The Two Destinies HTML version

24. In The Shadow Of St. Paul's
In ten days I was at home again--and my mother's arms were round me.
I had left her for my sea-voyage very unwillingly--seeing that she was in delicate health.
On my return, I was grieved to observe a change for the worse, for which her letters had
not prepared me. Consulting our medical friend, Mr. MacGlue, I found that he, too, had
noticed my mother's failing health, but that he attributed it to an easily removable cause--
to the climate of Scotland. My mother's childhood and early life had been passed on the
southern shores of England. The change to the raw, keen air of the North had been a
trying change to a person at her age. In Mr. MacGlue's opinion, the wise course to take
would be to return to the South before the autumn was further advanced, and to make our
arrangements for passing the coming winter at Penzance or Torquay.
Resolved as I was to keep the mysterious appointment which summoned me to London at
the month's end, Mr. MacGlue's suggestion met with no opposition on my part. It had, to
my mind, the great merit of obviating the necessity of a second separation from my
mother--assuming that she approved of the doctor's advice. I put the question to her the
same day. To my infinite relief, she was not only ready, but eager to take the journey to
the South. The season had been unusually wet, even for Scotland; and my mother
reluctantly confessed that she "did feel a certain longing" for the mild air and genial
sunshine of the Devonshire coast.
We arranged to travel in our own comfortable carriage by post--resting, of course, at inns
on the road at night. In the days before railways it was no easy matter for an invalid to
travel from Perthshire to London--even with a light carriage and four horses. Calculating
our rate of progress from the date of our departure, I found that we had just time, and no
more, to reach London on the last day of the month.
I shall say nothing of the secret anxieties which weighed on my mind, under these
circumstances. Happily for me, on every account, my mother's strength held out. The
easy and (as we then thought) the rapid rate of traveling had its invigorating effect on her
nerves. She slept better when we rested for the night than she had slept at home. After
twice being delayed on the road, we arrived in London at three o'clock on the afternoon
of the last day of the month. Had I reached my destination in time?
As I interpreted the writing of the apparition, I had still some hours at my disposal. The
phrase, "at the month's end," meant, as I understood it, at the last hour of the last day in
the month. If I took up my position "under the shadow of Saint Paul's," say, at ten that
night, I should arrive at the place of meeting with two hours to spare, before the last
stroke of the clock marked the beginning of the new month.
At half-past nine, I left my mother to rest after her long journey, and privately quit the
house. Before ten, I was at my post. The night was fine and clear; and the huge shadow of