The Return HTML version

The Sabbath, pale with September sunshine, and monotonous with chiming bells, had
passed languidly away. Dr Simon had come and gone, optimistic and urbane, yet with a
faint inward dissatisfaction over a patient behind whose taciturnity a hint of mockery and
subterfuge seemed to lurk. Even Mrs Lawford had appeared to share her husband's
reticence. But Dr Simon had happened on other cases in his experience where tact was
required rather than skill, and time than medicine.
The voices and footsteps, even the frou-frou of worshippers going to church, the voices
and footsteps of worshippers returning from church, had floated up to the patient's open
window. Sunlight had drawn across his room in one pale beam, and vanished. A few
callers had called. Hothouse flowers, waxen and pale, had been left with messages of
sympathy. Even Dr Critchett had respectfully and discreetly made inquiries on his way
home from chapel.
Lawford had spent most of his time in pacing to and fro in his soft slippers. The very
monotony had eased his mind. Now and again he had lain motionless, with his face to the
ceiling. He had dozed and had awakened, cold and torpid with dream. He had hardly been
aware of the process, but every hour had done something, it seemed, towards clarifying
his point of view. A consciousness had begun to stir in him that was neither that of the
old, easy Lawford, whom he had never been fully aware of before, nor of this strange
ghostly intelligence that haunted the hawklike, restless face, and plucked so insistently at
his distracted nerves. He had begun in a vague fashion to be aware of them both, could in
a fashion discriminate between them, almost as if there really were two spirits in stubborn
conflict within him. It would, of course, wear him down in time. There could be only one
end to such a struggle--THE end.
All day he had longed for freedom, on and on, with craving for the open sky, for solitude,
for green silence, beyond these maddening walls. This heedful silken coming and going,
these Sunday voices, this reiterant yelp of a single peevish bell-- would they never cease?
And above all, betwixt dread and an almost physical greed, he hungered for night. He sat
down with elbows on knees and head on his hands, thinking of night, its secrecy, its
immeasurable solitude.
His eyelids twitched; the fire before him had for an instant gone black out. He seemed to
see slow-gesturing branches, grass stooping beneath a grey and wind-swept sky. He
started up; and the remembrance of the morning returned to him--the glassy light, the
changing rays, the beaming gilt upon the useless books. Now, at last, at the windows;
afternoon had begun to wane. And when Sheila brought up his tea, as if Chance had
heard his cry, she entered in hat and stole. She put down the tray, and paused at the glass,
looking across it out of the window.