FAITHFULNESS: PART TWO.


The next weekday, I arranged for the doctor to visit Margaret. I did not like the expression on his face after he'd finished his examination. I liked his diagnosis still less.

"Margaret Bates has given up on life." Doctor Watson said soberly. "The problem is an emotional one- yet it is intense enough to effect her health. I have left her some medication which should help her sleep. And yet I am very much afraid-" the doctor shot me a shrewd, sympathetic glance. "-that unless her troubles are alleviated in some way, the time will soon come when she may be beyond the reach of such remedies."

I felt a chill sink into my chest and lay its icy clasp upon my throat. "You mean-?"

He nodded. "I do. There is still time for the worst to be averted. I advise patience and care. Above all do not leave her alone for long periods of time."

And so I watched over her. I took care to visit daily, speaking for long hours at a time in the hopes of some sign of recovery. Yet Margaret scarcely lifted her head for months after the divorce papers were signed.

It seemed that once that final chain was cut her connection to life became as ethereal as vapour. She aged prematurely before me. I watched the dark tresses whiten before their time, and the shadow of grief settle into permanency behind the once sparkling eyes.

It felt like a new kind of war. This often silent, ceaseless battle with the tormenter that was in her heart. I paraded all my resources before her to defeat it. One by one they fell- humbled and brought to nothing by the keen anguish of grieving motherhood.

One morning I decided to go tramping through the woods, and gather together Margaret's favourite blooms. Lavender, Archilla, Iris, Nasturtiums... they were all familiar friends. I ladened myself with them and brought them to her.

As I placed them at her feet she looked up at me with a sudden spark of life within her eyes. Then suddenly to my horror her face twisted into a frenzy of passionate weeping.

I sat there, cursing myself furiously in blind remorse. Margaret Bates had broken, and it had been my doing. My clumsy cursed folly in bringing her flowers!

She fell on the floor before me and threw herself against my unresponsive body. Fingernails dug into my shoulders. One word rose above the others that came pouring from her lips and took mastery of the moment.

Henry!...Henry!...Oh my Henry!... I miss you! I want you! ...My little boy!

The catalyst had come.

It was late when Mrs Sigerson gently drew Margaret away and up towards her chambers. I left, uncertain as to whether I should return upon the morrow.

It seemed to me that with all my efforts, I'd only succeeded in worsening the situation. After so many months I had thought I was making progress... that finally Margaret was beginning to listen again- to respond to me

--and now this.

I didn't understand. It made no sense to my mind that such a simple action should have such a terrible consequence. To have come so close to succeeding- and then to have failed- and not even to know how I had failed!

My perplexion only added to my bitterness. I paced up and down my library that night raging blindly at my own folly.