"A FRENCHMAN'S GRATITUDE"
shrill scream, followed by angry shouts and other sounds of strife. I immediately ran forward to the scene of action, and, though it was very dark, could just discern four men assailing a fifth, who, with his back to the wall, was making a stout defence. Naturally I espoused the weaker cause, and in another minute three of the cowardly assailants had fled, while the fourth lay on the ground with a sword-thrust through his body.
"A thousand thanks, m'sieur!" exclaimed the man to whom I had rendered such timely aid; "you have saved my life! That charge of yours was splendid! it——"
"De Vignes!" I cried, recognising his voice.
"Ha! it is you, then, mon ami," he said, wiping the blade of his sword. "I shall never forget this service. Are you alone?"
"Yes. Why did the ruffians attack you?"
"Hope of plunder, I suppose," replied De Vignes, shrugging his shoulders. And stooping down he proceeded to examine his fallen foe.
"Have you killed him?" I asked.
"He still breathes, and might be saved if we could get assistance."
"I am afraid there will be trouble over this business," I remarked, wishing that my friend had not been quite so handy with his sword.
"Bah! these little affairs are common enough in Sicily," De Vignes rejoined. "However, we may as well try to save his life. Will you go for help? There is a house some fifty yards down the road, and I shall want water, rags for bandages, and a little cognac or other spirit."
"Suppose the other ruffians return?" I objected."They will not return," he answered impatiently. "Come, mon ami! be quick, I pray you, or this unhappy wretch will bleed to death." Thus exhorted, I started off