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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoon And Sixpence - Chapter 34
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Moon And Sixpence - Chapter 34 Post by :twilight Category :Long Stories Author :W. Somerset Maugham Date :March 2011 Read :1497

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Moon And Sixpence - Chapter 34

But though I was no less convinced than Stroeve that the
connection between Strickland and Blanche would end
disastrously, I did not expect the issue to take the tragic
form it did. The summer came, breathless and sultry, and even
at night there was no coolness to rest one's jaded nerves.
The sun-baked streets seemed to give back the heat that had
beat down on them during the day, and the passers-by dragged
their feet along them wearily. I had not seen Strickland for weeks.
Occupied with other things, I had ceased to think of
him and his affairs. Dirk, with his vain lamentations, had
begun to bore me, and I avoided his society. It was a sordid
business, and I was not inclined to trouble myself with it further.

One morning I was working. I sat in my Pyjamas. My thoughts
wandered, and I thought of the sunny beaches of Brittany and
the freshness of the sea. By my side was the empty bowl in
which the concierge had brought me my cafe au lait and the
fragment of croissant which I had not had appetite enough to eat.
I heard the concierge in the next room emptying my bath.
There was a tinkle at my bell, and I left her to open the door.
In a moment I heard Stroeve's voice asking if I was in.
Without moving, I shouted to him to come. He entered the room
quickly, and came up to the table at which I sat.

"She's killed herself," he said hoarsely.

"What do you mean?" I cried, startled.

He made movements with his lips as though he were speaking,
but no sound issued from them. He gibbered like an idiot.
My heart thumped against my ribs, and, I do not know why,
I flew into a temper.

"For God's sake, collect yourself, man," I said. "What on
earth are you talking about?"

He made despairing gestures with his hands, but still no words
came from his mouth. He might have been struck dumb. I do
not know what came over me; I took him by the shoulders and
shook him. Looking back, I am vexed that I made such a fool
of myself; I suppose the last restless nights had shaken my
nerves more than I knew.

"Let me sit down," he gasped at length.

I filled a glass with St. Galmier, and gave it to him
to drink. I held it to his mouth as though he were a child.
He gulped down a mouthful, and some of it was spilt on
his shirt-front.

"Who's killed herself?"

I do not know why I asked, for I knew whom he meant. He made
an effort to collect himself.

"They had a row last night. He went away."

"Is she dead?"

"No; they've taken her to the hospital."

"Then what are you talking about?" I cried impatiently. "Why
did you say she'd killed herself?"

"Don't be cross with me. I can't tell you anything if you
talk to me like that."

I clenched my hands, seeking to control my irritation.
I attempted a smile.

"I'm sorry. Take your time. Don't hurry, there's a good
fellow."

His round blue eyes behind the spectacles were ghastly with
terror. The magnifying-glasses he wore distorted them.

"When the concierge went up this morning to take a letter she
could get no answer to her ring. She heard someone groaning.
The door wasn't locked, and she went in. Blanche was lying on
the bed. She'd been frightfully sick. There was a bottle of
oxalic acid on the table."

Stroeve hid his face in his hands and swayed backwards and
forwards, groaning.

"Was she conscious?"

"Yes. Oh, if you knew how she's suffering! I can't bear it.
I can't bear it."

His voice rose to a shriek.

"Damn it all, you haven't got to bear it," I cried impatiently.
"She's got to bear it."

"How can you be so cruel?"

"What have you done?"

"They sent for a doctor and for me, and they told the police.
I'd given the concierge twenty francs, and told her to send
for me if anything happened."

He paused a minute, and I saw that what he had to tell me was
very hard to say.

"When I went she wouldn't speak to me. She told them to send
me away. I swore that I forgave her everything, but she
wouldn't listen. She tried to beat her head against the wall.
The doctor told me that I mustn't remain with her. She kept
on saying, `Send him away!' I went, and waited in the studio.
And when the ambulance came and they put her on a stretcher,
they made me go in the kitchen so that she shouldn't know I
was there."

While I dressed -- for Stroeve wished me to go at once with
him to the hospital -- he told me that he had arranged for his
wife to have a private room, so that she might at least be
spared the sordid promiscuity of a ward. On our way he
explained to me why he desired my presence; if she still
refused to see him, perhaps she would see me. He begged me to
repeat to her that he loved her still; he would reproach her
for nothing, but desired only to help her; he made no claim on
her, and on her recovery would not seek to induce her to
return to him; she would be perfectly free.

But when we arrived at the hospital, a gaunt, cheerless
building, the mere sight of which was enough to make one's
heart sick, and after being directed from this official to
that, up endless stairs and through long, bare corridors,
found the doctor in charge of the case, we were told that the
patient was too ill to see anyone that day. The doctor was a
little bearded man in white, with an offhand manner.
He evidently looked upon a case as a case, and anxious relatives
as a nuisance which must be treated with firmness. Moreover,
to him the affair was commonplace; it was just an hysterical
woman who had quarrelled with her lover and taken poison;
it was constantly happening. At first he thought that Dirk was
the cause of the disaster, and he was needlessly brusque with him.
When I explained that he was the husband, anxious to
forgive, the doctor looked at him suddenly, with curious,
searching eyes. I seemed to see in them a hint of mockery;
it was true that Stroeve had the head of the husband who is deceived.
The doctor faintly shrugged his shoulders.

"There is no immediate danger," he said, in answer to our
questioning. "One doesn't know how much she took. It may be
that she will get off with a fright. Women are constantly
trying to commit suicide for love, but generally they take
care not to succeed. It's generally a gesture to arouse pity
or terror in their lover."

There was in his tone a frigid contempt. It was obvious that
to him Blanche Stroeve was only a unit to be added to the
statistical list of attempted suicides in the city of Paris
during the current year. He was busy, and could waste no more
time on us. He told us that if we came at a certain hour next
day, should Blanche be better, it might be possible for her
husband to see her.

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I scarcely know how we got through that day. Stroeve couldnot bear to be alone, and I exhausted myself in efforts todistract him. I took him to the Louvre, and he pretended tolook at pictures, but I saw that his thoughts were constantlywith his wife. I forced him to eat, and after luncheon Iinduced him to lie down, but he could not sleep. He acceptedwillingly my invitation to remain for a few days in my apartment.I gave him books to read, but after a page or twohe would put the book down and stare miserably into space.During
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Two or three days later Dirk Stroeve called on me."I hear you've seen Blanche," he said."How on earth did you find out?""I was told by someone who saw you sitting with them.Why didn't you tell me?""I thought it would only pain you.""What do I care if it does? You must know that I want to hearthe smallest thing about her."I waited for him to ask me questions."What does she look like?" he said."Absolutely unchanged.""Does she seem happy?"I shrugged my shoulders."How can I tell? We were in a cafe; we were playing chess;I had no opportunity to speak to her.""Oh, but
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