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Title: Command
Author: McFee, William, 1881-1966
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Command" ***

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                               COMMAND

                           BY WILLIAM McFEE


GARDEN CITY      NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
1922

COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY HARPER & BROTHERS

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
AT THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.

_First Edition_


This book is inscribed to those commanders under whom the author has had
the honour to serve, who have achieved firmness without asperity, tact
and sympathy without interference, and appreciation without fuss. It is
inscribed to these gentlemen because while they lack the gift of
self-advertisement, they have contrived, in spite of the trials and
exasperations of a seafaring existence, to engage the respect and
affections of their lieutenants.



PREFATORY NOTE


This tale is an original invention. It is not founded upon fact, nor are
the characters herein described portraits of actual persons. The
incidents and topography are imaginary.

W. M.



COMMAND



CHAPTER I


She was one of those girls who have become much more common of late
years among the upper-middle classes, the comfortably fixed classes,
than they have ever been since the aristocracy left off marrying Italian
_prime-donne_. You know the type of English beauty, so often insisted
on, say, twenty years ago--placid, fair, gentle, blue-eyed, fining into
distinction in Lady Clara Vere de Vere? Always she was the heroine, and
her protagonist, the adventuress, was dark and wicked. For some occult
reason the Lady Rowena type was the fashion.

Ada Rivers was one of those girls who have come up since. The
upper-middle classes had experienced many incursions. All sorts of
astonishing innovations had taken place. Many races had come to England,
or rather to London, which is in England but not of it; had made money,
had bred their sons at the great public schools and universities and
their daughters at convents in France and Belgium. These dark-haired,
gray-eyed, stylish, highly strung, athletic, talented girls are
phenomena of the Stockbroking Age. They do things Lady Rowena and Lady
Clara Vere de Vere would not tolerate for a moment. Outwardly resembling
the wealthy Society Girl, they are essentially quite different. Some
marry artists and have emotional outbreaks. Some combine a very genuine
romantic temperament with a disheartening sophistication about incomes
and running a home. They not only wish to marry so that they can begin
where their parents leave off, but they know how to do it. They can
engage a competent house-maid and rave about Kubelik on the same
afternoon, and do both in an experienced sort of way. They go everywhere
by themselves, and to men whom they dislike they are sheathed in shining
armour. They can dance, swim, motor, golf, entertain, earn their own
living, talk music, art, books, and china, wash a dog and doctor him.
And they can do all this, mark, without having any real experience of
what we call life. They are good girls, nice girls, virtuous girls, and
very marriageable girls, too, but they have a superficial hardness of
texture on their character which closely resembles the mask of
experience. They are like the baggage which used to be sold in certain
obscure shops in London with the labels of foreign hotels already pasted
on it. It follows that sometimes this girl of the upper-middle,
comfortably fixed class makes a mistake in her choice. Or rather, she
credits with heroic attributes a being of indifferent calibre. She
realizes in him some profound but erratic emotion, and the world in
which she moves beholds her behaviour and listens to her praise of her
beloved with annoyance. They speak, not of a mistake of course, but of
the strangeness of girls nowadays, and incompatibility of temperaments.
But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of these affairs is the blindness
of the girl's friends to her frequent superiority over the being whom
she adores. She isn't good enough for him, they say. The fact is, at the
time of this story, fine women were cheap in England, and gentlemen of
indifferent calibre were picking up bargains every day.

Mr. Reginald Spokesly, a case in point, was accustomed to use this very
phrase when in a mood in which his egotism was lying dormant. "I've
picked up a bargain," he would say to himself as he leaned over the rail
and watched the millions of tiny facets of the sea reflecting the
sunset. "A bargain," he would whisper in an awed voice, nodding gravely
at the opposite bulkhead, as he sat in his room with his feet in a
bucket of hot water, for this was his way with corns. And Mr. Reginald
Spokesly was intensely preoccupied with women. He had often sighed, on
the bridge, as he reflected what he might do "if he only had the means."
Perhaps, when he got a command.... He would halt short at this, suddenly
remembering the bargain he had picked up.

But it must not be for one moment imagined, when I speak of Mr. Spokesly
as being at that time a gentleman of indifferent calibre, that he was so
regarded by himself or his world afloat or ashore. Indeed, he was a
rather magnificent person. He played his cards very well. He "kept his
ears open and his mouth shut," as he himself put it. He had once
confided to Mr. Chippenham, the third officer, that "there was jobs
goin' just now, soft things, too, if y' only wait." The third officer
was not directly interested, for he knew well enough that he himself
stood no chance in that gamble. But he was impressed by Mr.
Spokesly's--the second officer's--exquisite fitness for any such jobs.
Even the Old Man, taciturn, distant, and dignified as he was, was not up
to Mr. Spokesly. Who had so slow and so deliberate a walk? Who could
treat the common people of the ship, the sailors, the firemen, the
engineers and wireless boys, with such lofty condescension? It was a
lesson in deportment to see him stroll into the chief engineer's room
and extend himself on that gentleman's settee. It was unfortunately true
that some of those common people treated Mr. Spokesly, not as a
commander _in posse_, not as one of those select beings born to rule,
but as one of themselves. Mr. Chippenham remembered with pain one
incident which showed this only too clearly. They were watching a
destroyer coming into port, her decks lined with bluejackets, her three
funnels belching oil-smoke, her semaphore working. As she swung round
astern of them, Mr. Spokesly, who had been pacing to and fro paring his
nails, joined the little group at the rail, nodding in majestic
approval.

"Ah," he remarked in his loose-lipped, husky drawl, "I sh'd like to
'andle one o' them little things meself."

And to this the third engineer, his greasy arms asprawl on the rail, had
looked over his shoulder and remarked:

"You! I'd like to see you! You'd pile her up on the beach before you'd
had her five minutes, that's what _you'd_ do."

It was a vile, gratuitous insult, the third officer had thought hotly,
and he had watched Mr. Spokesly do the only thing possible, walk grandly
away. That was the worst of those beastly engineers. If you gave them an
inch they'd take a mile. And he made a mental note of what _he_ would do
when he attained to command--some twenty years ahead.

But this was, I am glad to say, an exceptional incident. Circumstances
as a rule favoured the development of Mr. Spokesly's _amour propre_ and
he brooded with intense absorption upon his own greatness. Now this
greatness was a very intricate affair. It was inextricably tangled up
with the individual soul known as Reginald Spokesly, Esquire, of Thames
Road, Twickenham, England, and the unit of the Merchant Service known as
R. Spokesly, second officer, S. S. _Tanganyika_, a member of what is
called "the cloth." Perhaps it would be better to include another
manifestation of greatness, which was Mr. Spokesly's tremendous power
over women. His own explanation of this last phenomenon was that he
"kept them in their place." To him they were mere playthings of an idle
hour. Perhaps his desire was most aroused by stories of Oriental
domesticity, and he almost regretted not being born a pasha, where his
abilities as a woman tamer could have had more scope. However, he did
not read a great deal. In fact, he could hardly be said to read at all.
He patronized a book now and then by falling asleep over it.

In the early days of the war, Mr. Spokesly's light had been hidden for
some years in the Far East. Indeed, when I think of the sort of life he
was gradually subsiding into out there, I sometimes wonder if he would
ever have attained to such a capacity for moral effort as he afterwards
displayed unless the war had evoked the illusion that he ought to go
home and enlist, and so had opened to him the wealth of bargains to be
picked up in England. That, at any rate, had been his ostensible reason
for quitting the peculiar mixture of tropical languor and brisk
modernity which had been his life for nearly four years. Perhaps it was
not so much love of country as personal destiny, for Mr. Spokesly had a
very real belief in his destiny. Here again his greatness, which was of
course the warp and woof of his destiny, showed a pattern of perplexing
intricacy. He regarded himself with approval. He was putting on weight.
A vigorous man of thirty-odd, coming thousands of miles across the ocean
to fight for his country! He read the roll of honour each week in the
papers that met them on the homeward voyage, and the page blurred to his
sight as he _gazed_ through it into the future. You might almost, he
reflected, count out those who were wounded and missing as well! Whether
he had ever had any genuine intention of becoming a soldier I do not
know. He had a remarkably strong instinct of self-preservation; but then
many soldiers have that. As the liner neared home, however, Mr.
Spokesly's thoughts centred more and more truly about himself and his
immediate future. The seraglios he had quitted in Singapore and Kobe and
Rangoon were, in his own words, "a thing o' the past." The time, "the
psychological moment," as he phrased it without in the least knowing
what the word meant, was come when he would have to marry or, at any
rate, become engaged. He was not, he told himself, "pertickler." He
reckoned he could fall in love with almost anybody who wasn't too old or
too ugly, and providing always that she had "a dot." He was a stern
believer in a dot, even though he did not know how to pronounce it.
Looming behind the steep hill leading to a command were the happy
mountain valleys of a comfortable independence. To marry money! Now he
came to think of it, it had been the pervading ambition of his life. And
here was his chance. He pulled down his vest and settled his tie as he
thought of the golden future before him. He had a vision of an England
full of consolable fiancées, young ladies of wealth, beauty, and
position, sobbing gently for departed heroes, but willing to be
comforted....

It did not turn out that way, of course. Indeed, his first experience on
arrival was of an England of brisk, determined young women making
munitions, clipping tickets, and conducting street cars, and he was
angered at the unwomanliness of it all. Woman's place, he had always
believed, was in the harem. He had held, when lying in his hammock out
East and lazily reading the home news of suffrage riots, that the
Government "ought to have tied some of 'em up and horse-whipped 'em."
But he left the Metropolis behind as soon as possible, and went down to
stay with his family at Twickenham. And it was here, on a perfect day in
late autumn, that Ada Rivers, living with her married sister at
Richmond, brought balm to his wounded spirit.

From the very first day, spent in a punt at Kingston, she had struck the
right note of adoration. He had been telling her how his last ship had
been sunk by the _Emden_, and was going on to say he had providentially
left her just before, when she broke in ecstatically: "And you went
through it all?" He hesitated for a moment, and she followed this up
with, "How glorious! You _have_ been doing your bit!" She leaned back on
the cushions and gazed at him with shining gray eyes as he poled her
gently along, his large hairy arms, one of them clasped by a wrist
watch, outstretched above her, as though in some mystic benediction, his
loose mouth and double chin pendulous with the delicious flattery. For
she was a fine girl--he realized that immediately his sister had
introduced him. She made him feel his masculinity. He liked to think
afterwards of how deliberately he had made his choice.

He floated for a time in a dream of sensuous delight, for she was one of
those girls who will obey orders, who like orders, in fact, and whose
proud subservience sends a thrill of supreme pleasure through the minds
of their commanders. They were soon engaged.

There was not as much difference between this courtship and that of an
average coal or ice man as one might suppose. Mr. Spokesly's emotional
output so far had been, if I may say so, limited. But this was all grist
to Ada's mill. It was put down to the strong, deep, English sailor
nature, just as his primitive methods of wooing were credited to the
bluff English sailor nature. She was under an illusion all the time. All
that her married sister could say was useless. The married sister was
married to a man who was a woman-tamer himself in a way. He was now at
the Front, where he had won a medal for extraordinary bravery, and his
wife was dreading the day of his return. She used the interval of peace
and quiet to warn her sister. But who can fight against an illusion? The
married sister had to shrug her shoulders, and point out that Mr.
Spokesly was throwing himself away on a silly chit. She admired Mr.
Spokesly herself, to tell the truth, and liked to have him in the house,
where he was often to be found during his six weeks' vacation. It was
she who told him his was "a man's work" in a low contralto voice with a
thrill in it. This was really unfair to the husband in Flanders who had
displayed extraordinary bravery in holding an isolated post for goodness
knows how many hours. It would not do to assert that Mr. Spokesly ever
played with the idea of consoling a possible widow who already admired
him. He had not sufficient imagination for this. And Ada herself was
quite able to hold up her end. She made Mr. Spokesly feel not only
great, but good. It was she who led him to see where his weakness lay, a
success possible only to a clever girl. Unconscious of her promptings,
he came to the conclusion that, to do himself justice, he must make an
effort and "improve his education." When he heard the sisters rattling
away in a foreign tongue he made a mental note that "he must rub up his
French." The London School of Mnemonics, however, did the trick. It was
just what he wanted. This school had a wonderful system of
memory-training which was endorsed by kings and emperors, merchant
princes and famous mezzo-sopranos. By means of this system, learned in
twelve lessons, you trebled your intellectual power, quadrupled your
earning power, and quintupled your general value to yourself and to the
world. The system was comprised in twelve books of aphorisms, slim
volumes in gray-green paper covers, daintily printed and apparently
addressed straight to Mr. Spokesly's heart. First, he was told, he was
capable of anything. He knew that, and with an almost physical feeling
of pleasure he read on. Second, came a little story about a celebrated
philosopher. Mr. Spokesly was charmed.

It must not be supposed, however, that this was all bunkum to Mr.
Spokesly. It was, on the contrary, deadly earnest. Like many Englishmen
of his day, he knew there was something wrong with him. He was aware of
people in the world who used their brains and held clear notions about
things and ideas, very much as a man groping along a foggy street is
aware of a _conversazione_ in one of the mansions. To him the London
School of Mnemonics was a sound commercial proposition. In twelve
lessons, by correspondence, they offered to develop his memory,
stimulate his will power, and increase his salary. He had picked up the
first half-dozen pamphlets in his fiancée's home. The husband of the
married sister had taken the course as far as Number Six, which was:
"How to Dominate Your Friends," with a chatty essay on Hypnotism and
Matrimony, before leaving for Flanders and glory. Mr. Spokesly read them
with an avidity unknown to him since he had spent a month in London many
years before studying for his master's license. He felt on the highroad
to success. He joined the London School of Mnemonics. He bought an
engagement ring for Ada and a handsome bracelet for the married sister.
He left them for a while, he said, "to join up." He meant to do it, too,
for there is something pathetically appealing in the atmosphere of late
autumn in England. It goes to the heart. It is not quite so piercing a
call as the early spring, when one's very soul goes out in a mystical
passionate union with the spirit of the land, but it is very strong, and
Mr. Spokesly, without understanding it, felt the appeal. But at
Paddington he stopped and had a drink. For all his years at sea, he was
a Londoner at heart. He spoke the atrocious and barbarous jargon of her
suburbs, he snuffed the creosote of her wooden streets and found it an
admirable _apératif_ to his London beer. And while the blowsy spirit of
London, the dear cockney-hearted town, ousted the gentler shade of
England, Mr. Spokesly reflected that neither the army nor the navy would
have any use for a man of commanding powers, a man whose will and memory
had been miraculously developed. The army would not do, he was sure. The
navy would probably put him in charge of a tug; for Mr. Spokesly had no
illusions as to the reality of the difficulties of life in his own
sphere. And he had been long enough at one thing to dread the wrench of
beginning at the bottom somewhere else. This is the tragic side of
military service in England, for most Englishmen are not adaptable. Mr.
Spokesly, for example, had gone to sea at the age of twelve. Unless he
won a lottery prize he would be going to sea at seventy, if he lived so
long. So he reflected, and the upshot was that he applied--quite humbly,
for he had not as yet developed any enormous will power--and secured a
billet as second officer on the _Tanganyika_. He told his people and Ada
that there was "a chance of a command," which of course was perfectly
true. "It is a man's work," she thrilled softly, echoing her sister, and
she closed her eyes to enjoy the vision of him, strong in character,
large in talent, irresistible in will power, commanding amid storms and
possibly even shot and shell....

       *       *       *       *       *

Having kept the middle watch, which is from twelve to four, Mr. Spokesly
was sitting in his cabin abaft the bridge of the _Tanganyika_, his feet
in a white-enamelled bucket of hot water, contemplating the opposite
bulkhead. He was thinking very hard, according to the System of the
London School of Mnemonics. The key of this system was simplicity
itself. You wanted to remember something which you had forgotten. Very
well; you worked back on the lines of a dog following a scent. From what
you were thinking at the present moment to what you were thinking when
you came in the door, which would lead you by gentle gradations back to
the item of which you were in search. Very simple. Unfortunately, Mr.
Spokesly, in the course of these retrograde pilgrimages, was apt to come
upon vast and trackless oceans of oblivion, bottomless gulfs of time in
which, as far as he could recall, his intellectual faculties had been in
a state of suspended animation. The London School of Mnemonics did not
seem to allow sufficiently for the bridging of these gaps. It is true
they said in Lesson Three, with gentle irony, _Remember the chain of
ideas is often faulty; there may be missing links_. Mr. Spokesly, who on
this occasion was determined to remember what he was thinking of at the
moment when the Old Man spoke sharply behind him and made him jump, was
of the opinion that it was the chain that was often missing and that all
he could discover were a few odd links! He lifted one foot out of the
grateful warmth and felt the instep tenderly, breathing hard, with his
tongue in one corner of his mouth, as his mind ran to and fro nosing at
the closed doors of the past. What _was_ he thinking of? He remembered
it attracted him strangely, had given him a feeling of pleasant
anticipation as of a secret which he could unfold at his leisure. It
was ... it was.... He put his foot into the water again and frowned.
He had been thinking of Ada, he recalled----Ah! _Now_ he was on the
track of it. He had been thinking not of her but of the melancholy fact
communicated to him by his own sister, that Ada had no "dot," no money
until her father died. Now how in the world did that come to react upon
his mind as a pleasant thing? It was a monstrous thing, that he should
have capsized his future by such precipitate folly! Mr. Spokesly
comprehended that what he was looking for was not a memory but a mood.
He had been in a certain mood as he stood on the bridge that morning
about half-past three, his hand resting lightly on the rail, his eyes on
the dim horizon, when the Old Man, in his irritating pink-striped
pajamas, had spoken sharply and made him jump. And that mood, the
product of some overnight reflections on the subject of will power, had
been rising like some vast billow of cumulous vapour touched with
roseate hues from a hidden sun, and he had been just on the brink of
some surprising discovery, when----It was very annoying, for the Old Man
had been preoccupied by a really very petty matter, after all. (The word
"petty" was a favourite with Mr. Spokesly.) It had, however, broken the
spell, and here he was, a few hours later, hopelessly snarled up in all
sorts of interminable strings of ideas. The business of thinking was not
so easy as the London School of Mnemonics made out. Lifting his feet
slowly up and down, he reached out and took Lesson Number Five from the
holdall (with his initials in blue) which hung above his head. As he
turned the richly printed pages, a delicious feeling of being cared for
and caressed stole over him. _Never despair_, said the Lesson gravely,
_Nil Desperandum. Just as the darkest hour is before the dawn, so
victory may crown your toil at the least likely moment._

And so it was! With a feeling of sombre triumph, Mr. Spokesly "saw the
connection" as he would have said. He saw that the importance of that
lost mood lay in the petty annoyance that followed. For the Old Man had
called him down about a mistake. A trifle. A petty detail. A bagatelle.
It only showed, he thought, the narrowness of mind of some commanders.
Now _he_...

But with really remarkable resolution Mr. Spokesly pulled himself up and
concentrated upon the serious side of the question. There had been a
mistake. It was as though the Old Man's quiet sharpness had gouged a
great hole in Mr. Spokesly's self-esteem, and he had been unconsciously
busy, ever since, bringing excuse after excuse, like barrow-loads of
earth, in a vain attempt to fill it up. It was still a yawning hiatus in
the otherwise flawless perfection of his conduct as an officer. He had
made a mistake. And the London School of Mnemonics promised that whoever
followed their course made no mistake. He felt chastened as he
habituated himself to this feeling that perhaps he was not a perfect
officer. He took his feet out of the lukewarm water and reached for a
towel.

It will not do to laugh at such a discovery on the part of Mr. Spokesly.
Only those who have had responsibility can be fully alive to the
enormous significance of self-esteem in imposing authority upon a
frivolous world. And it must be borne in mind that to Mr. Spokesly
himself, at that moment, to fail in being a perfect officer was a
failure in life. It was part of the creed of his "cloth" that each of
them was without blemish until his license was cancelled by the
invisible omnipotence of the law. It was, if you like, his ethic, the
criterion of his integrity, the inexorable condition of carrying-on in
his career. This ideal perfection of professional service resembles the
giant fruits and immaculate fauna depicted on the labels of the canned
articles--a grandiose conception of what was within. Just as nobody
really believes that apples and salmon are like that and yet would
refuse to buy a can without some such symbol, so Mr. Spokesly would have
found his services quite unmarketable if he had discarded the polite
fiction that he was, as far as was humanly possible, incapable of
improvement. It was the aura, moreover, which distinguished him and all
other officers from the riff-raff which nowadays go to sea and ape their
betters--the parsons and surgeons, the wireless operators and engineers.
They were common clay, mere ephemeral puppets, without hope of command,
minions to take orders, necessary evils in an age of mechanism and
high-speed commerce. It was an article of Mr. Spokesly's creed that "the
cloth" should stand by each other. He was revolving this assumption in
his mind as he rubbed the towel gently to and fro, and it occurred to
him in his slow way that if he were to adopt the modern ideas of the
London School of Mnemonics, if he were to devote every fibre of his
being to forging ahead, gaining promotion, proving himself a superior
article with a brain which was the efficient instrument of an
indomitable will, then the obsolete idea of professional solidarity
would have to go overboard. And just at that moment, with the
consciousness of that petty mistake casting a shadow on his soul and the
sharp rebuke of the Old Man rankling below, Mr. Spokesly was quite
prepared to jettison anything that stood in the way of what he vaguely
formulated as "his gettin' on." Mr. Spokesly's conceptions of
advancement were of course largely but not entirely circumscribed by his
profession. His allusions in conversation with Mr. Chippenham to "soft
things" were understood to refer to shore jobs connected with shipping
and transport. At one time the fairy-tale fortune of a shipmate who had
married a shipowner's daughter had turned his thoughts that way. But not
for long. Mr. Spokesly had a feeling that to marry into a job had its
drawbacks. He felt "there was a string to it." And come what might, in
his own hazy, amorphous fashion he desired to be captain of his soul.
Had he the power at that moment of calling up Destiny, he would have
made quite modest demands of her. Of course, a command, a fine large
modern steamer, twin-screw, trading for choice in the Pacific, where as
he knew very well a commander had pickings that placed him in a few
years beyond the reach of penury at any rate.... Ada could come out. She
would do justice to such a position out East. And when the war was
over they could come home and have a little place up the river at Bourne
End ... nothing very great, of course, but just right for Captain and
Mrs. Spokesly. The dream was so very fair, so possible yet so utterly
improbable, that his mouth drew down tremulously at the corners as he
stared at the bulkhead. His eyes grew tired and smarted. Ah! Money! How
often he had mouthed in jest that sorry proverb about the lack of money
being the root of all evil! And how true it was, after all. Suddenly he
stood up and became aware of someone in the alleyway outside his window.
With a sense of relief, for his reflections had become almost
inconveniently sombre and ingrowing, he saw it was someone he already
knew in a friendly way, though he still addressed him as "Stooard."

There is much in a name, much more in a mode of address. When Archy
Bates, the chief steward of the _Tanganyika_, turned round and hoisted
himself so that he could look into Mr. Spokesly's port, their friendship
was just at the point when the abrupt unveiling of some common
aspiration would change "Stooard" into "Bates" or "Mister." For a
steward on a ship is unplaced. The office is nothing, the personality
everything. He may be the confidential agent of the commander or he may
be the boon companion of the cook. To him most men are mere assimilative
organisms, stomachs to be filled or doctored. Archy Bates was, like
another Bates of greater renown, a naturalist. He studied the habits of
the animals around him. He fed them or filled them with liquor,
according to their desires, and watched the result. It might almost be
said that he acted the part of Tempter to mankind, bribing them into
friendship or possibly only a useful silence. It is a sad but solid fact
that he nearly always succeeded.

But he liked Mr. Spokesly. One of the disconcerting things about the
wicked is their extreme humanity. Archy Bates liked Mr. Spokesly's
society. Without in the least understanding how or why, he enjoyed
talking to him, appreciated his point of view, and would have been glad
to repay confidence with confidence. He was always deferential to
officers, never forgetting their potentialities as to future command. He
respected their reserve until they knew him intimately. He was always
willing to wait. His discretion was boundless. He knew his own value.
Friends of his had no reason to regret it. That third engineer, a coarse
fellow, one of the few irreconcilables, had called him a flunkey. Well,
the third engineer paid dearly for that in trouble over petty details,
soap, towels, and so forth. But with "gentlemen" Archy Bates felt
himself breathing a larger air. You could do something with a gentleman.
And Mr. Spokesly, in the chief steward's estimation, was just that kind
of man. So, in the lull of activity before lunch, he came along to see
if Mr. Spokesly felt like a little social diversion.

"Busy?" he enquired, thrusting his curiously ill-balanced features into
the port and smiling. Mr. Bates's smile was unfortunate. Without being
in any way insincere, it gave one the illusion that it was fitted on
over his real face. A long, sharp nose projecting straight out from a
receding brow nestled in a pomatumed and waxed moustache, and his eyes,
of an opaque hazel, became the glinting centres of scores of tiny
radiating lines. His chin, blue with shaving, and his gray hair
carefully parted in the middle, made up a physiognomy that might have
belonged either to a bartender or a ward politician. And there was a
good deal of both in Archy Bates.

To the enquiry Mr. Spokesly shook his head. The steward gave a sharp
look each way, and then made a complicated gesture that was a silent and
discreet invitation.

"Oh, well." Mr. Spokesly shrugged his shoulders and pulled down the
corners of his mouth. The face at the window tittered so violently that
the owner of it nearly lost his balance and put up a hand to support
himself.

"Come on, old chap. I've got half an hour to spare."

"Oh, all right, Bates. Sha'n't be a minute."

The face, like a satiric mask, suddenly vanished.

Mr. Spokesly put on his socks and slippers and, lighting a cigarette,
prepared to go along. He liked the steward, and he felt lonely. It so
happened that, quite apart from his intrinsic greatness, Mr. Spokesly
was very much alone on the _Tanganyika_. Mr. Chippenham was too young;
the chief officer, a gnarled round-shouldered ancient, was too old; the
commander too distant. There remained only the chief engineer, a robust
gentleman who conversed hospitably on all subjects in a loud voice but
invited no confidences. And it was confidences Mr. Spokesly really
wanted to give. He wanted to impress his ideals and superior views of
life upon a sympathetic and receptive mind. Most men are unconscious
artists. Only instead of working in stone or brass or pigment, instead
of composing symphonies or poems, they hold forth to their kindred
spirits and paint, in what crude words they can find, the god-like
beings they conceive themselves to be. Indeed, when we call a man a
"hot-air merchant"; when we say "he does not hate himself," what is it
save a grudging tribute to his excessive artistry? He is striving to
evolve in your skeptical mind an image which can appear only by the
light of your intelligent faith and liberal sympathy. He claims of you
only what all artists claim of the critic--understanding. He seeks to
thrill you with pleasure at the noble spectacle of himself blocked out
against a sombre background of imperfect humanity. But to get the very
best out of him you must become one in soul with him, and do the same
yourself.



CHAPTER II


"You will be pleased to hear, sweetheart, that I have already got
promotion, I am now chief officer, next to the captain. I dare say, in a
short time your only will be coming home to take a command. I am
persevering with the Course you gave me, and I find it a great
assistance. Of course I have a great deal more to do now, especially as
the last man was scarcely up to his work.... While as for the captain, I
may as well tell you ..."

And so on. Mr. Spokesly wrote this letter from Alexandria, where the
_Tanganyika_ was discharging rails and machinery. He wrote it to Ada,
who was staying with her family, including her married sister, in
Cornwall, because of the air raids. She read it by the low roar of the
autumnal seas round the Cornish coast and she was thrilled. Having
written it, Mr. Spokesly dressed himself in discreet mufti and went
ashore with his bosom friend, Archy Bates. His commander, walking to and
fro on the bridge with his after-dinner cigar, saw them disappear
between the tracks and the piles of freight. He frowned. He was no snob,
but he had most explicit views about a ship's officer's relations with
the rest of mankind. It was, in his opinion, _infra dig_ to associate
with a steward. He had mentioned it pointedly yet good-humouredly one
day, and at his amazement Mr. Spokesly had replied that he would please
himself in a private matter. Captain Meredith had been so flabbergasted
at this wholly unexpected turn of the conversation that he said no more.
Later he put it down to swelled head. Yet what else could be done? Mr.
Spokesly had a master's certificate and the third mate had none at all.
Captain Meredith began to muse regretfully upon the loss of his chief
officer. For although Mr. Spokesly had omitted to mention it, the
immediate cause of his promotion was the sudden death at sea of his
predecessor. That gnarled and taciturn being, whose round moon-face had
relapsed with age to the consistency of puckered pink parchment, had
been for many years "taking care of himself." In that remote epoch when
he was young it may be doubted whether he had done this, for he bore the
marks of a life lived to the very delirious verge. That was long before
Mr. Spokesly had got into short pants, however. Mr. McGinnis took care
of himself day and night. He had achieved a miraculous balance of forces
within his frame, a balance which enabled him to stand his watch on the
bridge and give orders to the bo'sun, but no more. He would pass with a
stealthy quietness along the deck and into his room, and there sit, his
claw-like hands on the arms of his chair, his emaciated form encased in
a diamond-patterned kimono, his pink jaws working noiselessly on a piece
of some patent chewing gum, of which he carried a stock. Sometimes he
read a page or two of a quiet story, but usually he switched off the
electric and sat chewing far into the night. At a quarter to four one
morning, the Asiatic sailor who came to arouse him discovered him
hanging by his arms to the edge of his bunk, as though crucified, his
appallingly thin limbs sprawling and exposing tattooings of astonishing
design and colouring, his jaw hanging, his sunken eyes staring with
senseless curiosity at a spot on the carpet. The Japanese sailor went
back to Mr. Spokesly, who was on watch on the bridge, and reported
impassively, "Chief mate all same one stiff." Mr. Spokesly was
incredulous, though he knew from experience the uncanny prescience of
the Oriental in such matters. "What? Sick?" he inquired in a whisper.
The Japanese, a diminutive white wraith in the profound gloom of the
bridge, replied, "No sick. All same one stiff. No can do." This was his
final word. Mr. Spokesly hurriedly aroused the captain, who came out on
the bridge and told them to go down together. They went down and Mr.
Spokesly had a violent shock. He told Archy Bates afterwards he had "had
a turn." He did all that a competent officer could do. He spoke sharply
the man's name. "Mr. McGinnis!" and Mr. McGinnis continued to regard the
spot on the carpet with intense curiosity. He felt the breast, held a
shaving glass to the lips of the silent McGinnis, and realized that the
Oriental who stood by the door, his dark face impassive and his gaze
declined upon the floor, was perfectly right. As Mr. Spokesly raised the
stiffened arms the kimono fell open, and he had another violent shock,
for Mr. McGinnis had evidently been a patron of the art of tattooing in
all its branches. His arms and torso formed a ghastly triptych of green
and blue figures with red eyes. Contrasted with the pallor of death the
dreadful designs took on the similitude of living forms. With a movement
of hasty horror Mr. Spokesly laid the body on the settee and went away
to call Mr. Chippenham and the chief steward.

The conjectures which followed were most of them beside the mark. The
fact was, intelligence has its limits. The miraculous balance of forces
had been in some obscure way disturbed, and Mr. McGinnis, like the
one-hoss shay, had simply crumbled to dust at the appointed time.
Captain Meredith was sorry, for Mr. McGinnis had been what is known as
"a good mate." And Captain Meredith, whether from mere prejudice or
genuine conviction, was unable to discern the makings of a "good mate"
in Mr. Spokesly. It was almost miraculous, he reflected, how the work of
the ship had got balled up since the invaluable McGinnis, neatly sewed
up in some of his own canvas, had made a hole in the Mediterranean. It
should be understood that Captain Meredith was a humane man. He was also
a seafaring man. The fact that McGinnis had been excommunicated from the
church of his baptism did not deter Captain Meredith from reading the
burial service over him. And his annoyance at seeing his new chief
officer and the steward "as thick as thieves," as he put it, was really
a humane feeling. He had served in ships where the commander had been
utterly at the mercy of some contemptible dish-washer who had wormed
himself into his superior's confidence, acting perhaps as a go-between
in some shady deal. He had seen a veteran shipmaster, a man of fine
presence and like no one so much as some retired colonel of guards,
running ignominiously along the quay to fetch back a dirty little
half-breed steward, who had seen fit to take offence and who knew too
much. Captain Meredith had seen these things, and though he kept them
locked up in his own breast he did not forget them. He was perfectly
well aware of the precarious hold most of us have upon honour. He knew
that a certain austerity of demeanour was the only practicable armour
against many temptations.

But of course Captain Meredith couldn't be expected to understand Mr.
Spokesly's state of mind. Mr. Spokesly didn't understand it himself. It
was scarcely sufficient to say that his promotion had carried him away.
Far from it. He regarded this step as merely a start. What had inspired
him at the moment to "stand up to the Old Man" was nothing less than a
wave of genuine emotion. You see, he really liked Archy Bates so far as
he knew him then. They were real chums, telling each other their
grievances and sharing a singularly identical opinion of the Old Man's
fitness for his job. There are more unions of souls in this world than
materialists would like us to believe. What Captain Meredith mistook for
harsh and ill-timed impudence was really a thickness of utterance and a
sudden vision of injustice. Once done, and the Old Man reduced to an
amazed silence, the incident took in Mr. Spokesly's mind a significance
so tremendous that he hardly knew what to think. He had "tackled the Old
Man"! He had broken the spell of a lifetime of silent obsequiousness to
a silly convention. After all ... And, moreover, it took will power to
do it. He was improving. The London School of Mnemonics had achieved
another miracle. He went over it all again in Archy Bates's cabin,
Archy's ear close to his mouth, door shut, curtains folded across the
window. You never can tell who's listening on a ship.... "I turns an'
says to him, 'Look here, Captain'..." Archy listening with intensity,
his shoulders hunched, his opaque, agate-like eyes glittering on each
side of his long sharp nose, while his thumb and forefinger slowly and
repeatedly thrust back his pomatumed and waxed moustache from his lips,
and breathing "Jus' fancy!... And you told him that?... Goo' Lord!...
Well, I always knew 'e 'ad no use for me...." Mr. Spokesly pulled Archy
Bates close up to him so that his lips were actually funnelled in the
other's ear and breathed back: "_Take it from me, Archy, he ain't fit
for his job!_"

Archy Bates had risen, just then, to get the corkscrew. He was
profoundly moved, and actually found himself trying to open a bottle of
whiskey with a button-hook. He showed his idiocy to Mr. Spokesly. "Jus'
fancy. I don't know what I'm doin', straight." And they both laughed.
But he was profoundly moved. He was preoccupied with the possible
developments of this tremendous affair. Mr. Spokesly, by virtue of that
last insane whisper, had of course delivered himself over, body, soul,
and spirit, to the steward, but Mr. Spokesly was a friend of his. He had
quite other plans for Mr. Spokesly. He stared harder than the job
warranted as he put the bottle between his knees and hauled on the
corkscrew. Pop! They drank, and the act was as a seal on a secret
compact.

And it was that--a compact so secret that even they, the parties to it,
were scarcely conscious of the pledge. But as the days passed, days of
hasty clandestine comparing of grievances in each other's rooms, days of
whispering apart, days followed by nights of companionship ashore, each
realized how necessary was the other to his full appreciation of life.
Archy Bates found Mr. Spokesly a tower of strength and a house of
defence. If any complaint sounded in his presence concerning stores, Mr.
Spokesly was silent for a space and then walked away. Only that vulgar
third engineer was insensible to the superb reproof. "There goes the
flunkey's runner," he remarked, in execrable taste, and Mr. Spokesly was
obliged to ignore him. On the other hand, Mr. Spokesly found in Archy
Bates a sympathetic soul, a wit that jumped with his own and understood
without tedious circumlocution "how he felt about it." More precious
than rubies is a friend who understands how you feel about it. He found
in Archy a gentleman who was master of what was to Mr. Spokesly an
incredible quantity of ready cash. At first Mr. Spokesly had
apologetically borrowed "half a quid till to-morrow, being short
somehow," and Archy had scorned to split a sovereign. In some way only
partially understood by Mr. Spokesly as yet, certain eddies of the vast
stream of gold and paper which was turning the wheels of the war swirled
into the pockets of Archy Bates. He had it to burn, as they say. It was
bewildering in its variety. British, American, French, Italian, Greek,
Egyptian, and Japanese notes were rolled into one inexhaustible wad.
More bewildering even than this was Archy Bates's uncanny command of
gold. It was extraordinary how this impressed Mr. Spokesly. At a time
when sovereigns and eagles and napoleons had practically vanished from
the pockets of the private citizen, Archy Bates had bags of them. And
like his paper currency, it was of all nations. Ten-rouble Russian
pieces, twenty-drachma Greek pieces, Australian sovereigns, and massive
Indian medals worth twenty dollars each, chinked and jingled against the
homelier coinage of France and England. "Business, my boy, business!" he
would explain with a snigger when he met Mr. Spokesly's rapt gaze of
amazement. Very good business, too, the latter thought, and sighed. But
there was one point about Archy which distinguished him from many owners
of gold. He spent it. There lay the magic of his power over Mr.
Spokesly's mesmerized soul. He spent it. Mr. Spokesly saw him and helped
him spend it. Those princely disbursements night after night in
Alexandria postulated some source of supply. And night after night Mr.
Spokesly, pleasantly jingled with highballs and feminine society, felt
himself being drawn nearer and nearer the mysterious source from which
gushed that cosmopolitan torrent of money. Mr. Spokesly was in the right
mood for the revelation. He was serious. He was a practical man. He
needed no London School of Mnemonics to teach him to cultivate a man
with plenty of money. When he and Archy Bates had walked quickly away
from the ship and passed the guard at Number Six Gate, they could
scarcely be recognized by one who had seen them an hour before, Mr.
Spokesly silently munching his dinner under the Old Man's frown, Archy
in his pantry, encased in a huge white apron, bending his sharp nose
over the steaming dishes, and communicating in violent pantomime with
the saloon waiter.

Now they stood side by side, brothers, magnificently superior to all the
world. A dingy carriage rattled up and Archy waved it away impatiently.
Another, with two horses and rubber tires, was hailed and engaged.
"Might as well do the thing well," said Archy, and Mr. Spokesly agreed
in every fibre of his soul. And it was the same with everything else.
"My motto is," said Archy, "everything of the best, eh? Can't go far
wrong then. He-he!" The third engineer, vulgarian that he was, would
have laughed a shrill, derisive cackle had he heard that speech. The
third engineer was under the illusion that only the virtuous have
ideals. He was wrong. Archy Bates's profession of faith was sincere and
genuine. He had an instinct for what he called the best, which was the
most expensive. What else could be the best? A love of elegance and
refinement was very widespread in those days of high wages and excessive
profits. Archy's wife (for he had a wife and three children in a suburb
of Liverpool) was rapidly filling her instalment-purchased home with
costly furniture. Only a month ago a grand piano had been put in, and
she had had the dining-room suite reupholstered in real pigskin. Mr.
Spokesly knew all this and it almost unmanned him to think that he was
on the way to this eldorado. One night, soon after their arrival in
Alexandria, Archy had hinted there was no reason why he, Mr. Spokesly,
shouldn't be "in it," too. This was late in the evening, when they were
seated on a balcony high above the glitter and noise of the Boulevard
Ramleh, a balcony belonging to a house of fair but expensive reception,
of which Archy was a munificent patron. Archy, after two bottles of
whiskey, had become confidential. He had hinted that his friend Reggie
should be "put next" the business which produced such amazing returns.
Reggie had waited to hear more but, with amusing inconsequence, Archy
had changed the subject, relapsed indeed into a tantalizing dalliance
with a lady friend.

But to-night, in sober earnest, for Archy had had little besides a
bottle of gin since rising in the morning, he proposed that they should
join a business friend of his, and have a quiet little dinner somewhere.
Mr. Spokesly was all eyes, all ears, all intelligent receptiveness. He
enquired who the business friend might be, and Archy, who had his own
enthusiasms, let himself go. His friend, Jack Miller, had been out there
for years. With Swingles, the ship-chandlers. Occupied, Archy surmised,
a very high position there. Had worked himself up. Plenty of skippers
did business with Swingles simply because Jack was there. If he liked to
leave, Archy hadn't any doubt he'd take a good half of Swingles'
business with him. Knew all the languages, French, Greek, Arabic, and so
on. Kept his own hours, went in and out as he liked. Archy only wished
he had Jack Miller's job!

Mr. Spokesly listened greedily. As they debouched upon the great Place
Mohammed Aly, with its myriads of lights and sounds, its illuminated
Arabic night signs, its cracking of whips and tinkling of bells and
glasses, its gorgeous, tessellated platoons of café tables, he took a
deep breath. He felt he was upon the threshold of a larger life,
inhaling a more invigorating air. It seemed to him he was about to quit
the dreary humdrum world of watch-keeping and monthly wages for a region
where dwelt those happy beings who had no fixed hours, who made money,
who had it "to burn," as they say.

And Jack Miller, whom they met that night and many nights after, was a
magnificent accessory of the illusion. He was a dapper little man in
fashionable clothes, a runner for a local ship-chandler, who introduced
them to half-a-dozen ship-captains of a certain type, and together they
went round the vast tenderloin district of the city. Mr. Spokesly was
conscious of a grand exaltation during the day when he recalled his
nightly association with these gentlemen. There were others,
dark-skinned Greeks and Levantines in long-tasselled fezes, who joined
them in their pursuit of pleasure in the great blocks of buildings
behind the Boulevard Ramleh and their jaunts, in taxicabs, to San
Stefano. They were, as Archy put it, over whiskey and soda in his cabin,
gentlemen worth knowing, men with property and businesses. And it was
one of these, one evening on the balcony of the Casino at San Stefano,
who mentioned casually that he often did business with Saloniki and that
if Mr. Spokesly ever had any little things to dispose of on his return,
he would be glad to make him an offer, privately, of course. He often
did this with Mr. Bates, he added, to their mutual satisfaction. Mr.
Spokesly was charmed.

And Captain Meredith, walking the upper bridge and seeing a good deal
more than either Mr. Spokesly or Mr. Bates imagined, wondered how it
would all end. Indeed, Captain Meredith did a good deal of wondering in
those days. He saw the wages going steadily up and up, and discipline
and efficiency going, quite as steadily, down and down. Here was this
young sprig Chippenham, his acting second officer, a boy of nineteen
with no license and no experience, pertly demanding more money. Captain
Meredith recalled his own austere apprenticeship in sail, his still more
austere gruelling as junior officer in tramps, the mean accommodation,
the chill penury, the struggle to keep employed, and he smiled grimly.
He had his own private views of the glory of war; but apart from this,
he wondered greatly what the final upshot of it all would be for the
Merchant Service in general and Mr. Spokesly in particular. For he could
not help regarding his chief officer as a brother of the craft. He
himself had received no illumination from the exponents of modern
thought. He had never been impressed by the advertisements of the London
School of Mnemonics, for example. He was so old-fashioned as to imagine
that to get on, a man must work hard, study hard, live hard, and stand
by for the chance to come. Mr. Spokesly, he knew quite well, had been
through the same mill as himself, only some ten years or so later. He
regarded him, therefore, as he could never regard Mr. Chippenham, for
example, who had never been in sail and who didn't know an oxter-plate
from an orlop-beam. As far as the natural shyness and taciturnity of
Englishmen would allow him, he was anxious for Mr. Spokesly to do well.
The man was singularly fortunate, in his opinion, to be chief mate so
soon. In nine or ten years, perhaps, he would have the experience to
warrant the owners' giving him a command. Provided, of course, that he
stuck to his business and took an interest in the fortunes of the firm.
It will be seen from this that Captain Meredith was a hopeless
conservative and reactionary. One of his brother-captains whom he met at
dinner ashore one evening actually told him so. "Why," said this
gentleman as he held a match to Captain Meredith's cigar, "why, my chief
officer told me to my face the other day that there was nothing in
experience nowadays. One man was as good as another, he said, so long as
he had his master's ticket. Yes! A fact!" Captain Meredith was aware,
too, that his ideas concerning conscientious achievement and enthusiasm
for one's employers were equally archaic. The young men of to-day seemed
to regard their jobs with dislike and their employers with suspicion.
Their sole obsession seemed to be money. He had had pointed out to him
an intoxicated youth who was causing a disturbance in a hotel bar, a
youth going out East to a ship as third officer at two hundred dollars a
month, they said. And the tale was received by every junior officer in
the harbour with hushed awe, although it was obvious that the object of
their envy would probably be laid aside with delirium tremens before he
could reach his billet. Captain Meredith noticed, too, that men who were
engrossed in their work were rated "queer" and as back numbers. Even
among captains he sensed a reluctance to discuss a professional problem.
The third engineer, a skilled mechanic with a tongue like a rasp, and
the second, a patient old dobbin who ought to have been promoted long
ago, were examples of an older school, but the good captain was hardly
in a position to appraise them professionally.

It was different with Mr. Spokesly. If anything happened to Captain
Meredith himself, a sudden weight of responsibility would roll upon Mr.
Spokesly that would, in the captain's opinion, crush him. For it must be
confessed that licenses, diplomas, certificates, or whatever you call
your engraved warrants to ply your trade, are no guarantee of character
and nerve. Nor does efficiency in a subordinate capacity imply success
in command. Just as some men are stormy and intractable nuisances until
they reach the top, when they immediately assume a mysterious and
impregnable composure, so others deliberately avoid rising above a
comfortable mediocrity, conscious of their own limitations and well
satisfied that some other human soul should endure the pangs of the
supreme decision. Others there are, and Captain Meredith believed Mr.
Spokesly was one of them, who lack knowledge of themselves, and who have
not sufficient intelligence either to carry the burden or to refuse it.

This, of course, was not Mr. Spokesly's opinion as time went on. On the
contrary, he had come to the conclusion that it was no use being a smart
officer "if the captain wouldn't back a man up." He told Archy Bates
that "the Old Man was doing all he knew to do him dirty." And Archy
riposted at once with evidence that he himself was the victim of a foul
conspiracy between the Captain and the crew over the grub. Mr. Spokesly
would go out on deck from these pow-wows feeling very happy, for Archy
never failed to open a bottle. Mr. Spokesly would sway a little as he
walked forward to see how the work was going on in the fore-hold. The
_Tanganyika_, having discharged most of her cargo, was now reloading a
great deal of it in obedience to orders from certain invisible but
omnipotent beings higher up. He would sway a little, and hold on to the
hatch coaming, looking down upon the toilers below with an air of
profound abstraction. Then he would move gently until he could raise his
eyes and sweep a casual glance in the direction of the bridge. Sometimes
he would see the Old Man's head as he strode to and fro. On one occasion
he "caught 'im at it," as he told Archy. "Yes, he was spying on me.
Watching me. See his game? I tell you, Archy, it makes a man sick. Fancy
havin' to work under a man like that. Watchin' me. Now he'll write home
to the owners in his confidential report. Well, let him. Thanks to you,
I got more than one egg in the basket. Sometimes, I feel inclined to go
and demand my discharge. I would, only it's war time. Got to carry on in
war time."

Archy Bates nodded over his glass and dipped his long sharp nose into it
before making an audible reply. "Me, too!" he said, setting the glass
down empty. "Me, too! If it wasn't for the war and everybody having to
do their bit, I'd swallow the anchor to-morrow."

And they sat for a moment in silence, each honestly believing the other,
and thinking poignantly of home. Over the steward's bunk, stuffed into a
corner of the frame that enclosed his wife's portrait, was a photograph
of a girl, stark naked save for a wrist watch and a feather in her black
hair, sitting on Archy's knee. From behind this Mrs. Bates's thin face
and flat bosom peeped out, and her eyes seemed to be fixed thoughtfully
upon the two exiled patriots who sat with up-lifted glasses before her.

And on one occasion, Mr. Spokesly, who was spending the evening on board
because steam had been raised for sailing, and because the owners had a
tyrannical rule to that effect--Mr. Spokesly had a dream. He confessed
to Archy that in common honesty he didn't know whether he was awake or
asleep. A sort of vision! He was lying on his bunk with one of the
manuals of the London School of Mnemonics in his hand which he was, he
imagined, reading. It was an essay on "Concentration," and perhaps his
thoughts had wandered a bit.... Anyhow, as he lay there, in among his
thoughts slipped a new and alien impression that there was somebody in
the room. He didn't turn his head, but just lay on in contemplation of
this possibility. Perhaps he had half-closed his eyes, for the
instructions how to concentrate included a note that the brain worked
better if you lay down and shut out the distracting phenomena of
existence. Everything was soft and hazy at the time. The notion that
someone was there and yet not there intrigued him. And even a physical
change, a faint movement of the air caused by somebody altering his
position in space, a faint access of minute sounds entering by a cleared
doorway, did not rouse his suspicions. On the contrary, he must have
dozed, he told Archy solemnly. For the next thing he remembered with any
approach to coherence was a figure with its back to him, standing by the
toilet shelf, holding up an empty glass and smelling it.... A figure he
knew. Yes, he nodded to Archy, who clicked his teeth and threw up his
head, it was the Old Man. And as swiftly as it had come, it was gone.
Mr. Spokesly found himself up on one elbow, pressing thumb and
forefinger into his eyes, and then peering from the brightness of the
light above his head into the rose-shaded twilight of the cabin. There
was no one there. Everything was just the same. The glass was still
there on the mahogany shelf, exactly as he had left it after taking a
tot of whiskey before lying down. Now wasn't that a curious experience,
he demanded?

But Archy was no votary of psychic phenomena. He waved everything of
that sort clean out of existence. What time was it? Quarter-past eight?
Why, he saw the Old Man himself sneaking up the saloon stairs to the
chart-room about that time. Of course it was the Old Man. Just the sort
of game he would be up to. It was revolting. Only the other day he had
given orders for his own supply of spirits to be put in his bedroom
instead of leaving it in Archy's charge. Never said a word to _him_,
mind you! Told the second steward to tell the chief steward. See the
game? Couldn't speak out like a man and say he'd missed a bottle or so.
Justice? There is no such thing as justice when you work for an
underhand, sneaking, spying....

Archy Bates had stopped short in his catalogue of the captain's
deformities as though he had been suddenly throttled. A bell was buzzing
in the pantry. They looked at each other. Archy put down his glass,
listened for a moment, hissed venomously, "That's him!" and slipped out.
Mr. Spokesly sat still while his friend was away answering the summons,
and nursed the rage in his heart to a dull glow. At times it died out
and he shivered as before a blackened fire, the dead ashes of a moody
disgust of life. One of the tragedies of mediocrity is the confused
nature of our emotions. We are like cracked bells, goodly enough in
outward form and fashion, but we don't ring true. Our intelligence shows
us many things about ourselves but fails to evoke a master passion. In
Mr. Spokesly's case, his great desire to have riches did not obscure
from his gaze the austere beauties of rectitude and the slow climb to an
honourable command. Neither did it narrow down his interests to the
sordid goal to which he aspired. The boding apprehension which was
rising like a black cloud at the back of his mind, that he was
neglecting his work, only reflected and magnified the blaze of his
resentment. What encouragement had he, he would like to know. Here he
was, slaving away, and no satisfaction. Nothing he did was right. Spied
on! Ignored! Treated like a dog! Well, he would see. If this little
business of Archy's came off, he would see if he was going to be trodden
on by any shipmaster. Archy....

For a moment the clear vision of Archy obsequiously waiting on the
captain, getting him some hot water perhaps, or laying out a fresh suit
of underwear, troubled the darkness of Mr. Spokesly's ruminations. A
clear vision, such as even the mediocre have at times. And close to it,
as though another miniature in another oval frame, a sharp, clear-cut
memory of Ada Rivers looking up at him with gray adoring eyes, the proud
tremble of her passionate mouth, the curve of her white throat....

Mr. Spokesly rose to his feet and he caught sight of the naked girl
sitting on Archy's knee, and of the bourgeois little face looking out
from behind it. Archy's wife! A long dizzy wave of revulsion made Mr.
Spokesly feel momentarily faint and he clutched the edge of the bunk
board. For a moment he stood, slack-mouthed and moody-eyed, gazing at
the photographs. Then he turned away and crept softly along the
corridor.

Archy was surprised, on his return, to find him gone.



CHAPTER III


Much of the diversity and nearly all the bitterness of our lives are due
to the fact that only rarely do we encounter our exact contemporaries.
In any sphere where all start at a prescribed age, as in great
universities and public services, there is a tendency to become
standardized, to be only one example of a prevalent type. Ambition is
coördinated, jealousy is neutralized; and the hot lava-flow of
individualist passion cools and hardens to an admirable solidity and
composure. One's exact contemporaries are around in throngs. One has no
misgivings, no heartburn, no exasperation with fate. The fortunate being
whose destiny lies this way takes on the gravity, the immobility, and
the polish of an antique statue. The common people pass him as they pass
the Elgin marbles--without emotion; but they are aware subconsciously of
the cold pure beauty of outline, the absolute fidelity to type, which is
the melancholy justification of his existence.

But the common people themselves are not like that. They quit their
exact contemporaries at school and thence-forth are out upon the sea of
life with men of all ages and breedings and nationalities around them
and pressing them hard. They act and are reacted upon. Most of them
nurse a secret grievance. Very few of them have any code of honour
beyond law and decency. They are very largely needy adventurers, living
by their wits, and are ready to pay money to those who profess to show
them how they can increase their incomes, or obtain a pension, or
"better their positions," or cure themselves of the innumerable physical
disabilities which their fatuous ignorance and indolence have brought
upon them. They love to decipher word competitions, football
competitions, racing competitions. They have the high-binder's passion
for getting something for nothing, his dislike to real work. And this
lack of contemporary associates, this rough-and-tumble aspect of the
world, induces them to regard their vices as virtues and themselves as
oppressed helots struggling under the iron heels of those whom mere luck
and cunning have placed in authority over them. The London School of
Mnemonics was making a hundred thousand pounds a year net profit out of
these people in England alone. Even the grim witticism of the company
promoter, that there is "a sucker born every minute," seems inadequate
to account for so monstrous a simplicity of soul. The fact is, the very
boldness of the trick rendered it easy. You paid your guinea, and in due
course, in due secrecy, and under duly sworn promises to divulge no hint
of their contents to a living soul, you received a number of
refined-looking pamphlets containing a couple of thousand words each.
You thrilled as you joined in the game. Even Captain Meredith, sitting
in his chart room and looking through Number Four, which Mr. Spokesly
had inadvertently left on the table, was tickled by the subtle
atmosphere of the style. This, he divined, was the newly discovered
rapid-transit route to the Fortunate Isles, and his expression hardened
to rigid attention as his eye fell on the testimony of "a ship's
officer." This gentleman had risen from the humble position of fourth
officer to the command "of one of our largest liners" in the
miraculously brief period of eighteen months, and ascribed this success
entirely to the lessons of the London School of Mnemonics. Captain
Meredith felt he would like to have a talk with this person; but his
mind became preoccupied with another aspect of the case. Here, he felt,
lay the explanation of a good deal of Mr. Spokesly's recent behaviour.
Captain Meredith was fully aware of the perilous nature of an unmarried
man's life between thirty and forty. He himself had married at
thirty-four, having been frankly terrified by the spiritual difficulties
which he beheld surrounding a continued celibacy when combined with a
life of responsible command at sea. And as he sat back on the settee of
his chart-room and looked out over the top of Pamphlet Number Four at
the steel-blue waters of the Mediterranean, he became dimly aware of Mr.
Spokesly's condition. He could not have set down in ordered phrases the
conclusions at which he was arriving; a ship's captain in time of war
has not the leisure to reduce psychological phenomena to their ultimate
first principles; but he was not far wrong in muttering, inaudibly, that
"the man was rattled." It was this tendency to try and understand his
officers which lay at the back of his leniency towards Mr. Spokesly, a
leniency which Mr. Spokesly himself, in later, saner moments, found it
difficult to comprehend.

Mr. Spokesly had "pulled himself together," as he expressed it, when
they went to sea. Archy Bates tacitly retired into the background. Archy
himself was fully aware that the bosom friendliness of the days and
nights in harbour could not continue at sea, and Mr. Spokesly ceased to
share the never-ending refreshment without which Archy could no longer
support existence. Mr. Spokesly felt better at once, for alcohol had no
real hold upon his system. He toiled laboriously through the astonishing
physical exercises which the London School of Mnemonics artfully
suggested were an aid to mental improvement. He practised Concentration,
Observation, and something the pamphlets called Intensive Excogitation,
which nearly made him cross-eyed. Incidentally, he gathered incongruous
scraps of information about Alcibiades, Erasmus, Savonarola,
Nostradamus, Arminius Vámbéry, and Doctor Johnson. It was while he was
busy carrying out their instructions for accurate observation, that
Captain Meredith asked him, calmly enough, if he had noticed that the
binnacle of Number Two lifeboat was smashed and useless. Mr. Spokesly
assumed a mulish expression and said, No, he hadn't. Well, in future, he
was to have the boats not only made ready, but _kept_ ready, quite
ready, all the time. Mr. Spokesly, looking still more mulish, said he'd
attend to it.

With the gimcrack little sheet copper binnacle in his hand, Mr. Spokesly
made his way to the chief engineer's room. He felt rather bitter. Here
he'd been going along nicely for two whole days and now this happens!
Spoken to like a dog over a little petty thing like this. As if it was
_his_ fault the blamed thing had got smashed. Did he notice it! As if
the chief officer of a ship had no more to do than moon round the deck,
looking at things....

If Captain Meredith had told Mr. Spokesly that he himself had achieved a
rung in the ladder by the simple process of paying very strict attention
to his boats, it would have been the bare truth, but Mr. Spokesly would
not have seen the point. He found the chief engineer standing before his
desk in some deshabille, filling a black briar. His broad, hairy torso
was almost naked, for the scanty singlet was torn under the arms and
ripped across the bosom. His high-coloured features and reddish
moustache were smeared with black oil, and he was breathing in heaves as
though he had been running. When Mr. Spokesly presented his broken
binnacle the chief glanced at it with a scarcely perceptible flicker of
his bushy eyebrows and continued to fill his pipe from a canister on the
desk.

"Well, Mr. Spokesly," he remarked in a voice suitable for addressing an
immense open-air meeting. "Well, what is it now?" And he struck a match
and lit his pipe.

Mr. Spokesly explained that he wanted it mended.

"Oh, you want it mended. Well, why don't you ship a tinker, my fine
fellow? Eh? Why not indent for a tinker? You've got a carpenter and a
lamp trimmer and a bo'sun and a squad of quartermasters. What's a tinker
more or less?" And sitting back in his swivel chair and blowing great
clouds, he looked maliciously at Mr. Spokesly. The chief was a man with
an atmosphere. He had an immense experience, which he kept to himself
save at the hour of need. He had an admirable staff who did just what he
wanted without any rhetoric. Save at times like the present moment, when
Mr. Spokesly, though he was quite unaware of it, was very much _de trop_
owing to a breakdown in the engine room, the chief was a tolerant and
breezy example of the old school. Just now, with the sweat cooling on
his back and a battered binnacle offered to him for repair, he took
refuge in dry malice. He studied Mr. Spokesly mercilessly. He was, or at
any rate he looked, perfectly aware of the extreme unfitness of Mr.
Spokesly's bodily frame, for Mr. Spokesly had done no real work since he
had passed for second mate eleven years before. The chief himself was
inclined to obesity, for he verged on fifty and his frame was of the
herculean type, needing much nourishment and upholstery. But there was a
difference between the huge, red-freckled and hirsute masses upon his
bones and the soft puffiness of Mr. Spokesly's fatty degeneration. The
latter's double chin was in singular contrast with the massive and
muscular salience that gave the chief's face an expression of
indomitable vigour. He sat there, tipping himself slightly back in his
swivel chair, looking quizzically at Mr. Spokesly through the tobacco
smoke. Mr. Spokesly was annoyed. The chief had always been a decent
sort, he had imagined, and here he was jibbing at a little thing like
this. After all, it was the engineer's business to do these things. He,
an officer, couldn't be expected to attend to petty details.... A short
figure with a towel over his naked shoulders appeared abruptly out of
the engine room and passed along the alleyway. The chief called in his
stentorian tones, which issued from between twisted and broken teeth,
"Hi, Mr. Tolleshunt, here's a job for ye. Mate wants a binnacle fixed."
And Mr. Spokesly's mind became easy. A voice from behind a slammed door
said that the mate could take his binnacle and chase himself round the
deck with it, and the chief cackled. Mr. Tolleshunt came out of his room
again on his way to the bathroom. He was a young man with a thick white
neck, and black eyes set in a dirty, dead-white face which bore an
expression of smouldering rage. This, however, was merely an index of
character which, like many such indexes, was misleading. Mr. Tolleshunt
was not ill-tempered, but he had a morbid passion for efficiency. He was
an idealist, with a practical working ideal. He was not prepared to
accept anything in the world as an adequate substitute for achievement.
He had seen through Mr. Spokesly at once, for your idealist is often a
_clairvoyant_ of character. And as he passed along to his bath, his
black eyes smouldered upon the chief officer, who remembered the many
insults he had swallowed from this dirty engineer, and hated him.
Suddenly Mr. Tolleshunt paused, with his hand on the bathroom door, and
looked back. His dead-white face, the firm modelling of cheek and chin
curiously exaggerated by the black smears of grease, broke into a grim
smile as he spoke.

"Say, d'you know who I am, Mister?" he asked, and added, "I'll tell ye.
I'm the Thorn in the Flesh," and he disappeared into the bathroom,
whence came the rumble of water being boiled up by steam. Mr. Spokesly's
eyes returned to the burly gentleman who was regarding him with
amusement. Mr. Spokesly threw up his hands.

"Well," he said, looking stonily at nothing, "there it is. I was told to
get it fixed, an'----"

"Fix it then," said the chief quietly. Mr. Spokesly almost bridled.

"Not my work," he muttered.

"Oh, I see; it's mine, you mean!" surmised the other in a tone, of
assumed enlightenment.

"It's engineer's work," said Mr. Spokesly irritably. The chief made no
reply for a moment, merely studying Mr. Spokesly intently.

"See here, Mister," he began, and reached out a huge hand to close the
door. "See here, Mister, you're under a misapprehension. Now I'll tell
you the whole trouble. You heard Mr. Tolleshunt just now. D'ye know what
he meant when he said he was the Thorn in the Flesh? It's a joke of ours
in the mess room. He meant your flesh. And the reason for that is that
you men up on the bridge are in a false position. Ye have executive
power without knowledge. Ye command a ship and what do ye know about a
ship? To whom do ye come for help, whether it is steering or driving or
discharging or salving or anything? You want the same consideration and
power that you have on a sailing-ship, where you know all about the gear
and make out yourselves. Here, you just have to stand by while we do it.
And on top o' that, you come down here with your silly damn breakages
and expect us to be tinkers as well. You think Mr. Tolleshunt is sadly
deficient in respect, I dare say. But what of his side o' the question?
He's been up all night and all morning on a breakdown. So's the second,
who's still at it. So have I, for that matter. We've all three of us got
just as good tickets as you. Ye never heard about it? Of course not.
What could ye do for us? When ye've pulled that handle on the bridge and
heard the gong answer, you're finished! Ye're in charge of a box of
mechanism of which ye know nothing. Ye walk about in uniform and talk
big about yer work, and what does it all amount to? Ye're a young man,
and I'm, well, not so young, and I tell ye friendly, Mister, ye're a
joke. Ye're what the newspapers call an anachronism or an anomaly, I
forget which. Ye'll never get men like young Tolleshunt, men who know
their work from A to Z, to treat ye seriously unless ye take hold and
study a ship for what she is, a mass o' machinery. Ye'll have to get
shut o' the notion that as soon as ye become officers, ye must lose the
use o' your hands. Now there's just as much engineerin' about that
binnacle as there is in a kettle or a rabbit hutch. Put one o' your
young apprentices to it, and if he can't, make him learn. I've been with
old-time skippers who could do anything, from wire-splicing to welding
an anchor shackle. They learned in the yard before they went to sea.
Your young fellers can do nothing except slather a hose round the decks
and ask for higher wages. Now don't be sore because I'm telling ye the
truth. We're busy and we're tired. We've all sorts o' trouble you can't
understand, vital matters that mean speed and safety. Suppose, after a
spell on the bridge in fog, ye were to come down to yer room and find me
there with some ash-bags to sew up, eh? Imagine it! Just imagine it!"

He sat there, looking sideways at Mr. Spokesly, his pipe between his
enormous thumb and knuckle, asking Mr. Spokesly to imagine this fearsome
thing. But Mr. Spokesly's imagination was for the time being out of
commission. He was scarcely conscious of the request, so intensely
preoccupied was he with the ghastly cleavage between his own estimate of
his position and the chief's. Back of all these frank insults to his
dignity, Mr. Spokesly scented the sinister prejudice of his commander.
As he strode, in severe mental disarray, back to his room, he discovered
a conviction that the chief "had been pumpin' the Old Man." Not that he
needed any pumping, of course. It would be only too like him to blab to
an engineer about his own officers. Well, there it was! Mr. Spokesly
pitched the hapless binnacle on the settee and turned to the wash-stand.
Perhaps it was due to the course of the London School of Mnemonics, the
course in tracing the association of ideas, that when his eye fell on
the tumblers in the rack he should think of that abominable trick of the
Old Man sneaking in and smelling the glass to see if he, Mr. Spokesly,
had been drinking. Couldn't trust him that far! Do what he would he
could give no satisfaction. He would ask to be paid off to-morrow as
soon as they dropped anchor in Saloniki harbour. That would be the best
way. Just pull out of it. They would realize, when he was gone, the sort
of man they had lost. The flame of indignation died out again and he sat
moodily pondering the difficulty of commanding an adequate appreciation.
Command! The word stung him to bodily movement. If only he could once
grasp the sceptre, he could defy them all. He would have the whip-hand
then. And there were ways, there were ways of making money. Some he had
heard of on this run were quadrupling their incomes. Archy had whispered
incredible stories of skippers and stewards working together ... working
together. Perhaps it would be worth while to stick to the ship for a
voyage or so, even if he did have to put up with this sort of thing.
They would reach Saloniki in a few hours, and then they would see.

It frequently happens that moods which would logically drive men mad,
moods which seem to have no natural antidote, are broken up and
neutralized by some entirely fortuitous event. It is not too much to say
that Mr. Spokesly's grievances were inducing one of these moods, when
the wholesome activity of affairs on the forecastle-head, the keen
autumn wind blowing across the bony ridges of Chalcidice, and the
professional criticism evoked by the ships outward-bound, blew the foul
vapours away. Captain Meredith, whose reflective and unchallenging blue
eyes were visible between the weather-cloth and the laced peak of his
cap, made a mental note that "the man was doing himself justice." Of
course Captain Meredith did not perceive how very wide of the mark his
sensible phrase led him. Mr. Spokesly always did himself justice. What
he was eternally hunting for, in and out of the maze in which he spent
his life, was justice from others. Captain Meredith did not realize that
a middle-aged man with a grievance is like a man who has been
skinned--to touch him causes the most exquisite agony. Nay, merely to
exist, to permit the orderly march of every-day routine, chafes him to
the verge of hysteria. It was nothing to Mr. Spokesly that he was
serving his country; nothing to him that he was in imminent peril by
mine and torpedo. During the voyage he had scarcely noticed the
occasional formal slips that came from the wireless house informing them
that an enemy submarine was operating in such and such a position, so
many miles ahead or astern as the case might be. Mr. Spokesly had never
seen a submarine and he didn't want to. The whole business of war in his
eyes became a ghastly farce so long as he was not appreciated at his
true worth. It might almost be said that at times he was indifferent to
the outcome of the gigantic struggle. A horrible unrest assailed him.
The world was heaving in a death grapple with the powers of darkness and
he was as nothing in the balance.

But as he walked the forecastle-head and the _Tanganyika_ passed through
the bottle neck of Kara Burun into the wide waters of the gulf-head, he
was restored to a normal attention to the cut-and-dried duties of his
calling. There was exhilaration in the thought of foregathering once
more with Archy, of going ashore in a new port. And there would be
letters. He drew a deep breath. Ada would write. Unconsciously he
straightened up. A warm glow suffused him as he recalled her dark-gray,
adoring eyes and the deep tremble of her voice as she called him her
sailor sweetheart. After all, he was that. He was understood there, he
thought, and was comforted. Rung by rung he climbed up out of the dark
dank well in which he had been dwelling until, when the compressors had
been screwed up tight and the _Tanganyika_ was swinging gently on her
eighty fathom of cable, he was recapitulating the heartening words he
had last read in his "course" in the London School of Mnemonics.

_Think well of yourself and your ability_, it ran. _Get the habit of
believing in your own ambition. This is only another way of saying that
faith can move mountains. But remember that to be satisfied with what
you are is to lose grip. If you are standing still you are slipping
back. This paradox will be shown...._

       *       *       *       *       *

It was some hours later, after dinner, that Captain Meredith sat at the
desk in his room looking out of the big side-scuttle at the blood-red
and purple of the western sky beyond the Vardar delta. It was such a
sunset as one may see across Lake Pontchartrain in the fall, or looking
up some aisle of the dark silent forests that fringe the swamps of the
Georgia coast. It has the opaque glamour that comes from the dense
vapours rising from a marsh, the tangible beauty of a giant curtain
rather than the far glories of miles of ambient mountain air. But
Captain Meredith was not occupied with esthetic musings. In his hand he
held a letter from the superintendent in London, and he sought
seclusion, as was his wont, in looking out towards the immense
polychrome of the sky. For the letter contained orders which might
involve him in some difficulties. He was instructed to file, in an
enclosed form, precise particulars of all his officers' records, and
return them accompanied by his own opinion as to their fitness for
promotion. It would be necessary, he was informed, to engage a large
number of additional officers for a fleet which the company had
purchased all standing, and the directors were anxious that those
already in their employ should have the pick of the billets. It was
important, he was warned, that he use care in recommending any man, as
the directors proposed to act upon these suggestions, and the failure of
a nominee would react unfavourably upon the prestige of the commander
responsible for the report.

Like all men who have grown up inside the protecting walls of tradition
and routine, Captain Meredith was unable to view a situation without
prejudice. Some small portion of free and independent judgment he had,
or he would never have become master; but the bulk of the decisions
which he had to make were obtained by unconscious reference to rules,
written or unwritten. This order, however, involved just that small part
of his mental equipment which made his work of interest to him, his
imagination if you like. It forced him to take a far wider view than was
ordinarily advisable. He was aware of the popular legends which have
grown around great commanders--legends of their genius for selecting
subordinates, their uncanny aptitude for appraising a man's powers at a
glance. Not so easy, Captain Meredith had found it. Like most of us, he
had in time cultivated a habit of suspending judgment, a habit of
discounting the dreadful efficiency of the new broom, the total
abstainer, the college-graduate, and the newly married. What he waited
for time to reveal was the man's principle. Without the main girder and
tie-ribs of principle, all was as nothing. And yet what comprised this
principle Captain Meredith would have been sore put to it to explain. It
was not enthusiasm, nor was it will power. It was not even intellect or
civil responsibility. It was deeper than any of these, a subtle
manifestation of character as elusive and imponderable as a beam of
light or the expression on a man's face. Somewhat to his surprise
Captain Meredith's reflections showed him that not even compatibility of
temperament had much to do with it. He and old McGinnis had never been
warm friends, had even had frequent differences on minor details of
executive routine. Neither of them would have invited the other to his
home, had the opportunity served. That did not matter. He had had some
experience of officers quite different from Mr. McGinnis, clever, gay
young men, "good mixers," passengers' favourites, and he had discovered
that a man may be a brilliant social success and a useless incumbrance
at the same time. To state the problem to himself was difficult, but it
was forced upon him irresistibly when he endeavoured to formulate his
mature conclusions upon the subject of Mr. Spokesly. His chief officer
was his chief concern. Of the others he was able to set down a fairly
just and intelligible estimate. Young Chippenham was a bundle of amiable
possibilities. He would have to get his certificates before the company
would make him or break him. The chief engineer was at the other end of
the scale. His name was made. Behind him was a career of solid
responsibility, of grave crises met and mastered with cool generalship
and unbeatable energy. He was one of those men who carry in their own
personality the prestige of a race, a nation, and a learned profession.
Of the others it would be safe to take his verdict. Mr. Spokesly,
therefore, remained the chief source of anxiety. For it was not a simple
question of bearing witness to Mr. Spokesly's ability as a seaman, as a
navigator, or as a desirable junior officer. The tremendous
responsibility from which Captain Meredith shrank was twofold. On the
one hand, he had to accept the onus of recommending his chief officer
for a command. On the other lay the grave danger of injustice to a
brother professional. Mr. Spokesly was a man no longer in his first
youth, no doubt engaged to be married, with ambitions and aspirations
with which Captain Meredith had the deepest sympathy. It was no small
matter to stop a man's promotion. He remembered how he himself, piqued
at some ungenerous act of the company, had talked of resignation, and
his commander had taken him by the arm and muttered contemptuously, "And
spoil yourself for life, eh?" And when asked "How?" that same shipmaster
had drawn a brutal picture of a man throwing up a billet just as he was
getting a name, entering another employ as a junior, spending years
working up to chief mate again, only to find about a score of active,
intelligent, and experienced officers on the list ahead of him, and
gradually resigning himself to the colourless existence of an elderly
failure. Captain Meredith was not the man to condemn a brother officer
to such a fate without an overwhelming conviction. Rather would he....

But his thoughts refused to travel that road. He sat looking out at the
sombre beauty of the sky, noting the long rigid black bar that divided
sharply the dark swamps from the shining pallor of the roadstead. He
tapped his teeth with his pencil. No, he was not prepared to jeopardize
his own prospects. He had a family. He hoped to spend more time with
them later ... after the war. He was beginning to think sea life was
narrowing. One got out of touch with so many phases of human interest
and activity.... One toiled and moiled, and suffered agonies of anxiety
and defeated vigilance; sleep and leisure went by the board for days;
one found fault and made mistakes; superior young men in warships asked
sarcastic questions during the small hours; and all to what end? After
all, one only earned for all this the salary which a successful
barrister or surgeon would pay his chauffeur. It was preposterous, when
one came to regard it. So Captain Meredith's thoughts ran on, with a
sort of light bitterness, sharpening their flavour and inclining him to
charity. In more senses than one, he and Mr. Spokesly were in the same
boat. He put his papers away in a drawer, picked up his cigar to take
the air on the bridge. Without registering any final and irrevocable
decision, he had made a mental note that "unless the man made an ass of
himself" he would not stand in his way.

The sun, concealed behind a distant range, threw up a ruddy and vigorous
glow as from an open cupola, but the roadstead lay in a profound shadow
whose edge began to sparkle with coloured lights of a singular
distinctness and individuality. It was like watching from the depths of
space a congregation of blessed yet still intensely personal spirits on
the heavenly shores. They stood in clusters or apart, in long lines or
zigzags far up the mountain side. At times they were obliterated by
trolley cars--gently moving glares which bore on their foreheads
flashing blue-white gems. At other times a fountain of sparks indicated
an otherwise invisible puff of smoke from a locomotive, and whole
galaxies of shining points would vanish while an ammunition train moved
laboriously across the city. But no knowledge of the actual causes could
destroy the illusion that the lights were informed with an intelligent
vitality. They winked and quivered with mysterious emotions. They went
on journeys among other fixed stars of greater magnitude. They came out
in boats over the dark water as though possessed with a passion for
exploring, and then, losing heart, would go back in a hurry, or else
expire. They raced along country roads and vanished in folds of the
hills. They danced and were smitten with idiotic immobility. They were
born, and they died sudden and inexplicable deaths. They were shocked,
or were filled with calm content. Low down on the edge of the shore,
where an open-air cinema was working convulsively, the lights had
collected in some excitement around the screen. Captain Meredith,
raising his night glasses to inspect this novel portent, imagined
himself watching a square hole in a dark spangled curtain, through which
a drama of inconceivable brightness and rapidity could be observed. It
was, the captain imagined whimsically, like watching a huge brain at
work, if such a thing were possible. He occasionally took refuge from
himself in such reflections. Without any pretence to originality, he
occasionally found himself in possession of thoughts for which custom
had provided no suitable phrase. With the humility common to those of
gentle birth who have followed the sea, he kept the results to himself.
Even in letters to his wife, he adhered to the conventional insipidity
that makes an Englishman's letters home one of the wonders of the world.
He had become somewhat fearful of originality, even in others, during
his honeymoon, when he had tried timidly to interest his wife in a novel
he was reading. It was a novel about sailors and the sea, of all things
in the world, and Captain Meredith had been so intrigued with the notion
of a story written about sailors without distorting them out of all
recognition that he couldn't keep it to himself. And he had been
completely nonplussed when his gentle, blonde, and slightly angular
young wife had displayed not merely a tepid lack of interest but
downright dislike. "I don't like it," she had said acidly, and returned
to her own book, an interminable tale of gipsies and highwaymen in
masks, and a "reigning toast" with forty thousand pounds. They had been
married some time before he realized just what it was she didn't like in
the story. And when he realized it, he put the thought from him in
trepidation, for he was prepared to sacrifice everything for her sake.
She embodied for him all that he craved of England. She was typical, as
she bent over their one child, a flaxen-haired little girl with
incredibly thin limbs. And he was typical, too--as he thought of them
and their setting at Ealing--the modern Englishman who has given
intellectual hostages to fortune.



CHAPTER IV


Mr. Spokesly once said in so many words that he disbelieved utterly in
premonition. There was, he said, nothing in it. If there were, he
remarked, we should be different. When pressed, he admitted freely that
if we could read the signs we might get adequate warning of impending
events; but by the time we have gotten the experience we are too old to
bother about the future at all. This, of course, was when the war was
finished and Mr. Spokesly, with the rest of the Merchant Service, had
slipped back into that obscure neglect from which they had temporarily
emerged. The gist of his remarks, therefore, seems to bear out the view
that he had not the faintest notion, when he went ashore that evening in
Saloniki with the gifted and amusing Mr. Bates, that he was on the brink
of a fundamental change in his life. Looking back, he was almost induced
to imagine that it was someone else who came ashore with Mr. Bates, a
sort of distant relation, say, who had borrowed his body for the
evening. And he was inclined to admit that, assuming what the
philosophers say is true--that the only use of knowledge is for the
purpose of action--it would preserve our idealism if our subconscious
adumbrations could only be induced to function in a more emphatic
manner.

The reason for interjecting this sample of Mr. Spokesly's later
mentality is to be rid of any possible ambiguity. If Mr. Spokesly had
been nothing more than Mr. Bates's boon companion his story would not be
worth telling, there being obviously so many other more interesting
people in the world. We have seen that Mr. Spokesly himself was aware of
his real value, and had appealed to the London School of Mnemonics to
elucidate his latent self from the commonplace shell in which he strove.
The London School of Mnemonics responded nobly according to its
doctrines. It supplied him with an astonishing quantity of intellectual
fuel, so to say, but omitted to indicate how it was to be ignited.
Indeed, it is very singular how public and commercial organizations
continually lose sight of the fact that in the spiritual world
spontaneous combustion does not exist. And it is also true that the
stark and secular desires of a man's soul, however powerful they may be
to achieve a multiplicity of base ends, can do nothing for the man
himself unless they are illuminated and shot through by some grand
passion, whether of friendship, religion, or love. Which of these,
depends upon the man. Some fortunate beings are the exponents of all
three. Most of us, and Mr. Spokesly was one, are destined to know very
little of either friendship or religion. So much might have been
postulated. He was under no illusions as to his emotional resources. His
remark that he could fall in love with almost any girl, so long as she
had a bit o' money, was really a very fine declaration of extreme
modesty. The virtuous are less humble. They lay extravagant claims to
the privilege of having an ideal. Mr. Spokesly, as he sat beside Mr.
Bates, who was smiling to himself in the darkness, watched the flashing
lights of the Place de la Liberté grow larger and larger; and, as the
din of the traffic reached his ears, experienced that feeling of
pleasant and passive receptivity which he learned in time to know as the
inevitable precursor of some momentous change.

Not so Mr. Bates, who smiled in the darkness. Mr. Bates was one of those
human beings who manifest the shadowless and unwinking intelligence of
the lower animals. The past, to Mr. Bates, was a period in which he had
done well. The future was a period in which he would do well. Between
these two delectable countries Mr. Bates moved gently along, a slightly
intoxicated optimist. The perils of the sea and of war, the hatred of
man or the wrath of God made no conscious impression upon Mr. Bates at
all. Any of them might crush him at any moment, but he proceeded
steadily upon his predatory way very much as a spider crossing a path
proceeds until some careless but omnipotent passer crushes it beneath
his heel. His attitude towards the gigantic engines of human destiny,
which preoccupy most of us so much, was expressed in the pussy-cat smile
in the darkness--a smile unseen and undesired.

"We'll go into Floka's first," he remarked, as the boat bumped the
marble steps between the kiosks of the Place. He stood up, and his smile
was illuminated by the sizzling glare of the arc lights along the quay,
a smile that was, as we have said, fitted on over his face, and which
bobbed up and down in obedience to the rhythmic undulations of the boat
in the water. They waited for a moment until the Greek had made fast,
and then stepped ashore.

"Why, is that a good place?" enquired Mr. Spokesly.

"Oh, yes. The _best_ place. My friend, he goes there often. By and by,
of course, we'll go along and see the talent. I'll show you, my boy.
Believe me...." They crossed the car lines and walked towards the café
which Mr. Bates's friend honoured. Floka's was full. The little tables
outside were thickly populated with gentlemen engaged in the national
pastime of cigarette-smoking and coffee-drinking, and the grandiose
interior, as severe and lofty and dirty as a Balkan politician, was
thick with smoke and murmurous with conversation and the consumption of
food. Mr. Bates led the way to a far corner where a long thin man, his
frock coat falling away open from a heavily brocaded vest with onyx
buttons, and his scarlet tarboosh on one side of his head, was lolling
on the crimson plush cushions. In one hand he held the stem of an
amber-mouthed _narghileh_. On the table was an empty coffee cup and a
glass of mastic. Across his long thin thighs lay a Greek newspaper. He
was reclining completely inert, gazing moodily across the crowded
restaurant. The alteration in his demeanour when he became aware of Mr.
Bates standing before him was dramatic. It was as though he had suddenly
seen a very funny joke and had been subjected to an electric current of
high voltage at the same time. He sprang to his feet with extraordinary
animation, and his face was contorted from a sombre melancholy to what
seemed to be an almost demoniac joy. It would be a solecism to say he
looked as though a fortune had been left him. No one was at all likely
to leave Mr. Dainopoulos a fortune. No one had ever left anything of
value within his reach without regretting it extremely. It will suffice
to say that his features registered a certain degree of pleasure upon
seeing Mr. Bates.

"Why, my dear friend!" he exclaimed in a sort of muffled scream, and he
wrung the honest hand of Mr. Bates as though that gentleman had only
that moment rescued him from a combination of drowning and bankruptcy.
"And how are you? Sit down if you please. What will you have to drink?
You must be--what you call it?--dry. Ha-ha! Sit down. This is good luck.
Your friend? I am very pleased. Sit down please. Here!" He clapped his
hands with frightful vehemence, and held up a distracted waiter who was
in full flight towards a distant table with a loaded tray. Mr.
Dainopoulos, gently pressing Mr. Bates and Mr. Spokesly into two chairs,
addressed the waiter as Herakles and gave him an order which sounded to
his guests like a loose board being ripped forcibly from a nailed-up
box. Mr. Spokesly, sitting immediately opposite this monster of
hospitality, was not favourably impressed. Mr. Dainopoulos rarely
impressed people favourably at first. The long emaciated face had the
texture of the uppers of an old buckskin shoe. The bloodshot brown eyes
in their reddened sockets seemed in danger of falling into the great
pouches of loose skin below them. The mouth, full of sharp yellow teeth
and open as though about to yawn, had been slit back to the salience of
the jaw at some time and had been sewn up in a sketchy fashion indicated
by a white zig-zag scar like a flash of lightning. As he talked this
scar worked with disconcerting vivacity. Mr. Spokesly turned with relief
to the whiskies and sodas which appeared, borne by the industrious
Herakles.

"And how is business?" asked Mr. Bates, having lifted his glass and set
it down empty. Beyond three or four sherries and bitters and a glass of
gin and vermouth, before coming ashore, he had drunk nothing all day. He
was thirsty. "And how is business?"

A simple question. And yet Mr. Dainopoulos did not render a simple
answer. He regarded Mr. Bates for a moment and then turned his head
cautiously to right and left. Preserving an impressive silence he caught
Mr. Spokesly's eyes and smiled, taking a suck at his _narghileh_. It was
at this juncture that two French naval officers, seated at a distant
table and smoking cigarettes in long ivory holders (to keep the smoke
from their beards), exchanged opinions upon the folly of their British
allies in permitting the officers of ships to come ashore in civilian
attire.

"You are quite sure, of course, that they _are_ officers of a
transport?" said the elder, observing with attention.

"Quite, my commandant. From the _Tanganyika_, arrived to-day. The little
one I know well. The other I observed upon the forecastle as she
anchored."

"But what are they doing in company with _him_?"

The lieutenant raised his shoulders.

"I imagine, my commandant, that they do a little business in hashish.
But in any case it is not what you imagine. The English do not spy."

"But Dainopoulos may use them, eh?"

"Impossible, my commandant. You do not know them. I do. As you are
aware, I was in the Crédit Lyonnais in Lombard Street. If Mr.
Dainopoulos attempted to enlist their services they would batter his
head in with his own _narghileh_. They have no compunction about robbing
their government by peculation, but treachery is not their _métier_. And
our friend knows it quite well."

"Business," observed Mr. Dainopoulos suddenly, "is very bad."

Mr. Bates seemed very amused at this and leaned over the dirty
marble-topped table.

"Count us both in, my friend here and me, for the same as last time. How
about it, eh?"

"Oh!" Mr. Dainopoulos pulled his extended frame up and put his elbows on
the table, his eyes blinking quickly. "Oh, that's all right. Yes,
certainly. But I mean to say business is very bad. You would not believe
me, Mister, but the chances that are going, and all for a little
management, are lost! Incredible! Only this week"--here he lowered his
voice so that Mr. Spokesly, who was listening with undivided attention,
scarcely gathered the words--"only this week, I could have made--ah,
much money--if I had with me an Englishman who knows the business. Ten
thousand drachma, easy as that!" Mr. Dainopoulos snapped his fingers
without a sound and looked depressed.

Mr. Bates did not look depressed. His smile evaporated and he looked
down his nose into his moustache with an expression of ruffled
propriety.

"I must say----" he began, and added, after a pause, "'Course we hadn't
arrived, but I should 'ave thought, seein' we was due here, you might
have counted on me."

Mr. Dainopoulos regarded Mr. Bates as though he were sizing him up for
the first time and found him to amount to an almost negligible quantity.
And then he shook his head.

"No," he murmured in a muffled tone. "That's not what I meant. What I
wanted--too late now, of course--was a Kapitan."

Mr. Bates, touching Mr. Spokesly's foot with his own, emitted a snigger
right in the face of Mr. Dainopoulos.

"And what about it?" he queried, impudently. "My friend here's got a
master's ticket. What's the matter with him? I'm surprised----"

He was. To Mr. Bates it was unpleasant to discover that Mr. Dainopoulos
should doubt his ability to cope with any situation which involved a
financial reward. That gentleman, however, was not exclusively
preoccupied with Mr. Bates and his emotions. He turned immediately to
Mr. Spokesly who sat quietly twisting his glass of whiskey on the marble
table. The pale, prominent, and bloodshot brown eyes examined Mr.
Spokesly with passionless attention. Mr. Dainopoulos had filled many
posts in his career. Quite apart from his participation in what he
discreetly alluded to as "the wars," he had rendered some slight
assistance to the builders of the Panama Canal as stoker on an
excavator, he had worked in a felt-hat factory in Newark, New Jersey; he
had been a waiter in a Greek café near Franklin Square, New York; he had
held the position of clerk in the warehouse of a Turkish tobacco
importer in London; and he had also been an assistant purser in one of
the Roumanian Lloyd mail steamers which used to run from Costanza to
Alexandria. He was one of those people who, as the saying is, "could
write a book," which means they can do or have done almost everything
except write a book. Such people are rarely of a literary turn. Mr.
Dainopoulos certainly was not. But he had one faculty which, if literary
people only knew it, is of use even in literature. He could size a man
up. By a natural turn of judgment, so necessary to success in his
business as a "general merchant and exporter" coupled with ceaseless
practice, he had acquired a skill in sizing up which seemed as
effortless and intuitive as the driving of a fine golfer or the
wrist-work of a professional billiard player. The London School of
Mnemonics could teach Mr. Dainopoulos nothing about practical
psychology. He might even have given them some useful hints. In the
present instance he was not at a loss. He waited, however, for Mr.
Spokesly to make some comment.

"That's right enough," said the latter, leaning forward and smiling.
"But I'd have to know a little more of the game, you understand? There's
a war on, you know. Can't be too careful."

"True," assented Mr. Dainopoulos reflectively and keeping his prominent
eyes fixed upon Mr. Spokesly. "You do not wish, then, to take a chance?"

"Oh, a _chance_!" Mr. Spokesly achieved a certain irony as he emphasized
the last word. "Your ideas of a chance and mine might be different.
S'pose we have another drink."

The watchful Herakles came near as Mr. Spokesly lifted his hand, and
took the order.

The fact was--and it may be presumed that Mr. Dainopoulos perceived it
sufficiently well to make allowance for it--that Mr. Spokesly, as he sat
beside Archy Bates and listened to the conversation, had experienced a
sudden access of caution. Archy was not drunk, and as far as was humanly
known, never would be really drunk; but he was sufficiently saturated to
raise a certain distrust in the mind of a perfectly sober man. It may
even be said that while Mr. Spokesly had no clear intention of deserting
his chum Archy, he was beginning to wish that Archy were not
indispensable in any scheme that might be proposed. And the occasional
looks that various British and French officers cast in their direction
made Mr. Spokesly uneasy. He suddenly realized the other aspect of
making money in a shady fashion: that one has to do business with shady
people. Mr. Dainopoulos, for example, looked extremely shady. Archy
Bates, his long, sharp nose buried in a fresh whiskey and soda, his hat
pushed back revealing the oiled graying hair parted in the middle and
slicked back above his ears with their purple veins; Archy, picking
dreamily among the pieces of fish and beetroot which had been served on
little dishes with the drinks, looked extraordinarily like a rat picking
at garbage. All very well, Mr. Spokesly reflected, to buy hashish and
sell it in Egypt at four or five hundred per cent. profit, so long as
the business could be transacted in a gentlemanly manner. But this new
development--he did not see his way clear to accepting Mr. Dainopoulos
as an employer. He was not fastidious--he had worked for a Chinese ship
owner--but the officers at the other tables, in their inconceivably
correct uniforms and polished harness, made him uneasy. Mr. Spokesly
knew perfectly well that these people did not consider him as one of
themselves. Even amid the noise and chaffering of a Saloniki café,
rubbing shoulders with the uniforms of French, Greek, Serbian, Russian,
and Italian officers, these men of his own race, he knew, never forgot
the abyss that separates the seafaring man from themselves, the social
_crevasse_ which even Armageddon was powerless to abolish. Nevertheless,
he felt he could never abandon for ever the possibility of entering,
some day, the magic circle. It is this peculiarity of the English
temperament which so often paralyses its victim at the very moment when
he needs to be in possession of all his faculties, when the chance,
perhaps of a lifetime, suddenly appears at his elbow.

But Mr. Dainopoulos, as has been said, could size a man up. He was
intuitively aware that he had made no great impression upon Mr.
Spokesly. And he had a special desire, now that chance had thrown them
together, to engage the interest of a skilled navigator. He had received
an offer which might result in a very large profit indeed. The business
to which he had been referring, a mere matter of running a small cargo
of canned goods down to a certain island and transferring it to an
Austrian submarine, was a trifle. One could do that every day, right
under the noses and beards of a dozen French naval officers. This was a
much bigger affair. It involved the sale, at huge profit, of one of his
little steamers which he had purchased for a song from the French early
in the war, but it also involved the safe conduct of the vessel into an
enemy port. His friends in Anatolia might compensate him ultimately for
the destruction of his ship by an Allied warship and the crew could look
out for themselves; but if the captain lost her by grounding, it would
be a disaster of the first magnitude. All this passed through the nimble
mind of Mr. Dainopoulos while Mr. Spokesly waited for further light on
the nature of the service required. He saw the difficulty and, knowing
the English character, he took his measure accordingly. He smiled.

"You come to my house and have some supper?" he remarked. "My wife would
be pleased, I'm sure."

Mr. Spokesly looked at Archy Bates. That gentleman was no longer paying
attention. In his own peculiar fashion he had arrived at some sort of
intuitive recognition of the fact that Mr. Dainopoulos had no intention
of letting him in on this affair. Well, that was all right, Mr. Bates
reflected in one of those appallingly clear and coherent moments which
suddenly open in the mentality of dipsomaniacs. That was all right. They
were making a lot of money. Big risk for him, by Jove! but he was
willing to shoulder it. By Jove! That last time in Port Said, when the
police rushed into his cabin not five minutes after the laundryman, who
also took his rake-off, had carried the stuff ashore in a boat-load of
dirty sheets. It was a near thing. Two hundred quid he had netted over
that, paid in Turkish gold. And they had found the bit of burlap in
which it had been wrapped. He saw the chief of police now, standing
there, in his bright red fez, and white uniform, legs apart, holding the
thing to his nose. Hashish, by Jove! A close call! "What's this?" Mr.
Bates jumped and made the table shake. Mr. Spokesly was speaking. For a
moment he had forgotten where he was. Little beads of sweat stood out on
his forehead. He smiled with relief.

"Shall we go?" repeated Mr. Spokesly. Somewhat to his surprise, Mr.
Bates shook his head. He was still smiling with relief, for that brief
moment, during which his consciousness had slipped back a couple of
months, as it were, and reënacted the scene in his cabin, had been very
real. Five years in an Egyptian penitentiary missed by five minutes and
a quick-witted explanation! While he shook his head and smiled into Mr.
Spokesly's face he was thinking that he would take twice as much this
time, and he knew where to hide it. Moreover, and he smiled more like a
cat than ever, the millions of lines round his eyes deepening, he
reflected that if Mr. Spokesly went in on this there was practically no
risk at all. Nothing easier than to say----Eh, what? No! He was going
along to the Amphitryon, to see a little friend of his. See them later.
Aw--ri!

It was a notable feature of Mr. Bates's temperamental failing that it
never affected his legs. In earlier years, as a saloon waiter, he had
often astounded his shipmates by getting as drunk as a lord before
dinner, and yet going down the long dining saloon of a great liner, a
plate of soup in each hand, and depositing them in front of passengers
in evening dress, without ever an accident. Perhaps his demeanour was a
shade more deliberate, his attention a trifle more abstracted, on these
occasions; that was all. And now, as he rose and went towards the door
of Floka's, after a dignified farewell to Mr. Dainopoulos, although an
occasional wandering eye fastened upon him for a moment, Mr. Bates never
betrayed himself. He paused courteously at the door while a major with
his brigadier in tow passed in, monocles reflecting the light in a blind
white glare so that they resembled Cyclops, and then he walked out
gently himself, and was immediately lost in the noise and bustle of the
Place.

Mr. Dainopoulos looked at Mr. Spokesly and thrust a thumb into the
armhole of his coat.

"Your friend," he began in a low mutter, "him and me we do big
business--you understand?--but all the same he drink too much highball.
No good, eh?"

"Well," said Mr. Spokesly, "he's his own master, and he can please
himself about that. To tell the truth, though, if there's anything
in--what you were speaking of, I'd just as soon he wasn't in it. You see
what I mean?" Mr. Dainopoulos nodded and drew at his _narghileh_. "He's
a friend of mine, and very good friend, too, but we got to draw a line
somewhere." Again Mr. Dainopoulos nodded as he leaned across the table.

"And another thing!" he remarked in his muffled tones, and he held the
mouthpiece of the _narghileh_ just in front of his lips as though it
were a speaking tube and he was engaged in conversation with someone at
the other end. He even cast his eyes down, and seemed to abandon Mr.
Spokesly entirely. "And another thing. Mr. Bates, he very fond--you
know--very fond of the _mademoiselles_. That's all right. If you like
them, very good. But Mr. Bates, he comes all the time to me. Want
me--you understand? Now, I do no business in that line, none at all. I
don't like it. Plenty men tell you, 'Oh, yes, you come with me.' You
understand? But me, I got my family to think about. _Now_ you
understand?"

"It is not respectable," added Mr. Dainopoulos in a deep tone, and
relapsed into silence and the _narghileh_.

Mr. Spokesly did not reply. Even when they had left the café and were
being driven along the _quai_ in the direction of the White Tower, on
their left the dazzle and noise of _cafés-chantant_ and cinemas, on
their right the intense darkness of the Gulf, he did no more than
acquiesce in what Mr. Dainopoulos was saying. For to tell the truth, Mr.
Spokesly was making certain readjustments within himself. Neither Mr.
Bates nor Mr. Dainopoulos was of vital importance to the growth of his
soul, yet they come in here. They were backgrounds on which were
silhouetted combinations novel to him. He had to find room in his mind
for the conception of a shady person who cultivated the domestic
virtues. Mr. Spokesly might be a man of inferior calibre, easily swayed
by the prospect of easy money, but his mind swung naturally to the
equilibriums of respectability. "All that," as he called it, "was a
thing o' the past." He was tired of the shabby and meretricious byways
he had frequented, in moderation, for so long. With more knowledge of
introspection he would have known this as one of the signs of coming
change. Coming events are very often a glorified reincarnation of dead
desires. Dreams come true. Fortunate men recognize them in time.

"Your family?" said Mr. Spokesly, and the man beside him turned towards
him and said:

"When I say 'family' I mean 'my wife.'"

Mr. Spokesly had no definite image in his mind of the domestic
arrangements of a man like Mr. Dainopoulos. The scarlet tarboosh on that
gentleman's head leaned the Englishman's fancy to a harem. In any case,
the Island Race imagine that every Levantine who wears a fez is a Turk,
that every Turk is a polygamist, and finally that polygamy implies a
score or two of wives locked up in cupboards. But the tone in which Mr.
Dainopoulos uttered the word "wife" precluded anything of this sort. It
was a tone which Mr. Spokesly immediately comprehended. It was the tone
in which Englishmen refer to their most valued possession and their
embodied ideals. There is no mistaking it. There is nothing like it in
the world. It is a tone implying an authorized and expurgated edition of
the speaker's emotional odyssey.

"And so," he went on, "you can see how I don't want to get mixed up in
any of these here places." And he opened his hand towards the subdued
glare of the cafés and dance halls. Mr. Spokesly saw. He saw also, in
imagination, Archy Bates sitting, hand to moustache, amid the
chalk-faced hetairai of Saloniki, second-rate harpies who had had their
day on the Parisian _trottoirs_, and who had been shipped by a
benevolent government to assuage the ennui of the _Armée d'Orient_. He
saw them from time to time with his physical eyes, too, as they came to
the doors of their refuges and, setting off to visit confederates, flung
a glance of shrewd appraisal towards the passing vehicle.

"Yes," he muttered. "I see, Mr.--Mr.----"

"Dainopoulos," said that gentleman.

"Mr. Dainopoulos, I'm no saint, y'understand, but all the same--well, a
man wants something, y'understand? Besides," added Mr. Spokesly, "'twixt
you an' me an' the stern-post, I'm engaged."

"You don't tell me!" exclaimed Mr. Dainopoulos in that peculiarly
gratifying fashion which seemed to imply that this was the first
betrothal announced since the Fall of Constantinople. "You don't
tell--and I bet you what you like she's English, eh?"

"Yes, she's English all right," said Mr. Spokesly, feeling somewhat
embarrassed by his friend's triumphant cordiality. "Pretty safe bet,
that," he added as the carriage stopped in front of a black, solid
wooden gate in a high yellow wall.

"Safe enough?" laughed Mr. Dainopoulos, not quite seizing the point
intended. "Why, sure! Englishwomen are the best of all. I ought to know.
Ha-ha!" and he slapped Mr. Spokesly's knee while his other hand sought
the price of the ride. Mr. Spokesly failed to appreciate this approval
of Englishwomen. A suspicion shot through his mind. He looked at the
dark gate in the yellow wall. What, precisely, did this man mean by that
last remark? Was all this talk of family and so forth a blind? Was he,
Mr. Spokesly, on the brink of an adventure? It must be confessed that he
would not have objected to that; but his gorge rose in spite of him at
the reference to Englishwomen.

"I don't quite understand," he remarked in a low tone. "How do you
happen to know so much about 'em?"

Mr. Dainopoulos laughed again and handed the fare to the driver. He
stepped out, held a bunch of keys to the light of the carriage lamp, and
selected one. Then he beckoned to Mr. Spokesly to alight.

"I'll tell you, Mister," he said, as he stooped, inserted the key,
turned it, and pushed open the gate. "Because I married one myself."



CHAPTER V


Mr. Spokesly, in a state of considerable astonishment, sat by a
balconied upper window and tried to get his recent experiences into some
sort of focus. That last remark of Mr. Dainopoulos, that he had married
one himself, had dislocated his guest's faculties, so that Mr. Spokesly
was unable to note clearly by what means he had arrived at his present
position, a balconied window on his right and in front of him a woman
lying on a sofa. A woman whose brown hair, extraordinarily long and
fine, was a glossy pile pressed into the pillow, and whose thin hand he
had just relinquished.

"Well," he said, as Mr. Dainopoulos came forward with a lamp, his swart
and damaged features giving him the air of a ferocious genie about to
perform some nefarious experiment. "Well, I must say, I'm surprised."

Mrs. Dainopoulos continued to gaze straight out into the darkness over
the Gulf.

"Of course," agreed her husband, seating himself and reaching for a
large briar pipe. "Of course. And I'll bet you'd be still more surprised
if you only knew--eh, Alice?" He screwed up one eye and looked
prodigiously sly at his wife with the other, his palms slowly rubbing up
some tobacco. Mrs. Dainopoulos did not remove her eyes from the darkness
beyond the shore. She only murmured in a curt voice:

"Never mind that now, Boris."

"But it ain't anything to be ashamed of, you know," he returned
earnestly, packing his pipe in a way that made Mr. Spokesly want to
snatch it from him and do it properly.

"I know, but it wouldn't interest Mr. Spokesly, I'm quite certain," she
muttered, and she suddenly looked at their visitor and smiled. It
reassured that gentleman, as it was intended to do, that he was in no
way responsible for this minute difference of viewpoint between husband
and wife. Mr. Spokesly smiled, too.

"Don't mind me," he remarked, lighting a cigarette and offering the
match to Mr. Dainopoulos. After sucking valiantly for a while and
achieving a small red glow in one corner of the bowl, the latter rose
and regarded his wife and his guest attentively for a moment.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," he said at length, and looked at his pipe,
which was already out. "I'll go in and see Malleotis for a while. He'll
be back by now. And you two can have a little talk before we have
supper."

"Well, don't be all night. You know, when you and Mr. Malleotis get
talking business----"

The woman on the couch paused, regarding her husband as he bent his head
over her. Mr. Dainopoulos suddenly put his pipe in his pocket and put
his hands on either side of the pillow. Mr. Spokesly could see nothing
save the man's broad, humped shoulders. There was a moment of silence.
Mr. Spokesly, very much embarrassed, looked out of the window. When he
turned his head again Mr. Dainopoulos was putting on a large tweed cap
and walking out of the door.

"I suppose," Mr. Spokesly remarked, and fixed his eyes upon the
extremely decorative Scotch travelling rug which covered the woman's
limbs, "I suppose he doesn't go off every evening and leave you here."
He spoke jocosely. Mrs. Dainopoulos looked out into the darkness. There
was a faint colour in her cheeks, as though the sudden revelation of the
passion she could evoke had filled her with exquisite shame. Or perhaps
pride. Her clear, delicate English face, the mouth barely closed, the
short straight nose slightly raised, the brown hair spread in a slight
disorder upon the pillow, were surely indicating pride. Some inkling of
this possibility came to Mr. Spokesly, and he sat regarding her, while
he waited for her to speak, and wondering how a woman like her had come
to marry one of these here dagoes. Peculiar creatures, women, Mr.
Spokesly thought; knowing nothing whatever about them, it may be
mentioned. And when Mrs. Dainopoulos turned to look at him, soon after
she began to speak, the prevailing fancy at the back of his mind was
"She thinks I don't know anything about the ladies! Fancy that!"

"His business takes him out a good deal," she said in a low voice, "but
he wouldn't go if he could help it. To-night is unusual."

"The pleasure is mine," said Mr. Spokesly.

"Not altogether," she smiled, and her speech became perceptibly more
racy and rapid. "Don't flatter yourself. Mr. Dainopoulos was thinking of
me."

"I dare say he does a good deal of that."

The woman on the sofa laced her fingers lightly and regarded her guest
afresh.

"You are saucy," she murmured with a faint smile. Mr. Spokesly smiled
more broadly. He was saucy, but he was certainly at home now with his
companion. There was in her last speech, in the accent and inflection,
something incommunicably indigenous, something no alien ever has or ever
will compass.

"No need to ask what part of England you come from," he ventured.

"No?" she queried. "There seems nothing you don't know."

"Oh, excuse me, Mrs. Dainopoulos, that ain't fair. I can't sit here and
twiddle my thumbs all the evening, can I? _That_ wouldn't be giving you
any pleasure as far as I'm aware. The boss didn't reckon I was going to
play a mandolin or sing, did he?"

"Well, since you're so clever, what's the answer?"

"Not so very many miles from Charing Cross," he hazarded.

"Wonderful!" she said, laying her head back and smiling. Mr. Spokesly
admired the pretty throat. "You ought to be in the secret service.
Perhaps you are," she added.

"Of course," he agreed. "They've sent me out to see where all the nice
London girls have got to. But am I right?"

She nodded.

"Haverstock Hill," she said quietly.

"No! Do you know Mafeking Road? When I was a kid we lived at
sixty-eight."

"Yes, I know it. Don't you live round there now?"

"No, not now. We live down Twickenham way now."

And Mr. Spokesly began to tell his own recent history, touching lightly
upon the pathos of Eastern exile, the journey home to join up, and his
conviction that after all he would be a fool to go soldiering while the
ships had to be kept running. And he added as a kind of immaterial
postscript:

"And then, o' course, while I was at home I got engaged."

Mrs. Dainopoulos stared at him and broke into a brief titter behind a
handkerchief.

"_That's_ a nice way to give out the information," she remarked.
"Anybody'd think getting engaged was like buying a railway ticket or
sending a postal order. Is she nice?"

"Well," said Mr. Spokesly, "_I_ think so."

"Very enthusiastic!" commented the lady with considerable spirit. "Dark
or fair?"

"Well," he repeated, "I should say dark myself."

"You don't intend to take any chances," Mrs. Dainopoulos retorted.
"Haven't you a photo to show me?"

Mr. Spokesly felt his pockets, took out a wallet containing a number of
unconvincing documents, some postage stamps and a five-piaster note.

"Matter of fact," he said, "I don't seem to have one with me. I got one
on the ship, though," he went on. "Bring it ashore to-morrow."

"Sure you didn't tear it up by mistake or send it away in the laundry?"
she demanded, watching him intently.

"Oh, all right, go on with the sarcasm," he protested, but enjoying it
very much none the less. "Mr. Dainopoulos, you'll be telling me, has got
your hair in a locket, I suppose."

Mr. Spokesly stopped abruptly. He saw an expression of extraordinary
radiance on the girl's face as she lay there, her thin pale fingers
holding the handkerchief by the corner. It suddenly occurred to Mr.
Spokesly that this woman was loved. For the first time in his life he
became aware of a woman's private emotional existence. He achieved a dim
comprehension of the novel fact that a woman might have her own views of
these great matters. He did not phrase it quite like this. He only sat
looking at the girl on the sofa and remarking to himself that women were
peculiar.

"Wouldn't you do that?" she demanded. The light in her eyes diminished
to a steady warm regard.

And Mr. Spokesly began to assert himself once more. Women being so
peculiar, there was no sense in being bullied into any of this here
sentiment. He was a man of the world about to make a--what was it
called? Marriage of convenience ... something like that. Not that
exactly, either. Ada was a darned fine girl. This invalid lady seemed to
think he didn't know what love was.

"Who? Me?" he ejaculated. "Can't say as I see myself, I admit. Not in my
line. Not in any Englishman's line, I don't think. And speaking for
myself, Mrs. Dainopoulos, I reckon I'm past that sort of thing, you
know. Can't teach an old dog new tricks, can you? I look at it this way:
so long as there's enough to keep the pot boiling, it's easy enough to
fall in love with anybody, you see, and when you're married ... soon get
used to it. Ada and me, we're _sensible_."

"You've got it all arranged, then," said Mrs. Dainopoulos, smiling
faintly and looking out into the darkness once more.

"What's the use o' bein' anything else?" inquired Mr. Spokesly, resuming
something of the perfect officer pose, hard-bitten, practical, and
matter-of-fact. "All that business o' dyin' o' love, you know, I
reckon's so much moon-shine. All right in a novel, o' course, but not in
real life. _You_ don't reckon there's anything in it, really, I mean?"
he asked doubtfully.

"I think everything's in it," she sighed. "I think it must be horrible,
being married, without it. Haven't you felt you couldn't do without her?
That you'd die if you didn't get her; work, and do somebody else in the
eye for her? Haven't you?"

"That lets me out," he said soberly, lighting a fresh cigarette. "I'm
not guilty."

There was a brief silence. Mr. Spokesly was puzzled. He could not fit
this experience in with one of the two cardinal points in an
Englishman's creed, the belief that no English girl can really love a
foreigner. The other, of course, is that no foreign girl is really
virtuous.

"That's a nice thing to say!" she retorted, trembling a little with her
emotions. "If that's the new way they have at home----"

"Oh, I don't know," he began and he looked at her. "I'm afraid you're
getting all upset. I'm sorry, really, I didn't think you'd have been so
serious about it. As if it mattered to you!"

"I'm thinking of _her_," she said with a little hysterical sob. "You
mustn't----"

Mr. Spokesly was in a quandary again. If he put Ada's adoration in its
true perspective, he would not think very highly of himself. He took no
real pleasure in speaking of himself as a promised man even to a married
woman. Yet how was he to get this particular married woman in delicate
health and extremely robust emotions to see him as a human being and not
a monster of cold-blooded caution? And there was another problem. What
of this new and astonishing revelation--new and astonishing to him, at
any rate--that love, to a woman, is not a mere decoction of bliss
administered by a powerful and benevolent male, but a highly complicated
universe of subjective illusions in which the lover is only dimly seen
as a necessary but disturbing phantom of gross and agonizing
ineptitudes? The wonder, however, is not that Mr. Spokesly was slow to
discover this, but that he did not live and die, as many men do, without
even suspecting it. He nodded his head slightly as he replied:

"You're right in a way," he muttered. "She thinks I'm--well, she thinks
I'm brave to go to sea in war-time!" The extreme incongruity of such an
hallucination made him giggle.

"She would! You are!" said the woman on the couch, almost irritably.
"What do you want to laugh for? Don't you see what you miss?" she added
in illogical annoyance.

"That the way you feel about Mr. Dainopoulos?" Mr. Spokesly asked. The
woman turned her face so that the lamplight illumined her coiled hair
and for a moment she did not reply. Then she said, her face still in the
shadow:

"You'd only laugh if I told you."

"No," declared Mr. Spokesly. "Honest I won't. Laugh at meself--yes. But
you--that's different."

"But you don't believe in love at first sight, I can see very well."

"I only said I hadn't anything like that happen to me," he replied
slowly, pondering. "But I s'pose it has to be something like that in a
case like yours."

"I don't understand you."

"Well, you being English, you see, and Mr. Dainopoulos a foreigner."

"As an excuse, I suppose? Father made the same remark, but I never
thanked him."

Mr. Spokesly looked at her soberly. Her eyes were bright and resolute,
and the lamplight threw into salience the curve of her jaw and chin. A
fugitive thought flitted about his mind for a moment and vanished
again--whether her father was inconsolable at his daughter's departure.

"You got married at home then?"

"Yes, after Mr. Dainopoulos saved my life."

"Did he?"

"Of course. That's how we met. Didn't you ever hear of the _Queen Mab_
accident? It was in the papers."

"Can't say as I did. I was out East so long, you see. Wait a bit,
though----" Mr. Spokesly pondered. "I fancy I remember reading something
about it in the home papers; an excursion steamer in collision with a
cargo boat, wasn't it?" The girl nodded.

"Down the river. I was in it. My sister--she was drowned. We were going
to Southend."

"I see. And Mr. Dainopoulos, he was with you and----"

"No. I'd never seen him then. You see, we were all standing by the
paddle-box when the other ship cut into us, my sister Gladys and two
boys we'd been keeping company with. It was something awful, everybody
screaming and the boat going up in the air. I mean the other end was
going down. At last we couldn't stand, so we sat on the paddle-box. Then
all of a sudden the boat slid over to one side and we went in."

Mr. Spokesly made a sound expressive of intense sympathy and interest.

"And next thing I knew was somebody was holding me up and he said,
'Don't move! Don't move!' But I couldn't! Something must have hit me
when I fell in. I didn't know where then--the water was awfully cold.
And then a boat came, and they lifted me in. And then he swam off again
to find the others. I don't faint as a rule, but I did then. There were
so many, and the screams--oh, it was shocking!

"But the worst was when we got on land again. It was near Woolwich and
they turned a chapel or something into a hospital for us. And all the
relations of the people on the _Queen Mab_ came down, and Mr.
Dainopoulos, who'd taken his landlady's daughter for the excursion, was
sitting there in a blanket when the landlady and her husband came in.
They hadn't found her. You know bodies don't come up sometimes,
especially when a ship turns over. And they caught hold of him, calling
out 'Where is our girl? What have you done with our girl?' They
_screamed_ at him!"

"Was he engaged to her?" asked Mr. Spokesly.

"Just the same as I was with Georgie Litwell who was drowned. Keeping
company."

"And what happened then?"

"Why, we fell in love. That's what I was going to tell you so long as
you promised not to laugh. He was in a wholesale tobacco merchant's in
Mark Lane then and he took lodgings near us at Haverstock Hill. Those
other people behaved as though he'd held their daughter's head under.
Really they did. How could he help it? He saved six besides me. It
wasn't his fault the boat sank."

"No, of course not. I see now."

"And then, you know, Mother made a fuss because he was foreign. Mother's
a Berkshire woman, and she said she'd never thought she'd live to see a
child of hers marry a man from goodness knows where. She didn't half go
on, I can tell you. And Father had his own way of making me perfectly
happy. He'd ask me, how many in the harem already? And I couldn't do a
thing, lying on my back helpless. And at last, with the doctor saying I
needed a sea-voyage to get my strength back, I thinks to myself, I'll
take one; and with the accident insurance I had had the sense to carry
ever since I'd started going to business, and what Boris had in the
bank, we went. Or came, rather. We've been here ever since and nobody's
heard either of us regret it, either."

And as she lay there looking out into the darkness of the Gulf with
shining resolute eyes, it was plain that this romantic destiny of hers
was a treasured possession. It dominated her life. She had found in it
the indispensable inspiration for happiness, an ethical yet potent
anodyne for the forfeiture of many homely joys. It was for her the
equivalent of a social triumph or acceptance among peeresses of the
realm. It is to be suspected that she had ever in her mind a vision of
the wonder and awe she had evoked in the souls of the suburban girls
among whom she had spent her life, and that this vision supported her
and formed the base of a magnificent edifice. And it was an integral
part of this edifice that love should be a romantical affair, a flame,
noted by all and fed by the adoration of a husband who was harsh to the
world, but to her a monster of infatuated fidelity.

Something of this impinged upon Mr. Spokesly's consciousness and he
regarded her for a moment with profound respect.

"I should say," he muttered, returning to his cigarette, "you haven't
done so badly for yourself."

She gave him an extraordinarily quick look, like a flash of sheet
lightning from a calm evening sky, which left him puzzled. He was not
aware, at that time, that no woman will ever admit she has bettered
herself by marrying a given man. She must retain for ever that shining
figure of him she might have loved, a sort of domestic knight-errant in
golden armour, who keeps occasional vigils at her side while the weary
actuality slumbers in gross oblivion. Mrs. Dainopoulos knew that Mr.
Spokesly saw nothing of this. She knew him for what he was, a being
entirely incapable of compassing the secrets of a woman's heart. She
knew he imagined that love was all, that women were at the mercy of
their love for men, and that chivalrous ideas, rusted and clumsily
manipulated, were still to be found in his mind. And she saw the
fragility and delicate thinness of his love affair with Ada Rivers.
Anything could break it, anything could destroy it, she reflected. Those
fancies ... of course he said he was engaged; but an engagement, as Mrs.
Dainopoulos knew, having lived in a London suburb, was nothing. Yes,
anything might make him forget Ada. And as she repeated the word
"anything" to herself in a kind of ecstasy, Mrs. Dainopoulos turned her
head quickly and listened. There was a sound of someone being admitted.

"So you've met your fate, anyway," she observed to Mr. Spokesly, yet
still listening to the distant sound.

"Yes," he said with a smile, "I reckon you can cross me off as caught.
What's that? Come back, I s'pose. Time for me to be off, anyway. I'm
sure...."

Mrs. Dainopoulos held up her hand. She was still listening with her head
slightly inclined, her eyes fixed upon Mr. Spokesly, as though absently
pondering the perilous chances of his emotional existence. Cross him off
as caught! She smiled again in that lambent heat-lightning way of hers.
A woman who spends her life in a reclining seclusion becomes very much
of a clairvoyant, an electric condenser of emotions. Mr. Spokesly was
agreeably flattered by the intent interest of his companion's gaze.
Quite a nice little tête-à-tête he'd had. It gave him a thrill to sit in
intimate exchange of love experiences with an attractive married woman,
even if she was an invalid. He felt a bit of a dog. He would write to
Ada and tell her. Or would he? Did he want Ada to know anything about
this visit to a mysterious house in Macedonia, a house so clandestine
and bizarre he could scarcely convince himself that it was the abode of
virtue? Did he? Ada was a long way off, in beleaguered England. He
suddenly wondered what Ada had to do with this at all. With an ease that
rather disturbed him he told himself that you could never tell what
might happen nowadays. No use worrying about the future. Why, he might
never get home. He dropped the ash from his cigarette into the tray on
the table. Someone was coming with a quick decisive step up the stairs.
He smiled at Mrs. Dainopoulos, not quite sure why she was holding up her
hand. She was thinking "cross him off as caught," and smiling, when the
someone arrived at the door and knocked.

"Why didn't you get married before you left England?" she asked quickly,
and added in louder tone, "Come in!"

In sharp contrast to the rapid movements without, the door opened with
extreme cautiousness, and at first nothing could be seen save the hand
on the knob. Mr. Spokesly had been thrown into some disorder of mind by
that last question. Why hadn't he, anyway? It was something he had never
decided. Why had they not done what thousands had done in England, which
was simply to marry on the spot and sail a week, or perhaps a few days,
later? Why had he not taken the hazards of war? He had more, far more,
than many of those girls and boys at home. It was at this point, facing
for the first time the unconscious evasions of life, that he found
himself facing something else, a girl with a startled and indignant
light in her eyes. He uncrossed his legs and began to rise as Mrs.
Dainopoulos said, "Come in, Evanthia. It is all right."

She came in, letting the door swing to as she moved with a long
rapacious stride towards the sofa. It was obvious she was preoccupied
with some affair of intense importance to herself. Once Mr. Spokesly's
presence had been indicated she became again absorbed in her errand. Her
amber-coloured eyes, under exquisitely distinct brows, were opaque with
anger, and she held one hand out with the fingers dramatically clenched,
as though about to release a thunderbolt of wrath. The gesture was as
antique as it was involuntary. One heard drums muttering and the
gathering of fierce Ægean winds as she came on, and leaning forward,
flung out both hands in a passionate revelation of sorrow. Mr. Spokesly
sat down again, embarrassed and fascinated. He could not take his eyes
from her. She was something new in his experience; a woman with passion
and the power to express it. Such women are almost non-existent in
England, where sentiment is regarded as legal tender for passion. He
regarded her with a kind of stupefaction, as though he had never set his
eyes on a woman before. One might say with approximate truth that he had
not. His ways had lain among the artificial products of his age. In
trepidation he realized, as he sat there watching the movements of this
girl, that he would not know what to do with a woman like that. He sat
there and listened.

"Gone?" repeated Mrs. Dainopoulos.

"Yes, they are all gone. The French sent soldiers. And they would not
let me go to speak to him."

"But where will they go?"

The girl, whose eyes were bent upon the carpet at her feet, shrugged her
shoulders violently.

"Who knows that? To Sofia; or to Constantinople. Oh, I would have gone,
too. These pigs, pigs, pigs of French! Not a word! And he is gone!" She
dragged a chair from the table, and sat down suddenly, thrusting her
chin over her arm and staring at the floor. There was a moment's
silence, while Mr. Spokesly sat in doubt and Mrs. Dainopoulos looked out
over the Gulf.

"Gone!" muttered the girl again sullenly.

"Don't do that, dear. It is very bad for you when you get in such
rages!" Mrs. Dainopoulos spoke in a soft cool tone, like a recumbent
sybil whose knowledge of rage and sorrow was vast. The girl's foot swung
to and fro more and more rapidly, the red Turkish slipper slapping the
floor, "You will hear from him after a little."

"Ah, if they let him write. But these French! With their beards and hats
like cooking pots! They see everything. Of course he will write, but
that is no good. He cannot send anything."

An expression of disappointment crossed the other woman's face as she
patted the girl's shoulder.

"Wait a little," she said. "You can't tell yet."

"I would have given a thousand drachma to have got to the train," said
the girl moodily. "And I would give a million to get to Constantinople.
This place stifles me. I hate it ... hate it."

She stood up suddenly, raising her hands to her magnificent coil of dark
hair, and revealing the poise and vigour of her body. "Ah!" she moaned,
bending over her friend and caressing her. "I am a bad girl, forgetting
how ill you are. Evanthia is a bad, bad girl, with her troubles--and you
have a visitor----" She turned her head for a moment and Mr. Spokesly
was caught unawares in the brilliance of a dazzling yet enigmatic glance
from the amber eyes.

"A friend of my husband's," said Mrs. Dainopoulos. "He is English, you
know, like me. From London. We have been talking of London."

"Ah, yes!" The lingering syllables were a caress, yet there was no more
comprehension in them than in the inarticulate sounds of an animal. The
girl bent her dark head over the blonde masses on the pillow. "Forgive
your bad girl, Alice."

"Oh, all right," said Mrs. Dainopoulos, emerging with an embarrassed
English smile. "Only you must be good now and go back to bed. There's
Boris coming in."

"I am going!" said the girl and started. And then she remembered Mr.
Spokesly sitting there in dumb stupefaction, his gaze following her, and
she turned to make him a bow with a strange, charming gesture of an
out-flung hand towards him. The next moment she dragged the door open
and passed out.

He looked up to see Mrs. Dainopoulos regarding him thoughtfully, and he
made a sudden step forward in life as he realized the ineffectiveness of
any words in his vocabulary to express his emotions at that moment. He
made no attempt to corrupt the moment, however, which was perhaps
another step forward. He sat silent, looking at the glowing end of his
cigarette, endeavouring to recapture the facile equilibrium of mind
which had been his as he followed Mr. Dainopoulos through the gateway an
hour or so before. But that was impossible, for it was gone, though he
did not know it, for ever. He was trying to remember the name Mrs.
Dainopoulos had called her. Evanthia! And once at the beginning, Miss
Solaris. Something like that. Evanthia Solaris. He said to himself that
it was a pretty name, and was conscious at the same time of the
inadequacy of such a word. There was something beyond prettiness in it;
something of a spring morning in the Cyclades, when the other islands
come up out of the mist like hummocks of amethyst and the cicadas shrill
in the long grass under the almond trees. There was in it an adumbration
of youth beyond his experience, a hint of the pulsing and bizarre
vitality of alien races, a vitality fretted into white wrath by her will
and her desire, as the serene breath of the morning is suddenly lashed
into a tempest by the howling fury of an Ægean white squall. She was
gone, yet the room was still charged with her magnetic presence, so that
Mr. Dainopoulos came in quietly, put down his tweed cap, and seated
himself beside his wife, and Mr. Spokesly scarcely noticed his arrival.

As he became aware of outside phenomena once more--and he was rather
frightened to discover how his thoughts had flown out into the unknown
darkness in search of the girl--he saw that Mr. Dainopoulos was
preoccupied and anxious. They were speaking in a low tone and in a
foreign tongue, Mr. Spokesly noted. He recalled a story he had read in a
magazine some little time before--a story of an Englishman who had a
most miraculous command of foreign languages, who overheard a
conversation which revealed a plot to destroy the British Army. The plot
was revealed by the simple process of torturing a beautiful girl of
neutral origin who was to be forced to marry a brutal enemy colonel. It
did not occur to Mr. Spokesly to reflect that beautiful girls are
usually eager to marry colonels of any denomination, or that colonels do
not usually blend love and espionage. But he did notice the extreme
improbability of an Englishman being a linguist. It made the tale seem
unreal and artificial. Especially when the story added that he was a
naval officer of good family who afterwards married the beautiful
neutral and settled in a castle in Dalmatia. Fanciful! Mr. Spokesly knew
enough of naval officers to doubt the _dénouement_. He himself, for that
matter, would rather live in a bungalow in Twickenham than in Dalmatia.
As for foreign girls--he rubbed his chin, puzzled over his own blurred
sensations. Mr. Dainopoulos was speaking again. The woman lay back,
looking up at the high ceiling, an expression of calm and careful
consideration on her face, which was illuminated sharply, like an
intaglio, by the lamp. And Mr. Spokesly experienced a shock to discover
that they were not speaking of the girl at all. They seemed to have
forgotten her existence. They looked at him and so brought him into the
conversation.

"I'll have to be getting back," he remarked, rising once more.

Mr. Dainopoulos went to the door and spoke in a low harsh tone into the
darkness.

"I'll get you a boat," he said. "There's no boats allowed after dark,
but I have a friend on the French Pier. He'll put you on board. Another
night, you must come and eat supper. I have had plenty business
to-night. I have to go out again later, too. You understand what I tell
my wife? Well, the consuls have had to go home. The German and Austrian
and Bulgar Consuls went away to-night. I do a good bit of business, you
understand, with all these people, and I got to go and see a friend of
mine about it. So--will you have coffee----? I'll get you a boat first,
and you can come to-morrow night, eh?"

A girl of fifteen with a downcast disdainful countenance came in with a
tray and set it on the table. One eyelash flickered towards Mr. Spokesly
as she turned and made her way out. He looked at her entranced, noting
her slovenly dress, the holes in her stocking, and the ugly slippers
that slip-slopped as she moved her small feet. He noted these uncouth
garnitures within which she moved with the restless yet indolent rhythm
of a captive queen. His mind, as he drank the strong coffee and the tiny
glass of cognac, was in a state of unusual exaltation. Never before had
he faced an immediate future so fraught with glittering yet
unrecognizable possibilities. Mr. Dainopoulos might be a rascal, yet he
possessed the power to call up familiar spirits. As he sat there leaning
towards the table, his hand abstractedly on the bottle of cognac,
thinking deeply of his multifarious concerns, his dexterous dealings in
and out among men who slew one another daily, he resembled some
saturnine yet benevolent magician about to release a formidable genie
who would fill the room with fuliginous vapour. Mr. Spokesly felt his
scalp twitching with anticipation. He stepped across to say good-bye to
Mrs. Dainopoulos.

"I never expected this," he said simply. "I've had a very pleasant
time."

"Come to supper to-morrow," she said, smiling, "Always glad to see
anybody from the Old Country."

"Sorry your lady friend couldn't stay," he muttered. "Like to see more
of her. Well ... I'll say good-night."

He smiled as he went down the staircase behind the preoccupied Mr.
Dainopoulos. He smiled because he could see, by virtue of his exalted
mood, that the smug phrases which had always been adequate for his
emotions, sounded foolish and feeble. Like to see more of her! Did he?
It made him dizzy to think of, though, for all that. It made the simple
business of returning to that house an adventure of the soul. Nor did
the phrase "lady friend" describe her. He was comfortably vague as to
the actual constituents of a lady. A lady was perhaps described as a
woman with whom it was impossible to be wholly at ease. Yes, he
whispered to himself, but for a different reason. He felt defeated in
his attempts to stabilize his impressions. He had no comparisons. It was
like comparing a bottle of wine with a bottle of milk. Even Ada.... He
moved so abruptly as he followed close on the heels of Mr. Dainopoulos
that the latter looked at him in inquiry, and thought a remark was
necessary.

"We can fix our little business any time before you go away," he
murmured.

But Mr. Spokesly was not thinking of the little business just then. He
found himself suddenly confronting the conviction in his mind that his
Ada had been little more than a shining reflector of his own image. Ada,
in beleaguered England, seemed very far away and her personality lost
whatever distinction and magnetism it may have had while he was with
her. He saw with perfect clarity a new truth beyond that first one--that
Mrs. Dainopoulos had been aware of all this while she had plied her
gentle smiling questions. Had she meant anything, then? How could one
plumb the mind of a woman? There was something almost sinister in the
notion that she had known all along how he was situated, how he felt,
and let him sit there while a girl like an indignant enchantress came in
and worked some sort of spell upon him. He began to wonder if the girl
was real; whether he had not dreamed she was there. He was aghast at the
insensibility of Mr. Dainopoulos who was leading the way across the
street, his head bent and his damaged features set in a meditative
scowl. In what way could one account for it? A woman like that! A woman
already with a power over himself that frightened him. Ada! He thought
of Ada almost as a refuge from this new emotion assaulting his heart.
There was safety with Ada. He knew, within reasonable limits, the range
of which she was capable, the tone and timbre of her soul. Here, he
comprehended with surprising readiness, he would be called on to do
something more than talk conventionally of love. It was all very well,
he could see, to jog along from year to year, having a little fun here
and there, and getting engaged and even married; but it was no more than
the normal function of a human organism. Beyond that he could see
something ruthless, powerful, and destructive. He experienced an
extraordinary feeling of elation as he walked beside Mr. Dainopoulos
towards the street car. He was perplexed because he would have liked to
tell Ada the cause of this elation. He had a fugitive but marvellously
clear view of Ada's position in the matter. She was away in the future,
in a distant and calm region to which he had not yet gained admission.
There was something he had to go through before he could get Ada. And
while they jangled slowly along the quay, and Mr. Dainopoulos mumbled in
his ear the difficulties imposed upon himself by the departure of the
consuls, Mr. Spokesly caught a glimpse of what men mean by Fate. Though
he knew it not, the departure of the consuls was an event of prime
importance to himself. It was an event destined to precipitate the grand
adventure of his life. Ada, in beleaguered England, would find her
mechanically perfect existence modified by the departure of the consuls.
Something he had to go through. He stared out at the shaded lights of
the cafés and failed to notice that he no longer desired the tarnished
joys of the seafaring boulevardier. Here was a new motive. The facile
and ephemeral affairs of his life were forgotten in their sheer
nothingness. He drew a deep breath, wondering what lay in store for him.

They left the car and passed through the gates of the dock, along
roadways almost incredibly muddy, to where transports worked in the
cautious twilight of blue electrics and picket-boats moved up and down
gently where they were made fast to the steps, their red and green
side-lights giving the quiet stealthy hustle of the quays an air of
brisk alertness. Tall negroes, in blue-gray uniforms and red fezzes,
moved in slow lines loaded with sections of narrow-gauge track and balks
of timber, or pushed trucks of covered material. At a desk in a wooden
office sat a French _ajutant_, a blinding tungsten globe illuminating
the short black hairs rucked up over his stiff braided collar and
reflecting from an ivory-bald spot on his head as he spoke into a
telephone. Mr. Dainopoulos slid sideways into the room and sat down on a
bench by the door. The officer's eye flickered towards his visitor and
he lifted a hand slightly to indicate recognition. Mr. Spokesly stepped
in and sat down. On the wall was a drawing cut from the _Vie
Parisienne_, a nude, with exaggerated limbs and an enormous picture-hat,
riding on a motorcycle. The shriek, as of a soul in torment, of a French
locomotive, brought a scowl to the officer's face as he conversed with
his friends at the Cercle Militaire. Ringing off with a fat chuckle he
demanded in rapid French how his old one was making it. The old one, who
was Mr. Dainopoulos, made no definite complaint, but commented on the
fact that a man could not sit in Floka's and take a little drink with a
friend without a certain person, with a luxuriant beard, taking especial
note of it. The _ajutant_ threw himself back in his chair, tipped it,
his heels grinding the boards, and grunted. That, he mumbled, was only
to be expected of Père Lefrote. Well, what was it now? Mr. Dainopoulos
indicated his companion, an officer from the English ship arrived
to-day, now anchored in the _rade_. "What ship?" muttered the officer,
looking Mr. Spokesly over as though he were some unsavoury mongrel. From
Alexandria, said Mr. Dainopoulos, skilfully evading such an impossible
word as _Tanganyika_. "Ah-ha!" crowed the officer, transferring his cold
regard to his old one. So the old one was on that game again. By the
sacred blue, he was a great old cock. And the officer, getting up,
expressed his conviction very fast that if the truth were only revealed,
the old one could do a neat business in _poulets de luxe_ as well. What?
The truculent officer, halting at the door, his thumb and finger busy
with his moustache, looked back over his shoulder at his old one. No,
said the latter, he merely repeated what he had said so many times. He
knew none of those creatures, though he admitted three had arrived on
the transport _Jumièges_ that morning. Was that so? Where were they,
then? At the Omphale or the Tour Blanche? Come now! Mr. Dainopoulos lit
a cigarette and as he trod carefully on the smoking match murmured his
conviction that the ladies, whom a friend of his had seen land at
Venizelos Steps, entered automobiles, and might not be found at the
Omphale for some time. The officer drummed at the door and nodded. True,
but the old one knew of some ravishing creature surely who would respond
to the delicate attentions of a lonely exile. A _marraine_, in fact. But
the old one had no such clients. He was a man of business purely. And if
it could be arranged his friend here would like to be put on board.

The officer, a frustrated and disappointed sensualist, whose imagination
was tantalized but never fed by the fact that he was in the fabled
Orient, the abode of lovely Circassians and other houris, nodded
agreement. He owed Mr. Dainopoulos a few hundred francs and would have
been at a loss even if that gentleman had suddenly produced a beautiful
and expensive woman for his amusement. He was ever dreaming of a
tremendous _affaire_, but he was too close-fisted a Norman from Darnetal
to spend much on a sweetheart.

"True," he remarked and then called out into the darkness. "Yes," he
said, turning his head into the light, "the _chaloupe_ is going off now.
Let your friend tell the patron the ship he wants." And he returned to
this desk, yawned, and took up a copy of _Excelsior_. What a life, eh,
my old one!

Mr. Spokesly pointed out the black bulk of the _Tanganyika_, and as the
launch slid along the grating, stepped up and reached his room. The
night-watchman said, "Chief steward he no back yet." Mr. Spokesly turned
in. He switched out his light and lay for a while thinking with more
precision and penetration than even the London School of Mnemonics would
have ventured to guarantee. He had some difficulty in identifying
himself with the man who had gone ashore with Archy Bates that evening.
And he slid away into the deep sleep of the healthy seafarer with a
novel notion forming at the back of his mind. Suppose he was ashore in
Saloniki, what would happen then? If by some turn of the wheel he found
himself there? He might be sick, for instance, and go to the hospital
and be left behind. There was no dream, but he saw it--a storm and great
toil and anxiety, and in the midst of it a girl awaiting the outcome of
his exertions with enigmatic amber eyes.



CHAPTER VI


Mr. Dainopoulos afterwards developed into an excellent diplomatist, his
principal virtue being a knack of gauging personal values and extracting
usefulness from apparently dry husks. He withdrew from the imaginative
sensualist who sat during the night in a highly varnished pine shack
brooding upon the exasperating proximity of inaccessible seraglios. A
useful instrument in many schemes, he did not merit a whole evening.
Like most sensualists of the grosser kind he was a bore, and Mr.
Dainopoulos had other clients. He picked his way out of the incredible
mire of the docks, and crossed over to the cleaner side of the road
which extended from Venizelos Street past the Custom House, and which
was being extensively remodelled by the army of occupation. Even as Mr.
Dainopoulos crossed he could see a number of industrious beings mounted
on newly erected telegraph poles, their movements illuminated by small
bright lights so that they resembled a row of burning martyrs elevated
by some Macedonian tyrant, their cries and contortions as they reached
down into the darkness for material and tools recalling the agonies of
shrivelling victims. The hotel was in blank darkness. The squirming,
writhing exfoliations which constituted the Berlin architect's
conception of loveliness showed not a glint of light. One could not
believe that it had inhabitants, or that they were alive. Nevertheless,
Mr. Dainopoulos halted before the massive double doors and rang the
bell, a tall, high-shouldered shade demanding admission to a familiar
vault. It was some time after he had relapsed into a motionless silence
and an observer might have imagined him to have forgotten his errand,
when one of the leaves of the door opened a few inches, and he raised
his head. At the sound of his voice the door opened a little more so
that he could slide his body sideways through the aperture. Then the
door closed behind him and the hotel resumed its appearance of a
monstrous Renaissance tomb.

Inside, the night-porter, a person in a slovenly undress of dirty shirt,
riding-breeches open like funnels at the knee, and Turkish slippers,
yawned and motioned his visitor to a chair while he slowly ascended the
stairs, which were lit by a single invisible lamp on the landing. Mr.
Dainopoulos remained sunk in thought. It was, in a way, a perfectly
honest and rational proposition he had to make, but he found himself
involved in some doubt as to the way the person above, an Englishman,
would take it. He knew something of the English, being married to one of
that race, and he sometimes reflected upon the unexpected workings of
their minds. They were oppressively practical and drove wonderful
bargains; and then suddenly they would flare into inexplicable passion
over something which he for the life of him could not comprehend. If
this person upstairs did that, what would it be? Mr. Dainopoulos shook
his head. He could not say. He would have to take a chance. He might be
tolerated, or sworn at, or laughed at, or arrested, or thrown down the
stairs. All these things happened to honest merchandisers, he was well
aware. He sometimes watched these English under lowered lids and
marvelled. Personally he preferred German or American men. He felt
nearer to them, less conscious of a certain incomprehensible reticence
of soul which is peculiar to the English, a sort of polite and poignant
regret that he should see fit to cumber the earth, which had happened,
by a singular and unexplained destiny, to be their heritage. Association
with them, under such circumstances as he encountered, was provocative
of considerable thought. To men like him, the confused product of a
hundred diverging stocks, from Illyrian to Copt, the phenomenon of these
blond and disdainful beings, who came always in ships and were
apologetic even in their invasions, bore the mark of something
supernatural, since the contemplation of them in their own land filled a
normal Latin with inarticulate contempt. Mr. Dainopoulos had no pride.
He would have found it an embarrassing impediment in his business. But
he did devote an occasional moment of leisure to wondering how men could
so impose their eccentric habit of thought upon the nations, and why he,
for example, should be directed to obtain his personal ideals from a
distant island in the northern seas.

The servant appeared on the landing, and Mr. Dainopoulos immediately
went up.

The Berlin architect, no doubt in anticipation of invading armies, had
exhausted his ingenuity in the façade and the reception rooms, and the
chambers above were left in a state of disturbing starkness. Mr.
Dainopoulos was led along corridors that chilled the heart with their
bare rectangular perspectives, and was halted at length before a door
behind which the voices of men could be heard in conversation. And in
reply to a knock a slightly querulous voice intoned, "Come in, come in!"
as though in infinite but weary patience with elementary intelligences.
Mr. Dainopoulos stepped in.

Three men occupied the room. A naval lieutenant sat on the bed smoking a
cigarette, a young man who did not raise his eyes to glance at the
intruder. The owner of the room was a major, who was seated at a small
escritoire near the window, and whose belt and cap hung over a chair. He
was a man of thirty-odd, as clean as though he had been scoured and
scraped in boiling water, the small absurd moustache as decorative as a
nail-brush, and with a look of capable insolence in his blue-gray eyes.
A small safe at his side was open and he remained stooping over this as
he looked up and saw Mr. Dainopoulos standing by the door. The other man
was in civilian tweeds, astride of a chair with his arms on the back,
smoking a large curved meerschaum pipe. A clean-shaven circular-faced
man of doubtful age, he was the only one of the three who regarded their
visitor in a humane manner. He nodded slightly in response to the low
bow made by Mr. Dainopoulos on his entry. The latter, however, knew
better than to presume on this. He paused until the major invited him to
approach, and the major did not do this. He simply waited, leaning over
his safe, for Mr. Dainopoulos to explain his intrusion, his existence on
earth, and his intentions as to the future, and anything else which
might be regarded as extenuating his conduct. When Mr. Dainopoulos
remarked that he had called on a little matter of business, the major
bent his head again and went on investigating the papers in the safe, as
though Mr. Dainopoulos had suddenly and completely evaporated.

"Well," he observed at length, straightening up and laying some papers
on his desk, "why do you call on a little matter of business in the
middle of the night?" He brought his left arm up in a peculiar whirl to
the level of his eyes and looked at his wrist watch. "Eleven-twenty," he
added in a tone of detached contempt, and shot a severe look at his
visitor.

Mr. Dainopoulos remained standing by the door and maintained his
attitude of calm urgency. He explained that the departure of the consuls
had led him to remodel his arrangements. All three looked at him with
attention when he made this statement. The naval lieutenant, whose work
it was to examine and pass all neutral vessels, knew Mr. Dainopoulos
very well. To his regret he had never found that gentleman doing
anything at all shady, but he had never abandoned his conviction that he
would catch him some day. The civilian, who was a censor and decoder of
neutral correspondence, was familiar with the Dainopoulos _dossier_ in
his office and had read with surprise the chatty letters to girls in
London which came from the man's wife. He, however, was not in a
position to reveal his knowledge, and looked at Mr. Dainopoulos with
good-tempered curiosity. The major, who knew his visitor better than
either of the others, having purchased large quantities of stores from
him at a handsome profit to the vendor, looked as if he had been
insulted when the consuls were mentioned. As well he might, since those
astute gentlemen had done their best to keep all possible material out
of his hands, had blandly checkmated the armies of occupation at every
turn, even preaching a holy war against them among the owners of Turkish
baths in the Via Egnatia. They had financed Hellenic Turks who laid
injunctions on rights-of-way, issued writs against movement of goods,
and sought to inflame French against English and Italian against both.
The consuls had been the curse of every executive at Headquarters, for
their resources and nerve seemed unlimited. They worked together like a
team of experienced crooks on a steamship, and never for a moment were
the invaders permitted to forget that the local government was neutral.
The major was happier than he had been for a long while, though he
lacked the emotional demonstrativeness proper to such a mood. All three
of these men, by their reports, had aided in the grand _coup_ which had
culminated that evening in the expulsion of the consuls across the
frontier. But their first thought, when Mr. Dainopoulos mentioned
consuls, was that by some ghastly mischance the consuls had got back
into Saloniki and the whole weary business was to begin again.

"Eh?" said the major, snarling up his upper lip so that his moustache
looked more like a nail-brush than ever, and looking as if he were about
to spring up and fasten his teeth in his visitor's neck. "What's that?"

Thus having evoked a suitable interest in his affairs, Mr. Dainopoulos
drew a small notebook from his pocket and began to enumerate the list of
goods the sudden departure of the consuls had left on his hands. In the
midst of it, the major nodded to a chair and said, "Sit down over here,
please." Mr. Dainopoulos came forward, sat down, and proceeded. The
naval lieutenant reached over to the dressing table, took up a Turkish
dagger and began turning it over in his hands, examining the edge with
an intense stare. The censor drew steadily at his pipe and looked Mr.
Dainopoulos up and down. He was a novelist, and of the three may be said
to have had some practice in the gauging of character. He was aware, in
spite of a life spent exclusively in southern England and among one
small exclusive caste of English people, that this Levantine might have
a view of his own. He was interesting. Where had he picked up that
English wife? A slight shudder passed over him in spite of himself at
the thought of an English woman in a Levantine's arms. No doubt,
however, she was a house-maid or something of that sort. Must be making
a lot of money. The censor felt a surge of indignation over this. His
own family's resources had been quadrupled by the war; but that of
course was the reward of patriotic endeavour. He found it intolerable
that a neutral should make money out of bloodshed. Mr. Dainopoulos
proceeded as calmly and collectedly as though he were a salesman in
Birmingham or Liverpool. He certainly was unaware of inspiring horror
and contempt. He even mentioned a thousand yards of Indian cotton drill
which he had in his warehouse and which he had purchased for a song from
a German firm in Alexandria a few days before the English had
sequestered the business. The only point on which he was reticent was
the fact that he had already been paid in gold for most of it by the
consular agents; a most satisfactory arrangement for him, but
unfortunate for them in the present juncture, since they had no receipt
and the goods were to be held against their order. There was something
exasperating in the spectacle of this man sitting there, with all the
marks of clandestine knavery about him, merely offering _bona fide_
goods for sale. He was a Greek in Greece, transacting business which,
although he did not yet know it, was of vital importance to them, for a
whole string of vessels bound for Saloniki had been sunk inside of two
days, from the Start to Karaburun. They were at a loss for a week or so,
and a week or so in war is not to be ignored. And here was an
unprepossessing person offering them, at a comparatively reasonable
rate, a remarkable consignment of material. Apart from their own needs
in Macedonia they had recently sent a few thousand men to an island in
the Ægean to prepare a base, and the ships bearing their stores were
unreported. Sunk, of course. They sat in various poses thinking of all
this, and Mr. Dainopoulos closed his notebook and took out a cigarette.

It should be said for him that if he had known their actual position his
price would have been slightly higher, just as later on English
merchants' prices became so high that men spat at the sound of their
names. But he was not a profiteer in the modern sense. He knew nothing
of advertising, for example. He thought 100 per cent. an adequate
reimbursement for the risks of trade.

He was asked when he could effect delivery. He said in a week or ten
days, some of it being on board a steamer on its way now from
Alexandria.

"What steamer is that?" demanded the lieutenant.

"The _Kalkis_, four hundred tons," he replied. "I have had her a year
now."

"What speed?"

"Oh, four. Perhaps four and a half. A very old ship. No good except for
my business to the Islands."

"Don't know about that, my friend," muttered the major. "You may have to
give up your business to the Islands. We commandeer our own ships; I
don't see how you are going to get out of it."

"That would suit me," said Mr. Dainopoulos promptly. "She costs me
fifteen thousand francs a month insurance. And coal is four hundred
francs a ton in Port Said. I make very little out of her."

This was scarcely the literal truth, though Mr. Dainopoulos might be
pardoned for depreciating his profits at a moment when a purchaser
appeared. As a matter of fact he had made already out of that small ship
about seven times her original purchase price and he had a neat scheme
in hand which would make her a very good investment indeed.

"We have some business in the Islands, too, you see," the major remarked
abstractedly. "I think you had better come to my office say about
ten-thirty to-morrow. You know the place. Next to the Ottoman Bank, eh?
G. O. S. Room Fourteen. Ask for Major Begg."

Mr. Dainopoulos, who would probably have done a thousand francs' worth
of business before the major had had his bath, expressed his willingness
to appear.

"Will you have a drink?" said the major in a harsh, brow-beating tone
which was believed by himself and many others of his class to evoke the
very soul of bluff hospitality. Mr. Dainopoulos, however, had a strange
feeling of having been good-humouredly kicked in the face. He declined
the refreshment, not because he felt insulted, but because he knew the
only drink these men had was whiskey and the smell and taste of the
stuff made him sick.

"All right," said the major, regarding an abstainer with disfavour. He
liked a man to take a drink. "To-morrow at ten-thirty. You might close
the door. Thanks."

As he closed the door behind him, as requested, Mr. Dainopoulos
reflected that he would have time to lay the matter before a French
colonel he knew before reaching Room Fourteen. But he believed the best
price was to be had from the British. He had found out that much in the
course of his career--they did not haggle.

The three men he had left did not speak for a moment, waiting for him to
get out of earshot.

"Looks like Providence," observed the lieutenant, making a lunge with
the dagger at a knot in the bedstead.

The major pulled up his trouser leg and scratched a hairy calf. "These
infernal fleas!" he muttered. "Yes, as you say, Providence. An angel
very much in disguise."

"What about that ship, the _Kalkis_?" asked the censor.

"Oh, we shall probably charter her," said the major bitterly. "Take all
the risk and pay him a princely sum for sitting tight here and doing
nothing. We ought to buy, but we won't."

He sat silent for a moment. He was thinking of those men in Phyros,
waiting for their stores, eating sparingly of their emergency rations,
sampling the local cheese and bread and keeping a bright look-out for
transports which were lying on their sides in eighty fathoms. Something
would have to be done at once about them. This Dainopoulos had--here the
major glanced at his shorthand notes--four thousand feet of timber and
the Phyros crowd were frantic for timber for a jetty. Just think of it!
A fertile island which these Greeks had had for a couple of thousand
years, and no jetty yet! What could one do with people like that?
Hopeless. Then there was flour. He simply had to have some flour soon.
Dainopoulos said he had fifteen hundred barrels when the _Kalkis_ came
in.

There was in all this hard thinking no complete view of the war or of
the world. If they could collar stores from some other front or from one
of their allies, it was all one to them. Even the course of events had
no interest for them beyond their own base. This was an inevitable
result of the intensive pressure of responsibility on executives. They
were not callous. They were simply busy. Their own lives were still
bounded by the social barriers of England. They never spoke of private
affairs except to some man of their own class who had been to one of the
great public schools. For them the war was a war to perpetuate this
social hierarchy, to place it once more upon an impregnable base. They
wished to win, they but could see no difference between democracy and
defeat. Even the novelist was a novelist within the radius of his social
sphere, and remained within it in a city of Macedonia. He felt it
incumbent upon him to remain also a gentleman, even at the expense of
valuable collisions with alien temperaments. "He's a Greek, and I loathe
them," summarizes, in the major's words, their collective sentiment. And
their allies, it is to be feared, suffered under this highly specialized
form of criticism. Nothing that happened was adequate to demolish this
formidable _Kultur_. In victory and in defeat it was indestructible.
Only the genius of the race, working in the very strongholds of that
_Kultur_, can split it open and release new forces and aspirations. But
of this even the novelist, who trafficked in happy endings, had no
suspicion. He wrote a short story later, a story in which an English
girl who had been carried off by a rascally Greek was rescued by an
English officer who took her home to England and married her.

To the lieutenant the departure of the consuls and the impending
formation of a provisional government were affairs of qualified good. A
provisional government would immediately shriek for the return of all
sequestrated property. It would demand the status of allies, and all
their ships would start a complicated system of espionage and smuggling.
It would be, in his opinion, a series of perfect days. Nobody was honest
nowadays. Not a week ago he had caught naval stores going over the side
of a ship into a local boat, and the guilty party was wearing three
medals, for valour and distinguished service. He sometimes wished they
would put him on a ship again. It gave one a chance to do something
besides play detective anyway. The major spoke again.

"What about a captain for the _Kalkis_? We shall have to have one of our
own men, Mathews."

"Afraid that's not possible," said the lieutenant. "We haven't too many
men, you know. Better send him out with a convoy going to Alex. I might
have had one of those chaps who were rescued the other day off that
transport, but they've all gone home overland. And they won't stay, you
know. All want to get home."

"Can one blame them?" asked the censor. "I read letters in which these
seamen say they have not seen their families for seven or eight months."

"Dear me!" said the major drily. His own family were Indian Civil
Service. "What you might call the hardships of war. Possibly we may find
someone without family ties, Mathews."

The lieutenant smiled and ran his thumb along the blade of the Turkish
dagger.

"Possibly," he replied. He smiled because the major was rather
conspicuous at home for his affairs with married women.

"By the way," said the censor, following some obscure association of
ideas, "I met Morpeth this evening and he was telling me they expected
some new arrivals from Paris at the Omphale."

"Yes, I heard that," said the major, who was not at all interested. "It
will be a riot. Probably three or four. And about thirty or forty Greek,
French, Italian, and Serbian lieutenants, standing round six deep,
making them squiffy on Floka's Monopole. No, thanks. Stale pastry,
anyhow."

The lieutenant continued to smile.

"They'd better be doing that than slapping each other's faces and
exchanging cards at the Cercle Militaire," he murmured.

"They do that anyhow--afterwards," said the major, thrusting his papers
into the safe and lighting a cigarette. He shoved the door to with his
foot, twirled the knob, and stood up.

"What about some golf to-morrow afternoon?" he demanded. "Didn't you say
you had a friend coming ashore, Mathews?"

"Yes, from the _Proteus_. He'll be here about three, I think. Very
decent chap, too."

"Right. We'll go out in the new car. See you in the morning."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Dainopoulos found the trolley cars had stopped running and began to
walk home past the cafés of the front. On the other side of the road the
stern rails of a score of small coasting craft moved up and down gently
in the slight swell, and from here and there amid the confused dunnage
on deck a figure moved in sleep, or a silhouette of a man bending over a
lantern showed up for a moment. At intervals strains of American jazz
music came from the haunts of pleasure, and one could get a glimpse now
and then of a dreary dance-floor with half a dozen soldiers and sailors
slathering clumsily to and fro, embracing women that gave one the
horrors merely to look at, women like half-starved harpies or cylinders
of oily fat, the sweat running down through the calcareous deposits on
their faces and their squat chunky feet slewed sideways in bronze and
coppery shoes. Mr. Dainopoulos hurried past these abodes. Mr. Bates,
Archy Bates, a great business friend of his, was somewhere inside one of
them, fulfilling his destiny as a patron of Aphrodite and Dionysos; but
Mr. Dainopoulos had finished business for the day and he wanted to get
home. This was not to be without meeting Archy. The cat-like smile on
his unfortunate features, his hat on the back of his head, and his hands
in his pockets, Mr. Bates emerged from the _Odéon Bar_ just as a
carriage appeared in the distance. Mr. Bates did not conceal his
gratification. Would his friend come back and have a drink?

"Not to-night," said Mr. Dainopoulos quietly. "Me, I'm going home now.
Excuse me, Mister."

"Now, now!" protested Archy, clinging with the adhesiveness of the
pickled philanthropist. "Now, now! Lissen. Come-a-me to White Tower. Eh?
Laddie? You-n-me, eh? Li'l' fren' o' mine Whi' Tower. She gotta fren',
y' know. Here y'are."

The driver, seeing a possible fare, stopped, and Archy, still adhering,
dragged Mr. Dainopoulos in after him.

"Stivan," said Mr. Dainopoulos to the driver, whom he knew, "go to the
White Tower and when this gentleman has got out, drive me home quick,
understand? Leave him behind. And go back to him if he wants you. Now!"

The driver at once set off up the road again and Mr. Bates, who, like
Shakespeare, had small Latin and less Greek, sat smiling in the
darkness, trying to formulate in his mind and articulate with his tongue
something that just eluded him. To meet his old fren' like this--it was
a--'strornery thing how he couldn't shay just how he felt. He smiled.

Mr. Dainopoulos sat without smiling. He was not a drinking man at any
time, and the professional soak was a mystery to him. Mr. Bates was as
much a mystery as the major. His actions had the disconcerting lack of
rational sequence that one discerns in pampered carnivora. Absent-minded
sensuality is a baffling phenomenon. Mr. Dainopoulos had something of
the clear sharp logic of the Latin, and the vinous benevolence of Mr.
Bates aroused in him a species of alert incredulity. He sat in silence,
listening to the gurgle of his companion's incoherence. This was a phase
of his daily existence which he never mentioned to his wife; his
dealings with the more dissipated of her countrymen. To his relief the
carriage stopped at the entrance of the Tower Gardens. He took Mr.
Bates's arm to assist him to alight, but Mr. Bates had forgotten the
White Tower. He was trying to sing and not succeeding very well. He sat
erect, his hat pushed back until the brim formed a dark halo about his
smile, beating time with one hand.

"Here you are, Mister Bates," said Mr. Dainopoulos, trying to move him.
Mr. Bates resisted gently, drew back his chin a little more and attacked
a lower G:

    "_Mo-na, Mona, my own love!
          Art--thou not mine
            Through the long years to--be-e-e!_"

The sound of that small and strangely clear voice, after the odorous
gibbering speech, almost appalled Mr. Dainopoulos. He spoke rapidly to
the driver, instructing him to wait and he would be paid in due time,
and started off into the darkness.

Mr. Bates finished his song to his own satisfaction and having smiled
into the darkness for a while, began to wonder where he was. "'Strornery
thing, but he was almost shertain ol' fren' of his had been there. Mush
'ave been a mishtake." He got out so suddenly the driver was scared. Mr.
Bates took a bill out of his pocket, held it up uncertainly for a
moment, and when the driver had clutched it, marched in an intricate
manner into the gardens. His smile became more cat-like than ever as the
sound of syncopated music reached his ear and he passed a woman
strolling under the trees. He hummed his song again. The evening, for
him, was only just beginning.

Mr. Dainopoulos hurried forward and soon left the region of hard
arc-lights behind. His house was not far from here. He wished to get
home. He regretted sometimes that his business took him so much away
from the house, for he retained sufficient simplicity to imagine that
the laws of nature do not apply to love, that you can increase the
volume without diminishing the intensity. But he consoled himself with
the thought that in a few years he would be able to devote himself
entirely to his wife. His dream was not very clear in its outlines as
yet, because the war now raging was far-reaching in its effects. It
would be unwise to make plans which the political changes might render
impossible of accomplishment. For the present he was satisfied to place
his reserves at a safe distance in diversified but thoroughly sound
securities, so that unless the civilized world turned completely upside
down and all men repudiated their obligations, he would be able to
control his resources. There was not much doubt about that in his mind.
He knew that business would go on, was going on, even while men moved in
massed millions to destroy each other. While the line swayed and
crumpled and broke, or surged forward under the incredibly sustained
roar of ten thousand cannon, English and French and German business men
were perfecting their plans for doing business with each other as soon
as it was over. The ethical side of the question scarcely arose in his
mind, since he had grown accustomed to wars and the money to be made out
of them. To him the struggle in France and on the Slavic frontier was
far off and shadowy, as was the grim game at sea. He was not to be
blamed for measuring events by the scale in use by those of his race;
and if there was somewhat more ferocity and sustained butchery in this
war than in others, it was only another significant symptom of
Anglo-Saxon temperament, because business, he knew quite well, was going
on.

He knocked at the door in the wall which had so impressed Mr. Spokesly
earlier in the evening, and was admitted after a parley by a middle-aged
servant-woman.

"Madama gone to bed?" he asked, picking up a large cat that was rubbing
herself against his leg, and putting her out into the garden.

"No, she's not gone to bed. She said she would wait for you to come
home."

"All right. You can go to bed then," he retorted.

The woman shot the bolts and picked up the cheap pink glass lamp without
answering. Mr. Dainopoulos made his way upstairs. There was no light in
the room looking out over the sea. In their chamber beyond, a
night-light, very small and rose-coloured, was burning on a small table
below a picture of the Virgin, as though it were a shrine. It took the
place of one, for his wife made the most of his rather dilapidated
devoutness, and often left a candle burning there. There was an ulterior
motive in her action which she had never formulated exactly even to
herself. This was the appeal which a strange and sensuous religion made
to her romantic instinct. She would always be Church of England herself;
but the impression made by candles and an ikon upon her girl-friends in
Haverstock Hill in North London was always before her. She could hear
them breathe the word "ikon," and then draw in their breath in an
ecstasy of awe. And the thought of it gave her pleasure.

But she was not in the chamber and he returned to the other room in
search of her.

She was lying as before, her eyes closed and her hands clasped lightly
over the tartan rug. A screen had been opened and stationed between her
and the window. This was the hour to which his thoughts went forward
occasionally during the day of chaffering on the front, or in his
blue-distempered office with its shabby chestnut fittings in the Cité
Saul. To the western cynic there was a rich humour in the sheer
fortuitousness of their meeting in the midst of a drowning multitude. To
him it was not humorous at all. To him it was significant of a profound
fatality. To him it confirmed his inherited faith in omens and the
finger of God. She was a common enough type of woman in most things, yet
she embodied for him a singular ideal of human achievement. He knew of
nothing in the world comparable with her, and the knowledge that she was
his was at times almost unbelievable. Whether she loved him was a
question he never faced. He believed it, and doubted, and believed
again. He knew by instinct that it was not a matter of importance as was
the fact of possession. He extracted a rare and subtle pleasure from the
fragrant ambiguity of her smile. After all, though it may be doubted if
he had ever entertained the thought, he was fortunate in his
circumstances. He had no need to be jealous or watchful. She lay there
quietly, thinking of course of him, while he was on his affairs in the
port.

He paused now and saw that she was asleep, and he set the little
night-light on the table and sat down near her, watching her with an
expression of grave enthusiasm on his damaged features. He was not
familiar with the stock witticisms concerning the hollowness of marriage
and the inevitable disgust which follows possession. Indeed, for all his
rascality and guile in business he was a rather unsophisticated fellow.
He possessed that infinite patience which is sometimes more effective in
retaining love than even courage or folly. Another factor in his favour
was his lack of facility for friendship. This worked both ways, for
friendship is the secret antagonist of both business and love. He sat
there, shading his eyes with his curved palm, watching his wife,
thinking of past, present, and future in that confused and gentle
abstraction which we call happiness, when she suddenly opened her eyes
and looked at him for one brief instant with a blank and vacant gaze.
Then she smiled and he bent over her.

"Back, Boris?" she murmured chidingly.

"My business, darling. I had to see a man."

"Always business. I thought you'd never come."

"First I had to take that gentleman to the French Pier, for a boat. And
then I went to the Olympos Hotel. I think very good business."

"Don't talk about business now."

"But, my sweetheart, it is all for you. By-and-by you will see."

"See what, silly?" she asked, rumpling his hair.

"See what? You ask a funny question. I cannot tell you, not yet. But in
my mind, I see it."

And he did, too. He saw, in his mind, a superb and curving shore of
yellow sand encircling a sea of flawless azure. He saw a long line of
white villas, white with biscuit-coloured balconies and green jalousies,
rising amid gardens of laurel and palm; he saw white yachts rocking at
anchor, and illuminated houseboats in the shadow of a great breakwater.
He saw the spangled lights of a fairy city, a city filled with fabrics
and jewels which he would buy for her. He saw all this, and in his mind
the world had fought itself to a standstill and the cautious investor
had come into his own. He saw the war-weary battalions returning to
their toil, slaving to pay off the cost of their adventure. This was the
way of the world as he knew it. It was no use blaming him: he merely
took advantage of human need and folly, as we all do. He had been
through wars before and knew the inevitable reactions, and the almost
incredible cheapness of money that followed. He was by instinct one of
those who, like camp-followers on a grand scale, prosper amid the
animosities of simpler folk; persons who found fortunes upon great wars,
as did the Jews in London after 1815 and the bourgeois bankers of Paris
after the Revolution. And it surprised him how little his wife knew, how
little she questioned the world in which she lived. Of course it was
charming, and he was fascinated just because she had that amazing racial
blindness to facts and lived in a fanciful world of her own. The English
were all like that, it seemed to him.

He put his arms about her.

"In my mind I see it. You wait. Everything you can think of, all very
fine."

"Here in Saloniki?"

"No!"

"In England?"

Mr. Dainopoulos laughed a little and shook his head. He was quite sure
England wouldn't be any place for him after this war. In his own private
opinion, there wouldn't be any England within ten years from now, which
shows how logical and wide-awake Latins can make errors of judgment. In
any case, there were too many Jews there.

"Because I don't want to go to America," she remarked, still rumpling
his hair.

"America! What makes you think of America? You must be losing your mind,
Alice." He almost shivered. He was just as well able to make money in
America as anywhere else, but what use would it be to him in such a
place? It is extremely difficult for the Anglo-Saxon to realize it, but
men like Mr. Dainopoulos find occidental institutions a spiritual
desolation. He recalled the time when he boarded in Newark, New Jersey,
and worked in a felt-hat factory. The house was of wood without even a
floor of stone, and he could not sleep because of the vermin. And the
food! He experienced afresh the nausea of those meals among the roomers,
the bulging haunches of the negroid waitress colliding with his
shoulders as she worked round and served the rows and rows of oval
dishes dripping with soggy, impossible provender. And the roomers:
English, German, and American, with their horrible whiskey and their
ever-lasting gibberish of "wop" and "dago," their hints and blustering
invitations to join mysterious fraternities which no one seemed to
understand or explain. Mr. Dainopoulos must not be censured for
withdrawing from all this. He made no claims upon western civilization,
and its lack of logic and continuity led him to prefer something less
virtuous, perhaps, but also less of a strain upon normal human nature.

"You say you don't want to go to America. And I'll say it, too. I've
been there, and that was enough for me. I should die there, with the
food they give you. It's a fine country, with fine trees in the
streets," he added, thinking of an imperial horse-chestnut tree which
had thrust a branch bearing pale candles of bloom against his window out
there, "and the big men are good men to do business. But not for me.
Dirty wood houses and soot coming down all the time on the bed. Like
ashes from the engines."

"Like London," said Alice, smiling.

But Mr. Dainopoulos had been living on a somewhat higher scale in London
and he had not noticed the dirt so much. Moreover, he could always get
the food he wanted in London.

"Well, where?" insisted Alice, humouring him.

"There's plenty places," he said soberly, rather faint as he compared
their present surroundings with that dream-villa by the blue sea. "Too
soon yet to be sure we get there. I got a lot of business to finish up
first. And we're all right here for a while. You're not lonesome,
darling?"

"Oh, no! You saw Evanthia here to-night?"

"Yes, I saw her, but she didn't tell me anything."

"He's gone away, with the consuls."

Mr. Dainopoulos gave a low whistle.

"I never thought about that. What'll she do now? That's bad for her,
though."

"She wants to follow him but I don't think she can. I believe she heard
he'll go to Constantinople. She said she'd do anything to get there."

"Well, if she wants to go to Constantinople, she might be able to," he
said, pondering. "I heard to-day a ship might be going down to the
Islands. There's always a chance. I'll see. But if she's got any sense
she'll go back to her mother. That feller Lietherthal is good company
but he'll go back to Munich by-and-by."

"She doesn't love him, I am almost sure."

"Evanthia, she don't love anybody except herself. I told you that."

"She loves me," said Alice.

"Well, p'raps she does, but you know what I mean."

"That gentleman this evening, Mr. Spokesly, he was interested in her."

"He's got a young lady in London," said Mr. Dainopoulos.

"Has he?" she murmured absently. "Do you think he'll come to-morrow
night?"

"Yes, I think so. I bet you're goin' to have Evanthia in, too."

"Well, perhaps he'll fall in love with her," she whispered delightedly.

"What, and him with a young lady in London!"

"I don't think he's very fond of his young lady in London."

"Well, how do you know that? Women...."

"Never mind. It's easy to tell if a man is in love," she answered,
watching him. He held her tightly for a moment.

"Not so easy to tell about a woman," he said into her hair. "Is it, my
little wife, my little wife?"

"Why, don't you know yet?" she bantered, giving him that secret,
fragrant, ambiguous smile.

"My little wife!" he repeated in a tense whisper. And as he said it, he
felt in his heart he would never know.



CHAPTER VII


It was evening and the _Tanganyika_, a tall unwieldy bulk, for she had
only a few hundred tons in her, lay at anchor waiting for her commander,
who was ashore getting the ship's papers. She was about to sail for
Alexandria, carrying back, through an area infested with enemy
submersibles, some of the cargo already discharged and reloaded in the
southern port. This apparently roundabout method of achieving results
had in it neither malice nor inefficiency. Those who have had anything
to do with military matters will understand the state of affairs, and
the seemingly insane evolutions of units proceeding blindly upon orders
from omnipotent commanders. The latter had ever before them the shifting
conditions of a dozen theatres of war, and to them it was nothing that a
crate of spark-plugs, for example, sorely needed in Persia, should be
carried to and fro over the waters of the Ægean, or that locomotives
captured from an Austrian transport and suitable for the Macedonian
railroads should be rusting in the open air in Egypt. These men, scoured
clean and pink as though with sand and boiling water every morning, in
their shining harness and great gold-peaked hats, moved swiftly in
high-powered motor cars from one consultation to another, the rows of
medal ribbons glowing on their breasts like iridescent plumage. They
lived in a world apart. For them it was inevitable that a whole fleet of
ships should be no more than a microscopic point in some great curve
named Supply. Behind them was a formidable element called Politics, a
power which appeared to them to come out of Bedlam and which would
suddenly change its course and make the labour of months of no avail.
Their eyes were steadily fixed upon certain military dispositions, and
they sent forth, from their lofty stations, standing orders which
enclosed each subordinate commander in an isolated compartment, beyond
which he could not possibly wander, but within which he could exercise a
practically god-like power. This system, admirable because it relieved
each executive from any concern with the final upshot of the struggle,
ultimately reached the _Tanganyika_. Her captain, receiving his
instructions from the Naval Transport office, found himself in sole
charge of life and property upon her, while for subsequent sailing
orders he was referred to the commanding officer of a sloop now moving
slowly towards the boom. Captain Meredith in no wise objected to this.
What struck him with ironical emphasis was the ineffectiveness of
military traditions when applied to a ship with a civilian crew. He
might issue orders, but who was to foreshadow the effect on the minds of
the Orientals who steered and stoked and oiled below? What might he
expect in a sudden disaster from those yellow enigmas padding to and fro
or sitting on their hams drinking rice-water and staring at the shores
of Macedonia with unfathomable eyes? He had been asked if in his opinion
the crew were loyal, and he had wondered how any one could find that
out. Loyalty, when you came to place it under analysis, presented a
somewhat baffling problem. It was like trying to find out whether men
were religious. The assumption, of course, was that all men had in them,
deep down, something of ultimate probity. But of what use was that in
such a sudden emergency as confronted one at sea these days? Captain
Meredith refrained from dwelling too long upon probabilities as he
returned to the _Tanganyika_. He hoped he would get through all right
again. He had heard hints of a cargo for Basra, in the Persian Gulf; and
until they could get him a white crowd he would rather not take any more
risks in the Ægean. The longer the war went on the less important seemed
abstractions like loyalty or patriotism, and the more shiningly
important the need for unimaginative and quick-witted efficiency. There
lay the trouble. The naval or military commander had behind him the
prestige and power of service discipline and he was supported in his
ruthless judgments by the rank and file. The naval officer spoke his
orders in a quiet, refined voice, and massive muscular bluejackets,
drilled for years, sprang smartly to carry them out. Here, Captain
Meredith reflected, it was not quite like that. Seamen in merchant ships
were largely individualists. Had they, for example, been forced by law
to go to sea immediately after being sunk, they would almost inevitably
have rebelled and sulked ashore. Being free agents, they were filled
with fury, and mobbed shipowners to send them out again. This was the
good side. The bad side was the difficulty in getting them to obey
orders. Moreover, as was made plain during his recent interview with the
officers in the Transport Department, his own class, the commanders, had
something to learn about doing as they were bid. They had shown him a
Weekly Order, just in from Malta, demonstrating the urgent necessity of
all captains carrying out their instructions. The huge _Afganistan_,
triple screws and with four thousand souls on board, had been sunk and
many lost, while her escort was awaiting her two hundred miles to the
south. It was pointed out to Captain Meredith that the _Afganistan_ was
lost simply because her commander had disobeyed explicit orders given at
Port Said. Well! It was not pleasant, but had to be borne. This was, he
supposed, being faithful unto death. He climbed on board, waved good-bye
to the lieutenant in the launch, and ordered the anchor up.

Mr. Spokesly was waiting at the gangway for that very purpose and went
forward at once. Captain Meredith, on reaching his room, rang the bell.
The second steward appeared at the door, a long lubberly lout with
yellow hair plastered athwart a dolichocephalous cranium and afflicted
with extraordinarily unlovely features.

"Where is the chief steward?" the captain demanded.

"In 'is room, sir. I was to sye, sir, as 'e ain't feelin' very well this
afternoon, sir, if you'll excuse 'im."

"Drunk, I suppose," said the commander quietly.

"Ow, it's not for me to sye, sir," the creature whinnied, moving
enormous feet encased in service shoes pilfered from cargo. "Was it tea
you was wantin', sir?"

"Bring it," said Captain Meredith, regarding him with extreme disfavour,
and the man disappeared.

Not much chance there, thought the captain, as he noted the awkward
knuckly hands, with nails bitten to the quick, which arranged the tray
before him and made a number of the indescribable motions peculiar to
stewards. Hands! How marvellously they indicated character! He was
reminded afresh of his own brother-in-law, a surgeon, of whose death in
action he had learned during the week. Wonderful hands he had had, long
with broad shallow points, indicative of a very fine skill with the
knife. Now he was dead; and this creature here would no doubt survive
and prosper when it was all over. The captain had been thinking a good
deal during the past few days. An old friend of his, a school-master in
happier times, had suddenly descended upon him, a bronzed person in
khaki with a major's crowns on his shoulder-straps. Had a few days'
leave from the Struma front. He was not elated at his rise in rank, it
transpired, for it had simply been a process of rapid elimination. All
the senior officers had been killed; and here he was, an old gray badger
of an elderly lieutenant promoted to major. There was a lull on the
Struma, he said, his tired, refined voice concealing the irony. Very
delightful to have a few days' peace on a ship with a friend. Now he was
back on the Struma; and perhaps next time Captain Meredith got news
there would be another gap in that little staff. He stepped out on the
bridge. The anchor was coming up.

Mr. Spokesly was thinking, too, in spite of the immediate distraction of
heaving-up. It had been a week of extraordinary experiences for him. As
he leaned over the rail and looked down into the waters of the Gulf, and
noted the immense jelly-fish, like fabled amethysts, moving gently
forward to the faint rhythmic pulsing of their delicate fringes, he
began to doubt afresh his identity with the rather banal person who had
left England a couple of short months before. He found himself here now,
outwardly the same, yet within there was a readjustment of forces and
values that at times almost scared him. For he had reached a position
from which it was impossible to gauge the future. Nothing would ever be
the same again. He was frankly astonished at his own spiritual
resources. He had not known that he was capable of emotions so far
removed from a smug commonplace. Love, as he had conceived it, for
example, had been an affair of many oppressive restrictions, an affair
of ultimate respectability and middle-aged affection. Oh, dear, no! It
appeared to be a different thing entirely. He discovered that once one
was thoroughly saturated with it, one stepped out of all those ideas as
out of a suit of worn and uncomfortable clothing. Indeed, one had no
need of ideas at all. One proceeded through a series of transmigrations.
One arrived at conclusions by a species of intuition. Life ceased to be
an irritating infliction and became a grand panorama.

And yet in the present situation what did it all amount to? With its
well-known but inexplicable rapidity, rumour had already gone round the
ship hinting at a trip to the Persian Gulf. If that were so, Mr.
Spokesly, by all the laws of probability, would never be in Saloniki
again. Yet he was quite confident that he would be in Saloniki again. He
had no clear notion of what he proposed to do when he reached
Alexandria, but he was determined to manage it somehow. He had a feeling
that he was matched against fate and that he would win. He did not yet
comprehend the full significance of what he called fate. He was unaware
that it is just when the gods appear to be striving against us that they
need the most careful watching lest they lure us to destroy ourselves.
He was preoccupied with the immediate past; which he did not suspect is
the opiate the gods use when they are preparing our destinies. And while
he was sure enough in his private mind that he would get back to
Saloniki somehow, the slow movement of the _Tanganyika_ as she came up
on her anchor gave the episode an appearance of irrevocable
completeness. He was departing. Somewhere among those trees beyond the
White Tower, trees that shared with everything else in Saloniki an
appearance of shabby and meretricious glamour, like a tarnished and
neglected throne, was Evanthia Solaris. And the ship was moving. The
anchor was coming up and the ship was going slow ahead. Mr. Spokesly
looked down at the water that was gushing through the hawse-pipe and
washing away the caked mud from the links and shackles. As far as he
could see he was going back to Alexandria, back by devious ways to
London, and Evanthia Solaris, with her amber eyes, her high-piled glossy
black hair and swift, menacing movements, would be no more than an
alluring memory. And as the anchor appeared and the windlass stopped
heaving while the men hosed the mud from the flukes, Mr. Spokesly began
to realize, with his new-found perception, that what he took to be
confidence was only desire. He was imagining himself back there in
Saloniki; a man without ties or obligations. He saw an imaginary
Spokesly seizing Evanthia and riding off into the night with her, riding
into the interior, regardless of French sentries with their stolid faces
and extremely long bayonets. As he recapitulated the actual conditions
he saw he had only been dreaming of going back there. He had drawn all
the money he could and he owed Archy Bates a ten-pound note. Stowed away
under his clothes in his cabin he had nearly an oke, which is about
three pounds, of a dark brown substance which Mr. Dainopoulos had
mentioned was worth eighty pounds in Egypt if it were adroitly
transferred to the gentleman who had expressed his willingness to do
business with the friends of Mr. Bates. Here lay the beginnings of that
desire, it seemed. That eighty pounds might put Mr. Spokesly in a
position to go where he liked. It might; but the chances were that Mr.
Spokesly would fail to get away from himself after all. It is not so
easy to be an outlaw as it appears, when one has been one of the
respectable middle classes for so long. The seaman is as carefully
indexed as a convict, and has very little more chance in ordinary times
of getting away. Mr. Spokesly knew that and had no such notion in his
head. What he did meditate was some indirect retirement from the scene,
when a pocketful of loose cash would enable him to effect a desirable
man[oe]uvre in a dignified manner, and he would have no need to forfeit
his own opinion of himself. The temperament of the crook may sometimes
be innate, but in most cases it is the result of a long apprenticeship.
Mr. Spokesly wanted money, he wanted a command, he even wanted romance;
but he did not want to be wicked. He could no more get away from
Haverstock Hill, North West London, than could Mrs. Dainopoulos with all
her romantical equipment. Therein lay the essential difference between
himself and Mr. Dainopoulos, who also desired respectability, but who
had in reserve a native facility for swift and secret chicanery. Mr.
Dainopoulos slipped in and out of the law as easily as a lizard through
the slats of a railing. Mr. Spokesly could not do that, he discovered to
his own surprise and perhaps regret. Unknown to himself, the austere
integrity of distant ancestors and the hard traditions of an ancient
calling combined to limit his sphere of action. The reason why many of
us remain merely useful and poverty-stricken nonentities is that we can
serve no other purpose in the world. We lack the flare for spectacular
exploits; and even the war, which was to cleanse and revitalize the
world, has left us very much as we were, the victims of integrity.

When he had seen the anchor made fast and the compressors screwed tight,
Mr. Spokesly went aft to get his tea. He was to go on watch at eight.
This was the Captain's idea, he reflected. They were supposed to pick up
a new third mate in Alexandria. In the meanwhile the Captain was taking
a watch. It was very unsatisfactory, but what was one to do? The Old Man
had been very quiet about the shore-going in Saloniki. Hardly left the
ship himself. Had that friend of his, a major, living in the spare
cabin. Whiskies and sodas going upstairs too, the second steward had
mentioned. Too big to notice what his own officers were doing, no doubt.
If he knew what his chief officer was doing! By Jove! Mr. Spokesly was
suddenly inflated, as he sat eating his tea, with extraordinary pride.
He had recalled the moment when he had walked into the concert-hall of
the White Tower Gardens with Evanthia Solaris. The proudest moment of
his life. Every officer in the room had stared. Every woman had glared
at the slim _svelte_ form with the white velvet toque set off by a
single spray of osprey. As well they might, since they had never seen
her before. They had seen the toque, however, in Stein's Oriental Store,
and had wondered who had bought it. And as they had moved through the
dense throng of little tables surrounded by officers and cocottes, amid
a clamour of glasses and laughter and scraping chairs, with music on the
distant stage, Mr. Spokesly experienced a new pleasure. They sat down
and ordered beer. Upstairs a number of Russian officers, in their
beautiful soft green uniforms, were holding a girl over the edge of a
box and enjoying her screams. Someone threw a cream cake at the girl who
was singing on the stage and it burst on her bosom, and everyone
shrieked with laughter. The girl went into a paroxysm of rage and
snarled incomprehensibly at them before flinging out of sight, and they
all bawled with merriment. It was rich. Suddenly the Russian officers
pushed the girl over the edge of the box and she dangled by her wrists.
The audience howled as she kicked and screamed. The uproar became
intolerable. Officers of all nations rose to their feet and bawled with
excitement. One of them put a chair on a table and reached up until he
could remove the dangling girl's shoe. It was filled with champagne and
passed round. The girl was drawn up and disappeared into the box. The
manager appeared on the stage to implore silence and order. Someone
directed a soda-siphon at him and he retired, drenched. Finally a large
placard was displayed which informed the audience that "_À cause du
tapage le spectacle est fini_," and the curtain descended. They went out
into the gardens, Evanthia holding his arm and taking short prinking
little steps. Why had she wanted to go to such a place? He was obliged
to admit she hardly seemed aware of the existence of the people around
her. She sat there sipping her beer, smiling divinely when she caught
his eye, yet with an air of invincible abstraction, as though under some
enchantment. Mr. Spokesly was puzzled, as he would always be puzzled
about women. Even his robust estimate of his own qualification as a male
was not sufficient to explain the sudden mysterious change in Evanthia
Solaris. Was she afraid, she who gave one the impression of being afraid
of nothing? But Mr. Spokesly was not qualified to comprehend a woman's
moods. His destiny, his function, precluded it. He never completely
grasped the fact that women, being realists, see love as it really is,
and are shocked back into a world of ideal emotions where they can
experiment without imperilling their sense of daintiness and vestal
dedication to a god. And Evanthia Solaris was experimenting now. Her
_liaison_ with the gay and debonair creature who had journeyed out of
Saloniki that night with the departing consuls had been an inspiration
to her to speculate upon the ultimate possibilities of emotional
development. Just now she was quiet, as a spinning top is quiet, her
thoughts, her conjectures, merely revolving at high speed. With the
quickness of instinct she had admitted this friend of Mrs. Dainopoulos
to a charming and delicate comradeship committing her to nothing. That
he should love, of course, went without saying. She was debating,
however, and revolving in her shrewd and capable brain, how to use him.
And it gave her that air of diffident shyness blended with saucy courage
which made him feel, now he was soberly eating his tea on board the
_Tanganyika_, outward bound, that she was a sorceress who had thrown an
enchantment about him. And he wanted, impossible as he knew it to be, to
go back there and resign himself again to the enchantment, closing his
eyes, and leaving the _dénouement_ to chance. No doubt the novelty of
such a course appealed to him, for he came of a race whose history is
one long war against enchantments and the poisonous fumes of chance. He
went on stolidly eating his tea, substantial British provender, pickled
pig's feet, beet-and-onion salad, stewed prunes, damson jam, and tea as
harsh as an east wind. He loitered over the second cup, while the second
steward passed behind him with a napkin, eager for him to finish, for
that gentleman intended to gorge, while Archy Bates was indisposed, on
pig's feet and pickled walnuts. Mr. Spokesly loitered because he knew,
when he was once again in his own cabin, that he would be facing a
problem which makes all men, except artists and scoundrels, uneasy. The
problem was Ada. He did not want to think about Ada, a girl who was in
an unassailable position as far as he was concerned. He wanted her to
stay where she was, in beleaguered England, until he was ready to go
back, until he had regained command of himself. He rose up suddenly and
went along to his cabin. His idea was that Ada should wait for him, wait
while he went through this extraordinary experience. His mind even went
forward and planned the episode. He would get the money in Alexandria,
get out of the ship somehow, return to Saloniki ... and when the war was
over he would of course return to England and find Ada waiting for him.
It was an admirable scheme and more frequently carried out than Mr.
Spokesly was aware. Yet he was secretly ashamed. He had also a vague,
illogical notion that, after all, he was not contemplating any real
infidelity to Ada since he fully intended to return to her. He was very
confused in his mind. He was not accustomed to such crises. He took up
the little green pamphlets of the London School of Mnemonics. An
aphorism caught his eye. _Be sure your chin will find you out._ The idea
was expanded in an essay on forcefulness of character. The theory
propounded was that we have all of us a minute germ of character force
which by exercise and correct training can be developed into a
formidable engine for the acquisition of power, position, and wealth.
Another aphorism ran: _Train the muscles of your mind._ Just as the use
of dumb-bells brought out rippling rolls of muscle under a satin skin,
so the use of the Mnemonic method of Intensive Excogitation rounded out
the sinews of the mind and gave a glistening polish to the conversation.
Above all, it augmented one's cerebral vitality. One became a forceful
personality and exerted a magnetic influence over women....

Mr. Spokesly's feet hurt him slightly. He went along to the pantry and
ordered a bucket of hot water, and proceeded to go the rounds of the
ship to see that all ports and doors were screened. His feet hurt him.
And it seemed to him that his mind hurt him in very much the same way.
He was in a mood which people like the London School of Mnemonics dread
and deprecate more than anything else, a mood which renders suddenly
valueless millions of dollars' worth of advertising, which empties
theatres and leaves the purveyors of commodities with warehouses crammed
with moribund stock. He was suspicious. He had suddenly perceived in a
dim way the complete and humorous fallacy of trying to become somebody
else through the mails. It did not present itself to him in this form.
He was not clever enough to get anything so clear as that. The London
School of Mnemonics prospered exclusively upon people who lacked the
power of coherent thought. But he had become suspicious. He had lost
faith, not in himself, but in the resources of ultra-modern advertising.
He was beginning to wonder what Mr. Dainopoulos would say to the theory
of Intensive Excogitation. Mr. Spokesly did not realize it, of course,
but the mere fact that he was losing faith in the London School of
Mnemonics was evidence of his progress in life. So much Evanthia Solaris
had already done for him. She had induced in him a certain contempt and
cantankerous suspicion of life. He saw himself with appalling clearness
as the mate of a transport, quarrelling with dirty, insolent engineers
who could not be induced to blind the scuttles of their cabins properly.
And as he came back from the forecastle he heard Captain Meredith's
quiet voice. The captain wanted the fall of the big steel boom made more
secure. This boom was kept up against the mast, since it was too long to
lay down. Mr. Spokesly blew his whistle. The bosun and a couple of
seamen came out and began bending the heavy fall about the bollards near
the standing rigging. Then they hauled on the guys which brought the
boom hard up against the mast, and it appeared from the silence of the
commander that he was satisfied. That, thought Mr. Spokesly, was what
you had to put up with. He himself had sent a man up to the crosstrees
hours ago to make fast the head of the boom. The man had not mentioned
the fact that the dead-eye was loose up there, for the reason that he
was a young chap and did not notice it. While the guys held the boom up
he had slipped the pin into place and climbed down. And this was what
one had to put up with. Impossible to give satisfaction. Day after day.
Nag, nag, nag. Mr. Spokesly went back to his cabin and found Archy Bates
sitting on the settee.

Archy was in that mood which follows heavy drinking by the initiated.
Archy was always ready for each mood as it came and made the most of it.
With a confidence that resembled to an extraordinary degree the faith of
an inspired fanatic, he gave himself over to the service of the god for
the time being. Coming back from ashore he had fallen out of the boat
into the water and then fallen off the gangway into the boat again; yet
his faith in his star never faltered. When the boat drifted from the
grating he had assumed a stern expression, and raising his arms
proceeded to walk across the water. When Archy was in that benign mood
incidental to his return from a souse, there was nothing in the world to
prevent him walking on water or ascending into the air, should he deem
it a dignified thing to do. There was something rather awful, to one who
believed in the laws of nature, in the inebriated accuracy of Archy's
movements along intricate alleyways, through doors and up ladders.
Through it all he held in reserve the fixed cat-grin which implied a
bemused omniscience, a dreadful knowledge of secret human standards.

But that mood was gone and he sat here on Mr. Spokesly's settee, smoking
a cigarette, completely normal and master of himself. It was a grotesque
feature of his convalescence, this austere assumption of efficiency. He
was very much upset at the way the second steward had made a mess of
things that afternoon. Just as soon as he took his eye off him, things
went wrong. It was most discouraging. And he would like to recommend him
for promotion, too. By the way, had Mr. Spokesly heard the company was
going to buy some ships? This was an example of the way Archy "heard" of
things. No one could tell how he got hold of the most secret information
while stewed. Mr. Spokesly was not alert. He made no comment, not
realizing how nearly that stray remark might touch him.

It was a fac', Archy hiccoughed. Going to buy a lot of ships. So he'd
heard. He paused, trying to recapture the thought. Yes, now no sooner
does the Old Man order supper than the silly josser loses his head.
Ring, ring, ring, the Old Man did. Now that he had recaptured it the
thought seemed less important than he had imagined. Mr. Spokesly, his
friend, with whom he was going to do some nice little business, didn't
seem in very good spirits. Archy bent his mind to the matter. It was
just as well they weren't going back to Saloniki, he remarked
reflectively.

"How do you know? And why just as well?" asked Mr. Spokesly, wishing
Archy would go away. He wanted to be alone.

"Didn't you know?" said Archy, wondering. "The Old Man said so. The
second steward overheard something about it when he took a tray up when
the N. T. O. was here this morning. We're going to Calcutta. Oh, yes.
And a good job, too."

"Why?" said Mr. Spokesly.

Mr. Bates winked, and smiled his cat-grin.

"Fact is, Mister," he remarked in a low tone, "I went a little farther
than I intended. Nice little widow she is, and it simply wouldn't do for
me to be seen round there any more. She gave me this as a keepsake." And
Archy drew a ring with an enormous emerald set in pearls from his
vest-pocket. He put it on his little finger and turned it about.

"What!" ejaculated Mr. Spokesly. "Gave you that? Why, it's worth a
couple of hundred pounds."

"Three hundred," corrected Archy. "Easy! Ah, my boy, you don't know what
it is to have the ladies fancy you. Straight, Mister, they're a
nuisance."

Mr. Spokesly looked at Archy Bates and wondered just how much of this
was true. The value of the ring staggered him, as well it might, since
Archy, who always pretended to be drunker than he really was, had
discovered it in the upholstery of an ottoman on which he was sprawled,
his left hand closing over it and moving it softly into his pocket while
the right arm had encircled the waist of the widow. He assumed she was a
widow, of course, since he saw nothing of her husband. And he had
honestly forgotten it until after he had come aboard. He really had some
difficulty in not believing himself that she had given it to him. He
took it off and handed it to Mr. Spokesly, who looked puzzled.

"Keep it for me," Archy said. "I'm very careless. I might lose it. Give
it to me in Alexandria."

"Oh, I'll do that, all right." Mr. Spokesly took it. "I'll put it away."

"You got it all right?" said Archy, meaning the dark brown substance
concealed in among the clothes in Mr. Spokesly's drawers.

"Yes," said that gentleman shortly.

"How much...? That all? Why, I got four okes. Not coming back here, you
see. I'll keep half for Calcutta. You can get a thousand rupees an ounce
there. Nearly--let's see--nearly five hundred pounds an oke. Think of
it!"

Mr. Spokesly thought of it and wondered what sort of fight the London
School of Mnemonics would put up against that sort of thing. Archy's
kind of success was very hard to dismiss as pure luck. He scored every
time. He made money, he enjoyed life, and widows were "stuck on him,"
and gave him costly souvenirs. What efficiency could match this? After
the war Archy would be in a position to do as he had occasionally
mentioned--buy a nice little tavern and enjoy himself thoroughly. His
wife had often wanted him to do it. He sat there on the settee, blinking
and smiling in his feline way, and actually seemed to exude prosperity.
It was nothing to him that Captain Meredith had no use for him. He had
no use for Captain Meredith, so that cancelled out. Captain Meredith
could pay him off any time he liked. Archy could write letters to the
Company as well as Captain Meredith, come to that. Just for a moment Mr.
Spokesly had the wild notion that Archy was beyond the reach of any one
on earth, that he was too clever to be caught.

"Well," he said as the boy appeared with the bucket of hot water. "I go
on at eight, Archy."

Archy got up, yawned, and stretched.

"I feel a bit tired. I believe I'll have a sleep. Rather strenuous
evenin' last night, not half. You ought to have been with me, Mister.
Some little piece. Wanted me to stay.... Well, I'll say good-night."

There it was again, thought Mr. Spokesly. Archy could lie on his settee
all day, recovering from his cups, and now he could turn in and have a
comfortable sleep. Mr. Spokesly removed his socks and lowered his feet
into the generous warmth. That was better. After all, a man had to
depend on himself. Schools of Mnemonics couldn't do much when there were
people like Archy and Dainopoulos in the world. He remembered the ring,
and took it out of the drawer to look at it. The heart of the emerald
shot lambent flames at him like the cool green shadows beneath a
waterfall. He saw it on the slim, supple hand of Evanthia. A gust of
strange feeling shook him suddenly. He became aware, with inexplicable
poignancy, of the mystical correlation between jewels and love, as
though precious stones were only the petrified passions of past days.
And how could one reconcile the beauty of these things, and the fact
that they seemed ever to be found in the possession of ignoble men? More
than a year's salary, and Archy could throw it to him to keep for him.
And a woman had given it to him. Mr. Spokesly was beginning to be a
little uncertain of his own knowledge of women. They seemed
incalculable. It seemed impossible to chart the course of any of them
for any length of time. He winced as he wondered what Ada would say if
she knew what he was up to. He had no need to wonder. He knew perfectly
well that she would forgive and sympathize and let it be forgotten. That
was the way with English girls. He realized with a great uplifting of
the heart that this was part of the Englishman's goodly heritage. He
thought of himself, coming home at last to Ada, and how she would stroke
his hair and murmur "silly old boy," and he would be at peace. Peace! In
the meanwhile there was the war. It did not look so very good for the
time being. The Germans seemed an uncommonly tough proposition. Mr.
Spokesly wondered why all those military men, who wrote testimonials for
the London School of Mnemonics, couldn't show their amazingly improved
mentality by giving the enemy a licking. All very well to write, "Six
months ago I was a sergeant: now I am a major-general, and I consider it
is entirely due to your System." After all, what we needed was somebody
who could keep the Fritzies away from the Channel ports. He sighed. He
would have to dry his feet and go up on the bridge. As he stood up to
open a drawer to find a fresh pair of socks he slipped the ring into his
trousers pocket and forgot it.

As he went out into the alleyway to go forward, the last faint streaks
of light were vanishing from the sullen sky over the mountains of
Thessaly and a heavy blanket of clouds had come up from the eastward, so
that the night was ideally dark for running through these perilous
waters. Ahead of the _Tanganyika_ could be seen a faint light, carefully
screened so that only an observer high up and astern of her could see it
at all. This was the pilot light on the sloop, and Captain Meredith
mentioned in a low voice the necessity of keeping it in view, as
otherwise they might run each other down, it was so dark. There were two
other transports behind, one on each quarter, who would also need
watching. They had just received a general wireless call that a
submarine-course had been observed N. by N.-N.-E. from Skyros, which
would bring her into their zone about one in the morning. Escort would
signal change of course by a red light shown in three periods of two
seconds each. And, the captain added, he himself would be lying on his
settee just inside the door.

He vanished in the intense darkness and Mr. Spokesly found himself high
up, alone in that darkness, and in charge of the ship. She vibrated
strongly, being almost in ballast, and rolled perhaps three degrees
either way in a leisurely rhythm. Along her sides he could see a sheer
bottle-green glow from fore-foot to where it was lost in the white
cascade churned up by the emerging propeller. Beyond this one could only
catch a sort of rushing obscurity, for the sea was smooth and unbroken
by the long invisible swell. The clouds now covered the whole sky so
that one could see nothing on the forecastle-head.

Mr. Spokesly paced to and fro, watching the faint and occasionally
vanishing light on the escort. He ran over in his mind the ship's
company and ruminated on their various employments. The gunner would be
asleep alongside of his gun; for of what use was it to stand by if one
had no target? The crew were all asleep, save the helmsman and the two
lookouts on the forecastle. The chief was no doubt seated in his cabin
smoking and thinking of his wife and children in Maryport. Mr.
Chippenham, who came on at midnight, was asleep. And there would be
Archy, turned in without a care in the world. Mr. Spokesly's hand came
in contact with the ring in his pocket. He must not forget to stow it
away safely when he went below again. It would look funny if he lost it.
He remembered he owed Archy a ten-pound note. Must pay that in
Alexandria, too. Things might happen in Alexandria, he reflected with
pleasure. There was that talk of the company getting more ships--there
might be something in it. The Old Man was so infernally close-lipped
about everything. Fancy the chief officer of a ship having to get that
sort of news from a steward, just because the captain didn't trust
anybody! He threw his arms up on the dodger and stared into the
darkness. The silence was broken suddenly by the rhythmic clatter of a
shovel-blade against iron--the call of the fireman to the coal-passers
for more coal. They shouldn't make that noise, Mr. Spokesly thought with
a frown. Though, come to that, the screw was making noise enough anyhow.
Every now and again, as the vibrations of the vessel failed to
synchronize, a low muttering rumble came up from the deck members
culminating in hoarse rattles of pipe-guards and loose cowls, and
running aft in a long booming whine. Mr. Spokesly strained his eyes to
catch the pilot light again. Even with the binoculars he could not
distinguish the sloop's hull. One comfort, they were not zigzagging. It
would only increase the risk of collision on a night like this. Another
thought occurred to Mr. Spokesly as he looked away from the glasses for
a moment. He felt that if he himself were in a submarine out there he
would be much more anxious to avoid a ship than to find her. The chances
of being run down were too many. He did not realize that the
_Tanganyika_, seen from sea level, was a solid black bulk, jangling and
booming her way through the sea and leaving an immense pathway of
phosphorescence behind her. He had no time to realize it. He had no time
to adjust himself to any philosophical possibilities before it came with
a crashing roar that left him, for an instant, unconscious. The deck and
the bulwark below him heaved up and burst into crooked screaming flames
as the beams and plates were torn asunder. He stood with his hands
gripping the top of the dodger, staring hard into the murk, and then he
comprehended. He flinched sideways as a horrible sound smote his ears, a
whine rising to a muffled shriek, as the loosened fall of the big boom
tore through the blocks, and the boom itself, a fifty-foot steel girder,
was coming down. As he reached the port-engine telegraph, tugging at it
mechanically, the great mass struck the wheel-house with a noise of
rending wood, breaking glass, and a faint cry that ceased at once.

Mr. Spokesly stood for perhaps three seconds holding the telegraph
handle, and he heard a second explosion, a hollow concussion amidships
that sent a great column of water into the air so that the _Tanganyika_
seemed to have shipped a heavy sea. He could scarcely appreciate the
importance of this. He turned with an effort towards the wheel-house and
captain's quarters. There was a sound of steam escaping somewhere down
below. The boom had crushed through the bridge rails and lay across his
path as he stepped over. And there was a dreadful silence up there. Men
were running and calling down below, but here was silence. The steering
gear was demolished, and behind that ... He felt sick. He took a step
down the ladder and looked again, and this time he fell forward on his
face. The ship had gone down by the stern.

"This won't do," he muttered, scrambling up. "Who's in command?" He blew
his whistle. "Hi! Tong Pee!" he called to the helmsman. Tong Pee,
crushed to a pulp under the binnacle, made no reply. He had never been a
communicative person, Tong Pee, and now he had no choice. The sudden
complete comprehension of what had happened behind Tong Pee sent Mr.
Spokesly down the ladder in a panic. "This is no good," he said
anxiously to himself. "No good at all." And he blew his whistle again in
a rage.

But the men on the boat-deck were in no mood to pay attention to
whistles. The ship was going down. Her after deck was under water, for
the second torpedo had hit the engine room and all aft was flooded. The
forward hold was light and was keeping her bows up so that she was
gradually assuming a vertical position. And the men on the boat-deck
were crying "Wah! Wah!" and "Hoi! Hoi!" and stampeding past in a stream
towards the boats. They came up staggering with piles of bedding, with
corded boxes and crates full of white rats. They came up festooned with
mandolins and canaries in cages, with English dictionaries and
back-numbers of the _Police Gazette_. They tore each other from the
boats and stowed their treasures with long wailing cries of "Hoi! Hoi!"
They slipped and slithered away aft in heaps and fought among each other
for invisible personal effects. One of them suddenly showed a flashlight
in the darkness and the others leapt upon him to take it, and it
ricocheted away into the scupper and went out. If one of them by
infinite toil got into the boat the others tore him away with howls of
anguish. And the deck became steeper. The boats, already swung out,
sagged away from the davits and fouled the falls. The sound of
scuttering feet and frantic throats was lost in a number of
extraordinary sounds from below, like skyscrapers collapsing into a
waterfall, as the boilers carried away from their stools and crashed
into the engines, which gave way also, and the whole mass, swirling in
steam like the interior of a molten planet, plunged through the
bulkheads into the empty holds. And then the boats began to fall clear
and some of the struggling beings about them dropped away into the void.
Mr. Spokesly, hanging to the rail beneath the bridge, found himself
sobbing as though his chest would burst. He took off his coat and threw
it at the men who were twined in a knot by the nearest davit. The
_Tanganyika_ was now at a very steep angle. Mr. Spokesly took off his
boots. It flashed through his mind that he was in command. "Oh!" he
thought, "I can't leave her!" And then the thought of the others, down
there, in their cabins, and the loneliness of it up here with these
yellow maniacs, pierced his heart. "I must go," he sobbed. And indeed he
had to, for the _Tanganyika_ was going down. He could hardly keep his
balance. Hot steam was blowing up in great gray gusts from the
fiddley-grating. He was near the water now. It might be too late. He
jumped.

For a moment as the chill of the water struck him, for he had been in a
bath of sweat as he stood there sobbing, he thought he had been killed.
He was a good swimmer, for they had made a point of it in his old
training-ship. He struck out away, away from the ship as fast as he
could. He realized more keenly, now, how dangerous it was to remain
near. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen strokes. He turned over,
treading water and shaking the moisture from his eyes. He was horrified
to find how close he was. The ship's bows were towering over him and
wavering to and fro. And as he turned to get farther out, he felt
himself raised up on a vast billow of smooth water that was rolling in
over the _Tanganyika_. He was carried forward and whirled over and over.
With something that was almost obstinacy he made up his mind to do the
best for himself, kept his mouth shut for one thing, and avoided wearing
himself out with useless efforts. And he suddenly brought up against
something that nearly knocked the breath out of his body and scraped all
the skin off his face. He spread his arms and grasped. He thought hard
and quick. The bow! He held on. It was not going down, but up, he was
sure. And then, to his surprise, for he really had no authentic belief
that he would survive this unusual affair, he found himself out of the
water hugging a long iron ridge that trembled just awash.

He began to think again. The mass of metal to which he was clinging was
vibrating as though from a series of heavy submarine blows. Huge groans
and sharp cracks communicated themselves to his body. He had no faith in
the ship remaining long like this. In all probability the forward hatch
would get stove in or the peak would fail and then, with the whole ship
flooded, she would go down. Away off he heard a heavy detonation. There
was a sparkle of red fire and a crack as the sloop fired a three-pounder
into the darkness. He caught sight of a faint light which gave him her
position. Boom! More depth-charges. Very active now, he thought with
unreasoning bitterness, now it was all over. He saw the blur of the
sloop moving fast towards him. He threw his leg over the stem, sat up,
and putting two fingers of each hand in his mouth, blew a piercing
whistle. The next moment he was almost blinded as a searchlight swept
across the water and remained fixed upon him. It was appalling, that
intense white glare showing up his frightful loneliness out there on the
calm heedless sea. The beam wavered and vanished. And at the same moment
some premonition made Mr. Spokesly prepare to move off. The _Tanganyika_
was going down. Deep bellowings in her interior gave warning. He decided
not to wait, and slipped into the water. And before he had reached the
boat whose oars he heard working rapidly just ahead of him, there was a
final swirl and hiccough on the water, and the _Tanganyika_ was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he woke it was some twenty hours later, for the surgeon had bound
up his face and put stitches into a number of lacerations in his body,
and had given him cocaine to make him sleep. The sloop was anchoring
down by the flour mills, and looking out through his port-hole Mr.
Spokesly could see the gardens of the White Tower of Saloniki.



CHAPTER VIII


Mr. Spokesly sat at a little distance from the large table in the
Transport Office and listened to the gentleman with four rings of gold
lace on his sleeve. It was a lofty and desolate place in the yellow
stucco building opposite the dock entrance. The transport officer was a
naval captain; with a beard, a brisk decisive manner, and a very foul
briar pipe. He was explaining that they needed a third mate for a ship
going to Basra and Mr. Spokesly would just do for the job if he would
waive his right to a passage home and go to Port Said instead. It was at
this point that Mr. Spokesly, rather shaky still from his immersion and
extensively decorated with pieces of plaster, took a hand.

"No," he said and kept his gaze on the floor.

"Why not?" demanded the captain, very much astonished.

"No reason's far as I know. But I'm not going third mate of anything,
anywhere, any more. That's that."

"Well, of course, we can't _force_ you to go, you know."

"I know you can't."

"But we shall really have to draw the attention of the owners to the
fact that you refused to go."

"That's all right. But I'm not going. I'll go home if you don't mind. Or
if I can get a job here I take it my articles finished with the
_Tanganyika_."

"No doubt, no doubt. But what could you get here?"

"I don't know what I could do. But I'd shine shoes on the steps out
there before I went third mate...."

"There's no need to go back to the question if you refuse to volunteer."

Mr. Spokesly stood up. He was in a rage. Or rather he was resuming the
rage which had assailed him when the _Tanganyika_ was going down and
which had been suspended while he made good his claim on life. The smug
way in which this bearded stranger disposed of him was intolerable. Mr.
Spokesly knew this man would never dream of sending one of his own caste
to a third mate's job on a Persian Gulf coaster with the hot season
coming on. He knew that he himself, being a merchant seaman, was
regarded by all these brass-bound people as an inferior, a shell-back, a
lob-scouser, and no dire need would ever make them accept him as one of
themselves. And he had a glimpse, in his rage, of another truth, for one
often sees these things in flashes of anger. He just caught sight of the
fact that these people, with their closely guarded privileges and
esoteric codes, were fighting much more for their class than for
England, that an England democratized and ravished of her class system
would be to them a worse place than an England defeated by a
class-conscious enemy. But the immediate grievance was personal. He
stood up.

"Volunteer," he repeated. "Excuse me, Mister, I came home from out east
and took a second mate's job, there being nothing better about. I went
mate when the other man died. I've had a master's ticket this ten years.
Now you want me to go third mate. Where shall I end up? In the
forecastle? Volunteer! I can tell you, I'm beginning to regret I ever
left Hong Kong."

"I see. Of course we can't help that, you know. You'd better go and see
the paymaster commander. Perhaps he can put you on a ship."

Mr. Spokesly took the cap, a size too large for him, which he had got on
credit at Stein's Oriental Store, and went out. He was feeling very
bitter. No man feels he is doing himself justice in clothes that are too
large for him. Mr. Spokesly wanted to go away and hide until he could
get rid of his enormous golf-cap and the coat which hung on him, as he
himself put it, like a bosun's shirt on a capstan-bar. He went
downstairs into the street. The sun had forced its way through vast
banks of blue-black and gray-white clouds and brought out unsuspected
tones in the roadway ankle-deep in bright yellow mud, in the green
uniform of a Russian soldier who was carrying a polished copper kettle,
and in the black-green waters of the Gulf crested with silver plumes.
Without analyzing the causes of the change, Mr. Spokesly felt more
cheerful. He would go to the paymaster commander, who was in the Olympos
Palace Hotel, and get the price of a drink anyway. He put his hands in
his pockets and whistled. His hand had closed over the ring. He thought
of Archy, the shiningly successful one, the paladin of pilferers, the
financial genius, down among the crawfish and awaiting those things he
saw on a stall just over there, eight-armed horrors with enormous bald
heads and bulging eyes and hooked beaks. And as he came to the corner of
the Place de la Liberté, he encountered a gentleman in the uniform of a
lieutenant of reserve. He was an elderly person, with the subdued air of
those men who have somehow attained to a command without ever making any
mistakes or achieving any remarkable successes. His uniform was badly
cut, his trousers bagged at the knees, and a large blue anchor was
tattooed on his left hand. But to Mr. Spokesly he was an angel. He was
not surprised when this person made some trivial remark to open the
conversation. And it soon appeared that he, too, was nursing a
grievance.

"What? You off the _Tanganyika_? Why, you only went out yesterday. No,
the day before. Dear, dear! And what are they going to do with you?"

"Want me to go up the Persian Gulf third watch-keeper of a
six-hundred-ton coaster," said Mr. Spokesly, feeling the ring in his
pocket and scowling.

"Ah! Just fancy that."

"And I been mate this six years, mind you."

"Just so. How about a drink? Floka's, you know, just up here. I quite
understand," this elderly angel added, raising his hand. "This is all on
me, if you don't mind."

"But I can't really, Mister. Not from a stranger," protested Mr.
Spokesly.

"Well, call it a loan, then, until you can see the paymaster. Here, take
these two notes. There now! You owe me a sovereign, eh? Here we are."

Mr. Spokesly would have had some trouble in admitting it, but the fact
remains that as they sat down at one of Floka's little tables and his
new friend asked him if he could do with a gin and bitters, he could
scarcely answer because he was on the verge of tears. After the icy
courtesy of the navy, for the officers of the sloop had not permitted
him to forget for a moment that he was only a seaman, this warm human
kindliness was almost too much. It really would have been a good thing
for him if he had been able to have what is called a good cry. But he
had been brought up to believe that such emotion was foolish, whereas it
is often the highest wisdom.

"What is your job here?" he asked after the drinks had arrived.

"Well, as a matter of fact, I'm in a state of suspended animation,"
answered the other, who had been a commander in tramp steamers for some
years. And he began to tell his story. He had joined up in the usual
way, and after knocking about in a shore job in the Bristol Channel,
some brilliant creature hit on the idea of sending him out to Saloniki
to act as harbour master. They needed one, too, he observed in
parentheses; an experienced man to straighten things out. Very good. He
arrived.

"And what do I find but I am to take my orders from a sub-lieutenant R.
N. who's about the age of my second boy who was killed at Mons, a cocky
young fellow who knows just as much about running a harbour master's
office as I do about painting pictures! Well, I went to the captain of
the Base and I told him as plain as I could, I simply didn't see my way
to do it. I couldn't, Mister! I went in to see this young lordship one
day on some business, and he kept me waiting half an hour while he was
telephoning about a girl he'd met. I told the Captain of the Base I
really would have to go home. You know the saying: Standing rigging
makes poor running gear. And now," he concluded with a quiet smile, "I
believe I've refused duty or something. I do wish I could get a ship
again. This waiting about is awful. But my owners have had so many
losses, I can't expect a command for a long time even if I could get out
of this." And he touched the lace on his sleeve. "These navy people are
all right in their own line of trade, I suppose, but they don't seem to
understand our troubles at all. They say the most curious things."

"How do you mean?"

"Why," said the old fellow in a whisper, "we had a lot of ships in dock
last week or so, so many that the anchors got fouled. One ship would
drop her anchor across another's cable, you see. Well, one captain sent
in a report he could not get his anchors up and in consequence he'd be
delayed getting out. What I wanted to do, what I was going to do, was to
move the other ships and give him room. If necessary, some of them could
go out and round the breakwater, you understand. But my young lordship,
this sub-lieutenant, says, 'Can't he slip his anchors?' in that tone of
voice that they use trying to make you feel as though you were an errand
boy. Just fancy that! 'Can't he slip his anchors?' 'I dare say he can
slip them all right,' I said, 'but wouldn't he find them useful in
Genoa?' Which was where he was going. You read a lot in the papers about
what wonderful chaps they are, but ... I don't know."

They sat there, those two, getting themselves pleasantly communicative
on gin and bitters, swapping stories of the incompetence of others and
their own obscure virtues, until Mr. Spokesly realized he would have to
see the paymaster and discover what was to happen to him.

"Well," he said, "I must go. I suppose I'll see you again."

"I'm at the Olympos. I'll show you where to go. You'd better get a room
there, too, if you can. I think I'll get along now and see what my young
lordship is up to. Slipping some more anchors, I expect. See you later."

And he moved off, in his slovenly fitting uniform and large broad-toed
shoes. Mr. Spokesly watched him. There, he thought, went a man who'd had
a command for years. And treated like a dog! He would be like that
himself in twelve or fifteen years' time. These official people only
thought of themselves. The only thing to do was to take a leaf out of
their book and look after Number One. He went into the hotel.

He came out again in about a quarter of an hour. "So that's the way
we're treated," he muttered, walking away. "Anybody would think I'd
committed a crime, not going down with everybody else." This was rather
hard on a harassed paymaster who could do nothing for Mr. Spokesly save
advance him two hundred francs, as per regulations regarding distressed
ships' officers, and promise him a compassionate passage home at some
future date, unless Mr. Spokesly's owners authorized something more
generous. With the two hundred francs in his pocket he walked away with
the general idea of getting a suit of clothes. And then--perhaps it was
the backward glance he took as he stood at the upper end of the noisy,
dirty little Place de la Liberté and saw the sunlight dancing on the
green-black water and on the polished brass funnels of the launches;
perhaps it was the glimpse he caught of the far peaks of Thessaly that
gave him an uplifting of the heart. His mood changed. He saw the thing
suddenly not as a grievance but as an adventure, in which he would have
to decide for himself. These naval people were only cogs in wheels. If
they wanted him they could come for him. He recalled again the important
fact that with the loss of the _Tanganyika_ he became exactly what he
had so greatly desired--a free agent, so long as he did not press his
claim for passage home. There was nothing in his way now except this
life-long habit of going to somebody for orders. Men had made great
fortunes, he had heard, by being cast adrift in a foreign port in some
such fashion. And others, he reflected cynically, had come down in the
world to be weak-kneed bummers and drink-cadgers. There it was again. It
rested with the man himself. What was it the little green books of the
London School of Mnemonics had said? Mr. Spokesly laughed shortly as he
thought of them lying at the bottom of the sea. A good place for them.
Lot of rubbish, if the truth were known. Fat lot of use they were now,
for instance. That chap Dainopoulos was worth a ton of scientific
flub-dub about training one's memory. Why not go and see Dainopoulos
now? See if his talk about a job would amount to anything. And Mrs.
Dainopoulos. And Evanthia Solaris. He drew a deep breath and looked out
across the dancing sea. A battalion began to march along the quay, drums
and fifes thudding and squeaking behind them, a long line of khaki
figures with overcoats curled in a thick band across their bodies, hung
all over with an extraordinary assortment of utensils. Going up to the
front, he reflected, to be shot or dismembered or racked with dysentery.
They got the glory, too. They were "the boys at the front," and they
filled the public eye. They and the navy. They had pensions provided and
so on. Mr. Spokesly was not a trustworthy authority on the business and
emoluments of soldiering. He held always the civilian's point of view.
He had been brought up among a class of people who kept silent on the
subject if a member of their family enlisted. Even the war, which
abolished the necessity for shame, did not eradicate the fundamental
animosity of these middle-class folk towards the military. Mr. Spokesly
himself had an old aunt, who lived on her husband's insurance money at
Hendon, who still alluded to "the red-coats," though scarlet had been
abolished. It was, like their terror of dear bread, in their blood. They
were individualists, these bourgeois from whom Mr. Spokesly came. They
were the folk whose relatives were established in distant colonies where
they had raised families of tall sons who had come back into the fight
so changed in character that the people of England did not know them.
They were the folk who "went out" to the East and into Africa as traders
and factors, and who carried Haverstock Hill with them up the Nile and
the Hoang Ho. Unimaginative and devoid of conscious art, they furnished,
without knowing or caring much about the matter, the raw material of
romance. They did outrageously romantic things under the pretence of
providing for their families or getting orders for their firm. And it
was this generic inherited character, working to the surface during the
reaction from his recent exertions and emotional stress, that meant more
to Mr. Spokesly than either the war or the London School of Mnemonics.
The basis of romantic adventure is character, and a man's real character
is sometimes overlaid with curious artificial ornaments. Mr. Spokesly
had been very much in error both as to his own character and his
destiny. He had no more need of memory training than Mr. Dainopoulos. In
the future his care would be to forget rather than remember. His recent
experiences had taught him much. What was to come would teach him still
more.

He found Mr. Dainopoulos in his extremely diminutive office in a
cross-street near the Post Office. Mr. Dainopoulos was ostensibly a
money-changer. In front of his premises was a glass case with an
assortment of currency. A few sovereigns in a saucer caught the eye, and
might have inspired the casual passenger with polite wonder how they had
found their way there when honest men in England had forgotten how they
looked. And at the back of his premises Mr. Dainopoulos had a safe
nearly as large as the office. Between these two emblems of financial
affairs were a table and two chairs. On the walls were musty insurance
calendars and obsolete steamship sailing lists, for Mr. Dainopoulos had
done a brisk agency in the past with emigrants, stimulating the cupidity
of Balkan peasants with lively handbills describing the streets of New
York and Chicago as being paved with gold. At the present moment, when
Mr. Spokesly came in, the other chair was occupied by a long thin person
folded loosely together and smoking a cigarette in a holder nearly a
foot long. He had one of those physiognomies that baffle analysis by the
simple expedient of never under any circumstances meeting one's eye. The
pinched cranium, the cold, pale blue eyes, the hooked nose coming down
over a toothless mouth to meet an up-turning pointed chin, might lead
one to think him old, yet he was no more than forty-five in fact. His
long sallow hands were hairless and garnished with several seal-rings,
and on one skinny wrist hung a slave bangle. He had his chair tipped
back against the wall, one leg dangling, the other hooked by the heel
into the cross-bar, while over the raised sharp knee-joint he had draped
his fore-arm. He was talking with great animation, his jaws moving
rapidly like the jaws of a ventriloquist's dummy, which he altogether
resembled, and his toothless gums gave out a hissing lisp. Mr.
Dainopoulos jumped up.

"My dear friend!" he exclaimed, with that faint Latin crow on the upper
register which is so disconcerting to the northerner. He took in the
situation rapidly. It was unusual for him to be ignorant of anything for
long. He very often knew of disasters before the Intelligence
Department, having means that they lacked for gathering news from
obscure sources. He needed no schools of mnemonics to teach him the
inevitable deductions from Mr. Spokesly's queer cap and baggy coat,
while the long strips of plaster made him utter inarticulate sounds of
sympathy.

"Let me introduce you. This is Captain Rannie. He's skipper of my little
ship the _Kalkis_. Captain, I want you to know this gentleman. His
ship's just been sunk."

Even at the moment when he offered a limp hand Captain Rannie did not
raise his eyes above Mr. Spokesly's side pockets, and he lost no time in
resuming the conversation. Mr. Spokesly found that this was one of
Captain Rannie's most notable peculiarities. He had the air of a silent,
reserved man, and he gave one a strong impression of being silent and
reserved since he never divulged anything about himself. Yet he was
always in the midst of an interminable monologue. When you met him he
was talking rapidly in a low, ill-tempered lisping voice, he continued
whether you had business with him or not, and he was still at it when
you bade him good day. He talked extremely well, with a sort of heavy
varnish of culture instead of fine polish, and he took occasional deep
breaths in order to sound his periods correctly. The subjects of his
discourse were two: his own virtues and the sins of everybody else on
earth. Perhaps this was why he was never finished, since both subjects
were inexhaustible. No one had ever given him a fair deal and he had
given up expecting it. There were many things about himself to which he
never alluded, but he gave the impression that in strict justice he
ought to allude to them and very unfavourably, since he had been so
badly treated by the other parties. He was never heard to mention the
war, for example, or his own participation in the fray. He talked,
indeed, as a very garrulous being from another planet might, after a few
intensive lessons on human frailty. At the present moment he was giving
it as his fixed opinion, and supporting it with an overwhelming mass of
fresh evidence, that everybody--the agent in Port Said, the crew
including the mate and the engineer, the warship who had peremptorily
demanded his name and port of origin, and the captain of the port who
had assigned him a bad berth nearly three miles from the dock--was in a
conspiracy to make his life a hell on earth. After he had shaken hands
with Mr. Spokesly his arm dropped slackly across his knee once more,
leaving the cigarette-stained fingers to make expressive motions
emphasizing the ghastliness of the tale he unfolded. And never once did
he raise his eyes to either of his auditors. It almost seemed as though
he could not bear to look in the faces of those beings from whom it was
impossible to obtain justice.

"I ask you, what is a man to do? What can he do, as commander of the
vessel, when his own officers decline, absolutely pointblank decline, to
give him ordinary decent respect? Let alone carrying out explicit
orders. It's enough to make a man throw up the whole thing in disgust.
If I've told my chief officer once I've told him fifty times, I will not
have a cuspidor on the bridge for the man at the wheel. My helmsman must
have the common decency to refrain from spitting while on duty. What is
the result? He laughs in my face. Simply takes not the slightest notice.
The same with everything else. Do I give orders to have the captain's
tea served at four sharp? What does he do but stops the steward on his
way down, drinks the tea, spits in the cup, and tells the man to take it
to the captain. And when I ordered him to his room he threatened me.
Actually threatened the commander of the ship. I of course logged him
for insolent, unbearable, and insubordinate behaviour, and when I read
the entry to him according to regulations, he tore the book to pieces
and not only threw them at me but offered me bodily violence. I was
attacked! And the engineer is, if anything, worse. Stood looking in the
port and laughed at the chief officer's ruffianly behaviour. Do you
suppose for a single moment I can tolerate this sort of thing?"

"Well, well, Captain, I tell you what ..." began Mr. Dainopoulos.

"And another thing," continued Captain Rannie, without looking up, "the
man's no good in a pinch. Several times on the voyage I've had literally
to tell him his work. No sense of his position. Sits on the fore hatch
and has long conversations with the crew. I make no charges, mind, none
whatever, but I am as certain that man carries my conversation forward
as I am of my own existence. When eight bells ring at my orders, he is
frequently nowhere to be seen, and if I send the man at the wheel to
find him and bring him up, as I have had to do more than once, he keeps
the man with him in his room playing cards, leaving me at the wheel.
That's gratitude. That's the sort of thing I have to put up with from
this man. Do you suppose for a moment that I can allow it to go on for
ever?"

"Well, Captain," said Mr. Dainopoulos again, "I can see we shall have
to ..."

"In Port Said," cut in Captain Rannie, "I scarcely saw the man.
Positively I might have had no chief officer! But for me the ship would
have been looted over and over again. More than once, when I was going
ashore on ship's business, I found he had sent the boat away on some
perfectly trivial errand of his own, to buy him some cigarettes or to
fetch his laundry. And when I made an absolutely justifiable protest and
issued explicit orders that the boat was not to leave the ship's side
except at the express orders of the commander, what happens? Nothing but
insults and foul innuendoes. This sort of treatment might appeal to some
ship masters. You can't tell, there's no accounting for tastes.
Personally, I simply will not have it. I have been patient long enough.
I make every allowance for defective education and ignorance of the
ordinary decencies of life. I hope I realize everybody cannot be the
same. But this is going too far."

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Dainopoulos hurriedly. "I quite agree with you,
Captain. We'll make a change right away. Now if you'll ..."

"Putting aside all personal feeling," continued Captain Rannie, and
indeed he had gone right on while his employer was speaking, "putting
all that to one side, I feel it my duty as master of the vessel. The man
is not fit to be a ship's officer."

"I'll get you a seat, Mister," said Dainopoulos to Mr. Spokesly, and he
hurried out and over to a small café, returning with a chair.

"No satisfaction in going on like this, as any one can see not blinded
by prejudice. No one would believe, no one, what I have to put up with.
Not a soul on the ship who shows the faintest glimmer of gratitude." And
Captain Rannie was suddenly silent.

"That's what we'll do," said Mr. Dainopoulos in a loud, sympathetic
voice, "and I'll see if I can't get you a better anchorage. This
afternoon I expect I'll have a lighter for you. How will that do,
Captain?"

"I expect nothing, and I'll not be disappointed," replied the captain.
"My experience leads me to expect things when I get them. If anything
has happened on board since I left, don't blame me. I give you full
warning. The man is not to be trusted. I have difficulty in keeping my
hands off him. I only refrain as a matter of dignity. I would not soil
my hands with such--such riff-raff. I hope I am not misunderstood.
There's a limit to human endurance, that's all."

"I know how it is, Captain. Don't you worry. Only, you know as well as I
do he was the only man I could get at the time."

"I make no charges," said Captain Rannie, suddenly rising to some six
feet two, to Mr. Spokesly's intense astonishment. "I hope I am above
that sort of thing. But, I must really say, things could be managed
better if more attention was paid to the express wishes of the master of
the vessel." And without looking up or indicating in any way that he was
conscious of their presence, Captain Rannie walked away and disappeared
into the Place de la Liberté.

Mr. Dainopoulos looked after him for a moment with an expression of
perplexity on his marred features and then sat down.

"What's the matter with him?" inquired Mr. Spokesly, very much
interested. "Is he touched at all?"

"No, he's all right. Only he grumble grumble too much," said Mr.
Dainopoulos scratching his chin philosophically.

"I should think he does if he's always like that. What is his job
worth?"

"Seven hundred drachma a month I pay him, and he says it's not enough."

"That so? Hm!" Mr. Spokesly was thinking. "That's about thirty pound a
month. And I suppose he finds the ship." Mr. Dainopoulos nodded.

"Fifteen hundred drachma a month for that, and he says he lose money on
the job."

Mr. Spokesly was looking down at the floor, flicking the ash from a
cigarette, and he did not see the sudden wide-open stare Dainopoulos
fixed upon him, as though beholding him in a new aspect.

"Why, think of it. Here you are, without a ship!" he exclaimed.

"No doubt about that," muttered Mr. Spokesly.

"Well, why not make a trip for me? This ship she's not very _beeg_, but
she's going down to the Islands for the Government, you understand."

"For the Government? A transport?"

"One trip. After that I'll have something else much better for you. Yes,
much better."

"What, go mate with this Captain Rannie?"

"One trip," said Mr. Dainopoulos, holding up his forefinger. "I can fix
you for four hundred drachma a month."

"You said something, first time I came ashore, about a skipper's job,"
said Mr. Spokesly.

"That's just what I mean. Something better, see? This skipper," he
added, leaning forward and lowering his voice, "he no good! But he got a
paper from me, you understand, for a year, so I can't do nothin'."

"What about me?" said Mr. Spokesly, rather to his own surprise. "Do I
get a paper, too?"

"Only one trip," countered Mr. Dainopoulos. "You go one trip and I'll
fix you for a _beeg_ ship."

"Well, I can't do any better, and going home may be a wash-out," mused
Mr. Spokesly. "I'll get some clothes."

"You go to a friend o' mine and he'll get you everything. Here's the
number. Jean Tjimiski Street. You better get uniform, see, and wear all
the time. Better than plain clothes. Plenty trouble goin' aboard ship
without uniform. And then you come to my house."

"I was going to the Olympos," began Mr. Spokesly.

"Too dear! Olympos no good," hastily began Mr. Dainopoulos who was not
at all anxious to have an employee of his drawn into conversation by the
people who lived at the Olympos. "You come to my house. I will speak to
the officer who buy the stores from me and he will be glad if captain
and mate both English, you understand. That all right?" And he patted
Mr. Spokesly on the shoulder.

"You mean, come and stay with you?"

"Certainly. Why not? My wife, she likes you very much. And Miss Solaris,
eh?"

"Well, I don't notice she likes me so very much. She tolerates me. I
don't understand that girl, Mister."

Mr. Dainopoulos looked very serious at this. He shook his head. He lit a
cigarette, blew the smoke away, and put his face close to Mr.
Spokesly's.

"Never mind her, Mister. Keep away from her. She's a fine girl but she's
got funny ideas. And she's crazy about that feller what's gone away. She
thinks he's a king and she's a queen. You understand what I mean? She
ain't here at all, you see? She's got notions she's goin' to find him
and he'll take her back to Austria or somewhere. I can't tell you all
about it. I laugh when she tells us all her fool notions. She thinks you
can get her on your ship and take her back to her ... yes!" Mr.
Dainopoulos was humorously hideous as he reiterated this astounding
notion on the part of Evanthia Solaris. "And when I says to her, 'Aw,
he's gone away now; won't be back for six months, maybe,' she call me a
liar. 'He'll come back,' she say to me. I want him! Ha, ha!'"

"Well," said Mr. Spokesly, looking meditatively at the immense safe.
"She's right after all, and you're wrong. I'm here, ain't I?"

"And that's why I tell you, look out. These women, they ain't like
Englishwomen, Mister."

"How?"

But Mr. Dainopoulos couldn't explain how. It is not easy to explain how.
Perhaps, if Mr. Dainopoulos had been less absorbed in making money and
had dabbled in the fine arts, he might have hit upon some adequate
comparison. He might have said, for example, that the difference was
like the difference between the rose, with its perfume and its
comprehensible thorns, and the poppy, or the hemlock or the deadly
nightshade, blooms of fatal lure and incalculable perils. Mr.
Dainopoulos knew the difference but he did not know the English for it.
He must have sensed in some way the latent danger for a man like Mr.
Spokesly, a man with much unconscious romanticism in his nature, for he
shook his head vigorously and said several times, "You look out. She'll
fix you to do something crazy. You're engaged, or I'd say, keep away
from her. But since you're engaged, well, look out, that's all. By and
by she'll forget all her fool notions and get married."

"Well," said Mr. Spokesly. "I got to get out of these clothes before I
see anybody. I'll take a walk up to see your friend the tailor. See you
later." And he walked towards Venizelos Street.

He was profoundly disturbed at this unexpected revelation of the
attitude of Evanthia Solaris. If that girl had designed to cast a spell
upon him, she could have chosen no more potent elixir than this
sublimated essence of quixotism. She wanted him to get her back to the
gay and impudent young person who had almost tweaked the noses and
pulled the beards of the serious French officers who had seen him safely
locked in the train bound north through the lines. Without being
competent to analyze his complex emotions, Mr. Spokesly was in no doubt
of their reality. He would do it. It appealed to his particularly
English ideal of chivalry, which is embodied in the immortal phrase
"making a woman happy." He would do it. He would astonish her by his
sudden solicitude for her happiness. And it must be admitted that,
whatever else he failed to do, Mr. Spokesly succeeded in astonishing
her. Evanthia Solaris was perfectly equipped to achieve her own
happiness, equipped with the weapons and instincts of the jungle; and
the spectacle of an Englishman at his ancient and honourable pastime of
making a woman happy, while it never caused her to relax her vigilance,
certainly inspired her with novel emotions.

Mr. Spokesly was so lost in his reflections, most of them confusingly
agreeable, that he started when a familiar mellow voice asked him where
he was going. His friend the Lieutenant of Reserve was standing at the
corner of the Place. It was evident that the billet of deputy-assistant
harbour master carried no crushingly onerous duties. The old lieutenant
looked as though he had had a number of little drinks since Mr. Spokesly
had left him. He stood leaning on a cane looking on benevolently at the
busy scene.

"Floka's is right here," he said. "S'pose we have a couple? Beautiful
morning, isn't it? Well, and how did you get on?"

Mr. Spokesly had time to think. He recalled his own motto of keeping
one's eyes open and one's mouth shut. His angle of vision had changed
since the morning hour. He no longer felt sore with the navy or
miserably alone in the world. He had got a promise of a command--a
promise he had never before approached in his life. And a woman had said
she wanted him. He regarded his elderly companion with composure as they
stepped over and sat down at a little table.

"Not so bad," he said, drawing out his two hundred francs and handing
over twenty-five. "Much obliged. No, can't say when I'm goin' home.
Paymaster said he'd let me know. How's things? Any more anchors to
slip?"

The answer was a fat chuckle.

"Oh, my young lordship's not there this morning," said the lieutenant.
"Playing golf!" He drank his gin and bitters thirstily, which is a bad
sign. "Golf! I'd golf him, if I had my way. Lucky there's nothing much
doing just now. As it is I've had a heavy morning, getting things
straightened out. I think I'll have another and then we might try a bit
o' lunch. So you'll be on your own for a few days. I wish I could get
home. I'm going to see the Captain of the Base to-morrow. If that's no
good, I'll write to the Admiralty."

They had another and the lieutenant gave an outline of the letter he
proposed to write to the Admiralty. He also gave Mr. Spokesly his views
of the naval situation, attributing the nation's reverses entirely to
mismanagement of the harbours. They were not very clear views, and their
value was vitiated by a peculiarly irrelevant argument that consular
agents ought to be recruited from the ranks of retired shipmasters.

"'Tired shipmasters," he repeated, with unconscious irony, after the
tenth drink that morning. "Practical men. Size up situation. But what's
the use? Gov'ment won't lissen t'reason." He put down his glass and paid
the reckoning. Although he was not conscious of it, the lieutenant was a
happy man. He owned his own semi-detached villa over at Chingford, near
London, and the villa adjoining. His children were all grown up. Years
ago he had put his money into shipping and it had failed to pay a
dividend of more than three per cent. Now he was getting nearly thirty
per cent. His health was good, for even the interminable little drinks
at Floka's had no great effect upon him. He was doing very well out of
the war. A life of careful and cautious command was being crowned by a
season of gentle conviviality. He had achieved a position of respectable
eminence without ever having had an idea in his head. For him neither
the arts, the sciences, nor philosophy existed. His patriotism was a
rootless organism floating in a calm sea of sentiment. An intermittent
melancholy assailed him at the times when he thought of his son killed
at Mons. A wild young fellow. Got into a very expensive set in that
insurance office, where he worked. Brought up to be a gentleman, so one
couldn't very well grumble. Upset his mother something terrible. And now
he was gone and would never be any expense to anybody again. And his old
father was left to jog along as best he could. Ah, well! His other boy,
now, in an aircraft factory, was doing well. Wonderful how he'd taken to
these here motors. Probably get a very good billet after the war was
over. Saving money, too. Ah, well! It was an ill wind that blew nobody
any good. He tried to fix his attention, which had wandered a little, on
what Mr. Spokesly was saying. That gentleman was preoccupied with his
own immediate future and was trying to get away without hurting any
feelings. Keeping his eyes open and his mouth shut involved dropping all
unnecessary "top-hamper" as he himself phrased it. He rose.

"I got to go and get some clothes," he explained. "I simply can't go
round like this, you know. Suppose I look in at the hotel this evening,
eh?"

"Do!" said the lieutenant with dreamy cordiality. "Very thing. Tell the
waiter, will you? I think I'll have another before I go round to lunch."

It was just about this time that a keen-faced naval man, engaged in
mending the shaft of a groggy driver with some plasticine and a strip of
insulating tape, made a remark to a young sub-lieutenant with features
of almost girlish delicacy, who was assisting.

"One of your people," he said crisply, "is continually pestering me.
Middle-aged. Lieutenant Reserve. Smells abominably of cough-drops. Wants
to go home. Is he any use?"

"Not in the least," said the young sub-lieutenant with equal crispness.
"He might be if he didn't get half-stewed every day. The cough-drops are
to conceal...."

"Oh, obviously!" said the Captain of the Base. "I knew that, thank you.
But look here. Just give him a hint, will you, that there's too much to
do just now in my office to have him coming in two or three times a week
with a long yarn."

"What shall I do with him?" asked the sub-lieutenant deferentially.

The captain took a stance and swung the club.

"Don't care what you do with him," he said, taking a deep breath. "Lock
him up, send him out in a transport, make him run round and round the
White Tower, so long as he doesn't come to my office."

"Right-o, sir. He shall run round and round the White Tower for the
duration of the war. He'll do less harm there than anywhere else."



CHAPTER IX


When Mr. Spokesly had left his friend to have one more, he experienced
that comfortable feeling of having left someone behind which is one of
the most tangible and gratifying results of getting on both in the world
and in life. The incident crystallized for him, so to speak, the gaseous
and indefinable emotions which had been passing through his mind since
he had been fished out of the water. Avoiding the callous brutality of
the expressed sentiment, he derived a silent and subtle satisfaction
from the workings of a fate which had singled him out to survive a
ship's company of men as deserving as he, but who were now none the less
out of the running. Mr. McGinnis, who had obligingly died a startling
but convenient death, had merely gone before. He would be waiting, no
doubt, on the Dark Shore, his pink jaws going continually, ready to
navigate them to their long home. Mr. Spokesly had not had a great deal
to do with death heretofore, and he was much struck with the extreme
ease with which one can grow accustomed to the horror of an elderly
shipmaster being ordered about "like a dog," as the saying is. In a way,
he could scarcely refrain from regarding his friend the lieutenant in
the same light as his late shipmates. He was clear enough on this point
now: that the way to success is not through a nursing-home for
grievances. No one who had met Captain Rannie, for example, could regard
a grievance as a worthy or valuable possession. And Mr. Spokesly, to
whom had been denied access to the great founts of wisdom, had to
progress by noting his fellowmen and their reactions upon his own
feelings. He hastened away up Venizelos Street, full of vigour and hope,
as though it lay upon him to achieve something of the work foregone by
those so suddenly finished with life, who were now moving about, a
bewildered and somewhat undisciplined little band of incongruous shades,
lost and forgotten as the colossal armies of the slain went past. And he
became aware, quite suddenly, in the midst of the bright noisy street,
of life being an instinctive, momentary, impersonal affair after all. As
he put it, like a lot of insects, and somebody steps on us, and we're
squashed, and all the others go swarming on over us. And with that
mysteriously heartening notion, Mr. Spokesly had a vividly imagined
glimpse of those same armies marching through the shadows, millions of
them, of all nations, silently moving towards an eternity of passionless
intelligence. It would make no difference then, he thought. All we got
to do, is make the best bargain we can for ourselves. Carry on! Like
insects....

They looked like that. They swarmed in the narrow street, almost
crawling over one another with brilliant and distinctive markings and in
their hard dark eyes an expression of maniacal acquisitiveness. Their
glances were almost like antennæ, waving to and fro in the bright,
stench-laden air, communicating to the alert and secular intelligences
within the warning of an approaching danger or victim. Like insects,
too, they hived in dark holes, which they called shops, in the backs of
which one could see their eyes glittering, lying in wait. And down the
steep street came other insects, warrior ants astride of horses
caparisoned in blue and silver, and green and gold, with shining
metallic wing-cases and fierce head ornaments. They, too, moved on with
the air of automata, without emotions or any consciousness of good or
evil. They came on down, as they had come along that ancient Via
Egnatia, beneath the great arch twenty centuries ago, just as hard-eyed
janizaries had come in later times, settling in their swarms upon the
city. Down the steep ancient street they came, settling heavily into
their saddles with a clash of metal and wheeze of leather as their
horses took the descent; and watching them with shining eyes from a
doorway was Evanthia Solaris, an exquisite apparition in pale saffron
with an enormous black hat. She was raised a step or two above the
sidewalk, and Mr. Spokesly could see that slender gracile figure from
the buff-coloured shoes and stockings of sheer yellow silk to the broad
brim of black straw shading the pale dark face aglow with excitement.
One would have imagined that she was watching the soldiers of her
country riding out to defend her, or riding in to rescue her. She leaned
forward a little, her lips parted in a smile, and an officer, noticing
her in her doorway, sat straighter, raised his sword and smiled in
reply. Her response was ravishing. She blew a kiss, and Mr. Spokesly
marvelled at her enthusiasm. As well he might, for Evanthia was
rehearsing a part. Patriotism to her was a fine brave gesture and she
was practising it. It appealed to her dramatic instinct. Just as she
would suddenly smother Mrs. Dainopoulos with impulsive caresses, so she
cheered a lot of stolid soldiers who were nothing to her and in whose
sentiments she had no share. Always Evanthia was certain of some sphere
in the world where people act like this, and where they luxuriate in
rare and beautiful emotions. She played at this as a western child plays
hostess to her dolls. To her, for a brief blinding moment, it was real,
and she loved the officer with the saluting sword. And Mr. Spokesly,
rather scared, if the truth be told, and acutely conscious of his
anomalous attire, slipped into a shop and dickered with a long-nosed Jew
for a pair of Turkish slippers, while over his shoulder he saw the girl,
now the soldiers were gone, step daintily into the road and go on down,
with her delicate prinking walk, an exquisite moth among hard-eyed
ferocious-looking insects.

And so he found himself at last in a small room, behind a window full of
formidable uniforms, containing a dreamy-eyed Greek tailor and an
overworked American sewing machine. A number of suits hung in rows on
one side and on the wall was a steel engraving showing Parisian Men's
Fashions of a dozen years before. As he owed for a consignment of velvet
khaki which Mr. Dainopoulos had picked up somewhere and sold him at a
noble profit, Mr. Theotokis was disposed to do his best for Mr.
Spokesly. So he took his measure and ascertained by painful
cross-examination what a chief officer's uniform was like. Yes, like
that, with one, two, three rows of lace, one quarter wide. H'm! And in
answer to the demand for a suit ready to wear, he sized Mr. Spokesly up
and nodded reflectively. He had something. He rummaged behind the
festoons of coats and drew out a fine pin-check suit such as sporting
characters affect in the country. He held it up and regarded it with
misgiving. It appeared from the book to be made to the order of one Jack
Harrowby, Transport _Tanganyika_. Mr. Spokesly started. Harrowby was one
of the wireless operators, a youth about his own build and distinctly
sporting in temperament. He remembered Harrowby, all right. Why had he
not fetched his suit? Mr. Theotokis shrugged his shoulders almost to his
ears and spread his hands. No money. Wanted to pay next trip. Another
phenomenal shrug. Mr. Theotokis was desolated to disappoint Jack
Harrowby, but no money, no suit. Mr. Spokesly recalled something Archy
Bates had said about Harrowby drawing a lot of money, having started a
tremendous love affair in town. Evidently he was going to cut a dash in
his pin-checks. Perhaps he looked forward to the races at Alexandria.
And now.... Mr. Spokesly pursed his lips firmly, took off the anomalous
coat he was wearing, and slipped his arms into Jack Harrowby's coat. It
was an extremely good fit. Jack Harrowby's trousers needed turning up
and a touch of the iron, and they would do. A tremendous love affair he
had had on, Mr. Spokesly recalled. Girl in a post-card shop, it was
said. Perhaps it was the suit which had been ordered by Jack Harrowby to
make love in. Mr. Spokesly had not been attracted by that short buxom
little creature in the post-card shop; but now he felt he would like the
sensation of going round to see her, in Jack Harrowby's suit. It was the
sort of thing that chimed in with his mood of modest satisfaction. It
would not be doing Jack Harrowby any harm. That wise youth, who had gone
ahead and made the most of his opportunities, was now done with
pin-check suits and girls in post-card shops.

A hundred francs at first, it came down to eighty on invoking the name
of Dainopoulos, so Mr. Spokesly took it with him and promised to call
next day.

There was something dashing about a finish like that, he reflected, as
he sat down on the bed in a room in the Olympos Hotel. A word to the
paymaster had secured him that privilege. He regretted he had not noted
more particularly the sporting Jack Harrowby, but it did not do to have
much traffic with those fellows, they were so cheeky. He untied his
parcel and looked again at the late Harrowby's selection in suitings. He
had bought a hat on the way down, too, a gray felt, respectably stylish.
Now he would be able to resume his place in the world. He would not feel
like a fireman out of a job when he went to see these naval gentry. As
he folded up his wrinkled and salt-stained trousers he remembered the
ring and took it out. That was a rather peculiar turn, the way he
happened to have it. Just a fluke, putting it in his pocket in his
hurry. Mr. Spokesly took his lip in his teeth as he tried to get the
hang, as he called it, of all these intricate turns in his destiny. He
recalled the unusual and puzzling exaltation he had experienced that
evening when he went ashore with Archy, and he began to wonder whether
after all it would be good for a man to know too accurately what the
future held for him. His hands, so to speak, were full now. Life was
tremendously interesting, once one got away from routine and discipline
and all these conventional ideas. He was, practically, a free agent now.
It was up to himself to go ahead carefully and make no silly mistakes.
No harm in walking round to that post-card shop near the Ottoman Bank,
however. He remembered seeing Jack Harrowby hanging over the counter
once, as he went by. A dark little piece with a powdered nose.

Mr. Spokesly could not have explained this ridiculous curiosity about a
girl he did not know, but it was a simple enough by-product of his new
state of mind. There is nothing unusual in a man, suddenly awakened to
full consciousness by some one woman, becoming interested in all women.
So far from a man being unable to love more than one woman, it may be
doubted whether at first he can do anything else. The tender solicitudes
and almost religious exclusiveness are later phases of the passion. Mr.
Spokesly even looked forward to a sentimental intimacy with Mrs.
Dainopoulos. It made him feel a bit of a dog, as did this affair of Jack
Harrowby's flame. As he went along the Front he wondered if she would go
out to lunch with him. And then he saw that the post-card shop was shut
up and a sentry stood in front with his rifle on his shoulder. Mr.
Spokesly walked on and turned up the next street. The sight of that
closed shop and the sentry gave him a chill all down his spine. What had
happened? He made his way to the establishment of Mr. Dainopoulos. That
gentleman at once exclaimed at the improved appearance of his friend,
but without quitting his accounts which littered the desk and overflowed
on to the shelves along the sides. He offered a chair and a cigarette.
Mr. Spokesly watched him with respect. He had sense enough to see that
Mr. Dainopoulos was only doing business in the old-fashioned way, as it
was done in England and in New England, too, before shipowners became
too exalted to talk to their own shipmasters or to go down to meet their
own ships. There might be something in this business for him even after
the war. If it grew there would be an overlooker needed. He let his mind
go forward. Perhaps the _Tanganyika's_ sudden eclipse was really a
blessing in disguise. An ill wind blowing prosperity in his direction.
It would be unjust to say of him that he did not regret the loss of
those lives. He did, as sincerely as anybody else. But he was alive and
they were dead, and if there is one thing men learn promptly it is the
difference between the quick and the dead. So he let his mind go
forward. And when Captain Rannie suddenly came in, Mr. Spokesly almost
failed to recognize him. Not that Captain Rannie particularly desired
recognition. He sat down and continued a monologue on the decay of
morals in the merchant service. Went back to the ship, and what did he
find? Nothing done. Mate and engineer playing cards in the cabin. Cook
drunk. And so on. From bad to worse.

"But where's the harm in a game of cards, Captain?" asked Mr. Spokesly,
slightly amused.

This question upset Captain Rannie very much. He was unused to questions
from strangers. It interrupted the flow of his thought. He looked down
at his feet and took out a cigarette.

"Ah!" he said, as though an astonishingly fresh argument was about to be
born. "Ah! That's the point, that's the point. No harm at all. It's the
principle that's at stake--I expressly stated my dislike of the cabin
being used as a gambling-den and these officers of mine expressly
disregard my repeated instructions. And it's coming to a point," he
added darkly as Mr. Dainopoulos hurried across the street to speak to an
acquaintance, "when either they get out or I do."

It was obvious that Captain Rannie lived in a world of his own, a world
in which he was the impotent, dethroned, and outraged deity. Now he was
prepared to abdicate into the bargain. He hinted at ultimatums, distinct
understanding, and other paraphernalia of sovereignty, for all the world
as though he were a European power. By all this he meant nothing more
than to impress Mr. Spokesly with the solemn responsibility of being
chief officer under him. But Mr. Spokesly was regarding him with
attention and he was not impressed. He was looking for the elusive yet
indubitable mark of character which is so necessary in a commander, a
gesture often closely imitated, which carries out to men the conviction
that he bears within himself a secret repository of confidence and
virtue, to be drawn upon in moments of conflict with the forces of
nature and the turbulent spirits of men. And he did not find it. Mr.
Spokesly had had no opportunity of discovering this repository in
himself. Indeed, many men achieve great deeds and die gloriously without
ever having been conscious of the sacred force. But he knew it and felt
it when he came near it, whatever cantankerous habits of grievance he
may have cultivated. And it was necessary for him now to judge men for
themselves. Imitations would not do. As though aware of the scrutiny and
the motive, Captain Rannie proceeded with even more eloquence, and more
like a ventriloquist's dummy than ever, to outline what in his opinion
was the whole duty of an officer. The long scrawny wrist with the
slave-bangle, the cigarette held loosely between yellow fingers, waved
as though deciding the fate of principalities. He spoke in full
resounding periods, he made dramatic pauses, and invoked the eternal
principles of justice and decency and honour. And Mr. Spokesly didn't
believe a word of it. He was anxious for the mate to lose his job
because he wanted it himself. But he was secretly in sympathy with him.
And having failed to find what he was looking for, the genius of
command, he began to wonder what there was inside this man at all. It
couldn't be simply all this tosh he was emitting. He must have some
springs of love and hate in him, some secret virtue or vice which kept
him going. Mr. Spokesly was interested. Men were not so simple, so
negative, now he himself was out on his own, to decide for himself, to
be master of his own fate.

"Are you married, Captain?" he asked, in a brief pause, with a flash of
intuition. Captain Rannie dropped the match he was holding, changed his
legs and began moving his neck violently in his collar while he
swallowed. Several times he opened his mouth to speak and nothing
happened. He looked hard at Mr. Spokesly's boots.

"I make it a rule," he said at length, "and I expect all my officers to
bear it in mind, to have no dealings in personalities. I ask no
questions about a man's private life and I expect none. I hope this is
understood from the first. There's one thing I simply will not tolerate
and that is prying into my private affairs."

"Well, hang it, I only asked a perfectly natural question. No offence,
Captain."

"Precisely. None offered, none taken. It's the principle I insist on."

"I suppose you've been out here some little time," ventured Mr.
Spokesly.

"That is a matter that concerns me and nobody else," said Captain
Rannie. "That's one thing I find very much in vogue nowadays. Ceaseless
curiosity about irrelevant matters. Do I ask you how long you've been
out here? I certainly do not. I consider it's nothing to do with me. And
yet I am considered unreasonable simply because I demand common decent
respect for my own private affairs."

"The Captain he no like to talk about his affairs," said Mr.
Dainopoulos, who was listening. "Don't you worry. You'll find him all
right, Mister. To-morrow you start on the _Kalkis_. That all right,
Captain?"

Captain Rannie seemed under the stress of some terrific emotion. He
swallowed, his foot tapped the floor, the slave-bangle shot up out of
sight; and he regarded a point about three feet up the wall with a
malignant glare.

"I'm sure I'd never dream of interfering in such a matter," he said.
"What you do I must stand by. You make the bed, I have to lie on it.
That's what a shipmaster's for. He's a doormat, for everybody to wipe
their feet on. No matter what happens, he has to take the blame. _I've_
no objection in the world. I expect nothing, and that's all I get."

Mr. Dainopoulos evidently knew his captain, for he said: "All right.
That's fixed. Now, when we've had something to eat we'll go see the
Transport Officer. He's the man."

"I hope you don't want _me_ to go with you," said Captain Rannie,
looking down at the floor as though he saw the bottomless pit just on
the point of opening under their feet. "I've only seen the man once and
then he failed to show the very slightest glimmer of comprehension of
what I had to put up with. Might as well talk to a stone wall.
Absolutely. I'm sure _I_ don't want to see your Transport Officer."

"I was going to ask you," said Mr. Spokesly, "if you don't mind, a
question. You seem to be in the know all round here."

"What is it?" said Mr. Dainopoulos, regarding Mr. Spokesly with sudden
interest. He even left his pen in the air while he listened.

Mr. Spokesly mentioned the incident of the suit of clothes left behind
by the indigent Jack Harrowby and the memories of the post-card shop
evoked by the interview with Mr. Theotokis.

Mr. Dainopoulos let his pen descend to the document he was auditing and
nodded in comprehension.

"Yes, all finished, eh? Wal, what you think?" he went on nonchalantly.
"She little damn fool. She tell plenty stories to anybody who get sweet
on her, you unnerstand? She hear _Tanganyika_ go south, time so and so.
She talk"--here Mr. Dainopoulos made a gesture with his thumb and
fingers indicating violent blabbing--"ba-ba-ba-ba! Now she's in jail.
_Tanganyika_, wal, you know all about _Tanganyika_, Mister. You
unnerstand; these peoples, French, English, they play, you know, golf
and tennees, and seem half asleep." He shook his head. "No! Not asleep.
Very bad business that. Me; I go all the time like this." And he drew a
perfectly straight line with his pen along the edge of his desk. "That
crooked business no good."

Captain Rannie was suddenly overtaken by a violent fit of coughing, and
buried his nut-cracker features in a large plum-coloured silk
handkerchief. His head was bowed, his shoulders heaved horribly, and
from him came a sound like an asthmatic horse whinnying. He might have
been laughing save that laughter was unknown to him beyond a short sharp
yawp, a "Ha!" involving a lift of the diaphragm and an intake of breath.
And since none had ever seen him laugh they would not suspect merriment
in this dreadful cacophony, this laryngeal uproar, which had so suddenly
assailed him. Mr. Dainopoulos looked at his captain very sternly and
then renewed the proposal to eat. Captain Rannie rose, joint by joint,
and stuffed his plum-coloured handkerchief into his breast pocket.

"No," he said, and Mr. Spokesly wondered if the man ever agreed to
anything except under protest. "No, I'm a two-meal-a-day man myself. I
find I am less bilious on two meals a day. And anyhow, after that, I
couldn't possibly eat anything."

And he coughed himself out of the door.

Mr. Dainopoulos stared after him, his features destitute of any emotion
at all. Captain Rannie halted, turned half round, and it almost seemed
as though for once in his life he was going to raise his eyes and look
somebody square in the face. But he paused at the second button of his
owner's waistcoat and nodded several times, his toothless mouth open, a
perfect ventriloquist's dummy.

"I'll have indigestion for a fortnight," he said. "Absolutely." And he
started off again, the plum-coloured handkerchief to his face, his
shoulders heaving, making a noise like a foundered horse.

"What's the matter with him?" Mr. Spokesly felt justified in asking.

"He's an old bum!" said Mr. Dainopoulos with a gloomy air, but made no
further allusion to the bronchial troubles of his captain. The fact was,
as Mr. Spokesly became aware in time, that Mr. Dainopoulos, in the
course of his many negotiations, was obliged to entrust some of the
business to his employees. And a stroke of business entirely correct to
him did not make that impression upon Captain Rannie, who was under the
illusion that he himself was the soul of honour. So he was, in theory.
When Captain Rannie did a mean and dishonourable action, it bore to him
the aspect of an act of singular rectitude. And he promptly forgot all
about it. He wiped it out of his mind as off a slate. It was gone; had
never existed, in fact. For the exploits of others, however, he not only
never left off thinking about them, but he could not be induced to
refrain from discussing them, for ever and ever. Anyone who had ever had
any dealings with him would find him an embarrassing witness at the Day
of Judgment, if we are correct in assuming that witnesses will be
called. Mr. Dainopoulos could not afford to quarrel with him, but he
sometimes wished he had a more amiable disposition, and could get on
better with his crew. And he felt for him also the puzzled contempt
which men of affairs feel for the sensualist. An elderly man who, as Mr.
Dainopoulos had heard, had a wife somewhere and a married daughter
somewhere else, and who was continually engaged in some shabby
unmentionable intrigue, made one feel a little uncomfortable and
slightly ashamed of one's species. Captain Rannie's view of his own
conduct was not available, for he never by any chance recognized the
existence of such affairs in his intercourse with other men. His
sentiments about women were unknown save what might be gathered from his
short sharp yawp--"Ha!"--whenever they were mentioned, the laugh of a
noble nature embittered by base ingratitude. So he visualized himself.
No one had ever betrayed the slightest gratitude for anything he had
ever done. So he would be revenged on the whole pack of them--Ha!

It was Mr. Spokesly's chance question, whether the Captain was a visitor
at the house, which let him fully into the mind and temper of his new
employer.

"He's not that sort of man," said Mr. Dainopoulos, shovelling beans into
his mouth with a knife. "My wife, she wouldn't like him, I guess. He's
got something of his own, y'unnerstand. Like your friend Mr. Bates, only
he don't drink. He take the pipe a leetle. You savvy?"

Mr. Spokesly remembered this conversation later on, when events had
suddenly carried him beyond the range of Mr. Dainopoulos and his intense
respectability. He remembered it because he realized that Mr.
Dainopoulos at that time, and behind his mask of bourgeois probity,
which had been so enigmatically received by Captain Rannie, was devising
a daring and astute stroke of business based on his exact knowledge of
the Ægean and his relations with the late consuls of enemy powers. And
Captain Rannie, of course, had been aware of this. But at the moment Mr.
Spokesly easily abandoned the morals of his new commander and listened
to what might be called the wisdom of the Near East. He thought there
was no harm in asking Mr. Dainopoulos what he thought of the emerald
ring. That gentleman evidently thought a great deal of it. He offered to
buy it, spot cash, for a thousand drachma, about one sixth of its actual
value. He merely shrugged his shoulders when he heard the tale of a
woman giving it to Archy. According to his own experience that sort of
woman did not give such things away to anybody. He thoroughly understood
precious stones, as he understood drugs, carpets, currency, bric-à-brac,
dry goods, wet goods, and the law of average. He noted a minute flaw in
the stone, and finally handed it back hurriedly, telling Mr. Spokesly to
give it away to some lady.

"Or throw it into the sea," he added, drinking a glass of wine in a
gulp.

"What for?" demanded Mr. Spokesly, mystified by this sudden fancy.

"Bad luck," said Mr. Dainopoulos laconically. "It belong to a drowned
man, you unnerstand! Better give it away."

"I'll give it to Miss Solaris."

Mr. Dainopoulos eyed Mr. Spokesly over his shoulder as he sat with his
elbows on the table holding up his glass. Mr. Spokesly put the ring in
his pocket.

"She'll take it, all right," said his friend at length, and drank.

"What makes you so sure?" asked Mr. Spokesly.

Mr. Dainopoulos was not prepared to answer that question in English. He
found that English, as he knew it, was an extraordinarily wooden and
cumbersome vehicle in which to convey those lightning flashes and glares
and sparkles of thought in which most Latin intelligences communicate
with each other. You could say very little in English, Mr. Dainopoulos
thought. He could have got off some extremely good things about Evanthia
Solaris in the original Greek, but Mr. Spokesly would not have
understood him. If he were to take a long chance, however, by saying
that the vulture up in the sky sees the dead mouse in the ravine, he was
not at all sure of the result.

"Aw," he said in apology for his difficulty, "the ladies, they like the
pretty rings."

"I can see you don't like her," said Mr. Spokesly, smiling a little.

"My friend," said Mr. Dainopoulos, and he turned his black, bloodshot
eyes, with their baggy pouches of skin forming purplish crescents below
them, on his companion. "My friend, I'm married. Women, I got no use for
them, you unnerstand? You no unnerstand. By and by, you know what I
mean. My wife, all the time she sick, all the time. She like Miss
Solaris. All right. For my wife anything in the world. But me, I got my
business. By and by, ah!"

"What about by and by?" asked Mr. Spokesly, curious in spite of himself.
He began to think Mr. Dainopoulos was a rather interesting human being,
a remarkable concession from an Englishman.

Mr. Dainopoulos did not reply immediately. He had a vision splendid in
his mind, but it was hazy and vague in details. His somewhat oriental
conception of happiness was tempered by an austere idealism inspired by
his wife. He could never have achieved his ambition, let us say, in
Haverstock Hill, London N., or Newark, N. J. He demanded a background of
natural features as a setting for his grandiose plans for the future. No
westerner could understand his dreams, for example, of a black
automobile with solid silver fittings and upholstery of orange corded
silk, in which his wife could take the air along a magnificent corniche
road flanked by lemon-coloured rocks and an azure sea. Other
refinements, such as silken window-blinds, striped green and white,
keeping the blinding sparkle of that sea from invading the cool recesses
of voluptuous chambers, came to him from time to time. But he could not
talk about it. He did not even speak to his wife of his dream. He
believed she knew without his telling her. She knew nothing about it,
imagining that he was merely concocting some little surprise such as
buying a cottage in the country down in Warwickshire, where she believed
her people came from in the days of William the Fourth. Buying cottages
was not her husband's idea of solidifying a position, however. For him,
living in a hovel while making money was justified by frugality and
convenience, but retiring to a cottage would be a confession of defeat.

So he did not enlighten Mr. Spokesly. He paused awhile and then remarked
that he hoped to get finished with business some day. No one could
possibly take exception to this.

They did not see the officer who had been so anxious for Mr. Spokesly to
visit the Persian Gulf during the coming summer. That gentleman had gone
to see a dentist, it appeared, and a young writer informed them that it
would be all right so long as the captain of the vessel was British.

"Yes, he's British all right--Captain Rannie--he's got a passport," said
Mr. Dainopoulos. And when he was asked when he would be ready to load,
he said as soon as the Captain gave him a berth.

"He put us three mile away, and it takes a tug an hour and a half to get
to the ship," he remarked, "with coal like what it is now."

"Well, of course we can't put everybody at the pier, you know," said the
young writer genially, quite forgetting that Mr. Dainopoulos had deftly
inserted an item in the _charte partie_ which gave him a generous
allowance for lighterage.

"All right," said he, as though making a decent concession. "You know
they tell me they want this stuff in a hurry, eh?"

The young writer did not know but he pretended he did, and said he would
attend to it. So they bade him good day and took their way back to the
Bureau de Change. Mr. Dainopoulos had left it in charge of a young Jew,
a youth so desperately poor and so fanatically honest that he seemed a
living caricature of all moral codes. Neither his poverty nor his
probity seemed remarkable enough to keep him in employment, doubtless
because, like millions of other people in southeastern Europe, he had
neither craft of mind nor hand. Mr. Dainopoulos got him small situations
from time to time, and in between these he hung about, running errands,
and keeping shop, a pale, dwarfed, ragged creature, with emaciated
features and brilliant pathetic eyes. He was wearing a pair of woman's
boots, much too large for him, burst at the sides and with heels
dreadfully run over, so that he kept twitching himself erect. Mr.
Dainopoulos waved a hand towards this young paragon.

"See if you can find him a job on the _Kalkis_," he said. "Very honest
young feller." They spoke rapidly to each other and Mr. Dainopoulos gave
an amused grunt.

"He say he don't want to go in a ship. Scared she go down," he remarked.

The boy looked down the street with an expression of suppressed grief on
his face. He rolled his eyes towards his benefactor, imploring mercy.
Mr. Dainopoulos spoke to him again.

"He'll go," he said to Mr. Spokesly. "Fix him to help the cook. And if
you want anybody to take a letter, he's a very honest young feller."

The very honest young feller shrank away to one side, evidently feeling
no irresistible vocation for the sea. Indeed, he resembled one condemned
to die. He and his kind swarm in the ports of the Levant, the Semitic
parasites of sea-borne commerce, yet rarely setting foot upon a ship. He
drooped, as though his limbs had liquefied and he was about to collapse.
Mr. Dainopoulos, however, to whom ethnic distinctions of such refinement
were of no interest, ignored him and permitted him to revel in his agony
at a near-by café table.

"You come to my house to-night," he said to Mr. Spokesly. "I got one or
two little things to fix."

"Me too," said his new chief officer, who suddenly felt he needed
urgently to meet his own kind again. Mr. Dainopoulos was all right of
course, but Mr. Spokesly still retained the illusion that Anglo-Saxon
superiority was accepted by the world like gravity and the other laws of
nature. It would not do to make himself too cheap, he reflected. He had
an unpleasant feeling that his late captain on the _Tanganyika_ would
have stared if he had seen his chief officer hobnobbing with a
money-changer and a Jewish youth of almost inconceivable honesty and
destitution. Mr. Spokesly's wit, however, was nimble enough now to see
that Captain Meredith himself had not always been a quiet, refined, and
competent commander; and moreover, Captain Meredith might quite
conceivably have seen and taken a chance like this himself, had he been
in the way of it. But just now what was wanted was a chat and a drink
with a friend. He would go down to the hotel and find the lieutenant.

But this was not to be. As he entered the foyer of the hotel, a major
and a round-faced person in civilian clothes regarded him with
exaggerated attention. Their protracted examination of him made him feel
somewhat self-conscious, and to ease the situation he spoke to them.

"I'm looking for a friend of mine," he said, "a lieutenant in the
Harbour Office. I don't know his name."

"Don't know his name!" said the major, boring into Mr. Spokesly with his
cold ironical stare.

"I only met him this morning," he explained. "Me coming ashore from the
_Tanganyika_, you see."

"Oh, yes." This in a more human tone.

"And him being the only man I know, pretty near, I was looking for him."

"I see. Well, old chap, he's generally about pickled this time of day,
if he's the man I think you mean. Up at the Cercle Militaire--d'you know
it?--or the White Tower Bar. Better take a look along."

"Thanks," said Mr. Spokesly with a slight smile.

"Don't mention it. By the way, are you being sent home?"

"I'm going on a local ship down to the Islands," he replied.

"Not the _Kalkis_?"

Mr. Spokesly nodded, and said he was going mate.

"Well, look here. I'm Officer of Supply, you know. You might look me
up--you know where it is--and we'll have a word about the cargo. Yes, in
the morning."

The major and his friend the censor, who was also a novelist, gazed
after Mr. Spokesly as he went out.

"I believe that fellow Dainopoulos is on the level after all," said the
major, drawing hard at his cigarette. "I know his skipper is a
Britisher, and this chap's all right, I should say. Well, he's making
enough out of it to give us a fair deal."

"Most of these local people are on our side, I think," said the other.

"If we pay them more than the other side," added the major drily. And
then they went up to get ready for their dinner.

Mr. Spokesly called a carriage and started along the _quai_. He wondered
what they wanted of him about the cargo! Was it possible Captain Rannie
was not regarded with complete confidence at headquarters? He recalled
the extraordinary reception the Captain had given to his owner when Mr.
Dainopoulos described the undeviating rectitude of his course. Mr.
Spokesly was not simple enough to suppose that the _Kalkis_ was as
innocent as she looked in the distance. He knew that the delicate and
precarious position of the Allies in Saloniki rendered it necessary to
wink at a good deal of adventurous trading in which the local Levantine
merchants were past-masters. It could not be helped. But he was puzzled
to account for Captain Rannie. How had he come to be in the employ of
Mr. Dainopoulos? And what was the lure which held him to a sort of
snarling fidelity? Perhaps he also had a tremendous love affair, like
Jack Harrowby. Mr. Dainopoulos had hinted at shabby intrigues. Even Mr.
Dainopoulos, however, was not quite on safe ground here. Captain Rannie
had his own way of enjoying himself, and an essential part of that
enjoyment was its secrecy. He couldn't bear anybody to know anything
about him. He was averse, in fact, to admitting that he ever did enjoy
himself. It was too much like letting his opponents score against him.
And so people like Mr. Dainopoulos, familiar with evil, imagined the
captain to be much more wicked than he ever ventured to be. The drug
whose aid he invoked made him look not only aged but sinful as a
compensation for the glimpses into the paradise of perpetual youth which
it afforded him while he was lying amid huge puffy pillows, in a house
near the Bazaar. It gave him genuine pleasure to escape every familiar
human eye, and arrive by devious ways at a secret door in a foul alley,
which gave on to the back of the house where a quiet, elderly woman and
her thirteen-year-old daughter received him and wafted him gently away
into elysium. He was a sensualist no doubt, yet it would puzzle a jury
of angels to find him more guilty than many men of more amiable repute.
When he sank into one of his torpors, the quiet woman holding his pulse,
he felt he was getting even with the wife and daughter who had made him
so unhappy in past days. Captain Rannie never did anything without what
he called "full warrant." He considered he had full warrant for killing
himself with drugs if he wished. He merely refrained out of
consideration for the world. Away back in the womb of Time, some
forgotten but eternal principle of justice had decreed to him the right
to do as he pleased, provided, always provided, he did his duty in his
public station. This is a common enough doctrine in Europe and a
difficult one to abrogate. Mr. Spokesly, driving along the _quai_ toward
the White Tower, would have been the last to deny what Captain Rannie
called "a common elementary right." He was invoking it himself. What he
was trying to do all this while was to achieve an outlet for his own
personality. This was really behind even his intrigue with the London
School of Mnemonics. He was convinced he had something in him which the
pressures and conventions of the world had never permitted to emerge. It
must be borne in mind that the grand ideal of sacrifice which swept over
us like a giant wave of emotion at the beginning of the war behaved like
all waves. It receded eventually, and those of us whose natures were
durable rather than soluble emerged and began to take in the situation
while we dried ourselves as quickly as possible. We wondered if there
might not be some valuable wreckage washing ashore soon. We got into the
universal life-saving uniform, of course, and assumed conventional
attitudes of looking out to sea and acting as chorus to the grand
principal performers; but the habits and instincts of generations were
too strong for us. We kept one eye on the beaches for wreckage.
Patriotism became an intricate game of bluffing ourselves. We had
returned with naïve simplicity to the habits of our Danish and Saxon and
Norman ancestors. Like the Jews in London who joined lustily in the
chorus of "Onward, Christian Soldiers," we missed the joke in our
furious eagerness to seize the opportunity. But there were many, and Mr.
Spokesly was one, whose acquisitive genius was not adequately developed
to deal with all the chances of loot that came by, and who were
preoccupied with the fascinating problem of establishing their egos on a
higher plane. Merely becoming engaged had been an advance, for Mr.
Spokesly, because men like him can move neither upward nor downward
without the aid of women. Once removed from the influence of Ada by a
series of events which he could not control, he was the predestined prey
of the next woman ahead. Those who view this career with contempt should
reflect upon the happiness and longevity of many who pursue it. Mr.
Spokesly was no sensualist in the strict meaning of the word. He simply
experienced a difficulty in having any spiritual life apart from women.
He could do with a minimum of inspiration, but such as he needed had to
come from them. All his thoughts clustered about them. Just as he
experienced a feeling of exaltation when he found himself in their
company, so he could never see another man similarly engaged without
regarding him as a being of singular fortune. Always, moreover, he
conceived the woman he did not know as a creature of extraordinary
gifts. Evanthia Solaris seemed to have eluded classification because,
without possessing any gifts at all beyond a certain magnetism
bewilderingly composed of feminine timidity and tigerish courage, she
had inspired in him a strange belief that she would bring him good
fortune. This was the kind of woman she was. She went much farther back
into the history of the world than Ada Rivers. Ada was simply a modern
authorized version of Lady Rowena or Rebecca of York. She accepted man,
though what she really wanted was a knight. Evanthia had no use for
knights, save perhaps those of Aristophanes. She, too, accepted men; but
they had to transform themselves quickly and efficiently into the
votaries of a magnetic goddess. Sighs and vows of allegiance were as
nothing at all to her. She had a divinely dynamic energy which set men
going the way she wanted. The gay young devil who had been sent packing
with the consuls and who was now sitting in his hotel in Pera was
wondering at his luck in escaping from her and scheming how to get back
to her at the same time. Yet so astute had she been that even now he did
not suspect that she was scheming, too, that she was in an agony at
times for the loss of him, and talked to Mrs. Dainopoulos of killing
herself. She was scheming as she came walking among the grass-plats at
the base of the Tower and saw Mr. Spokesly descend from a carriage and
take a seat facing the sea. She came along, as she so often did in her
later period, at a vital moment. She came, in her suit of pale saffron
with the great crown of black straw withdrawing her face into a
magically distant gloom, and holding a delicate little wrap on her arm
against the night, for the sun was going down behind the distant hills
and touching the waters of the Gulf with ruddy fire. She saw him sitting
there, and smiled. He was watching a ship going out, a ship making for
the narrow strait between the headland and the marshes of the Vardar,
and thinking of his life as it was opening before him. He took out a
cigarette and his fingers searched a vest-pocket for matches. They
closed on the emerald ring and he held the cigarette for a while unlit,
thinking of Evanthia, and wondered how he could make the gift. And as he
sat there she seemed to materialize out of the shimmering radiance of
the evening air, prinking and bending forward with an enchanting smile
to catch his eye. And before he could draw a breath, sat down beside
him.

"What you do here?" she asked in her sweet, twittering voice. "You wait
for somebody, eh?"

"Yes," he answered, rousing, "for you."

"Ah--h!" her eyes snapped under the big brim. "How do I know you only
tell me that because I am here?"

Her hand, gloved in lemon kid, was near his knee and he took it
meditatively, pulling back the wrist of it until she drew away and
removed it herself, smiling.

"Eh?" she demanded, not quite sure if he had caught her drift, so
deliberate was his mood. He took the ring out of his pocket and grasped
her hand while he slid the gem over a finger. She let it rest there for
a moment, studying the situation. No one was near them just then. And
then she looked up right into his face leaning a little towards him. Her
voice caught a little as she spoke. It was ravishing, a ring like that.
For a flicker of an eyelash she was off her guard, and he caught a
smoulder of extraordinary passion in her half-closed eyes.

"You like me," she twittered softly.

The sun had gone, the gray water was ruffled by a little wind, the wind
of evening, and as the guns boomed on the warships in the roadstead the
ensigns came down.

"You like me," she said again, bending over a little more, for his eyes
were watching the ships and she could not bear it. Suddenly he put his
arm across her shoulders and held her. And then he used a strange and
terrible expression.

"I'd go to hell for you," he said.

She leaned back with a sigh of utter content.



CHAPTER X


He looked down from his window in the morning into a garden of tangled
and neglected vegetation sparkling with dew. Over the trees beyond the
road lay the Gulf, a sheet of azure and misty gray. He looked at it and
endeavoured to bring his thoughts into some sort of practical order
while he shaved and dressed. The adventure of the previous evening,
however, was so fresh and disturbing that he could do nothing save
return to it again and again. At intervals he would pause and stand
looking out, thinking of Evanthia in a mood of extraordinary delight.

She must be, he reflected, one of the most wonderful creatures in the
world. He had not believed it possible that any woman could so transmute
the hours for him into spheres of golden radiance. The evening had
passed like a dream. Indeed, he was in the position of a man whose
dreams not only come true but surpass themselves. His dreams had been
only shabby travesties of the reality. He recalled the subtle fragrance
of her hair, the flash of her amber eyes, the sensuous delicacy and
softness of her limbs and bosom, the melodious timbre of her voice. And
he paused longer than usual as he reflected with sudden amazement that
she was his for the taking. The taking! How deliciously mysterious she
had been as she made it clear he must take her away, far away, where
nobody knew who she was, where they could be happy for ever together!
How she had played upon the strong chords of his heart as she spoke of
her despair, her loneliness, her conviction that she was destined for
ill fortune! She injected a strange strain of tragic intensity into the
voluptuous abandon of her voice. She evoked emotions tinged with a kind
of savage and primitive religious mania as she lay in his arms in the
scented darkness of that garden and whispered in her sweet twittering
tones her romantic desires. And the thought that she was even now lying
asleep in another room, the morning sun filtering through green shutters
and filling the chamber with the lambent glittering beam-shot twilight
of a submarine grotto, was like strong wine in his veins. She depended
on him, and he was almost afraid of the violence of the emotion she
stirred in him. She had touched, with the unerring instinct of a clever
woman, his imagination, his masculine pride and the profound
sentimentalism of his race towards her sex. She revealed to him a phase
in her character so inexpressibly lovely and alluring that he was in a
trance. She inspired in him visions of a future where he would always
love and she be fair. Indeed, Mr. Spokesly's romantic illusions were
founded on fact. Evanthia Solaris was possessed of a beauty and
character almost indestructible. She was preëminently fitted to survive
the innumerable casualties of modern life. She was a type that Ada
Rivers, for example, would not believe in at all, for girls like Ada
Rivers are either Christian or Hebrew, whereas Evanthia Solaris was
neither, but possessed the calculating sagacity of a pagan oracle. Such
a catastrophe as the departure of the consuls had enraged her for a
time, and then she had subsided deep into her usual mysterious mood. So
his illusions were founded on fact. She could give him everything he
dreamed of, leaving him with imperishable memories, and passing on with
unimpaired vitality to adventures beyond his horizon. There was nothing
illogical in this. Being an adventuress is not so very different from
being an adventurer. One goes into it because one has the temperament
and the desire for adventure. And Evanthia was by heredity an
adventuress. Her father belonged to that little-known and completely
misunderstood fraternity--the _comitadji_ of the Balkans. It is not yet
comprehended by the western nations that to a large section of these
southeastern people civilization is a disagreeable inconvenience. They
regard the dwellers in towns with contempt, descending upon them in
sudden raids when the snows melt, and returning to their mountain
fortresses laden with booty and sometimes with hostages. They maintain
within political frontiers empires of their own, defying laws and
defeating with ease the police-bands who are sent to apprehend them.
They have no virtues save courage and occasionally fidelity and no
ideals save the acquisition of spoil. They invariably draw to themselves
the high-spirited youths of the towns; and the girls, offered the choice
of drudging poverty or the protection of a farmer of taxes, are
sometimes discovered to have gone away during the excitement of a
midnight foray. So had Evanthia's mother, a lazy, lion-hearted baggage
of Petritch whose parents had breathed more easily when they were free
at last from her incessant demands and gusts of rage. But the man who
had carried her off into the mountains was nearing the end of his
predatory career, and very soon (for he had no enemies, having killed
them all) he was able to purchase a franchise from the Government and
turn tax-farmer himself. He was so successful that he became a rich man,
and the family, fighting every inch of the way, took a villa in Pera. It
was there Evanthia was educated in the manner peculiar to that part of
the world. When she was eighteen she could make fine lace, cook, fight,
and speak six languages without being able to write or read any at all.
The villa in which they lived was for ever in an uproar, for all three
gave battle on the smallest pretext. They lived precisely as the beasts
in the jungle live--diversifying their periods of torpor with bursts of
frantic vituperation and syncopating enjoyment. Neither European nor
Asiatic, they maintained an uneasy balance on the shores of the
Bosphorus between the two, until Evanthia's mother, a vigorous, handsome
brunette trembling with half-understood longings and frustrated
ambitions in spite of her life of animal indolence, suddenly ran away
and took her daughter with her. She had fallen in love with a Greek whom
she had met in Constantinople, a man of forceful personality, enormous
moustaches, and no education, who was selling the tobacco crop from his
estate in Macedonia. Evanthia's father, now a man of nearly sixty, did
not follow them. He suffered a paroxysm of rage, broke some furniture,
and made furious preparations for a pursuit, when one of the servants, a
tall, cool Circassian girl with pale brown eyes and an extraordinarily
lovely figure, broke in upon his frenzy and told him an elaborate story
of how his wife had really gone to France, where she had previously sent
a sum of money, and how she herself had been implored to go with them
but had refused to desert her master. It was quite untrue, and took its
origin from the French novels she had stolen from her mistress and read
in bed; but it hit the mark with the man whose only domestic virtue was
fidelity. And the Circassian creature made him an admirable companion,
ruling the villa with a rod of iron, inaugurating an era of peace which
the old gentleman had never experienced in his life.

Evanthia had to adjust herself to new and startling conditions. The
swart Hellene stood no nonsense from his handsome mistress. He beat her
every day, on the principle that if she had not done anything she was
going to do something. When Evanthia began her tantrums he tried to beat
her, too, but she showed so ugly a dexterity with a knife that he
desisted and decided to starve her out. He cheerfully gave her money to
run away to Saloniki, laughing harshly when she announced her intention
of working for a living as a seamstress. She arrived in Saloniki to hear
stirring news. She was about to enter a carriage to drive to the house
of a friend of the Hellene, a gentleman named Dainopoulos, when a young
man with glorious blond hair and little golden moustache, his blue eyes
wide open and very anxious, almost pushed her away and got in, giving
the driver an address. This was the beginning of her adventures. The
young man explained the extreme urgency of his business, offered to do
anything in his power if she would let him have the carriage at once.
She got in with him, and he told her his news breathlessly: War. It
seemed a formidable thing to him. To her, life was war. She had no
knowledge of what war meant to him in his country. To her London,
Berlin, Paris were replicas of Constantinople, cosmopolitan rookeries
where one could meet interesting men. Saloniki immediately became a
charming place for Evanthia Solaris. The young man was the vice-consul.
His father was a wealthy ship-chandler at Stettin, and he himself had
been everywhere. It was he who first confirmed her vague gropings after
what one might call, for want of a better word, gentility. She was
shrewd enough to suspect that the crude and disorderly squabbling in the
Pera villa, or the grotesque bullying on the tobacco plantation, were
not the highest manifestations of human culture. As has been hinted, she
was sure there were people in the world who lived lives of virtuous
ease, as opposed to what she had been accustomed. Their existence was
confirmed by her new friend. He was the first man she had liked. Later
she became infatuated with him. In between these two periods she learned
to love someone in the world besides herself.

It would not do to say that she, in her barbaric simplicity, assumed
that all Englishwomen lay on their backs and had angelic tempers. But
she did arrive at a characteristically ecstatic conclusion about Mrs.
Dainopoulos. That lady was so obviously, so romantically genteel that
Evanthia sometimes wanted to barter her own superb vitality for some
such destiny. She never considered for a moment, until she met Mr.
Spokesly, the chances of being adored as Mr. Dainopoulos adored his
wife. She knew Mr. Dainopoulos would never dream of adoring a woman like
herself. She regarded him with dislike because he betrayed no curiosity
about herself and because he obviously knew too much to be hoodwinked by
her arts. He even ignored her rather amusing swagger when she paraded
her new acquisition, a handsome vice-consul. She knew he would not have
tolerated her at all had not his wife expressed a desire to have her
remain. Mrs. Dainopoulos had no intention of countenancing evil; but she
had been humane enough to see, when Evanthia told her story, how
impossible it was for a girl with such a childhood to have the remotest
conception of Western ideals. Mrs. Dainopoulos, in fact, belonged to the
numerous class of people in England who manage "to make allowances," as
they call it, for others. And possibly, too, Evanthia, with her bizarre
history and magical personality, possibly even her naïve assumption that
she was destined to be mistress of men, appealed to the Englishwoman's
flair for romance. Evanthia, contrasted with Haverstock Hill, was
wonderful. And to Evanthia, the victim of sudden little spurts of
girlish posing, pathetic strivings after an imaginary western self, the
invalid woman was a sympathetic angel. She never laughed when Evanthia
pretended an absurd lofty patriotism or inaugurated a season of
ridiculous religious observances, dressing in white and holding a
crucifix to her breast. She did not deride Evanthia's remarkable
travesty of English dress, or Evanthia's embarrassing concoctions in the
kitchen. These gusts of enthusiasm died out, and the real Evanthia
emerged again, a velvet-soft being of sex and sinuous delicacy, of no
country and no creed, at home in the world, a thing of indestructible
loveliness and problematic utility.

And now, while Mr. Spokesly stood at his window gently rubbing his chin
and looking down into the dew-drenched garden, Evanthia was lying in
another room, smoking a cigarette and meditating. She had a very astute
and clearly defined plan in her mind, and she lay thinking how it could
be carried out. Unhampered by so many of our modern educational
distractions and complexes, her mental processes would have exacted the
admiration of the London School of Mnemonics. The apparent impossibility
of leaving Saloniki and reaching Constantinople meant nothing at all to
her. It had always been an almost impossible task to go anywhere if one
were a woman. Women, in her experience, were like expensive automobiles.
They were always owned by somebody, who drove them about and sometimes
ill-treated them and even rode them to destruction, and who lost them if
they were not carefully guarded. Moreover, the parallel, in her
experience, went farther, because she observed that nobody ever thought
less of them because they were costly to run. Evanthia was now like an
ownerless machine of which no one perceived the value or knew how to
start. She had been getting accustomed to the notion that independence
had its pleasures and defects. She lay thinking with quiet efficiency,
until her cigarette was burned down, and then suddenly sprang out of
bed. With extraordinary speed and quietness, she rolled up her great
masses of black hair, slipped into a yellow kimono and Turkish slippers,
and went downstairs. The contrast between her pose, with nothing save
the slow curl of smoke coming from the deep pillow to show she was
alive, and the sharp vitality of her movements in the kitchen, was
characteristic. She could not help doing things in a theatrical way. Mr.
Dainopoulos was much nearer the mark than even he knew, when he said in
his caustic way that Evanthia imagined herself a queen. There were times
when she thought she was an empress walking down ivory staircases strewn
with slaughtered slaves. She had a way of striding to the door when she
was angry and turning suddenly upon him, her head lowered, her amber
eyes full of a lambent, vengeful glare. Mr. Dainopoulos would remain as
impassive as a dummy under this exhibition of temperament, but his
attitude was artistically correct. She might be exasperated with him,
but she really regarded him as a dummy. He represented the cowed and
terror-stricken vassal shrinking from the imperial anger. And now she
moved in a majestic way here and there in the great stone kitchen,
making black coffee and spooning out some preserved green figs into a
plated dish. This she arranged on a tray. In imagination she was a great
lady, a grand-duchess perhaps, taking refreshment to a secret lover. She
loved to figure herself in these fantastic rôles, the rôles she had seen
so often at the cinemas. The exaggerated gestures and graphic emotions
came naturally to a girl at once theatrical and illiterate. She walked
away with the tray in her hand, ascending the stairs as though
rehearsing an entrance, and stood stock still outside Mr. Spokesly's
door, listening.

Mr. Spokesly was listening, too. He had heard the slip-slop of the loose
slippers, the tinkle of spoon against china, and then a faint tap. He
went over to the door and pulled it open.

"You!" he said, with a thrill. He could not have said a word more just
then. She smiled and held a finger to pursed lips to enjoin silence. He
stood looking at her, hypnotized.

"Drink coffee with me?" she whispered sweetly, holding up the tray. And
then she moved on along the passage, looking back over her shoulder at
him with that smile which is as old as the world, the first finished
masterpiece of unconscious art.

She led the way to a darkened room, set the tray down, and pushed the
green shutters away, revealing a wooden balcony with chairs and a green
iron table. Below, in the hush of early morning, lay the road, and
beyond the trees and houses that followed the shore they could see the
Gulf, now streaked and splotched with green and gray and rose. The early
morning, charged with the undissipated emotions of the night, is a far
more beautiful hour than the evening. To Evanthia, however, who had
always dwelt amid scenes of extravagant natural beauty, this exquisite
sunrise, viewed as it were in violet shadow, the invisible sun tingeing
the snow of the distant peaks with delicate shell-pink and ivory-white,
the vessels in the roadstead almost translucent pearl in the mist, the
shore line a bar of solid black until it rose ominously in the sullen
headland of Karaburun--all this was nothing. To Mr. Spokesly it was a
great deal. It became to him a memory alluring and unforgettable. It was
a frame for a picture which he bore with him through the years, a
picture of himself on a balcony, listening to a girl in a yellow kimono
while she whispered and whispered and then sat back in her chair and
raised her cup to drink, looking at him over the rim of it with her
brilliant amber eyes.

"I don't know as it can be done," he muttered, shaking his head
slightly, gulping the coffee and setting the cup on the table. "Not so
easy, I'm afraid."

"_You_ can do it," she whispered imperiously.

"S'pose you get caught?" he replied cautiously. She waved a hand and
shrugged.

"_N'importe. C'est la guerre._ That don't matter. You can do it, eh?"

Mr. Spokesly rubbed his chin.

"I don't say I can and I don't say I can't. _He_ might be able to get
you down there as a passenger."

She shook her head vigorously, and leaned over the table, touching it
with her long filbert nails.

"No!" she said. "He says 'no good.' Nobody allowed to go Phyros, nobody
to Alexandria. Nobody. You understand?"

He looked at her as she leaned against the table and then his gaze
dropped to where the yellow wrap had opened so that he could see her
bosom, and he felt a dizziness as he looked away. It was characteristic
of Evanthia that she made no sudden gesture of modesty. She leaned
there, her white throat and breast lifting evenly as she breathed,
awaiting his answer.

"Yes, I understand," he answered, looking out to where the _Kalkis_ was
emerging from the distant haze. "But what I don't see is why you want to
do it."

"I want to go wis you," she whispered sharply, and he looked at her
again to find her gazing at him sternly, her finger on her lips.

And Mr. Spokesly suddenly had an inspiration. Here he was again, mewing
like a kitten for somebody to come and open the door, instead of taking
hold and mastering the situation. He took a deep breath, and lit a
cigarette. He must play up to this. No good fooling about. In for a
penny, in for a pound. Could it be managed? He decided it could. It was
evident Mr. Dainopoulos knew something about it but had no intention of
taking an active part in the adventure. Mr. Spokesly realized he himself
had no notion where the _Kalkis_ was going after discharging in Phyros.
It seemed Evanthia did, or had some notion of it. Yes, it could be
managed. His hand closed over hers as it lay on the table.

"I'll fix everything," he said. "You be ready and I'll do the rest."

Her face grew radiant. She became herself again--a woman who had got
what she wanted. She rose and stroked his hair gently as she bent over
him.

"Now I get some breakfast, _mon cher_," she twittered sweetly. "You stop
here. I call you." And with a soft, sibilant flip-flop of her heelless
slippers, which showed her own pink heels and delicate ankles, she
disappeared.

And Mr. Spokesly, who had come home from distant places to join the
forces, who had become engaged in an exemplary way to a girl who was now
wondering, away in beleaguered England, why Reggie didn't write, tilted
his chair a little and allowed his mind to go forward. When he asked
himself what would be the upshot of this adventure, he was compelled to
admit that he didn't know. What startled and invigorated him was that he
didn't care. He saw himself, as they say, on deck in fine weather, a
full moon pouring her glorious radiance down upon them, and Evanthia
beside him in a deck chair under the awning. He saw himself in some
distant harbour, after much toil and anxiety, sitting at cafés with
bands playing and Evanthia in that corn-coloured dress with an enormous
black hat. And then his thoughts went so far forward that they lost
coherence and he grew dizzy again. His chair was tilted back against the
opened jalousie and he stared with unseeing eyes across the glittering
water. It was the dream he had had before, on the _Tanganyika_, only a
little clearer, a little nearer. They were dead, while he was alive.
There you had it. Perhaps in a little while he, too, would be dead--a
bomb, a shell, a bullet--and the dreams would be for others while he
joined that great army of silent shades. Why had he never seen the
simplicity of it before? This was the mood for adventure. You forgot the
others and went right on, getting the things that are yours for the
taking, never counting the cost, finding your dreams come true....

Then you went back to beleaguered England, and Ada would be there,
waiting.

And then, as he sat there, he came slowly back to the present and saw
that the _Kalkis_ was moving. He saw steam jetting from the forecastle
and that told him they were heaving up the anchor. An obsolete old ship,
he reflected, with the exhaust from the windlass blinding everybody and
making it difficult to see the bridge. The _Kalkis_ began to move.

Now she had way on and was turning towards him. Coming in to a new
berth, Mr. Spokesly noted. He rose, and Mr. Dainopoulos appeared at the
door leading to the balcony.

"You all right, eh?" he inquired, and seeing the empty cups made a
peculiar grimace. He pointed to the _Kalkis_.

"You got a new berth?" said Mr. Spokesly.

"Yeh. Over here," said Mr. Dainopoulos. "It's the best we can get just
now. No room inside. Now," he went on, "You got to go on board, see, and
have a look round. There's two hundred ton to be loaded quick, but I
think her winches, they ain't very good. You let me know. The captain,
he talk plenty about _new_ winches. Where do I get new winches, eh? I
ask you, where do I get 'em, out here?"

This time, when called, Mr. Spokesly was ready.

"We'll get her loaded," he said. "If it's all light general we can do
it, winches or no winches. Is the other mate finished?"

"Just about. He don't get any more pay, anyhow."

Evanthia suddenly came out of the shadow of the room and looked at them
in a theatrical way, as though she were about to begin a big scene and
was waiting for her cue from the rear.

"Breakfast," said Mr. Dainopoulos, upon whom this sort of histrionics
was lost, and they went down to a room on the ground floor, a room that
was full of moving green shadows and pale green beams as the dense
foliage of the garden swayed in the breeze. It was like sitting in a
recess at the bottom of the sea. The slim girl with the contemptuously
taciturn expression was laying the table.

"My wife, she don't come down," said Mr. Dainopoulos, devouring lamb
stew. They might have been in the breakfast room of a home in Haverstock
Hill. Only the figure of Evanthia hissing incomprehensible commands into
the ears of the sullen young girl, who stared at Mr. Spokesly and moved
unwillingly into the kitchen, recalled the adventure behind this little
scene. On the walls were enlarged photographs of the father and mother
of Mr. Dainopoulos, life-size coloured prints in gold frames that were
enclosed in an outer glass case on account of flies. The furniture had
come, at his wife's order, from Tottenham Court Road, and was a glossy
walnut with dark green plush. A giant dresser of black Anatolian oak
which stood against one wall bore on its broad shelves a couple of blue
and green and yellow Armenian vases and a great shining copper tray like
an ancient shield. Across this shield the green sunlight wavered and
shook so that even Mr. Dainopoulos allowed his eye to rest on it. He
wanted to get rid of that dresser and buy one of those white kitchen
cabinets he saw in advertisements. He did not know furniture, strange to
say, or he would have asked an extremely high price for his dresser. He
sat looking at the light playing on the copper shield, which sent it
flying back in a fairy flicker athwart the ceiling, which was dark brown
and riven with huge cracks, and doing a little posing on his account.

"My wife she don't come down," he said. It reminded him of something he
had been going to tell Mr. Spokesly that first night and his wife had
stopped him. Why did she always do that? Always there was something
about the English he couldn't follow. He went on with his lamb stew,
noisily enjoying it, and pretending he did not see Evanthia's rehearsal
of one of her favourite poses, a great madama dispensing hospitality to
her guests in the morning room of her _château_.

"I met a major yesterday," said Mr. Spokesly, "in the Olympos. He said
he wanted me to go and see him about the cargo."

"Eh!" Mr. Dainopoulos stared, knife and fork raised.

"Oh, I fancy he just wants to give us a few hints about the discharging
in Phyros."

"He can do that," said Mr. Dainopoulos, letting his hands fall to the
table. "He can do that. Yes," he went on, seeing the possibilities of
the thing, "you go along and tell him you'll attend to it all yourself,
see? You fix him. The captain, he don't like government peoples."

"I'll go this morning, after I've got some gear."

"It ain't a very long voyage to Phyros," said his employer.

"Where do we go, from Phyros?" asked Mr. Spokesly.

"To Piræus for orders," said the other quickly. Mr. Spokesly could not
help glancing at Evanthia, who regarded him steadily.

"I see," he said. Piræus was the port of Athens. Athens, just then, was
a peculiar place, like Saloniki. So that was it.

"Captain Rannie said he didn't know," he observed. Mr. Dainopoulos
grunted.

"Perhaps he didn't know, when you ask him. I think I got a charter, but
I ain't sure. I take a chance, that's all."

After they had finished and as he was waiting for Mr. Dainopoulos, he
saw Evanthia in the garden, an apron over her pink cotton dress, smoking
a cigarette.

"So it's Athens you want," he said, smiling. She put her finger to her
lips.

"By and by, you will see," she said and led him away down among the
trees. She pulled his head down with a gesture he grew to know well, and
whispered rapidly in his ear. And then pushed him away and hurried off
to look for eggs in the chicken-house. He joined Mr. Dainopoulos in a
thoughtful mood, more than ever convinced that women were, as he put it,
queer. He was so preoccupied that he did not notice the lack of
originality in this conclusion.

Mr. Dainopoulos was thoughtful, too, as they made their way into the
city and he opened his office. He was in a difficulty because he did not
know how far Mr. Spokesly, being an Englishman, could be trusted with
the facts. He was perfectly well aware of the difference between doing a
little business in hashish, which destroyed the soldiers in Egypt body
and soul, and an enterprise such as he had in mind. What would be Mr.
Spokesly's attitude after his interview with the major, and after
getting away to sea? He had said he was taking a chance of a cargo. This
was scarcely true; but he was taking a chance in sending Mr. Spokesly
out ignorant of what was in store for him. But he decided to do it. He
decided to make that drug-rotted old captain of his earn his salt. He
would let Captain Rannie tell Mr. Spokesly after they were at sea.
Scraping his chin with his fingernail as he stood in front of his big
safe, Mr. Dainopoulos felt sure that, out at sea, there would be no
trouble. Then he opened his safe. He would make sure. The major had his
own personal influence, no doubt; and it would be a powerful one if he
exercised it. Mr. Dainopoulos could imagine him engaging Mr. Spokesly's
interest tremendously with the story of those men waiting for their
stores in Phyros. He took out a cash-box, and closing the safe went back
to his desk.

"Listen here, Mister," he said, and suddenly broke off to wave away the
young Jew, who was gazing in upon them with eyes enlarged and charged
with pathos. "Listen here," he went on when the youth had vanished like
a wraith. "I want to fix you so you'll be all right if anything happens,
you understand. I don't know. Perhaps the Government take the _Kalkis_
when she get to Piræus--plenty trouble now in Piræus--and you gotta come
back here. So I pay you six months now. You give me a receipt for six
months' pay."

"What for?" demanded Mr. Spokesly, astonished.

"You understand, easy to cover risks with underwriter, yes. But s'pose I
buy another ship and I got no captain. See?"

Something told Mr. Spokesly, though he did not understand at all, that
money was money. The man was straight anyhow, he thought, taking the
pen. He'd watch that old Rannie didn't try any monkey tricks. Very
decent of him. He signed. He took the money in large, blue and purple
denominations, crisp, crackling, delicious.

"And you don't forget," said Mr. Dainopoulos, turning towards the safe
again. "By and by I'll have some more business, big business, and you'll
get a big piece o' money if you work in with me. When you come back, eh?
Out here, plenty business but nobody honest, to manage." He paused,
looking down at the floor, hampered by his deficient English to explain
what he meant. He was rather moved, too, because he saw, right there in
his own continuing city, opportunities for business undreamed of by the
tall blond officers in their shining brown harness down at headquarters.
He saw buildings going up which would be sold for a song, a floating
dock which might be acquired for a purely nominal sum when the war was
over. He saw jetties and rolling-stock and launches which would be sold
at hurried auctions for knock-down prices, a score at a time. But one
must have somebody one can trust, a partner or a manager. Mr.
Dainopoulos wanted no partners. His temperament was to feel his way
along alone, making sudden rushes at his objective or sitting down to
wait. A partner was of no use to him. But he figured that someone like
Mr. Spokesly would be of great assistance in his business as he planned
it later.

He put his cash-box away, slammed his safe shut, and began to open his
shop for his ostensible business of money-changing.

"Now you get out to the ship as soon as you got your gear," he said,
"and that young feller'll go with you in the boat."

Mr. Spokesly was startled to see how close the _Kalkis_ was in shore,
opposite the house. Without a glass he could see the balcony and the
window within which Mrs. Dainopoulos lay watching the sunlight on the
sea. As he came nearer to the ship, however, sitting in the row boat
with the trembling young Hebrew beside him, he became preoccupied with
her lines. And indeed to a seafaring man the _Kalkis_ was a problem. She
resembled nothing so much as the broken-down blood animal whom one
discovers hauling a cab. Mr. Spokesly could see she had been a yacht.
Her once tall masts were cut to stumps and a smooth-rivetted funnel at
the same graceful rake was full of degrading dinges. A singularly
shapely hull carried amidships a grotesque abortion in the form of a
super-imposed upper bridge, and the teak deck forward was broken by a
square hatchway. All the scuttles along her sides, once gleaming brass
and crystal, were blind with dead-lights and painted over. Another hatch
had been made where the owner's skylight had been and a friction-winch
screamed and scuttered on the once spotless poop. As Mr. Spokesly once
phrased it later, it was like meeting some girl, whose family you knew,
on the streets. A lighter lay alongside loaded with sacks and cases, and
the friction-winch shrieked and jerked the sling into the air as a gang
of frowzy Greeks hooked them on.

They came round her bows to reach the gangway and Mr. Spokesly gave way
to a feeling of bitterness for a moment as he looked up at the gracile
sprit stem from which some utilitarian had sawed the bowsprit and
carefully tacked over the stump a battered piece of sheet-copper. It
affected him like the mutilation of a beautiful human body. What tales
she could tell! Now he saw the mark of her original name showing up in
rows of puttied screw-holes on the flare of the bow. _Carmencita._ She
must have been a saucy little craft, her snowy gangway picked out with
white ropes and polished brass stanchions. And now only a dirty ladder
hung there.

Leaving the little Jew to get up as best he could, Mr. Spokesly climbed
on deck and strode forward. He was curious to see what sort of mate it
could be who came into port with a ship like this. His professional
pride was nauseated. He kicked a bucket half full of potato peelings out
of the doorway and entered the deck-house.

Garlic, stale wine, and cold suet were combined with a more sinister
perfume that Mr. Spokesly knew was rats. He looked around upon a scene
which made him wonder. It made him think of some forecastles he had
lived in when he was a seaman, forecastles on Sunday morning after a
Saturday night ashore on the Barbary Coast or in Newcastle, New South
Wales. It was the saloon, apparently, and the breakfast had not been
cleared away. A large yellow cat was gnawing at a slab of fish he had
dragged from the table, bringing most of the cloth, with the cruet,
after him. On the settee behind the table lay a man in trousers and
singlet, snoring. He was wearing red silk socks full of holes, and a fly
crawled along his full red lips below a large black moustache. In a
pantry on one side a young man with a black moustache and in a blue
apron, spotted with food, was smoking a cigarette and wiping some dishes
with an almost incredibly dirty cloth.

"Where's the cap'en?" demanded Mr. Spokesly in a voice so harsh and
aggressive he hardly recognized it himself. The young man came out
wiping his hands on his hips and shrugging his shoulders.

"Where's the mate?"

The young man pointed at the figure on the settee. Mr. Spokesly went
round the table and gave the recumbent gentleman a shake. Uttering a
choking snort, the late chief officer opened his eyes, sat up, and
looked round in a way that proved conclusively he had no clear notion of
his locality. Eventually he discovered that the shakings came from a
total stranger and he focussed a full stare from his black eyes upon Mr.
Spokesly.

"I'm the new mate," said the latter. "Where's my cabin?"

"Ai!" said the other, staring, both hands on the dirty table-cloth. "Ai!
You gotta nerve. What you doin' here, eh?"

"All right," said Mr. Spokesly, "I'll see to you in a minute. Here, you!
Where's the mate's cabin, savvy? Room, cabin, bunk."

The young man, wiping his hands again on his hips, went over to an
opening which led down a stairway and beckoned. Mr. Spokesly followed.

What he found was very much of a piece with the saloon. One side of the
ship was occupied by a large room marked "Captain." On the other side
were two cabins, the forward one of which he was given to understand was
his. To call it a pigsty would not convey any conception of the dire
disorder of it. The delicate hardwood panelling of the yacht had been
painted over with a thick layer of greenish-white paint; and this was
coated, at each end of the bunk, with a black deposit of human origin
where the oiled head and neglected feet of the late incumbent had
rubbed. The walnut table was marked with circles where hot cups had been
set down, and the edges were charred by cigarette-ends left to burn. The
basin was cracked and half full of black water. Mr. Spokesly gave one
glance at the toilet shelf and then turned away hastily to the young
man, who was watching him in some curiosity.

"You speak English?" he was asked curtly.

"Oh yass, I spick Ingleesh. Plenty Ingleesh."

"Right. Get this place clean. You savvy? Clean all out. Quick, presto.
Savvy?"

"Yass, I savvy."

"Go on then."

"I finish saloon...."

"You let the saloon alone. Clean this place out _now_."

There was a footfall on the staircase and the late chief officer, Cæsare
Spiteri by name, came slowly down, holding by the hand-rail fixed over
the door of the alleyway. There was a dull smoulder in his large
bloodshot black eyes which seemed to bode trouble. He came forward,
elaborately oblivious of Mr. Spokesly, his shoulders hunched, his large
hand caressing his moustache. He spoke rapidly in Greek to the nervous
steward, who began to edge away.

"Hi!" called Mr. Spokesly. "Do what I tell you. See here," he added to
Mr. Spiteri, "you finished last night, I understand. You get your gear
out of this and get away ashore."

"Yah! Who are you?" snarled Mr. Spiteri in a quiet tone which made the
steward more nervous than ever.

"I'm mate of this ship, and if you don't get out in five minutes...."

He had no chance to finish. Mr. Spiteri made a circular sweep with one
of his stockinged feet, which knocked Mr. Spokesly off his own, and he
fell backwards on the settee. The effect upon him was surprising.
Reflecting upon it later, when he got away to sea, Mr. Spokesly was
surprised at himself. He certainly saw red. The filthy condition of the
ship, the degradation of the yacht _Carmencita_ to the baseness of the
_Kalkis_, and his own spiritual exaltation, reacted to fill him with an
extraordinary vitality of anger. Mr. Spiteri was not in the pink of
condition either. He had been drinking heavily the previous evening and
his head ached. He went down at the first tremendous impact of Mr.
Spokesly's fleshy and muscular body, and Mr. Spokesly came down on top
of him. He immediately sank his large white teeth in Mr. Spokesly's left
hand. Mr. Spokesly grunted. "Leggo, you bastard, leggo!" And at short
range mashed the Spiteri ear, neck, and jaw hard and fast. Mr. Spiteri
let go, but his antagonist was oblivious until he saw the man's face
whiten and sag loosely under his blows, while from his own head, where
the plaster had come off in the struggle, blood began to drip over them
both.

Mr. Spokesly got up, breathing hard, and pointed into the room.

"Get busy," he said to the steward, "and clean all up. Shift this out of
the way," and he touched the redoubtable Spiteri with his foot. Quite
unwittingly, for he had been in a passion for the moment, Mr. Spokesly
had struck hard on one of the vital places of a man's body, just behind
the ear, and Mr. Spiteri, for the first time in his life, had fainted.

Out on deck, the new mate realized what he had let himself in for, and
clicked his tongue as he thought, a trick he had never been able to
abandon since he had left school. Tck! Tck! He saw his young Jew friend
making expressive motions with his hands to the boatman who was waiting
for his money. Mr. Spokesly had an idea. He whistled to the boatman.

"You wait," he called and held up his hand. Then he beckoned to the
youth.

"What's your name?" he demanded. The youth laid his hand on his breast
and made a deep obeisance.

"Yes, yes!" shouted the exasperated chief officer. "What's your name?
Moses, Isaac, Abraham, eh? Never mind, come on." He led the way into the
saloon and waved his hands. The cat rushed out of the door, followed by
a kick.

"Now you clean up, understand?"

To his unalloyed delight the youth did understand. The latter's nervous
prostration had been due chiefly to the fact that he was entirely
ignorant of what was expected of him. He took off his deplorable coat
and grasped a bucket.

Mr. Spokesly went downstairs again.

Mr. Spiteri was resting on one elbow watching the steward take his
simple personal effects from the drawers under the bunk and stow them in
an old suitcase.

"Get up on deck," ordered Mr. Spokesly. "I wouldn't have a swab like you
in the forecastle. Don't wonder the Old Man complained."

Mr. Spiteri rose half way, coughed and spat, rose to his feet, and
wavered uncertainly towards the stairs.

"Come on, stuff 'em in! That'll do. Now take it up and pitch it into the
boat."

The steward hurried up with the bulging and half-closed suitcase and Mr.
Spokesly followed with his predecessor's boots.

"Down you go," he said, dropping the boots into the boat and following
them up with the suitcase. "That's it," as he saw Mr. Spiteri step from
the ladder and topple against the thwarts. "Now we'll see who's in
charge of this ship."

He walked to the bridge-rail, put two fingers in his mouth and blew a
shrill blast. Presently out of the little forecastle emerged a stout man
in a canvas apron and sporting a large well-nourished moustache. Mr.
Spokesly's heart sank.

"Come here!" he shouted, beckoning.

"What's the matter, Mister?" said the aproned one, climbing up the
abominable ladder with its stairs of iron rods. Mr. Spokesly's heart
rose again.

"You English?" he asked.

"Sure, I'm a French Canadian," retorted the other. "What's the matter?
Are you the new mate?"

"Yes," said Mr. Spokesly. "I'm the new mate. Are you the bosun?"

"Sure I am," said the other indignantly. "What did you think I was? The
cook?"

"Now, now, cut it out," warned the new mate. "I've had all I can stand
just for the present. How many men have you got?"

"Three. How many did you think I got? Thirty?"

"Bosun, if you want it, you can have it, but I tell you straight you got
to help me get this ship clean."

"Sure I will. What did you think I was doin'?"

"Send a man along with a bucket of soft soap and water," said Mr.
Spokesly hastily. "I'll go round with you later."

"Where's that other mate?" asked the bosun, rather mystified.

"Over the side," said Mr. Spokesly, pointing.

"You seen the captinne yet?" the bosun pursued.

"Plenty, plenty. Send a man along."

Mr. Spokesly turned and to his intense astonishment found Captain Rannie
in the saloon.

"Why, where were you all the time?" he asked.

"In my cabin," said Captain Rannie, staring at the floor nervously. "I
must say you make noise enough when you join a ship."

"Well, Captain, I'll argue all you want later. Where's the medicine
chest?"

"In my cabin."

"Then you'll have to give me the run of it to stop this bleeding. Got
any friars' balsam?"

"I--I--I'll see. I'll see." Captain Rannie objected to be approached
directly. He was already beginning to wonder, after listening to the
very emphatic remarks of his new chief officer through the bulkhead of
his cabin, if he had not made a mistake in demanding a change. Very
unsettling, a change. He went downstairs again and unlocked his door. It
had three locks, Mr. Spokesly observed in some surprise. After opening
the door, Captain Rannie stepped through and quickly drew a heavy blue
curtain across.

"I'll bring it out to you," he said from within.

Mr. Spokesly dragged the curtain back and stepped in himself. He was
indignant at this extraordinary treatment. He was astounded, however, to
see Captain Rannie shrink away towards the settee, holding up his arms.

"Don't you dare to touch me!" he shrieked in a very low key. "Don't
you...."

Mr. Spokesly suddenly caught sight of himself in the glass across the
room. He was not a very reassuring spectacle. His face was dirty and
blood-smeared, and his collar was torn away from his throat. He closed
the door.

"Captain," he said, "we'd better have an understanding right at the
start. I'm going to be mate o' this ship for six months."

"You think you are," whispered the captain, slowly approaching a cabinet
on the wall. "You only think you are."

"Well, I been paid for it anyway," said Mr. Spokesly, examining his
wounded hand. "So we'll take it for granted. Now if you back me up, I'll
back you up. Why didn't you come out and help me when that stiff started
to make trouble?"

Captain Rannie absolutely ignored this question. He was in a corner, and
like some animals in similar plight, he might almost be said to have
feigned death. He stood stock still looking into his medicine chest, his
back to Mr. Spokesly, his high shoulders raised higher. He was in a
corner, for he had been betrayed already into the demonstration of
nervous fear. It was the knowledge of his horror of the slightest
physical contact with others that Mr. Spiteri had been unable to resist.

"He's nearly bit my thumb through," went on Mr. Spokesly, walking over
to the wash-bowl. The ship shook as the winch hurled the slings into the
air. Down below a worn pump was knocking its heart out in a succession
of hacking coughs.

Captain Rannie, the flask of friars' balsam in his hand, turned slowly
from the cabinet and moved cautiously to the table. He set it down, went
back, and drew out a roll of bandage. He was beginning to recover his
normal state of mind. Everything so far had taken the form in his view
of violating the privacy of the commander. Everything! Here was this
man, not five minutes on the ship, actually forcing his way into the
captain's room. Captain Rannie had never heard of such a thing in his
life. It loomed before him with the grimness of an irrevocable disaster.
He had always had that last resource in his encounters with Spiteri--he
could go into his room, lock all three locks, draw the heavy blue
curtain, and remain in a mysterious seclusion for as long as he liked.
Now--he almost shuddered with anguish--here was this new chief
officer--a perfect stranger--didn't know him from Adam--washing his
wounds absolutely in the sacred wash-bowl, standing in not over clean
shoes on the very piece of matting on which he himself, the master of
the vessel, stood while shaving and making stern faces at himself in the
glass as he rehearsed imaginary scenes with the rabble outside. In a few
moments Mr. Spokesly's eyes, grown accustomed to the sombre twilight of
the blue curtains of the scuttles, would be wandering round the cabin,
noting things Captain Rannie showed to no one. No one. He grew fierce as
he thought of his outraged privacy. He must get this man out of the room
quickly. He slopped friars' balsam on some cotton wool, and fixing his
pale, exasperated gaze upon Mr. Spokesly's thumb, began to bind it up.
Mr. Spokesly felt an urgent need for a smoke. He reached out and drew a
cigarette from a box on the table and Captain Rannie's head bent lower
as he flushed with a renewed sense of outrage. Nothing sacred! Without
the slightest hint of a request.

"We may have a passenger, I hear," said the oblivious Mr. Spokesly as he
managed to get the cigarette alight.

"Oh, dear me, no!" retorted Captain Rannie, with a sort of despairing
chuckle. "Quite impossible, quite. I shouldn't dream of allowing
anything of the sort."

"Not if the boss wanted it?"

"Oh, no doubt, in that case, the master of the vessel would be the last
to hear of it." He returned to the cabinet to cut some plaster. Captain
Rannie had not a bedside manner. His method of affixing the plaster made
his patient grunt. Gazing over the upraised arm of the captain, Mr.
Spokesly suddenly fixed his eyes with attention on the pictures round
the bunk. They were pictures of people who were, so to say, the
antithesis of his new commander, pugilists and wrestlers and dancers,
men and women of exaggerated physical development. Some of them were so
stark in their emphasis on the muscles that they resembled anatomical
diagrams. There were photographs, too, of sculptures--sharp, white, and
beautiful against black velvet backgrounds; boys wrestling, girls
dancing, a naked youth striving with a leopard. And on a hook near the
door was a set of those elastic cords and pulleys whereby athletic
prowess is developed. Mr. Spokesly suddenly lost his belligerent mood.
He had encountered something he did not quite understand. He turned as
the captain finished and his eye fell on shelves packed with books. And
outside the winch groaned and squeaked, down below the pump thumped and
bucketed.

"I'll go," said Mr. Spokesly. "I must find the bosun...." And he went
out, eager to go at the job and get rid of this dreadful grime on the
unhappy old ship. As he went the captain stood in front of the medicine
chest swallowing something, a dull red flush on his peaked and wrinkled
face. Suddenly he darted to the door and slammed it, locking it and
hurling the curtain across. And then he sat down in a wicker chair and
covered his eyes with his hand. He was trembling violently.

For he was a man who was at war with the world. He was so preoccupied
with this tremendous conflict that the disturbance in Europe scarcely
sounded in his ears. He was a man without faith and without desire of
hope. In the years behind him lay the wreckage of honour, when he had
gone out east to the China Coast and never gone back. Revenge, he had
called it, and called it still, for unascertained and undefined
injuries. Since then he had had freedom. He had hugged the thought of
the woman, who had imagined herself so clever at blinding him, working
in poverty to keep herself and her brat. Her brat, ha--ha! Away out
there in China, a thousand miles up an immense river, in the home
river-port of his country ship, he said ha--ha! and fell to improving
himself. Driven to devise a mode of existence both unsocial and
unintellectual, he had stumbled upon strange things in human life. He
accumulated vast stocks of scandal about humanity, and delved into
repositories of knowledge which most men avoid and forget. Those and the
pipe, which led him into another life altogether, the life of
irresponsible dreams, wherein a man's mind, released from the body yet
retaining the desires of the body, ranges forth into twilights of
oblivion, clutching here and there at strange seductive shapes and
thrilling to voices not heard before. Captain Rannie, out there, was
much happier than many men who hold their souls in leash and render
their accounts exactly. He sailed up and down his great river, a mystery
to the Chinamen of the crew, a joke among the Europeans. It did not
become apparent to him or anybody else that anything was happening to
him. Nothing was happening to him save that the lacquer and varnish and
ornament of his conventional upbringing in England were nearly all gone,
and underneath there was nothing save himself, a timid, sensitive,
sensual, quarrelsome creature with a disposition that seemed to rational
people to have gone rancid with the heat. They bore with him because he
was used to the work, and he was a warm man in silver dollars, too, they
said. But the country-ships began to go home. The colossal freights out
of England could not be resisted. Captain Rannie was ordered to take his
ship home. Home! He funked horribly but he funked losing his job still
more, and he took her home as far as Port Said, with a cargo of tobacco
from Sumatra. But farther he would not go. He made himself ill, an easy
trick with a well-stocked medicine chest, and no one suspected a man
would be striving to avoid reaching England. It was generally just the
other way round. He went to the hospital until the ship was gone and
then became convalescent, moping about Port Said in his yellow pongee
suits and enormous panama hat, smoking innumerable cigarettes and
discovering among other things a new world of gigantic phantoms.

It was not difficult, he found, to discover the dealers in drugs and he
set out, as a buyer of tobacco. But although his first trip to Saloniki
and back to Alexandria was successful and enormously profitable, he
became aware that he was being uncomfortably shadowed, and he left again
in an Italian steamer. It was here he encountered Mr. Dainopoulos, bound
home from a business trip to Egypt; where he had been buying up cheap
the stocks of ship-chandlers who had been caught by the sudden
withdrawal of troops from the Dardanelles for service in the north. Mr.
Dainopoulos had bought a small ship and now needed a commander.

So far, one might say, Captain Rannie had simply lived the life of many
of his condition, Englishmen who had grown soft and flaccid during their
long exiles and who now crept furtively along in the shadow of war,
neither very honest nor very crooked, ignoble and negligible. But as he
sat there now behind his locked door and heavy curtain, shading his eyes
with his hand, he faced the immediate future with dread. The sight of
Mr. Spokesly, bandaged and plastered, hurrying out to get on with the
work, made him see with painful clearness where he himself had fallen
and how problematic was the task ahead. He would not tackle a job like
this again, he told himself. Never again. He would get away out East
again with what he had already made and resume the old, safe, easy
river-life, receiving his stacks of "reading matter" from London,
reading until his brain was soft and soggy with foolish dreams. It was
the best life he knew and he longed to get back to it. After this
voyage. How he hated all this! When he came back into the world of
urgent men after one of his long periods of stupor, he was horrified at
the necessity of living at all, and sometimes contemplated suicide. Now
he was afraid, not so much of any punishment which might befall him as
of the destruction of his way of life, the harsh secular interferences,
the spying out of his useless secrets and his long-hid dishonour. It was
his very life now, this carefully contrived oblivion in which he lay
like an insect in a cocoon. It was beyond his power to desire a return
to England. The very thought made him tremble. One of the secrets he
guarded with such hysterical care was his loathing of women. Men thought
him a rake, _a viveur--ha-ha_! That was what he wanted them to think. He
could not bear any intimacy at all. This new chief officer--that was the
disturbing element in his reverie--must be given to understand there
could be no intimacy, none whatever.

He listened to the sounds of scrubbing outside, vigorous thumps and
kicks as the mops went to and fro. There were voices, too, the ingenuous
bawlings of that bosun, offensively active. An unwarrantable intrusion!
Quite unnecessary, all this waste of soap and soda. Captain Rannie began
to revive: the white tabloid he had swallowed as the door closed behind
Mr. Spokesly was getting its work in. He felt better. He would go ashore
and explain to Mr. Dainopoulos that this sort of thing could not go on.
He examined himself in the glass with stern attention. His gray hair,
parted just off the middle, was touched with a brush. Good. He was
ready. He lit a cigarette. He unlocked the door and went out.

Up on deck Captain Rannie was immediately aware of a novel state of
affairs. It was so long since he had experienced the sensation he could
scarcely identify it. There was someone in charge. The old
accommodation-ladder, untouched since the time of Spiteri's advent, was
down and the teak steps hastily scrubbed. Made fast to the grating was
his boat, washed and with a red and yellow flag on the stern-seat. Mr.
Spokesly in a pair of the bosun's rubber boots and with his coat off,
came up, blowing a whistle. A young Norwegian came clattering up the
ladder from the fore-deck.

"Go and wash your face," said Mr. Spokesly. "And take the cap'en
ashore."

Captain Rannie, as he sat with the tiller in his hand and watched the
young Norwegian pulling with all his might, felt extraordinarily proud.
That was the way to handle these people. He had been right after all. Be
firm. New blood, a tight hand. Some respect now for the master of the
vessel. And no intimacy. "Take the captain ashore." Brief, curt,
attentive. That, he held, was the thing. To dwell apart, within a
shining envelope of secular discipline, unquestioned, unhampered, and
unloved--that in Captain Rannie's mind was the priceless privilege of
command.



CHAPTER XI


Mrs. Dainopoulos, who was born Alice Thompson, lay on her Tottenham
Court Road sofa with a Scotch plaid rug over her, looking out across the
sunlit Gulf whenever she raised her eyes from her book. It is not
extraordinary that she should have been fond of reading. Suffering
actual pain only occasionally, she would have found time hang most
heavily but for this divine opiate, whereby the gentle and gracious
figures of sentimental fiction were gathered about her and lived out
their brief lives in that deserted theatre of the ancient gods, between
the silent ravines of the Chalcidice and the distant summits of
Thessaly.

For without having in any degree an original imagination she had a very
lively one. The people in books were quite as real to her as the people
around her. Just as she followed the characters in a book while reading,
so she only knew actual human beings while they were in the room with
her. As she read her books, so she read people, with intense interest as
how it would end and always longing for sequels. There was no doubt in
her mind, of course, that you could not have a story without love, and
this reacted naturally enough upon her judgments of people. She herself,
she firmly believed, could not exist without love. Nobody could. It was
a world of delicate and impalpable happiness where people always
understood each other without speech, responding to a touch of a hand, a
note of music, the sunlight on the snow-capped mountains, or the song of
a bird. Released from the indurating business of daily chores and the
calculations of house-keeping, and placidly secure in a miser's
infatuation, she lived an almost effortless emotional existence. She had
gone through many stages, of course, like most exiles, from petulance to
indifference; but by this time, as she looked up from her book and
watched the _Kalkis_ swinging in the current and disappearing from time
to time in billows of white steam from her winches, Mrs. Dainopoulos was
almost fiercely sentimental. Beneath a manner compounded of suburban
vulgarity and English reserve, she concealed an ardent and romantic
temperament. People, in her imagination, behaved exactly as did the
characters in the books she had been reading. She was the author, as it
were, of innumerable unwritten romances, enthusiastic imitations of
those Mr. Dainopoulos obediently ordered in boxes from London. She
adored those books which, the publisher's advertisement said, made you
forget; and she never took any notice at all of the advertisement, often
on the opposing page, of the London School of Mnemonics which sought to
sell books that made you remember. Yet forget-me-nots were her favourite
flowers. To her, as to Goethe, art is called art because it is not
nature. The phantasmagoria of Balkan life, the tides of that
extraordinary and sinister sea which beat almost up against her windows,
left her untroubled. For her there was no romance without love, and of
course marriage. For Evanthia she cherished a clear, boyish admiration
blended with a rather terrified interest in her volcanic emotional
outbreaks. The difference between the two women can be compared to the
written story and the ferocious transformation of that story known as a
film-version. Mrs. Dainopoulos quite comprehended that Evanthia could do
things impossible for an English girl. Even in her seclusion Mrs.
Dainopoulos had learned that the Cité Saul was not Haverstock Hill. But
she saw no reason why Evanthia should not "find happiness," as she
phrased it, fading out with a baby in her arms, so to speak. She did not
realize that girls like Evanthia never fade out. They are not that kind.
They progress as Evanthia progressed, borne on the crests of aboriginal
impulses, riding easily amid storms and currents which would wreck the
tidy coasting craft of domestic life. They are in short destined to
command, and nothing can sate their appetite for spiritual conflict.

But Mrs. Dainopoulos did not know this. She lay there looking out at the
ineffable beauty of the Gulf, a novel of Harold Bell Wright open on her
lap, dreaming of Evanthia and Mr. Spokesly. How nice if they really and
truly liked each other! And perhaps, when the war was over, they could
all go to England together and see the Tower and Westminster Abbey! This
was the way her thoughts ran. She never spoke this way, however. Her
speech was curt and matter-of-fact, for she was very shy of revealing
herself even to her husband. Her sharp, small intelligence never led her
into the mistake of interfering with other people. Instead she imagined
them as characters in a story and thought how nice it would be if they
only would behave that way.

And then suddenly in upon this idyllic scene burst Evanthia, excited and
breathless.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "What shall I do?"

"Why, whatever is the matter, Evanthia? Your eyes shine like stars. Do
tell me."

Evanthia came striding in like an angry prima-donna, her hand stretched
in front of her as though about to loose a thunderbolt or a stiletto.
She flung herself down--a trick of hers, for she never seemed to hurt
herself--on the rug beside the bed and leaned her head against her
friend's hand. It was another trick of hers to exclaim: "What shall I
do? _Mon Dieu! que ferai-je?_" when she was in no doubt about what she
was going to do. She was going after her lover. She was going on board
the _Kalkis_ before she sailed, on some pretense, and she was going to
the Piræus in her, whence she could get to Athens in a brisk walk if
necessary, and when she got there God would look after her. She had
convinced herself, by stray hints picked up from the domestics of the
departed consuls, that her lover would go to Athens. There was as much
truth in this as in the possibility of the _Kalkis_ going to Piræus. It
was conjecture, but Evanthia wanted to believe it. She had never been in
a ship, and she could have no conception of the myriad changes of
fortune which might befall a ship in a few weeks. She might lie for
months in Phyros. With Evanthia, however, this carried no weight. God
would take care of her. It was rather disconcerting to reflect that God
did. Evanthia, all her life, never thought of anybody but herself, and
all things worked together to bring her happiness and to cast her lines
in pleasant places. Just at this time she was concentrating upon an
adventure of which the chief act was getting on board that little ship
out there. Everything, even to the clothes she was to wear, was
prepared. She had gone about it with a leisurely, silent, implacable
efficiency. And now she relieved her feelings in a burst of hysterical
affection for her dear friend who had been so kind to her and whom she
must leave. She could do this because of the extreme simplicity of her
personality. She was afflicted with none of the complex psychology which
makes the Western woman's life a farrago of intricate inhibitions. Love
was an evanescent glamour which came and passed like a cigarette, a
strain of music, a wave of furious anger. Evanthia remembered the hours,
forgetting the persons. But for that gay and spirited young man with the
little blond moustache and laughing blue eyes, whom she believed was now
in Athens flirting with the girls, her feeling was different. He had won
from her a sort of allegiance. She thought him the maddest, wittiest,
and most splendid youth in the world. She did not despise Mr. Spokesly
because he was not at all like Fridthiof. She could not conceive in that
stark and simple imagination of hers two youths like Fridthiof. His very
name was a bizarre caress to her Southern ears. How gay he was! How
clever, how vital, how amusingly irreligious, how careless whether he
hurt her or not. It was a fantastic feature of her attitude towards him
that she liked to think of herself as possessed by him yet at liberty to
go where she wished. She was experimenting crudely with emotions, trying
them and flinging them away. She had at the back of her mind the vague
notion that if she could only get back to Fridthiof he would take her
away into Central Europe, to Prague and Vienna and Munich, dream cities
where she could savour the life she saw in the moving pictures--great
houses, huge motor-cars, gems, and gallimaufry. She dreamed of the
silken sheets and the milk-baths of sultanas, servants in dazzling
liveries, and courtyards with fountains and string music in the shadows
behind the palms. Perhaps. Without history or geography to guide her,
she imagined Central Europe as a sort of glorified _Jardin de la Tour
Blanche_, where money grew upon trees or flowered on boudoir-mantels,
and where superb troops in shining helmets and cuirasses marched down
interminable avenues of handsome buildings. There was no continuity in
her mind between money and labour. Men always gave her money. Even Mr.
Dainopoulos gave her money, a little at a time. The poor worked and had
no money. There would always be money for the asking. When the war moved
up into the mountains again, as it always did after a while (for she
remembered dimly how the armies went crashing southward into Saloniki in
the war of 1912 and later fought among themselves and came crashing back
again, passing through the valley like a herd of mastodons), there would
be more money than ever, and the rich merchants would send away again to
France and Italy for silks and velvets and _bijouterie_. Ever since she
could remember money had been growing more and more plentiful. The
Englishman who had given her that splendid emerald ring and who had said
he would go to hell for her, had plenty of money, although not long
before he had had to jump into the water and swim to the shore with only
his shirt and trousers. She might have to swim herself. Well, what of
that? More than once she had done the distance from the bathing house to
the Allatini jetty and back. Looking through lazy, slitted eyelids she
knew she could swim to the _Kalkis_ with ease. Such matters gave her no
anxiety. Evanthia's problems were those of an explorer. She was making
her way cautiously into a new world, a world beyond those French
bayonets. She hated the French because they invariably assumed that she
was a _demi-mondaine_ and treated her as bearded family men treat
daughters of joy. Perhaps she hated them also because Fridthiof had
exhausted his amusing sarcasm upon them as his hereditary enemies; but
this is not certain because the Balkan people do not conceive
nationality save as a tribal clannishness. Evanthia's notions of
patriotism were gathered from films shown in Constantinople of
imperial-looking persons sitting on horses while immense masses of
troops marched by and presented arms. It was fascinating but perplexing,
this tumultuous, shining, wealthy outside world, and Evanthia was ready
to abandon everything she knew, including Mrs. Dainopoulos, for a look
at it. Blood did not matter out there, Fridthiof had told her.
_Demokracy_ made it possible for any woman to become a princess. So she
gathered from his highly satirical and misleading accounts of European
customs beyond French bayonets. A suspicion suddenly assailed her as she
lay on the rug stroking her friend's hand.

"This Englishman, is he faithful, _honnête_?"

Mrs. Dainopoulos allowed the leaves of her book to slip slowly from her
fingers. She smiled.

"Englishmen are always faithful," she said, with a little thrill of
pride. Evanthia let this pass without comment. Fridthiof had once told
her the English had sold every friend they ever had and betrayed every
small nation in the world, with the result that they now sat on top of
the world. He also expressed admiration for their inconceivable national
duplicity in fooling the world. And Evanthia, if she reflected at all,
imagined Mrs. Dainopoulos was of the same opinion since she had married
a Levantine. Mr. Spokesly, however, had said he would go to hell for
her, which was no doubt an example of the national duplicity.

"Humph!" she said at length and sat there looking at the sky over the
trees.

"He's engaged, _fiancé_, you know, to a girl in England, but I don't
think he loves her very much. I think he is beginning to like a friend
of mine, Evanthia. Did you go to the cinema last night?"

"Oh, yes, yes. It was beautiful. I love the American pictures, cowboys.
They shot the police dead. And in the end the girl had a baby."

"But wasn't she married first, dear?" asked the sick lady, laughing.

"Oh, yes. It was beautiful," answered Evanthia dreamily. "Very, very
beautiful. They ride and shoot all the time, in America."

"And have babies," added Mrs. Dainopoulos.

"No!" said Evanthia with startling lucidity. "Fridthiof has been there."

"I thought you had forgotten him, dear. You know I think he was not a
good influence for you."

Evanthia murmured, "Ah, yes," and smiled.

"I don't think he always told you the truth. I am afraid he made things
up to tell you."

"I think he is gone to Athens."

"Why?"

"I speak to the old Anna Karoglou who sweep in the Consulate. She hear
the Consul's wife say she has a sister in Athens."

Mrs. Dainopoulos was not prepared to accept this as conclusive evidence,
though she knew these illiterate people had their own mysterious news
agencies.

"Well," she said, "_you_ can't go to Athens just now, can you?"

"The Englishman will get me a passport," answered Evanthia. "He said he
would get one."

"Did he though? That's very kind of him."

"Yes, he will do anything for me, anything."

"Have you sent word to your mother? I feel responsible for you, Evanthia
dear."

"Oh, I come back," said the girl airily, "I come back."

"I don't believe you will," said Mrs. Dainopoulos gravely. "I don't
believe you will."

"Yes, yes. Come back to my dear friend."

She did too, later on, very much damaged. She arrived in a crowded train
of horse-cars, her clothes in a crushed old basket and a refugee ticket
fastened to her blouse with a huge brass safety pin. She did not dwell
on her adventures. So many women were going through very much the same
thing. And Mr. Dainopoulos by that time was too rich and too busy
getting richer to bother about a stray like her, and he did not ask. To
the end it remained an impalpable grievance with her that she made no
impression upon her dear friend's husband.

She jumped up now, and, kissing Mrs. Dainopoulos, hastened away to see
to the evening meal. Downstairs, standing in the doorway of the dining
room, she caught the young girl putting some candied plums in her mouth
and broke into a swirl of vituperation. Mr. Spokesly, coming in behind
his employer at that moment, thought it was remarkably like a cat
spitting. The servant suddenly slipped past Evanthia, eyes downcast and
smouldering, and scampered out of sight. Mr. Spokesly looked after the
lithe little form with the slender cotton stockings and little cup-like
breasts under the one-piece cotton dress. He had an idea that that girl
would like to knife both Evanthia and himself.

He followed Evanthia out into the garden.

"It's all right," he said. "I got everything on board. But no passport.
Nothing doing."

"No?"

He shook his head in confirmation. Most emphatically there had been
nothing doing. They were all in a decidedly ugly mood, with that darned
girl of Jack Harrowby's in gaol for telling about the times of sailing.
They knew well enough the girl had been a fool, an innocent go-between;
but they weren't having any more of it. The young lady with friends in
Athens would have to exist without them until the war was over. Let her
apply to the Provisional Government and then, if all was satisfactory,
they would forward the application to the War Office, who would look
into it. Sometime next year would be a good date to expect a
reply--probably in the negative. That was all he could get out of them.
He looked glumly at Evanthia, who stared back at him thinking rapidly.
She had not expected a passport. To her a passport was an infernal
contrivance for landing you in prison unless you paid and paid and paid
an interminable succession of officials. When she had exclaimed to Mrs.
Dainopoulos, "Oh, what shall I do? _Que ferai-je?_" she had been really
thinking aloud. What should she do if the Englishman failed to get a
passport? Even that was a pose because she had decided what to do. She
drew Mr. Spokesly farther away from the house and turned to him with an
expression of smiling composure on her face. He stared as though
fascinated. She was going to spring something on him, he was sure. In
the intervals between sleep and his herculean labours to get the
_Kalkis_ ship-shape and Bristol fashion he sometimes wondered whether
she had not taken him literally when he had said he would go to hell for
her. Another thing: it appeared he had to do this for nothing. He was to
get her back to her lover and receive a purely nominal reward. He took
hold of her shoulders and kissed her hair. He was certainly taking a
chance in trying to get her a passport. He had had to be truculent. He
was only trying to do a decent turn to a neutral. Mr. Dainopoulos would
have applied himself only he felt he was in a delicate position, having
chartered his ship to the Government, and so did not want to embarrass
them. And so on. A new Mr. Spokesly. Perhaps his visit to the Post
Office for letters had something to do both with his truculence and his
present air of fascinated interest in Evanthia's face. For there had
been no letters. There you were, you see. Out of sight, out of mind. The
new Mr. Spokesly was a shade more rugged than the other, a shade harder
in the line from ear to chin, a shade more solid on his pins. Evanthia
pulled his head over to her ear.

"What time ship go away?" she asked hurriedly.

"To-morrow," he muttered, remembering Jack Harrowby's indiscretion.
"To-morrow, but you mustn't tell anybody."

"Pst! Who should I tell, stupidity! To-night you go on the ship, eh?"

"They won't let a lady go through...." he began and she pulled his ear.

"Tck! You go on the ship. By and by, late, late, I come, too."

"No. Look here, dear, the picket launches'll see a boat as soon...."

She held up her finger warningly.

"I wait. You come. Watch! In the window a little light. Pprrp!"

She flicked her fingers at him and ran away.

Mr. Spokesly looked after her and sighed with relief and anxiety at the
same time. He knew it was a ticklish game to play. If she started coming
out in a boat from the shore here, as sure as death those naval pickets
who were for ever rushing about would dart up and want to know all about
it. And get both him and his employer into trouble. It was up to her
now. He had bought an officer's tin trunk and it had been three parts
full of her clothes when he went aboard with it. He doubted if she could
make it. Well, he had arranged to spend the night on board because
Captain Rannie was off on some peculiar jamboree of his own, and he
would keep a look-out for the little light. And then Mr. Spokesly saw a
light in his mind. He smiled. His imagination was not a facile piece of
machinery. He saw things steadily and sometimes saw them whole, but he
did not see them at all if they were any distance ahead. He had now
caught sight of what lay ahead. He smiled again, and went in to supper.

Mr. Dainopoulos, who was always well aware of things very far away
ahead, was much occupied in his mind, but he kept up a good flow of
conversation to cover his anxiety. He had been approached that day by
the authorities with a proposal. The new Provisional Government was like
most governments of the kind, frock-coated, silk-hatted, kid-gloved
politicians with extensive vocabularies and limited business experience.
The agriculturists of the hinterland were in dire need of implements,
machinery, and fertilizers. What was needed was a responsible person or
syndicate who would act as purchasing agent, financing the operation
against the harvest. The Government proposed to authorize an issue of
half a million drachma to a duly constituted syndicate. It was an
alluring prospect. His friend Malleotis was in it, too, and thought it a
good thing. Mr. Dainopoulos, while he talked to Mr. Spokesly, was
developing the plan of campaign in his head. He was, so to speak,
flexing his mental sinews. His extremely financial brain was working,
and the more he considered it the more lucrative the thing appeared to
be. Malleotis had insisted on a two-year agreement as there might be
losses on the coming harvest. Long-headed man, Malleotis. Yes, yes,
hm....

Here is presented in moderate contrast the divergent temperaments of
Boris Dainopoulos, a man of business, and Mr. Reginald Spokesly, a man
of a type much more common than many people imagine. Mr. Spokesly had no
business ability whatever. It simply was not in him. His _métier_, when
he was fully awake, was simply watch-keeping, which is a blend of
vigilance, intelligence, and a flair for being about at the critical
moment. Out of this is born the faculty and the knack of commanding men,
which is a very different thing from bossing men in business. And so,
while his employer was already immersed in a new and fascinating deal
which might make him much richer than he had ever hoped in so short a
time, Mr. Spokesly had forgotten that money existed save as change for
the pocket, and was devoting the whole spiritual energy to the
contemplation of an affair of the heart. And this is a problem in which
ethics plays no part at all. The moralist has ever a tendency to applaud
the man diligent in business. But the business man is dependent upon the
emotionalist and the sensualist, too, for the success of his designs. As
has been pointed out by an authority the world is a stage and the men
and women players. Had he lived in later times he might have remarked
that the world is not quite so simple as that. There are business men
and ticket-speculators nowadays, for example.

Another thing which preoccupied Mr. Dainopoulos was his responsibility
towards Mr. Spokesly. He didn't want anything to happen to him. His wife
was always talking about him. Of course that baggage Evanthia was after
him, but Mr. Dainopoulos was not worrying about her. He was anxious that
Mr. Spokesly should not get into trouble over this trip. There might be
something about the latter part of the voyage that the chief mate
wouldn't like at all. If anything miscarried he might not be able to
prove he did not know what was going on. Mr. Dainopoulos mentioned it in
the garden afterwards.

"Don't you interfere with the captain, Mister," he remarked, over a
cigarette.

"Eh!" said Mr. Spokesly, wondering very much. "How can I interfere with
a man like him? He sets the course, and I run it off. No business o'
mine what he's doing."

This was so exactly in accordance with Mr. Dainopoulos's views and so
exactly what Mr. Spokesly ought to say supposing he knew everything,
that the former looked hard at the mate and uttered a cackling snarl of
astonished satisfaction.

"Why, that's just it. You let him settle everything."

"Except the work about the deck."

"Ah-h!" Mr. Dainopoulos was not lying awake at night worrying about the
condition of the deck of the _Kalkis_. But he said nothing more than his
guttural "Ah!"

"And the accommodation has got to be kept clean while I'm there,"
babbled Mr. Spokesly.

"Why, certainly, certainly," assented Mr. Dainopoulos.

"I ought to tell you I tried to get a passport for Miss Solaris," said
Mr. Spokesly in a low tone. "They wouldn't hear of it."

"I told her three or four times it was no good," said Mr. Dainopoulos
irritably. "What does she think she is?"

"Well, she's got the idea she wants to go to Athens and...."

"She won't go to Athens."

"You mean the ship don't go to Piræus?"

"I mean she won't go to Athens."

"Well, I done the best I could for her. She could have my cabin, and I'd
sleep in the chart-room."

"How can she get on board?" asked Mr. Dainopoulos. "Does she think I'm
goin' to get myself into a lotta trouble for her? Why, let me say to
you, Mister, I do plenty business with these peoples, but I could not
get a passport now for Mrs. Dainopoulos. No! How can I get one for a
girl who nobody knows nothing about? Such foolishness!"

"Just what I told her and she laughed at me and told me she'd manage
it."

"She may do that. She can get one of these officers to fix it, very
likely. You know how they are, these French officers. Anything for a
pretty young lady."

"She wouldn't do that," said Mr. Spokesly with a troubled air. "She's a
friend of Mrs. Dainopoulos, remember."

"I remember all right. But plenty of women do that sort of business all
the time in war. Every war the same. Something, I dunno what you call
it, gets 'em. They go crazy, a little. They like the uniforms and the
tom-te-tom-tom-tom of the music. You know what I mean. I tell her she
oughta get a job in Stein's. But she don't like anybody to tell her
anything. She ain't nothin' to me. Her mother...! Humph!" And Mr.
Dainopoulos flicked his thumbs outward.

"What I told her was, if she did get aboard, she'd have a trip down to
the Islands and back. But she don't understand."

"She don't understand nothin' only buyin' clothes an' thinkin' she's one
of these here grand duchesses in Russia," snapped Mr. Dainopoulos.
"Don't you take any notice of her nonsense stuff."

"Well, I'm supposed to be disinterested in this," said Mr. Spokesly with
a slight smile. "I mean, I will say she's been straight about it."

"About what?" said Mr. Dainopoulos, somewhat mystified.

"That sweetheart she had, who went away."

"Oh, him! He's gone."

"She reckons he's in Athens."

"She reckons anything she hears and she can believe anything she wants.
It don't hurt nobody."

"That's right, but what do you think?"

"Nothin'. What's it got to do with me? I'd be a fine sorta fool to mix
up with her business, me doing business with the English Army, eh?
Whatta you think I am?"

"She's neutral, I suppose."

"Yes, but _he_ ain't. He was assistant vice-consul and he used to go
aboard the ships and talk his English. He was in London years. Talks
English better than you do. And he was sendin' reports all the time in
the Consul's bag." Mr. Dainopoulos gave a curt chuckle. "Nothin' to do
with me. They thought he was a Y. M. C. A. feller. Made them laugh. And
they used to tell him where they been and where they was goin'.... Yes,
he was all over the place. She's crazy about him, I know. But he's
forgot all about her long ago. You no need to worry about him."

Mr. Spokesly was not worrying about him. One does not worry about rivals
who are in all probability three or four hundred miles beyond the battle
line. But he was pained at Mr. Dainopoulos's estimate of Evanthia. He
felt sorry for a man who was unable to appreciate the flavour, the
bouquet, so to speak, of so delicious a personality. When Mr.
Dainopoulos said warningly, over his shoulder, his scarred and unlovely
features slewed into a grin, "You watch. She'll fool you," he did not
deny it. What he wondered at was the failure of his employer to
appreciate the extreme pleasure of being fooled by a woman like
Evanthia. For Mr. Spokesly had of late discovered that a man can, in
some curious subconscious way, keep his head in a swoon. Like the person
under an anæsthetic, who is aware of his own pulsing, swaying descent
into a hurried yet timeless oblivion, whose brain keeps an amused record
of the absurd efforts of alien intelligences to communicate with him as
he drops past the spinning worlds into darkness, and who is aware, too,
of his own entire helplessness, a man can with advantage sometimes let
himself be fooled. For Mr. Spokesly, who had always prided himself on
his wide-awake attitude towards women, it was a bracing and novel
experience to let Evanthia fool him. It was really a form of making a
woman happy since some women are incapable of happiness unless they are
fooling men. But he was unable to get Mr. Dainopoulos to see this aspect
of the affair. Mr. Dainopoulos was not the man to let anybody fool him
unless it might be his wife. It may be doubted that even she managed it.
He was very largely what we call Latin, and the Latins are strangely
devoid of illusions about women. She mystified him at times, as when she
checked him in his desire to tell people that away back he had an
English relative. He was very proud of it and he could not understand
his wife's reluctance to hear him mention it. It certainly gave him no
clue to their characters; but like many men of diversified descent he
had occasional fits of wanting to be thought English. He had been very
indignant with that fresh young Fridthiof Lietherthal, who had laughed
at his deep-toned statement, "I have British blood in my veins," and
remarked airily, "Well, try to live it down, old man, that's all." Very
indignant. Thought he was everybody, that young feller. And _he_ had a
Swedish mother! And said he envied the Englishman his colossal _ego_,
whatever that might be. A smart-aleck, they would call him in America.

He walked down the road with Mr. Spokesly, who was going to take the car
along and then go aboard. He said:

"I'll be on board the ship to-morrow morning early. Anything you want,
let me know and I'll have it sent over in the afternoon before you sail.
This will be a good trip for you, and when you come back, by that time
I'll have a good job for you."

Mr. Spokesly decided to take a carriage. As he bowled along he turned
over in his mind the chances of seeing Evanthia Solaris again. He had no
faith in her ability to make an effectual departure from Saloniki. Yet
he would not have taken a heavy wager against it. She had an air of
having something in reserve. He smiled as he thought what an education
such a woman was. How she kept one continually on the stretch matching
her moods, her whims, her sudden flashes of savage anger and glowing
softness. And he thought of the immediate future, moving through
dangerous seas with her depending upon him. If only she could do it!
This was a dream, surely. He laughed. The least introspective of men, he
sometimes held inarticulate conversations. He had often imagined himself
the arbiter of some beautiful woman's fate, some fine piece of goods.
There was nothing wicked in this, simply a desire for romance. He was a
twentieth-century Englishman in the grand transition period between
Victorianism and Victory, when we still held the conventional notions of
chivalry and its rewards. It should not be forgotten that when a knight
actually did win a fair lady he had some voice in her disposal; and it
was a vestige of this instinct which appeared in Mr. Spokesly as
speculations concerning Evanthia's future.

He decided to go in and look up his elderly friend in the Olympos. He
found him standing in the entrance, holding a black, silver-headed cane
to his mouth and whistling very softly.

"Why, here you are! You _are_ a stranger! What do you say if we have a
couple? Not here. I know a place a little way along. How have you been
doing now?"

Mr. Spokesly said he had been busy on a new job and hadn't had much time
for going out.

"On that little Greek boat, isn't it? I must say you've got a great old
cock for a commander."

"What do you know about him?"

"Oh, I just happen to know the story and it may not be true after all.
But they do say he had a Chink wife and practically lived like a Chink
up-river. And you know what that means for an Englishman. However,
that's neither here nor there. This is the place."

He pushed open a couple of swing doors and they entered a large,
barn-like room filled with tables and chairs. At the back a small stage
was erected and beside it stood a piano. The flags of the Allies,
wrongly drawn, and a portrait of Venizelos looking like a Presbyterian
minister in shell-rim glasses, were the only decorations of the dirty
walls. A number of men in uniform were lounging about, drinking beer and
smoking cigarettes. The elderly lieutenant led the way to a table near
the piano. Immediately a waiter, who looked like a New York gun-man,
signalled to two women who were seated in different parts of the room,
and went forward to take the order. This was for beer, and while they
drank, one of the women, a fat middle-aged person without neck or
ankles, after the manner of middle-aged Greek women, clambered on to the
stage. The other, a girl with black spiral curls on each side of her
face, curls like the springs on screen doors, and with a short skirt
that showed quite abnormally thin legs, sat down at the piano and drove
with an incredible lack of skill through the accompaniment of a song. It
seemed to be a race between the two of them. The fat woman was already
stepping down from the stage as she gabbled the final bars of her
supposedly risky French song. An intoxicated ambulance driver hammered
on the table with his glass and then roared with laughter. The two women
came swiftly to the table and sat down by the lieutenant and Mr.
Spokesly.

"This is my little friend," said the lieutenant, chucking the fat
middle-aged creature under a number of chins. The sinister waiter
appeared, swept away the beer-glasses, and stood poised for instant
flight. The fat woman muttered something in reply to the lieutenant's
request to name her poison and the waiter almost instantly produced two
bottles of Greek champagne, a notable blend of bad cider and worse
ginger-ale.

"Let me pay," suggested Mr. Spokesly, but his friend put up his hand,
smiling.

"I always treat my little friend," he said, and patted her short,
pointed fingers.

"Feefty francs," said the waiter, and his eyes glared into the
lieutenant's wallet with almost insane ferocity.

Mr. Spokesly was glad he had not been permitted to pay for the two
bottles with their shoddy tinfoil and lying labels. The eyes of the
women never left the polished pigskin note-case while it was in sight.
It was almost provocative of physical pain, the dreadful look on their
faces in the presence of money. Their features were contorted to a set,
silent snarl and their eyes had the black globular lustre of a rat's.
The girl with the ringlets snuggled near Mr. Spokesly and began to
project one of those appalling intimacies which are based on the
insignificance of personality. To him, at that moment almost entirely
dominated by a vivid and delicious character, the bizarre efforts of
this unwashed painted _gamine_ to assume the pose of sweetheart was
almost terrifying, and he avoided her rolling eyes and predatory claws
with a sense of profound shame. His elderly friend, however, was
thoroughly enjoying himself. He had reached that period of life, perhaps
the best of all for a seafaring man, when he is happily married and
comfortably situated, and he can now give his mind to those sentimental
fancies which he had to pass up earlier in life owing to economic
stress. A seaman's mind is an involved affair in which thoughts and
emotions and desires are stowed entirely without reference to academic
order. So the old lieutenant, who had had a son killed at Mons and who
truly loved his wife, and who was looking forward to loving his
grandchildren, was now having a little time off from his elderly duties,
and enjoying the unaccustomed pleasure of being a bit of a dog. This was
his little friend, this oleaginous vampire who received a percentage of
the price of the drinks ordered and all she could wheedle out of drunken
customers. There is nothing incomprehensible in this. One is permitted
to marvel at these modern Circes, however, who turn men into swine by
transforming themselves.

"If you don't mind," said Mr. Spokesly after trying the champagne, "I
think I'll have some more beer."

His friend smiled happily and pinched the cheek of his little friend who
was now on his knee with a fat arm over his shoulder.

"This is something like, eh!" A young man was playing the piano noisily.

"How's things at the office?" said Mr. Spokesly.

The old fellow chuckled.

"Oh, what do you think is the latest? My young lordship told me in
future I was to run round and round the White Tower from nine to five.
For the duration of the war, he says. What do you think of that? That's
what we get for joining up. Serving our country. Why, it's a joke. What
is it, dear?" He listened attentively to his little friend's whisper.
"She wants to know if you are going to stand treat to your little
friend," he said to Mr. Spokesly.

Mr. Spokesly's little friend, with her emaciated limbs, lemon-coloured
French boots, and infuriating ringlets, was smiling in what was supposed
to be irresistible coyness. The waiter was already sweeping away the
bottle and glasses, which were full and which would be carefully
decanted, re-bottled and served up to the old lieutenant the following
evening.

"Oh, all right. But I can't stay long. I have to get aboard, you know."

"He can't go till you get there," argued his friend.

"Ah, but I've a special reason for wanting to be on board to-night."

"Well, here's luck to the voyage."

"Good luck," said the women, touching the edge of the glasses with their
lips and setting them down again.

"Feefty francs," said the waiter, glaring over a black moustache at the
fistful of money Mr. Spokesly drew from a trouser pocket.

The pianist crashed out some tremendous chords. The old lieutenant's
little friend whispered in his ear.

"What's that, dear? Oh! She wants to know if you'll stand the musician
something, seeing you haven't been here before. It's usual."

Mr. Spokesly, without changing his expression, put down a ten-franc note
extra.

"You give me a leetle tip?" said the waiter, watching the money going
back into his victim's pocket. But he had postponed his own private
piracy too long.

"I'll give you a bunt on the nose if you don't get away," muttered Mr.
Spokesly. And he added to his friend: "I must go. May not see you again,
eh?"

"Very likely not, very likely not. You see, I may be transferred to the
Red Sea Patrol."

"Well, so long. Good luck."

He breathed more freely when he got outside. Sixty francs for a quart of
carbonated bilge and a racket like nothing on earth.

He was mortified at seeing an Englishman posing as a fool like that, but
he was honest enough to admit to himself that he had been that
Englishman over and over again.

"Why do we do it?" he wondered as he was borne swiftly over the water by
the launch. And the married men, he reflected, were always the worst.

"Where's your ship?" growled the petty officer, sidling along the engine
house and taking one of Mr. Spokesly's cigarettes.

"_Kalkis_, little Greek boat just ahead," said Mr. Spokesly, slipping a
couple of shillings into a waiting palm. "And look here, can you wait a
second when I get aboard? My skipper wants to go ashore."

"Tell him to double up then."

Captain Rannie was standing on the grating at the head of the gangway,
charged with a well-rehearsed monologue on the extreme lack of
consideration experienced by some shipmasters. Mr. Spokesly ran up and
cut him short.

"Hurry up, sir. Boat's waiting," and before he was aware of it Captain
Rannie, with one of his shins barked in getting aboard, was halfway
across the gulf.

"Now," said Mr. Spokesly to himself, looking towards the houses. "I
wonder what's going to happen."



CHAPTER XII


At first it seemed as if nothing would ever happen again. There were no
electric lights on the _Kalkis_, although she had a very fine dynamo in
her engine-room, because one of her engineers in time past had cut away
all the wiring and sold it. The donkey-boiler fire was banked and the
donkey man gone ashore. She swung at anchor in absolute silence. The
launch was half a mile away. Over the Vardar valley was a glare as of
distant conflagrations, and along the front shore the sparkling
entrances of the palaces of pleasure from which Mr. Spokesly had just
come.

He went down and unlocked the door of his cabin. It was much cleaner
than it had been for years, but smelled of new paint. He opened the
scuttles, hooked back the door, and lit the brass gimbal-lamp. His tin
trunk was stowed under the bed-place. Clean fresh canvas was on the
floor and a rag mat by the bunk. A piece of lilac-tinted toilet soap,
which is almost indispensable in an English guest room. A clean towel,
which he had bought himself at Stein's. The next room was a bathroom,
but it was not yet in an entirely satisfactory condition. It had been
used to keep chickens in at some time and had also served as a store for
the steward. And fresh water had to be carried from the pump, as all the
plumbing had been cut away and sold.

Well, it would do. Mr. Spokesly opened the trunk and began to lay the
contents in different drawers. He did it clumsily, as a matter of
course, so that things of silk and cotton were crumpled and twisted, and
he regarded his results dubiously. He decided he would be a failure as a
lady's maid, and lighting a cigarette ascended to the deck. A fine
thing, he reflected, if she never came and he had all those fal-lals and
frills to carry about the ocean!

There seemed to be no one on board. And it suddenly occurred to him that
this might be an actual fact. He looked into the galley and found no one
there. He walked forward to the bridge-deck rail and blew his whistle.
Presently up from below, and framed in the doorway of the scuttle,
appeared an alarming phenomenon. Its hair stood in conflicting
directions, a large moustache cut across between two round black eyes
and a red mouth full of yellow teeth, one cheek was covered thickly with
lather, and the other, already shaved, was smeared with blood.

"What's the matter?" said the bosun.

"Where's the watchman?" asked Mr. Spokesly.

"He's down here talking to me."

"What are you doing, shaving?"

"Of course I am. What did you think I was doing? Cutting my throat?"

"Looks damn like it," muttered Mr. Spokesly, and sauntered away aft to
look at the shore. The indignant apparition in the forecastle scuttle
gradually sank from view like the phantoms in old-fashioned grand opera,
and was replaced by a lumbering creature in a blue jersey, with curling
blond hair, and carrying a bucket of soap-suds. Mr. Spokesly heard him,
presently, banging about in the galley.

There was a seat aft near the hand-steering gear, one of those
old-fashioned affairs with curiously moulded cast-iron ends and
elaborate teak slats, and he sat down there with the telescope to his
eye watching the dark mass of trees and roofs where Mr. Dainopoulos
lived. Except for a street lamp shining among the trees and an
occasional blue spit from a trolley-car, he could discern nothing. Even
the room where Mrs. Dainopoulos usually lay was not lighted. It was just
about this time that Mr. Spokesly reached the lowest point of his
confidence. The magnetism of Evanthia's personality, a magnetism which
made him feel, in her presence, that she was capable of achieving
anything she desired, and which is sometimes confused with the faculty
of command, was wearing away in the chill, dark emptiness of the night.
There was a quality of sharp and impersonal skepticism in the air and in
those glittering shore-lights beyond the black and polished surface of
the Gulf. There was now no wind; the evening current and breeze had
faded away, and both the water and the air were hanging motionless until
the early morning, when they would set eastward again, to bring the
ships' bows pointing towards the shore. And it was slack water in the
minds of men floating on that dark and sinister harbour. There were
other men sitting and looking towards the shore, men whose nerves had
been worn raw by the sheer immensity of the mechanism in which they were
entangled. They were the last unconsidered acolytes in a hierarchy of
hopeless men. They had no news to cheer them, for the ships sank a
thousand miles away. They endured because they were men, and the noisy
lies that came to them over the aërials only made them look sour. Great
journalists in London, their eyes almost popping from their heads at the
state of things on the sea and at the Front, thumped the merchant
mariner on the back in bluff and hearty editorials, calling him a
glorious shell-back and earning his silent contempt. The stark emphasis
placed upon his illiteracy and uncouthness did more harm than good. The
great journalists accepted the Navy and the Army on equal footing, but
they felt it necessary to placate the seaman with patronage. They were
too indolent to find out what manner of men they were who were going to
sea. And while the politicians fumbled, and the Navy and Army squabbled
with each other and with their allies, and the organized sentiment of
the world grew hysterical about Tommy and Jack, the seaman went on being
blown up at sea or rotting at anchor. And of the two the former was
invariably preferred. Mr. Spokesly, setting down the telescope to light
another cigarette, was following this train of thought, and he was
surprised to come on the conviction that an active enemy who tries to
kill you can be more welcome and estimable than a government without
either heart or brains who leaves you to sink in despair. Indeed, he
began to carry on a little train of thought of his own, this habit
having had more chance to grow since the London School of Mnemonics had
gone to the bottom with the _Tanganyika_ and a good many other things.
He said to himself: that's it. It isn't the work or the danger, it's the
monotony and feeling nobody gives a damn. Look at me. Now I'm on my own,
so to speak, gone out and started something myself, I feel twice as
chipper as I did when I was on that darned _Tanganyika_ and they didn't
seem to know where to send her or what to do with her when she got
there. I wonder how many ships we got, sailing about like her, and
gettin' sunk, and nobody any better off. They say there's ships carryin'
sand to Egypt and lumber to Russia. That's where it is. You trust a man
to boss the job and he can make a million for himself if he likes; you
don't mind. But if he muffs it, you want to kill him even if he is a
lord or a politician. I must say we got a bunch of beauties on the job
now. Good Lord!

It might be imagined that having found so fertile and refreshing a
theme, Mr. Spokesly would have abandoned everything else to pursue it to
the exceedingly bitter end. But he no longer felt that cankering
animosity towards authority. He saw that authority can be made
exceedingly profitable to those who display dexterity and resilience in
dealing with it. Mr. Spokesly had associated long enough with Mr.
Dainopoulos, for example, to conceive a genuine admiration for that
gentleman's astute use of his position in the midst of diverse and
conflicting authorities. Mr. Dainopoulos might be said to be loaning the
Government the tackle to pull down the branches laden with fruit, and
then charging a high price for the privilege of putting that fruit into
his own pocket. Even the shipowners of England could teach him nothing
about profits. Indeed, later on, when the war was over, and he himself
was expeditiously disposing of his interests in ships, for he had known
wars before and the slumps that followed them, it was to those same
shipowners that he sold some of his most deplorable wrecks at the top of
the market, rather mystified at their blind eagerness to close with him
at any price. He was heard to say, on the Bourse at Alexandria, on that
always cool loggia where so many deals are consummated over coffee and
_granita_, "This will not last. You take my advice. Sell that ship of
yours to the English." And his dark-skinned companion, who had been
doing very well in the tobacco trade from the Piræus and Saloniki, would
very likely sell, at a price that made him wonder if the English had
discovered a river of money somewhere. And both of them would continue
to sit there, fezzed and frock-coated, playing with their rosaries, and
discussing cautiously the outlook for Nilotic securities in the event of
the English withdrawing....

But that came later. Mr. Spokesly would have been even more impressed if
he had been aware of the ultimate destination of the freight he had been
stowing so industriously into the _Kalkis_, or of the total emoluments
accruing to Mr. Dainopoulos from that freight from first to last. The
old adage about turning your money over was not often so admirably
illustrated. Archy's absurd speculations and traffic in villainous drugs
seemed microscopic compared with the profits to be made by a good
business man. Which is perhaps one of the most embarrassing criticisms
of war in the modern sense, that it places a formidable premium upon the
sutlers and usurers, so that they now sit in high places, while the
youths of invincible courage are either rotting under wooden crosses in
France or looking for shabby situations across the sea. But Mr.
Spokesly, sitting there with his telescope, which revealed nothing, was
not criticizing the business men. He was admiring them, and wishing the
military and political and naval men could be half as clever at their
game as the business man was at his. It was a confusing and
kaleidoscopic problem, this of money. As soon as you got a lot of it, he
reflected, the value of it went down until you had only a little and
then the value of it went a little lower. And then, when you were
occupied in some way which prevented your making very much, the value
crept slowly up again. That is, unless you were a business man, when of
course you turned your money over and scored both ways.

Keeping company with these general fancies in Mr. Spokesly's mind was a
speculation concerning his own part in Evanthia's adventure. He looked
at his watch. Ten o'clock. By looking hard through the telescope he
could make out a faint radiance from the upper window of the Dainopoulos
house. No doubt it was closed and they were sitting there as usual with
one of the Malleotis family to keep them company. Then what was he
supposed to do? In the novels he had read, the hero with projecting jaw
and remarkable accuracy with firearms was never in any doubt about what
he was to do.

It was at this moment that he thought of the bosun.

He liked that person more than he would have admitted. Invariably
toiling at something in his immense canvas apron, the bosun's globular
eyes were charged with an expression of patient amazement at a
troublesome world. If Diogenes, who lived in these parts, had revisited
his ancient haunts and encountered Joseph Plouff, he would have made the
acquaintance of a peculiar type of honest man. The bosun was honest, but
he had been born without the divine gift of a bushel to conceal the
blaze of his probity. But in spite of his virtue Mr. Spokesly found him
congenial. In the midst of the little community of seamen, he was the
only one who spoke even passable English. He was the man-of-all-work,
bosun, carpenter, lamp-trimmer, winchman, storekeeper, and sometimes
acting second mate. For the engineer, with his Egyptian donkeyman and
two Maltee firemen, Plouff and his Scandinavian sailors had a fierce
contempt. For "the captinne," Plouff entertained an amusing reverence,
as though Captain Rannie's mastery of monologue appealed to the voluble
creature. In his own heart, however, there was neither bitterness nor
that despair of perfection which made Captain Rannie so uncomfortable a
neighbour. In his own view Plouff was an ideal bosun who was continually
retrieving his employers from disaster, but he attributed this to the
fortunate fact that "he had his eyes about him at the time" rather than
to the hopeless incompetence of the rest of the world. And it was
characteristic of the captain that he should regard Plouff with intense
dislike. Plouff therefore had avoided him adroitly and sought comfort
from the mate. Spiteri was not able to appreciate the bosun. When Plouff
explained how he had found several bolts of canvas secreted in the chain
locker, Spiteri was not impressed because he had put them there himself,
intending later to take them ashore and sell them. Also Plouff was
eternally wanting to chip something, which did not suit Spiteri at all.
If you once began chipping the rust and scale on the _Kalkis_, you might
carry something away and what good would that do you? And Plouff, in his
big apron, would be told to go to Halifax, which infuriated him, for he
thought Halifax, Nova Scotia, was meant, and he had some mysterious feud
with Nova-Scotiamen generally.

So Mr. Spokesly found him congenial, a garrulous monster of
unintelligent probity, and it occurred to him suddenly to enlist the
bosun in this enterprise. Apparently he was going ashore. Mr. Spokesly
wondered how he was going to manage it. He blew his whistle, and the
bosun, who had his head in the galley door talking to the watchman,
withdrew it and called out:

"What's the matter?"

"Come here, Bos', I want you."

Plouff knew by the sound of the word "Bos'" that a friendly conversation
was contemplated and he went aft stroking his pomatumed moustache and
licking his chops in anticipation, for he loved to talk to his
superiors.

"How are you going ashore?"

"Me?" said the bosun, amazed. "In a boat, of course. How'd you think I
was goin'? In a flyin' machine?"

"Well, where's the boat?"

"Why, down there. Here's the painter," said Plouff, laying his hand on
it, very much bewildered.

"But I thought they didn't let you use the ship's boats after sundown."

"Yes, they got all them rules, but there's always easy ways," said
Plouff with gentle scorn.

"Where do you land?"

"Why, right here," and Plouff pointed to where Mr. Spokesly had been
looking with the telescope.

"Is that so? But I've seen no jetty."

"No, there's no jetty. It runs alongside of the garden, you see, and
there's big doors where the old feller used to keep his boat."

"What old feller?"

"Why, do you mean to say you don't know? I thought everybody knew that
place."

"Well, go on. Spit it out. _I_ don't know all the joints in this town."

"Neither do I, but I know a good many of 'em. Well, you see that house
with the corner like a turnip, Turkey style? That's the house. It used
to belong to an old guy who lives way over there," and Joseph Plouff
waved his arm eastward towards Chalcidice. "Big farm for tobacco he got.
Old Turk he is, I s'pose. Well, he has this house here and he had it
built with a boat-house so the boat can go right in and out o' sight.
And there wasn't any other way in. He comes down the mountain, gets into
his boat, and sails over to his house when he wants to have good time.
And when the house was lit up all the gels in the town gets into their
glad rags an' goes off in boats to have some fun. They rows up to the
house, and the old feller sittin' on his balcony gives 'em a look-over
and then he gives the word to let 'em in. Well, he must ha' made a
mistake, same as we all do at times, for one night he had a row with one
o' these gels an' she went for him. I reckon he was tryin' to get her to
go home quietly and she thought he was tryin' to push her into the water
instead of into her boat. So what does she do but poke his eyes out. You
have to watch that with the gels here," said Plouff sagely, looking at
Mr. Spokesly. "It's easy to do and they got the way of it. You push hard
here," and he put his forefinger against the outer side of his eye-ball,
"and the eye pops out like a cork out of a bottle. That was a fine
mix-up, I guess. They tied her head to her feet and shoved her into the
water, and then they had to get the old feller back to his farm over
there. Fine mix-up there, too, I expect, what with his wives fightin' to
get at him and him not bein' able to see which way to run. Now he lives
out there, blind and rollin' in money since the war, and his wives keep
him at home all the time. And the house was sold. You can get a drink
there now. I was there last night. American bar with Greek drinks."

"And are you goin' there to-night?"

"Sure I am. What did you think I was shavin' for?"

"Well, listen to me, Bos'. I wish I'd known it was as easy as that. You
see I've got a friend who wants to make the trip with us, but we can't
get a passport."

"Why can't he come back with me?"

"It's a young lady, Bos'."

The bosun started back as though in horror at these words.

"Is that the way the wind blows?" said he. "Well, this is what you'd
better do...."

"Can we get a boat at that place?"

"We might, easy enough. She can come in by the garden and there's a boat
in the old boat-house, if she had any help. Where's she goin' to sleep?"

"In my cabin."

"And all that work I done down there for a stranger?"

"No, you done it for me. And I done it for this lady friend o' mine.
She's goin' to meet her sweetheart in Athens, you understand."

The bosun, whose eyes had gradually assumed an expression of having been
poked out by the method he had spoken of, and replaced by an unskilful
oculist, now gave an enormous smirk and drew himself into an attitude of
extreme propriety.

"Oh-ho! But the captinne...."

"Never mind him just now. I have a reason for thinking he won't mind. In
fact, I believe he knows all about it but pretends he don't, to save
himself trouble. Skippers do that, you know, Bos'."

"You bet they do!" said Joseph Plouff with immense conviction. "And then
come back at you if things go wrong. I been with hundreds o' skippers
and they was all the same."

This of course was a preposterous misstatement and of no significance
whatever, a common characteristic of people who are both voluble and
irresponsible. Mr. Spokesly let it pass. The riding-light threw the
bosun's features into strange contortions as he stood with his round
muscular limbs wide apart and his arms, tattooed like the legs of a
Polynesian queen, crossed on the bosom of his blue-and-white check
shirt.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" asked the chief officer
calmly. "You talk a hell of a lot, Bos', but you haven't said much yet."

"Because you ain't give me a chance. You ask me all about that American
bar where there ain't any American drinks and I had to tell you, didn't
I? And I was goin' to sugges' something, only you wouldn't listen."

"What?"

"Go yourself. Come with me. You can get out into the street by the
garden. It used to be a movin' picture place, but they stopped it
because of the lights. And it's mostly French sailors go there. American
bar, see? What the _matelots_ call _hig' lif'_. I speak French, so I go
there. Now you come along and see what we can do."

"And leave the ship?"

"The ship won't run away, I can promise you that. And the watchman's
there in the galley, ain't he? I'll get my coat."

"And how do I know when she'll come, supposing she does come to this
place you're talking about?"

"You want me to tell you that!" said the bosun in a faint voice, lifting
his broad features to the heavens in protest. "I thought you knew," he
added, looking down again at Mr. Spokesly.

"Sometime before daylight," muttered that gentleman, getting up. "I'll
go with you, but mind, you got to stand by to row me back whenever I
want you. Understand? No going off with your _matelots_. Nice thing, if
anything should happen and me out o' the ship."

"All right, all right. You don't need to get sore with your own bosun,"
said Plouff. "I can tell you, you might have a worse one. Here's me,
sits all the evening, playin' rummy and one eye on the ship from that
American bar, and all you can do's get sore. What do you think I am, a
bum? If it hadn't been for me havin' my eyes about me in Port Said, them
A-rabs would ha' stove her in against the next ship twenty time. Me
sittin' up half the night makin' fenders. Oh, yes!"

"Come on then. You're as bad as the Old Man when it comes to chewing the
rag. Can you talk French like that?"

"As good as English. Faster. More of it. I know more French words than
English."

"Lord help us." Mr. Spokesly poked the tiller-bar into the rudder and
hung the latter over the stern of the boat, which Plouff had been
hauling along to the gangway. "Now then. Got a lantern? Don't light it.
Bear away."

Instructed by Plouff, Mr. Spokesly steered due east away from the ship
and concealed by it from the eyes on watch on the warships. Then after
half a mile he turned sharply about and Plouff slowed down until the
boat just moved through the water and they were quite lost in the
intense darkness. Plouff said:

"Now we got nothing to be scared of except searchlights. But it's only
Wednesday night they work 'em."

"Why do you get only Frenchmen at this place?" asked Mr. Spokesly.

"Because it's near their hospital and rest-camp. The English are all
down by the Bersina Gardens. So the Frenchies go to talk to the poilus.
French sailors don't have much truck with English sailors, you can bet."

"Well, you wouldn't if you couldn't talk to them either," retorted Mr.
Spokesly. "Now where do we go in?"

"Ship the rudder," said the bosun. "I'll fetch round myself."

They were now in the profound shadows of a short back-water formed by
the corner of the old _café-chantant_ and cinema garden which had been
fashioned out of the romantic dwelling whose earlier history Plouff had
recounted with such relish. The big doors of the water entrance had been
removed and the shed itself partly boarded over. There was no one in
sight, and only a small tin lamp on the wall, but there was an air of
recent occupancy, of human proximity, of frequent appearances, about the
place. A boat was thrust half under the planks, and the door at the back
had a black patch where many hands had polished it in passing through.
Beneath the door shone a crack of bright light. Plouff, shipping his
oars, brought up softly alongside the other boat, and stepped ashore
across the thwarts with the painter in his hand.

"Here we are," he chuckled. "Snug as a bug in a rug. Bring her in under.
Make fast."

The door was opened about six inches and a face with an exceedingly
drooping moustache peered out from beneath the slovenly looking cap of a
French petty officer of marine.

"_Qu'est-ce que c'est?_" he demanded.

"_Comment ça va, mon vieux!_" retorted Plouff, advancing.

"_Mon lieutenant--bon garçon. Oh-h, mon vieux, il faut que je vous dis
que nous avons une grande affaire. Où est la belle Antigone?_"

"_Chez elle_," muttered the other. "_Entrez. Bon soir, Monsieur
Lieutenant._"

Mr. Spokesly walked through into a lofty hallway. A door on the left led
into the darkness of the garden, another on the right opened upon a
large chamber, dimly lighted and bounded by a lattice-work terrace, and
in front ascended one of those imposing staircases which the Latin
inserts into the most insignificant edifices. The room on the right was
simply a rough-and-ready café, with a small bar in the corner set up in
an unfurnished residence. Upstairs was a select gambling hall for
officers only. And practically French officers only. There was only one
reason why English officers, for example, did not visit this place. They
did not know of its existence. It was a club. Madame Antigone was the
caretaker who also managed the canteen on the ground floor, and
encouraged, by her formidable discretion, the maintenance of a small
corner of France in an alien land. Not the France of popular fancy with
_cocottes_ and _cancan_ dancing and much foolish _abandon_, but the
France of the Cercle and the Casino, sober-minded devotees of roulette
and connoisseurs of sound liquor.

Some of the latter was immediately forthcoming. Even Mr. Spokesly, whose
conception of a drink was that of most English and Americans--a
decoction of no ascertainable flavour and with the kick of a vicious
horse--even he appreciated to a small degree the body and generous
vintage of the wine brought to their table by a soldier in hospital
dress. He looked round as he drank. There were men of all ranks of the
land and sea forces, clean-shaven and boyish, ferociously moustached and
obscured by short, truculent beards. They played dominoes or cards,
smoked and sipped, or conversed with the grave gestures which are the
heritage of a thousand emotional years. They were not demonstrative.
Indeed, the French Navy is so undemonstrative one might imagine it
recruited entirely from the Englishmen of modern fiction. There is no
doubt that the nature of their profession has left its mark upon them.
For them is no vision of conquest or gigantic death-grapple with a
modern foe, but rather the careful guarding of a remote and insalubrious
colonial empire. It has made them attentive to fussy details, faithful
to fantastic conceptions of honour, partial to pensioned ease and
married life if one escapes the fevers of Cochin China and Algeria.
Among them Plouff was accepted as a weird variant of undeniable home
stock, a creature who led a double life as Englishman and Frenchman, _un
monstre_, a grotesque emblem of the great _Entente_. They stood about
him as he sat, his head far back on his shoulders, his large red mouth
open beneath the great moustache, telling them the story of his
lieutenant's incredible gallantry. They listened in silence, glancing
deferentially towards Mr. Spokesly from time to time, as though he were
acquiring a singular and heroic virtue in their estimation for his
audacity in fumbling with a woman's destiny. But Mr. Spokesly himself
felt neither heroic nor audacious. He was uneasy. He interrupted the
eloquence of his bosun as soon as he had finished his drink. He had a
picture in his mind of Evanthia waiting somewhere, waiting for him with
her amber eyes smouldering and ready to break out into a torrent of
reproaches for his sluggish obedience. She had achieved that ascendancy
over him. He was conscious of a species of mingled terror and delight in
her personality. He rose.

"What's the matter?" demanded Plouff, astonished.

Mr. Spokesly regarded him with considerable impatience.

"How can I stop here?" he inquired. "You ought to have more sense," and
he walked away towards the garden.

Plouff looked round at his circle of listeners, as though calling them
to witness the strenuous nature of service with the English, and
followed. He found Mr. Spokesly pausing irresolutely by the foot of the
stairs, confronting a large woman with strongly marked brows and a
severe expression who was descending the stairs with the air of a
proprietress.

"Ah, Madame Antigone," said Plouff in hurried French. "This gentleman is
the lieutenant of my ship. He has an assignation with a young lady who
lives in a house near by."

The woman regarded Plouff steadily and shook her head. She was turning
away as though she took no interest whatever in the matter.

"This is not a house of assignation," she said gravely, merely recording
a casual fact.

"Oh, most surely not!" ejaculated the eloquent Plouff. "Madame totally
misunderstands the situation. All that was suggested was that possibly
Madame would permit the young lady to enter the garden. We have a boat,
and here am I to row. Madame, to-morrow we sail; it is the last night
for us. You can understand, Madame?"

Whether Madame understood or not was locked in her own broad, handsome
bosom. She advanced as though Joseph Plouff and Mr. Spokesly had no
corporeal existence, shaking her head and muttering softly that it was
impossible. For a second the defeated bosun stood looking after her.
Impossible? The massive form of Madame Antigone swam forward into the
café and passed out of view. So it was impossible. Plouff became aware
of his chief officer's expression.

"What are we going to do now?" said Mr. Spokesly irritably, going
towards the garden. "Lot of use you are with your Frenchy friends. Let's
get out of this."

"How could I help it?" demanded Plouff, breaking into a trot to keep up
with Mr. Spokesly's anxious stride. "What's the matter, anyway? You
don't understand, Mister. This way, round here. This is the path. Look
out, you might hit your head--very low here under the trees. No, not
yet. Here's the--that's it. Where are you goin' now? To the house?"
Plouff whispered, a little out of breath, for Mr. Spokesly had been
striding along oblivious to everything. What was the matter with the
man? What was it to him if the girl did miss her passage? Ah!----Plouff,
as they came out upon a soft-earth cart-track that led away into the
darkness, had a sort of spasm in his brain. Of course! This was an
_enlèvement_. Ha! What a wooden-headed booby he had been to miss an
obvious thing like that. Ho-ho! Plouff had a wife somewhere in the
world, and as he never under any circumstances remembered to send her
any support, he was romantic in his ideas concerning _enlèvements_. And
mysteriously enough, Plouff became instantaneously more devoted to the
task in hand, in spite of Mr. Spokesly's disgust. That officer realized
he was pressing ahead without any clear notion of his future actions.

"I wonder what Dainopoulos 'ud think if he saw me hanging round," he
mused. "Nobody on the ship, too! Well, here goes." And he whispered to
the attentive Plouff.

"Do you know where the cars are, Bos'?"

"Of course I do. What do you take me for?"

"Go on, then, go on. I'll know the house if I see it."

Plouff was getting excited.

"And she come down with you?" he demanded.

"I don't know yet, man. Wait."

And suddenly they emerged upon the street.

Mr. Spokesly paused in the shadow of the wall enclosing the house they
had left. On either hand extended an obscure and empty street. From that
retired vantage the suburbs of Saloniki were wrapped in a peace as
complete as that of the harbour. A faint hum, as of a distant
trolley-car, came along the wires overhead. Mr. Spokesly reflected
quietly, noting the landmarks, getting his bearings. The Dainopoulos
house was a little farther on, he guessed. As he took a step forward, a
door banged some distance off, and a dog gave a few ringing howls.

"Is it far?" asked Plouff in a tense whisper. Mr. Spokesly looked at
him. He was very much excited, and looked foolish, with his round eyes
and extraordinarily pretentious moustache.

"No, I don't think it is," said Mr. Spokesly. "I got an idea it's just
along on the other side." And then, as they moved up the road and the
view changed somewhat, opening out on a familiar clump of trees, he
added, "Yes, it's just along here," and mended his pace.

And he advanced upon the place where he believed Evanthia to be waiting
for him, in a mood of mingled fear and pleasure. Perhaps there was shame
in it, too, for he almost felt himself blush when he thought of himself
sitting there on the _Kalkis_ waiting. And but for an accident--Plouff
was the accident--he might have been waiting there still. He grew hot.
He saw that his long habitude of regarding women as purchasable adjuncts
to a secular convenience had corrupted his perception of character. Why
had he not seen immediately that she would expect him to carry out the
whole enterprise? Where had his wits been, when the amber eyes
smouldered and broke into a lambent flame that seemed to play all round
his heart? That was her way. She never supplicated, evoking a benign
pity for her pathetic and regretted womanhood. Nor did she storm and
rail, getting what she desired as the price of repose. She simply
accepted the responsibility with a flickering revelation of her soul in
one glance from those amber eyes. And left him to divine the purpose in
her heart. He thought of all this in the few moments as he moved up to
the house with the active and enthusiastic Plouff at his heels like a
shadow. And he wondered if she would keep him waiting. That, at any
rate, was not one of her faults.

There was no light in the front of the house. That was not promising. He
crossed over and took an oblique view of the windows behind the trees of
the garden. And she was there. He saw a shadow on the ceiling, a shadow
that moved and halted, with leisurely deliberation. He walked to the
gate and tried it. It was shut.

"Listen Bos'," he said, holding that person's shoulder in a firm grip.
"You've got to give me a leg over. Then--listen now--go back and get the
boat out, and lay off the end of the garden. Savvy?"

"Yes. Now, up you go," said Plouff. "What do you want to hold me like
that for? Over?"

There was no need for the question or for a reply. Mr. Spokesly,
assisted by an energetic heave from Plouff, flew over the gate and came
down easily on the flags below. He heard Plouff depart hastily, and went
round into the garden to discover what he might have to do. It was easy
to push along the path and look up at the lighted window. She was there.
He could see her arms above her head busy with her hair. While he stood
there she took a large hat from her head and presently replaced it by a
black toque with a single darting cock's feather athwart it. Once he saw
her face, stern and rigid with anxiety over the choice of a hat. And he
saw, when he flung a small piece of earth gently against the window, the
arms stop dead in their movements and remain there while she listened.
Again he flung a piece of earth, a soft fragment that burst silently as
it struck the glass, and the light went out.

Mr. Spokesly bethought him of the gate over which he had come and he
made his way back to see if it could be opened from within. It could,
and he opened it. And then, just as he was preparing for a secret and
stealthy departure, bracing his spirit for the adventure of an
_enlèvement_, the door behind him opened and shut with some noise, and
Evanthia Solaris, buttoning a glove, stood before him, a slender black
phantom in the darkness.

He was dumfounded for a moment, until the full significance of her
action was borne in upon him. She had surrendered her destiny to his
hands after all. It was with him that she was willing to venture forth
into unknown perils. What a girl! He experienced an accession of
spiritual energy as he advanced hurriedly in the transparent obscurity
of the garden. She did not move as he touched her save to continue
buttoning a glove.

"Ready?" he whispered.

She gave him an enigmatic glance from behind the veil she was wearing
and thrust her body slightly against his with a gesture at once delicate
and eloquent of a subtle mood. She was aware that this man, come up out
of the sea like some fabled monster of old, to do her bidding, was the
victim of her extraordinary personality; yet she never forgot that his
admiration, his love, his devotion, his skill, and his endurance were no
more than her rightful claim. Incomparably equipped for a war with fate,
she regarded men always as the legionaries of her enemy. And that
gesture of hers, which thrilled him as a signal of surrender, was a
token of her indomitable confidence and pride.

"For anything," she said, smiling behind her veil. "What have you done?"

"I've got a boat," he whispered. "It's all ready. Where are they?" He
pointed to the house.

"Asleep," she said, pulling the gate open.

"Don't make so much noise," he begged. She stopped and turned on him.

"I can go out if I like," she said calmly. "You think I am a slave
here?"

"Oh, no, no. You don't understand...." he began.

"I understand you think I am afraid of these people. Phtt! Where is the
carriage?"

"It's only a little way. You can't get boats down at the landings. Just
a little way."

"All right." She pulled the gate to and the latch clicked. And then she
put her gloved hand lightly on his arm, trusting her fate to him, and
they walked down the road in the darkness.

"Have you got everything?" he asked timidly.

She did not reply at once. She was looking steadily ahead, thinking in a
rapt way of the future, which was full of immense possibilities, and
which she was prepared to meet with a dynamic courage peculiarly her
own. And at that moment, though her hand lay on the arm of this man who
was to take her away, she was like a woman walking alone in the midst of
perils and enemies, towards a shining destiny, her delicate body
sheathed in the supple and impenetrable armour of an inherited
fortitude. She smiled.

"Everything," she murmured in French. "Have I not thee?" And she added,
so that his face cleared of doubt and he, too, smiled proudly: "Ah, yes.
What do we need, if we have each other?" He strained her suddenly to him
and she stood there looking up at him with her bright, fearless, amber
eyes smiling. She said:

"The boat?"

They reached the corner and for an instant the dark unfamiliarity of the
lane daunted her.

"Down here, dear," he said, holding her close. "I have a man I can trust
in the boat. He's waiting."

They advanced silently, turning the corners of the lane and stooping
beneath the boughs of the sycamores. Her faint adumbration of doubt
inspired in him an emotion of fiery protectiveness. For a moment, while
they were among the trees in the garden, they halted and stood close
together. The door swung open, letting out a long shaft of yellow light
for an instant, showing up in sharp silhouette a chair, a table, some
garbage, and a startled cat. And closed again with a bang and a rattle
that mingled with the steps of someone going off up the lane.

"What is this place?" she whispered, looking up into the sky for the
outline of the roof. "Ah, yes!" she said, noting the bulging cupola on
the tower. "I see."

"You know about this place?" he asked as they reached the low parapet at
the bottom of the garden. She pressed his arm in assent. She did. Women
always know those facts of local history. Evanthia recalled, looking out
over the obscure and shadowy waters of the Gulf, the tale of that old
votary of pleasure. Men were like that. Behind her infatuation for the
gay young person supposed to be in Athens, she cherished a profound
animosity towards men. She stood there, a man's arm flung tensely about
her, another man cautiously working the boat in beneath where she stood,
the blood and tissues of her body nourished by the exertions of other
men, meditating intently upon the swinish proclivities of men. She even
trembled slightly at the thought of those proclivities, and the man
beside her held her more closely and soothed her with a gentle caress
because he imagined she was the victim of a woman's timidity.

"It's all right, dear," he murmured. "Now I'll get down." He stooped and
cautiously lowered himself into the boat, which rose and fell in a
gentle rhythm against the sea-wall. And for a moment Evanthia had a
slight vertigo of terror. She found herself suddenly alone. That arm--it
had sustained her. She looked down and descried Mr. Spokesly standing
with his arms extended towards her.

"Quick, dear! Now!" His face showed a white plaque in the darkness; face
and hands as though floating up and down below her disembodied, and the
faint tense whisper coming up mysteriously. She felt the rough coping
with her fingers and leaned over towards the face.

"Hold me!" she breathed, and swung herself over. She felt his hands grip
firmly and closing her eyes, she leaned backward into the void, and let
go.

"Now push off, Bos'," said Mr. Spokesly, holding her in his arms. "We're
away." He set her down and took the tiller. "Easy now, Bos'," he added,
breathing hard.

Plouff, his eyes protruding with decorous curiosity, pulled out and
began to row cautiously into the darkness. It was done. She sat on a
thwart, her gloved hands folded in her lap, demure, collected,
intoxicating. It was done.

"All right now?" he whispered exultingly. She looked at him, an
enigmatic smile on her veiled face, and touched his knee. His tone was
triumphant. He imagined he was doing all this, and she continued to
smile.

"Ah, yes!" she breathed. "Always all right, with you."

He pressed her hand to his lips. She let him do this.

"The ship?" she said gently.

"Soon," he said. "We must be careful. Tired?"

"A little. Where is the ship?"

"That is her light. We go this way--keep out of sight."

"How long?"

"Soon, soon."

She became trustful as they turned and made for the ship. Plouff,
stifling his desire to proclaim his incomparable efficiency, brought up
imperceptibly against the grating and, stepping out, crept intelligently
up the ladder to make sure of the watchman. That person was, as Plouff
expected, drowsing comfortably over the galley fire. He tiptoed to the
bulwarks and whispered:

"Come up. All clear!"

Mr. Spokesly drew Evanthia upon the gangway and guided her steps upward.
Plouff stood at the top, his head thrust forward and his hand gripping
the bulwark as though about to fling himself upon them. His globular
eyes and glossy curling moustache made him look like some furtive and
predatory animal. He slipped down the gangway, got into the boat, and
pushed off. Plouff was off to have a night free from responsibility. His
chief officer was on board. _Sacré!_ His chief officer had _joli goût_.
And he, Plouff, had his eyes about him. And his wits. There was
something behind this. So, not a word!

And the two passengers, whom he had transported so neatly and without
arousing either the watchman or the suspicious picket-boats, went into
the cabin and, after closing the door, Mr. Spokesly lit the swinging
lamp. Evanthia looked about her.

"A ship," she said absently, revolving the novel idea in her mind.

"You must go to bed," said he gravely. "And you must stay down in there
until I tell you it is all clear. Do you understand?"

"Yes, I understand."

"I'll show you," he said, and he carefully piloted her down the
companion. She leaned forward daintily to peer as he lit her lamp.

"It's the best I could do," he whispered.

"Beautiful. Tck!" she saw her clothes in the drawer he opened and patted
his arm. She regarded him curiously, as though seeing him in a fresh
light. "You are very good to me."

"Easy to be that," he muttered, holding her and breathing heavily.
"Good-night!"

He closed the door and strode away to the companion, and he was about to
mount when a thought struck him. She must keep her door locked, in case
somebody came down. He walked back.

And as he put out his hand to open the door again to tell her this, he
heard the key grind in the lock.

He paused, and then went away up, and very thoughtful, turned in.



CHAPTER XIII


From his conspicuous post on the forecastle Mr. Spokesly watched the
elderly lieutenant--his old friend whom he had met at Floka's--descend
the ladder into his launch. The ship was already moving, the anchor was
awash, and the elderly lieutenant wavered somewhat as he put out his
hands to grasp the rail running along the cabin of his launch. It was
evening, and he was, Mr. Spokesly could see, adequately full. Indeed, he
had been reinforced by more than one whiskey and soda before he had
arrived with the captain's sailing orders. And Captain Rannie, who was
watching him as though hoping he might by some fortunate turn of fate
slip into the water and vanish for ever, had placed a bottle of whiskey
and a syphon at his elbow in the cabin and permitted him to help
himself. The old fellow had been very full of a triumph he had achieved
over the authorities. He had been transferred to the Transport Office,
where it was evident they needed an experienced ship's officer to keep a
general eye upon things. All very well, these naval people, in their
way--here he filled his glass again--but what did they know about _our_
work? Nothing! The soda shot into the glass, cascading all over the
table. He drank. Incredible, absolutely incredible what queer things
these people thought up. Told him to run round and round the White Tower
for the duration of the war! Him! An experienced officer! Nice thing
that, now! He drank again and refilled his glass. But he had been
transferred....

Captain Rannie sat out this sort of thing for over half an hour and then
went up on the bridge and pulled the whistle lanyard. The _Kalkis_
uttered a yelp, followed by a gargling cry ending in a portentous
hiccough. Mr. Spokesly remarked:

"They are signalling to heave up, sir."

"Then heave up," Captain Rannie had snapped, and had run down again. He
found the elderly lieutenant smiling and refilling his glass. He did not
see the expression of impatience on the captain's features as he
entered.

"Anchor's coming up," the captain said in a distinct tone. "Steward,
take the glasses." He gathered up the papers, muttering, and went down
to his room. This sudden cessation of hospitality penetrated the old
lieutenant's consciousness. He rose up and went out to the gangway, and
it was there Mr. Spokesly saw him. It could not have been better, the
chief officer remarked to himself. The old souse had turned up most
providentially. The long-nosed quarrelsome creature who usually came out
to the transports, and who always found out everything that was going
on, was sick in the hospital out on the Monastir Road. The vessel
gathered speed. They were away.

And Captain Rannie, who now appeared on the little bridge in company
with a yellow-haired man at the wheel, was in a mood in which a much
larger bridge would have been a comfort to him. The binnacle interrupted
his headlong march from side to side, his head down, his hands in his
trouser pockets. He would swing round suddenly and plunge across as
though he had a broad thoroughfare ahead of him. At the binnacle he had
to turn a little and edge past it before he could take three more
strides and bring up against the end. Mr. Spokesly, who was finishing up
on the forecastle, noted his Commander's movements and asked himself the
cause of the agitation.

For Captain Rannie was agitated beyond his customary disapproval of
mankind. He had had a long conference with his employer that morning
before coming on board. They might not see each other again for some
time, it was understood. The interview had taken place in the little
office in the Rue Voulgaróktono, off the Place de la Liberté, and the
usual crowds had thronged the street while they talked. Mr. Dainopoulos
had gone on with his business, rising continually to change money, and
once he went away for half an hour to look at some rugs. Captain Rannie
had remained coiled up on his chair, smoking cigarette after cigarette,
listening to his owner's remarks, his eyes wandering as though in search
of some clue.

"You understand," Mr. Dainopoulos had said in the course of this
conversation, "I'm doing this for my wife. My wife likes this young lady
very much. Another thing, the young lady's mother, she's married again.
Man with plenty of money. I do his business for him here."

Captain Rannie looked hard at a crack in the linoleum near his foot.

"I'm sure it doesn't make the slightest difference to me. I know nothing
about it, nothing at all. My chief officer was going to say something to
me this morning and I shut him up at once. I knew perfectly well from
the very first there was something like this in the wind and I made up
my mind to have nothing at all to do with it. As master of the vessel
it's impossible ... you can quite understand ... eh?"

"That's all right," replied Mr. Dainopoulos, looking at his open palm.
"No passport. Once you get outside, no matter. The young lady, she give
me a paper. She loves my wife. She gives everything she may have to my
wife."

"Which isn't much, according to what you told me before. You grumbled to
me, and said in so many words she cost you a lot of money to keep for a
companion to your wife."

Mr. Dainopoulos stared hard at his captain's sneering face.

"That was before her mother got married again. Miss Solaris, she tell me
her mother want somebody to look after the farms, by and by."

"I don't want to hear anything about it," burst out Captain Rannie,
turning round in his chair so that he could hear better.

"And she say, she say," went on Mr. Dainopoulos steadily, "her mother
perhaps, you understand, some women have one, two, three, four husband,
you see? Well, her mother want a good man of business. So Miss Solaris
she sign a paper for me. She give everything to my wife."

"Everything! Which is nothing, I've no doubt."

"Ah-h! Not nothing. I sell his tobacco now, and it's not nothing, I can
tell you. No! By and by, Miss Solaris, now her mother marry again, will
be rich. But she's crazy about that feller I told you she had here."

"I don't remember anything about it. I make it a rule to have nothing to
do with passengers. I expect no less," announced Captain Rannie, alert
to hear every word.

"Well, if a woman wants a man, she gets him," observed Mr. Dainopoulos
gravely.

"That's true, I admit," was the unexpected reply.

"And you know well enough she'll find young Lietherthal easy if she
wants him. Me, I think she'll stay round with _him_." And Mr.
Dainopoulos jerked his finger in the direction of the _Kalkis_.

Captain Rannie suddenly reversed himself on his chair and changed legs,
uttering a sound like a snort.

"Yes," said Mr. Dainopoulos. "My wife she thinks maybe he marry her."

Captain Rannie moved his foot up and down and smiled unpleasantly.

"No hope of that," he muttered.

"Yes!" repeated Mr. Dainopoulos, jumping up to change a five-pound note
into excellent Greek drachmas. "Yes! If she wants him to do it, it will
be easy enough. You don't know her."

Captain Rannie was heard to say in a low, hurried tone that he didn't
want to.

Mr. Dainopoulos grinned, which did not improve his appearance. He waved
his fingers at his captain with a gesture indicating his jocular
conviction that he did not believe it.

"If I was single ..." he began, and ended with a loud "H--m!" and smiled
again.

Captain Rannie flushed dark red with annoyance. It was one of the
scourges of his existence that he had to let men imagine he was a
terrible fellow with women. _He!_ And he loathed them. He would strangle
every one of them if he had the power. Blood-sucking harpies! As he
walked the bridge now, keeping a sharp eye upon the buoys of the nets
which were coming into view, he recalled the shameful way his generosity
had been played upon by those women of his own family. Daughters leagued
with mother and aunt against him! But he had paid them out, hadn't he?
Ha-ha! He savoured again, but with a faint flavour of decay, that
often-imagined scene when they realized at last that he was gone and
gone for good. That was the way to treat them. No nonsense. As for this
passenger in the chief officer's cabin, he hadn't seen her, and he hoped
she'd fall overboard in the night, and a good riddance. Good heavens!
Hadn't the master of a ship enough responsibility on a trip like this
without loading him down with a creature like that? In any case, she
must remain in her cabin. Under no circumstances could he permit her on
deck. To be meeting her on the stairs or promenading--the very thought
made him feel faint.

Another thing Mr. Dainopoulos had said:

"A very good thing for him, too. He would make a lot of money--here."
Captain Rannie didn't believe it. He had arrived at a complete and
horrifying conviction that Europe was collapsing of its own weight, that
the only hope for anybody was to do as he himself was doing--sending all
his money to the Anglo Celestial Bank in Hong-Kong to be exchanged for
silver dollars. That was the place--China. Down the far reaches of
memory he saw the great River, smooth and shining, stretching away from
the long quays of the port. No storms, no pitching or rolling, no rocks,
no finding of one's position. And when he stepped ashore in spotless
yellow pongee silk suit and great sun-helmet, he was somebody. Here, in
Europe, he was nobody. Out there once more, with plenty of hashish, he
could face the future.

He had said:

"She must land on arrival."

"You tell her," said Mr. Dainopoulos, "when you arrive. Put her ashore.
He'll take her. You will find plenty of friends, on arrival."

Captain Rannie received this information without ecstasy. He did not go
sailing about the world in search of friends. He was very worried. Mr.
Dainopoulos favoured him with another grin.

"Why not take her ashore yourself?"

Captain Rannie shrank as if from a blow.

"You're the captain," added Mr. Dainopoulos.

Captain Rannie turned on his chair, his shoulder hunched, as though to
ward off an impending calamity.

"Why, I thought you liked a little fun," said Mr. Dainopoulos,
surprised.

"Don't speak of it," said Captain Rannie in a stifled voice. "I make a
point of never interfering. Never allude.... Purely personal...."

"Well," said his owner, in some perplexity, "please yourself. I daresay
you understand what I mean. You'll have a good bit of time, you know, on
arrival. You won't have coal, you know, to go very far...."

He had made no reply to this, remaining hunched up on his chair, staring
fixedly at the floor. Mr. Dainopoulos had stood up, looking at him for a
while.

"You can do it?" he had asked softly. "Remember, the papers you carry
will mean big money if you get through."

Still no answer.

"It is easy," went on Mr. Dainopoulos. "You do not change your course,
that is all. Keep on. East-southeast."

Captain Rannie was perfectly well aware of all this, but he lacked the
superficial fortitude to discuss it. He kept his head averted while his
employer was speaking, his long wrist with the slave-bangle hanging over
his knee. Change his course! That phrase had two meanings, by Jove! And
his course was east to China, as soon as he could collect. He could do
it. Talking about it to a man who was making fifty times, a hundred
times, more than himself, was horrible to him.

He had got up suddenly and put on his hat, harassed lest this sort of
thing should bring bad luck, for he was superstitious. At the back of
his mind lay an uneasy fear lest that girl business should spoil
everything. Who could foresee the dangers of having a woman on the ship?
His ship! He, who could not bear to go near them at all, who treated
even elderly creatures with brusque discourtesy! It would bring bad
luck.

And now at last he was slipping through the nets, bound out upon a
voyage of almost dismaying possibilities. It was a voyage of no more
than thirty-six hours. Captain Rannie shivered and stood suddenly stock
still by the binnacle as he thought of what was to transpire in those
thirty-six hours. Could he do it? He was beginning to doubt if he could.
He said to the helmsman:

"Keep her south and three points east," and went into the little chart
room.

The Ægean Sea is a sea only in name. It could be more accurately
described as a land-locked archipelago. Emerging from any of the gulfs
of the mainland, gulfs which are nearly always narrow and reëntrant
angles with walls of barren and desolate promontories, one can proceed
no more than a few hours' steaming on any course without raising yet
more promontories and the hulls of innumerable islands. Closed to the
southward by the long bulk of Crete lying squarely east and west like a
breakwater, it presents its own individual problems to the navigator,
the politician, and the naval commander. The last named, indeed, was
finding it anything but a joke. The very configuration of the coastline,
which rendered a sally from the Dardanelles a feat of extraordinary
folly and temerity, made it a unique hiding place for the small craft
who slipped out of Volo and emerged from the Trikari Channel after dark.
Submarines, coming round from Pola, could run into rocky inlets in the
evening and would find immense stocks of oil, in cans, cached under
savage rocks up the ravines of almost uninhabited islets of ravishing
beauty. Gentlemen in Athens, in a hurry to reach Constantinople, took
aëroplanes; but there was another way, across the Ægean Sea, in small
sailing ships which were frequently blown out of their course at night
and would take refuge in Kaloni, whence it was easy to reach the
mainland of Asia Minor. And this business--for it was a business--was so
profitable, and the ships of war so few in proportion to the area, that
it went on gaily enough "under our noses" as one person said in disgust.
Not quite that; but the problem did not grow any simpler when there was
yet another neutral government--with ships--at Saloniki, a government
that might be almost hysterically sympathetic to the cause of freedom
and justice but which might also be imposed upon by conscienceless and
unscrupulous merchants already in collusion with other unscrupulous
people in Constantinople. This was the situation when the _Kalkis_
turned the great headland of Karaburun and headed south-southeast on the
journey from which she never returned. Captain Rannie, staring at the
chart on which he had pencilled the greater part of her course,
southeast from Cape Kassandra, bearing away from the great three-pronged
extremity of the Chalcidice peninsula, was aware that she would not
return, but he found himself flinching from the inevitable moment,
drawing nearer and nearer when he must face success or failure. When he
asked himself, echoing Mr. Dainopoulos, could he do it? He was not sure
that he could.

From this reverie he was roused by Mr. Spokesly appearing on the bridge.
For a moment he was almost betrayed into a feeling of relief at the
approach of a companion. He opened his mouth to speak and Mr. Spokesly,
standing by the door, stopped to listen. But nothing came. Captain
Rannie knew the secret power of always letting the other man do the
talking on a ship. He said nothing. He crushed down the sudden craving
to confide in Mr. Spokesly. He wanted--just for a moment--to call him
in, shut the door, and whisper, with his hand on Mr. Spokesly's
shoulder, "My boy, we are not going to Phyros at all. We are going
to...."

No, he stopped in time. Why, he might stop the engines, blow the
whistle, run the ship ashore! He stepped out beside Mr. Spokesly who was
looking down at the compass, and wrote some figures on the slate that
hung in view of the helmsman.

"That's the course."

"All right, sir."

"Call me at midnight if necessary. I'll relieve you at two o'clock. Time
enough to change the course then."

"All right, sir."

Captain Rannie gave a rapid glance round at the diverging shores as they
opened out into the Gulf, and turned away abruptly. Mr. Spokesly heard
him descending, heard him unlock his door with a series of complicated
clicks and rattles, heard him slam and relock it, and finally the
vigorous jingle of curtain rings as he drew the curtain across.

Mr. Spokesly struck a match and lit the binnacle lamp, a tiny affair
which shone inward upon the vibrating surface of the card. He did not
attempt to walk up and down. His moods never demanded that of him.
Perhaps it would be better to say his nature did not demand it. He was
feeling much better than he had been all day. He had been nervous about
Evanthia's safety in that room. Had had to make some bullying remarks to
the steward about trying to get in where he had no business. To the
puzzled creature's stammering explanations he had replied with more
bullying: "Keep out. Don't come down here at all until I say you can."
The steward had come to the conclusion that in addition to a crazy
skipper whose room smelt of hashish and florida water, they now had a
crazy mate who had something in his room he was ashamed of.

And yet Mr. Spokesly need have had no fear. Evanthia lay in her bunk all
day. She knew perfectly well that she must remain within that room as
one dead until the ship got outside. So she lay there, her eyes half
closed, listening to the sounds of men and machinery, the sunlight
screened by the yellow curtain tacked over the little round window, hour
after hour all day, with a stoicism that had in it something oriental.
It was about an hour past noon when there had come a smart thump on the
door. She had got out and listened and the sharp whisper outside had
reassured her. And when she had slipped the bolt and opened the door a
few inches, Mr. Spokesly had thrust a glass of wine and a tin box of
biscuits upon the wash-stand and pulled the door shut. And she had got
back into the bunk and lay munching, and smiling, and sometimes kissing
the emerald ring on her finger, the ring which was sailing out once more
into the darkness. And as the day wore on, she peeped out and saw the
tug go away with its empty lighter, heard the ominous thutter and thump
of a gasolene launch under her, and heard the arrival of strangers who
entered the cabin overhead. And then the clink of a glass.

Her reflections, as she lay in that bunk, her eyes half closed, were of
that primitive yet sagacious order which it seems impossible to transfer
to any authentic record. Her contact with reality was so immediate and
instinctive that to a modern and sophisticated masculine intellect like
Mr. Spokesly, or Mr. Dainopoulos even, she appeared crafty and deep. As
when she locked the door. She had not imagined Mr. Spokesly returning.
The whole complex network of emotions which he had predicated in her,
modesty, fear, panic, and coquetry, had not even entered her head. She
had formidable weapons, and behind these she remained busy with her own
affairs. So, too, when she had given everything she might possibly
inherit to her benefactress, she saw instantly the immediate and future
advantages of such a course. She could always come back, when the
detestable French had gone away home, and live with her friend again.
She knew that old Boris better than he knew himself. She knew that he
would do anything for his wife. Also she knew him for one of those men
who stood highest in her own esteem--men who made money. For men who did
not make money, who were preoccupied mainly with women, or books, or
even politics, she had no use. She did not like Mr. Dainopoulos
personally because he saw through her chief weakness, which was a
species of theatricality. She had a trick of imagining herself one of
the heroines of the cinemas she had seen; and this, since she could not
read and was unable to correct her sharp visual impressions by the great
traditions of art, appeared to be no more than a feminine whim. It was
more than that. It was herself she was expressing at these moments of
mummery. She had those emotions which are most easily depicted by
grandiose gestures and sudden animal movements. It was her language, the
language in which she could think with ease and celerity, compared with
which the coördinated sounds which were called words were no more to her
than the metal tokens called money. So there was nothing extraordinary
in her quick grasp of the situation which demanded a mouse-like
seclusion for a while. She lay still, even when footsteps clattering
down the ladder were obliterated by the spluttering whoop of the
whistle. And then came a novel and all-embracing sense of change, a
mysterious and minute vibration which becomes apparent to a person
situated well forward in a vessel beginning to move under her own power.
Ah! the _machine à vapeur_, the _vapore_, the fire, the agitation
behind. For perhaps a single second her quick flame-like mind played
about the incomprehensible enigmas of mechanism. She, for whom unknown
men in distant countries were to scheme and toil, that they might send
her yachts and automobiles, music-machines and costly fabrics, jewels
and intricate contrivances for her comfort and pleasure, had the
conceptions of a domestic animal concerning the origins of their
virtues. For her the effortless flight of a high-powered car ascending a
mountain road was as natural and spontaneous as the vulture hanging
motionless above her or the leaf flying before her in an autumn wind.
Her gracile mentality made no distinction in these things, and the
problems of cost never tarnished the shining mirror of her content. Upon
her had never intruded those mean and unlovely preoccupations which
distract the victim of western civilization from the elementary joys and
sorrows. She had always been fed and cared for and she had no shadow of
doubt upon her mind that nourishment and care would ever cease. Her
notion of evil was clear and sharp. It implied, not vague economic
forces, but individual personalities whom she called enemies. Any one
announcing himself as an enemy would be met in a primitive way. She
would back into a corner, spitting and biting. If she had a weapon, and
she always had, she would use it with cool precision. She lay in her
bunk now without a care in the world because she possessed the power of
animating men to bear those cares for her. She could inspire passion and
she could evoke admiration and remorse.

She saw the sun going down, saw him disappear as into a glowing brazier
among the mountains, and the coming of darkness. Evanthia hated
darkness. One of the whims she indulged in later days was the craving
for a shadowless blaze of light. She moved in her bed place and turning
on her elbow stared at the door, listening. Someone came down the
stairs. A door was unlocked, slammed, and locked again. She became
rigid. Her eyes glowed. Who was that? She got up and sought for matches
to light the lamp. But she had left it burning the night before and the
oil was exhausted. And her watch had stopped. She put on her black dress
and did her hair as well as she could before the dark reflection in the
mirror. She had very little of that self-consciousness which reveals
itself in a fanatical absorption in minute attentions to one's
appearance. She was, so to speak, always cleared for action, for love or
war. She twisted her dark tresses in a knot, thrust a great
tortoise-shell comb into them, unlocked the door and went out.

It was thus she came up the stairs into the lighted saloon and
encountered the steward, who was laying the table for supper. He was
leaning over the table setting out knives and forks. He looked over his
shoulder and saw a face of extraordinary loveliness and pallor, with
dark purple rings under the amber eyes, coming up out of the gloom of
the stairway. He dropped the things in his hands with a clatter and
whirled round upon her, his jaw hanging, his hands clutching the table.

"Sh-h!" she said, coming up into the room and advancing upon him with
her finger to her lips. "Who are you?" she added in Greek.

He was about to answer that he was the steward, in spite of the obvious
injustice of such a query, when the outer door leading to the deck was
opened and the young man named Amos appeared with a tray of dishes. He
stepped into the little pantry to set down his burden and then made a
profound obeisance.

"Tch!" said the lady, "Who is this?"

"The pantryman, Madama."

"Tell him to fill my lamp with oil."

"Your lamp, Madama?" quavered the steward. "Is Madama in the Captain's
room? I have not been told."

Evanthia beckoned Amos and pointed down the stairs. "The room on the
right," she said. "Fill the lamp with oil and light it. Make the bed.
Go!"

She watched him descend.

"Now," she said to the steward, "is this the way you attend to
passengers? Bring me some meat. I am starving."

"Yes, yes! In a moment, Madama." He hurried to and fro, twisting the end
seat for her to take it, dashing into his pantry and bringing out
dishes, a cruet, a napkin. Evanthia seated herself and began to devour a
piece of bread. She watched the steward as he moved to and fro.

"Where is the captain?" she asked.

"In his room, Madama. He has eaten and now he sleeps till midnight."

"And the officer?"

"He is on the bridge, Madama."

"Who eats here?"

"The officer and the engineer."

"Is the Engineer English?"

"Maltese, Madama."

The man spoke in low, respectful tones, his eyes flickering up and down
as he sought to scan her features. This was most marvellous, he was
thinking. The new chief officer brings a woman, a ravishing creature, on
board in secret. This explains the abuse of the morning. What would the
captain say? He must tell Plouff. He had mentioned to Plouff the
singular behaviour of the chief officer when he, the steward, had
attempted to enter that gentleman's cabin. Plouff had laughed and pushed
him out of the road. It was time to call Plouff to relieve the chief
officer. He hurried to the galley to fetch the stew. He lifted the
canvas flap which screened the lights from a seaward view and found
Plouff seated in a corner talking to the cook.

"Hi, Jo," he whispered, "Madama on sheep! Madama on sheep! Yes."

"What's the matter with you?" demanded Plouff disdainfully. "What are
you makin' that funny face for?"

"She come oop," went on the steward with much dramatic illustration. "I
look, see Madama. You savvy? Very nice. Very beautiful."

"Has she come out?" asked Plouff with interest.

"Yaas. She come oop."

"I'll go up and tell the mate," said Plouff. "You savvy, Nicholas,
plenty mon' if you look after her. Fix her up. The mate, you savvy?" and
Mr. Plouff rubbed the sides of his two forefingers together, to indicate
the tender relations existing between Mr. Spokesly and the lady.

"Oh, yaas, I savvy all right, Jo." The steward writhed in his impotence
to express the completeness of his comprehension, and hurried away.

Mr. Spokesly listened in silence to the news.

"I'll go down," he said. "If you see a light of any sort, stamp on the
deck."

"Well, I should think so. I ain't likely to stand on my head, am I?"
said Plouff, peeping at the compass.

Mr. Spokesly went down without replying to this brilliant sally. He
stood for a moment looking over the rail at the sullen end of the
sunset, a smudge of dusky orange smeared with bands of black and bronze,
and wondered what the night would bring for them all. The little ship
was moving slowly through a calm sea that shone like polished black
marble in the sombre light from the west. Ahead, the sky and sea merged
indistinguishably in the darkness. No light showed on the ship. She
moved, a shadow among shadows, with no more than a faint hissing rumble
from her engines. Mr. Spokesly moved aft, inspired by a wish to see for
himself if all the scuttles were screened. He found the engineer smoking
near the engine hatch.

"All dark?" he said, pausing.

"Everything's all right here, Mister Mate," said the man, a quiet
creature with an unexpected desire to give every satisfaction. Mr.
Spokesly was puzzled to account for the captain's dislike of Mr. Cassar.

"Why don't you go and eat?" asked Mr. Spokesly.

"The steward, he tell me there's a lady in the cabin, Mister Mate, so I
t'ink I'll wait till she feenish."

"You don't need to," was the steady answer.

"Yes, I wait till she feenish, all the same."

"Very well. Mind they keep the canvas over the hatch. It shows a long
way across a smooth sea, you know."

"I watch 'em, Mister Mate."

And Mr. Spokesly went forward again. In spite of the gravity of their
position, without guns or escort, he felt satisfied with himself. He
passed once more by the rail before going in. In his present mood, he
was mildly concerned that Evanthia should have found it necessary to
"turn the key in his face." He didn't intend to do things that way. It
would be pretty cheap taking an advantage like that. Was it likely he
would run all this risk for her, if that was all he thought of her? He
was painfully correct and logical in his thoughts. Well, she would learn
he was not like that. He would treat her decently, and when they reached
Piræus, he would carry out her wishes to the letter. He could not help
worrying about the day or two they would remain in Phyros. She would
have to keep out of sight.... He opened the cabin door and went in. He
had a strange sensation of walking into some place and giving himself
up, only to find that he had forgotten what he had done. A strange
notion!

She looked up and regarded him with critical approval. She had finished
eating and sat with her chin in her hands. The swinging lamp shed a
flood of mellow light upon her, and her arms, bare to the elbow, gleamed
like new ivory below the shadowy pallor of her face. And as he sat down
at the other end of the table, facing her, he had another strange
notion, or rather a fresh unfolding of the same, that at last they met
on equal ground, face to face, measured in a mysterious and mystical
antagonism. She lifted her chin, a movement of symbolical significance,
and met his gaze with wide-open challenging amber eyes.

And when he went up on the bridge half an hour later, she expressed a
charming and sudden desire to see the things he did there, and the
mystery of the night.

"You'll be cold," he muttered, thinking of the night air. He led her
carefully up the little ladder, and she shivered.

"Bos'," said Mr. Spokesly in a low tone. "Have you got an overcoat?"

"Of course I have. What do you think I am?" demanded the rather tired
Plouff.

"You wouldn't if you had had to jump into the water as I did," said Mr.
Spokesly patiently. "I want you to bring it up here for this lady."

"Of course I will. Why didn't you say so?"

"You can sit here," said the chief officer. There was a seat at each end
of the bridge screened by a small teak house with glass windows, and he
pushed Evanthia gently into the starboard one. "And now put this on," he
added when Plouff appeared holding out an enormous mass of heavy blue
cloth.

And into that dark corner she vanished, so obliterated by the coat that
only by leaning close to her could Mr. Spokesly discern the gleam of her
forehead and eyes. But when he had seen that she was comfortable, he
took himself to the centre of the bridge and stood there looking out
over the dodger and thinking of the question she had put to him in the
cabin. By and by, she had retorted upon his avowal of independence, he
would go back to his sweetheart, his fiancée, in England, and what would
Evanthia do then? That was the question. He stared into the darkness and
sought some kind of an answer to it. It cut to the very quick of his
emotion for her--that extraordinary sentiment which can exist in a man's
heart without impairing in any way his authentic fidelities. He wanted
to make her see this, and he could not find words adequate to express
the subtle perversity of the thought. He had a sudden fancy she was
laughing at him and his clumsy attempts to justify his devotion. He
turned and walked over to her and bent down. He could see the bright
eyes over the immense collar of the coat.

"England is a long way away," he whispered. "I mean, very distant.
Perhaps I shall never get back. And nobody writes to me. No letters. So,
while I am here, you understand?"

He remained bent over her, his head lost in the darkness of the little
recess, waiting for a reply which did not come. And he thought, going
away to the binnacle again:

"She is right. Nobody can excuse themselves in a case like this. The
only way is to say nothing at all."

He did not go near her for a long while. Then an idea came to him, so
simple he wondered he had not thought of it before. He was not making
the most of the situation. He glanced back at the helmsman. He was far
back, behind the steering wheel, and the faint glow of the binnacle lamp
was screened by a canvas hood. Mr. Spokesly bent over the girl again.

"You do not believe me?" he muttered. "You think I am not sincere? You
think I would leave you?"

He leaned closer, watching her bright deriding eyes, and she nodded.

"Ah yes," she sighed. "By and by you would go."

"You think because other men do that ... you think...?"

She nodded emphatically.

"... all men alike?" he finished lamely.

"They are!" she said quickly and laid her head against his shoulder for
a moment with a faint chuckle of laughter.

"All right," he whispered gravely, "they are, as you say. But when we
get ashore in Athens, we will get married. Now then...."

His tone was low but triumphant. She could have no reply to that. It
swept away all doubts in his own mind: and he thought her mind was like
his own, a lumber room of old-fashioned, very dusty conventions and
ideals. If he married her she must be convinced of his sincerity. It did
not occur to him that women are not interested very much in the
sincerity of a man, that he can be as unfaithful as he likes if he
fulfills her conception of beauty and power and genius, that a woman
like Evanthia might have a different notion of marriage from his own.

And she did not reply. He moved away from her, up-lifted by the mood of
the moment. There could be no reply to that save surrender, he thought
proudly.

And Evanthia was astonished. She sat there in the darkness, bound upon a
journey which would bring her, she believed, to the amiable and
faithless creature who had touched her imagination and who embodied for
her all the gaiety and elegance of Europe. And this other man, a man of
a distant, truculent, and predatory race, a race engaged in the
destruction of European civilization as a sacrifice to their own little
tribal god (which was the way Lietherthal had explained it to her) was
proposing to marry her. It bereft her of speech because she was busy
coördinating in her swift, shrewd mind all the advantages of such a
scheme. There was an allurement in it, too. Her imagination was caught
by the sudden vision of herself as the chatelaine of a villa. Yes! Her
eyes sparkled as she figured it. He came towards her again and, leaning
over, buried his face in the clean fresh fragrance of her hair. She
remembered that magical moment by the White Tower when he had
transcended his destiny and muttered hoarsely that he would go to hell
for her. She put the question to herself with terrible directness--could
she hold him? Could she exercise the mysterious power of her sex upon
him as upon men of her own race? She closed her eyes and sought blindly
for an accession of strength in this crisis of her life. She put her
arms up and felt his hand on her face. And then, giving way to an
obscure and primitive impulse, she buried her teeth in his wrist. And
for a long while they remained there, two undisciplined hearts, voyaging
through a perilous darkness together.



CHAPTER XIV


Mr. Spokesly, looking down from the bridge at the up-turned and
uncompromising face of Joseph Plouff, frowned.

"What does he say?" he repeated uneasily.

"He says keep the course."

"You gave him the note?"

"No, he didn't open the door. He just said, to keep the course. I said
'You mean, don't alter it, Captinne?' and he said, 'No.'"

Plouff handed up the note Mr. Spokesly had given him, and the puzzled
chief officer took it and opened it, as though he had forgotten or was
uncertain of its contents. But before he read it afresh, he took a look
round. This told him nothing for he was entirely lost in a white fog
that rolled and swirled in slow undulating billows athwart the ship's
bows. For four hours he had been going through this and the captain had
not made his appearance on the bridge. Each time had come up the same
message, to keep the course. And at last Mr. Spokesly had written a
little note. He had torn a page out of the scrap-log and written these
words:

     TO CAPTAIN RANNIE

     SIR,

     We have run our distance over this course. Please give bearer your
     orders. Weather very thick.

     R. SPOKESLY. Mate.

And he hadn't even opened the door. It was this singular seclusion which
caused Mr. Spokesly so much anxiety. Fog, and the captain not on deck!
Plouff, whose presence was an undeniable comfort for some reason or
other, pulled himself up the steep little ladder and stood staring
lugubriously into the fog.

"Funny sort of old man, this," muttered the mate.

"He's always the same at sea," said Plouff, still staring.

"What? Leaves it to the mate?"

"Yes. Always."

"But...." Mr. Spokesly looked at the fog, at Plouff, at the binnacle,
and then hastily fitted himself into the little wheel-house. He bent
over the chart with a ruler and pair of dividers, spacing first a
pencilled line drawn from Cape Kassandra to a point a few miles south of
Cape Fripeti on the Island of Boze Baba, and then along the scale at the
edge of the chart.

"See what's on the log, Bos', will you?" he called.

This was serious. Within a few minutes the course ought to be altered to
due south. The usual four knots of the _Kalkis_ had been exceeded owing
to the smoothness of the sea, which accounted for their arrival at this
position before six o'clock, when the captain would once more take
charge. Another thing was that from now on they would be on the course
of warships passing south from the great base at Mudros, the land-locked
harbour of Lemnos. The bosun came up again and reported thirty miles
from noon. Well, the log was about ten per cent. fast, so a note said in
the night order book. It was five-thirty now, which gave them
twenty-seven miles from noon or nearly five knots. That brought them due
south of Fripeti.

Mr. Spokesly looked at Plouff, who was looking at the fog with an
expression of extreme disillusion on his round face. And again at the
chart. There was nothing more to be extracted from either Plouff or the
chart. The pencilled line which indicated their course ended abruptly.
Where, then, were they bound? Keep on the course, the captain said. Mr.
Spokesly laid the parallel ruler against the line and produced it clear
across the chart. He stood up with a sharp intake of breath and regarded
the impassive Plouff, who looked down at the chart with respectful
curiosity.

"Say, Bos'," he began. "This is a funny business."

"What's a funny business?" demanded Plouff, looking round, as though
expecting to see something of an extremely comical nature being
performed. The pause gave Mr. Spokesly time to reflect. He cleared his
throat.

"The Old Man staying down there. He ought to ... but then he says
keep...."

"'Hold her on the course,' were his words," said Plouff obstinately,
adding, "Hasn't she got a clear road?"

"Yes ..." muttered the mate jerkily, "road's clear ... humph!" he stared
at the chart. "Oh, well! By George, I wish this damn fog would clear
away."

"What's the matter with the fog?" said Plouff. "We're safe in the fog,
ain't we? You can bet them _unterseeboats_ 'll keep in under the islands
this weather. Too much chance o' gettin' stove in," he added
sympathetically. The mate did not reply for a moment. He was very
uneasy. He studied the chart. Indeed, he could not get away from that
pencilled line running right into the Gulf of Smyrna. And Phyros was
south of Khios. He was tired and sleepy. Eight hours was a long while to
stay on the bridge. He would be glad when they got in. _Got in where?_
He stared again at the chart. And the Old Man locked in his room. Always
did that, eh?

"Go away, Bos'," he said, suddenly. "You got to be about to-night, you
know. We'll be anchoring...."

He forgot what he was saying, staring hard at the chart. Plouff slipped
down into the fog and clattered away forward.

But Mr. Spokesly was not unhappy. There was an unfamiliar yet desirable
quality about this life. The sharp flavour of it made one forget both
the ethical and economic aspects of one's existence. At the back of his
mind was a boyish desire to show that girl what he was made of. And when
they got to Athens he would----Athens! The word sent him back to the
chart. Keep on the course. He was sailing across a wide ocean and the
old familiar landmarks were hull down behind the fog. There was
something symbolic in that fog. It was as though he had indeed left the
world of his youth behind, the world of warm English hearts, of
cantankerous affections and dislikes, of fine consciences and delicate
social distinctions, and was passing through a confusing and impalpable
region of vaporous uncertainty to an unknown country. He was not
unhappy. The future might be anything, from silken dalliance behind
green jalousies in some oriental villa with a fountain making soft
music, which is the food of love, to a sudden detonation, red spurts of
savage flame, and a grave in a cold sea. He went out and looked at the
compass. And at the fog. Now that Plouff was gone down he felt lonely.
He stamped on the deck to call the steward. The captain would have to be
called. If he did not come, he, the mate, would go down and inform him
that the course would be changed without him. That would be the only
way. He had never had a commander like this, nor a voyage like this, for
that matter. He paused suddenly in his thoughts and looked down,
pinching his lower lip between finger and thumb. He had an idea. To
achieve anything, one had to be eternally prepared for just such
unexpected predicaments. Here he was, with an invisible commander and an
invisible horizon. And down in a cabin below him was Evanthia Solaris, a
distinct and formidable problem. He was going to marry her. He saw his
destiny, almost for the first time in his life, as a ball which he could
take in his hand and throw. And the direction and distance depended
entirely upon his own strength, his own skill, his own fortitude. He was
going to marry her. And he saw another thing for the first time--that
marriage was of no significance in itself for a man. What he is, brain
and sinew, character and desire, is all that counts. He saw this because
he had left the old life behind beyond the fog. Back there, marriage was
a contrivance for the hamstringing and debasing of men, a mere device
for the legal comfort and security of women who were too lazy or
incompetent or too undesirable to secure it for themselves. Ahead he had
a strange premonition that he was going to have a novel experience.

He was.

He was aroused by the helmsman reaching out and striking four soft blows
on the little bronze bell hanging by the awning-spar over the binnacle.
Six o'clock. And the young Jew, in a huge apron and a high astrakhan cap
he had picked up somewhere, came slowly up the bridge ladder.

"Captain," said Mr. Spokesly, making a number of motions to signify
knocking at a door and calling somebody out. "Savvy?"

The frightened creature, who was quite unable to comprehend the
extraordinary phenomenon of the fog on the sea, and who regarded Mr.
Spokesly, moreover, as a species of demi-god, raised his remarkable face
as though in supplication, and backed down again. It was evident to him
that his employer had consigned him to some distant place of torment
from which he could never return. Yet even in his timid heart there was
hope. Already he had given his allegiance to that beautiful and haughty
creature whose cabin it was his trembling joy and pride to put in order.
His ears were alert at all times to catch the sharp clapping sound of
her hands when she needed him, and then he flew below. She would speak
to him in his native tongue, which was Spanish, and ravish his soul with
words he could understand, instead of the terrifying gutturals of those
powerful Franks who walked to and fro on the top of the tower above them
and gave incomprehensible commands.

"Fear not," she assured him. "When the ship reaches the port, thou shalt
go with me as my servant. The lieutenant shall give thee money as wages
when he is my husband."

"Merciful Madama, what port? Whither do we go? Is it beyond the clouds?"

"Ah," she retorted, leaning back on the cushions of the settee, and
blowing cigarette-smoke from her beautiful lips. "I would like to know
that myself. Beyond the clouds? You mean this fog. Yes, far beyond the
clouds. Did you not hear anything at all in the Rue Voulgaróktono?"

"Nothing, Madama, except that once I heard Señor Dainopoulos tell Señor
Malleotis that they, someone, had reached Aidin."

"Aiee?" ejaculated Evanthia, sitting up and fixing her burning amber
eyes on the frightened and hypnotized creature. "And didst thou hear
nothing else? Aidin! Tchk!"

"I do not know, Madama," he quavered. "Unless there is a port called
Bairakli."

Evanthia showed her teeth in a brilliant smile and patted the youth's
arm.

"My servant you shall be," she chuckled. "No, there is no port called
Bairakli, but it is near to a city you and I will find good. Shalt live
at Bairakli, Amos! Tck--tck! What a fool I was. Oh! Caro! _Oh mein
lieber Mann!_" And she sang sweetly a few notes of a song.

The young man stared at her in stupefaction.

"Go," she said, pushing him with a characteristic gesture, at once
brusque and charming. "You need have no fear. Your fortune is made."

       *       *       *       *       *

A few minutes past six Captain Rannie climbed the bridge ladder and
examined the compass without addressing his chief officer, bending over
it with an exaggerated solicitude. Apparently satisfied, he went into
the chart room and immediately pushed the ruler from its significant
position, pointing into the interior of Asia Minor. There was an
indefinable nervous bounce about him which indicated a highly exalted
state of mind. He seemed, Mr. Spokesly imagined, to be assuming
truculence to cover timidity. He probably knew that his insistence on
keeping the course had aroused conjecture, and the ruler, lying as it
did on the chart, confirmed the idea. Yet he did not speak. Funking, Mr.
Spokesly decided, obstinately remaining close to the dodger and staring
straight ahead--towards Asia Minor. If the Old Man thought he was going
to get away with it ... he cleared his throat and remarked:

"About time to change the course for Phyros, sir?"

And to his surprise Mr. Spokesly, in the midst of his highly complex
cogitations, found himself listening to a jaunty and characteristic
monologue which touched upon--among other things--the one rule which
Captain Rannie insisted was the _sine qua non_ of a good officer, that
he should accept the commander's orders without comments. Otherwise, how
could discipline be maintained? As to the course, he, Captain Rannie,
would attend to that immediately. And while he appreciated it, of
course, there was no real need for Mr. Spokesly to remain on the bridge
after he had been relieved.

Mr. Spokesly, still looking ahead, wanted to say sarcastically, "Is that
so?" but he was tongue-tied, dumfounded. Here was a man, apparently of
straw, who was jauntily inviting him to clear out and mind his own
business. He pulled himself together.

"Unless we pick up a Mudros escort somewhere round here," he muttered,
turning away.

Captain Rannie came out of the chart room from which his lean and
cadaverous head had been projecting to deliver his homily on obeying
orders, and looked all round at the white walls of fog. It was as though
he were contemplating some novel but highly convenient dispensation of
Providence which he was prepared to accept as one of the minor hardships
of life. All consciousness of Mr. Spokesly's presence seemed to have
vanished from his mind. He spoke to the helmsman, walked to port and
looked down at the water, looked aft and aloft, and resumed his stroll.

And Mr. Spokesly, craftily placed at a disadvantage, turned suddenly and
clattered down the ladder.

"Well," he thought to himself, pausing on the deck below and still
holding to the hand-rail, "he can't keep it up for ever. And I can't do
anything in this fog. He's going to pile her up."

But as he went into the saloon he could not help asking himself, "What
for?" What gain had Captain Rannie or Mr. Dainopoulos in view when they
ran a valuable cargo on the rocky shores of Lesbos or Anatolia? The word
"ran" stuck in his mind. "Running a cargo" in war-time, eh? One didn't
run cargoes on the rocks, in war-time. He stared so fixedly at Amos, who
was laying the table, that in spite of Evanthia's assurance of future
good fortune, the poor creature trembled and grew pale. Mr. Spokesly
understood neither Greek nor Spanish, or he might have derived some
enlightenment from a conversation with the young Jew. He frowned and
went on down to his cabin. He wanted sympathy in his anxiety. And it was
part of his Victorian and obsolete mental equipment to expect sympathy
from a woman.

She was standing before the little mirror, setting the immense
tortoise-shell comb into her hair at the desired angle, and she gave
herself a final searching scrutiny, as she turned away, before flashing
a dazzling smile at him.

"What is the matter?" she asked in her precise English, seeing the
worried expression on his face. He sat down on the settee, and she
seated herself close beside him, smiling with such ravishing abandon
that he forgot the reason for his concern.

"If I can only get you ashore," he muttered, holding her to him and
kissing her hair.

"Where?" she whispered, watching him with her bright amber eyes.

"That's just it," he said. "I don't know where."

She put her finger to her lips.

"I know," she said.

He put his hands on her shoulders and held her away a little, staring at
her.

"You!" he breathed incredulously. "You?"

She nodded, her eyes kindling.

"Here," he said hoarsely. "You must be straight with me, dear. Tell me
what you know. The captain, he's very funny to-day."

"Ismir!" she called into his ear in a ringing tone. "Beautiful,
beautiful Ismir!"

"What's that you're talking about?" he demanded doubtfully. "I don't
understand."

"No? Soon you will understand, when we reach Ismir."

"I've never heard of it," he declared. "But I can tell you, if the Old
Man don't alter the course, we're going straight into Smyrna."

"Ah, yes," she sighed. "I remember now. You call it that. We call it
Ismir, Turkish place. When I was little, little girl, we arrive there,
my fazzer and my muzzer. Oh, beautiful! The grand hotels, the _bains_,
the _plage_, the _quais_, the mountains, the _cafés-chantant_. _Aiee!_
And Bairakli! I will show you. I was little, thirteen years old." She
laughed, a soft throaty chuckle, on his shoulder, at some reminiscence.
"Ismir! _Oh mein lieber Mann!_"

She intoxicated him with her bewildering moods, with her trick of
recalling to his memory his early dreams of beautiful women, those
bright shadows of unseen enchantresses which had tortured and stimulated
his boyish thoughts. But he could not refrain from returning to the
serious problem of how she knew so accurately the intentions of his
commander.

"The captain tell you?" he asked expectantly. Her brow grew dark and a
blankness like a film came over her eyes.

"I do not like your _capitaine_," she muttered. "He is like an old
woman. Look at his face. And the silver ring on his wrist. Like an old
vulture, his head between his shoulders. Look at him. He never lifts his
eyes. Do not speak of him. But hear me now. When we reach Ismir, we will
have a house, you and me, eh?"

He stared at her, entranced, yet preoccupied with the overwhelming
difficulties of his situation.

"Oh, _mon cher_, you do not know how beautiful it is. The most beautiful
city in the world."

"But how did you know? Why didn't you tell me? Did Mrs. Dainopoulos tell
you?"

"Ssh! Madame Dainopoulos is an angel. She like you an' me very much. But
Monsieur Dainopoulos, he say to me, if I want to see my friends in Pera,
by and by there is a ship. You understand? An' then, here on the ship, I
hear somesing. Oh, tell me, _mon cher_, what time we arrive at Ismir?"

He was hardly listening to her, so busy were his thoughts with the vista
opening out before him. He was vaguely conscious that he was passing
through a crisis, that Fate had suddenly laid all her cards on the table
and was watching him, with bright amber eyes, waiting for him to make
out what those cards portended. Here, she seemed to say, is everything
you have ever dreamed of, adventure, romance, and the long-imagined
pleasures of love.

"To-night?" she persisted, lying back in his arms. And watching him,
sensing his uncertainty, her gaze hardened, she sat up away from him,
waiting for him to speak, as though she were fate indeed. Always she
gave him that impression of hair-trigger readiness to fight, to rip and
tear and give no quarter. As he looked at her now, turning over his dire
predicament the while, he noticed the truculent solidity of her jaw, the
indomitable courage and steadiness of her gaze.

"Wait," he muttered, putting up his hand and then holding it to his
brow. "I must think. I don't know when we arrive. To-morrow, perhaps."

"Why do you look so sad?" she demanded. "_Mon Dieu!_ To-morrow at Ismir.
What happiness!"

"For you," he added in a low voice.

"And for you," she twittered in his ear and patting his hand. "I see the
plan of Monsieur Dainopoulos now. We shall have good fortune."

There was a faint tap at the door.

"Supper, Madama," said the young Jew, making a low bow, and they went
up.

Mr. Spokesly, sitting on the engineer's settee an hour later and
discussing the matter cautiously with that person, was not so sure of
the good fortune.

"What can we do?" he asked, and the engineer, who was of a peaceful
disposition and perfectly satisfied so long as he got his pay, said:

"You can't do nothing in this fog. He's the captain."

"We may hit something," said Mr. Spokesly, who was talking more for
comfort than for enlightenment.

"Why, yes, we may do that. Do it anywhere, come to that. Where do you
think we are now, Mister Mate?"

"I don't know, I tell you. He says to me, 'I'll attend to the course,'
and he may have put her round. But I've got a notion he's carrying out
his orders. I see now why I got six months' pay. Did you?"

"No, I got a note on the captain, same as usual," said Mr. Cassar.

"What do you think they will do with us?" pursued Mr. Spokesly.

"I don't know, Mister Mate. There's always plenty o' work everywhere,"
was the equable reply.

"Is that all you think of?"

"I got a big family in Cospicua," said the engineer, standing up. "I
can't afford to be out of a job. I think I'll go and eat, Mister Mate.
Perhaps the fog will lift a bit and we can see what the course is."

They went out and climbed the ladder to the bridge-deck, and stood
staring into the damp, palpable darkness. The absence of all artificial
light, the silence, the tangible vapour concealing the surface of the
sea, and possibly, too, the over-hanging uncertainty of their
destination, combined to fill them with a vague dull sense of impending
peril. They were on the starboard side, abaft the lifeboat. They could
not see the bridge clearly, and the forecastle was swallowed up in the
blank opacity of the mist. It was a situation in which both care and
recklessness were of equal futility. The imagination balked and turned
back on itself before the contemplation of such limitless possibilities.
And it was while they were standing there in taciturn apprehension that
they suddenly sprang into an extraordinary animation of mind and body at
the sound and vibration of a loud crash forward. The _Kalkis_ heeled
over to port from the pressure of some invisible weight and Mr. Spokesly
started to run towards the bridge.

"They're shellin' her!" he bawled. "Stand by! Look out! What's that?"

He stood still for a moment, his hands raised to balance himself against
the returning roll of the ship as she recovered. And in that moment, out
of the fog, above him and over the rail, came an immense gray vertical
wall of sharp steel rushing up to him and past into oblivion with a
grinding splintering roar. There were cries, the dim glow of an opened
door high up, the sough of pouring waters in the darkness, a shadowy
phantom and a swirl of propellers, and she was gone.

And there was an absolute silence on the _Kalkis_ more dreadful to Mr.
Spokesly than the panic of the mob of Asiatics on the _Tanganyika_. He
tried to think. Mr. Cassar had disappeared. They had been in collision
with a man-of-war, he felt certain of that. There was no mistaking the
high cleaving flare of those gray bows as they fled past. And she must
have struck the _Kalkis_ forward as well as amidships. A glancing blow.
Yet there was silence. He strode forward and climbed the ladder to the
bridge.

"Are you there, sir?" he called.

There was no answer. He went up to the man at the wheel, who was turning
the spokes of the wheel rapidly.

"Where is the Captain?" he demanded harshly.

"He's over there," said the man confidentially, nodding towards the
other side of the bridge. "What was that, sir? Explosions?"

"I don't know," said Mr. Spokesly angrily. "Ask the captain," and he
went down again and descended the ladder to the fore-deck.

He fell over something here in the dark, something rough and with jagged
edges. He felt it with his hands and discovered that it was one of the
heavy cast-iron bollards which were mounted on either side of the
forecastle head. Mr. Spokesly began to realize that he was confronting a
problem which he would have to handle alone. He stepped over the mass of
metal, which had been flung fifty feet, and immediately tripped upon a
swaying, jagged surface that tore his clothes and cut his hands. He said
to himself, "The deck is torn up. I must have a light." There was no
sound from forward and he wondered miserably if any of them had been
hurt. He climbed to the bridge again to get a hurricane lamp that he
knew was in the chart room. While he was striking a match to light it he
was once more aware of the fact that the engines were still going. So he
hadn't stopped or anything. The captain's form was dimly discernible
against the canvas dodger, extraordinarily huge and rotund. Mr.
Spokesly's anger broke out in a harsh yell.

"Hi, Captain! Do you know your forecastle's carried away? Or perhaps you
don't care."

"I won't be spoken to in that manner," came the lisping, toothless voice
from the darkness. "Go forward and report on the damage. I should think
it wouldn't be necessary to tell an experienced officer his duty...."

Mr. Spokesly, swinging the hurricane lamp in his hand, laid his other
hand upon Captain Rannie's shoulder.

"Look you here, Captain. You won't be spoken to in that manner? You'll
be spoken to as I want from now on. Do you get that? From now on. I'm
going forward to report damage. And when I find out if the ship's
sinking, I'll not trouble to tell you, you double-crossing old
blatherskite you!" And he gave the captain a thrust that sent him flying
into the pent-house at the end, where he remained invisible but audible,
referring with vivacity to the fact that he had been "attacked."

"I'll attack you again when I come back," muttered his chief officer as
he went down the ladder.

And the lamp showed him, in spite of the fog, what had happened. The
fore-deck was a mass of ripped and twisted plates, splintered doors, and
fragments of the interiors of cabins looked strangely small and tawdry
out on the harsh deck. A settee-cushion, all burst and impaled upon a
piece of angle iron, impeded him. "Won't be spoken to that fashion!" he
muttered, holding up the lamp and peering into the murk. "Good Lord! The
forecastle's carried away." He stumbled nearer. There was no ladder on
this side any more. The high sharp prow had struck a glancing blow just
abaft the anchor and sliced away the whole starboard side of the
forecastle. Standing where the door of the bosun's room had been, Mr.
Spokesly lowered his lamp and saw the black water rushing past between
the torn deck-beams. And Mr. Spokesly had it borne in upon him that not
only was Plouff vanished, but his cabin was gone. There was scarcely
anything of it left save some splintered parts of the settee and the
inner bulkhead, on which a gaudy calendar from a seaman's outfitter
fluttered in the night breeze against the blue-white paint.

Mr. Spokesly's heart was daunted by the desolation of that brutally
revealed interior. It daunted him because he could imagine, with painful
particularity, the scene in that little cabin a few moments before. He
had looked in at the door a day or two since, and seen Plouff, a large
calabash pipe like a cornucopia in his mouth, propped up in his
bed-place, reading a very large book with marbled covers which turned
out to be the bound volume of a thirty-year-old magazine picked up for a
few pence in some port. He could see him thus engaged a few moments ago.
Mr. Spokesly gave a sort of half-sob, half-giggle. "My God, he isn't
here at all! He's been carried away, cabin and bunk and everything.
Smashed and drowned. Well!"

He felt he couldn't stop there any more. It was worse than finding
Plouff's mangled body in the ruins. To have been wiped out like that
without a chance to explain a single word to any one was tragic for
Plouff. Mr. Spokesly gave a shout.

"Anybody down there?" There was no answer. He found himself wondering
what the captain's comment would be upon Plouff's sudden departure for
parts unknown. He tried to convince himself that there was no reason for
supposing him to be dead. He saw him sitting up in his bunk in the sea,
still clasping the large book and smoking the trumpet-shaped pipe, and
indulging in a querulous explanation of his unusual behaviour. Which
would not be his fault for once, Mr. Spokesly reflected. No doubt,
however, Captain Rannie would log him for deserting the ship. Mr.
Spokesly went aft and looked at the boat near which he had been standing
when the collision happened. It was hanging by the after davit, a mere
bunch of smashed sticks. Trailing in the water and making a soft
swishing sound were the bow plates and bulwarks which had been peeled
from the forepart of the _Kalkis_ by the sharp prow of the stranger. And
yet she seemed to have suffered nothing below the water-line. Mr.
Spokesly, who knew Plouff kept the sounding rod in his cabin, wondered
how he was going to sound the wells. He thought of the engineer, stepped
over to the port side to reach the after ladder, and pulled himself up
short to avoid falling over a huddled group gathered alongside the
engine-room hatch.

"What's the matter?" he stammered, astonished. He saw the steward, a
coat hastily put on over his apron, Amos, whose glittering and
protuberant eyes were less certain than ever of his future fortune, and
Evanthia. She was not afraid. She was angry. She darted at Mr. Spokesly
and broke into a torrent of invective against the two wretched beings
who wanted to get into the boat and couldn't untie the ropes.

"Pigs, dogs, carrion!" she shrilled at them in Greek, and then to Mr.
Spokesly she said,

"The ship. Is it finished?"

"No. Ship's all right. Why don't you go down?"

"_Mon Dieu!_ Why? He asks why! Did you hear the noise? The bed is
broken. The window, the lamp, _Brr-pp_!" She clapped her hands together.
"Why? Go and see," and she turned away from him to rage once more at the
two terrified creatures who had been unable to carry out her imperious
orders. These had been to set her afloat in the lifeboat instantly; and
willingly would they have done it, and gone in with her themselves; but
alas, they had been unable to let the villainous boat drop into the
water.

Mr. Spokesly was genuinely alarmed at this news. He left them
precipitately and ran down the cabin stairs to find out if the ship was
making water.

There was no need. The _Kalkis_, on rebounding from the terrific impact
on her forecastle, had heeled over to starboard, the side of the ship
had been buckled and crushed along the line of the deck, and the
concussion had knocked the lamp out of its gimbals and it was rolling on
the floor. He picked it up and relit it. He hurried out again to find
the engineer. His training was urging him to get the wells sounded.
Moreover, the filling of the forepeak through the smashed chain-locker
had put the ship down by the head a little. She might be all right, but
on the other hand....

He found the engineer calmly hauling the line out of the forward
sounding pipes.

"Is she making anything, Chief?" he asked anxiously.

"Just show a light please, Mister Mate. I got a flashlight here but it's
gone out on me. Why, four inches. Nothing much _here_. We'll try the
other side, eh?"

They scrambled over the hatch and hastily wiped the rod dry before
lowering it into the pipe.

"Hm!" The engineer grunted as he brought the rod into view again.
"_Three feet!_ I reckon she's makin' some water here through that
bulkhead, Mister Mate. What say if I try the pumps on her, eh?"

"You do that, will you? I was afraid o' that, Chief. You know the
bosun's gone?"

"Is that so? Gee! That's a big smash! The bosun? Tk--tk! I'll get the
pump on her."

"Now!" said Mr. Spokesly to himself, "I'm going to see the Old Man." And
he sprang up the ladders once more.

Captain Rannie was not to be seen, however. Mr. Spokesly went upon the
bridge charged with belligerence. But Captain Rannie was an old hand. He
had had an extraordinarily varied experience of exasperated subordinates
and Mr. Spokesly's conscientious tantrums worried him not at all.
Especially did he fail to appreciate the significance of his chief
officer's anxiety at this moment since from his own point of view this
smash in the fog, supposing they did not meet any inquisitive craft for
an hour or two, and this was not at all likely--this smash was a piece
of singular good fortune. The cruiser would report ramming a small
vessel in the fog, and the people in Saloniki, knowing the position of
the _Kalkis_, would conclude she was lost with all hands, when she
failed to appear at Phyros. It was so perfectly in accordance with his
desires that he decided to run down and get one of his own special
cigarettes. Now that he was actually in the middle of carrying out the
plans of the owner of the _Kalkis_, Captain Rannie suffered from none of
the timidity and truculent nervousness which had assailed him the day
before. He had more courage than Mr. Spokesly would ever admit because
that gentleman was not aware that his captain was a bad navigator. To
the bad navigator every voyage is a miracle.

So he came up jauntily, behind Mr. Spokesly, smoking a special
cigarette, and ignoring his chief officer completely until the latter
chose to speak. This was another trick he had learned in the course of
his career of oblique enthusiasms and carefully cultivated antagonisms.
He had once been savagely "attacked," as he called it, by a sailor
simply because he waited for the man to speak before saying a word! He
had found that men might growl at being treated "like dogs" but to rowel
the human soul it was far better to act as though they did not exist at
all. There was a blind primeval ferocity to be engendered by
adumbrating, even for a few moments, their non-existence. And now, with
everything in his favour, for he had heard the engineer's remarks on the
condition of the bilges forward, he was resolved to "maintain his
authority," as he phrased it, by "a perfectly justifiable silence."

But it was no use trying to convince Mr. Spokesly that he did not exist.
That gentleman, in the course of the last few minutes, since the
collision in fact, had experienced a great accession of vitality. He
felt as though not only his own existence but the integrity of the ship
as a living whole, her frame, her life, her freight, and the souls
clinging to her in the blind white void of the fog, was concentrated in
himself. He looked over the side and tried to see if the engineer had
succeeded in getting the pump on that bilge. She was down by the
head--no doubt of that. And yet there couldn't be any real fracture of
that bulkhead, or the fore-hold would have filled by now. Lucky all the
caps were well lashed on the ventilators. He looked over the side again.
The fog seemed clearing a little. And the ship was moving faster. The
beat of the engines was certainly more rapid. He stared at the
ostentatiously turned back of his commander with a sort of exasperated
admiration. He was evidently a much more accomplished scoundrel than Mr.
Spokesly had imagined. Here he had extra speed up his sleeve. Why, it
might be anything up to thirteen knots. Not that the _Kalkis_ had
boilers for that speed. Wow! He was a card!

"I suppose you know the bosun was carried overboard when that ship hit
us," Mr. Spokesly remarked in a conversational tone as the captain
approached in his stroll.

"And I've no doubt," said Captain Rannie with extreme bitterness to the
surrounding air, "that you blame me for not stopping and picking him
up."

"You might have stopped, certainly," said his chief officer; "but the
point is, if you'd been on your right course you wouldn't have hit
anything."

"Oh, indeed! Oh, indeed!" said the captain.

"Yes, oh, indeed. You won't maintain you were on the right course, I
suppose."

"I maintain nothing," snapped the captain. "I'll merely trouble you to
ask the man at the wheel what course he was making when we were run into
by one of those infernal, careless naval officers who think they know
everything, like you. And after that I'll merely invite you to mind your
own business."

"Mind my own business!" repeated Mr. Spokesly in a daze.

"And I'll mind mine," added the captain after a dramatic pause, and
turning on his heel.

"You're like some bally old woman," began Mr. Spokesly, "with your nag,
nag, nag. I don't wonder that Maltee mate used to go for you."

"Ask the man at the wheel what course he was steering," repeated the
captain distinctly, coming back out of the gloom and wheeling away
again.

"I'll be going for you myself before this trip is over," added the mate.

"And then kindly leave the bridge," concluded the captain, reappearing
once more, as though emerging suddenly from the wings of a theatre and
declaiming a speech in a play. Having declaimed it, however, he
retreated with singular precipitancy.

"I must say, I've been with a few commanders in my time," Mr. Spokesly
began in a general way. He heard his captain's voice out of the dark
opining that he had no doubt every one of those commanders was glad
enough to get rid of him. He could easily believe that.

"Perhaps they were," agreed Mr. Spokesly. "Perhaps they were. The point
is, even supposing that was the case, they never made me want to throw
them over the side."

The voice came out of the darkness again, commenting upon Mr. Spokesly's
extreme forbearance.

"Don't drive me too far," he warned.

The voice said all Mr. Spokesly had to do was remove himself and come on
the bridge when he was sent for. No driving was intended.

"Ah, you talk very well, captain. I'm only wondering whether you'll talk
half so well at the Inquiry."

The voice asked, what inquiry? with a titter.

"There's always an inquiry, somewhere, sometime," said Mr. Spokesly,
dully, wondering what he himself would have to say, for that matter. He
heard the voice enunciate with a certain lisping exactitude, "Not yet."

"Oh, no, not yet. When the war's won, let's say," he replied. This
seemed such a convenient substitute for "never," that he was not
surprised to get no answer save a sound like "Tchah!"

"The fog's lifting," he remarked absently. It was. He could already see
a number of stars above his head through the thinning vapour. "I'll
leave you," he added, "must get some sleep. However," he went on, "we'll
have another look at the bilges. I got a certificate to lose as well as
you--if you've got one."

The captain remained in obscurity, and made no reply.

"I mean, if you haven't had it endorsed, or suspended, or any little
thing like that."

There was no answer, and tiring of the sport, Mr. Spokesly picked up the
hurricane lamp and went down again to sound the starboard bilge. He was
getting very tired physically, now the reaction from the excitement of
the collision had set in. He found the sounding-rod, neatly chalked,
ready to lower. Very decent party, that engineer, he reflected. Rather
disconcerting though in his almost perfect neutrality. The wife and the
big family out at Cospicua, which is near Valletta, seemed to be a
powerful resolvent of sentimental ideas. For such a man there was
nothing of any permanence in the world to compare with a permanent
billet. His loyalty was to his job rather than to abstract principles of
nationality. Well! The rod showed two feet eight inches. Mr. Spokesly
breathed more easily. He had got his pumps going, then. He decided to go
aft. Yes, the fog was clearing.

In the stress of the crisis through which he was passing, the mysterious
and exacerbating strife going on between himself and the captain, Mr.
Spokesly seemed to himself to be separated from Evanthia as by a
transparent yet impassable barrier. The insignificance of such a
creature in the face of a material disaster as had been impending
appalled him. He saw with abrupt clarity how, if the ship had been
mortally hit, and if there had been any manner of struggle to save their
lives, she would not have sustained the part of fainting heroine rescued
by lion-hearted men, or that of heroic comrade taking her place in the
peril beside them. Nothing of the sort. She would have got into the boat
and commanded the crew to row away with her at once. She did not know
that Plouff was gone, and if he went down and told her, she would not
care a flip of her fingers. That, he was surprised to realize, was part
of her charm. She was so entirely pagan in her attitude towards men. She
was one of those women who were born to be possessed by men, but the men
who possess them can possess nothing else. They are the destroyers, not
of morals, but of ideals. They render the imagination futile because
they possess the powerful arts of the enchantresses, the daughters of
Helios. They demand the chastity of an anchorite and the devotion of a
knight of the Grail. While the virtuous and generous bend under the
weight of their self-appointed travails, these pass by in swift
palanquins of silk and fine gold, and are adored by the valiant and the
wise.

And he was going to marry her.

He slept heavily on the engineer's settee. He had told that obliging
person to give him a call at midnight--he wanted to see what the Old Man
was up to. The Old Man, however, later gave Mr. Cassar explicit orders
to let the mate sleep--he would remain on duty himself. The chief felt
it incumbent upon him to oblige the captain, and Mr. Spokesly slept on,
much disturbed none the less by grotesque and laboured forebodings of
his subconscious being, so that he moved restlessly at times, as though
some occult power within was striving to rouse him. Indeed, it was the
spirit of duty struggling with wearied tissues. It was past three when
the former was so far successful as to wrench his eyes open. He started
up, stretched, looked at the engineer's clock, and muttered that he must
have fallen asleep again. He put on his coat and cap, and taking a
hurried glance at the engineer, who was sprawling on his back in his
bunk with his mouth open and his fingers clutching the matted growth of
black hair on his chest, he hurried out on deck.

The fog was gone, and a high, level canopy of thin clouds gave the night
the character of an enormous and perfectly dark chamber. The _Kalkis_
was moving so slowly, Mr. Spokesly could with difficulty keep tally of
the beat of the engines. Yet she was moving. He could hear the sough of
water, and there was a faint phosphorescence along the ship's side. And
a change in the air, an indefinable modification of temperature and
possibly smell, led him to examine the near horizon for the deeper
blackness of a high shore. He listened intently, trying to detect the
sound of waves on the rocks. He tried to figure out what the position
would be now, if they had made the course he suspected. They ought to be
under the southern shores of Lesbos by now. But if that were the case
the cool breeze coming off shore would be on the port side. He listened,
sniffed, and resigned himself passively for a moment to the impact of
influences so subtle that to one unaccustomed to the sea they might be
suspected of supernatural sources. He climbed to the bridge-deck and
went over to where the smashed boat hung like a skeleton from the
crumpled davit. And he was aware at once of the correctness of his
suspicions. But it would not be Lesbos. It was the high land which juts
northward and forms the western promontory of the long curving Gulf of
Smyrna. He could see it as an intenser and colder projection of the
darkness. And then his curiosity centred about the more complex problem
of speed. They could not be doing more than a couple of knots. What was
the old fraud's game? Waiting for a signal, perhaps. He had evidently
got himself and his old ship inside any mines that had been laid between
Chios and Lesbos. If there were any. Perhaps he was waiting for
daylight.

This was the correct solution. Captain Rannie had crept as close in
under Lesbos as he had dared according to the scanty hints he had gotten
from Mr. Dainopoulos, who had been informed by a Greek sailor from a
captured Bulgarian schooner that there was a safe passage inshore to the
east of Cape Vurkos. The result, however, of clearing the southern coast
of Lesbos in safety was to engender a slight recklessness in the
captain. For his dangers were practically over. Even if he got run
ashore later, they could get the cargo out of her. And he had made too
much distance east before turning south, so that, in trying to raise a
certain point on the western side, he had grown confused. The chart was
not large enough. When Mr. Spokesly appeared once more on the bridge,
Captain Rannie had rung "Slow" on the telegraph, and was endeavouring to
locate some sort of light upon the immense wall of blackness that rose
to starboard.

And it could not be asserted that he was sorry to see his chief officer.
That gentleman could not do much now. Captain Rannie, with his
binoculars to his eyes, was trembling with excitement. According to the
chart he ought to see a red light on his port bow within an hour or two.
There was a good reason for supposing that light was still kept burning
even during the war. It could not be seen from the northward and was of
prime importance to coasting vessels in the Gulf when making the turn
eastward into the great inland estuary at the head of which lay the
city. He was creeping along under the high western shore until he felt
he could make the turn. It was shallow water away to the eastward, by
the salt-works. It was nearly over. He would get the money, in gold, and
wait quietly until the war was over, and take a passage back to China.
He knew a valley, the Valley of Blue Primroses, a mere fold in a range
of enormous mountains, where men dwelt amid scenes of beauty and
ineffable peace, where he would live, too, far away from the people of
his own race, and far from the detestable rabble of ships. He had never
got on with seamen. Sooner or later, they always attacked him either
with violence or invective. He would be revenged on the whole pack of
them!

He heard his chief officer behind him and maintained his attitude of
close attention. He was trembling. One, two, or perhaps three or four
hours and he would know that all was well. He wished he could see
better, though. During the fog there had been a curious sense of
satisfaction in his heart because he knew that, whatever happened, his
defective vision would make no difference. Oh, he could see all right.
But those damned red lights. He was sure there was nothing, yet. That
chief officer of his had gone into the chart room. Captain Rannie forgot
himself so far as to titter. Imagine a simple-minded creature like that
trying to put _him_ out of countenance! Inquiry! A fine show _he_ would
make at the inquiry, with a woman in his cabin, and six months' pay in
his pocket! Ho-ho! These smart young men! He hated them. There was only
one kind of human being he hated more and that was a young woman. He was
perfectly sincere. The Caucasian had come to him to appear like a puffy
white fungus, loathsome to come in contact with. Without ever expressing
himself, for there was no need, he had conceived a strong predilection
for the Oriental. He loved the permanence of the type, the skins like
yellow silk, the hair like polished ebony, the eyes, long and narrow,
like black satin. He liked to have them on the ship, silent, incurious,
efficient, devoid of ambition. He put the glasses in the little locker
by the bridge-rail. There was no light to be seen.

He started towards the chart-room door and found himself confronted by
his chief officer. He would have brushed past with his almost feminine
petulance had not Mr. Spokesly once again seized his shoulder.

"She hasn't got steerage way," said the mate.

"What do you mean by steerage way?" he inquired sarcastically.

"Do you know where you are?" demanded Mr. Spokesly, steadily, "or is it
your intention to run her ashore? I'm only asking for information."

Captain Rannie forced himself into the chart room and putting on his
glasses examined the chart afresh. Mr. Spokesly followed him in and shut
the door.

"I won't have this," the captain began rapidly, laying his hand on the
chart and staring down at it. "I won't have it, I tell you. You force
yourself in upon me and I am obliged to speak plainly."

"I only want to tell you," said Mr. Spokesly, "that you are too far to
the westward. The current is setting you this way," he tapped the chart
where a large indentation bore away due south, "and by daylight you
won't have sea room."

"I don't believe it!" exclaimed the captain, who meant that he did
believe it. "I have taken the log every quarter of an hour."

"Well," said Mr. Spokesly, who was perfectly at ease in this sort of
navigation, "the current won't show on the log, which is away out any
way. I tell you again, she's going ashore. And it's deep water all round
here, as you can see. It won't take a very heavy wallop to send her to
the bottom with her bows opened out and the fore peak bulkhead leaking
already. Put her about. If you don't," said the mate with his hand on
the door and looking hard at his commander, "do you know what I'll do?"

He did not wait for an answer but went out and closed the door sharply.
He picked up the telescope and examined the horizon on the port bow. He
could discern without difficulty the lofty silhouette of a rocky
promontory between the ship and the faint beginnings of the dawn. He
turned to the helmsman.

"Hard over to port," he said quietly, and reaching out his hand he rang
"Full ahead" on the telegraph. It answered with a brisk scratching
jangle, and a rhythmic tremor passed through the vessel's frame, as
though she, too, had suddenly realized her peril.

"You do what I say," he warned the man at the wheel, who did not reply.
He only twirled the spokes energetically, and the little ship heeled
over as she went round. Mr. Spokesly looked again at the approaching
coast. There was plenty of room. He heard the door open and the captain
come out.

"Easy now," Mr. Spokesly said. "Starboard. Easy does it. That's the
style. Well, do you believe what I say now, Captain?"

"I'll report you--I'll have you arrested--I'll use my power----" he
stuttered, stopping short by the binnacle and bending double in the
impotence of his anger. "Remember, I can tell things about you," he
added, pointing his finger at the mate, as though he were actually
indicating a visible mark of guilt.

"Shut up," said Mr. Spokesly, staring hard through the telescope. "Hold
her on that now, Quartermaster, till I give the word. There will be
enough light soon."

Captain Rannie came up to his chief officer's shoulder and whispered:

"You're in this as deep as I am, remember."

"I'm not in it at all and don't you forget it," bawled Mr. Spokesly. The
man at the wheel said suddenly in a querulous tone:

"I can't see to steer."

Captain Rannie had fallen back against the binnacle and the sleeve of
his coat covered the round hole through which the compass could be seen.

"You threaten me?" he whimpered. "You threaten the master of the ship?"

"Threaten!" repeated Mr. Spokesly, looking eagerly through the
binoculars. "Couple of points to starboard, you. I reckon she's all
right now," he muttered to himself, "but we'll go half speed for a bit,"
and he pulled the handle. At the sound of the reply gong and the
obsequious movement of the pointer on the dial Captain Rannie was
galvanized into fresh life. It was as though the sound had reminded him
of something.

"You've been against me ever since you came aboard," he announced. "I
noticed it from the first. You had made up your mind to give me all the
trouble you possibly could. I don't know how it is, I'm sure, but I
always get the most insubordinate and useless officers on my ship. You
go in these big lines and get exaggerated ideas of your own importance,
and then come to me and try it on here. How can a commander get on with
officers who defy him and incite the crew to mutiny? Don't deny it. What
you're doing now is mutiny. It may take time, but I'll do it. I'll get
you into all the trouble I possibly can for this. I--I--I'll log the
whole thing. I'm sorry I ever shipped you. I might have known. I
suspected something of the sort. A manner you had in the office.
Impudent, insubordinate, self-sufficient. On the beach. Not a suit of
clothes to your back. Had to borrow money--_I_ heard all about it. And
then bringing a woman on the ship. Told some sort of tale to the owner.
All very fine. I might as well tell you now, since you've taken this
attitude, that I knew we wouldn't get on. If it had been a regular
voyage I wouldn't have had you. It's been nothing but trouble since you
came. The other man was bad enough, but you...."

"Starboard, Quartermaster. Go ahead, Captain. That's one thing about
you. Nothing matters so long as you can go on talking. Fire away if it
eases your mind. But I'm taking this ship in. See the fairway? If you
make anything out of this trip, and I dare say you'll make it all right,
don't forget you owe it to me. You had me rattled a bit when you ran
into that ship last night. I thought you knew what you were doing. And
you were just scared. Sitting over there on that life-belt, blowing up
that patent vest of yours. Thought I didn't notice it, eh? So busy
blowing it up you couldn't answer me when I called you. Master of the
ship! Yah!"

Captain Rannie was visible now, a high-shouldered figure with one hand
in his pocket and the other resting on the corner of the chart house.
During the night he had put on a thick woollen cap with a small knob,
the size of a cherry, on the point of it, and it made him look like some
fantastic creature out of an opera. It was as though he had materialized
out of the darkness, an elderly imp foiled in his mischievous designs.
He stood there, looking down at the deck, his mouth working over his
toothless gums, silently yet frantically marshalling the routed forces
of his personality.

"All right!" he exclaimed. "You take her, I hold you responsible, mind
that. I wash my hands of you. You incited my crew to mutiny. Defied my
orders."

Mr. Spokesly turned suddenly and Captain Rannie rushed to the ladder and
descended halfway, holding by the hand-rail and looking up at Mr.
Spokesly's knees.

"Don't you attack me!" he shrilled. "Don't you dare...." He paused,
breathing heavily.

Mr. Spokesly walked to the ladder.

"You'd better go down and pull yourself together," he said in a low
tone. "You're only making yourself conspicuous. I can manage without
you. And if you come up here again until I've taken her in, by heavens
I'll throw you over the side."

He walked back quickly to the bridge-rail, and stared with anxious eyes
into the stretch of fairway. He could not help feeling that something
tremendous was happening to him. To say that to the captain of the ship!
But he had to keep his attention on the course. Looking ahead, it was as
though he had made the same error of which he had accused the Captain,
of running into the land. On the port side the low shore in the
half-light ran up apparently into the immense wall of blue mountains in
the distance. A few more miles and he would see. He looked down at the
torn strakes draggling in the water alongside, at the smashed boat, and
the tangled wreckage on the fore-deck. She was very much down by the
head now, he noted. Yet they were making it. It would be any moment now
when the land would open out away to the eastward and he would give the
word to bear away.

And as the sun came up behind the great ranges of Asia and touched the
dark blue above their summits with an electric radiance so that the sea
and the shore, though dark, were yet strangely clear, he saw the white
riffle of contending currents away to port, and got his sure bearings in
the Gulf. And as he rang "Full speed ahead" he heard a step behind him
and felt a quick pressure of his arm.

She was wearing the big blue overcoat, which was Plouff's last
demonstration of his own peculiar and indefatigable usefulness, and her
face glowed in the depths of the up-turned collar. The morning breeze
blew her hair about as she peered eagerly towards the goal of her
desire.

"See!" she cried happily, pointing, one finger showing at the end of the
huge sleeve. "See the town?" She snatched the glasses and held them to
her eyes. "Giaour Ismir!"

"You don't want to get into the boat after all," he said, putting his
arm about her shoulders.

"Me? No! That fool said the ship would go down. Look! Oh, _quelle jolie
ville_!"

"Where?" he said, taking the glasses.

"See!" She pointed into the dim gray stretch of the waters that lay like
a lake in the bosom of immense mountains. He looked and saw what she
meant, a spatter of white on the blue hillside, a tiny sparkle of lights
and clusters of tall cypresses, black against the mists of the morning.
And along the coast on their right lay a gray-green sea of foliage where
the olive groves lined the shore. Range beyond range the mountains
receded, barring the light of the sun and leaving the great city in a
light as mysterious as the dawn of a new world. Far up the Gulf, beyond
the last glitter of the long sea wall, he could see the valleys flooded
with pale golden light from the hidden sun, with white houses looking
down upon the waters from their green nests of cypresses and oaks.

"Why don't they come out?" he wondered half to himself. "Are they all
asleep?"

"Oh, the poor ones, they must come out in a boat. They have no coal,"
she retorted. "Look! there is a little ship sailing out! Tck!"

He looked at it. Well, what could they do? He held her close. She must
be interpreter for him, he said. Oh, of course. She would tell them what
a hero he was, how he had brought them safely through innumerable
dangers for her sake. They would live, see! Up there. He had no idea how
happy they would be!

The little sailing boat was coming out, her sail like a fleck of cambric
on the dark water.

He said there was no need to tell them he was a hero.

"They will know it," she said, "when they see the poor ship. Oh, yes, I
will tell them everything. I will tell them you did this because you
love me."

"Will they believe it?" he asked in a low tone, watching the city as
they drew nearer.

"Believe?" she questioned without glancing at him. "It is nothing to
them. What matter? I tell them something, that is all."

He did not reply to this, merely turning to give an order to the
helmsman. The other seaman was coming along the deck, and he called him
to take in the log and run up the ensign. It was nothing to them, he
thought, repeating her words to himself. Nothing. They would make no
fine distinctions between himself and the captain. Yes, she was right in
that. He went into the chart room and got out the flags of the ship's
name. She, the ship, was not to blame, he muttered. She had been
faithful. "And so have I!" he cried out within himself. He could not
make it clear even to himself, but as he bent the grimy little flags to
the signal halyards and hoisted them to the crosstrees, and saw them
straighten out like sheets of tin in the breeze, he had an uplifting of
the heart. He rang "Stop" to the engine room, and went over to Evanthia.

"Go down," he said gently, "and tell the captain he must come up. We are
going to drop the anchor. There is a boat coming alongside."

He stood watching the boat bearing down upon them. He tried to think
clearly. Yes, the captain must come up. The complex animosities of the
night must be put away. And though he was a little afraid of what lay
before him in that great fair city rising from the sea, he had no
regrets for the past. He felt, in spite of everything, he had been
faithful.



CHAPTER XV


"You can have no idea," said the flat and unemotional voice by Mr.
Spokesly's shoulder, "simply no idea how miraculous the whole business
seems to us. Astonished? No word for it. We were flabbergasted. For you
saved the situation. You arrived in the nick, positively the nick, of
time. I don't go beyond the facts when I say things were looking
decidedly, well blue, for us. Oh, don't misunderstand me. No
ill-treatment. Just the reverse, in fact. But you can understand we
weren't bothering much about politeness when we couldn't get anything to
eat. And that's what it amounts to."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Mr. Spokesly. "I must say, finding so many of
you here, has surprised me."

"We had to stay. Couldn't get out," replied the other man, shooting a
frayed cuff and flicking the ash delicately from his cigarette.

They were seated, as it were, at the centre of that vast crescent which
the city forms upon the flanks of Mount Pagos. On either hand the great
curves of the water-front sprang outward and melted into the confused
colours of the distant shore. From their vantage point on the roof of
the Sports Club, they could see in some detail the beauty of the
buildings, the marble entrances, the cedar-wood balconies and the green
jalousies of the waterside houses. They could see the boats sailing
rapidly across the harbour from Cordelio in the afternoon breeze, and
beyond, bathing the whole panorama in a strong blaze of colour, the sun,
soon to set in the purple distances beyond the blue domes of the
islands. To the right the shore curved in a semi-circular sweep to form
the head of the great Gulf, while on their left the green waters,
ruffled by the breeze and given a magical lustre by the rays of the
setting sun, stretched away into the distance.

And it was into this distance that Mr. Spokesly, his elbow on the stone
balustrade of the roof of the Sports Club, was thoughtfully directing
his gaze. Even with his physical eyes he could make out a faint dot,
which he knew was the _Kalkis_. And while he listened to the remarks of
his companion, his thoughts went back to the final catastrophe of the
voyage. He had been leaning over watching the boat come alongside, his
hand on the telegraph to put her astern, when the whole ship shook
violently, there was a grinding of metal on metal and a sound as of a
load of loose stones pouring harshly upon hollow iron floors. He stared
round him even as he pulled the handle back to full astern, searching
for some hint of the cause. And he realized he had been searching for
something else, too. He had been voicelessly calling for Plouff and for
the captain. As he sat calmly looking out across the water at the
wreck--for he did not disguise from himself the fact that the _Kalkis_
was a total loss--he was thinking of that moment when he had to decide
what to do and had turned his head to call for help. And he knew now
that if he had called, if he had run down and hammered on that man's
door to come up and take charge, to resume the authority he had
abdicated so short a time before, there would have been no answer.

That was the point around which his memories clustered now, although
nobody save himself was aware of it. Indeed, there had been a distinctly
admiring note in this gentleman's voice, flat and unemotional as it was
by habit, when he had climbed up the ladder and set foot on the deck of
the _Kalkis_. "You were very cool," he had said. He had not been cool.
There had been a moment, just after he had pulled that telegraph-handle,
and the ship, instead of slowly gaining sternway and moving off into the
turbulence of her wake, had given another inexplicable shudder, and the
bows sank into a sudden deathlike solidity when he rang "stop," as
though that noise and that shudder and that almost imperceptible
subsidence had been her death-throe, the last struggle of her
complicated and tatterdemalion career. That moment had settled the
_Kalkis_ and it had nearly settled him, too. He had turned right round
and seen the man at the wheel methodically passing the spokes through
his hands, his eye on the ship's head, his ear alert for the word of
command. Mr. Spokesly had seen this, and for an instant he had had a
shocking impulse to run to the far side of the bridge and go over, into
the water. A moment of invisible yet fathomless panic. Looking back at
it, he had a vague impression of a glimpse into eternity--as though for
that instant he had really died, slipping into an unsuspected crevice
between the past and the future.... The man at the wheel was looking at
him. He heard a voice, the voice of the helmsman, saying, "She don't
steer," and the moment was past. He walked firmly to the side and looked
down at the boat, and heard someone calling, "Where is your ladder?"

And the next thing he remembered was the remark of this gentleman when
he arrived on deck: "You were very cool." He had said in reply: "There
is something I wish to tell you. I have sent for the captain and he has
not come up. I must go and fetch him." He remembered also the dry
comment, "Oh, so you are not the captain?" and the start for the cabin
as Evanthia came out, buttoning her gloves, dressed for walking. He
remembered that. The gentleman who had told him he was very cool, and
who sat beside him now on the roof of the Sports Club, had been
explaining that he came as an interpreter and was English himself, when
the door opened and Evanthia appeared. He had stopped short and let his
jaw drop, and his hand slowly reached up to remove his old straw hat.
The others, who were in white uniforms with red fezzes on their heads,
stepped back involuntarily in stupefaction at such an unexpected vision.
And he, dazed by his recent experience, stood staring at her as though
he were as astonished as the rest. For she came up to him in that long
stride of hers that always made him feel it would be hopeless to explain
to her what was meant by fear, and slipped her hand through his arm. "My
husband," she said, smiling at the men in fezzes, and she added, in
their own tongue. "My father was Solari Bey, who had the House of the
Cedars near the cemetery in Pera."

It was she who had been "very cool." She was wearing her black dress and
the toque with the high feather. Her eyes glowed mysteriously, and she
stood beside him dominating them all. He heard the astonished
interpreter mumbling: "Oh--ah! Really! Dear me! Most unexpected
pleasure! Plucky of you, permit me to say. Oh--ah!..." and the men in
fezzes making respectful noises in their throats as the conversation
suddenly became unintelligible. He had stood silent, watching her while
she spoke that bewildering jargon, the words rushing from her exquisite
lips and catching fire from the flash of her eyes. There was a potent
vitality in the tones of her voice that seemed to him must be
irresistible to all men. She spoke and they listened with rapt attentive
gaze. She commanded and they obeyed. They laughed, and bent their tall
heads to listen afresh. She might have been some supernatural being,
some marine goddess, come suddenly into her old dominions, and they her
devout worshippers.

He heard the word "captain" and opened his mouth to speak to the
interpreter.

"Is he English?" asked that gentleman. "She says he is a--well, I hardly
know how to explain just what she means.... You had better tell this
officer here. He speaks some English. Colonel Krapin? Ah, quite so. The
colonel wishes me to say, he must see the captain. Perhaps, if you will
allow us, we can sit down in the cabin, he says."

And when they had entered the cabin, and were seated about the table,
the young Jew, who had been cowering in the pantry, was brought forth
and ordered in crisp tones to descend and inform the captain.

"I knocked at the door," Evanthia told them quickly. "I said, a boat is
coming. I heard him move. I heard him come to the door and then, he
strike the door with all his force while I have my hand on it. The door
shake, _boom_! The fool is afraid for anybody to go in. Ask the boy, the
young Jew. He will tell you."

The colonel studied his sword, which he had laid on the table before
him, and made a remark in a low tone. He had been somewhat embarrassed
by the absence of the captain. Without a captain and without the papers
which would apprise them all of the exact nature of the cargo, he was at
a loss.

And the young Jew had come stumbling up the stairs, his hands outspread,
and in quavering tones said something which had brought the officer to
his feet and grasping his sword. He had remembered that moment.

"You know," said his companion with a slight smile, "really you know,
when he came up and told us the captain was leaning against the door and
wouldn't let him open it--said he could see the captain's shoulder, just
for a moment I thought you had been let in. Poor old Krapin was in a
funk. He was sure he was in a trap. You remember he wouldn't go down.
Made _me_ go."

"Yes," said Mr. Spokesly steadily, "I remember. I couldn't explain
because I didn't know myself. He thought I was in the plot, I suppose."

"And now he thinks you ..." he paused and flicked his cigarette again.
"H--m! Down there in that dark passage, I was ready to think all sorts
of funny things myself. I saw his shoulder. Extraordinary sensation
running up and down my spine. I said, 'Captain, you are wanted.' No
answer, of course. What is one to say in a situation of that kind? I ask
you. For a moment I stood with my foot in the door and him leaning
against it. It reminded me of my boyhood days in London when all sorts
of people used to come round to sell things and try to keep you from
shutting the door. For a moment I wondered if he thought I had come off
in a boat to sell him something."

He gave a short laugh and looked down with reflective eyes upon the
people walking in the street between the houses and the sea. His straw
hat and linen suit were very old and frayed and his shoes were of canvas
with rope soles. Yet he gave the impression of being very smartly
attired. A gentleman. His bow tie burst forth from a frayed but spotless
soft collar. A cotton handkerchief with a spotted blue border hung
fashionably from his pocket. And his features had the fine tint and
texture of a manila envelope.

"Absurd, of course. Yet in a case like that one doesn't know how to
avoid the absurd. And finally, when I gave a smart shove, I said:
'Excuse me, Captain, I really must ...' the shoulder disappeared and
there was a most awful clatter and a thud. And then a silence. Frankly I
was unable to open the door for a second, I was so upset. I half
expected the thing to fly open and a crowd of people to rush out on me.
That was the sensation I got from that rumpus. Imagine it!"

"Yes," said Mr. Spokesly, "I can believe you felt strange. But how was
anybody to know?"

"And you still think it was an accident?" said his companion curiously.

"Yes, it was an accident," replied Mr. Spokesly steadily.

"H--m! Well, you knew him."

"I don't believe he had the pluck to do such a thing," went on Mr.
Spokesly. "He hadn't the pluck of a louse, as we say. And you must
remember he was all dressed for going ashore. He had all his money on
him, all his papers. He very likely had his hat on. But for some reason
or other, before he could do anything and speak to anybody, he had to
take some sort of pill. Small, square white tablets. I've known him keep
out of the way, go over the other side of the bridge and turn his back
before speaking to me. I could see his hand go to his mouth as he came
along the deck. I don't know for sure. Nobody will know for sure. But I
know what I think myself."

"Yes? Some private trouble? That's the usual reason, isn't it?"

"He had a grudge against everybody. Thought everybody was against him.
They were, but that was because he hadn't the sense to get on with
them."

"Perhaps it was a woman," suggested his companion hopefully.

"Him! A woman? Do you think a woman would have anything to do with him?"

Mr. Spokesly's tone as he put this question was warm. It was a true
reflection of his present state of mind. "My husband," Evanthia had
said, and it was as her husband he had stepped ashore. And he was
conscious of a glow of pride whenever he compared other men with
himself. She was his. As for the captain, the very idea was grotesque.
He stirred in his chair, moved his arm on the balustrade. He did not
want to talk about the captain. The words, "Perhaps it was a woman," did
not, he felt, apply exactly to any one save himself. He heard his
companion reply doubtfully, as though there could be any doubt:

"Oh--well, you know, one has heard of such cases. Still, as you say, the
circumstantial evidence is strong. Those tablets of his were all over
the place, I remember."

"He had the medicine-chest in his room," said Mr. Spokesly.

"Yes. The Doctor showed me where he'd been mixing the stuff in a cup.
And there was a mould for making them. So you think he had no intention
of...."

"No intention of taking anything fatal himself," was the reply.

"Ah! Indeed! That opens up a very interesting departure," said the
other.

"Not now," said Mr. Spokesly. "Not now."

"You'll excuse my own curiosity," said his friend, "but when I found
him, you know, eh?"

"If he had found you," Mr. Spokesly remarked, looking towards the
mountains to the eastward, "he would never have taken the trouble to
mention it to a soul except officially. I didn't know him very well, but
I should say he is better off where he is. I shall have to be getting
along."

They rose and descended the broad staircases to the terrace facing the
sea, a terrace filled with tables and chairs. Across the Gulf the lights
of Cordelio began to sparkle against the intense dark blue of the land
below the red blaze of the sunset. It was the hour when the Europeans of
the city come out to enjoy the breeze from the Gulf, making their
appearance through the great archway of the Passage Kraemer and sitting
at little tables to drink coffee and lemonade tinctured with syrup. They
were coming out now, parties of Austrians and Germans, with fattish
spectacled husbands in uniforms with fezzes atop, and tall blonde women
in toilettes that favoured bold colour schemes or sharp contrasts of
black and white, with small sun-shades on long handles. There were
Greeks and Roumanians and here and there a quiet couple of English would
sink unobtrusively into chairs in a corner. And a band was tuning up
somewhere out of sight.

Mr. Spokesly plunged straight down the steps of the terrace, past a
group of Austrian girls who were taking their seats at a table, and who
eyed him with lively curiosity, and started towards the custom house,
his companion, whose name was Marsh, hurrying after him.

"By the way," said he. "I would like, some time, to introduce you to
some of the crowd. They are really very decent. They have made things
much easier for us than you might imagine. Of course, for the sake of my
family and myself I have kept well in with them; but quite apart from
the expediency of it, it has been a pleasure. You have been here nearly
a week now," he went on, smiling a little, "and we have seen nothing of
you."

Mr. Spokesly muttered something about being busy all day on the ship,
getting the cargo out of her.

"Yes, but why not come round now? It is only just through the Passage,
near Costi's. I can assure you they are a very interesting lot."

"Well, it's like this, Mr. Marsh. I'm under orders, you see. And I've
got this launch now and I'm not so sure of the engine that I want to get
stuck with it after dark. I'll tell you what. I'll come to-morrow, eh?"

And to this Mr. Marsh was obliged to agree. Mr. Spokesly dived into the
custom house and made for the waterside, where a number of gasolene
launches were tied up. It was one of these which, on account of the
gasolene in the cargo of the _Kalkis_, he had been able to get for his
own use. He had had long struggles with the engine, towing it out with
him to the ship and working on it while the men loaded the barges. Now
it was in pretty good shape; he understood it well enough to anticipate
most of the troubles. He got down into it now and took off his coat to
start the engine.

It was not that he did not appreciate the offer of his friend. The crowd
alluded to were well enough no doubt--clerks and subordinate officials
who had gradually formed a sort of international coterie who met in a
wing of one of the consulates. Indeed, one of them lived in a house not
far from himself on the hillside at Bairakli. But he was in a mood just
now which made him reluctant to mix with those highly sophisticated
beings. He wanted to go home. As he steered his launch through the
entrance of the tiny harbour and made straight across the Gulf towards
the eastern end, he was thinking that for the first time in his life he
had a home. And she had done it! With a cool indomitable will she had
set about it. He knew he could never have achieved this felicity by
himself. She had held out her hand for money and he had handed it over
to her. If she had not watched he would not have had nearly so much, she
told him, and he believed her. That was the key to his mood. He crouched
in the stern of his boat and kept his eyes upon the house, a white spot
against the steep brown slope of the mountain. That house, rented from a
poverty-stricken Greek who had left most of the furniture, and an old
woman, who had lived all her life in the village, as servant,
represented for Mr. Spokesly his entire visible and comprehensible
future. This was another key to his mood. It was as though he had
suddenly cashed in on all his available resources of happiness,
hypothecating them for the immediate and attainable yet romantic
present. By some fluke of fortune he could see that he actually held
within his grasp all that men toil and struggle for in this world, all
that they desire in youth, all that they remember in age. But he had no
certainty of the permanence of all this, and he lived in a kind of
anxious ecstasy, watching Evanthia each day with eager hungry eyes,
waiting with a sort of incredulous astonishment for the first shadow to
cross the dark mirror of their lives.

As it must, he told himself. This could not last for ever. And sometimes
he found himself trying to imagine how it would end. To-night he was
preoccupied with the discovery that each day, as the end approached, he
was dreading it more and more. He had tried to explain this to her as
they walked in the garden under the cypresses and looked across the dark
waters of the Gulf, and she had smiled and said: "Ah, yes!" She was
still a mystery to him, and that was another grief, since he did not yet
suspect that the mystery of a woman is simply a screen with nothing
behind it. She smiled in her alluring inscrutable way and he held her
desperately to him, wondering in what form the fate of their separation
would appear.

And when he saw that she had not come down to the jetty to meet him, as
she had done on previous nights, he instantly accepted her absence as a
signal of change. Yet at the back of his mind there burned a thin bright
flame of intelligence that told him the truth. Evanthia had that supreme
virtue of the courageous--her dissimulation was neither clumsy nor
cruel. It was as much a part of her as was her skin, her hair, her amber
eyes. He knew in his heart this was so and made of it a rack on which he
tortured himself with thoughts of her fidelity. Each day the difference
between this experience and the shallow clap-trap intrigues he had known
became more marked to him. The thought of her out there, hidden away
from other men, with her delicious graces of body and lucidity of mind,
for him alone, was almost too poignant for him. As he came alongside the
little staging, and made fast, he returned again to the foreboding
thought of the day. There would come an end. And beyond the end of this
he could see nothing but darkness, nothing save an aching void.

Nevertheless, as he came up from the jetty and stood for a moment in the
road which followed the curve of the shore, and listened to the sounds
of the village that nestled in the valley like a few grains of light in
a great bowl of darkness, he was conscious of something which he could
not successfully analyze or separate from his tumultuous emotions. He
put it to himself, crudely enough, when he muttered: "I shall have to
take a hand." He was discovering himself in the act of submitting once
more to outside authority. Looking back over his life, he saw that as
his hitherto invincible habit of mind. He saw himself turning round to
call the captain. And now he was the captain. And Evanthia's enigmatic
gaze was perhaps the expression of her curiosity. She was above all
things in the world, stimulating. He found himself invigorated to an
extraordinary degree by his intimacy with that resourceful, courageous,
and lovable being, who would never speak of the future, waving it away
with a flick of her adorable hand and looking at him for an instant with
an intent, unfathomable stare. And as he started to climb the hillside,
setting the loose stones rolling in the gullies and rousing a dog to
give forth a series of deep ringing notes like a distant gong, he saw
that the initiative rested with himself. He would have to take a hand.
It would not do for him to imagine they could remain like this in almost
idyllic felicity. The ship would be unloaded in a week or so and nothing
would remain but to let the water into her after-hold and sink her,
according to the commandant's orders, in the fair way. But he could not
let himself sink back into a slothful obscurity. He had no interior
resources beyond his almost desperate passion for this girl who seemed
to accept him as an inevitable yet transient factor in her destiny, a
girl who conveyed to him in subtle nuances a chaotic impression of
sturdy fidelity and bizarre adventurousness. That was one of the secrets
of her personality--the maintenance of their relations upon a plane
above the filth and languor of the flesh, yet unsupported by the
conventional props of tradition and honour. For she had so just a
knowledge of the functions and possibilities of love in human life that
he could never presume upon the absence of those props. It amazed him
beyond his available powers of expression, that in giving him herself
she gave more than he had ever imagined. She had given him an enormously
expanded comprehension of character, an insight into the secrets of his
own heart. And it was, perhaps, this new knowledge of what he himself
might do, that was impelling him to "take a hand." When he reached the
gate set in the wall of the garden, he had decided to take a hand at
once. He had a plan.

And it would have been a valuable experience for him, advancing him some
distance in spiritual development, had he been able to see clearly and
understandingly into her alert and shrewdly logical mind when he told
her his plan. For she saw through it in a flash. It was romantic, it was
risky, it was for himself. It might easily be for her ultimate good, yet
she saw he was not thinking of that at all. And because he was romantic,
because he visualized their departure as a flight into a fresh paradise,
they two alone, she turned to him with one of her ineffably gracious
gestures and loved him perhaps more sincerely than ever before. It was
this romantic streak in the dull fabric of his personality which had
attracted her, even if she had not perceived the emotional repose that
same dullness afforded her. It was like being in a calm harbour at
anchor compared with that other adventure, which had been a voyage
through storms and whirlpools, a voyage that would inevitably end in
shipwreck and stranding for her anyhow.

"I could do it," he was saying. "They don't know about it, but that boat
is the fastest they've got in the harbour and, with luck, it would be
easy to get away."

"To where?" she whispered, looking out into the fragrant gloom of the
high-walled garden below them.

"Anywhere," he exclaimed. "Once outside, we'd be picked up. Or we could
go to Phyros, and get home from there."

"Home?"

"Yes, home. England. I want you to come with me, stay with me, for good.
I can't--I can't do without you. I've been thinking every day, every
night. There's nobody else now."

She shot a glance at him. He was leaning forward in his chair, his eyes
fixed on the floor thinking, in a warm tumult of desire, of the
adventure. He saw the boat bounding through the fresh green wave-tops
into the deeper blue of the Ægean, he steering, with his arm around her
form which would be enfolded in that same big coat, making a dash for
freedom.

And as she patted his arm gently, she knew he was not thinking of her
save as a protagonist in a romantic episode. For to ask her to go to
England was, from her point of view, the reverse of a dash for freedom.
In her clear, cold, limited mentality, equipped only with casual and
fragmentary tales told by the ignorant or the prejudiced products of
mid-European culture, England was the home of debased ideals and gloomy
prisons, of iron-hard creeds and a grasping cunning avarice. Her
mercenaries were devoted to the conquest and destruction of all that
made life beautiful and gay. Out of her cold wet fogs her legions came
to despoil the fair places of the earth. And his fidelity, his avowed
abandonment of the sentiments of the past, inspired her more with wonder
and delight than a reciprocal passion. For she was under no illusions as
to her own destiny. She, too, knew this would not last for ever. Her
quick mind took in all the fantastic possibilities of his plan, and she
perceived immediately the necessity of giving her consent. He must be
kept in this mood of exalted happiness. Intuitively she knew that she
herself fed on that mood, in which he rose superior to the normal level
of his days. And in spite of her dismay at the mere thought of going out
again upon the sea, leaving everything she understood and loved, leaving
a land of whose spirit and atmosphere she was a part, she asked him when
he wanted to go.

"Not yet," he replied, still gazing at the ground, and she looked at him
with amazement. She could hardly repress an exclamation at his
credulity. He actually believed she would go.

"And we will take all our money?" she suggested.

"Yes, of course," he agreed absently. It was part of his happiness to
put everything in her hands. There was for him a supremely sensuous
delight in the words, "It is all for you. Take it. Without you, it is of
no use to me." He was unable to imagine a more complete surrender, nor
could he believe that a woman would accept it save at the price of
integrity. Evanthia was like that. Money was never her preoccupation,
but she never forgot it. She had none of the futilities of
book-education filling her mind like dusty and useless furniture, so
that her consciousness of money was as clear and sharp as her
consciousness of food or pain. And a sudden perception of his faith in
her, his profound absorption in his own romantic illusions, struck her
to a puzzled silence, which he took for assent and sympathy. She looked
away from him and out across the sea. It was too easy.

"Evanthia," he whispered, and she turned her full, direct untroubled
gaze upon him with a swift and characteristic movement of the chin.

"I love you," he muttered and touched her arm with his lips in a gesture
of adoration. She looked at him with glowing amber eyes. Sometimes he
almost terrified her with the violence of his passionate abnegation. She
had never seen anything like it before. He became gloomy with love, she
noted; and her quick wit transfused the thought into a presentiment. She
would break the spell of his infatuation with a quick movement and lure
him back to earth with a smile. She laughed now as he touched her.

"Tell me," he said, "you wish to come to England with me?"

"Ah, yes!" she sighed sweetly, nestling against him. "You an' me, in
England."

"Some time next week I'll be ready," he said. "You must get plenty of
food for the boat. And the money. Bring that."

She sat leaning against him, his arms about her, but at these words she
stared past him into the darkness of the room thinking quickly. Next
week!

"I am getting the engineer to make me a silencer, the boat makes so much
noise," he explained.

"I understand," she murmured absently, slipping out of his arms. She
must send into the town, she thought. Amos must go.

"To-morrow," he went on, "I go to the Club in the Austrian Consulate.
Mr. Marsh asked me to go. I may be a little late. You won't mind?"

She turned upon him in the darkness where she was feeling for the lamp,
and gave him a blank stare. He never saw it; and if he had he would
never have been able to understand that at that moment she could have
killed him for his stupidity. He sat in silence wondering a little, and
then the emotion had passed and she gave her delicious throaty chuckle.

"Ah, no, _mein Lieber_. I do not mind."

"Why do you sometimes call me your _Lieber_?" he asked playfully. "Is it
a pet name?"

The lamp was alight and he saw her eyes smouldering as she raised them
from the flame she was adjusting.

"Yes, _Lieber_ means love," she said gravely.

"You are not sorry we did not go to Athens?" he asked, smiling.

"To Athens ..." her face for a moment was blank, so completely had she
forgotten the ruse she had employed in Saloniki. "... ah, I understand.
Athens? No!" She turned the lamp up and began to set the table for
supper.

This was the hour that appealed to him more than anything in their life.
To see her moving about in a loose cotton frock, her bare feet thrust
into Turkish slippers, to follow the line of her vigorous supple body
beneath the thin material, and the expert rapidity of her hands as she
prepared the simple meal of stew and young figs in syrup, red wine and
coffee with candied dates, was sheer ecstasy for him. He would sit in
the dusk of the window, sprawling in his chair, his head sunk on his
breast, breathing heavily as he devoured every motion with his eyes. It
never occurred to him to wonder what she was thinking about as she
worked with her eyes cast down towards the white table or turning
towards the door to call in musical plangent accents to the old woman in
the kitchen below. She was an object of love and for him had no
existence outside of his emotional necessities. He asked in lazy
contentment if she regretted Athens. Her eyes, declined upon the table,
were inscrutable as she reflected that the young Jew was even then in
the city finding out for her whether any officers had arrived from
Aidin. "We'll have a house like this, in England," he remarked, smiling.
"And you will forget all about Saloniki, eh?"

He would expect this, of course, she thought. It was the duty of a woman
selected by a romantic to forget everything in the world except himself.
She was thinking of Saloniki even as she smiled into his eyes and
nodded. And Saloniki was thinking of her. It was at this hour that Mrs.
Dainopoulos said to her husband:

"You are sure they reached port safe?"

Mr. Dainopoulos, who had heard, by his own intricate and clandestine
methods, of the unconventional arrival of his ship in Giaour Ismir, and
who was not bothering himself very much about either Evanthia or Mr.
Spokesly since both had served his turn, remarked:

"Yes, all safe."

"You know, Boris, I should never forgive myself if anything happened to
her. If he did not marry her as soon as they got on shore. I did it for
the best. Encouraged it, I mean. I do believe he was trustworthy."

"Don't you worry, Alice," he said gruffly. "You'll see that girl again.
What you like I get you? I done a beeg business to-day."

"What was that? How much?" she asked with assumed interest. She did not
want to know, but she knew he liked her to ask.

"Oh, the British give me the paper for a big cargo I got for 'em. You
count this, now: _Thirty--five--thousand--pound_. Eh? Ha--ha!" He leaned
forward and covered her hands with kisses murmuring: "My little wife! My
little wife! What shall I buy my little English wife, eh?"

And when Mr. Spokesly asked Evanthia if she would forget it all when she
got to England she stood by the table, stricken to a sudden and
mysterious immobility and regarded him with wide amber-coloured eyes.
Then she lifted a finger to her lips.

There was a noise below. The iron gate banged. Evanthia, her finger to
her lips, her eyes shining like stars, came to the window and leaned
over. "Art thou come back?" she called in Greek. And the voice of the
young Jew replied:

"Here I am, Madama. I am returned from the city."

"Any news of the Franks at Aidin?" she asked, smiling at Mr. Spokesly
where he sat in silent admiration.

"They are here, Madama. Three, one of them the man you described to me,
young and full of laughter."

"_Aiee!_ A good servant thou art. I will keep thee always." She turned
to her lover.

"Ah, yes!" she sighed. "A house like this in England. And I have forgot
Saloniki now. Supper is ready, _mein Lieber_."



CHAPTER XVI


Years afterwards, when Mr. Spokesly, a cool and established person in
authority in a far distant territory, would turn his thoughts back
occasionally to the great period of his life, he would wonder how long
it might have lasted had he not gone into the city that calm evening,
had he never met that gay and irrepressible young man. There was no
bitterness in his reflections. He saw, in that future time, how far
removed from the firm shores of reality he and Evanthia were floating,
his romantic exaltation supporting them both while she watched him with
a suspicion of amazement in her eyes.

For there was a point in that period in the white stone house on the
mountain side, high above the village in the quiet valley, when Evanthia
herself wondered what was going to happen. She trembled for a while upon
the verge of acceptance and surrender. They would go, she submitting to
his command, and take that chance together which he was for ever
picturing in his mind as a rush for freedom and ultimate happiness.
Almost she lost that poise of spirit which enabled her to mystify and
subjugate him. Almost she succumbed to the genius and beauty of the
place, to the intensity of his emotions and the romantic possibilities
of the future he desired to evoke. For one brief moment, so swiftly
obliterated that he was hardly aware of it before it was gone, she saw
herself united to him, thinking his thoughts, breathing his hopes,
facing with her own high courage the terrors of life in an unknown land,
for ever. He remembered it (and so did she) for many years, that one
ineffable flash of supreme happiness when their spirits joined.

They had been down the steep hillside and across the Cordelio road to
the shore where there stood a blue bath house built out over the water.
As they had scrambled and slid among the shingle and loose boulders, the
upper reaches of the mountains touched to glowing bronze by the setting
sun while they were in a kind of golden twilight, there came a call from
the next house and they saw a white figure at the heavy iron gate in the
garden wall. And by the time they were among the houses of the village
and stared at by the shy, silent housewives who were gathered about the
great stone troughs of the wash house, they were joined by Esther,
Evanthia's friend. And together the three of them, with towels and
bathing suits, went down to the blue bath-house as the sparse lights of
the city began to sparkle across the water.

Mr. Spokesly liked Esther. She traversed every one of his preconceived
notions of a Jewess and of a Russian, yet she was both. She had come
down from Pera with her Armenian husband, a tall, thin, dark man with a
resounding and cavernous nose, who held a position in what he called the
Public Debt. He had come over with her one evening and paid an extremely
formal call, presenting his card, which bore the words "Public Debt" in
one corner below his polysyllabic name. Mr. Spokesly liked Esther. She
was a vigorous, well-knit woman of thirty, with an animated
good-humoured face and capable limbs. He liked her broken English, which
was uttered in a hoarse sensible voice. He liked her because she was a
strong advocate of his. He heard her muttering away to Evanthia in a
husky undertone and he was perfectly well aware that she was taking his
part and proving to Evanthia that she would be a fool if she did not
stay by him. She would talk to him alone, too, and repeat what she had
said.

"You take her away," she urged. "Soon as you can. Me and my 'usban', we
go to Buenos Aires soon as we can. This place no good."

"I want her to," he said. "She says yes, too."

"She say yes? She say anything. She like to fool you. I know. I tell
her--you stay wis your 'usban'. Englishmen good 'usban's, eh?"

"Esther, tell me something. You think, when I say, Come, she'll come
with me? You think so?"

For an instant Esther's firmly modelled and sensible features assumed an
expression inexplicable to the serious man watching them. For an instant
she was on the verge of telling him the truth. But Esther was
empirically aware of the importance of moods in the development of
truth; and she said with great heartiness: "I am tellin' you, yes! She
come. I make her! But how you get away from here? You gotta wait till
the war finish. And where go? Germany?"

"What for?" he had demanded with tremendous astonishment.

Esther looked at him then with some curiosity. She had all the news from
Constantinople, and in the light of that news it seemed incredible to
her that any one should doubt the triumph of the Central Powers. There
would be nowhere else to go, in her opinion, unless one fled to America.

"Home, of course," he had said, and of a sudden had experienced an
almost physical sickness of longing for the humid foggy land in the
Northern Sea, the land of dark green headlands showing chalk-white
below, of hedges like thick black ropes on the landscape, with sunken
roads between, of little towns of gray and black stone with the dark red
roofs and stumpy spires against the sky of clouds like heaps of
comfortable cushions. He had been amazed at her cool suggestion that
they go to Germany, and she had been amazed at him. For she had all the
news from Constantinople, news that told her that the British fleets
were at the bottom of the sea, that the millions in England were
starving, the King fled to America, and that the great Kaiser in his
palace in Berlin was setting out on his triumphal march to London to be
crowned Czar of Europe. And why then should he not go to Germany? That
was what she would do. She looked at him curiously as he said "Home!"
not understanding, of course, the meaning of the word. She had a house,
but the subtle implications of the word home, the word saturated with a
thousand years of local traditions and sympathies, the word that is the
invisible centre of our world, she did not comprehend. For her,
patriotism was a dim and unfamiliar perplexity. She had no abstract
ideas at all. She could not read very well. She personified the things
in her heart. To her they were men as real as her husband and Mr.
Spokesly himself. Husband, house, money, sun, moon, sea, and earth--on
these concrete manifestations of existence she based an uncurious
philosophy. And it must be understood that love was very much the same.
Esther had none of Evanthia's untutored theatricality. She never saw
herself as the Queen of Sheba or the mistress of a King. She had had a
pretty hard life of it in Odessa as a child, and when she was fifteen
she began to divide men into two main classes, the generous and the
stingy. It never entered her head she could live without being dependent
upon men. And then she made a fresh discovery, that generous men were
often foolish and spent their money on women who were monsters of
infidelity. Esther was faithful. Even when she was left with a baby and
no money, when she was under no obligation to treat men with
consideration, she remained one of those who keep their word out of an
allegiance to some obscure instinct for probity. And now she was married
to her Armenian, a serious creature with vague longings after Western
ideas or what he imagined were Western ideas. She was conscious of both
love and happiness as tangible facets of her existence. She had hold of
them, and in her strong capable hands she turned them to good account.
She liked Evanthia because she had that ineluctable quality of
transfiguring an act into a grandiose gesture. When Esther's little boy
came on Sunday to visit his mother, it was Evanthia who swooped upon
him, crushed him to her bosom with an exquisitely dramatic gesture of
motherhood, stroked his sleek dark head and smooth little face, and
forgot all about him an hour later. Esther never did that. When she
looked at her son she seemed to see through the past into the future.
Her kind capable face was grave and abstracted as she watched him. She
seemed to be apprehensive of their security. Her husband did not dislike
the child. But if they could only get to Buenos Aires!

She came with them now and soon they were in the water racing to the end
of the jetty and diving into the flickering green transparency towards
the white sand bottom. He watched the two of them sometimes, while he
sat on the jetty and they tried to pull each other under, noting the
differences of their characters and bodies. Esther was something beyond
his past experience. She had the sturdy muscular form of a strong youth
and the husky voice of a man. As she climbed up towards him, the water
glistening on the smooth sinewy arms and legs, and as she shook the
drops from her eyes with a boyish energy and seating herself beside him
accepted a cigarette, he was conscious of that delicious sensuous
emotion with which a man regards the friend of his beloved without
invalidating for a moment his own authentic fidelity. His love for one
woman reveals to him the essential beauty of all women. And it was
characteristic of Evanthia to swim back to the bath-house steps and go
in to dress, leaving them there to talk for a moment.

"Say, Esther, where does your husband go every night? Why don't he come
home and eat early?"

"He go to some club," she said, blowing a jet of smoke upwards. "He very
fond of his club. He read plenty book, my 'usban'."

"What sort of books?"

"I don' know. Politics, Science, Philosophy. You go to that club, too.
Your friend the Englishman, him with Armenian wife, he go there."

"I know he does. I was thinkin' about it. But it's a long way out here
at night."

Esther laughed, a low husky chuckle, as she rose, flung away the
cigarette and ran back to the bath house.

"Oh-ho! You love Evanthia too much!" she flung over her firm vigorous
shoulder.

He knew by now that she meant "very much"; and as he followed her he
agreed she was right. He had reached that stage when the past and the
future were both obliterated by the intense vitality of existence. Only
the never-ending desire to get her away into his own environment, to see
her against a familiar background, held him to the plan he had worked
out to get away. And it was the source of much of his irony in later,
more prosperous years that he had come to see how essentially egotism
and male vanity that never-ending desire happened to be. He saw the
sharp cleavage, as one sees a fault in a range of cliffs at a distance,
between his love and his pride. He saw that the fear in his heart was
for himself all the time, lest he should not come out of the adventure
with his pride entire.

But that evening he was absorbed in his emotions, saturated with the
rich and coloured shadows of the valley, the tremendous loom of the
mountains and the vast obscurity of the sea. And as they crossed the
road he put his hand on her shoulder while Esther moved on ahead in the
dusk to prepare the evening meal. And they stood for a moment in the
road, facing the huge lift of the earth towards the great golden stars,
silent in the oncoming darkness. They heard the deep booming bark of a
watch-dog far up the valley, a sound like the clang of metal plates on
earthen floors. She looked at him with a characteristic quick turn of
the head, her body poised as though for flight.

"Promise you will come," he said thickly, holding to her tightly as
though she were the stronger. "Can't you understand? I _must_ go, and I
can't go without you, leave you here. Promise!"

She watched him steadily as he said this, her eyes bright in the dusk
and charged with that enigmatic expression of waiting and of knowledge
beyond his imagining. It almost took her breath away at times, this
consciousness of events of which he knew nothing. He wanted her to go
with him to that terrible distant land where already the multitudes,
starved out by the victorious Germans, were devouring their own
children, even carrying their dead back in ships.... And he did not
know.

"Promise!" he muttered, straining her to him. She looked up the dim
dusty road, along which weary hearts had wandered for so many centuries,
and a sudden wave of pity for him swept over her. She saw him for a
moment as a pathetic and solitary being trembling upon the brink of a
tragic destiny, a being who had come up out of the sea to do her bidding
and who would sail out again into the chaos of tempests and war, and
vanish. And it was her sudden perception of this dramatic quality in
their relations that brought about the brief passionate tenderness. It
was her way, to give men at the very last a perfect memory of her, to
carry away with them into the shadows.

"Yes," she said gently, and her strong and vigorous body relaxed against
his as he held her close. "How could you leave me here, alone? _Mon
Dieu!_ We will go!"

And for a moment she meant it. She meant to go. She saw herself, not in
England it is true, but as the central figure in a gorgeous pageant of
fidelity, a tragic queen following a beggar man into captivity in a
strange land of her own bizarre imagining. They stood in the road for a
while, he staring at the stars rising over the dark summits and she
looking up the road into the dusk at a mysterious drama playing away in
the brightness of the future. And then the moment was past, and neither
of them comprehended just then how far their thoughts had gone asunder.

And she was sincere in that exclamation, when she asked how he could
leave her there alone? For she was alone. The young Jew trotted to and
from the town bearing fragments of news, like a faithful dog carrying
things in his mouth, but he had given her nothing as yet that
constituted certainty. She trembled within the circle of the arm that
held her as she suddenly saw herself--alone. She must keep him there yet
a little longer. And as they climbed up the gully and reached the iron
gate in the garden wall, the tears started to her eyes. He saw them in
the light of the lamp in the kitchen and kissed her with a fresh access
of emotion. He did not imagine the cause of them. She stared at him
through their brightness and smiled, her bosom heaving. She knew he
would never never realize they were tears of anger, and were evoked by
the perception of the helplessness of women in a world of predatory men.

But above and beyond this terrible abstract indignation she found
herself regarding him at intervals with smouldering eyes because of a
certain subtle complacency in his manner. She could not know that this
was the habit of years, or that men of his race are invariably
complacent in the presence of their women. She could not conceive him in
any rôle in which he had the right to be complacent. Yet he combined it
with a tender humility that was very sweet to her in her situation out
there on the hillside, playing for a hazardous stake. It was then she
would look at him in stupefaction, wondering if she were going mad, and
she afterwards would take the young Jew by the hair, dragging his head
this way and that, and mutter between her clenched teeth: "_Mon Dieu! Je
déteste les hommes!_" And he, poor youth, would assume an expression of
pallid horror, for he had no idea what she was talking about, and
imagined he had failed to carry out some of her imperious commands.

"Oh, Madama, what has thy servant done to deserve this?" he would
whimper, less certain than ever of the solidity of his fortunes. And she
would look at him, her hand dropping to her side as she gave a little
laugh.

"Did I hurt you?" she would chuckle, and he would explain that she had
not.

"But when Madama speaks in that strange tongue her servant is afraid he
has not done his errand in the town as she desires."

"Tck! Go every day. You will find him soon."

"If Madama gave me a letter...."

"And some great fool of an Osmanli soldier would go through thy pockets,
and lock thee up in the jail on Mount Pagos with all the other Jews. And
who would write the letter? You? Can you write?"

"Very little, Madama," he muttered, trembling.

"And I cannot write at all, though I don't tell anybody. I could never
learn. I read, yes; the large words in the cinemas; but not letters. Let
us forget that. You have the picture?"

"Ah, Madama, it is next my heart!"

He would bring it out, unfolding a fragment of paper, and show her a
photograph about as large as a stamp, and she would glower at it for a
moment.

"You are sure he is not at the Hotel Kraemer?"

"Madama, one of the maids there is of my own people, the Eskenazi, and
she has assured me there is no one like the picture there. But the
general will arrive in a day or two. Perhaps he is a general, Madama?"
he hinted.

"He? Not even a little one! Ha--ha!" she chuckled again. "The dear fool!
But hear me. He may be with the general. He may be what they call an
_aide_. He may...." She broke off, staring hard at the youth, suddenly
remembering that he might not come at all. "Go!" she ordered absently,
"find him and thy fortune is made."

But the idea of a letter was attractively novel to her, and she
immediately saw herself inspiring the dear fool with some of her own
grandiose ideas. She even thought of sounding Esther upon the likelihood
of her husband writing a letter. She stood by the window looking down
into the garden where Mr. Spokesly sat smoking and gazing at the blue
bowl of the gulf and the distant gray-green olive groves beyond the
city. She was deliberating upon the significance of her courier's latest
breathless news from the kitchen of the Hotel Kraemer. The general was
arriving from the south. He and his staff had been as far as Jerusalem
after the great victory over the British and were due to-morrow in the
city on their way back to Constantinople. Evanthia's courage had
suffered from the contradictory nature of her earlier news. It was part
of her life to sift and analyze the words that ran through city and
country from mouth to mouth. She had never had any real confidence in
any other form of information. If she hired any one to write a letter,
her words vanished into incomprehensible hieroglyphics and she had no
guarantee the man did not lie. And when Amos had told her on the ship
what he had heard in the Rue Voulgaróktono that they had reached Aidin,
she had jumped to the conclusion that Lietherthal was with a party on
their way from Constantinople to Smyrna. And now her quick brain saw the
reason why they had not arrived before. He had joined the staff of the
general and had gone away south, through Kara-hissar, to Adana and
Aleppo to Damascus. And now they were on their way back. She looked down
into the garden, where Mr. Spokesly, quietly smoking, was reflecting
upon the mystery of a woman's desires. Here, after all, she had
forgotten all about that other fellow, who was probably having a good
time in Athens and who had no doubt forgotten about her. And she was
alone here, utterly dependent upon him, who had made his plans for
taking her away to a civilized country, where he could make her happy.
He smiled with profound satisfaction as he thought of himself with her
beside him, in London. How her beauty would flash like a barbaric jewel
in that gray old city! He remembered the money she had stowed away,
ready for the great adventure. He called it that in romantic moments,
yet what was more easy than running out after dark, with nothing fast
enough to catch him? Especially as he heard that there would be a review
in a day or so when everyone would be on their toes to see the general.
He thought of the money because even in his romantic moments there was
enough to live on for a year "while he looked round." No more
second-mate's jobs, he muttered. He would pick and choose. He rose and
stretched luxuriously, noting the calm glitter of the city's lights like
a necklace on the bosom of the mountain. He would have to spend an
evening with that chap Marsh. Very decent fellow. Had pressed him more
than once to join them at Costi's in the Rue Parallel. He was satisfied
apparently, married to his Armenian wife and teaching music and
languages to earn a living for a large family. Mr. Spokesly recalled a
remark made by Mr. Marsh one day at the Sports Club: "Oh! Don't
misunderstand me! For myself, as regards the war, you know, I am a
philosopher. What can we do? Ask any fair-minded person at home, what
could they do, in our position? There's only one answer--make the best
of it. Don't misunderstand us."

And he had ventured a remark that possibly they, and the fair-minded
person at home, might misunderstand him, coming into an enemy port like
that.

"Oh, no!" Mr. Marsh was untroubled by that. "You were like us, as far as
I can make out. Had to make the best of it. Now your captain...."

There was a fascination about the captain for Mr. Marsh. For twenty
years he had lived in a sort of middle-class and inconspicuous exile,
and destined, as far as he could discover, to remain for ever in the dry
and unromantic regions of a middle-class existence. Nothing, he was
often fond of saying to his friends, ever happened to him. The things
one reads of in books! he would exclaim, with a short grunting laugh of
humorous regret. Stories of fair Circassians, Balkan countesses, Turkish
beauties, Armenian damsels...! Where were they? He had married and
settled down here, and remained twenty years in all, and yet nothing had
happened. Yes, on the alert for twenty years to detect romantic
developments--he had a daughter sixteen years old--and until that ship
came in, not a chance! So he described it to his friends at Costi's and
at the Austrian Consulate, an immense villa in a charming garden farther
along in the Rue Parallel.

For somehow the arrival of that ship was a significant event in more
than the accepted sense. It was reserved for Mr. Marsh to perceive the
full romantic aspect of the adventure. For others it was a nine-day
wonder, an official nuisance or blessing, as suited the official
temperament to regard it. To Mr. Spokesly it was an exciting but
secondary factor leading up to the greater adventure of departure. It
was over-shadowed by the more perplexing problem of explaining himself
in a masterless vessel.

But Mr. Marsh, after twenty years, during which he had failed to detect
anything resembling romance in his life, when he was called out of his
bed at dawn that morning to go off as interpreter, saw the matter in a
very different light. Indeed he saw it in the light of romance. His
first comment when he found time to review his experiences was: "By
Jove, you can't beat that type! We shall always rule, always!" and his
bosom swelled at the thought of England. But it was his discovery of
Captain Rannie which remained with him as the great scene in the play.
He could not get it out of his mind. He told everybody about it. He
revealed a doubt whether other people fully appreciated the
extraordinary experience which had been his when he went down that dark
curving stairway, "not having the faintest notion, you know, whether I
wouldn't get knocked on the head or perhaps blown to bits," and found
the door resisting his efforts. An active intelligent resistance! he
declared, precisely as though the man were trying to keep him out. And
as time passed and the story developed in his own mind by the simple
process of continually repeating and brooding upon it, as an actor's
part becomes clearer to him by rendition, Mr. Marsh developed the theory
that when he first went down those stairs and tried to get in, the
resistance was in truth intelligent and alive.

He was explaining this new and intriguing "theory," as he called it, on
the following evening when Mr. Spokesly accompanied by the husband of
Esther, who was "in the Public Debt," entered the great room on the
second floor of the Consulate, a magnificent chamber whose windows
opened upon balconies and revealed, above the opposite roofs, rectangles
of luminous twilight. Some half-dozen gentlemen were seated on chairs in
the dusk about one of the balconies. As the newcomers arrived by a side
door a servant came in through the enormous curtains at the far end
bearing a couple of many-branched candlesticks and advanced towards a
table, thus revealing in some degree the elaborate design and shabby
neglect of the place. Huge divans in scarlet satin were ripped and
battered, the gilding of the sconces was tarnished and blackened, and
the parquetry flooring, of intricate design, was warped and loose under
the advancing foot. And above their heads, like shadowy wraiths, hung
immense candelabra whose lustres glittered mysteriously in the
candlelight under their coverings of dusty muslin.

Mr. Marsh was leaning his elbows on the balcony railing and facing his
audience as he explained his conviction that the captain had intended to
keep him out.

"I assure you," he was saying, and apparently he was directing his
remarks at someone who now heard the tale for the first time; "I assure
you, when I pushed the door and saw the man's shoulder, it moved. I mean
it actually quivered, apart from my movement of the door. It gave me a
very peculiar sensation, because when I spoke, there was no answer. Only
a quiver. And another thing. When I finally did shove the door open and
so shoved the captain over, the noise was not the noise of a dead inert
body, if you understand me. Not at all. It sounded as though he had
broken his fall somewhat! I can assure you----"

Mr. Marsh had enjoyed an excellent education in England. He had the
average Englishman's faculty of expressing himself in excellent
commonplaces so that every other Englishman knew exactly what he meant.
But his hearers on this occasion were not all Englishmen, and suddenly
out of the dusk of the corner came a voice speaking English but not of
England at all. Mr. Spokesly, standing a short distance off, was
startled at the full-throated brazen clang of it booming through the
obscurity of the vast chamber. It was a voice eloquent of youth and
impudent virile good-humour, a voice with a strange harsh under-twang
which the speaker's ancestors had brought out of central Asia, where
they had bawled barbaric war-songs across the frozen spaces.

"Broke his what? I don't understand what you mean," said the voice, and
a fair-haired young man in a gray uniform, a short, thick golden
moustache on his lip, came up suddenly out of the gloom into the
radiance of the candles and began to stride to and fro. The interruption
was trivial, yet it gave the key to the young man's character,
courageous, cultured, precise, and impatient of inferior minds.

"His fall," explained Mr. Marsh politely. "The point is, I believe he
was alive almost up to the moment, you know, of our entry. He even moved
slightly as I stepped in--a sort of last gasp. I even heard something of
that nature. A sigh. Good evening, gentlemen."

The last words were addressed to Mr. Spokesly and his friend in the
Public Debt, who crossed the path of the young man striding up and down
and were introduced to the company.

"You can corroborate what I say," said Mr. Marsh. "You know I mentioned
it at the time--a sort of sigh?"

"What is a sigh, or a moment, for that matter, more or less?" demanded
the young man striding up and down. "To me there is something much more
important in his motive. Why did this captain of yours end himself? This
is a question important to science. I am a student of Lombroso and Molle
and the Englishman Ellis. Was this man epileptic? Did he have delusions
of grandeur?"

"This gentleman," said Mr. Marsh, "was the officer on deck at the time,"
and he looked at Mr. Spokesly anxiously, as though waiting fresh details
of the affair.

"Yes, he had delusions," said Mr. Spokesly, clearing his throat.
"Thought everybody was against him. He took drugs too. My own idea is he
took the wrong stuff or too much of it, in his excitement. He was down
there in his room when we crashed. And he had another--delusion I
suppose you could call it. He didn't like women."

"Didn't like.... Well, who does?" challenged the vigorous metallic voice
with a carefully modified yet resonant laugh. One or two laughs, equally
modified, floated from obscure corners where cigar-ends glowed, and the
animated figure paused in its rapid movement. "I mean, no man likes
women as they are unless he is a true sensualist. What we aspire to is
the ideal they represent. Your captain must have been a sensualist."

"Because his last breath was a sigh, you mean?" said Mr. Marsh. "I heard
it you know. A long-drawn gasp."

"Precisely. The sigh of a sensualist leaving the world of the senses."

Mr. Spokesly stared at Mr. Marsh incredulously.

"I don't think you are 'right,'" he remarked, lighting a fresh
cigarette. "The captain was not that sort of man. He was timid, I admit.
He was scared of losing his life."

"Who isn't?" demanded the young man and was beginning another resonant
laugh when Mr. Spokesly broke in.

"A good many people," he said sharply, "under the right conditions.
Nobody _wants_ to get killed, we know. But that does not mean they
wouldn't take a risk."

"Well, didn't your captain take the risk?" said Mr. Marsh eagerly. "That
was just what...."

"He did but he always wore one of these inflating things," said Mr.
Spokesly quietly. "Vests you blow up when you want them. We had a
collision, as you know, and he had it on then. And when he heard us
crash I've no doubt he began to inflate it again."

"Then there is no use supposing he committed suicide," said a voice.
"That would be absurd."

"Not altogether," replied Mr. Spokesly. "I don't know whether you
gentlemen will think I am a bit mad for saying it, but after knowing
him, it's quite possible he took something to kill himself and then
tried to save himself from being drowned. There's a lot of difference
between being dragged under in a sinking ship, and gradually getting
sleepy and stiff in comfort, and don't you forget it. Humph!"

There was a silence for a moment when he ceased speaking, as though he
had propounded some new and incontrovertible doctrine of philosophy. The
young man who was walking up and down, almost vanishing in the gloom
down near the great smoke-coloured velvet curtains, halted and looked
interrogatively at Mr. Spokesly.

"But you have not explained why he should kill himself at all," he said.
"A man as you say scared of losing his life."

"Well," said Mr. Spokesly slowly. "He may have seen himself.... I mean
he may have realized he had lost his life already, as you might say."

"How, how?" demanded the young man, very much interested. "What do you
mean by already?"

"You might call it that," muttered Mr. Spokesly, "with his ideas about
women. Couldn't bear to talk about them. And he didn't like men much
better. So I say he'd lost his life already. Nothing to live for, if a
man hates women. And he did. That's one thing I am sure about."

"You are a psychologist," said the young man, very much amused. "You
believe in the inspiration of love."

"Naturally," said Mr. Spokesly. "A man believes in what he understands."

The young man nodded and turned away with the slight smile of one who
realizes he is dealing with a person of limited intelligence.

"You mean we believe in what we have cognition of," he amended in a
harsh tone. "No doubt you are right. But your captain may have had
beliefs and fidelities beyond your cognition. Perhaps he saw, suddenly,
as in a flash, you understand, the ultimate futility of existence. He
might. Englishmen don't as a rule. But if he had lived in the East a
long while, he might."

"But surely you don't advance that as a tenable hypothesis," exclaimed
Mr. Marsh. This man, who had contrived to retain the illusions and
metaphysics of the comfortably fixed classes of England amid the
magnificent scenery and human squalor of Ottoman life, was frankly
appalled by the young man's ferocious gaiety while he advanced what he
called his theory of philosophic nihilism. That was the disconcerting
feature of the affair. This Herr Leutnant Lietherthal actually spoke
with pleasure of a time when humanity should have ceased to exist! Mr.
Marsh would almost have preferred a technical enemy to desire the
extinction of Englishmen. It was more logical, and he said as much as
they adjourned to a smaller room to supper.

"Oh, don't I?" exclaimed the Herr Leutnant, holding up his glass of
Kümmel. That was his way of being revenged upon the country where he had
lived many happy years. At Oxford, whither the munificence of Rhodes
brought him, his sensuous mind had delighted in the apparently opposed
but really identical studies of philosophy and philology. Following the
example of his tutor at Leipzig, he had often neglected classrooms in
his studies in English, and gone into the slums of great towns and on
the dock-sides of London and Liverpool for idioms. And he got them. "Oh,
don't I?" he exclaimed, laughing, and added: "I go the whole hog, my
friend." And only that subtle under-twang, that strong humming of the
vocal chords in his vowels remained to detect him. He was addicted to
saying that he had discovered the secret of the English power, which
was, he announced, their mongrel origin. "A nation of mongrels who think
of nothing but thoroughbred horses and dogs," he had described them to
Evanthia, who could not possibly gauge the accuracy of the sentence.
Just now, as he set down his glass, he added that he went "the whole
hog, my friend, as your graceful English expresses it." And then, in
reply to Mr. Marsh's shocked comment, he said:

"Why? It would be of no advantage to desire the extinction of any white
race. This affair is only a family squabble. But it is a symptom. You
may be watching now the first convulsions of the disease by which Europe
will die. Europe is dying. The war, the war is only a superficial
disturbance. The trouble is deeper than the mud of Flanders, my friend.
Europe is dying because her inspiration, her ideals, are gone. That is
what I mean when I say Europe will die. The old fidelities are
departing. And when they are all dead, and Europe is a vast cesspool of
republicans engaged in mutual extermination, what will happen then, do
you think?"

"Why do you talk that mad stuff here?" grunted one of the guests, a
quiet middle-aged person with a monocle. He spoke in German, and
Lietherthal answered quickly:

"What difference, Oscar? They don't believe me."

"What will happen, I ask you?" he continued in a vibrating tone. "When
we have destroyed ourselves, and the survivors of our civilization are
creeping feebly about the country, going back little by little to the
agricultural age, the yellow men from Asia and the blacks from Africa
will come pouring into Europe. Millions of them. They will infest the
skeletons of our civilizations like swarms of black and yellow maggots
in the sepulchres of kings. And in the end humanity will cease to exist.
Civilization will be dead but there will be nobody to bury her," he
concluded, smiling. "Europe will be full of the odours of her
dissolution."

"I cannot believe," said Mr. Marsh with energy, "that any one would
seriously entertain such wild ideas. They imply the negation of all the
things we hold dear. I should commit suicide at once if I thought for a
single moment such an outcome was possible."

"Perhaps your captain had such a moment," suggested the young man,
busily eating fish. "Perhaps he saw, as I said, the futility of
existence."

"And you really believe there is no hope?"

"Hope!" echoed Lietherthal with a brazen-throated laugh. "Hear the
Englishman crying for his hope! By what right or rule of logic can we
demand an inexhaustible supply of hope, especially packed in
hundredweight crates for export to the British Colonies? Hope! The
finest brand on the market! Will not spoil in the tropics! Stow away
from boilers! Use no hooks! That's all an Englishman thinks of if you
ask him to consider a scientific question. Doctor, is there any hope?
Hope for himself, not for anybody else."

There was a murmur of laughter at this, a murmur in which even Mr. Marsh
joined, for he "could see a joke" as he often admitted. And as the meal
progressed and the excellent red wine passed, the young man revealed a
nimble mind, like quicksilver rather than firm polished metal, which ran
easily over the whole surface of life and entertained them with the
aptness and scandalous candour of its expression. To most of them, men
like Esther's husband, Mr. Jokanian, who had absorbed European ideas
through books, so that they had fermented within him in a black froth of
pessimism and socialistic bubbles, he was a blond angel from heaven. "A
man of remarkable ideas," he observed to Mr. Spokesly, who nodded.

"Remarkable is right," he muttered. He found himself withdrawing
instinctively from the highly charged intellectual atmosphere of this
community. As he ate his supper and drank the wine, he allowed his mind
to return to his own more immediate affairs. It might very well be that
civilization and even humanity would die out, but the urgency of the
problem was not apparent to a man about to go out on a hazardous
adventure with the woman he loved. Only that day he had worked with Mr.
Cassar, the engineer, who had been making a silencer for the motor. Not
that Mr. Spokesly was going to depend upon that. He had a mast and a
sail, for he knew the wind was off shore and easterly during the night,
and he could save his engine for the time when they had made the outer
arm of the Gulf. Mr. Cassar agreed because he thought they might be
short of gasolene in spite of the carefully stored supply. For Mr.
Cassar had decided to go with his commander. It had been borne in upon
Mr. Cassar that the family in Cospicua, for whom he was industriously
providing, might perish of starvation while he grew rich beyond the
dreams of avarice, if he could not send them any money--as he obviously
could not so long as he remained where he was. Mr. Cassar was not at all
clear as to the causes and extent of the war. All he knew was that he
now earned more money, and he naturally hoped it would go on as long as
possible. But he also knew enough of war to realize the limits set upon
enterprise, just as at sea one had to submit to the ways of the
elements. And he had inherited a placid contempt for everything Ottoman,
which minimized in his mind the difficulties of departure. And it may
have been also a sudden desire to see his wife in Cospicua. She had
written him, in a mixture of Maltese and Italian, with many corrections
and blots, which had caused the literary-minded censor in Saloniki much
trouble, thinking they concealed a cipher; and she had implored him to
come back to Valletta and get work in the dockyard. Then they could have
a house in Senglea and the children could go to a better school. This
was doubtless the underlying thought in Mr. Cassar's mind when he
decided to go along with Mr. Spokesly. And Mr. Spokesly, before going
over to the office of the Public Debt, to find Mr. Jokanian, had
mentioned that he would be going back rather late to Bairakli.

He sat now, the wine stimulating his mind to unwonted activity,
listening to the clever conversation of the blond young man. Mr.
Spokesly was quite prepared to admire him. It was, he reflected, very
wonderful how these chaps learned languages. He wished he could speak
these lingos. Here they were, German, Austrian, Armenian, Jew, all
speaking English. After all, there lay the triumph. As Mr. Marsh said,
you couldn't beat that type. "We" went everywhere and all men adopted
"our" language and "our" ideas. He heard the Herr Leutnant's tones as he
told Mr. Marsh that he himself admired the English. He had lived among
them for years. At one time was engaged to marry an _Engländerinn_. And
his conclusion was that they had nothing to fear from any other nation.
Their true enemies were within. The hitherto impregnable solidarity of
the race was disintegrating. Mr. Spokesly was not clear what this
signified. He knew it sounded like the stuff these clever foreigners
were always thinking up. When all was said and done, they were all out
to do the best they could for themselves. There was Marsh, living as
calm as you please in Ottoman territory and making a very decent income
in various ways. And there was a young fellow over there, with rich
auburn hair flung back from a fine reddish forehead, who had been
pointed out to him as the son of a rich old boy who had been there all
his life as a Turkey merchant, with great estates and a grand house at
Boudja where they were to hold a magnificent garden party to welcome the
old General on his arrival from a tour of inspection in Syria. Mr.
Spokesly had heard, too, of the way money was made just now, and he
smiled at the simplicity of it. There was the material in the cargo of
the _Kalkis_, hardware and flour and gasolene. A pretty rake-off some of
these intellectual Europeans had made out of that in what they called
transportation charges. And there was the Ottoman Public Debt they had
taken up, paying for it in paper and getting the interest in gold. They
were doing the best they could under the circumstances. He saw their
point of view well enough. He himself had another problem. He had to get
out of it. Mr. Spokesly, as he walked about that shining Levantine city,
as he passed down those narrow tortuous streets into bazaars reeking
with the strange odours of Asiatic life, as he watched the slow
oblivious life of the poor, and the sullen furtiveness of the Greek
storekeepers and shabby French bourgeoisie waiting in line at the custom
house for a chance to buy their morsels of food, saw with penetrating
clarity how impossible it would be for him to remain, even if he did get
a permanent harbour-master's job. No! He finished his glass of wine and
looked round for the decanter. He saw that these people here, for all
their intellectual superiority, their fluent social accomplishments,
their familiarity with philosophical compromises, were simply evading
the facts. They were variants of Mr. Jokanian, who was also reaching
regularly for the decanter, and who was attempting to forget a national
failure in high-sounding poppycock about the autocracy of the
proletariat. Mr. Marsh was proud of being an Englishman, in a well-bred
way, for he was always insisting "you could not beat that type"; but
what was his idea of an Englishman?

A person who, strictly speaking, no longer existed. Mr. Marsh was
fortunate in having his ideals and illusions preserved in the dry air of
the Levant as in a hermetically sealed chamber. The type he spoke of was
being very handsomely beaten in all directions and was being rescued
from utter annihilation by a very different type--the mechanical
engineer, who was no doubt preparing the world for a fresh advance upon
its ultimate destruction. Mr. Spokesly, in a rich glow of exaltation,
saw these vast and vague ideas parade in his mind as he listened
abstractedly to the conversation. But as the wine passed, that cosmic
quality passed, too, and he began to hear other things besides theories
of evolution. He heard someone remark that they had a very fine piano, a
Bechstein grand. Some consul had brought it from Vienna for his musical
daughter. But it was impossible to take it with them when he was
transferred to Teheran. Another voice desired to know what was done with
the musical daughter, and amid laughter they began to push their chairs
back, lighting cigarettes and lifting liqueurs to carry them to another
room.

Looking down into a courtyard which contained, amid much rank
vegetation, an empty marble basin surmounted by a one-legged Diana with
a broken bow, and a motor car with only three wheels and no engine, Mr.
Spokesly leaned out to watch the moon setting over the dark masses of
the neighbouring roofs. Behind him the Bechstein grand was surrounded by
some half-dozen gentlemen explaining their preferences, laughing,
whistling a few notes, and breaking into polite cries of wonder.
Suddenly there was a silence, and Mr. Marsh, seated at the instrument
and running his hands over the keys in a highly versatile fashion, began
"John Peel" in a high thin tenor that sounded as though it came from
behind the neighbouring mountain. Thin yet sweet, so that the peculiar
sentiment of the song, dedicated "to that type" which Mr. Marsh so much
admired, reached Mr. Spokesly as he leaned out and noted the sharp,
slender black shapes of the cypresses silhouetted against the dark blue
vault of the sky with its incredibly brilliant stars. He smiled and
reflected that the moon would be gone in a couple of hours, a red globe
over Cordelio. In a few nights it would set before night-fall. He drank
his liqueur. A moonless night and he would be away from all this. He
wished he were back at Bairakli now. He grudged every moment away from
her. He had caught her making little preparations of her own, and when
he had chaffed her she had looked at him in an enigmatic way with her
bright amber eyes, her beautiful lips closed, and gently inhaling
through her nostrils. What an amazing creature she was! He would sit and
watch her in the house, entranced, oblivious of time or destiny. He
wished Mrs. Dainopoulos could know of his happiness. He never suspected
that when Mrs. Dainopoulos at length heard of this episode, it was
expressed in a single shrug of the shoulders and a faint vanishing
smile. The song ended with a tinkle:

    "_Oh, I ken John Peel, from my bed where I lay,
        As he passed with his hounds in the morning!_"

and there was a murmur of applause. Mr. Spokesly, looking out into the
darkness, clapped and lit another cigarette. He was startled by a great
crash of chords. The young man, a cigar in his teeth, his head enveloped
in a blue cloud of smoke, was seated at the piano. Mr. Spokesly turned
and watched him. Mr. Marsh came over to the window, smiling.

"D'you do anything?" he asked. "We should be delighted, you know, if you
would. It relieves the tension, don't you think?"

"Not in my line, I'm afraid," said Mr. Spokesly. "I never had any
accomplishments."

He stood listening to the full, rounded, clangorous voice, toned down to
Heine's beautiful words:

    "_Die Luft ist kühl und dunkelt,
      Und ruhig fliesst der Rhein,
    Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
      Im Abend Sonnenschein._"

"Wonderful voice," whispered Mr. Marsh. "Studied at Leipzig. Rather a
talented chap, don't you think? By the way, I heard to-night they intend
making an inspection of the outer harbour while they are here. Improving
the defences. They don't want any more ships to come in the way you did.
Of course it was luck as well as pluck. Probably lay fresh mines."

"Is that a fact?" asked Mr. Spokesly. As in a dream he heard the
applause, himself clapping mechanically and then the booming of bass
chords. And a voice like a silver trumpet, triumphant and vibrating,
blared out the deathless call of the lover to his beloved:

    "_Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du mein?
    Hab ich dich wieder?_"

"Well it's pretty reliable. A friend of mine who is in the timber
trade--got a saw mill up at Menenen and uses horses--has been given a
contract to bring down a lot of stones to the harbour. Fill all those
lighters, you know. That'll mean quite a lot of work for you, eh?"

Mr. Spokesly turned resolutely to the window and looked out over the
dark roofs at the lustrous and spangled dome of the sky. He would have
to find Cassar and give him some instructions at once. It would be
impossible to get away if they waited for a swarm of workmen and
officials to come down and be for ever sailing up and down the Gulf. He
ought to have thought of such a contingency. He must find Cassar. And
then he must get back to Evanthia and tell her they must go at once.
To-morrow night. He heard the heavy stamp of feet that greeted the end
of the song and joined in without thinking. As he walked across to the
door Mr. Marsh followed him, and Mr. Jokanian, his dark yearning eyes
brilliant with the wine he had drunk, came over making gestures of
protestation as another voice rose from behind the grand piano:

    "_Enfant, si j'étais Roi, je donnerais l'empire,
    Et mon char, et mon sceptre, et mes peuples à genoux,
    Et mon couronne d'or, et mes bains de porphyre._"

"I am coming back," said Mr. Spokesly, "but I must see if my boat is
ready."

"You don't need any boat," said Mr. Jokanian. "We are going back in my
carriage. Mr. Lietherthal goes with us. I have invited him."

"_Pour un regard de vous!_" sang the voice, and trembled into a
passionate intricacy of arpeggios.

"I shall not be long," he repeated. "I must tell my man I sha'n't need
it, in that case."

He felt he must get out of there at once, if only for a moment. This
combination of wine and music was becoming too much for him. As he came
out into the courtyard he heard Victor Hugo's superb challenge ring out:

    "_Enfant, si j'étais Dieu, je donnerais le Ciel!_"

He walked quickly along in the profound shadow of the Rue Parallel until
he reached the great doors of the Passage Kraemer. Here he might have
seen, had he been watchful, in a corner by the disused elevator of the
hotel, the young Jew talking to a girl in cap and apron. The youth saw
him and clutched his companion's arm.

"Madama's husband," he whispered. "The Englishman."

"Well," said the girl, bending her dark brows upon the figure hurrying
out upon the quay, "I think your Madama is a fool."

"S-sh!" whimpered the young man. "She is the most glorious creature in
the world."

"And a fool," repeated the girl. "That other upstairs in Suite Fourteen
will desert her in a month. I know his style. He only left the last one
in Kara-hissar, so his servant told us. I know if _I_ had a chance of
marrying an Englishman.... Yes! She has got you anyhow," she added,
laughing. "You are like a cony in love with a snake."

He put up his hand in warning, as though he feared by some occult power
Madama would hear these rash and sacrilegious words. He took out a tiny
piece of paper and looked at it.

"I must go," he said. "You are certain it is this Frank, who has come?"
he urged anxiously.

"Yes," she said, smiling contemptuously. "When I passed him in the
corridor, he put his arm round me and said he would love me for ever.
You can tell your Madama if you like."

Mr. Spokesly, unaware of this conversation, made his way out, and was on
the point of crossing the quay by the custom house when Mr. Cassar, who
was drinking a glass of syrup at the café opposite, ran over and
accosted him.

"Look here----" began Mr. Spokesly.

"I know," interrupted the engineer. "I've heard something else. Don't go
over there now. I want to tell you this. Very important, Captain. Will
you have a drink?"

"Coffee," said Mr. Spokesly, sitting at a table in front of a small
café. "What is it?"

"I was working on the boat this afternoon, after you had been there,"
said Mr. Cassar, "and I got that silencer pretty good now, and some
officers come up and say, this boat very good, we will want it. They
make inspection of harbour, you understand. I say, all right, what time?
They say to-morrow. The General he go round and make inspection. Want
all three motor boats. I say all right. But I was waiting to see you. If
I miss you I was going out to find you at your house. You understand?"

Mr. Spokesly nodded. He understood perfectly well. He reflected upon the
wisdom of staying away from the Consulate after saying he would go back.
He decided it would be better to return.

"You will have to get off," said Mr. Cassar in a matter-of-fact tone as
he looked away towards the mountains. "Don't you think so, Captain?"

"Plenty of time," Mr. Spokesly muttered, "before daylight. Are you sure
you are all right? Got everything?"

"Yes, everything," said Mr. Cassar positively.

"Right," said his commander. "Now you tell the customs guard I return to
Bairakli at midnight. You go with me to bring the boat back as they want
it in the morning. And if I don't come before one o'clock, you go alone.
I shall be going by road. Some of them asked me to go with them. You go
alone and wait for me at the bath-house jetty. Can you remember that?"

"Easy," said Mr. Cassar. "It is ten o'clock now."

"I'll go back," said Mr. Spokesly.

The evening was just beginning along the front as he passed once again
through the great Passage beneath the hotel. There was no young Jew
watching him now. That highly strung and bewildered creature was
hurrying through the lower town on his way to Bairakli, bearing
authentic news for his mistress. He had an uneasy suspicion that the
person described by his friend in the hotel would not prove so good a
friend as Mr. Spokesly. But he hurried on past the little Turkish shops,
his fez on the back of his head, the lamplight reflected on the bony
ridge of the large glistening nose that rose up between his scared pale
eyes and sallow cheeks. All along the lonely road beyond the railway
station he tripped and stumbled, muttering to himself: "Oh, Madama, he
is come, he is come! I bring great news. He is come!" Sometimes he
clasped his hands in an ecstasy of emotion and would almost fall into
some unnoticed slough or channel by the way. All the griefs of the poor
seemed to concentrate themselves upon him as he moaned and staggered.
"Father of Israel, what shall I do if she abandon me? There is no food
for a fatherless boy here. Oh, Madama!"

But when at length he scrambled up to the house on the hillside and saw
his mistress and Esther Jokanian sitting in the window overlooking the
sea, he took heart again. When Evanthia, leaning out in a loose robe
that showed transparent against the lamp behind her, called, "Who is
there?" he replied that it was her faithful servant with news. She came
down like a swiftly moving phantom and unlocked the gate, pulling it
wide with her characteristic energy and courage.

"Speak!" she said in a thrilling, dramatic whisper, all her soul
responding to the moment. The youth held out his hand palm upward while
he leaned his head against the rough wall.

"Oh, Madama, he is come," he replied in a low tone, as though he sensed
the formidable importance of his words in their lives. She stood staring
at him for a second and then, pulling him in, she closed the gate with a
tremendous clang that jarred the very foundation of his reason. It was
at times like these that this young man, born into a chaotic world of
alien beings intent upon inexplicable courses of action, inspired by
unknown and possibly sinister ideals, was upon the point of dashing his
head with maniac energy against those heavy ancient stones which, by
comparison, seemed less foreign to his distracted soul.

"Come," she said with a mysterious smile. "Your fortune is made. You
must go back with a message."

"Oh, Madama!" he wailed.

She dragged him up the steps leading to the rooms above.

"Endlich!" she cried to Esther, who sat by the window, chin on hand, and
muttering in her husky man's voice. "He is here. I must have been born
with good fortune after all."

"You are throwing away the greatest chance in your life," growled Esther
without looking at her. The young man gave a stifled yelp and choked,
holding his arms out as though in supplication. They looked at him, but
he could not proceed. His courage failed as his exacerbated imagination
pictured the tigerish glare in Evanthia's eyes if he should tell her
about the last one that was left at Kara-hissar. He put a hand to his
throat and mumbled: "The message, Madama? It is late."

"You do not understand," said Evanthia crossly to her friend. "What do
you think I am made of? Do you think I can go on for ever like this,
pretending love? Men! I use them, my friend. The lover of my heart is
here, and you ask me to go out on that cursed water to a country where
it is dark wet fog all the time. What should I do there? My God, are you
mad? Now I shall go to Europe, and for once I shall live. Ah! The
message! Here!" She dragged a blank page from a yellow paper-covered
volume lying on a cedar-wood console and hunted for a pencil. With a
fragment of black crayon she began to scrawl her name in staggering
capitals. "So!" she muttered. "Now I shall put the words _liebe dich_.
Sacré! When I go to Europe I will learn this writing--or have a
secretary. There! It is enough for my dear lunatic. Take it!" She folded
it and gave it to the youth who stood by the door dejectedly. "Ask for
the Herr Leutnant Lietherthal. Go down and eat first." She gave him a
pat on the shoulder that seemed to put a fresh stream of life into him,
and he disappeared.

"Take care, Esther, do not tell him a word of this. Or thy husband
either. He might speak in forgetfulness."

"It is nothing to me," muttered Esther. "I like him, that is all. And
fidelity is best."

"Fidelity!" said Evanthia slowly. "And is not this fidelity? Have I not
followed the lover of my heart across the world? If the father of thy
boy came up here and knocked at the gat.... You talk! I am not a
white-faced Frank girl to be a slave of an Englishman! He gives me all
his money here, yes. But in his England, when I am shut up in the fog
and rain, how much will I get, _hein_?" her voice rose to a shout, a
brazen clangour of the throat, and her hand shot out before her,
clenched, as though she were about to hurl thunderbolts.

"Very well," assented Esther in a low tone, "but you don't know if the
lover of your heart wants you any more. The lovers of the heart are
funny fish," she added grimly.

"Prrtt! You are right," said Evanthia in an ordinary tone. "Did I say I
was going away to-night, stupid?"

"I see the light of the boat," said Esther. "Perhaps my husband is with
him. I must go back to my house."

"No! Stay here a little." Evanthia laid hold of her. "To-night I must
have someone with me. I am shaken in my mind. I shall want to shriek.
Stay."

"It is at the jetty," said Esther soberly. She looked out into a dense
darkness, and in the lower distance she could see a tiny light where the
launch had run alongside the old bath-house jetty. And then the light
went out.

They waited in silence, smoking cigarettes, until their quick ears
caught the sound of footsteps on the hillside. And then the grind of a
key in the great lock of the gate.

As Mr. Spokesly came into the room he barely sensed the tension of the
atmosphere. He broke breathlessly into his news at once.

"Quick!" he said in a low tone. "We must go to-night, dear. After
to-night I may not have any boat. It is all ready. Come now. We have
time to get out of sight of land before daylight."

"To-night!" exclaimed Evanthia, clutching her breast, and thinking
rapidly. "Impossible."

"It will be impossible any other night," he retorted gently. "We _must_
go."

Evanthia backed away, thinking clearly, concisely, and skilfully behind
her astonishment. He turned to Esther.

"You tell her," he said. "We must go. It is our last chance. It was
lucky I heard about it. They are going to fortify the Gulf. Go and get
ready, dear. Bring me a blanket and I'll carry it down, and some bread
and meat. Enough for a day, anyhow."

"Where is my 'usband'?" demanded Esther.

"He's coming by the road. He's got some friends with him, from the
hotel. You mustn't mind them being a bit elevated. Plenty of wine
to-night. They will be here soon, I expect. I want to get down and away
before they arrive."

Evanthia, folding a blanket in the bedroom, stood perfectly still. She
could hear her own pulses thumping, and she put her hand to her throat.
She felt as though her heart would burst if she did not gain control of
herself. She stood perfectly still thinking, her mind darting this way
and that, as a trapped animal tests the resistance of the trap in every
direction. For a moment she thought of killing him as they went down to
the boat. She was strong: she felt she could do it. Under the
shoulder-blades and in the throat. No, she must wait. Only as a last
resource, that. She folded up the blanket and walked back into the room
to give him the food.

He stood for a moment with the blanket and loaves of bread in his arms,
unable to utter what he felt for her sacrifice for him. He could only
say stumblingly:

"I sha'n't forget this. I know that much," and hurried away with his
burden.

Esther sprang up from her seat by the window. Her misfortunes had not
made her hard. She saw a light in Evanthia's amber eyes as she made her
preparations, a light that frightened her.

"Nobody will ever be able to do anything with you," she muttered. "I
must go home to get supper for my husband. You got a good man, and you
throw him away like so much rubbish. You got no sense."

"I go!" said Evanthia, pausing with her hands full of things she was
stuffing into a bag. "Do I not go?"

"You go!" said Esther savagely. "You make him take you to the town to
see your fellow."

"Oh!" exclaimed Evanthia, stopping again and stifling a laugh. She had
not thought of such a thing. "What you must think of me!" she murmured.

"And then tell him you are finished. You have a heart, yes, as big as
that ring on your finger. You take everything from him, and now you...."

With a sudden gesture of rage the girl flung the things away and stood
up to her friend.

"I'll kill you!" she growled through her teeth. "I know you! You are
jealous, jealous, jealous! I see you talk, talk English to him at the
bath-house. I see you go out with him for the walk through the village.
I hear you talk to him about that girl Vera he saw once in Odessa. All
right! Go with him! Go! Here are the things. Take them! I spit at you.
You...."

She fell back, exhausted with the ferocity of her passion, her hands
still making gestures of dismissal to the silent and scornful Esther who
remained motionless yet alert, ready to take her own part.

"You are altogether mad!" she said at last in her husky tones. "Here is
your husband. Tell him, tell him...."

Evanthia spun round where she stood with her hands on her bosom.

"We must go, dear," said Mr. Spokesly and paused in astonishment at the
scene. With a convulsive movement the girl tore at her dress and then
flung out her hand towards the shore.

"Go then, go! Why do you come here any more? You want her. There she is,
jealous because all the men want me. Look at her. She ask you with her
eyes. Oh, yah! I hate you! I never love you. It is finish. Go!"

"Eh!" he called, swallowing hard. He looked at Esther in amazement.
"What is this?" he asked. "What have you said to her? My dear!"

"You better go," said Esther sullenly. "She won't go with you. Can't you
see?"

"But how can I go without her?" he exclaimed.

"I kill myself before I go. This is my place. Go back, you. I hate you."

Esther came over to him and, taking up the satchel, thrust him out
before her. Down the steps and across the dark garden she went with him,
and only when the great gate clanged did he make an effort to break
through the dreadful paralysis of mind that had assailed him.

"What made her go on like that?" he demanded drearily.

"Go on. I tell you in a minute. You men, you got no sense."

"But what did she mean, about you?"

"Nothing. She's crazy. You no understand."

"You said yourself she'd come," he insisted.

"Yes, I _say_ so. I tell her she better come. But you no understand
women."

He was destined to find out, as years went by, that this was true. And
when they stood on the jetty and looked down into the obscurity where
Mr. Cassar sat in the boat patiently awaiting his passengers, Mr.
Spokesly began to regain command of himself. For a moment, up there, he
had been all abroad. The sudden emotional upheaval hardened his resolve.

"Well!" he said with a sudden intake of breath, and paused, once more
overwhelmed by the change in his affairs. "I don't know what to say,
Esther." He put his hand on her shoulder and she twisted away a little.
"I feel as if I'd been having a long dream, and just woke up."

"Go!" she said huskily. "Good-bye. Good fortune. There is a carriage
coming. My 'usban'."

"Anyhow ... Esther. I did what I promised her to do ... not my fault."
He got down into the boat "Where's your hand? Good-bye ... good-bye....
Push off, son, push off.... After all I done...."

They saw, from a little way off, the white form of Esther spring forward
and vanish behind the buildings as a feeble yellow flicker from a
carriage lamp crawled slowly along the road and stopped. They heard
laughter and confused arguments.

"Drunk!" whispered Mr. Cassar without either envy or malice.

"Full to the guards," assented his commander. "Hark!"

Someone was singing, a full youthful voice of brazen vibrant quality, a
voice with an ineluctable and derisive challenge to confident hearts.
Though he did not understand the words, Mr. Spokesly was aware of this
challenge as he listened:

    "_Auf, deutches Volk, du stark Geschlecht
      Es schlug die grosse Stunde,
    Steh auf und sei nicht länger Knecht
    Mit Kraft und mut steh für dein Recht
      Im heilgen Volke bunde!_"

There was a pause, with protests and guttural amusement which were
suddenly engulfed in a clarion shout:

    "_Die Freiheit bricht die Ketten!_"

"Go ahead," said Mr. Spokesly, looking back as he sat in the stern, "and
make as little noise as you can."

Out of the darkness came the faint clarion call he had already heard
that night:

    "_Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du mein?_"

and the sound, with its echoes from the mountain, seemed to stream out
of that open window he had left. Suddenly, with a resolute movement, he
turned and bent to the business of steering. The boat was moving through
the water.

"Let her out," he muttered, looking at his watch. "We've got four hours
to daylight."

And the dawn found him there, still crouching motionless at the tiller,
while behind them the mountains of Lesbos rose enormous, the sun rising
over Asia. And ahead lay the dark sparkle of an empty sea.



CONCLUSION


"All I can say is," said the elderly lieutenant, and he applied himself
assiduously to the trimming of his nails, "you were in luck all
through."

"Yes," said Mr. Spokesly. "I suppose you can call it that."

He was not entirely satisfied that this constituted an adequate
description of his experiences. Luck is a slippery word. As witness the
old lieutenant, intent on his nails, like some red-nosed old animal
engaged in furbishing his claws, who proceeded without looking up:

"Why, what else could you call it? You surely didn't want that woman
hanging round your neck all your life like a mill-stone, did you? What
if she did keep hold of the money? I call it cheap at the price. And
suppose you'd brought her. How could you have squared things? _I_ call
it lucky."

Mr. Spokesly, however, did not feel that way. He looked round at the
green expanse of St. James's Park and up towards the enormous arch which
enshrines the dignity and cumbrous power of the Victorian Age, and
wondered if the taste of life would ever come back. It was now eighteen
months since he had experienced what the elderly lieutenant called
uncommon luck, when a sloop of war, hurrying on her regular patrol from
Lemnos to Malta had found him and Mr. Cassar in their boat some ten
miles east of Psara Island, a black spot on a blue sea, over which there
fluttered a patch of white. And on coming cautiously alongside, the
commander of that sloop was surprised to discover a Maltee engineer
somewhat in disarray through his struggles with his engine, and under a
blanket in the bilge forward a sick Englishman.

For Mr. Spokesly had been sick. Looking back at it from this seat in St.
James's Park, with his demobilization completed, he saw well enough that
the culmination of the spiritual stresses under which he had been
existing had been suddenly transmuted into a bodily collapse. As the sun
rose over the Ægean, he had given the tiller to Mr. Cassar and lain down
without a word. He had not cared whether he ever got up or not. He lay
staring up at the extraordinary brilliance of the sky, his throat very
sore, his eyes tired and smarting, a feverish tremor in his limbs,
refusing food, and even when the engine stopped, giving no sign that he
was aware of any change in their fortunes. It had only been when Mr.
Cassar informed him of the sloop bearing down upon them that he rose on
an elbow and croaked hoarsely:

"Show a white flag; handkerchief or something," and fell back, drawing
the blanket over himself. He had been very sick. The surgeon, without
waiting for a temperature reading, had carried him away into an
extremely hygienic sick-bay, where between a boy with tonsillitis and a
stoker with a burnt arm, he had lain all the way to Malta. And after
that, during weeks of dreary waiting, he had looked out of the high
windows of the Bighi Hospital across the Harbour to Valletta, watching
the ships go in and out, and seeing the great flame of the sunset show
up the battlements of the Lower Barracca and die in purple glory behind
the domes and turrets of the city.

For it seemed to him, in his intervals of lucid reflection, that the
taste of life had gone, not to return. It had gone, and in place of it
was an exceedingly bitter flavour of humiliation and frustrated dreams.
It was almost too sudden a revelation of his own emotional folly for any
feeling save a numb wonder to remain. He had told Esther that he felt as
though he had had a long dream and was suddenly woke up. And while this
was true enough of his mind, which maintained a dreary alertness during
his sickness, his heart on the other hand was in a condition of stupor
and oblivious repose. Even when sufficiently recovered to walk abroad
and sit at the little tables in the arcades by the Libreria, or to
journey across the Marsamuscetto to Sliema and follow the long smooth
white beach, he moved slowly because he had no accurate means of gauging
his intensity of existence. He would mutter to himself in a sort of
depressed whisper: "What's the matter with me, I wonder?"

The surgeons had called it something ending in osis and prescribed
finally "light duty." He remembered that light duty now well enough; a
commission as lieutenant and the visiting of many offices in the
formidable buildings which constituted the dockyard. And gradually, as
the scope and meaning of this work became apparent, he found a certain
interest returning, an anticipation of the next week and perhaps month.
But of the years he did not dare to think just yet.

Because, once established there, he had sought, as a homing pigeon its
cotes, to find Ada. He had written, full of weariness and a sort of
gentle contrition, and implored her to write. He had missed all the
mails since the _Tanganyika_ had gone--she must make allowances for the
hazards of the sea, and try again. He had put a shy, boyish postscript
to it, a genuine afterthought--"I want so much to see you again," and
mailed it on the Marseilles boat.

To that there had come nothing in reply save a letter from her married
sister, who evaded the subject for three pages and finally explained
that her own husband was missing and Ada was married. The paper had
distinctly said all were lost on the _Tanganyika_. Ada's husband was a
manufacturer of munitions in the Midlands, making a colossal income, she
believed. They lived in a magnificent old mansion in the West Riding.
The writer of the letter was going up to spend a week with them and
would be sure to mention him. She had already sent on his letter and Ada
had asked her to write.

There it was, then. Both ends of the cord on which he had been
precariously balanced had been cut down, and he had had no interior
buoyancy which could have kept him from hitting the earth with
conclusive violence. And near the earth for a long time he had remained,
very much in doubt whether he would ever go about again with the old
confidence. Possibly he would never have done so, had not an accident
sent him out to sea on patrol service. Here came relief in the shape of
that active enemy he had preferred to his bureaucratic and scornful
government. Here was an invisible and tireless adversary, waiting days,
weeks, and possibly months for his chance, and smashing home at last
with horrible thoroughness. This, in Mr. Spokesly's present condition,
was a tonic. He got finally into a strange, shuttle-like contraption
with twin gasolene-engines, a pop-gun, and a crew of six. They went out
in this water-roach and performed a number of deeds which were
eventually incorporated in official reports and extracted by inaccurate
special correspondents whose duty it was to explain naval occasions to
beleaguered England, an England whose neglect of seamen was almost
sublime until the food-ships were threatened.

So he had found a niche again in life, and very slowly the dead flat
look in his face gave way to one of sharp scrutiny. When he came ashore
from his cock-boat he would go to a hotel in a street like a scene from
the _Tales of Hoffmann_, and he would sleep in a great bed in a mighty
room where papal legates had snored in preceding centuries, and the
rulers of commanderies had dictated letters to the grand masters of
their order. But even there, in that seclusion and fine repository of
faith and peace, he dared not recall that last adventure at Bairakli,
that catastrophe of his soul. Even the banjo of the occupant of the next
room, a nice-looking boy with many medals and a staff appointment, did
not mean much to him. He listened apathetically to the nice young voice
singing a Kipling ballad:

    "_Funny an' yellow an' faithful--
      Doll in a tea-cup she were,
    But we lived on the square, like a true-married pair,
      An' I learned about women from 'er!_"

But the nice boy had never lived and never would live with anybody on
such terms, and his clear young voice lacked the plangent irony of the
battered idealist. It was perfectly obvious that he was entirely
ignorant of the formidable distortion of character which living with
people brought about. He evidently imagined marriage was a good joke and
living with girls a bad joke. Mr. Spokesly would lie on his huge bed and
try to get his bearings while his neighbour gave his version of "Keep
the Home Fires Burning" and "I'd Wait Till the End of the World for
You." He was visible sometimes, on his balcony overlooking the steep Via
Sant' Lucia raising his eyes with a charming and entirely idiotic
diffidence to other balconies where leaned dark-browed damsels, and
dreaming the bright and honourable dreams of the well-brought-up young
Englishman. Mr. Spokesly got no assistance from such as he. Even in his
most fatuous moments he had known that for them the war was only an
unusually gigantic and bloody football match, for which they claimed the
right to establish the rules. When it was over we would all go back to
our places in the world and touch our hats to them, the landed gentry of
mankind.

Sitting on his park-seat, under the shadow of Victoria's triumphal arch,
Mr. Spokesly saw this would not be the case. Behind his own particular
problem, which was to regain, somehow or other, the taste of life, he
saw something else looming. How were these very charming and delightful
beings, the survivors of an age of gentles and simples, of squires and
serfs, to be aroused to the fact that they were no longer accepted as
the heirs of all the ages? How to make them see the millions of people
of alien races moving slowly, like huge masses of rotting putrescence,
to a new life? Indeed, they were very fond of using those words "rotten"
and "putrid" for alien things they did not like. He felt sure they would
apply both to Mr. Dainopoulos, for example, and those men he met at the
Consulate. And with a twinge he reflected they might say the same thing
about Evanthia, if they knew it all. Yet they must be made to know,
those of them who were left, that the game was up for the cheerful
schoolboy with no ascertainable ideas. The very vitality of these alien
races was enough to sound a warning. "After all," Mr. Marsh had said in
his throaty way, "you can't beat that type, you know." And the question
looming up in the back of Mr. Spokesly's mind, as he sat on that seat in
St. James's Park, was: "Couldn't you?"

He discovered with a shock that his friend the elderly lieutenant, who
had been visiting the Admiralty that morning and so had met Mr.
Spokesly, was explaining something:

"I told him that taking everything into consideration, I really couldn't
see my way. Not now. You see, we aren't getting any younger, and my wife
is so attached to Chingford she won't hear of leaving. And of course I
couldn't go out _there_ alone now."

"Where did you say it was?" Mr. Spokesly asked. He had not heard.

"West Indies. It's a new oiling station and they want an experienced
harbour-master. You see, I knew about it, oh, years ago, when the place
was first projected, and I put in for it. And now he's offered it to me,
I can't go. I don't have to, you see. And yet I would like to put
someone in the way of it for the old chap's sake. So I say, why don't
you go round and see him? Three hundred a year and quarters. It isn't so
dusty, I can assure you. If I hadn't been rather lucky in my investments
I would be very glad to go, I can tell you that."

And the odd thing, to Mr. Spokesly's mind, was that he did not envy his
elderly friend's happy position as to his investments. Here again luck
masqueraded as a slippery word. Was he so lucky? From where he sat now,
beneath the Arch of the great queen of the money-making, steam-engine
era--the era, that is, when the steam-engines made the money and the old
order fattened upon rents and royalties--Mr. Spokesly was able to see
that money was no longer an adequate gauge of a man's calibre. One had
to grow, and that was another name for suffering. In his hand was a
newspaper, and as he turned it idly, his eye caught an urgent message in
heavy type. The London School of Mnemonics pleaded with him to join up
in the armies of Efficiency. They urged him to get out of the rut and
fit himself for executive positions with high salaries attached. His eye
wandered from the paper to the vista of the Mall, where the metallic
products of efficiency were ranged in quadruple lines of ugliness, the
stark witnesses of human ineptitude. He saw the children playing about
those extraordinarily unlovely enemy guns, their muzzles split and
dribbling with rust, their wheels splayed outwards like mechanical
paralytics, and he fell to wondering if he could not find his way out of
his spiritual difficulties sooner if he did what his friend suggested.
He would have to do something. A few hundred pounds was all he had. And
the chances of a sea job were not immediately promising. He recalled his
visit the other day to the office of the owners of the _Tanganyika_, and
the impression he had gained that their enthusiasm had cooled. They had
done a big business with Bremen before the war, and they would be doing
a big business again soon. Their attitude had contrasted oddly with the
roll-of-honour tablet in the office where, printed in gold, he had seen
the names of the officers of the _Tanganyika_ "murdered by the enemy."
All save his own. Somehow that word "murdered," to him who had been
there, did not ring true. It was like the nice schoolboy's "rotten" and
"putrid"; it signified a mood, now gone no one knew where. It was like
Lietherthal's "_Die Freiheit bricht die Ketten_," a gesture which meant
nothing to the millions of Hindoos, Mongolians, Arabs, Africans, and
Latins in the world. "A family squabble," that sharp young man had
called it, a mere curtain-raiser to a gigantic struggle for existence
between the races....

He rose and turned to his friend.

"It's the very thing for me," he said. "I don't feel any particular
fancy for staying on in England."

"As soon as I saw you waiting in that corridor," said his friend, "I
thought of it. Now you go and see him. You know the Colonial Office.
He's a fine old boy and a thorough gentleman. There are prospects, too,
I may tell you. It's a sugar-cane country, and I believe you'll have
some very nice company in the plantations all round. And I believe
there's a pension after twenty years. Well ... not that you'll need to
bother about it by that time.... As I say, it's a jumping-off place.
Fine country, you know. But what about a little drink? I know a place in
Chandos Street--they know me there. And now about coming down to
Chingford...."

Mr. Spokesly accompanied his friend through the great Arch of Victoria
into the Square and as they made their way round by the National Gallery
he reached a decision. He would go. His elderly friend, toddling beside
him, added details which only confirmed the decision. That gentleman
knew a good thing. He himself, however, having more by luck than
judgment held on to his shipping shares, was now in a position of
comfortable independence. He had served his country and sacrificed his
sons and now he was going to enjoy himself for the rest of his life.
After drawing enormous interest and bonuses he had sold at the top of
the market and was buying bonds "which would go up" a stockbroking
friend had told him. "A safe six hundred a year--what do I want with
more?" he wheezed as they entered the place in Chandos Street. "My dear
wife, she's so nervous of these shipping shares; and there's no doubt
they _are_ a risk. Mine's a large port-wine, please."

Yes, he would go, and it interested Mr. Spokesly to see how little his
tender and beautiful picture of two old people "going down the hill
together" appealed to him. With a sudden cleavage in the dull mistiness
which had possessed his heart for so long, he saw that there was
something in life which they had missed. He saw that if a man sets so
low a mark, and attains it by the aid of a craven rectitude and animal
cunning, he will miss the real glory and crown of life, which by no
means implies victory. He was prepared to admit he had not done a great
deal with his own life so far. But he was laying a new course. The night
he received his instructions to depart he walked down to the river and
along the embankment to his hotel with a novel exaltation of spirit. The
taste of life was coming back. He saw, in imagination, that new place to
which he was bound, a tiny settlement concealed within the secure
recesses of a huge tropical harbour. He saw the jetty, with its two red
lights by the pipe-line and the verandahed houses behind the groves of
Indian laurel. He saw the mountains beyond the clear water purple and
black against the sunset or floating above the mist in the crystal
atmosphere of the dawn. He saw the wide clean space of matted floors and
the hammock where he would lie and watch the incandescent insects moving
through the night air. He saw himself there, an integral part of an
orderly and reasonable existence. He had no intention of wasting his
life, but he saw that he must have time and quiet to find his bearings
and make those necessary affiliations with society without which a man
is rootless driftage. He saw that the lines which had hitherto held him
to the shore had been spurious and rotten and had parted at the first
tension.

There was time yet. What was it the elderly lieutenant had called her?
"A mill-stone round your neck all your life." No, he could not take that
view. He did not regret that supreme experience of his life. He recalled
the swift derisive gesture she had once flung at him as she spurned his
reiterated fidelity: "You learn from me, to go back to an Englishwoman."
Even now he delighted in the splendid memory of her charm, her delicious
languors and moments of melting tenderness, her anger and sometimes
smouldering rage. No, he did not regret. It was something achieved,
something that would be part of him for ever. He could go forward now
into the future, armed with knowledge and the austere prudence that is
the heritage of an emotional defeat. He looked out across the river and
saw the quick glow of an opened cupola in a foundry on the Surrey Side.
There was a faint smile on his face, an expression of resolution, as
though in imagination he were already in his island home, watching the
glow of a cane-fire in a distant valley.

       *       *       *       *       *

And eastward, some five thousand miles, in the costly Villa Dainopoulos
on the shores of an ancient sea, Evanthia Solaris pursued the mysterious
yet indomitable course of her destiny. She had arrived back from
"Europe," as has been hinted earlier, in some disarray, alighting from a
crowded train of frowsty refugees, silent, enraged yet reflective after
her odyssey. At her feet followed the young Jew, who incontinently
dropped upon his knees in the road and pressed his lips, in agonized
thankfulness, to his native earth. "_Je déteste les hommes!_" was all
she had said, and Mr. Dainopoulos had spared a moment in the midst of
his many affairs to utter a hoarse croak of laughter. Her story of
Captain Rannie's sudden escape from the problems of living struck him
for a moment, for he had of course utilized his commander's record and
peculiarities in explaining the disappearance of the _Kalkis_. But the
event itself seemed to perplex him not at all. He said, briefly, to his
wife in adequate idiom: "He got a scare. He was afraid of himself. In
wars plenty of men do that. He think and think, and there is nothing.
And that scare a man stiff, when there is nothing." Crude psychology no
doubt, yet adequate to explain Captain Rannie's unsuccessful skirmish
with life.

But Mrs. Dainopoulos was not so callous. She suspected, under Evanthia's
hard exterior, a heart lacerated by the bitterness of disillusion. Who
would have believed, either, that Mr. Spokesly, an Englishman, would
have deserted her like that? Mrs. Dainopoulos was gently annoyed with
Mr. Spokesly. He had not behaved as she had arranged it in her
story-book fashion. Evanthia must stay with them, she said, stroking the
girl's dark head.

As she did. Seemingly she forgot both the base Englishman and the
Alleman Giaour who had so infatuated her. She remained always with the
invalid lady, looking out at the Gulf, watching the transports come and
go. And when at last it came to Mr. Dainopoulos to journey south, when
the sea-lines were once again open and a hundred and one guns announced
the end, she went with them to the fairy villa out at San Stefano that
you reach by the Boulevard Ramleh in Alexandria. It was there that Mr.
Dainopoulos emerged in a new rôle, of the man whose dreams come true.
His rich and sumptuous oriental mind expanded in grandiose visions of
splendour for the being he adored. He built pleasaunces of fine marbles
set in green shrubberies and laved by the blue sea, for her diversion.

He had automobiles, as he had resolved, of matchless black and
cream-coloured coachwork, with scarlet wheels and orange silk
upholstery. He imported a yacht that floated in the harbour like a great
moth with folded wings. Far out on the breakwater he had an enormous
bungalow built of hard woods upon a square lighter, with chambers for
music and slumber in the cool Mediterranean breeze, while the thud and
wash of the waves against the outer wall lulled the sleeper to antique
dreams. He did all this, and sat each day in the portico of the great
marble Bourse, planning fresh acquisitions of money. His wife lay in her
chair in her rose-tinted chamber at San Stefano, looking out upon the
blue sea beyond the orange trees and palms, smiling and sometimes
immobile, as though stunned by this overwhelming onslaught of wealth
pressed from the blood and bones of the youth of the world. She smiled
and lay thinking of her imaginary people, who lived exemplary and
unimportant lives in an England which no longer existed. And near her,
hovering, shining like a creature from another world, clad miraculously
in robes of extraordinary brilliance, could be seen Evanthia Solaris,
the companion of her hours. Often it was she who shot away along the
great corniche road in those cars of speed and beauty, their silver
fittings and glossy panels humming past like some vast and costly
insect. She it was who lay in a silken hammock in the great houseboat by
the breakwater, and listened to the sweet strains from the disc
concealed in a cabinet shaped like a huge bronze shell. "_Je déteste les
hommes_," she murmured to herself as she wandered through the orange
groves to the curved marble seats on the shore.

Hearing these words as she passed, the young Jew, working among the
roses, would tremble and recall with an expression of horror their
experiences in Europe. Often, when in their destitution she had taken
him by the hair and hissed them in his affrighted ear, and he would
utter an almost inaudible moan of "Oh, Madama!" For he loved her. He was
the victim of a passion like a thin, pure, agitated flame burning amid
conflagrations. He would have expired in ecstasy beneath her hand, for
it would have needed more courage to speak than to die. And now he was
in paradise tending the roses and suffering exquisite agonies as she
passed, her beautiful lips muttering, "_Je déteste les hommes!_" As
perhaps she did; yet she would sometimes look suddenly out across the
waves with smouldering amber eyes and parted lips, as though she
expected to behold once more the figure of a man coming up out of the
sea, to offer again the unregarded sacrifices of fidelity and love.


THE END





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