One picture is ever before you,—you see it wherever you look, and whether your eyes be shut or open,—two loving souls, standing hand in hand before you to be married. How happy they look! how nobly confident is their affection! with what clear freedom their eyes sound one another’s depths! Neither cares to have a thought or feeling unshared by the other.—What have you done, Manetho?—shall the deed stand? O dark and distorted soul! the minutes are slipping fast away, and you are slipping with them to a black eternity. Will you stir hand nor foot to save yourself, to break your fall? not raise your voice, for once to speak the truth? Even yet the truth may save!—
The night of your life will this be, Manetho. Will you dream of those whose few hours of bliss will stamp Forever on the seal of your damnation? Think,—through what interminable aeons the weight of their just curse will pile itself higher and heavier on your miserable soul! Fain would you doubt the truth of immortality: but the power of unbelief is gone; devil-like, you believe and tremble. And where is the reward which should recompense you for this large outlay? Does the honey of your long-awaited triumph offend your lips like gall?—Then woe for him whose morning dreams of vengeance become realities in the evening!—
How stands it between you and Gnulemah, Manetho? She has never loved you ardently, perhaps; but how will you face her hatred? It is late to be asking such questions,—but has not her temperate affection been your most precious possession? have you not yearned and labored for it? have you not loved her with more than a father’s tenderness? Under mask of planning her ruin, have not all the softer and better impulses of your nature found exercise and sustenance? Conceiving a devil, have you brought forth an angel, and unawares tasted angelic joy?—If this be true, Manetho, your guilty purpose towards her is not excused, but how much more awful becomes the contemplation of her fate! Rouse up! sluggard, rush forth! you may save her yet. Up! would you risk the salvation of three souls to glut a meaningless spite? You have been fighting shadows with a shadow. Up!—it is the last appeal.—
You stir,—get stiffly to your feet,—put hand to forehead,—stare around. The twilight has deepened apace; only by glancing upwards can you distinguish a definite light. You are uncertain and lethargic in your movements, as though the dawning in you of a worthy resolution had impaired the evil principle of your vitality. You are as a man nourished on poison, who suddenly tastes an antidote,—and finds it fatal!
You halt towards the door and put forth a hand to open it. You will save Gnulemah; her innocence will save her from the knowledge of her loss. As for Balder,—his suffering will satisfy a reasonable enemy. No wife, no fortune, the cup dashed from his lips just as the aroma was ravishing his nostrils!—O, enough! Open the door, therefore, and go forth.