He threw his head back, staring at the ceiling.
Otto Radowitz, in spite of Sorell’s admonitions, slept very little that night. His nights were apt to be feverish and disturbed. But on this occasion imagination and excitement made it impossible to stop the brain process, the ceaseless round of thought; and the hours of darkness were intolerably long. Memory went back behind the meeting with the dying man on the hillside, to an earlier experience—an hour of madness, of “possession.” His whole spiritual being was still bruised and martyred from it, like that sufferer of old whom the evil spirit “tore” in departing. What had delivered him? The horror was still on him, still his master, when he became aware of that white face on the grass—
He drowsed off again. But in his half-dream, he seemed to be kneeling again and reciting Latin words, words he had heard last when his mother was approaching her end. He was more than half sceptical, so far as the upper mind was concerned; but the under-consciousness was steeped in ideas derived from his early home and training, ideas of sacrifice, forgiveness, atonement, judgment—the common and immortal stock of Christianity. He had been brought up in a house pervaded by the crucifix, and by a mother who was ardently devout.
But why had God—if there was a God—brought this wonderful thing to pass? Never had his heart been so full of hatred as in that hour of lonely wandering on the moor, before he perceived the huddled figure lying by the stream. And, all in a moment, he had become his enemy’s proxy—his representative—in the last and tenderest service that man can render to man. He had played the part of son to Falloden’s dying father—had prayed for him from the depths of his heart, tortured with pity. And when Falloden came, with what strange eyes they had looked at each other!—as though all veils had dropped—all barriers had, for the moment, dropped away.
“Shall I hate him again to-morrow?” thought Radowitz. “Or shall I be more sorry for him than for myself? Yes, that’s what I felt!—so marvellously!”
So that when he went to Constance with his news, and under the emotion of it, saw the girl’s heart unveiled—“I was not jealous,” he thought. “I just wanted to give her everything!”
Yet, as the night passed on, and that dreary moment of the first awakening earth arrived, when all the griefs of mankind weigh heaviest, he was shaken anew by gusts of passion and despair; and this time for himself. Suppose—for in spite of all Sorell’s evasions and concealments, he knew very well that Sorell was anxious about him, and the doctors had said ugly things—suppose he got really ill?—suppose he died, without having lived?
He thought of Constance in the moonlit garden, her sweetness, her gratefulness to him for coming, her small, white “flower-face,” and the look in her eyes.
“If I might—only once—have kissed her—have held her in my arms!” he thought, with anguish. And rolling on his face, he lay prone, fighting his fight alone, till exhaustion conquered, and “he took the gift of sleep.”