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of extraordinary emotion. But precisely on this account-precisely in proportion to the simplicity of the speech itself, and the unaffected frankness of the avowal thus made by a man whom I knew to be both sensitively proud and a consummate master in the art of repressing his emotions, I felt a sudden repugnance to receive the confession which he now seemed resolved to impose upon my confidence. Any such act of confidence upon his part had been so long withheld-any
such avowal of weakness must, I felt assured, have been wrung from such a desperate conviction of defeat, that this consideration, added to the sense of apprehension and dismay with which I was affected by the accents of a voice which vibrated strangely under the weight of an excessive melancholy, seemed to give to the decision which I might be called upon to pronounce respecting facts yet unknown to me a responsibility too solemn to be lightly undertaken. The moment which I had once ardently desired was come. I was afraid of it. I shrank back and remained silent. I could not belie the gravity of my own feelings by the utterance of any commonplace assuran
He seemed to understand this; for, as though he had not expected any reply, he continued after a momentary pause,
"A thousand circumstances of seemingly small account," he said, "combined to urge me unceasingly upon the path which was destined to bring me here. As though half the world were in a conspiracy to bring us together, seldom a year would pass by but what your name reached me from the most unexpect
ed quarters, and always in some such way as seemed to place you, maugre my own disinclination, in strange and significant intercourse with my mind.
"One of those chances became at last decisive-one of those chances which must remain inexplicable if we do not regard them as whispers from that mysterious Prompter who forces us dull players to perform the parts assigned to us in the Great Tragedy of Human Life."
His voice faltered a moment, but he hastily resumed:
"My bookseller sends me periodically the new books of the season. One day my glance fell carelessly upon the printed wrappage of one of those parcels which I had not yet opened. My attention was instantly arrested and absorbed by these words: The vision exists for the actor, but for him only. It presupposes his action. The series of criminal thoughts alone, without result of any kind in action (an A without a B) can not produce permanent or periodical apparitions. At least I know of no such case.' Perhaps you have looked deep enough into my life to divine the impression which these words made upon me. If an oracle had appeared upon the wall in characters of fire, such a miracle could not have so profoundly affected me as this dry reflection of another human mind upon a piece of printed paper. I sent instantly for the work from which this sheet had been torn. Eagerly I turned to the title-page. The author's name was on it. The author's name was yours. Since then, your book has become the constant companion of my thoughts."
He stopped abruptly, and seemed almost overpow
ered. I could not answer him. With an obvious ef fort, he continued:
"I will come at once to the object of my visit here to-night. That case which was wanting to your experience-"
Again he stopped, and pressed his hand to his forehead as though he felt his brow must burst with the surrender of a secret now for the first time wrenched from the deepest roots of a life.
"That case," he repeated, "which you failed to find, I offer it to you. I would place it in your hands, for I feel my end approach. If the knowledge of evil can serve the cause of good, be it yours to dispose of. Spare me the pain of being myself your guide along that thorny path over which the bleeding traces of a tired pilgrim will suffice to point the way. These papers-take them; read them."
He rose, placed a packet of papers in my hand and his address, bowed, and hurriedly turned to the door. "One question !" I exclaimed. "The countess?" Suddenly his whole stature rose its full height. He turned round and stood before me erect, solemn, almost awful. He lifted his hand, and looking upward with a strange expression on his countenance, said, "Yonder, at the right hand of her husband."
THE SECRET IN MY HANDS AT LAST.
NOTHING but my own unquiet footsteps broke the profound silence of the night. I was alone. For more than an hour I continued pacing up and down the room in strong excitement, weighing in my hand that pregnant packet which I dared not open till I had composed the trouble of those emotions to which my unexpected interview with the count had given rise.
By degrees I grew calmer; but it was nearly morning before I sat down, with something of judicial solemnity, to open those "sessions of silent thought" from which Edmond Count R had invoked the
verdict on his life.
Letters in various handwritings (chiefly a woman's), memoranda, pages of a journal, made up the contents of the packet which the count had placed in my hands. I read them in the order in which I found them; but a due regard for the patience and convenience of other readers (no doubt less interested than myself) compels me to reduce the substance of these documents to a summary, reserving only the permission to extract in extenso some of the original papers which appear to be specially important.
THE peasant sees it, for a moment, from the river, when he floats his raft down the rapid waters of the Weidnitz; for there the river winds, and the trees are thick. The reaper sees it all day long, envying, perhaps, the shadow and the cool of it, when the sun is hot upon the red corn-lands beyond the woody upland slopes. It is an old chateau that has seen many changes, and suffered few. A massive pile of gray stone, with tall copper roofs, built four-square about a quiet court. There the grass has a will of its own, and pushes its way, under trying circumstances, between the chinks in the much-flawed pavement. There, too, the sun-dial is always conspicuous, but the sun seldom. The south front is flanked by a square, flat garden (Italian style), with long, straight walks, whereto you descend from a broad terrace by a flight of stone stairs. The garden leads to a bowling-alley. In the middle of the garden is a fish-tank, full of old red fish and old black water. Beyond this is the park. It is not like your English parks, but rather a sort of slovenly meadow, which rambles astray in all directions, and finally loses itself in the great woodland all round. There you may hunt the roebuck, the red deer even, and the wild boar. Such a place for shooting and for fishing never was. For