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My mother, for her part, had been plunged into her own thoughts, and looked into the near distance. The travails of her youngest son did not affect her now, or only faintly.

What I... think ... is that we just ... come to a stop, dear ... we're blown out, like a candle ... by the wind ... if I thought ... we'd meet ....again ... or ... if I'd see ...  your father once more ... that'd be different ... But I don't...

Remarkably, she seemed to tolerate, though only from one she loved and who she knew loved her, what could easily have been a cruel interference. But nothing would hide her convictions. She was a dying woman, after all, and had to reckon up her accounts herself, in her own way.

When, after a long time, she glanced at me, there was nothing either could say. I found myself gazing in an unseeing way at the high, wooden ceiling, with its peeling paint, and vaguely taking note of the lines of the timber, the occasional cobweb. But all this was subsidiary.       

Inside, I hated her candour, which so plainly, precisely dug the gulf between us, and I regretted the foolish bravery, the misguided concern for her "spiritual welfare" which had led me to enter into all this - though someone, of our family, had to, and that was usually me.     

Most of all, and selfishly, I heard with inexpressible sorrow the gentle finality of each word, each tone, each painfully considered thought, every one of which breathed farewell, and took away any trace of hope for me. Of course I had suspected the probable course of the disease, but now I heard from my mother herself, without mercy, that our time together was limited, was ending, not merely here, on our homely earth, but anywhere else, in all time and space, and that, in her view, we would never speak, or meet, or even know of each other again.

Page 6

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