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A Modern Chronicle — Volume 08 by Churchill

Produced by David Widger


By Winston Churchill

Volume 8.



Spring came to Highlawns, Eden tinted with myriad tender greens. Yellow-greens, like the beech boughs over the old wall, and gentle blue-greens, like the turf; and the waters of the lake were blue and white in imitation of the cloud-flecked sky. It seemed to Honora, as she sat on the garden bench, that the yellow and crimson tulips could not open wide enough their cups to the sun.

In these days she looked at her idol, and for the first time believed it to be within her finite powers to measure him. She began by asking herself if it were really she who had ruined his life, and whether he would ultimately have redeemed himself if he had married a woman whom the world would have recognized. Thus did the first doubt invade her heart. It was of him she was thinking still, and always. But there was the doubt. If he could have stood this supreme test of isolation, of the world's laughter and scorn, although it would have made her own heavy burden of responsibility heavier, yet could she still have rejoiced. That he should crumble was the greatest of her punishments.

Was he crumbling? In these months she could not quite be sure, and she tried to shut her eyes when the little pieces fell off, to remind herself that she must make allowances for the severity of his disappointment. Spring was here, the spring to which he had so eagerly looked forward, and yet the listlessness with which he went about his work was apparent. Sometimes he did not appear at breakfast, although Honora clung with desperation to the hour they had originally fixed: sometimes Mr. Manning waited for him until nearly ten o'clock, only to receive curt dismissal. He went off for long rides, alone, and to the despair of the groom brought back the horses in a lather, with drooping heads and heaving sides; one of them he ruined. He declared there wasn't a horse in the stable fit to give him exercise.

Often he sat for hours in his study, brooding, inaccessible. She had the tennis-court rolled and marked, but the contests here were pitifully-unequal; for the row of silver cups on his mantel, engraved with many dates, bore witness to his athletic prowess. She wrote for a book on solitaire, but after a while the sight of cards became distasteful. With a secret diligence she read the reviews, and sent for novels and memoirs which she scanned eagerly before they were begun with him. Once, when she went into his study on an errand, she stood for a minute gazing painfully at the cleared space on his desk where once had lain the papers and letters relative to the life of General Angus Chiltern.

There were intervals in which her hope flared, in which she tasted, fearfully and with bated breath, something that she had not thought to know again. It was characteristic of him that his penitence was never spoken: nor did he exhibit penitence. He seemed rather at such times merely to become normally himself, as one who changes personality, apparently oblivious to the moods and deeds of yesterday. And these occasions added perplexity to her troubles. She could not reproach him --which perhaps in any event she would have been too wise to do; but she could not, try as she would, bring herself to the point of a discussion of their situation. The risk, she felt, was too great; now, at least. There were instances that made her hope that the hour might come.

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