Page:Court Royal.djvu/230

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burned in me, and life with Lazarus and his sordid belongings was unendurable. I ran away; you know I forced myself on you, I asked you to free me. It was not that I cared for you—forgive me that I say so; if I pain you it is for your good—I used you but as a means of escape. I hungered for art; I knew that the stage was my proper sphere; and now—and now—I am consumed in the element I elected.’ Her head began to turn from side to side uneasily.

He did not speak, he watched her in silent remorse and agony. She had shut her eyes. He was not sure whether she were conscious. He held her hand; it was a hand of fire. Presently she stayed the rocking of her head, and opened her eyes. ‘It was I,’ she said—‘it was I who spoiled your life, not you mine. I have nothing to forgive. I must ask pardon of you.’

‘Of me! Oh, Rachel!’

‘I used you but as a means to an end. Who were you with in the stage-box to-night—yesterday—when was it?’

He told her.

‘You are not married?’ she asked, and looked at him.

He shook his head.

‘You must marry, and forget me,’ she said. ‘It was I—it was I who was in the wrong.’ Presently she added, ‘Beware of Lazarus; he will never forget, never forgive.’ Then she shut her eyes, and began again to sway her head and moan.

He watched her without speaking; she let go his hand, and held her fingers up as feeling for something in the air.

‘What do you want, Rachel?’

She turned her face and opened her eyes; the light of reason had gone from them. She put her arm out of the bed-clothes, and waved it:—

‘Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again,
 I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins,
 That almost freezes up the heat of life.
 Nurse! what should she do here?
 My dismal scene I needs must act alone.’

She thought herself on the stage. She tried to rise, and moaned and fell back.

Joanna entered; she did not raise her eyes to the face of Lord Saltcombe. She signed to him to go; he stood a moment longer looking at the poor woman, now unconscious, and stole away.