Poor child! poor child! she who used to cry to have the fish put back into the water—who never willingly killed the smallest living thing—dreams now, in the madness of her passion, that she can kill the man whose very voice unnerves her.
But what is that lying among the dank leaves on the path three yards before her?
Good God! it is he—lying motionless—his hat fallen off. He is ill, then—he has fainted. Her hand lets go the dagger, and she rushes towards him. His eyes are fixed; he does not see her. She sinks down on her knees, takes the dear head in her arms, and kisses the cold forehead.
’Anthony, Anthony! speak to me—it is Tina—speak to me! O God, he is dead!’
‘Yes, Maynard,’ said Sir Christopher, chatting with Mr. Gilfil in the library, ’it really is a remarkable thing that I never in my life laid a plan, and failed to carry it out. I lay my plans well, and I never swerve from them—that’s it. A strong will is the only magic. And next to striking out one’s plans, the pleasantest thing in the world is to see them well accomplished. This year, now, will be the happiest of my life, all but the year ’53, when I came into possession of the Manor, and married Henrietta. The last touch is given to the old house; Anthony’s marriage—the thing I had nearest my heart—is settled to my entire satisfaction; and by-and-by you will be buying a little wedding-ring for Tina’s finger. Don’t shake your head in that forlorn way;—when I make prophecies they generally come to pass. But there’s a quarter after twelve striking. I must be riding to the High Ash to meet Markham about felling some timber. My old oaks will have to groan for this wedding, but’—
The door burst open, and Caterina, ghastly and panting, her eyes distended with terror, rushed in, threw her arms round Sir Christopher’s neck, and gasping out—’Anthony ... the Rookery ... dead ... in the Rookery’, fell fainting on the floor.
In a moment Sir Christopher was out of the room, and Mr. Gilfil was bending to raise Caterina in his arms. As he lifted her from the ground he felt something hard and heavy in her pocket. What could it be? The weight of it would be enough to hurt her as she lay. He carried her to the sofa, put his hand in her pocket, and drew forth the dagger.
Maynard shuddered. Did she mean to kill herself, then, or ... or ... a horrible suspicion forced itself upon him. ‘Dead—in the Rookery.’ He hated himself for the thought that prompted him to draw the dagger from its sheath. No! there was no trace of blood, and he was ready to kiss the good steel for its innocence. He thrust the weapon into his own pocket; he would restore it as soon as possible to its well-known place in the gallery. Yet, why had Caterina taken this dagger? What was it that had happened in the Rookery? Was it only a delirious vision of hers?