The Breaking Point
DURING all the long night Dick sat by David's bedside. Earlier in the evening
there had been a consultation; David had suffered a light stroke, but there was
no paralysis, and the prognosis was good. For this time, at least, David had
escaped, but there must be no other time. He was to be kept quiet and free from
worry, his diet was to be carefully regulated, and with care he still had long years
David slept, his breathing heavy and slow. In the morning there would be a
nurse, but that night Dick, having sent Lucy to bed, himself kept watch. On the
walnut bed lay Doctor David's portly figure, dimly outlined by the shaded lamp,
and on a chair drawn close sat Dick.
He was wide-awake and very anxious, but as time went on and no untoward
symptoms appeared, as David's sleep seemed to grow easier and more natural,
Dick's thoughts wandered. They went to Elizabeth first, and then on and on from
that starting point, through the years ahead. He saw the old house with Elizabeth
waiting in it for his return; he saw both their lives united and flowing on together,
with children, with small cares, with the routine of daily living, and behind it all the
two of them, hand in hand.
Then his mind turned on himself. How often in the past ten years it had done
that! He had sat off, with a sort of professional detachment, and studied his own
case. With the entrance into his world of the new science of psycho-analysis he
had made now and then small, not very sincere, attempts to penetrate the veil of
his own unconscious devising. Not very sincere, for with the increase of his own
knowledge of the mind he had learned that behind such conditions as his lay
generally, deeply hidden, the desire to forget. And that behind that there lay,
acknowledged or not, fear.
"But to forget what?" he used to say to David, when the first text-books on the
new science appeared, and he and David were learning the new terminology,
Dick eagerly and David with contemptuous snorts of derision. "To forget what?"
"You had plenty to forget," David would say, stolidly. "I think this man's a fool, but
at that - you'd had your father's death, for one thing. And you'd gone pretty close
to the edge of eternity yourself. You'd fought single-handed the worst storm of
ten years, you came out of it with double pneumonia, and you lay alone in that
cabin about fifty-six hours. Forget! You had plenty to forget."
It had never occurred to Dick to doubt David's story. It did not, even now. He had
accepted it unquestioningly from the first, supplemented the shadowy childish
memories that remained to him with it, and gradually co-ordinating the two had
built out of them his house of the past.