“Oh, my God!” said Rachel, stretching out her hands to ward off the darkness. “Not another night. I cannot bear another night.”
A slow step came along the gravel; it passed below the window and stopped at the door. Some one knocked. Rachel tore open the throat of her gown. She was suffocating. Her long-drawn breathing seemed to deaden all other sounds. Nevertheless she heard it—the faint footfall of some one in the hall, a distant opening and shutting of doors. A vague, indescribable tremor seemed to run through the house.
She stole out of her room and down the passage. At Lady Newhaven’s door her French maid was hesitating, her hand on the handle.
Below, on the stairs, stood a clergyman and the butler.
“I am the bearer of sad tidings,” said the clergyman. Rachel recognized him as the Archdeacon at whom Lord Newhaven had so often laughed. “Perhaps you would prepare Lady Newhaven before I break them to her.”
The door was suddenly opened, and Lady Newhaven stood in the doorway. One small clinched hand held together the long white dressing-gown, which she had hastily flung round her, while the other was outstretched against the door-post. She swayed as she stood. Morphia and terror burned in her glassy eyes fixed in agony upon the clergyman. The light in the hall below struck upward at her colorless face. In later days this was the picture which Lady Newhaven recalled to mind as the most striking of the whole series.
“Tell her,” said Rachel, sharply.
The Archdeacon advanced.
“Prepare yourself, dear Lady Newhaven,” he said, sonorously. “Our dear friend, Lord Newhaven, has met with a serious accident. Er—the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“Is he dead?” whispered Lady Newhaven.
The Archdeacon bowed his head.
Every one except the children heard the scream which rang through the house.
Rachel put her arms round the tottering, distraught figure, drew it gently back into the room, and closed the door behind her.
And Nicanor lay dead in his harness.
—1 MACABEES, xv. 28.
Rachel laid down the papers which were full of Lord Newhaven’s death.
“He has managed it well,” she said to herself. “No one could suspect that it was not an accident. He has played his losing game to the bitter end, weighing each move. None of the papers even hint that his death was not an accident. He has provided against that.”
The butler received a note from Lord Newhaven the morning after his death, mentioning the train by which he should return to Westhope that day, and ordering a carriage to meet him. A great doctor made public the fact that Lord Newhaven had consulted him the day before about the attacks of vertigo from which it appeared he had suffered of late. A similar attack seemed to have seized upon him while waiting at Clapham Junction when the down express thundered past. The few who saw him said that, as he was pacing the empty platform, he staggered suddenly as the train was sweeping up behind him, put his hand to his head, and stumbled over the edge on to the line. Death was instantaneous. Only his wife and one other woman knew that it was premeditated.