With an insouciant shrug, the Duke turned his back on the mirror, and approached an ebony credenza stocked with a row of crystal decanters. Pondering, he refreshed his goblet with a stream of ruby port, then turned again to the sound of a bell ringing.
Footsteps were heard, and a servant announced, opening the outer door to the suite, “Her ladyship, Una de Trois.”
With a rustle of silk, Una entered the boudoir, in a dress with an extremely low cut square bodice, which was her trademark. All the fine ladies of Glasstown were rushing to have their dressmakers imitate the neckline, but none could duplicate that which it was designed to display: a monstrously large emerald pendant that had been a gift from Zamorna, a prize from the mines of inner Africa where he had lately been subduing the natives.
“Exquisite as always, my dear,” Zamorna drawled, surveying her indolently.
She smiled, then drew back.
“We are not alone?” Una asked indignantly, gesturing towards the mirror.
The mysterious reflection of an unkempt figure that Zamorna had seen before remained behind the glass, staring out at them, as if looking in through a window.
“Begone, you devil!” Zamorna commanded.
In echo, the figure in the mirror cried out faintly, “Begone, you devil!”
“Do you mock me?” demanded Zamorna.
“Do you mock me?” replied the figure.
Zamorna replied with an oath that shocked even the jaded ears of Miss de Trois.
The reflection did not repeat the oath, but instead cried, “Lucifer! Do you defy your creator?”
The surface of the mirror began to shimmer, like the surface of a pond, and the young man on the other side seemed ready to leap into the room. Zamorna rushed towards him, fists raised, but he struck at nothing, and instead plunged forward into the midnight darkness of a cobwebbed tunnel. He groped ahead — a sound of rushing water — a smell of sulfur. He stumbled upon a doorsill and fell forward onto bare wooden floorboards.
Or such was his perception.
What Una saw was a flash of light. It appeared to her that lighting struck Zamorna, throwing him backwards onto the floor. He lay on the embroidered velvet carpet of the boudoir, stunned but seemingly unhurt. And yet — there was something so odd and different in his aspect that Una cried out, “My lord?”
He sat up and stared at her, with a blank and almost an idiotic look upon his face. She immediately crossed to a silver stand where a silver ice bucket held a bottle of fine champagne, and, pouring out a glass, handed it to him. He remained staring, motionless and slack-jawed, and refused the proffered glass with a rough gesture. A chill went through Una as she recalled a dark rumor, lately circulating through the capitol, that madness ran in his family. Little she suspected the truth: that the stunned intelligence lurking behind those glazed eyes did not belong to Zamorna, but to the young man of the mirror!
With a frigid calmness, she left the room, closing the door behind her. From a desk she obtained a pen and writing paper, and quickly composed a note.
She rang for the servant, and met him in the outer room, where she handed him the urgent missive. It was addressed to Lucien de Rubempré.
The other — or true — Zamorna found himself tumbled unceremoniously onto the floor of a small room, dimly lit with a coal fire.
Looking up, he saw three very quaint young women peering down at him. All three were dressed in black, with starched cuffs and collars of a startling pure white that made their pale faces look whey and unwholesome by comparison. They immediately put him in mind of Shakespeare’s “three weird sisters.”
“Branwell,” one of them asked, “Are you ill?”
One of the young women took a key from a large key ring that she wore at her waist, and opened a small rustic cabinet that stood in the room. From it she removed a bottle of some dark cordial, and a very small thimble-shaped glass. She tipped a few drops into the glass and handed it to man, who drank it silently.
The Duke was not unfamiliar with uncanny and supernatural experiences, and accustomed as he was to maintaining a glacial composure even in the most dire of circumstances, he did not allow his nerves to fail him now.
Rising to his full height, he bowed and said gallantly, “Good day, ladies. I am the Duke of Zamorna.”
The three girls laughed. The name was not unknown to them, and yet, they surrounded him, petting him, calling him Branwell, and suggesting that he lie down on a pitiful cot nearby, which they seemed to think was his bed, so that they could administer a hot mustard poultice. He noticed at the same time that the tallest sister was preparing to lock up the bottle of cordial in the nearby cabinet.