Violetta was frightened by his eyes when she tried to persuade him in her best coaxing manner to avoid Count Ammiani. In fact she apprehended that he would be very much in her way. She had no time for chagrin at her loss of power over him, though she was sensible of vexation. Barto folded his arms and sat with his head in his chest, silent, till they reached the’ gates, when he said in French, “Madame, I am a nameless person in your train. Gabble!” he added, when the countess advised him not to enter; nor would he allow her to precede him by more than one step. Violetta sent up her name. The man had shaken her nerves. “At least, remember that your appearance should be decent,” she said, catching sight of blood on his hands, and torn garments. “I expect, madame,” he replied, “I shall not have time to wash before I am laid out. My time is short. I want tobacco. The washing can be done by-and-by, but not the smoking.”
They were ushered up to the reception-room, where Countess Ammiani, Vittoria, and Carlo sat, awaiting the visitor whose unexpected name, cast in their midst at so troubled a season, had clothed her with some of the midnight’s terrors.
THE LAST MEETING IN MILAN
Barto Rizzo had silence about him without having to ask for it, when he followed Violetta into Countess Ammiani’s saloon of reception. Carlo was leaning over his mother’s chair, holding Vittoria’s wrist across it, and so enclosing her, while both young faces were raised to the bowed forehead of the countess. They stood up. Violetta broke through the formal superlatives of an Italian greeting. “Speak to me alone,” she murmured for Carlo’s ear and glancing at Barto: “Here is a madman; a mild one, I trust.” She contrived to show that she was not responsible for his intrusion. Countess Ammiani gathered Vittoria in her arms; Carlo stepped a pace before them. Terror was on the venerable lady’s face, wrath on her son’s. As he fronted Barto, he motioned a finger to the curtain hangings, and Violetta, quick at reading signs, found his bare sword there. “But you will not want it,” she remarked, handing the hilt to him, and softly eyeing the impression of her warm touch on the steel as it passed.
“Carlo, thou son of Paolo! Countess Marcellina, wife of a true patriot! stand aside, both of you. It is between the Countess Alessandra and myself,” so the man commenced, with his usual pomp of interjection. “Swords and big eyes,—are they things to stop me?” Barto laughed scornfully. He had spoken in the full roll of his voice, and the sword was hard back for the thrust.
Vittoria disengaged herself from the countess. “Speak to me,” she said, dismayed by the look of what seemed an exaltation of madness in Barto’s visage, but firm as far as the trembling of her limbs would let her be.
He dropped to her feet and kissed them.