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" Dead ! "

" Ah ! " There was no movement in the room
save the heaving of the maid's shoulders, as she
crouched by the body of her mistress. The two
men faced each other staring, the minds of both
busy with a thousand thoughts, their eyes ex-
pressing nothing.

A long-drawn, quavering sob, with a gasp at
the end, vibrated painfully through the silence.
Giles with an uncontrollable movement put his


hands up to his ears. Nielsen did not stir, but
he frowned.

" You had better go, PauHne," he said to the
maid, " you can be of no use till the doctor
comes, then I will call you, but you must be
good and quiet, you know." She rose, and went
out, choking back her sobs.

Once more there was silence, and at the foot
of the couch the men stared at each other.
Nielsen, the shorter by four or five inches, stood
gnawing his moustache, his head stiffly bent
back, his hands in front of him mechanically
polishing his eye-glass ; his shortsighted eyes
were narrowed and puckered with the effort of
vision. Legard stared downwards at him, his
eyes deep sunk, his hands folding and refolding
his hat ; his teeth were clenched, and beads of
perspiration stood on his forehead.

" I don't believe — how do you know ? " he
said suddenly, but without looking at the couch.

" It is so, I have seen it too often. But look
for yourself, I found her like that." Nielsen
pointed towards the body.

" No ! No ! " said Giles in a harsh whisper,
"that's enough." He covered his eyes with his


hand, and, turning away, began to walk up and
down the room. He did not once glance at the
body. Nielsen watched him unobserved with a
growing feeling of perplexity and of repulsion.
" Poor lady ! " he said softly, and sat down by
the side of the couch. Bending forward with
his chin in his hand, he continued to watch
Giles restlessly pacing up and down the room.
He was trying to put the pieces of a puzzle to-
gether in his mind. It seemed to him singular
that Legard had not asked any questions ; he
appeared to know already. His mind reverted
to the picture of him hurrying away from the
villa hatless and with great strides two hours ago,
and a thought struck him.

" Was your wife alive when you left her, you
know — two hours ago ? " he asked suddenly.

Legard stopped short in his pacing ; it was
as if a sudden accusation had been hurled at

" Yes," he said hoarsely. " That is — ." He
broke off. How did Nielsen know he had been
with her ? He clenched his jaws and the snap
of his teeth together was the only sound in the
silent room. For an instant he felt like a hunted


man, and he glared at the Swede, waiting for the
next question. But it did not come. Nielsen
sat there, quietly nursing his chin and looking
at the floor — the answer had told him what
he wanted to know. Legard had been in the
room, but the servants had not known it ; he
had come out like a man flying from the plague,
and it was not an hour since he had himself
found Mrs. Legard dead. She had apparently
died from an overdose of morphia, for as she
lay with her hand by her side, the fingers of it
were still closed upon the medicine glass.

It was a singular affair ; with the discretion
of experience he filed it for reference, and sat
quietly nursing his chin and looking at the floor.

Outside, the wind moaned and raged, and a
driving rain began to beat against the windows.
Inside was the stillness of death itself.

Giles had fallen into a chair with his elbows
resting on the table, and his face buried in his
hands. The hunted feeling of the moment had
gone in a great indifference — a numb sensation
that was creeping over him. What did it matter ?
Let the fellow think what he would, he could
know nothing. There was nothing to know, of


course — it was a matter between him and his
own conscience.

He was surprised that he no longer felt pain,
remorse, or indecision, only a dull craving for
rest, and that peculiar numbness in his brain
and limbs.

There was a sound of wheels outside — then
footsteps — he heard them indistinctly through
the hissing of the rain and the moaning of the
wind. The door opened, and some one came
into the room.

In the dim light he had an impression of a
man with a bearded face and dark clothes, of
water dripping from the sleeves of his coat and
from his hat. A doctor ! Not his wife's doctor !
He was conscious, too, of the maid's presence,
of low-voiced questions and answers in French,
of fingers pointed at himself, of a long hush, of
the lifting of something white on the couch and
of its being laid gently back again.

He had an impression of being spoken to,
and of answering, of the subdued rattle of Vene-
tian blinds drawn up, of the soft beating of the
rain against the window panes.

The group of figures round the couch seemed


to shift and shift again. There was another
long hush, then a whisper in French.

" Poor fellow, he seems quite overcome ! "
And another voice, low also, and of uncertain
intonation, said, " Que votilez-voiis ? it is his

In a silence, that seemed everlasting, he sat
staring at a black figure leaning over the couch
and going through evolutions with a bottle,
measuring, smelling, tasting it, bending forward
till his body was right-angled, raising himself
again. Then the silence came to an end in
words pronounced, distinctly and with finality,
in the French tongue.

" Morphia — the bottle in her hand — she was
in the habit of taking it ? Ah ! Yes — failure
of the action of the heart, no doubt an overdose
— dead about an hour — poor woman — not an
uncommon case."

He experienced a sensation of gratitude — the
first sensation of any sort for many minutes —
the affair was not eternal, he would sometime
or another get rid of these people, and be left
to himself and have rest. He got up slowly
and with effort. Again the slurred rattle of the


Venetian blinds, the rustle of a sheet drawn over
the couch. Then a moment when three figures
stood stiff, awkward, dismally devoid of action ;
a confused shaking of hands, a subdued unin-
telligible murmur, a glimpse of retreating figures,
the fluttering whish of a skirt, the click of a
closing door, and — he was alone.


In the early hours of the sleepy afternoon, when
the June sun blazes, and the air outside is heavy
with heat, the coolest place in Monte Carlo is
the Casino.

At one of the few roulette tables where play
was going on Nielsen sat, leaning back in his
chair, his eyes half closed, and one of his hands
resting upon the table.

It was only three o'clock, but he had finished
work for the day. He sat on, apparently watch-
ing the game, in reality occupied in putting
together the pieces of his puzzle. The polished
floors, and even the garish colouring of the walls
and ceilings, looked soft in the mellow light that
filtered through the wire blinds set in the win-
dows. The glass panes had disappeared for the
summer, and the cooled air was sweet with the
smell of flowers and shrubs. The murmuring
of the few players, the monotonous scrape of



the croupiers' rakes, the sing-song of their voices,
and the subdued rattle of coins on the green
cloth, made a sleepy sum of sound.

Nielsen found nothing to disturb his reflec-
tions. The long rows of expressionless profiles,
clear-cut or indefinite to this side and that, the
shifting play of light and shade on the faces
opposite, all meant nothing to him — no more
than the scraping of his clerks' pens and the
rows of their bent shoulders mean to the
merchant, or the eternal coming and going of
pasty-faced assistants to the master shopman.

With him, the indifferent cry of the croupier's
voice, which announced the gain of his fixed,
daily wage, was the ending of all concern in the
tables. Sometimes he waited the whole day for
it, watching the game as a cat watches a mouse,
sometimes it came in half-an-hour, but it gene-
rally came. He knew the faces of nearly all the
players ; the faces of the born-gamblers who
were ruining themselves — lined faces that were
for the most part placid with a schooled placidity,
and with restless eyes that seemed to look at
everything and saw nothing but the eternal
shifting of fortune ; the faces of the " little "


players, dilettante or careless, reckless or timid
— faces which expressed all the emotions in
turn, and which in the days when he had
thought about these things had inspired him
with a deep and disheartening belief in the
smallness of human nature ; the faces, too, such
as you may see in any thoroughfare of life,
of those who sit and sit and keep your place
for a louis — patient, blighted faces, brightening
only, and that for a second, at the sight of a
client or a coin ; again, the faces of such men
as himself, and those so rare that he could
count them on the fingers of one hand — of men
who came there day after day, day after day,
just as a man goes to his office or to his cham-
bers, as habituated and as utterly indifferent to
the inner life of their surroundings as any other
professional man, and who, on leaving the doors
of the Casino, shake the dust of it from their
feet and from their minds.

Of the many things to which Nielsen had at
one time or another turned his hand, journalism
had had the most attraction for him. There
had been a charm in having a finger, benevolent
or corrective, in the pies of other people, which


his own pies had never afforded him. He was
by nature curiously indifferent to the turn of his
own affairs, curiously alive to the weal or woe
of the rest of the world. He experienced a
mental glow when dealing with the problems of
other people.

At this moment he was engaged upon such
an one, and he was conscious of bringing a
fettered intellect to the task. He was prejudiced
against the man upon whose actions he was
seeking judgment ; prejudiced by the most hope-
less of all prejudices, that of sex — jealous of
him, in fact. He endeavoured to be impartial
and logical, but the thing intruded itself upon
him, hampered his reason, coloured his conclu-
sions. He felt that his conviction was mainly
a matter of instinct with him, but he was none
the less convinced. He did not conceal from
himself that he knew very little, had failed to
put the puzzle together ; but the impression made
upon his mind by Legard's conduct was vivid
and painful. He felt certain that he had been
directly, or indirectly, the cause of his wife's
death. The motive lay nakedly and glaringly
exposed ; the man was violently in love with


Jocelyn, he had known that by a jealous in-
stinct for many weeks. He did not know that
Jocelyn returned that love. To his mind it was a
monstrous and a painful idea that she ever should,
and as he sat there, motionless, with the mono-
tonous hum droning in his ears, his red-brown
eyes glowed angrily, and the fingers of his hand
began to drum the table.

His anger was personal, but he was also, and
strongly, prompted by the impersonal feeling
that it was a duty to interpose, as when one sees
somebody running, blindfold, a great and un-
necessary danger.

He would see Jocelyn, in some way or another
he would warn her ! He had said no word of
his suspicions to any one, for in spite of his own
conviction, he saw clearly that he had nothing
in the nature of legal evidence ; and he was too
much a man of the world to put forward what
he could not substantiate.

The funeral had taken place that morning ;
he had attended it with the doctor who had
been called in.

Irma had been buried in the English cemetery
at Mentone. No one had been invited, and the


only other people present had been her own
doctor, two Polish friends, and Legard himself.
The latter had looked worn and ill, had spoken
to nobody, and had gone away alone after the
funeral. He seemed to Nielsen, throughout the
ceremony, like a man witnessing some scene
upon the stage ; he had shown no emotion.
There had been amongst those present a tacit
understanding that the tragic and ill-fated manner
of the death should be kept a secret. The doctors
referred to it as failure of the heart. He under-
stood that it was desired to avert the possible
breath of scandal from her memory.

A faint stir at the table attracted his attention ;
a lady was sitting down opposite to him. He
was conscious of a slight shock in the recogni-
tion of Mrs. Travis. She was bending her head
forward, so that all he caught was a view of a
black and white bonnet over an abundant fringe,
and of plump, white-gloved hands arranging
nervously her gambling paraphernalia. It had
seemed to himself the most natural thing in the
world to change his clothes and walk straight
into the Casino from the funeral, but he was
not somehow prepared for the appearance of a


lady whom he knew to be a connection of
Legard's. After all, the thing was business to
him, pleasure to her — a very different affair, as
he reflected.

Mrs. Travis raised her head. In return for
his bow he acquired the knowledge that her
sight varied with her desires. She evidently
held to the conviction that not to see was not
to be seen, and held to it firmly, with a slight
deepening of the red in her cheeks, and a puffing
of her lips.

He smiled to himself, and rose gently from
his seat. " Cette chere dame ! " he thought. He
would return her lead. He knew that her de-
parture was fixed for the following day ; he
determined, therefore, to go into Mentone and
call upon her. In that way he would certainly
see Jocelyn alone. Upon reflection, he condoned
Mrs. Travis's appearance at the tables.

He took train and went into Mentone. As
he walked up from the station to the hotel, pick-
ing his way carefully over the dusty road, a very
correct figure in grey clothes with a flower in
his buttonhole, his heart began to beat, and his
breath to come a little fast. The subtle attrac-


tion which Jocelyn had for him stirred his
pulses, and shook his nerve, with every step he
took towards her. He had to stop at the
entrance of the hotel to steady himself before
he went in.


It was the third day since Giles had left her on
the Cornice Road, and Jocelyn had not seen
him since. She had been told of his wife's
sudden death. It had seemed to her like a
fable with no certain meaning in it ; but the
news had left her strangely excited, full of fear
and doubt, with the feeling that she was, like a
swimmer, out of her depth and struggling in
dark and uncertain waters. She longed wist-
fully for some glimpse into the dim future.
She felt a tremulous compassion for the woman
whose life had been so full of pain, whose end
had been so sudden ; and with that compas-
sion was mingled a sense of remorse, of bitter
regret that she had done her a great and un-
merited wrong. During the first days of her
own humiliation there had been no room for
that feeling in the lonely stress of her spirit ;

now, when the tide of her shame ebbed, when



the unwitting cause of that shame slipped silently
and swiftly away from the reach of her secret
resentment, this other pain came. But, above all
else, she had a restless yearning to see Giles, to
rest the burden of her grief and of her fear upon
his shoulders ; to shake herself once more free
from this nightmare of whirling shadows and
dark pitfalls, and step into the sunshine of life.
She felt that he could help her, and he alone.

As she moved softly about the room arranging
flowers and books with supple, slender fingers
— Jocelyn's fingers were always busy, moving
swiftly to their various ends — she thought for
the hundredth time of the wording of the note
that was folded into her dress —

" Jacopo will have told you what has hap-
pened. I could not come yesterday, nor to-day.
I will be at the hotel to-morrow at half-past
four. I must see you alone. — G. L."

At half-past four ! It was four now. The
minutes seemed leaden-winged.

She wandered to the window, and stepped
out on to the stone terrace where the sun beat
fiercely. She felt its fiery touch upon her face,
upon her arms and neck through the thin



muslin of her dress, and her spirits rose insen-
sibly. Those were right who worshipped the
Sun ! It was he who brought colour to the
rose, song to the air, life to the blood ! He
who sailed high in the heavens to warm and
cherish when the world was dark and dreary !
She leaned against the window, looking up at
the yellow roses trailing above her head, and
humming to herself.

Nielsen, whom the servant had shown into
the room unannounced, stood looking at her a
long time. He was thinking that never in his
life had he seen anything prettier than the line
of her slender, rounded throat, and of her
pointed chin thrust softly forward. Her lips
were slightly parted in the act of singing, but
he could not hear her. The light went out
of her face as quickly as it had come ; with a
sigh she bent her head, and moved restlessly
back into the room.

Nielsen stepped forward ; he had seen the
bright look upon her face in the streaming
sunlight, the sudden cloud that passed over her
eyes and the droop of her mouth ; and when she
came to him with a smile and some common-


place remark of greeting, he experienced a feeling
of discomfiture, a sense of having hit up against
something hard and impassable. What did he,
with all his experience, know of women ? — of
this girl, upon whose face he had seen a moment
before the stamp of life, and who veiled it from
him impenetrably with a smile ? What had he
come to see her for ? To offer her a warning ?
To do it delicately and diplomatically ? Fool !
when with the touch of her fingers upon his,
cold and light though it was, his head was going
round ! He saw that he had come rather to
tell her how he could never forget her, would
follow her, until some day or other she cared
for him as he cared for her ! The idea that she
was going away from him, out of his reach, that
he would no longer be able to come and see
her daily, when he wished — was suddenly and
crushingly brought home to him, as he looked at
her slender figure in its soft, grey dress, and at the
little head poised so erect and so daintily upon it.

" Won't you sit down ? "

Again, the sense of being baffled, of encoun-
tering a barrier. Yes, he would sit down, many
thanks !


" And how is the dear aunt ? And we shall
lose you to-morrow, everything that makes
life endurable ? " And so on, and so on, in
purring tones rolling his r's. It was such a
habit of his to talk, that he went on uttering
smooth commonplaces and looking unutterable
things — feeling all the time that he would give
the world for a moment of silence in which to
steady himself, and find out exactly what he
wished to say, and how to say it.

Jocelyn had seated herself at her piano with
her face half turned over her shoulder towards
him, and while she answered him her fingers
touched the notes silently. His eyes fastened
on them, the swift, silent fingers that seemed to
be keeping him at bay.

It roused a sudden feeling of anger in him.
He would not — was there nothing in her he
could touch, in those eyes that looked at him
so coldly ? He stopped talking, breathing
quickly — he felt quite out of breath. A low
chord, suddenly struck, vibrated softly through
the room. He rose half way from his seat
with his hands stretched out to lay them upon


She began to speak. What was she saying ?
He sank back again.

" Mr. Nielsen, I want you to tell me about
poor Mrs. — poor Irma's death. Jacopo told me
you were there."

" Ah ! poor lady ! a dreadful thing ! " He
'looked at her face tense and compassionate, and
was doubtful of what he should tell her.

" But how did it happen ? You were there,
weren't you ? " she said.

" Well, no ! I was not exactly there at the
time, you know. It so happened that I came
to call soon after she died. I was the first to
find her."

" But what was it ? Why was it ? It was so
dreadfully sudden."

" She died about three o'clock on Tuesday
afternoon, you know. It was verry terrible —
verry sad — the heart — " he stammered. Look-
ing at the white, sensitive face that hung upon
his words, he had decided to lie about that
tragic ending, but it was not easy to do so to
her, and he stammered.

"Is that all?" The words were so incisive,
the sentence so short that it gave him no time.


" It was morphia," he said with a sudden,
overwhelming conviction that lying was futile.
" Poor lady ! An overdose, don't you know —
she was in the habit "

" Morphia ! " her voice took the word from
his, and echoed it in a whisper, and her eyes,
large and dark, stared at him out of a face that
was suddenly very white and still.

" Yes, an overdose, you know, quite an acci-
dent — er-r — " for the life of him he could not go
on, with those frightened eyes staring into his.

There was silence, and he shifted his eyeglass
methodically from one eye to the other, because,
being damp with perspiration, he could not see
through it. He tugged at his moustache — the
girl's face was so tragically still and white.

A terrible thought had been stricken into
Jocelyn's mind — the thought of suicide. What
if she were the cause of this death — this over-
dose ! It was a dreadful — an inconceivable —
thought ! What if, knowing everything, Irma
had chosen this solution of the question ! A
murderess ! The only motion she made in the
hideous turmoil of her spirit was to clasp her
hands together in her lap.


The sight of those interlacing lingers was
very pitiful to Nielsen. He saw that he had
touched some spring of painful feeling, the
depth of which he could not sound. Why, in
the name of God, had he not had the grace to
lie ? His feelings were a strange jumble of
disgust with himself, perplexed pity, irritation
that he could not read her feelings, and an
aching conviction that he was beyond the pale,
and entered not at all into the situation.

Jocelyn sat motionless, she would have given
the world to be able to get up and walk about
the room, for swift motion of any sort, to free
her from the longing to scream that caught her
by the throat, and made her feel breathless and
suffocated. Why did not this man go and leave
her alone ? Alone with that thought ! What
was he staring at her for through that idiotic
glass ? Did he think she was going to faint ?
She wished she could. Why was she so tough
that she was denied that relief ?

She had an inclination to laugh wildly ; she
gave a little gasp. There was the sound of a
closing door, and the laugh died on her lips.
Nielsen, following the sudden eagerness in her


eyes, turned, and saw Legard coming in. He
seemed taller than ever in his black clothes, and
his eyes looked straight past the Swede at Jocelyn.

Nielsen shot a quick glance at the girl. She
stood waiting, her face was changed — different
to the face he knew ; on it was a curious look
that baffled his comprehension, the eyes seemed
to speak of entreaty, of fear, and of a something
unfathomable beyond. Ah ! they were wonder-
ful eyes, wonderful ! But they had forgotten
his very existence.

He turned very pale, and rose from his chair,
picking up his hat. He bowed low over it and
said —

" If you will excuse me — I am sure Monsieur
Legard has much to say, perhaps later — I may
be permitted to bid you good-bye." He moved
slowly to the window, and passed through it on
to the terrace.

As he turned round to close the window after
him, his immovable face, pale and wrinkled in
the glaring sunshine, looked in upon them with
weary, half-closed eyes. Behind that mask a
consuming rage of jealousy leapt up, and fought
to find expression.


JOCELYN remained standing where she was.
Half-an-hoiir ago she would have run to Giles
and flung herself into his arms, now she stood
and looked at him, her hands clasped in front of
her, waiting for the cloud of that terrible thought
to pass by and let a gleam of daylight through.

" Dear, what is it, are you ill ? "

Neither his voice, low and tender, nor the
look of love in his eyes, nor the warm clasp of
his hand upon her icy-cold fingers, were of any

She drew her hands away from him and
passed them over her brow, as if to sweep

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Online LibraryJohn GalsworthyJocelyn → online text (page 8 of 14)