The Man HTML version

36. Light
Harold had been in a state of increasing restlessness. The month of waiting which Dr.
Hilton had laid down for him seemed to wear away with extraordinary slowness; this was
increased by the lack of companionship, and further by the cutting off of even the little
episodes usual to daily life. His patience, great as it was naturally and trained as it had
been by the years of self-repression, was beginning to give way. Often and often there
came over him a wild desire to tear off the irksome bandages and try for himself whether
the hopes held out to him were being even partially justified. He was restrained only by
the fear of perpetual blindness, which came over him in a sort of cold wave at each
reaction. Time, too, added to his fear of discovery; but he could not but think that his self-
sought isolation must be a challenge to the curiosity of each and all who knew of it. And
with all these disturbing causes came the main one, which never lessened but always
grew: that whatever might happen Stephen would be further from him than ever. Look at
the matter how he would; turn it round in whatsoever possible or impossible way, he
could see no relief to this gloomy conclusion.
For it is in the nature of love that it creates or enlarges its own pain. If troubles or
difficulties there be from natural causes, then it will exaggerate them into nightmare
proportions. But if there be none, it will create them. Love is in fact the most serious
thing that comes to man; where it exists all else seem as phantoms, or at best as
actualities of lesser degree. During the better part of two years his troubles had but slept;
and as nothing wakes the pangs of old love better than the sound of a voice, all the old
acute pain of love and the agony that followed its denial were back with him. Surely he
could never, never believe that Stephen did not mean what she had said to him that
morning in the beech grove. All his new resolution not to hamper her with the burden of a
blind and lonely- hearted man was back to the full.
In such mood had he been that morning. He was additionally disturbed because the
Doctor had gone early to Port Lannoch; and as he was the only person with whom he
could talk, he clung to him with something of the helpless feeling of a frightened child to
its nurse.
The day being full of sunshine the window was open, and only the dark-green blind
which crackled and rustled with every passing breeze made the darkness of the room.
Harold was dressed and lay on a sofa placed back in the room, where the few rays of light
thus entering could not reach him. His eyes and forehead were bandaged as ever. For
some days the Doctor, who had his own reasons and his own purpose, had not taken them
off; so the feeling of blind helplessness was doubly upon him. He knew he was blind; and
he knew also that if he were not he could not in his present condition see.
All at once he started up awake. His hearing had in the weeks of darkness grown
abnormally acute, and some trifling sound had recalled him to himself. It might have
been inspiration, but he seemed to be conscious of some presence in the room.