The deep stillness, the peaceful moonlight, the motionless figures, made an impressive picture and the impending fatal possibilities augmented this impressiveness solemnity. Wilson's hand began to rise--slowly--still higher--still higher--in another moment:
"Boom!" the first stroke of midnight swung up out of the distance; Angelo was off like a deer!
"Oh, you unspeakable traitor!" wailed his brother, as they went soaring over the fence.
The others stood astonished and gazing; and so stood, watching that strange spectacle until distance dissolved it and swept it from their view. Then they rubbed their eyes like people waking out of a dream,
"Well, I've never seen anything like that before!" said the judge. "Wilson, I am going to confess now, that I wasn't quite able to believe in that leg business, and had a suspicion that it was a put-up convenience between those twins; and when Count Angelo fainted I thought I saw the whole scheme--thought it was pretext No. 2, and would be followed by others till twelve o'clock should arrive, and Luigi would get off with all the credit of seeming to want to fight and yet not have to fight, after all. But I was mistaken. His pluck proved it. He's a brave fellow and did want to fight."
"There isn't any doubt about that," said Howard, and added, in a grieved tone, "but what an unworthy sort of Christian that Angelo is--I hope and believe there are not many like him. It is not right to engage in a duel on the Sabbath--I could not approve of that myself; but to finish one that has been begun--that is a duty, let the day be what it may."
They strolled along, still wondering, still talking.
"It is a curious circumstance, "remarked the surgeon, halting Wilson a moment to paste so more court-plaster on his chin, which had gone to leaking blood again, "that in this duel neither of the parties who handled the pistols lost blood while nearly all the persons present in the mere capacity of guests got hit. I have not heard of such a thing before. Don't you think it unusual?"
"Yes," said the Judge, "it has struck me as peculiar. Peculiar and unfortunate. I was annoyed at it, all the time. In the case of Angelo it made no great difference, because he was in a measure concerned, though not officially; but it troubled me to see the seconds compromised, and yet I knew no way to mend the matter.
"There was no way to mend it," said Howard, whose ear was being readjusted now by the doctor; "the code fixes our place, and it would not have been lawful to change it. If we could have stood at your side, or behind you, or in front of you, it--but it would not have been legitimate and the other parties would have had a just right to complain of our trying to protect ourselves from danger; infractions of the code are certainly not permissible in any case whatever."
Wilson offered no remarks. It seemed to him that there was very little place here for so much solemnity, but he judged that if a duel where nobody was in danger or got crippled but the seconds and the outsiders had nothing ridiculous about it for these gentlemen, his pointing out that feature would probably not help them to see it.
He invited them in to take a nightcap, and Howard and the judge accepted, but the doctor said he would have to go and see how Angelo's principal wound was getting on.
[It was now Sunday, and in the afternoon Angelo was to be received into the Baptist communion by immersion--a doubtful prospect, the doctor feared.]
LUIGI DEFIES GALEN
When the doctor arrived at Aunt Patsy Cooper's house, he found the lights going and everybody up and dressed and in a great state of solicitude and excitement. The twins were stretched on a sofa in the sitting-room, Aunt Patsy was fussing at Angelo's arm, Nancy was flying around under her commands, the two young boys were trying to keep out of the way and always getting in it, in order to see and wonder, Rowena stood apart, helpless with apprehension and emotion, and Luigi was growling in unappeasable fury over Angelo's shameful flight.