“I never expected to be married like this. You know the kind of mind I have. I must always see the picture of myself doing things, and there had always been a sort of dream of some great church with a blur of gold light at the far end, and myself floating up the aisle in a cloud of white veil, and a hushed crowd and the organ playing.
“And it won’t be a bit like that. I shall wear a uniform and a flannel shirt, and I’ll be lucky if my boots are not splashed with mud. It will seem queer to be married with my boots on, as men died in old romances.
“Perhaps by the time this reaches you, Drusilla Gray will be Drusilla Hewes, and so I ask your blessing, and your prayers.
“I should never have asked for your prayers a year ago. I should have been thanking you for your wedding present of glass and silver, and asking you to dine with me on Tuesday or Thursday as the case might be. But now, the only thought that holds me is whether God will give my Captain back to me, and the hope that if not, I may have the strength to bear it—.
“I am sure that Derry will feel the sublimity of it all when he comes—death is so near, yet so little feared; the men know that tonight or tomorrow they may be beyond the shadows, and it holds them to something bigger than themselves.
“But be sure of this, my dears, that when Derry goes the seas will not part you—. Spirit touches spirit, space has nothing to do with it. Often when I am alone, the Captain comes to me, speaks to me, cheers me; I think if he should die in battle, he would still come.
“If ever I have a home of my own, I shall build an altar not to the Unknown God but to the God whom I had lost and have found again. I go into old churches here to pray, and it is no longer a matter of feeling, no longer a matter of form, it is something more than that.
“And now I can’t ask you to dance at my wedding, but I can ask you to wish me happiness and a long life with my lover, or failing that, the strength to give him up—”
She signed herself, “Always loving you both, DRUSILLA.”
“Such a dear letter,” said Jean.
“And such a different Drusilla. Do you think that the Drusilla of the old days would have built an altar?”
And it was because of Drusilla’s letter that Derry took Jean that afternoon to the great Library with the gold dome and guided her to a corridor made beautiful by the brush of an artist who had painted “The Occupations of the Day”; in one lunette a primitive man and woman knelt before a pile of stones on which burned a sacred flame. Above them was blue sky—flowers grew within reach of their hands—the fields stretched beyond.
“We must build an altar, dearest.”
“In our hearts—”
“And in our House of Dreams—”
THE EIGHTH DAY
There was no getting out of the Witherspoon dinner, and it was when Ralph greeted Jean that he said to her, “You are lovelier than ever.”