The Refuge

The Refuge by Kenneth Mackenzie

Book: The Refuge by Kenneth Mackenzie Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kenneth Mackenzie
Tags: Classic fiction
no judge upon it; but it was then that, by the action of that terrible and subtle poison, part of my inner self had withered and died, in a space of minutes, like green leaves in a quick fire. Not for the world would I have had Hubble experience, through my own action, anything like this.
    I read the note. Though I knew it by heart, I read it again with an irresistible fascination now, for now, after so many months, it had true and fatal meaning. That meaning I myself had infused into the half-hysterical words so clearly and neatly written:
    ‘Lloyd darling, I have no world of my own and can

t can

t live in yours any more. I look at the water of the beautiful harbour and it calls me all night and day even when I sleep. So I am going. This time it is true. I thank you for loving me so kindly and I kiss you
    Goodbye Fitzi darling
— IRMA ’
    After handling the paper a little more, turning it over as though seeking some added word, some more definite explanation of that least natural of all human actions, suicide, I held it out to Hubble.
    ‘You’ll want this, I suppose,’ I said. ‘It’s certainly her handwriting.’
    Without speaking he took it, folded it, and put it neatly into his large wallet. Then he walked to the window, and from the light folding table that always stood there, at which we had taken so many good and happy meals, he lifted up the empty glass tube by sliding a pencil into it. Turning back to the room, he waved it briefly at me.
    ‘Morphine hydrochloride,’ he said conversationally. ‘Quarter grains. I wonder how much there was in this? Did you know she had the stuff?’
    ‘I knew she used to have it. She used it with a needle, she told me, years ago when she had some painful trouble—I think she brought it into the country with her. A great many of them—the refugees—did that. They carted the stuff about with them wherever they went in Europe, after nineteen thirty-three, I believe—only it was usually one of the cyanides. In small glass capsules that could be hidden, or even swallowed unbroken and recovered. You will know all about it, I expect. She had one of those too, but I threw it into the harbour. About the morphine, she told me she had lost that years ago. She must have come across it again since. I could not disbelieve her, anyhow. Possibly she got more. They used to get those things easily enough from Jewish chemists in Europe. You know what the casual traffic in it was like here after nineteen thirty-nine. They were the people responsible, the refugees. And it all began because they were frightened even of Australia. They made sure they had a way out. Apparently she did too. If I had known she had that . . .’
    I left it to him to finish the sentence, for although not a nervous man, I am a bad hand at telling lies.
    ‘If you’d known, she might be still alive, you mean?’ Hubble said softly. ‘Well, Fitz—maybe. But in view of that note I doubt it. She meant business, Fitz. But why in God’s name do they do it?’
    I sighed. He was not, in his manly kindness of heart, to know that it was a sigh of relief, as well as of utter weariness and that sick despair which I could neither understand nor fight down. All was now ended—all but the task of getting Alan home and telling him, somehow without lying, of Irma’s fate; and such was my unforeseen relief at Hubble’s last remarks that this task did not now seem so hard in prospect. Often before tonight I had consoled the boy’s grief and hidden my own caused by the sight of his; I could do it again, I could do it as long as I lived, for this love knows no exhaustion, asks no return; it is like the spring of water near Hill Farm, in the mountains: no man has ever known it to falter or dry and cease from flowing.
    ‘I’ve looked round,’ Hubble said. ‘There’s that coffee cup on the radio—can you find me a bottle of some sort, I’ll take the dregs for Maybee. It’s likely she took the stuff in that.’
    In

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