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32. The Absolution. (continued)
The executioner paused and shook his head with an expression of despair.
"Tell me about it," said the monk, who, sitting on the foot of the bed, began to be interested in a story so strangely introduced.
"Ah!" cried the dying man, with all the effusiveness of a grief declared after long suppression, "ah! I have sought to stifle remorse by twenty years of good deeds; I have assuaged the natural ferocity of those who shed blood; on every occasion I have exposed my life to save those who were in danger, and I have preserved lives in exchange for that I took away. That is not all; the money gained in the exercise of my profession I have distributed to the poor; I have been assiduous in attending church and those who formerly fled from me have become accustomed to seeing me. All have forgiven me, some have even loved me; but I think that God has not pardoned me, for the memory of that execution pursues me constantly and every night I see that woman's ghost rising before me."
"A woman! You have assassinated a woman, then?" cried the monk.
"You also!" exclaimed the executioner, "you use that word which sounds ever in my ears -- `assassinated!' I have assassinated, then, and not executed! I am an assassin, then, and not an officer of justice!" and he closed his eyes with a groan.
The monk doubtless feared that he would die without saying more, for he exclaimed eagerly:
"Go on, I know nothing, as yet; when you have finished your story, God and I will judge."
"Oh, father," continued the executioner, without opening his eyes, as if he feared on opening them to see some frightful object, "it is especially when night comes on and when I have to cross a river, that this terror which I have been unable to conquer comes upon me; it then seems as if my hand grew heavy, as if the cutlass was still in its grasp, as if the water had the color of blood, and all the voices of nature -- the whispering of the trees, the murmur of the wind, the lapping of the wave -- united in a voice tearful, despairing, terrible, crying to me, `Place for the justice of God!'"
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