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CESARE advanced into the room silently,
with his eyes fixed on his wife. He was
very pale, and his hand plucked at his
moustache with the lithe serpentine
motion of the fingers that was so suggestive
of cruelty. Veronica, when she saw him,
started violently, and dropped Plew's hand.
The surgeon stood firm and still, and looked
at Cesare quietly, neither apprehensive nor
defiant. For some seconds no one spoke.
The room was as still as death. Cesare's
eyes quitted his wife's face, and wandered
round the boudoir, looking more than ever
like the inscrutable eyes in a picture on
which you cannot get a good light. This
glance took in every detail of the scene.
The preparations for supper, the half-emptied
flasks of wine; above all, his
wife's torn sleeve, and the wasted arm with
its livid bruises. Then he spoke.

"Mille scuse! I intrude. No wonder
you preferred to stay at home, cara gioja!
But why did you not tell me that you
expected a guest? Ha! Quite a carouse
a banquet! Per Dio! It is diverting!
Like a scene in a comedy. It is complete!
Lelio and Rosauraand the husband!"

He spoke in Italian, and with an insolent
mocking bitterness of irony which perhaps
only an Italian can attain. Veronica did
not speak. She sat still, with parted lips
and dilated eyes, and her heart beat with
such suffocating rapidity that she panted
for breath as she sat. Suddenly Barletti
turned to Plew, and addressed him in
English with a total change of tone:

"What do you here?" he asked abruptly.

"I came here, Prince Barletti,
because——" He saw in Veronica's face a
mute appeal to conceal the fact that she
had sent for him. "Because I happened
to be in town, and thought that, for old
acquaintance sake, I might venture to call on
your wife. I am sorry to perceive by your
manneran unnecessarily discourteous
manner, you will allow me to say, towards
one whom you consider your inferiorthat
my visit is distasteful to you."

"Distasteful! How can you think it?
How distasteful? Schiavo suo! I am your

"I think, Cesare, youmightbecivil
if not kindto an old friend of mine
whomIsovalue," gasped Veronica,
with her hand pressed to her side, to
restrain the painful beating of her heart.

"Angelo mio diletto! I have a great
defect. I confess it with much penance. I
am not of those husbandsthose amiable
and dear husbandswho are kind to the
old and valued friend of their wife! Che
vuoi? I am made so. Son fatto così."

"You are mad, Cesare!"

"Not at all. Ah no! I have the disgrazia
the disgraceto be in my sound
mind. I have a memoryoh so good
memory! Did I tell you of my antipathy
another defectI am full of themfor
a certain person? And did I say that I
like him not to come in my house?"

All this while Cesare was standing with
folded arms on the opposite side of the
table to his wife and Plew. The latter left
his position near Veronica, and advanced
towards Barletti, still, however, keeping
the table between them.

"I shall not trust myself to say what I
think of your conduct," said the little