To Morrow?

Contents:
Author: Victoria Cross

Chapter IV

May had come round again. The days and weeks had glided by in a monotony of work, varied by feverish blanks when I could do nothing, and the pile of manuscript lay growing dusty in its corner. Then at last the day arrived when the final line was written and the whole despatched. That was three months back, three months of anxious waiting, in which Howard had chaffed me daily on my looks and health.

"You’re dwindling to a most interesting skeleton, Vic," he used to say. "Catch me bothering myself about anything I wrote in the same way."

Now, however, it was over. I had just left the publisher’s office. The book had been accepted, and I was a free man. A gush of fresh life ran through me and stirred in my veins in response to the fresh life of spring that seemed in the sunny air, in the green leaves fluttering round the Bourse, in the white butterflies that floated across the dusty asphalt.

When I got back I found Howard half asleep in the armchair. He sat up as I came in, and regarded me with a confused stare. I saw he had been drinking, but his brain was still tolerably clear.

"Rejected, by Jove!" he remarked as he saw the MS.

"No," I answered, throwing it on to a side table and myself into the chair opposite him—"no, thank heaven, it’s all right now! They’ve accepted it. Congratulate me!"

"But what on earth have you brought it back for, then?" he said, blinking his heavy eyes and looking at me resentfully, as if he suspected I was playing some practical joke.

"Oh, there are a few things they want altered, that’s all," I answered. "I am to let them have it again the day after to-morrow."

"And what about terms?" he continued, getting out a roll of cigarette papers and beginning to roll himself some cigarettes.

He was wide awake now, and had shaken off his intoxicated stupor. His face was bent slightly as he made the cigarettes, so that I could hardly see it. I sat watching his trembling fingers rolling the papers in an absent silence.

"Oh, terms?" I said at last. "Fairly good, I think. They pay me a small sum and reserve me one-third of all profits from the book. I really don’t care much about the terms. Once the book is out my name is made, and the money will come in all right in time. They’ve taken it; that is the main point. If you knew the glorious relief it is to me!"

Howard laughed. He flung himself back in the chair and propped his feet up against the support of the mantelpiece.

"I think you are very lucky," he said. There was silence, then he asked abruptly—"How much are they going to give you for it?"

"Three thousand francs."

Howard paled suddenly and fixed his eyes upon me.

"And what will you do with it?" he asked, after a minute.

"Well," I answered, without reflection, "I thought you would like two thousand to send home and get rid of that half-yearly interest."

The blood dyed all his face suddenly crimson, and he brought down his feet upon the fender with a crash.

"I wish to hell you’d wait till I asked you for it!" he said savagely, springing up and crossing to the window.

There he stood looking out with his hands thrust deep into his pockets. I was fairly startled, and the colour rose uncomfortably in my own face.

It seemed, I almost felt, as if I had done something excessively ill-bred. But Howard and I were on such intimate terms, and made so little account of what we said to each other, that I had expressed the thought uppermost in my mind at the moment of his question as a matter of course. Then, too, he borrowed so constantly and so freely from me that the idea of offence over money matters or mentioning them seemed quite impossible.

"No," I thought, glancing at him as he still stood between me and the light; "there must be something else in his mind," and I wondered.

He was seldom out of temper, and seldom made himself disagreeable to me. In conversation, in all our life together, he generally yielded to me with an almost womanly compliance. His present tone and manner were absolutely new to me. I did not understand them, and I liked him well enough to take the trouble to get up after a second and follow him to the window.

"Howard," I said gently, "what is the matter? I am sorry if I have annoyed you."

He turned upon me suddenly from the window.

"Did I ever say I wanted the money you might get from your cursed book?" he said, passionately. "Do you suppose I couldn’t get as much for something of my own if I chose?"

Now, considering Howard was always in want of money, and perpetually lamenting his inability, real or imagined, to get it, the last remark seemed rather odd, and the vehemence with which he spoke against me was altogether incomprehensible.

"Of course," I answered quietly, looking down into his excited face. "I merely offered the money as a convenience, pro tem, as it happened to be at hand, that’s all. But surely it doesn’t matter. Perhaps I should not have done. I apologise. Doesn’t that make it square?"

I thought he was out of health, irritable, disappointed that he had not made more of his own work, and jealous of my success, and I was willing to say anything to soften his feelings.

Howard simply turned away from me again, and I caught a mutter of "damned impertinence."

Seeing it was useless to say anything further at the moment, I strolled back into the centre of the room again, called Nous to me, and sat down.

"Jealous!" I thought, with contemptuous amusement; "how extraordinary!"

Then my thoughts rushed away in a sudden stream to Lucia, and I saw her face, glowing with delight, look out upon me from the blank surface of the wall.

"How soon now shall I possess you?" was my one thought. "How long to our marriage?"

I began by allowing three months, but I shortened and shortened the time till I cut it down to a fortnight.

"Could I persuade her to let it be in a fortnight?" and I thought I could.

A quarter of an hour passed, and Howard had not moved from his position in the window. A very little day-dreaming is enough for me, especially about a woman. I yawned, stretched, and finally got up.

"Howard," I said, "I’m going out for a turn with Nous, but I will came back in time for dinner."

I lingered, but he said nothing. I put on my hat, called the dog, and went out. I started to walk to the Arc, and the distance there and back would have taken me, as I had said, till our dinner hour, but half way there the inclination failed. I felt tired and turned back.

"How utterly done up I feel!" I thought; "not worth anything. This last book has thoroughly taken it out of me. Rest! Rest! That was what I longed for now. My whole system seemed crying out for it. Of all the benefits the just-accomplished work would bring, celebrity, money, even, yes, even Lucia, seemed not so seductive in those moments as the possibility of gratifying this intolerable mental and physical craving for repose."

As I walked home a sense of tranquillity, a quiet, peaceful feeling of relief was transfused through me, and seemed communicated from the mind to the body and to every nerve of my frame, as if I were under the influence of some soothing drug.

I reached the hotel considerably before the time I had mentioned to Howard, and I supposed he would be out. However, as I came near I saw that our window was well lighted up. In fact, there seemed an unusually brilliant light in the room. Nous and I went up the stairs. He seemed to know and feel his master’s good spirits, and kept licking my hand at intervals as he bounded up the stairs beside me, and then outstripping me, he would wait on the landing above me impatiently till I got there, in a hurry to race up the next flight.

As I opened my door a peculiar scent of smoke reached me, and the air was clouded and singularly warm. Howard was in the room, and I could not make out at first what he was doing. He was crouching on his heels in front of the grate and seemingly stirring or poking something beneath the bars. Some, I can hardly define what, instinct, guided my eyes to the side table where I had left my manuscript. It was gone. At that instant: the wind from the wide open window and door blew the lamp flame and stirred the curtains, and a great sheet of whole black tinder drifted across the carpet up to my feet.

Then I knew—he was burning, or had burnt, my work. A flame was dying down in the grate, filled and overflowing with ragged black fragments. With a curse I sprang towards the fender, but Nous was quicker than I. Either divining my intention, or made suspicious by the queer, sinister look Howard’s figure had, the dog flew upon him with a growl, rolled him over and seized the clothing at his neck.

In another instant I would have called him off, but Howard was an inveterate coward. I saw his face turn livid with terror as the dog pinned his throat to the floor. His hand stretched out convulsively and grasped a long table knife that lay, together with the string that had held my manuscript, beside him on the floor. He seized it, and in an instant, before my eyes, he had plunged it deep into the breast of the dog standing over him. It was all done in a second—a flash. There was a gush of blood upon the floor, a broken moan from Nous, and then he staggered and fell over on his side—motionless.

Howard struggled breathless, white as death, to his feet. For one second I stood transfixed, watching him with blazing eyes. Then one step forward and I was upon him. My two hands closed like steel round his throat, and by his head, thus, I dragged him from the hearth out into the centre of the room.

"You unutterable, unspeakable cur and devil!" I muttered, and I saw his face blackening under my grip.

A gust of wind passed through the room, blowing to the door with a bang, and it whirled aloft, round us, broken and quivering pieces of black tinder. The air was full of them. And the dead dog lay in a pool of blood before us. It seemed to me that my brain was rocking with the fury and rage I felt—my whole frame convulsed in it. The loss, the irreparable loss, the killed hopes I saw in those floating ashes round me, came home to me till my brain seemed breaking asunder with anger. To murder him came the impulse! How? There were a thousand ways! To grind my fingers still deeper into his throat— THUS! THUS! Or that long knife that lay there on the rug, driven into and twisted round in his breast; or that sharp corner of the fender to batter out his brains; or drag him through the long, open window and hurl him in the darkness from that second floor balcony. Which? Devil! devil! Then as I held him there the thought pierced me,—Was I a brute to feel a blind rage like this? Had I ever in my life lost my own self-command, that command which sets us where we stand as men, as sane, highly-organised beings? And should a miserable, worthless cur like this have the power to break that self-control?

My whole pride and self-respect rose within me and commanded my passion back within its bounds. I unclosed my hands from his throat, and dropped him upon the ground as I would have dropped a loathsome rag. I watched him rise to his knees, trembling, livid, and terrified, and then scramble to his feet, with satisfaction that such a thing as he had not broken my own self-rule.

"Go out of this room," I said, and he hurried to the communicating door and shut and locked it securely after him.

I heard him do so with a contemptuous smile. Had I wanted to follow him, my weight flung against the flimsy door would have crushed it in. And I was left standing there alone in the smoke-filled room with nothing but the thunderings of my own pulses to break the silence.

"Inconceivable," I murmured, as the wind, stirring it, made the tinder creak in the grate as it lay in thick masses; "simply inconceivable."

I walked to the hearth and bent over the dog. He was already growing cold. He had not moved after his first fall. That vicious, brutal stab must have gone straight in to the heart. The knife was wet half way to the hilt. I lifted the dog and laid him on the sofa, and then mechanically went towards the blowing night-air and into the balcony. My brain seemed only just maintaining its right balance. So: all my labour, all my confident expectations, all the triumphant pleasure with which I had come back that afternoon, all the result of this past year’s effort were now—nothing. Marked in a little floating dust. And not one vestige, not an outline nor portion of an outline even, remained. There was no rough draft, no sketch, no note or notes of the work existing. I always wrote every manuscript, from its first word to its last, on the paper that went to the publisher. My inspiration of the time was transferred direct to the page before me, and there it stood, without alteration, without correction. I never wanted to touch it or change it after it was once written. I was struck down, back again to the foot of the hill of work up which I had been struggling twelve months. Lucia, celebrity, pleasure, liberty, everything I coveted was now removed, taken far off into indefinite distance from me. For twelve months they had been coming nearer, steadily nearer, with each accomplished page, and to-day, only to-day, I had left the publisher’s office knowing they were close to me, almost within my very arms. Like the prisoner serving his time in gaol, and living, as it were, in the last day that sets him free, I had been living these twelve months in the day when the last line should be written. Now all to be recommenced from the wearying, sickening beginning. And why? Why had he done it? That I could not understand. As a psychological enigma it leapt fitfully before my brain between the spasms of personal desperation. He had nothing to gain, everything to lose by my failure. He knew I was a man to always do the utmost for my friend, simply because he was my friend, and therefore from any increase of power in me he could derive nothing but benefit. There was absolutely no motive, could be no cause, for the act except undiluted jealousy and envy. I stepped inside the room again and went again to the hearth. Except when I saw the piles of black tinder I could not realise that he had done it. It seemed incredible, as if I must be dreaming. But there they lay, leaf upon leaf, some whole and perfect yet, sheets of black tinder, curled round at the corners where the flames had rolled them up, and lined still with white marks where the ink had been. Yes, it was so. The whole of my work was a nothing, and I a dependent pauper again.

Where was that whole brilliant structure now that I had lived for and so passionately loved through this past year? Along each line had flowed the very essence of my feelings at the time the line was written, and each one was irreplaceable. The fervour of a past inspiration, like the fervour of a past desire, can never be recalled. I gazed down into the grate and felt, stealthily creeping upon me, as if it had been a beast with me in the empty room, my intense hatred of this other man, divided from me by a few feet of space and one slight partition. There was no outlet from his room except into this. A few steps, force my way in, and what would follow?

I pressed both hands across my eyes and bowed my head till it leant hard upon the mantelpiece, feeling the longing and the urging towards physical violence against him rush upon me and tear me like wolves. The mental rage diffused itself through all the physical system till it seemed like poison pouring through my veins. Every pulse, beating convulsively in arms and chest and neck, seemed to clamour together in hungry fury. I leant there trying to stifle, to kill the thoughts that came and beat down the brutal rage. And as I stood there I heard Howard cough in the next room—that slight effeminate cough he gave when nervous or confused. I felt my blood leap at the sound, and it rushed in a scalding stream over my face. I raised my head and began mechanically to pace the room.

Even now it hardly seemed real, and my eyes kept returning and returning to the console where the manuscript had always lain out of work hours through the past year. "Devil! devil!" I muttered at intervals; "what an unutterable devil." I don’t know how long I walked up and down, but suddenly a sense of physical fatigue, of collapse, forced itself upon me. I threw myself in the corner of the couch and took the dog’s dead head upon my knee. Dead! It seemed strange—the constant companion of ten years. I had had him from his first earliest days.

Even before his eyes had opened I was struck by the intelligent way he had lain at his mother’s side, and surnamed him Nous on the spot, after my favourite quality. I admit, like all good intelligences, because they have always their own particular views on everything, he had given a great deal of trouble. He had gnawed up my important business letters when cutting his teeth; he had made beds on my new light spring suits; he had sucked his favourite, most greasy mutton bone on the couch where my best manuscript lay drying; and out of doors he strongly objected to follow.

It is extremely annoying on a hot August afternoon, when you have just time to catch the Richmond train, and a friend is with you, to have your collie suddenly start off at a gallop in the opposite direction to the station, and pay absolutely no attention to the most distracted whistling and calling. Nothing for it but to start in pursuit, to run yourself into a fever, and after lapse of time to return with the fugitive to find your train missed and your friend as savage as a bear.

"If that dog were mine I’d thrash him within an inch of his life!" was the usual remark when I got back.

"Then I am extremely glad he is not yours," I used to answer, fastening on the dog’s collar, and making him walk at the end of a foot of chain as a punishment.

"You’ll never teach him like that, Vic. If you gave him a good kick in the eye now he’d remember it!"

"Thanks very much for your advice," I returned, "but I should never forgive myself if I kicked any animal in the eye."

"You are a queer, weak-hearted sort of fellow!" was the general answer, in a contemptuous tone, at which I used to shrug my shoulders and continue to manage my dog in my own way.

He would remember a blow, a kick, or a thrashing. I knew that. And that was exactly what I meant to avoid, whatever it cost at times to keep my temper with him. Besides, in all physical violence towards another object there is a peculiar, dangerous, seductive fascination. Once indulged in at all, it grows rapidly and imperceptibly into a positively delicious pleasure and habit, just as, if never indulged in, there grows up an always increasing horror and loathing of it.

Rage and anger, and their physical expression, become by habit a sort of joy, similar to the joy in intoxication, but if only the habit can be formed the other way there is an equal joy obtainable from self-restraint.

Control of the strongest passions is supposed to be difficult to attain, but the whole difficulty lies in laying the first stones of its foundation. If this is done the fabric will then go on building itself. Day by day a brick will be added to the walls, until finally no shock can overthrow them.

More and more as a man holds in his passions, more and more as he feels the pride of holding all the reins of his whole system firmly in his hand, will he have an abhorrence of scattering them to the idle winds at the bidding of the first fool who chances to vex him. But if he forms the habit of holding those reins so loosely that they drag along in the mud, and are trampled on at every instant, more and more difficult is it to gather them up.

The man who begins striking his dog as a punishment will proceed to kick it when it comes accidentally in his way, and then go on to knocking it about, simply because he feels in a bad humour.

So I never would, when I came back from these chasings, crimson, heated, breathless, made to look like a fool, and excessively annoyed altogether, cheat myself with the excuse that Nous wanted correction, or any other nonsense to cover my own ill-temper. As a matter of fact, he soon learnt it was uninteresting to be brought back to the very same corner from where he had started and have to walk all the rest of the way at the end of a scrap of chain, and his education passed happily over without a single rough word. It took longer perhaps than a treatment by blows, but I had my reward.

The dog conceived a limitless, boundless affection for me which more than repaid me. Some men, of course, don’t want affection. They only care for obedience, and not at all how it is attained.

For myself I can see no pleasure in being merely dreaded. I should hate to see anything—man, woman, servant, dog, anything—start in terror at my footstep; hate to feel I brought gloom wherever I came, and left relief behind me.

Nous was extremely quick-witted, and it used to amuse me enormously the way he behaved when, as sometimes happened, I trod upon his foot accidentally, or fell over him in the dark. Knowing that he had never had a voluntary blow from me in his life, he would leap enthusiastically over me and lick my hands after his first yelp, as much as to say—

"Yes; I know it was quite an accident. I know, I am sure you didn’t mean it."

We had been inseparable, he and I, for these ten years. He had walked by my side, eaten from my plate, slept on my bed, and his death now in my service left a heavy, jagged-edged wound. As I sat there in the corner of the couch, with my hand absently stroking the glossy black coat, there came the very soft jarring of a key in the lock.

I glanced towards Howard’s door. The sound continued. The key was being very slowly and gently turned, and then the handle was grasped and cautiously revolved. He evidently hoped I was asleep, and wanted to enter without disturbing me. I sat in silence with my eyes on the door, which slowly opened.

Howard stood on the threshold. He saw I was sitting there facing him, and he seemed to pause, unable to come forward or retreat. He did not look particularly happy as a result of his work. His face was pallid and haggard. Fool! to have flung away a valuable friend, and shackled himself with the fear of another man!

"What do you want?" I said, as he did not move.

"My manuscripts, Victor. I left them here."

"There they are on the table. They are quite safe. Did you think I should act as you have? Come and take them if you want them."

He had to pass close before me to do so, and I watched his nervous, hurried approach to the table, and the trembling of his hand as he gathered up the papers, with contemptuous eyes.

When he had grasped them all in his hand he gave an involuntary side look at me and the motionless form beside me—a look that he seemed unable to abstain from giving, though against his will. I met his glance, and he hurried away back to his own door, and went through it as a leper will shuffle and shamble away out of one’s sight.

As soon as the morning came, I left the hotel without having tried the vain attempt of sleep, and did not return to it till the evening. At noon I called upon the publisher and explained that an unfortunate accident had occurred, and the MS. I had received back from him yesterday had been destroyed.

At that he beamed upon me blandly, and remarked that such a thing was unfortunate, but that without doubt M’sieur would make all haste to re-copy it, and would let him have a new draft as soon as possible.

I shook my head, feeling my lips and throat grow dry as I answered—

"That which you had was the original, not a copy. I have no copy of it from which I can replace it."

"But M’sieur will certainly have his notes, his private work, his first scheme?"

"None. I do not work in that way. There is not a scrap of paper relative to it anywhere."

Upon this the publisher rose, looked at me in a long silence, and then said in an icy tone,—

"Then M’sieur wishes me to understand that he does not intend to allow our firm to publish his work at all?"

I flushed at the insult his words contained. They practically intimated that he thought the whole thing an invention, and that I was going to give the MS. elsewhere. I got up too, and said—

"I have told you the MS. is destroyed, and I have no means of reproducing it, therefore it is impossible for it to be brought out by your or any other firm."

The man before me merely raised his shoulders over his ears, bowed, spread out the palms of his hands, raised his eyebrows, and muttered,—

"Comme vous voulez, M’sieur."

Confound him! was he a liar that he assumed me to be one. There was nothing to do but to bow and leave.

As I walked out of his office into the fresh, sparkling, morning sunlight, life to me had a very bitter savour. I walked through the streets till I felt tired in every muscle. Then I sat thinking on a bench in a green corner of the Champs Elysees, watching absently the sun patches jump from leaf to neighbouring leaf as the wind elevated and depressed them, and trying to mentally seize upon and analyse this vile, low impulse of another man’s envy.

It was dark when I came back to the hotel. When I came up to my room I was surprised to see quite a little crowd of figures clustered round my door, all talking at once in their shrill French tones, all gesticulating at each other as if about to tear off each other’s scalps.

Angry exclamations reached me as I came towards them.

"Mais je vous dis, je ne savais pas!"

"Mais c’est impossible!"

"Pas en regie!"

"Que voulez vous? C’est un barbare!"

Then as I came up there was a general cry of "Le voila! le voila!" and in an instant they were all around me, all clamouring, screaming, questioning me at once. The master of the hotel in the greatest agitation, the manager in his shirt sleeves, two or three waiters, a man looking like a gendarme, and another official with a paper in his hand. For a second they shouted so—nothing could be distinguished except broken phrases and the continual repetition of the words "Notification" and "M’sieur le Commissionaire."

"A vous la responsibilite!"

"Moi? je n’en savais rien!"

"Il veut abimer notre sante!"

"Il partera tout de suite!"

I looked at them for a moment in amaze, and the fellow with the paper thundered out—"Silence," which produced the effect of cold thrown suddenly in boiling water. The little crowd pressed in upon me closely and listened awe-struck as the Commissionaire spoke to me, in French, of course.

"Monsieur," he said, in an impressive tone, "I am informed you have a dog here!"

I nodded.

"A dog—dead!" and the accent on the last word was terrific.

"My dog unfortunately has died," I said. "Yes"—and I wondered more and more the upshot of it all.

"Then," thundered the official, purple with excited rage, "how is it, Monsieur, you have not sent a notification to the police?"

I was fairly taken aback. The matter, though I barely yet comprehended it, was evidently, in their estimation, one of serious importance. Involuntarily, I glanced round at the others as the Commissionaire scowled threateningly at me. They noted my glance, and attributing it, I suppose, to guilty confusion, there were suppressed and complacent murmurs all round me, and shakes of the head.

"Pas d’explication!"

"Vous voyez ca?"

"Point d’excuse!"

"It is scandalous, it is shameful, it is abominable, M’sieur," shouted the Commissionaire, "the way you have acted! Twenty-four hours you hide the dead body of a dog in your bedroom! You hope to escape the eye of the law! You would bring disgrace on the gendarmerie, on the municipality of Paris! You laugh at our regulations, M’sieur, you laugh!" and he brandished the paper violently. "But you will find the authority of France is greater than you! There are cells, M’sieur, there are courts, there are judges for your education!!!"

Matters were apparently growing serious for me. I had evidently offended them all desperately somehow. "You go out in the morning," he continued, furiously, "and you do not slink back here till it is dark! You are a coward, M’sieur! a coward!"

No Englishman likes hearing himself abused, and my own anger now was considerably roused. But still, in my way about life, I have found the inestimable value of conciliation. It saves one such an infinity of trouble. I suppose I lean naturally towards it. At any rate, I always feel this—that if you have not the power on your side it is undignified to assume that which you cannot enforce, and if you have the power you can then afford to be civil.

A pleasant manner has never once failed me in bringing about an effect which is highly convenient to oneself, and in the long run it spares one’s vanity considerably. There is hardly any human being, however aggressive he may be at first, that does not melt into respect before an imperturbable civility. I felt in this case, too, that I was probably in the wrong from their point of view. It was the question of another country’s ways, and I have a lenient feeling towards the epichortyon. So, annoyed and irritated as I was, I checked my own feelings and said,—

"I think it is altogether a misunderstanding! I have no intention of breaking any regulations. I was not aware that a dog’s death would be a matter where the law would interfere."

The fury on the purple face opposite me subsided somewhat.

"Is it then possible," he said, more quietly, "that you are in ignorance of our rule, that, when any animal dies in a private dwelling-house, the fact shall be notified within twelve hours to the police, in order that the dead body may be immediately removed?"

All eyes fixed upon me with breathless uncertainty.

"Certainly," I said, "I did not know of the regulation. If I had, I should have complied with it. There is no similar rule in England."

A great change took place in the official’s manner. His face cleared, and he waved his arm with a gesture of magnificent condescension. His whole attitude expressed clearly that so enlightened and cultured a person as himself was in the habit of making every allowance for any poor, benighted pagan like me.

"Well, M’sieur; well, I accept your statement, and I withdraw my expressions of a moment back. But think, M’sieur, of the risk to which your conduct has exposed others. Think of the pollution of the air, the contamination of the atmosphere! Think, M’sieur, of the typhoid! the fever!! the cholera!!!"

He looked round upon the others, and a sympathetic shudder of horror passed over them.

As an Englishman, of course, I felt strongly inclined to derisive laughter. However, I merely said,—

"Well, what is to be done next?"

"The body must be removed, M’sieur!" he answered, with a touch of severity, "at once!!"

"How?"

"A scavenger will remove it."

I stood silent. The idea repelled me. This thing that had been petted and cared for by me for ten years, had slept at my side, and often been held in my arms, now to be flung upon a dust heap, with the rotting matter of a Paris street. The mind will not change its associations so quickly. I looked at the man and said,—

"Can I not bury the dog somewhere myself?"

"I am afraid—I hardly know—" he said. "These are the rules,—that all dead animals are taken by the municipality."

He spoke reluctantly now. His personal animosity against me was evidently dead. Fortunate that I had not offended him earlier in the interview; if I had, he would certainly now have dragged the dog from me with every species of indignity and insult, and I could have done nothing against him, armoured up as he was with the law. As things stood, he was clearly on my side.

"Perhaps this gentleman," I said, indicating the master of the hotel, "would let me purchase a piece of ground for a grave in his courtyard. If so, would you allow me to bury the dog there?"

The master of the hotel, who saw now that after all there would be no serious row with the police, nor discredit on his hotel, and began to think his fury had been somewhat misdirected, hastened to assure me that I need not consider the matter; that not only was a portion, but the whole courtyard at my disposition, and not as a purchase, but as a free gift, if M’sieur le Commissionaire sanctioned the proceeding.

The official hesitated, and the onlookers, their sympathies engaged, murmured,—

"Ah, pauvre chien!"

"C’est l’affection vois-tu?"

"Il aime le chien, c’est naturel!"

"L’affection, c’est toujours touchante!"

The Commissionaire, his own inclination thus backed up by the prevailing sentiment, turned to me, and said—

"Well, M’sieur, I ought to take your dog from you, but still, as you say you will bury the dog yourself, and, as I am sure this gentleman will see that the grave is deep enough to protect the health of the public, I believe I may safely grant you the permission you ask. It is accorded, M’sieur!" and he bowed, full of satisfied amiable authority and friendly feeling.

I held out my hand to him on the impulse.

"I am extremely obliged to you!"

He grasped it warmly in his, and laid his left effusively on his heart.

"You have my sincere sympathy, M’sieur."

Then lifting his hat and bowing, and putting out of sight the formidable document he had shaken in my face, he retreated down the corridor, followed by the other official, and leaving the hotel manager with me.

"I will have a grave dug at once, M’sieur," he said; "and you shall be informed when it is ready."

I thanked him and entered my own room.

A good three hours later I was following the gardener downstairs, the dead body of Nous, wrapped completely in one of my overcoats, in my arms. We went into the courtyard. It was raining now, the night quite dark, and a gusty wind blowing. We crossed the yard to where a broad flower-bed was planted. Here a grave, wide and deep enough for a human being, had been dug. A lantern, in which the flame blew fitfully, was set on the huge heap of mould and sent an uncertain light over the grave. I got down into it, and laid Nous gently, still wrapped in the coat, on the damp earth, with a heavy heart.

I vaulted out of the grave and stood, while the man filled it in, listening to the steady fall of the earth and its dull thud, thud. The rain came down steadily, and the man looked at me and said—

"Monsieur will be drenched through, he had better go within."

"No, no," I said; "continue."

And I waited while he dug away the mound, and the chilly wind rattled the branches of a tree near, and the rain soaked with a monotonous splashing into the earth, and the light flickered, barely strong enough to show me the man’s working figure. When he had finished, when the grave was filled and the upper soil smoothed over, I turned and, mentally and physically chilled, went slowly back into the hotel. As I entered the gas-lit corridor I saw a figure there at the door. It was Howard. He was still in the hotel, and though I detested his proximity even, I had no influence on his departure. He was evidently hanging about there waiting for somebody or something, and to my intense indignation, as he caught sight of me, he came towards me.

"Oh, Victor," he said hurriedly, in an uncertain tone, "I must speak to you!"

What intolerable insolence to dare to come to me, the man he had so mortally injured. My impulse was to stretch out my right arm and fell him to the ground with a blow that should have the force of my whole system in it. The colour came hot in all my face.

"Pray don’t let us have a scene here," I said, coldly.

"Very good, then come outside. It is only for a few seconds. You always used to say you would never refuse to hear a person once, whatever they had done."

It was my principle, as he said, and I controlled the loathing I had of him, of his voice, his look, his presence, and said—

"Come out, then," and we went down to the door.

There was an alley just outside the hotel, a cul de sac, black and empty. Down this we turned, and when we had passed the side door of the hotel he spoke.

"Victor, I am awfully sorry about the MS.; I am really. I would give worlds to replace it now if I could. I have been utterly wretched since. Is there anything I can do now to help you?"

"No," I said bitterly, "you cannot re-write my manuscript nor resuscitate my dog."

"Oh, why did I do it? I can’t think! I can’t understand it! If you knew what I have felt since!"

"Have you nothing more to say than this?" I asked; "because this sort of thing is useless and leads to nothing."

"But what do you think of me? You hate me! But it was not premeditated, I swear. I had no motive, no gain in doing it, and we have been great friends always; but I suppose that can never be again now! But still it was an impulse, a sudden impulse, only because I was so jealous of you! It was irresistible at the moment! The thing was in flames before I realised it! You know yourself what impulse is! You always knew I was like that!"

"Impulse!" I repeated. "Yes, I knew you were impulsive, but that such an impulse could ever come to you as that—to burn, irreparably destroy the year’s work, and all the hopes of a man who was an intimate friend, and against whom you had never had the shadow of a complaint, that I never could have believed! Impulse! It is not one that I can conceive existing except in hell!"

We were talking with voices moderated, rather low than otherwise; but the hatred I felt of him I let come into each word and edge it like a knife.

He drew in his breath.

"Then our friendship is at an end?" he said, in a weak nervous tone.

"Utterly. As if it had never been. You have cut out its very roots. I had a great friendship for you—more, a great affection. It would have stood a great deal. I would have passed over many injuries that you might have done. Anything almost but this, that you knew was so completely blasting to all my own desires. This shows me what your feelings must have been at the time, at any rate, and remember a thick manuscript is not burnt in a minute. How long must it have taken you to destroy those sheets upon sheets of paper in which you knew another man’s very heart, and blood, and nerve had been infused? All that time you must have been animated with the sheer lust of cruelly and brutally ill-using and injuring me, and in return I"—

I shut and locked my lips upon the words that rose.

To abuse or curse another is almost as degrading to oneself as to strike him.

We had come up to the end of the alley now, and we paused by the blank brick wall. There was a lamp projecting from it which threw some light upon us both, and, as his figure came distinctly before my eyes, I felt one intolerable desire to leap upon him—this miserable creature who had destroyed my work—fling him to the ground, and grind his face and head to a shapeless mass in this slimy gutter that flowed at our feet.

Could he have faintly realised what my feelings were, coward as he was, he would never have come up this empty alley with me.

"Well, Victor, I am leaving Paris to-night; but I felt I could not go without telling you how infinitely I regret it all. If you can never be my friend again, you can forgive me. Let me hear you say that you do before I go."

Forgive him! Great God! Forgive an injury so wanton, so excuseless! Every savage instinct in me leapt up at the word.

The manuscript! I felt inclined to shout to him. The manuscript! Give that back to me and then come and talk about forgiveness. Had the act and the motive been as loathsome, but the injury, the actual injury, the positive loss to me been less, I could have forgiven; but the blow was so sharp, the damage so irremediable, I could not. Even at his words I seemed to see staring me in the face the months of toil awaiting me before I could rebuild—if I could ever—the fabric he had destroyed in half-an-hour.

And crowding upon this came the thought of what he had robbed me of, the name, the freedom, the power that those vanished paper pages had been pregnant with for me. He was leaving Paris, he said; and so might I have been leaving free and successful, leaving to return to Lucia, but for him.

And now I was to remain—remain here, a prisoner, to work on another twelve weary months at that most nauseating of tasks, repairing undone work. To recommence, to take up the old burden, to start it all over again, now when I had just made myself free! To be shackled again with the weight of uncertainty and expectancy for another year, through him, and by God he talked of forgiveness!—to me!— now!

It was too soon. Later—later, perhaps, when I was calmer, when some of the injury had been repaired, when a spark of hope had been rekindled; then, if he asked, but now—The days before me stretched such a bitter, hopeless blank! And how did I know that his act could ever be nullified! It might so turn out that now I never should accomplish my end.

My health had worn thin and my brain was tired out. Either might give way, and then—a life blasted through him! Brute and devil! that was what he had wished, and was perhaps wishing still, even now, when he professed to be so anxious for forgiveness. I glanced towards his face opposite me, but it was too dark to see its expression. A slight, steady drizzle fell between us; I only saw his slight figure before me in the uncertain light, and again something urged me.

Take your revenge now while you can get it. This man may have spoiled all your life, but when you realise it, then he may be away and out of your power. Thrash him! Half kill him now while you have the chance! But I did not stir. Vengeance has always seemed to me a poor thing. Supposing . . . After? . . . If I satiated my rage then, what after. I should have two things to regret instead of one. No. Let him go with his vile act upon his head.

But forgive? I could not. He had taken the inside, the best of my life, and I hated, purely hated him. I turned a step aside, his mere outline before my eyes sent the hate running hotly through me.

"I can’t," I muttered; "no, I can’t."

Howard sprang forward and put his hand on my arm, and at the touch I seemed to abhor him more.

"Victor, I wish I could say how I regret it. I wish I could express myself, but I can’t. If you knew—I would cut off my right hand now to undo it! I would indeed!"

"Who wants you right hand" I said, savagely, stopping and turning on him as I shook off his detestable touch. "Fool! You can talk now! Replace a single chapter of that book I slaved at—that would be more to the purpose!"

Howard’s face grew paler. I saw that, even in the darkness.

"It is not open to me, Victor, now," he said; "but it is still open to you to forgive."

His voice had a grave significance in it. No words that he could have chosen would have been better. The short, quiet sentence was like a sword to divide my hatred, and penetrate to the better part of man. The truth, the unerring force, the reflections of this life’s chances and decrees in those words went home. It was not open to him now to repair; later, it might not be open to me to forgive. And later, when all these present vivid feelings were swept away in the past, should I not wish I had forgiven.

I stood silent, and the query went through me—What is forgiveness? Is it to feel again as we have felt before the injury? This is impossible. Do what I would that affection I had had for him could never re-awaken. It was stamped out, obliterated, as a flower is ground into the dust beneath one’s heel.

Still the loathing and the hatred I had for him now would pass. Years would cancel it all, and bring with them mere indifference towards him, the thought of him and of his act. To say the words now, and let the time to come slowly fill them with truth, was better, surely, than to reiterate my hatred of him—hatred which years hence would seem almost foolish to me myself.

"I can’t think that my forgiveness can be of very serious import to you," I said quietly. "However, it is yours."

"You will shake hands with me, then, won’t you?" and he held out his hand.

With an effort I stretched out mine and took his, and held it for a second as in old times.

"Good-bye, Victor," he said, in rather a strained voice, "I shall never cease to regret what I have done."

He hesitated, as if wondering if I should speak. I did not, and he turned and went down the alley, and the darkness closed up after him. I leant silent against the wall, hating myself for forgiving him and letting him go, and yet knowing I would do the same again.

"One must forgive, one must forgive; otherwise one is no better than brute," I thought mechanically. "Later I shall be glad,"—and similar phrases by which Principle excuses itself to furious, disappointed Nature.

After a time I grew calmer, and I went back to the hotel and up to my room. It seemed emptier, blanker still, now that even the dead body of the dog had gone. In the grate, and scattered over the carpet, remained still remnants of black tinder. I felt suddenly tired, worn out. I flung myself, dressed as I was, upon the bed, and lay there in a sort of stupor. And the slow, dark hours of that terrible night of depression tramped over me with leaden footsteps.

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Chicago: Victoria Cross, "Chapter IV," To Morrow?, trans. Evans, Sebastian in To Morrow? Original Sources, accessed April 23, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D1WGPN4IK6PFFGM.

MLA: Cross, Victoria. "Chapter IV." To Morrow?, translted by Evans, Sebastian, in To Morrow?, Original Sources. 23 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D1WGPN4IK6PFFGM.

Harvard: Cross, V, 'Chapter IV' in To Morrow?, trans. . cited in , To Morrow?. Original Sources, retrieved 23 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D1WGPN4IK6PFFGM.