The Purple Cloud Part 27

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That night! what a night it was! of fingers s.h.i.+vering with haste, of harum-scarum quests and searches, of groans, and piteous appeals to G.o.d.

For there were no surgical instruments, lint, anaesthetics, nor antiseptics that I knew of in the Chateau; and though I knew of a house in Montreux where I could find them, the distance was quite infinite, and the time an eternity in which to leave her all alone, bleeding to death; and, to my horror, I remembered that there was barely enough petrol in the motor, and the store usually kept in the house exhausted.

However, I did it, leaving her there unconscious on her bed: but _how_ I did it, and lived sane afterwards, that is another matter.

If I had not been a medical man, she must, I think, have died: for the bullet had broken the left fifth rib, had been deflected, and I found it buried in the upper part of the abdominal wall. I did not go from her bed-side: I did not sleep, though I nodded and staggered: for all things were nothing to me, but her: and for a frightfully long time she remained comatose. While she was still in this state I took her to a chalet beyond Villeneuve, three miles away on the mountain-side, a homely, but very salubrious place which I knew, imbedded in verdures, for I was desperate at her long collapse, and had hope in the higher air. And there after three more days, she opened her eyes, and smiled with me.

It was then that I said to myself: 'This is the n.o.blest, sagest, and also the most loveable, of the creatures whom G.o.d has made in heaven or earth. She has won my life, and I will live.... But at least, to save myself, I will put the broadest Ocean that there is between her and me: for I wish to be a decent being, for the honour of my race, being the last, and to turn out trumps ... though I do love my dear, G.o.d knows....'

And thus, after only fifty-five days at the chalet, were we forced still further Westward.

I wished her to remain at Chillon, intending, myself, to start for the Americas, whence any sudden impulse to return to her could not be easily accomplished: but she refused, saying that she would come with me to the coast of France: and I could not say her no.

And at the coast, after thirteen days we arrived, three days before the New Year, traversing France by steam, air, and petrol traction.

We came to Havre--infirm, infirm of will that I was: for in my deep heart was the secret, hidden away from my own upper self, that, she being at Havre, and I at Portsmouth, we could still speak together.

We came humming into the dark town of Havre in a four-seat motor-car about ten in the evening of the 29th December: a raw bleak night, she, it was clear, poor thing, bitterly cramped with cold. I had some recollection of the place, for I had been there, and drove to the quays, near which I stopped at the _Maire's_ large house, a palatial place overlooking the sea, in which she slept, I occupying another near.

The next morning I was early astir, searched in the _mairie_ for a map of the town, where I also found a _Bottin_: I could thus locate the Telephone Exchange. In the _Maire's_ house, which I had fixed upon to be her home, the telephone was set up in an alcove adjoining a very stately _salon_ Louis Quinze; and though I knew that these little dry batteries would not be run down in twenty odd years, yet, fearing any weakness, I broke open the box, and subst.i.tuted a new one from the Company's stores two streets away, at the same time noting the exchange-number of the instrument. This done, I went down among the s.h.i.+ps by the wharves, and fixed upon the first old green air-boat that seemed fairly sound, broke open a near shop, procured some buckets of oil, and by three o'clock had tested and prepared my s.h.i.+p. It was a dull and mournful day, drizzling, chilly. I returned then to the _mairie_, where for the first time I saw her, and she was heavy of heart that day: but when I broke the news that she would be able to speak to me, every day, all day, first she was all incredulous astonishment, then, for a moment, her eyes turned white to Heaven, then she was skipping like a kid. We were together three precious hours, examining the place, and returning with stores of whatever she might require, till I saw darkness coming on, and we went down to the s.h.i.+p.

And when those long-dead screws awoke and moved, bearing me toward the Outer Basin, I saw her stand darkling, lonely, on the Quai through heart-rending murk and drizzly inclemency: and oh my G.o.d, the gloomy under-look of those red eyes, and the piteous out-push of that little lip, and the hurried burying of that face! My heart broke, for I had not given her even one little, last kiss, and she had been so good, quietly acquiescing, like a good wife, not attempting to force her presence upon me in the s.h.i.+p; and I left her there, all widowed, alone on the Continent of Europe, watching after me: and I went out to the bleak and dreary fields of the sea.

Arriving at Portsmouth the next morning, I made my residence in the first house in which I found an instrument, a s.p.a.cious dwelling facing the Harbour Pier. I then hurried round to the Exchange, which is on the Hard near the Docks, a large red building with facings of Cornish moor-stone, a bank on the ground-floor, and the Exchange on the first.

Here I plugged her number on to mine, ran back, rang--and, to my great thanksgiving, heard her speak. (This instrument, however, did not prove satisfactory: I broke the box, and put in another battery, and still the voice was m.u.f.fled: finally, I furnished the middle room at the Exchange with a truckle-bed, stores, and a few things, and here have taken up residence.)

I believe that she lives and sleeps under the instrument, as I here live and sleep, sleep and live, under it. My instrument is quite near one of the harbour-windows, so that, hearing her, I can gaze out toward her over the expanse of waters, yet see her not; and she, too, looking over the sea toward me, can hear a voice from the azure depths of nowhere, yet see me not.

I this morning early to her:

'Good morning! Are you there?'

'Good morning! No: I am there,' says she.

'Well, that was what I asked--"are you there"?'

'But I not here, I am there,' says she.

'I know very well that you are not "here,"' said I, 'for I do not see you: but I asked if you were there, and you say "No," and then "Yes."'

'It is the paladox of the heart,' says she.

'The what?'

'The paladox,' says she.

'But still I do not understand: how can you be both there and not there?'

'If my ear is here, and I elsewhere?' says she.

'An operation?'

'Yes!' says she.

'What doctor?'

'A specialist!' says she.

'An ear-specialist?'

'A heart!' says she.

'And you let a heart-specialist operate on your ear?'

'On myself he operlated, and left the ear behind!' says she.

'Well, and how are you after it?'

'Fairly well. Are you?' says she.

'Quite well. Did you sleep well?'

'Except when you lang me up at midnight. I have had such a dleam ...'

'What?'

'I dleamed that I saw two little boys of the same age--only I could not see their faces, I never can see anybody's face, only yours and mine, mine and yours always--of the same age--playing in a wood....'

'Ah, I hope that one of them was not called Cain, my poor girl.'

'Not at all! neither of them! Suppose I tell a stoly, and say that one was called Caius and the other Tibelius, or one John and the other Jesus?'

'Ah. Well, tell me the _dleam_....'

'Now you do not deserve.'

'Well, what will you do to-day?'

'I? It is a lovely day ... have you nice weather in England?'

'Very.'

'Well, between eleven and twelve I will go out and gather Spling-flowers in the park, and cover the salon deep, deep. Wouldn't you like to be here?'

The Purple Cloud Part 27

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The Purple Cloud Part 27 summary

You're reading The Purple Cloud Part 27. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: M. P. Shiel already has 255 views.

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