Mike was leaning through the window, and Esther was pressing near to him. They murmured low to each other, and their eyes were bright with tears. A little apart stood a small group, in which Henry and Angel and Ned were conspicuous, and Mike’s sisters and Dot and Mat were there. A callous observer might have laughed, so sad and solemn they were. Mike’s fun tried a rally; but his jests fell spiritless. It was not so much a parting, one might have thought, as a funeral. Little was said, but eyes were eloquent, either with tears, or with long strong glances that meant undying faithfulness all round; and Mike knew that Henry’s eyes were quoting “Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!”
Henry’s will to achieve was too strong for him to think of this as a parting; he could only think of it as a glorious beginning. There is something impersonal in ambition, and in the absorption of the work to be done the ambitious man forgets his merely individual sensibilities. To achieve, though the heavens fall,—that was Henry’s ambition for Mike and for himself.
No one really believed that the train would have the hard-heartedness to start; but at last, with deliberate intention, evidently not to be swayed by human pity, the guard set the estranging whistle to his lips, cold and inexorable as Nero turning down the thumb of death, and surely Mike’s sad little face began to move away from them. Hands reached out to him, eyes streamed, handkerchiefs fluttered,—but nothing could hold him back; and when at last a curve in the line had swallowed the white speck of his face, they turned away from the dark gulf where the train had been as though it were a newly opened grave.
A great to-do to make about a mere parting!—says someone. No doubt, my dear sir! All depends upon one’s standard of value. No doubt these young people weighed life in fantastic scales. Their standard of value was, no doubt, uncommon. To love each other was better than rubies; to lose each other was bitter as death. For others other values,—they had found their only realities in the human affections.
ESTHER AND HENRY ONCE MORE
Yes, Mike had really gone. Henceforth for ever so long, he would only exist for Esther in letters, or as a sad little voice at the end of a wire. It had been arranged that Henry should take Esther with him for dinner that evening to the brightest restaurant in Tyre. He was a great believer in being together, and also in dinner, as comforters of your sad heart. Perhaps, too, he was a little glad to feel Esther leaning gently upon him once more. Their love was too sure and lasting and ever-present to have many opportunities of being dramatic. Nature does not make a fuss about gravitation. One of the most wonderful and powerful of laws, it is yet of all laws the most retiring. Gravitation