It was hopeless, and yet she kept on. Rather than let him go without having assured her it was all a wicked dream—without having hugged her in his arms, and given her her good-night kiss—without having called her his own, only Sophie, and promised he would always love her and no other—rather than give up all this, she would die in the pursuit, and it were well that she should die. So on she ran: her brain reeled, she could scarcely feel whether her limbs yet moved: there was a griping in her heart, and her breath came in short gasps of agony. The earth darkened and tipped before her eyes, but her resolve never faltered. To reach him, or die. Oh! how gladly she would die, if only she might reach him. Was not that he—there—only a short way on? Might not her voice reach him? Would not some good angel bear it to him? Even then she stumbled, and fell forward on her knees; but, ere she sank quite down, she threw forth a wild, piercing, despairing cry, giving to it her whole desolate soul—
Then blackness obliterated every thing. But Bressant, as he walked heavily along, encompassed with bitter and miserable thoughts, suddenly halted, as if an iron hand had been laid upon his shoulder. Either he had actually heard a faint echo of that unearthly cry, or his spiritual ear had taken cognizance of the call of Sophie’s soul. He turned himself about, with a quaking heart. There was the long white road, but no human being was visible upon it. Yet he knew that Sophie’s voice had called him. She must be near. Slowly he began to walk back, half dreading to behold her image rise before him, with deep, reproachful eyes.
He had not gone twenty yards, when he started back, having almost set his foot upon something which lay face downward in the snow, clad in a dress almost as white. He would not have seen her but for her brown hair, which, falling loosely about, was caught and stirred by the inquisitive breeze. She herself lay quite still.
Bressant took her beneath the arms, and lifted her up. Crouching down, he supported her head against his shoulder, and brushed away the snow that had adhered to her face. There was a cut upon her chin, but the blood, after running a few moments, had congealed. Her eyes were not quite shut, but the lids were stiff and immovable. The mouth, too, was a little open. Was it the moonlight that gave her that death-like look? or was she dead indeed?
The young man broke out into a long, wavering cry. It was not weeping; it was not laughter; yet it bore a resemblance to both. It curdled his own blood, but he could not repress it. It was the voice of overstrained, unendurable emotion, and a horrible voice it was to hear. He feared he was losing his senses—looking in that white, motionless face, and uttering such a cry! At last, however, it died away, and there was silence. The silence was almost worse than the cry—the utter silence of a winter night.