Could Vittoria listen to such stuff? She might have kissed him to stop the flow of it, but kissings were rare between them; so rare, that when they had put mouth to mouth, a little quivering spire of flame, dim at the base, stood to mark the spot in their memories. She moved her hand, as to throw aside such talk. Unfretful in blood, chaste and keen, she at least knew the foolishness of the common form of lovers’ trifling when there is a burning love to keep under, and Carlo saw that she did, and adored her for this highest proof of the passion of her love.
“In three days you will be mine, if I do not hear from Milan? within five, if I do?” he said.
Vittoria gave him the whole beauty of her face a divine minute, and bowed it assenting. Carlo then led her to his mother, before whom he embraced her for the comfort of his mother’s heart. They decided that there should be no whisper of the marriage until the couple were one. Vittoria obtained the countess’s permission to write for Merthyr to attend her at the altar. She had seen Weisspriess fall in combat, and she had perfect faith in her lover’s right hand.
ANNA OF LENKENSTEIN
Captain Weisspriess replied to Carlo Ammiani promptly, naming Camerlata by Como, as the place where he would meet him.
He stated at the end of some temperate formal lines, that he had given Count Ammiani the preference over half-a-dozen competitors for the honour of measuring swords with him; but that his adversary must not expect him to be always ready to instruct the young gentlemen of the Lombardo-Venetian province in the arts of fence; and therefore he begged to observe, that his encounter with Count Ammiani would be the last occasion upon which he should hold himself bound to accept a challenge from Count Ammiani’s countrymen.
It was quite possible, the captain said, drawing a familiar illustration from the gaming-table, to break the stoutest Bank in the world by a perpetual multiplication of your bets, and he was modest enough to remember that he was but one man against some thousands, to contend with all of whom would be exhausting.
Consequently the captain desired Count Ammiani to proclaim to his countrymen that the series of challenges must terminate; and he requested him to advertize the same in a Milanese, a Turin, and a Neapolitan journal.
“I am not a butcher,” he concluded. “The task you inflict upon me is scarcely bearable. Call it by what name you will, it is having ten shots to one, which was generally considered an equivalent to murder. My sword is due to you, Count Ammiani; and, as I know you to be an honourable nobleman, I would rather you were fighting in Venice, though your cause is hopeless, than standing up to match yourself against me. Let me add, that I deeply respect the lady who is engaged to be united to you, and would not willingly cross steel either with her lover or her husband. I shall be at Camerlata at the time appointed. If I do not find you there, I shall understand that you have done me the honour to take my humble advice, and have gone where your courage may at least appear to have done better service. I shall sheathe my sword and say no more about it.”