No matter what. I dont know. I was then at the foot of the turret, where I did the
Aye, said the blind man, nodding his head with perfect composure, I understand.
I climbed the stair, or so much of it as was left; meaning to hide till he had gone. But he heard me; and followed almost as soon as I set foot upon the ashes.
You might have hidden in the wall, and thrown him down, or stabbed him, said the blind man.
Might I? Between that man and me, was one who led him onI saw it, though he did notand raised above his head a bloody hand. It was in the room above that he and I stood glaring at each other on the night of the murder, and before he fell he raised his hand like that, and fixed his eyes on me. I knew the chase would end there.
You have a strong fancy, said the blind man, with a smile.
Strengthen yours with blood, and see what it will come to.
He groaned, and rocked himself, and looking up for the first time, said, in a low, hollow voice, Eight- and-twenty years! Eight-and-twenty years! He has never changed in all that time, never grown older, nor altered in the least degree. He has been before me in the dark night, and the broad sunny day; in the twilight, the moonlight, the sunlight, the light of fire, and lamp, and candle; and in the deepest gloom. Always the same! In company, in solitude, on land, on shipboard; sometimes leaving me alone for months, and sometimes always with me. I have seen him, at sea, come gliding in the dead of night along the bright reflection of the moon in the calm water; and I have seen him, on quays and market-places, with his hand uplifted, towering, the centre of a busy crowd, unconscious of the terrible form that had its silent stand among them. Fancy! Are you real? Am I? Are these iron fetters, riveted on me by the smiths hammer, or are they fancies I can shatter at a blow?
The blind man listened in silence.
Fancy! Do I fancy that I killed him? Do I fancy that as I left the chamber where he lay, I saw the face of a man peeping from a dark door, who plainly showed me by his fearful looks that he suspected what I had done? Do I remember that I spoke fairly to himthat I drew nearernearer yetwith the hot knife in my sleeve? Do I fancy how he died? Did he stagger back into the angle of the wall into which I had hemmed him, and, bleeding inwardly, stand, not fail, a corpse before me? Did I see him, for an instant, as I see you now, erect and on his feetbut dead!
The blind man, who knew that he had risen, motioned him to sit down again upon his bedstead; but he took no notice of the gesture.
It was then I thought, for the first time, of fastening the murder upon him. It was then I dressed him in my clothes, and dragged him down the back-stairs to the piece of water. Do I remember listening to the bubbles that came rising up when I had rolled him in? Do I remember wiping the water from my face, and because the body splashed it there, in its descent, feeling as if it must be blood?
Did I go home when I had done? And oh, my God! how long it took to do! Did I stand before my wife, and tell her? Did I see her fall upon the ground; and, when I stooped to raise her, did she thrust me back with a force that cast me off as if I had been a child, staining the hand with which she clasped my wrist? Is that fancy?
Did she go down upon her knees, and call on Heaven to witness that she and her unborn child renounced me from that hour; and did she, in words so solemn that they turned me coldme, fresh from the horrors my own hands had madewarn me to fly while there was time; for though she would be silent, being
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