“Set the woman face to face with me!” cried Merthyr, sighting a gleam of hope.
Carlo smiled. “Can she bear my burden though she be ten times guilty? Let her sleep. I have her here harmless for the night. The Brescians are up:—that’s an hour that has struck, and there’s no calling it to move a step in the rear. Brescia under the big Eastern hill which throws a cloak on it at sunrise! Brescia is always the eagle that looks over Lombardy! And Bergamo! you know the terraces of Bergamo. Aren’t they like a morning sky? Dying there is not death; it’s flying into the dawn. You Romans envy us. Come, confess it; you envy us. You have no Alps, no crimson hills, nothing but old walls to look on while you fight. Farewell, Merthyr Powys. I hear my servant’s foot outside. My horse is awaiting me saddled, a mile from the city. Perhaps I shall see my wife again at the door below, or in heaven. Addio! Kiss Luciano for me. Tell him that I knew myself as well as he did, before the end came. Enrico, Emilio, and the others—tell them I love them. I doubt if there will ever be but a ghost of me to fight beside them in Rome. And there’s no honour, Merthyr, in a ghost’s fighting, because he’s shotproof; so I won’t say what the valiant disembodied ‘I’ may do by-and-by.”
He held his hands out, with the light soft smile of one who asks forgiveness for flippant speech, and concluded firmly: “I have talked enough, and you are the man of sense I thought you; for to give me advice is childish when no power on earth could make me follow it. Addio! Kiss me.”
They embraced. Merthyr said no more than that he would place messengers on the road to Brescia to carry news of the king’s army. His voice was thick, and when Carlo laughed at him, his sensations strangely reversed their situations.
There were two cloaked figures at different points in the descent of the stairs. These rose severally at Carlo’s approach, took him to their bosoms, and kissed him in silence. They were his mother and Laura. A third crouched by the door of the courtyard, which was his wife.
Merthyr kept aloof until the heavy door rolled a long dull sound. Vittoria’s head was shawled over. She stood where her husband had left her, groping for him with one hand, that closed tremblingly hard on Merthyr when he touched it. Not a word was uttered in the house.
SHOWS MANY PATHS CONVERGING TO THE END
Until daylight Merthyr sat by himself, trying to realize the progressive steps of the destiny which seemed like a visible hand upon Count Ammiani, that he might know it to be nothing else than Carlo’s work. He sat in darkness in the room where Carlo had spoken, thinking of him as living and dead. The brilliant life in Carlo protested against a possible fatal tendency in his acts so irrevocable as to plunge him to destruction when his head was clear, his blood cool, and a choice