Rachel Marquis paused a moment with her hand on the library-door. She had had John placed in here because it was the room she herself loved best, and she knew that it was here she would prefer to sit beside him in these last hours of waiting. Yet she had hesitated to come down, and even now, with her hand on the door-knob, she lingered again to re-strengthen herself before entering. The very unusualness of an unfamiliar sight in the familiar room would add, she knew, to the sharp strangeness of the whole event. She almost hoped, as she waited this moment, for another practical duty of some sort, which would postpone again her entrance to the room.
But no sound came from any part of the silenced house, and she opened the door and entered. The long casket stood awkwardly across the blank fireplace, for she had chosen to give no direction to the undertaker and he had followed his own professional judgment. Everything was arranged, however, with a sort of intention which indicated the intrusion of the professional into the private. In spite of the stronger feeling of the moment, Rachel Marquis noticed this, with sharp disapproval. But she went directly to the chair which had been placed beside the casket and seated herself, bowing her head long on her folded arms before she looked on the familiar face beside her.
It was now only twenty-four hours since the strange accident had happened, and she had not yet adjusted herself, even so far as to determine her fundamental emotion. It was grief, of course, but the kind or degree of that grief was still undefined. The hours since they had brought him home had been so full of the unfamiliar practical things which arise at such a time, of the sudden necessities and small perplexities which muddle and chafe sorrow, that there had been scarcely a moment for her to look consciously at the great fact. Even now, as she covered her eyes, to be the more alone with herself, she felt rather a welcoming of momentary inactivity, than the relaxation of grief. She realized, with a sort of pang of disapproval, that she did not need to relax from any tension of anguish. She did not know what she wished to say to herself in this communion. She was sorry, bitterly sorry; but what elements went into the making of that grief?—She could not yet tell.
So she leaned with covered eyes, almost as if she were waiting for something outside of herself to give her a cue. As the minutes passed, however, the great simple fact that John was dead and that his place beside her would now be empty, engrossed all supplementary feelings, and her genuine regret had its way. She wept long, and ever more bitterly, absorbed, as one may be, in a mere physical expression of grief. The activity of sorrow overcame thought for the time, and left her no energy for analysis of feeling. Death alone seemed enough to weep over, and her tears still fell.
At last, as if having reached a natural period, she rose and moved away to the window and sat down there, in a quiet reverie of sadness. She was sorry for the life cut off, shocked at the abruptness and completeness of the tragedy,—John himself, she was sure, the assertive, energizing John, would have hated this sudden subduing of himself, and she sympathized with such revolt,—sorry, sorry for it all. NORFLOXACIN IP
As she thought, she looked gravely out across the garden, the gay stretch to which John had given so much time. She had never understood his devotion to that garden. He had not been ready to spend money on things to give æsthetic pleasure in the house, although in practical matters he had been willing enough to make outlays, ever since his business had been secure. She thought of their new car, of the signs of prosperity in their living. ‘Poor John!’ she said at last with a deep sigh, when, aware of the nodding line of rare dahlias on which her eyes were resting, she thought of all the pains he had taken in the propagation and selection of them. She had come to recognize this lavishness of care and money as a sort of blind expression of the one æsthetic element in his nature, and had felt a quiet approval of it. ‘Poor John!’ she sighed again, and turned from the window to go.
But even as she did so, the simplicity of her mood passed, and the old complexity of feeling returned with a keenness which was for the moment bewildering. As she left the window, the long black shape across the fireplace confronted her again, and she paused, startled anew; it was so strange and so tremendous a thing in her room.
For the library was, above everything else in the world, hers. It was such a room as shows it has been taking on character through succeeding decades, cumulative of its type, slowly drawing to itself an atmosphere of fineness and greatness. The credit of it belonged only remotely to Rachel Marquis. She was the possessor, but not the maker of it. She had kept it and loved it, but her own contribution to it had been slight. A few shelves of new books not yet mellowed down to the tone of the others, standing as if waiting to be proved, and a bit of renewing of texture here and there, whose freshness showed need of the softening of time, were the only marks of her hand or taste. But it was such a room as any lover of the long effects of books would cherish.
In the midst of its harmonies, the heavy black box undoubtedly looked harsh and intrusive. Rachel recognized, as a sort of confidence with herself, that bringing it here was an invasion. Because she loved the room herself she had placed John here, without thought of the inappropriateness of the act. But now the incongruity of the choice struck her. Why should he be brought here, she thought pitifully, to the room he never frequented, where she scarcely welcomed him, she acknowledged? Why should she sit beside him here, when she had so seldom done so before? She remembered very well the manner with which he occasionally sought her here, tentative, unfamiliar, and yet assertive. She had resented every element of that manner. Anywhere else in the house he was more nearly himself; here everything she did not desire in him was accentuated.
It had been, she thought, with an instinctive desire to do the best for him in every way, that she had directed that he should be placed here; just as she had ordered everything of the choicest and had given her most careful attention and taste to every detail. But this thought had been a failure.
‘Poor John!’ she said gently once more, with a pity in her thought all the greater for this very incongruity, as she came over and stood beside him. But as her eyes rested on his face, she felt almost compelled to withdraw the phrase. The dead man seemed to allow no such pity. The unfamiliar in the familiar, which is stranger than a new thing, held her startled attention as she looked. She had thought that she knew John Marquis to the last shred of his character, but death seemed to have laid a fineness she had never known over the stubbornness and taciturnity of the face. The dignity of the last great experience of his life seemed to mark him. He seemed to be gathering himself away from her pitying kindness. Very soon she went out again and closed the door.
When Richard Hughes, the last of his family, left his mother’s old home to John and Rachel Marquis, no one had wondered. Rachel was a sort of cousin and John, too, a distant connection by somebody’s marriage. And they lived in the town and nothing was more natural than that he should give them a home there, and whatever else he had to leave.
What no one knew but Rachel was that Richard Hughes had wished to marry her, and that she had refused him and chosen John Marquis instead. Richard Hughes, fifteen years her senior, quiet and inexpressive, shut in with books and remote from life, was far less to her mind than John Marquis, who was of her own generation, with whom she went to parties and talked the light talk of youth, and had a thousand things in common, as she thought. John was bright and jolly, and played tennis and danced with her and took her out in a canoe, and was sweet-tempered and loved to laugh, and between times talked seriously about the business he was starting and the money he expected to make. John belonged to the whole format of her life at that time, and it was perfectly natural to choose to marry him, with the expectation that life would go on as she and John had both known it and liked it in other homes, comfortable, sensible, ambitious of practical things, real, as their kind would call it. It seemed an impossible thing for her not to marry John.
In the first years of their marriage she was proud of coming quickly to understand John’s business. She was proud of her management and her well-timed economies, proud that John could talk affairs over with her with satisfaction, that she was beginning to take the place her mother and other successful women had taken in practical life. But after two or three years had passed, the space taken by practical things in her life began to shrink; her familiarity with them detracted from their interest and allowed her to dispose of them more readily. She began to feel a restlessness which called for new interests.
At the same time John’s affairs were not prospering. Difficulties he could not manage hampered him. All Rachel’s advice and economies were of little help among the inevitable conditions of the time. She was becoming tired of the continual effort to acquire, and impatient of the atmosphere of practical things. But she made a show of readiness when he suggested that they give up the cheerful modern home they had fitted about themselves, with the conventions of comfort and the furnishings and decorations to which they had been adapted.
It was just at this time that Richard Hughes left them his home and the little money he owned. Nothing could have been more opportune for them. Whatever other feelings John may have had were absorbed in sheer relief at the assistance the bequest brought him. The money, with that from the sale of their own house, tided him over his difficulties and even helped to develop his business further. Rachel concealed her reluctance at moving into the out-of-date old house with its antiquated furnishings, and made a show of welcoming their fortune as a good partner should.
She could hardly tell when her consciousness of the house began to have its influence upon her. From the first, John, absorbed in business, left all practical things to her, feeling that the house was more hers than his anyway. She, in a mood of vague compunction and desire to compensate for she hardly knew what, made it a point of honor to dispose of all their own furniture, chosen with such satisfaction and complacency, and settled among the dull tones and quiet spaces of the old house.
‘Gay old place, isn’t it?’ said John, walking through the house after they were established.
Rachel assented with a cheerful smile.
‘Oh, well,’ he went on, settling down with his trade-journals, which looked sadly out of place in the dim library, ‘we can stand it for a while. Some time we can have what we want again.’
It was months before he recurred to the subject directly. Then, one Sunday, he looked about him as he sat stretched in an old easy-chair, and said abruptly, ‘We are getting pretty well settled down here. I didn’t think the old place would be so comfortable.’
‘It is more than comfortable,’ said Rachel quietly.
‘I wonder why Richard ever left it to us. Have you ever figured it out?’
‘Oh, he had no nearer relatives that he knew.’ Rachel tried to speak in a matter-of-fact way, but instead she hesitated and flushed a little.
John looked at her closely. ‘Do you know any other reason?’ he asked curiously.
Rachel hesitated again. Mere reticence on past affairs was one thing; positively keeping a secret from her husband was another. ‘Richard wanted to marry me once,’ she said. ‘But I don’t think that had anything to do with it,’ she added hastily.
‘When was that?’
‘Oh—before I was engaged to you,’ said Rachel, and smiled at him.
John said nothing more, but sat tapping his knee with his folded newspaper, as was his habit when in thought. Presently he rose and strolled away.
Rachel could not help resenting his silence, which left her in discomfort. When so much had been said he should have said more, if only to put her at her ease. For days afterwards she expected him to return to the subject, and when he did not do so, she continued to resent the implication he seemed to be making.
At this time the house itself had already begun to have its effect upon her. Rachel could hardly tell when she stopped looking wistfully at the sectional bookcases and mission furniture of her acquaintances. But soon after she moved into it, the house had ceased to be to her merely a house. With her conventionally modern notions of beauty in furnishings, she had first been surprised to find how at rest and how satisfied she was in this house, which had met in a generous way the needs and tastes of another generation, but met few of those to which she had been trained. She had not known that it was in her to find a charm in such a house. But from the time when she first became aware of a positive quality in the place, she became more and more awake to its existence; she wondered at it, but it held her attention constantly more firmly.
At last she found that behind the entity of the house lay that which had made it—the personality of the generations gone and especially of its last owner. The quality of the whole place, with its solidity of walls and generosity of room, along with its plain sincerity in every detail, seemed to indicate praiseworthiness, not only in the first builder, but in all later possessors. It became a meritorious thing to have and to keep a house like this. She remembered something of the sacrifices that Richard Hughes had made to retain it, and warmed with pride of him at the recollection.
The whole place reflected him and the people who had made him. Gradually Rachel grew in pride of the house and of her heritage. As she lived there month by month she found herself enveloped in its atmosphere and growing toward its proportions. At first she entered the library with timidity and an uncomfortable strangeness. Even one who had only very superficial intellectual tastes must have felt a sort of awe before its accumulation of books and their accompaniments. When Rachel and John had first begun to make a home, they had placed the making of a library among their ambitions, for it, and had taken pleasure in adding a few gayly bound novels each year to the small united collection with which they had begun. They had enjoyed seeing their few shelves grow, and knowing that they had so many of the popular books of which their friends talked. When they came to the Hughes home, Rachel had crowded their parti-colored collection into the shelves of the library there, weeding out others to make room for their own.
But on a later day, as she reëntered the room, she felt a shock at the incongruity presented and, to John’s puzzlement, gathered their own books into a corner by themselves where a curtain safely hid them. Their garish triviality had no place among these mellowed, long-tried volumes. John, however, had looked the old volumes over and pronounced them a dry lot—give him something fresher.
But Rachel perceived that there had been something in the choosing of these books which she had never really known. To her, books had been an accessory, an incidental thing, hypothetically an enrichment of life, but not an essential. She had thought of intellectual exercise as an intermittent thing, to be taken up or laid down as suited the mood of the time. But here was a people who chose books not merely as a desirable possession, an ornamental furnishing, but as an unquestioned necessity.
Gradually, as she continued to handle and to know their books, she evoked for herself the earlier presences of the house, most of all Richard Hughes. In the long hours which she now spent alone about the house, she found herself living more constantly in a companionship with those minds. They were not only an atmosphere, but sometimes almost a positive presence. It entertained her to go over the books one by one, sometimes, deciding who had chosen this one and that one, and for what reason, and picturing the occasion of its coming to his hand. As her knowledge of the library grew, she took more and more pleasure in this, tracing the taste of one owner or another in the recurrence of a subject or in successive accretions. She, as she learned, glowed over her collection of first editions of modern works, since they had been chosen, not as first editions, but, in their own time, as works for which an appreciative hand was eagerly waiting.
And since Richard Hughes was the only one of her predecessors in the library whom she had known, she found herself embodying all the others in him. She knew him now better than she had ever known him. She could detect his additions to the treasures of the house, and, as her own knowledge increased, could trace his using of the resources which had been handed down to him. She began to take pleasure in following what she thought had been his path in taste and knowledge, gradually matching her mind to his own.
Her pride in the room went through successive stages. In her first days of satisfaction in mere proprietorship of so respectable and worthy a possession, she took pleasure in unostentatious exhibition of it. She liked to take guests there, in a natural sort of way, and to be found sitting there, by unexpected callers. She liked the eminently admirable background of the rows of books, for social episodes. But as her knowledge of the library grew, that stage passed. As she went from familiarity to intimacy, she began to desire that it should be an exclusive intimacy. She no longer took callers to the room, and when familiar acquaintances found their way there, she was uneasy at their handling of the books and impatient of their discussion of them. She now seldom spontaneously took strangers there. In time she had come to group John with all the others. The only companionship that she desired in the library was an imagined one.
John’s attitude had more and more set her apart in this companionship. His dislike for the house had grown steadily more obvious as the months and years passed. It showed itself in a lack of home-pride, in open contempt for the old-fashioned elements of the place, in reluctance to make even necessary expenditure upon it.
But Rachel herself had hardly guessed the strength of his feeling until one day when she discovered among Richard Hughes’s papers what seemed to be a memorandum for a codicil to his will, which would make a gift of a thousand dollars to the little public library of the town.
She took the note directly to John. ‘I think we ought to do this,’ she said.
John looked at the paper and laid it down. ‘I don’t see that we are obliged to,’ he answered shortly.
‘It is what he intended to do—and we got the money,’ she said, with too patient a manner, as if explaining the moral point to him. ‘We should give it in his name.’
‘It is enough to have to live in Richard Hughes’s house. I don’t care to set up a memorial for him besides.’
‘But John,’ she urged herself to argue, ‘is it honest?’
‘There is more than one kind of honesty,’ said John shortly, in a tone which checked further answer. ‘I can’t afford it,’ he added after a moment, as the final word.
She left him in an anger which it seemed to her she would feel all her life. But gradually it became less an active feeling than a part of all her unformulated opinion of him. He had not followed her a single step in the development which had resulted from her awakening to the spirit of the house. In time he came to ignore the library altogether as part of the house, and by degrees fitted up an incongruous little lounging-place upstairs. Rachel came to regard his whole attitude toward the place and the man who had owned it as belonging to his mental and æsthetic plane; his jealous ingratitude seemed not a separate feeling, but only an element in his character.
Richard Hughes, she now understood very well, had known her very little, and had loved only her prettiness and light girlishness, charms which were different from anything in his own life. The recollection of that episode did not flatter her now, or even afford her any special gratification. But she loved to live side by side with the embodiment she had re-created for herself, and was proud to feel her spirit matching its spirit. She sometimes felt, with her growing imagination, that she was living in the house, not with John, but with these presences of the past—most of all with Richard Hughes.
But in the mean time the matter of the bequest assumed for her constantly greater proportions. After some time had passed she ventured to mention it again. He answered as before, ‘I can’t afford it!’ She knew that he could afford it. About the same time he bought a strip of ground lying beside them and began his garden. Rachel suggested that he take a piece of their own grounds, but he bluntly rejected the proposal. A growing taciturnity marked his manner, and often a willful crudeness of phrase and speech, which annoyed her almost to the point of reproof. So far as was possible, however, she kept the recognition of all this far in the background of her thought and forebore any conscious criticism of him, even to herself. But her warmest feeling for him was tinged with pity.
Yesterday he had been taken. This accident, sudden as a lightning-flash and more unforeseen, had ended the relation between them—though not the puzzle. Rachel had never been one to revise her opinion of a man because he was dead. Her tears had fallen now, but she had no compunctious self-deception, and her long-framed feelings were only complicated, not really altered. She saw as clearly as ever the incongruity of her husband’s presence in this room where Richard Hughes had had his life, and where she now had her own.
All waited for the coming of John’s brother, David Marquis. David was an elder brother, retired from business on some pretext or other, now loitering his way profitably and pleasantly through the later half of his life. It had been his custom to visit them frequently, spending weeks at a time idling about the house, quiet, keen of look, ready to talk with interest on any general topic, but incommunicative of opinion on any personal matter. Rachel had always felt, as she saw his observant eye first upon John and then upon her, that he saw the difference between them and sympathized with her. For this reason, although she had never criticized John to him, she had sometimes spoken freely of herself and of her own tastes and wishes; and he had listened, quietly as ever, but responsively.
She had a sort of feeling now that she would find her poise through him when he came. A sympathetic eye would help her to adjust the degree of her grief to the limits of her previous feeling.
It was eight o’clock when he arrived. The pretext of dinner in the house was over, and even the neighborly and professional attentions of the day were withdrawn. Rachel descended from her room in the quiet house at the sound of his entrance, and met gratefully the brotherly kindliness of his manner. They sat a few minutes in the hall, in question and answer of his journey and of the accident and all the circumstantial things which cluster about death itself. Rachel answered freely and fully, discovering a relief in breaking the instinctive repression of the day, and finding the sort of rest she had hoped for from his presence. David listened to her quietly, as he had always done, with his ready eye upon her.
At last he rose, turning away from her with a comprehensive look about him.
‘Where is he?’ he asked abruptly.
‘In the library,’ said Rachel, with a movement to lead the way for him.
‘In there?’ exclaimed David, with the emphasis of surprise. Then he closed his lips again and followed her, without meeting her questioning look.
But inside the door he paused again. Rachel had, constrained by long habit, looked first at the room, as she entered, and then at the casket, as a separate thing. The room had so long served to give her poise that she felt a sort of appeal to it even now. David’s eyes rested first on the casket and then swept the room in a disapproving look.
‘Why is he here?’ he asked, with a curtness in his easy voice which Rachel had never heard from him before.
‘Why—’ she began hesitatingly, and then added vaguely, ‘It seemed best.’
‘Best for him?’ responded David with the same curtness.
Then he turned and dropped his head slowly over the figure in the coffin, and Rachel slipped away. David’s manner seemed to put her entirely outside of the occasion.
Later he joined her where she waited in the dim parlor. The still chilliness of the room was stiffening and depressing, but she had not made a fire because its open cheerfulness would not have seemed appropriate. David walked up and down the long room a few minutes in a silence which Rachel, not knowing his mood, did not break.
Then he said, as abruptly as before, ‘Can you have him moved in the morning?’
Rachel had not supposed that her brother-in-law would have the same feeling of incongruity that she had.
‘Anywhere but there. Here—I don’t know—there is no place in the house that seems to belong to him. The hall might do—at least he went through there every day,’ he finished with an irony none too subtle.
He began to walk up and down the length of the room, alternately facing her with a challenging air, and turning abruptly away again when he had neared her seat. But Rachel, absorbed still in her mood, was unappreciative of his manner.
‘John never fitted into the house very well, anywhere,’ she said, with reserved regret.
‘Fitted into it!’ exclaimed David, as he turned toward her at the end of the room. ‘My—Did the house ever fit into him? It is the business of a house to suit the people that live in it,’ he flung over his shoulder as he wheeled away again.
Rachel was silent, puzzled at this surprising change of manner in David, and not knowing how much of his emotion was merely the impatience of grief.
‘Is there a corner of the house where it is appropriate for him to lie now, except that little cubby-hole of his upstairs?’ demanded David, continuing, but as one who knows that an answer is impossible.
He suddenly abandoned his walk and came over and sat down opposite her, in front of the empty fireplace. He sat silent a moment, his gray figure drooping in a big chair. Rachel, looking carefully at him for the first time, noted with a kind of surprise the mark of brokenness and relaxation upon him, of submission to tremendous grief. It had not occurred to her that John could be mourned in that way. After a moment he said quietly, ‘This house has never been a home for John.’
‘I was always hoping,’ said Rachel, as if this subject were one which they had discussed before and agreed upon, ‘that he would feel more at home here in time.’
‘What would have been necessary to bring that about?’ asked David quietly.
‘Well,’ said Rachel, with reluctance in criticism even greater than usual, ‘he would have had to change in many ways.’
‘In what ways?’ persisted David.
Rachel hesitated again. The thing, when baldly said, seemed so much harsher than when it was merely held in thought.
‘John’s taste was different from that of the people who made the house,’ she said.
‘Yes, I know. These pictures, and the old books in the library, and so on. Is that what you mean?’
‘Well, the insides of the books, and other pictures which we don’t have—and so on,’ she finished indefinitely.
‘Yes. You thought John was crude and rather coarse in feeling.’
‘Oh, no—not that indeed!’
‘You wouldn’t call it just that, of course. But the difference between you was the same, whether it put you up high or him down low. Isn’t that so? You were sorry for yourself because John was not on your level?’
‘Yes,’ admitted Rachel, reluctantly voicing the word.
‘Were you ever sorry enough for John because you were not on his level?—There are different kinds of lonesomeness,’ he added after a pause. ‘I never saw a worse case than John’s.’
Rachel sat upright, looking at him in a sort of amazement, as much at himself as at the idea. She had never dreamed that behind his apparently sympathetic observation of her lay any condemnation of her attitude.
He met her look with one as direct, and asked, in a way which made the question a sort of arraignment, ‘Did it ever occur to you what a tragedy John’s life was?’
Rachel merely shook her head slowly as she tried to connect, in an impersonal sort of way, the notion of tragedy with John—John the successful, the obstinate, the simple in desire, the objective. There had been no real disappointment in all his life. She looked back half-indignantly at David, rejecting the suggestion.
David rose and took a turn up and down the parlor again, pausing in the shadows at the farther end of the room. Then he came back to his seat and faced her determinedly.
‘What I had always hoped was that you would come to understand John without any outside interference. I came back over and over to see, but I always kept from butting in.’ He paused again. ‘I wouldn’t say anything now, only your tone, your “Poor John” way, shows you are just the same as ever. I won’t have him buried without your knowing something more about him—if I can show you,’ he added more gently.
‘Please tell me,’ said Rachel quietly. Her mind was still half as much on David as on what he was going to say.
‘There is nothing to tell that you should not have seen for yourself. You were his wife and you lived with him. From the time you came to this house one side of John’s life ended. In a way he had no home and no—wife. A man wants a companion.’
Rachel almost spoke, in startled contradiction. It was she who had been uncompanioned.
‘You were proud, I know, of never finding fault with John. Don’t you know that he would have been glad if you had openly found fault with him? As it was, it seemed as if you thought him hopeless. When he said things about the house or anything in it, he really wanted you to contradict him and argue with him, and give him a way to come to the same place where you were—don’t you see?’
‘Did he tell you?’
‘No. But of course I used to sit round with him a good deal. And I had always been used to understanding him,’ he added, with a drop in his voice. ‘John had a lot of imagination,’ he went on.
Rachel looked up in real surprise.
‘I could see every year how the house was getting more on his nerves. Sometimes when he was feeling it more than usual he would say little things that I understood. For him it was like living with some one who didn’t want him round. But he might have liked it.’
‘You don’t understand,’ said Rachel, as if pricked into coming to her own defense. ‘John didn’t like the way the house came to us in the first place. You didn’t know—’
‘Yes, I did,’ he responded as she hesitated, ‘I found out.’
‘And yet,’ she went on, ‘we used the house and the money—’
‘You haven’t known much about the business for several years, have you? Of course you do know that the house has been in your name from the beginning, almost. But you don’t know that the few thousands Richard Hughes left have been invested for you ever since two years after he died. It crippled John for a while after he took it out of the business. But he always took good care of that money—it amounts to quite a little now.’
‘John didn’t like it because Richard—’ Rachel hesitated again.
‘You thought he was jealous. He did that after one day when you weeded out a lot of his books and put them away in some corner. And it was after he had those New York electric men here that evening and you seemed not to want to have them in the library, that he bought that corner of ground over there and made his garden. Don’t you understand?’
Rachel dropped her face upon her hands, partly for relief from David’s serious face, which forebore to rebuke her and yet of necessity did so, partly to close herself in with her own bewilderment. To reconstruct John’s life meant to take a new view of her own also.
David leaned suddenly toward her. ‘If John had been jealous, wouldn’t he have had reason, Rachel? I know you weren’t—untrue to him. But still—’ He felt the formulation of the thought with her.
‘I haven’t judged you harshly, Rachel,’ he went on in a moment, ‘but it is not right that a man’s brother should know him better than his wife does. I had to make you know, even at the last.’
Then, as if he were compelled to say the final hard thing, he added, ‘Wasn’t there something you had already thought you should do when everything was in your hands?’
Rachel, startled and flushing, faced him again, in involuntary confession. ‘I had always thought it would be right to carry out a plan of Richard Hughes’s.’
‘Yes, I know. I am sure that was only a momentary notion of his. He had a great habit of making notes of things. His will was made only a few days before he died, and that idea was probably earlier. I was an executor, you remember. But anyway, several years ago John made a large gift to the library of Richard’s college, in Richard’s name. He took no chances on being unfair. He should have told you,’ he added, ‘but John had a hard sort of pride to manage, and I suppose he never did.’
‘No,’ said Rachel, ‘he never did.’
She rose, with a sudden dropping of her hands at her sides, as if relinquishing something they had held, and moved vaguely toward the door.
‘Don’t you think,’ pursued David, ‘that he might be brought in here—or somewhere?’
Rachel hesitated, her hand faltering on the door-frame. ‘No,’ she said at last, ‘let him stay there now.’ And she herself went out through the dim chill hall. She lingered a moment at the closed library door, and then went slowly on up to her own empty room.