The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, 1939
It had happened again; the fit had come and gone, leaving a gap in his memory, which seemed to attract a close blackness into it, like the crumbling edges of a ravine. The lust which he had once felt in life was destroyed. Who, beneath the shadow of such a doom, could pen words? or do anything?
It had even contaminated his flesh.
The father was to blame—dissipated, a habitual drunkard, with madness stretching back through many generations. Such a man his father had been; such would he inevitably become. How clearly he could see—as clear as the visions which accompanied his own writings; himself in a chair, before his escritoire, a lamp glowly feebly, the bottle, all but empty, and wine spilt across sheets of paper; yes, and his face was sunken, his hair was falling in lank curls down his forehead, and his tongue lolling stupidly.
Madness was in his family! His father was a drunkard!
"Who would allow his life to be that?" He knew the shapes that life could form. He knew the softness of love. "Daphne," she seemed a vision of pale thought and sympathy. Her eyes shone in that peculiar fashion because she loved, yes, she loved him. Him!
No! She too must be protected from himself, from the poisonous blight which he carried like a worm, within him.
"Ah Love, could thou and I with fate conspire."
It was mockery to hope, and it was misery even to think. The ultimate joy, the pulsing of heart against heart, and love in love, was for always removed from him.
"Why me?" was his thought. "What have I done to bring such a fate upon me?"
"The powders I have kept will rid the world of this menace, this branded danger."
His half averted eyes considered the insubstantial wrapping which contained the seeds of death. How desperately he hated them, insignificant as they were. "Life is a flame, and beautiful," each one seemed to cry.
With slow feet he went across for water. The tap was beautiful with chromium fittings. The water was deliciously cold.
"Keith." He looked with suddenness over his shoulder as though caught in an act of crime. The vision which had visited his mind a moment agone, was embodied in all its freshness in the doorway. Then was desire too strong to be vanquished. He laid the powders on the bench and went to her.
"What were you doing?" she asked with a sudden suspicion.
She slipped past him, and lighted on the water as though with gloved hands. She dipped a finger in the powder and tasted it; with a wry face she poured the rest into the sink and turned the tap.
They stood face to face. Their eyes met each with appeal and despair.
"Keith, I cannot be with you all the time. If you wish to do that I cannot stop you—and I do not want to if you love me only so much."page break page 49
He realised that she was unconsciously, and stealthily playing on him, and he said nothing in his own justification. He kissed her.
"Fate," he said.
"You fool," she said.
A white cloud crept across his brain; a woollen scarf enveloped him, and weakness seized on his ower limbs. Daphne saw him wilt before her, and fall to the ground. His tongue lolled out, and his eyes had become a ghoulish grey.
"Fool—fool—fool—fool—" his lips writhed and spluttered.
Without noticing the beating of her own heart, she went to the sink, where the water was still lying with the powders placid on its surface. Laboriously the girl made a collection of the powder, unheeding the horrid sound which arose behind her. At length she had them all in a glass. She turned towards him.
"Keith," she whispered.