When he had got his coat off I expected him to move forward into the room. A mistake. Mine must be a hasty temperament. They don’t do things like that in Yorkshire, not even when they have come home blinded from the wars. Briggs put out his hand, felt for the cottage door, half closed it, felt for a nail on the inner side of it, and carefully hung his coat thereon.
Now I could usher him into the waiting family circle.
No. I was wrong.
Briggs calmly divested himself of his jacket. He then felt for another door, a door which opened on to a stair leading to the upper storey. On a nail in this door he hung his jacket. And then, in his shirt-sleeves, he was ready. Shirt-sleeves were symbolical. He was home at last, and prepared to sit down with his people.
Of the actual reunion I saw nothing, for I promptly said I must go. It was imperative for me to hurry back, or I should miss my train.
“You’ll stay an’ take a sup of tea with us,” said Briggs.
I couldn’t, though I should have liked to do so, in some ways, and in others should have hardly dared to be an intruder on such a meeting. I shook hands with my patient. Looking back as I went out of the door I saw Briggs’s wife still seated, motionless, in her chair. She had not opened her lips. It was impossible to divine what were her emotions. She was very pale. There were no tears in her eyes as she stared at her young blind husband. But I think there were tears waiting to be shed.
I looked back again when I reached the end of the path across the cabbage-patch. The cottage door was still open. In the aperture stood the younger of the two women, Briggs’s sister. She waved to me and smiled. It was evident that it had struck her that I ought to have been thanked for my services, and she was expressing this, cordially if belatedly. I waved my hand in return, and hastened up the street towards the tram.
My hurry was fruitless. I missed my train in Bradford, and stayed the night at an hotel, thus (with appropriate but improper extravagance) concluding this particular performance in the role of travelling courier to a distinguished invalid. As I sat over a sumptuous table d’hote—this was long before the submarine blockade and the food restrictions—I wondered what Briggs’s wife said to Briggs; and I made up a story about it. But what I have written above is not a story, it is the unadorned truth, which I could not have invented and which is perhaps better than the story. In his courier’s presence Briggs addressed not one word to his wife, and his wife addressed not one word to him; nor did his sister or his brother-in-law. Nor did any of this trio address one word to me.
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