“The only thing I cannot understand about it,” said Rachel to herself, “is why a man, who from first to last could act with such caution, and with such deliberate determination, should have been two days late. The twenty-ninth of November was the last day of the five months, and he died on the afternoon of December the first. Why did he wait two days after he left Westhope? I should have thought he would have been the last man in the world to overstep the allotted time by so much as an hour. Yet, nevertheless, he waited two whole days. I don’t understand it.”
After an interminable interval Lord Newhaven’s luggage returned, the familiar portmanteau and dressing-bag, and even the novel which he was reading when he left Westhope, with the mark still in it. All came back. And a coffin came back, too, and was laid before the little altar in the disused chapel.
“I will go and pray for him in the chapel as soon as the lid is fastened down,” said Lady Newhaven to Rachel, “but I dare not before. I can’t believe he is really dead. And they say somebody ought to look, just to verify. I know it is always done. Dear Rachel, would you mind?”
So Rachel, familiar with death, as all are who have known poverty or who have loved their fellows, went alone into the chapel, and stood a long time looking down upon the muffled figure, the garment of flesh which the soul had so deliberately rent and flung aside.
The face was fixed in a grave attention, as of one who sees that which he awaits. The sarcasm, the weariness, the indifference, the impatient patience, these were gone, these were indeed dead. The sharp, thin face knew them no more. It looked intently, unflinchingly through its half-closed eyes into the beyond which some call death, which some call life.
“Forgive him,” said Rachel, kneeling beside the coffin. “My friend, forgive him. He has injured you, I know. And your just revenge—for you thought it just—has failed to reach him. But the time for vengeance has passed. The time for forgiveness has come. Forgive my poor Hugh, who will never forgive himself. Do you not see now, you who see so much, that it was harder for him than for you; that it would have been the easier part for him if he had been the one to draw death, to have atoned to you for his sin against you by his death, instead of feeling, as he always must, that your stroke failed, and that he has taken your life from you as well as your honor. Forgive him,” said Rachel, over and over again.
But the unheeding face looked earnestly into the future. It had done with the past.
“Ah!” said Rachel, “if I who love him can forgive him, cannot you, who only hated him, forgive him, too? For love is greater than hate.”
She covered the face and went out.
Le nombre des etres
qui veulent voir vrai est extraordinairement
petit. Ce qui domineles hommes, c’est la peur de la verite, a moins
que la verite ne leur soit utile.—AMIEL.