A couple of hours later he awoke from a deep sleep, with a sense of sweet visions and experiences—he looked round. Mrs. Graves sate beside him smiling, but the horror suddenly darted back into his mind with a spasm of fear, as if he had been bitten by a poisonous serpent.
“What has been happening?” he said.
“Ah,” said Mrs. Graves quietly, “you have been asleep. I have some power in these things, which I don’t use except in times of need— some day I will tell you more; I found it out by accident, but I have used it both for myself and others. It’s just a natural force, of which many people are suspicious, because it doesn’t seem normal; but don’t be afraid, dear boy—all goes well; she is sleeping quietly, and she knows what has happened.”
“Thank you,” said Howard; “yes, I am better; but I could almost wish I had not slept—I feel the pain of it more. I don’t feel just now as if anything in the world could make up for this—as if anything could make it seem just to endure such misery. What has one done to deserve it?”
“What indeed?” said Mrs. Graves, “because the time will come when you will ask that in a different sense. Don’t you see, dear boy, that even this is life’s fulness? One mustn’t be afraid of suffering—what one must be afraid of is not suffering; it’s the measure of love—you would not part with your love if that would free you from suffering?”
“No,” said Howard slowly, “I would not—you are right. I can see that. One brings the other; but I cannot see the need of it.”
“That is only because one does not realise how much lies ahead,” said Mrs. Graves. “Be content that you know at least how much you love—there’s no knowledge like that!”
For some days Howard was in an intolerable agony of mind about Maud; she lay in a sort of stupor of weakness and weariness, recognising no one, hardly speaking, just alive, indifferent to everything. They could not let him be with her, they would allow no one to speak to her. The shock had been too great, and the frail life seemed flickering to its close: once or twice he was just allowed to see her; she lay like a tired child, her head on her hand, lost in incommunicable dreams. Howard dared not leave the house, and the tension of his nerves became so acute that the least thing—a servant entering the room, or anyone coming out to speak with him as he paced up and down the garden—caused him an insupportable horror; had they come to summon him to see the end? The frightful thing was the silence, the blank silence of the one he loved best. If she had moaned or wept or complained, he could have borne it better; but she seemed entirely withdrawn from him. Even when a little strength returned, they feared for her reason. She seemed unaware of where she was, of what had happened, of all about her. The night was the worst time of all.