others, as though he were beating them back. It was the same imperious gesture
that I had seen used to the wolves. In a voice which, though low and almost in a
whisper seemed to cut through the air and then ring in the room he said,
"How dare you touch him, any of you? How dare you cast eyes on him when I
had forbidden it? Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me! Beware how you
meddle with him, or you'll have to deal with me."
The fair girl, with a laugh of ribald coquetry, turned to answer him. "You yourself
never loved. You never love!" On this the other women joined,and such a
mirthless, hard, soulless laughter rang through the room that it almost made me
faint to hear. It seemed like the pleasure of fiends.
Then the Count turned, after looking at my face attentively, and said in a soft
whisper, "Yes, I too can love. You yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so?
Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your
will. Now go! Go! I must awaken him, for there is work to be done."
"Are we to have nothing tonight?" said one of them, with a low laugh, as she
pointed to the bag which he had thrown upon the floor, and which moved as
though there were some living thing within it. For answer he nodded his head.
One of the women jumped forward and opened it. If my ears did not deceive me
there was a gasp and a low wail, as of a half smothered child. The women closed
round, whilst I was aghast with horror. But as I looked, they disappeared, and
with them the dreadful bag. There was no door near them, and they could not
have passed me without my noticing. They simply seemed to fade into the rays
of the moonlight and pass out through the window, for I could see outside the
dim, shadowy forms for a moment before they entirely faded away.
Then the horror overcame me, and I sank down unconscious.