“Silly to fight, Louis—strong things—wise things—like those surgeons—even if they are making awful pains for you to bear—”
“I wouldn’t talk, darling,” he whispered anxiously, his face against hers.
“I’m not talking, Louis—I’m thinking,” she said anxiously. “Something I was thinking—all mixed up with old Wullie, and a pathway. It seems to me God is like those surgeons—only—strong and wise, you know—only He never gives you chloroform, does He?”
She lost sight of Louis’s face then for a very long time.
Three months later they were aboard a P. and O. steamer, calling their good-byes to Mrs. King and half a dozen of the boys, and Mr. and Mrs. Twist who had come all the way from Loose End to see them off.
Marcella had stayed in hospital for two months; for another month she had been struggling with inability to begin life again in a nursing home overlooking the thunders of the Pacific. Louis had gone back to the Homestead. He would not explain what he was going to do. He merely fetched Andrew, and put him in charge of Mrs. King, who brought him every day to see her. And then he vanished. But she had no fears for him. They had vanished; her sudden yielding to the chloroform in the hospital had been symbolical of a deeper yielding; she felt that these strong, wise forces of her life, if pain became unendurable, would either cure it or find an anesthetic for it.
And one day, towards the end of the three months, Louis had come to the nursing home to see her. His hands, as he seized her passionately, felt hard and stuck to her thin silk blouse.
“Louis!” she cried, taking one of the hands in hers, which had grown very soft and white, “I’ve seen them pretty bad before with the gorse. But whatever have you been doing? Where have you been? They’re like a navvy’s hands!”
“Were you worried about me, old girl?” he asked.
“No, but dreadfully curious,” she began. He took a roll of dirty notes out of his pocket and threw it in her lap.
“Look! Alone I did it! Monish, old girl! Filthy lucre! Just enough to take us home. I meant to do it off my own bat, without asking your uncle!”
“But how on earth could you, in the time?” she asked.
“Navvying! That bally railway cutting at Cook’s Wall! Lord, Marcella, if I don’t get the Pater to pay for me to go to the hospital, I’ll do a year first on the music-halls as the modern Hercules. I should make millions! My hands were blistered till they got like iron; my back felt broken; I used to lie awake at nights and weep till I got toughened. I had a few fights, too.”
“Why? Didn’t they like you?”
“No, they’re not so silly as you. They resented my English particularly, and they resented my funking whisky when they were all boozing. They thought I was being superior. Lord, if they’d known! One night, when they were calling me Jesus’ Little Lamb and Wonky Willie, I saw red and tackled an Irishman. Of course, he knocked me out of time. I knew he would. And just to show them that I wasn’t wonky, and wasn’t a Cocoa Fiend—that was another name they had for me—I downed a tumbler full of whisky neat.”