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A Struggle For Life
by [?]

Two messages were at once despatched to Philip, one to the station at G——, the other to his hotel. The first missed him on the road, the second he had neglected to open. On his arrival at M. Dorine’s house, the valet, under the supposition that Wentworth had been advised of Mile. Dorine’s death, broke the intelligence with awkward cruelty, by showing him directly to the salon. Mile. Dorine’s wealth, her beauty, the suddenness of her death, and the romance that had in some way attached itself to her love for the young American drew crowds to witness the funeral ceremonies, which took place in the church in the Rue d’Aguesseau. The body was to be laid in M. Dorine’s tomb, in the cemetery of Montmartre.

This tomb requires a few words of description. First there was a grating of filigraned iron; through this you looked into a small vestibule or hall, at the end of which was a massive door of oak opening upon a short flight of stone steps descending into the tomb. The vault was fifteen or twenty feet square, ingeniously ventilated from the ceiling, but unlighted. It contained two sarcophagi: the first held the remains of Madame Dorine, long since dead; the other was new, and bore on one side the letters J. D., in monogram, interwoven with fleurs-de-lis.

The funeral train stopped at the gate of the small garden that enclosed the place of burial, only the immediate relatives follow-ing the bearers into the tomb. A slender wax candle, such as is used in Catholic churches, burnt at the foot of the uncovered sarcophagus, casting a dim glow oyer the centre of the apartment, and deepening the shadows which seemed to huddle together in the corners. By this flickering light the coffin was placed in its granite shell, the heavy slab laid over it reverently, and the oaken door swung on its rusty hinges, shutting out the uncertain ray of sunshine that had ventured to peep in on the darkness.

M. Dorine, muffled in his cloak, threw himself on the back seat of the landau, too abstracted in his grief to observe that he was the only occupant of the vehicle. There was a sound of wheels grating on the gravelled avenue, and then all was silence again in the cemetery of Montmartre. At the main entrance the carriages parted company, dashing off into various streets at a pace that seemed to express a sense of relief.

The rattle of wheels had died out of the air when Philip opened his eyes, bewildered, like a man abruptly roused from slumber. He raised himself on one arm and stared into the surrounding blackness. Where was he? In a second the truth flashed upon him. He had been left in the tomb! While kneeling on the farther side of the stone box, perhaps he had fainted, and during the last solemn rites his absence had been unnoticed.

His first emotion was one of natural terror. But this passed as quickly as it came. Life had ceased to be so very precious to him; and if it were his fate to die at Julie’s side, was not that the fulfilment of the desire which he had expressed to himself a hundred times that morning? What did it matter, a few years sooner or later? He must lay down the burden at last. Why not then? A pang of self-reproach followed they thought. Could he so lightly throw aside the love that had bent over his cradle. The sacred name of mother rose involuntarily to his lips. Was it not cowardly to yield up without a struggle the life when he should guard for her sake? Was it not his duty to the living and the dead to face the difficulties of his position, and overcome them if it were within human power?

With an organization as delicate as a woman’s he had that spirit which, however sluggish in repose, leaps with a kind of exultation to measure its strength with disaster.