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written by "Sabatini, Rafael, 1875-1950", unable longer to endure the silence: "E dunque?" cried the Duke. "Have you no answer?" "I would submit," returned Francesco, "that I have heard no question. I heard a wild statement, extravagant and mad, the accusation of one demented, a charge of which no proofs can be forthcoming, else I take it you had not withheld them. I ask you, sirs, and you, Madonna," he continued, turning to the others, "has his Highness said anything to which an answer can by any means be necessary?" "Is it proofs you lack?" cried Gian Maria, but less confidently than hitherto, and, so, less fiercely. A doubt had arisen in his mind born of this strange calm on the part of Francesco—a calm that to Gian Maria's perceptions seemed hardly the garb of guilt, but belonged rather to one who is assured that no peril threatens him. "Is it proofs you lack?" quoth the Duke again, and then with the air of a man launching an unanswerable question: "How came you by the wound you had that day in the woods?" A smile quivered on Francesco's face, and was gone. "I asked for proofs, not questions," he protested wearily. "What shall it prove if I had a hundred wounds?" "Prove?" echoed the Duke, less and less confident of his ground, fearing already that he had perhaps gone too fast and too far upon the road of his suspicions. "It proves to me, when coupled with your presence there, that you were in the fight the night before." Francesco stirred at that. He sighed and smiled at once. Then assuming a tone of brisk command: "Bid these men begone," he said, pointing to his guards. "Then hear me scatter your foul suspicions as the hurricane scatters the leaves in autumn." Gian Maria stared at him in stupefaction. That overwhelming assurance, that lofty, dignified bearing which made such a noble contrast with his own coarse hectoring, were gradually undermining more and more his confidence. With a wave of his hand he motioned the soldiers ...

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