Can Such Things Be? eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 179 pages of information about Can Such Things Be?.

The next day I entered a large town which I shall not name.  Nor shall I recount further incidents of the life that is now to end—­a life of wandering, always and everywhere haunted by an overmastering sense of crime in punishment of wrong and of terror in punishment of crime.  Let me see if I can reduce it to narrative.

I seem once to have lived near a great city, a prosperous planter, married to a woman whom I loved and distrusted.  We had, it sometimes seems, one child, a youth of brilliant parts and promise.  He is at all times a vague figure, never clearly drawn, frequently altogether out of the picture.

One luckless evening it occurred to me to test my wife’s fidelity in a vulgar, commonplace way familiar to everyone who has acquaintance with the literature of fact and fiction.  I went to the city, telling my wife that I should be absent until the following afternoon.  But I returned before daybreak and went to the rear of the house, purposing to enter by a door with which I had secretly so tampered that it would seem to lock, yet not actually fasten.  As I approached it, I heard it gently open and close, and saw a man steal away into the darkness.  With murder in my heart, I sprang after him, but he had vanished without even the bad luck of identification.  Sometimes now I cannot even persuade myself that it was a human being.

Crazed with jealousy and rage, blind and bestial with all the elemental passions of insulted manhood, I entered the house and sprang up the stairs to the door of my wife’s chamber.  It was closed, but having tampered with its lock also, I easily entered and despite the black darkness soon stood by the side of her bed.  My groping hands told me that although disarranged it was unoccupied.

“She is below,” I thought, “and terrified by my entrance has evaded me in the darkness of the hall.”

With the purpose of seeking her I turned to leave the room, but took a wrong direction—­the right one!  My foot struck her, cowering in a corner of the room.  Instantly my hands were at her throat, stifling a shriek, my knees were upon her struggling body; and there in the darkness, without a word of accusation or reproach, I strangled her till she died!

There ends the dream.  I have related it in the past tense, but the present would be the fitter form, for again and again the somber tragedy reenacts itself in my consciousness—­over and over I lay the plan, I suffer the confirmation, I redress the wrong.  Then all is blank; and afterward the rains beat against the grimy window-panes, or the snows fall upon my scant attire, the wheels rattle in the squalid streets where my life lies in poverty and mean employment.  If there is ever sunshine I do not recall it; if there are birds they do not sing.

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Can Such Things Be? from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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