In two bounds Duchemin overtook the car and before it had come to a standstill leaped upon the running-board and grasped the side. He had one glimpse of the set white face of Eve, en profile, as she bent forward, manipulating the gear-shift. Then the pistol spat again, its bullet struck him a blow of sickening agony in the side.
Aware that he was dangerously wounded, he put all that he had left of strength and will into one final effort, throwing his body across the door. As he fell sprawling into the tonneau consciousness departed like a light withdrawn.
In re Amor et Al.
In the course of two weeks or so Duchemin was able to navigate a wheeled chair, bask on the little balcony outside his bedchamber windows in the Chateau de Montalais, and even—strictly against orders—take experimental strolls.
The wound in his side still hurt like the very deuce at every ill-considered movement; but Duchemin was ever the least patient of men unless the will that coerced him was his own; constraint to another’s, however reasonable, irked him to exasperation; so that these falterings in forbidden ways were really (as he assured Eve de Montalais when, one day, she caught him creeping round his room, one hand pressed against the wall for support, the other to his side) in the nature of a sop to his self-respect.
“You’ve only got to tell me not to do a thing often enough,” he commented as she led him back to his chair, “to fill me with unholy desire to do it if I die in the attempt.”
“Isn’t that a rather common human failing?” she asked, wheeling the invalid chair through one of the french windows to the balcony.
“That’s what makes it all seem so unfair.”
Smiling, the woman turned the back of the chair to the brightest glare of sunshine, draped a light rug over the invalid’s knees, and seated herself in a wicker chair, facing him.
“Makes all what seem so unfair?”
“The indignity of being born human.” He accepted a cigarette and waxed didactic: “The one thing that the ego can find to reconcile it with existence is belief in its own uniquity.”
“I don’t think,” she interrupted with a severe face belied by amused eyes, “that sounds quite nice.”
“Uniquity? Because it sounds like iniquity? They are not unrelated. What makes iniquity seem attractive is as a rule its departure from the commonplace.”
“But you were saying—?”
“Merely it’s our personal belief that our emotions and sensations and ways of thought are peculiar to ourselves, individually, that sometimes makes the game seem worth the scandal.”
“Yes: one presumes we all do think that...”
“But no sooner does one get firmly established in that particular phase of self-complacence than along comes Life, grinning like a gamin, and kicks over our pretty house of cards—shows us up to ourselves by revealing our pet, exclusive idiosyncrasies as simple infirmities all mortal flesh is heir to.”