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The eye and entire attention of poor Caterina
were directed to Pippo, who stood in front of
her, and who alone had spoken during the
terrible scene, with the exception of that one
outburst of clannish defiance from one of the
assassins, when the victim had threatened him with
Salviati's vengeance. If in the mortal agony of
her terror Caterina could be said to think at all,
she thought that it was from Pippo that her
death-blow would come. But she probably did
not yet realise the fact that the last seconds of
her life were quickly ebbing. Her vague
impression probably was, that at the end of the
minutes of whose lapse she had been so
repeatedly warned, she should be definitively
condemned; that her fate would then become certain.
She strove, however, to fashion at least her
lips to prayer. What she would fain have
prayed for was what in very truth and reality
she earnestly desired, the present and immediate
saving of her life. And it was to Pippo accordingly
that her real prayer was addressed, as she
knelt before him with her clasped hands
upraised. But her lips recurred mechanically to
the familiar formula, as to a conjuring spell
connected in her poor dark mind with the idea of
prayer. "Ave Maria, gratiรข plena! Dominus
tecum!" she said; and as the last syllable
escaped her lips, at a movement of Pippo's
finger the dagger from behind was struck home
unerringly. The hand which held it, did its
work well and skilfully. The steel entered the
upstretched throat immediately above the
collarbone, and went straight to the heart.

It was not only because the granted time was
up that Pippo gave the fatal sign at the moment
he did. He belonged to a class of men, among
whom religious faith, such as Rome inculcates,
is apt to linger long after it has left other
portions of the community. And it really was
satisfactory to his conscience to think that he had so
managed that his victim had the advantage of
dying with holy words upon her lips.

"The stroke was well and workmanly struck,
Nanni," he said; "there was no need of a second.
Poveretta! how pretty she looked! Per Bacco!
I don't marvel at the duke's taste! But the worst
has to be done yet; and there is no time to be
lost. Nanni and Carlo, see you to the body of
the girl who was struck down in the entry, while
Moro and I finish the job here."

The two men first addressed went out, and
taking up the body of poor Nina, wrapped it in a
cloak, and then cautiously opened the house
door, and listened to hear if there was any
movement in the street. All was perfectly still and
dark, as if not a human being was alive in the
city. And the two men, having assured
themselves that all was still, took up the body, and
bearing it between them a few paces down the
street towards the church of Sant' Ambrogio,
threw it into a well which still exists at that
spot.

Then returning to the house, they continued
to watch at the door, while the man whom Pippo
had addressed as Nanni called to the two who
had remained in the inner room:

"Is not your business done yet? It is time
we were off! The street is as quiet as death.
Come!"

"Bear a hand here, Nanni," returned Pippo.
"You and Carlo carry the bodypoor little
thing! it is not heavyto the same grave as the
other. We are ready. Moro and I will close
the door; and then to saddle!"

So the body of Caterina, wrapped as the other
had been in a cloak, was carried out and thrown
into the well; and the four men hurried off to seek
their horses at the inn behind the Palazzo Vecchio.
And it was afterwards sworn by the ostler who
had had charge of the horses, in the course of
the police investigations to which these events
gave rise, that one of the men carried a sack
beneath his cloak, which he never quitted for a
moment, but mounted with it in his hand, and
placed it before him at his saddle-bow.

Once beyond the city gate, the men rode fast
up the hill to the Villa Salviati. There at a
small door in the garden-wall opening upon the
little cypress grove, stood a woman in the deep
shade, evidently anxiously waiting, despite the
sharp cold. It was the Lady Veronica herself.
The four men drew rein as they rode up to the
little postern, and Pippo dismounted. The others
took off their hats, but remained seated in their
saddles.

"Speak!" said the duchess, in a short hoarse
whisper.

"The orders of your ladyship have been
punctually executed," returned Pippo.

"It is well! Give!" and she held out both
hands towards the man.

"But, my lady!" stammered Pippo, producing
the sack from beneath his cloak, "shall I…?"

"Give! Quick!" returned the lady,
passionately. She received in both hands the sack
from the apparently unwilling hand of the trooper.

"Now, ride for your lives! Be beyond the
Tuscan limits before the dawn. Away!"

The Lady Veronica ascended with firm steps
to her chamber, greedily clutching the burden in
the sack.

Now ready, price 5s. 6d, bound in cloth,
THE SEVENTH VOLUME
OF
ALL THE YEAR ROUND.
Containing from Numbers 151 to 176.
The Six preceding Volumes are always to be had.
They include the following Novels:—
A TALE OF TWO CITIES. By CHARLES DICKENS.
THE WOMAN IN WHITE. By WILKIE COLLINS.
A DAY'S RIDE, A LIFE'S ROMANCE. By CHARLES
LEVER.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS. BY CHARLES DICKENS.
A STRANGE STORY. By SIR EDWARD BULWER LYTTON.

The Right of Translating Articles from ALL THE YEAR ROUND is reserved by the Authors.