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indulgent to this gay young mother-in-law? Perhaps
you can not only forgive her for rendering
your present life one of shifts and poverty, and
making you a homeless vagabond, but are content
that she should play out her game successfully to
the end, be mistress of the old man's
house and property while he lives, and inherit all
when he dies? Perhaps your feeling is, that after
all it will be best to content yourself for the remainder
of your days with such alms as the
bankrupt dyer's daughter and her paramours may
throw you from time to time out of the contents
of the old man's coffers? I thought I saw something
in your eye a moment since, which looked
as if you were not exactly the man to bend your
neck to such a lot, and lick the hand which flings
you a grudged pittance out of your own goods.
But perhaps I was mistaken in my estimate."

A blacker scowl settled heavily on Bartolommeo's
repulsive features, as the duchess spoke;
but the fierce blaze of passion did not return to
them. A long pause ensued, during which he
seemed to be thinking, as far as his besotted and
shattered mind was capable of thought. At last
he answered:

"If your ladyship has no particular objection,
I think we had better understand a little what the
business in hand is, before we talk any further,
I was brought here to you. I did not seek you. You
know what you want. I don't. You know who
I am. You may be the Queen of Sheba, for all I
know of you. You want something of me. I have
still to learn what it is. You did not bring me
here, I suppose, merely to ask if I liked money
and if I liked revenge. And as to what you say
about my cursed mother-in-lawa bad death and
a short shrift to her!— inheriting all the property,
and my submitting to it; why, look you, the
case stands thus; and as there are only four eyes*
here present, there is no good reason against
stating the case plainly. If I had thought it
worth my while to cut her throat for the sake
of paying off old scores, and preventing her
standing between me and the old man's money,
why I should have done it. You, I take it,
for some reason or other, would like to have her
throat cut, unless your hate is so dainty-stomached
as to look for the treat of burning her
alive. But I am not likely to do for you what I
did not do long ago for myself. I have no taste
for feeling the bargello's fingers about my neck.
The game is too dangerous, do you see, for my

The duchess, on her side, paused awhile, considering
her reply to this address. She bit her
lip, rose from her chair, and took one or two
turns up and down the little chamber before she
decided on her course of action. Then, seating
herself again on the side of the table opposite to
him, she said:

"— There is, as you say, no reason why the
whole matter in hand should not be plainly spoken
between us. I have no wish to take an unfair
advantage of you by remaining unknown to you
while I know you. I am the Duchess of San

Bartolommeo started, and lifted his hand to his
hat, rising as he did so, and striving to remember
whether he had said anything that could be
dangerous to himsaid in such a presence. The
duchess motioned to him to reseat himself, and

"I have told you that I hate Caterina Canacci,
and you may probably be now at no loss to comprehend
why I hate her. But you have mistaken
me in supposing that my anger against her would
lead me to take, or to wish taken, any such measures
as you have alluded to. They are too
dangerous, as you well remark, even if one wished
to be guilty of murder. No. My project of
revenge limits itself simply to the infliction of
shame, and exposure, and the consequent cessation
ofrelations, whichareloathsome to
me." A choking sensation in her throat made
the utterance of the last words difficult to the
Lady Veronica. "I purpose," she went on,
"introducing a number of persons into the house,
good friends of mine, at an hour when she
shall be caught in the midst of her infamous
revels; when your father will be, shall be, made
aware of his own dishonour, and of the character
of his wife, and her public shame and disgrace
shall become the byword of the town."

"Is that all, my lady? To my mind it seems
a rather tasteless dish of vengeance for a hungry
stomach. But then I am but a plain man. What
is it that your honourable ladyship wants of me
in the matter? Now your ladyship has condescended
to tell me your ladyship's name, you
know, of course, that I am at your service."

"What I want of you, Signor Canacci, is simply
this: It would be difficult for the friends I
spoke of, to obtain entrance at the right moment
without making much more disturbance than is
desirable. The door would undoubtedly be shut
and barred against them. I look to you to have
it opened. My friends shall keep out of sight
under the shelter of the wall, while you alone
ask admittance; and when the door is opened
they will enter with you."

In all that, your ladyship, I see no difficulty
at all. It will, at all events, make la Caterina
pass a bad half-hour enough. Egad! I should
like the fun. But your honourable ladyship will
no doubt understand that, though there be in
such a matter no such consequences to be feared
as if the question were of throats to be cut, still
it is likely enough that my connivance may be
called in question, to my loss, and it was probably
in view of such a risk that your ladyship was so
considerate as to speak, by the mouth of the
worthy gentleman who brought me hither, of
moneys to be had in recompense for my attendance

"Those who serve me are not wont to remain
unpaid, or to grumble at the rate of their payment."

" A quattr' occhi " is a favourite Tuscan expression
for a tête-à-tête.