What Dreams May Come by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Part II. The Discord.
It was eleven o'clock when they parted for the night. Dartmouth went up to his room and sat down at his desk to write a letter to his father. In a moment he threw down the pen; he was not in a humor for writing. He picked up a book (he never went to bed until he felt sleepy), and crossed the room and sat down before the fire. But he had not read two pages when he dropped it with an exclamation of impatience: the story Weir had told him was written between every line. She had told it so vividly and realistically that she had carried him with her and almost curdled his blood. He had answered her with a joke, because, in spite of the fact that he had been strongly affected, he was angry as well. He hated melodrama, and the idea of Weir having had an experience which read like a sensational column in a newspaper was extremely distasteful to him. He sympathized with her with all his heart, but he had a strong distaste for anything which savored of the supernatural. Nevertheless, he was obliged to acknowledge that this horrible, if commonplace experience of Weir's had taken possession of his mind, and refused to be evicted. The scene kept presenting itself in all its details again and again, and finally he jumped to his feet in disgust and determined to go to the long gallery which overhung the sea, and watch the storm. Rhyd-Alwyn was built on a steep cliff directly on the coast, and exposed to all the fury of the elements. In times of storm, and when the waves were high, the spray flew up against the lower windows.
He left his room and went down the wide hall, then turned into a corridor, which terminated in a gallery that had been built as a sort of observatory. The gallery was long and very narrow, and the floor was bare. But there were seats under the windows, and on a table were a number of books; it was a place Dartmouth and Weir were very fond of when it was not too cold.
It was a clear, moonlit night, in spite of the storm. There was no rain; it was simply a battle of wind and waves. Dartmouth stood at one of the windows and looked out over the angry waters. The billows were piling one above the other, black, foam-crested, raging like wild animals beneath the lash of the shrieking wind. Moon and stars gazed down calmly, almost wonderingly, holding their unperturbed watch over the war below. Sublime, forceful, the sight suited the somewhat excited condition of Dartmouth's mind. Moreover, he was beginning to feel that one of his moods was insidiously creeping upon him: not an attack like the last, but a general feeling of melancholy. If he could only put that wonderful scene before him into verse, what a solace and distraction the doing of it would be! He could forget--he pulled himself together with something like terror. In another moment there would be a repetition of that night in Paris. The best thing he could do was to go back to his room and take an anodyne.
He turned to leave the gallery, but as he did so he paused suddenly. Far down, at the other end, something was slowly coming toward him. The gallery was very long and ill-lighted by the narrow, infrequent windows, and he could not distinguish whom it was. He stood, however, involuntarily waiting for it to approach him. But how slowly it came, as one groping or one walking in a dream! Then, as it gradually neared him, he saw that it was a woman, dimly outlined, but still unmistakably a woman. He spoke, but there was no answer, nothing but the echo of his voice through the gallery. Someone trying to play a practical joke upon him! Perhaps it was Weir: it would be just like her. He walked forward quickly, but before he had taken a dozen steps the advancing figure came opposite one of the windows, and the moonlight fell about it. Dartmouth started back and caught his breath as if someone had struck him. For a moment his pulses stood still, and sense seemed suspended. Then he walked quickly forward and stood in front of her.
"Sioned!" he said, in a low voice which thrilled through the room. "Sioned!" He put out his hand and took hers. It was ice-cold, and its contact chilled him to the bone; but his clasp grew closer and his eyes gazed into hers with passionate longing.
"I am dead," she said. "I am dead, and I am so cold." She drew closer and peered up into his face. "I have found you at last," she went on, "but I wandered so far. There was no nook or corner of Eternity in which I did not search. But although we went together, we were hurled to the opposite poles of space before our spiritual eyes had met, and an unseen hand directed us ever apart. I was alone, alone, in a great, gray, boundless land, with but the memory of those brief moments of happiness to set at bay the shrieking host of regrets and remorse and repentance which crowded about me. I floated on and on and on for millions and millions of miles; but of you, my one thought on earth, my one thought in Eternity, I could find no trace, not even the whisper of your voice in passing. I tossed myself upon a hurrying wind and let it carry me whither it would. It gathered strength and haste as it flew, and whirled me out into the night, nowhere, everywhere. And then it slackened--and moaned--and then, with one great sob, it died, and once more I was alone in space and an awful silence. And then a voice came from out the void and said to me, 'Go down; he is there;' and I knew that he meant to Earth, and for a moment I rebelled. To go back to that terrible--But on Earth there had been nothing so desolate as this--and if you were there! So I came--and I have found you at last."
She put her arms about him and drew him down onto the low window-seat. He shivered at her touch, but felt no impulse to resist her will, and she pressed his head down upon her cold breast. Then, suddenly, all things changed; the gallery, the moonlight, the white-robed, ice-cold woman faded from sense. The storm was no longer in his ears nor were the waves at his feet. He was standing in a dusky Eastern room, familiar and dear to him. Tapestries of rich stuffs were about him, and the skins of wild animals beneath his feet. Beyond, the twilight stole through a window, but did not reach where he stood. And in his close embrace was the woman he loved, with the stamp on her face of suffering, of desperate resolution, and of conscious, welcomed weakness. And in his face was the regret for wasted years and possibilities, and a present, passionate gladness; that he could see in the mirror of the eyes over which the lids were slowly falling.... And the woman wore a clinging, shining yellow gown, and a blaze of jewels in her hair. What was said he hardly knew. It was enough to feel that a suddenly-born, passionate joy was making his pulses leap and his head reel; to know that heaven had come to him in this soft, quiet Southern night.
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