Carroll, with his chloroform in his pocket, boarded the car, and speeded again over the road to Banbridge. The way home seemed to him like a dream. He was not conscious of much about him; his mind now seemed concentrated on that small bottle in his pocket. He noticed nobody in the car, but sat in his corner, with eyes fixed absently on the flying landscape. The conductor had to speak twice before he realized that he was asking for his fare. When the car reached the end of the line in Banbridge, he sat still for a few seconds before he collected himself enough to understand that the end of his journey was reached, and it was time for him to get off the car and walk home.
Walking along the familiar way, his apathy began to fail and his nervous excitement returned. He began to realize everything, this hideous end to his failure of a life which was so rapidly approaching. He realized that he was walking alone to his deserted home, cold and cheerless, dark and silent. It was already dusk, the days were short and the sky heavily clouded. The raw wind from the northeast smote him hard in the face like a diffused flail of wrath. He thought of his wife and children and sister speeding along to their old home in the cheerful Pullman-car. He reflected that about this time they would be thinking of going to the dining-car for their dinner. He reflected that after the chloroform had done its work, they would be well cared for in Kentucky, much better off than they had ever been under his doubtful protection; that Eddy might grow up to be a better man than his father, that Charlotte would marry down there, that they would all be comfortable, and in the intense and abnormal self-centredness of the mood which was upon him, that mood which leads a man to escape from his own agony of life by the first exit, that awful hunger for the beyond of his own soul, he never gave a thought to the possible sufferings of his family, to their possible grief at the loss of him. He actually hugged himself with the contemplation of their comfort and happiness, which would follow upon his demise, as he hugged himself upon the prospective ecstasy and oblivion in the bottle in his pocket.
He came in sight of his house, and a bright light shone in the dining-room window. He looked at it in bewilderment. His first thought was an unreasoning one that some of his creditors had in some unforeseen way taken possession. He went wearily around to the side door. There was a light also behind the drawn curtain of the kitchen. He opened the door and smelled broiling beefsteak and tea. Then Charlotte, warm and rosy, laughing and almost weeping at the same time, ran towards him with her arms held out.
“I have come back, papa,” said she.
For the first time in his life Arthur Carroll had a perfect sense of the staying power, of the impregnable support, of love and the natural ties of humanity. Charlotte’s slender arms closed around his neck; she stood, half-weeping, half-laughing, leaning against him, but in reality he leaned against her, the soul of the man against the soul of the girl, and he got from it a strength which was stronger than life or death. He felt that it bent not one whit before his terrible weight of misery and perplexity. He was stayed.