Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/229

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A Study in Temptations.
213
 

apron—"mother, next time a lodger dies may I have another half-holiday?"

Jenyns heard the question, and, smiling faintly, walked slowly up the creaking staircase till he reached a room on the fourth landing. He crept in and gazed stupidly around it: noticed that there was a cupboard door half-open, a few medicine bottles on the mantelpiece, a pile of women's garments on a chair, a white straw hat, trimmed with ribbons, on the chest of drawers. Inch by inch his eyes travelled from the chair to the table, from the table to the floor, from the floor to a pair of small, muddy shoes with ridiculous French heels, from the shoes to the bed, and there, as it seemed to him, he saw her lying as she had been for two days past, before they lifted her into the coffin.

"God! O God!" he called.

But no God answered.

He bent over the imaginary form. "Wake up!" he whispered—"wake up! You are dreaming, that's all. You have often dreamt before. Wake up! Mary! Mary! are you so tired?"

Outside the house he heard a rustling, a strange shrieking and wailing. Was it all the wind? It seemed to the half-crazed man a Presence—a host of Presences swarming in at the windows, down the chimney, and gathering round him.

"I do not fear you," he said; "there is no worse torment than living. Where you are, Hell must be, and you are everywhere. Pain is nothing; everything is nothing ; You are nothing. But—damn you—I will believe in you if you can wake"—he pointed to the empty bed—"if you can wake one of us."