeeding the strife as quickly, Vittoria thought, as a breath yielded succeeds a breath taken.
She accused the heavens of injustice.
Pericles, prostrate on the floor, moaned that he was wounded. She said, “Bleed to death!”
“It is my soul, it is my soul is wounded for you, Sandra.”
“Dreadful craven man!” she muttered.
“When my soul is shaking for your safety, Sandra Belloni!” Pericles turned his ear up. “For myself—not; it is for you, for you.”
Assured of the cessation of arms by delicious silence he jumped to his feet.
“Ah! brutes to fight. It is ‘immonde;’ it is unnatural!”
He tapped his finger on the walls for marks of shot, and discovered a shot-hole in the wood-work, that had passed an arm’s length above her head, into which he thrust his finger in an intense speculative meditation, shifting eyes from it to her, and throwing them aloft.
He was summoned to the presence of Count Karl, with whom he found Captain Weisspriess, Wilfrid, and officers of jagers and the Italian battalion. Barto Rizzo’s wife was in a corner of the room. Weisspriess met him with a very civil greeting, and introduced him to Count Karl, who begged him to thank Vittoria for the aid she had afforded to General Schoneck’s emissary in crossing the Piedmontese lines. He spoke in Italian. He agreed to conduct Pericles to a point on the route of his march, where Pericles and his precious prima donna—“our very good friend,” he said, jovially—could escape the risk of unpleasant mishaps, and arrive at Trent and cities of peace by easy stages. He was marching for the neighbourhood of Vicenza.