‘Emily,’ he said, in the lowest whisper.
‘Darling!’ she answered, turning round and touching him with her hand.
‘My feet are cold. There are no clothes on them.’
She took a thick shawl and spread it double across the bottom of the bed, and put her hand upon his arm. Though it was clammy with perspiration, it was chill, and she brought the warm clothes up close round his shoulders. ‘I can’t sleep,’ he said. ’If I could sleep, I shouldn’t mind.’ Then he was silent again, and her thoughts went harping on, still on the same subject. She told herself that if ever that act of justice were to be done for her, it must be done that night. After a while she turned round over him ever so gently, and saw that his large eyes were open and fixed upon the wall.
She was kneeling now on the chair close by the bed-head, and her hand was on the rail of the bedstead supporting her. ‘Louis,’ she said, ever so softly.
‘Can you say one word for your wife, dear, dear, dearest husband?’
‘I have not been a harlot to you, have I?’
‘What name is that?’
‘But what a thing, Louis! Kiss my hand, Louis, if you believe me.’ And very gently she laid the tips of her fingers on his lips. For a moment or two she waited, and the kiss did not come. Would he spare her in this the last moment left to him either for justice or for mercy? For a moment or two the bitterness of her despair was almost unendurable. She had time to think that were she once to withdraw her hand, she would be condemned for ever and that it must be withdrawn. But at length the lips moved, and with struggling ear she could hear the sound of the tongue within, and the verdict of the dying man had been given in her favour. He never spoke a word more either to annul it or to enforce it.
Some time after that she crept into Nora’s room. ‘Nora,’ she said, waking the sleeping girl, ‘it is all over.’
‘Is he dead?’
’It is all over. Mrs Richards is there. It is better than an hour since now. Let me come in.’ She got into her sister’s bed, and there she told the tale of her tardy triumph. ’He declared to me at last that he trusted me,’ she said, almost believing that real words had come from his lips to that effect. Then she fell into a flood of tears, and after a while she also slept.
At last the maniac was dead, and in his last moments he had made such reparation as was in his power for the evil that he had done. With that slight touch of his dry fevered lips he had made the assertion on which was to depend the future peace and comfort of the woman whom he had so cruelly misused. To her mind the acquittal was perfect; but she never explained to human ears, not even to those of her sister,