He struck on the full strings. And listening breathless through the dying discord he heard the liquid whispers of the rain, nothing more. He lashed with a wild bow, time and again. But something was broken, something was lost: out of the surf of sound he could no longer fashion the measure of marching feet. The mad Kains had found him out, and cast him out. No longer could he dream them in dreams or run naked-hearted with them in the flood of the moon, for he was no blood of theirs, and they were gone. And huddling down on the edge of the bed, he wept.
The tears washed his eyes and falling down bathed his strengthless hands. And beyond the phantom windows, over the marsh and the moor and the hill that were not his, the graves of strangers and the lost Willow Wood, lay the healing rain. He heard it in gurgling rivulets along the gutters overhead. He heard the soft impact, like a kiss, brushing the reedy cheeks of the marsh, the showery shouldering of branches, the aspiration of myriad drinking grasses, the far whisper of waters coming home to the waters of the sea—the long, low melody of the rain.
And by and by he found it was “Ugo,” the ’cello, and he was playing.
They went home the following afternoon, he and his mother. Or rather, she went home, and he with her as far as the Junction, where he changed for school.
They had not much to say to each other through the journey. The boy had to be given time. Five years younger, or fifteen years older, it would have been easier for him to look at his mother. You must remember what his mother had meant to him, and what, bound up still in the fierce and sombre battle of adolescence, she must mean to him now.
As for Agnes Kain, she did not look at him, either. Through the changing hours her eyes rested on the transparent hands lying crossed in her lap. She seemed very tired and very white. Her hair was not done as tidily, her lace cuffs were less fresh than they had used to be. About her whole presence there was a troubling hint of let-down, something obscurely slovenly, a kind of awkward and unlovely nakedness.
She really spoke to him for the first time at the Junction, when he stood before her, slim and uncouth under the huge burden of “Ugo,” fumbling through his leave-taking.
“Christopher,” she said, “try not to think of me—always—as—as—well, when you’re older, Christopher, you’ll know what I mean.”
That was the last time he ever heard her speak. He saw her once again, but the telegram was delayed and his train was late, and when he came beside her bed she said nothing. She looked into his eyes searchingly, for a long while, and died.
* * * * *
That space stands for the interval of silence that fell after Christopher had told me the story. I thought he had quite finished. He sat motionless, his shoulders fallen forward, his eyes fixed in the heart of the incandescent globe over the dressing-table, his long fingers wrapped around the neck of the ’cello.