Edith Wharton.

The Triumph Of Night online

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everything. He had looked too deep down into the abyss.... But little
by little health and energy returned to him, and with them the common
promptings of curiosity. He was beginning to wonder how the world was
going, and when, presently, the hotel-keeper told him there were no
letters for him in the steamer's mail-bag, he felt a distinct sense of
disappointment. His friend had gone into the jungle on a long excursion,
and he was lonely, unoccupied and wholesomely bored. He got up and
strolled into the stuffy reading-room.

There he found a game of dominoes, a mutilated picture-puzzle, some
copies of _Zion's Herald_ and a pile of New York and London newspapers.

He began to glance through the papers, and was disappointed to find that
they were less recent than he had hoped. Evidently the last numbers had
been carried off by luckier travellers. He continued to turn them over,
picking out the American ones first. These, as it happened, were the
oldest: they dated back to December and January. To Faxon, however, they
had all the flavour of novelty, since they covered the precise period
during which he had virtually ceased to exist. It had never before
occurred to him to wonder what had happened in the world during that
interval of obliteration; but now he felt a sudden desire to know.

To prolong the pleasure, he began by sorting the papers chronologically,
and as he found and spread out the earliest number, the date at the top
of the page entered into his consciousness like a key slipping into a
lock. It was the seventeenth of December: the date of the day after his
arrival at Northridge. He glanced at the first page and read in blazing
characters: "Reported Failure of Opal Cement Company. Lavington's name
involved. Gigantic Exposure of Corruption Shakes Wall Street to Its
Foundations."

He read on, and when he had finished the first paper he turned to the
next. There was a gap of three days, but the Opal Cement "Investigation"
still held the centre of the stage. From its complex revelations of
greed and ruin his eye wandered to the death notices, and he read:
"Rainer. Suddenly, at Northridge, New Hampshire, Francis John, only son
of the late...."

His eyes clouded, and he dropped the newspaper and sat for a long time
with his face in his hands. When he looked up again he noticed that his
gesture had pushed the other papers from the table and scattered them at
his feet. The uppermost lay spread out before him, and heavily his eyes
began their search again. "John Lavington comes forward with plan for
reconstructing Company. Offers to put in ten millions of his own - The
proposal under consideration by the District Attorney."

Ten millions... ten millions of his own. But if John Lavington was
ruined?... Pazon stood up with a cry. That was it, then - that was what
the warning meant! And if he had not fled from it, dashed wildly away
from it into the night, he might have broken the spell of iniquity, the
powers of darkness might not have prevailed! He caught up the pile of
newspapers and began to glance through each in turn for the head-line:
"Wills Admitted to Probate." In the last of all he found the paragraph
he sought, and it stared up at him as if with Rainer's dying eyes.

That - _that_ was what he had done! The powers of pity had singled him
out to warn and save, and he had closed his ears to their call, and
washed his hands of it, and fled. Washed his hands of it! That was
the word. It caught him back to the dreadful moment in the lodge when,
raising himself up from Rainer's side, he had looked at his hands and
seen that they were red....







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Online LibraryEdith WhartonThe Triumph Of Night → online text (page 3 of 3)