FIFTH INTERLUDE

THE HOUSE WITHOUT YOU

I have come home to an empty house. For three nights and three days it will be without you.

It is the same house as ever, but so different; a hearth without a fire, a lamp unlit, the score of a song that is not being sung. In the dining-room, on your chair's back an old blue coat waits where you left it. In the kitchen your gardening-gloves hang over the fire-place, while the clock counts the seconds of your absence. In the larder are the dishes you have cooked for me, to last till Friday. In the bedroom, an ancient hair-brush and a crippled comb, scent bottles, books that you never have time to read, and pamphlets, leaflets, papers; and the bed, soon to be freighted on one side only.

The sooner I am asleep the better, for without you this place is not home.

When you are here, it is the very stronghold of reality. The wind may howl around it, but always vainly. True, a welter of phantoms is ever surging against these walls, phantoms of war, social conflicts, evolutionary forces; and, beyond all, the cold unknown. They are all huge and formidable, and some of them must actually be dealt with; and yet all of them, while you are here, are insubstantial, somehow unreal. Even the bombs that shook the house (so that a particular rattling door-handle always cows me) were somehow, for all their screaming and blasting, not quite real.

But now, with you gone away, there is no light here to drive back the invading shadows, no warmth to withstand the outer cold. The phantoms have turned real. The wind's howl is frightening. The all too tangible weight and pressure of a brute universe thrusts against these frail walls. They sag inward, they crack and gape, revealing the driven clouds, a war-sick planet, and the dying suns, gripped within the eternity of the cold dark.

But on Friday when you come home, the lamp will be lit once more, the song will be sung again, the ghosts will be laid. For the thing that unites us, the spirit that comprises us as the sphere its hemispheres, will be once more and indubitably the heart of reality.

Chapter 6

Chapter 5

Death Into Life Contents