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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 6, No. 4 April 14, 1943

Short Story

page 3

Short Story

Old Mrs. Reardon had said only that morning that she knew that Gilbert was well; it was more than a premonition; it was a direct message through the sky. "Dolly," she had said to her old friend over the beautiful morning teacups, "I feel it in my bones. I'm going to hear from him today—this very day."

So old Mrs. Reardon, so old and so fragile that it semed that she would crumble if she were touched, lived out that day in trembling anticipation. She felt so strongly that news would come that the passing of the post girl right by her gate left her quite unperturbed. It would be a telegram; a wireless message from the Vatican; anything, but it would come.

When evening came and a soft rain began to fall on the concrete paths outside her front door, her hopes fell a little; just a little, because she was so sure that news would come, that had an angel fluttered down her path bearing a harp in one hand and a letter in the other she would not have been surprised.

By the time she usually went to bed, the soft rain had become a heavy downpour, lashing the trees like whips, while a real Taranaki gale moaned round the eaves and vamped in the cabbage trees. Old Mrs. Reardon was very worried; her thin, white hands; could hardly keep still and she kept saying: "God won't forget; God won't forget"; but as she wearily divested herself of the long black dress and stiffly climbed into her cold bed, she thought secretly that God must have forgotten and perhaps— perhaps something was wrong. Indignantly she pushed away the thought, so disloyal and mistrustful. There was still time—of course there was still time; but she had so wanted it to be today.

No one will know whether old Mrs. Reardon slept, because the old sleep so quietly it is hardly to be told from death.

Meanwhile the storm had grown to tremendous heights and the hail beat and burst on the roof, and away up the river, there was a roaring and a crashing as the flood waters licked at the banks with ugly brown tongues.

The wind agitated a little twig of a konini tree outside old Mrs. Reardon's window and it beat a wild tattoo on the pane. The sound it made was like that Gilbert used to make with his knuckle as he passed after a dance or a party, to let them know that he was home safe and sound. The noises were so similar that old Mrs. Reardon woke up in a tense agony of suspense. "That noise! That was Gilbert; he must be home. Home!"

Old Mrs. Reardon threw off the thick eiderdown and the blankets and would have flown to the window— would have flown, but for the chair which, in her hurry, she had forgotten, and which was standing in the middle of her bedroom. Old Mrs. Reardon, even when she fell, did not remember the chair, but kept calling to Gilbert: "Come in, lad, come in. It's raining!"

And as she lay, the twig which had made the sound reminding her of her dead son, beat a wild tattoo—like knuckles—just like knuckles, on the pane of glass.


[This variation on a well-known theme, as Marsyas might say, is only included because no other material was submitted. Apologies.