The Eyes of the Blind
The Eyes of the Blind
BY MARY HEATON VORSE
I WAS not the only one of Alison Deming's friends to whom her marriage with Scarboro seemed menacing. I was one of those nearest to her when the calamity of blindness befell her. I saw her go through with this crucifixion with incredible gallantry. As far as she let me or any one else see, she accepted blindness as another woman might have accepted old age—I mean that blindness might have been the inevitable lot of all mankind, for all the outward signs she gave. She had the intense spiritual modesty that keeps the wounds of the spirit concealed. She only showed what it must have meant to her by achieving in the end the hard-won and beautiful serenity of spirit that is sometimes given to the blind. She showed it, too, by her altered attitude toward the men she knew. She seemed to be somehow beyond any one's reach—twice born, unapproachable, as if she had returned to us from the holy places of the earth. I suppose it was sentimental on my part to feel that this marriage with Scarboro had an element of the sacrilegious, like some ordinary person aspiring to the hand of a haloed saint.
Perhaps it was this unapproachable quality of hers that made us dubious as to Godfrey Scarboro. One could understand her loving him; it wasn't that. Any woman might have loved Godfrey Scarboro. Indeed, it might well have frightened us, considering what he was—one of those peccable, lovable creatures perpetually being forgiven for everything.
One felt that Alison should have married some one having her own other-world, unattainable quality, instead of a man who smiled in the eyes of the world, as sure of his welcome as an unusually attractive child, and who had denied himself as little as a child. In marrying Alison there had to be a certain consecration. A man had necessarily to be sure of his own temperament before he had the right to join his life with hers. No man had the right to make her risk anything. The thing which I felt most keenly about Scarboro was that he lacked the unshakable quality that a man should have for such a marriage. There are only a few men and a few women who have that quality—who make you feel of them that they will go on caring from the other side of the grave. Godfrey was not one of these. He had everything except this one thing which he should have had. That was how it seemed to those of us who loved Alison the most.
After five years we had to admit that our forebodings had come to nothing. Indeed, it seemed as if all Godfrey asked of life was to devote himself to her service. Under his love Alison bloomed into a creature of extraordinary perfection. It seemed as if life had taken her sight from her so that she might specialize in love, taste more deeply of love, than would otherwise have been possible to her. For once it seemed as if life had miraculously compensated for an apparently irreparable disaster. Godfrey was an artist in life, and he set himself to making the relation with Alison a perfect thing. He loved her with greater delicacy, with more imagination, with a higher degree of completeness than any one else could have done.
Such unions have an element of fatality to me. One is then so at the mercy of life; any alienation means such a terrible and mortal rending of the fibers of the spirit.
I had often visited them, and Alison's letter asking me to come to them roused in me happy anticipation. It was a warmer letter and more urgent than usual, and conveyed to me a flattering impression of their being eager to see me. Their greeting, when I arrived, bore out the note which Alison's letter had struck.
The first afternoon with them was more delightful than usual. Godfrey had never been more charming. Our supper on the porch was of a piece with the afternoon, so what happened then was to me entirely unexpected, unaccountable, and yet it was made of so slight a fabric that it is hard for me to attempt to convey the extraordinarily shocking impression that I had of them.
I had drawn my chair away from the supper-table that I might look down the long, sloping lawn to the hills and the sunset beyond. After a few moments I turned to them, about to make some idle remark, but the words that I would have uttered died on my lips, so deeply absorbed were the two in their own thoughts. The light, shining through the leaves, made fantastic greenon Alison's white dress, on her pale hair, and on the white of her neck.
Godfrey was not watching her. He sat inert, brooding, incredibly relaxed, his eyes on the distance. He had the air of a man who sits alone in his room, secure from all observation. It was his unconscious and terrible acknowledgment of the fact that Alison was blind. He had forgotten me.
As minute after minute drifted past, they both sat motionless. Once Alison stretched out her hand to the dying sunlight with a curious little heartrending gesture, as though she were seeking to know if the sun had yet set. Silence crowded in on them, surrounding them, cutting them off in the midst of life, isolating them from the world and from each other—the complete silence of the spirit that is as lonely as the soundless dark; a silence so deep and cold that it froze the words on my lips.
After a long time, out of this darkness of the spirit came Alison's voice. She spoke without knowing that her lips were voicing the thought that must have been at the very center of her life. The words came low—almost a whisper, a little wandering wind of sound:
"If only we had children!"
There was such an undercurrent of passion in this whisper that it seemed as if, through the white-hot intensity of Alison's longing, the wish of her heart must somehow miraculously be fulfilled. The whisper pierced Godfrey's consciousness slowly. He was long in answering, and then he replied, as though to save them both from a moment of too great poignancy, "What's that you said, Alison?"
Crimson mounted to Alison's cheeks. Her hand went to her heart. "Oh—" she murmured, "I'd forgotten you were there—I'd forgotten—" Amazement engulfed everything else.
She stared toward him as the blind stare when they try to transcend their infirmity, as though she must learn how he looked, as though it were her soul's most vital necessity to know with her eyes how he looked, since he had sat so still and since his spirit had drifted so far away that she had incredibly forgotten he was there.
At sight of her tense, peering face that was so beautiful in its blindness I saw a look almost of horror pass over Godfrey's face, as though he feared that, in another moment, she would miraculously pass the limits of blindness and with blind eyes stare implacably into the depths of his spirit, and see. He seemed conscious, not of her heartrending whisper only, but of a certain uncanny quality in her, as though it gave him "the creeps" to see her looking for the other road to sight—the road that makes the human spirit so sensitive that it becomes clairvoyant, until it finally sees with the eyes of the spirit.
Indeed, when you come down to it, that was what Alison had done when she spoke aloud into the silence and solitude. She had thought he wasn't there. Well, he wasn't! He was off without her; she had known he was, as she never could have known had she been able to see him. She had grasped the essential and significant fact in that prolonged silence as he would not have permitted himself to grasp it.
That was all. It was over so quickly that I should have thought my imagination had played me tricks except for what came later.
From the distance came the noise of horse's hoofs, and a woman's voice singing rose clear and silver above the rhythm of the galloping horse. It was a snatch of song which she sang, a handful of clear and happy notes flung into the air. Godfrey threw a quick glance at Alison.
"It's Gloria!" she said, half to herself. Her face had regained its lovely calm, and with the reflection of the dying day on it she looked like some humanly sweet and lovely saint.
Godfrey strolled quietly out on to the piazza, smoking, went down the steps, thrust at a branch of rambler rose, and came back again. Unconsciously he went through a dozen small manœuvers that would make it appear, when he finally strolled away, that he was about to return immediately. He stayed a moment at the foot of the steps, but, as he started to stroll away again, Alison called to him.
"If you're going to Gloria's, why don't you bring her back to sing for us?"
Godfrey hesitated. "I hadn't thought of going to Gloria's, but if you'd like to hear her sing—?"
"I love to hear Gloria sing," Alison gave back sweetly.
While Godfrey was gone we chatted like old friends. I had been big boy to Alison's little girl. But underneath the easy flow of our talk I had the sense that she was waiting for Godfrey's return with the strained attention of an anxious wife. And she had never had a string to him—she was divinely undemanding. They came in, bringing with them the elusive smell of wet pine-leaves.
We all talked of indifferent things until Alison took Gloria affectionately by the hand and led her to the piano.
When Gloria sang she threw out into the air all the shimmering things of life, all the glad things. Her voice sounded like the song of a lovely rebellious child. She stopped and received our heartfelt applause—and pulled a scarf over her head, saying, "I must run home!"
"Godfrey must go with you," Alison suggested.
"No, Godfrey mustn't!" she said. There was a fluttering note of finality in her voice.
"But Godfrey always goes with you," Alison objected.
"It's the sort of night," Gloria explained, "when one feels as if one had found some new way of moving—neither swimming nor flying, but like both; a night so full of moonlight that it is as if the world were flooded with some new ether. I always feel as if I had found the way to move in it, and you can only feel that alone, you know—that sort of swift, glad, disembodied feeling." Her voice had a little throb in it.
Her passion for the night had moved her deeply. She stood there, extraordinarily lovely looking, as she had looked when she was a very young girl—looking like a very spirit of the night. She paused a moment, and then flitted off swiftly and softly, as if she had indeed found her own perfect element in which to move.
That was all that happened. To even so close a friend as I was to them all, there was apparent not the slightest effort on the part of any one.
Next day Godfrey motored to town, and I was strolling about looking for Alison, when I chanced on her, sitting under the pergola. You may imagine how absorbed in her thoughts she must have been, for she didn't hear me. It was the first time in all my life that I had ever seen her off her guard, and what I saw would have made me creep away had it been possible. But she had heard me now, and from that terrible blind mask of suffering came her voice speaking my name; there was no pretense that any one could make. I sat down beside her and took her hand without speaking. We sat in silence for a while; then, as though speaking to herself,
"If I tell, it may help," she said.
"Tell me what has happened," I begged her, gently.
She gave back a little despairing cry. "Oh, nothing's happened! Nothing on God's earth has happened, except that since yesterday I've been living in hell, and I know it's my fault. I thought I'd won—triumphed!" She made an eloquent gesture toward her sightless eyes. "When I wrote to you to come, I'd been feeling lonely; I thought you'd chase away my little ghost; it was nothing more than a morbid streak—then. First, it came like a faint, chill, poisonous, cold wind; then the shadows pressed in on me. I would go shivering up to Godfrey and find him just as he always is—faultless. There hasn't been one single little thing that any human being could put a hand on. I went searching round and round for a reason, and just as I put my hand on it it was gone." She paused. Then, as if what she had to say was incredibly difficult: "I found my reason last night; when I put my hand on Godfrey's sleeve and felt it was damp from the woods at night, I almost said, 'The woods must be lovely,' but I checked myself. Then, as Gloria was singing, it was as if the curtain went up. Everything became clear. I knew the meaning of my loneliness and why I had not spoken of their going through the woods, nor why he had chosen that way back." She leaned to me. "Do you know the reason? It was that he might keep out of the paths—" and then she gave out the unbelievable thing—"It is that they might keep out of the paths in which Godfrey and I have walked! It's Godfrey's protest—a protest so deep I don't believe he's conscious of it—against the close-woven fabric of our lives. He wanted to take her to a place where I couldn't go; and I knew, when she was singing, that she was singing to Godfrey, and that they were looking at each other with the understanding that is possible only to those who can look into each other's eyes."
I cannot express with what concentrated and bitter accusation she gave this out, and yet the accusation was not for Godfrey, but for herself; nor, unless you knew Alison, could I make you understand the violence she did herself in talking to me. She wanted no assurance from me. She had nothing in common with the overwrought human being who seeks relief in speech. She dragged all this to the surface, spread it out naked in the light, as if it was some venomous thing that could only live in the shadows. In telling me, she was doing—as she always had done—the extraordinarily gallant thing. She didn't ask for anything from me, not one little thing—neither sympathy nor understanding. I said nothing; she didn't want my assurances, still less did she want sympathy. She let me plumb the full measure of her revolt against herself by saying:
"This is my love—it seems."
She left me in silence for a while to confront the difficulty. There seemed no end to it. Alison faced the bitter choice of losing all faith in herself or faith in Godfrey; of being infinitely soiled in her own eyes, or having her whole life torn asunder. As I thought this, some warning voice told me that Alison had not been wrong; that, wordless and insistent, instinct had pressed its awful, voiceless certainty upon her; and yet, there was Godfrey, whose every gesture and glance was a living denial, and there was Gloria, Alison's friend. How believe a thing like this? It was just one of those things that decent people didn't do. But whether she was right or wrong, there seemed no way out for Alison. I felt the same sickening sensation that I had when I first learned that she had to be blind.
She spoke again, as though addressing some dark presence.
"Not one single little thing has happened," she repeated, as if arguing, and I knew it was as if she had hurled herself against some unrelenting fact. I had to find out where she really stood, and so I asked:
"Alison, would you rather I went away?" I knew that if she really believed her instinct, she would not have me stay to see Godfrey betray himself before me, and the way she answered instantly, "No; stay if you will," made me know that even in her innermost heart it was herself whom she believed at fault, and not Godfrey; and that, far above the darkness into which she had been plunged, his love seemed to her clear and undimmed, but of a sudden become far-off and unattainable—a beautiful star which could shed no warmth on her. I knew, too, that the mute, watchful instinct within her would continue to bring her proof, so that she would believe in Godfrey and yet know that her belief was unfounded; so that she would continue to have her heart filled with suspicion, and yet know that suspicion had never entered, only fact.
For the next few days Gloria did not come to the house, nor did Godfrey propose that we should find her; neither did Alison again speak to me of the battle which I knew went on, without mercy and without rest, within her heart. On the surface of our lives all was fair and sweet. We read together, and Godfrey held Alison's hand while we read. But there was one thing that impressed me as it had the first night—Godfrey's attitudes, the way he sat, the slouch of his shoulders, his postures. They were of a man off his guard; yet his voice was that of a man eternally watchful. He would sit, as I had seen him that night, slouched into himself, as a man deeply weary; and his voice, as he spoke to Alison, would ring out tender and reassuring. And I knew this tenderness maddened Alison. I knew she was longing to cry out to Godfrey: "Go and find Gloria! Don't you suppose I can feel you listening for the sound of her horse's hoofs? I hear them three seconds before you can hear them. I hear them in my sleep, the sound of her horse's hoofs, as I hear your restless thoughts walking about, as I can see you with my blind eyes, straining away from me to her."
The third day, when we were sitting together, reading, Alison said, "Let's go and meet Gloria; we haven't walked to-day."
Godfrey turned his head sharply. Far off Gloria was coming toward us, and it seemed a miracle that the sound of her footsteps at such a distance should have reached even Alison's ears.
As they met, Alison kissed Gloria on her forehead, put her arm around her and slipped the other through Godfrey's, and so they walked back together, Alison, sweet and fair, dividing them implacably.
Instinct told her when Gloria was expected, and she went to meet her. Instinct told her when Godfrey wished to leave her—perhaps to find Gloria—and she kept him, so smoothly, so plausibly, that her very plausibility must have sickened her. Again, she would ask Gloria to sit with her for an afternoon and send Godfrey away on some pretext. I knew that after each manœuver of hers she felt infinitely soiled, infinitely degraded. She listened—listened for the sound of Godfrey's voice and Gloria's together, listened for the far-off rustle of Gloria's dress. I knew that, whether Alison's instinct was right or wrong, Gloria and Godfrey must have felt it, and that for them the tension must at times have been almost unbearable.
As the days went on, Alison surpassed herself. She made use, it seemed to me, of other senses than those of which we know—she seemed to feel it in the air when they thought of each other, and more and more she subtly divided her husband from her friend. There was no end to the excuses she knew how to make so that she might be always with them.
I realized at last why at times she was so clairvoyantly sure. It was because she was for ever on the alert. For once that she was right, twenty times she groped her way down the stairs to listen for the sound of Gloria's footsteps. A hundred times she thought she heard low sounds of talking, of voices where no voices were. And yet, for everything she did there was nothing tangible of which Godfrey or any one could have accused her, any more than there was anything of which she might have accused him. Neither one, in their hideous game of blindman's-buff, had one actual fact to bring into the sanity of broad daylight.
Whichever way Godfrey turned he seemed bound by invisible chains; invisible barriers presented themselves in his path. Alison had always some plan which involved him; her infirmity held him as inexorably as it limited her.
When he came back from town it seemed to me that Godfrey was for ever manœuvering to leave Alison to me, and was for ever being out-manœuvered. Yet so gentle was he, so faultless, that never once could one have been sure that what he was trying to do was more than merely a gentle, almost unconscious effort on his part to preserve his necessary independence. There wasn't a flaw or a break in the conduct of any of the four of us. Even I, who had been warned, could never tell which of Alison's two certainties were right—whether in very fact she was poisoning the life about her, or whether her clairvoyant instinct had perceived what no eyes could see. But one thing I knew: that if, under our unnatural tranquillity, we all suffered—each in his own way, even though Godfrey suffered innocently—it was Alison whose very life was torn in two.
Grief can kill and betrayal can put out the light of the spirit, but it is in conflict that the soul can find its most nameless torture. When the soul says "Yes" and "No" at once, then there is no rest, no peace, no end to torment.
So torn and ravaged was she that it seemed to me that beneath the unruffled surface of life waited death. I could see Alison's face become transparent; I could see her very heart beat through her frail body.
"Can they guess?" I asked myself. "Do they know, and can they still go on with their relentless torture, or are they innocent and themselves on the rack, not dreaming what is wrong or why they suffer?"
I do not know how they felt, but it seemed to me that any catastrophe—the whole fabric of life pulled to pieces about us—would be better than this smooth and smiling surface of life whereon we lived. The only hint they gave one another of what they really felt was the way they clung to me when I suggested that my visit must come to an end. I do not know what the others felt, but I waited with every nerve frozen for relief—waited day and night for something to happen which should put an end to the horror in which we lived.
Then it came. Not, as I had imagined, in one thunderclap; it stole on me so quietly and stealthily that I might have denied that anything had happened.
We had finished breakfast a half-hour, and I had sat down outside on the veranda which ran past Godfrey's study. I started to go into the library through the long French window just as Godfrey came in at the door. He paused at the door, staring at a corner of the room as if he would not credit his eyes. I followed his gaze, and there, at the end of the long, book-lined room, sat Gloria.
She sat in the shadow, her face glowing like some exotic flower, divided from him by three golden barriers of sunshine which streamed in through the open windows. At sight of him she did not speak, but flung out her hand in a little gesture of poignant welcome. Godfrey's mouth framed her name, but without sound. In those few, brimming, silent moments they compressed an eternity of words, all the things they had not said.
Then, before they could seek relief in speech, Alison's soft, groping, uncertain footstep came down the hall. At once Godfrey stripped from them both the possibility of decent pretense, if pretense there had been, and at the same time made Gloria his accomplice, for, as he walked to the door to meet Alison he turned, and with a gesture at once vague and passionate—a gesture which was as instinctive a reaction as that of a falling man who clutches at some support—he imposed silence on Gloria.
Alison stood in the doorway, and Godfrey took her hand with a "Were you looking for me, dear?" The very naturalness of his voice jangled horribly through the silent room.
Alison did not answer; she turned her sightless face toward Gloria. "I thought I heard some one talking," she said, faintly, and the lying truthfulness of Godfrey's cheerful "You didn't hear a soul!" made me see his heart naked.
Still Alison turned her face toward Gloria; still her blind, gentle, questioning look was on Gloria's face. It seemed to me that there was no air left to breathe in the world. I expected to hear her cry aloud:
"I know Gloria is here! I can hear the faint rustle of her dress; I can hear her breathe, and the wild beating of her heart. I feel your hand tense in mine, Godfrey. The air about me clamors with the words you have not needed to speak. Don't lie to me—for I know, as I have always known, but I must now have the certainty of your assurance. I can no longer live in the night with my certainties only. Give me light! The truth from your lips, though it kill me!"
Into this desperate silence again came Godfrey's voice: "Shall we go out, dear?" He took her arm in his. "Aren't you well this morning, Alison dear?" he asked, his voice all solicitude.
"A little tired, that's all. I didn't sleep well," Alison answered, her tranquil voice in discordant contrast to her pale, questioning face.
I stared at Gloria. She did not move; she was waiting for Godfrey to come back; and I sat down on a chair outside the window, appalled and curiously relieved to see truth at last.
It was impossible to tell if they had met thus before, or if, up to the very moment of his gesture of silence, neither of them had faced the truth. Perhaps Love had stolen on them unawares and enmeshed them before they recognized him. Or they may have known and excused themselves by the world-old sophistries and self-deceptions of the faithless. It would have been so easy for Godfrey to say that he gave Gloria nothing that was Alison's, and that they could have their love without hurting her.
I could not tell. We had all played our parts so well that anything might be true. I only know that in the glimpse I had had of Gloria's face I saw that a dark happiness bloomed there. She had the look of one who no longer struggles, but who knows the infinite rest of being borne along on Love's mighty bosom.
There was a profound silence, as though enchantment lay upon the quiet library; and on the vine-shaded porch the only sound was the droning of bees; and, scarcely louder than the bees, from the other side of the house, where he was making her comfortable, came the murmur of Godfrey's voice and Alison's.
I without and Gloria within, both waited for Godfrey's return, for that he would return he had shown when he had bade her be quiet; and I knew that, with her strained attention, she must inevitably hear me should I now move. Godfrey once back, I could slip away unperceived.
The moments lengthened, and I waited until I felt that something must give way within me. I waited until I marveled at Gloria's resistance, and I measured her need of talking with Godfrey by this endurement of prolonged suspense. While I waited, my thoughts, nightmare-like, rioted through my brain. God knows, I had expected tragedy of some sort, and I sat waiting for it to come, but this turning of Alison's blindness to account was a detail for which I had not been prepared. I realized now that while I had looked for a tragedy, I had been searching this way and that for some escape. Now all roads seemed blocked. There was nothing to be done, it seemed to me, but sit still and see Alison's life wrecked.
At last I heard Godfrey's swiftly returning footsteps. I heard the low sound of their voices come to me for a moment, and then they stopped, as though their words had been clipped from them with a sword. From far off came Alison's blind and groping step again. She had followed Godfrey closely. I heard the sliding touch of her all-seeing hands over the open front door. I waited, with bated breath and beating heart, for them to begin some ordinary conversation, but none came. The soft, groping steps came nearer. I heard them pause in front of the open library door, and then, with an infinite relief which must have been echoed from within the room, I heard her pass on, and then her more assured footfall upon the stairs.
It was as though Death paused and then passed by. And yet I knew that Alison always called out to Godfrey when she passed his door, and I wondered, as I knew they must be wondering: "What has she heard? Can she know?"
I made my escape noiselessly. Later, Godfrey came to look for me.
"Alison doesn't feel well," he told me. "It's nothing much—just one of her headaches. I told Gloria I'd motor her up to the village, but I don't like to leave Alison alone. Will you tell Gloria?"
At lunch Alison didn't come down, nor through the afternoon, nor the next day, and under his calm surface I could see Godfrey's anxiety grow. Gloria came only once, and Godfrey walked down to meet her; for some time they stood talking earnestly together.
During the afternoon Godfrey went up and down the stairs a dozen times. At last he said to me: "I wish you'd see Alison. I wish you'd make her have a doctor."
"Can't you make her?" I asked him.
"She won't have one. She won't hear of it," he gave back; "she says there's nothing the matter with her except the aftermath of a headache."
"Well, what do you think?" I asked him.
"What do I think? I'll tell you what I think—she's suffering horribly. She's like some one living in torment, I tell you. She's in awful distress—mental or physical; she won't tell me which. She won't tell me anything. Something's got to be done. It isn't right that she should suffer this way."
It was his way of putting it aloud to himself. I took it that he had been so perfectly on his guard, that his conduct had been so flawless, that he would not believe that it was on his account that Alison was suffering.
"She's suffering so," he went on, "that she isn't herself."
"What do you mean?" I asked him again.
"Why, she's queer in the way she speaks to me." He choked a little over it. "Apologetic—as if she were begging my pardon for something or other. Go up and see her. See what you can do with her."
He might have spared himself the pain of telling me she was suffering. No one could have lived in that house without knowing it. There are times when people live in such mortal agony that it darkens the sky for those about them. Had Alison been screaming aloud in anguish so that our ears were deafened with it, we could not have been more conscious of it. No one could have lived in that silent house without knowing that some obscure and terrible battle of the spirit was going on within its walls.
I went to Alison, as Godfrey wished, but my mission was useless. As soon expect one bleeding to death on a battle-field to listen to some alien chatter of philosophy as expect Alison to call a physician. She made polite, stereotyped answers to my inquiries, but from her face looked pain and madness and something like despair. I felt as though she were near the breaking-point. There is a limit, after all, to what a human being will endure of suffering. One thing came to me as definite—it had been forming itself in my mind from the beginning—and that was that without Godfrey and his love, radiant and complete, she could not live. As far as Alison was concerned, he was life itself; and for her to continue to live, he had to be something that, for the moment, at any rate, he was not.
Evidently Godfrey was still sure that, in Alison's words, she had "not one little thing to go upon," unless, indeed, there had been a monstrous miracle and she had seen his gesture to Gloria, and in spite of it had suffered herself to be led away; had even known, when Godfrey left her, that he was going to find Gloria again; and on her way back had heard her voice, and so, stabbed to the heart, had gone up-stairs to die.
I do not know what I had expected that night. I threw myself on the bed half-dressed and dozed fitfully, as one who expects to be called by illness. It seemed to me that the house was full of strange and awful whisperings; the very walls seemed full of the suspense and waiting that one feels where a spirit is struggling to take flight and the body is struggling to retain it. Toward morning I slept, but roused very early and dressed. Godfrey met me in the hall, and to my questioning glance:
"She's different," he hesitated. "She's very weak and very gentle. It's—it's—" he choked a moment. "It's as if she had given up."
And so it seemed.
"I'll wait till noon and then I'll send for Carter," he told me. "It's absurd," he added, as if arguing with himself fiercely, "unless she's been brooding over something about her blindness. She's been feeling a little tired for a few days on coming down to breakfast, but nothing has happened that could disturb her. I must see her then, watch her drifting out as a boat drifts out to sea before my eyes. I'll wait till noon," he repeated. "She's resting now, and at noon I'll go up."
We took books, both of us, and made a pretense at reading. Later Gloria joined us. Then suddenly we looked at one another with questioning eyes and waited, listening tensely as we three had listened to the same sound before—Alison's soft and careful step descending the stairs.
I do not know what it was I expected during those seconds of suspense, but I waited, and I know Godfrey and Gloria waited, for some verdict of life or death. We all rose to our feet as Alison came out of the front door, facing us.
She seemed infinitely spent, as one who has traveled back from the other side of death, spent as one must be who has only that moment triumphed over death and pain. For that was what she was—triumphant—her head up, gallant, as she had been when she had overcome her infirmity of the flesh, but now she had won a greater victory.
The conflict was over with her; and, as I looked from Godfrey to Gloria, I knew, too, that the conflict was over for them, for the love and radiance that shone from Alison's face put out their little flicker of passion as the glory of the sun puts out the light of a penny candle.
She had fought with death for her belief in Godfrey and had won, and now she came to him with this shining vision of his spirit; in a flash of understanding I realized—and I know Godfrey understood as well—that she had won a supreme victory of the spirit, which made the rewinning of his heart a mere incident in the greater victory.
It has taken me months of turning the thing over this way and that to understand what happened in Alison's heart through the days of mortal conflict, and in what her victory consisted, and what it was that happened to Godfrey and Gloria when they looked on Alison's face, which, for that brief moment, reflected the streaming light of heaven.
I have found my answer to it. I know that we three surely saw a miracle that morning as great as any of which we read. But to explain this to the literal-minded I would have to answer the Sphinx's riddle, "Who am I?" and, "What is Truth?" and I am not psychologist or philosopher enough to go very far on the devious and mysterious paths by which one discovers the complex nature of the personality—nor can I take any one deep into the mysteries that form the nature of truth. I know only that Alison made all of us stand for a moment face to face with that shining thing.
During those long days of struggle she had denied her inner warning instinct. She had denied the very evidence of her senses. She had thrown aside, like useless rubbish, all the things we call truth, and had thereby attained a higher truth. She had denied her senses' evidence until at last she had seen Godfrey and all of life with the eyes of the spirit which from all time have been the eyes of the blind.
She had found the other road to sight, and what she had seen had made the evidence of her senses of no value. And at that moment of insight the evidence of my senses, too, became as nothing. I had seen Godfrey betray Alison, yet when I saw Alison's face I knew this had never been so, or rather that this betrayal was as trivial and unimportant as the opening and shutting of a window, and that the flaming passion of Godfrey and Gloria, which, for a time,to destroy the lives of all of us, in the face of this ultimate truth was but the flicker of a moment.
This is all that I can tell of what happened. I only know that since then, in our different ways, Godfrey, Gloria, and I have believed. For we saw a spirit rise, as though from the dead.