Even on the fatal third day, when Marko, white as his shrouded antagonist, led her to the garden of the house, and there said the word of death, an execrating amazement, framing the thought ’Why is it not Alvan who speaks?’ rose beside her gaping conception of her loss. She framed it as an earnest interrogation for the half minute before misery had possession of her, coming down like a cloud. Providence then was too shadowy a thing to upbraid. She could not blame herself, for the intensity of her suffering testified to the bitter realness of her love of the dead man. Her craven’s instinct to make a sacrifice of others flew with claws of hatred at her parents. These she offered up, and the spirit presiding in her appears to have accepted them as proper substitutes for her conscience.
Alvan was dead. The shot of his adversary, accidentally well-directed, had struck him mortally. He died on the morning of the third day after the duel. There had been no hope that he could survive, and his agonies made a speedy dissolution desirable by those most wishing him to live.
The baroness had her summons to hurry to him after his first swoon. She was his nurse and late confidante a tearless woman, rigid in service. Death relaxed his hold in her hand. He met his fate like the valiant soul he was. Haply if he had lingered without the sweats of bodily tortures to stay reflectiveness, he, also, in the strangeness of his prostration, might have cast a thought on the irony of the fates felling a man like him by a youngster’s hand and for a shallow girl! He might have fathered some jest at life, with rueful relish of the flavour: for such is our manner of commenting on ourselves when we come to shipwreck through unseaworthy pretensions. There was no interval on his passage from anguish to immobility.
Silent was that house of many chambers. That mass of humanity profusely mixed of good and evil, of generous ire and mutinous, of the passion for the future of mankind and vanity of person, magnanimity and sensualism, high judgement, reckless indiscipline, chivalry, savagery, solidity, fragmentariness, was dust.
The two men composing it, the untamed and the candidate for citizenship, in mutual dissension pulled it down. He perished of his weakness, but it was a strong man that fell. If his end was unheroic, the blot does not overshadow his life. His end was a derision because the animal in him ran him unchained and bounding to it. A stormy blood made wreck of a splendid intelligence. Yet they that pronounce over him the ordinary fatalistic epitaph of the foregone and done, which is the wisdom of men measuring the dead by the last word of a lamentable history, should pause to think whether fool or madman is the title for one who was a zealous worker, respected by great heads of his time, acknowledged the head of the voluminous coil of the working people, and who, as we have seen,