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PAGE 4

A Journey
by [?]

“Ain’t he awake yet?” he enquired.

“No,” she faltered.

“I got his milk all ready when he wants it. You know you told me to have it for him by seven.”

She nodded silently and crept into her seat.

At half-past eight the train reached Buffalo. By this time the other passengers were dressed and the berths had been folded back for the day. The porter, moving to and fro under his burden of sheets and pillows, glanced at her as he passed. At length he said: “Ain’t he going to get up? You know we’re ordered to make up the berths as early as we can.”

She turned cold with fear. They were just entering the station.

“Oh, not yet,” she stammered. “Not till he’s had his milk. Won’t you get it, please?”

“All right. Soon as we start again.”

When the train moved on he reappeared with the milk. She took it from him and sat vaguely looking at it: her brain moved slowly from one idea to another, as though they were stepping-stones set far apart across a whirling flood. At length she became aware that the porter still hovered expectantly.

“Will I give it to him?” he suggested.

“Oh, no,” she cried, rising. “He–he’s asleep yet, I think–“

She waited till the porter had passed on; then she unpinned the curtains and slipped behind them. In the semi-obscurity her husband’s face stared up at her like a marble mask with agate eyes. The eyes were dreadful. She put out her hand and drew down the lids. Then she remembered the glass of milk in her other hand: what was she to do with it? She thought of raising the window and throwing it out; but to do so she would have to lean across his body and bring her face close to his. She decided to drink the milk.

She returned to her seat with the empty glass and after a while the porter came back to get it.

“When’ll I fold up his bed?” he asked.

“Oh, not now–not yet; he’s ill–he’s very ill. Can’t you let him stay as he is? The doctor wants him to lie down as much as possible.”

He scratched his head. “Well, if he’s really sick–“

He took the empty glass and walked away, explaining to the passengers that the party behind the curtains was too sick to get up just yet.

She found herself the centre of sympathetic eyes. A motherly woman with an intimate smile sat down beside her.

“I’m real sorry to hear your husband’s sick. I’ve had a remarkable amount of sickness in my family and maybe I could assist you. Can I take a look at him?”

“Oh, no–no, please! He mustn’t be disturbed.”

The lady accepted the rebuff indulgently.

“Well, it’s just as you say, of course, but you don’t look to me as if you’d had much experience in sickness and I’d have been glad to assist you. What do you generally do when your husband’s taken this way?”

“I–I let him sleep.”

“Too much sleep ain’t any too healthful either. Don’t you give him any medicine?”

“Y–yes.”

“Don’t you wake him to take it?”

“Yes.”

“When does he take the next dose?”

“Not for–two hours–“

The lady looked disappointed. “Well, if I was you I’d try giving it oftener. That’s what I do with my folks.”

After that many faces seemed to press upon her. The passengers were on their way to the dining-car, and she was conscious that as they passed down the aisle they glanced curiously at the closed curtains. One lantern- jawed man with prominent eyes stood still and tried to shoot his projecting glance through the division between the folds. The freckled child, returning from breakfast, waylaid the passers with a buttery clutch, saying in a loud whisper, “He’s sick;” and once the conductor came by, asking for tickets. She shrank into her corner and looked out of the window at the flying trees and houses, meaningless hieroglyphs of an endlessly unrolled papyrus.

Now and then the train stopped, and the newcomers on entering the car stared in turn at the closed curtains. More and more people seemed to pass–their faces began to blend fantastically with the images surging in her brain….