Meanwhile, by H. G. Wells

§ 22

For some days a great indolence had enveloped Mrs. Rylands, a lassitude of mind and body. She lay in bed now and thought over Philip’s letter, so bold, tumultuous, and alive in this shadowed peace. The sheets lay on her counterpane and seemed to emit faint echoes of riot and battle. Quite certainly that night he would have gone out raging into the garden and fought. What else could he have done? He would have rescued Vinciguerra violently. Men might have been killed perhaps and everything would have been different. Well, she was glad that had not happened. But his letter was good, quite good, and he would keep his word, she felt, and play to win his games as old Edensoke won his games, but with great ends in view and his soul alive. It was good, but for all that just now that letter fatigued her and she made no attempt to read it over again once she was through with it. It was all right with Philip. For a time things must rest on that.

Life was a very pursuing thing. She recalled the figure of Sempack, so prone to fall into inactive poses, and how combative necessity, with a face singularly like Philip’s, was forcing its way through his reluctant and comprehensive wisdom. She loved Philip, she had instigated Philip to give himself to these storming purposive activities, but just now also there was a shadowy resentment that he drove her along the path she herself had indicated. In her present mood Philip’s energy blended in thought with the kicking, struggling energy within, behaving already like another Philip eager to get at issue with the world. She thought of her child still as It, and marvelled how little she had pictured its individuality or troubled about its outlook. She had questioned Mrs. McManus and learnt how widespread was this imaginative indifference of expectant mothers. She had had a few dreams of something infantile and delightful flitting about the great garden, but they were always shadowy, and now it seemed that It was not to spend its childhood in the garden. Philip said they were to leave Casa Terragena. He, she and It. She did not want to leave Casa Terragena. She did not want to leave this room and this bed any more.

She knew this was a mood. She knew that when the time came she would leave Casa Terragena with a stout heart. Philip was her mate and captain and leader and whither he led she would go. But this afternoon she saw that without emotion, as an accepted fact of her circumstances and moral nature. The garden had become very dear to her in these last few weeks, very close and significant. Here it was that she had first experienced that sense of God at hand that comforted and sustained her now so mightily. She would be loth to leave the place. But God could be apprehended in many places. And she would remember.

There was something here that her mind made an effort to retain and examine. This apprehension of God was a matter about which she had to write to Philip. She had never told him about it. It was very secret and difficult to tell. For some days she had been brooding upon that. Yesterday and the day before she had had a peculiar disposition to put things tidy. She wanted everything in order, apple-pie order. She had made Frant unpack her clothes and linen from drawers and cupboards and helped her to replace it with a meticulous precision. She had put her writing-desk in order and tapped her row of little reference books into the exactest line. The green leather book had been minutely corrected and at last her mind had settled upon the one conclusive act of tidying up that remained for her to do, to explain to Philip about her God. But she was as lazy now as she was orderly. She had no sooner taken a sheet of paper to write than she decided to lie down. A queer disturbing sensation had come to her when she had posed herself to write, a novel challenging sensation. She would rest a little while and then she would write.

It was very important that Philip should hear from her about her God. It was the one thing wanting, she found, in his latest letters. They seemed so hard and contentious, quarrelsome was the word, they were quarrelsome and aggressive, because they lacked any sense of this mighty serenity that was behind and above and about all the details and conflicts of life. Philip had discovered the imperative of right-living, but he had still to perceive the Friend and Father who made all right things right. “Friend and Father” one said, and “He,” but these were words as ineffectual as a child’s clay models of loveliness and life. One said “He” because there seems to be more will and purposiveness in “He” than in She or It, but for all that it was a misleading pronoun, cumbered with the suggestion of a man. This that sustained the world for her, was not a person, but infinitely more than a person. As a person is more than a heap of stuff. And still one had to say “He”!

Soon now and very near to her was the crisis of maternity. She knew that to bear a child for the first time is more dangerous than to follow the most dangerous of trades. Irrational things may happen. Yet she felt no dismay at this physical storm that gathered for her. For some time now her mind had been tranquil as it had never been tranquil in her life before. It had been as though she drifted swiftly on a broad smooth stream that poured steadfastly towards a narrow gorge and inevitable rapids. Fearlessly she had swept forward through the days. On that unruffled surface everything was mirrored with the peculiar brightness and clarity of reflected things. Why was she not afraid?

Already there were eddies. The frail skiff of her being had turned about and rocked once and again. She could face it. She did not need Philip nor any comforting hand. Philip was all right and she loved him, but she did not mind in the least now that he was far away. She had her comfort and her courage, in herself and all about her. She whispered: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” She looked at the sheets of Philip’s letter within reach of her fingers and withal it seemed ten thousand miles away. All that was in suspense now and remote and for a while quite unimportant; it could wait; for the present she was with God. So near, so palpably near was He to her that her whole being swam in His. He would be with her in the darkness; He would be with her amidst the strangeness and pain.

Something stirred within her and she put out her hand and took the little green leather book that lay on her bedside table. She had to tell all that to Philip. And it was so difficult to tell Philip. Now. Difficult to tell Philip at any time. She would set something of it down if she could in case —— For some reason her hand was out of control but she contrived to scribble the words that sustained her: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

There came a sudden pain, an unaccustomed urgent pain, that made her set aside her writing hurriedly and press the little bell-push that would summon Mrs. McManus to the fray. The green leather book fell on the floor, disregarded.

The rapids had begun.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30