A terrible sight met my eyes and burned itself into my very soul so that it could never be forgot. Blanche was leaning back in the oak chair over which flowed her long, fair locks, and the front of her robe was red. I remembered how she had spilt the wine at the feast and thought I saw its stain, till presently, still staring, I noted that it grew and knew it to be caused by another wine, that of her blood. Also I noted that from the midst of it seen in the lamplight, just beneath the snake-encircled ruby heart, appeared the little handle of a dagger.
I sprang to her, but she lifted her hand and waved me back.
“Touch me not,” she whispered, “I am not fit, also the thrust is mortal. If you draw the knife I shall die at once, and first I would speak. I would have you know that I love you and hoped to be a good wife to you. What I said was true. That dead man tricked me with a false marriage when I was scarcely more than a child, and afterwards he would not mend it with an honest. Perchance he himself was wed, or he had other reasons, I do not know. My father guessed much but not all. I tried to warn you when you offered yourself, but you were deaf and blind and would not see or listen. Then I gave way, liking you well and thinking that I should find rest, as indeed I do; thinking also that I should be wealthy and able to shut that villain’s mouth with gold. I never knew he was coming here or even that he had sailed home from France, but he broke in upon me, having learned that you were away, and was about to leave when you returned. He came for money for which he believed that I had wed, and thinking to win me back from one doomed by his lies to a traitor’s death. You know the rest, and for me there was but one thing to do. Be glad that you are no longer burdened with me and go find happiness in the arms of a more fortunate or a better woman. Fly, and swiftly, for Deleroy had many friends and the King himself loved him as a brother—as well he may. Fly, I say, and forgive—forgive! Hubert, farewell!”
Thus she spoke, ever more slowly and lower, till with the last word her life left her lips.
Thus ended the story of my marriage with Blanche Aleys.
THE NEW WORLD
They were forever silent now, who, but a breath before, had been so full of life and the stir of mortal passion; Deleroy dead beneath the cloak upon the floor, Blanche dead in the oaken chair. We who remained alive were silent also. I glanced at Kari’s face; it was as that of a stone statue on a tomb, only in it his large eyes shone, noting all things and, as I imagined in my distraught fancy, filled with triumph and foreknowledge. Considering it in that strange calm of the spirit which sometimes supervenes on great and terrible events that for a while crush its mortality from the soul and set it free to marvel at the temporal pettiness of all we consider immediate and mighty, I wondered what was the aspect of my own.