The Grey Cloak (Chapter 34)

 
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Chapter 34 : Page 1 of 11

The Château Saint Louis shimmered in the November moonlight. It was a
castle in dream. Solitude brooded over the pile as a mother broods
over an empty cot. High above the citadel the gilded ball of the
flagstaff glittered like a warm topaz. Below, the roofs of the
warehouses shone like silver under gauze. A crooked black line marked
the course of the icy river, and here and there a phantom moon flashed
upon it. The quiet beauty of all this was broken by the red harshness
of artificial light which gleamed from a single window in the château,
like a Cyclopean eye. Stillness was within. If any moved about on
this floor it was on tiptoe. Death stood at the door and peered into
the darkest corners. For the Marquis de Périgny was about to start out
upon that journey which has no visible end, which leaves no trail
behind: men setting out this way forget the way back, being without
desire.

Who shall plumb the depth of the bitterness in this old man's heart, as
he lay among his pillows, his head moving feebly from side to side, his
attenuated fingers plucking at the coverlet, his tongue stealing slowly
along his cracked and burning lips. Fragments of his life passed in
ragged panorama. His mind wandered, and again became keen with the
old-time cynicism and philosophy, as a coal glows and fades in a fitful
wind. In all these weeks he had left his bed but once . . . to find
that his son was lost in the woods, a captive, perhaps dead. Too late;
he had always been too late. He had turned the forgiving hand away.
And how had he wronged that hand?

 
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