Page:The Woman in White.djvu/584

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

"Horrible news, Walter! Let us go back to London—I don't want to stop here—I am sorry I ever came. The misfortunes of my youth are very hard upon me," he said, turning his face to the wall; "very hard upon me, in my later time. I try to forget them—and they will not forget me!"

"We can't return, I am afraid, before the afternoon," I replied. "Would you like to come out with me, in the mean time?"

"No, my friend; I will wait here. But let us go back to-day—pray let us go back."

I left him with the assurance that he should leave Paris that afternoon. We had arranged the evening before, to ascend the Cathedral of Notre Dame, with Victor Hugo's noble romance for our guide. There was nothing in the French capital that I was more anxious to see—and I departed by myself for the church.

Approaching Notre Dame by the river-side, I passed on my way the terrible dead-house of Paris—the Morgue. A great crowd clamoured and heaved round the door. There was evidently something inside which excited the popular curiosity, and fed the popular appetite for horror.

I should have walked on to the church, if the conversation of two men and a woman on the outskirts of the crowd had not caught my ear. They had just come out from seeing the sight in the Morgue; and the account they were giving of the dead body to their neighbours, described it as the corpse of a man—a man of immense size, with a strange mark on his left arm.

The moment those words reached me, I stopped, and took my place with the crowd going in. Some dim foreshadowing of the truth had crossed my mind, when I heard Pesca's voice through the open door, and when I saw the stranger's face as he passed me on the stairs of the hotel. Now, the truth itself was revealed to me—revealed, in the chance words that had just reached my ears. Other vengeance than mine had followed that fated man from the theatre to his own door; from his own door to his refuge in Paris. Other vengeance than mine had called him to the day of reckoning, and had exacted from him the penalty of his life. The moment when I had pointed him out to Pesca at the theatre, in the hearing of that stranger by our side, who was looking for him too—was the moment that sealed his doom. I remembered the struggle in my own heart, when he and I stood face to face—the struggle before I could let him escape me—and shuddered as I recalled it.