Then she bent down ostensibly to pat the head of a little black cocker spaniel called Tommy which had been given to her as a puppy, a highly intelligent and affectionate animal that we both adored and that loved her as only a dog can love. Really, I knew, it was to hide her tears, and fled from the room lest she should see mine.
As I went I heard the dog whimpering in a peculiar way, as though some sympathetic knowledge had been communicated to its wonderful animal intelligence.
That night I spoke to Bickley about the matter, repeating exactly what had passed. As I expected, he smiled in his grave, rather sarcastic way, and made light of it.
“My dear Humphrey,” he said, “don’t torment yourself about such fancies. They are of everyday occurrence among women in your wife’s condition. Sometimes they take one form, sometimes another. When she has got her baby you will hear no more of them.”
I tried to be comforted but in vain.
The days and weeks went by like a long nightmare and in due course the event happened. Bickley was not attending the case; it was not in his line, he said, and he preferred that where a friend’s wife was concerned, somebody else should be called in. So it was put in charge of a very good local man with a large experience in such domestic matters.
How am I to tell of it? Everything went wrong; as for the details, let them be. Ultimately Bickley did operate, and if surpassing skill could have saved her, it would have been done. But the other man had misjudged the conditions; it was too late, nothing could help either mother or child, a little girl who died shortly after she was born but not before she had been christened, also by the name of Natalie.
I was called in to say farewell to my wife and found her radiant, triumphant even in her weakness.
“I know now,” she whispered in a faint voice. “I understood as the chloroform passed away, but I cannot tell you. Everything is quite well, my darling. Go where you seem called to go, far away. Oh! the wonderful place in which you will find me, not knowing that you have found me. Good-bye for a little while; only for a little while, my own, my own!”
Then she died. And for a time I too seemed to die, but could not. I buried her and the child here at Fulcombe; or rather I buried their ashes since I could not endure that her beloved body should see corruption.
Afterwards, when all was over, I spoke of these last words of Natalie’s with both Bickley and Bastin, for somehow I seemed to wish to learn their separate views.
The latter I may explain, had been present at the end in his spiritual capacity, but I do not think that he in the least understood the nature of the drama which was passing before his eyes. His prayers and the christening absorbed all his attention, and he never was a man who could think of more than one thing at a time.