The next day, Tuesday, was stormy with wind and rain. It was strange to see from my window the whirlpool of ice-encumbered waters. The rain fell in slanting, hissing sheets upon the ice, and the ice, in lumps and sheets and blocks, tossed and heaved and spun. At times it was as though all the ice was driven by some strong movement in one direction, then it was like the whole pavement of the world slipping down the side of the firmament into space. Suddenly it would be checked and, with a kind of quiver, station itself and hang chattering and clutching until the sweep would begin in the opposite direction!
I could see only dimly through the mist, but it was not difficult to imagine that, in very truth, the days of the flood had returned. Nothing could be seen but the tossing, heaving welter of waters with the ice, grim and grey through the shadows, like “ships and monsters, sea-serpents and mermaids,” to quote Galleon’s Spanish Nights.
Of course the water came in through my own roof, and it was on that very afternoon that I decided, once and for all, to leave this abode of mine. Romantic it might be; I felt it was time for a little comfortable realism. My old woman brought me the usual cutlets, macaroni, and tea for lunch; then I wrote to a friend in England; and finally, about four o’clock, after one more look at the hissing waters, drew my curtains, lit my candles, and sat down near my stove to finish that favourite of mine, already mentioned in these pages, De la Mare’s The Return.
I read on with absorbed attention. I did not hear the dripping on the roof, nor the patter-patter of the drops from the ceiling, nor the beating of the storm against the glass. My candles blew in the draught, and shadows crossed and recrossed the page. Do you remember the book’s closing words?—
“Once, like Lawford in the darkness at Widderstone, he glanced up sharply across the lamplight at his phantasmagorical shadowy companion, heard the steady surge of multitudinous rain-drops, like the roar of Time’s winged chariot hurrying near, then he too, with spectacles awry, bobbed on in his chair, a weary old sentinel on the outskirts of his friend’s denuded battlefield.”
“Shadowy companion,” “multitudinous rain-drops,” “a weary old sentinel,” “his friend’s denuded battlefield"... the words echoed like little muffled bells in my brain, and it was, I suppose, to their chiming that I fell into dreamless sleep.
From this I was suddenly roused by the sharp noise of knocking, and starting up, my book clattering to the floor, I saw facing me, in the doorway, Semyonov. Twice before he had come to me just like this—out of the heart of a dreamless sleep. Once in the orchard near Buchatch, on a hot summer afternoon; once in this same room on a moonlit night. Some strange consciousness, rising, it seemed, deep out of my sleep, told me that this would be the last time that I would so receive him.