When he arrived and alighted from his cab he found a small crowd of persons assembled about the yard of the court. Some one said, “There he is!” Some one said, “That’s him!” A kind of threatening murmur went up from the people. A general movement was made towards him. What was the matter? What were they looking at? They stood in his way. He seemed to be wedged among a mass of dark and rather beastly faces breathing close to his own. He could not get on. He was being pushed. He was caused to stagger. He said, “Look out, I’ve got a game leg.” That threatening sort of murmur arose more loudly in answer to his words. Some one somewhere threw a piece of orange peel at some one. It almost hit his face. What was up? What were they all doing?
A policeman and the coroner’s officer came shouldering through the press and helped him towards the court. He thought it was rather decent of them.
The policeman said, “You’d better get inside. They’re a bit rough.”
At the door of the court Sabre looked across to where on the other side of the yard some men were shuffling out of a detached building. The coroner’s officer said, “Jury. They’ve been viewing the corpse.”
“Corpse!” The rough word stabbed through his numbness. He thought, “Corpse! Viewing the corpse! Obscene and horrible phrase! Corpse! Effie!” He made a movement in that direction.
The man said, “Yes, perhaps you’d better.”
They took him across and into the detached building.
He was against a glass screen, misty with breaths of those who had stared and peered through it. The policeman wiped his sleeve across the glass. “There you are.”
Ah, ...! Now, suddenly and with shock most terrible, his mind made contact with that which it had pursued. It had groped as in a dark room with outstretched hands. Now, suddenly and with shock most terrible, it was as if those groping hands had touched in the darkness a face.
Ah, insupportable! This was Effie. This was Bright Effie. This was that jolly little Effie of the old, million-year-old days. This! This!
She lay on a slab inclined towards the glass. She was swathed about in cerements. Only her face was visible. Within the hollow of her arm reposed a little shape, all swathed. She had brought it into the world. She had removed it from the world that would have nothing of it. She had brought a thousand smiles into the world, but she had given offence to the world and the offended world had thrown back her smiles and she now had expressed her contrition to the world. This was her contrition that she lay here for men to breathe upon the glass, and stare, and rub away the dimness with their sleeves, and breathe, and stare again.
Oh, insupportable calamity! Oh, tragedy beyond support! He thought of her as oft and again he had seen her,—those laughing lips, those shining eyes. He thought of her alone when he had left her, planning and preparing this frightful dissolution of her body and her soul. He thought of her in the stupendous moment while the glass paused at her lips. He thought of her in torment of inward fire by that which had blistered her poor lips.