A great silence seemed to rush in on the extinction of that small sound. It stooped down and enveloped Hugh in it. Everything was very calm, very still. The boat kept turning slowly round and round, the only thing that moved. The sunlight quivered on the wet, upturned keel. Already it was drying in patches. Hugh watched it. The cold was sapping his powers as if he were bleeding.
“I could have built a boat in the time Loftus takes to fetch one,” he said to himself, and he looked round him. No sign of Doll. He was alone in the world. The cold was gaining on him slowly, surely. Why had he on such heavy gloves, which made him fumble so clumsily. He looked at his bare cut hands, and realized that their grip was leaving them. He felt that he was in measurable distance of losing his hold.
Suddenly a remembrance flashed across him of the sinister face of the water as it had first looked up at him through the trees. Now he understood. This was the appointed place for him to die. Hugh tightened his hold with his right hand, for his left was paralyzed.
“I will not,” he said. “Nothing shall induce me. I will live and marry Rachel.”
The cold advanced suddenly on him, as at the point of the bayonet.
“Why not die?” said another voice. “Will it be easier in three months’ time than it is now? Will it ever be so easy again? See how near death is to life, a wheel within a wheel, two rings linked together. A touch, and you pass from one to the other.”
Hugh looked wildly round him. The sun lay warm upon the tree-tops. It could not be that he was going to die here and now; here in the living sunshine, with the quiet, friendly faces of the hills all around him.
He strengthened his numb hold fiercely, all but lost it, regained it. Cramp, long held at bay, overcame him.
And the boat kept turning in the twilight. He reached the end of his strength, and held on beyond it. He heard some one near at hand suffocating in long-drawn gasps. Not Crack this time, but himself.
The boat was always turning in the darkness.
The struggle was over. “It is better so,” said the other voice, through the roaring of a cataract near at hand. “Your mother will bear it better so. And all the long difficulties are over, and pain is past, and life is past, and sleep is best.”
She was here in the warm, swaying darkness. She was with him. She was Death. Death was only her arms round him in a great peace. Death was better than life. He let go the silly boat that kept him from her and turned wholly to her, his closed eyes against her breast.
The main difference between people seems to be that one man can come under obligations on which you can rely—is obligable—and another is not. As he has not a law within him, there’s nothing to tie him to.—EMERSON.
“Father,” said Teddy to Lord Newhaven, “do—do be a horse, and I will ride you in the water.”