As for Vincent, it must be admitted that his own infatuation was no less complete. He had a feeling as if some new force had entered his life and filled it with a great, though dimly apprehended, meaning. His thought had gained a sweep and a width of wing which were a perpetual surprise to him. Not that he reasoned much about if he only felt strong and young and mightily aroused. He had firmly resolved to make Annunciata his wife, and he was utterly at a loss, and even secretly irritated at her reluctance to have their relation revealed to her parents. He could brook no obstacle in his march of conquest, and was constantly chafing at the necessity of concealment. He had frequently thought of anticipating Annunciata’s decision, by presenting himself to her parents as a Croesus from beyond the sea, who entertained the laudable intention of marrying their fair daughter; but somehow the character of Cophetua was ridiculously melodramatic, and Annunciata, with her imperial air, would have made a poor job of the beggar-maid.
It was on the tenth of March, 186—, a memorable date in the lives of the three persons concerned in this narrative. Cranbrook had just finished a semi-aesthetic and semi-political letter to a transatlantic journal, in which he figured twice a month as “our own correspondent.” It was already late in the night; but the excitement of writing had made him abnormally wakeful, and knowing that it was of no use to go to bed, he blew out his lamp, lit a cigar and walked out upon the loggia. There was a warm and fitful spring wind blowing, and the unceasing rustling of the ilex leaves seemed cool and soothing to his hot and overwrought senses. In the upper strata of the air, a stronger gale was chasing dense masses and torn shreds of cloud with a fierce speed before the lunar crescent; and the broad terrace beyond the trees was alternately illuminated and plunged in gloom. In one of these sudden illuminations, Cranbrook thought he saw a man leaning against the marble balustrade; something appeared to be unwinding itself slowly from his arms, and presently there stood a woman at his side. Then the moon vanished behind a cloud, and all was darkness. Cranbrook began to tremble; a strange numbness stole over him. He stood for a while motionless, then lifted his hand to his forehead; but he hardly felt its touch; he only felt that it was cold and wet. Several minutes passed; a damp gust of wind swept through the tree-tops and a night-hawk screamed somewhere in the darkness. Presently the moon sailed out into the blue space, and he saw again the two figures locked in a close embrace. The wind bore toward him a dear familiar voice which sounded tender and appealing; his blood swept like fire through his veins. Hardly knowing what he did, he leaped down the stairs which led from the loggia into the court rushed through the garden toward the terrace, grappled for a moment with somebody, thrust against something hard which suddenly yielded, and then fell down—down into a deep and dark abyss.