A Silent Guardian by Robert Smythe Hichens
The door of the long, dreary room, with its mahogany chairs, its
littered table, its motley crew of pale, silent people, opened
noiselessly. A dreary, lean footman appeared in the aperture, bowing
towards a corner where, in a recess near a forlorn, lofty window, sat a
tall, athletic-looking man of about forty-five years of age, with a
strong yet refined face, clean shaven, and short, crisp, dark hair. The
tall man rose immediately, laying down an old number of Punch,
and made his way out, watched rather wolfishly by the other occupants
of the room. The door closed upon him, and there was a slight rustle
and a hiss of whispering.
Two well-dressed women leaned to one another, the feathers in their
hats almost mingling as they murmured: Not much the matter with him, I
He looks as strong as a horse; but modern men are always imagining
themselves ill. He has lived too much, probably.
They laughed in a suppressed ripple.
At the end of the room near the door, under the big picture of a
grave man in a frock-coat, holding a double eye-glass tentatively in
his right hand as if to emphasise an argumenta young girl bent
towards her father, who said to her in a low voice:
That man who has just left the room is Brune, the great sculptor.
Is he ill? the girl asked.
It seems so, since he is here.
Then a silence fell again, broken only by the rustle of turned pages
and the occasional uneasy shifting of feet.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, in a small room across the hall, by a window through
which the autumn sun streamed with a tepid brightness, Reginald Brune
lay on a narrow sofa. His coat and waistcoat were thrown open; his
chest was bared. Gerard Fane, the great discoverer of hidden diseases,
raised himself from a bent posture, and spoke some words in a clear,
Brune lifted himself half up on his elbow, and began mechanically to
button the collar of his shirt. His long fingers did not tremble,
though his face was very pale.
He fastened the collar, arranged his loose tie, and then sat up
A boy, clanking two shining milk-cans, passed along the pavement,
whistling a music-hall song. The shrill melody died down the street,
and Brune listened to it until there was a silence. Then he looked up
at the man opposite to him, and said, as one dully protesting, without
feeling, without excitement:
But, doctor, I was only married three weeks ago.
Gerard Fane gave a short upward jerk of the head, and said nothing.
His face was calmly grave. His glittering brown eyes were fastened on
his patient. His hands were loosely folded together.
Brune repeated, in a sightly raised voice:
I was married three weeks ago. It cannot be true.
I am here to tell the truth, the other replied.
But it is soso ironic. To allow me to start a new lifea
beautiful lifejust as the night is coming. Why, it is diabolical; it
is not just; the cruelty of it is fiendish.
A spot of gleaming red stained each of the speaker's thin cheeks. He
clenched his hands together, riveting his gaze on the doctor, as he
Can't you see what I mean? I had no ideaI had not the faintest
suspicion of what you say. And I have had a very hard struggle. I have
been poor and quite friendless. I have had to fight, and I have lost
much of the good in my nature by fighting, as we often do. But at last
I have won the battle, and I have won more. I have won goodness to give
me back some of my illusions. I had begun to trust life again. I had
He stopped abruptly. Then he said:
Doctor, are you married?
No, the other answered; and there was a note of pity in his voice.
Then you can't understand what your verdict means to me. Is it
Gerard Fane hesitated.
I wish I could hope not; but
Brune stood up. His face was quite calm now and his voice, when he
spoke again, was firm and vibrating.
I have some work that I should wish to finish. How long can you
One will do if my strength keeps up at all. Good-bye.
There was a thin chink of coins grating one against the other. The
I will call on you to-morrow, between four and five. I have more
directions to give you. To-day my time is so much taken up. Good-bye.
The door closed.
In the waiting-room, a moment later, Brune was gathering up his coat
The two ladies eyed him curiously as he took them and passed out.
He does look a little pale, after all, whispered one of them. A
moment later he was in the street.
From the window of his consulting-room, Gerard Fane watched the tall
figure striding down the pavement.
I am sorry that man is going to die, he said to himself.
And then he turned gravely to greet a new patient.
Gerard Fane's victoria drew up at the iron gate of No. 5 Ilbury
Road, Kensington, at a quarter past four the following afternoon. A
narrow strip of garden divided the sculptor's big red house from the
road. Ornamental ironwork on a brick foundation closed it in. The great
studio, with its huge windows and its fluted pillars, was built out at
one end. The failing sunlight glittered on its glass, and the dingy
sparrows perched upon the roof to catch the parting radiance as the
twilight fell. The doctor glanced round him and thought, How hard this
man must have worked! In London this is a little palace.
Will you come into the studio, sir, please? said the footman in
answer to his summons. Mr Brune is there at present.
Surely he cannot be working, thought the doctor, as he followed
the man down a glass-covered paved passage, and through a high doorway
across which a heavy curtain fell. If so, he must possess resolution
almost more than mortal.
He passed beyond the curtain, and looked round him curiously.
The studio was only dimly lit now, for daylight was fast fading. On
a great open hearth, with dogs, a log-fire was burning; and beside it,
on an old-fashioned oaken settle, sat a woman in a loose cream-coloured
tea-gown. She was half turning round to speak to Reginald Brune, who
stood a little to her left, clad in a long blouse, fastened round his
waist with a band. He had evidently recently finished working, for his
hands still bore evident traces of labour, and in front of him, on a
raised platform, stood a statue that was not far from completion. The
doctor's eyes were attracted from the woman by the log-fire, from his
patient, by the lifeless, white, nude figure that seemed to press
forward out of the gathering gloom. The sculptor and his wife had not
heard him announced, apparently, for they continued conversing in low
tones, and he paused in the doorway, strangely fascinatedhe could
scarcely tell whyby the marble creation of a dying man.
The statue, which was life size, represented the figure of a
beautiful, grave youth, standing with one foot advanced, as if on the
point of stepping forward. His muscular arms hung loosely; his head was
slightly turned aside as in the attitude of one who listens for a
repetition of some vague sound heard at a distance. His whole pose
suggested an alert, yet restrained, watchfulness. The triumph of the
sculptor lay in the extraordinary suggestion of life he had conveyed
into the marble. His creature lived as many mollusc men never live. Its
muscles seemed tense, its body quivering with eagerness to
accomplishwhat? To attack, to repel, to protect, to perform some deed
demanding manfulness, energy, free, fearless strength.
That marble thing could slay if necessary, thought Gerard Fane,
with a thrill of the nerves all through him that startled him, and
recalled him to himself.
He stepped forward to the hearth quietly, and Brune turned and took
him by the hand.
I did not hear you, the sculptor said. The man must have opened
the door very gently. Sydney, this is Dr Gerard Fane, who is kindly
looking after me.
The woman by the fire had risen, and stood in the firelight and the
twilight, which seemed to join hands just where she was. She greeted
the specialist in a girl's young voice, and he glanced at her with the
furtive thought, Does she know yet?
She looked twenty-two, not more.
Her eyes were dark grey, and her hair was bronze. Her figure was
thin almost to emaciation; but health glowed in her smooth cheeks, and
spoke in her swift movements and easy gestures. Her expression was
responsive and devouringly eager. Life ran in her veins with
turbulence, never with calm. Her mouth was pathetic and sensitive, but
there was an odd suggestion of almost boyish humour in her smile.
Before she smiled, Fane thought, She knows.
Afterwards, She cannot know.
Have you a few moments to spare? Brune asked him. Will you have
tea with us?
Fane looked at Mrs Brune and assented. He felt a strange interest in
this man and this woman. The tragedy of their situation appealed to
him, although he lived in a measure by foretelling tragedies. Mrs Brune
touched an electric bell let into the oak-panelled wall, and her
husband drew a big chair forward to the hearth.
As he was about to sit down in it, Gerard Fane's eyes were again
irresistibly drawn towards the statue; and a curious fancy, born,
doubtless, of the twilight that invents spectres and of the firelight
that evokes imaginations, came to him, and made him for a moment hold
It seemed to him that the white face menaced him, that the white
body had a soul, and that the soul cried out against him.
His hand trembled on the back of the chair. Then he laughed to
himself at the absurd fancy, and sat down.
Your husband has been working? he said to Mrs Brune.
Yes, all the day. I could not tempt him out for even five minutes.
But then, he has had a holiday, as he says, although it was only a
fortnight. That was not very long forfor a honeymoon.
As she said the last sentence she blushed a little, and shot a
swift, half-tender, half-reproachful glance at her husband. But he did
not meet it; he only looked into the fire, while his brows slightly
I think Art owns more than half his soul, the girl said, with the
flash of a smile. He only gives to me the fortnights and to Art the
There was a vague jealousy in her voice; but then the footman
brought in tea, and she poured it out, talking gaily.
From her conversation, Fane gathered that she had no idea of her
husband's condition. With a curious and fascinating naturalness she
spoke of her marriage, of her intentions for the long future.
If Reginald is really seedy, Dr Fane, she said, get him well
quickly, that he may complete his commissions. Because, you know, he
has promised, when they are finished, to take me to Italy, and to
Greece, to the country of Phidias, whose mantle has fallen upon my
Do not force Dr Fane into untruth, said Brune, with an attempt at
And is that statue a commission? Fane asked, indicating the marble
figure, that seemed to watch them and to listen.
No; that is an imaginative work on which I have long been engaged.
I call it, 'A Silent Guardian.'
It is very beautiful, the doctor said. What is your idea exactly?
What is the figure guarding?
Brune and his wife glanced at one anotherhe gravely, she with a
Then he said, I leave that to the imagination.
Dr Fane looked again at the statue, and said slowly, You have
wrought it so finely that in this light my nerves tell me it is alive.
Mrs Brune looked triumphant.
All the world would feel so if they could see it, she said; but
it is not to be exhibited. That is our fancyhis and mine. And now I
will leave you together for a few minutes. Heal him of his ills, Dr
Fane, won't you?
She vanished through the door at the end of the studio. The two men
stood together by the hearth.
She does not know? Fane asked.
The other leaned his head upon his hand, which was pressed against
the oak mantelpiece.
I am too cowardly to tell her, he said in a choked voice. You
There was a silence. Then, in his gravest professional manner, Fane
gave some directions, and wrote others down, while the sculptor looked
into the dancing fire. When Fane had finished:
Shall I tell her now? he asked gently.
Brune nodded without speaking. His face looked drawn and contorted
as he moved towards the door. His emotion almost strangled him, and the
effort to remain calm put a strain upon him that was terrible.
Gerard Fane was left alone for a momentalone with the statue whose
personality, it seemed to him, pervaded the great studio. In its
attitude there was a meaning, in its ghost-like face and blind eyes a
resolution of intention, that took possession of his soul. He told
himself that it was lifeless, inanimate, pulseless, bloodless marble;
that it contained no heart to beat with love or hate, no soul to burn
with impulse or with agony; that its feet could never walk, its hands
never seize or slay, its lips never utter sounds of joy or menace. Then
he looked at it again, and he shuddered.
I am over-working, he said to himself; my nerves are beginning to
play me tricks. I must be careful.
And he forcibly turned his thoughts from the marble that could never
feel to the man and woman so tragically circumstanced, and to his
relation towards them.
A doctor is so swiftly plunged into intimacy with strangers. To the
sculptor it was as if Fane held the keys of the gates of life and death
for him; as if, during that quarter of an hour in the consulting-room,
the doctor had decided, almost of his own volition, that death should
cut short a life of work and of love. And even to Fane himself it
seemed as if his fiat had precipitated, even brought about, a tragedy
that appealed to his imagination with peculiar force. His position
towards this curiously interesting girl was strange. He had seen her
for a quarter of an hour only, and now it was his mission to cause her
the most weary pain that she might, perhaps, ever know. The opening of
the studio door startled him, and his heart, that usually beat so
calmly, throbbed almost with violence as Mrs Brune came up to him.
What is it? she asked, facing him, and looking him full in the
eyes with a violence of interrogation that was positively startling.
What is it you have to tell me? Reginald says you have ordered him to
keep quietthat you wish me to help you inin something. Is he ill?
May he not finish his commissions?
He is ill, said Gerard Fane, with a straightforward frankness that
She kept her eyes on his face.
Sit down, the doctor said, taking her hands and gently putting her
into a chair.
With the rapidity of intellect peculiar to women, she heard in those
two words the whole truth. Her head drooped forward. She put out her
hands as if to implore Fane's silence.
Don't speak, she murmured. Don't say it; I know.
He looked away. His eyes rested on the statue that made a silent
third in their sad conference. How its attitude suggested that of a
stealthy listener, bending to hear the more distinctly! Its
expressionless eyes met his, and was there not a light in them? He knew
there was not, yet he caught himself saying mentally:
What does he think of this? and wondering about the workings of a
soul that did not, could not, exist.
Presently the girl moved slightly, and said:
He only knew this for certain yesterday?
Ah! but he must have suspected it long ago,she pointed towards
the statuewhen he began that.
I don't understand, Fane said. What can that marble have to do
with his health or illness?
When we first began to love each other, she said, he began to
work on that. It was to be his marriage gift to me, my guardian angel.
He told me he would put all his soul into it, and that sometimes he
fancied, if he died before me, his soul would really enter into that
statue and watch over and guard me. 'A Silent Guardian' he has always
called it. He must have known.
I do not think so, Fane said. It was impossible he should.
The girl stood up. The tears were running over her face now. She
turned towards the statue.
And he will be coldcold like that! she cried in a heart-breaking
voice. His eyes will be blind and his hands nerveless, and his voice
She suddenly swayed and fainted into Fane's arms. He held her a
moment; and when he laid her down, a reluctance to let the slim form,
lifeless though it was, slip out of his grasp, came upon him. He
remembered the previous day, the doomed man going down the streethis
thought as he looked from the window of his consulting-room, I am
sorry that man is going to die.
Now, as he leant over the white girl, he whispered, forming the very
words with his lips, I am not sorry.
And the statue seemed to bend and to listen.
Six weeks passed away. Winter was deepening. Through the gloom and
fog that shrouded London, Christmas approached, wrapped in seasonable
snow. The dying man had finished his work, and a strange peace stole
over him. Now, when he suffered, when his body shivered and tried to
shrink away, as if it felt the cold hands of death laid upon it, he
looked at the completed statue, and found he could still feel joy.
There had always been in his highly-strung, sensitive nature an
element, so fantastic that he had ever striven to conceal it, of
romance; and in his mind, affected by constant pain, by many sleepless
nights, grew the curious idea that his life, as it ebbed away from him,
entered into his creation. As he became feeble, he imagined that the
man he had formed towered above him in more God-like strength, that
light flowed into the sightless eyes, that the marble muscles were
tense with vigour, that a soul was born in the thing which had been
soulless. The theory, held by so many, of re-incarnation upon earth,
took root in his mind, and he came to believe that, at the moment of
death, he would pass into his work and live again, unconscious, it
might be, of his former existence. He loved the statue as one might
love a breathing man; but he seldom spoke of his fancies, even to
Only, he sometimes said to her, pointing to his work:
You will never be alone, unprotected, while he is there.
And she tried to smile through the tears she could not always keep
Gerard Fane was often with them. He sunk the specialist in the
friend, and not a day passed without a visit from him to the great
studio, in which the sculptor and his wife almost lived.
He was unwearied in his attendance upon the sick man, unwavering in
his attempts to soothe his sufferings. But, in reality, and almost
against his will, the doctor numbered each breath his patient drew,
noted with a furious eagerness each sign of failing vitality, bent his
ear to catch every softest note in the prolonged diminuendo of
this human symphony.
When Fane saw Mrs Brune leaning over her husband, touching the damp
brow with her cool, soft fingers, or the dry, parched lips with her
soft, rosy lips, he turned away in a sick fury, and said to himself:
He is dying, he is dying. It will soon be over.
For with a desperate love had entered into him a desperate jealousy,
and even while he ministered to Brune he hated him.
And the statue, with blind eyes, observed the drama enacted by those
three people, the two men and the woman, till the curtain fell and one
of the actors made his final exit.
Fane's nerves still played him tricks sometimes. He could not look
at the statue without a shudder; and while Brune imaginatively read
into the marble face love and protection, the doctor saw there menace
and hatred. He came to feel almost jealous of the statue, because
Sydney loved it and fell in with her husband's fancy that his life was
fast ebbing into and vitalising the marble limbs, that his soul would
watch her from the eyes that were now without expression and thought.
When Fane entered the studio, he always involuntarily cast a glance
at the white figureat first, a glance of shuddering distaste, then,
as he acknowledged to himself his love for Sydney, a glance of
defiance, of challenge.
One evening, after a day of many appointments and much mental stress
and strain, he drove up to Ilbury Road, was admitted, and shown as
usual into the studio. He found it empty. Only the statue greeted him
silently in the soft lamplight, that scarcely accomplished more than
the defining of the gloom.
My master is upstairs, sir, said the footman. I will tell him you
In a moment Sydney entered, with a lagging step and pale cheeks.
Without thinking of the usual polite form of greeting, she said to
Fane, He is much worse to-day. There is a change in him, a horrible
change. Dr Fane, just now when I was talking to him it seemed to me
that he was a long way off. I caught hold of his hands to reassure
myself. I held them. I heard him speaking, but it was as if his words
came from a distance. What does it mean? He is nothe is not
She looked the word he could not speak.
Fane made her sit down.
I will go to him immediately, he said. I may be able to do
Yes, godo go! she exclaimed with feverish excitement.
Then suddenly she sprang up, and seizing his hands with hers, she
said in a piercing voice: You are a great doctor. Surelysurely you
can keep this one life for me a little longer.
As they stood, Fane was facing the statue, which was at her back,
and while she spoke his eyes were drawn from the woman he loved to the
marble thing he senselessly hated. It struck him that a ghastly change
had stolen over it. A sudden flicker of absolute life surely infused
it, quickened it even while she spoke, stole through the limbs one by
one, welled up to the eyes as light pierces from a depth, flowed
through all the marble. A pulse beat in the dead, cold heart. A mind
rippled into the rigid, watching face. There was no absolute movement,
and yet there was the sense of stir. Fane, absorbed in horror, seemed
to watch an act of creation, to see life poured from some invisible and
unknown source into the bodily chamber that had been void and dark.
Motionless he saw the statue dead; motionless he saw the statue
He drew his hands from Sydney's. He was too powerfully impressed to
speak, but she looked up into his face, turned, and followed his eyes.
She, too, observed the change, for her lips parted, and a wild
amazement shone in her eyes. Then she touched Fane's arm, and
whispered, rather in awe than in horror, Gogo to him. See if
anything has happened. I will stay and watch here.
With a hushed tread Fane left the studio, passed through the hall,
ascended the stairs to the sculptor's room. Outside the door he
hesitated for a moment. He was trembling. He heard a clock ticking
within. It sounded very loud, like a hammer beating in his ears. He
pushed the door open at length, and entered. Brune's tall figure was
sitting in an armchair, bowed over a table on which lay an open Art
His head lay hidden on his arms, which were crossed.
Fane raised the face and turned it up towards him.
It was the face of a dead man.
He looked at it, and smiled.
Then he stole down again to the studio, where Sydney was still
Yes? she said interrogatively, as he entered.
He is dead, Fane answered.
She only bowed her head, as if in assent. She stood a moment, then
she turned her tearless eyes to him, and said:
Why could not you save him?
Because I am human, Fane answered.
And we did not say good-bye, she said.
Fane was strung up. Conflicting feelings found a wild playground in
his soul. His nerves were in a state of abnormal excitement, and
something seemed to let go in himthe something that holds us back,
normally, from mad follies. He suddenly caught Sydney's hand, and in a
choked voice said:
He is dead. Think a little of the living.
She looked at him, wondering.
Think of the living that love you. He neither hates nor loves any
more. Sydney! Sydney!
As she understood his meaning she wrung her hand out of his, and
said, as one trying to clear the road for reason:
You love me, and he bought you to keep him alive. Why, then
A sick, white change came over her face.
Sydney! Sydney! he said.
Why, then he bought death from you. Ah!
She put her hand on the bell, and kept it there till the servant
Show Dr Fane out, she said. He will not come here again.
And Fane, seeing the uselessness of protest, ready to strike himself
for his folly, went without a word. Only, as he went, he cast one look
at the statue. Was there not the flicker of a smile in its marble eyes?
People said Dr Gerard Fane was over-working, that he was not
himself. His manner to patients was sometimes very strange, brusque,
impatient, intolerant. A brutality stole over him, and impressed the
world that went to him for healing very unfavourably. The ills of
humanity rendered him now sarcastic instead of pitiful, a fatal
attitude of mind for a physician to adopt; and he was even known to
pronounce on sufferers sentence of death with a callous indifference
that was inhuman as well as impolitic. As the weeks went by, his
reception-room became less crowded than of old. There were even moments
in his day when he had leisure to sit down and think, to give a rein to
his mood of impotent misery and despair. Sydney had never consented to
receive him again. Woman-likefor she could be extravagantly yet
calmly unreasonableshe had clung to the idea that Fane had hastened,
if not actually brought about, her husband's death by his treatment.
She made no accusation. She simply closed her doors upon him. She had a
horror of him, which never left her.
Again and again Fane called. She was always denied to him. Then he
met her in the street. She cut him. He spoke to her. She passed on
without a reply. At last a dull fury took possession of him. Her
treatment of him was flagrantly unjust. He had wished the sculptor to
die, but he had allowed nature to accomplish her designs unaided, even
to some extent hampered and hindered by his medical skill and care. He
loved Sydney with the violence of a man whose emotions had been
sedulously repressed through youth, vanquished but not killed by
ambition, and the need to work for the realisation of that ambition.
The tumults of early manhood, never given fair play, now raged in his
breast, from which they should have been long since expelled, and
played havoc with every creed of sense, and every built-up theory of
wisdom and experience. Fane became by degrees a monomaniac.
He brooded incessantly over his developed but starved passion, over
the thought that Sydney chose to believe him a murderer. At first, when
he was trying day after day to see her, he clung to his love for her;
but when he found her obdurate, set upon wronging him in her thought,
his passion, verging towards despair, changed, and was coloured with
hatred. By degrees he came to dwell more upon the injury done to him by
her suspicion than upon his love of her, and then it was that a certain
wildness crept into his manner, and alarmed or puzzled those who
That his career was going to the dogs Fane understood, but he did
not care. The vision of Sydney was always before him. He was for ever
plotting and planning to be with her aloneagainst her will or not, it
was nothing to him. And when he was alone with her, what then?
He would know how to act.
It was just in the dawn of the spring season over London that
further inaction became insupportable to him. One evening, after a day
of listless inactivity spent in waiting for the patients who no longer
came in crowds to his door, he put on his hat and walked from Mayfair
to Kensington, vaguely, yet with intention. He looked calm, even
absent; but he was a desperate man. All fear of what the world thinks
or says, all consideration of outward circumstances and their relation
to worldly happiness, had died within him. He was entirely abstracted
He reached the broad thoroughfare of Ilbury Road, with its line of
artistic red houses, detached and standing in their gardens. The
darkness was falling as he turned into it and began to walk up and down
opposite the house with the big studio in which he was once a welcome
visitor. There was a light in one of the bedroom windows and in the
hall, and presently, as Fane watched, a brougham drove up to the door.
It waited a few moments before the house, then some one entered the
carriage. The door was banged; the horse moved on. Through the windows
Fane saw a woman's face, pale, against the pane. It was the face of
Sydney. For a moment he thought he would call to the coachman to stop.
Then he restrained himself, and again walked up and down, waiting. She
must return presently. He would speak to her as she was getting out of
the carriage. He would force her to receive him.
Towards nine o'clock his plans were altered by an event which took
place. The house door opened, and the footman came out with a handful
of letters for the post. The pillar-box was very near, and the man
carelessly left the hall door on the jar while he walked down the road.
Fane caught a glimpse of the hall that he knew so well. A step, and he
could be in the house. He hesitated. He looked down the road. The man
had his back turned, and was putting the letters into the box. Fane
slipped into the garden, up the steps, through the door. The hall was
empty. At his right was the passage leading to the studio. He stole
down it, and tried the door. It opened. In the darkness the heavy
curtain blew against his face. In another instant he closed the door
softly at his back, and stood alone in the wide space and the
blackness. Here there was not a glimmer of light. Thick curtains fell
over the windows. No fire burned upon the hearth. There was no sound
except when a carriage occasionally rolled down the road, and even then
the wheels sounded distant.
The silence and darkness had their effect upon Fane. He had done a
desperate thing; but, until he found himself alone in the vacant
studio, he had not fully realised the madness of his conduct, and how
it would appear to the world. After the first moments of solitude had
passed he came to himself a little, and half opened the door with the
intention of stealing out; but he heard steps in the hall, and shrank
back again like a guilty creature. He must wait, at least, until the
household retired to rest.
And, waiting, the old, haunting thoughts came back to assail him
once more. He began to brood over Sydney's cruel treatment of him, over
her vile suspicions. Here, in the atmosphere which he knew so wellfor
a faint, strange perfume always lingered about the studio, and gave to
it the subtle sense of life which certain perfumes can imparthis
emotions were gradually quickened to fury. He recalled the days of his
intimacy with the sculptor, of his unrestrained converse with Sydney.
He recalled his care for the invalid, persevered in, despite his
passion, to the end. And then his thought fastened upon the statue,
which, strange to say, he had almost forgotten.
It must be there, with him, in the darkness, staring with those
white eyes in which he had seen a soul flicker.
As the recollection of it came to him, he trembled, leaning against
He was in one of those states of acute mental tension in which the
mind becomes so easily the prey of the wildest fantasies, and slowly,
laboriously, he began to frame a connection between the lifeless marble
creature and his own dreary trouble.
Because of one moment of folly Sydney treated him as a pariah, as a
criminal. Her gentle nature had been transformed suddenly.
By what subtle influence?
Fane remembered the day of his first visit to Ilbury Road, and his
curious imagination that the statue recognised and hated him.
Had that hatred prompted action? Was there a devil lurking in the
white, cold marble to work his ruin? When Sydney sent him out of her
presence for ever, the watching face had seemed to smile.
Fane set his teeth in the darkness. He was no longer sane. He was
possessed. The tragedy of thought within him invited him to the
execution of another tragedy. He stretched out his hand with the
rehearsing action of one meditating a blow.
His hand fell upon an oak table that stood against the wall, and hit
on something smooth and cold. It was a long Oriental dagger that the
dead sculptor had brought from the East. Fane's fingers closed on it
mechanically. The frigid steel thrilled his hot palm, and a pulse in
his forehead started beating till there was a dull, senseless music in
his ears that irritated him.
He wanted to listen for the return of Sydney's carriage.
His soul was ablaze with defiance. He was alone in the darkness with
his enemy; the cold, deadly, blind, pulseless thing that yet was alive;
the silent thing that had yet whispered malign accusations of him to
the woman he loved; the nerveless thing that poisoned a beautiful mind
against him, that stole the music from his harp of life and let loose
the winds upon his summer.
His fingers closed more tightly, more feverishly upon the slippery
Sydney actually thought, or strove to think, him a criminal. What if
he should earn the title? A sound as of the sea beating was in his
ears, and flashes of strange light seem to leap to his vision. What
would a man worth the name do to his enemy?
And he and his enemy were shut up alone together.
He drew himself up straight and steadied himself against the wall,
peering through the blackness in the direction of the statue.
And, as he did so, there seemed to steal into the atmosphere the
breath of another living presence. He could fancy he heard the pulse of
another heart beating near to his. The sensation increased upon him
powerfully until suspicion grew into conviction.
His intention had subtly communicated itself to the thing he could
He knew it was on guard.
There was no actual sound, no movement, but the atmosphere became
charged by degrees with a deadly, numbing cold, like the breath of
frost in the air. A chill ran through Fane's blood. A sluggish terror
began to steal over him, folding him for the moment in a strange
inertia of mind and of body. A creeping paralysis crawled upon his
senses, like the paralysis of nightmare that envelops the dreamer. He
opened his lips to speak, but they chattered soundlessly. Mechanically
his hand clutched the thin, sharp steel of the dagger.
His enemythen Sydney.
He would not be a coward. He struggled against the horror that was
And still the cold increased, and the personality of Fane's
invisible companion seemed to develop in power. There was a sort of
silent violence in the hidden room, as if a noiseless combat were
taking place. Waves of darkness were stirred into motion; and Fane, as
a man is drawn by the retreating tides of the sea out and away, was
drawn from the wall where he had been crouching.
He stole along the floor, the dagger held in his right hand, his
heart barely beating, his lips whitenearer, nearer to his enemy.
He counted each step, until he was enfolded in the inmost circle of
that deadly frost emanating from the blackness before him.
Then, with a hoarse cry, he lifted his arm and sprang forward and
upward, dashing the dagger down as one plunging it through a human
The cry died suddenly into silence.
There was the sound of a heavy fall.
It reached the ears of the servants below stairs.
The footman took a light, and, with a scared face, went hesitatingly
to the studio door, paused outside and listened while the female
servants huddled in the passage.
The heavy silence succeeding the strange sound appalled them, but at
length the man thrust the door open and peered in.
The light from the candle flickered merrily upon Fane's bowed
figure, huddled face downwards upon the floor.
His neck was broken.
The statue, that was the dead sculptor's last earthly achievement,
stood as if watching over him. But it was no longer perfect and
Some splinters of marble had been struck from the left breast, and
among them, on the smooth parquet, lay a bent Oriental dagger.