Yes, blood! In an instant I put my hand upon the cushion of the box, vaulted down to the stage and was kneeling beside my dying love. But as the clamorous bell rang down the curtain, I heard above its noise a light and silvery laugh, and looking up saw in the box next to mine the coal-black devilish eyes of the yellow woman.
Then the curtain fell.
TELLS HOW TWO VOICES LED ME TO BOARD A SCHOONER; AND WHAT BEFELL THERE.
She died without speech. Only, as I knelt beside her and strove to staunch that cruel stream of blood, her beautiful eyes sought mine in utter love and, as the last agony shook her frame, strove to rend the filmy veil of death and speak to me still. Then, with one long, contented sigh, my love was dead. It was scarcely a minute before all was over. I pressed one last kiss upon the yet warm lips, tenderly drew her white mantle across the pallid face, and staggered from the theatre.
I had not raved or protested as I had done that same afternoon. Fate had no power to make me feel now; the point of anguish was passed, and in its place succeeded a numb stupidity more terrible by far, though far more blessed.
My love was dead. Then I was dead for any sensibility to suffering that I possessed. Hatless and cloak-less I stepped out into the freezing night air, and regardless of the curious looks of the passing throng I turned and walked rapidly westward up the Strand. There was a large and eager crowd outside the Coliseum, for already the news was spreading; but something in my face made them give room, and I passed through them as a man in a trance.
The white orb of the moon was high in heaven; the frozen pavement sounded hollow under-foot; the long street stood out, for all its yellow gas-light, white and distinct against the clear air; but I marked nothing of this. I went westward because my home lay westward, and some instinct took my hurrying feet thither. I had no purpose, no sensation. For aught I knew, that night London might have been a city of the dead.
Suddenly I halted beneath a lamp-post and began dimly to think. My love was dead:—that was the one fact that filled my thoughts at first, and so I strove to image it upon my brain, but could not. But as I stood there feebly struggling with the thought another took its place. Why should I live? Of course not; better end it all at once—and possessed with this idea I started off once more.
By degrees, as I walked, a plan shaped itself before me. I would go home, get my grandfather’s key, together with the tin box containing my father’s Journal, and then make for the river. That would be an easy death, and I could sink for ever, before I perished, all trace of the black secret which had pursued my life. I and the mystery would end together—so best. Then, without pain, almost with ghastly merriment, I thought that this was the same river which had murmured so sweetly to my love. Well, no doubt its voice would be just as musical over my grave. The same river:—but nearer the sea now— nearer the infinite sea.