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List Of Contents | Contents of Nisida, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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fine barbed blade.  Gabriel smiled scornfully, snatched the weapon
from him, and even as he stooped to break it across his knee, gave
the prince a furious blow with his head that made him stagger and
sent him rolling on the floor, three paces away; then, leaning over
his poor sister and gazing on her with hungry eyes, by the passing
gleam of a flash, "Dead!" he repeated, wringing his arms in despair,
--"dead!"

In the fearful paroxysm that compressed his throat he could find no
other words to assuage his rage or to pour forth his woe.  His hair,
which the storm had flattened, rose on his head, the marrow of his
bones was chilled, and he felt his tears rush back upon his heart.
It was a terrible moment; he forgot that the murderer still lived.

The prince, however, whose admirable composure did not for a moment
desert him, had risen, bruised and bleeding.  Pale and trembling with
rage, he sought everywhere for a weapon with which to avenge himself.
Gabriel returned towards him gloomier and more ominous than ever, and
grasping his neck with an iron hand, dragged him into the room where
the old man was sleeping.

"Father!  father!  father!" he cried in a piercing voice, "here is
the Bastard who Has just murdered Nisida!"

The old man, who had drunk but a few drops of the narcotic potion,
was awakened by this cry which echoed through his soul; he arose as
though moved by a spring, flung off his coverings, and with that
promptitude of action that God has bestowed upon mothers in moments
of danger, event up to his daughter's room, found a light, knelt on
the edge of the bed, and began to test his child's pulse and watch
her breathing with mortal anxiety.

All! this had passed in less time than we have taken in telling it.
Brancaleone by an unheard-of effort had freed himself from the hands
of the young fisherman, and suddenly resuming his princely pride,
said in a loud voice, "You shall not kill me without listening to
me."

Gabriel would have overwhelmed him with Bitter reproaches, but,
unable to utter a single word, he burst into tears.

"Your sifter is not dead," said the prince, with cold dignity; "she
is merely asleep.  You can assure yourself of it, and meanwhile I
undertake, upon my Honour, not to move a single step away."

These words were pronounced with such an accent of truth that the
fisherman was struck by them.  An unexpected gleam of hope suddenly
dawned in his thoughts; he cast upon the stranger a glance of hate
and distrust, and muttered in a muffled voice, "Do not flatter
yourself, in any case, that you will be able to escape me."

Then he went up to his sister's room, and approaching the old man,
asked tremblingly, "Well, father?"

Solomon thrust him gently aside with the solicitude of a mother
removing some buzzing insect from her child's cradle, and, making a
sign to enjoin silence, added in a low voice, "She is neither dead
nor poisoned.  Some philtre has been given to her for a bad purpose.
Her breathing is even, and she cannot fail to recover from her
lethargy."

Gabriel, reassured about Nisida's life, returned silently to the
ground floor where he had left the seducer.  His manner was grave and
gloomy; he was coming now not to rend the murderer of his sister with
his hands, but to elucidate a treacherous and infamous mystery, and
to avenge his honour which had been basely attacked.  He opened wide
the double entrance door that admitted daylight to the apartment in
which, on the few nights that he spent at home, he was accustomed to
sleep with his father.  The rain had just stopped, a ray of moonlight
pierced the clouds, and all at once made its way into the room.  The
fisherman adjusted his dripping garments, walked towards the
stranger, who awaited him without stirring, and after having gazed
upon him haughtily, said, "Now you are going to explain your presence
in our house."

"I confess," said the prince, in an easy tone and with the most
insolent assurance, "that appearances are against me.  It is the fate
of lovers to be treated as thieves.  But although I have not the
advantage of being known to you, I am betrothed to the fair Nisida--
with your father's approval, of course.  Now, as I have the
misfortune to possess very hardhearted parents, they have had the
cruelty to refuse me their consent.  Love led me astray, and I was
about to be guilty of a fault for which a young man like you ought to
have some indulgence.  Furthermore, it was nothing but a mere attempt
at an abduction, with the best intentions in the world, I swear, and
I am ready to atone for everything if you will agree to give me your
hand and call me your brother."

"I will agree to call you a coward and a betrayer!" replied Gabriel,
whose face had begun to glow, as he heard his sister spoken of with
such impudent levity.  "If it is thus that insults are avenged in
towns, we fishers have a different plan.  Ah! so you flattered
yourself with the thought of bringing desolation aid disgrace into
our home, and of paying infamous assassins to come and share an old
man's bread so as to poison his daughter, of stealing by night, like
a brigand, armed with a dagger, into my sister's room, and of being
let off by marrying the most beautiful woman in the kingdom!"

The prince made a movement.

"Listen," continued Gabriel: "I could break you as I broke your
dagger just now; but I have pity on you.  I see that you can do
nothing with your hands, neither defend yourself nor work.  Go, I
begin to understand; you are a braggart, my fine sir; your poverty is
usurped; you have decked yourself in these poor clothes, but you are
unworthy of them."

He suffered a glance of crushing contempt to fall upon the prince,
then going to a cupboard hidden in the wall, he drew out a rifle and
an axe.

"Here," said he, "are all the weapons in the house; choose."

A flash of joy illuminated the countenance of the prince, who had
hitherto suppressed his rage.  He seized the rifle eagerly, drew
three steps backward, and drawing himself up to his full height,
said, "You would have done better to lend me this weapon at the
beginning; for then I would have been spared from witnessing your
silly vapourings and frantic convulsions.  Thanks, young-man; one of
my servants will bring you back your gun.  Farewell."

And he threw him his purse, which fell heavily at the fisherman's
feet.

"I lent you that rifle to fight with me," cried Gabriel, whom
surprise had rooted to the spot.

"Move aside, my lad; you are out of your senses," said the prince,
taking a step towards the door.

"So you refuse to defend yourself?" asked Gabriel in a determined
voice.

"I have told you already that I cannot fight with you."

"Why not?"

"Because such is the will of God; because you were born to crawl and
I to trample you under my feet; because all the blood that I could
shed in this island would not purchase one drop of my blood; because
a thousand lives of wretches like you are not equal to one hour of
mine; because you will kneel at my name that I, am now going to
utter; because, in short, you are but a poor fisherman and my name is
Prince of Brancaleone."

At this dreaded name, which the young nobleman flung, like a
thunderbolt, at his head, the fisherman bounded like a lion.  He drew
a deep breath, as though he had lifted a weight that had long rested
on his heart.

"Ah!" he cried, "you have given yourself into my hands, my lord!
Between the poor fisherman and the all-powerful prince there is a
debt of blood.  You shall pay for yourself and for your father.  We
are going to settle our accounts, your excellency," he added, rising
his axe over the head of the prince, who was aiming at him.  "Oh!
you were in too great haste to choose: the rifle is not loaded."  The
prince turned pale.

"Between our two families," Gabriel continued, "there exists a
horrible secret which my mother confided to me on the brink of the
grave, of which my father himself is unaware, and that no man in the
world must learn.  You are different, you are going to die."

He dragged him into the space outside the house.

"Do you know why my sister, whom you wished to dishonour, was vowed
to the Madonna?  Because your father, like you, wished to dishonour
my mother.  In your accursed house there is a tradition of infamy.
You do not know what slow and terrible torments my poor mother
endured-torments that broke her strength and caused her to die in
early youth, and that her angelic soul dared confide to none but her
son in that supreme hour and in order to bid me watch over my
sister."

The fisherman wiped away a burning tear.  "One day, before we were
born, a fine lady, richly dressed, landed in our island from a
splendid boat; she asked to see my mother, who was as young and
beautiful as my Nisida is to-day.  She could not cease from admiring
her; she blamed the blindness of fate which had buried this lovely
jewel in the bosom of an obscure island; she showered praises,
caresses, and gifts upon my mother, and after many indirect speeches,
finally asked her parents for her, that she might make her her lady-
in-waiting.  The poor people, foreseeing in the protection of so
great a lady a brilliant future for their daughter, were weak enough
to yield.  That lady was your mother; and do you know why she came
thus to seek that poor innocent maiden?  Because your mother had a
lover, and because she wished to make sure, in this infamous manner,
of the prince's indulgence."

"Silence, wretch!"

"Oh, your excellency will hear me out.  At the beginning, my poor
mother found herself surrounded by the tenderest care: the princess
could not be parted from her for a moment; the most flattering words,
the finest clothes, the richest ornaments were hers; the servants
paid her as much respect as though she were a daughter of the house.
When her parents went to see her and to inquire whether she did not
at all regret having left them, they found her so lovely and so
happy, that they blessed the princess as a good angel sent them from
God.  Then the prince conceived a remarkable affection for my mother;

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