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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part Five - Chapter 54
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Together - Part Five - Chapter 54 Post by :Jay_White Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :973

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Together - Part Five - Chapter 54

PART FIVE CHAPTER LIV

The doctors had come, probed for the bullet, and gone. They had not found the bullet. The wound was crooked, they said, entering the fleshy part of the abdomen, ranging upwards in the direction of the heart, then to the back. The wounded man was still unconscious. There was a chance, so the New York surgeon told Isabelle,--only they had not been able to locate the bullet, and the heart was beating feebly. There had been a great loss of blood. If he had been found earlier, perhaps--they did not know....

Outside on the drive the doctors exchanged glances, low words, and signs. Accident? But how, the ball ranging upwards like that? He would have to be on his knees. Well, then, suicide! Had the pistol been found? ... There need be no scandal--the family was much loved in the village. Accident, of course. The fellow was always odd, the local practitioner explained to the city doctor, as he carried his distinguished colleague home in his car for breakfast. There was that scandal with a woman in Venice. They said it was all over, but you could never tell about those things....

Upstairs the nurse made ready the room for illness, while Isabelle sat by the bed, watching her brother. Vickers was still unconscious, scarcely breathing. The nurse, having tried a number of ways to get her out of the room, now ignored her, and Isabelle sat in a kind of stupor, waiting for that Fate which had overtaken her to be worked out. When the gray dawn of the morning stole into the dark room, the nurse unbolted the shutters and threw open the window. In the uncertain light Dog Mountain loomed large and distant. Isabelle turned her head from Vickers's face and watched the wooded peak as it came nearer and nearer in the deepening light.... It was this hill that she and Vickers had climbed in the winter morning so long ago! How wonderful it had been then, life, for them both, with glorious possibilities of living! She had put forth her hands to grasp them, these possibilities, one after another, to grasp them for herself. Now they had come to an end--for both. There was no more to grasp....

When she turned back to the silent form by her side, she saw that Vickers had opened his eyes. His face was very white and the eyes were buried deep beneath the eyebrows as of a man long sick, and he lay motionless. But the eyes had meaning in them; they were the eyes of the living. So brother and sister looked into each other, thus, and without words, without a murmur, it was all known between them. She understood! He had thrown his life into the abyss before her that she might be kept to that vision they had had as boy and girl. It was not to be for him. But for her!

"Vick!" she whispered, falling on her knees by his side. For reply there was that steady searching look, which spoke to unknown depths within her. "Vick!" she moaned. The white lips of the dying man trembled, and a faint flutter of breath crossed them--but no words. His fingers touched her hair. When she looked at him again through her tears, the eyes were closed, and the face bore an austere look of preoccupation, as of one withdrawn from the business of life.... Afterwards the nurse touched the kneeling woman, the doctor came, she was led away. She knew that Vickers was dead.

* * * * *

Late that afternoon there came a knock at the door of the room where Isabelle was, and her husband, hearing no sound, entered. She looked up wonderingly from the lounge where she lay. She did not know that John was in the house, that he had been sent for. She was unaware what time had elapsed since the evening before.

"Isabelle," he said and stopped. She looked at him questioningly. The irritation that of late his very presence had caused her she was not conscious of now. All the irritations of life had been suddenly wiped out in the great fact. As she looked at her husband's grave face, she saw it with a new sense,--she saw what was behind it, as if she had had the power given her to read beneath matter. She saw his concern, his real sorrow, his consideration, the distress for her in the heart of this man, whom she had thrust out of her life....

"Isabelle," he said very gently, hesitantly. "Tom has come--is downstairs--wants to see you. He asked me if you would see him for a moment."

This also did not surprise her. She was silent for a moment, and her husband said:--

"Do you want to see him?"

"Yes," she replied finally. "I will see him.... I will go down at once."

She rose and stepped towards the door.

"Isabelle!" Her husband's voice broke. Still standing with one hand on the knob of the door, he took from his pocket with the other a small pistol, and held it towards her on the palm of his hand. "Isabelle," he said, "this was in the river--near where they found him!"

She looked at it calmly. It was that little gold and ivory chased toy which she remembered Tom had used one afternoon to shoot the magnolia blossoms with. She remembered it well. It was broken open, and a cartridge half protruded from the breach.

"I thought you should know," Lane added.

"Yes," Isabelle whispered. "I know. I knew! ... But I will go down and see him."

Her husband replaced the pistol in his pocket and opened the door for her.

* * * * *

Cairy was waiting before the fireplace in the library, nervously pacing to and fro across the rug. Would she see him? How much did she know? How much did they all know? How much would she forgive? ... These questions had racked him every hour since in a spasm of nervous terror he had flung the pistol over the bushes and heard it splash in the river, and with one terrified look at the wounded man, whom he had dragged into the thicket, had got himself in some unremembered fashion to the junction in time for the express. These and other considerations--what story should he tell?--had racked him all through the evening, which he had been obliged to spend with the actress, answering her silly objections to this and that in his play. Then during the night it became clear to him that he must return to the Farm in the morning as he had planned, as if nothing had happened. His story would be that Vickers had turned back before they reached the junction, and had borrowed his pistol to shoot at woodchucks.... Would Isabelle believe this? She _must believe it! ... It took courage to walk up to the familiar house, but he must see her. It was the only way. And he had been steadying himself for his part ever since he had left the city.

When Isabelle entered the room, she closed the door behind her and stood with her back against it for support. She wore the same white dress that she had had on when Cairy and Vickers had left her, not having changed it for tea. It had across the breast a small red stain,--the stain of her brother's blood. Cairy reached out his hands and started towards her, crying:--

"Isabelle! Isabelle! how awful! Isabelle,--I--" She raised her arm as if to forbid him to advance, and he stood still, his words dying on his lips. Looking at him out of her weary eyes, Isabelle seemed to see through the man, with that same curious insight that had come when she had read the truth in her brother's eyes; the same insight that had enabled her to see the kindness and the pity beneath her husband's impassive gravity. So now she knew what he was going to say, the lie he would try to tell her. It was as if she knew every secret corner of the man's soul, had known it always really, and had merely veiled her eyes to him wilfully. Now the veil had been torn aside. Had Vickers given her this power to see into the heart of things, for always, so that the truths behind the veil she made should never be hid?

'Why does he try to lie to me?' she seemed to ask herself. 'It is so weak to lie in this world where all becomes known.' She merely gazed at him in wonder, seeing the deformed soul of the deformed body, eaten by egotism and passions. And this last--cowardice! And he was the man she had loved! That she had been ready to die for, to throw away all for, even the happiness of others! ... It was all strangely dead. A body stood there before her in its nakedness.

"What do you want?" she demanded almost indifferently.

"I had to see you!" He had forgotten his story, his emotion,--everything beneath that piercing stare, which stripped him to the bone.

"Haven't you--a word--" he muttered.

Her eyes cried: 'I know. I know! I know ALL--even as those who are dead know.'

"Nothing!" she said.

"Isabelle!" he cried, and moved nearer. But the warning hand stopped him again, and the empty voice said, "Nothing!"

Then he saw that it was all ended between them, that this brother's blood, which stained her breast, lay forever between them, could not be crossed by any human will. And more, that the verity of life itself lay like a blinding light between them, revealing him and her and their love. It was dead, that love which they had thought was sacred and eternal, in the clear light of truth.

Without a word he walked to the open window and stepped into the garden, and his footstep on the gravel died away. Then Isabelle went back to the dead body in her room above.

On the terrace Lane was sitting beside his little girl, the father talking in low tones to the child, explaining what is death.

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PART FIVE CHAPTER LIIIIt was still sultry at four o'clock in the afternoon, and the two men walked slowly in the direction of the river. Cairy, who had been summoned by telegram to the city, would have preferred to be driven to the junction by Isabelle, but when Vickers had suggested that he knew a short cut by a shady path along the river, he had felt obliged to accept the implied invitation. He was debating why Price had suddenly evinced this desire to be with him, for he felt sure that Vickers disliked him. But Isabelle had shown plainly that
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