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the open road, was Charles's nearest way the left was shorter for sir Philip Mason. It had hitherto so happened, that in their rides they had always gone by the left hand road, and Charles two or three times, when he had returned to the city by himself, had also gone that way, though it was somewhat longer; but now he thought that Mary must have long done the letter she was writing, and he was anxious to get home; and the baronet being equally desirous of seeing what was the purport of signora Mori's communication, they parted at the divarication of the roads, just as it was beginning to grow dark.
Charles had scarcely proceeded twenty yards, when he heard a noise, seemingly on the road he had just quitted, and riding back, he perceived his friend dismounted, and contending with a man, who endeavoured to point a pistol at his breast. Before Charles could come up to his assistance, the baronet, by an exertion of his
great muscular power, succeeded in wrenching the weapon from the hand of his assailant, and throwing him violently from him, sir Philip pointed the pistol, and fired, on which the other immediately pressed his hand to his side, reeled for a moment, and fell.
Charles instantly dismounted, and helped sir Philip to raise the wounded man; but in so doing, what was his surprise to behold the countenance of one who had often before caused him uneasiness—that of the man who had attacked Mary at Ilfracombe, whom he had seen afterwards in Paris at Pere la Chaise, whom he had beheld with the robbers in the Apennines, and who had endeavoured to detain his cousin in a lonely village in Piedmont, in all probability for the purpose of murdering her! All power of injuring others seemed now gone; the ball had entered his side, and lodged somewhere in the chest; and though not dead, he had scarcely strength to answer the questions which sir Philip put to him, the first of which was, what could tempt him to attack one that had never injured him?
“I mistook you,” replied the man; 66 “ and would not have hurt you, if you had not sprung from horseback, and tried to seize me.”
“Who did you take me for?” demanded the baronet.
“ For him!” replied the other, making a faint motion with his hand, indicating that it was Charles he meant.
“ And what is the cause of your enmity towards me?” asked Mr. Melville.
“ If you want any information from me,” replied the man, “get me a surgeon, for I am bleeding to death.”
As the best plan they could pursue, sir Philip and Charles carried him to one of the small houses in the neighbourhood, and thence had him conveyed to.the baronet's lodgings, sending at the same time for surgical assistance. This occupied so much time, that Charles M 2
felt it necessary to return home, to account for the prolongation of his absence so much beyond the usual hour; but remembering that lord Burton, while travelling with him under the name of Wilmot, had been so much affected by the sight of this very man at Pere la Chaise, he did not mention to any of his relations who it was that had attacked sir Philip Mason, resolving, in the first instance, to question the man himself. For this purpose he returned to the baronet's house as soon as possible, and on being admitted, was about to inquire for the wounded man, when he perceived the dreadful state of agitation which his friend's countenance betrayed. His manner was hurried and anxious, a bright angry flush was upon his cheek, and his eyes seemed almost starting from their sockets.
Without saying a word, sir Philip put an open letter into his hand, and pointed to him to read it, which he did. It came from signora Mori, and told the baronet,
that as her father commanded her to give him her hand, she would obey; but that, at the same time, she could never allow him to think that her heart went along with it. She informed him at the same time, that from a very early period she had been engaged to colonel P, and that her whole affection had accompanied that engagement. Nor had she ever had the slightest cause to withdraw her attachment from him; so far, on the contrary, that during a long absence, from which he had just returned, his constaney well deserved a continuance of her love. She ended with an expression of esteem for sir Philip, and of sorrow' to give him pain; and leaving her peace of mind at his disposal, signed herself" The unhappy Biancha Mori.”
When Charles had done reading it, he turned to sir Philip, and asked him what he intended to do?
" Call him out to be sure,” replied the baronet hastily;" you will be my friend ?" "
“ I will,”