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Conclusion







From: The Crack Of Doom

Taking up my girl's body in my arms, I stumbled over the
wreck-encumbered deck, and bore it to the state-room she had occupied on
the outward voyage. Percival was too busy attending to wounded sailors
to be interrupted. His services, I knew, were useless now, but I wanted
him to refute or corroborate a conviction which my own medical knowledge
had forced upon me. The thought was so repellent, I clung to any hope
which might lead to its dispersion. I waited alone with my dead.

Percival came after an hour, which seemed to me an eternity. He
stammered out some incoherent words of sympathy as soon as he looked in
my face. But this was not the purpose for which I had detached him from
his pressing duties elsewhere. I made a gesture towards the dead girl.
He attended to it immediately. I watched closely and took care that the
light should be on his face, so that I might read his eyes rather than
listen to his words.

"She has fainted!" he exclaimed, as he approached the rigid figure. I
said nothing until he turned and faced me. Then I read his eyes. He said
slowly: "You are aware, Marcel, that--that she is dead?"

"I am."

"That she has been dead--several hours?"

"I am."

"But let me think. It was only an hour--"

"No; do not think," I interrupted. "There are things in this voyage
which will not bear to be thought of. I thank you for coming so soon.
You will forgive me for troubling you when you have so much to do
elsewhere. And now leave us alone. I mean, leave me alone."

He pressed my hand, and went away without a word. I am that man's
friend.

They buried her at sea.

I was happily unconscious at the time, and so was spared that scene.
Edith Metford, weak and suffering as she was, went through it all. She
has told me nothing about it, save that it was done. More than that I
could not bear. And I have borne much.

The voyage home was a dreary episode. There is little more to tell, and
it must be told quickly. Percival was kind, but it distressed me to find
that he now plainly regarded me as weak-minded from the stress of my
trouble. Once, in the extremity of my misery, I began a relation of my
adventures to him, for I wanted his help. The look upon his face was
enough for me. I did not make the same mistake again.

To Anderson I made amends for my extravagant display of temper. He
received me more kindly than I expected. I no longer thought of the
money that had passed between us. And, to do him tardy justice, I do not
think he thought of it either. At least he did not offer any of it back.
His scruples, I presume, were conscientious. Indeed, I was no longer
worth a man's enmity. Sympathy was now the only indignity that could be
put upon me. And Anderson did not trespass in that direction. My misery
was, I thought, complete. One note must still be struck in that long
discord of despair.

We were steaming along the southern coast of Java. For many hours the
rugged cliffs and giant rocks which fence the island against the
onslaught of the Indian Ocean had passed before us as in review, and
we--Edith Metford and I--sat on the deck silently, with many thoughts in
common, but without the interchange of a spoken word. The stern,
forbidding aspect of that iron coast increased the gloom which had
settled on my brain. Its ramparts of lonely sea-drenched crags depressed
me below the mental zero that was now habitual with me. The sun went
down in a red glare, which moved me not. The short twilight passed
quickly, but I noticed nothing. Then night came. The restless sea
disappeared in darkness. The grand march past of the silent stars began.
But I neither knew nor cared.

A soft whisper stirred me.

"Arthur, for God's sake rouse yourself! You are brooding a great deal
too much. It will destroy you."

Listlessly I put my hand in hers, and clasped her fingers gently.

"Bear with me!" I pleaded.

"I will bear with you for ever. But you must fight on. You have not won
yet."

"No, nor ever shall. I have fought my last fight. The victory may go to
whosoever desires it."

On this she wept. I could not bear that she should suffer from my
misery, and so, guarding carefully her injured arm, I drew her close to
me. And then, out of the darkness of the night, far over the solitude of
the sea, there came to us the sound of a voice. That voice was a woman's
wail. The girl beside me shuddered and drew back. I did not ask her if
she had heard. I knew she had heard.

We arose and stood apart without any explanation. From that moment a
caress would have been a sacrilege. I did not hear that weird sound
again, nor aught else for an hour or more save the bursting of the
breakers on the crags of Java.

I kept no record of the commonplaces of our voyage thereafter. It only
remains for me to say that I arrived in England broken in health and
bankrupt in fortune. Brande left no money. His formula for the
transmutation of metals is unintelligible to me. I can make no use of
it.

Edith Metford remains my friend. To part utterly after what we have
undergone together is beyond our strength. But between us there is a
nameless shadow, reminiscent of that awful night in the Arafura Sea,
when death came very near to us. And in my ears there is always the echo
of that voice which I heard by the shores of Java when the misty
borderland between life and death seemed clear.

My story is told. I cannot prove its truth, for there is much in it to
which I am the only living witness. I cannot prove whether Herbert
Brande was a scientific magician possessed of all the powers he
claimed, or merely a mad physicist in charge of a new and terrible
explosive; nor whether Edward Grey ever started for Labrador. The
burthen of the proof of this last must be borne by others--unless it be
left to Grey himself to show whether my evidence is false or true. If
it be left to him, a few years will decide the issue.

I am content to wait.





Next: The Coming Of The Light

Previous: The Catastrophe



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