We descended to the ground-floor. In the main hall Alresca’s housekeeper, evidently an old acquaintance, greeted Rosa with a curtsy, and she stopped to speak to the woman. I went on to the salon.
The aspect of the room is vividly before me now as I write. Most of the great chamber was in a candle-lit gloom, but the reading-lamp burnt clearly at the head of the couch, throwing into prominence the fine profile of Alresca’s face. He had fallen asleep, or at any rate his eyes were closed. The copy of “Madame Bovary” lay on the floor, and near it a gold pencil-case. Quietly I picked the book up, and saw on the yellow cover of it some words written in pencil. These were the words:
“Carl, I love her. He has come again. This time it is ——”
I looked long at his calm and noble face, and bent and listened. At that moment Rosa entered. Concealing the book, I held out my right hand with a gesture.
“Softly!” I enjoined her, and my voice broke.
“He is dead,” I said.
It did not occur to me that I ought to have prepared her.
THE VIGIL BY THE BIER
We looked at each other, Rosa and I, across the couch of Alresca.
All the vague and terrible apprehensions, disquietudes, misgivings, which the gradual improvement in Alresca’s condition had lulled to sleep, aroused themselves again in my mind, coming, as it were, boldly out into the open from the dark, unexplored grottos wherein they had crouched and hidden. And I went back in memory to those sinister days in London before I had brought Alresca to Bruges, days over which a mysterious horror had seemed to brood.
I felt myself adrift in a sea of frightful suspicions. I remembered Alresca’s delirium on the night of his accident, and his final hallucination concerning the blank wall in the dressing-room (if hallucination it was), also on that night. I remembered his outburst against Rosetta Rosa. I remembered Emmeline Smith’s outburst against Rosetta Rosa. I remembered the vision in the crystal, and Rosa’s sudden and astoundingly apt breaking in upon that vision. I remembered the scene between Rosa and Sir Cyril Smart, and her almost hysterical impulse to pierce her own arm with the little jewelled dagger. I remembered the glint of the dagger which drew my attention to it on the curb of an Oxford Street pavement afterwards. I remembered the disappearance of Sir Cyril Smart. I remembered all the inexplicable circumstances of Alresca’s strange decay, and his equally strange recovery. I remembered that his recovery had coincided with an entire absence of communication between himself and Rosa.... And then she comes! And within an hour he is dead! “I love her. He has come again. This time it is—” How had Alresca meant to finish that sentence? “He has come again.” Who had come