“It means, my lad,” she said, “it means all of you ... that what I said was true ... that Adam is innocent of crime ... for he lies here dead ... and the Lord will see that his death shall not remain unavenged.”
Once more she kissed the rough hand, beautiful now with that cold beauty which the rigidity of death imparts; then she replaced it reverently, silently, and fell upon her knees in the wet mud, beside the coffin.
THE HOME-COMING OF ADAM LAMBERT
All heads were bent; none of the ignorant folk who stood around would have dared even to look at the old woman kneeling beside that rough deal box which contained the body of her lad. A reverent feeling had killed all curiosity: bewilderment at the extraordinary and wholly unexpected turn of events had been merged in a sense of respectful awe, which rendered every mouth silent, and lowered every lid.
Squire Boatfield, almost paralyzed with astonishment, had murmured half stupidly:
“Adam Lambert ... dead? ... I do not understand.”
He turned to Marmaduke de Chavasse as if vaguely, instinctively expecting an answer to the terrible puzzle from him.
De Chavasse’s feet, over which he himself seemed to have no control, had of a truth led him forward, so that he, too, stood not far from the old woman now. He had watched her—silent and rigid,—conscious only of one thing—a trivial matter certes—of Editha’s inquiring eyes fixed steadily upon him.
Everything else had been merged in a kind of a dream. But the mute question in those eyes was what concerned him. It seemed to represent the satisfaction of that morbid curiosity which had been such a terrible obsession during these past nerve-racking days.
Editha, realizing the identity of the dead man, would there and then know the entire truth. But Editha’s fate was too closely linked to his own to render her knowledge of that truth dangerous to de Chavasse: therefore, with him it was merely a sense of profound satisfaction that someone would henceforth share his secret with him.
It is quite impossible to analyze the thoughts of the man who thus stood by—a silent and almost impassive spectator—of a scene, wherein his fate, his life, an awful retribution and deadly justice, were all hanging in the balance. He was not mad, nor did he act with either irrelevance or rashness. The sense of self-protection was still keen in him ... violently keen ... although undoubtedly he, and he alone, was responsible for the events which culminated in the present crisis.
The whole aspect of affairs had changed from the moment that the real identity of the dead had been established. Everyone here present would regard this new mystery in an altogether different light to that by which they had viewed the former weird problem; but still there need be no danger to the murderer.