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An Old Meerschaum by David Christie Murray

His mind caught at the simple couplet Nenni


'You

will be glad of a companion whilst I am away. I will go up to town to-morrow and see Miss Perzio.'

He ground his teeth, and clenched his hands, and held himself in resolute silence, fighting against the instinct which prompted him to cry aloud and dash in upon the two, and either slay them both, or sell his own life, then and there. But reflecting on the certainty of defeat, unarmed as he was, and dreading to declare himself too soon, and so put his enemy upon his guard, he fought the instinct down. Yet so strong was it upon him that he knew that sooner or later it would master him. He waded to the shore and crept along the field in the thick darkness, groping his way with both hands. Turning, he could see the dull gleam of the river, and the house-boat bulking black against it. He stood watching, whilst within and without the storm swept swiftly up. Dead silence. Then a creeping whisper in the grass at his feet and in the trees about him, but no wind. Then the slow dropping of heavy rain--drop, drop, drop--like blood. Then a fierce and sudden howl from the wind, like some hoarse demon's signal, and the storm began. But what a puny storm was that which raged outside could one have seen the tempest in this murderous soul! Not all the tones of great material nature's diapason could find this tortured spirit voice enough. Yet to find the very heavens in tune with his mood brought the Greek to a still madder ecstasy of passion.

justify;">At such times the mind, fearful for herself, catches at phrases and fancies, as drowning men catch at straws. So now, with terrible irrelevance, his mind caught at the simple couplet:--

Nenni, nenni, vattienne, non me sta chiu' a seccar Sta rosa che pretienne non la sto manco a gardar!

There was nothing for the mind to hold to except that it was the last song the runaway Thecla had sung to him. He did not remember this, and had only a half consciousness of the words themselves. But in this mad whirl of the spiritual elements the mind was glad to cling to anything, and turned the refrain over, and over, and over,

Nenni, nenni, vattienne, non me sta chiu' a seccar Sta rosa che pretienne non la sto manco a gardar!

Rain, and wind, and thunder, and Lightning, had their time without and within. Peace came to the summer heavens, and the pale stars took the brief night with beauty. But to the firmament of his soul no star of peace returned. There dwelt night and chaos. If his passion were blind, the blindness was wilful. For he saw clearly the end of what he meant to do, and chose it. Whatever his love might have been worth, he had been robbed of it, and for him life ended there. He was but an automaton of vengeance now.

So having set resolve before him, and having done with it, he went his way. His plan was long since laid, and was simple enough. Demetri Agryopoulo was not the man to perplex himself with details until the time came for them to be useful. When that time came he could rely upon himself for invention. And so his plan was simply to take James Leland alone, and then and there to put an end to him. He had taken a room in a river-side public-house near Kingston, and thither he walked. He made some grim excuse for the lateness of the hour and his bedraggled garments to the drowsy ostler who had sat up for him, and calmed the drowsy ostler's grumbles by a gift of half-a-crown. Then he drank a glass of neat brandy, and went to bed and slept like an innocent child.


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