It was one of those warm nights of winter when a sulphur-coloured sky hangs like a blanket behind the wet, dishevelled woods; and, though there was neither moon nor star, the night was strangely clear, and the shadow of the bridge was distinct in the water. When she approached the brink the swans moved slowly away. They reminded her of the cold; but the black obsession of death was upon her; and, hastening her steps, she threw herself forward. She fell into shallow water and regained her feet, and for a moment it seemed uncertain if she would wade to the bank or fling herself into a deeper place. Suddenly she sank, the water rising to her shoulders. She was lifted off her feet. A faint struggle, a faint cry, and then nothing—nothing but the whiteness of the swans moving through the sultry night slowly towards the island.
Its rich, inanimate air proclaimed the room to be an expensive bedroom in a first-class London hotel. Interest in the newly-married couple, who were to occupy the room, prompted the servants to see that nothing was forgotten; and as they lingered steps were heard in the passage, and Hubert and Julia entered. The maid-servants stood aside to let them pass, and one inquired if madame wanted anything, so that her eyes might be gratified with a last inquisition of the happy pair.
’How wonderful! oh, how wonderful! I don’t think I ever saw any one act before like that—did you?’
’She certainly had three or four moments that could not be surpassed. Her entrance in the sleep-walking scene—what vague horror! what pale presentiment! how she filled the stage! nothing seemed to exist but she.’
‘And Ford; what did you think of Ford’s Macbeth?’
‘Very good. Everything he does is good. Talent; but the other has genius.’
‘I shall never forget this evening. What an awful tragedy!’
’Perhaps I should have taken you to see something more cheerful; but I wanted to see Miss Massey play Lady Macbeth. But let us talk of something else. Splendid fire—is it not?’
Hubert threw off his overcoat, the movement attracted Julia’s attention, and it startled her to see how old he seemed to have grown. She noticed as she had not noticed before the grey in his beard and the pathetic weary look that haunted his eyes. And she understood in that instant that the look his face wore was the look of those who have failed in their vocation.