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A Modern Chronicle — Volume 07 by Churchill

Produced by David Widger


By Winston Churchill

Volume 7.



All morning she had gazed on the shining reaches of the Hudson, their colour deepening to blue as she neared the sea. A gold-bound volume of Shelley, with his name on the fly-leaf, lay in her lap. And two lines she repeated softly to herself--two lines that held a vision:

"He was as the sun in his fierce youth, As terrible and lovely as a tempest;"

She summoned him out of the chaos of the past, and the past became the present, and he stood before her as though in the flesh. Nay, she heard his voice, his laugh, she even recognized again the smouldering flames in his eyes as he glanced into hers, and his characteristic manners and gestures. Honora wondered. In vain, during those long months of exile had she tried to reconstruct him thus the vision in its entirety would not come: rare, fleeting, partial, and tantalizing glimpses she had been vouchsafed, it is true. The whole of him had been withheld until this breathless hour before the dawn of her happiness.

Yet, though his own impatient spirit had fared forth to meet her with this premature gift of his attributes, she had to fight the growing fear within her. Now that the days of suffering were as they had not been, insistent questions dinned in her ears: was she entitled to the joys to come? What had she done to earn them? Had hers not been an attempt, on a gigantic scale, to cheat the fates? Nor could she say whether this feeling were a wholly natural failure to grasp a future too big, or the old sense of the unreality of events that had followed her so persistently.

The Hudson disappeared. Factories, bridges, beflagged week-end resorts, ramshackle houses, and blocks of new buildings were scattered here and there. The train was running on a causeway between miles of tenements where women and children, overtaken by lassitude, hung out of the windows: then the blackness of the tunnel, and Honora closed her eyes. Four minutes, three minutes, two minutes . . . . The motion ceased. At the steps of the car a uniformed station porter seized her bag; and she started to walk down the long, narrow platform. Suddenly she halted.

"Drop anything, Miss?" inquired the porter.

"No," answered Honora, faintly. He looked at her in concern, and she began to walk on again, more slowly.

It had suddenly come over her that the man she was going to meet she scarcely knew! Shyness seized her, a shyness that bordered on panic. And what was he really like, that she should put her whole trust in him? She glanced behind her: that way was closed: she had a mad desire to get away, to hide, to think. It must have been an obsession that had possessed her all these months. The porter was looking again, and he voiced her predicament.

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