OUT OF THE MIST
It appears to me, looking back over a past experience, that certain days in one’s life stand out prominently as landmarks, when we arrive at some finger-post pointing out the road that we should follow.
We come out of some deep, rutty lane, where the hedgerows obscure the prospect, and where the footsteps of some unknown passenger have left tracks in the moist red clay. The confused tracery of green leaves overhead seems to weave fanciful patterns against the dim blue of the sky; the very air is low-pitched and oppressive. All at once we find ourselves in an open space; the free winds of heaven are blowing over us; there are four roads meeting; the finger-post points silently, ’This way to such a place’; we can take our choice, counting the mile-stones rather wearily as we pass them. The road may be a little tedious, the stones may hurt our feet; but if it be the right road it will bring us to our destination.
In looking back it always seems to me as though I came to a fresh landmark in my experience that November afternoon when I saw Uncle Max standing in the twilight, waiting for me.
There had been the waste of a great trouble in my young life,—sorrow, confusion, then utter chaos. I had struggled on somehow after my twin brother’s death, trying to fight against despair with all my youthful vitality; creating new duties for myself, throwing out fresh feelers everywhere; now and then crying out in my undisciplined way that the task was too hard for me; that I loathed my life; that it was impossible to live any longer without love and appreciation and sympathy; that so uncongenial an atmosphere could be no home to me; that the world was an utter negation and a mockery.
That was before I went to the hospital, at the time when my trouble was fresh and I was breaking my heart with the longing to see Charlie’s face again. Most people who have lived long in the world, and have parted with their beloved, know what that sort of hopeless ache means.
My work was over at the hospital, and I had come home again,—to rest, so they said, but in reality to work out plans for my future life, in a sort of sullen silence, that seemed to shut me out from all sympathy.
It had wrapped me in a sort of mantle of reserve all the afternoon, during which I had been driving with Aunt Philippa and Sara. The air would do me good. I was moped, hipped, with all that dreary hospital work, so they said. It would distract and amuse me to watch Sara making her purchases. Reluctance, silent opposition, only whetted their charitable mood.
’Don’t be disagreeable, Ursula. You might as well help me choose my new mantle,’ Sara had said, quite pleasantly, and I had given in with a bad grace.