And now.... With Alecto’s maddening finger pressed on the soul-hurt, no man is responsible. After the furious storm of upbubbling curses had spent itself there was a little calm, not of surcease but of vacuity, since even the cursing vocabulary has its limitations. Then a grouping of words long forgotten arrayed itself before him, like the handwriting on the wall of Belshazzer’s banqueting hall.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
He put his hands before his face to shut out the sight of the words. Farther on, he felt his way across the room to stand at the window where he could look across to the gray, shadowy bulk of the manor-house, to the house and to the window of the upper room which was Ardea’s.
“They’ve got me down,” he whispered, as if the words might reach her ear. “The devils have come back, Ardea, my love; but you can cast them out again, if you will. Ah, girl, girl! Vincent Farley will never need you as I need you this night!”
THE BURDEN OF HABAKKUK
During the first half of the year 1894, with Norman too busy at the pipe foundry to worry him, and the iron-master president too deeply engrossed in matters mechanical, Mr. Henry Dyckman, still bookkeeper and cashier for Chiawassee Consolidated, had fewer nightmares; and by the time he had been a month in undisputed command at the general office he had given over searching for a certain packet of papers which had mysteriously disappeared from a secret compartment in his desk.
Later, when the time for the return of the younger Gordon drew near, there was encouraging news from Europe. Dyckman had not failed to keep the mails warm with reports of the Gordon and Gordon success; with urgings for the return of the exiled dynasty; and late in May he had news of the home-coming intention. From that on there were alternating chills and fever. If Colonel Duxbury should arrive and resume the reins of management before Tom Gordon should reappear, all might yet be well. If not,—the alternative impaired the bookkeeper’s appetite, and there were hot nights in June when he slept badly.
When Tom’s advent preceded the earliest date named by Mr. Farley by a broad fortnight or more, the bookkeeper missed other of his meals, and one night fear and a sharp premonition of close-pressing disaster laid cold hands on him; and nine o’clock found him skulking in the great train shed at the railway station, a ticket to Canada in his pocket, a goodly sum of the company’s money tightly buckled in a safety-belt next to his skin—all things ready for flight save one, the courage requisite to the final step-taking.