I made a great effort to read, holding the book before me and compelling myself to follow the sentences, but that power of abstraction which can conquer pain does not belong to temperaments like mine. If only I could have slept, as men have been able to do even upon the rack; but every hour that passed left me more awake, more alive, more supersensitive to suffering.
Early in the morning, long before the dawn, I must have been feverish, I think. My head and hands burned, the air of the room stifled me, I was losing my self-control.
I opened the window and leant out. The cool air revived me bodily, but to the fever of the spirit it brought no relief. To my heart, if not to my lips, sprang the old old cry for help which anguish has wrung from generation after generation. The agony of mine, I felt wildly, must pierce through sense, time, space, everything—even to the Living Heart of all, and bring thence some token of pity! For one instant my passion seemed to beat against the silent heavens, then to fall back bruised and bleeding.
Out of the darkness came not so much as a wind whisper or the twinkle of a star.
Was Atherley right after all?
THE STRANGER’S GOSPEL
From the short unsatisfying slumber which sometimes follows a night of insomnia I was awakened by the laughter and shouts of children. When I looked out I saw brooding above the hollow a still gray day, in whose light the woodlands of the park were all in sombre brown, and the trout stream between its sedgy banks glided dark and lustreless.
On the lawn, still wet with dew, and crossed by the shadows of the bare elms, Atherley’s little sons, Harold and Denis, were playing with a very unlovely but much-beloved mongrel called Tip. They had bought him with their own pocket-money from a tinker who was ill-using him, and then claimed for him the hospitality of their parents; so, though Atherley often spoke of the dog as a disgrace to the household, he remained a member thereof, and received, from a family incapable of being uncivil, far less unkind, to an animal, as much attention as if he had been high-bred and beautiful—which indeed he plainly supposed himself to be.
When, about an hour later, after their daily custom, this almost inseparable trio fell into the breakfast-room as if the door had suddenly given way before them, the boys were able to revenge themselves for the rebuke this entrance provoked by the tidings they brought with them.
“I say, old Mallet is going,” cried Harold cheerfully, as he wriggled himself on to his chair. “Denis, mind I want some of that egg-stuff.”
“Take your arms off the table, Harold,” said Lady Atherley. “Pray, how do you know Mrs. Mallet is going?”
“She said so herself. She said,” he went on, screwing up his nose and speaking in a falsetto to express the intensity of his scorn—“she said she was afraid of the ghost.”