Of course it would have driven her mad to return to the haunted flat—haunted now by no gracious ghost, but by an Unutterable Presence, the thought of which, even in her quiet, lavender-scented country bedroom, made her scream of nights. For she knew all. To save her reason, Barbara, with her wonderful tenderness, had bridged over the chasms between her stark peaks of discovery. She knew all that we knew. Further attempts at deception would have been vain cruelty. Barbara could palliate the offence; she could show how irresistible had been the temptation; she could prove how our love for Adrian had been unshaken by disastrous knowledge and urge that Doria’s love should be unshaken likewise; she could apply all the healing remedies of which she only has the secret—but she could not leave the poor soul to stumble blindly in uncertainty.
Doria could never enter her dishallowed paradise again. Even I, when I went through the place in order to make arrangements for closing it altogether, felt a teeth-chattering shiver in the condemned cell where Adrian had worked out his doom. It had been sacrosanct; not a thing had been disturbed; there was the iron safe empty, but yet a grim receptacle of abominable secrets; the quill pen, its point stained with idle ink, lay on the office writing-table. And the blotting-pad was still there under a clump of dusty, unused scribbling-paper. On a little stool in the corner stood the half-emptied decanter of brandy and a glass and a syphon of soda-water. . . . Goodness knows, I’m not a superstitious or even an imaginative man; I had been in that room before and had hated it, on account of its poignant associations; nothing transcendental had affected me; but now I shuddered, physically shuddered, as though the cubic space were informed with a spirit in the torture of an everlasting despair. Doria not knowing, he could have borne his punishment. But now Doria knew. He had lost her love, the rock on which he had built his hope of salvation. He was damned to eternity. It is the supreme and unspeakable horror of eternal life that you cannot dash your head against a wall and plunge into nothingness. Yet he tried. The awful Presence of Adrian was dashing his head against those bare and ghastly walls. . . .
I never was so glad to breathe God’s honest November fog again. Of course my affright was a silly matter of nerves. But I would not have slept in that flat for anything in the world.
I had to make, of course, another expedition to Jaffery’s chambers, in order to restore to order the chaos that Doria had made. She had ransacked every drawer in the place and strewn the contents of the old portmanteau, Adrian’s mass of incoherent manuscript, about the floor. I did what I ought to have done on my first visit; I brought the tragic lumber to Northlands, and having made a bonfire in a corner of the kitchen garden, burned the whole lot. Why Jaffery had not got rid of the evidence of Adrian’s guilt,