“And Una knows what her sage Alice means; but there are other birds, silent all day long, and, they say, the sweetest too, that love to sing by night alone.”
So things went on—the elder girl pained and melancholy—the younger silent, changed, and unaccountable.
A little while after this, very late one night, on awaking, Alice heard a conversation being carried on in her sister’s room. There seemed to be no disguise about it. She could not distinguish the words, indeed, the walls being some six feet thick, and two great oak doors intercepting. But Una’s clear voice, and the deep bell-like tones of the unknown, made up the dialogue.
Alice sprung from her bed, threw her clothes about her, and tried to enter her sister’s room; but the inner door was bolted. The voices ceased to speak as she knocked, and Una opened it, and stood before her in her nightdress, candle in hand.
“Una—Una, darling, as you hope for peace, tell me who is here?” cried frightened Alice, with her trembling arms about her neck.
Una drew back, with her large innocent blue eyes fixed full upon her.
“Come in, Alice,” she said, coldly.
And in came Alice, with a fearful glance around. There was no hiding place there; a chair, a table, a little bedstead, and two or three pegs in the wall to hang clothes on; a narrow window, with two iron bars across; no hearth or chimney—nothing but bare walls.
Alice looked round in amazement, and her eyes glanced with painful inquiry into those of her sister. Una smiled one of her peculiar sidelong smiles, and said——
“Strange dreams! I’ve been dreaming—so has Alice. She hears and sees Una’s dreams, and wonders—and well she may.”
And she kissed her sister’s cheek with a cold kiss, and lay down in her little bed, her slender hand under her head, and spoke no more.
Alice, not knowing what to think, went back to hers.
About this time Ultor De Lacy returned. He heard his elder daughter’s strange narrative with marked uneasiness, and his agitation seemed to grow rather than subside. He enjoined her, however, not to mention it to the old servant, nor in presence of anybody she might chance to see, but only to him and to the priest, if he could be persuaded to resume his duty and return. The trial, however, such as it was, could not endure very long; matters had turned out favourably. The union of his younger daughter might be accomplished within a few months, and in eight or nine weeks they should be on their way to Paris.
A night or two after her father’s arrival, Alice, in the dead of the night, heard the well-known strange deep voice speaking softly, as it seemed, close to her own window on the outside; and Una’s voice, clear and tender, spoke in answer. She hurried to her own casement, and pushed it open, kneeling in the deep embrasure, and looking with a stealthy and affrighted gaze towards her sister’s window. As she crossed the floor the voices subsided, and she saw a light withdrawn from within. The moonbeams slanted bright and clear on the whole side of the castle overlooking the glen, and she plainly beheld the shadow of a man projected on the wall as on a screen.