Then to the wonder and admiration of all, this extraordinary woman showed her full strength and the inexhaustible power she possessed over her own emotions. With a smile piteous in its triumph over a suffering the depths of which they were just beginning to sound, she held his gaze in hers and quietly said:
“You have driven me to the wall, Carleton. If I answer, nothing remains to us of hope or honor; nothing upon which to stay our souls but a consciousness of truth. Shall we let all go and meet our fate as people should who stand on a desolate shore and see the whole world roll away from before them?”
“What was her name?”
At his look, at this repetition of his question, she straightened up, and addressed herself to Mr. Gryce.
“You were astonished and regarded me curiously when at the sound of that foolish little clock I entered this room. That little clock means everything to me, gentlemen.” Here she surveyed them one after the other with her proud and candid eye. “It is the one witness I have — is it not, Carleton?” she asked, turning quickly upon him. “You have not failed me in this?”
He shook his head.
“A witness to what I am still ready to ignore, if such is your will, Carleton.”
Terror! terror far beyond anything they had seen in him yet, paled his cheek and made his face almost unrecognizable; but he could still speak, and in the murmur he let fall she heard no word of protest.
“May I ask one of you to take down that clock?”
In a few minutes it lay on the table to which she had pointed. Mr. Gryce who had at that moment in his pocket a copy of the inscription pasted on its back, expected her to turn it over and show them the token of Mr. Roberts’ and her united initials.
But it was not this she had in mind. Though she took up the clock, she did not turn it round, only looked at it steadily, her trembling lips and a tear — the first they had seen — testifying to the rush of old memories which this simple little object brought back to her long suffering heart. Then she laid it down again and seemed to hesitate.
“I want to get at the works inside,” she appealed to them with a helpless accent. “Can you tear off the back? That would be the quickest way. But no, I know a quicker,” and lifting the clock again she turned it upside down and shook it.
They heard — what did they hear? No one could say, but when she again reversed it, there fell out upon the table and rolled to the floor a small gold circlet. Lifting it, Mr. Gryce held it out to her. Taking it, she carried it over to the District Attorney and placed it in his hand.
“Read the inscription inside.”
He did so, and looking quickly up, said:
“This is a wedding ring! Yours! You believe yourself to have been married to him.”
“I was married to him in Switzerland. The marriage was legal; he knows it, he acknowledges it, or why should he keep this ring. I have endured seeing him put another woman in my place. I have kept silence for years; but when he asks the right name of the child shot down in the museum, and asks it in a way which compels answer, then I must make known my rightful claims. For that child was not only mine, but his; born after he left me, and reared without his knowledge, first in this country and then in France.”
And breaking down now utterly, she fell on her knees sobbing out her soul at the feet of him from whose honor she had torn the last poor, pitiful shred.
As for him, he said nothing; even his lips refused the smallest cry. Only his hand which had hung at his side went to his heart; and thus he stood swaying — swaying, till he finally fell forward into the arms she suddenly threw out to receive him.
“Carleton! Carleton!” she wailed, searching for consciousness in his fast glazing eye. “It was to show you your child that I made the appointment at the museum. Not for myself. Oh, not for myself, but for your sake, that you might have ——”
Useless; all useless.
He was dead.
Would she have had it otherwise? Would any of them? When they were quite sure of the fact, she placed the ring in his still warm hand; then she solemnly put it on her finger, and turning, faced them all.
“Do not blame me too much for this final blow I gave him. He had already seen the truth in that mirror over there. His face — look at it and then at this picture of her taken after death, and see the resemblance! It is showing plainer every minute. It was the something which had worried and eluded him. Nothing could have kept back the truth from him after that one glimpse he caught of himself and her in the mirror. I loved him. Mine is the grief; you will let me stay here with him to-night. To-morrow I will answer all questions.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50