Page:Gaston Leroux--The man with the black feather.djvu/259

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blinking eyes with the too tardy tears of an ineffectual remorse.

So, in spite of all the suffering he had endured, in spite of all the passionate prayers of M. de la Nox to Æon, Source of Æons, Cartouche was not dead; the Black Feather ever sprouted afresh. This very night, as on so many other nights of crime, he was out on the roofs of Paris with his familiar spirit and his Black Feather. He wept. He cursed that mysterious and irresistible force which, from the depth of the centuries, bade him slay. He cursed the gesture which slays. He thought of his wife and his friend. He recalled with bitter regret the hours of happiness passed with those dear ones. He forgave them their terror and their flight. He resolved never again henceforth to trouble their peaceful hours with his red vagaries.

"Let us vanish!" said he. "Let us hide our shame and our original obliquity in the heart of the desert! They will forget me!… I shall forget myself! Let us profit by these moments of reason in which my brain, for the while free from the Past, discusses, weighs, deduces, and forms conclusions in the Present. It is no longer Cartouche who speaks. To-night it is Theophrastus who wills! Theo-