Ever since, as if in compunction, she had been wavering towards his point of view; and now, when he was perhaps to solve the problem—find out for certain—she had come to feel that if he died, she would never see him after. It was cruel that such a blight should have come on her belief at this, of all moments.
She laid her hand on his. It was warm, felt strong, although so motionless and helpless. George was so vigorous, so alive, and strong-willed; it seemed impossible that life might be going to play him false. She recalled the unflinching look of his steel-bright eyes, his deep, queerly vibrating voice, which had no trace of self-consciousness or pretence. She slipped her hand on to his heart, and began very slowly, gently rubbing it. He, as doctor, and she, as nurse, had both seen so much of death these last two years! Yet it seemed suddenly as if she had never seen death, and that the young faces she had seen, empty and white, in the hospital wards, had just been a show. Death would appear to her for the first time, if this face which she loved were to be drained for ever of light and colour and movement and meaning.
A humblebee from the Square Garden boomed in and buzzed idly round the room. She caught her breath in a little sob....
Pierson received that telegram at midday, returning from a lonely walk after his talk with Thirza. Coming from Gratian so self-reliant—it meant the worst. He prepared at once to catch the next train. Noel was out, no one knew where: so with a sick feeling he wrote: “Dearest child,
“I am going up to Gratian; poor George is desperately ill. If it goes badly you should be with your sister. I will wire to-morrow morning early. I leave you in your aunt’s hands, my dear. Be reasonable and patient. God bless you.
He was alone in his third-class compartment, and, leaning forward, watched the ruined Abbey across the river till it was out of sight. Those old monks had lived in an age surely not so sad as this. They must have had peaceful lives, remote down here, in days when the Church was great and lovely, and men laid down their lives for their belief in her, and built everlasting fanes to the glory of God! What a change to this age of rush and hurry, of science, trade, material profit, and this terrible war! He tried to read his paper, but it was full of horrors and hate. ‘When will it end?’ he thought. And the train with its rhythmic jolting seemed grinding out the answer: “Never—never!”