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The Return

CHAPTER SIX
There were three books in the room--Jeremy Taylor's 'Holy Living and Dying,' a volume
of the Quiver, and a little gilded book on wildflowers. He read in vain. He lay and
listened to the uproar of his thoughts on which an occasional sound--the droning of a fly,
the cry of a milkman, the noise of a passing van--obtruded from the workaday world. The
pale gold sunlight edged softly over the bed. He ate up everything on his tray. He even,
on the shoals of nightmare, dreamed awhile. But by and by as the hours wheeled slowly
on he grew less calm, less strenuously resolved on lying there inactive. Every sparrow
that twittered cried reveille through his brain. He longed with an ardour strange to his
temperament to be up and doing.
What if his misfortune was, as he had in the excitement of the moment suggested to
Sheila, only a morbid delusion of mind; shared too in part by sheer force of his absurd
confession? Even if he was going mad, who knows how peaceful a release that might not
be? Could his shrewd old vicar have implicitly believed in him if the change were as
complete as he supposed it? He flung off the bedclothes and locked the door. He dressed
himself, noticing, he fancied, with a deadly revulsion of feeling, that his coat was a little
too short in the sleeves, his waistcoat too loose. In the midst of his dressing came Sheila
bringing his luncheon. 'I'm sorry,' he called out, stooping quickly beside the bed, 'I can't
talk now. Please put the tray down.'
About half an hour afterwards he heard the outer door close, and peeping from behind the
curtains saw his wife go out. All was drowsily quiet in the house. He devoured his lunch
like a schoolboy. That finished to the last crumb, without a moment's delay he covered
his face with a towel, locked the door behind him, put the key in his pocket, and ran
lightly downstairs. He stuffed the towel into an ulster pocket, put on a soft, wide-
brimmed hat, and noiselessly let himself out. Then he turned with an almost hysterical
delight and ran--ran like the wind, without pausing, without thinking, straight on, up one
turning, down another, until he reached a broad open common, thickly wooded, sprinkled
with gorse and hazel and may, and faintly purple with fading heather. There he flung
himself down in the beautiful sunlight, among the yellowing bracken, to recover his
breath.
He lay there for many minutes, thinking almost with composure. Flight, it seemed, had
for the moment quietened the demands of that other feebly struggling personality which
was beginning to insinuate itself into his consciousness, which had so miraculously
broken in and taken possession of his body. He would not think now. All he needed was a
little quiet and patience before he threw off for good and all his right to be free, to be his
own master, to call himself sane.
He scrambled up and turned his face towards the westering sun. What was there in the
stillness of its beautiful splendour that seemed to sharpen his horror and difficulty, and
 
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