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CHAPTER I.

THE CLAIMANT OF THE PORPHYRY CHAMBER.

Before the door of an Italian albergo, some men had been drinking and laughing in the ruddy light of an autumn day, just upon the setting of the sun; men of the mountains, shepherds, goatherds, and one or two of less peaceable and harmless callings—rough comrades for a belated night on the hill-side, whose argument was powder and ball, and whose lair was made with the wolves and the hares. The house, low, lonely, poor, was overhung with the festoons of vines, and higher yet with the great shelf of roadside rock, from which there poured down, so close that the wooden loggia was often splashed with its spray, a tumbling, foaming, brown glory of water that rolled hissing into a pool dark as night, turning as it went the broad black wood of a mighty mill-wheel. The