Still their hands lingered together, and Douglas was thrilled through all his senses by the touch of her fingers, and the soft, dark fire of her eyes. He held his breath for a moment—the splashing of the fountain alone broke a silence eloquent enough, so fascinating indeed that he felt his breath tighten in his throat, and a sudden overmastering desire to seize the embrace which some unspoken instinct seemed to denote awaited him. Afterwards he always felt that if no untoward thing had come then the story of his after life would surely have been painted in other colours. But there came an interruption altogether unexpected, marvellous, tragical. Their hands were still joined, he had turned slightly towards her so that his eyes looked into hers, they were face to face with one of those psychological crises which, since the days of primitiveness, have made man’s destiny and woman’s vocation. Ever afterwards a thought of that moment brought thrilling recollections—there was the suspense, the footstep outside, the crashing of a pistol shot through the glass. Douglas leaped to his feet with a cry of horror. Emily had sunk back upon her seat, a red spot upon one of her beautiful shoulders, her cheeks slowly paling into unconsciousness. There was a smell of gunpowder in the air, a little cloud of smoke hanging around, and he had one single photographic glimpse of a man’s face, haggard, unkempt, maniacal, pressed against the broken pane of glass whence the shot had come. A moment afterwards, when the place was full of servants, and one had run for a doctor, he rushed outside, backwards and forwards like a madman, looking in the shrubs, the arbour, behind seats, everywhere. But of the man who had fired that shot there was no trace.
A VISITOR FOR DOUGLAS JESSON
There followed for Douglas a period of much anxiety, days of fretful restlessness, sleepless nights full of vague and shadowy dejection. Emily de Reuss was ill, too ill to see him or any one. All callers were denied. Daily he left flowers and messages for her—there was no response save a repetition to him always of the doctor’s peremptory instructions. The Countess was to see no one, to receive no letters, to be worried by no messages. Absolute quiet was necessary. Her nerves had received a severe shock. Neither from the papers, in the fashionable columns of which he read regretful accounts of her indisposition, nor from the servants who answered his continual inquiries, was there ever the slightest reference to the tragical nature of it. It was obvious that she had recovered consciousness sufficiently to lay her commands upon those few who must have known, and that they had been faithful. Her illness was announced as due to a combination of a fashionable malady and a severe nervous breakdown. Yet the memory of that other thing was ever before him, the fierce, white face with the blazing eyes pressed against