Pamela looked at the bed, the nurses’ table, the bare boards, the flowers. Her face worked pitifully. She turned to Elizabeth, who caught her in her arms.
‘Oh, I am glad you have put the picture away!’
One deep sob, and she recovered herself.
‘He’s not much disfigured,’ she murmured, ’only a cut on the forehead. Most of the journey he has been quite cheerful. That was the morphia. But he’s tired now. They’re coming in.’
But it was the Squire who entered—asking
peremptorily for Miss
The well-known voice struck some profound response in Elizabeth. She turned to him. How changed, how haggard, was the aspect!
’Martin—that’s the surgeon we’ve brought with us—wants something from Fallerton at once. Renshaw’s here, but he can’t be spared for telephoning. Come, please!’
But before she could pass through the door, it was filled by a procession. The stretcher came through, followed by the surgeon and nurses who had come from France. Elizabeth caught a glimpse of a white face and closed eyes. It was as though something royal and sacred entered the hushed room. She could have fallen on her knees, as in a Breton ‘pardon’ when the Host goes by.
The bustle of the arrival was over. The doctors had given their orders, the nurses were at their posts for the night, and, under morphia, Desmond was sleeping. In the shaded library there were only hushed voices and movements. By the light of the one lamp, which was screened from the bed, one saw dimly the fantastic shapes in the glass cases which lined the walls—the little Tanagra figures with their sun-hats and flowing dress—bronzes of Apollo or Hermes—a bronze bull—an ibex—a cup wreathed with acanthus. And in the shadow at the far end rose the great Nike. She seemed to be asking what the white bed and the shrouded figure upon it might mean—protesting that these were not her symbols, or a language that she knew.
Yet at times, as the light varied, she seemed to take another aspect. To Aubrey, sitting beside his brother, the Nike more than once suggested the recollection of a broken Virgin hanging from a fragment of a ruined church which he remembered on a bit of road near Mametz, at which he had seen passing soldiers look stealthily and long. Her piteous arms, empty of the babe, suggested motherhood to boys fresh from home; and there were moments when this hovering Nike seemed to breathe a mysterious tenderness like hers—became a proud and splendid angel of consolation—only, indeed, to resume, with some fresh change in the shadows, its pagan indifference, its exultant loneliness.