Twilight (Frankau)/Chapter XV
Margaret slept ill that night. Round and round in her unhappy mind swirled the irrefutable fact that she had lied to her lover, and that he knew she had lied. Broken her promise, her oath; and he knew that she was forsworn. She passionately desired his respect; in all things he had been on his knees before her. If he were no longer there she would find the change of attitude difficult to endure. Yet in the watches of the night she clung to the hope that he could know nothing definitely. He might suspect or divine, but he could not know. She counted on Peter Kennedy, trusted that when the five hundred pounds were paid the woman would be satisfied, would go quietly away, that nothing more would ever be heard of her.
Wednesday next they were to be married. She told herself that if she had lost anything she would regain it then. Perhaps she would tell him, but not until after she had re-won him. She knew her power. If, too, she distrusted it, sensing something in him incorruptible and granite-hard, she took faint and feverish consolation by reminding herself that it was night-time, when all troubles look their worst. She resolutely refused to consider the permanent loss of that which she now knew she valued more than life itself. The possibility intruded, but she would not look.
In short snatches of troubled sleep she lived again through the scenes of the afternoon, saw him doubt, heard him question, gave flippant answers. In oases of wakefulness she felt his arms about her, and the restrained kisses that were like vows; conjured up thrilled moments when she knew how well he loved her. She began to dread those nightmare sleeps, and to force herself to keep awake. At four o'clock she consoled herself that it would soon be daylight. At five o'clock, after a desperate short nightmare of estrangement from which she awoke, quick-pulsed and pallid, she got up and put on a dressing-gown, drew up the blind, and opened wide the window. She watched the slow dawn and in the darkness heard the breakers on the stony beach. Nature calmed and quieted her. She began to think her fears had been foolish, to believe that she had not only played for safety but secured it, that the coming day would bring her the Gabriel she knew best, the humble and adoring lover. She pictured their coming together, his dear smile and restored confidence. He would have forgotten yesterday. The dawn she was watching illumined and lightened the sky. Soon the sun would rise grandly, already his place was roseate-hued. "Red sky in the morning is the shepherd's warning," runs the old proverb. But Margaret had never heard, or had forgotten it. To her the roseate dawn was all promise. The day before them should be exquisite as yesterday, and weld them with its warmth. She would withhold nothing from him, nothing of her love. Then peace would fall between them? and the renewal of love? At six o'clock she pulled down the blinds and went back to bed again, where for two hours she slept dreamlessly. Stevens woke her with the inevitable tea.
"It can't be morning yet? It is hardly light." She struggled with her drowsiness. "I don't hear rain, do I?"
"There's no saying what you hear, but it's raining sure enough, a miserable morning for May."
"May! But it is nearly June!"
"I'm not gainsaying the calendar."
"Pull up the blind."
A short time before she had gazed on a roseate dawn, now rain was driving pitilessly across the landscape, and all the sky was grey. No longer could she hear the breakers on the shore. All she heard was the rain. Stevens shut the window.
"You'd best not be getting up early. There's nothing to get up for on a morning like this. It's not as if you was in the habit of going to church." Margaret was conscious of depression. Stevens's grumbling kept it at bay, and she detained her on one excuse or another; tried to extract humour from her habitual dissatisfaction.
"It will be like this all day, you see if it isn't. The rain is coming down straight, too, and the smoke's blowing all ways." She changed the subject abruptly, as maids will, intent on her duties. "I'll have to be getting out your clothes. What do you think you'll wear?"
"I meant to try my new whipcord."
"With the wheat-ear hat! What's the good of that if you won't have a chance of going out?"
"One of my new tea-gowns, then?"
"I never did hold with tea-gowns in the morning," Stevens answered lugubriously. "I suppose Mr. Stanton will be coming over. Not but what he'll get wet through."
"I shouldn't be surprised if he came all the same." Margaret smiled, and the omniscient maid reflected the smile, if a little sourly.
"There's never no saying. There's that telephone going. Another mistake, I suppose. I wish I'd the drilling of them girls. Oh! I'm coming, I'm coming!" she cried out to the insensitive instrument. "Don't you attempt to get up till I come back. You're going to have a fire to dress by; calendar or no calendar, it's as cold as winter."
Margaret watched the rain driving in wind gusts against the window until Stevens came back. Somehow the rain seemed to have altered everything, she felt the fatigue of her broken night, the irritability of her frayed nerves.
"It's that there Dr. Kennedy. He wants to know how soon he may come over. He says he's got something to tell you. 'All the fat's in the fire,' he said. 'Am I to tell her that?' I arst him. 'Tell her anything you like,' he answered, 'but find out how soon I can see her.' Very arbitrary he was and impatient, as if I'd nothing to do but give and take his messages."
"Tell him I'm just getting up. I can be ready in half an hour."
"I shall tell him nothing of the sort. Half an hour, indeed, with your bath and everything, and no breakfast, and the fire not yet lit. Nor one of the rooms done, I shouldn't think …"
"Tell him I'll see him in half an hour," Margaret persisted. "Now go away, that's a good woman, and do as you are told. Don't stand there arguing, or I'll answer the telephone myself." She put one foot out of bed as if to be as good as her word, and Stevens, grumbling and astonished, went to do her bidding.
Half an hour seemed too long for Margaret. What had Peter Kennedy to tell her? Had he met or seen Mrs. Roope? "All the fat was in the fire." What fat, what fire? The phrase foreshadowed comedy and not tragedy. But that was nothing for Peter Kennedy, who was in continual need of editing, who had not the gift of expression nor the capacity of appropriate words. She scrambled in and out of her bath, to Stevens's indignation, never waiting for the room to be warmed. She was impatient about her hair, would not sit still to have it properly brushed, but took the long strands in her own hands and "twisted them up anyhow." Stevens's description of the whole toilette would have been sorry reading in a dress magazine or ladies' paper.
"Give me anything," she says, "anything. What does it matter? He'll be here any minute now. The old dressing-gown, or a shirt and skirt. Whichever is quickest. What a slowcoach you're getting!"
"Slowcoach! She called me a slowcoach, and from first to last it hadn't been twenty minutes."
Margaret, sufficiently dressed, but without having breakfasted, very pale and impatient, was at the window of the music room when Peter came up the gravel path in his noisy motor, flung in the clutch with a grating sound, pulled the machine to a stand-still. There was no ceremony about showing him up. He was in the room before she had collected herself. He, too, was pale, his chin unshaved, his eyes a little wild; looking as if he, also, had not slept.
"You've heard what happened?" he began, abruptly. …" No, of course you haven't, how could you? What a fool I am! There's been a hell of a hullabaloo. That's why I telephoned, rushed up. You know that she-cat came down here?" He had difficulty in explaining his errand.
"Yes. I saw her, she waited for you at the hotel. Go on, what next?"
"I didn't get back until after nine o'clock. And then I found her waiting for me. The servants did not know what to make of her; they told me they couldn't understand what she said, so I suppose she talked Christian Science. Fortunately I'd got the cheque with me. I had not been able to change it, the London banks were all closed. She took it like a bird. Not without some of the jargon and hope that I'd mend my ways, give up prescribing drugs. You know the sort of thing. I thought I'd got through, that it was all over. The cheque was dated Saturday, she would be able to cash it first thing Monday morning. It was as good as money directly the banks opened. I never dreamt of them meeting."
"Who?" asked Margaret, with pale lips. She knew well enough, although she asked and waited for an answer.
"She and Gabriel Stanton. It seems she was too late for the last train and had to put up at the hotel …"
"At the King's Arms?"
"Yes. He met her there, or rather she forced herself on him. God knows what she had in her mind. Pure mischief, I suspect, though of course it may have been propaganda. It seems he came in about ten o'clock and went on to the terrace to smoke or to look at the sea. She followed him there, tackled him about his sister or his soul."
"How do you know all this?"
"Let me tell the story my own way. He met her full-face so to speak, wanted to know exactly what she was doing in this part of the world. Perhaps she didn't know she was giving away the show. Perhaps she didn't know he wasn't exactly in our confidence. There is no use thinking the worst of her."
"She knew what she was doing, that she was coming between us." Margaret spoke in a low voice, a voice of desperate certainty and hopelessness.
"Well, that doesn't matter one way or another, what her intentions were, I mean. I don't know myself what had happened between you and him. Although of course I spotted quick enough he'd had some sort of shock.…"
"Then you have seen him!"
"I was coming to that. After his interview with her he came straight to me."
"To you! But it was already night!"
"I'd gone to bed, but he rang the night bell, rang and rang again. I didn't know who it was when I shouted through the tube that I'd come down, that I shouldn't be half a minute. When I let him in I thought he was a ghost. I was quite staggered, he seemed all frozen up, stiff. Just for a moment it flashed across me that he'd come from you, that you were ill, needed me. But he did not give me time to say the wrong things. 'Mrs. Roope has just left me,' he began. 'The devil she has,' was all I could find to answer. I was quite taken aback. I needn't go over it all word by word, it wasn't very pleasant. He accused me of compromising you, seemed to think I'd done it on purpose, had some nefarious motive. I was in the dark about how much he knew, and that handicapped me. I swore you knew nothing about it, and he said haughtily that I was to leave your name out of the conversation. And now I'm coming to the point. Why I am here at all. It seems she tried to rush him for a bit more, and he, well practically told her to go to blazes, said he should stop the cheque, prosecute her. He seemed to think I was trying to save myself at your expense. ASS! He is going up this morning to see his lawyer, he wants an information laid at Scotland Yard. He says the Christian Science people are practically living on blackmail, getting hold of family secrets or skeletons. And he's not going to stand for it. I did all I knew to persuade him to let well alone. We nearly came to blows, only he was so damned dignified. I said I believed it would break you up if there was another scandal. 'I have no doubt that Mrs. Capel will see the matter in the same light that I do,' he said in the stiffest of all his stiff ways." Peter Kennedy paused. He had another word to say, but he said it awkwardly, with an immense effort, and after a pause.
"He'll come up here this morning and tackle you. You don't care a curse if I'm dead or alive, I know that. But if…if he drives you too far…well, you know I'd lay down my life for you. He says I've no principle, and as far as you're concerned that's true enough. I'd say black was white, I'd steal or starve to give you pleasure, save you pain. That's what I've come to say, to put myself at your service." She put up her hand, motioned him to silence. All this time he had been standing up, now he flung himself into a chair, brushed his hand across his forehead. "I hardly know what I'm saying, I haven't slept a wink."
"You were saying you would do anything for me."
"I meant that right enough."
Without any preparation, for until now she had listened apparently calmly, she broke into a sudden storm of tears. He got up again and went and stood beside her.
"I can't live without him," she said. " I can't live without him," she repeated weakly. "Oh, I say, you know…" But he had nothing to say. The sniffing Stevens, disapproval strongly marked upon her countenance, here brought in a tray with coffee and rolls. Margaret, recovering herself with an effort, motioned her to set it down.
"You ought to make her take it," Stevens said to Dr. Kennedy indignantly, "disturbing her before she's breakfasted. She's had nothing inside her lips." He was glad of the interruption.
"You stay and back me up, then." Together they persuaded or forced her to the coffee, she could not eat, and was impatient that Stevens and the tray should go away. Her outburst was over, but she was pitiably shaken.
"He'll come round, all right," Peter said awkwardly, when they were alone again. She looked at him with fear in her eyes:
"Do you really think so?"
"You don't think he would go up to London without seeing me?"
She spoke again presently. In the interval Peter conjured up the image of Gabriel Stanton, speaking to her as he had to him, refusing compromise, harshly unapproachable, rigid.
"I could never go through what I went through before."
"What could you do?"
"I'll find some way … a medical certificate!"
"The shame of it!" She covered her face with her hands.
"It won't happen. She's had her money. He may have rubbed her up the wrong way, but after all she has nothing to gain by interfering."
"If only I had told him myself! If only I hadn't lied to him!"
Peter, desperately miserable, walked about the room, interjecting a word now and again, trying to inspirit her.
"You had better go," she said to him in the end. "It's nearly ten o'clock. If he is coming up at all he will be here soon."
"Of course he is coming up. How can I leave you like this?" he answered wildly. "Can't I do anything, say anything, see him for you?" Margaret showed the pale simulacrum of a smile.
"That was my idea, once before, wasn't it? No, you can't see him for me."
"I can't do anything?"
"I'm not sure."
She spoke slowly, hesitatingly. In truth she did not know how she was to bear what she saw before her. Not marriage, safety, happiness, was to be hers, only humiliation. Death was preferable, a thousand times preferable. She was impulsive and leaped to this conclusion.
"Can't I do anything?" he said again.
"Peter, Peter Kennedy, you say you would do anything, anything, for me. I wonder what you mean by it. … How much or how little?"
"Lay down my life."
"Or risk it? There must be a way, you must know a way of … of shortening things. I could not go through it all again … not now. If the worst came to the worst, if I can't make him listen to reason, if he won't forgive or understand. If I have to face the court again, my father and stepmother to know of my … my imprudence, all the horrors to be repeated. To have to stand up and deny … be cross-examined. About you as well as him …"
Again she hid her face. Then, after a pause in which she saw her life befouled, and Gabriel Stanton as her judge or executioner, she lifted a strained and desperate face. "You would find a way to end it?"
She waited for his answer.
"I don't know what you mean."
"Yes, you do. If it became unbearable. Life no longer a gift, but leprous …"
"It isn't as if you had done anything," he exclaimed. "I've promised and broken my promise, lied, deceived him. It was only to secure his happiness, mine…ours… But if he takes it differently, and must have publicity…"
"I don't believe you could go through it," he said gloomily. "One of those heart attacks of yours might come on."
"You know the pain is intolerable."
"That amyl helps you."
"Was a failure last time. Peter, think, won't you think? Couldn't you give me anything? Isn't there any drug? You are fond of drugs, learned in them. Isn't there any drug that would put me out of my misery?"
He listened and she pressed him.
"Of course there are drugs."
"But the drug."
"Tell me the effect of that?"
"It depends how it is given…what it is given for."
"A quarter of a grain injection."
"If you love me, Peter… You say you love me… If the worst came to the worst, you will help me through…?"
"I must.… I want your promise."
"What is the good of promising? I couldn't do it."
"You said you could die for me."
"It isn't my death you are asking. Unless I should be hanged!"
"You can safeguard yourself."
"You will never ask me."
"But if I did?"
"Oh, God knows!"
"If I not only asked but implored? Give me this hope, this promise. If I come to the end of my tether, can bear no more; then ask you for release, the great release…?"
"My hand would drop off."
"Lose your hand."
"My heart would fail."
"Other men have done such things for the woman they love."
"It won't come to that."
"But if it did…?"
She pressed him, pressed him so hard that in the end he yielded, gave her the promise she asked. His night had been sleepless, he had been without breakfast. He scarcely knew what he was saying, only that he could not say "No" to her. And that when he said "Yes," she took his hand in hers a moment, his reluctant hand, and laid her cheek against it.
"Dear friend," she said tenderly, "you give me courage."
When he went away she looked happier, or at least quieter. He cursed himself for a fool when he got into the car. But still against his hand he felt the softness of her cheek and the fear of unmanly tears made him exceed the speed limit.
Margaret, left alone, calculated her resources and for all her whilom amazing vanity found them poor and wanting. What would Gabriel say to her this morning, how could she answer him? If he truly loved her and she pointed out to him, proved to him that their marriage, their happiness, need not be postponed, would he listen? She saw herself persuading him, but remembered that her father in many an argument had failed in making him admit that there was more than one standard of ethics, of right conduct. If he truly loved her! In this black moment she could doubt it. For unlike Peter Kennedy he would put honour before her love.
Gabriel, her lover, came late, on slow reluctant feet. He loved her no less, although he knew she had deceived him, kept things back from him, complicated, perhaps, both their lives by her action. He knew her motives also, that it was because she loved him. He had no harsh judgment, only an overwhelming pang of tenderness. He, too, had faced the immediate future. He knew there must be no marriage whilst this thing hung over and menaced them. Yet to take her into his own keeping, guard and cherish her, was a desire sharp as a sword is sharp, and too poignant for words. He thought she would understand him. But more definitely perhaps he feared her opposition. The fear had slowed his feet. She did not know her lover when she dreaded his reproaches. When he came into the music room this grey, wet morning, he saw that she looked ill, but hardly guessed that she was apprehensive, and of him. He bent over her hands, kissed her hands, held them against his lips.
"My dear, my dear." Her mercurial spirits rose at a bound.
"I thought you would reproach me."
"My poor darling!"
"I wish I had told you."
"Never mind that now."
"But that was the worst of everything. You don't know how I have reproached myself."
"You must not."
"You have not left off caring for me, then?"
"I never cared for you so much."
"Why do you look so grave, so serious?"
Her heart was shaking as she questioned him. In his tenderness there was something different, something inflexible.
"My darling," he said again.
"I am going to ask you to let me stop that cheque."
"Fortunately it is Sunday. We have the day before us. I am going up by the two-o'clock. I've sent my bag down to the station. I've already been on to my lawyer by telephone and he will see me at his private house this afternoon. In my opinion we have nothing at all to fear. The King's Proctor will not move on such evidence as she has to offer, she has overreached herself. We ought to have her in gaol by tomorrow night."
"That is where she should be. She frightened you… she shall go to gaol for it. Margaret, will you write to your bankers… let me write…"
"No!" she said again.
"Sweetheart!" and he caressed her.
"No. Gabriel, listen to me. I am overwhelmed because I broke my promise to you, was not candid. But though I am overwhelmed and unhappy…"
"I will not let you be unhappy…"
She brushed that aside and went on:
"I am not sorry for what I have done. There is not a word of truth in what she says. As you say, I have admitted guilt, being innocent. Gabriel, I was innocent before, but racked, tortured to prove it. Here I have only paid five hundred pounds. Oh, Heaven! give me words, the power to show you. I am pleading with you for my life. For my life, Gabriel…ours. Let the cheque go through, give her another if necessary, and yet another. I don't mind buying my happiness." She pleaded wildly.
"Hush! Hush!" He hushed her on his breast, held her to him.
"Dear love…" She wept, and the tortures of which she spoke were his. "If only I might yield to you."
"What is it stops you? Obstinacy, self-righteousness…"
"If it were either would I not yield now, now, with your dear head upon my breast?" She was sobbing there. "Dear love, you unman me." His breathing was irregular. "Listen, you unman me, you weaken me. We were both looking forward, and must still be able to look forward. And backward, too. Not stain our name, more than our name, our own personal honour. Margaret, we are clean, there must be no one who can say, 'Had they been innocent, would they have paid to hide it?' And this fresh charge, this fresh and hideous accusation! And you would accept all, admit all! My dear, my dear, it must not be, we have not only ourselves to consider."
"Not only ourselves!" He held her closer, whispered in her ear.
She had heard him discuss commercial morality with her father, had seen into both their souls; learnt her lover's creed. One must not best a fellowman, fool though he might be, nor take advantage of his need nor ignorance. She had learnt that there were such things as undue percentage of profit, although no man might know what that profit was. "Child's talk," her father had called it, and told him Wall Street would collapse in a day if his tenets were to hold good. Margaret had been proud of him then, although secretly her reason had failed to support him, for it is hard to upset the teaching of a lifetime. To her, it seemed there were conventions, but common sense or convenience might override them. In this particular instance why should she not submit to blackmail, paying for the freedom she needed? But he could not be brought to see eye to eye with her in this. She used all the power that was in her to prove to him that there is no sharp line of demarcation between right and wrong, that one can steer a middle course.
The short morning went by whilst she argued. She put forth all her powers, and in the end, quite suddenly, became conscious that she had not moved him in the least, that as he thought when he came into the room, so he thought now. He used the same words, the same hopeless unarguable words. "Being innocent we cannot put in this plea of guilty." She would neither listen nor talk any more, but lay as a wrestler, who, after battling again and again until the whistle blew and the respite came, feels both shoulders touching the ground, and suddenly, without appeal, admits defeat.
When Gabriel wrote the letter to the bank stopping the cheque that was to be paid to Mrs. Roope on the morrow, she signed it silently. When he asked her to authorise him to see her father if necessary, to allow either or both of them to act for her, she acquiesced in the same way. She was quite spent and exhausted.
"I will let you know everything we do, every step we take."
"I don't want to hear." She accepted his caresses without returning them, she had no capacity left for any emotion.
Then, after he had gone, for there was no time to spare and he must not miss his train, she remained immobile for a time, the panorama of the future unfolding before her exhausted brain. What a panorama it was! She was familiar with every sickening scene that passed before her. Lawyer's office, documents going to and fro, delay and yet more delay. Appeal to Judge in Chambers, and from Judge in Chambers, interrogatories and yet more interrogatories, demands for further particulars, the further particulars questioned; Counsel's opinion, the case set down for hearing, adjournments and yet further adjournments.
At last the Court. Speeches. And then, standing behind the rail in the witness-box, the cynosure of all eyes, she saw herself as in the stocks, for all to pelt with mud…herself, her wretched, cowering self! Gabriel said they were clean people; she and he were clean. So far they were, but they would be pelted with mud nevertheless; perhaps all the more because their cleanliness would make so tempting a target. The judge would find the mud-flinging entertaining, would interpolate facetious remarks. The Christian Science element would give him opportunity. The court would be crowded to suffocation. She felt the closeness and the musty air, and felt her heart contract…but not expand. That slight cramp woke her from her dreadful dream, but woke her to terror. Such a warning she had had before. She was able, however, to ring for help. Stevens came running and began to administer all the domestic remedies, rating her at the same time for having "brought it on herself," grumbling and reminding her of all her imprudences.
"No breakfast, and lunch not up yet; I never did see such goin's-on."
She had the sense, however, in the midst of her grumbling to send for the doctor, and before the pain was at its height he was in the room. The bitter-sweet smell of the amyl told him what had been already done. What little more he could do brought her no relief. He took out the case he always carried, hesitated, and chose a small bottle.
"Get me some hot water," he said, to Stevens.
"Morphia?" she gasped.
"Put it away."
"Because it failed once is no reason it should fail again."
"I'm in…I'm in…agony."
"And there's no hope."
"Oh, yes, you'll get through this."
"I don't want to…only not to suffer. Remember, you promised." He pretended not to hear, busying himself about her.
"He has gone. I've stopped the cheque. Peter…" The pain rose, her voice with it, then collapsed; it was dreadful to see her.
"Help me…give me the hyoscine," she said faintly. His hand shook, his face was ashen. "I can't bear this…you promised." The agony broke over her again. He poured down brandy, but it might have been water. His heart was wrung, and drops of perspiration formed upon his forehead. She pleaded to him in that faint voice, then was past pleading, and could only suffer, then began again:
"Pity me. Do something…let me go; help me…"
One has to recollect that he loved her, that he knew her heart was diseased, that there would be other such attacks. Also that Gabriel Stanton, as he feared, had proved inflexible. There would be no wedding and inevitable publicity. Then she cried to him again. And Stevens took up the burden of her cry.
"For the Lord's sake give her something, give her what she's asking for. Human nature can't bear no more…look at her." Stevens was moved, as any woman would be, or man, either, by such suffering.
"Your promise!" were words that were wrung through her dry lips. Her tortured eyes raked and racked him.
"I…I can't," was all the answer.
"If you care, if you ever cared. Your miserable weakness. Oh, if I only had a man about me!" She turned away from him for ease and he could hardly hear her. In the next paroxysm he lifted her gently on to the floor, placed a pillow under her head. He whispered to her, but she repelled him, entreated her, but she would not listen. All the time the pain went on. "You promised," were not words,—but a moan.
Desperately he took the cachet from the wrong bottle, melted it, filled his needle. When he bade Stevens roll up her sleeve, she smiled on him, actually smiled.
"Dear Peter! How right I was to trust you!…" Her voice trailed. The change in her face was almost miraculous, the writhing body relaxed. She sighed. Almost it seemed as if the colour came back to her lips, to her tortured face. "Dear, good Peter," were her last words, a message he stooped to hear.
"Thank the Lord," said Stevens piously, "she's getting easier." She was still lying on the floor, a pillow under her head, and they watched her silently.
"Shall I lift her back?"
"No, leave her a few minutes." He had the sense to add, "The morphia doesn't usually act so quickly." Stevens had seen him give her morphia before in the same way, with the same preliminaries. He had saved her, he must save himself. He was conscious now of nothing but gladness. He had feared his strength, but his strength had been equal to her need. She was out of pain. Nothing else mattered. She was out of pain, he had promised her and been equal to his promise. He was no Gabriel Stanton to argue and deny, deny and argue. He wiped his needle carefully, put it away. Then a cry from Stevens roused him, brought him quickly to her side.
"She's gone. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! She's gone!" He lifted her up, laid her on the sofa, the smile was still on her face, she looked asleep. But Stevens was there and he had to dissimulate.
"She is unconscious. Get on to the telephone. Ask Dr. Lansdowne to come over."
Then he made a feint of trying remedies. Strychnine, more amyl, more brandy, artificial respiration. He was glad, glad, glad, exulting as the moments went on. He thanked God that she was at rest. "He giveth His beloved sleep." He called her beloved, whispered it in her ear when Stevens was summoning that useless help. He had sealed her to him, she was his woman now, and for ever. No self-righteous iceberg could hold and deny her.
"Sleep well, beloved," he whispered." Sleep well. Smile on me, smile your thanks."
He recovered himself with an immense, an incredible effort. He wanted to laugh, to exult, to call on the world to see his work, what he had done for her, how peaceful she was, and happy. He was as near madness as a sane man could be, but by the time his partner came he composed his face and spoke with professional gravity:
"I am afraid you are too late."
Dr. Lansdowne, hurrying in, wore his habitual grin.
"I always knew it would end like this. Didn't I tell you so? An aneurism. I diagnosed it a long time ago." He had even forgotten his diagnosis. "I suppose you've tried ... so and so?" He recapitulated the remedies. Stevens, stunned by the calamity, but not so far as to make her forget to pull down the blinds, listened and realised Dr. Kennedy had left nothing undone.
"I suppose there will have to be an inquest?"
"An inquest! My dear fellow. An inquest! What for? I have seen her and diagnosed, prognosed. You have attended her for weeks under my direction. Unless her family wish it, it is quite unnecessary. I shall be most pleased to give a death certificate. You have informed the relatives, of course?"
Stevens emitted one dry sob which represented her entire emotional capacity, and hastened to ring up Queen Anne's Gate. Dr. Lansdowne began to talk directly she left them alone. He told his silent colleague of an eructation that troubled him after meals, and of a faint tendency to gout. Then cast a perfunctory glance at the sofa.
"Pretty woman!" he said. "All that money, too!"
Peter, suddenly, inexplicably unable to stand, sank on his knees by the sofa, hid his face in her dress. Dr. Lansdowne said. "God bless my soul!" Peter broke into tears like a girl.
"Come, come, this will never do. Pull yourself together, or I shall think ... I shan't know what to think ..."
Peter recovered himself as quickly as he had collapsed, rose to his feet.
"It was so sudden," he said apologetically. "I was unprepared ..."
"I could have told you exactly what would happen. The case could hardly have ended any other way."
He said a few kind words about himself and his skill as a diagnostician. Peter listened meekly, and was rewarded by the offer of a lift home. "You can come up again later, when the family has arrived, they will be sure to want to know about her last moments … Or I might come myself, tell them I foresaw it …"