“And you killed him!” I cried.
“Yes,—he thought I came to kiss him—I
with this!” and she tossed a knife on the table.
The days that followed were gray days for Luigi and me. All the light and loveliness were gone from. my canal.
They took Loretta to the prison next the Bridge of Sighs and locked her up in one of the mouldy cells below the water line—dark, dismal pockets where, in the old days, men died of terror.
Vittorio, Luigi, and I met there the next morning. I knew the chief officer, and he had promised me an interview. Vittorio was crying,—rubbing his knuckles in his eyes,—utterly broken up and exhausted. He and Luigi had spent the night together. An hour before, the two had stood at Francesco’s bedside in the hospital of San Paulo. Francesco was still alive, and with Father Garola bending over him had repeated his confession to them both. He was madly in love with her, he moaned, and had spread the report hoping that Vittorio would cast her off, and, having no other place to go, Loretta would come back to him. At this Vittorio broke into a rage and would have strangled the dying man had not the attendant interfered. All this I learned from Luigi as we waited for the official.
“This is a frightful ending to a happy life—” I began when the officer appeared. “Let them talk to each other for just a few moments. It can do no harm.”
The official shook his head. “It is against orders, Signore, I cannot. He can see her when she is brought up for examination.”
“They will both have lost their senses by that time,” I pleaded. “Can’t you think of some way? I have known her from a child. Perhaps an order from headquarters might be of some use.” We were standing, at the time, in a long corridor ending in a door protected by an iron grating. This led to the underground cells.
The chief fastened his eyes on me for an instant, turned abruptly, called to an attendant, gave an order in a low voice and, with the words to Vittorio— “You are not to speak to her, remember,” motioned the sobbing man toward the grating. Luigi and I followed.
She came slowly out of the shadows, first the drawn face peering ahead, as if wondering why she had been sent for, then the white crumpled dress, and then the dark eyes searching the gloom of the corridor. Vittorio had caught sight of her and was clinging to the grating, his body shaking, his tears blinding him.
The girl gave a half-smothered cry, darted forward and covered Vittorio’s hands with her own. Some whispered word must have followed, for the old light broke over her face and she would have cried out for joy had not Luigi cautioned her. For a moment the two stood with fingers intertwined, their bowed foreheads kept apart by the cold grating. Then the boy, straining his face between the bars, as if to reach her lips, loosened one hand, took something from his pocket and slipped it over her finger.