Three months later they were aboard a P. and O. steamer, calling their good-byes to Mrs. King and half a dozen of the boys, and Mr. and Mrs. Twist who had come all the way from Loose End to see them off.
Marcella had stayed in hospital for two months; for another month she had been struggling with inability to begin life again in a nursing home overlooking the thunders of the Pacific. Louis had gone back to the Homestead. He would not explain what he was going to do. He merely fetched Andrew, and put him in charge of Mrs. King, who brought him every day to see her. And then he vanished. But she had no fears for him. They had vanished; her sudden yielding to the chloroform in the hospital had been symbolical of a deeper yielding; she felt that these strong, wise forces of her life, if pain became unendurable, would either cure it or find an anesthetic for it.
And one day, towards the end of the three months, Louis had come to the nursing home to see her. His hands, as he seized her passionately, felt hard and stuck to her thin silk blouse.
"Louis!" she cried, taking one of the hands in hers, which had grown very soft and white, "I've seen them pretty bad before with the gorse. But whatever have you been doing? Where have you been? They're like a navvy's hands!"
"Were you worried about me, old girl?" he asked.
"No, but dreadfully curious," she began. He took a roll of dirty notes out of his pocket and threw it in her lap.
"Look! Alone I did it! Monish, old girl! Filthy lucre! Just enough to take us home. I meant to do it off my own bat, without asking your uncle!"
"But how on earth could you, in the time?" she asked.
"Navvying! That bally railway cutting at Cook's Wall! Lord, Marcella, if I don't get the Pater to pay for me to go to the hospital, I'll do a year first on the music-halls as the modern Hercules. I should make millions! My hands were blistered till they got like iron; my back felt broken; I used to lie awake at nights and weep till I got toughened. I had a few fights, too."
"Why? Didn't they like you?"
"No, they're not so silly as you. They resented my English particularly, and they resented my funking whisky when they were all boozing. They thought I was being superior. Lord, if they'd known! One night, when they were calling me Jesus' Little Lamb and Wonky Willie, I saw red and tackled an Irishman. Of course, he knocked me out of time. I knew he would. And just to show them that I wasn't wonky, and wasn't a Cocoa Fiend-that was another name they had for me-I downed a tumbler full of whisky neat."
She drew a deep breath.
"Oh, don't worry! It made me damned sick! Lord, wasn't I bad! There's something in my brain so fed up with the stuff that my body won't give it house-room."
"Good thing too," said Marcella.
"I'm not so sure," he said reflectively. "In a way, it's weak. Whisky still beats me, you see. There ought not to be anything on earth one's afraid of."
"I think that's a bit morbid. I'm very much afraid of snails, and I certainly don't think I'm called upon to go and caress snails."
"Ah, this is different. This isn't physical. It's psychological. Just as, once, I hungered for whisky, now I loathe and dread it. The ideal thing would be to be indifferent to it. That may come in time."
Marcella asked him nothing about herself. What the doctors had told him she did not know: she was content to wait. All she wanted, now, was to get home.
They stayed a week in London with Louis's people. It was pathetic to see the mother's wistful anxiety and the father's open scepticism change to confidence as the week went by.
"He's a changeling, my dear," said Mrs. Fame to Marcella when, in spite of the old lady's wish to keep them in London, they told her they must go North.
"Louis has always been a puzzle to me," said his father. "Even as a little chap he did things I couldn't understand-selfish things, crooked things-I don't understand what has happened to him."
"If I told you you would think General Booth had been getting at me," said Marcella. "But Louis will explain it all to you, some day."
From the slowly dawning pride on the father's face and the pathetic hope of the mother Marcella guessed that Louis would not have to raise his fees on the music-halls.
The winds were black and wintry already round the station at Carlossie as the train drew in. Marcella had wired that she was coming, giving no explanations. Andrew had been very fidgety. He was wearing his first small suit and what he gained in dignity from knickers and three pockets he lost in comfort. At last he fell asleep. Marcella looked from him to Louis and felt that it was very childish of her, but she was really anxious to get them both home, put them on exhibition, as it were. She had never got over the feeling that Andrew had not merely happened, but was a voluntary achievement. Lately she had had the same idea about Louis. She wanted to see the effect of them both upon the people at home.
The station at Carlossie was just the same: it looked much smaller, and the people, too, seemed smaller. Dr. Angus was there in his Inverness cape, smiling with the same air of conscious achievement as Marcella felt.
"So ye're back again, Mrs. Marcella? I knew we'd be getting ye back soon. And bringing two men with ye!"
He shook hands gravely with Andrew and gave Louis a swift, appraising look that seemed to satisfy him.
"Your aunt's getting a wee bit frail, Mrs. Marcella! So I brought the old machine along."
They climbed into the machine-his old, high dog-cart, and drove along through tearing winds which were like the greeting embraces of friends to Marcella. The doctor told her all the news; all about the new babies, and the few deaths and illnesses while she had been away. The dashing of the water on the beach came to them. He told her that Jock had been washed from his little boat one rough night, and his body had never been found. The reek of the green wood fires came to them on the salt breeze.
"What's that remind you of, Louis?" she asked him.
"Gorse!" he said with a grimace.
"I love it!" she said simply.
The door of Wullie's hut stood open. He was silhouetted dark against the light within. The doctor drew up.
"Must stop and speak to Wullie," he said rather apologetically, to Louis. The old man came out and stood looking at Marcella. He did not seem a day older.
"So ye're back again, Marcella?" he said. "I knew ye'd be back! I knew ye'd soon wear the wings off yer feet! But ye're not well?"
"How could I be, away from home?" she said gently. "I'll be well again here."
Tammas came up then, with his wife and the six big children Marcella knew, and two littler ones she had never seen. Jock's Bessie came out and put a small bundle on the floor of the machine.
"Juist a cookie for the bit laddie," she explained.
They all stared at Louis and then spoke to him: he got the idea that they were sizing him up, calling him to account for how he had dealt with Marcella, who belonged to them. They claimed young Andrew whom they coolly called "Andrew Lashcairn." As they drove on through the village they took on something of the nature of a triumphal progress, for everyone came out, and talked. And everyone seemed to be Marcella's owners.
Aunt Janet was on the step when they reached the farm: her eagle face was thinner, quite fleshless; in her black silk frock, shivered at the seams, and the great cairngorm brooch, she looked quite terrifying.
"So you're back, Marcella? I knew you would be coming back," she said.
Louis wondered if this were the stock greeting at Lashnagar.
"I wonder what you've got for going across the world?" she said. "You're not well."
"I've got my two men," laughed Marcella, as she kissed the old lady.
"Humphm!" said Aunt Janet. "He'd have found you out if you'd stayed here all the time."
"Do you know, Marcella," said Louis, as they went along the windy passages to her father's room in which Aunt Janet had elected to put them. "I've an extraordinary feeling that I've nothing to do with you any more. All these people-they seem to own you! You're an elusive young beggar, you know. First Kraill-I had to ask his permission to keep you. Now a whole village full!"
She shook her head and put her hand in his.
"Who's got me most, do you think?"
He answered as he thought.
There was a great spurting wood fire on the hearth in the book-room. As she looked round Marcella saw that most of the furniture left in the farm had been brought in. Jean came in, carrying a dish of scones. Andrew ran straight to her, just as Marcella used to. She explained that she had come back because the mistress was lonely without her, and she could not get used to any ways but those of the farm.
The doctor stayed to the meal. There was no bread on the table. Louis seemed surprised to see the oatcakes and the cheese and the herrings. To Marcella they were a feast of heaven. They put young Andrew in old Andrew's chair beneath the dusty pennant. He sat with his fat brown legs swinging, exceedingly conscious of their manly appearance which he compared with his father's and the doctor's, delighted to see that the doctor's old tweed knickerbockers were very much the same shape as his.
"There's bramble jelly for the boy," said Aunt Janet, who scarcely took her eyes from him for a moment. "Mrs. Mactavish sends me some every year-one pot. There's been four pots since you went away. And I've never been minded to open one. Maybe it's mouldered now."
They talked quietly; out on Lashnagar the winds began to howl; in the passages they shrieked and whined, and whistled and groaned in the chimney sending out little puffs of smoke. Up above their heads something scuttled swiftly. The little boy forgot his dignity and drew nearer to his mother.
"That's the rats, Andrew," said Aunt Janet, watching him. His mother explained that rats were a pest, to be hunted out like rabbits in Australia.
He drew away from her then and stood with his back to the fire, his hands behind.
"Andwew kill wats," he announced. "Wiv a big stick."
The doctor and Louis smoked and talked together of days forty years ago in Edinburgh, of days seven years ago at St. Crispin's. Marcella and Aunt Janet spoke softly, sitting by the fire.
"I wouldn't be sitting so near the fire, Marcella. You'll have all the colour taken out of your skirt. Not that it matters particularly," said Aunt Janet.
"It's lovely by the fire," murmured Marcella.
Aunt Janet reached over suddenly and spread an old plaid shawl over the girl's knees. She suddenly felt that Louis and Andrew and the last four years were unreal and dreamlike. They had happened to her, but now she was back home again, being told what to do.
Andrew began to rub his eyes.
"Yell be getting away to your bed now, Andrew," said Aunt Janet.
Jean stood up, waiting for him. He hugged his father and mother, shook hands with the doctor and looked searchingly at Aunt Janet before he kissed her. She put her hand behind the curtain, rustled a piece of paper and gave him an acid drop.
"I used tae pit Marcella, yer mither, tae her bed when she was a wee thing," said Jean, taking his small brown hand. He put the sweet into his mouth and trotted off beside her. At the door he stopped to kiss his hand to his mother. The rats scuttled across the floor above; one in the wainscoting scratched and gnawed. Andrew hesitated and came back a few steps. They were all watching him.
"Mummy!" he began in a very thin little voice. Marcella started as if to go to him, and sat back suddenly.
"Andwew will kill wats-wiv a big stick," he said, and marched out of the room before Jean.
Before a week had gone by it seemed to Marcella that she had never been away from Lashnagar. The place wrapped her round, took possession of her. She took Louis down to the huts to see Wullie; she toasted herrings over the fire, and Louis was unexpectedly friendly; the only difference was that Jock was not there any more when the fishing boats came in; and where she had left girls and boys she found young men and women and little babies: they grew up quickly on the hillside. Louis went with her on Ben Grief and saw the old grey house. He wandered on Lashnagar and looked down the terrifying chasms, and heard the screaming of the gulls; and he was unutterably wretched and out of it all.
On Lashnagar he said to her, one day:
"Marcella, it ought to be made compulsory for people, before they think of being married, to find out all about each other's youth."
"Like that poem of poor Lamb's?" she said. "Oh thou dearer than a brother! Why wast thou not born within my father's dwelling? So might we talk of the old familiar faces-Yes, I believe there's a lot in it."
"Since I've been here and seen things, I've understood you better. Seeing your home, and mine, and thinking how we were the products of those homes! I'm glad young Andrew is here, till it's time for him to go to school. I see where you get your friendliness that used to shock me, and your hardness. I'd like him to get it all."
"I was hoping to protect him from it," she said. "But I know you're right, really," she said slowly.
That was the day before he went south to Edinburgh to join the hospital. His mother wanted him in London, and his father wrote saying that his old room was ready for him. But Louis told them that Marcella must be at Lashnagar, and Edinburgh was nearer Lashnagar than London was. Dr. Angus felt personally responsible for the resources of Edinburgh when he heard the news and once again he made a pilgrimage, taking Louis to his old rooms in Montague Street, and doing the honours of the city with a proprietorial air. He took to running down to Edinburgh quite frequently; he said he was brushing up his knowledge.
The winter passed; Louis spent Christmas at Lashnagar and then took Marcella and the boy to London. Marcella was feeling very ill, but he was too happy and too full of his work to notice it. She was very glad to get back again, to sleep in her father's old four-poster bed looking out on Ben Grief. When he had gone back to Edinburgh she spent many wakeful nights, drawn in upon herself, thinking herself to nothingness like a Buddhist monk until pain brought her to realization again. In those hours she thought much of her father and heard his voice in her ears, saw him standing there before her, clinging to the post as he prayed for strength. Louis wrote her immense letters: sometimes in the night she would light her candle and read them with tears blinding her eyes and an unspeaking gratitude in her heart. She said nothing to Aunt Janet about her illness in Sydney, or about her pain, but one evening the old lady, looking across the firelit hearth, said quietly:
"I shall outlive you, Marcella. Seems foolish! You-young, all tingling for life and joy, and people to care about you. I like a last year's leaf before the wind, dried and dead. The one shall be taken and the other left. It seems foolish."
"How did you know? Did Louis tell you?" asked Marcella in a low voice. The pain had been unbearable all day but she had wrapt herself in a great cape of her father's and taken it out on Lashnagar, where no one could see her, leaving Andrew at the hut with Wullie. For a long time she had lost consciousness, to waken very cold in the winter dusk.
"No, Louis said nothing. But I've eyes. You're marked for death. I saw it when you came in at the door that night. Besides, you and I are very much alike, so I understand you. And you're getting very much like your mother."
"I think I'll see Dr. Angus to-morrow," said Marcella presently. "But I don't think it's much use. That's the worst of being married to an enthusiastic medical student! You know so much!"
The wood crackled for a while before Aunt Janet spoke.
"We are getting wiped out, Marcella! Only an old stick like me, who has repressed everything, lives to tell the tale. I've ruled myself never to feel anything."
"I'm glad I haven't. I'd rather be smashed up with pain than be dead. You see, Aunt Janet, you repressed things and I took them out and walked over them."
"Maybe I would if I had my time to go over again. But I don't know. It's a blessing not to feel. I'm fond of you, you know, but I scarcely felt your going away. And I don't suppose I shall feel your dying very much."
"You care about Andrew," said Marcella quickly.
"Yes, I care about Andrew," said Aunt Janet and gathered herself into the past.
The next day Marcella went to see Dr. Angus who was horrified and incredulous, and wired for a specialist from Edinburgh. Marcella knew it was all useless, and when the specialist went away after talking to Dr. Angus, without saying anything more about operations, she felt very glad.
Louis suspected nothing; he was working very hard for his first examination the week before Easter and she would not have him worried; she wrote to him every day, though writing grew more and more difficult. She fought desperately against being an invalid and staying in bed, but at last she had to give way; Dr. Angus came every day and talked to her for hours; sometimes he gave her morphia; once or twice when the pain had stranded her almost unbreathing on a shore of numbness and exhaustion she wished that she had died in the hospital in Sydney: but not for long; in spite of the pain she wanted to live. Once or twice, when all was quiet, and the pain was having its night-time orgy with her, she cried out in the unbearable agony of it. She would have no one with her at nights, but Aunt Janet's uncanny penetration guessed at the pain and she made Dr. Angus leave morphia tablets for her. At first, though they were at her hand, she refused them.
"I don't want to waste time in unconsciousness," she said once. Later, she grew glad to waste time: she understood how her father used to pray for drugs when he was too tired to pray for courage in those weary nights of his. Another time she said that it was cowardly: Louis, in his whisky days, had been seeking anesthesia from painful thoughts; she was too proud to seek it for a painful body. She tried hard, too, to keep shining Kraill's conception of her courage; she did not realize that he would never know, however much she gave way: always, for her, he lived just on the threshold of her consciousness.
One day when the doctor was sitting beside her and she had got out of a maze of pain into a buoyant sea of bodily unconsciousness, she talked to him about his letter in which he had grieved at his inadequacy. Then she told him about Louis, and about Kraill, for she thought it might encourage him to know how the miracle of healing had come about.
"He wrote to me this morning, doctor," she said. "Will you feel under my pillow and get the letter? I know he wouldn't mind your reading it."
The doctor unfolded the thick bundle of pages and read-and as he read he saw that the words were all blurred by tears, and guessed that they were certainly not tears shed by the exuberant young man who had written the letter.
"Three cheers, old girl. The week of torture is past! I know I got through. I simply sailed through. My brain is a fifty times better machine than it was seven years ago. And they're accommodating at these Scotch medical schools. I told 'em I'd got through part of my Final in London before the bust-up came, and the Dean sent for me to-day and said it seemed a pity for me to slog at the donkey-work again, when I knew it. So we talked it over, and he says I ought to do the Final next year. And then, Marcella, look out! I've told you I've laid down my challenge to sickness! I'll have it whacked before I die. I can't see why anyone should die except of senile decay or accident-and those we'll eliminate in time! I feel that there's only a dyke of matchboarding between me and the ocean of knowledge. One day it's going to break, and I'll be flooded with it. It's a most uncanny feeling, old girl. One of the chaps here-a rather mad American-says that there are people who've broken that dyke down-Shakespeare, for instance. (But if I broke it down, I wouldn't be such a footler as to write plays and poems, would you?) Corlyon-that's the mad American-is the son of a big psychologist at Harvard; he gave me some light on Kraill's remark about dreams that day. He says they're being used a lot by some German and American alienists in curing all sorts of neuroses. (By the way, old girl, next time you write, tell me if you understand all these technicalities. I want you to understand them, and if you don't I'll explain as I go on. One never can be sure about you. Sometimes you seem no end of a duffer, and next minute you come out with an amazing piece of penetration.) Well, these new psychologists say that things like drinking, sex, drugging, kleptomania, and all these bally nuisances that make people impossible members of a community, come from repression. A man has a perfectly well-meaning impulse to do something. His education, or his religion or his convention tells him it's wrong, so he represses it. He fights it, pushes it back. It gets encysted and, in time, forms a spiritual abscess. It's got to break through. Of course, the idea is not to repress things at all. I don't say let things rip, and go in for a whole glorious orgy of wine, woman and song. But take the desire out, have a talk with it, and make it look silly like Kraill made whisky look silly to me. There, I thought that would interest you. (A bit more proof how damnably clever he was!)
"Marcella, I told you then I'd be the same to you as Kraill was, didn't I? I worshipped you; I wanted you; you were my saviour, and I'd have picked up the Great Pyramid and walked off staggering with it if you'd asked me. That was the path that carried me over my particular messy morass (that, and my acquisitive spirit that objected to giving up part of my goods and chattels!) And now-listen here, old lady! It's a thing a chap couldn't say to most of his wives. I can say it to you and know that you'll understand. (That's the heavenly safeness of you. You do understand, and never judge resentfully) Marcella, I'm going to be the sort of man Kraill is! And I'm going to be it not for you at all now! I'm going to be bigger than he, even. And I know he'll be big enough to be glad if I am. A good doctor's reward is in his patient's recovery, and in a way, whatever the patient does afterwards counts to the doctor, doesn't it? So now, old girl, if there was no you on earth, I'd still keep my tail up! Put that in your pipe of peace and smoke it! Different days, isn't it to the time when I couldn't be sent to buy a baby's feeding-bottle without getting boozed? I knew you'd like to know that. Oh, wasn't I a fool to think you wanted to tie me to your apron strings? I've got to neglect you for a bit now. I've got to run on without you, dear. Thank God you're not the sort to get huffy about it, and want me dancing attendance on you. A man with a man's job to do can't have time for the softness of women about him: he can't stop to look to right or left! But when I'm in Harley Street-well there! No more decayed castles or wooden huts for you!
"I'm aching to see you, Marcella. It's the Mater's birthday on Easter Sunday, so I'm running down to see her on Saturday. I shall travel back by that train that leaves Euston at midnight on Sunday. It's great to be away from you, because it's so great to come back."
The doctor looked at her as he put the letter down, and blew his nose and polished his glasses.
"Two or three years ago I'd have been sick to think I was only the bridge to carry him over-to his job. But now-" She smiled a little, wondering why he should talk to her of the softness of women, that he must dispense with for a while; and Kraill had seen her hard, and asked her to be courageous for him!
After the doctor had gone Andrew came in, warm and rosy from his bath. He had had a glorious day on the beach with Wullie; he scrambled into Jean's arms to be carried to bed, because they had forgotten his slippers and his feet were cold.
"Night, night, mummy," he said. "Inve morning I shan't wake you up, 'cos I'm going to see the boats come in at five! An' Jean's putting oatcake in my pocket-like a man-!"
He went off, laughing. After he was in bed, she heard him singing for a long time until his voice droned away to drowsiness.
She lay silent and motionless. Aunt Janet came in. She took up the hypodermic syringe impassively. Marcella shook her head.
"No. I want to think to-night. Louis's coming on Monday. I've to think of some way of not letting him know how ill I am, because of his work," she said. "But will you put pencil and paper where I can get it?"
"You'll not be writing letters to-night, Marcella?" said Aunt Janet.
"No. I'm going to make my will," she laughed. "I've only Louis and Andrew to leave-"
Her aunt kissed her and turned away. Through the open window came the soft roar of the sea. It was very still to-night; the moon shone across it, but that she could not see: she had seen it so often that it was there in her imagination. On Ben Grief the shadows lay inky in the silver light. She looked at the syringe, and then at the tabloids, and sighed a little; the pain was a thing tearing and burning; several times she tried to begin to write and had to lie back with closed eyes floating away on a sea of horror. Several times her hand quivered towards the tabloids and came back to the pencil. The shadows seemed to jostle each other about the room. Kraill's eyes shone out of them for an instant, blue and impelling. She got a grip on herself and wrote, a word at a time, making each letter with proud precision:
DEAR PROFESSOR KRAILL,
I am sending you a letter I had from my husband to-day. Have you forgotten us, and that wonderful thing you did out in the Bush? You told me then that you liked to interfere in other people's business, but that they didn't always take the interfering nicely. I want you to know what your interfering has meant to us.
You will gather from Louis's letter what you meant to him. It is more difficult to explain what you meant to me. Can you understand if I say you've been a constant goad to me? It would have been easier for me if I had never seen you, because you have been the censor of my spirit ever since. After you went away I was blazing with misery. I hadn't got so far as you, you see. I was passionately wishing that I'd known you when you were more on my level. And I saw that you had had a vision of me that was very much better than I shall ever be now. As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, there are three Marcellas-the one Marcella herself knows, the one the people round about know, and the one God knows. That was the one you saw for a minute and, not to disappoint you, I've had to live up to it. It hasn't been easy. As you will see from his letter, even Louis doesn't need me now. And as for my boy-I know now, that though beasts claw at his life and colds and hungers and desolations come to him, they cannot put out the shine of him. But for me it has been very lonely. I wanted to be the thing of soft corners and seduction that you were sickened of. I had to rip myself to bits and make myself the rather rarefied sort of thing you demanded. I didn't dare not to be brave, because you were so much enthroned in my life that every thought was a deliberate homage to you. I might have got considerably happy, and found many thrills out of thinking about you softly, imagining kisses, adventures, perhaps. Many women would, and I'm sure many men. I couldn't do that because it would have made you less shining, though more dear in my mind. And when I tell you that almost ever since you went away I have been very ill, much of the time in horrible pain, you will see that you gave me something to live up to when you said you needed my courage. There's a fight going on all the time between my spirit and my body. Sometimes, when the pain has been appalling, I have thought I would write to you and ask you to release me from being brave. But I did not want to seem to you a tortured thing-Sometimes, too, I have deliberately pushed the morphia on one side and stuck it out. It was one way of getting my own back on this bundle of nerves and sensations that has played such havoc with me and that, as you scornfully told me, has once or twice cheapened me to an unworthy pleasure-'like a queen going on the streets.' I've been damned, damned, by this overlordship of the body. Now I'm going to get rid of it, and even now I don't want to! I know now I am dying, and there is morphia here under my hand. But I'll be damned in pain rather than be beaten by it! I won't die a cow's death, as the old Norsemen used to call it! I'll fight every inch of the way.-But I wish Aunt Janet would come in and jab the needle in me, forcibly. That would be quite honourable, wouldn't it?
The candle began to flicker and, turning, she saw that it was spending its last dying flame. It was impossible to write. She lay still, watching the glimmering dark square of the window. She could not see another candle there. All she could see was the little phial of tabloids. But she lay back and let the pain fasten on her. The blazing needles that were piercing her, the blazing hammers that were battering her, gathered in fury and for a few merciful hours she lost consciousness.
When she wakened again the pain had completely gone and the first faint cool light was struggling through the mists on Ben Grief. She groped about the counterpane and found her pencil, and went on writing. This time the letters were not so proudly neat. Many of them were shaky and spindlelegged and she knew it.
The candle went out, then. Some hours have passed, and with them the pain. A very beautiful thing has come to me;-the peace that passeth all understanding until you've lost your body. I understand now, very well. Our lives are just God's pathway, and we get in His way and have to be hurt before He can get along us. I was, unconsciously, His pathway to Louis until you came along-and you were a smoother pathway than I. His feet have blazed along my life now, burning out all the roughnesses-crushing me down. It's been a heavy weight to carry-the burden of salvation. It is such a heavy weight that one can't carry anything else. I tried to carry myself, and prides and hungers and love for you. All of them had to be blazed out.-No-not the love. That could not go. That and the courage will go on; pity perhaps will go, for only our bodies are pitiful. But the love is deathless. God's banner over me was love. I think I've read that somewhere His footmarks over my life were love. I've not read that. I had to find it out-slowly, hungrily, painfully, strivingly, because I've always been such a fool. But just this minute I've seen that I've been God's Fool-and God is Love.
The sun came up behind the pines on Ben Grief, golden and silver in the April morning. Very faintly came the voices of the fishermen; in the next room she heard small, busy sounds; two faint falls made her smile. Andrew had mechanically put on his shoes, thought better of it and kicked them off again. She heard him creep along the landing to her door and listen. When she tried to call him to come and kiss her she found that her voice had died. She heard him say, quietly:
"Mummy's fast asleep," and smiled again as she felt that he was running through the unbarred door shrieking and laughing in the delight of the soft air, the dancing sea, the kindly sun. She knew that he had not washed his face, and worried a little about it, and then smiled again.
His voice grew fainter. She tried to lift her hand to fold her letter. It felt as though it were miles away from her, and too heavy to move.
"Why, I'm dying now," she thought, and was surprised to find it such an ordinary, unvolitional thing to do. It was very good to do something unvolitional, very restful.-Little snappings sounded in her ears, and distant crashings and thunders as of a storm perceived by a deaf man who can see and understand without hearing.
She thought very clearly of Death for a moment, and then of God. She had often thought of Death and of God, and was surprised to find that she had been wrong about both.
"I thought-He never gave you-anesthetics-" she told herself. "Why, that's what death is-"
Then came the clear vision of God-not the Great Being with devastating feet at all: He seemed to be like the surgeon in Sydney, for a moment, very sure of His work, very strong, very much stronger and wiser than she was. It was no use at all to fight a thing so wise and strong and tender-
At that moment, as this most beautiful, most kindly thing came to her, she wanted to tell Kraill about it, so that he should be filled with the beauty of it without having to come to death to find it out. The pencil was in her hand, resting on the page. Her brain willed her fingers to conquer their heaviness, their farawayness, and write:
"God seems like you when you told me I needn't be frightened about Louis any more-"
The crashings in her ears grew fainter. More light came.
"No. He is more than that. He is the sun that is shining and the soft noise that is coming up from the sea-and Andrew's laughing-No-those were only His robes that I was looking at!-God is the courage you loved-God is the courage; His clothes are loving-kindness-"
In that moment that the structure of her life fell inwards she saw still more.
"I know now that I need not regret all these greeds and hungers and prides of mine that have been unfulfilled. They have been burned out by the courage and the loving-kindness-"
The pencil rolled on to the floor; what her spirit had willed to tell him her fingers had made a weak scrawl of straggling, futile marks.