The Shadow of the East (Chapter 4, page 2 of 20)


Previous Page
Next Page

Chapter 4

She felt its cramping influence to the full, as if the walls were closing in to suffocate her, to bury her alive before she had ever known a fuller freer life. She had longed for expansion--ideas she could not formulate, desires she could not express, crowded, jostled in her brain. She wanted a wider outlook on life than the narrow convent windows offered. Brief excursions into the world to the homes of her friends had filled her with a yearning for freedom and for independence, for a greater range of thought and action. Her artistic studies had served to foster an unrest she struggled against bravely and to conceal which she became daily more self-contained. Her reserve was like a barrier about her. She was sweet and gentle to all around her, but a little aloof and very silent. To the other girls she had been a heroine of romance, puzzling mystery surrounded her; to the Nuns an enigma. The Mother Superior, alone, had arrived at a partial understanding, more than that even she could not accomplish. Gillian loved her, but her reserve was stronger than her love. Sitting now in the dainty English bedroom, revelling in the warm beauty of the exquisite landscape that, mellowed in the evening light, lay spread out beneath her eyes, Gillian thought a little sadly of her parting with the Reverend Mother. She had tried to hide the happiness that the strange feeling of freedom gave her, to smother any look or word that might wound the gentle sensibility of the frail robed woman whose eyes were sad at the approaching separation. Her conscience smote her that her own heart held no sadness. She had said very little, nothing of the new life that lay ahead of her. She hid her hopes of the future as jealously as she had hidden her longings in the past, and she had left the convent as silently as she had lived in it. She had driven back to the hotel with a sense of relief predominating that it was all over, breathing deeply with a sigh of relaxed tension. It seemed to her then as if she had learned to breathe only within the last few days, as if the air itself was lighter, more exhilarating.

From the convent her mind went back to earlier days. She thought of her father, the handsome dissolute man, whose image had grown dim with years. As a tiny child she had loved him passionately, the central figure of her chequered and wandering little life--father and mother in one, playmate and hero. Her recollection seemed to be of constant travelling; of long hours spent in railway trains; of arrivals at strange places in the dark night; of departures in the early dawn, half awake--but always happy so long as the familiar arms held her weary little body and there was the shabby old coat on which to pillow her brown curls. A jumbled remembrance of towns and country villages; of kind unknown women who looked compassionate and murmured over her in a dozen different languages. It had all been a medley of impressions and experiences--everything transient, nothing lasting, but the big untidy man who was her all. And then the convent. For a few years John Locke had reappeared at irregular intervals, and on the memory of those brief visits she had lived until he came again. Then he had ceased to come and his letters, grown short and few, full of vague promises--unsatisfying--meagre, had stopped abruptly. At first she had refused to admit to herself that he had forgotten, that she could mean so little to him, that he would deliberately put her out of his life. She had waited, excusing, trusting, until, heart-sick with deferred hope, she had come to think of him as dead. She was old enough then to realise her position and in spite of the love and consideration surrounding her she had learned misery. Her popularity even was a source of torment, for in the happy homes of her friends she had felt more cruelly her own destitute loneliness.

Previous Page
Next Page


Rate This Book

Current Rating: 2.8/5 (190 votes cast)



Review This Book or Post a Comment