That little journey from Knype to Shawport had implanted itself painfully in my memory, as though during it I had peered too close into the face of life. And now I had undertaken another, and a longer one. Three months had elapsed—three months of growing misery and despair; three months of tedious familiarity with lawyers and distant relatives, and all the exasperating camp-followers of death; three months of secret and strange fear, waxing daily. And at last, amid the expostulations and the shrugs of wisdom and age, I had decided to go to London. I had little energy, and no interest, but I saw that I must go to London; I was driven there by my secret fear; I dared not delay. And not a soul in the wide waste of the Five Towns comprehended me, or could have comprehended me had it been so minded. I might have shut up the house for a time. But no; I would not. Always I have been sudden, violent, and arbitrary; I have never been able to tolerate half-measures, or to wait upon occasion. I sold the house; I sold the furniture. Yes; and I dismissed my faithful Rebecca and the clinging Lucy, and they departed, God knows where; it was as though I had sold them into slavery. Again and again, in the final week, I cut myself to the quick, recklessly, perhaps purposely; I moved in a sort of terrible languor, deaf to every appeal, pretending to be stony, and yet tortured by my secret fear, and by a hemorrhage of the heart that no philosophy could stanch. And I swear that nothing desolated me more than the strapping and the labelling of my trunks that morning after I had slept, dreamfully, in the bed that I should never use again—the bed that, indeed, was even then the property of a furniture dealer. Had I wept at all, I should have wept as I wrote out the labels for my trunks: ‘Miss Peel, passenger to Golden Cross Hotel, London. Euston via Rugby,’ with two thick lines drawn under the ‘Euston.’ That writing of labels was the climax. With a desperate effort I tore myself up by the roots, and all bleeding I left the Five Towns. I have never seen them since. Some day, when I shall have attained serenity and peace, when the battle has been fought and lost, I will revisit my youth. I have always loved passionately the disfigured hills and valleys of the Five Towns. And as I think of Oldcastle Street, dropping away sleepily and respectably from the Town Hall of Bursley, with the gold angel holding a gold crown on its spire, I vibrate with an inexplicable emotion. What is there in Oldcastle Street to disturb the dust of the soul?
I must tell you here that Diaz had gone to South America on a triumphal tour of concerts, lest I forget! I read it in the paper.