Through the Postern Gate: A Romance in Seven Days
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He did not look at her, as he passed her the stamps. He had long thought her one of the finest women who stepped in and out of the post-office. He had never expected to see her hands tremble. And fancy any woman – even she– being able to tell Guy Chelsea not to fly! He had a bet on, about that flight, with an enthusiastic backer of Chelsea's. He was glad he had taken the odds against its coming off, before seeing this wire. But – after all! It is easy enough to ask a chap not to fly; but —
He took up a copy of the Daily Mirror, and looked at the brave smiling face. "I jolly well mean to do it!" the young aeronaut seemed to be saying. The clerk laughed, and shook his head. "Hurry up that wire," he called to the operator. Then he jingled the loose change in his pockets. "I wonder," he said.
During the hours which followed, Christobel Charteris knew suspense.
Perhaps that strong, self-contained nature could never have fully sounded the depths of its own surrender, without those hours of uncertainty, when nothing stood between her and the man she loved, but the possibility that her telegram would fail to reach him; that he would carry out his dangerous flight; that disaster and death would overtake him and wrest him from her, and that he would die – Guy Chelsea would die – without ever knowing of the cup of bliss she was now ready, with utterly loving hand, to hold to his lips.
Having sent her message, there was nothing more she could do, and the burden of inaction seemed almost too great a weight to carry, during the hours which must elapse, before his coming could turn uncertainty into assurance; restlessness, into peace.
It did not occur to her, as a possibility, that Guy Chelsea would elect to fly, after receiving her request. She knew her slightest wish would be law to the Boy's tender loyalty; and though he knew nothing of her cause for anxiety, nor of the complete change of circumstances since he left her, not forty-eight hours before, she felt sure he would not fly; she felt certain he would come – if —if the message reached him in time.
At two o'clock it came to her, with overwhelming certainty, that her message had not reached him, and that he had started on his flight. She seemed to see the great wings mounting – mounting; then skimming over the sea. She almost heard the hum he had so often described – the hum of the giant insect on which the bird-man flew.
Her own Little Boy Blue was flying through space. O God, what might not any minute be bringing! He had said: "One never expects those things to happen, and when they do happen, it's over so quickly that there is no time for expectation." Was it happening now? Was it going to be over so quickly, that her cup of bliss would be dashed from her lips untasted? Was she to lose her all, because of a cross-current or a twisted wire?
She was walking up and down the garden now, and paused beside the chair in which she had sat when he had said, only seven days ago: "It was always you I wanted; not your niece.Good heavens! How can you have thought it was Mollie, when it was you – you – just only you, all the time?" And she, half-laughing at him, had asked: "Is this a proposal?"
"My ALL," she said. "Oh, Boy dear, my ALL. If I lose you, I lose my ALL."
She walked on slowly, moving to the repetition of those words. It seemed a comfort to repeat the great fact that, at last, he was this to her. Surely it would reach him, by some sort of wireless telegraphy through space. Surely it would control cross-currents, keep propellers acting as they should; steering-gear from twisting.
"O God, he is my ALL – he is my ALL!"
The afternoon sun began to glint through the trees.
The jolly little "what-d'-you-call-'ems" lifted pale anxious faces to the sky.
Clocks all around chimed the hour of four.
Suddenly her limbs weakened. She could walk no longer.
She sank into a chair, beneath the mulberry-tree.
In a few minutes Jenkins would bring out tea. Would Martha have arranged a tea such as the Boy loved, with cups for two, hot buttered-toast and explosive buns?
What a boy he was, at heart – this man who had won her; what a gay, laughter-loving boy!
She lay back, very still, under the mulberry-tree, and lived again through each of the Boy's days, from the first to the sixth.
She kept her eyes closed. The sunlight, glinting through the mulberry leaves, fell in bright patches on her white gown, and on her soft golden hair.
The garden was very still. All nature seemed waiting with the heart that waited.
"Little Boy Blue, come blow me your horn!"
"I shall blow it all right on the seventh day," the Boy had said; "and when I do, you will hear it."
This was the seventh day.
Suddenly the horn of a motor tooted loudly in the lane.
She rose, her hands clasped upon her breast, and stood waiting
A shaft of golden sunlight streamed down the garden, and seemed to focus on the postern gate.
Then the gate swung open and the Boy came in, slamming it behind him. She saw him coming up the lawn toward her, bareheaded; the sunlight in his shining eyes.
"I couldn't wait for trains," he shouted. "I came by motor. And I jolly well exceeded the speed-limit all the way!"
She moved a few steps to meet him.
"Boy dear," she said, "you always exceed all speed-limits. It is a way you have. Exceed them as much as you like, so long as I am with you when you do it. But – oh, my Little Boy Blue! – don't fly again; for, if you fall and break your wings, indeed you will break my heart."
In a moment she was sobbing on his breast, her arms flung around him. There was nothing broken or limp about his strong young body, pulsating with life.
He put his arms about her, holding her in a clasp of close possessive tenderness.
He did not yet understand what had happened; but he knew the great gift he desired had been given him. He waited for her to speak.
She lifted her face to his.
"Guy," she said; "ah, take me, hold me, keep me! I am altogether your own. I will explain to you fully, by and by. The stone was very great; but lo, as we reached it, the Angel of the Lord had rolled it away… No other man has a shadow of claim over me. I am free to say, to the only man I have ever really loved: Take me; I am yours. Oh, Boy! I am altogether yours."
He bent over her.
The sweet proud lips were parted in utter surrender, and lifted to his.
He paused – just for one exquisite moment, of realization.
She waited his kiss with closed eyes, so she did not see the radiance of his face, as he looked up to the blue sky, flecked with fleeting white clouds. But she heard the voice, which from that hour was to make the music of her life:
"Thank the Lord," said Little Boy Blue.
Then – he kissed her.
"And the evening and the morning were the seventh day."
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