A Reckless Character eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 235 pages of information about A Reckless Character.
of the past night had done its work....  He had not beheld America!  The man who had insulted my mother, who had marred her life, my father—­yes! my father, I could cherish no doubt as to that—­lay stretched out helpless in the mud at my feet.  I experienced a sense of satisfied vengeance, and compassion, and repulsion, and terror most of all ... of twofold terror; terror of what I had seen, and of what had come to pass.  That evil, that criminal element of which I have already spoken, those incomprehensible spasms rose up within me ... stifled me.

“Aha!” I thought to myself:  “so that is why I am what I am....  That is where blood tells!” I stood beside the corpse and gazed and waited, to see whether those dead pupils would not stir, whether those benumbed lips would not quiver.  No! everything was motionless; the very seaweed, among which the surf had cast him, seemed to have congealed; even the gulls had flown away—­there was not a fragment anywhere, not a plank or any broken rigging.  There was emptiness everywhere ... only he—­and I—­and the foaming sea in the distance.  I cast a glance behind me; the same emptiness was there; a chain of hillocks on the horizon ... that was all!

I dreaded to leave that unfortunate man in that loneliness, in the ooze of the shore, to be devoured by fishes and birds; an inward voice told me that I ought to hunt up some men and call them thither, if not to aid—­that was out of the question—­at least for the purpose of laying him out, of bearing him beneath an inhabited roof....  But indescribable terror suddenly took possession of me.  It seemed to me as though that dead man knew that I had come thither, that he himself had arranged that last meeting—­it even seemed as though I could hear that dull, familiar muttering....  I ran off to one side ... looked behind me once more....  Something shining caught my eye; it brought me to a standstill.  It was a golden hoop on the outstretched hand of the corpse....  I recognised my mother’s wedding-ring.  I remember how I forced myself to return, to go close, to bend down....  I remember the sticky touch of the cold fingers, I remember how I panted and puckered up my eyes and gnashed my teeth, as I tugged persistently at the ring....

At last I got it off—­and I fled—­fled away, in headlong flight,—­and something darted after me, and overtook me and caught me.

XVI

Everything which I had gone through and endured was, probably, written on my face when I returned home.  My mother suddenly rose upright as soon as I entered her room, and gazed at me with such insistent inquiry that, after having unsuccessfully attempted to explain myself, I ended by silently handing her the ring.  She turned frightfully pale, her eyes opened unusually wide and turned dim like his.—­She uttered a faint cry, seized the ring, reeled, fell upon my breast, and fairly swooned there, with her

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A Reckless Character from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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