“Then my thought did you wrong, Master d’Arfet, and I crave your pardon. The grave is yours without price. You shall rest in the end beside the man and woman who wronged you, and at the Last Day, when you rise together, may God forgive you as you forgave them!”
The Englishman did not answer for near a minute. His fingers had begun to drum on the table again and his eyes were bent upon them. At length he raised his head, and this time to speak slowly and with effort—
“In my country, Count, a bargain is a bargain. When I seek a parcel of ground, my purpose with it is my affair only: my neighbour fixes his price, and if it suit me I buy, and there’s an end. Now I have passed my days in buying and selling and you count me a huckster. Yet we merchants have our rules of honour as well as you nobles: and if in England I bargain as I have described, it is because between me and the other man the rules are understood. But I perceive that between you and me the bargain must be different, since you sell on condition of knowing my purpose, and would not sell if my purpose offended you. Therefore to leave you in error concerning my purpose would be cheating: and, Sir, I have never cheated in my life. At the risk then, or the certainty, of losing my dearest wish I must tell you this—I do not forgive my wife Anne or Robert Machin: and though I would be buried in their grave, it shall not be beside them.”
“How then?” cried Gonsalvez and I in one voice.
“I would be buried, Sirs, not beside but between them. Ah? Your eyes were moist, I make no doubt, when you first listened to the pretty affecting tale of their love and misfortune? Not yet has it struck either of you to what a hell they left me. And I have been living in it ever since! Think! I loved that woman. She wronged me hatefully, meanly: yet she and he died together, feeling no remorse. It is I who keep the knowledge of their vileness which shall push them asunder as I stretch myself at length in my cool dead ease, content, with my long purpose achieved, with the vengeance prepared, and nothing to do but wait securely for the Day of Judgment. Pardon me, Sirs, that I say ‘this shall be,’ whereas I read in your faces that you refuse me. I have cheered an unhappy life by this one promise, which at the end I have thrown away upon a little scruple.” He passed a hand over his eyes and stood up. “It is curious,” he said, and stood musing. “It is curious,” he repeated, and turning to Gonsalvez said in a voice empty of passion, “You refuse me, I understand?”
“Yes,” Gonsalvez answered. “I salute you for an honest gentleman; but I may not grant your wish.”
“It is curious,” Master d’Arfet repeated once more, and looked at us queerly, as if seeking to excuse his weakness in our judgment. “So small a difficulty!”
Gonsalvez bowed. “You have taught us this, Sir, that the world speaks at random, but in the end a man’s honour rests in no hands but his own.”