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Chapter 12


The evening after the execution, the Prince of Carini dined with the Archbishop of Montreal, while Gemma, who was not admissible into the society of the prelate, remained at the Villa Carini.

The evening was as delightful as the morning had been. From one of the windows of the room which was hung with blue satin, the room in which the first scene of our history took place, Alicudi might plainly be seen, and behind it, like a vapour floating on the sea, the isles of Filicudi and Salina. The other window overlooked a beautiful park, filled with orange trees and pomegranates; on the right, might be seen Mount Pellegrimo from its base to its very summit, and on the left the view extended as far as Montreal.

The beautiful Countess Gemma, of Castel Nuovo, had remained for some time at this window, her eyes fixed on the ancient residence of the Norman kings, and seeking in every carriage as it came towards Palermo for the equipage of the viceroy. But at length the darkness of the evening increased, and distant objects becoming indistinct, she entered her chamber and rang for her maid, and, fatigued as she had been by the emotions of the day, she retired to rest.

It was late before the prince was able to relieve himself from the kind attentions of his host, and eleven o'clock struck by the cathedral (built by William the Good) before the viceroy's carriage, drawn by four splendid horses, departed at a gallop. Half an hour was sufficient to enable him to reach Palermo, and in five minutes afterwards, he had cleared the distance between the city and his villa.

The prince hastily proceeded to Gemma's chamber, he attempted to enter the door, but it was fastened on the inside: he then went to the secret door that opened on the other side of the bed, close to the recess in which Gemma reposed. Having opened it softly, that he might not awake the charming sleeper, he stood a moment to gaze upon her in the sweet and beautiful abandonment of repose.

An elaborate lamp, suspended from the ceiling by three strings of pearls, was the only light in the room, and its light was arranged in such a manner as to prevent its dazzling the eyes of the sleeper. The prince, therefore, leaned over the bed that he might see better.

Gemma was lying with her chest almost entirely uncovered, and her boa, rolled round her neck, contrasted beautifully by its dark colour with the whiteness of her skin.

The prince for an instant gazed on the enchanting statue, but its want of animation soon astonished him; he drew closer, and perceived that a strange paleness overspread her features. He bent his ear over her, but could not hear her respiration; he seized her hand, it was cold. Then he placed his arm beneath the form he loved so well, that he might warm it by pressing it to his breast; but he suddenly allowed it again to fall, and uttered a cry of anguish and horror. Gemma's head had fallen from her shoulders and rolled upon the carpet.

The next morning the yataghan of Ali was found beneath the window!


Alexandre Dumas pere

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