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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Survivor - Chapter 39. A Journey--And A Wedding
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The Survivor - Chapter 39. A Journey--And A Wedding Post by :erikhj Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :1751

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The Survivor - Chapter 39. A Journey--And A Wedding

CHAPTER XXXIX. A JOURNEY--AND A WEDDING

A brilliant and scathing criticism of a successful society play, signed by Douglas in full, and admitted to the columns of a periodical whose standing was unique, followed close upon the issue of his novel. His articles to the Courier were as vivid and characteristic as ever--he had passed with scarcely an effort after his initial success into the front ranks of contemporary writers. Of his private sorrows the world knew nothing, and he carried himself always with an impenetrable front. Yet after that night he felt that a break in his life was imperative--was a necessary condition indeed of his sanity. The literary and society papers chronicled his retirement into the wilds of Devonshire, where he was reported to be studying the plot of his next novel. As a matter of fact he had embarked upon a longer journey.

From Paris, after hours of indecision, he wired to Emily de Reuss at Molchavano.

"May I come to you?--DOUGLAS."

For a week he waited restlessly, a week of weary sightseeing and abortive attempts at holiday making. No answer came. On the eighth day he moved on to Vienna and sent another telegram.

"I am coming to you.--DOUGLAS."

Still no reply. He waited for a day or two and then moved on to St. Petersburg. Here he took up his quarters at the Hotel de l'Europe, and began to make inquiries about the journey across Siberia. From here he sent another message out over the snowbound wastes.

"I leave for Molchavano in fourteen days.--DOUGLAS."


He made all the preparations for his journey, but on the twelfth day came word from her.

"I implore you not to come. Return to London and await my letter." He travelled back, and those who saw him on his return remarked that the air of Devonshire had been without its usual benefit so far as he was concerned. He shut himself up, wrote scarcely a line, waited only for his letter. It came sooner than he had expected. It contained more than he had dared to hope, less than he had prayed for. This is what he read--

"THE FORTRESS OF MOLCHAVANO,

"October 17th.

"So, Douglas, you have learnt the truth. Well, I am glad of it. You believe in me now? You always may. Looking back upon our last interview my only regret is that I did not tell you the whole truth then.

"It was foolish of me to withhold it--foolish and inconsequent. Yet I believe that if I had told you I should not have been here now. So, after all, I have no regrets.

"I can hear you ask me then--jealous as ever--what is it that I have found here to reconcile me so easily to our separation, to an isolation which is indeed incredible and almost awful? Douglas, it is that I have found good to do. Everybody, you, I am afraid, included, has always looked upon me as a very selfish woman, and indeed I have been so most of the days of my life. Never mind, my chance has come. It was you who drove me here. Thank you, Douglas. Believe me that I shall bless you for it so long as I live.

"Would you care to know anything of my life, I wonder. No? For many reasons it were best not to tell you too much. The fortress in which I live--where the walls and floors are of stone, and without, the snow is deep upon the ground--is only a few yards from the prison where my husband is kept. I see him for five minutes every day through a window with iron bars--yet he tells me that the thought of that five minutes keeps him alive hour by hour, and I am beginning to believe it. For, Douglas, such monotony as this is a thing outside the imagination. From the hilltop on which the prison is built I can see for twenty miles, and there is not a tree, nor a building, not even a rise or fall in the ground to break the awful and dazzling loneliness of that great field of snow. Below me are the grim shafts of the mines, down which the prisoners here go ironed every day. Away on the horizon westwards is the black line of pine forests, in whose shadows is night everlasting. A wolf howls beneath my window every night, and for months I have seen no colour save in an occasionally lurid sunset with crimson afterglow. In the daytime I help in the hospital--at night I sit before a wood fire and look out beyond my whitewashed walls across the mighty forest, back to London, and then, dear, you may know that it is you of whom I am thinking.

"Your telegrams reached me together, or I would have stopped you on the way. I am glad, Douglas, that you know the truth; I am glad that you have wanted me. Be patient and brave. Life is opening for you through many avenues. Take what comes to you, and remember that your development is a holy duty to yourself and your fellows. We are like two stars, Douglas, who have passed one another in the darkness and floated away into a great sea of space. The future may be ours again, but the present is for other things than regrets. There are worlds to lighten ever, though our shining is a very small thing. Be true to yourself and to your destiny.

"I want to be honest with you, Douglas. For the first time in my life I am willingly suffering privations, I am neglecting my own amusement and happiness for the sake of others. Yet I am not of the stuff whereof saints and martyrs are fashioned. This life in time would drive me mad. You would ask me I know--how long? I answer that I stay here so long as I can bear it and my health serves. It may be for months, perhaps years. Yet I promise you this, if it is a promise which you care to have. When it is ended I will send you word.

"Until then, Douglas, if you care to have me sign myself so,

"I am,

"Your faithful friend,

"EMILY DE REUSS."

Douglas drew paper and ink towards him, and wrote back with breathless haste--

"I will do your bidding, and whether it be for a year or twenty years, I will wait."

* * * * *

He carried her letter with him to Cicely's wedding, and they all noticed with pleasure a new buoyancy in his walk and bearing, a keener light in his eyes, and the old true ring in his voice. There was never a shadow of envy in his heart as he watched Drexley's happiness. Joan and he saw them off at Charing Cross for the Continent, and they walked back to her rooms together.

"So you are really going home to Feldwick, Joan?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Yes. Since I left it I have done nothing but make mistakes. I think that the old life is best for me."

He glanced at her curiously a moment or two later as they crossed the street. She had grown older during the last few months, and there were streaks of grey in her hair. Yet the lines in her face were softer, the narrowness and suspicion were smoothed away; her eyes were still keen, but with a kindlier light. At her door, where he parted from her, she looked away across his shoulder.

"It is a wonderful city, this, Douglas," she said. "It has made a great man of you and a happy woman of Cissy."

"And you?" he asked gently.

"Well, it has taught me a little tolerance, I think," she said. "You know we Strongs are hill folk, our loves and hates are lasting and perhaps narrow. I have been a mistaken woman, but I have much to be thankful for. I came to my senses before any one was made to suffer through me. So now, good night, and good-by, Douglas. You bear me no ill-will, I know?"

"Not a shred," he answered, taking her hand into his. "You will miss Cissy, I am afraid."

She sighed, and he saw something in her eyes which haunted him for long afterwards.

"Some of us," she said, "are born to be lonely--to see those whom we care for drift away. There's no help for it, I'm afraid. So good-by, Douglas, and good fortune to you."

The door closed sharply upon her sob. Douglas walked slowly away westwards.

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