They were under the spell of his terrible excitement. The nurse fell back, Joan took her place at his pillow. He gripped her arm with claw-like fingers, but though he drew her down till his lips nearly touched her ear, his hoarse whispering was distinctly heard throughout the room.
“Two of us—father and son. Will you avenge us, eh? Listen, then. I will tell you her name. She played with my life and wrecked it, she took my time, my love, nay life, she gave me nothing. It was she who poisoned my blood with the lust for gold; it was she who sent me over the hills to Feldwick. Ay, it was she who nerved me to steal and to kill. Joan, will you not avenge me and him, for I must die, and it is she who has killed me—Emily de Reuss. Oh, may the gods, whoever they be—the gods of the heathen, and the God of the Christian, your God, Joan, and the God of Justice curse her! If I had lived I should have killed her. If my fingers—were upon her throat—I could die happy.”
He fell back upon the pillows. Douglas led Joan from the room. She turned and faced him.
“Who is this woman?” she asked.
A SCENE AT THE CLUB
He made her sit down, for she was white and faint. For the moment he left her question unanswered.
“You have learnt the truth, Joan, from his own lips,” he said. “I have a confession signed last week by him before the fever set in. You can read it if you like.”
“There is no need,” she answered. “I have heard enough. Who is this Emily de Reuss?”
“She is a very clever woman,” he said, “with whom your brother became most unreasonably infatuated. She took an interest in him, as she has done in many young literary men. He fell in love with her without any encouragement, and gave way to his foolishness in a most unwarrantable manner. He neglected his work to follow her about, lost his position and his friends—eventually, as you see, his reason. I cannot tell you any more than that. She was perhaps unwise in her kindness, perhaps a little vain, inasmuch as she liked to pose as the literary inspirer of young talent, and to surround herself with worshippers. That is the extent of her fault. I do not believe that for a moment she deliberately encouraged him, or was in any way personally responsible for the wreck of his life.”
“You perhaps know her.”
“I think that I may say so.”
“Then you can tell her this,” she said. “Tell her that before long she will have a visit from David Strong’s sister.” Douglas shook his head. “It is not she who is to blame,” he said. She pointed to the room which they had left.
“Men do not become like that,” she said, “of their own will, or from their own fault alone. He is mad, and in madness is truth. Did you not hear him say that it was she who had destroyed him? Am I to lose father and brother, ay, and husband, Douglas, and sit meekly in my chimney-corner?”