It was at this point that I who sat and witnessed the tragedy was assailed by a horror entirely new. Hitherto I had, indeed, seen myself in Squire Philip Cardinnock; but now I began also to possess his soul and feel with his feelings, while at the same time I continued to sit before the glass, a helpless onlooker. I was two men at once; the man who knelt all unaware of what was coming and the man who waited in the arm-chair, incapable of word or movement, yet gifted with a torturing prescience. And as I sat this was what I saw:—
The brother, as I knelt there oblivious of all but the wounded man, stepped across the room to the corner where his rapier lay, picked it up softly and as softly stole up behind me. I tried to shout, to warn myself; but my tongue was tied. The brother’s arm was lifted. The candlelight ran along the blade. Still the kneeling figure never turned.
And as my heart stiffened and awaited it, there came a flash of pain— one red-hot stroke of anguish.
WHAT I SAW IN THE TARN.
As the steel entered my back, cutting all the cords that bound me to life, I suffered anguish too exquisite for words to reach, too deep for memory to dive after. My eyes closed and teeth shut on the taste of death; and as they shut a merciful oblivion wrapped me round.
When I awoke, the room was dark, and I was standing on my feet. A cold wind was blowing on my face, as from an open door. I staggered to meet this wind and found myself groping along a passage and down a staircase filled with Egyptian darkness. Then the wind increased suddenly and shook the black curtain around my senses. A murky light broke in on me. I had a body. That I felt; but where it was I knew not. And so I felt my way forward in the direction where the twilight showed least dimly.
Slowly the curtain shook and its folds dissolved as I moved against the wind. The clouds lifted; and by degrees I grew aware that I was standing on the barren moor. Night was stretched around to the horizon, where straight ahead a grey bar shone across the gloom. I pressed on towards it. The heath was uneven under my feet, and now and then I stumbled heavily; but still I held on. For it seemed that I must get to this grey bar or die a second time. All my muscles, all my will, were strained upon this purpose.
Drawing nearer, I observed that a wave-like motion kept passing over this brighter space, as it had passed over the mirror. The glimmer would be obscured for a moment, and then re-appear. At length a gentle acclivity of the moor hid it for a while. My legs positively raced up this slope, and upon the summit I hardly dared to look for a moment, knowing that if the light were an illusion all my hope must die with it.
But it was no illusion. There was the light, and there, before my feet, lay a sable sheet of water, over the surface of which the light was playing. There was no moon, no star in heaven; yet over this desolate tarn hovered a pale radiance that ceased again where the edge of its waves lapped the further bank of peat. Their monotonous wash hardly broke the stillness of the place.