Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Sylvia & Michael - The later adventures of Sylvia Scarlett
Author: MacKenzie, Compton, 1883-1972
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 "Sylvia & Michael - The later adventures of Sylvia Scarlett" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



SYLVIA & MICHAEL

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

SYLVIA & MICHAEL
PLASHERS MEAD
SYLVIA SCARLETT

Harper & Brothers
_Publishers_

     AUTHOR'S NOTE

     I need scarcely say that in 1915 there was no Passport Office in
     Bucharest, and that so far as I am aware there are no portraits in
     this book. If any of the characters achieve the effect of
     portraits, it may be due to their wearing uniform, which makes
     every one look alike. Further I should like to emphasise that this
     volume is really Book Three of _Sylvia Scarlett_, and is only
     published separately on account of the difficulties of production.



SYLVIA &
MICHAEL

THE LATER ADVENTURES OF SYLVIA SCARLETT

_By COMPTON MACKENZIE_

_Author of_ "SYLVIA SCARLETT" "PLASHERS MEAD" ETC.

[Illustration: colophon]

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON



SYLVIA & MICHAEL

Copyright, 1919, by Harper & Brothers

Printed in the United States of America

Published July, 1919

TO THE MEMORY OF MY
FATHER AND IN DEEP
AFFECTION TO MY MOTHER



SYLVIA &
MICHAEL



_Sylvia & Michael_



CHAPTER I


By the time that Sylvia reached Paris she no longer blamed anybody but
herself for what had happened. Everything had come about through her own
greed in trying simultaneously to snatch from life artistic success and
domestic bliss: she had never made a serious attempt to choose between
them, and now she had lost both; for she could not expect to run away
like this and succeed elsewhere to the same degree or even in the same
way as in London. No doubt all her friends would deplore the step she
had taken and think it madness to ruin her career; but after so much
advertisement of her marriage, after the way she had revealed her most
intimate thoughts to Olive, after the confidence she had shown in
Arthur's devotion, there was nothing else but to run away. Yet now that
the engagement had been definitely broken she felt no bitterness toward
Arthur: the surprising factor was that he should have waited so long.
Moreover, behind all her outraged pride, behind her regret for losing so
much, deep in her mind burned a flickering intuition that she had really
lost very little, and that out of this new adventure would spring a new
self worthier to demand success, and more finely tempered to withstand
life's onset. Even when she was sitting beneath the mulberry-tree in the
first turmoil of the shock, she had felt a faint gladness that she was
not going to live in Mulberry Cottage with Arthur. Already on this May
morning of Paris with the chestnuts in their flowery prime she could
fling behind her all the sneers and all the pity for her jilting; and
though she had scarcely any money she was almost glad of her poverty,
glad to be plunged once again into the vortex of existence with all the
strength and all the buoyancy that time had given her. She thought of
the months after she left Philip. This was a different Sylvia now, and
not even yet come to what Sylvia might be. It was splendid to hear
already the noise of waters round her, from which she should emerge
stronger and more buoyant than she had ever imagined herself before.

Immediately upon her arrival--for with the little money she had there
was not a day to be lost--Sylvia went in this mood to visit her old
agent; like all parasites, he seemed to know in advance that there was
little blood to suck. She told him briefly what she had been doing, let
him suppose that there was a man in the case, and asked what work he
could find for her.

The agent shook his head; without money it was difficult, nay,
impossible to attempt in Paris anything like she had been doing in
London. No doubt she had made a great success, but a success in London
was no guaranty of a success in Paris, indeed rather the contrary. It
was a pity she had not listened to him when she had the money to spend
on a proper _réclame_.

"_Bref, il n'y a rien à faire, chère madame._"

There was surely the chance of an engagement for cabaret work? The agent
looked at Sylvia; and she could have struck him for the way he was so
evidently pondering her age and measuring it against her looks. In the
end he decided that she was still attractive enough and he examined his
books. She still sang, of course, and no doubt still enjoyed dancing?
Well, they wanted French girls in Petersburg at the Trocadero cabaret.
It would work out at four hundred and fifty francs a month, to which, of
course, the commission on champagne would add considerably. She would
have to remain on duty till 3 A.M., and the management reserved the
right to dispense with her services if she was not a success.

"_Comme artiste ou comme grue?_" Sylvia demanded.

The agent laughed and shrugged his shoulders; he was afraid that there
was nothing else remotely suitable. Sylvia signed the contract, and so
little money was left in her purse that from Paris to Petersburg she
traveled third class, an unpleasant experience.

The change from the Pierian Hall to the place where she was now singing
could scarcely have been greater. For an audience individual, quiet,
attentive, was substituted a noisy gathering of people that was not an
audience at all. It had been difficult enough in old days to sing to
parties drinking round a number of tables; but here to the noise of
drinking was added the noise of eating, the clatter of plates, and the
shouting of waiters. In a way Sylvia was glad, because she did not want
anybody to listen to the song she was singing; she preferred to come on
the small stage as impersonally as an instrument in the music of the
restaurant orchestra, and retire to give way to another singer without
the least attention being paid either to her exit or her successor's
entrance.

Sylvia wished that the rest of the evening could have passed away as
impersonally; she found it terribly hard to endure again, after so long,
the sensation of being for sale, of being pulled into a seat beside
drunken officers, of being ogled by elderly German Jews, of being
treated as an equal by waiters, of feeling upon her the eyes of the
manager as he reckoned her net value in champagne. There were moments
when she despaired of her ability to hold out and when she was on the
verge of cabling to England for money to come home. But pride kept her
back and sustained her; luckily she had to do nothing at present except
talk in order to induce her patrons to buy champagne by the dozen. She
knew that it could not last, that sooner or later she should acquire the
general reputation of being no good for anything except to sit and
chatter at a table and make a man spend money on wine for nothing, and
that then she should have to go because nobody would invite her to his
table. She was grateful that it was Russia and not America or France or
England, where a quicker return for money spent would have been
expected.

When Sylvia first arrived at Petersburg, she had stayed in solitary
misery at a small German hotel that lacked even the merit of being
clean. After she had been performing a week, one of her fellow-artistes
recommended her to a _pension_ kept by an Englishwoman, the widow of a
_chancelier_ at the French Embassy; it was a long way from the cabaret,
beyond the racecourse, but there was the tram, and one would always find
somebody to pay for the droshky home.

Sylvia visited the _pension_, which was a tumble-down house in a very
large garden of the rankest vegetation, a queer embrangled place; but
the first impression of the guests appealed to her, and she moved into
it the same afternoon. Mère Gontran, the owner, was one of those
expatriated women that lose their own nationality and acquire instead a
new nationality compounded of their own, their husband's, and the
country they inhabit. She was about fifty-five years old, nearly six
feet in height, excessively lean, with a neck like a turkey's, a
weather-beaten veinous complexion, very square shoulders, and thin,
colorless hair done up in a kind of starfish at the back. Her eyes were
very bright, of an intense blue, and she had a habit of wearing odd
stockings, which, like her hair, were always coming down, chiefly
because she used her garters to keep her sleeves above her elbows. One
of the twin passions of her life was animals; but she also had three
sons, loutish young men who ate or smoked cigarettes all day and could
hardly speak a word of English or French. Their mother, on the contrary,
though she had come to Petersburg as a governess thirty-five years ago,
and had lived there ever since, could speak hardly any Russian and only
very bad French. Mère Gontran's animals were really more accomplished
linguists than she, if it was true, as she asserted, that a collie she
possessed could say "good-by," "adieu," and "proschai." Sylvia suggested
that the Russian salute had really been a sneeze, but Mère Gontran
defied her to explain away the English or the French, and was angry at
any doubts being cast on what she had heard with her own ears. In
addition to Samuel, the talking collie, there was a senile bulldog
called James, who on a pillow of his own slept beside Mère Gontran in
her bed, which was in a hut two hundred yards away from the house, at
the other end of the garden. High up round the walls were hung boxes for
nine cats; into these they ascended by ladders, and none of them ever
attempted to sleep anywhere but in his own box, an example to the rest
of the _pension_. There were numerous other animals about the place, the
most conspicuous of which were a pony and a goat that spent most of
their time in the kitchen with the only servant, a stunted Tartar who
went muttering about the house and slept in a cupboard under the stairs.
Mère Gontran's other great passion was spiritualism; but Sylvia did not
have much opportunity to test her truthfulness in this direction,
because at first she was more interested in the guests at the _pension_,
accepting Mère Gontran as one accepts a queer fact for future
investigation at the right moment.

The outstanding boarder in Sylvia's eyes was a French aviator called
Carrier, who had come to give lessons and exhibitions of his skill in
Petersburg. He was a great bluff creature with a loud voice and what at
first seemed a boastful manner, until one realized that his brag was a
kind of game which he was playing with fate. Underneath it all there lay
a deep melancholy and a sense of always being very near to death; but
since he would have considered the least hint of this a disgraceful play
of cowardice, he was careful to cover what he might do with what he had
done, which was, even allowing for brag, a great deal. It was only when
Sylvia took the trouble to make friends with him that he revealed to
her his fierce ambition to finish with flying as soon as possible, and
with the money he had made to buy a little farm in the country.

"_Tu sais, la terre vaut mieux que le ciel_," he told her.

He was superstitious, and boasted loudly of his materialism; venturing
upon what was still largely an unknown element, he relied upon mascots,
while preserving a profound contempt for God.

"I've not ever seen him yet," he used to say, "though I've flown higher
than anybody."

His chest of drawers was covered with small talismans, some the pledges
of fortune given him by ladies, others picked up in significant
surroundings or conditions of mind. He wore half a dozen rings, not one
of which was worth fifty francs, but all of which were endowed with
protective qualities. By the scapulars and medals he carried round his
neck he should have been the most pietistic of men, but however sacred
their inscriptions, they counted with him as merely more portable
guaranties than the hideous little monkeys and mandarins that littered
his room.

"When I've finished," he told Sylvia, "I shall throw all this away. When
I'm digging in the good earth, my mascot will be my spade, nothing else,
_je t'assure_."

Sylvia asked him why he had ever taken up flying.

"When I was small I adored my _bécane_; afterward I adored my
automobile. _On arrive comme ça._ Ah, if the fools hadn't invented
biplanes, how happy I should be."

Then perhaps a few moments later he would find himself in the presence
of an audience, and one heard him at his boasting:

"_Bigre!_ I am sorry for the man who cannot fly. One has not lived if
one has not flown. The clouds! One would say a feather-bed beneath.
To-morrow I shall loop the loop at five thousand _mètres_. One might say
that all Petersburg will be regarding me."

There were two young acrobatic jugglers staying at the _pension_, who
performed some extremely dangerous acts, but who performed them with
such ease that they seemed like nothing, especially as the acrobats
themselves were ladylike to a ludicrous degree.

"Oh, Bobbie, say, wouldn't it be fine to fly? Would you be terribly
frightened? I should. Oh, I should be frightened."

"Don't you ever feel s-sick?" Bobbie asked the aviator.

For these two young men Carrier reserved his most hair-raising tales,
which always ended in Willie's saying to Bobbie:

"Oh, Bobbie, I s-s-imply can't listen to any more. So now! Oh, it does
make me feel so funny! Doesn't it you, Bobbie?"

Then arm in arm, giggling like two girls, they used to trip out of
hearing, and Carrier would spit in bewilderment. Once he invited Bobbie
to accompany him on a flight, at which Willie screamed, flung his arms
round Bobbie's neck and created a scene. Yet that same evening they both
balanced themselves with lamps on a high ladder, until the audience
actually stopped eating for a moment and held its breath.

Sylvia found the long hours of the cabaret very fatiguing; even in old
days she had never thought the life anything but the most cruel exaction
made by the rich man for his pleasure. She was determined to survive the
strain that was being put upon her, but she had moments of depression
during which she saw herself going under with the female slaves round
her. Her fatigue was increased by having to take the long tram-ride to
the cabaret, when the smell of her fellow-passengers was a torture; she
could not afford, however, to pay the fare of a droshky twice in one
day, and she did not always find somebody to pay for her drive home. The
contract with the management stipulated that she should be released from
her nightly task at three o'clock; but she was very often kept until
five o'clock when the champagne was flowing and when it would have been
criminal in the eyes of the management to break up a profitable party.
She found that the four hundred and fifty francs a month was not enough
to keep her in Petersburg; it had sounded a reasonably large salary in
Paris, but it barely paid the board at Mère Gontran's; she was,
therefore, dependent for everything above this on the commission of
about five francs she received on each bottle of champagne opened under
her patronage. Fortunately it seemed to give pleasure to the wild
frequenters of this cabaret when a bottle was knocked over on the floor;
yet with every device it was not always possible to escape drinking too
much.

One day at the beginning of July, Sylvia discussed the future with
Carrier, and he advised her to surrender and return to England; he even
offered to lend her the money for the fare. It was a hot day, and she
had a bad headache; she called it a headache, but it was less local than
that: her whole body ached beneath a weight of despair. Sylvia had taken
Carrier into her confidence about her broken marriage and explained why
it was impossible to return to England yet awhile; he contested all her
arguments, and in the mood that she was in she gave way to him. They
spoke in French, and arguments always seemed more incontestable in a
language that refused to allow anything in the nature of a vague
explanation; besides, her own body was responding against her will to
the logic of surrender.

"Pride is all very well," said Carrier. "I am proud of being the
greatest aviator of the moment, but if I fall and smash myself to pulp,
what becomes of my pride? It's impossible for you to lead the life you
are leading now without debasing yourself, and then where will your
pride be? Listen to me. You have been at the cabaret very little over a
month, and already it is telling upon you. It is very good that you are
able even for so long to keep men at a distance, but are you keeping
them at a distance? For me it is the same thing logically if you drink
with men or--" He shrugged his shoulders. "You sell your freedom in
either case. _N'est pas que j'ai raison, ma petite Sylvie?_ For me it
would be a greater pride to return to England and walk with my head in
the air and laugh at the world. Besides, you have a _je ne sais quoi_
that will prevent the world from laughing, but if you continue you will
have nothing. When I fall and smash myself to pulp, I sha'n't care about
the world's laughter. Nor will you."

Indeed he was right, Sylvia thought. That first impulse of defiance
seemed already like a piece of petulance, the gesture of a spoiled
child.

"And you will let me, as a good _copain_, lend you the money for your
fare back?"

"No," Sylvia said. "I think I can just manage to earn it by going once
more to-night to the cabaret. I've arranged to meet some count with an
unpronounceable name, who will probably open at least twenty-four
bottles. I get my week's salary to-night also. I shall have, with what I
have saved, enough to travel back as I came, third class. It has been a
thoroughly third-class adventure, _mon vieux_. A thousand thanks for
your kindness, but I must pay my pride the little solace of earning
enough to get me home again."

Carrier shrugged his shoulders.

"It must be as you feel. That I understand. But it gives me much
pleasure that you are going to be wise. I wish you _de la veine_
to-night."

He pressed upon her a mascot to charm fortune into attendance; it was a
little red devil with his tongue sticking out.

Sylvia went down to the cabaret that evening with the firm intention of
its being the last occasion; her headache had grown worse all the
afternoon and the gloom upon her spirit was deepening. What a fool she
had been to run away with so much assurance of having the courage to
endure this life, what a fool she had been! For the first time the
thought of suicide presented itself to her as a practical solution of
everything. In her present state she could perceive not one valid
argument against it. Who had attacked existence with less caution than
she, and who had deserved more from it in consequence? Had she once
flinched? Had she once taken the easier path? Yes, there had been
Arthur; that was the first time she had given way to indecision, and how
swiftly the punishment had followed. Was it really worth while to seek
now to repair that mistake? Was anything worth while? Except to go
suddenly out of it all, passing as abruptly from life to death as she
had passed from one society to another, one tour to another, one country
to another. She would abide by to-night's decision; if fortune put it
into the head of the count with the unpronounceable name to buy enough
bottles of champagne to make up what was still wanting to her fare, she
would return to England, devote herself to her work, turn again to
books, watch over her godchildren, and live at Mulberry Cottage. If, on
the other hand, the fare should not be made up on this night, why, then
she should kill herself. To-night should be a night of hell. How her
body was burning; how vile the people smelled in this tram; how
wearisome was this garish sunset. She took from her velvet bag the red
devil that Carrier had given her; in this feverish atmosphere it had a
certain fitness, a portentousness even; one could almost believe it
really was a tribute to fate.

The cabaret was crowded that evening; never before had there been such a
hurly-burly of greed and thirst. Sylvia, by good luck, was feeling
thirsty; for the dust from the tram had parched her mouth, and her
tongue was like cork; so much the better, because if she was going to
win that champagne she must be able herself to drink. The tintamarre of
plates, knives, and forks; the chickerchack as of multitudinous apes;
the blare and glare would have prevented the loudest soprano in the
world from sounding more than the squeak of a slate-pencil; and Sylvia
sang with gestures alone, forming with her lips mute words. "I'm paid
for my body, not for my voice; so let my body play the antic," she
muttered, angrily.

When her turn was over, Sylvia came down and joined the two young
Russians, who were waiting for her with another girl at a table on which
already the bottles of champagne were standing like giant pawns.

"_Ils ont la cuite_," the girl whispered to Sylvia. "_Alors, il faut
briffer, chérie; autrement ils seront trop soûlés._"

This seemed good advice, because if their hosts were too drunk too soon
they might get tired of the entertainment; and Sylvia proposed an
adjournment to eat, though she had little enough appetite. As a matter
of fact, the men wanted to drink vodka when supper was proposed, and not
merely to drink it themselves, but to make Sylvia and the other girl
keep them company glass by glass. In Sylvia's condition to drink vodka
would have been to drink liquid fire, and she managed to plead thirst
with such effect that the count benevolently ordered twenty-four bottles
of champagne to be brought immediately for her to quench it. The other
girl was full of admiration for Sylvia's strategy; if the worst came to
the worst, they would have earned seventy-five francs each and could
boast of a successful evening. Sylvia, however, wanted a hundred and
fifty francs for herself, and invoking the little red devil she showed a
way of breaking a bottle in half by filling it with hot water,
saturating a string in methylated spirits, tying the string round the
bottle, setting light to it, and afterward tapping the bottle gently
with a knife until it broke. The count was delighted with this trick,
but thought, as Sylvia hoped he would think, that the trick would be
much better if practised on an unopened bottle of champagne. In this way
twenty-six bottles were broken in childish rage by the count, because
the trick only worked with the help of hot water. He was by now in a
state of drunken obstinacy, and, being determined to show the
superiority of the human mind over matter, he ordered twenty-four more
bottles of champagne, as a Roman emperor might have ordered two dozen
slaves to test an empirical method of execution. By a fluke he managed
to succeed with the twenty-fourth bottle, and having by now gathered
round him an audience, he challenged the onlookers to repeat the trick.
Other women were anxious for their hosts to excel, particularly with
such profit to themselves; soon at every table in the cabaret
champagne-bottles were being cracked like eggs. The count was afraid
that there might not be enough wine left to carry them through the
evening, and ordered another two dozen bottles to be held in reserve for
his table.

Sylvia, though she was feeling horribly ill by now, was nevertheless at
peace, for she had earned her fare back to England. Unluckily, she could
not quit the table and go home, because, unless she waited until three,
she would not be paid her commission on the champagne. She felt herself
receding from the noise of breaking glass all round her, and thought she
was going to faint, but with an effort she gathered the noise round her
again and tried to believe that the room still existed. She seemed to be
catching hold of the great chandelier that hung from the middle of the
ceiling, and fancied that it was only her will and courage to maintain
her hold that was keeping the cabaret and everybody in it from
destruction.

"_Tu es malade, chérie?_" the other girl was asking.

"_Rien, rien_," she was whispering. "_Le chaleur._"

"_Oui, il fait très-chaud._"

The laughter and shouts of triumph rose higher; the noise of breaking
glass was like the waves upon a beach of shingle.

"_Pourquoi il te regarde?_" she found herself asking.

"_Personne ne me regarde, chérie_," the other girl replied.

But somebody was looking at her, somebody seated in one of the boxes for
private supper-parties that were fixed all round the hall, somebody tall
with short fair hair sticking up like a brush, somebody in uniform. He
was beckoning to her now and inviting her to join him in the box. He had
slanting eyes, cruel eyes that glittered and glittered.

"_Il te regarde. Il te regarde_," said Sylvia, hopelessly. "_Il te veut.
Oh, mon Dieu, il te veut! Quoi faire? Il n'y a rien à faire. Il n'y a
rien à faire. Il t'aura. Tu seras perdue. Perdue!_" she moaned.

"_Dis, Sylvie, dis, qu'est-ce que tu as? Tu me fais peur. Tes yeux sont
comme les yeux d'une folle. Est-ce que tu as pris de l'ethère ce soir?_"

It seemed to Sylvia that her companion was being dragged to damnation
before her eyes, and she implored her to flee while there was still
time.

Somebody stood up on a table and shouted at the top of his voice:

"_Il n'y a plus de champagne!_"

The count was much excited by this and demanded immediately how they
were going to spend the money they had brought with them. If there was
no more champagne, they should have to drink vodka, but first they must
play skittles with the empty bottles that were not already broken to
pieces. He picked a circular cheese from the table and bowled it across
the room.

"_Encore du fromage! Encore du fromage!_" everybody was shouting, and
soon everywhere crimson cheeses were rolling along the floor.

"The cheeses belong to me," the count cried. "Nobody else is to order
cheeses. _Garçon! garçon!_ bring me all the cheeses you have. The
cheeses are mine. Mine! Mine!"

His voice rose to a scream.

"_Mon Dieu! ils vont se battre à cause du fromage_" cried the other
girl, holding her hand to her eyes and cowering in her chair.

By this time the management thought it would soon lose what it had made
that evening and ordered the cabaret to be closed. The girls, who were
anxious to escape, ran to be paid for their champagne. Sylvia swayed
and nearly fell in the rush; her companion kept her head and exacted
from the management every copeck. Then she dragged Sylvia with her to a
droshky, put her in, and said good night.

"_Tu ne viens pas avec moi?_" Sylvia cried.

"_Non, non, il faut que j'aille avec lui._"

"_Avec l'homme qui te regardait du loge?_"

"_Non, non, avec mon ami._"

She gave the address of the _pension_ to the driver and vanished in the
confusion. Sylvia fancied that this girl was lost forever, and wept to
herself all the way home, but without shedding a single tear; her body
was like fire. There was nobody about in the _pension_ when she arrived
back; she dragged herself up to her room and lay down on the bed fully
dressed. It seemed that all reality was collapsing fast, and she
clutched the notes stuffed into her corsage as the only solid fact left
to her, the only link between herself and home. Once or twice she
vaguely wondered if she were really ill, but her mental state was so
much worse than the physical pain that she struggled feebly to quieten
her nerves and kept on trying to assure herself that her own unnatural
excitement was nothing except the result of the unnatural excitement at
the cabaret. She found herself wondering if she were going mad, and
trying to piece together the links of the chain that would lead her to
the explanation of this madness.

"What could have made me go mad suddenly like this?" she kept moaning.

It seemed that if she could only discover the cause of her madness she
should be able to cure it. All her attention was soon taken up in
watching little round red devils that kept rising out of the floor
beside the bed, little round red devils that swelled and ripened like
tomatoes, burst, and vanished. Her faculties concentrated upon
discovering a reasonable explanation for such a queer occurrence; many
explanations presented themselves, hovered upon the outskirts of her
brain, and escaped before they could be stated. There was no doubt in
Sylvia's mind that a reasonable explanation existed, and it was
tantalizing never to be able to catch it, because it was quite certain
that such an explanation would have been very interesting; at any rate,
it was a relief to know that there was an explanation and that these
devils were not figments of the imagination. As soon as she had settled
that they had an objective existence, it became rather amusing to watch
them; there was a new variety now that floated about the floor like
bubbles before they burst.

Suddenly Sylvia sat up on the bed and listened; the stairs were creaking
under the footsteps of some heavy person who was ascending. It must be
Carrier. She should go out and call to him; she should like him to see
those devils. She went out into the passage dove-gray with the dawn, and
called. Ah, it was not Carrier; it was that man who had stared from the
box at her friend! She closed the door hurriedly and bolted it; every
sensation of being ill had departed from her; she could feel nothing but
an unspeakable fear. She put her hand to her forehead; it was dripping
wet, and she shivered. The devils were nowhere to be seen; dawn was
creeping about the room in a gray mist. The door opened, and the bolt
fell with a clatter upon the floor; she shrank back upon the bed,
burying her face in the pillow. The intruder clanked up and down the
room with his sword, but never spoke a word; at last, Sylvia, finding
that it was impossible to shut him out by closing her eyes and ears to
his presence, sat up and asked him in French what he wanted and why he
had broken into her room like this. All her unnatural mental excitement
had died away before this drunken giant who was staring at her from
glazed eyes and leaning unsteadily with both hands upon his sword; she
felt nothing but an intense physical weariness and a savage desire to
sleep.

"Why didn't you wait for me at the cabaret?" the giant demanded, in a
thick voice.

Sylvia estimated the distance between herself and the door, and wondered
if her aching legs would carry her there quickly enough to escape those
huge freckled hands that were silky with golden hairs. Her heart was
beating so loudly that she was afraid he would hear it and be angry.
"You didn't ask me to wait," she said. "It was my friend whom you
wanted. She's still there. You've made a mistake. Why don't you go back
and look for her?"

He banged his sword upon the floor angrily.

"A trick! A trick to get rid of me," he muttered. Then he unbuckled his
sword, flung it against a chair, and began to unbutton his tunic.

"But you can't stay here," Sylvia cried. "Don't you understand that
you've made a mistake? You don't want _me_. Go away from here."

"Money?" the giant muttered. "Take it."

He put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a bundle of notes, and threw
them on the bed, after which he took off his tunic.

"You're drunk or mad," Sylvia cried, now more exasperated than
frightened. "Go out of my room before I wake up the house."

The giant paid not the least attention, and, seating himself on a chair,
bent over to unlace his boots. Sylvia again tried to muster enough
strength to rise, but her limbs were growing weaker every moment.

"And if you're not the girl I wanted," said the giant, looking up from
his boots, "you're a _girl_, aren't you? I've paid you, haven't I? A
splendid state the world's coming to when a cocotte takes it into her
head to argue with a Russian officer who pays her the honor of his
attentions. The world's turning upside down. The people must have a
lesson. Come, get off that bed and help me undo these boots."

"Do you know that I'm English?" Sylvia said. "You'll find that even
Russian officers cannot insult Englishwomen."

"A cocotte has no nationality," the giant contradicted, solemnly. "She
is common property. Come, if you had wished to talk, you should have
joined my table earlier in the evening. One does not wish to talk when
one is sleepy."

The English acrobats slept next door to Sylvia, and she hammered on the
partition.

"Are you killing bugs?" the giant asked. "You need not bother. They
never disturb me."

Sylvia went on hammering; her arms were getting weaker, and unless help
came soon she should faint. There was a tap on the door.

"Come in," she cried. "Come in at once--at once!"

Willie entered in purple silk pajamas, rubbing his eyes.

"Whatever is it, Sylvia?"

"Take this drunken brute out of my room."

"Bobbie! Bobbie!" he called. "Come here, Bobbie! Bobbie! Will you come?
You are mean. Oh, there's such a nasty man in Sylvia's room! Oh, he's
something dreadful to look at!"

The drunken officer stared at Willie in amazement, trying to make up his
mind if he were an alcoholic vision; his judgment was still further
shaken by the appearance of Bobbie in pajamas of emerald-green silk.

"Oh, Willie, he's got a sword!" said Bobbie. "Oh, doesn't he look
fierce? Oh, he does look fierce! Most alarming I'm sure."

The intruder staggered to his feet.

"_Foutez-moi le camp_," he bellowed, making a grab for his sword.

"For Heaven's sake get rid of the brute," Sylvia moaned. "I'm too weak
to move."

The two young men pirouetted into the middle of the room, as they were
wont to pirouette upon the stage, with arms stretched out in a curve
from the shoulder and fingers raised mincingly above an imaginary teacup
held between the first finger and thumb. When they reached the giant
they stopped short to sustain the preliminary pose of a female acrobat;
then turning round, they ran back a few steps, turned round again, and
with a scream flung themselves upon their adversary; he went down with a
crash, and they danced upon his prostrate form like two butterflies over
a cabbage.

The noise had wakened the other inhabitants of the _pension_, who came
crowding into Sylvia's room; with the rest was Carrier and they managed
to extract from her a vague account of what had happened. The aviator,
in a rage, demanded an explanation of his conduct from the officer, who
called him a _maquereau_. Carrier was strong; with help from the
acrobats he had pushed the officer half-way through the window when Mère
Gontran, who, notwithstanding her bedroom being two hundred yards away
from the _pension_, had an uncanny faculty for divining when anything
had gone wrong, appeared on the scene. Thirty-five years in Russia had
made her very fearful of offending the military, and she implored
Carrier and the acrobats to think what they were doing: in her red
dressing-gown she looked like an insane cardinal.

"They'll confiscate my property. They'll send me to Siberia. Treat his
Excellency more gently, I beg. Sylvia, tell them to stop. Sylvia, he's
going--he's going--he's gone!"

He was gone indeed, head first into a clump of lilacs underneath the
window, whither his tunic and sword followed him.

The adventure with the drunken officer had exhausted the last forces of
Sylvia; she lay back on the bed in a semi-trance, soothed by the
unending bibble-babble all round. She was faintly aware of somebody's
taking her hand and feeling her pulse, of somebody's saying that her
eyes were like a dead woman's, of somebody's throwing a coverlet over
her. Then the bibble-babble became much louder; there was a sound of
crackling and a smell of smoke, and she heard shouts of "Fire!" "Fire!"
"He has set fire to the outhouse!" There was a noise of splashing water,
a rushing sound of water, a roar as of a thousand torrents in her head;
the people in the room became animated surfaces, cardboard figures
without substance and without reality; the devils began once more to
sprout from the floor; she felt that she was dying, and in the throes of
dissolution she struggled to explain that she must travel back to
England, that she must not be buried in Russia. It seemed to her in a
new access of semi-consciousness that Carrier and the two acrobats were
kneeling by her bed and trying to comfort her, that they were patting
her hands kindly and gently. She tried to warn them that they would
blister themselves if they touched her, but her tongue seemed to have
separated itself from her body. She tried to tell them that her tongue
was already dead, and the effort to explain racked her whole body. Then,
suddenly, dark and gigantic figures came marching into the room: they
must be demons, and it was true about hell. She tried to scream her
belief in immortality and to beg a merciful God to show mercy and save
her from the Fiend. The somber forms drew near her bed. From an
unimaginably distant past she saw framed in fire the picture of The
Impenitent Sinner's Deathbed that used to hang in the kitchen at Lille;
and again from the past came suddenly back the text of a sermon preached
by Dorward at Green Lanes--_Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall
be as white as snow_. It seemed to her that if only she could explain to
God that her name was really Snow and that Scarlett was only the name
assumed for her by her father, all might even now be well. The somber
forms had seized her, and she beat against them with unavailing hands;
they snatched her from the bed and wrapped her round and round with
something that stifled her cries; with her last breath she tried to
shriek a warning to Carrier of the existence of hell, to beg him to put
away his little red devils lest he, when he should ultimately fall from
the sky, should fall as deep as hell.

Sylvia came out of her delirium to find herself in the ward of a
hospital kept by French nuns; she asked what had been the matter with
her, and, smiling compassionately, they said it was a bad fever. She lay
for a fortnight in a state of utter lassitude, watching the nuns going
about their work as she would have watched birds in the cool deeps of a
forest. The lassitude was not unpleasant; it was a fatigue so intense
that her spirit seemed able to leave her tired body and float about
among the shadows of this long room. She knew that there were other
patients in the ward, but she had no inclination to know who they were
or what they looked like; she had no desire to communicate with the
outside world, nor any anxiety about the future. She could not imagine
that she should ever wish to do anything except lie here watching the
nuns at their work like birds in the cool deeps of a forest. When the
doctor visited her and spoke cheerfully, she wondered vaguely how he
managed to keep his very long black beard so frizzy, but she was not
sufficiently interested to ask him. To his questions about her bodily
welfare she let her tired body answer automatically, and often, when the
doctor was bending over to listen to her heart or lungs, her spirit
would have mounted up to float upon the shadows of sunlight rippling
over the ceiling, that he and her body might commune without disturbing
herself. At last there came a morning when the body grew impatient at
being left behind and when it trembled with a faint desire to follow the
spirit. Sylvia raised herself up on her elbow and asked a nun to bring
her a looking-glass.

"But all my hair has been cut!" she exclaimed. She looked at her eyes:
there was not much life in them, yet they were larger than she had ever
seen them, and she liked them better than before, because they were now
very kind eyes: this new Sylvia appealed to her.

She put the glass down and asked if she had been very ill.

"Very ill indeed," said the nun.

Sylvia longed to tell the nun that she must not believe all she had said
when she was delirious: and then she wondered what she had said.

"Was I very violent in my delirium?" she asked.

The nun smiled.

"I thought I was in hell," said Sylvia, seriously. "When are my friends
coming to see me?"

The nun looked grave.

"Your friends have all gone away," she said at last. "They used to come
every day to inquire after you, but they went away when war was
declared."

"War?" Sylvia repeated. "Did you say war?"

The nun nodded.

"War?" she went on. "This isn't part of my delirium? You're not teasing
me? War between whom?"

"Russia, France, and England are at war with Germany and Austria."

"Then Carrier has left Petersburg?"

"Hush," said the nun. "It's no longer Petersburg. It's Petrograd now."

"But I don't understand. Do you mean to tell me that everybody has
changed his name? I've changed my name back to my real name. My name is
Sylvia Snow now. I changed it when I was delirious, but I shall always
be Sylvia Snow. I've been thinking about it all these days while I've
been lying so quiet. Did Carrier leave any message for me? He was the
aviator, you know."

"He has gone back to fight for France," the nun said, crossing herself.
"He was very sorry about your being so ill. You must pray for him."

"Yes, I will pray for him," Sylvia said. "And there is nobody left?
Those two funny little English acrobats with fair curly hair. Have they
gone?"

"They've gone, too," said the nun. "They came every day to inquire for
you, and they brought you flowers, which were put beside your bed, but
you were unconscious."

"I think I smelled a sweetness in the air sometimes," Sylvia said.

"They were always put outside the window at night," the nun explained.

The faintest flicker of an inclination to be amused at the nun's point
of view about flowers came over Sylvia; but it scarcely endured for an
instant, because it was so obviously the right point of view in this
hospital, where even flowers, not to seem out of place, must acquire
orderly habits. The nun asked her if she wanted anything and passed on
down the ward when she shook her head.

Sylvia lay back to consider her situation and to pick up the threads of
normal existence, which seemed so inextricably tangled at present that
she felt like a princess in a fairy tale who had been set an impossible
task by an envious witch.

In the first place, putting on one side all the extravagance of
delirium, Sylvia was conscious of a change in her personality so
profound and so violent, that now with the return of reason and with the
impulse to renewed activity, she was convinced of her rightness in
deciding to go back to her real name of Sylvia Snow. The anxiety that
she had experienced during her delirium to make the change positively
remained from that condition as something of value that bore no relation
to the grosser terrors of hell she had experienced. The sense of
regeneration that she was feeling at this moment could not entirely be
explained by her mind's reaction to the peace of the hospital, in the
absence of pain, and to her bodily well-being. She was able to set in
its proportion each of these factors, and when she had done so there
still remained this emotion that was indefinable unless she accepted
for it the definition of regeneration.

"The fact is I've eaten rose leaves and I'm no longer a golden ass," she
murmured. "But what I want to arrive at is when exactly I was turned
into an ass and when I ate the rose leaves."

For a time her mind, unused since her fever to concentrated thinking,
wandered off into the tale of Apuleius. She wished vaguely that she had
the volume so inscribed by Michael Fane with her in Petersburg, but she
had left it behind at Mulberry Cottage. It was some time before she
brought herself back to the realization that the details of the Roman
story had not the least bearing upon her meditation, and that the
symbolism of the enchanted transformation and the recovery of human
shape by eating rose leaves had been an essentially modern and romantic
gloss upon the old author. This gloss, however, had served
extraordinarily well to symbolize her state of mind before she had been
ill, and she was not going to abandon it now.

"I must have had an experience once that fitted in with the idea, or it
would not recur to me like this with such an imputation of
significance."

Sylvia thought hard for a while; the nun on day duty was pecking away at
a medicine-bottle, and the busy little noise competed with her thoughts,
so that she was determined before the nun could achieve her purpose with
the medicine-bottle to discover when she became a golden ass. Suddenly
the answer flashed across her mind; at the same moment the nun triumphed
over her bottle and the ward was absolutely still again.

"I became a golden ass when I married Philip and I ate the rose leaves
when Arthur refused to marry me."

This solution of the problem, though she knew that it was not radically
more satisfying than the defeat of a toy puzzle, was nevertheless
wonderfully comforting, so comforting that she fell asleep and woke up
late in the afternoon, refreshingly alert and eager to resume her
unraveling of the tangled skein.

"I became a golden ass when I married Philip," she repeated to herself.

For a while she tried to reconstruct the motives that fourteen years ago
had induced her toward that step. If she had really begun her life all
over again, it should be easy to do this. But the more she pondered
herself at the age of seventeen the more impossibly remote that Sylvia
seemed. Certain results, however, could even at this distance of time be
ascribed to that unfortunate marriage: among others the three months
after she left Philip. When Sylvia came to survey all her life since,
she saw how those three months had lurked at the back of everything, how
really they had spoiled everything.

"Have I fallen a prey to remorse?" she asked herself. "Must I forever be
haunted by the memory of what was, after all, a necessary incident to my
assumption of assishness? Did I not pay for them that day at Mulberry
Cottage when I could not be myself to Michael, but could only bray at
him the unrealities of my outward shape?"

Lying here in the cool hospital, Sylvia began to conjure against her
will the incidents of those three fatal months, and so weak was she
still from the typhus that she could not shake off their obsession. Her
mind clutched at other memories; but no sooner did she think that she
was safely wrapped up in their protecting fragrance than like Furies
those three months drove her mind forth from its sanctuary and scourged
it with cruel images.

"This is the sort of madness that makes a woman kill her seducer," said
Sylvia, "this insurgent rage at feeling that the men who crossed my path
during those three months still live without remorse for what they did."

Gradually, however, her rage died down before the pleadings of
reasonableness; she recalled that somewhere she had read how the human
body changes entirely every seven years: this reflection consoled her,
and though she admitted that it was a trivial and superficial
consolation, since remorse was conceived with the spirit rather than
with the body, nevertheless the thought that not one corpuscle of her
present blood existed fourteen years ago restored her sense of
proportion and enabled her to shake off the obsession of those three
months, at any rate so far as to allow her to proceed with her
contemplation of the new Sylvia lying here in this hospital.

"Then of course there was Lily," she said to herself. "How can I
possibly excuse my treatment of Lily, or not so much my treatment of her
as my attitude toward her? I suppose all this introspection is morbid,
but having been brought up sharp like this and having been planked down
on this bed of interminable sickness, who wouldn't be morbid? It's
better to have it out with myself now, lest when I emerge from here--for
incredible as it seems just at present I certainly shall emerge one fine
morning--I start being introspective instead of getting down to the hard
facts of earning a living and finding my way back to England. Lily!" she
went on. "I believe really when I look back at it that I took a cruel
delight in watching Lily's fading. It seemed jolly and cynical to
predestine her to maculation, to regard her as a flower, an almost
inanimate thing that could only be displayed by somebody else and was
incapable of developing herself. Yet in the end she did develop herself.
I was very ill then; but when I was in the clinic at Rio I had none of
the sensations that I have now. What sensations did I have, then?
Mostly, I believe, they were worries about Lily because she did not come
to see me. Strange that something so essentially insignificant as Lily
could have created such a catastrophe for Michael, and that I, when she
went her own way, let her drop as easily as a piece of paper from a
carriage. The fact was that, having smirched myself and survived the
smirching, I was unable to fret myself very much over Lily's smirching.
And yet I did fret myself in a queer, irrational way. But what use to
continue? I behaved badly to Lily, and I can't excuse my attitude
toward her by saying that I behaved badly to myself also."

The longer Sylvia went on with the reconstruction of the past the more
deeply did she feel that she was to blame for everything in it.

"I'm so sorry, Sister; I was talking to myself. I think I must really be
very much better to-day."

The nun hastened to her bedside and asked her what she wanted.

"And yet I had the impudence to resent Arthur's treatment of me," she
cried.

The nun shook her forefinger at Sylvia and retired again to her table at
the end of the ward.

"Why, I deserved a much worse humiliation," Sylvia went on. "And I got
it, too. The fact was that when I ate those rose leaves and became a
woman again I was so elated really that I thought everything I had done
in the shape of an ass had been obliterated by the disenchantment. Ah,
how much, how tremendously I deserve the humiliation which that Russian
officer inflicted. And then mercifully came this fever on top of it, and
I have got to rise from this bed and confront life from an entirely
different point of view. I'm going to start from where I was that
afternoon in Brompton Cemetery, when I was speculating about the human
soul. Obviously, now I look back at it, I was just then beginning to
apprehend that I might, after all, possess a soul with obligations to
something more permanent than the body it inhabited. What a fool Philip
was! If he'd only nurtured my soul instead of my body. If he'd only not
bit by bit dried it up to something so small that it became powerless to
compete with the arrogant body that held it. I wonder if he's still
alive. But of course he's still alive. He's only forty-six now. Really
I'd like to write and explain what happened. However, he'd only
laugh--he was always so very contemptuous of souls. Anyway, nothing will
ever induce me to believe that my soul hasn't grown in the most
extraordinary way during this fever. What a triumph she has had over her
poor body. Where's that looking-glass?"

She called to the nun and begged her to bring the looking-glass again.
The nun brought it and tried to console Sylvia for the loss of her hair.

"But I'm rejoicing in it," Sylvia declared. "I'm rejoicing in the sight
I present to the world. Look here, can't you sit down beside me and tell
me something about your religion? I'm absolutely bursting for a
revelation. You fast, don't you, and spend long nights and days in
prayer? Well, I am in the sort of condition in which you find yourself
at the end of a long bout of fasting and prayer. I'm as light as a
feather. I could achieve levitation with very little difficulty."

The nun regarded Sylvia in perplexity.

"Have you thanked Almighty God for your recovery?" she asked.

"No, of course I haven't. I can't thank somebody I know nothing about,"
said Sylvia impatiently. "Besides, it's no good thanking God for my
recovery unless I am sure I ought to be grateful. Mere living for the
sake of living seems to me as sensual as any other appetite. Sister,
can't you give me the key to life?"

The nun sheltered herself beneath an array of pious phrases; she was
like a person who has been surprised naked and hurriedly flings on all
the clothes in reach.

"All that you're saying means nothing to me," said Sylvia, sadly. "And
the reason of it is that you've never lived. You've only looked at evil
from the outside; you've only heard of unbelief."

"I'll make a Novena for you," said the nun, hopelessly. She said it in
the same way as she would have offered to knit a woolen vest. "To-day is
the Assumption." It was as if she justified the woolen vest by a change
in the weather.

Sylvia thanked her for the Novena just as she would have thanked her for
the woolen vest.

"Or perhaps you'd like a priest?" the nun suggested.

Sylvia shook her head.

"I don't feel I require professional treatment yet," she said. "Don't
look so sad, little Sister. I expect your Novena will help me to what
I'm trying to find--if I'm trying to find anything," she added,
pensively. "I think really I'm waiting to be found."

The nun retired disconsolate; the next day Sylvia's spiritual problems
vanished before the problem of getting up for the first time, of
wavering across the ward and collapsing into a wicker chair among three
other convalescent patients who were talking and sewing in the sunlight.

The uniformity of their gray shawls and gray dressing-gowns made Sylvia
pay more attention to the faces of her fellow-sufferers than she might
otherwise have done; she sat in silence for a while, exhausted by her
progress across the ward, and listened to their conversation, which was
carried on in French, though as far as she could make out none of them
was of French nationality. Presently a young woman with a complexion
like a slightly shriveled apple turned to Sylvia and asked in her own
language if she were not English.

Sylvia nodded.

"I'm English, too. It's pleasant to meet a fellow-countrywoman here.
What are you going to do about the war?"

"I don't suppose much action on my part will make any difference," said
Sylvia, with a laugh. "I don't suppose I could stop it, however hard I
tried."

The Englishwoman laughed because she evidently wanted to be polite; but
it was mirthless laughter, like an actor's at rehearsal, a mere sound
that was required to fill in a gap in the dialogue.

"Of course not," she agreed. "I was wondering if you would go back to
England as soon as you got out of hospital."

"I shall if I can rake together the money for my fare," Sylvia said.

"Oh, won't your family pay your fare back? Didn't you get that in the
agreement?"

"I don't possess a family," Sylvia said.

"Oh, aren't you a governess? How funny!"

"It would be very much funnier if I was," said Sylvia.

"My name is Eva Savage. What's yours?"

Sylvia hesitated a moment and then plunged.

"Sylvia Snow."

Immediately afterward, with an access of timidity, she supplemented this
by explaining that on the stage she called herself Sylvia Scarlett.

"On the stage," repeated the little governess. "Are you on the stage?
You are lucky."

Sylvia looked at her in surprise, and realized how much younger she was
than a first glance at her led one to suppose.

"I came out to Russia when I was nineteen," Miss Savage went on. "And of
course that's better than staying in England to teach, though I hate
teaching."

Sylvia asked how old she was now, and when she heard that she was only
twenty-four she decided that illness must be the cause of that shriveled
rosy skin that made her look like an old maid of fifty.

They talked for a while of their illness and compared notes, but it
seemed that Miss Savage must have had a mild attack, for she had been
brought into the hospital some time after Sylvia and had already been up
a week.

"I'm going to ask the Sister in charge to let me sleep in the bed next
to yours," said Miss Savage. "After all, we're the only two English
girls here."

Sylvia did not feel at all sure that she liked this plan, but she did
not want to hurt her companion's feelings and agreed without enthusiasm.
Presently she asked if the other two women spoke English, and Miss
Savage told her that one was a German-Swiss, the wife of a pastry-cook
called Benzer, and that the other was a Swedish masseuse; she did not
think that either of them spoke English, but added in a low voice that
they were both very common.

"Interesting?"

"No, common, awfully common," Miss Savage insisted.

Sylvia made a gesture of impatience: her countrywomen always summed up
humanity with such complacent facility. At this moment a little girl of
about thirteen, habited like the rest in a gray shawl, came tripping
down the ward, clapping her hands with glee.

"How lovely war is!" she cried in French. "I am longing to be out of
hospital. I've been in the other ward, and through the window I saw
thousands and thousands of soldiers marching past. _Maman_ cried
yesterday when I asked her why _papa_ hated soldiers. He hates them.
Whenever he sees them marching past he shakes his fist and spits. But I
love them."

This child had endeared herself to the invalids of the hospital; she was
a token of returning health, the boon of which she seemed to pledge to
every one in the company. Even the grim Swedish masseuse smiled and
spoke gently to her in barbaric French. Moreover, here in this quiet
hospital the war had not yet penetrated; it was like a far-distant
thunder-storm which had driven a number of people who were out of doors
to take shelter at home; as Miss Savage said to Sylvia:

"I expect everybody got excited and afraid; yet it all seems very quiet,
really, and I shall stay here with my family. There's no point in
_making_ oneself uncomfortable."

Sylvia agreed with Miss Savage and decided not to worry about her fare
back to England, but rather to stay on for a while in Russia and get up
her strength after leaving the hospital; then when she had spent her
money she should work again, and when this war was over she could
return to Mulberry Cottage with one or two Improvisations added to her
repertory. Now that she was out of bed, life seemed already simple
again, and perhaps she had exaggerated the change in herself; she wished
she had not spoken to the nun so intimately; one of the disadvantages of
being ill was this begetting of an intimacy between the nurse and the
patient, which grows out of bodily dependence into mental servitude; it
was easy to understand why men so often married their nurses.

"I am not sure," said Sylvia to herself, "that the right attitude is not
the contempt of the healthy animal for one of its kind who is sick.
There's a sort of sterile sensuality about nursing and being nursed."

Sylvia's feelings about the war were confirmed by the views of the
doctor who attended her. He had felt a little nervous until England had
taken her place beside Russia and France, but once she had done so, the
war would be over at the latest by the middle of October.

"It's easy to see how frightened the Germans are by the way they are
behaving in Belgium."

"Why, what are they doing?" Sylvia asked.

"They've overrun it like a pack of wolves."

"I have a sister in Brussels," she said, suddenly.

The doctor shook his head compassionately.

"But of course nothing will happen to her," she added.

The doctor hastened to support this theory; Sylvia was still very weak
and he did not want a relapse brought on by anxiety. He changed the
conversation by calling to Claudinette, the little girl who thought war
was so lovely.

"Seen any more soldiers to-day?" he asked, jovially.

"Thousands," Claudinette declared. "Oh, _monsieur_, when shall I be able
to leave the hospital? It's terrible to be missing everything. Besides,
I want to make _papa_ understand how lovely it is to march along, with
everybody thinking how fine and brave it is to be a soldier. Fancy,
_maman_ told me he has been invited to go back to France and that he has
actually refused the invitation."

The doctor raised his eyebrows and flashed a glance at Sylvia from his
bright brown eyes to express his pity for the child's innocence.

At this point Madame Benzer intervened.

"The only thing that worries me about this war is the food: it's bound
to upset custom. People don't order so many tarts when they're thinking
of something else. And the price of everything will go up. Luckily I've
told my husband to lay in stores of flour and sugar. It's a comfort to
be a neutral."

The Swedish masseuse echoed Madame Benzer's self-congratulation:

"Of course one doesn't want to seem an egoist," she said, "but I can't
help knowing that I shall benefit. As a neutral I sha'n't be able to go
and nurse at the front, but I shall be useful in Petersburg."

"Petrograd," the doctor corrected her, with marked irritation.

"I shall never get used to the change," said the masseuse. "When do you
think I shall be strong enough to begin my work again?"

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

"November, perhaps."

"Why, the war will be over by then!" said the masseuse, indignantly.

"They're calling for volunteers in England," Miss Savage observed to
Sylvia. "I'm sure my two brothers have gone. They've always been mad
about soldiering. They're like you, Claudinette."

"If only I could be a _vivandière_!" cried the child. She was unable to
contain her romantic exultation at the idea, and, snatching the doctor's
stethoscope, she marched up and down the ward, pursing her lips to a
shrill "Marseillaise."

"Children are children," said Madame Benzer, fatly.

"It's true," sighed the doctor.

"_She's_ quite well again," said the masseuse, enviously.

"I love children," Sylvia exclaimed.

"Do you?" said Miss Savage. "Wait till you've had to teach them. You'll
hate them then!"

Claudinette's march was interrupted by the nun on duty, who was
horrified at the ward's being used so noisily: though there were no
fresh patients, the rule of stillness could not be broken like this.
Claudinette having been deprived of her bugle, went and drummed out her
martial soul upon a window-pane; the doctor, who felt a little guilty,
stroked his beard and passed on.

The governess carried out her intention of having her bed moved next to
Sylvia; on the first night of the change she whispered across to her in
the darkness, which seemed the more intense round their beds because at
the far end of the ward a lamp burned before an image of the Virgin,
and, inclosed by two screens, the nun on night-duty sat in a dim, golden
mist.

"Are you awake?"

Sylvia answered her in a low voice in order not to disturb the other
patients; she could not bring herself to answer in a whisper, because it
would have made this conversation seem surreptitious.

"Hush! Don't talk so loud. Are you a Catholic?"

"I'm nothing," said Sylvia.

"Do tell me about your life."

"We can talk about that in the morning."

"Oh no, one can't talk secrets in the morning. I want to ask you
something. Do you think that everybody in Russia will go and fight? You
see, Prince Paul isn't a soldier. You remember I told you that Prince
George and Prince Paul, the two elder sons of the family, were both very
handsome? Well, Prince George is in the army, but Prince Paul isn't.
They both made love to me," she added, with a stifled giggle.

Sylvia lay silent.

"Are you shocked?"

"Neither shocked nor surprised," said Sylvia, coldly. "The nobility of
Russia seem to think of nothing else but making love."

"Paul gave me a book once. I've got it here with me in my box. It's
called The _Memories of a German Singer_. Would you like to read it?"

"That book!" Sylvia exclaimed, scornfully. "Why, it's the filthiest book
I ever read."

"You are shocked, then," the governess whispered. "I thought you'd be
more broad-minded. I sha'n't tell you now about Prince Paul. He makes
love divinely. He said it was so thrilling to make love to somebody like
me who looked so proper. I'm dreadfully afraid that when I get back I
shall find he's gone to fight. It's awful to think how dull it will be
without George or Paul. Haven't you had any interesting love-affairs?"

"Good God!" exclaimed Sylvia, angrily. "Do you think there's anything to
be proud of in having love-affairs like yours? Do you think there's
anything fine in letting yourself be treated like a servant by a
lascivious boy? You make me feel sick. How dare you assume that I should
be interested in your--oh, I have no word to call it that can be even
spoken in a whisper."

"You _are_ proper," the governess murmured, resentfully. "I thought
girls on the stage were more broad-minded."

"Is this muttering going to continue all night?" an angry voice
demanded. Farther along the ward could be heard the sound of a bed
rattling with indignation.

The nun pushed back her screen, and the candle-light illumined Madame
Benzer sitting up on her ample haunches.

"One must not talk," said the nun, reproachfully. "One disturbs the
patients. Besides, it is against the rules to talk after the lights are
put out."

"Well, please move me away from here," Sylvia asked, "because if
_mademoiselle_ stays here I shall have to talk."

"I'm sure I'd much rather not stay in this bed," declared Miss Savage in
an injured voice. "And I was only whispering. There was no noise until
_mademoiselle_ began to talk quite loudly."

"Is this discussion worth while?" Sylvia asked, wearily.

"Am I ever to be allowed to get to sleep?" Madame Benzer demanded.

"I should like to sleep, too," protested the masseuse. "If I'm to get
strong enough to resume work in November, I need all the sleep I can
get. I'm not like a child that can sleep through anything."

"_I'm_ not asleep," cried Claudinette, shrilly. "And I'm very content
that I'm not asleep. I adore to hear people talking in the night."

The nun begged for general silence, and the ward was stilled. Sylvia lay
awake in a rage, listening to Madame Benzer and the masseuse while they
turned over and over with sighs and groans and much creaking of their
beds. At last, however, all except herself fell asleep; their united
breathing seemed like the breathing of a large and placid beast. Behind
the screens in that dim golden mist the pages of the nun's breviary
whispered now instead of Miss Savage; the lamp before the image of the
Virgin sometimes flickered and cast upon the insipid face subtle shadows
that gave humanity to what by daylight looked like a large pale-blue
fondant.

"Or should I say 'divinity'?" Sylvia asked herself.

She lay on her side staring at the image, which was the conventional
representation of Our Lady of Lourdes with eyes upraised and hands
clasped to heaven. Contemplated thus, the tawdry figure really acquired
a supplicatory grace, and in the night, the imagination, dwelling upon
this form, began to identify itself with the attitude and to follow
those upraised eyes toward an unearthly quest. Sylvia turned over on her
other side with a perfectly conscious will not to be influenced
externally by what she felt was an unworthy appeal. But when she had
turned over she could not stay averted from the image; a restless
curiosity to know if it was still upon its bracket seized her, and she
turned back to her contemplation.

"How ridiculous all those stories are of supernatural winkings and
blinkings!" she thought. "Why, I could very easily imagine the most
acrobatic behavior by that pathetic little blue figure. And yet it has
expressed the aspirations of millions of wounded hearts."

The thought was overwhelming: the imagination of what this figure
reduplicated innumerably all over the earth had stood for descended upon
Sylvia from the heart of the darkness about her, and she shuddered with
awe.

"If I scoff at that," she thought, "I scoff at human tears. And why
shouldn't I scoff at human tears? Because I should be scoffing at my own
tears. And why not at my own?"

"You dare not," the darkness sighed.

Sylvia crept out of bed and, bending over the governess, waked her with
soft reassurances, as one wakes a child.

"Forgive me," she whispered, "for the way I spoke. But, oh, do believe
me when I tell you that love like that is terrible. I understand the
dullness of your profession, and if you like I will take you with me on
my gipsy life when we leave the hospital. You can amuse yourself with
seeing the world; but if you want love, you must demand it with your
head high. Every little governess who behaves like you creates another
harlot."

"Did you wake me up to insult me?" demanded Miss Savage.

"No, my dear, you don't understand me. I'm not thinking of what you make
yourself. _You_ will pay for that. I'm thinking of some baby now at its
mother's breast, for whose damnation you will be responsible by giving
another proof to man of woman's weakness, by having kindled in him
another lust."

"I think you'd do better to bother about your own soul instead of mine,"
said Miss Savage. "Please let me go to sleep again. When I wanted to
talk, you pretended to be shocked. I asked you if you were a Catholic,
and you told me you were nothing. I particularly avoided hurting your
susceptibilities. The least you can do is to be polite in return."

Sylvia went back to bed, and, thinking over what the governess had said,
decided that, after all, she was right: she ought to bother with her own
soul first.

Three weeks later Sylvia was told that she was now fit to leave the
hospital. The nuns charged her very little for their care; but when she
walked out of the door she had only about eighty rubles in the world.
With rather a heavy heart she drove to Mère Gontran's _pension_.



CHAPTER II


The _pension_ was strangely silent when Sylvia returned to it; the panic
of war had stripped it bare of guests. Although she had known that
Carrier and the English acrobats were gone and had more or less made up
her mind that most of the girls would also be gone, this complete
abandonment was tristful. Mère Gontran's influence had always pervaded
the _pension_; even before her illness Sylvia had been affected by that
odd personality and had often been haunted by the unusualness of the
whole place; but the disconcerting atmosphere had always been quickly
and easily neutralized by the jolly mountebanks and Bohemians with whose
point of view and jokes and noise she had been familiar all her life.
Sylvia and the other guests had so often laughed together at Mère
Gontran's eccentricity, at the tumble-down house, at the tangled garden,
at the muttering handmaid, and at the animals in the kitchen, that
through their careless merriment the _pension_ had come to be no more
than one of the incidents of the career they followed, something to talk
of when they swirled on and lodged in another corner of the earth's
surface. There would be no city in Europe at which in some cabaret one
would not find a _copain_ with whom to laugh over the remembrance of
Mère Gontran's talking collie. But how many of these gay mountebanks
dispersed by the panic of war would not have been affected by the
_Pension Gontran_, had they returned to it like this, alone?

The garden, with its rank autumnal growth, was more like a jungle than
ever; the unpopulous house reasserted its very self, and there was not a
crack in the stucco nor a broken tile nor a warped plank that did not
now maintain a haunting significance. The Tartar servant with her
unintelligible mutterings, her head and face muffled in a stained green
scarf, her bent form, her feet in pattens clapping like hoofs, the
animals that sniffed at her heels, and her sleeping-cupboard beneath the
stairs heaped with faded rags, seemed an incarnation of the house's
reality. For a moment, when Sylvia was making signs to her that she
should fetch her mistress from where, buried in docks and nettles, she
was performing one of her queer, solitary operations of horticulture,
she was inclined to turn round and search anywhere else in Petrograd for
a lodging rather than expose herself to the nighttime here. But the
consciousness of her uncertain position soon scattered such fancies, and
she decided that the worst of them would not be so unpleasant as to find
herself at the mercy of the material horrors of a fourth-rate hotel
while she was waiting for vigor to resume work: at any rate, Mère
Gontran was kind-hearted and English. As Sylvia reached this conclusion,
the mistress of the _pension_, followed by two cats, a hen, two pigeons,
a goat, and a dog, came to greet her; putting the table-fork with which
she had been gardening into the pocket of her overall, she warmly
embraced Sylvia, which was like being flicked on the cheek by a bramble
when driving.

"Why, Sylvia, I _am_ glad to see you again. Everybody's gone.
Everything's closed. No more vodka allowed to be sold in public, though,
of course, it can always be got. The war's upon us, and I'm sowing
turnips under Jupiter in case we starve. All your things are quite safe.
Your room hasn't been touched since you left it. I'll tell Anna to make
your bed."

Anna was not the maid-servant's real name; but one of Mère Gontran's
peculiarities was, that though she could provide an individual name for
every bird or beast in the place without using the same one twice, all
her servants had to be called Anna in memory of her first cook of thirty
years ago--a repetition that could hardly have been due to sentiment,
because the first Anna, when she ran away to be married, took with her
as much of her mistress's plate as she could carry.

"Hasn't my bed been made all these weeks?" Sylvia asked, with a smile.

"Why should it have been made?" Mère Gontran replied. "There hasn't been
a single new-comer since you were taken off in the ambulance."

Sylvia asked if the drunken officer had done much damage.

"Oh no; it was quite easy to extinguish the fire. He burned half the
tool-shed and frightened the guinea-pigs; that was all. I was quite
relieved when war was declared, because otherwise the police would
probably have taken away my license; but there again, if they had taken
it away, it wouldn't have mattered much, for I haven't had any lodgers
since; but there again I've been able to use Carrier's room for the
owls, and they're much happier in a nice room than they were nailed up
to the side of the house in a packing-case. If you hear them hooting in
the night, don't be frightened: you must remember that owls, being night
birds, can't be expected to keep quiet in the night, and when they hoot
it shows they're feeling at home."

"There's nothing in the acrobats' room?" Sylvia asked, anxiously; the
partition between her and them had been thin.

"Such a reek of scent," Mère Gontran exclaimed. "Phewff! Benjamin went
in after they'd gone, and he regularly shuddered. Cats are very
sensitive to perfumes, as no doubt you've observed."

"Mère Gontran," Sylvia began. "I want to explain my position."

"Don't do that," she interrupted. "Wait till the evening and you shall
throw the cards. What's the good of anticipating trouble? If the cards
are unfavorable to any immediate enterprise, settle down and help me
with the garden until they're favorable again. When favorable, make the
journey."

Sylvia, however, insisted on anticipating the opinion of the cards and
explained to Mère Gontran that it would be impossible for her to attempt
any work for at least another six weeks on account of her weakness, and
also because of her short hair, which, though it was growing rapidly
with close, chestnut curls, was still remarkably short.

Mère Gontran asked what day it had been cut, and Sylvia said she did not
know, because it had been cut when she was unconscious.

"Depend upon it they cut it when the moon was waning."

"I hope not," said Sylvia.

"I hope not, too. I sincerely hope not," said Mère Gontran, fervently.

"It would be serious?" Sylvia suggested.

"Anything might happen. Anything!"

Mère Gontran's vivid blue eyes fixed a far horizon lowering with
misfortune, and Sylvia took the opportunity of her temporary abstraction
to go on with the tale of present woes.

"Money?" Mère Gontran exclaimed. "Put it in your pocket. You were
overcharged all the weeks you were with me when you were well. Deducting
overcharges, I can give you six weeks' board and lodging now."

Sylvia protested, but she would take no denial.

"At any rate," said Sylvia, finally, "I'll avail myself of your goodness
until I can communicate with people in England and get some money sent
out to me."

"Useless to communicate with anybody anywhere," said Mère Gontran. "No
posts. No telegraphs. Everything stopped by the war. And that's where
modern inventions have brought us. If you want to communicate with your
friends in England, you'll have to communicate through the spirits."

"Isn't that rather an uncertain method, too?" Sylvia asked.

"Everything's uncertain," Mère Gontran proclaimed, triumphantly. "Life's
uncertain. Death's uncertain. But never mind, we'll talk to Gontran
about it to-night. I was talking to him last night, and I told him to be
ready for another communication to-night. Now it's time to eat."

In old days at the _Pension Gontran_ the meals had always been
irregular, though a dozen clamorous and hungry boarders had by the force
of their united wills evoked the semblance of a set repast. With the
departure of her guests, Mère Gontran had copied her animals in eating
whenever inclination and opportunity coincided. One method of satisfying
herself was to sit down at the kitchen table and rattle an empty plate
at the servant, who would either grunt and shake her head (in which case
Mère Gontran would produce biscuits from the pocket of her apron) or
would empty some of the contents of a saucepan into the empty plate. On
one occasion when they visited the kitchen there was something to eat, a
fact which was appreciated not only by the dogs and cats, but also by
Mère Gontran's three sons, who lounged in and sat down in a corner,
talking to one another in Russian.

"They don't know what to do," said their mother. "It hasn't been decided
yet whether they're French or Russian. They went to the Embassy to see
about going to France, but they were told that they were Russian; and
when they went to the military authorities here, they were told that
they were French. The work they were doing has stopped, and they've
nothing to do except smoke cigarettes and borrow money from me for their
trams. I spoke to their father about it again last night, but his answer
was very irrelevant, very irrelevant indeed."

"What did he say?"

"Well, he was talking with one of his fellow-spirits called Dick, at the
time, and he kept on saying, _'Dick's picked a daisy,'_ till I got so
annoyed that I threw the planchette board across the room. He was just
the same about his sons when he was alive. If ever I asked him a
question about their education or anything, he'd slip out of it by
talking about his work at the Embassy. He was one of the most irrelevant
men I ever knew. Well, I shall have to ask him again to-night, that's
all, because I can't have them hanging about here doing nothing forever.
It isn't as if I could understand them or they me. Bless my soul, it's
not surprising that I come to rely more and more on so-called dumb
animals. Yesterday they smoked one hundred and forty-six cigarettes
between them. I shall have to go and see the ambassador myself about
their nationality. He knows it's not my fault that Gontran muddled it
up. In my opinion, they're Russian. Anyway, they can't say 'bo' to a
goose in any other language, and it's not much good their fighting the
Germans in what French _they_ know."

The three young men ate stolidly throughout this monologue, oblivious of
its bearing upon their future, indifferent to anything but the food
before them.

After the neatness and regularity of the hospital, the contrast of
living at the _Pension Gontran_ made an exceptionally strong impression
of disorder on Sylvia. It vaguely recalled her life at Lillie Road with
Mrs. Meares, as if she had dreamed that life over again in a nightmare:
there was not even wanting to complete the comparison her short hair.
Yet with all the grubbiness and discomfort of it she was glad to be with
Mère Gontran, whose mind, long attuned to communion with animals, had
gained thereby a simplicity and sincerity that communion with mankind
could never have given to her. Like the body after long fasting, the
mind after a long illness was peculiarly receptive, and Sylvia rejoiced
at the opportunity to pause for a while before re-entering ordinary
existence in order to contemplate the life of another lonely soul.

The evening meal at the _Pension Gontran_ was positively formal in
comparison with the haphazard midday meal; Mère Gontran's three sons
rarely put in an appearance, and the maid used to come in with set
dishes and lay them on the table in such a close imitation of civilized
behavior that Sylvia used to watch her movements with a fascinated
admiration, as she might have watched the performance of an animal
trained to wait at table. The table itself was never entirely covered
with a white cloth, but that even half of it should be covered seemed
miraculous after the kitchen table. The black-and-red checkered cloth
that covered the dining-room table for the rest of the day was pushed
back to form an undulating range of foothills, beyond which the relics
of Mère Gontran's incomplete undertakings piled themselves in a
mountainous disarray; stockings that ought to be mended, seedlings that
ought to be planted out, garden tools that ought to be put away, packs
of cards, almanacs, balls of wool, knitting-needles, flower-pots,
photograph-frames, everything that had been momentarily picked up by
Mère Gontran in the course of her restless day had taken refuge here.
The dining-room itself was long, low, and dark, with a smell of
bird-cages and withering geraniums; sometimes when Mère Gontran had
managed to concentrate her mind long enough upon the trimming of a lamp,
there would be a lamp with a shade like a draggled petticoat; more
frequently the evening meal (dinner was too stringent a definition) was
lighted by two candles, the wicks of which every five minutes assumed
the form of large fiery flies' heads and danced up and down with delight
like children who have dressed themselves up, until Mère Gontran
attacked them with a weapon that was used indifferently as a nutcracker
and a snuffer, but which had been designed by its maker to extract
nails. Under these repeated assaults the candles themselves deliquesced
and formed stalagmites and stalactites of grease, which she used to
break off, roll up into balls, and drop on the floor, where they
perplexed the greed of the various cats, whose tails, upright with an
expectation of food, could dimly be seen waving in the shadows like
seaweed.

On the first night of Sylvia's arrival she had been too tired to sit up
with Mère Gontran and attend the conversation with her deceased husband,
nor did the widow overpersuade her, because it was important to settle
the future of her three sons by threatening Gontran with a visit to the
Embassy, a threat that might disturb even his astral liberty. Sylvia
gathered from Mère Gontran's account of the interview, next morning,
that it had led to words, if the phrase might be used of communication
by raps, and it seemed that the spirit had retired to sulk in some
celestial nook as yet unvexed by earthly communications; his behavior as
narrated by his wife reminded Sylvia of an irritated telephone
subscriber.

"But he'll be sorry for it now," said Mère Gontran. "I'm expecting him
to come and say so every moment."

Gontran, however, must have spent the day walking off his wife's
ill-temper in a paradisal excursion with a kindred spirit, for nothing
was heard of him, and she was left to her solitary gardening, as maybe
often in life she had been left.

"I hope nothing's happened to Gontran," she said, gravely, when Sylvia
and she sat down to the evening meal.

"Isn't the liability to accident rather reduced by getting rid of
matter?" Sylvia suggested.

"Oh, I'm not worrying about a broken leg or anything like that," Mère
Gontran explained. "But supposing he's reached another plane?"

"Ah, I hadn't thought of that."

"The communications get more difficult ever year since he died," the
widow complained. "The first few months after his death, hardly five
minutes used to pass without a word from him, and all night long he used
to rap on the head of my bed, until James used to get quite fidgety."
James was the bulldog who slept with Mère Gontran.

"And now he raps no longer?"

"Oh yes, he still raps," Mère Gontran replied, "but much more faintly.
But there again, he's already moved to three different planes since his
death. Hush! What's that?"

She stared into the darkest corner of the dining-room.

"Is that you, Gontran?"

"I think it was one of the birds," Sylvia said.

Mère Gontran waved her hand for silence.

"Gontran! Is that you? Where have you been all day? This is a friend of
mine who's staying here. You'll like her very much when you know her.
Gontran! I want to talk to you after dinner. Now mind, don't forget. I'm
glad you've got back. I want you to make some inquiries in England
to-morrow."

Sylvia was distinctly aware of a deep-seated amusement all the time at
Mère Gontran's matter-of-fact way of dealing with her husband's spirit,
and she could never make up her mind how with her sense of amusement
could exist simultaneously a credulity that led her to hear at the
conclusion of Mère Gontran's last speech three loud raps upon the air of
the room.

"He's got over last night," said Mère Gontran in a satisfied voice. "But
there again, he always had a kind nature at bottom. Three nice cheerful
raps like that always mean he's going to give up his evening to me."

Sylvia's first instinct was to find in what way Mère Gontran had tricked
her into hearing those three raps; something in the seer's true gaze
forbade the notion of trickery, and a shiver roused by the inexplicable,
the shiver that makes a dog run away from an open umbrella blown across
a lawn, slipped through her being.

Although Mère Gontran was puffing at her soup as if nothing had
happened, the house had changed, or rather it had not changed so much as
revealed itself in a brief instant. All that there was of queerness in
this tumble-down _pension_ became endowed with deliberate meaning, and
it was no longer possible to ascribe the atmosphere to the effect of
weakened nerves upon a weakened body. Sylvia began to wonder if the form
her delirium had taken had not been directly due to this atmosphere;
more than ever she was inclined to attach a profound significance to her
delirium and perceive in it the diabolic revelation with which it had
originally been fraught.

When after dinner Mère Gontran took a pack of cards and began to tell
her fortune, Sylvia had a new impulse to dread; but she shook it off
almost irritably and listened to the tale.

"A long journey by land. A long journey by sea. A dark man. A fair
woman. A fair man. A dark woman. A letter."

The familiar rigmarole of a hundred such tellings droned its course,
accompanied by the flip-flap, flip-flap of the cards. The information
was general enough for any human being on earth to have extracted from
it something applicable to himself; yet, against her will, and as it
were bewitched by the teller's solemnity, Sylvia began to endow the
cards with the personalities that might affect her life. The King of
Hearts lost his rubicund complacency and took on the lineaments of
Arthur: the King of Clubs parted with his fierceness and assumed the
graceful severity of Michael Fane: with a kind of impassioned egotism
Sylvia watched the journeyings of the Queen of Hearts, noting the
contacts and biting her lips when she found her prototype associated
with unfavorable cards.

"Come, I don't think the outlook's so bad," said Mère Gontran at the end
of the final disposition. "If your bed's a bit doubtful, your street and
your house are both very good, and your road lies south. But there
again, this blessed war upsets everything, and even the cards must be
read with half an eye on the war."

When the cards had been put away, Mère Gontran produced the _planchette_
and set it upon a small table covered in red baize round the binding of
which hung numerous little woolen pompons.

"Now we shall find out something about your friends in England," she
announced, cheerfully.

Sylvia had not the heart to disappoint Mère Gontran, and she placed her
hands upon the heart-shaped board, which trembled so much under Mère
Gontran's eager touch that the pencil affixed made small squiggles upon
the paper beneath. The _planchette_ went on fidgeting more and more
under their four hands like a restless animal trying to escape, and from
time to time it would skate right across the paper, leaving a long
penciled trail in its path, which Mère Gontran would examine with great
intentness.

"It looks a little bit like a Y," she would say.

"A very little bit," Sylvia would think.

"Or it may be an A. Never mind. It always begins rather doubtfully. I
_won't_ lose my temper with it to-night."

The _planchette_ might have been a tenderly loved child learning to
write for the first time, by the way Mère Gontran encouraged it and
tried to award a shape and purpose to its most amorphous tracks. When it
had covered the sheet of paper with an impossibly complicated
river-system, Mère Gontran fetched a clean sheet and told Sylvia
severely that she must try not to urge the _planchette_. Any attempt at
urging had a very bad effect on its willingness.

"I didn't think I was urging it," said Sylvia, humbly.

"Try and sit more still, dear. If you like, I'll put my feet on your
toes and then you won't be so tempted to jig. We may have to sit all
night, if we aren't careful."

Sylvia strained every nerve to sit as still as possible in order to
avoid having her toes imprisoned all night by Mère Gontran's feet, which
were particularly large, even for so tall a woman. She concentrated upon
preventing her hands from leading _planchette_ to trace the course of
any more rivers toward the sea of baize, and after sitting for twenty
minutes like this she felt that all the rest of her body had gone into
her hands. She had never thought that her hands were small, but she had
certainly never realized that they were as large and as ugly as they
were; as for Mère Gontran's, they had for some time lost any likeness to
hands and lay upon the _planchette_ like two uncooked chops. At last
when Sylvia had reached the state of feeling like a large pincushion
that was being rapidly pricked by thousands of pins, Mère Gontran
murmured:

"It's going to start."

Immediately afterward the _planchette_ careered across the paper and
wrote a sentence.

"_Dick's picked a daisy,_" Mère Gontran read out. "Drat the thing! Never
mind, we'll have one more try."

Again a sentence was written, and again it repeated that Dick had picked
a daisy.

Suddenly Samuel the collie made an odd noise.

"He's going to speak through Samuel," Mère Gontran declared. "What is
it, dear? Tell me what it is?"

The dog, who had probably been stung by a gnat, got up and, putting his
head upon his mistress's knee, gazed forth ineffable sorrows.

"You heard him trying to talk?" she asked.

"He certainly made a noise," Sylvia admitted.

There was a loud rap on the air--an unmistakable rap, for the five cats
which had remained in the room all twitched their ears toward the sound.

"Gone for the night," said Mère Gontran. "And he's very angry about
something. I suppose this daisy that Dick picked means something
important to him, though we can't understand. Perhaps he'll come back
later on when I've gone to bed and tell me more about it."

"Mère Gontran," said Sylvia, earnestly, "do you really believe in
spirits? Do you really think we can talk with the dead?"

"Of course I do. Listen! They're all round us. If you want to feel the
dead, walk up the garden with me now. You'll feel the spirits whizzing
round you like moths."

"Oh, I wonder, I wonder if it's true," Sylvia cried. "I can't believe
it, and yet...."

"Listen to me," said Mère Gontran, solemnly. "Thirty-five years ago I
left England to come to Petersburg. I was twenty years old and very
beautiful. You can imagine how I was run after by men. You've seen
something of the way men run after women here. Well, one summer I went
with my family to Finland, and I foolishly arranged to meet Prince Paul
in the forest after supper. He was a fine, handsome young man, as bold
and as wicked as the devil himself. But there again, I haven't got to
give details. Anyway, he said to me: 'What are you afraid of? Your
parents?' I can hear his laugh now after all these years, and I remember
the bough of a tree was just waving very slightly and the moonlight kept
glinting in and out of his eyes. I thought of my parents in England when
he said this, and I remember challenging them in a sort of defiant way
to interfere. You see, I'd never got on well at home. I was a very
wayward girl and they were exceptionally old-fashioned. And when Prince
Paul held me in his arms I reproached them. It's difficult to explain,
but I was trying to conjure them up before me to see if the thought of
home would have any effect. And then Prince Paul laughed and said, 'Or
another lover?' Now with the exception of flirting with Prince Paul and
Prince George, the two eldest sons, I'd never thought much about lovers.
Even in those days I was more interested in animals, really, and of
course I was very fond of children. But when Prince Paul said, 'Or
another lover?' I saw Gontran leaning against a tree in the forest. He
was looking at me, and I pushed Prince Paul away and ran back toward the
house.

"Now when this happened I'd never seen my husband. He was working at the
Embassy even in those days, and never went to Finland in his life. The
next day the family was called back to Petersburg on account of the
death of the grandmother, and I met Gontran at some friends'! We were
married about six months afterward.

"So there again, if I could see Gontran when he was alive before I'd
ever met him, you don't suppose I'm not going to believe that I've seen
him any number of times since he was dead? Until quite recently when he
reached this new plane, we talked together as comfortably as when he was
still alive and sitting in that chair."

Sylvia looked at the chair uneasily.

"It's only since he's met this Dick that the communications are so
unsatisfactory. Why, of course I know what's happened," cried Mère
Gontran, in a rapture of discovery. "Why didn't I think of it sooner?
It's the war!"

"The war?" Sylvia echoed.

"Aren't there thousands of spirits being set free every day? Just as all
the communications on earth have broken down, in the same way they must
have broken down with the spirits. Fancy my not having understood that
before! Well, aren't I dense?"

Five raps of surpassing loudness signaled upon the air.

"Gontran's delighted," she exclaimed. "He was always delighted when I
found out something for myself."

Soon after this Mère Gontran, having gathered up from the crowded table
a variety of implements that could not possibly serve any purpose that
night, wandered out into the garden, followed by Samuel and the five
cats; Sylvia thought of her haunted passage through the dark autumnal
growth of leaves toward that strange room she occupied, and went
up-stairs to bed rather tremulously. Yet on the whole she was glad that
Mère Gontran left her like this every night at the _pension_ with the
Tartar servant in her cupboard under the stairs, and with the three
ungainly sons, who used to sleep in a barrack at the end of the long
passage on the ground floor. Sylvia had peeped into this room when the
young men were out and had been surprised by its want of resemblance to
a sleeping-chamber. There were, to be sure, three beds, but they had the
appearance of beds that had been long stowed away in a remote part of a
warehouse for disused furniture: the whole room was like that, with
nothing human appertaining to it save the smell of stale tobacco-smoke.
Yet, really, now that the migratory guests had gone on their way, it
would have been even more surprising to find in the _pension_ signs of
humanity, so much had its permanent inhabitants, both animals and human
beings, approximated to one another. The animals were a little more like
human beings; the human beings were a little more like animals: the
margin between men and animals was narrow enough in the most
distinguishing circumstances, and at the _pension_ these circumstances
were lacking.

Before Sylvia undressed she opened the window of her bedroom and looked
down into the moonlit garden. Mère Gontran's light was already lit, but
she was still wandering about outside with her cats. Eccentric though
she was, Sylvia thought, she was nevertheless typical. Looking back at
the people who had crossed her path, she could remember several
adumbrations of Mère Gontran--superstitious women with a love of
animals. Of such a kind had been Mrs. Meares; and attached to every
cabaret and theater there had always been an elderly woman who had
served as commission agent to the careless _artistes_, whether it was a
question of selling themselves to a new lover or buying somebody else's
old dress. These elderly women had invariably had the knack of telling
fortunes with the cards, had been able to interpret dreams and omens,
and had always been the slaves of dogs and birds. The superficial
ascription of their passion for animals would have been to a stifled or
sterile maternity; but as with Mère Gontran and her three sons, Sylvia
could recall that many of these elderly women had been the prey of their
children. If one went back beyond one's actual experience of this type,
it was significant that the witches of olden times were always credited
with the possession of familiar spirits in the shape of animals; she
could recollect no history of a witch that did not include her black
cat. Was that, too, a stifled maternal instinct, or would it not be
truer to find in the magic arts they practised nothing but a descent
from human methods of intelligence to those of animals, a descent (if
indeed it could be called a descent) from reason to instinct?

Here was Mère Gontran fulfilling in every particular the old
conventional idea of a witch, and might not all this communion with
spirits be nothing but the communion of an animal with scents and sounds
imperceptible to civilized man? It could be a kind of atavism, really, a
return to disused senses, so long obsolete that their revival had a
supernatural effect. Sylvia thought of the unusual success that Mère
Gontran always had with her gardening; no matter where she sowed in the
great dark jungle, she gathered better vegetables than a gardener, who
would have wasted his energy in wrestling with the weeds that seemed to
forbid any growth but their own. Mère Gontran always paid greater
attention to the aspects of the moon and the planets than to the laws of
horticulture, and her gardening gave the impression of being nothing but
a meaningless ritual: yet it was fruitful. Might there not be some laws
of attraction of which in the course of dependence upon his own
inventions man had lost sight, some laws of which animals were cognizant
and by which many of the marvels of instinct might be explained? Beyond
witches and their familiar spirits were fauns and centaurs, more
primitive manifestations of this communion between men and animals, with
whom even the outward shape was still a hybrid. Had scientists in
pursuing the antics of molecules and atoms beneath the microscope become
blind to the application of their theories? Might not astronomy have
displaced astrology unjustly? Sylvia wished she had read more widely and
more deeply, that she might know if her speculations were, after all,
nothing but the commonplaces of empirical thought. So much could be
explained by this theory of attraction, not least of all the mystery of
love and the inscrutable caprices of fortune.

Behold Mère Gontran out there in the garden, bobbing to the moon. Were
all these gestures meaningless like an idiot's mutterings? And was even
an idiot's muttering really meaningless? Behold Mère Gontran in the
moonlit garden with cats: it would be hard to say that her behavior was
more futile than theirs: they were certainly all enjoying themselves.

Sylvia was conscious of trying to arrive at an explanation of Mère
Gontran that, while it allowed her behavior a certain amount of
reasonableness, would prevent herself from accepting Mère Gontran's own
explanation of it. There was something distasteful, something cheap and
vulgar, in the conception of Gontran's spiritual existence as an
infinite prolongation of his life upon earth; there was something
radically fatuous in the imagination of him at the end of a ghostly
telephone-wire still at the beck and call of human curiosity. If,
indeed, in some mysterious way the essential Gontran was communicating
with his wife, the translation of his will to communicate must be a
subjective creation of hers; it was somehow ludicrous, and even
unpleasant, to accept Dick's gathering of a daisy as a demonstration of
the activity of mankind in another world; it was too much a finite
conception altogether. Without hesitation Sylvia rejected spiritualism
as a useful adventure for human intelligence. It was impossible to
accept its more elaborate manifestations with bells and tambourines and
materializing mediums, when one knew the universal instinct of mankind
to lie; and in its simpler manifestations, as with Mère Gontran, where
conscious or deliberate deceit was out of the question, it was merely a
waste of time, being bound by the limitations of an individual soul that
would always be abnormal and probably in most cases idiotic.

Sylvia pulled down the blind, and, leaving Mère Gontran to her nocturnal
contemplation, went to bed.

Notwithstanding her abrupt rejection of spiritualism, Sylvia found, when
she was in bed, that the incidents of the evening and the accessories of
the house were affecting her to sleeplessness. That succession of raps
declined to come within the natural explanation that she had attempted.
Were they due to some action of overcharged atmosphere, a kind of
miniature thunderclap from the meeting of two so-called electrical
currents generated by herself and Mère Gontran? Were they merely
coincidental creakings of furniture in response to the warmth of the
stove? Or had Mère Gontran mesmerized her into hearing raps that were
never made? The cats had also heard them; but Mère Gontran's intimacy
with her animals might well have established such a mental domination,
even over them.

Naturally, with so much of her attention fixed upon the raps
down-stairs, Sylvia began to fancy renewed rappings all round her in the
darkness, and not merely rappings, but all sorts of nocturnal shufflings
and scrapings and whisperings and scratchings, until she had to relight
her candle. The noises became less, but optical delusions were
substituted for tricks of hearing, and there was not a piece of
furniture in the room that did not project from its outward form the
sense of its independent reality. The wardrobe, for instance, seemed to
challenge her with the thought that it was no longer the receptacle of
her skirts and petticoats: it seemed to be asserting its essential
"wardrobishness" for being the receptacle for anything it liked. Sylvia
set aside as too obviously and particularly silly the fancy that some
one might be hidden in the wardrobe, but she could not get rid of the
fancy that the piece of furniture had an existence outside her own
consciousness. It was a mere Hans Andersen kind of fancy, but it took
her back to remote childish apprehensions of inanimate objects, and
after her meditation upon instinct she began to wonder whether, after
all, the child was not quite right to be afraid of everything, which
grown-ups called being afraid of nothing; and whether that escape from
childish terrors which was called knowledge was nothing but a drug that
blunted the perceptions and impeded the capacity for esteeming whatever
approximated to truth. Yet why should a child be afraid of a wardrobe?
Why should a child be afraid of everything? Because in everything there
was evil. Sylvia recalled--and in this room it was impossible to rid
herself of that diabolic obsession--that the devil was known as the
Father of Lies. Was not all evil anti-truth, and did not man, with his
preference for anti-truth, create the material evil that was used as an
argument against the divine ordering of matter? Paradoxical as it might
seem, the worse ordered the world appeared the more did such an
appearance of pessimism involve the existence of God. Whither led all
this theosophistry? Toward the only perfect revelation of God in man:
toward Jesus Christ.

How foolish it was to prefer to such divine speech the stammering of
spiritualists. For the first time in her life Sylvia prayed deliberately
that what she saw as in a glass darkly might be revealed to her more
clearly; and while she prayed, there recurred from the hospital that
whispered confession of the little English governess. It was impossible
not to compare it with the story of Mère Gontran: the coincidence of the
names and the similarity of the situation were too remarkable. Then why
had Mère Gontran been granted what, if her story were accepted, was a
supernatural intervention to save her soul? By her own admission she had
practically surrendered to Prince Paul when she had the vision of her
future husband. It seemed very unjust that Miss Savage should have been
utterly corrupted and that Mère Gontran should have escaped corruption.
Sylvia went back in her thoughts to the time when she left Philip and
abandoned herself to evil. Yet she had never really abandoned herself
to evil, for she had never had any will to sin; the impulse had been to
save her soul, not to lose it. It had been a humiliation of her body
like pain, and a degradation of her personality like death. Pride which
had cast her out had been her undoing. Looking back now, she could see
that everything evil in her life had come from her pride: pride, by the
way, was another attribute of the devil.

Sylvia had a longing to go back to England and talk to the Vicar of
Green Lanes. From the past kept recurring isolated fragments of his
sermons, texts mostly, which had lain all this while dormant within her
consciousness, until the first one had sprung up to flower amid her
delirium. In all her reading she had never paid proper attention to the
doctrines of Christianity, and she longed to know if some of these dim
facts after which she was now groping were not there set forth with
transparent brightness and undeniable clarity. Good and evil must
present themselves to every soul in a different way, and it was surely
improbable that the accumulated experience of the human mind gathered
together in Christian writings would not contain a parallel by which she
might be led toward the truth, or at least be granted the vision of
another lonely soul seeking for itself salvation.

The sense of her loneliness--physical, spiritual, and
intellectual--overwhelmed Sylvia's aspirations. How could truth or faith
or hope or love concern her until she could escape from this isolation?
She had always been lonely, even before she came to Russia; yet it had
always been possible up to a point to cheat herself with the illusion of
company, because the loneliness had been spiritual and intellectual, a
loneliness that would be immanent in any woman whose life was ordered on
her lines and who had failed to find what was vulgarly called the "right
man." Now there was added to this the positive physical loneliness of
her present position. It would have been bad enough to recover from an
illness and wake in a familiar world; but to wake like this in a world
transformed by war was indeed like waking in hell. The remembrance of
England, of people like Jack and Olive, was scarcely more distinct now
than the remembrance of Lille; everything in her past had receded to the
same immeasurable distance. News of England in any familiar form now
reached Russia by such devious ways that in a period of violent daily
events the papers had, when they did arrive, the air of some ancient,
bloody, and fantastic chronicle. No letters came, because nobody could
know where she was; her friends must think that she was dead, and must
have accepted her death as the death of a sparrow amid the slaughter
that was now proceeding. To-morrow she should send a cablegram, which
might some day arrive, to say that she was alive and well. And then she
had a revulsion from such a piece of egotism in the midst of a world's
catastrophe. Who could wish to be reminded of Sylvia Scarlett at such a
moment? Besides, if this determination of hers to begin her life over
again was to be made effective, Sylvia Scarlett must preserve this
isolation and accept it as the grace of God. How what had once been
phrases were now endowed with life! Any communication between her and
the people she had known would be like communication between Gontran and
his wife; it would be the stammering of spiritualism comparable with
that absurd Dick gathering his daisies in the Elysian Fields. Unless all
these "soul-spasms," as once she would have called them, were the
weakness of a woman who had been sick unto death, meaningless babblings
without significance, her way would be indicated. Whatever the logicians
might say, it was useless to expect faith, hope, or love unless one went
to meet them: the will to receive them must outweigh the suspicion of
receiving. Faith, like any other gift-horse, must not be looked in the
mouth; pride had robbed her long enough, and for a change she would try
humility.

When she made this decision, it seemed to Sylvia that what had formerly
been evil and terrifying in the inanimate objects of her candle-lit
room now lost their menacing aspect and wished her well. Suddenly she
accused herself of the most outrageous pride in having all this time
thought of nothing but herself, whose misery amid the universal havoc
was indeed only the twittering of a sparrow. An apocalypse of the
world's despair blazed upon her. This was not the time to lament her
position, but rather to be glad very humbly that at the moment when she
had been given this revelation of her pride, this return of herself, she
was given also the moment to put the restored self to the test of
action.

When Sylvia woke in the morning, her ideas that during the night had
stated themselves with such convincing logic seemed less convincing; the
first elation had been succeeded by the discouragement of the artist at
seeing how ill his execution supports his intention. Riddles had solved
themselves one after another with such ease in the darkness that when
she had fallen asleep she had been musing with astonishment at the
failure of human nature to appreciate the simplicity of life's
intention; now all those darkling raptures burned like a sickly fire in
the sunlight. Yet it was consoling to remember that the sun did not
really put out the fire, and therefore that the fire kindled within
herself last night might burn not less brightly and warmly for all its
appearance of being extinguished by the sun of action.

These fiery metaphors were ill suited to the new day, which was wet
enough to make Sylvia wonder if there had ever been so completely wet a
day. The view from her window included a large piece of sky which lacked
even thunder-clouds or wind to break its leaden monotony. The vegetation
of the garden had assumed a universal hue of dull green, the depressing
effect of which was intensified by the absence of any large trees to
mark autumnal decay with their more precocious dissolution. Weather did
not seem to affect Mère Gontran, whose clothes even upon the finest days
had the appearance of a bundle of drenched rags; and if the dogs and
cats preferred to remain indoors, she was able to paddle about the
garden with her ducks and devote to their triumphant quacking a
sympathetic attention.

"I'm going to see the ambassador this morning," she called up to Sylvia.
"Something must be decided about the boys' nationality and it's bound to
be decided more quickly if they see me dripping all over the marble
entrance of the Embassy."

Not even the sight of that elderly Naiad haunting the desks of
overworked _chanceliers_ could secure a determination to which country
her sons' military service was owed; it seemed as if they would remain
unclassified to the end of the war, borrowing money for tram-tickets and
smoking cigarettes while husbands were torn from the arms of wives,
while lovers and parents mourned eternal partings.

Autumn drew on, and here in Russia hard upon its heels was winter;
already early in October there was talk at the _pension_ of the snow's
coming soon, and Sylvia did not feel inclined to stay here in the
solitude that snow would create. Moreover, she was anxious not to let
Mère Gontran wish for her going on account of the expense, and she would
not have stayed as long as she had if her hostess had not been so
obviously distressed at the idea of her leaving before she could be
accounted perfectly well again. In order to repay her hospitality,
Sylvia assisted gravely--and one might say reverently--at all her
follies of magic. Nor, under the influence of Mère Gontran's
earnestness, was it always possible to be sure about the foolish side.
There were often moments when Sylvia was frightened in these
fast-closing daylights and long wintry eves by the unending provocation
of the dead that was as near as Mère Gontran got to evocation, although
she claimed to be always seeing apparitions, of which Sylvia,
fortunately for her nerves, was never granted a vision.

The climax was reached on the night of the first snowfall, soon after
the middle of October, when Mère Gontran came to Sylvia's bedroom, her
crimson dressing-gown dusted with dry flakes of snow, and begged her to
come out in the garden to hear Gontran communicating with her from a
lilac-bush. It was in vain that Sylvia protested against being dragged
out of bed on such a cold night; Mère Gontran, candle in hand, towered
up above her with such a dominating excitement that Sylvia let herself
be over-persuaded and followed her out into the garden. From what had
formerly been Carrier's room the owls hooted at the moon; Samuel, the
talking collie, was baying dolefully; the snowfall, too light to give to
the nocturnal landscape a pure and crystalline beauty, was enough to
destroy the familiar aspect of the scene and to infect it with a
withered papery look, turning house and garden to the color of dry
bones.

"He's in the lilac-bush by the outhouse," Mère Gontran whispered. "When
I went past, one of the boughs caught hold of my hand, and he spoke in a
queer, crackling voice, as of course somebody would speak if he were
speaking through a bush."

Sylvia could not bear it any longer; she suddenly turned back and ran up
to her bedroom, vowing that to-morrow she would make a serious effort to
leave Petrograd.

"However short my hair," she laughed, "there's no reason why it should
be made to stand on end like that."

She supposed that Petrograd had not yet sufficiently recovered from the
shock of war to make an engagement there pleasant or profitable;
besides, after her experience at the cabaret she was disinclined to face
another humiliation of the same kind. The Jewish agent whom she
consulted suggested Kieff, Odessa, and Constantinople as a good tour;
from Constantinople she would be able to return home more easily and
comfortably if she wished to return. He held up his hands at the idea of
traveling to England by Archangel at this season. She could sing for a
week at Kieff just to break the journey, take two months at Odessa, and
be almost sure of at least four months at Constantinople: it was a
great nuisance this war, but he was expecting every day to hear that the
English fleet had blown Pola to pieces, and perhaps after Christmas
there would be an opportunity of an engagement at Vienna. With so many
troops in the city such an engagement would be highly remunerative; and
he winked at Sylvia. She was surprised to find that it was so easy to
secure an engagement in war-time, and still more surprised to learn that
she would be better paid than before the war. Indeed, if she had been
willing to remain in Petrograd, she could have earned as much as a
thousand francs a month for singing, so many of the French girls had
fled to France and so rare now were foreign _artistes_. As it was, she
would be paid eight hundred francs a month at Kieff and Odessa. For the
amount of her salary in Constantinople the agent would not answer,
because on second thoughts he might observe that there was just a chance
of war between Russia and Turkey, a very small chance; but in the
circumstances it would be impossible to arrange a contract.

Sylvia returned to the _pension_ to announce her success.

"Well, if you get ill," said Mère Gontran, "mind you come back here at
once. You're _not_ a good medium; in fact, I believe you're a deterrent;
but I like to see you about the place, and of course I _do_ like to talk
English, but there again, when shall I ever see England?"

When Sylvia had heard Mère Gontran speak of her native country formerly,
it had always been as the place where an unhappy childhood had been
spent, and she had seemed to glory in her expatriation. Mère Gontran
answered her unspoken astonishment:

"I think it's the war," she explained. "It's seeing so much about
England in the newspapers; I've got a feeling I'd like to go back, and I
will go back after the war," she proclaimed. "Some kind of nationality
my three sons shall have, if it's only their mother's. Which reminds me.
Poor Carrier has been killed."

"Killed," Sylvia repeated. "Already?"

In the clutch of apprehension she realized that other and dearer friends
than he might already be dead.

"I thought we could celebrate your last night by trying to get into
communication with him," said Mère Gontran.

It was as if she had replied to Sylvia's unvoiced fear.

"No, no," she cried. "If they are dead, I don't want to know."

So Carrier with all his mascots had fallen at last, and he would never
cultivate that little farm in the Lyonnais; she remembered how he had
boasted of the view across the valley of the Saône to the long line of
the Alps: far wider now was his view, and his room at the _pension_ was
the abode of owls. She read the paragraph in the French paper: he had
been killed early in September very gloriously. If Paradise might be the
eternal present of a well-beloved dream, he would have found his farm;
if human wishes were not vanity, he was at peace.

The brief snow had melted, and through a drenching afternoon of rain
Sylvia packed up; it was pleasant to think that at any rate she should
travel southward, for the _pension_ was unbearable on these winter days
and long nights filled with a sound of shadows. Again Sylvia was minded
to brave the journey north and return to England, but again an
overmastering impulse forbade her. Her destiny was written otherwise,
and if she fought against the impulse not to go back, she felt that she
should be cast up and rejected by the sea of life.

Mère Gontran, having caught a slight chill, went to bed immediately
after dinner, and invited Sylvia to come and talk to her on her last
evening. It was an odd place, this bedroom that she had chosen; and very
odd she looked lying in the old four-poster, her head tied up in a
bandana scarf and beside her, with his wrinkled head on the pillow,
James the bulldog. The four-poster seemed out of place against the
match-boarding with which the room was lined, and the rest of the
furniture gave one the impression of having been ransacked by burglars
in a great hurry. On the wall opposite the bed was a portrait of
Gontran, which by sheer bad painting possessed a sinister power like
that of some black Byzantine Virgin; on either side of him were hung the
cats' boxes, from which they surveyed their mistress with the same fixed
stare as her painted husband.

"Of course I should go mad if I slept in this room all by myself, and
two hundred yards away from any habitation," Sylvia exclaimed.

"Oh, I'm very fond of my room," said Mère Gontran. "But there again, I
like to be alone with one foot in the grave."

"I want to thank you for all your kindness," Sylvia began.

"If you start thanking me, you'll make me fidget; and if I fidget, it
worries James."

"Still, even at the risk of upsetting James, I must tell you that I
don't know what I should have done without you these six weeks. Perhaps
one day when the war is over you'll come to England and then you'll have
to stay with me in my cottage."

"Ah, I shall never be able to leave the cats, not to mention the pony. I
just happened to have a fancy for England to-day, but it's too late; I'm
established here; I'm known. People in England might stare, and I should
dislike that very much."

Sylvia wanted rather to talk again about spiritualism in order to find
out if Mère Gontran's speculations coincided at any point with her own;
but a discussion of spiritual experience with her was like a discussion
of the liver; she was almost grossly insistent upon the organic
machinery, almost brutal in her zest for the practical, one might almost
say the technical details. The mysteries of human conduct on earth left
her utterly uninterested except when she could obtain a commentary upon
them from the spirits for a practical purpose; the spirits took the
place for her of the solicitor and the doctor rather than of the priest.
Systems of philosophy and religion had no meaning for Mère Gontran; her
spiritual advice never concerned itself with them; and the ultimate
intention of immortality was as well concealed from her as the
justification of life on earth. It was this very absence of the
highfalutin which impressed Sylvia with the genuineness of the
manifestations that she procured, but which at the time discouraged her
with the sense that death merely substituted one irrational form of
being for another.

"What's it all for?" Sylvia had once asked.

"For?" Mère Gontran had repeated in perplexity: she had never considered
the utility of this question hitherto.

"Yes, why, for instance, did you marry Gontran? Did you love him? Are
your children destined to fulfil any part in the world? And _their_
children after them?"

"Why do you want to worry your head with such questions?" Mère Gontran
had asked, compassionately.

"But you deny me the consolation of oblivion. You accept this endless
existence after death with its apparently meaningless prolongation of
human vapidity and pettiness, and you're surprised that I resent it."

But it was impossible to carry on the discussion with somebody who was
as contented with what is as an animal and whose only prayer was _Give
us this day our daily bread_. It was a disappointing contribution to the
problem of life from one who had spent so long on the borderland of the
grave. Yet it was Mère Gontran's devotion to this aspiration that had
made her lodge Sylvia all these weeks.

"How can you, who are so kind, want to see your sons go to the war, not
for any motives of honor or patriotism, but apparently just to keep them
away from cigarettes and idleness? What does their nationality really
matter?"

"They must do something for themselves," Mère Gontran replied. "Just at
the moment the war offers a good opening."

"But suppose they are killed?"

"I hope they will be. I shall be on much better terms with them then
than I am now. Gontran talks to me in English nowadays; so would they,
and we might get to know one another. Cats don't worry about their
kittens, after they're grown up; in fact, they're anxious to get rid of
them. And kingfishers chase their young ones away, or so I was informed
by an English ventriloquist who was interested in natural history."

"Well, I always congratulated myself on being free from sentimentality,"
Sylvia said. "But beside you I'm like a keepsake-album."

"If you'd get out of the habit of thinking that death is of any more
importance than going to sleep, you wouldn't bother about anything,"
Mère Gontran declared.

"Oh, it isn't death that worries me," Sylvia answered. "It's life."

Very early in the twilight of a wet dawn Sylvia started for Kieff. All
day she watched the raindrops trickling down the windows of the railway
carriage and wondered if her impulse to travel south was inspired by any
profounder reason.



CHAPTER III


On the day after she reached Kieff Sylvia went for a walk by herself.
Since she was going to stay only a week in this city and since she still
felt somewhat remote from the world after her long seclusion, she had
not bothered to make friends with any of her fellow-_artistes_.

Presently she grew tired of walking alone and, looking about her, she
saw on the other side of the road a cinema theater, where she decided to
spend the rest of a dreary afternoon. She was surprised to find that the
lowest charge for entrance was two rubles; but when she went inside and
saw the film, she understood the reason. The theater was full of men,
and she could hear them whispering to one another their astonishment at
seeing a woman enter the place; she was thankful that the dim red light
concealed her blushes, and she escaped as quickly as possible, quenching
the impulse to abuse the doorkeeper for not warning her what kind of an
entertainment was taking place inside.

This abrupt and violent reminder of human beastliness shocked Sylvia
very deeply at a moment when she was trying to induce in herself an
attitude of humility; it was impossible not to feel angrily superior to
those swine groveling in their mess. Ordinarily she might have
obliterated the incident with disdain, or at any rate have seen its
proportion to the whole of human life. But now with war closing in upon
the world, and with all the will she had to idealize the abnegation of
the individual that was begotten from the monstrous crime of the mass,
it was terrible to be brought up sharply like this by the unending and
apparently unassailable rampart of human vileness. It seemed to her that
the shame she had felt on finding herself inside that place must even
now be marked upon her countenance, and there was not a passer-by whose
criticism and curiosity she could keep from fancying intently directed
toward herself. Anxious to elude the sensation of this commentary upon
her action, she turned aside from the pavement to stare into the first
shop-window that presented itself, until her blushes had burned
themselves out. The shop she chose happened to be a jeweler's, and
Sylvia, who never cared much for precious stones, was now less than ever
moved by any interest in the barbaric display that winked and glittered
under the artificial stimulus of shaded electric lamps. She tried to see
if she could somehow catch the reflection of her cheeks and ascertain if
indeed they were flaming as high as she supposed. Presently a voice
addressed her from behind, and, looking round, she saw a slim young
soldier well over six feet tall, with slanting almond eyes and wide
nostrils. He pointed to a row of golden hand-bags set with various
arrangements of precious stones and asked her in very bad French if she
admired them. Sylvia's first impulse, when her attention was drawn to
these bags for the first time, was to say that she thought them hideous;
but a sympathetic intuition that the soldier admired them very much and
would be hurt by her disapproval tempted her to agree with him in
praising their beauty. He asked her which of them all she liked the
best; and in order not to spoil this childish game of standing outside a
shop-window and making imaginary purchases, she considered the row for a
while and at last fixed upon one that was set with emeralds, the gold of
which had a greenish tint. The soldier said that he preferred the one in
the middle that was set with rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and emeralds,
which was obviously the most expensive and certainly the most barbaric
of the whole collection. Was Sylvia sure that she had chosen the one she
liked the best? She assured him that her choice was unalterable, and the
soldier, taking her by the arm, bade her enter the shop with him.

"I can't afford to buy a bag," Sylvia protested.

"I can," he replied. "I want to buy you the bag you want."

"But it's impossible," Sylvia argued. "Even if I could give you anything
in return, it would still be impossible. That bag would cost two
thousand rubles at least."

"I have three thousand rubles," said the soldier. "Of what use are they
to me? To-night I go to the front. You like the bag. I like to give it
to you. Come. Do not let us argue in the street like this. We will buy
the bag, and afterward we will have tea together, and then I shall go my
way and you will go your way. It is better that I spend two thousand
rubles on buying you a bag that you want than to gamble them away. You
are French. It is necessary that I do something for you."

"I'm English," Sylvia corrected. "Half English--half French."

"So much the better," the soldier said. "I have never met an
Englishwoman. None of the soldiers in my company have ever met an
Englishwoman. When I tell them that in Kieff I met an Englishwoman and
gave her a golden bag, they will envy me my good fortune. Are we not
suffering all of us together? And is that not a reason why I should give
you something that you very much want?"

"Why do you think I am suffering?" she asked.

"There is sorrow in your eyes," the soldier answered, gravely.

The simplicity of the man overcame her scruples; she felt that her
acceptance of his gift would give him a profound pleasure of which for a
motive of petty pride she had no right to rob him. As for herself, the
meeting with this young soldier had washed away like purest water every
stain with which Russia had marked her--from the brutality of the
drunken officer to the vileness of that cinema theater. Sylvia hesitated
no longer; she accompanied him into the shop and came out again with the
golden bag upon her wrist. Then they went to a confectioner's shop and
ate cakes together; outside in the darkness sleet was falling, but in
her mood of elation Sylvia thought that everything was beautiful.

"It is time for me to go back to the barracks," the soldier announced at
last.

While they were having tea, Sylvia had told him of many events in her
life, and he had listened very seriously, though she doubted if he was
able to understand half of what she told him. He in his turn had not
told her much; but he was still very young, only twenty-one, and he
explained that in his village not much could have happened to him. Soon
after war was declared, his father had died, and, having no brothers or
sisters or mother, he had sold all he had and quitted his village with
thirty-five hundred rubles in his pocket. Five hundred rubles he had
spent riotously and without satisfaction; and he still rejoiced in the
money he had spent on the bag and was even anxious to give Sylvia the
thousand rubles that were left, but she begged him to keep them.

"And so you must really go?" she said.

She walked with him through the darkness and sleet toward the barracks;
soon there was a sound of bugles, and he exclaimed that he must hurry.

"Good-by," Sylvia said. "I shall never forget this meeting." She stood
on tiptoe and, putting her arm round his neck, pulled him toward her and
kissed him.

"Good-by. May you be fortunate and happy," she repeated.

"It rests with God," said the soldier; and he vanished into the noise of
bugles and the confusion of a regimental muster.

The memory of this casual encounter rested in Sylvia's heart with all
the warmth it had originally kindled; nay, rather, it rested there with
a warmth that increased as time went on, and the golden bag came to be
regarded with that most essential and sacred affection which may be
bestowed upon a relic of childhood, an affection that is not sentimental
or comparable in any way to the emotions aroused by the souvenirs of an
old love. The bag possessed, indeed, the recreative quality of art; it
was emotion remembered in tranquillity, and as such fiercely cherished
by its owner. It was a true mascot, a monstrance of human love; for
Sylvia it had a sacramental, almost a divine significance.

From Kieff, much heartened by the omen of fortune's favor, Sylvia
traveled gladly toward Odessa through leagues of monotonous country
shrouded in mist and rain, which, seen thus by an unfamiliar visitant,
was of such surpassing gloom that the notion of war acquired in contrast
an adventurous cheerfulness. Often at railway stations that appeared to
exist along the track without any human reason for existence Sylvia used
to alight with the rest of the passengers and drink glasses of tea
sweetened by spoonfuls of raspberry jam; in a luxury of despair she
would imagine herself left behind by the train and be sometimes half
tempted to make the experiment in order to see how life would adapt
itself to such eccentricity. The only diversion upon this endless
journey was when the train stopped before crossing a bridge to let
soldiers with fixed bayonets mount it and stand in the corridors that
they might prevent any traveler from leaving his seat or even from
looking out of the window. These precautions against outrages with
dynamite affected her at first with a sense of great events happening
beyond these mournful steppes; but when she saw that the bayonets were
so long that in any scuffle they would have been unmanageable, she had a
revulsion from romantic fancies and told herself a little scornfully
what children men were and how much playing at war went on behind the
bloody scenes of action.

Sylvia reached Odessa on October 28th, and the long front looking toward
a leaden sea held a thought of England in its salt rain. The cabaret at
which she was going to work was like all other cabarets, but, being
situated in some gardens that opened on the sea, it had now a sad and
wintry appearance of disuse. A few draggled shrubs, a few chairs not
worth the trouble of putting into shelter, a deserted band-stand and
open-air theater, served to forbid rather than invite gaiety. However,
since the cabaret itself could be reached from a street behind the
sea-front and visitors were not compelled to pass through the ghosts of
a dead summer, this melancholy atmosphere was obviated. The _pension
d'artistes_ at which Sylvia stayed was kept by a certain Madame Eliane,
a woman of personality and charm, with a clear-cut, rosy face and
snow-white hair, who limped slightly and supported herself upon two
ebony canes. Madame Eliane objected to being called _Mère_, which would
have been the usual prefix of ironical affection awarded to the owner of
such a _pension_; although she must have been nearly sixty, she had an
intense hatred of age and a remarkable faculty for remaining young
without losing her dignity. For all the girls under her roof she felt a
genuine affection that demanded nothing in return except the acceptance
of herself as a contemporary, the first token of which was to call her
Eliane; from the men she always exacted _Madame_. Her nationality was
believed to have originally been Austrian, but she had become
naturalized as a Russian many years before the war, when she was the
mistress of an official who had endowed her with the _pension_ before he
departed to a remote Baltic province and the respectability of marriage.
Sylvia found that Eliane was regarded by all the girls as an
illustration of the most perfect success to which any one of their
profession might aspire.

"She's lucky," said a small cockney called Ruby Arnold, who sang in
English popular songs of four years ago that when Sylvia first heard
them shocked her with their violent resuscitation of the past. "Yes, I
reckon she's lucky," Ruby went on. "There isn't no one that doesn't
respect her, as you might say. Isn't she cunning, too, to let her hair
go white instead of keeping it gold like what it was once? Anybody can't
help taking to anybody with white hair. I reckon with white hair and a
house of my own I'd chuck up this life to-morrow, _I_ would. _N'est-ce
pas que j'ai raison?_" she added, in French, with a more brutal
disregard of pronunciation than Sylvia had ever heard.

"_Oui, petite, tu as raison_," agreed Odette, a vast French blonde with
brilliant, prominent eyes, those bulging myopic eyes that are generally
the mirrors of vanity and hysteria. "I have a friend here," she
continued in French, "_une femme du monde avec des idées très-larges_,
who assured me that if she did not know what Eliane was, she might
easily have mistaken her for a _femme du monde_ like herself."

"She and her lady friends," Ruby muttered, contemptuously to Sylvia. "If
you ask me, these French girls don't know a lady when they see one. She
had the nerve to bring her in here to tea one day, an old crow with a
bonnet that looked as if a dog had worried it. She's bound to ask you to
meet her. She can't talk of anything else since she met her in a tram."

"Well, how's the war getting on? What do they say about it now?" asked a
dancer called Flora, flashing a malicious glance at her partner, a young
Belgian of about twenty-five with a pale and unpleasantly debauched
face, who glared angrily in response. "Armand cannot suffer us to talk
about the war," she explained to Sylvia.

"She hates him," Ruby whispered. "And whenever she can she gets in a dig
because he hasn't tried to fight for his country. Funny thing for two
people to live together for three years and hate each other like they
do."

Sylvia said that she had no more information about the war than they had
in Odessa, and there followed groans from all the _artistes_ gathered
together over coffee for the havoc which the war had brought in their
profession.

"I was always _anti-militariste_," Armand proclaimed, "even before the
war. Why, once in France I was arrested for singing a song that made fun
of the army. It's a fine thing to talk about valor and glory and _la
patrie_ when you're _du premier grade_, but when you're not--" He shook
his fist at a world of generals. "_Enfin_, Belgium no longer exists. And
who first thought of stopping the Germans? The king! Does he have to
dance for a living? _Ah, non alors!_ She is always talking about the
war," he went on, looking at Flora. "But if I applied for a passport to
go back, she'd be the first to make a row."

"_Menteur!_" Flora snapped. "_Je m'en fiche._"

"_Alors, ce soir je n'irai pas au cabaret._"

"_Tant mieux! Qu'est-ce que ça peut me ficher? Bon Dieu!_"

"_Alors, nous verrons, ma gosse._"

"_Insoumis!_" she spat forth. "_Comme t'es lâche._"

"They always carry on like that," Ruby whispered. "But they'll be
dancing together to-night just the same as usual."

When Sylvia came down from the dressing-room for her turn she found that
Ruby had prophesied truly. Armand and Flora were dancing together on the
stage, but, though their lips were smiling, the eyes of both were sullen
and hateful. The performance at the Cabaret de l'Aube could not be said
to differ in any particular from that of any other cabaret. Sylvia, when
she was brought face to face with such evidences of international bad
taste, wondered how the world had ever gone to war. All over Europe
people slept in the same kind of wagon-lits (though here in Russia with
a broad gauge they slept more comfortably), ate the same kind of food in
the same kind of hotel, clapped the same mediocre _artistes_, and drank
the same sweet champagne: yet they could talk about the individuality of
nations. How remote war seemed here in Odessa: it was perhaps wrong of
her to escape from it like this, and she pondered the detached point of
view of Armand. Had she the right to despise his point of view? Did she
not herself merit equal contempt?

"I'm too comfortable," she decided, "while there is so much misery in
the distance."

However comfortable Sylvia felt when at a quarter past three she let
herself into the _Pension Eliane_, she felt extremely uncomfortable
about an hour later, when the sound of an explosion and the crash of
falling glass made those inmates of the _pension_ who were still
gossiping down-stairs in the dining-room drop their cigarettes and stare
at one another in astonishment.

"Whatever's that?" Ruby cried.

"It must be the gas," said Armand, who could not turn paler than he was,
but whose lips trembled.

Another crash followed; outside in the street rose a moan of frightened
voices and the clatter of frightened feet.

Two more explosions still nearer drove everybody that was in the
_pension_ out of doors, and when it became certain that war-ships were
bombarding Odessa there was a rush to join the inhabitants who were
fleeing to what they supposed was greater safety in the heart of the
town. In vain Sylvia protested that if the town was really being
bombarded, they were just as safe in a _pension_ near the sea-front as
anywhere else; the mere idea of propinquity to the sea set everybody
running faster than ever away from it. She could hear now the shells
whinnying like nervous horses, and with every crash she kept saying to
herself in a foolish way:

"Well, at any rate, there's no more danger from that one."

At first in the rush of panic she had not observed any particular
incident; but now, as shell after shell exploded without any visible
sign of damage, she began to look with interest at non-combatant
humanity in the presence of danger. She did not know whether to be glad
or sorry that, on the whole, the men behaved worse than the women; she
put this observation on one side to be argued out later with Armand, who
had certainly run faster than any one else in the _pension_. The number
of the shells was already getting less, yet there were no signs of the
populace's recovery. Fear was begetting fear with such rapidity that to
stand still and listen to the moans and groans of the uninjured was
awe-inspiring. In one doorway a distraught man with nothing on but a
shirt and slippers was dancing about with a lighted candle, evidently in
a quandary of terror whether to join the onflowing mob or to stay where
he was. An explosion quite close made up his mind, and he dived down the
steps into the street, where the candle was immediately extinguished;
nevertheless, he continued to hold it as if it were still alight while
he ran with the crowd. In another doorway stood a woman confronted with
a triple problem. Wearing nothing but a wrapper and carrying in her arms
a pet dog, she was trying at the same time to keep her wrapper fastened,
to avoid letting the dog drop, and to shut the door behind her. The
problem was a nice one: she could either keep her wrapper fastened,
maintain the dog, and leave the door open, in which case she would lose
her silver; or she could keep her wrapper close, shut the door, and drop
the dog, in which case she would lose the dog; or she could keep the
dog, shut the door, and let go of her wrapper, in which case she would
lose her modesty. Sylvia's anxiety to see how she would solve the
problem made her forget all about the shells; and it was only when the
perplexed lady in a last desperate attempt slammed the door, so that her
wrapper came flying open and the dog went bolting down the street, that
Sylvia realized the bombardment was over. She turned back toward the
_pension_ with a last look over her shoulder at the lady, who was
vanishing into the darkness, gathering the wrapper round her nakedness
as she ran, and calling wildly to her pet.

Next day the military and civil population set out to find who could
possibly have told the Turkish destroyers that such a place as Odessa
existed. Armand, the Belgian dancer, was particularly loud on the
subject of spies; Sylvia suspected it was he who had suggested to the
police that Madame Eliane, as a reputed Austrian, should be severely
examined with a view to finding out if the signals of which all were
talking could be traced to her windows. If he did inform the police, his
meanness recoiled upon his own head, for the examination of Madame
Eliane was succeeded by an examination of all her guests, in the course
of which Armand's passport was found to be slightly irregular, and he
was nearly expelled to Rumania in consequence. The authorities made up
their minds that no Turkish destroyer should ever again discover the
whereabouts of their town, and the most stringent ordinances against
showing lights were promulgated; but a more important result of the
declaration of war by Turkey than the lighting of Odessa was its
interference with the future plans of the mountebanks at the Cabaret de
l'Aube. There was not one of them who had not intended to proceed from
here to Constantinople, a much more profitable winter engagement than
this Black Sea port.

"_C'est assommant_," Armand declared. "_Zut! On ne peut pas rester ici
tout l'hiver. On crevera._"

"But at any rate one should be thankful that one was not hit by an
_obus_," said Odette. "I nearly died of fright."

"It wasn't the fault of the Turks that we weren't hit," Armand grumbled.
"They did their best."

"Luckily the shells didn't travel so fast as you," Sylvia put in.

Flora laughed at this; but when everybody began to tease Armand about
his cowardice she got angry, and invited any girl present to produce a
man that would have behaved differently.

At last the flotsam that had been stirred up by the alarm of the
bombardment drifted together again and stayed idly in what was, after
all, still a backwater to the general European unrest. The manager of
the cabaret was glad enough to keep his company together for as long as
they would stay. It was getting more difficult all the time to import
new attractions; and since as much money was being made out of human
misery in Odessa as everywhere else, the champagne flowed not much less
freely because, since the Imperial edict, some bribery of the police
was required in order to procure it. Sylvia was puzzled to find what was
fate's intention in thus keeping her from moving farther south: it
seemed a tame end to all her expectation to be stranded here, lost to
everything except the petty life of her fellow-players. However, she
sang her songs every night; somehow her personality attracted the
frequenters of the cabaret, and when after a month she informed the
manager that she must leave and go north again, he begged her to stay at
any rate for another two months--after that he would arrange for her to
travel north and sing at Kieff, Warsaw, and Petrograd, whence she could
make her way back to England.

"Or you might go to Siberia," he suggested.

"Siberia?" she echoed.

That any one should propose a tour in Siberia seemed a joke at first;
when Sylvia found the suggestion was serious, she plunged back with a
shiver into the warmer backwater of Odessa. Deciding that with a
comfortable _pension_, a friendly management, and an appreciative
audience, it would be foolish to risk her health by moving about too
much, she settled down to read Russian novels and study the characters
of her associates.

"You are a funny girl," Ruby said. "Don't you care about fellows?"

"Why should I?" Sylvia countered.

"Oh, I don't know. It seems more natural, somehow. I left home over a
fellow and went with a musical comedy to Paris. That's how I started
touring the continong. Funny you and I should meet like this in Odessa."

"Why?"

"Well, I don't know. We're both English. Talk about the World's End,
Chelsea! I wonder what they'd call this? Do you know, Sylvia, I
sometimes say to myself--supposing if I was to go back to England and
find it didn't really exist any more? I'm a funny girl. I think a lot
when I'm by myself, which isn't often, thank God, or I should get the
willies worse than what I do. I don't know: when I look round and see
that I'm in Odessa, I can't somehow believe that there is such a place
as London. Do you know, sometimes I'd go mad to hear a bus-driver call
out to a cabby, 'You bloody----, where the---- hell do you think you're
shoving yerself!' Well, after seven years without seeing England, any
one does get funny fancies."

"There aren't any cab-drivers now," Sylvia said.

"I suppose that's a fact. Taxis were only just beginning to bob up when
I went away. Oh, well, I reckon the language is still just as choice.
But I would love to hear it. Of course I might hear you swear in the
dressing-room over your corsets or anything, but it's the tone of voice
I hanker after. Oh, well, it'll all come out in the wash, and I don't
suppose they notice the war much in England. Still, I hope the
squareheads won't blow London to pieces. I once did a tour in Germany,
and a fellow with a mustache like a flying trapeze wanted to sleep with
me for ten marks. They've got nerve enough for anything. What's this
word 'boche'? I suppose it's French for rubbish." She began to sing
softly:

    "Take me back to London Town,
     London town, London town!
     That's where I want to be,
     Where the folks are kind to me.
     Trafalgar Square, oh, ain't it grand?
     Oxford Street, the dear old Strand!
     Anywhere, anywhere, I don't care....

O God, it gives any one the hump to think about it. Fancy England at
war. Wonders will never cease. I reckon my brother Alf's well in it. He
was never happy without he was fighting somebody."

It was curious, thought Sylvia that evening, as she watched Ruby Arnold
singing her four-year-old songs, how even to that cynical, rat-faced
little cockney in her red-velvet baby's frock the thought of England at
war should bring such a violent longing for home. She tried to become
intimate with Ruby; but after that single unfolding of secret
aspirations and regrets, she drew away from Sylvia, who asked the reason
of her sudden reserve.

"It's not that I don't like you," Ruby explained. "I reckon no girl
could want a better pal than you if she was your sort. Only I'm not. I
like fellows. You don't. Besides, you're different. I won't say you're a
lady, because when all's said and done we're both of us working-girls.
But I don't know. Perhaps it's because you're older than me, only
somehow you make me feel fidgety. That's flat, as the cook said to the
pancake; but you asked me why I was a bit stand-offish and I've got to
speak the truth to girls. I should go balmy otherwise with all the lies
I tell to men. I reckon you'd get on better with Odette and her Fam dee
mond."

Sylvia was vexed by her inability to bridge the gulf between herself and
Ruby; it never occurred to her that the fault lay with any one but
herself, and she felt humiliated by this failure that was so crushing to
her will to love; it seemed absurd that in a few minutes she should have
been able to get so much nearer the heart of that Russian soldier who
accosted her in Kieff than to one of her own countrywomen.

"Perhaps I've learned how to receive good-will," she told herself, "but
not yet how to offer it."

It was merely to amuse herself that Sylvia approached Odette for an
introduction to her famous _femme du monde_. The suggestion, while it
gratified Odette's sense of importance, caused her, nevertheless,
several qualms about Sylvia's fitness for presentation to Madame
Corvelis.

"_Elle a des idées très-larges, tu sais, mais--_" Odette paused. She
could not bring herself to believe that Madame Corvelis's
broad-mindedness was broad enough to include Sylvia. "_Pourtant_, I will
ask her quite frankly. I will say to her, '_Madame_, there is an
_artiste_ who wishes to meet a _femme du monde_.' _Ses idées sont
tellement larges que peut-être elle sera enchantée de faire ta
connaissance._ She has been so charming to me that if I make a _gaffe_
she must forgive me. _Enfin_, she came to take tea with me _chez
Eliane_, and though of course I was careful not to introduce anybody
else to her, she assured me afterward that she had enjoyed herself.
_Alors, nous verrons._"

Madame Corvelis was a little French Levantine who had married a Greek of
Constantinople. Odette had made her acquaintance one afternoon by
helping to unhitch her petticoats, which had managed to get caught up
while she was alighting from a tram. Her gratitude to Odette for
rescuing her from such a blushful situation was profuse and had
culminated in an invitation to take tea with her "in the wretched little
house she and her husband temporarily occupied in Odessa," owing to
their flight from Constantinople at the rumor of war.

"What was M. Corvelis?" Sylvia asked, when she and Odette were making
their way to visit _madame_.

"Oh, he was a man of business. I believe he was secretary to some large
company. You must not judge them by the house they live in here; they
left everything behind in Constantinople. But don't be frightened of M.
Corvelis. I assure you that for a man in his position he is very
simple."

"I'll try not to be very frightened," Sylvia promised.

"And _madame_ is charming. She has the perfect manners of a woman of
forty accustomed to the best society. When I think that eight years
ago--don't tell anybody else this--but eight years ago, _chérie_,"
Odette exclaimed, dramatically, "_je faisais le miché autour des
boulevards extérieurs! Ma chérie_, when I think of my _mauvais début_, I
can hardly believe that I am on my way to take tea with a femme _du
monde_. _Enfin, on arrive!_"

Odette flung proud glances all round her; Sylvia marveled at her
satisfied achievement of a life's ambition, nor did she marvel less when
she was presented to Madame Corvelis, surely the most insignificant
piece of respectability that had ever adorned a cocotte's dream. It was
pathetic to see the way in which the great, flaunting creature worshiped
this plump _bourgeoise_ with her metallic Levantine accent: anxious lest
Odette's deference should seem too effusive, Sylvia found herself
affecting an equally exaggerated demeanor to keep her friend in
countenance, though when she looked at their hostess she nearly laughed
aloud, so much did she resemble a little squat idol receiving the
complimentary adoration of some splendid savage.

"I am really ashamed to receive you in this miserable little house,"
Madame Corvelis protested. "_Mais que voulez-vous?_ Everything is in
Constantinople. Carpets, mirrors, china, silver. We came away like
beggars. _Mais que voulez-vous?_ My husband is so nervous. He feared the
worst. But of course he's nervous. _Que voulez-vous?_ The manager of one
of the largest companies in the East! Well, I say manager, but of course
when a company is as large as his, one ought to say secretary. 'Let us
go to Odessa, Alceste,' he begged. My name is Alceste, but I've no Greek
blood myself. Oh no, my father and mother were both Parisian. _Enfin_,
my father came under the glamour of the East and called me Alceste. _Que
voulez-vous?_"

All the time that Madame Corvelis was talking, Odette was asking Sylvia
in an unbroken whisper if she did not think that _madame_ was
_charmante_, _aimable_, _gentille_, and every other gracious thing she
could be.

"Have you ever been to Constantinople? Have you ever seen the
Bosphorus?" Madame Corvelis went on, turning to Sylvia. "What, you've
never seen the most enchanting city in the world? Oh, but you must! Not
now, of course. The war! It robs us all of something. Don't, please
don't think that Odessa resembles Constantinople."

Sylvia promised she would not.

"_Mais non_, Odessa is nothing. Look at this house! Ah, when I think of
what we've left behind in Constantinople. But M. Corvelis insisted, and
he was right. At any rate, we've brought a few clothes with us, though
of course when we came to this dreadful place we never thought that we
shouldn't be back home in a month. It was merely a precaution. But he
was right to be nervous, you see: the Turks have declared war. When I
think of the poor ambassador. You never saw the ambassador?"

Sylvia shook her head.

"I remember he trod on my toe--by accident, of course--oh yes, it was
entirely an accident. But he was so apologetic. What manners! But then I
always say, if you want to see good manners you must frequent good
society. What a pity you never saw the ambassador!"

"_N'est-ce pas que c'est merveilleux?_" Odette demanded.

"_Merveilleux_," Sylvia agreed, fervently.

"_Encore, madame!_" Odette begged. "_Vos histoires sont tellement
intéressantes._"

"Ah, well, one can't live all one's life in Constantinople without
picking up a few stories."

"Adhesive as burs," Sylvia thought.

"But really the best story of all," Madame Corvelis went on, "is to find
myself here in this miserable little house. That's a pretty bag you
have," she added to Sylvia. "A very pretty bag. Ah, _mon Dieu_, when I
think of the jewelry I've left behind."

At this moment M. Corvelis came in with the cunningly detached
expression of a husband who has been hustled out of the room by his wife
at the sound of a bell in order to convey an impression, when he has had
time to change his clothes, that he habitually dresses _en grande
tenue_. It was thus that Odette described her own preparatory toilet,
and she was ravished by M. Corvelis's reciprocity, whispering to Sylvia
her sense of the compliment to his humble visitors.

"_Homme chic! homme du monde! homme élégant! Mais ça se voit. Dis, t'es
contente?_"

Sylvia smiled and nodded.

The mold of form who had drawn such an ecstasy of self-congratulatory
admiration from Odette treated the two actresses as politely as his wife
had done, and asked Sylvia the same questions. When his reduplication of
the first catechism was practically complete, Odette gave the signal for
departure, and in a cyclone of farewells and compliments they left.

"_Elle est vraiment une femme du monde?_" Odette demanded.

"_De pied en cap_," Sylvia replied.

"_Ton sac en or lui plaisait beaucoup_," said Odette, a little
enviously. "Ah, when I think of myself eight years ago," she went on,
"it seems _incroyable_. I should like to invite them both to tea again
_chez Eliane_. If only the other girls were like you! And last time I
put too much sugar in her tea! _Non, je n'ose pas!_ One sees the
opportunity to raise oneself, but one does not dare grasp it. _C'est la
vie_," she sighed.

Moved by the vision of herself thwarted from advancing any higher,
Odette poured out to Sylvia the story of her life--a sad, squalid story,
lit up here and there by the flashes of melodramatic events and
culminating in the revelation of this paradise that was denied her.

"What would you have done if you had been invited to her house in
Constantinople where the carpets and the mirrors are?"

"She would never have invited me there," Odette sighed. "Here she is not
known. However broad her ideas, she could not defy public opinion at
home. _À la guerre comme à la guerre! Enfin, je suis fille du peuple,
mais on me regarde; c'est déjà quelque chose._"

The _pension_ that to Odette appeared so mean after the glories of
Madame Corvelis's little house had never been so welcome to Sylvia, and
it was strange to think that any one could be more impressed by that
pretentious little _bourgeoise_ with her figure like apples in a string
bag than by Madame Eliane, who resembled a mysterious lady in the
background of a picture by Watteau.

It was in meditation upon such queer contrasts that Sylvia passed away
her time in Odessa, thus and in pondering the more terrifying
profundities of the human soul in the novels of Dostoievski and Tolstoi.
She was not sorry, however, when the time came to leave; she could never
exclude from her imagination the hope of some amazing event immemorially
predestinate that should decide the course of the years still to come.
It would have been difficult for her to explain or justify her
conviction, but it would have been impossible to reject it, and it was
with an oddly superstitious misgiving that she found herself traveling
north again, so strong had been her original impulse to go south. If
anything had been wanting to confirm this belief, her arrival in Warsaw
at the beginning of February would have been enough.

Sylvia left Kieff on the return visit without any new revelation of
human vileness or human virtue, and reached Warsaw to find a mad
populace streaming forth at the sound of the German guns. She had
positively the sensation of meeting a great dark wave that drove her
back, and her interview with the distracted Jew who managed the cabaret
for which she had been engaged was like one of those scenes played in a
front set of a provincial drama to the sounds of feverish preparation
behind the cloth.

"Don't talk to me about songs," the manager cried. "Get out! Can't you
hear the guns? Everything's closed. Oh, my God! My God! Where have I put
it? I had it in my hands a moment ago. Get out, I say."

"Where to?" Sylvia demanded.

"Anywhere. Listen. Don't you think they sound a little nearer even in
these few minutes? Oh, the Germans! They're too strong. What are you
waiting for? Can't you understand me when I say that everything's
closed?"

He wiped the perspiration from his big nose with a duster that left long
black streaks in its wake.

"But where shall I go?" Sylvia persisted.

"Why don't you go to Bucharest? Why in the devil's name does any one
want to be anywhere but in a neutral country in these times? Go to the
Rumanian consul and get your passport _visé_ for Bucharest, and for the
love of God leave me in peace! Can't you see I'm busy this evening?"

Sylvia accepted the manager's suggestion and set out to find the consul:
by this time it was too late to obtain a _visa_ that night, and she was
forced to sleep in Warsaw--a grim experience that remained as a memory
of distant guns booming through a penetrating reek of onions. In the
morning the guns were quieter, and there was a rumor that for the third
time the German thrust for Warsaw had been definitely foiled. Sylvia,
however, could not get over the impression of the evening before, and
what the manager had suggested to rid himself of an importunate woman
she accepted as a clear indication of the direction she ought to follow.

In the waiting-room of the Rumanian Consulate there was an excessively
fat girl who told Sylvia that she was an accompanist anxious, like
herself, to get to Bucharest. Sylvia took the occasion to ask her if she
thought there was a certainty of being engaged in Bucharest, and the fat
girl was fairly encouraging. She told Sylvia that she was a Bohemian
from Prague who had been warned by the Russian police that she would do
well to seek another country.

"And will you get an engagement?" Sylvia asked.

"Oh, well, if I don't, I may as well starve in Bucharest as in Warsaw,"
she replied.

There seemed something ludicrous in the notion of any one so fat as this
starving; the accompanist seemed to divine Sylvia's thoughts, for she
laughed bitterly.

"I dare say you think I'm pretending, but ever since I was warned, I've
been scraping together the money to reach Bucharest somehow; I haven't
eaten a proper meal for a month. But the less I eat the fatter I seem to
get."

Sylvia was vexed that the poor girl should have guessed what she was
thinking, and she went out of her way to ask her advice on the smallest
details of the proposed journey; she knew that there was nothing that
restored a person's self-respect like a request for advice. The fat
girl, whose name inappropriately for a Bohemian appeared to be Lottie,
cheered up, as Sylvia had anticipated, and brimmed over with
recommendations about work in Bucharest.

"You'd better go to the management of the Petit Maxim. You're a singer,
aren't you? Of course Bucharest is very gay and terribly expensive.
You're English, aren't you? You are lucky. But fancy leaving England
now! Still, if you don't get any work you'll be able to go to your
consul and he'll send you home. I'll be able to get home, too, from
Bucharest, but I don't know if I want to. All my friends used to be
French and English girls. I never cared much for Austrians and Germans.
But now I get called _sale boche_ if I open my mouth. How do you explain
this war? It seems very unnecessary, doesn't it?"

"I don't want to be inquisitive," said Sylvia. "But I wish you'd tell me
why you're called Lottie."

"Ah, lots of people ask that." It was evident by the way she spoke that
the ability of her name to arouse the curiosity of strangers was one of
the chief pleasures life had brought to this fat girl. "Well, I had an
_amant de cœur_ once who was English. At least his mother was English:
his father was from Hamburg; in fact, I think he was more Jewish than
anything. He didn't treat me very well, and he threw me over for an
English dancer called Lottie, who died of consumption. It seems a funny
thing to tell you, but the only way I could be revenged was to take her
name when she died. You'd have been surprised to see how much my taking
her name seemed to annoy him. He threatened me with a pistol once, but I
stuck to the name, and then I got fond of it, because I found it created
_beaucoup de réclame_. You see, I've traveled all over Europe, and
people remember me as the fat girl Lottie; so I've never gone back to
my own name. It's just as well, because nobody can pronounce Bohemian
names."

The long formalities at the Consulate were finished at last, and as they
came out Sylvia suggested to the fat girl that they should travel
together. She looked at Sylvia in astonishment.

"But I'm an Austrian."

"Yes, I know. I dare say it's very reprehensible, but, unfortunately, I
can't feel at war with you."

"Thank you for your kindness," said Lottie, "which I'm not going to
repay by traveling with you. After we get out of Russia, yes. But till
we're over the frontier, I sha'n't know you for your own sake. You'd
only have trouble with the Russian police."

"Even police could surely not be so stupid as that?" Sylvia argued.

"_À la guerre comme à la guerre_," the fat girl laughed. "_Au revoir,
petite chose._"

Sylvia left Warsaw that night. Having only just enough money to pay her
fare second-class, she found the journey down through Russia almost
unendurable, especially the first part when the train was swarmed with
fugitives from Warsaw, notwithstanding the news of the German failure to
pierce the line of the Bzura, which was now confirmed. Yet with all the
discomfort she was sustained by an exultant relief at turning south
again; and her faculties were positively strained to attention for the
disclosure of her fate. She was squeezed so tightly into her seat, and
the atmosphere of the compartment was so heavy with the smell of
disturbed humanity that it was lucky she had this inner assurance over
which she could brood hour after hour. She was without sleep for two
nights, and when toward dusk of a dreary February afternoon the frontier
station of Ungheny was reached and she alighted from the third train in
which she had traveled during this journey, she felt dazed for a moment
with the disappointment of somebody who arrives at a journey's end
without being met.

However, there was now the frontier examination by the Russian
authorities of passengers leaving the country to occupy Sylvia's mind,
and she passed with an agitated herd toward a tin-roofed shed in the
middle of which a very large stove was burning. She had noticed Lottie
several times in the course of the journey, and now, finding herself
next her in the crowd, she greeted her cheerfully; but the fat girl
frowned and whispered:

"I'm not going to speak to you for your own sake. Can't you understand?"

Sylvia wondered if she were a spy, who from some motive of charity
wished to avoid compromising her; but there was no time to think about
such problems, because an official was taking her passport and waving
her across to the stacked-up heaps of luggage. There was something
redolent of old sensational novels in this frontier examination,
something theatrically sinister about the attitude of the officials when
they commanded everybody to turn everything out of his trunks and bags.
The shed took on the appearance of a vast rag-heap, and the accumulated
agitation of the travelers was pitiable in its subservience to these
machines of the state; it seemed incredible that human beings should
consent to be treated thus. Presently it became evident that the object
of this relentless search was paper; every scrap of paper, whether it
was loose or used for wrapping and packing, was taken away and dropped
into the stove. The sense of human ignominy became overwhelming when
Sylvia saw men going down on their knees and weeping for permission to
keep important documents; yet no appeal moved the officials, and the
stove burned fiercely with the mixed records of money, love, and
business; with contracts and receipts and title-deeds; even with
toilet-paper and old greasy journals. Sylvia fought hard for the right
to keep her music, and proclaimed her English nationality so insistently
that for a minute or two the officials hesitated and went out to
consult the authorities who had taken charge of her passport; but when
it was found that she was entered there as a music-hall _artiste_, the
music was flung into the stove at once. Confronted with the proofs of
her right to carry music, this filthy spawn of man's will to be enslaved
took from her the only tools of her craft: orang-outangs would have been
more logical. And all over the world the human mind was being debauched
like this by war, or would it be truer to say that war was turning
ordinary stupidity into criminal stupidity? Oh, what did it matter?
Sylvia clasped her golden bag to reassure herself that nobility still
endured in spite of war. Now they were throwing books into the stove!
Sylvia sat down and laughed so loudly that two soldiers came across and
took her arms to lead her outside: they evidently thought she was going
to have hysterics, which would doubtless have been unlawful in the shed.
She waved aside their attentions and went across to pick up her luggage.

When Sylvia had finished and was passing out to find the office where
she had to receive back her passport inscribed with illegible permits to
leave Russia, she saw Lottie being led through a curtained door on the
far side of the shed. The sight made her feel sick: it brought back with
horrible vividness her emotion when, years ago, she had seen on the
French frontier the woman with the lace being led away for smuggling
contraband. What were they going to do? She paused, expecting to hear a
scream issue from that curtained doorway. She could not bring herself to
go away, and, with an excuse of having left something behind in the
shed, she went back. The curtain was pulled aside a moment for some one
within to call the assistance of some one without, and Sylvia had a
brief vision of the fat girl, half undressed, with her arms held, high
above her head while two police officers prodded her like a sheep in a
fair.

"O God!" Sylvia murmured. "God! God! Grant these people their revenge
some day!"

The passengers were at last free to mount another train, and Sylvia saw
with relief that Lottie was taking her place with the rest. She avoided
speaking to her, because she was suffering herself from the humiliation
inflicted upon the fat girl, and felt awed at the idea of any intrusion
upon her shame. The train steamed out of the station, crossed a long
bridge, and pulled up in Rumanian Ungheny, where everybody had to alight
again for the Rumanian officials to look for the old-fashioned
contraband of the days before the war. They did this as perfunctorily as
in those happy days; and the quiet of the neutral railway station was
like the sudden lull that sheltering land gives to the stormiest seas.
If only she had not lost all her music, if only she had not seen the fat
girl behind that curtain, Sylvia could have clapped her hands for
pleasure at this unimpressive little station, which, merely because it
belonged to a country at peace, had a kind of innocence and jollity that
gave it a real beauty.

"Well, aren't you glad I wouldn't have anything to do with you?" said
Lottie, coming up to her with a smile. "You'd have had to go through the
same, probably. The Russian police are brutes."

"All policemen are brutes," Sylvia declared.

"I suppose they have their orders, but I think they might have a woman
searcher."

"Oh, don't talk about it!" Sylvia cried. "Such things crucify the soul."

"You're very _exagérée_ for an English girl," said Lottie. "Aou yes! Aou
yes! I never met an English girl who talked like you."

The train arrived at Jassy about nine o'clock; here they had to change
again, and, since the train for Bucharest did not leave till about
eleven and she was feeling hungry, Sylvia invited Lottie to have dinner
with her. While they were walking along the platform toward the
restaurant there was a sound of hurried footsteps behind them, and a
moment later a breathless voice called out in English:

"Excuse me, please! Excuse me, please! They told me there was being an
English _artiste_ on the train."

That voice reproduced so many times by Sylvia at the Pierian Hall was
the voice of Concetta and, turning round, she saw her.

"Concetta!"

The girl drew in her breath sharply.

"How was you knowing me? My name is Queenie Walters. How was you calling
me Concetta? Ah, the English girl! Oh, my dear, I am so content to see
you."

Sylvia took her in her arms and kissed her.

"Oh, Sylvia! You see I remember your name. I can't get away from Jassy.
I was being expelled from Moscow, and I had no money to come more than
here, and the man I am with here I hate. I want to go to Bucharest, but
he isn't wanting to let me go and gives to me only furs, no money."

"You're not still with Zozo?"

"_Ach_, no! He--how do you say--he shooted me in the leg three years
from now and afterward we were no more friends. The man I am with here
was of Jassy. I had no money. What else must I do?"

Sylvia had not much money, either; but she had just enough to pay
Concetta's fare to Bucharest, whither at midnight they set out.

"And let no one ever tell me again that presentiments don't exist,"
murmured Sylvia, falling asleep for the first time in forty-eight
hours.



CHAPTER IV


Concetta's history--or rather Queenie's, for it was by this name that
she begged Sylvia to call her now--had been a mixture of splendor,
misery, and violence during the six years that, almost to a day, had
elapsed since they met for the first time at Granada. She told it in the
creeping light of a wet dawn while the train was passing through a flat,
colorless country, and while in a corner of the compartment Lottie's
snores rose above the noise, told it in the breathless, disjointed style
that was so poignantly familiar to the one who listened. There was
something ghostly for Sylvia in this experience; it was as if she sat
opposite a Galatea of her own creation, a doubleganger from her own
brain, a dream prolonged into the cold reality of the morning. All the
time that she was listening she had a sensation of being told about
events that she ought to know already, as if in a trance she herself had
lived this history through before; and so vivid was the sensation that
when there were unexplained gaps in Queenie's narrative she found
herself puzzling her own brain to fill them in from experience of her
own, the recollection of which had been clouded by some accident.

When Queenie told how she was carried away by Zozo from Mrs.
Gainsborough at the railway station of Granada, she gave the impression
of having yielded to a magical and irresistible influence, and it was
evident that for a long while the personality of the juggler had swayed
her destiny by a hypnotic power that was only broken when he wounded her
with the pistol-shot. Even now, after three years of freedom, his
influence, when she began to talk of him, seemed to regather its volume
and to be about to pour itself once more over her mind. Sylvia perceived
this danger, and forbade her to talk any more about Zozo. This
injunction was evidently a relief to the child--she must be twenty-one
by now, though she seemed still a child--but it was tantalizing to
Sylvia, who could not penetrate beyond her own impression of the juggler
as an incredible figure, incredible because only drawn with a kind of
immature or tired fancy. He passed into the category of the Svengalis,
and became one of a long line of romantic impossibilities with whom
their creators had failed to do much more than can be done by a
practical joker with a turnip, a sheet, and some phosphorus. Zozo had
always been the weakest part of Sylvia's improvisation of Concetta, a
melodramatic climax that for her had spoiled the more simple horror of
the childhood; she determined that later on she would try to extract
from Queenie, bit by bit, enough to complete her performance.

Although Queenie had managed to break away from the man himself, she had
paid in full for his direction of her life, and Sylvia rebelled against
the whim of destiny which at the critical moment in this child's career
had snatched her from herself and handed her over to the possession of a
Zozo. What could have been the intention of fate in pointing a way to
safety and then immediately afterward barring it against her progress?
The old argument of free will could not apply in her case, because it
was the lack of that, and of that alone, which had caused her ruin. What
but a savage and undiscerning fate could be held accountable for this
tale that had for fit background the profitable and ugly fields through
which on this tristful Rumanian day the train was sweeping? Queenie
seemed to have had no lovers apart from the purchasers of youth, and to
be able to look back with pride and pleasure at nothing except the furs
and dresses and jewelry with which she had been purchased. In the rage
that Sylvia felt for this wanton corruption of a soul, she suddenly
remembered how, long ago, she had watched with a hopeless equanimity and
a cynical tolerance the progress of Lily along the same road as Queenie;
and this memory of herself as she once was and felt revived the
torments of self-reproach that had haunted her delirium in Petrograd.
Then, as Queenie's tale went on, there gradually emerged from all the
purposeless confusion of it one clear ambition in the girl's mind, which
was a passion to be English--a passion feverish, intense, absorbing.

When in France Sylvia had first encountered continental music-hall
_artistes_, she had found among them a universal prejudice against
English girls; later on, when she met in cabarets the expatriated and
cosmopolitan mountebanks that were the slaves rather than the servants
of the public, she had often been envied for her English nationality:
Lottie sleeping over there in the corner was an instance in point. But
she had never found this fleeting envy crystallized to such a passionate
ambition as it was become for Queenie. The circumstances of her birth in
Germany from an Italian father of a Flemish mother, her flight from a
cruel stepmother, her life with the juggler whose nationality seemed as
indeterminate as her own, her speech compounded of English, French,
German, and Italian each spoken with a foreign accent, her absence of
any kind of papers, her lack of any sort of home, had all combined to
give her a positive belief that she was without nationality, which she
coveted as some Undine might covet a soul.

"But why do you want to be English so particularly?" Sylvia asked.

"Don't you know? Why, yes, of course you know. It was you was first
making me to want. You were so sweet, the sweetest person I was ever
meeting, and when I lost you I was always wanting to be English."

So, after all, her own swift passage through Queenie's life had not been
without consequence.

"People were always saying that I looked like an English girl," Queenie
went on. "And I was always talking English. I will never speak other
languages again. I will not know other languages. Until this war came it
was easy; but when they asked me for my passport I had only a _billet
de séjour_ given to me by the Russian police, and after six months I was
expelled. When I was coming to Rumania, there was a merchant on the
train who was kind to me, but he made me promise that if he helped me I
was never to leave him until he was wanting. He was very kind. He gave
me these furs. They are so nice, yes. But I was always going to the
station at Jassy to see if some English girl would be my sister. There
was once in Constantinople an English girl who would be my sister--but
Zozo was jealous. If I was becoming her sister, I would be having a
passport now, and England is so sweet!"

"But you've never been in England," Sylvia observed.

"Oh yes, I was going there with another English girl, and we lived there
three months. I was dancing into a club--a nice club, all the men was
wearing smokings--but she was ill and I wanted to be giving her money,
so I was going to Russia, and then came the war. And now you must be my
sister, because that other sister will be perhaps dead, so ill she was.
_Ach_ yes, so ill, so very ill! When I will have my English passport we
will go to England together and never come away again. Then for the
first time I will be happy."

Sylvia promised that she would do all she could to achieve Queenie's
purpose.

"Tell me, why did you call yourself Queenie Walters?" she asked.

"Because the girl who was my sister in England had once a real little
baby sister who was called Queenie. Oh, dead long ago, long ago! Her
mother, who I was calling _my_ mother, told me about this baby Queenie.
So I was Queenie Walters and my sister was Elsie Walters."

"And your real brother Francesco?" Sylvia asked. "Did you ever see him
again?"

That dreamlike and inexplicable meeting between the brother and the
sister in the streets of Milan had always remained in Sylvia's memory.

"No, never yet again. But I am so sure he is being in England and that
when we go there we will find him. And if he is English, too, what fun
we will have."

Sylvia looked at these two companions who had both assumed English
names. Not even the cold and merciless gray light of the Rumanian
morning could destroy Queenie's unearthly charm, and the longer she
looked at her the more like an Undine she thought her. Her eyes were
ageless, limpid as a child's; and that her experience of evil should
have left no sign of its habitation Sylvia was tempted to ascribe to the
absence of a soul for evil to mar. The only indication that she was six
years older than when they met in Granada was her added gracefulness of
movement, the impulsive gracefulness of a gazelle rather than that
serene gracefulness of a cat which had been Lily's beauty. Her hair, of
a natural pale gold, had not been dimmed by the fumes of cabarets, and
even now, all tangled after a night in the train, it had a look of
hovering in this railway carriage like a wintry sunbeam. In the other
corner sat Lottie, snoring with wide-open mouth, whose body, relaxed in
sleep, seemed fatter than ever. She, too, had suffered, perhaps more
deeply than Queenie, certainly more markedly; and now in dreams what
fierce Bohemian passions were aroused in the vast airs of sleep, what
dark revenges of the spirit for the insults that grotesque body must
always endure?

At this point in Sylvia's contemplation Lottie woke up and prepared for
the arrival of the train at Bucharest by making her toilet.

"Where's the best place to stay?" Sylvia inquired.

"Well, the best place to stay is in some hotel," Lottie replied. "But
the hotels are so horribly expensive. Of course, there are plenty of
pensions d'artistes_, and--" she broke off and looked at Sylvia_
curiously, who asked her why she did so.

"I was thinking that it's a pity you can't share a room together," she
said after a momentary hesitation.

"So we can," Sylvia answered, sharply.

"Well, in that case I should go to a small hotel," Lottie advised.
"Because all the _pensions_ here are run by old thieves. There's Mère
Valérie--she's French and almost the worst of the lot--and there's one
kept by a Greek who's not so bad, but they say most of her bedrooms have
bugs."

"We'll go to a hotel," Sylvia decided. "Where are you going yourself?"

"Oh, I shall find myself a room somewhere. I don't stand a chance of
being engaged at any first-rate cabaret and I sha'n't have much money to
spend on rooms. _Entre nous, je ne dis plus rien aux hommes. Je suis
trop grasse. À quoi sert une jolie chambre?_"

Sylvia had a feeling that she ought to ask Lottie to share a room with
Queenie and herself, and after a struggle against the notion of this fat
girl's ungainly presence she keyed herself to the pitch of inviting her.

"No, no," said Lottie. "It wouldn't do for two English girls to live
with an Austrian."

Sylvia could not help being relieved at her refusal; perhaps she showed
it, for Lottie smiled cynically.

"I think you'll feel a little less charitable to everybody," she said,
"before much longer. You've kept out of this war so far, but you won't
be able to keep out of it forever. I've often noticed about English
girls that they begin by thinking such a lot of themselves that they
have quite a store of pity for the poor people who aren't like them; and
then all of a sudden they turn round and become very unpleasant; because
they discover that other people think themselves as good as they are.
Mind you, I'm not saying you'll do that, but I don't want to find myself
_de trop_ after being with you a week. Let's part as friends."

Sylvia, in the flurry of arrival, did not pay much attention to Lottie's
prophecies, and she was glad to be alone again with Queenie. They
discovered a small hotel kept by Italians, which seemed clean and, if
they obtained a reasonable salary at the Petit Maxim, not too
expensive. When they had dressed themselves up to impress the manager
of the cabaret and were starting out to seek an engagement, the wife of
the proprietor called Sylvia aside.

"You mustn't bring gentlemen back to the hotel except in the afternoon."

"We don't want to bring anybody back at any time," said Sylvia,
indignantly.

The woman shrugged her shoulders and muttered a skeptical apology.

The interview with the manager of the cabaret was rather humiliating for
Sylvia, though she laughed at it when it was all over. He was quite
ready to engage Queenie both to dance _en scène_ and afterward, but he
declared he had nothing to offer Sylvia; she proposed to sing him one of
her songs, but he scarcely listened to her, and when she had finished
repeated that he had nothing to offer her. Whereupon Queenie announced
that unless her sister was engaged the Petit Maxim would have to forgo
her own performance. The manager argued for a time, but he was evidently
much impressed by Queenie's attraction as a typical English girl, and
finally, rather than lose her, he agreed to engage Sylvia as well.

"It's a pity you look so unlike an English girl," he said to Sylvia in
an aggrieved voice. "The public will be disappointed. They expect an
English girl to look English. You'll have to sing at the beginning of
the evening, and I can't pay you more than three hundred _lei_--three
hundred francs, that is."

"I was getting eight hundred in Russia," Sylvia objected.

"I dare say you were, but girls are scarcer there. We've got thousands
of them in Bucharest."

Sylvia was furious at being offered so little, but Queenie promptly
asked six hundred, and when the manager objected, suggested that he
might engage them both for twelve hundred: it was strange to find
Queenie so sharp at business. In the end Sylvia was offered three
hundred and fifty _lei_ and Queenie seven hundred and fifty, which they
accepted.

"You can have a band rehearsal to-morrow," he said, "and open on Monday
week."

Sylvia explained about the loss of her music; and the manager began to
curse, demanding how she expected an orchestra to accompany her without
band parts.

"I'll accompany myself," she answered.

"Oh, well," he agreed, "being the first item on the program, it doesn't
really matter what you do."

It was impossible for the moment not feel the sting of this when Sylvia
remembered herself a year ago, fresh from her success at the Pierian and
inclined to wonder if she were not dimming her effulgence as a
moderately large star by appearing at English music-halls. Now here she
was being engaged for the sake of another girl and allowed on sufferance
to entertain the meager, listless audience at the beginning of a cabaret
performance--for the sake of another girl who owed to her the fare to
Bucharest and whom all the way in the train she had been pitying while
she made plans to rescue her from a degrading existence. There was a
brief moment of bitterness and jealousy; but it passed almost at once,
and she began to laugh at herself.

"There's no doubt you'll have to establish your English nationality,"
she told Queenie, as they left the manager's office. "I really believe
he thought it was I who was pretending."

"It's what I was saying you," Queenie answered. "They was all thinking
that I was English."

"Well, now we must decide about our relationship. Of course, you don't
look the least like my sister, but I think the best way will be for you
to pass as my sister. My name isn't really Sylvia Scarlett, but Sylvia
Snow; so what I suggest is that you shall go on calling yourself Queenie
Walters on the stage, though when we try to get your passport you must
be Queenie Snow. Trust me to get round the English authorities here, if
it's necessary. We can always go back to England through Bulgaria and
Greece, but we must save up enough money, and it 'll that might befall
her more acutely than she would have feared for herself.

"Which must she be given first?" Sylvia asked herself. "A soul or a
nationality? The ultimate reason of nationality is civilization, and the
object of civilization is the progress and safety of the state. The more
progressive and secure is the state the more utterly is the individual
soul destroyed, because the state compels the individual to commit
crimes for which as an individual he would be execrated. Hence the crime
of war, to which the individual is lured by a virtue created by
appealing to mankind's sense of property, a virtue called patriotism
that somehow or other I'm perfectly sure must be anti-divine, though
it's a virtue for which I have a great respect. _What shall it profit a
man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?_ That's
surely the answer to civilization, which, after all, has no object
except the physical comfort of humanity. I suppose one might call the
civilization that is of the spirit and not of the flesh 'salvation.' I
wonder what the Germans mean by _Kultur_--really I suppose the aggregate
soul of the German people. I think _Kultur_ in their sense must be a
hybrid virtue like patriotism. I think it's their own ascription of a
divine origin to a civilization which has been as rapid and as poisonous
and as ugly as a toadstool. We other civilized nations revile the
Germans as barbarians, particularly we English, because in England,
thank Heaven, we've always had an uncomfortable feeling that man is a
greater thing than men, and we perceive in war a sacrifice of the
individual that no state has the right to demand. I wonder why the
Russians went to war. I can't understand a country that has produced
Tolstoi and Dostoievski going to war. If I had not met that soldier in
Kieff I might have been skeptical about Russian idealism after my
adventures in Petrograd, after that filthy cinema, and the scene in the
station at Ungheny; but, having met him, I know that Tolstoi and
Dostoievski _are_ Russia.

"All of which has taken me a long way from Queenie, who is neither ready
for civilization nor for salvation. It's a most extraordinary thing, but
I've suddenly got an idea that she has never been baptized. If she has
not, I shall persuade her to be baptized. Baptism--the key to salvation!
A passport--the key to civilization! The antithesis is not so ludicrous
nor so extravagant as it sounds at first. Without a passport Queenie has
no nationality and does not possess elementary civic rights. She is
liable to be expelled from any country at any moment, and there is no
certainty that any other country will receive her. In that case she will
spend the rest of her life on earth in a kind of Limbo comparable to the
Limbo which I believe is reserved for the souls of those unbaptized
through no fault of their own. I shall be able to procure her a passport
and introduce her to the glories of nationality by perjuring myself, but
I can't give her a soul by perjuring myself, and I've got so strongly
this intuition that she was never baptized that I shall dig out a priest
and talk to him about it. And yet why am I bothering whether she was
baptized or not? What have I to do with churches and their ceremonies?
No doubt I was baptized, confirmed, and made my communion; yet for more
than twenty years I have never entered a church except as an onlooker.
Is this anxiety about Queenie's soul only another way of expressing an
anxiety about my own soul? Yes, I believe it is. I believe that by a
process of sheer intellectual exhaustion I am being driven into
Christianity. Oh, I wish I could talk it all out! It's a damned
dishonest way of satisfying my own conscience, to go to a priest and ask
questions about Queenie. Why can't I go and ask him straight out about
myself? But she is just as important as I am. I think that was brought
home to me rather well, when the manager engaged me because he wanted
her. There was I in a condition of odious pride because I had been
given the chance of helping her by paying the beggarly fare to
Bucharest, and, boomph! as dear Gainsborough used to say, there was she
given the chance of paying me back a hundredfold within twenty-four
hours."

Queenie was out, and Sylvia was lying down with a headache which was not
improved by the procession of these vagrant speculations round and round
her brain. She got up presently to look for some aspirin, and, opening
the drawer of the table between the two beds, she found a bundle of
pictures--little colored lithographs of old masters. She was turning
them over idly when Queenie came back.

"_Ach_, you was looking at my pictures. They are so nice, yes? See, this
is the one I love the best."

It was the "Primavera," and Sylvia was astonished for a moment that
Queenie's childlike and undeveloped taste should care for something so
remote from the crudities that usually appealed to such a mind. Then she
remembered that Botticelli as a painter must have appealed to
contemporaries who by modern standards were equally childlike and
undeveloped; and also that Queenie, whose nationality by the standards
of civilization did not exist, had an Italian father, the inheritor
perhaps of Botticelli's blood. Queenie sat on the bed and looked at her
pictures with the rapt expression of a child poring over her simple
treasures. From time to time she would hold one up for Sylvia's
admiration.

"See how sweet," she would say, kissing the grave little Madonna or
diminished landscape that was drawing her out of Bucharest into another
world.

"I've got a book somewhere about pictures," Sylvia said. "You must read
it."

Queenie hid her face in her arms; when she looked up again she was
crimson as a carnation.

"I can't read," she whispered.

"Not read?" Sylvia echoed.

"I can't read or write," she went on. "_Ach!_ Now you hate me, yes?
Because I was being so stupid."

"But when you went to the school in Dantzig, didn't they teach you
anything?"

"They taught me ballet dancing and acrobatic dancing and step dancing.
Now I must go to have my hair washed, yes?"

Queenie got off the bed and hurried away, leaving Sylvia in a state of
bewilderment before the magnitude of the responsibility that she
represented.

"It's like giving birth to a grown-up baby," she said to herself; on a
sudden irresistible impulse, she knelt down upon the floor and began to
pray, with that most intense prayer of which a human being is capable,
that prayer which transcends all words, all space, all time, all
thought, that prayer which substitutes itself for the poor creature who
makes it. The moment of prayer passed, and Sylvia, rising from her
knees, dressed herself and went in search of a priest.

When she reached the door of the little Catholic mission church to which
the proprietor of the hotel had directed her, she paused upon the inner
threshold before a baize door and asked herself if she were not acting
in a dream. She had not been long enough in Bucharest for the city to be
reassuringly familiar; by letting her fancy play around the unreality of
her present state of mind she was easily able to transform Bucharest to
a city dimly apprehended in a tranced voyage of the spirit and to
imagine all the passers-by as the fantastic denizens of another world.
She stood upon the threshold and yielded a moment to what seemed like a
fainting of reason, while all natural existence swayed round her mind
and while the baize door stuck thick with pious notices, funereal
objurgations, and the petty gossip, as it were, of a new habitation at
which she was looking with strange eyes, seemed to attend her next step
with a conscious expectancy. She pushed it open and entered the church;
a bearded priest, escaping the importunities of an aged parishioner
with a voluble grievance, was coming toward her; perceiving that Sylvia
was looking round in bewilderment, he took the occasion to get rid of
the old woman by asking her in French if he could do anything to help.

"I want to see a priest," she replied.

Although she knew that he was a priest, in an attempt to cheat the force
that was impelling her she snatched at his lack of resemblance to the
conventional priestly figure of her memory and deluded herself with vain
hesitations.

"Do you want to make your confession?" he asked.

Sylvia nodded, and looked over her shoulder in affright; it seemed that
the voice of a wraith had whispered "Yes." The priest pointed to the
confessional, and Sylvia, with a final effort to postpone her surrender,
asked, with a glance at the old woman, if he were not too busy now. He
shook his head quickly and spoke sharply in Italian to the parishioner,
who retired, grumbling; Sylvia smiled to see with what an ostentation of
injured dignity she took the holy water and crossed herself before
passing out through the baize door. The old woman's challenging humanity
restored to Sylvia her sense of reality; emotion died away like a
falling gale at eve, and she walked to the confessional imbued with an
intention as practical as if she had been walking up-stairs to tidy her
hair. The priest composed himself into a non-committal attitude and
waited for Sylvia, who, now that she was kneeling, felt as if she were
going to play an unrehearsed part.

"I ought to say before I begin that, though I was brought up a Catholic,
I've not been inside a church for any religious duties since I was nine
years old. I'm now thirty-one. I know that there is some set form of
words, but I've forgotten it."

Sylvia half expected that he would tell her to go away and come back
when she had learned how to behave in the confessional; now that she was
here, she felt that this would be a pity, and she was relieved when he
began the _Confiteor_ in an impersonal voice, waiting for her to repeat
every sentence after him. His patience seemed to her almost miraculous
in the way it smoothed her difficulties.

"I shall have to give you a short history of my life," Sylvia began. "I
can't just say baldly that I've done this or not done that, because
nearly all the sins I've committed weren't committed in their usual
classification."

As she said this, she had a moment of acute self-consciousness and
wondered if the priest were smiling, but he merely said in that
far-away, impersonal voice:

"I am listening, my daughter."

"I was brought up a Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed and I made my
first communion. It was the only communion I ever made, because somehow
or other at home there was always work to be done in the house instead
of going to Mass. My mother was French and she married an Englishman
much younger than herself. Of this marriage I was the only child. My
mother had six other daughters, two by a lover who died, and four by her
first husband, who was a Frenchman. My mother was illegitimate; her
father was also an Englishman. I only knew this after she died. The man
who married my grandmother always acknowledged her as his own daughter.
My mother was very strict and, though she was not at all religious, she
was very good. I don't want to give the idea that she was responsible
for anything I did. The only thing is, perhaps, that, being passionately
in love with my father, she was very demonstrative in front of me, which
made the idea of passion shocking to me when I was still young.
Therefore, for whatever sins of the flesh I have committed I cannot
plead a natural propensity. I don't know whether this would be
considered to make them worse or not. My father was a weak man; when my
mother died, he robbed his employers and had to leave France, taking me
with him. I was twelve at the time. I suppose if I wanted to justify
myself, I could say that no child could have spent a more demoralizing
childhood from that moment. But though, when I look back at it now and
realize some of the horrible actions that my father and a friend of his
who lived with us committed, I can't think that at the time they
influenced me toward evil. I suppose that any kind of moral callousness
_is_ a bad example, and certainly I had no conception that swindling
people out of money was anything but a perfectly right and normal
procedure for anybody who was without money. My mother was angry with me
once because by accident I spent some money of hers, but she was angry
with me because it was a serious loss to the household accounts: there
was no suggestion of my having spent money that did not belong to me.
Other things that my father and his friend did I never understood at the
time, and so I can't pretend that they set me a bad example. My father
took a woman to live with him, and I was angry because it upset what had
hitherto seemed a comfortable existence, but the revelation of the
passionate side of it disgusted me still more with the flesh. I was a
mixture of precocity and innocence. Looking back at myself as a child, I
am amazed at the amount I knew and the little I understood--the amount I
understood and the little I knew. I read all sorts of books and accepted
everything I read as the truth; I read dozens of novels, for instance,
before I understood the meaning of fiction. I should say that no child
was ever exposed so naturally to the full tide of human existence, and
why or how I managed to escape degradation and damnation I've never been
able to explain until now. As a matter of fact, it's not true really to
say that I did escape degradation, but I will come to that presently.

"Well, my father killed himself on account of this woman, and I was left
with his friend when I was fifteen. Once I happened to be left
altogether alone when this man was away turning a dishonest penny
somewhere, and I suppose I fell mildly in love with a youth two years
older than myself. This made my father's friend jealous, and one night
he tried to make love to me. I was as much disgusted by this as if I had
really been the innocent child I might have been. I ran away with the
youth, and nothing happened. I ran away from him and lived with a young
Jew, but nothing happened. I met the woman who had lived with my father,
and--which shows how utterly unmoral I was--I made great friends with
her and even went to live with her. She used to have all sorts of men,
and I just accepted her behavior as a personal taste of her own which I
could neither understand nor share. Then I met a gentleman, a man
fifteen years older than myself, who was attracted by my unusualness and
sent me to school with the idea of marrying me. Well, I married him, and
I think that was the first sin I committed. I was seventeen at the time.
I think if my husband had understood how stunted my emotional
development was in proportion to my mental acquisitiveness he would have
behaved differently. But he was fascinated by my capacity for cynicism
and encouraged me to think as I liked, with himself for audience; at the
same time he tried to make me for outsiders' eyes a conventional young
miss whom he had rather apologetically married. He demanded from me the
emotional wisdom to sustain this part, and of course I could see nothing
in his solicitude but a sort of snobbish egotism. He was delighted by my
complete indifference to any kind of religion, supernatural or natural,
and when I made friends with an English priest--not a Catholic--but half
a Catholic--it's impossible to explain to a foreigner--I don't think
anybody would understand the Church of England out of England, and very
few people can there--he was afraid of my turning religious. I don't
know--perhaps I might have done; but somebody sent an anonymous letter
to my husband suggesting that this priest and I were having a
love-affair, and my husband forbade me to see him again. So I ran away.
I suppose my running away was the direct result of my bringing up,
because whenever I had been brought face to face with a difficult
situation I ran away. However, this time I was determined from some
perverted pride to make myself more utterly myself than I had ever done.
It's hard to explain how my mind worked. You must remember I was only
nineteen, and already at thirty-one I am as far from understanding all
my motives then as if I were trying to understand somebody who was not
myself at all. Anyhow, I simply went on the streets. For three months I
mortified my flesh by being a harlot. Can you understand that? Can you
possibly understand the deliberate infliction of such a discipline, not
to humiliate one's pride, but to exalt it? Can you understand that I
emerged from that three months of incredible horror with a complete
personality? I was defiled: I was degraded: I was embittered: I hated
mankind: I vowed to revenge myself on the world: I scoffed at love: and
yet now, when I feel that I have at last brushed from myself the last
speck of mud that was still clinging to me, I feel that somehow all that
mud has preserved me against a more destructive corruption. This does
not mean that I do not repent of what I did, but can you understand how
without a pride that could lead me to such depths I could not have come
through humility to a sight of God?"

Sylvia did not wait for the priest to answer this question, partly
because she did not want to be disillusioned by finding so soon that he
had not comprehended anything of her emotions or actions, partly because
there seemed more important revelations of herself still to be made.

"I stayed a common harlot until I was offered by chance an opportunity
to rescue myself by going on the stage. Then I sent my husband as much
money as I had saved and the evidences of my infidelity, so that he
might divorce me, which he did. Now comes an important event in my life.
I met a girl--a very beautiful girl doomed from the creation of the
universe to be a plaything of man."

The priest held up his hand to protest.

"Ah, I know you'll say that no one can possibly be so foredoomed, and
indeed I know the same myself now, or rather I'm trying hard to believe
it, because predestination without free will seems to me a doctrine of
devils. At the time, however, I could see nothing that would save this
girl, and with a perverted idealism I determined that she should step
gracefully downhill. I think the hardest thing to do is to go downhill
gracefully. We can climb uphill, and a certain awkwardness is
immaterial, because the visible effort lends a dignity to our progress,
and the air of success blows freshly at the summit. We can walk along
the level road of mediocrity with an acquired gracefulness that is
taught us by our masters of the golden mean--particularly in England,
where it's particularly easy to walk gracefully along the flat. Very
well, instead of using my influence to prevent this girl descending at
all, I was entirely occupied with the esthetic aspects of her descent.
I'm not going to pretend that I could have stopped her--a better person
than I tried and failed--but that doesn't excuse my attitude. And
there's worse to my account. When this other person wanted to marry her,
I did all I could to stop the marriage at first, and it was not until
the engagement between them was broken off that I discovered that my
true reasons for hating it sprang entirely from my own jealousy. I felt
that if this man had loved me, I could have regained myself, the self
that was myself before those three months of prostitution. I should say
here that I had nothing to do directly with the destruction of the other
marriage, but I hold myself to blame ultimately, because, if from the
beginning I had bent my whole will to its being carried through, it
_would_ have been carried through. Looking back at the business now, I
am convinced that what happened happened for the best, and that such a
marriage would have been fatal to the happiness of the man and useless
to the girl, but that does not excuse my own share in the smash.

"Well, the man left this girl in my charge, and finally she threw me
over and married a foreigner, since when I have never heard that she
even still lives. I had the good fortune to be given enough money by
somebody to enable me to be independent, and for two or three years I
looked at life from the outside. I had nothing to do with men, and as a
result I began to be afraid that youth would pass without my ever
knowing what it was to love. Friends of mine married and were happy.
Only I seemed fated to be always alone.

"I wonder sometimes if when we judge the behavior of others we pay
enough attention to this loneliness that haunts the lives of so many men
and women. You will say that no one can be lonely with God;
unfortunately, thousands of lonely souls are destitute of the sense of
God from birth to death, and these lonely souls are far more exposed to
temptation than the rest. Faith they have not: hope has died in their
hearts: love slowly withers. All the vices of self-destruction surround
their path. Pride flourishes in such soil, and jealousy and envy. I
believe their only compensation is the fact that lies and self-deception
find small nourishment in such spiritual wastes. I'm sure that if the
pride of such people could be pierced, there would gush forth a cry of
despair that ascribed everything in this life to a feeling of
loneliness. In my own case, in addition to the inevitable loneliness
fostered by such a childhood as mine--the natural loneliness caused by
living with two men who were perpetually on the verge of
imprisonment--there was the loneliness of my own temperament. I know
that every human being claims for himself the right to be misunderstood
and unappreciated; it's not that kind of loneliness of which I speak.
Mine was the loneliness of some one who is so masculine and so feminine
simultaneously that reason is sapped by emotion and emotion is
sterilized by reason. The only chance for such a temperament is
self-expression either in love, art, or religion. I tried vaguely to
express myself in art, but without success at first; and I was too proud
and not vain enough to persevere. I then fell back on love. I let
myself get into a condition of wanting to be in love, and at this
moment of emotional collapse I met by accident the youth--now a man of
thirty--with whom I had effected one of my childish elopements. With
this man I lived for a year. I can't pretend that I did not take
pleasure in the passionate relationship, though I always felt it was a
temporary surrender to the most feminine side of me that I despised. I
think I can best explain my emotions by saying that all the time I was
with him I was like a person under the influence of a sedative drug.

"Now there are people who pass from drug to drug with increase of
pleasure, but there are others to whom the notion of being drugged
becomes suddenly obnoxious and in whom the reaction creates an abnormal
activity. Quite suddenly I abandoned my pleasure and became ambitious to
express myself in art. I succeeded. I was, for one who begins so late in
life, exceptionally successful, and then behold, my very success took on
the aspect of yielding to another sedative drug. It never seemed
anything but a temporary expedient to defeat the claims of existence.
Just as love had seemed a surrender to the exclusively feminine side of
me, so art seemed a surrender to the exclusively masculine side. There
was always an unsatisfied, unexpressed part of me that girded at the
satisfied part. As a result of this, I made up my mind that a happy
marriage with children and a household to look after was a better thing
than artistic success. Here was obviously another experiment for the
benefit of the feminine side. I knew perfectly well that if I had
carried out my intention I should not have remained content when the
sedative action of the new drug began to cease, and I am grateful now
that circumstances interfered. I was jilted by the man who was going to
marry me, and the fact that I had already lived with him and refused to
marry him dozens of times made the injury to my pride intolerable. In a
fit of rage I flung behind me everything--success, love, marriage,
friends--and left England to take up again at the age of thirty-one a
life I had forsaken for several years. And now I found that even the
mere externals of such a life were horrible. I could not bear the idea
of being for sale; while I had no intention of ever giving myself to a
man again, I had to drink for my living and dance with drunkards for my
cab fare, which, though it may not be a technical prostitution, differs
only in degree from the complete sale of the body.

"Scarcely a month had passed when I became seriously ill, and in the
dreadful delirium of my fever I imagined that I was damned. I do not
think that anybody has the right to accept seriously the mental
revelations that are made to a mind beside itself; I think, indeed, it
would be a blasphemy to accuse God of taking such a method to rouse a
soul to a sense of its being, its duties, and its dangers; and I dread
to claim for myself any supernatural intervention at such a time, partly
because my reason shies at such a thought and partly because I think it
is presumptuous to suppose that God should interest Himself so
peculiarly in an individual. It seems to me almost vulgarly
anthropomorphic."

"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is
forgotten before God?" the priest murmured.

"Yes, yes," Sylvia agreed. "I have expressed myself badly, and of course
when I think of it I have been driven ever since the delirium really to
accept just that. You can understand, can't you, the dread of
presumption in my revolt against pride?

"But by insisting upon what seemed to happen in my delirium I am giving
you a wrong impression. It was when I came to myself again in the
hospital that I felt changed. I longed then for knowledge of God, but I
was afraid that my feeling was simply the natural result of weakness
after a severe illness. I almost rejected God in my fear of supposing
myself hysterical and egotistical. However, I did try hard to put myself
into a state of resignation, and when I came out of the hospital I felt
curiously awake to the sense of God and simultaneously an utter
indifference to anything in my old life that might interrupt my quest by
restoring me to what I was before this illness. While I was ill war had
broken out, and I found myself utterly alone. Ordinarily I am sure that
such a discovery would have terrified me; now I rejoiced in such
loneliness. I deliberately turned my back on England and waited for
something from my new life to fill this loneliness. I felt like some one
who has swept and garnished a room that he may receive guests. My chief
emotion was a tremendous love of the whole world and an illimitable
desire to make up for all my cynicism in the past by the depth of this
love. I went back to the _pension_ where I had lived before I was ill,
and it seemed to me a coincidence that the woman who kept it should be a
spiritualist and that for two months my mind should be continuously
occupied by what I might call the magic side of things. The result was
that, though I was often puzzled by inexplicable happenings, I conceived
a distaste for all this meddling with the unknowable, this kind of
keyhole peeping at infinity: it seemed to me vulgar and unpleasant.
Nevertheless, I was driven back all the time in my meditations on the
only satisfactory revelation of God, the only rational manifestation,
which was Jesus Christ. Every other explanation crumbled away in my
brain except that one fact. Then, although I believe it was only some
fortune-telling with cards that first put the notion into my head, I was
obsessed with the idea that I must go south. On my way I met a soldier
at Kieff who bought me a golden bag for no other reason than because it
seemed to him that to give pleasure to somebody else was a better way of
spending his money than in gambling or self-indulgence. In the state of
mind I was in I accepted this as a sign that I was right to go south. So
you see that I had really arrived at the point of view of accepting the
theory of a divine intervention in my favor.

"After three months at Odessa--where I read Tolstoi and Dostoievski and
found in them, ah, such profundities of the human soul lighted
up--against my instinct I went north again; the Germans were advancing
upon Warsaw, and circumstances brought me here. On the way, at Jassy, an
extraordinary thing happened. I met a girl whom I had tried to adopt six
years ago at Granada, but who was taken from me by a blackguard and who
since then has what people call sunk very low. It seemed to me that in
finding this child again, for she is still really a child, I was being
given an opportunity of doing what I had failed to do for that first
girl of whom I told you. Then suddenly I conceived the idea that she had
never been baptized; when I began to think about her soul, I was driven
by an unknown force to this church. When I came in I did not know what
to do, and when you asked me if I wanted to make my confession the force
seemed to say 'Yes.'"

Sylvia was silent, and the priest finished the _Confiteor_, which she
repeated after him.

"My daughter," he said, "it is the grace of God. I do not feel that in
this solemn moment--a moment that fills me as a priest with humility at
being allowed to regard such a wonderful manifestation of God's infinite
mercy--any poor words of mine can add anything. It is the grace of God:
let that suffice. But, wonderful as has been God's mercy to a soul that
was deaf so long to His voice, do not forget that your greatest danger,
your greatest temptation, may be to rely too much upon yourself. Do not
forget at this solemn moment that you can only enjoy this divine grace
through the Sacraments. Do not forget that only in the Church can you
preserve the new sense of security that you now feel. One who has been
granted such mercy must expect harder struggles than less fortunate
souls. Do not, by falling back into indifference and neglect of your
religious duties, succumb to the sin of pride. By the height of your
uplifting will be measured the depth of your fall, if in your pride you
think to stand alone."

When the priest had given her absolution, Sylvia asked him about
Queenie; and when he seemed a little doubtful of Queenie's willingness
to be a catechumen, she wondered if he were deliberately trying to
discourage her in order to mortify that pride he had seemed to fear so
much.

"But if she wants to be baptized?" Sylvia persisted.

"Of course I will baptize her."

"You think that I'm too much occupied with her when I have still so much
to learn myself?" she challenged.

They were walking down the church toward the door, and Sylvia felt
rather like the importunate parishioner whom she had interrupted by her
entrance.

"No, no, I think you are quite right. But I fear that you will expect
miracles of God's grace all round you," said the priest. "What has
happened to you may not happen to her."

"But it must," Sylvia declared. "It shall."

The priest shook his head, and there was a smile at the back of his
eyes.

"If you fail?"

"I sha'n't fail."

"Is God already put on one side?"

"I shall pray," said Sylvia.

"Yes, I think that is almost better than relying too much upon the human
will."

Two things struck Sylvia when she had left the church and was walking
back to the hotel: the first was that the priest had really said very
little in response to that long outpouring of her history, and the
second was that here in this street it did not seem nearly as easy to
solve the problem of Queenie's soul as it had seemed in the church. Yet,
when she came to think over the priest's words, she could not imagine
how he could have spoken differently.

"I suppose I expected to be congratulated as one is congratulated upon
a successful performance," she said to herself. "That's the worst of a
histrionic career like mine: one can't get rid of the footlights even in
the confessional. As a matter of fact, I ought to be grateful that he
accepted the spirit of my confession without haggling over the form, as
from his point of view he might have done most justifiably. Perhaps he
was tired and didn't want to start an argument. And yet no, I don't
think it was that. He came down like a hammer on the main objection to
me--my pride. He was really wonderfully unecclesiastical. It's a funny
thing, but I seem to be much less spiritually exalted than I ought to be
after such a reconciliation. I seem to have lost for the moment that
first fine careless rapture of conversion. Does that mean that the whole
business was an emotional blunder and that I'm feeling disappointed? No,
I don't feel disappointed: I feel practical. I suppose my friend the
priest wouldn't accept the comparison, but it reminds me of how I felt
when, after I had first conceived the idea of my Improvisations, I had
to set about doing them. Everything has its drudgery: love produces
household cares; art, endless work; religion, religious duties. The
moment of attraction, the moment of inspiration, the moment of
conversion--if they could only endure! Perhaps heaven is the infinite
prolongation of such moments.

"And then there's Queenie. It's not much use my leading her to the font
as one leads a horse to water, because, though I should regard it as
Infant Baptism, the priest would not. Yet I don't see why he shouldn't
instruct her like a child. Poor priest! He could hardly have expected
such problems as myself and Queenie when he was so anxious to get rid of
that old woman who was pestering him. I think I won't bother about
Queenie for a bit, until I have practised a little subordination of
myself first. She's got to acquire a soul of her own; it's no use my
presenting her with a piece of mine."

Queenie had been back from the hairdresser's for a long time when
Sylvia reached the hotel, and was wondering what had become of her
friend.

"You've been out alone," she said, reproachfully. "Your headache is
better, I think. Yes?"

"My headache?" Sylvia repeated. "Yes, it's much better. I've been
indulging in spiritual aspirin."

"I'm glad it's better, because it is our first night at the Petit Maxim
to-night. I wonder if I will be having much applause."

"So it is," Sylvia said. "I'd forgotten my approaching triumph with the
waiters; it's not likely that there'll be any audience when I appear. At
nine P.M. sharp the program of the Petit Maxim opened with Miss Sylvia
Scarlett's three songs. The gifted young lady--I've reached the age when
it's a greater compliment to be called young than beautiful--played and
sang with much _verve_. Several waiters ceased from dusting the empty
tables to listen, and at the close her exit was hailed by a loud
flourish of _serviettes_. The solitary visitor who clapped his hands
explained afterward that he was trying to secure some attention to
himself, and that thirst, not enthusiasm, had dictated his action."

"How you were always going on, Sylvia," said Queenie. "Nobody was ever
going to understand you when you talk so quick as that."

"Miss Sylvia Scarlett's first song was an old English ballad set to the
music of Handel's 'Dead March.'"

"If we were ever going to have any dinner, we must go and eat now,"
Queenie interrupted.

"Yes, I don't want to miss the sunset with my last song."

"But what does it matter, if you are paid to sing, if you sing first or
last?"

"The brightest star, my dear, cannot shine by daylight."

"But you are stupid, Sylvia. It is no more daylight at nine o'clock."

"Yes, I am very stupid," Sylvia agreed, and, catching hold of Queenie's
arms, she looked deep into her eyes. "Believe me, you little fairy
thing, that I should be much more angry if you were put first on a
program than because I am."

The cabaret Petit Maxim aimed at expressing in miniature the essence of
all the best cabarets in Paris, just as Bucharest aimed at expressing in
miniature the essence of Paris. The result, though pleasant and
comfortable enough, was in either case as little like Paris as a scene
from one of its own light operas is like Vienna. What Bucharest and the
Petit Maxim did both manage to effect, however, was an excellent
resemblance to one of those light operas. Sylvia in the course of her
wanderings had once classified the capitals she had visited as
metropolitan, cosmopolitan, and neapolitan. Bucharest belonged very
definitely to the last group; it stood up like a substantially built
exhibition in the middle of a ring of industrial suburbs which by their
real squalor heightened the illusion of its unreality. The cupolas of
shining bronze and the tiled domes shimmering in the sun like peacocks'
tails dazzled the onlooker with an illusion of barbaric splendor; but
the city never escaped from the self-consciousness of an exhibition,
which was heightened by the pale blue and silver uniforms of the
officers, the splendid equipages for hire, and the policemen dressed in
chocolate like _commissionnaires_, and accentuated by the inhabitants'
pride in the expensiveness and "naughtiness" of their side-shows, of
which not the least expensive and "naughty" were the hotels. One might
conceive the promoter of the exhibition taking one aside and asking if
one did not think he had been successful in giving Paris to the Balkans,
and one might conceive his disappointment on being told that,
magnificent though it all looked, it was no more Paris than Offenbach
was Molière.

At the time when Sylvia visited Bucharest the sense of being one of the
chorus in a light opera was intensified by the dramatic plot that was
provided by the European war. Factions always grew more picturesque with
every mile away from England, the mother of parliaments, where they
ceased to be picturesque three hundred years ago when the chief
Punchinello's head tumbled into the basket at Whitehall. The comedy of
kingship had been prolonged for another century and a half in France,
and in France they were a century and a half nearer to the picturesque
and already two or three hundred miles away from England. In Italy the
picturesqueness grew still more striking with such anachronisms as the
Camorra and the Mafia. But it was not until the Balkans that factions
could be said to be vital in the good old way. Serbia had shown not so
long ago what could still be done with a thoroughly theatrical regal
murder; and now here was Rumania jigging to the manipulation of the
French faction and the German faction, with just enough possibility of
all the plots and counterplots ending seriously by plunging the country
into war on one side or the other to give a background of real drama to
the operatic form.

At the Petit Maxim the Montagues and Capulets came to blows nightly.
Everything here was either Ententophile or Germanophile: there were
pro-German waiters, pro-German tables, pro-German tunes, for the benefit
of the Germans and pro-Germans who occupied one half of the cabaret and
applauded the Austrian performers. Equally there was the Ententist
complement. If the first violin was pro-French and played sharp for an
Austrian singer, the cornet was pro-German ready to break time to
disconcert a French dancer. On the whole, as was natural in what is
called "a center of amusement," the pro-French element predominated,
and, though it was possible to sing the "_Marseillaise_" at the cost of
a few broken glasses, the solitary occasion when "_Deutschland über
Alles_" was attempted ended in several broken heads, a smashed
chandelier, and six weeks in bed for an Austrian contralto whose face
was scratched with a comb by a French _artiste_ under the influence of
ether and patriotism.

Nor was this atmosphere of plot and faction confined to general
demonstrations of friendliness or hostility. Bucharest was too small a
city to allow deep ramifications to either party; the gossip of the
court on the day before became the gossip of the cabaret on the evening
after; scarcely one successful conveyance of war material from Germany
to Turkey but was openly discussed at the Petit Maxim. Intrigues and
flirtations with the great powers increased the self-esteem of Rumania,
who took on the air of a coquettish school-girl that finds herself
surrounded by the admiration of half a dozen elderly rakes. Her dowry
and good looks seemed both so secure that any little looseness of
behavior would always be overlooked by the man she chose to marry in the
end.

Sylvia could not help teasing some of the young officers that frequented
the Petit Maxim. They changed their exquisite operatic uniforms so many
times in the day: they accepted with such sublime effrontery the salute
of the goose step from a squad of magnificent peasants dressed up as
soldiers; they painted and powdered their faces, wore pink velvet bands
round their _képis_ under nodding _panaches_; and not one but could
display upon his breast the ribbon of the bloodless campaign against
Bulgaria of two years before. When they came jangling into the cabaret,
one felt that the destinies of Europe were attached to their
sword-belts, as comfort hangs upon the tinkling of a housekeeper's
_châtelaine_.

"If Italy declares war, we shall declare war; for we are more Roman than
they are. If Italy remains neutral, we shall remain neutral, because the
Latin races must hold together," the patrons of the Entente avowed.

"Italy will not declare war, and we shall have to fight the Russians. We
won Plevna for them and lost Bessarabia as a reward. As soon as Austria
realizes that she must give us Transylvania we shall declare war," said
the patrons of the Central Powers.

"We shall remain neutral. Our neutrality is precious to both sides,"
murmured a third set.

And, after all, Sylvia thought, the last was probably the wisest view,
for it would be a shame to spoil the pretty uniforms of the officers and
a crime to maim the bodies of the nobler peasants they commanded.

In such an atmosphere Sylvia had to postpone any solution of the
spiritual side of Queenie's problem and concentrate upon keeping her out
of immediate mischief. The manager of the Petit Maxim had judged the
tastes of his clients accurately, and Queenie had not been dancing at
the cabaret for a fortnight when one read on the programs, QUEENIE, LA
JEUNE DANSEUSE ANGLAISE ET L'ENFANT GÂTÉE DE BUCURESTI. Chocolates and
flowers were showered upon her, and her faintest smile would uncork a
bottle of champagne. But every morning at three o'clock, when the
cabaret closed, Sylvia snatched her away from all the suitors and took
her home as quickly as possible to their hotel. She used to dread
nightly the arrival of the moment when Queenie would refuse to go with
her, but the moment did not come; and the child never once grumbled at
Sylvia's sigh of relief to find themselves back in their own bedroom. In
order as much as possible to distract her from the importunities of
hopeful lovers, Sylvia would always aim at surrounding herself and
Queenie with the political schemers, so that the evening might pass away
in speculation upon the future of the war and the imminence of Rumanian
intervention. She impressed upon Queenie the necessity of seeming
interested in the fate of the country of which she was supposed to be a
native. They were the only English girls in the cabaret; in fact, the
only English actresses apparently anywhere in Bucharest. Sylvia, finding
that man is much more of a political animal in the Balkans than
elsewhere, took advantage of the general curiosity about England's
personality to get as many bottles of champagne opened for information
from her own lips as out of admiration and desire for Queenie's.

From general political discussions it was a short way to the more
intimate discussions of faction's intrigue; and Sylvia became an expert
on the ways and means of the swarm of German agents who corrupted
Bucharest as blue-bottles taint fresh meat. She sometimes wondered if
she ought not to convey some of the knowledge thus acquired to the
British Legation; but she supposed, on second thoughts, that she was
unlikely to know anything that the authorities therein did not already
know much better, and, being averse from seeming to put herself forward
for personal advantage, she did not move in the matter.

One of the chief frequenters of their company was a young lieutenant of
the cavalry, called Philidor, with whom Sylvia made friends. He was an
enthusiast for the cause of the Entente, and she learned from him a
great deal about the point of view of a Balkan state, so that when she
had known him for a time she was able to judge both Rumania as a whole
and the individual extravagances and vanities of Rumanians more
generously.

"I don't think you quite understand," he once said to her, "the fearful
responsibility that will rest upon the Balkan statesman who decides the
policy of his country in this crisis. Whatever happens, England will
remain England, France will remain France, Germany will remain Germany;
but in Rumania, although our sympathies are with you, our geographical
position makes us the natural allies of the Germans. Suppose we march
with you and something goes wrong. Nothing can prevent us from being
Germanized for the rest of our history. You mustn't pay too much
attention to the talk you hear about the great power of Rumania and the
influence we shall have upon the course of the war. Such talk springs
from a half-expressed nervousness at the position in which we find
ourselves. We are trying to bolster ourselves up with the sense of our
own importance in the hope that we shall have the wisdom to direct our
policy rightly. We are not a great power; we are a little power; and our
only chance of becoming a great power would be that Austria should break
up, that Russia should crumble away, and that the whole vile country of
Bulgaria should be obliterated from the surface of the earth. It is
certain that Bulgaria will march with Germany; nothing can stop that
except the defeat of Germany this year. Possibly Italy may come in on
your side this spring, but tied as we are to her by blood, we are
separated from her by miles of alien populations, and Italy cannot help
us. Greece is in the same plight as we are--not quite, perhaps, because
she can depend for succor upon the sea: we can't. Ah, if you could only
open the Dardanelles! If you only had a statesman to see that there lies
the key to certain victory in this war. But statesmen no longer exist
among you great powers. You've become too big for statesmen and can only
produce politicians. The only statesmen in Europe nowadays are to be
found in the Balkans, because since every man here is a politician it
requires a statesman to rise above the ruck. Paradox though it may seem,
statesmen create states; they are not created by them. We have all our
history before us in the Balkans, if we can only survive being swallowed
up in this cataclysm; but I doubt if we can. To you this country of mine
is like a comic opera, but to me, one of the players, it is as tragic as
'Pagliacci.'

"You are right in a way to mock at our aristocracy, though much of that
aristocracy is not truly Rumanian, but bastard Greek; yet we have such a
wonderful peasantry, and an idealist like myself dreads the effect of
this war. All our plans of emancipation, all our schemes for destroying
the power of the great landowners," and in a whisper he added, "all our
hopes of a republic are doomed to failure. I tell you, my dear, it's
tragic opera, not comic opera."

"But if you are a republican, why do you wear the uniform of a crack
cavalry regiment?" Sylvia asked.

"Oh, I've thought that out," Philidor replied. "I belong to a good
family. If I proclaimed my opinions openly, I should merely be put on
one side. Aristocratic rule is more powerful in Rumania than anywhere in
Europe except Prussia. The aristocrats have literally all the capital of
the country in their hands; our peasants are serfs. As an avowed
republican I could do nothing to spread the opinions that I believe to
be the salvation of my country and the preservation of her true
independence; we are a young state--not a state at all, in fact, but a
limited liability company with a director imported from the chief
European firm of king-exporters--and we have still to realize our soul
as by fire."

"The soul of a country," Sylvia murmured. "It's only the aggregate of
the human souls that make it, but each soul could be the microcosm of
the universe."

"True, true," Philidor agreed. "And the soul of Rumania is the soul of a
girl who's just out, or of a boy in his first year at college. Hence all
the prettiness and all the complacent naughtiness and all the imitation
of older and more worldly people and all the tyranny and contempt for
the rights of the poor, the want of consideration for servants really.
Though I must be young like the rest and dress myself up and lead the
life of my friends, I am always hoping to influence them gradually, very
gradually. Perhaps if I were truly a great soul I should fling over all
this pretense; but I know my own limitations, and all I pray is that
when the man arises who is worthy to lead Rumania toward liberty and
justice I shall have the wit to recognize him and the courage to follow
his lead."

"But you said just now," Sylvia reminded him, "that all the European
statesmen were to be found in the Balkans."

"I still say that, but our statesmen--we have only two--dare not in the
presence of this war think of anything except the safety of the
country. Republicanism would be of little use to a Rumania absorbed
either into the Dual Monarchy or into the Czardom of Russia or ravaged
by the hellish Bulgarians. I tell you that we see precipices before our
steps whichever way we turn for the path; but because we are young we
dress ourselves up and gamble and sing and dance and swagger and boast;
we are young, my dear girl--very, very young, perhaps not old enough for
our death to be anything but pathetic."

"You're in a very pessimistic mood to-night," Sylvia said.

"Who could be anything but gloomy when he looks round a room like this?
A crowd of French, Rumanian, and Austrian cocottes dancing to
'Tipperary' in this infernal tinkling din--forgive my frankness, but you
know I don't include _you_ in the _galère_--while over there I see a
cousin of my own, a member of one of our greatest families, haggling
with a dirty German agent over the price of sending another six
aeroplanes to Turkey disguised as agricultural implements; and over
there I see a man, who I had always hoped was an honest editor, selling
his pen to the fat little German baron that will substitute poison for
ink and bank-notes for honest opinions; and over there are three brother
officers with three girls on their knees singing the words of
'Tipperary' with as much intelligence as apes, while they brag to their
companions of how in six weeks they will be marching to save France."

"They don't miss much by not understanding the words," Sylvia said, with
a smile.

"I don't understand how a woman like you can tolerate or endure this
life," Philidor exclaimed, fanatically. "Why don't you take that pretty
little sister of yours out of it and back to England? I don't understand
how you can stay here with your country at war."

"That's too long a story to tell you now," Sylvia said. "But between
ourselves she's not really my sister."

"I never supposed she was," Philidor answered. "She's not English,
either, is she?"

Sylvia looked at him sharply.

"Have you heard any one else say that?" she asked.

"Nobody else here knows English as well as I do."

The dance stopped, and Queenie, leaving her partner, came up to their
table with a smile.

"You're happy, anyway," said Philidor.

"Oh yes. I'm so happy. She is so sweet to me," Queenie cried, embracing
Sylvia impulsively.

A French girl sitting at the next table laughed and murmured an epithet
in argot. Sylvia's cheeks flamed; she was about to spring up and make a
quarrel, but Philidor restrained her.

"Do you wonder that I protest against your exposing yourself to that
sort of thing?" he said. "What are you going to do? It wouldn't be quite
you, would it, to hit her over the head with a champagne-bottle? Let the
vile tongue say what it pleases."

"Yes, but it's so outrageous, it's so--ah, I've no words for the
beastliness of people," Sylvia exclaimed.

"May I dance this dance?" Queenie interrupted, timidly.

"Good heavens! Why do you ask me, girl? What has it to do with me? Dance
with the devil if you like."

Queenie looked bewildered by Sylvia's emphasis and went off again in
silence.

"And now you see the only person that's really hurt is your little
friend," Philidor observed. "You're much too sure of yourself to care
about a sneer like that, and she didn't hear what the woman called you,
or perhaps understand it if she heard."

Sylvia was silent; she was thinking of once long ago when Lily had asked
her if she could dance with Michael; now she blushed after nine years
lest he might have thought for a moment what that woman had said.

"You're quite right," she agreed with Philidor. "This is a damnable
life. Would you like to hear Queenie's story?"

"There's no need for you to defend yourself to me," he laughed.

"Ah, don't laugh about it. You mustn't laugh about certain things.
You'll make me think less of you."

"I was only being _gauche_," he apologized. "Yes, tell me her story."

So Sylvia told him the sad history, and when she had finished asked his
advice about Queenie.

"You were talking just now about your country as if she were a child,"
she said, eagerly. "You were imagining her individuality and
independence destroyed. I feel the same about this girl. I want to make
her really English. Do you think that I shall be able to get her a
passport? We're saving up our money now to go to England."

Philidor said he did not know much about English regulations, but that
he could not imagine that any consul would refuse to help when he heard
the story.

"And the sooner you leave Rumania the better. Look here. I'll lend you
the money to get home."

Sylvia shook her head.

"No, because that would interfere with my part of the story. I've got to
get back without help. I have a strong belief that if I accept help I
shall miss my destiny. It's no good trying to argue me out of a
superstition, for I've tried to argue myself out of it a dozen times and
failed. No, if you want to help me, come and talk to me every night and
open a bottle or two of champagne to keep the manager in a good temper;
and stand by me if there's ever a row. I won't answer for myself if I'm
alone and I hear things said like what was said to-night."

Philidor promised he would do that for her as long as he was quartered
in Bucharest, and presently Queenie came back.

"Don't look so frightened. I'm sorry I was cross to you just now."

"You were being so savage," said Queenie, with wide-open, wondering
eyes. "What was happening?"

"Something stung me."

"Where?"

"Over the heart," Sylvia answered.

When they were back in their room Queenie returned to the subject of
Sylvia's ill-temper.

"I could not be thinking it was you," she murmured. "I could not be
thinking it."

"It was something that passed as quickly as it came," Sylvia said.
"Forget about it, child."

"Were you angry because I was being too much with that boy? If you like,
I shall say to him to-morrow that I cannot dance with him longer."

"Please, Queenie, forget about it. Somebody said something that made me
angry, and I vented my anger on you. It was of no importance."

Queenie looked only half convinced, and when she was in bed she turned
for consolation to the little chromolithographs that were always at
hand. She had the custom of wearing a lace nightcap, and, sitting up
thus in bed while her rapt gaze sought in those fairy landscapes the
reflection of her own visions, she was remote and impersonal as a
painted figure in some adoring angelic company. Sylvia felt that the
moment was come to raise the question of the spiritual mood with which
Queenie's outward appearance seemed in harmony, and that it was her duty
to suggest a way of positively capturing and forever enshrining the
half-revealed wonders of which these pictures spoke to her. Sylvia
fancied that Queenie's development had now only reached as far as her
own at about fifteen, and, looking back to herself at that age, she
thought how much it might have meant to her if somebody could have given
expression to her capacity for wonder then. Moreover, it was improbable
that Queenie would grow much older mentally, and it was impossible for
Queenie to reach her own present point of view by her own long process
of rejecting every other point of view in turn. Queenie would never
reject anything of her own accord, and it seemed urgent to fortify her
with the simple and in some eyes childish externals of religion, which
precisely, on account of such souls, have managed to endure.

"The great argument in favor of the Church seems to me," Sylvia thought,
"that it measures humanity by the weakest and not by the strongest link,
which of course means that it never overestimates its power and survives
assaults that shatter more ambitious and progressive organizations of
human belief. Well, Queenie is a weak enough link, and I sha'n't feel
happy until I have secured her incorporation first into the Church, and,
secondly--I suppose into the state. Yet why should I want to give her
nationality? What is the aim of a state? Material comfort,
really--nothing else. I'm tempted to give her to the Church, but deny
her to the state. Alas! it's a material world, and it's not going to be
spiritualized by me. The devil was sick, etc. No doubt at present
everything promises well for a spiritual revival after this orgy of
insane destructiveness. But history with its mania for repetition isn't
encouraging about the results of war. As a matter of fact, I've got no
right to talk about the war at present. I choked and spluttered for a
while in some of its vile back-wash, and Bucharest hasn't managed to get
the taste out of my mouth. Queenie," she said, aloud, "you know that
during these last weeks I've been going to church regularly?"

Queenie extricated herself from whatever path she was following in her
pictures and looked at Sylvia with blue eyes that were intensely willing
to believe anything her friend told her.

"I knew you were always going out," she said. "But I thought it was to
see a boy."

"Great heavens! child, do you seriously think that I should so much
object to men's getting hold of you if I were doing the same thing
myself in secret? Haven't you yet realized that I can't do things in
secret?"

"Don't be cross with me again. I think you are cross, yes?"

Sylvia shook her head. "What I want to know is: did you ever go to
church in your life, and if you did do you ever think about wanting to
go again?"

"I was going to church with my mother when I was four; my stepmother was
never going to church, and so I was never going myself until two years
ago at Christmas. There was a girl who asked me to go with her, and it
was so sweet. We looked at all the dolls, and there was a cow, but some
woman said, quite loudly: 'Well, if this is the sort of women we was
meeting on Christmas night, I'm glad Christmas only comes once in the
year.' My friend with me was very _maquillée_. Too much paint she was
having, really, and she said to this woman such rude things, and a man
came and was asking us to move along farther. And then outside my friend
sat down on the steps and cried and cried. _Ach_, it was dreadful! She
was making a scene. So I was not going more to church, because I was
always remembering this and being unhappy."

On the next day Sylvia took Queenie to the mission church and introduced
her to the priest; afterward they often went to Mass together. It was
like taking a child; Queenie asked the reason of every ceremony, and
Sylvia, who had never bothered her head with ceremonies, began to wish
she had never exposed herself to so many unanswerable questions. It
seemed to her that she had given Queenie nothing except another shadowy
land in which her vague mind would wander without direction; but the
priest was more hopeful, and undertook to give her instruction so that
she might be confirmed presently. When the question was gone into, there
was no doubt that she had been baptized, for by some freak of memory she
was able to show that she understood the reason of her being called
Concetta from being born on the 8th of December. However, the revelation
of her true name to the priest gave Queenie a horror of his company, and
nothing would induce her to go near him again, or even to enter the
church.

"This was going to bring me bad luck," she told Sylvia. "That name! that
name! How was you so unkind to tell him that name?"

Sylvia was distressed by the thought of the fear she had roused and
explained the circumstances to the priest, who, rather to her
irritation, seemed inclined to resort placidly to prayer.

"But I can only pray when I am in the mood to pray," she protested; and
though she was aware of the weakness of such a habit of mind, she was
anxious to shake the priest out of what she considered his undue
resignation to her failure with Queenie.

The fact was that the atmosphere of the Petit Maxim was getting on
Sylvia's nerves. Apart from the physical revolt that it was impossible
not to feel against the fumes of tobacco and wine, the scent of Eau de
Chypre and Quelques Fleurs, the raucous chatter of conversation and the
jangle of fidgety tunes, there was the perpetual inner resentment
against the gossip about herself and Queenie. Sylvia did not lose any of
her own joy at being able to rest in the high airs of Christian thought
away from all this by reading the books of doctrine and ecclesiastical
history that the priest lent her; but she was disappointed at her
inability to provide any alternative for Queenie except absolute
dependence upon herself. She was quite prepared to accept the final
responsibility of guardianship, and she made it clear to the child that
her ambition to have a permanent sister might be considered achieved.
What she was not prepared to do was to invoke exterior aid to get them
both back to England. She reproached herself sometimes with an
unreasonable egotism; yet when it came to the point of accepting
Philidor's offer to lend her enough money to return home, she always
drew back. Life with Queenie at Mulberry Cottage shone steadily upon the
horizon of her hopes, but she had no belief in the value of that life
unless she could reach it unaided and offer its freedom as the fruit of
her own perseverance and indomitableness. She was annoyed by Queenie's
forebodings over the revelation of her name, and her annoyance was not
any the less because she had to admit that her own behavior in holding
out against accepting the means of escape from Rumania was based upon
nothing more secure than a superstitious fancy.

The Petit Maxim closed at Easter; at the beginning of May the whole
company was re-engaged for an open-air theater called the Petit Trianon.
Sylvia and Queenie were still many francs short of their fares to
England and were forced to re-engage themselves for the summer. The new
place was an improvement on the cabaret because, at any rate during the
first half of May, it was too cold for the public to enjoy sitting about
in a garden and drinking sweet champagne. After a month, however, all
Sylvia's friends went away, some to Sinaia, whither the court had moved;
others, and among them Philidor, were sent to the Austrian frontier; the
expedition to the Dardanelles and the intervention of Italy had brought
Rumania much nearer to the prospect of entering the war. Meanwhile in
Bucharest the German agents worked more assiduously than ever to promote
neutrality and secure the passage of arms and munitions to Turkey.

At the end of May the manager of the Petit Trianon, observing that
Sylvia had for some time failed to take advantage of the warmer weather
by gathering to her table a proper number of champagne-drinkers, and
having received complaints from some of his clients that she made it
impossible to cultivate Queenie's company to the extent they would have
liked, announced to her that she was no longer wanted. Her songs at the
beginning of the evening were no attraction to the thin audience
scattered about under the trees, and he could get a cheaper first
number. This happened to be Lottie, who was engaged to thump on the
piano for half an hour at two hundred francs a month.

"I never knew that I was cutting you out," Lottie explained. "But I've
been playing for nearly four months at a dancing-hall in a low part of
the town and I only asked two hundred in desperation. He'll probably
engage you again if you'll take less."

Sylvia forced herself to ask the manager if he would not change his
mind. She hinted as a final threat that she would make Queenie leave if
he did not, and he agreed at last to engage her again at three hundred
francs instead of three hundred and fifty, which meant that she could
not save a sou toward her going home. At the same time the manager
dismissed Lottie, and everybody said that Sylvia had played a mean
trick. She would not have minded so much if she had not felt really sad
about the fat girl, who was driven back to play in a low dancing-saloon
at less than she had earned before; but she felt that there was no time
to be lost in getting Queenie away from this life, and if it were a
question of sacrificing Queenie or Lottie, it was certainly the fat girl
who must go under.

Since the manager's complaint of the way she kept admirers away from her
friend, Sylvia had for both their sakes to relax some of her
discouraging stiffness of demeanor. One young man was hopeful enough of
ultimate success to send Queenie a bunch of carnations wrapped up in a
thousand-franc note. Normally, Sylvia would have compelled her to refuse
such a large earnest of future liberality; but these months upon the
verge of penury had hardened her, and she bade Queenie keep the money,
or rather she kept it for her to prevent its being frittered away in
petty extravagance. Queenie could not hold her tongue about the
offering; and the young man, when he found that the thousand francs had
brought him no nearer to his goal than a bottle of champagne would have
done, was loud in his advertisement of the way Sylvia had let Queenie
take the money and give nothing in return. Everybody at the Petit
Trianon was positive that Sylvia was living upon her friend, and much
unpleasant gossip was brought back to them by people who of course did
not believe it themselves, but thought it right that they should know
what all the world was saying.

This malicious talk had no effect upon Queenie's devotion, but it added
greatly to Sylvia's disgust for the tawdry existence they were both
leading, and she began to play with the idea of using the thousand
francs to escape from it and get back to England. She was still some way
from bringing herself to the point of such a surrender as would be
involved by temporarily using this money, but each time that she argued
out the point with herself the necessity of doing so presented itself
more insistently. In the middle of July something occurred which swept
on one side every consideration but immediate flight.

All day long a warm and melancholy fog had suffused the suburbs of
Bucharest, from which occasional scarves of mist detached themselves to
float through the high center of the town, dislustering the air as they
went, like steam upon a shining metal. Sylvia had been intending for
some time to visit Lottie and explain to her the circumstances in which
she had been supplanted by herself; such a day as this accorded well
with such an errand. As with all cities of its class, a few minutes
after one left the main streets of Bucharest to go downhill one was
aware of the artificiality of its metropolitan claims. Within five
hundred yards of the sumptuous Calea Victoriei the side-turnings were
full of children playing in the gutter, of untidy women gossiping to one
another from untidy windows, and of small rubbish heaps along the
pavement: and a little farther on were signs of the unquiet newness of
the city in the number of half-constructed streets and half-built
houses.

Lottie lived in one of these unfinished streets in a tumble-down house
that had survived the fields by which not long ago it had been
surrounded. A creeper-covered doorway opened into a paved triangular
courtyard shaded by an unwieldy tree, along one side of which, at an
elevation of about two feet, ran Lottie's room. As Sylvia crossed the
courtyard she could see indistinct forms moving about within, and she
stopped for a moment listening to the drip of the fog above the murmur
of human voices. She did not wish to talk to Lottie in front of
strangers and turned to go back; but the fat girl had already observed
her approach and was standing on the rotten threshold to receive her.

"You're busy," Sylvia suggested.

"No, no. Come in. One of my friends is an English girl."

"But I wanted to talk to you alone. I wanted to explain that I couldn't
refuse to sing again at the Trianon; I've been worrying about you all
this time."

"Oh, that's all right," Lottie said, cheerfully. "I never expected
anything else."

"But the other girls--"

"Oh, the other girls," she repeated, with a contemptuous laugh. "Don't
worry about the other girls. People can always afford to be generous in
this world if it doesn't hurt themselves and does hurt somebody else.
One or two of them came here to condole with me, and I'm sure they got
more pleasure out of seeing my wretched lodging than I got out of their
sympathy. Come in and forget all about them."

Sylvia squeezed her pudgy hand gratefully; it was a relief to find that
the object of so much commiseration had grasped the shallowness of it.

"Who are your friends?" she whispered.

"The man's a juggler who wants an engagement at the Trianon. He's a
Swiss called Krebs. The girl's an English dancer and singer called Maud.
You'll see them both up there to-night for certain. You may as well come
in. What a dreary day, isn't it?"

Sylvia agreed and was aware of ascribing to the weather the faint
malaise that she experienced on following Lottie into her room, which
smelled of stale wall-paper and musty wood, and which, on account of the
overhanging tree and the dirty French windows, was dark and miserable
enough.

"Excuse me getting up to shake hands," said Krebs, in excellent English.
"But this furniture is too luxurious."

He was lying back, smoking a cigarette in an armchair all the legs of
which were missing and the rest of it covered with exudations of
flocculence that resembled dingy cauliflowers. Sylvia saw that he was a
large man with a large undefined face of dark complexion. He offered a
huge hand, brutal and clumsy in appearance, an inappropriate hand for a
juggler, she thought, vaguely. His companion, crudely colored and
shapeless as a quilt, sprawled on another chair. Everything about this
woman was defiant; her harsh accent, the feathers in her hat, her loose
mouth, her magenta cheeks, her white boa, and her white boots affronted
the world like an angry housemaid.

"This is a fine hole, this Rumania," she shrilled. "Gawd! I went to the
English consul at Galantza, expecting to be treated with a little
consideration, and the---- pushed me out of his office. Yes, we read a
great deal about England nowadays, but I've been better treated by
everybody than what I have by the English. Stuck-up la-di-da set of----,
that's what they are, and anybody as likes can hear me say so."

She raised her voice for the benefit of the listeners without that might
be waiting anxiously upon her words.

"Don't kick up such a row," Krebs commanded; but Maud paid no attention
to him and went on.

"England! Yes, I left England ten years ago, and if it wasn't for my
poor old mother I'd never go back. Treat you as dirt, that's what the
English do. That consul threw me out of his office the same as a
_commissionnaire_ might throw any old two-and-four out of the Empire.
Yes, they talk a lot about patriotism and all pulling one way, but when
you ask a consul to lend you the price of your fare to Bucharest, you
don't hear no more about patriotism. As I said to him, 'I suppose you
don't think I'm English?' and he sat there grinning for answer. Yes, I
reckon when they christened that talking chimpanzee at the Hippodrome
'Consul' it was done by somebody who'd had a bit of consul in his time.
What's a consul for? That's what I'm asking. As I said to him, 'What are
you for? Are you paid,' I said, 'to sit there smoking cigarettes for the
good of your country?' 'This ain't a workhouse,' he answered, very
snotty. 'You're right,' I said. 'No fear about any one ever making that
mistake. Why, I reckon it's a bloody sleeping-car, I do.' And with that
I slung my hook out of it. Yes, I could have been very rude to him; only
it was beneath me, the uneducated la-di-da savage! Well, all he's done
is to put me against my own country. That's _his_ war work."

The tirade exhausted itself, and Sylvia, unwilling to be Maud's sponsor
at the Petit Trianon that evening, made some excuse to leave. While she
was walking across the courtyard with Lottie, she heard:

"And who's she? I'll have to tell _her_ off, that's very plain. Did you
see the way she looked down her nose at me? Nice thing if any one can't
say what they think of a consul without being stared at like a mummy by
_her_."

Sylvia asked Lottie if she had known this couple long.

"I've known him a year or two, but she's new. I met them coming up from
the railway station this morning. The girl was stranded without any
money at Galantza, and Krebs brought her on here. He's a fine juggler
and conjurer. Zozo he calls himself on the stage."

Sylvia's heart throbbed as she climbed the streets that led toward the
high center of the city away from the hot mists below: it was imperative
to get Queenie out of Rumania at once, and while she walked along she
began to wonder if she could not procure an English passport, the
delight of possessing which would counterbalance for Queenie the shock
of hearing that the dreaded Zozo was in Bucharest.

"It's such a ridiculous name for a bogy," Sylvia thought. "And the man
himself was not a bit as I pictured him. I'd always imagined some one
lithe and subtle. I wonder what his object was in helping that painted
hussy he was with. Queer, rather."

She reached the British Consulate, but was told rather severely to
direct herself to the special office that occupied itself with
passports.

"Do you want a visa for England?" the clerk inquired.

"Yes, and I also want to inquire about a new passport for my sister,
who's lost hers."

"Lost her passport?" the clerk echoed; he shuddered at the information.

"It seems to upset you," Sylvia said.

"Well, it's a pretty serious matter in war-time," he explained.
"However, we have nothing to do with passports at the Consulate."

The clerk washed his hands of Sylvia's past and future, and she left the
Consulate to discover the other office. By the time she arrived it was
nearly five o'clock, and the clerk looked hurt at receiving a visitor so
late.

"Do you want a visa for England?" he asked.

She nodded, and he pointed to a printed notice that hung above his desk.

"The morning is the time to make such applications," he told her,
fretfully.

"Then why are you open in the afternoon?" Sylvia asked.

"If the application is favorably entertained, the recommendation is
granted in the afternoon. You must then take your passport to the
Consulate for the consular visa, which can only be done in the morning
between twelve and one."

It was like the eternal competition between the tube-lifts and the
tube-trains, she thought.

"But they told me at the Consulate that they have nothing to do with
passports."

"The Consulate _has_ nothing to do with passports until the applicant
for a visa has been approved here."

"Then I must come again to-morrow morning?" Sylvia asked.

"To-morrow morning," the clerk repeated, bending over with intrepid
fervor to the responsible task upon which he was engaged. Sylvia
wondered what it was: the whole traffic of Europe might hang upon these
few minutes.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you again," she said. "But in addition to
requiring a visa, my sister wants a new passport."

She decided not to say anything about a lost passport, the revelation of
which had so much shocked the man at the Consulate.

"Miss Johnstone," the clerk called in a weary voice to somebody in an
inner office, "kindly bring Form AQ--application for renewal of expired
passport."

A vague-looking young woman, who seemed to have been collecting native
jewelry since her arrival in Bucharest, tinkled into the office.

"There aren't any AQ forms left, Mr. Mathers," she said, plaiting, as
she spoke, a necklace of coins into another of what looked like broken
pieces of mosaic.

"It really is too bad that the forms are not given out more regularly,"
Mr. Mathers cried, in exasperation. "How am I to finish transferring
these Greeks beginning with _C_ to _K_? You know how anxious Mr. Iredale
is to get the index in order, and the _F_'s haven't been checked with
the _Ph_'s yet."

"Well, it's Miss Henson's day off," said Miss Johnstone, "so it's not my
fault, is it? I'm sure I hate the forms! They're always a bother. Won't
an AP one do for this lady? We've a lot of them left, and there's only a
difference in one question."

"Excuse me," Sylvia asked. "Did you mention a Mr. Iredale?"

"Mr. Iredale is the O.C.P.T.N.C. for Bucharest," said Mr. Mathers.

"Not Mr. Philip Iredale, by chance?" she went on.

That transposition of Greek initials had sounded uncommonly like Philip.

"That's right," the clerk replied.

"Oh well, I know him. I should like to see him personally."

"See Mr. Iredale? But he's the O.C.P.T.N.C."

"Does that confer invisibility?" she asked. "I tell you I'm a friend of
his. If you send up my card I'm sure he'll see me."

"But he never sees anybody," Mr. Mathers objected. "I'm afraid you
didn't understand that he's the Officer Controlling Passenger Traffic
from Neutral Countries in Bucharest. If he was to see everybody that
came to this office, he wouldn't be able to control _himself_, let alone
passenger traffic. No, really, joking apart, madam, Mr. Iredale is very
busy and by no means well."

"He's worn out," put in Miss Johnstone, who, having by now plaited four
necklaces into a single coil, was swinging the result round and round
like a skipping-rope. "His nerves are worn out. But if you like, I'll
take up your card."

"You might ask him at the same time if he wants all the Greek names
entered under _Y_ transferred to _G_, will you?" said Mr. Mathers. "Oh,
and Miss Johnstone," he called after her, "there seems to be some
confusion between _Tch_ and _Ts_. Ask him if he's got any preference.
Awful names the people in this part of Europe get hold of," he added to
Sylvia. "Even Mr. Iredale can't transpose the Russians, and of course
the War Office likes accuracy. There was rather a strafe the other day
because a man traveling from here to Spain got arrested three times on
the way, owing to his name being rather like a suspect spelled
differently by us, the French, and the Italians. As a matter of fact,
the original suspect's dead, but his name was spelled a fourth way in
the notification that was sent around, and so it's not realized yet."

"It must be rather like that whispering game," Sylvia said. "You know,
where somebody at one end of the room starts a sentence and it comes out
quite differently at the other."

Sylvia could not make out why she did not feel more nervous when she was
following Miss Johnstone up-stairs to meet Philip for the first time
since she had run away from him, thirteen years ago. The fact was that
her anxiety to escape from Rumania with Queenie outweighed everything
else, and she was so glad to find somebody she knew in a position of
authority who would be able to help her in the matter of Queenie's
passport that any awkwardness was quenched in relief. The discovery of
Philip was such an encouraging answer by destiny to the reappearance of
Zozo.

He came forward to greet her from behind a large roll-top desk, and she
saw that he looked tired and ill, yet, except for his baldness, not
really much older.

"Would you have recognized me, Philip?" she asked.

He was far more nervous than she was, and he stumbled a good deal over
Mr. Mathers's questions.

"I'll tell him you're too busy now to answer," said Miss Johnstone at
last in a cheerful voice.

This was a happy solution of the problem of _Ts_ and _Tch_, and Philip
gratefully accepted it.

"And I dare say I might find time to help him with the transpositions,
if you're very anxious to get them done."

"Oh, will you? Yes, thank you, that would be excellent."

Miss Johnstone turned to leave the room; one of her necklaces broke
under the strain of continuous plaiting, and a number of tiny green
shells peppered the floor.

"There, that's the third time it's done that to-day," she exclaimed.
"I'm so sorry."

Sylvia, Philip, and she gathered up as many as were not trodden upon in
the search, and at last Miss Johnstone managed to get out of the room.

"No wonder you're worn out," said Sylvia, with a smile. It seemed quite
natural to comment rather intimately like this upon Philip's health.
"But you haven't answered my question. Would you have recognized me?"

"Oh yes, I should have recognized you. I only saw you last year at the
Pierian Hall."

"Did you go to see me there?" she exclaimed, touched by his having
wanted to see her act without letting her know anything about his visit.

"Yes, I enjoyed the performance; it was excellent. I wonder why you're
in Bucharest. Wouldn't you be better in England in war-time?"

"I think it's much more surprising to find you here," she said.

"Oh, I was sent out here to look after passports."

"But, Philip, why were you chosen as an expert on human nature?"

She could not resist the little stab; and he smiled sadly.

"I knew the country," he explained. "I'd done some excavating here, so
the War Office made me an honorary captain and sent me out."

"Are you a captain? What fun! Do you remember when I wanted you to
enlist for the South African War and you were so annoyed? But I suppose
you're shocked by my reviving old memories like this. Are you shocked,
Philip?"

"No, no, I'm not shocked. I'm still rather overcome by the suddenness of
your visit. What are you doing here?"

"I'm singing at the Trianon. All the winter I was at the Petit Maxim."

"Those places," he said, with a look of distaste.

"It would take too long to explain to you why," she went on. "But you
can't disapprove of my being there more than I do myself; and it's for
that very reason that I want a visa for England."

"Of course you shall have one immediately. You're much better at home in
these detestable times."

"But I also want something else. I want a passport for a friend--an
English girl."

"Hasn't she got a passport? Does she want hers renewed?"

"I'd better tell you the whole story. I expect that since you've become
the U.V.W.X.Y.Z. of Bucharest you've listened to plenty of sad stories,
but you must pay special attention to this one for my sake. I don't know
why I say 'for my sake'--it's rather an improper remark for a divorced
wife. Philip, do you remember in my show at the Pierian an Improvisation
about a girl who had been horribly ill treated as a child and was
supposed to be lost in a great city?"

"Yes, I think I do; in fact, I'm sure I do. I remember that at the time
I was reminded of our first meeting in Brompton Cemetery." He blinked
once or twice very quickly, and coughed in his old embarrassed way.

"Well, that's the girl for whom I want a passport."

Sylvia told him Queenie's story in detail from the time she met her
first in Granada to the present moment under the shadow of Zozo's
return.

"But, my dear Sylvia, I can't possibly procure an English passport for
her. She's not English."

"I want her to be my sister," Sylvia pursued. "I'm prepared to adopt her
and to be responsible for her. Any difference in the name she has been
generally known by can easily be put down to the needs of the stage. I
myself want to take once more my own name, Sylvia Snow, and I thought
you could issue two passports, one to Sylvia Snow, professionally known
as Sylvia Scarlett, and the other to Queenie Snow, known professionally
as Queenie Walters. Surely you won't let mere pedantry interfere with a
deed of charity?"

"It's not a question of pedantry. This is war-time. I should render
myself liable to--to--a court martial for doing a thing like that.
Besides, the principle of the thing is all wrong."

"But you don't seem to understand."

"Indeed I understand perfectly," Philip interrupted. "This girl was born
in Germany."

"Of an Italian father."

"What papers has she?" he asked.

"None at all. That's the whole point. She couldn't get even a German
passport if she wanted to. But she doesn't want one. She longs to be
English. It's the solitary clear ambition that she has. She was living
in England before war broke out, and she only came away to help this
girl who was kind to her. Surely the most rigid rule can be unbent to
fit a special case?"

"I could not possibly assume the responsibility," Philip declared.

"Then you mean to say you'll condemn this child to damnation--for that's
what you're doing with your infernal rules and regulations? You're
afraid of what will happen to you."

"Excuse me, even if I were certain that nothing could possibly be known
about the circumstances in which this passport was issued, I should
still refuse the application. Everybody suffers in this war; I suffer
myself in a minor degree by having to abandon my own work and masquerade
in this country as what you well call a U.V.W.X.Y.Z."

"But even if we grant that in some cases suffering is inevitable,"
Sylvia urged, eagerly, "here's a case where it is not. Here's a case
where, by applying a touch of humanity, you can save a soul. But I won't
put it that way, because I know you have no use for souls. Here's a case
where you can save a body for civilization, for that fetish on whose
account you find yourself in Bucharest and half Europe is slaughtering
the other half. You are not appealing to any divine law when you refuse
to grant this passport: you are appealing to a human law. Very well,
then. You are in your own way at this moment fighting for England; yet
when somebody longs to be English you refuse her. If there is any
reality behind your patriotism, if it is not merely the basest
truckling to a name, a low and cowardly imitation of your next-door
neighbor whose opinion of yourself you fear as much as he fears your
opinion of him, if your patriotism is not just this, you'll be glad to
give this child the freedom of your country. Philip, you and I made a
mess of things. I was to blame for half the mess; but when you married
me, though you married me primarily to please yourself, there was
another motive behind--the desire to give a lonely little girl a chance
to deal with the life that was surging round her more and more
dangerously every day. Now you have another opportunity of doing the
same thing, and this time without any personal gratification. It isn't
as if I were asking you to do something that could possibly hurt
England. I tell you I will be responsible for her. If the worst came to
the worst and anything were found out, I could always take the blame and
you could never be even censured for accepting my word in such a case."

Sylvia could see by Philip's face that her arguments were doing nothing
to convince him, yet she went on, desperately:

"And if you refuse this, you don't merely condemn her, you condemn me,
too. Nothing will induce me to abandon her to that man. By your bowing
down to the letter of the regulation you expose me for the second time
to the life that you drove me to before."

Philip made a gesture of protest.

"Very well, then I won't accuse you of being responsible on the first
occasion, certainly not wantonly. But this time, if I'm driven to the
same life, it _will_ be your fault and your fault alone. I'm not going
to bother about my body if I think that by destroying it I can save a
soul. I shall stick at nothing to preserve Queenie--at nothing, do you
hear? You have the chance to send us both safely back to England.
Philip, you won't refuse!"

"I'm sorry. It's terribly painful for me to say 'no.' But it's
impossible. Only quite recently the Foreign Office sent round a warning
that we were to be specially careful in this part of the world. No
papers of naturalization are issued in time of war. Why, I'm sent here
to Bucharest for the express purpose of preventing people like your
friend obtaining fraudulent passports."

"The Foreign Office!" Sylvia scoffed. "How can you expect people not to
be Christians? It was just to redeem mankind from the sin that creates
Foreign Offices and War Offices and bureaucrats and shoddy kings and
lawyers and politicians that Christ died. Oh, you can sneer! but your
belief is condemned out of your own mouth. You puny little U.V.W.X.Y.Z.
with your nose buried in your own waste-paper basket, with a red
tapeworm gnawing at your vitals, with some damned fool of a
narrow-headed general for an idol, you have the impertinence to sneer at
Christianity. Do you think that after this war people are going to be
content with the kind of criminal state that you represent? Life is not
a series of rules, but a set of exceptions. Philip, forgive me if I have
been rude, and let this girl have a passport, please, please!"

"You must not think," Philip answered, "that because I plead the
necessities of war in defense of what strikes you as mere bureaucratic
obscurantism that therefore I am defending war itself; I loathe war from
the bottom of my heart. But just as painful operations are often
necessary in accidents which might easily have been avoided, yet which
having happened must be cured in the swiftest way, so in war-time for
the good of the majority the wrongs of the nation must take precedence
over the wrongs of the individual. I sympathize profoundly with the
indignation that you feel on account of this girl, but the authorities
in England, after due consideration of the danger likely to accrue to
the state from the abuse of British nationality by aliens, have decided
to enforce with the greatest strictness the rules about the granting of
passports."

"Oh, don't explain the reasons to me as if I were a baby," Sylvia burst
in. "The proposition of the Foreign Office is self-evident in its
general application. My point is with you personally. You are not a
professional bureaucrat who depends for his living on his capacity for
dehumanizing himself. In this case you have a special reason to exercise
your rights and your duties as an amateur. You are as positive as you
can ever hope to be positive about anything, even your absurd positivist
creed, that while no harm can result to your country, a great mercy will
be conferred upon an individual as the result of enlightened action."

"It is precisely this introduction of the personal element," Philip
said, "that confirms me in refusing your request. You are taking
advantage of--our--of knowing me to gain your point. As a stranger you
would not stand the least chance of doing this, and you have no business
to make the matter a personal one. You don't seem to realize what such a
proceeding would involve. It is not merely a question of issuing a
passport as passports used to be issued before the war on the
applicant's bare word. A whole set of searching questions has to be
answered in writing, and you ask me to put my name to a tissue of lies.
Go back to England yourself. You have done your best for this girl, and
you must bow before circumstances. She has reached Rumania, and if she
does not try to leave it, she will be perfectly all right."

"But have you appreciated what I told you about this man who has just
arrived? He's a German-Swiss, and if he's not a spy, he has all the
makings of one. Suppose he gets hold of Queenie again? Can't you see
that on the lowest ground of material advantage you are justified--more
than justified, you owe it to your country to avoid the risk of creating
another enemy?"

"My dear Sylvia," said Philip, more impatiently than he had spoken yet,
"it is none of my business to interfere with potential agents of the
enemy. I have quite enough to do to keep pace with the complete
article. If your little friend is in danger of being turned into a spy,
it seems to me that you have stated the final argument against granting
your request."

"If she were with me, she could never become a spy; but if I were to
leave her helpless here, anything might happen. I am struggling for this
child's soul, Philip, more bitterly than I ever struggled for my own.
Your mind is occupied with the murder of human bodies: my mind is
obsessed with the destruction of human souls."

"Well, if I accept your own definition of your attitude," Philip
answered, "perhaps you will admit that logically a passport occupies
itself with the body, and that Christians do not consider nationality
necessary to salvation. I can't make out your exalted frame of mind. You
used to be rather sensible on this subject. But if, as I gather, you
have taken refuge in that common weakness of humanity--religion--let me
recommend you to find therein the remedy for your friend's future."

"Yes, I suppose logically you've scored," Sylvia said, slowly.

"But please don't think I want to score," Philip went on in a distressed
voice. "Please understand that for me to refuse is torture. I've often
wondered about a judge's emotions when he puts on the black cap; but
since I've faded out of real life into this paper world I've worn myself
out with worrying over private griefs and miseries. It's only because I
feel that, if every one on our side does not martyr himself for a year
or so, the future of the world will be handed over to this kind of
thing; and that is an unbearable thought."

"You're very optimistic about the effect upon your own side," Sylvia
said. "Have you such faith in humanity as to suppose that this war will
cure it more radically than all the wars that have gone before? I doubt
it. When I listened to our arguments this afternoon, I began to wonder
if either side is fighting for anything but a sterile nominalism. I
can't argue any more. It's not your fault, Philip. You lack the creative
instinct. I'll fight out this Queenie business by myself without
invoking state aid. I am rather ashamed of myself, really. I feel as if
I'd been compelled to ask a policeman the way. Perhaps I've got
everything out of proportion. Women usually manage to do that, somehow.
There must be something very satisfying about personal conflict--bayonet
to bayonet, I mean: but even in the trenches I suppose men get taken out
and shot for cowardice. Even there you wouldn't escape from the grim
abstract heartlessness that hangs like a fog over a generalized
humanity--generalized is doubly appropriate in this connection. What a
wretched thing man is in the mass and how rare and wonderful in the
individual! The mass creates that arch-bureaucrat, God, and the
individual seeks the heart of Christ. Good-by, Philip, I'm sorry you
look so ill. I'm afraid I've tired you. No, no," she added, seeing that
he was bracing himself up to talk about themselves. "This wasn't really
the personal intrusion you accuse me of making. We were never very near
to one another, and we are more remote than ever now."

"But what about your own visa?" he asked.

"It's no use to me at present. When I want it, I'll apply in the morning
to Mr. Mathers and come for it in the afternoon, most correctly. I
promise to attempt no more breaches in the formality of your office. By
the way, one favor I would ask: please don't come to the Trianon. You
wouldn't understand the argot in my songs, and if you did you wouldn't
understand my being able to sing them. Get better."

"Yes, I'm taking Sanatogen," Philip said, hopefully. At this moment Miss
Johnstone entered with a cup on a small tray, which, just escaping being
lassoed by one of her chains, was set down on his desk.

"I'm afraid I haven't got it quite so smooth as Miss Henson does," said
Miss Johnstone.

"Oh, never mind, please. It was so kind of you to remember."

"Well, I didn't think you ought to miss it on Miss Henson's day off."

Sylvia waved her hand and left him with Miss Johnstone; he seemed to be
hesitating between the injury to her feelings if he did not take the
lumpy mixture and the harm to his digestion if he did.

"Even offices are subject to the clash of temperament on temperament,"
said Sylvia to herself. "A curious thing really that Philip should be
prepared to choke himself over a cup of badly mixed Sanatogen rather
than wound that young woman's feelings, and yet that he should be able
to refuse me what I asked him to do this afternoon."

She nodded to Mr. Mathers as she passed through the outer office, who
jumped up and opened the door for her. He had evidently been impressed
by the length of her interview with the O.C.P.T.N.C. in Bucharest.

"I believe I've had the pleasure of hearing you sing," he murmured. "Are
you staying long at the Trianon?"

"I hope not," she answered.

"Quite, quite," he murmured, nodding his head with an air of deep
comprehension, while he bowed her forth with marked courtesy.

The fog had cleared away when Sylvia started to walk back to her hotel,
and though it was still very hot, there was a sparkle in the air that
made it seem fresher than it really was. The argument with Philip had
braced her point of view to accord with the lightening of the weather;
it had thrown her so entirely back upon her own resources that the
notion of ever having supposed for an instant that he could help her in
the fight for Queenie now appeared ludicrous. Although her arguments had
been unavailing, and although at the end Philip had actually defeated
her by the very logic on which she prided herself, she nevertheless felt
wonderfully elated at the prospect of a struggle with Zozo and no
longer in the least sensible of that foreboding dejection which was
lying so heavily upon her heart when she left Lottie's house three hours
ago.

Poor Philip! He had spoken of his own sufferings in a minor degree from
the war. Yet to be rooted up at his age--he was nearly fifty, after
all--and to be set down in Rumania to dig for human motives, he who had
no instinct to dig for anything but dry bones and ancient pottery, it
was surely for him suffering in a major degree. He had been so
pathetically proud of being a captain, and at the same time so obviously
conscious of the radical absurdity of himself in such a position; it was
like a prematurely old child playing with soldiers to gratify his
parents. And here in a neutral country he was even debarred from
dressing up in uniform. When she first saw him she had been surprised to
find that he did not appear much older than thirteen years ago; now,
looking back at him in his office, he seemed to her a very old man. Poor
Philip, he did not belong to the type that is rejuvenated in war-time by
a sense of his official importance. Sylvia had seen illustrations in
English newspapers of beaming old gentlemen "doing," as it was called,
"their bit," proud of the nuisance they must be making of themselves,
incorrigible optimists about the tonic effects of war because they had
succeeded in making their belts meet round their fat paunches,
pantaloons that should have buried themselves out of sight instead of
pirouetting while young men were being killed in a war for which they
and their accursed Victorianism were responsible by licking the boots of
Prussia for fifty years.

Sylvia found Queenie in a state of agitation at her long absence; she
did not tell her anything about Zozo at once, in the hope that he would
not come to the Trianon on the first night of his arrival. She did think
it advisable, however, to tell Queenie of her failure to secure the
passport.

"Then we can't be going to England?" Queenie asked.

"Well, not directly from here," Sylvia answered. "But we'll move on as
soon as we can into Bulgaria. We can get down to the Piræus from
Dedeagatch. I don't think these neutral countries are very strict about
passports. We'll manage somehow to get away from here."

"But if we cannot be going to England why must we be going from
Bucharest? Better to stay, I think. Yes?"

"We might want to go," Sylvia said. "We might get tired of the Trianon.
It wouldn't be difficult."

"I shall never be going to England now," said Queenie, in a toneless
voice. "Never shall I be going! I shall learn a new song and a new
dance, yes?"

Sylvia felt tired after her long afternoon and thought she would rest
for an hour before getting ready for the evening's work. The mist
gathered again at sunset, and the gardens of the theater, though they
were unusually full, lacked any kind of gaiety. When they were walking
down the narrow laurel-bordered path that screened the actors from the
people sitting at their tables under the trees, Sylvia was sure that
Zozo would be standing by the stage door at the end of it; but he was
nowhere to be seen. After the performance, however, when they came out,
as the custom was, to take their seats in the audience, the juggler made
a dramatic appearance from behind a tree; Queenie seemed to lose all her
fairy charm and become a terrified little animal.

"I don't think there's room at our table for you," Sylvia said.

"There are plenty of chairs," Maud insisted, stridently; she had
followed the juggler into the lamplight round the table.

"I'm quite sure there's no room for you," said Sylvia, sharply; and,
taking advantage of Queenie's complete limpness, she dragged her away by
the wrist and explained quickly to the manager, who was walking up and
down by the entrance gate, that Queenie was ill and must go home at
once.

"Ill!" he exclaimed, skeptically. "Well, I shall have to fine you both
your evening's salary. Why, it's only half past eleven!"

Sylvia did not wait to argue with him, but hurried Queenie to a
carriage, in which they drove back immediately to their hotel.

"I said to you that it was going to bring me bad luck when you said to
that priest my real name. _Ach!_ what shall I be doing? What shall I be
doing now?" Queenie wailed.

"You must pay no attention to him," Sylvia told her; but she found that
Queenie did not recover herself as she usually did at the tone of
command. "What can he do to you while you're with me?" she continued.

"You don't know him," Queenie moaned. "He's very strong. Look at the
mark on my leg where he was shooting me. _Ach_, if we could be going to
England, but we cannot. We are here and he is here. You are not strong
like he was, Sylvia."

"If you're going to give way like this before he has touched you and
frighten yourself to death in advance, of course he'll do what he likes,
because I can do nothing without support from you. But if you'll try to
be a little bit brave and remember that I can protect you, everything
will be all right and we'll get away from Rumania at the first
opportunity."

"_Ach_, you have papers. You are English. Nobody will protect me. Any
one was being able to do what they was liking to do with me."

Sylvia tried to argue courage into her until early morning; but Queenie
adopted an attitude of despair, and it was impossible to convince her
that Zozo could not at whatever moment he chose take her away, and, if
he wished, murder her without any one's interfering or being able to
interfere. In the end Sylvia fell asleep exhausted, resolving that if
Queenie was not in a more courageous frame of mind next day she should
not move from the hotel. When Sylvia woke up she found that Queenie was
already dressed to go out, and for an instant she feared that the
juggler's power over her was strong enough to will her to go back to him
by the mere sense of his being near at hand. She asked her almost
angrily why she had dressed herself so quietly and where she was going.

"To the hairdresser's," Queenie answered, in a normal voice.

Sylvia was puzzled what to do. She did not like to put the idea into
Queenie's head of the juggler's being able to mesmerize her into
following him apparently of her own accord, and if she really intended
to go to the hairdresser's, it might imply that the terror of the night
before had burned itself out. Certainly she did not seem very nervous
this morning. It was taking a risk, but probably the only way out of the
situation was by taking risks, and in the end she decided not to oppose
her going out by herself.

Two hours passed; when Queenie had not returned to the hotel Sylvia went
out and made inquiries at the hairdresser's. Yes, she had been there
earlier that morning and had bought several bottles of scent. Sylvia
made a gesture of disapproval; scent was an extravagance of Queenie's,
and she was strictly rationed in this regard on account of the urgency
of saving all the money they could for their journey. She returned to
the hotel; Queenie was still absent, and she opened her bag to look for
the address of a girl whom Queenie occasionally visited; she found the
card, but the thousand-franc note that she was guarding for her had
vanished. Queenie must have joined that infernal Swiss, after all, and
the old instinct of propitiating him with money had been too strong for
her.

"Fool that I was to let her go this morning," Sylvia cried. As she
spoke, Queenie came in, her cheeks flushed with excitement, her arms
full of packages.

"Where have you been and what have you been doing?" she demanded.

"Oh, you must pardon me for taking the money from your bag," Queenie
cried. "I was taking it to buy presents for all the girls."

"Presents for the girls?" Sylvia echoed, in amazement.

"Yes, yes, it was the only way to make them on my side against him.
To-night in the dressing-room I shall give these beautiful presents. I
was spending all of my thousand francs. It was no use any longer,
because we cannot be going to England. Better that I was buying these
presents to make all the girls be on my side."

Sylvia was between laughter and tears, but she could not bring herself
to be angry with the child; at least her action showed that she was
taking her own part against the juggler. Queenie spent the rest of the
day quite happily, arranging how the presents were to be allotted. Those
that were small enough she put into chocolate-boxes that she had bought
for this purpose; the larger ones were tied up with additional pink and
blue silk ribbons to compensate for the lack of a box. To each
present--there were fifteen of them--a picture post-card was tied, on
which Sylvia had to write the name of the girl for whom it was intended
_with heaps of love and kisses from Queenie_; it was like a child
preparing for her Christmas party.

They went down to the Trianon earlier than usual in order that Queenie
might get ready in time to sit at the entrance of the dressing-room and
hand each girl her present as she came in. Sylvia tried to look as
cheerful as possible under the ordeal, for she did not want to confirm
the tale that she was living on Queenie's earnings by seeming to grudge
her display of generosity. The girls were naturally eager to know the
reason of the unexpected entertainment. When Queenie took each of them
aside in turn and whispered a long confidence in her ear, Sylvia
supposed that she was explaining about the advent of Zozo; but it turned
out Queenie was explaining that, having no longer any need for the
money since she could not get a passport for England, she was doing now
what she had wanted to do before, but had been unable to do on account
of saving up for the journey. Sylvia remonstrated with her for this
indiscretion, and she said:

"I think it was you that was being silly, not me, yes? If I say to these
girls, 'Here is a silver brush, help me against Zozo,' they was thinking
that I was buying them to help me. But when he tries to take me, I shall
call out to them and they will be loving me for these presents and will
be fighting against him, I think, yes?"

Sylvia had her doubts, but she had not the heart to discourage such
trust in the grateful appreciation of her companions.

Neither Zozo nor Maud came to the Trianon that evening; nevertheless,
outside on the playbill was an announcement that next Sunday would
appear Zozo: LE MEILLEUR PRESTIDIGITATEUR DU MONDE.

"It was always so that he was writing himself," said Queenie, when
Sylvia read her the announcement; she spoke in a voice of awe as if the
playbill had been inscribed by a warning fate. In due course the juggler
made a successful first appearance, dressed in green, with a snake of
shimmering tinsel wound round him. They watched the performance from the
wings; when he came off he asked Queenie with a laugh if she would stand
for his dagger act, as in the old days she had stood.

"You've got Maud for that," Sylvia interposed quickly.

"Maud!" he scoffed.

Earlier in the evening she had thundered about the stage in what was
described as the world-famous step-dance of the world-famous American
cowgirl Maud Moffat, to the authentic and original native melody, which
happened this year to be "On the Mississippi," and might just as easily
have been "A Life on the Ocean Wave."

Sylvia was puzzled by the relationship between Zozo and Maud, for there
was evidently nothing even in the nature of affection between them, and
as far as she could make out they had never met until the day he paid
her fare from Galantza to Bucharest. Her first idea had been that he was
a German agent and intended to use Maud in that capacity, her
patriotism, judging by her loud denunciations of England and everything
English, not being very deep. But Sylvia had already outlived the habit
of explaining as a spy every one in war-time that is not immediately and
blatantly obvious. She could imagine nobody less fitted to be a spy than
Maud, who was attractive neither to her compatriots nor to foreigners,
and who, even had she possessed attraction, would have had no brains to
take advantage of it. Yet she came back to the theory that Zozo was a
German agent when she saw with whom he consorted in Bucharest, and she
decided that when he had brought Maud here he had done so in the hope of
having found a useful recruit, but that on discovering her dull
coarseness he had come to the conclusion that her hostility to England
was counterbalanced by England's hostility to her. Sylvia decided that
if her surmises were at all near to being correct she must be
particularly on her guard against any attempt on the part of the Swiss
to corrupt Queenie. She had supposed at first that she should only have
to contend with his lust or with his desire of personal domination; now
it seemed that the argument she had used with Philip to procure Queenie
a passport had really been a sound argument. Superficially Queenie might
not strike anybody as a valuable agent; knowing her charm for men, her
complete malleableness, and her almost painful simplicity, Sylvia could
imagine that she might be a practical weapon in the hands of an
unscrupulous adventurer like the Swiss, who was finding, like so many
other rascals of his type, that in war natural dishonesty is a lucrative
asset. She wondered to what extent her ideas about his intentions were
based upon his behavior at Granada, and whether, after all, she was not
attributing to him all sorts of schemes of which he was entirely
innocent. Really he had always been for her a symbol of evil that she
was inclined to turn into a crude personification. It was strange the
way that one was apt, in changing one's mode of life, to abandon
simultaneously the experience one had gathered formerly. Most probably
she was giving this juggler with an absurd name an importance quite
beyond his power, simply because she herself was giving her present
surroundings a permanence far more durable and extensive than they
actually possessed. After all, could one but realize it, the way from
the Petit Trianon to Mulberry Cottage did exist as a material fact:
there was no impassable gulf of space or time between them.

After Zozo had been juggling for about a fortnight in Bucharest without
having given the least sign of wanting to interfere with Queenie, Sylvia
began to think that she had worked herself up for nothing, though the
problem of his relationship to Maud, with whom he remained on terms of
contemptuous intimacy, still puzzled her. She thought of making a report
on the queer association to Philip, but she was afraid he might think it
was an excuse to meet him again; and since Philip himself had made no
effort to follow up their interview, she gave up speculating upon Zozo
and Maud and took to speculating instead upon Philip's want of
curiosity, as she called it. Unreasonable as she admitted to herself
that the emotion was, she could not help being piqued by his
indifference, and she resented now the compassion she had felt for him
when she left the office that afternoon. She could not understand any
man, however badly a woman had treated him--and she had not treated
Philip badly--being able to contemplate so calmly that woman's existence
as a cabaret singer without wanting to know what had brought her to it
so short a time after her success. No, certainly she should not trouble
Philip with her suspicions of Zozo and Maud; it was inviting a rebuff.

Just when Sylvia was beginning to feel reassured about Queenie and not
to worry about anything except the waste of that thousand francs and the
continuous difficulties in the way of saving any money, the girls at the
Trianon began to whisper among themselves. Queenie's presents had given
her a brief popularity that began to fade when it was evident that no
more presents were coming; her attempt to secure the friendship of her
companions, inasmuch as it seemed a token of weakness, reacted against
her and made her in the end less popular than before. The story about
the refusal of a passport by the British authorities was soon magnified
into a demand for her expulsion from Rumania as a German agent
masquerading as an English girl. Hence the whispers. The French girls
were naturally the most venomous; but the Austrian girls were nearly as
bad, because, having lived for months under the perpetual taunt of being
spies, they were anxious to re-establish their own virtue at Queenie's
expense. Zozo commiserated with her on the unfairness of the whispers,
and one evening, to Sylvia's dismay, Queenie told her that he had
offered to secure her a passport and take her with him when he left
Bucharest.

"He was really being very nice to me," Queenie said. "Oh, Sylvia, what
shall I do? I cannot be staying here with these girls who are so unkind
to me."

The following evening Sylvia asked Zozo straight out about the kind of
passport he proposed to find for Queenie and where he proposed to take
her.

The juggler sneered.

"That's my business, I think. What can you do for her? If the kid's
anything, she's German. What the hell's the good of you trying to make
her English? Why don't you let her alone instead of stopping her from
earning good money?"

Sylvia kept her temper with a great effort and contented herself with
denying that Queenie was German and with asking who had first made the
assertion. The juggler spat on the floor and walked away without
replying.

After the performance that night, a hot, thunderous night in August,
Zozo, with Maud and two well-known pro-German natives, took the next
table to Sylvia and Queenie. Maud was drinking heavily and presently she
began to talk in a loud voice:

"Well, I may have spoken against England once or twice, but, thank Gawd,
I'm not a bloody little yellow-haired German pretending to be English. I
never went and tried to pass off a dirty little German as my sister the
same as what some people who's proud of being English does. Yes, I earn
my living honestly. I've never heard any one call me a spy, and any----
as did wouldn't do it twice. My name's Maud Moffat, born and bred a
cockney, and proud I am when I see some people who think theirselves
superior and all the time is dirty German spies betraying their country.
Does any one presume to say I'm not English?" she shouted, rising
unsteadily to her feet. "And if he does, where is he so as I can show
him he's a bloody liar by breaking his head open?"

Her companions made a pretense of restraining her, but it was plain that
they were enjoying the scene, and Maud continued to hold forth.

"German! And calls herself English. Goes round giving presents to honest
working-girls so as she can carry on her dirty work of spying. Goes
round trying to get a girl's boy away from her by low, dirty, mean
tricks as she's learnt from the bloody Germans who she belongs to. Yes,
it's you I'm talking to," she shrieked at Queenie.

White as paper, she sprang up from her seat and began to answer Maud,
notwithstanding Sylvia's efforts to silence her.

"You was being a bad wicked girl," she panted. "You dare to say I was
being German! I hate the Germans! I _am_ English. I _am_ English. You
dare to say I was being German!"

Upon this an Austrian girl at another table began to revile Queenie from
her point of view for abusing the Germans; before ten seconds had
passed the gardens were in an uproar.

A fat French Jewess stood on a table and shouted:

"_Oh, les sales boches! Oh, les sales boches!_"

Whereupon an Austrian girl pushed her from behind, and she crashed down
into a party of Francophile young Rumanians who instantly began to throw
everything within reach at a party of Germanophile young Rumanians.
Glasses were shivered; fairy lamps were pulled out of the trees and
hurtled through the air like Roman candles; somebody snatched a violin
from the orchestra and broke it on the head of his assailant; somebody
else climbed on the stage and made a speech in Rumanian, calling upon
the country to intervene on behalf of the Entente, until two pro-Germans
seized him and flung him down on top of the melancholy dotard who played
the double-bass; the manager and the waiters rushed into the street to
find the police; everybody argued with everybody else.

"_Tu dis que je suis boche, moi? M--e pour toi!_"

"La ferme! La ferme! Espionne! Type infecte!"

"_Moi, je suis roumaine. Si tu dis que je suis hongroise, je dis que
t'es une salope. Tu m'entends?_"

"_Oh, la vache! Elle m'a piquée!_"

"_Elle a bien fait! Elle a bien fait!_"

Some French girls began to sing:

    "_Les voyez-vous?
     Les hussards! Les dragons! La gar-rrde!
     Glorieux fous_...."

and a very shrill little soprano who was probably a German, but declared
she was a Dane, sang:

    "It's a larway to Tipperary,
     It's a larway to go,
     It's a larway to Tipperary,
     It's a la-a-way to go!
     Gooba, Piccadilli,
     Farwa lar-sa sca-aa!
     It's a lar-lar-way to Tipperary
     Ba-ma-ha's ra-tha."

After which somebody hit her on the nose with a vanilla ice: then the
police came in and quieted the uproar by arresting several people on the
outskirts of the riot.

The next evening, when Sylvia and Queenie presented themselves for the
performance, the manager told them that they were dismissed: he could
not afford to let the Petit Trianon gain a disorderly reputation. Sylvia
was glad that the decision of taking a definite step had been settled
over her head. As they were passing out, they met Lottie looking very
happy.

"I've been engaged for three hundred francs to play the piano in the
orchestra. The accompanist broke his wrist last night in the row," she
told them. "So they sent for me in a hurry."

"We've been sacked," Sylvia said.

"Oh, I am sorry!" the fat girl exclaimed, trying to curb her own
pleasure. "What will you do?"

Sylvia shrugged her shoulders.

"Why don't you go to Galantza and Bralatz and Avereshti? You ought to be
able to get engagements there in the summer-time--especially at
Avereshti."

Sylvia nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, that's rather an idea. But, Lottie,
don't tell Zozo where we've gone. Good-by! Good luck! I'm glad you've
got an engagement."

"Yes, I shall leave that room now. It smells, rather, as the summer gets
on."

The next morning Sylvia and Queenie left Bucharest for Galantza.



CHAPTER V


NEITHER in Galantza nor in Bralatz did Sylvia and Queenie perceive any
indication of a fortune. They performed for a week at the Variétés High
Life in Bralatz; but the audience and the salary were equally low, the
weather was hot and misty, and the two hotels they tried were full of
bugs. In Galantza they performed for two days at the Variétés Tiptop;
but here both the audience and the salary were lower still, the weather
was hotter and more misty, and there were as many bugs in the one hotel
as in the two hotels at Bralatz put together. Sylvia thought she should
like to visit the British vice-consul who had angered Maud so much by
his indifference to her future. He was a pleasant young man, not
recognizable from her description of him except by the fact that he
certainly did smoke incessantly. He invited them both to dine and
grumbled loudly at the fate which had planted him down in this
God-forsaken corner of Rumania in war-time. He was disappointed to hear
that they could not stay in Galantza, but agreed with them about the
audience and the salary.

"I can't think who advised you to come here," he exclaimed. "Though I'm
glad you did come; it has cheered me up a bit."

"It wasn't Maud," Sylvia said, with a smile.

"Maud?" he repeated. "Who is she?"

"An English girl who took a great fancy to you. She wanted you to pay
her fare to Bucharest."

"Oh, my hat! a most fearful creature," he laughed. "A great, pink,
blowsy woman with a voice like two trains shunting. I had a terrible
time with her. Upon my word, I had actually to push her out of the
Consulate. Oh, an altogether outrageous phenomenon! What became of her
finally? In Bucharest, is she? Well, she's not a good advertisement of
our country in these times. What part of England do you come from?" he
added, turning to Queenie.

"London," Sylvia said, quickly. She always answered this kind of
question before Queenie could blush and stammer something
unintelligible. "But she's been on the Continent since she was a little
girl, and can't speak any language except with the accent of the one she
spoke last." Then she changed the subject by asking him where he advised
them to go next.

"I should advise you to go back to England. These are no times for two
girls to be roaming about Europe."

"You'd hardly describe me as a girl," Sylvia laughed. "Even I can no
longer describe myself as one. Passports have been fatal to some
cherished secrets. No, we can't get back to England, chiefly because we
haven't saved enough money for the fare, and secondly because the
passport-office in Bucharest didn't consider me a good enough voucher
for Queenie's right to a British passport."

"Wouldn't they recommend the consul to issue one?"

Sylvia shook her head.

"Too bad," said the vice-consul, in a cheerful voice. "But that's one of
the minor horrors of war, this accumulation of a new set of officials
begotten by the military upon the martial enthusiasm of non-combatants.
It's rather ridiculous, isn't it, to assume that all consuls are
incapable of their own job?... But I suppose I've no business to be
displaying professional jealousy at such a moment," he broke off.

"Would you have given her a passport?" Sylvia asked.

The vice-consul looked at Queenie with a smile. "I could hardly have
refused, eh?"

But Sylvia knew that, once inside his Consulate, he would probably be
even more pedantic than Philip, and this affectation of gallantry over
coffee rather annoyed her.

"But what _are_ you going to do?" he went on.

"Oh, I don't know," said Sylvia, curtly. "Leave things to arrange
themselves, I suppose."

"Yes, that's a very good attitude to take up when your desk is untidy,
but, seriously, I shouldn't advise you to leave things to arrange
themselves by touring round Rumania. These provincial towns are wretched
holes."

"What's Avereshti like?"

"I don't know. I've never been there. It's not likely to be any better
than Galantza or Bralatz, except for being a good deal nearer to
Bucharest. Oh dear! everything's very gloomy. That Suvla business will
keep out the Rumanians for some time. In fact, I don't think myself
they'll ever come in now, unless they come in with the Germans. Why
don't you take a week's holiday here?"

But the vice-consul, who had seemed agreeable at first, was getting on
Sylvia's nerves with his admiration for Queenie, and she told him that
they should leave next day.

"Too bad," he exclaimed. "But that's the way of the world. When a consul
would like to be thoroughly bothered by somebody, nothing will induce
that person to waste five minutes of his precious time. Your friend
Maud, on the contrary, haunted me like a bluebottle."

Avereshti turned out to be a much smaller place than Sylvia had
expected. She had heard it spoken of in Bucharest as a favorite summer
resort, and had pictured it somehow with a casino, gardens, good hotels,
and pretty scenery: the very name had appealed to her with a suggestion
of quietude. She had deliberately not gone there at once with Queenie
when they left Bucharest because, being not more than sixty kilometers
from the capital, she had had an idea that Zozo might think it a likely
place for them to visit and take it into his head to seek them out. Even
in the train coming back from Galantza she had doubts of the wisdom of
turning on their tracks so soon; but their taste of Galantza and Bralatz
had been so displeasing that Avereshti with its prefigured charm of
situation promised a haven with which the risk of being worried by their
enemy could not interfere. They would take a week's holiday before
engaging themselves to appear at the casino or whatever the home of
amusement was called in Avereshti; then after a short engagement they
might perhaps venture back to Bucharest and start saving up money again.

"For what good?" Queenie asked, sadly.

"Oh, something will turn up," Sylvia replied. "Perhaps the war will come
to a sudden end, and you'll be able to go to England without a
passport."

"You was always dreaming, Sylvia. Happy things cannot come to me so
easily as you was thinking."

Since the night of the row at the Trianon Queenie had settled down to a
steady despair about the whole of her future, and it was partly Sylvia's
powerlessness to restore her to the childish gaiety that was so
attractive in one whom she was conscious of protecting which had made
her conceive such a distaste for the two towns they had just left. She
was beginning, indeed, to doubt if her intervention between Queenie and
the life she had been leading was really worth while. She upbraided
herself with a poor spirit, with a facile discouragement, with
selfishness and want of faith; yet all the way in the train she was on
the verge of proposing that they should go back at once to Bucharest and
there definitely part company. The dreary country through which they
were traveling and the moist heat of the September afternoon created
such a desire for England that the thought of remaining five minutes
longer in Rumania was becoming intolerable. Sylvia began to make plans
to telegraph home for money, and while she pondered these she began to
think about Jack and Olive and the twins. Jack, of course, would be a
soldier by now; but Olive would be in Warwickshire. Perhaps at this
moment she was walking through a leafy path in Arden and wondering what
her lost friend was doing. Sylvia tried to conjure familiar English
scents--the smell of blue-bells and young leaves, the smell of earth in
a London window-box after being watered, and, most wistfully of all, the
smell of the seaside on a breathless day of late summer when the sun was
raining diamonds into the pale-blue water--that so poignantly English
seaside smell of salt sand and pears in paper bags, of muslin frocks and
dusty shrubs and warm asphalt. It might be such a day in England now,
such a day at Eastbourne or Hastings. The notion of enduring any longer
these flat Rumanian fields, this restless and uncertain existence upon
the fringe of reality, this pilgrimage in charge of a butterfly that
must soon or late be caught, clouded her imagination.

"In seeking to direct Queenie's course I am doing something that is
contrary to my dearest theory of behavior. When I met her again at Jassy
I was in an abnormal and hysterical condition. The sense of having
failed myself led me to seize desperately upon her salvation to justify
this long withdrawal from the activity of my own world. This world of
gipsies is no longer my world. Why, I believe that the real reason I
feel annoyed with Philip is because, having roused in me a sense of my
unsuitableness to my present conditions and actions, he does not trouble
to understand the effect that talking to him had upon me. Here I am at
thirty-two thinking like an _exaltée_ school-girl. Thirty-two! Just when
I ought to be making the most tremendous efforts to anchor myself to
some stable society that will carry me through the years to come, the
years that without intellectual and spiritual pleasures will be nothing
but a purgatory for my youth, I find myself more hopelessly adrift than
ever before. It will end in my becoming a contemplative nun in one last
desperate struggle to avoid futility. It is a tragedy for the man or
woman who realizes futility without being able to escape from it. That's
where the Middle Ages were wiser than we. Futility was impossible then.
That's where we suffer from that ponderous bog of Victorianism. When one
pauses to meditate upon the crimes of the Victorian era! And it's
impossible not to dread a revival of Victorianism after this war. It's
obvious that unless we defeat the Teuton quickly--and there's no sign of
it--we shall be Teutonized in order to do it. And then indeed, O grave
where is thy victory? Will the Keltic blood in England be enough to save
her in ten years' time from a base alliance with these infernal Germans
in order that the two stupidest nations in the world may combine to
overlay it? Will this war at last bring home to Europe the sin of
handing herself over to lawyers? Better the Middle Ages priest-ridden
than To-day lawyer-ridden. At least if we are going to pay these rascals
who exploit their country, let us have it well exploited. Don't let us
call in one political plumber after another whose only object is to
muddle the state for his successor to muddle it still more that he may
be called in again to muddle it again--and muddle--and muddle eternally!
When one reads in the papers the speeches of politicians, of what can
one be reminded but of children playing cat's-cradle over the tortured
body of their mother? Yet what business have I to be abusing lawyer and
politician when I lack the strength of mind to persevere in a task which
I set myself with my eyes open? Unless I suffer in achieving it, it will
not be worth the achievement. Surely the human soul that has suffered
deeply can never again acknowledge futility? O England, perhaps it is a
poor little pain to be away from you now, a mean little egotistical ache
at the best, but away from you I see your faults so much more clearly
and love you for them all the more."

The train entered the station, and Sylvia perceived that there was
nothing beautiful about Avereshti in the way she had fancied. Yet she
was ashamed now of the temptation to desert Queenie; therefore, though
the train was going on to Bucharest, she hurried her out on the
platform, and when they reached the Hotel Moldavia she took a room for
two weeks, paying for it in advance lest she should be tempted by her
disappointment with Avereshti to hurry back to Bucharest again, the
inevitable result of which in her present mood would be to abandon her
friend.

Avereshti, instead of being situated amid the romantic scenery that one
expected from a celebrated summer resort, was surrounded by oil-fields
which disfigured still more the flat environment. It was too large for
genuine rusticity, too small for its assumption of European
civilization, and too commercial for gaiety. Possibly during the season
the shareholders and owners of the oil-fields came here to gloat for a
week upon the sources of their prosperity; if they did, they had all of
them left by the middle of September; the Variétés Alcazar was closed
and the playbills were already beginning to peel off the walls. Whatever
life there was in Avereshti displayed itself in the Piatza Carol I, the
pavement of which was planted with trees clipped out of any capacity to
cast a pleasant shade. The Hotel Moldavia, flanked by cafés, occupied
one side of it, a row of respectable shops another, a large municipal
hall of the crudest Germanic architecture fronted the hotel, and along
the remaining side ran a row of market booths, the insult of which to
the progress of Avereshti was greatly resented by the inhabitants and
always apologized for and explained in the first few minutes of
conversation.

The appearance of Sylvia and Queenie in this square on the morning after
their arrival created an interest that soon developed into a
pertinacious and disconcerting curiosity. If they entered a shop to make
some small purchases, a crowd gathered outside and followed them to the
next shop, and finally became such a nuisance that they retired to the
balcony outside their room--a long wooded balcony of a faded tint of
green--and watched the populace gathering to stare at them from below.
When the sun became too hot for this entertainment, they took refuge in
the big bedroom which had the unusual merit of being free from bugs.
Queenie dreamed away the morning with her lithographs; Sylvia read _War
and Peace_. Late in the afternoon they went out again on the balcony
and were amused to see that the frequenters of the cafés on either side
of the hotel had moved their chairs hornwise far enough out into the
square to obtain a view of their movements. Sylvia suggested to the
waiter that they should give a musical performance from the balcony, but
he replied, quite seriously, that it was not strong enough: otherwise,
he left them to understand, there would have been no objection.

"Yet really, after all, it's not so bad here," Sylvia declared. "We'll
stay a few days, and then I'll go into Bucharest and prospect. Perhaps
Zozo will be gone by now."

Avereshti possessed, at any rate, the charm of making one feel lazy; to
feel lazy and to be able to gratify one's laziness was, after nearly a
year of ceaseless work, pleasant enough. On the third afternoon the
waiter came up with six visiting-cards from local gentlemen who desired
their acquaintance. Sylvia told him that they were not anxious to make
any friends; he smiled and indicated two names as those that would best
repay their choice.

"We wish to be left quite alone," Sylvia repeated, irritably.

"Then why do you walk about on the balcony?" the waiter asked.

"We walk about on the balcony because it's the only place where we can
walk about without being annoyed by a crowd. You don't expect us to
remain in our room day and night, do you?"

The waiter smiled and again called attention to the desirable
qualifications of the two visiting-cards he had first thrust into
prominence. He added that both the gentlemen, M. Stefan Florilor and M.
Toma Enescu, were particularly anxious to make the acquaintance of the
fair young lady; that M. Florilor was young, handsome, and the son of
the richest man in Avereshti; and that, though M. Enescu was not young,
he was very rich. Perhaps the ladies would invite them to take coffee?
It would be easy to get rid of the other four visiting-cards.

Sylvia told the waiter to get rid of all six and never again to have the
impudence to refer to the subject; but he continued to extol his
clients, until at last Sylvia in a rage knocked the card-tray out of his
hand with the volume of _War and Peace_ that he was interrupting, upon
which he retired, muttering abuse.

About ten minutes afterward the waiter came back and told Sylvia that
all the gentlemen were gone away except M. Florilor, who insisted upon
being received.

"Insists?" cried Sylvia. "But is he the crown prince of Avereshti?"

The waiter shrugged his shoulders.

"His father has a mortgage on the hotel," he explained. "And the
proprietor would be very much upset to think that any discourtesy had
been shown to the son."

"Have we paid for this room?" Sylvia demanded.

The waiter agreed with her that they had paid for it.

"Very well, when we ask for free board and lodging it will be time
enough to talk about the proprietor's annoyance at our refusal to
receive his creditors."

She indicated the direction of the door with a contemptuous inclination
of the head, and the waiter retired.

"I don't know how you can be so strong to talk like that," Queenie
marveled. "If I was being alone here I should be too frightened to speak
so to the waiter. Suppose they was all to murder us to-night?"

When Queenie spoke like this, Sylvia's old sense of guardianship flowed
again as fast as ever, and any impulse to abandon her was drowned in a
flood of rage against the arrogance of money with its sale and purchase
of human lives. There was something less distasteful about the
domination of Zozo than about the attempted domination of this young
Rumanian puppy yelping in his back yard of a town. If the juggler were
to arrive in Avereshti to-night and in a frenzy of balked passion were
to murder both herself and Queenie, there would be a kind of
completeness about the action that made the presentiment of it a sane
and feasible terror; but that Queenie should have been reduced to a
condition of semi-idiocy merely by the fact that the accidents of her
childhood had put her for sale on the market of life did seem to Sylvia
inexpressibly revolting.

"And we credit ourselves with the abolition of slavery! I am not sure
that the frank slavery of the past was not more moral than the
unadmitted slavery of the present. At any rate, it carried with it its
own penalty in the demoralization and decay of the owners; but I
perceive no prospective penalty for this sort of thing. A young
barbarian whose father has grown rich and fat upon petroleum sees a girl
that takes his fancy and sends up his card; the proprietor of the hotel
threatens us through that pimping waiter with the enmity of his father's
debtor. This happens to be a crude case because we are living
temporarily in a crude country; but less crudely the same thing goes on
in England. It is true that we shrink there from the licensed brothel,
and that we are still able to shrink from that is something to be
grateful for; yet, though we refrain from inflicting an open shame upon
womanhood, we pay very little attention to the rights of the individual
woman and child, or, for the matter of that, to the rights of the
individual man. We no longer allow the bodies of children to be slowly
murdered in factories, but we offer not the least objection to their
employment in nice healthy amusing occupations such as selling
newspapers for great monopolies or dancing in the theaters. There can be
no defense of employing child labor, and the man who defends it is the
equal of the most brutalized and hardened _souteneur_. I still think
that the greater part of humanity is so naturally inclined to be
enslaved that the bestowal of freedom will in a short time land the
world in the same state as before; but what I don't understand is the
necessity for a reformer or the philanthropist to be anything except
profoundly cynical. It always seems to be assumed that a desire to help
other people implies a belief that other people will benefit from the
help. I should like to meet an unadvertising philanthropist who was
willing to admit that his philanthropy was a vice like secret drinking.
One occasionally perceives signs of a sick conscience in some large
anonymous contribution to charity; I always suspect the donor of
expiating a monstrous crime. I can imagine being haunted by the fear of
a peerage in return for the expenditure upon a Lord Mayor's fund of the
superfluous savings of a wicked life."

"Of what are you thinking?" Queenie asked.

"I'm thinking, my dear, that visits from the _jeunesse dorée_ of
Avereshti tend to infect me with an odious feeling of self-righteousness.
The result of reading Tolstoi and arguing with a waiter about the sale
of your body to M. Florilor has reduced me to a state of morbid
indignation with the human race. But the problem that's bothering me is
my ultimate ineffectiveness. I'm like a chained-up dog, and I am
realizing that noise, to be a real weapon of defense, requires
listeners. I'm a little afraid, Queenie, that unless I can do more than
bark, I shall lose you."

"When shall you lose me?"

"When the web of my theory in which I'm sitting like a spider gets swept
away by something more powerful than you, my butterfly, whom even
without interference I can scarcely retain. You'll escape me then and be
caught finally in a net, and I shall scuttle off and hide myself in a
dark corner until I die of inanition and chagrin."

"I was not understanding one word of what you were saying," said
Queenie. "First you were being a dog. After you were being a spider. Who
was ever to understand you?"

"Who indeed?" Sylvia murmured with half a sigh, as she went out on the
balcony and looked down upon the frequenters of the cafés, whose heads,
when she appeared, were simultaneously lifted to regard her with a
curiosity that her elevated position made impersonal as the slow glances
of cattle at pasture.

That evening after dinner the first sign of the proprietor's displeasure
at the snub administered to the heir of his chief creditor was visible
in a bill for their board of three days. The sum was not large, but by
using up their small cash it involved breaking into the
five-hundred-franc note that represented the last of the money they had
saved since February. Sylvia had always kept this note in a pocket of
her valise; now when she went up to their room to fetch it it was gone.
The discovery of the loss was such a blow at this moment that she could
not speak of it to Queenie when she came down-stairs again; she paid
what was owing with the last halfpenny they had, and sat back revolving
internally in her mind how, when, and where that five-hundred-franc note
could possibly have been lost. Suddenly she had an idea that she might
have moved it to another pocket and, leaving a half-smoked cigarette
balanced against the saucer of her coffee-cup, she ran up-stairs again
to verify the conjecture. Alas! it was the emptiest of conjectures, and
in a fever of exasperation she searched wildly in all sorts of unlikely
places for the missing money. When the bedroom was scattered with her
clothes to no purpose, she went back to the dining-room, where she found
that the waiter had taken the half-smoked cigarette in clearing away the
coffee-cups.

"Didn't you keep that cigarette?" she demanded.

Queenie looked at her in surprise.

"Why to keep a cigarette?" she asked.

"Because I haven't another."

"Well, ring for the waiter. He shall bring one for you."

"No, no, it doesn't matter," Sylvia muttered; but the waste of that last
precious cigarette brought home to her more than anything else that
there was absolutely not even a halfpenny left in her purse after paying
for the food they had had, and abruptly with the transmutation of that
insignificant object to something of immense value arrived a
corresponding change in Sylvia's attitude to the whole of life.

In the first case the larger share of the money she had lost so
carelessly--with an effort she drove from her brain the revolving
problem of how, when, and where--belonged to Queenie. Hence her
responsibility toward Queenie was doubled, because if in certain moods
of disillusionment she had been able to set aside her former
responsibility as nothing but a whim, there was now a positive and
material obligation that no change of sentiment could obliterate. Any
harm that threatened Queenie now must be averted by herself, no matter
at what cost to herself; somehow money must be obtained. It was plain
that they could expect no consideration from the proprietor of the
hotel; the way in which he had demanded payment for their day's board
proved as much. Having accepted the money in advance for this room, he
could not eject them into the street; but unless it suited him he was
under no obligation to feed them. What a precipitate fool she had been
to pay for a fortnight's lodging in advance! Seventy francs flung away!
She might ask for them back, or at any rate for the fifty francs' worth
of lodging of which they would not have availed themselves if they left
to-morrow. With fifty francs they would reach Bucharest, where something
might turn up. But suppose nothing did turn up? Suppose that damned
juggler found Queenie and herself without a halfpenny? Even that was
better than starving here or surrendering to M. Stefan Florilor.

Sylvia went out to ask the proprietor if he would give her back the
money she had paid in advance for a room she and her friend found
themselves unable any longer to occupy. The proprietor shrugged his
shoulders, informed her in his vile French that he had never demanded
the sum in advance, assured her that he had refused the room twice to
important clients who had wanted it for next week, and altogether showed
by his attitude that he had been too much embittered by the reception
of M. Florilor to stand upon anything except his strict rights. It was
clear that these rights would include refusal of any food that was not
paid for at the time. Such behavior might be unjust and unreasonable,
she thought, but, after all, it was not to be expected that an empty
pocket was going to tempt the finer side of human nature. Sylvia went
back to Queenie, who was looking in bewilderment at the clothes strewn
about the bedroom. She explained what had happened, and Queenie
ejaculated:

"There, fancy! We have no money now. Never mind, I can be friends with
that gentleman who was asking to know me. He will give me the money,
because if he wants me very much he will have to give much money. Yes, I
think?"

Sylvia could have screamed aloud her rejection of such a course.

"What, after keeping you away from men for six months, to let you go
back to them on account of my carelessness? Child, you must be mad to
think of it."

"Yes, but I have been thinking, Sylvia. I have been thinking very much.
When I was going to be English and you were saying to me that I should
have a passport and be going to England and be English myself, it was
good for me to care nothing at all for men; but now what does it matter?
I am nothing. I am just being somebody lost, and if I am going with men
or not going with men I am still nothing. Why to be worried for money? I
shall show you how easy it is for me to have money. It is true what I am
speaking. You could be having no idea how much money I can have. And if
I am nothing, always nothing, why must I be worrying any more about
money? You are so sweet to me, Sylvia, so kind. No one was ever being so
kind to me before. So I must be kind to you now. Yes, I think? Are you
crying about that money? I think you are stupid to cry for such a little
thing as money."

"There are things, my rose, that must not, that shall not happen,"
Sylvia cried, clasping the child in her arms. "And that you should ever
again sell yourself to a man is one of them."

"But I am nothing."

"Ah," thought Sylvia, "here is the moment when I should be able to say
that every one to God is everything; but if I say it she will not
understand. What hope is there for this child?" Then aloud she added,
"Are you nothing to me?"

"No, to you I am something, and if my brother was here I would be
something to him."

"Very well, then, you must not think of selling yourself. I lost the
money. I shall find a way of getting more money. I have a friend in
Bucharest. I will telegraph to him to-morrow and he will send us money."
And to herself she thought: "This is indeed the ultimate irony, that I
should ask a favor of Philip. Yet perhaps I am glad, for if I did him
the least injury years ago, no priest could have imagined a more
appropriate penance. Yes, perhaps I deserve this."

The next morning, when Sylvia ordered coffee, the waiter presented the
bill for it at the same time, and when she tore it up he seemed inclined
to take away the coffee; he retreated finally with a threat that in
future nothing should be served to them that was not paid for in
advance.

"They are being nasty with us," Queenie solemnly enunciated.

"Never mind. We shall have some money to-night, or at any rate to-morrow
morning. We must put up with fasting to-day. It's Friday, appropriately
enough. Good heavens!" Sylvia exclaimed. "I haven't even got the money
to send a telegram. We must raise a few francs. Perhaps I could borrow
some money with a trinket. Good gracious! I never realized until this
moment that I haven't a single piece of jewelry! It takes the sudden
affliction of extreme poverty to discover one's abnormality and to prove
how essential it is not to be different from everybody else. Come,
Queenie, you must lend me your two brooches."

Sylvia took the daisy of brilliants set round a topaz, and the swallow
of sapphires--all that Queenie had kept after her disastrous expulsion
from Russia--and visited the chief local jeweler, who shrugged his
shoulders and refused to buy them.

"But at least you can lend me twenty francs upon them until to-morrow,"
Sylvia urged.

He shrugged his shoulders again and bent over to pick at the inside of a
watch with that maddening indifference of the unwilling purchaser.
Sylvia could not bring herself to believe in his refusal and suggested a
loan of fifteen francs. Nothing answered her except the ticking of a
dozen clocks and the scraping of a small file. There was a smell of
drought in the shop that seemed to symbolize the personality of its
owner.

"Ten francs?" Sylvia begged.

The jeweler looked up slowly from his work and regarded her with a fishy
eye, the fishiness of which was many times magnified by the glass that
occupied it. He raised his chin in a cold negative and bent over his
work more intently. Every clock in the shop told a different time and
ticked away more loudly than ever. Sylvia gathered up the trinkets and
went away. She tried two other jewelers without success, and she even
proposed the loan to a chemist who had a pleasant exterior; finally she
had to go back to the hotel without obtaining the money. The day dragged
itself along; not even _War and Peace_ could outlast it, and Sylvia
wondered why she had never grasped before how much of life radiated from
lunch, the absence of which dislocated time itself. Toward six o'clock
she came to a sudden resolution, and, going out into the square, she
began to sing outside the café. Four lean dogs came and barked; a waiter
told her that the singing was not required. Somebody threw a stone at
one of the dogs and cut open its leg; whereupon the other three set upon
it, until it broke away and fled howling across the square, leaving a
trail of blood in its wake. The drinkers outside the café looked at
Sylvia over the tops of their newspapers, until she went back to the
hotel. Such a retirement would ordinarily have made her hot with shame;
but she was already hardened by the first pangs of hunger and had only a
savage contempt for the people who had thought to humiliate her; she had
not been hungry long enough to feel the pathos of a broken spirit; after
all, she had only missed her lunch.

Dinner consisted of two stale chocolate creams that were found in a
pocket of one of Queenie's jackets; even the bits of silver paper
adhering to them seemed to possess a nutritive value.

"But we cannot be going on like this," Queenie protested.

"There must be some way of raising money enough to get to Bucharest,"
Sylvia insisted. "There must be. There must be. If we really starve, the
police will send us there to avoid a death in this cursed hole of a
town."

"We must ask that gentleman to tea with us to-morrow," Queenie declared,
as she put out the light.

Want of food prevented Sylvia from sleeping, and in her overwrought
spirit those good-night words of Queenie seemed to presage the collapse
of everything.

"It shall not be. It shall not be," she vowed to herself. "I will not be
defeated by squalid circumstances in this dreary little Rumanian town.
If thirteen years ago I could sell my body to save my soul, now I can
sell my body to save the soul of another. Surely that sacrifice will
defeat futility. I had a presentiment of this situation when I was
arguing with Philip that afternoon. I warned him that nothing should
stand in my way over this girl. And nothing shall! To-morrow I will
invite this youth who is the son of the richest man in Avereshti. He
will not refuse me twenty francs for my body. If I cannot do this I am
worth no more than those trinkets that the jeweler refused to buy for
ten francs. I will do this, and accept its accomplishment as the sign
that I have fought long enough. Then I will go to Philip and tell him
what his refusal has brought about. I will _make_ him give me the
passport. But suppose that he is no longer capable of being horrified?
Suppose that my behavior of thirteen years ago has rendered him proof
against such an emotion? Oh well, we shall see. Am I light-headed? No,
no, no. On the contrary, hunger makes one clear-sighted. It must be. It
shall be. The duty of the human soul lies in such a complete, such a
reckless, such a relentless, such a victorious self-will as can only be
assuaged by self-sacrifice. This is the great paradox of life. This is
the divine egotism."

Toward dawn Sylvia slept, and woke at sunrise from dreams that were
strangely serene in contrast with the tormenting fevers of the night, to
find that Queenie was still fast asleep. The beauty of her lying there
in this lucid and golden morn was like the beauty of a flower that
blooms at daybreak in a remote garden. It was a beauty that caught at
Sylvia's heart, a beauty that could only be expressed with tears which
were silent as the dew and which, like the dew, sparkled in the daybreak
of the soul.

"It is through such tears that people have seen the fairies," she
murmured.

Sylvia half raised herself in bed, and, leaning upon her elbow, she
watched the sleeping girl so intently that it seemed as if some of
herself was passing away to Queenie. This still and virginal hour was
indeed time transmuted to the timelessness of dreams, in which absolute
love like a note of music rose quivering upon its own shed sweetness to
such an ecstasy of sustained emotion that the barest memory of it would
secure the wakeful one forever against disillusionment.

"Call it hunger or the divine vision, the result is the same," she
murmured. "I was lifted out of myself, and I take it that is the way
martyrs died for their faith. From an outsider's point of view I may be
only worthy of a foot-note in a manual of psychology; but I 'on honeydew
have fed and drunk the milk of Paradise.' Another queer thought: the
fasting saint and the drunken sinner both achieve ecstasy by subduing
the body, the one with mortification, the other with indulgence. Those
whom the gods love die young--they drink too deep and too often of
honeydew and become intoxicated even unto death. Wine must serve the man
who would live long. Perhaps I am one of those less rare spirits that
depend too much on purely material beauty; yet even in defense of so
little I can act. Some nightingales love roses: the rest of them love
other nightingales. Which do I love? Ah, whether Queenie be rose or
nightingale, what does it matter? Nobody that would not stoop to save a
wood-louse in his path can claim to love. And I will stoop as low as
hell to save this rosebud that has already been gathered and wired and
worn in a buttonhole and dropped by the roadside, but surely not yet
trodden underfoot."

Queenie woke with a bad headache, and Sylvia went down-stairs to see if
she could persuade the waiter to let her have some coffee. He was going
to refuse, but when she asked him if he would tell M. Florilor that a
visit would be welcomed that afternoon, his manner changed, and
presently he came back from an interview with the proprietor to say that
he would serve coffee at once. At the same time he brought the bill of
fare for lunch, and seemed anxious that they should choose some special
delicacy to fortify themselves against the ill effects of the day
before. There was no talk of paying for the meal, and the best wine was
indicated with that assumption of subservient greed which is common to
all good waiters.

After lunch Sylvia told Queenie that she was going out to send off the
delayed telegram to Bucharest, and left her lying down with her
pictures. Then she consulted the waiter about a room. The waiter agreed
that it would be inconvenient to receive M. Florilor in their own, and
informed her that the best room in the hotel was ready, adding that he
had ordered plenty of cakes and put flowers in the vases.

"I'll go there now," Sylvia announced. "When he comes, bring him
straight up."

The brightness of the early morning had been dimmed by a wet mist, and
the room allotted for the reception of M. Florilor, which was on the
other side of the hotel, looked out over houses covered with sodden
creepers and down into gardens of disheveled sunflowers; it was a view
that suited the mood Sylvia was in, and for a long time she stood gazing
out of the window, trying to detect beyond the immediate surroundings of
the hotel some definition of a landscape in the distance. In the light
of the morning her resolution had not presented itself as morbidly as
now; then it had appeared essentially poetic--a demonstration really of
the creative power of the human will; now, like the dejected flowers in
the gardens below, it hung limp and colorless. She turned away from the
window and sat down in a tight new armchair, the back of which seemed to
be inclosed in corsets. Everything in this room was new, and, like all
hotel rooms, it depressed one with that indeterminate bleakness which is
the property of never having been touched by the warmth of personality.
It was bleak as an abandoned shell on the beach, and stirred by nothing
save the end of the tide's ebb and flow. The waiter's attempt to give it
the significance of human life by cramming bunches of dahlias into a
pair of fluted vases only added to the desolate effect. For want of
something to do Sylvia began to arrange the flowers with a little
consideration for their native ugliness, as one tries to smarten an
untidy woman with a bad figure; but when she poured some water into a
china bowl and saw floating upon its surface the ends of burned-out
matches and cigarettes, she gave up the task. These burned-out relics of
transitory occupants seemed typical of the room's effect upon the
pensive observer. A confused procession of personalities made up its
history, and as these had cast away their burned-out cigarettes and
matches, so had they cast behind them the room where they had lodged,
preserving no memory of its existence and leaving behind not a single
emotion to vitalize the bleak impersonal shell they had thankfully
forsaken.

Yet Sylvia, waiting here for the beginning of the heartless drama that
would be wrought of her heart's blood pulsing to reinforce her will,
rejoiced in this sterility of the setting; it helped her to achieve a
similar effect in her own attitude. Just as this room had succeeded in
preserving itself from any impression of having ever been lived in by
human beings, so she, when the drama was played through, should retain
of it no trace. That in it which was real--the lust of man--should be
left behind, an ignominious burned-out thing less than a cigarette stump
at the bottom of a china bowl.

The waiter came in with a basket of cakes, the cold and sugary forms of
which were no more capable than the dahlias of imparting life to the
merciful deadness. And how dead it all was! Those red-plush curtains
eternally tied back in symmetrical hideousness--they had never lived
since the time when some starved and withered soul had sewn those
pompons along their edges one after another, pompons as numerous and
monotonous as the days of their maker. Indeed, there was not a single
piece of furniture, not an ornament nor a drapery, that was not stamped
with the hatred of its maker. There was no trace of the craftsman's joy
in his handiwork either in thread or tile or knob. There was nothing
except the insolence of profit and the dreary labor of slaves. Yet a
world stifled by such ugliness talked with distasteful surprise of men
who profited by war. With the exploitation of the herd and the sacrifice
of the individual that was called civilization what else could be
expected? Nowadays even man's lust had to be guaranteed pure and
unadulterated like his beer. Better that the whole human race should
rot on dunghills with the diseases they merited than that they should
profit from an added shame imposed upon the meanest and most miserable
tinker's drab. People were shocked at making a hundred per cent. upon a
shell to blow a German to pieces; but they regarded with equanimity the
same profit at the expense of a child's future. Wherever one looked,
there was nothing but material comfort set as the highest aim of life at
the cost of beauty, religion, love, childhood, womanhood,
virtue--everything. Then two herds met in opposition, and there was war;
the result had made everybody uncomfortable, and everybody had declared
there must never again be war. But so long as the individual submitted
to the herd, war would go on; and the most efficient herd with the
greatest will for war would succeed because it would be able to offer
greater comfort at the time and higher profits afterward. Yet the
individual had nearly always much that was admirable; the most sordid
profiteer possessed a marvelous energy and perception that might be
turned to good, if he could but realize that virtue is the true egotism
and that vice is only a distorted altruism.

"I've always hated ants and loathed bees," Sylvia cried. "And in certain
aspects the human race makes one shudder with that sense of co-operative
effort running over one which I believe is called formication."

The waiter came in to announce M. Florilor's arrival.

"Now we get the individual at his worst just when I've been backing him
against the herd. This is formication spelled with an 'n.'"

Stefan Florilor resembled a figure in a picture by Guido Reni. A
superficial glance would have established him as a singularly handsome,
well-built, robust, and attractive young man; a closer regard showed
that his good looks owed too much to soft and feminine contours, that
the robustness of his frame was only the outward form of strength with
all the curves but nothing of the hardness of muscle, and that his eyes
flashed not as the mirrors of an inward fire, but with liquid gleams of
sensuous impressions caught from outside. He really was extremely like
one of Guido Reni's triumphant and ladylike archangels.

They talked in French, a language that Florilor spoke without
distinction, but with a pothouse fluency--no doubt much as one of Guido
Reni's archangels might have picked it up from one of Guido Reni's
devils.

"What a fatally seductive language it is!" Sylvia exclaimed at last,
when she had complimented him as he evidently expected to be
complimented upon his ease. "Whenever I hear a tea-table conversation in
French I suspect every one of being a poet or a philosopher: whenever I
read a French poet I want to ask him if he likes his tea strong or
weak."

"Your friend is English also?" Florilor inquired.

He took advantage of the ethnical turn in the conversation to express
his own interest in a problem of nationality.

"Yes, she is English."

"And no doubt she will be coming down soon?"

"She's not coming down. She has a headache."

"But perhaps she will be well enough to dine this evening with me?"

"No, I don't think she will be well enough," said Sylvia.

The young man's face clouded with the disappointment; his features
seemed to thicken, so much did their fineness owe to the vitality of
sensual anticipation.

"Perhaps to-morrow, then?"

"No, I don't think she will ever be well enough," Sylvia continued. Then
abruptly she put her will to the jump and cleared it breathlessly.
"You'll have to make the best of me as a substitute."

Afterward when the reality that stood at the back of this scene had died
away Sylvia used to laugh at the remembrance of the alarm in Florilor's
expression when she made this announcement. She must have made it in a
way so utterly different from any solicitation that he had ever known.
At the moment she was absurdly positive that she had offered herself to
him with as much freedom and as much allurement as his experience was
able to conjecture in a woman. When, therefore, he showed by his temper
that he had no wish to accept the offer, it never struck her that, even
had he felt the least desire, her manner of encouragement would have
frozen it. A secondary emotion was one of swift pride in the detachment
of her position, which was brought home to her by the complete absence
of any chagrin--such as almost every woman would have felt--at the
obvious dismay caused by her proposal to substitute herself for her
friend.

"I'm afraid I must go. I'm busy," he muttered.

"But you haven't had any cake," Sylvia protested.

"_Vous vous fichez de moi_," he growled. "_Vous m'avez posé un sale
lapin._"

He looked like a greedy boy, a plump spoiled child that has been
deprived of a promised treat.

"What did she come here for," he demanded, "if she's not prepared to
behave like any other girl? You can tell her from me that finer
girls--girls in Paris--have been glad enough to be friends with me."

"Caprice and mystery are the prerogatives of woman," Sylvia said.

"I'm glad she can afford to be capricious when she has not enough money
to pay for her food."

"I'm not going to argue with you about your behavior, though I could say
a good deal about it. At present I can't be as rude as I should like.
You see, you've just paid me the compliment of declining to accept the
offer of myself. The fact that either I am sufficiently inhuman or that
you are too bestial for the notion of any intercourse between us leaves
me with a real hope in my heart that there is a difference between you
and me. You've no idea of the lowering effect, nay more, of the absolute
despair it would cast over my view of life, had I to regard you as
belonging to the same natural order as myself. It would involve belief
in the universal depravity of man."

"_Ah, vous m'emmerdez!_" he shouted, as he ran from the room. Sylvia
cried after him to remember the fate of the Gadarene shrine and to avoid
going down-stairs too fast. Then to herself she added:

"Ecstasies and dreams of self-abnegation! What are they beside the
pleasure of conflict face to face? The pleasure would have been keener,
though, if I could have hurt him physically."

In the first elation of escaping from the fulfilment of her intention
Sylvia overlooked all the consequences involved in Florilor's
withdrawal. Soon in the stillness shed by this bleak room, in the sight
of the frozen cakes upon the table, in the creeping obscurity of the
afternoon, she was more sharply aware than before of the future, aware
of it not as a vague and faintly disturbing horizon too far away still
to affect anything except her moods of depression, but as the immediate
future in the shape of a chasm at her feet, a future so impassable that
she could scarcely think of it in other terms than those of space. It
had positively lost the nebulous outlines of time and acquired in their
stead the sharp materialism of hostile space. The future! Calculations
of how to bridge or leap this gap went whirling through Sylvia's brain,
calculations that even included projects of fantastic violence, but
never one that envisaged the surrender of a single scruple about
Queenie. The resolve she had made that morning, however its practical
effect seemed to have been nullified by Florilor's rejection of her
sacrifice, had woven each separate strand of her thought and emotion so
tightly round the steel wire of her will that nothing could have snapped
the result. There was not a bone in her body, not a nerve nor a
corpuscle, that did not thrill to the command of her will and wait upon
its fresh intention with a loyalty that must endow it with an invincible
tenacity of purpose.

The sense of an omnipotent force existing in herself was so strong that
when Sylvia saw a golden ten-franc piece lying in the very middle of the
fiddle-backed armchair on which Florilor had been sitting, she had for a
moment the illusion of having created the coin out of air by the alchemy
of her own will.

"Many miracles have deserved the name less than this," she murmured,
picking up the piece of gold. For the second time in her life she was
able to enjoy the sensation of illimitable wealth; by a curious
coincidence the sum had been the same on both occasions. She preened her
nail along the figured edge, taking delight in the faint luxurious
vibration.

"Misers may get very near to Paradise by fingering their gold," she
thought. "But the fingering of gold preparatory to spending it is
Paradise indeed."

She went back to Queenie, clasping the coin so tightly that even when
she had put it in her purse it still seemed to be resting in her palm.

"Will you be leaving me here?" Queenie exclaimed, in dismay, when she
heard of Sylvia's plan for going to Bucharest to-morrow morning and
interviewing Philip.

"There's not enough money to take us both there, but I shall come back
to-morrow evening; and then we'll flaunt our wealth in the faces of
these brutes here."

"But I shall be so hungry to-morrow," Queenie complained.

"Fool that I am," Sylvia cried. "The cakes!"

She rushed away and reached the other room a moment before the waiter
arrived with his tray.

"These cakes belong to me," she proclaimed, snatching up the china
basket and hugging it to her breast.

The waiter protested that they had not been paid for; but she swept him
and his remonstrances aside, and passed out triumphantly into the
corridor, where the proprietor of the hotel, a short, greasy man, began
to abuse her for the way she had treated Florilor.

"_Va-t-en_," she said, scornfully.

"_Quoi? Quoi ditez? Moi bâton? Non! Vous bâton! Comprenez?_"

He was in such a rage at the idea of Sylvia's threatening him with a
stick, which was the way he understood her French, that he began to
dribble; all his words were drowned in a foam of saliva, and the only
way he could express his opinion of her behavior was by rapid
expectoration. Again Sylvia tried to pass him in the narrow corridor,
instinctively holding up the cakes beyond his reach. The proprietor
evidently thought she was going to bring down the basket upon his head,
and in an access of fear and fury he managed to knock it out of her
hands.

"Those cakes are mine," Sylvia really screamed. She felt like a cat
defending her kittens when she plunged down upon the floor to pick them
up. The proprietor jumped right over her, stamping upon the cakes and
the pieces of broken china and grinding them underfoot into the carpet
until it looked like a pavement of broken mosaics. Sylvia completely
lost her temper at the sight of the destruction of her dinner; and when
the proprietor trod upon her hand in the course of his violence she
picked up the broken handle of the basket and jabbed his instep, which
made him yell so loudly that all the hidden population of the kitchens
came out like disturbed animals, holding in their hands the implements
of the tasks upon which they had been engaged.

"_Vous payez! Vous payez tout! Oui, oui, vous payez_!" the proprietor
shouted.

The intensity of his anger made his veins swell and his nose bleed, and,
not being able to find a handkerchief, he began to bellow for the
attentions of his staff. This seemed an appropriate moment for the
waiter to get himself back into his master's good graces, and with a
towel in one hand and a chamber-pot in the other he came running out of
the room where he had been hiding. At the sight of more china the
proprietor uttered a stupendous Rumanian oath and kicked the pot out of
the waiter's hand with such force that a piece of it flew up and cut his
cheek. Sylvia left a momentarily increasing concourse of servants
chattering round their master and the man, each of whom was stanching
blood with his own end of the towel they held between them: they were
all shoveling aside bits of china while they talked, so that they seemed
like noisy hens scratching in a garden.

Queenie was standing with big, frightened eyes when Sylvia got back to
their room.

"Whatever was happening?"

"An argument over our dinner," Sylvia laughed.

Then suddenly she began to cry, because at such a moment the loss of the
cakes was truly a disaster and the thought of Queenie alone without food
waiting here for her to return from Bucharest was too much after the
strain of the afternoon. She caught the child to her heart and told the
story of what had happened with Florilor.

"Now do you understand?" she asked, fiercely. "Now do you understand how
much I want you never--but never, never again--even so much as to think
of the possibility of selling yourself to a man? You must always
remember, when the temptation comes, what I was ready to do for you to
prevent such a horror. You must always believe that I am your friend and
that if the war goes on for twenty years I will never leave you. You
_shall_ come back to England with me. With the money that I'm going to
borrow in Bucharest we'll get as far as Greece, anyway. But whatever
happens, I will never leave you, child, because I bear on my heart the
stigmata of what I was ready to do for you."

"I was not understanding much of what you are talking," Queenie sighed.

"There is only one thing to understand--that I love you. You see this
golden bag? The man who gave it to me left inside it a part of his soul;
and if he has been killed, if he is lying at this moment a dreadful and
disfigured corpse, what does it matter? He lives forever with me here.
He walks beside me always, because he obeyed the instinct of pure love.
For you I was ready to do an action to account for which, when I search
deep down into myself, I can find no motive but love. You must remember
that and let the memory of that walk beside you always. Let me go on
talking to you. You need not understand anything except that I love you
and that I must not lose you. I shall be thinking of you to-morrow when
I'm in Bucharest, and I shall eat nothing all day, because I could not
eat while you are waiting here hungry. It won't be for long. I shall be
back to-morrow night with money. You don't mind my leaving you? And
promise me, promise me that you won't unlock your door for a moment.
Don't let that horrible youth have his way when I'm gone for the sake of
a lunch. You won't, will you? Promise me, promise me."

"Of course I would never do anything with him," Queenie said.

Sylvia held up the ten-franc piece.

"Isn't it a wonderful little coin?" she laughed. "It will take us so far
from here. Once when I was a very small girl I found just such another."

"You were being a small girl long ago," Queenie exclaimed. "Fancy! I was
always forgetting that anybody else except me was ever being small."

"What a lonely world she lives in," Sylvia thought. "She is conscious of
nothing but herself, which is what makes her desire to be English such a
tragedy, because she is feeling all the time that she has no real
existence. She is like a ghost haunting the earth with incommunicable
desires."

Sylvia passed away the supperless evening for Queenie by telling her
stories about her own childhood, trying to instil into her some
apprehension of the continuity of existence, trying to populate the
great voids stretching between her thoughts that so terrified her with
the idea of being lost. Queenie really had no conception of her own
actuality, so that at times she became positively a doll, dependent upon
the imagination of another for her very life. In the present stage of
her development she might be the plaything of men without suffering; but
Sylvia was afraid that if she again exposed her to the liability by
deserting her at this point, Queenie might one day suddenly wake up to a
sense of identity and find herself at the moment in a brothel. People
always urged in defense of caging birds that if they were caged from the
nest they did not suffer. Yet it was hard to imagine anything more
lamentable than the celestial dreams of a lark that never had flown.
Sylvia knew that at least she had been able to frame clearly the fear
she had for Queenie; it lent new strength to her purpose. The horror of
the brothel had become an obsession ever since earlier in the year she
had passed by a vast and gloomy building which seemed a prison, but
which she had been told was the recognized pleasure-house of soldiers.
In this building behind high walls were two hundred women, most of whom
in a Catholic country would have been cherished as penitents by nuns.
Instead of that they were doomed to expiate their first fault by serving
the state and slaking the lust of soldiers at the rate of a franc or a
franc and a half. These women were fed by the state; they were examined
daily by state doctors; everybody agreed that such forethought by the
state was laudable. People who protested against such a debasement of
womanhood were regarded as sentimentalists: so were people who believed
in hell.

"This Promethean morality that enchains the world and sets its
bureaucratic eagle to gnaw the vitals of humanity," Sylvia cried.
"Prometheus himself was surely only another personification of Satan,
and this is his infernal revenge for what he suffered in the Caucasus.
The future of the race! Or is my point of view distorted and am I wrong
in mocking at the future of the majority? No, no, it cannot be right to
secure the many by debasing the few. Am I being Promethean myself in
trying to keep hold of you, Queenie? You came back into my life at such
a moment that I feel as if you were a part of myself. Yet I can't help
divining that there's a weakness in my logic somewhere."

The next morning Sylvia went to Bucharest. She did not remember until
she was in the train that it was Sunday; but the passport-office was
open and Mr. Mathers was at work as usual. She asked if Mr. Iredale was
too busy to see her.

"Mr. Iredale?" the clerk repeated. "I'm sorry to say that Mr. Iredale's
dead."

Sylvia stared at him; for a moment the words had no more meaning than a
conventional excuse to unwelcome visitors.

"But how can he be dead?" she exclaimed.

"I'm sorry to say that he died very suddenly. In fact, he was taken ill
almost immediately after you were here last. It was a stroke. He never
recovered consciousness. Mr. Abernethy is in charge temporarily. If
you're anxious about your visa, I'm sure Mr. Abernethy will do
everything in his power--subject, of course, to the regulations. Oh,
certainly, yes, everything in his power."

Mr. Mathers tried by the tone of his voice to convey that, though his
late chief was dead, he could not forget the length of the interview he
had granted to Sylvia and that the present rulers of the office would
pay a tribute to the dead by treating her with equal condescension.

"No, I wanted to see Mr. Iredale privately."

The clerk sighed his sympathy with her position in face of the
unattainable.

"Perhaps I shall be wanting a visa presently," she added.

The clerk brightened. Sylvia fancied that in the remote and happy days
before the war he must have had experience of the counter. He had
offered her the prospect of obtaining a visa instead of seeing Philip
again much as a shop assistant might offer one shade of ribbon in the
place of another no longer in stock.

Sylvia left the passport-office and, without paying any heed in what
direction she walked, she came to the Cimisgiu Gardens and sat down upon
a seat beside the ornamental lake. It was a hot morning, and there was
enough mist in the atmosphere to blur the outlines of material objects
and to set upon the buildings of the city a charm of distance that was
as near as Bucharest ever approximated to the mellowing of time. The
shock of the news that she had just heard, coming on top of the fatigue
caused by her journey without even a cup of coffee to sustain her body,
blurred the outlines of her mental attitude and made her glad of the
fainting landscape that accorded with her mood and did not jar upon her
with the turmoil of a world insistently, almost wantonly alive.

So Philip was dead. Sylvia tried to imagine how the news of his death
would have affected her, if he had not lately re-entered her life. Poor
Philip! Death out here seemed to crown the pathos of his position, and
she wished that she had not parted from him so abruptly, that she had
not tried so hard to make him aware of his incongruity in Bucharest, and
now, most of all, that she had let him talk, as he had wanted to talk,
about their life together. If she had only known that he was near to
death she should have told him of her gratitude for much that he had
done for her; had he lived to hear the request that she had been going
to make him this morning, she was sure that he would have taken pleasure
in his ability to be of use once more. She had been wrong to blame him
for his attitude toward Queenie. After all, his experiment with herself
had not encouraged him to make other experiments in the direction of
obeying impulses that took him off the lines he had laid down for his
progress through life. She was really the last person who should have
asked him to forgo another convention in favor of a girl like Queenie.
How had he been paid for marrying a child whom he had met casually in a
London cemetery? Very ill, he might consider. Poor Philip! Early next
month it would be the fifteenth anniversary of their marriage. He had
never known how to manage her; yet how preposterous it should have been
to expect anything else. The more Sylvia meditated upon their marriage
the more she felt inclined to blame herself for its collapse; and in her
present state of weakness the thought that it was now forever too late
to tell Philip how sorry she was fretted her with the poignancy of
missed opportunity. Beneath that weight of pedagogic ashes there had
always been the glow of humanity; if only she could have fanned it to a
flame before she left Bucharest by giving him the chance of feeling that
he was helping her! Yet she had regarded the favor she was about to ask
as such a humiliation that almost she had been inclined to put it on the
same level of self-sacrifice as the offer of herself to that Rumanian
youth. Now that she had failed with both her self-imposed resolves, how
easy it was to see the difference in their degree! Her appeal to Philip
would have been the just payment she owed him for that letter she wrote
when she ran away; it would have washed out that callow piece of
cruelty. But Philip was dead, and the relation between them must remain
eternally unadjusted.

In meditating upon her married life and in conjuring scenes that had
long been tossed aside into the lumber-room of imagination, Sylvia's
spirit wandered again in the green English country and forgot its exile.
The warmth and mystery of the autumnal air drowsed all urgency with
dreams of the past; for a minute or two she actually slept. She was soon
disturbed by the voices of passing children, and she woke up with a
shiver to the imperative and tormenting facts of the present--to the
complete lack of money, to the thought of Queenie waiting hungry in
Avereshti, and to Rumania clouding with the fog of war.

"What on earth am I going to do?" she murmured. "I must sell my bag."

The decision seemed to be made from without; it was like the voice of a
wraith that had long been waiting incapable of speech, and involuntarily
she turned round as if she could catch the spirit in the act of
interfering with her affairs.

"Were I a natural liar, I should vow it was a ghost and frame the
episode of Philip's death with a supernatural decoration. How many
people who have penetrated to the ultimate confines of themselves have
preferred to perceive the supernatural and in doing so destroyed the
whole value of their discovery! Yet lying is the first qualification of
every explorer."

But setting aside considerations of the subconscious self, Sylvia was
for a while horrified at the damnable clarity with which her course of
action presented itself. There was no possible argument against selling
the bag, and yet to sell it would demand a greater sacrifice than
borrowing money from Philip or selling herself to Florilor. The fact
that during all this time of strain the idea had never suggested itself
before showed to what depths of her being it had been necessary to
pierce before she could contemplate the action. Her feeling for the bag
far transcended anything in the nature of sentiment; without blasphemy
she could affirm that she would as soon have attributed her sense of God
in the sacrifice of the Mass to sentiment. But without incurring an
imputation of idolatry by such a comparison she could at least award the
bag as much value as devout women awarded a wedding-ring; for this
golden bag positively was the outward sign that she had affirmed her
belief in human love. In whatever tirades she might indulge against the
natural depravity of man when confronted by the evidence of it so
repeatedly as lately she had been, this bag was a continual reminder of
his potential nobility. Certainly a critic of her extravagant reverence
might urge that the value of the bag was created by the man who gave it,
and that any transference of such an emotion to a natural object was
nothing but a surrender to sentiment which involved her in the common
fault of seeking to express the eternal in terms of the temporal. But
certain acts of worship lay outside the destructive logic of an unmoved
critic; the circumstances in which the gift had been made were
exceptional and her attitude toward it must remain equally exceptional.
And now it must go; its talismanic and sacramental power must rest
unappreciated in the hands of another. Yet in selling the bag was she
not giving final and practical expression to the impulse of the donor?
He had told her, when she had protested against his generosity, that
before he was lost in the war his money would be better spent in giving
some one something that was desired than in gambling it all away.
Equally now would he not say to her that the money were better spent in
helping a Queenie than in serving as a symbol rather than as an
instrument of love? Or was the intrusion of Queenie into this intimacy
of personal communion a kind of sacrilege? The soldier had never
intended the bag to acquire any redemptive signification; he had merely
chosen Sylvia by chance as the vehicle of one of those acts of sacred
egotism which illuminate the divine purpose. It was not to be supposed
that the woman with the cruse of ointment was actuated by anything
except self-expression, which was precisely what gave her impulse value
as an act of worship. The commonplace and utilitarian point of view on
that occasion was perfectly expressed by Judas.

"And my own point of view about Queenie is not in the least altruistic.
I want to give her something of which I have more than my fair share. I
am burdened with an overflowing sense of existence. I have attached
Queenie to myself and assumed a responsibility for her in exactly the
same way as if I had brought a child into the world. There is no false
redemptionism about the mother's relation to her child: there is merely
a passion to bequeath to the child the sum of her own experience. My
feeling about Queenie partakes of the passionate guardianship with
which a loose woman so often shields her child. Certainly I must sell
the bag. Who knows what chain of good may not weave itself from that
soldier's action? To me he gave an imperishable store of love at the
very moment when without the assurance of love my faith must have
withered. I, in turn, give all that I can give to balance Queenie's life
in the way I think it should be balanced. The next purchaser of the bag
may, I should like to think without superstition, inherit with it a
sacramental of love that will carry on the influence. And the one who
first gave it to me? That almond-eyed soldier swept like a grain of
chaff before the winnowing-fan of war? At this very moment perhaps the
bullet has struck him. He has fallen. His company presses forward or is
pressed back. He will lie rotting for days between earth and sky, and
when at last they come to bury him they will laugh at the poor scarecrow
that was a man. They will speculate neither whence he came nor who may
weep for him; but his reward will be in his handiwork, for he will have
shown love to a woman and he will have died for his country; such men,
like stars, may light a very little of the world's darkness, but they
proclaim the mysteries of God."

With all her conviction that she was right in selling the bag, it was
with a heavy heart that Sylvia left the Cimisgiu Gardens to seek a
jeweler's shop; when she found that all the shops were shut except those
open for the incidental amusements of the Sunday holiday, she nearly
abandoned in relief the idea of selling the bag in order to go back to
Avereshti and trust to fate for a way out of her difficulties. On
reflection, however, she admitted the levity of such behavior, if she
wished to regard her struggle as worth anything at all, and she sharply
brought herself back to the gravity of the position by reminding herself
that it was she who had lost the five hundred francs, a piece of
carelessness that was the occasion, if not the cause, of what had
happened afterward. If anything was to be left to hazard, it must be
Queenie to-night alone in that hotel; besides, if further argument were
necessary, there was not enough change from the ten francs to get back.
Sylvia had promised Queenie that she would not eat until she saw her
again, but she had not counted upon the effect of this long day, to be
followed by another long day to-morrow. How much money had she? Three
francs twenty-five. Oh, she must eat; and she must also send a telegram
to Queenie! Otherwise the child might do anything. But she _must_ eat;
and suddenly she found herself sitting at a table outside a café, with a
waiter standing by on tiptoe for her commands. The coffee tasted
incredibly delicious, but the moment she had finished it she was
overcome by a sensation of nausea and pierced by remorse for her
weakness in giving way. She left the café and went to the post-office,
where she spent all that was left of her money in a long telegram of
exhortation and encouragement to Queenie.

The problem of how to pass the rest of the day weighed upon her. She did
not want to meet any of the girls at the Trianon; she did not want to
meet anybody she knew until she could meet him with money in her pocket.
To-night she would stay at their old hotel in Bucharest; she would say
that she had missed the train back to Avereshti, if they wondered at the
absence of luggage. Oh, but what did it matter if they did wonder? It
was her sensitiveness to such trifles as these that brought home to
Sylvia how much the strain of the last week had told upon her. Walking
aimlessly along, she found herself near the little mission church and
turned aside to enter it. At such an early hour of the afternoon the
church was empty, and the incense of the morning Mass was still pungent.
There was the same sort of atmosphere that exists in a theater between a
matinée and an evening performance; the emotion of the departed
worshipers was mingled with the expectation of more worshipers to come.
Sylvia sat contemplating the images and wondering about the appeal they
could make. She tried to put herself in the position of the humble and
faithful soul that could derive consolation and help from praying before
that tawdry image of the Sacred Heart. She wished that she could be
given the mentality of a poor Italian girl whose sense of awe was so
easily satisfied and who could behold those flames of cheap gold paint
around the Heart burning like the eyes of Seraphim.

"Yet, after all," she thought, "are we superior people, who suppose that
such representations hurt the majesty of God, any nearer to Him with our
equally pretentious theories of His manifestation? What in the ultimate
sum of this world's history, when the world itself hangs in the sky like
a poor burned-out moon, will mark the difference between the great
philosopher with his words and the most degraded savage with his idols?
And am I with my perception of God's love in a golden bag less
hopelessly material than the poor Italian girl who bows before that
painted heart?"

The influence of the church began to penetrate Sylvia's mind with a
tranquilizing assurance of continuity, or rather with the assurance of
silent and universal forces undisturbed by war. The sense of the
individual's extinction in the strife of herd with herd had been bound
to affect her very deeply, coming, as it did, at a time when she had
once again challenged life as an individual by refusing any co-operation
with the past.

"The worst of feeling regenerated," she thought, "is that such an
emotion or condition of mind implies the destruction of all former
experience. Of course, former experience must still produce its effect
unconsciously; but one is too sensible of trying to bring the past into
positively the same purified state as the present. When I was thinking
about Philip this morning and reliving bygone moments, I was all the
time applying to them standards which I have only possessed for about a
year. Certainly I perceive that what I call my regeneration must be the
fruit of past experience--otherwise the description would be
meaningless--but it is the fruit of individual experience ripening at
the very moment when individual experience counts for less than it has
ever counted since the beginning of the world. Had I always been a
social and political animal the idea of the war would not have preyed on
my mind as it does; I should have been educated up to the point of
expecting it. I remember when I was first told in the Petrograd hospital
that a war had broken out, what a trifling impression the news made
compared with my own discovery of the change in myself. Gradually during
this past year I have found at every turn my new progress barred by the
war. My individual efforts perpetually shrink into insignificance before
the war, and I am beginning to perceive, unless I can in some way fall
into step with the rest of mankind, that what I considered progress is
really the retreat of my personality along a disused bypath where I am
expending my energy in cutting away briers that were better left alone,
at any rate, at such a moment in history. Certainly one of the effects
of an ordered religion is to restore the individual to the broad paths
along which mankind is marching. An ordered religion is equally opposed
either to short cuts or to cul-de-sacs, or to what by their
impenetrability to the individual are equivalent to cul-de-sacs. My
first instinct about Queenie was certainly right when I was anxious to
intrust her to religion rather than to rely upon my personal influence.
I think I must have lacked conviction in the way I approached the
subject. I must have been timid and self-conscious; and the skeptical
side of me that has just been wondering about the appeal of that image
of the Sacred Heart may have defeated my purpose without my noticing its
intrusion. I was all the time like a grown-up person who plays with
children in order to get pleasure from their enjoyment rather than from
his own.

"Yes, sitting here in this tawdry little church, I am beginning to make
a few discoveries. I must positively lose the slightest consciousness of
being superior to Queenie in any way whatsoever. Equally, I must get
over the slightest consciousness of being superior to any of the
worshipers in this church. I must get over the habit of being injured by
the monstrousness of this war until I have been personally injured by it
in the course of sharing its woes with the rest of mankind. I have got
to find an individualism that while it abates nothing of its
unwillingness to be injured by the state is simultaneously always
careful in its turn never to injure or impede the state, which from the
individual's point of view must be regarded not as a state, but as
another individual. Presumably the chief function of an ordered religion
is by acting through the individual to apply the sum of mankind's faith,
hope, and love under the guidance of the Holy Ghost to the fulfilment of
the divine purpose. In such a way the self-perfection of the individual
will create the self-perfection of the state, and, oh, what a long time
it will take! God is a great conservative; yet when He was incarnate He
was a great radical. I wonder if I had ever had a real logical training,
or indeed any formal education at all, whether I should be tossed about,
as I am, from one paradox to another. The Church was, significantly
enough, built upon Peter, not upon John nor upon Thomas; it was founded
upon the most human of the apostles. If one might admit in God what in
men would be called an afterthought, it might be permissible to look
upon Paul as an afterthought to leaven some of the ponderousness of
Peter's humanity. Anyway, the point is that the paradoxes began in the
very beginning, and it's quite obvious that I'm not going to help myself
or anybody else by exposing myself to them rather than to the mighty
moral, intellectual, and spiritual fabric into which they have all been
absorbed or by which they have all been rejected."

During Sylvia's meditation the church had gradually filled with
worshipers to receive the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Generally, that strangely wistful concession to the pathetic side of
human nature had not made a deep appeal to Sylvia's instinct for
worship; but this afternoon the bravery of self had fallen from her. For
the first time she felt in all its force--not merely apprehending it as
a vague discomfort--the utter desolation of the soul without God. In
such a state of mind faith shrank to infatuate speculation, hope swelled
to arrogance, and even love shivered in a chill and viewless futility,
until the mystical sympathy of other souls, the humblest of whom was a
secret only known to God, led her to identify herself with them and to
cry with them:

    _"O salutaris Hostia,_
     _Quæ cœli pandis ostium:_
     _Bella premunt hostilia,_
     _Da robur, fer, auxilium."_

They were very poor people, these Albanians and Italians who knelt round
her in this church; and Sylvia bowed before the thought that all over
the world in all the warring nations somewhere about this hour poor
people were crying out to God the same words in the same grave Latin.
The helplessness of humanity raged through her like a strong wind, and
her self-reliance became as the dust that was scattered before it. When
the priest held the monstrance aloft, and gave the Benediction it seemed
that the wind died away; upon her soul the company of God was shed like
a gentle rain, which left behind it faith blossoming like a flower, and
hope singing like a bird, and above them both love shining like a sun.

Sylvia went out of the church that afternoon with a sense of having been
personally comforted; she was intensely aware of having made more
spiritual progress in the last hour than in all the years that had gone
by since the first revelation of God.

"Without Him I am nothing, I am nothing, I am nothing," she murmured.

That evening--an evening that she had dreaded indescribably--she sat by
the window of her bedroom, happier than she could remember that she had
ever been; when the chambermaid, on her way to bed, came to ask her if
she wanted anything, Sylvia nearly kissed her in order that perhaps so
she might express a little of her love toward all those who in this
world serve.

"For such a girl, with the eyes of a nymph, to be serving you, and for
you to have presumed to consider yourself above all service that did not
gratify your egotism," she exclaimed aloud to her reflection in the
glass.

The next morning Sylvia sold her golden bag for fifteen hundred francs.
On the way to the station she felt very faint, and finding, when she
arrived, that she would have to wait an hour for the train to Avereshti,
she drank some coffee. She told herself that it was only the weakness
caused by fasting which made her regard so seriously this second breach
of her promise to Queenie; nevertheless, nothing could put out of her
head the superstitious dread that the surrender caused her. The drinking
of coffee while her friend was still hungry took on a significance quite
out of proportion to what it actually possessed; she felt like the
heroine of a fairy story who disobeys the warnings of her fairy
godmother. While she was waiting in the _salle d'attente_ and
reproaching herself for what she had done, she heard a familiar voice
behind her, and, looking round, saw Philidor in uniform. He was
traveling to Bralatz on military duty, and she was glad of his company
as far as Avereshti, for all sorts of fears about what might have
happened to Queenie during her absence were assailing her fancy.
Philidor was surprised to find her still in Rumania and spoke seriously
to her about the necessity of leaving at once if she did not want to
travel home by Russia.

"You must get away. No one knows what may happen in the Balkans
presently. You must get within sight of the sea. You English are lost
away from the sea. I assure you that Bulgaria will come in soon. There
is no doubt of it. I cannot understand the madness of your English
politicians in making speeches to deceive everybody that the
mobilization is in self-defense. It is in self-defense, but not on the
side of the Entente. You have been poisoned in England by the criminal
stupidity of the Englishmen who come out here and see reflected in the
eyes of the Bulgarian peasant their own liberal ideals. It is a
tradition inherited from your Gladstone. To us out here such density of
vision is incomprehensible. The Bulgarian is the Prussian of the
Balkans; he is a product of uncompromising materialism. One of your
chief Bulgarian propagandists was shot in the jaw the other day; it was
a good place to wound him, but it's a pity he wasn't hit there before he
did so much harm with its activities. We in Rumania were blamed by
idealistic politicians for the way we stabbed Bulgaria in the back in
1913; you might as well blame a man for shooting at a slightly injured
wild beast. You have always been too sporting in England, as you say;
and not even war with Germany seems to have cured you of it. The
Austrians are preparing to invade Serbia, and this time there will be no
mistake. Get out of Rumania and get through Bulgaria before the carnage
begins."

The conviction with which he spoke gave Sylvia a thrill; for the first
time the active side of the war seemed to be approaching her.

"And what is Rumania going to do?" she asked.

The young officer made a gesture of bewilderment.

"Who knows? Who knows? It will be a struggle between sentiment and
expediency. I wish that the cry of the rights of small nations was not
being so loudly shouted by the big nations. Battle-cries are apt to die
down when the battle is over. An idea that presents itself chiefly as a
weapon of offense has little vitality; ideas, which are abstractions of
liberty, do not like to be the slaves of other ideas. There is one idea
in the world at this moment which overshadows all the rest--the idea of
victory: the idea of the rights of small nations does not stand much
chance against that. God fights on the side of the big battalions.
Perhaps I'm too pessimistic. We shall see what happens in Serbia. But to
put aside ideas for the moment, don't waste time in following my advice.
You must leave Rumania now, if you want to leave at all. And I do not
recommend you to stay. A woman like you following your profession should
be in her own country in times of war. You are too much exposed to the
malice of any private person, and in war justice, like everything else,
is only regarded as a contribution to military efficiency."

"You mean I might be denounced as a spy?"

"Anybody without protection may be denounced as a spy. Probably nothing
would follow from it except expulsion, but expulsion would be
unpleasant."

"I wonder what is the fundamental reason for spy-mania," said Sylvia.
"Is it due to cheap romanticism or a universal sense of guilt? Or is it
the opportunity for the first time to give effect to vulgar gossip? I
think it's the last, probably. It must be very unpleasant to glorify the
meanest vice with the inspiration of a patriotic impulse."

"I said that justice was subordinated to military efficiency."

"Yes, and even slander has a temporary commission and is dressed up in a
romantic uniform and armed with anonymous letters. Bullets are not the
only things with long noses."

"I suppose you can get away? You have money?" Philidor asked.

"Oh, I'm rich," she declared.

"And your little friend, how is she?"

"She's waiting for me at Avereshti."

Sylvia gave an account of her adventures, and Philidor shook his head.

"But it has all ended satisfactorily," he said.

"I hope so."

"It only shows how right I was to warn you of the spy danger--the double
danger of being made the victim of a genuine agent and the risk of a
frivolous accusation. You may be sure that now, when you go back to the
hotel with money, you will be accused everywhere of being a spy. If you
have any trouble telegraph to me at Bralatz. Here's my address."

"And here's Avereshti," Sylvia said. "Good-by and good luck. _Et vive la
Roumanie!_"

She waved her hand to him and walked quickly from the station to the
hotel. It was good to see the waiter on the threshold and to be
conscious of being able to rule him with the prospect of a tip. How
second-rate the hotel looked, with money in one's pocket! How
obsequiously it seemed to beg one's patronage! There was not a single
window that did not have the air of cringing to the new arrival.

"Lunch for two at once," Sylvia cried, flinging him a twenty-franc note.

"For two?" the waiter repeated.

"For myself and Mademoiselle Walters--my friend up-stairs," she added,
when the waiter stared first at her and then at the money. "What's the
matter? Is she ill? _Crétin_, if she's ill you and your master shall
pay."

"The lady who was staying here with _madame_ left this morning with a
gentleman."

"_Crapule, tu mens!_"

"Madame may look for herself. The room is empty."

Sylvia caught the waiter by the throat and shook him.

"You lie! You lie! Confess that you are lying. She was starved by you.
She has died, and you are pretending that she has gone away."

She threw the waiter from her and ran up-stairs. Her own luggage was
still in the room; of Queenie's nothing remained except a few pieces of
pink tissue-paper trembling faintly in the draught. Sylvia rang the
bell, but before any one could answer her summons she had fainted.

When she came to herself her first action--an action that seemed, when
afterward she thought about it, to mark well the depths of her
disillusionment--was to feel for her money lest she might have been
robbed during her unconsciousness. The wad of notes had not shrunk; the
waiter was looking at her with all the sympathy that could be bought for
twenty francs; a blowsy chambermaid, dragged for the operation from a
coal-cellar, to judge by her appearance, was sprinkling water over her.

"What was the man like?" she murmured.

The waiter bustled forward.

"A tall gentleman. He left no name. He said he brought a message. He
paid a few little items on the bill that were not paid by _madame_. They
took the train for Bucharest. _Mademoiselle_ was looking ill."

Sylvia mustered all that will of hers, which lately had been tried
hardly enough, to obliterate Queenie and everything that concerned
Queenie from her consciousness. She fought down each superstitious
reproach for not having kept her word by drinking the coffee in
Bucharest: she drove forth from her mind every speculation about
Queenie's future: she dried up every regret for any carelessness in the
past.

"Clear away all this paper, please," she told the chambermaid; then she
asked the waiter for the menu.

He dusted the grimy card and handed it to her.

"_J'ai tellement faim_," said Sylvia, "_que je saurais manger même toi
sans beurre_."

The waiter inclined his head respectfully, as if he would intimate his
willingness to be eaten; but he tempered his assent with a smile to show
that he was sensible that the sacrifice would not be exacted.

"And the wine?" he asked.

She chose half a bottle of the best native wine; and the waiter hurried
away like a lame rook.

After lunch Sylvia carefully packed her things and put all her
professional dresses away at the bottom of her large trunk. In the
course of packing, the golden shawl that contained the records of her
ancestry was left out of the trunk by accident, and she put it in the
valise, which so far on her journeys she had always managed to keep with
her. Philidor's solemn warning about the political situation in the
Balkans had made an impression, and, thinking it was possible that she
might have to abandon her trunk at any moment, she was glad of the
oversight that had led her to making this change; though if she had been
asked to give a reason for paying any heed to the shawl now she would
have found it difficult. When she had finished her packing she sat down
and wrote a letter to Olive.

     HOTEL MOLDAVIA, AVERESHTI, _September 27, 1915_.

     MY DARLING OLIVE,--This is not a communication from the other
     world, as you might very well think. It's Sylvia herself writing to
     you from Rumania with a good deal of penitence, but still very much
     the same Sylvia. I'm not going to ask you for your news, because by
     the time you get this you may quite easily have got me with it. At
     any rate, you can expect me almost on top. I shall telegraph when I
     reach France, if telegrams haven't been made a capital offense by
     that time. I've wondered dreadfully about you and Jack. I've a
     feeling the dear old boy is in Flanders or likely soon to go there.
     Dearest thing, I need not tell you that, though I've not written,
     I've thought terribly about you both during all this ghastly time.
     And the dear babies! I'm longing to see them. If I started to tell
     you my adventures I shouldn't know where to stop, so I won't begin.
     But I'm very well. Give my love to anybody you see who remembers
     your long-lost Sylvia.

How colorless the letter was, she thought, on reading it through. It
gave as little indication of herself as an electric bell gives of the
character of a guest when he is waiting on the door-step. But it would
serve its purpose, like the bell, to secure attention.

Sylvia intended to leave Avereshti that evening, but, feeling tired, she
lay down upon her bed and fell fast asleep. She was woken up three hours
later by the waiter, who announced with an air of excitement that Mr.
Porter had arrived at the hotel and was intending to spend the night.

"What of it?" she said, coldly. "I'm leaving by the nine-o'clock train
for Bucharest."

"Oh, but Mr. Porter will invite you to dinner."

"Who is Mr. Porter?"

"He's one of the richest men in Rumania. He is the head of many big
petroleum companies. I told him that there was an English lady staying
with us, and he was delighted. You can't leave to-night. Mr. Porter will
never forgive us."

"Look here. Is this Florilor the Second?"

The waiter held up his hands in protest.

"Ah, no, _madame_! This is an Englishman. He could buy up M. Florilor
ten times over. Shall I say that _madame_ will be delighted to drink a
cockatail with him?"

"Get out," said Sylvia, pointing to the door.

But afterward she felt disinclined to make a journey that night, and,
notwithstanding Philidor's urgency, she decided to waste one more night
in Avereshti. Moreover, the notion of meeting an Englishman was not so
dull, after all. Ten minutes later she strolled down-stairs to have a
look at him.

Mr. Porter was a stout man of about sixty, who was sometimes rather like
Mr. Pickwick in appearance, but generally bore a greater resemblance to
Tweedledum. He was dressed in a well-cut suit of pepper-and-salt check
and wore a glossy collar with a full black cravat, in which a fine
diamond twinkled modestly; a clear, somewhat florid face with that
priestly glimmer of a very close shave, well-brushed boots, white spats,
and a positive impression of having clean cuffs completed a figure that
exhaled all the more prosperity and cheerfulness because the background
of the hotel was so unsuitable.

"Going to introduce myself. Ha-ha! Apsley Porter's my name. Well known
hereabouts. Ha-ha! Didn't expect to meet a compatriot in these times at
Avereshti. Ugly little hole. Business before pleasure, though, by
George! I don't see why pleasure should be left out in the cold
altogether. What are you going to have? Ordered a Martini here the other
day. 'What's that?' I said to the scoundrel who served it. 'Martini?
Pah! Almost as dangerous as a Martini-Henry,' I said. Ha-ha-ha-ha! But
of course the blackguard didn't understand me. Going to have dinner with
me, I hope. I've ordered a few special dishes. Always bring my own
champagne with me in case of accidents. I forced them to get ice here,
though. Ha-ha! By George, I did. I said that if there wasn't ice
whenever I came I should close down one of the principal wells I
control. Did I tell you my name? Ah, glad I did. I've got a deuced bad
habit of talking away without introducing myself. Here comes the villain
with your cocktail. You must gin and bear it. What? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

Sylvia liked Mr. Porter and accepted his invitation to dinner. He was
distressed to hear that a friend had been staying with her in the hotel
so recently as this morning and that he had had the bad luck to miss
entertaining her.

"What, another little Englishwoman in Avereshti? By George! what a pity
I didn't turn up yesterday! I sha'n't forgive myself. Come along,
waiter. Hurry up with that champagne. Fancy! Another jolly little
Englishwoman and I missed her. Too bad!"

There was irony in meeting upon the vigil of her return to England this
Englishman redolent of the Monico. Sylvia had spent so much of her time
intimately with people at the other pole of pleasure that she had
forgotten how to talk to this type and could only respond with
monosyllables to his boisterous assaults upon the present. He was so
much like a fine afternoon in London that she sunned herself, as it
were, in his effluence, and let her senses occupy themselves with the
noise of the traffic, as if she had suddenly been transplanted to the
Strand and was finding the experience immediately on top of Avereshti
pleasant, but rather bewildering. And now he was talking about the war.

"Nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about at all. Pity about the
Dardanelles. Great pity, but we had no luck. They are making a great
fuss here over this coming Austrian attack upon Serbia. Don't believe in
it. Sha'n't believe in it until it happens. But it won't happen, and if
it does happen--waiter, where's that champagne?--if it does happen, it
won't alter the course of the war. Not a bit of it. I'm an optimist. And
in times like these I consider that optimism is of as much use to my
country at my age as a rifle would have been if I were a younger man.
Pessimism in times like these is a poison."

"But isn't optimism apt to be an intoxicant?" Sylvia suggested.

She felt inclined to impress upon Mr. Porter the difference between
facing misfortune with money and without it, and she told him a few of
her adventures in the past year, winding up with an account of the
behavior of the proprietor of this very hotel.

"You don't mean to say old Andrescu refused to serve you with anything
to eat?"

The notion seemed to shake Mr. Porter to the depths of his being.

"Why, I never heard anything like it! Waiter, go and tell M. Andrescu to
come and speak to me at once. I shall give him a piece of my mind."

The jovial curves of his face had all hardened: his bright little eyes
were like steel: even the dimple in his chin had disappeared in the
contraction of his mouth. When Andrescu came in, he began to abuse him
in rapid Rumanian, while his complexion turned from pink to crimson, and
from crimson in waves of color to a uniform purple. In the end he
stopped talking for a moment, and the proprietor begged Sylvia's
intercession.

"That's the way to deal with rascally hotelkeepers," said Mr. Porter,
fanning himself with a red-and-yellow bandana handkerchief and drinking
two glasses of champagne.

"What annoyed me most of all," he added, "was that his behavior should
have made me miss the chance of asking another jolly little English girl
to dinner. Too bad!"

Sylvia had not told him more than the bare outlines of the story; she
had not confided in him about Florilor or the sale of her bag, or the
fact that she had lost Queenie forever. Her tale could have seemed not
much more than a tale of temporary inconvenience, and she was therefore
only amused when Mr. Porter deduced from it as the most important result
his own failure to entertain Queenie.

After dinner she and her host sat talking for a while, or rather she sat
listening to his narratives of holidays spent in England, which
evidently appealed to him as a much more vital part of his career than
his success in the Rumanian oil-fields. When, about eleven o'clock, she
got up to take her leave and go to bed, he expressed his profound dismay
at the notion of thus breaking up a jolly evening.

"Tell you what we'll do," he announced. "We'll make a night of it. We
will, by George! we will! A night of it. We'll have half a dozen bottles
put on ice and take them up to my room. I can talk all night on
champagne. Now don't say no. It's a patriotic duty. By George! it's a
patriotic duty when two English people meet in a God-forsaken place like
this; it's a patriotic duty to make a night of it. Eat and drink to-day,
for to-morrow we die."

Sylvia was feeling weary enough, but the fatuous talk had cheered her by
its sheer inanity, and the thought of going to bed in that haunted
room--her will was strong, but the memory of what she had endured for
Queenie was not entirely quenched--and of perhaps not being able to
sleep was too dismal. She might just as well help this amiable old
buffoon's illusion that champagne was the elixir of eternal life and
that pleasure was nothing but laughing loudly enough.

"All right," said Sylvia. "But I'd rather we made the night of it in my
room. I'll get into a wrapper and make myself comfortable, and when dawn
breaks I can tumble into bed."

Mr. Porter hesitated a moment. "Right you are, my dear girl. Of course.
Waiter! Where's the ruffian hidden himself?"

"I'll leave you to make the arrangements. I shall be ready in about a
quarter of an hour," Sylvia said.

She left him and went up-stairs.

"I believe the silly old fool thought I was making overtures to him when
I suggested we should make merry in my room," she laughed to herself.
"Oh dear, it shows how much one can tell and how little of oneself need
be revealed in the telling of it. Stupid old ass! But rather pleasant in
a way. He's like finding an old Christmas number of the
_Graphic_--colored heartiness, conventional mirth, reality mercifully
absent, and _O mihi prœteritos_ printed in Gothic capitals on the cover.
I suppose these pre-war figures still abound in England. And I'm not
sure he isn't right in believing that his outlook on life is worth
preserving as long as possible. Timbered houses, crusted port, and
Dickens are nearer to fairyland than anything else that's left nowadays.
To what old age will this blackened, mutilated, and agonized generation
grow? Efficiency and progress have not spared the monuments of bygone
art except to imprison them in libraries, museums, and iron railings.
Will it spare the Englishman? Or will the generations of a century hence
read of him only, and murmur, 'This was a Man'? Will they praise him as
the last and noblest individual, turning with repulsion and remorse from
the sight of themselves and their fellows, the product of the
triumphant herd eternally sowing where it does not reap? Night thoughts
of the young on perceiving a relic of insular grandeur in an
exceptionally fine state of preservation--preserved in oil! And here he
comes to interrupt my sad soliloquy."

The night passed away as the evening had passed away. Mr. Porter
sustained his joviality in a fashion that would have astounded Sylvia,
if all capacity for being astounded had not been exhausted in watching
him drink champagne. It was incredible not so much that his head could
withstand the fumes as that his body, fat though it was, should be
expansive enough to contain the cubic quantity of liquor. It was four
o'clock before he had finished the last drop and was shaking Sylvia's
hand in cordial farewell.

"Haven't enjoyed an evening so much for months. By George! I haven't.
Ha-ha-ha! Well, you'll forgive an old man--always accuse myself of being
old when the wine is low, but I shall be as young as a chicken again
after three hours' sleep--you'll excuse an old man. Little present
probably damned useful in these hard times. Ha-ha-ha! Under your pillow.
Good girl. Never made me feel an old man by expecting me to make love.
I've often set out to make a night of it, and only succeeded in making a
damned fool of myself. Sixty-four next month. Youth's the time!
Ha-ha-ha! Good-by. God bless you. Sha'n't see you in the morning. By
George! I _shall_ have a busy day."

He shook her warmly by the hand, avoided the ice-stand with a grave bow,
and left her with a smell of cigar-smoke. Under the pillow she found
four five-hundred-franc notes.

"Really," Sylvia exclaimed, "I might be excused for thinking myself a
leading character in a farce by fate. I fail to make a halfpenny by
offering myself when the necessity is urgent, and make two thousand
francs by not embarrassing an old gentleman's impotence. Meanwhile,
it's too late--it's just too late. But I shall be able to buy back my
golden bag. I suppose fate thinks that's as good a curtain as I'm
entitled to in a farce."

Sylvia left Avereshti next morning with a profound conviction that,
whatever the future held, nothing should induce her to put foot in that
town again. There was some satisfaction in achieving even so much sense
of finality, negative though the achievement might be.

"I don't advise you to go to Dedeagatch," said Mr. Mathers when Sylvia
presented herself at the passport-office for the recommendation for a
visa. "I may tell you in confidence that the situation in Bulgaria is
very grave--very grave indeed. Anything may happen this week. The
feeling here is very tense, too. If you are determined to take the risk
of being held up in Bulgaria, I counsel you to travel by Rustchuk, Gorna
Orechovitza, and Sofia to Nish. From Nish you'll get down to Salonika,
and from there to the Piræus. At the same time I strongly advise you to
keep away from Bulgaria. With the mobilization, passenger traffic is
liable to be very uncertain."

"But if I go back through Russia I may find it is just as hard to get
back to England. No, no. I'll risk Bulgaria. To-day's Tuesday the 28th.
When can I have my visa?"

"Well, strictly speaking, it's already too late to-day to entertain
applications, but as you were a friend of Mr. Iredale, I'll ask Mr.
Abernethy to put it through for you. If you come in to-morrow morning at
ten, I will give you a letter for the Consulate. There will be the usual
fee to pay there. Oh dear me, you haven't brought the four photographs
that are necessary. I must have them, I'm afraid. Two for us, one for
the Consulate, and one for the French authorities. The Italians don't
insist upon a photograph at present. I'm afraid I sha'n't be able to put
it through for you to-day. The French are very strict and insist on a
minimum of four days. But in view of the Bulgarian crisis I'll get them
to relax the rule. Luckily one of the French officers is a friend of
mine--a very nice fellow."

Three days elapsed before Sylvia was finally equipped with her passport
_visé_ for Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Italy, France, and England. The
representatives of the first two nations, who seemed most immediately
concerned with her journey, made the least bother; the representative of
Italy, the nation that seemed least concerned with it, made the most.

While she was waiting for the result of the accumulated contemplation
upon her age, her sex, her lineaments, and her past history, Sylvia
bought back her gold bag for eighteen hundred francs, which left her
with just over fifteen hundred francs for the journey--none too much,
but she should no longer have any scruples in telegraphing to England
for help if she found herself stranded.

On Friday afternoon she called for the last time at the passport-office
to get a letter of introduction that Mr. Mathers had insisted on writing
for her to a friend of his in the American Tobacco Company at Cavalla.

"You're not likely to go there," he said, "but if you do, it may be
useful."

The clerk handed her the letter, and there was something magnificently
protective in the accompanying gesture; he might have been handing her a
personal letter to the Prime Minister and giving her an assurance that
the Foreign Secretary would personally meet her at Waterloo and see that
she did not get into the wrong tube.

When Sylvia was leaving the office, Maud Moffat came in, at the sight of
whom Mr. Mathers's spectacled benevolence turned to an aspect of hate
for the whole of humanity.

"It's too late, madam, to-day. Nothing can be done until further
inquiries have been made," he said, sharply.

"Too late be damned!" Maud shouted. "I'm not going to be---- about any
longer. My passport's been stolen and I want another. I'm an honest
English girl who's been earning her living on the Continent and I want
to go home and see my poor old mother. Perhaps you'll say next that I'm
not English?"

"Nobody says that you're not English," Mr. Mathers replied through set
teeth. "And please control your language."

At this moment Maud recognized Sylvia.

"Oh, you've come back, have you? I suppose you didn't have any
difficulty with your passport. Oh no, people as frequents the company of
German spies can get passports for nothing, but me who's traveled for
seven years on the Continent without ever having any one give me so much
as a funny look, me, I repeat, gets cross-examined and messed about as
if I was a murderer instead of an artiste. Yes, war's a fine thing for
some people," she went on. "Young fellows that ought to be fighting for
their country instead of bullying poor girls from the other side of a
table thoroughly enjoys _theirselves_. Nice thing when an honest English
girl--and not a German spy--can't mislay her passport without being--"

"I must repeat, madam," Mr. Mathers interrupted, "that the circumstances
have to be gone into."

"Circumstances? I'm in very good circumstances, thank you. But I sha'n't
be if you keep me mucking about in Bucharest so as I forfeit my
engagement at the White Tower, Saloniker. You'll look very funny, Mr.
Nosey Parker, when my friend the Major who I know in Egypt and still
writes to me lodges a complaint about your conduct. Why don't you ask
this young lady about me? She knows I'm English."

"I keep telling you that nobody questions your nationality."

"Well, you've asked me enough questions. You know the size of my corsets
and the color of my chemise and how many moles I've got, and whether my
grandmother was married, and if it's true my uncle Bill ran away to
Africa because he couldn't stand my aunt Jane's voice. Nationality! I
reckon you couldn't think of any more questions, unless you became a
medical student and started on my inside. Why don't you tell him you
know all about me?" she added, turning to Sylvia.

"Because I don't," Sylvia replied, coldly.

"Well, there's a brazen-faced bitch!" Miss Moffat gasped.

Sylvia said good-by hurriedly to Mr. Mathers and left him to Maud. When
she was in the train on the way to Rustchuk, it suddenly struck her that
Zozo might be able to explain the missing passport.



CHAPTER VI


The more Sylvia pondered the coincidence of Queenie's flight with the
loss of Maud's passport the more positive she became that Zozo had
committed the theft. And with what object? It seemed unlikely that the
passport could be altered plausibly enough to be accepted as Queenie's
own property in these days when so much attention was being given to
passports and their reputed owners. Probably he had only used it as a
bait with which to lure her in the first instance; he would have known
that she could not read and might have counted upon the lion and the
unicorn to impress her with his ability to do something for her that
Sylvia had failed to do. Queenie must have been in a state of
discouragement through her not having come back to Avereshti on the
Sunday evening, as she had promised. The telegram she sent had really
been a mistake, because Queenie would never have asked any one in the
hotel to read it for her, and Zozo would assuredly have pretended
whatever suited his purpose if by chance it had been shown to him.

At first Sylvia had been regretting that she had not divined sooner the
explanation of Maud's missing passport, so that she could have warned
Mr. Mathers; but now she was glad, because whatever Queenie did, the
blame must be shared by herself and the British regulations. She
reproached herself for the attitude she had taken toward Queenie's
disappearance; she had done nothing in these days at Bucharest to help
the poor child, not even so much as to find out where she had gone. If
Zozo were indeed a German agent, what might not be the result of that
callousness? Yet, after all, he might not be anything of the kind; he
might merely have been roused by her own opposition to regain possession
of Queenie. Really it was difficult to say which explanation was more
galling to her own conscience. However, it was useless to do anything
now; there was as little probability of Queenie's being still in
Bucharest as of her being anywhere else. If Zozo were in German pay he
would find it easy enough to secure Queenie's entrance into a neutral
country; and if he were once more enamoured of his power over her, he
would certainly have taken precautions against any new intervention by
herself.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday, the 3d of October, Sylvia arrived at
Giurgiu, the last station in Rumania before crossing the Danube to enter
Bulgaria. It had been a slow journey, owing to the congestion of traffic
caused by the concentration of Rumanian troops upon the frontier. When
she was leaving the station to take the ferry she caught sight of
Philidor upon the platform.

"You here? I thought you were at Bralatz," she cried.

She was thinking that Philidor's presence was of good omen to her
journey; and as they walked together down to the quay she was glad that
her last memory of Rumania should be of this tall figure in his
light-blue cloak appearing indeed of heroic mold in the transuming fog
of the Danube that enmeshed them.

"You've left it very late," he said. "We expect every hour the Bulgarian
declaration of war upon the Entente. Ah, this disastrous summer! The
failure at the Dardanelles! The failure of the Russians! And now I doubt
if we shall do anything but cluster here upon the frontier like birds
gathering to go south."

"I am going south," Sylvia murmured.

"I wish that I were," he sighed. "Now is the moment to strike. When I
think of the Bulgarians on the other side of the river, and of my
troop--such splendid fellows--waiting and waiting! Sylvia, I am filled
with intuitions of my country's fate. Wherever I look the clouds are
black. If when you are back in England you read one day that Rumania is
fighting with you, do not remember the tawdry side of her, but think of
us waiting here in the fog, waiting and waiting. If--and God forbid that
you should read this--if you read that Rumania is fighting against you,
think that one insignificant lieutenant of cavalry will hope to fall
very early upon a Russian bayonet."

He held her for a moment in the folds of his bedewed cloak, while they
listened to the slow lapping of the river; then she mounted the gangway,
and the ferry glided into the fog.

There was a very long wait at Rustchuk; but Sylvia did not find the
Bulgarian officials discourteous; in fact, for the representatives of a
country upon the verge of going to war with her own, they were pleasant
and obliging. It was after midnight before the train left Rustchuk, and
some time before dawn that it reached Gorna Orechovitza, where it seemed
likely to wait forever. A chill wind was blowing down from the Balkans,
which had swept the junction clear of everybody except a squat Bulgarian
soldier who marched up and down in his dark-green overcoat, stamping his
feet; so little prospect was there of the train starting again, that all
the station officials were dozing round a stove in the buffet, and the
passengers had gone back to their _couchettes_. To Sylvia the desolation
was exhilarating with a sense of adventure. Rumania had already receded
far away--at any rate, the tawdry side of it--and the only picture that
remained was of Philidor upon the bank of that misty river. It seemed to
her now that the whole of the past eighteen months had been a morbid
night, such a new and biting sense of reality was blown down from the
mountains upon this windy October dawn, such magical horizons were being
written across this crimson sky.

The train did not reach Sofia until the afternoon; the station was
murmurous with excitement on account of the rumor of an ultimatum
presented that morning by the Russian Minister; Sylvia, as an
Englishwoman, became the object of a contemplative stare of curiosity,
in which was nothing insolent or hostile, but which gave her the
sensation of being just a material aid to dim unskilful meditations,
like a rosary in the hands of a converted savage. There was not such a
long wait at Sofia as she had expected, and toward dusk, after changing
trains, they reached Plevna; but at Zaribrod, the last station before
crossing the Serbian frontier, the train pulled up and showed no sign of
proceeding. The platform was thronged with Bulgarian troops, the sound
of whom, all talking excitedly, was like a prolonged sneeze.

At Plevna a tall, fair man had got into Sylvia's compartment. In
excellent French he told her that his name was Rakoff and that he was a
rose-grower. Sylvia expressed her astonishment that a Bulgarian
rose-grower should travel to Serbia at such a time, but he laughed at
the notion of war between Bulgaria and the Entente, avowed that the
agrarian party to which he belonged was unanimously against such a
disastrous step, and spoke cheerfully of doing good business in
Salonika. At Zaribrod he went off to make inquiries about the chance of
getting on that night, but he could obtain no information, and invited
Sylvia to dine with him at the station buffet. He also helped her to
change her _lei_ and _lewa_ into Serbian money and generally made
himself useful in matters of detail, such as putting her clock back an
hour to mid-European time. Upon these slight courtesies Sylvia and he
built up, as travelers are wont, one of those brief and violent
friendships that color the memory of a voyage like brilliant fugacious
blooms. Rakoff expressed loudly his disgust at seeing the soldiers
swarming upon the frontier; they had quite enough of war in Bulgaria two
years ago, and it was madness to think of losing the advantages of
neutrality, especially on behalf of the Germans. He talked of his acres
of roses, of the scent of them in the early morning, of the color of
them at noon, and gave Sylvia a small bottle of attar that drenched with
its stored-up sweetness even the smell of the massed soldiery. Sylvia,
in her turn, talked to him of her life on the stage, described her
success in London, and even confided in him her reason for abandoning it
all.

"One has these impulses," he agreed. "But it is better not to give way
to them. That is the advantage of my life as a rose-grower. There is
always something to do. It is a tranquil and beautiful existence. One
becomes almost a rose oneself. I hate to leave my fields, but my brother
was killed in the last war, and I have to travel occasionally since his
death. Ah, war! It is the sport of kings; yet our King Ferdinand is a
great gardener. He is only happy with his plants. It is terrible that a
small group of _arrivistes_ should deflect the whole course of our
national life, for I'm sure that a gardener must loathe war."

Sylvia thought of Philidor's denunciations of Englishmen who had found
that the Bulgarians were idealists, and sympathized with their
partiality when she listened to this gentle rose-grower.

At last, about two o'clock in the morning, the train was allowed to
proceed to Serbia. As it left the station the Bulgarian soldiers
shouted: "Hourrah! Hourrah! Hourrah!" in accents between menace and
triumph. She turned to her companion, with lifted eyebrows.

"They don't sound very pastoral," she said.

"Some Serbians in the train must have annoyed them," Rakoff explained.

"Well, I hope for the sake of the Serbians that we're not merely
shunting," Sylvia laughed.

The train went more slowly than ever after they left Pirot, the first
station in Serbia, where there had been an endless searching of half the
passengers, of which, apparently, everybody had suddenly got tired,
because the passengers in their portion of the train were not examined
at all.

"I doubt if this train will go beyond Nish," said Rakoff. "The Austrians
are advancing more rapidly than was expected. There is a great feeling
in Serbia against us. I shall travel back by sea from Salonika."

They reached Nish at about seven o'clock in the morning. When Rakoff was
standing outside the window of the compartment to help Sylvia with her
luggage he was touched on the shoulder by a Serbian officer, who said
something to him at which he started perceptibly. A moment later,
however, he called out to Sylvia that he should be back in a moment and
he would see her to the hotel. He waved his hand and passed on with the
officer.

Sylvia turned round to go out by the corridor, but was met in the
entrance by another Serbian officer who asked her to keep her seat.

"_Mais je suis Anglaise_," she protested.

"No doubt there's some mistake," he answered, politely, in excellent
English. "But I must request you to stay in the compartment."

He seated himself and asked her permission to smoke. The passengers had
all alighted and the train seemed very still. Presently another officer
came and demanded her papers, which he took away with him. Half an hour
went by and Sylvia began to feel hungry. She asked the officer in the
compartment if it would be possible to get some coffee.

"Of course," he answered, with a smile, calling to some one in the
corridor. A soldier with fixed bayonet came along and took his commands;
presently two cups of black coffee and a packet of cigarettes arrived.

The officer was young and had a pleasant face, but he declined to be
drawn into conversation beyond offering Sylvia her coffee and the
cigarettes. An hour passed in this way.

"How long am I likely to be kept here?" she asked, irritably.

The young officer looked uncomfortable and invited her to have another
cup of coffee, but he did not answer her question. At last, when Sylvia
was beginning to feel thoroughly miserable, there was a sound of voices
in the corridor, and an English captain in much-stained khaki appeared
in the entrance to the compartment.

"Good morning," he said. "Sorry you've been kept waiting like this. My
fault, I'm afraid. Fact is, I won a bath at piquet last night, and not
even the detention of a compatriot would make me forgo one exquisite
moment of it."

He was a tall, thin man in the early thirties, with a languid manner of
speech and movement that, though it seemed at first out of keeping with
the substance of his conversation, nevertheless oddly enhanced it
somehow. Sylvia had an impression that his point of view about
everything was worn and stained like his uniform, but that, like his
uniform, it preserved a fundamentally good quality of cloth and cut. His
arrival smoothed away much of her annoyance because she discerned in him
a capacity for approaching a case upon its own merits and a complete
indifference to any professionalism real or assumed for the duration of
the war. In a word, she found his personality sympathetic, and long
experience had given her the assurance that wherever this was so she
could count upon rousing a reciprocal confidence.

"Good morning, Antitch," he was saying to the young Serbian officer who
had been keeping guard over her. And to Sylvia he added: "Antitch was at
Oxford and speaks English like an Englishman."

"I've had very little chance of knowing if he could even speak his own
language," she said, sharply.

Her pleasure in finding an English officer at Nish was now being marred,
as so many pleasures are marred for women, by consciousness of the sight
she must present at this moderately early hour of the morning after
thirty-six hours in the train.

The Englishman laughed.

"Antitch takes an occasion like this very seriously," he said.

"It's the only way to treat half past eight in the morning," Sylvia
answered. "Even after a bath."

"I know. I must apologize for my effervescence at such an hour. We try
to assume this kind of attitude toward life when we assume temporary
commissions. I'm a parvenu to such an hour and don't really know how to
behave myself. Now at dawn you would have found my manner as easy as a
doctor's by a bedside. Well, what have you been doing?"

"Really, I think that's for you to tell me," Sylvia replied.

"Where did you meet your fellow-traveler--the Bulgarian?"

"The rose-grower?"

"Oh, you think he _is_ a rose-grower?"

"I didn't speculate upon the problem. He got into the train at Plevna
and did all he could to make himself useful and agreeable," Sylvia said.

"That's one for you, Antitch," the Englishman laughed. "Another
Bulgarophile. We're hopeless, aren't we? Upon my soul, people like
Prussians and Bulgarians are justified in thinking that we're traitors
to our convictions when they witness the immediate affinity between most
of them and most of us. I say, you must forgive me for being so full of
voluble buck this morning," he went on to Sylvia. "It really is the
effect of the bath. I feel like a general who's been made a knight
commander of that most honorable order for losing an impregnable
position and keeping his temper. Well, I'm sorry to bother you, but I
think you'd better be confronted by your accomplice. We have reason to
doubt his bona fides, and Colonel Michailovitch, our criminal expert,
would like to have your testimony. You'll intrust this lady to me?" he
asked Antitch, who saluted ceremoniously. "All right, old thing, you'll
bark your knuckles if you try to be too polite in a railway carriage.
Come along, then, and we'll tackle the colonel."

"I think I will come as well," said Antitch.

"Of course, of course. I don't know if it's etiquette to introduce a
suspected spy to her temporary jailer, but this is Lieutenant Antitch,
and my name's Hazlewood. You've come from Rumania, haven't you? Here,
let me carry your valise. Even if you are condemned by the court, you
won't be condemned to travel any more in this train. What an atrocious
sentence! _Voyages forcés_ for twenty years!"

"Rumania was very well," said Sylvia, as they passed along the corridor
to the platform.

"Still flirting with intervention, I suppose?" Hazlewood went on. "Odd
effect this war has of making one think of countries as acquaintances.
All Europe has been reduced to a suburb. I was sent up here from
Gallipoli, and I find Nish--which with deep respect to Antitch I had
always regarded as an unknown town consisting of mud and pigs, or as one
of the stations where it was possible to eat between Vienna and
Constantinople--as crowded and cosmopolitan as Monte Carlo. The whole
world and his future wife is here."

Sylvia was trying to remember how the name Hazlewood was faintly
familiar to her, but the recollection was elusive, and she asked about
her big trunk.

"If you're going on to Salonika," he advised, "you'd better get on as
soon as possible after the stain of suspicion has been erased from your
passport. Nish is full up now, but presently--" He broke off, and looked
across at Antitch with an expression of tenderness.

The young Serbian shrugged his shoulders; and they passed into the
office of Colonel Michailovitch, who was examining Sylvia's passport
with the rapt concentration of gaze that could only be achieved by some
one who was incapable of understanding a single word of what he was
apparently reading. The colonel bowed to Sylvia when she entered, and
invited her to sit down. Hazlewood asked him if he might look at the
passport.

"It's quite in order, I think, mon colonel," he said in French. The
colonel agreed with him.

"You have no objection to its being returned?"

"_Pas du tout, pas du tout! Plaisir, plaisir!_" exclaimed the colonel.

"And I think you would like to hear from--" Hazlewood glanced at the
passport--"from Miss Scarlett? Sylvia Scarlett?" he repeated, looking at
her. "Why, I believe we have a friend in common. Aren't you a friend of
Michael Fane?"

Sylvia realized how familiar his name should be to her; and she felt
that her eyes brightened in assent.

"He's in Serbia, you know," said Hazlewood.

"Now?" she asked.

"Yes. I'll tell you about him. _Je demande pardon, mon colonel, mais je
connais cette dame._"

"_Enchanté, enchanté_," said the colonel, getting up and shaking hands
cordially. "_Le Capitaine Antonivitch. Le Lieutenant Lazarevitch_," he
added, indicating the other officers, who saluted and shook hands with
her.

"They're awful dears, aren't they?" murmured Hazlewood. Then he went on
in French, "But, mon colonel, I beg you will ask Miss Scarlett any
questions you want to ask about this man Rakoff."

"_Vous me permittez, madame?_" the colonel inquired. "_Desolé, mais vous
comprenez, la guerre c'est comme ça, n'est-ce pas? Ah oui, la guerre._"

Everybody in the office sighed in echo, "_Ah oui, la guerre!_"

"Where did this man get into the train?"

"At Plevna, I believe."

"Did he talk about anything in particular?"

"About roses mostly. He said he did not believe there could be war with
Serbia. He spoke very bitterly against Germany."

Sylvia answered many more questions in favor of her fellow-traveler. The
colonel talked for a few moments in Serbian to his assistants;
presently a grubby-looking peasant was brought in, at whom the colonel
shouted a number of questions, the answers to which seemed to reduce him
to a state of nervous despair. One of the officers retired and came back
with the Bulgarian rose-grower; after a great deal of talking the
peasant was sent away and Rakoff's passport was handed back to him.

"_Je suis libre?_" asked the Bulgarian, looking round him.

The colonel bowed stiffly.

"This lady has spoken of your horticultural passion," said Hazlewood,
looking at Rakoff straight in the eyes.

"_Je suis infiniment reconnaissant_," the Bulgarian murmured, with a
bow. Then he saluted the company and went out.

"I daren't precipitate the situation," the colonel told Hazlewood. "He
must leave Nish at once, but if he tries to alight before the Greek
frontier, he can always be arrested."

Renewed apologies from the colonel and much cordial saluting from his
staff ushered Sylvia out of the office, whence she was followed by
Hazlewood and Antitch, the latter of whom begged her to show her
forgiveness by dining with him that night.

"My dear fellow," Hazlewood protested, "Miss Scarlett has promised to
dine with me."

In the end she agreed to dine with both, and begged them not to bother
about her any more, lest work should suffer.

"No, I'll see you into the town," Hazlewood said, "because I don't know
if there's a room in any hotel. You ought really to go on to Salonika at
once, but I suppose you want to see Nish on the eve of its calvary."

She looked at him in surprise: there was such a depth of bitterness in
his tone.

"I should hate to be a mere sightseer."

"No, forgive me for talking like that. I'm sure you're not, and to show
my penitence for the imputation let me help you about your room."

Sylvia and Hazlewood bowed to Antitch and walked out of the station.

"They've started to commandeer every vehicle and every animal,"
Hazlewood explained, "so we shall have to walk. It's not far. This youth
will carry your bag. Your heavy luggage had better remain in the
_consigne_. I suppose you more or less guessed what was Michailovitch's
difficulty about your friend the Bulgarian rose-grower?"

"No, I don't think I did really."

Sylvia did not care anything about the Bulgarian or the colonel; she was
only anxious to hear something about Michael Fane; but because she was
so anxious, she could not bring herself to start the topic and must wait
for Hazlewood.

"Well, this fellow Rakoff was identified by that peasant chap who was
brought in--or at any rate so almost certainly recognized as to amount
to identification--as one of the most bloodthirsty _comitadji_ leaders."

"What do they do?"

She felt that she must appear to take some interest in what Hazlewood
was telling her, after the way he had helped and was helping her and
perhaps would help her.

"Their chief mission in life," he explained, "is the Bulgarization of
Macedonia, which they effect in the simplest way possible by murdering
everybody who is not Bulgarian. They're also rather fond of Bulgarizing
towns and churches by means of dynamite. Altogether the most unpleasant
ruffians left in Europe, and in yielding them the superlative I'm not
forgetting Orangemen and Junkers. The colonel did not believe that he
was a rose-grower, but he was afraid to arrest him, because at this
moment it is essential not to give the least excuse for precipitating
the situation. We expect to hear at any moment that Bulgaria has
declared war on Serbia; but all sorts of negotiations are still in
progress. One of the characteristics of our policy during this war is
to give a frenzied attention to the molding of a situation after it has
hopelessly hardened. This Austrian advance is bad enough, but there's
probably worse to follow, and we don't want the worst yet. The people
here are counting on French and English help, and they are frightened to
death of doing anything that will upset us. As a matter of fact, your
evidence was a godsend to the colonel, because it gave him an excuse to
let Rakoff go without losing his dignity. And of course there's always a
chance that the fellow is what he claims to be--a peaceful rose-grower,
though I doubt it: I can't imagine any one of that trade traveling
through Serbia at such a moment. I believe myself that the Germans
furnish condemned criminals with sufficiently suspicious accessories to
occupy the Allied Intelligence, while they get away with the real goods.
Do you ever read spy-novels? Our spy-novels and spy-plays must have been
of priceless assistance to the Germans in letting them know how to coach
their condemned criminals for the part. There's only one thing on earth
that bears less resemblance to its original than the English novelist's
spy, and that is his detective."

"Where is Michael Fane?" Sylvia asked; she could bear it no longer.

"He's out here with Lady What's-her-name's Red Cross unit. I don't
really know where he is at the moment--probably being jolted by a mule
on a tract leading south from Belgrade. His sister's out here, too. Her
husband--an awfully jolly fellow--was killed at Ypres. When did you see
Michael last?"

"Oh, not for--not for nearly nine years," she answered.

There was a silence; Sylvia wished now that she had let Hazlewood lead
up to the subject of Michael; he must be thinking of the time when his
friend was engaged to Lily; he must be wondering about herself, for that
he had remembered her name after so many years showed that Michael's
account of her had impressed itself upon him.

"If he's on his way south, he'll be in Nish soon," Hazlewood said,
breaking the silence abruptly. "You'd better wait and see him. Nine
years last month: September, nineteen-six."

"No, it was June," Sylvia said. "Early June."

"Sorry," he said. "I was thinking of Michael in relation to myself."

He sighed, and at that moment coming down the squalid street appeared a
band of children shepherded by a fussy schoolmaster and carrying
bouquets of flowers, who, at the sight of Hazlewood, cheered shrilly.

"You seem to be very popular here already," Sylvia observed.

"Do you know what those flowers are for?" he asked, gravely.

She shook her head.

"They're for the British and French troops that these poor dears are
expecting to arrive by every train to help them against the Austrians. I
tell you it makes me feel the greatest humbug on earth. They are going
to decorate the station to-morrow. It's like putting flowers on their
country's tomb. Ah, don't let's talk about it--don't let's think about
it," he broke out, passionately. "Serbia has been one of my refuges
during the last nine years, and I stand here now like a mute at a
funeral."

He walked on, tugging savagely at his mustache, until he could turn
round to Sylvia with a laugh again.

"My mustache represents the badge of my servitude. I tug at it as in the
old Greek days slaves must have tugged at their leaden collars. The day
I shave it off I shall be free again. Here's the hotel where I hang
out--almost literally, for my room is so small and so dirty that I
generally put my pillow on the window-sill. The hotel is full of bugs
and diplomats, but the coffee is good. However, it's no good raising
your hopes, because I know that there isn't a spare room. Never mind,"
he added, "I've got another room at another hotel which is equally full
of bugs, but unfrequented by diplomats. It is being reserved for my
lady secretary, but she hasn't turned up yet, and so I make you a
present of it till she does."

"Why are you being so kind?" Sylvia asked.

"I don't know," Hazlewood replied. "You amused me, I think, sitting
there in that railway carriage with Antitch. It's such a relief to
arrest somebody who doesn't instantly begin to shriek 'Consul! Consul!'
Most women regard consuls as Gieve waistcoats, that is to say, something
which is easily inflated by a woman's breath, has a flask of brandy in
one pocket, and affords endless support. No, seriously, it happens that
Michael Fane talked a great deal about you on a memorable occasion in my
life, and since he's a friend of mine I'd like to do all I can for you.
For the moment--here's the other hotel, nothing is far apart in Nish,
not even life and death--for the moment I must leave you, or rather for
the whole day, I'm afraid, because I've got the dickens of a lot to do.
However, it's just as well the lady secretary hasn't turned up, because
it's really impossible to feel very securely established in Nish. I
expect, as a matter of fact, she's been kidnapped by some white slavery
of the staff en route. Miss Potberry is her name. It's a depressing name
for a secretary, but true romance knows no laws of nomenclature, so I
still have hope. Poor lady.

    "Miss Potberry muttered, 'Oh, squish!
     I don't want to go on to Nish.
       I like Malta better!'
       The general said, 'Let her
     Remain here, if that is her wish,

and send a telegram to London to say that she has been taken ill and is
unable to proceed farther, but that her services can be usefully
employed here.' I say, I must run! I'll come and fetch you for dinner
about half past seven."

He handed her over to the care of the hotel porter and vanished.

The room that Hazlewood had lent to Sylvia possessed a basin, a bed,
five hooks, a chair, the remains of a table, an oleograph of a battle
between Serbians and Bulgarians that resembled a fire at a circus, and a
balcony. At such a time in Nish a balcony made up for any absence of
comfort, so much was there to look at in the square full of stunted
trees and mud, surrounded by stunted houses, and crammed with carts,
bullocks, donkeys, horses, diplomats, soldiers, princes, refugees,
peasants, poultry, newspaper correspondents, and children, the whole
mass flushed by a spray of English nurses, as a pigsty by a Dorothy
Perkins rambler.

Sylvia searched the crowd for a glimpse of Michael Fane, though she knew
that he was almost certainly not yet arrived. Yet if the Serbians were
evacuating Belgrade and if Michael had been in Belgrade, he was bound to
arrive ultimately in Nish. She wondered how long she could keep this
room and prayed that Miss Potberry would not appear. The notion of
traveling all the way here from Petrograd, only to miss him at the end,
was not to be contemplated; his sister was in Serbia, too, that charming
sister who had flashed through her dressing-room at the Pierian like a
lovely view seen from a train. After the last eighteen months she was
surely justified in leaving nothing undone that might bring about
another meeting. Hazlewood had spoken of being overworked. Could she not
offer her services in place of Miss Potberry? Anything, anything to have
an excuse to linger in Nish, an excuse that would absolve her from the
charge of a frivolous egotism in occupying space that would soon be more
than ever badly needed. She had thought that destiny had driven her
south from Petrograd to Kieff, from Kieff to Odessa, from Odessa to
Bucharest, from Bucharest to Nish for Queenie and for Philip, but surely
it was for more than was represented by either of them.

"Incredible ass that I am," she thought. "What is Michael to me and what
am I to Michael? Not so easily is time's slow ruin repaired. If we
meet, we shall meet for perhaps a dinner together; that will be all.
What romances must this war have woven and what romances must it not
have shattered as swiftly! Romances! Yet, how dare I use such a word
about myself? Nine years, nine remorseless deadening years, lie on top
of what was never more than a stillborn fancy, and I am expecting to see
it burst forth to bloom in Nish. It's the effect of isolation. Time goes
by more slowly when one only looks at oneself, and one forgets the
countless influences in other people's lives. But I should like to see
him again. Oh yes, quite ordinarily and unemotionally I should like to
shake hands with him and perhaps talk for a little while. There is
nothing extravagantly sentimental in thinking so much."

Sylvia had often enough been conscious of her isolation from the world
and often enough she had tried to assuage this sense of loneliness by
indulging it to the utmost--to such an extent indeed that she had
reached the point of hating not merely anything that interfered with her
own isolation, but even anything that interfered with the isolation of
other people. She had turned the armor of self-defense into a means of
aggression, although by doing so she had destroyed the strength of her
position. Her loneliness that during these last months seemed to have
acquired the more positive qualities of independence was now only too
miserably evident as loneliness; and unless she could apply the vital
suffering she had undergone recently, so that the years of her prime
might bear manifest fruit, she knew that the sense of futility in
another nine years would be irreparable indeed. At present the treasure
of eighteen months of continuous and deliberate effort to avoid futility
was still rich with potentiality; but the human heart was a deceptive
treasure-house never very strong against the corruption of time, which,
when unlocked, might at any moment display nothing except coffers filled
with dust.

"But why do I invite disillusionment by counting upon this meeting with
Michael Fane? Why should he cure this loneliness and how will he cure
it? Why, in two words, do I want to meet him again? Partly, I think,
it's due to the haunting incompleteness of our first intercourse, to
which is added the knowledge that now I am qualified to complete that
intercourse, at any rate, so far as my attitude toward him is concerned.
And the way I want to show my comprehension of him is to explain about
myself. I am really desperately anxious that he should hear what
happened to me after we parted. For one thing, he is bound to be
sympathetic with this craving for an assurance of the value of faith. I
want to find how far he has traveled in the same direction as myself by
a different road. I divine somehow that his experience will be the
complement to my own, that it will illumine the wretched cross-country
path which I've taken through life. If I find that he, relying almost
entirely upon the adventures of thought, has arrived at a point of which
I am also in sight, notwithstanding that I have taken the worst and
roughest road, a road, moreover, that was almost all the time
trespassing upon forbidden territory, then I shall be able to throw off
this oppression of loneliness. But why should I rely more upon his
judgment than anybody else's?"

Sylvia shrugged her shoulders.

"What is attraction?" she asked herself. "It exists, and there's an end
of it. I had the same sense of intimacy with his sister in a
conversation of five minutes. Then am I in love with him? But isn't
being in love a condition that is brought about by circumstances out of
attraction? Being in love is merely the best way of illustrating
affinity. Ah, that word! When a woman of thirty-two begins to talk about
affinities, she has performed half her emotional voyage; the sunken
rocks and eddies of the dangerous age may no longer be disregarded.
Thirty-two, and yet I feel younger than I did at twenty-three. At
twenty-three experience mostly bitter was weighing me down; at
thirty-two I know that experience must not be regarded as anything more
important than food or drink or traveling in a train or any of the
incidental aids to material existence. Then what is important? I should
be rash to hazard a statement while I am looking at this heterogeneous
mob below. One cannot help supposing that the war will bring about a
readjustment of values."

The feeling of unrest and insecurity in the square at Nish on that
Monday morning was almost frightful in its emotional actuality; it gave
Sylvia an envy to fling herself into the middle of it, as when one sits
upon a rock lashed by angry seas and longs to glut an insane curiosity
about the extent of one's helplessness. This squalid Serbian town gave
her the illusion of having for the moment concentrated upon itself the
great forces that were agitating the world.

"I don't believe anybody realizes yet how much was let slip with the
dogs of war," she said to herself. "People are always talking about the
vastness of this war, but they are always thinking in terms of
avoirdupois; they have never doubted that the decimal system will
express their most grandiose calculations. The biggest casualty list
that was ever known, the longest battle, the heaviest gun, all these
flatter poor humanity with a sense of its importance: but when all the
records have been broken and when all the congratulations upon outdoing
the past have been worn thin, to what will humanity turn from the new
chaos it has created? And this is one of the fruits of the great
nineteenth century, this miserable square packed with the evidence of
civilization. Perhaps I'm too parochial: at the other end of the
universe planets may be warring upon planets. If that be so, we lose
even the consolation of a universal record and must fall back upon a
mere world record; in eternity our greatest war will have sunk to a
brawl in a slum. How can mankind believe in man? How can mankind reject
God?" she demanded, passionately.

Sylvia did not dine with Hazlewood or Antitch that evening, because they
were both too busy. Hazlewood begged her to stay on in the room and
promised that he would try to make use of her, though he was too busy at
present to find time to explain how she could be useful. Sylvia did not
like to worry him with inquiries about Michael, and she spent the next
few days watching from her balcony the concourse of distracted human
beings in the square. On Saturday when news had arrived that the
Austrians had entered Belgrade, and when every hour was bringing convoys
of refugees from the north, a rumor suddenly sprang up that thousands of
British and French troops were on their way from Salonika, that the
Greeks had invaded Bulgaria, and that Turkey had made peace. Such an
accumulation of good news meant that the miseries of Serbia would soon
be over. The railway station was hung with more flags and scattered with
more flowers than ever; and an enterprising coffee-house keeper
anticipated the arrival of British troops by hanging out a sign
inscribed, GUD BIIR IS FOR SEL PLIS TO COM OLD ENGLAND BIRHOUS.

Sylvia was reading this notice when Hazlewood came up and asked her to
dine with him that evening.

"I'm so sorry I've had to leave you entirely to yourself, but I've not
had a moment, and I hate dining when I can't talk. To-night there seems
a lull in the stream of telegraphic questions to which I've been
subjected all this week."

"But please don't apologize. I feel guilty in staying here at all,
especially when I'm doing nothing but stare."

"Well, I was going to talk to you about that. You ought to leave
to-morrow or the next day. The Bulgarians are sure to move, now that the
Austrians have got Belgrade, and that means fresh swarms of fugitives
from the east; it may also mean that communications with Greece will be
cut."

"But the British advance?"

Hazlewood looked at her.

"Ah yes, the British advance," he murmured.

"And you promised that you'd find me some work," Sylvia said.

"Frankly, it's no good your beginning to learn now."

She must have shown as much disappointment as she felt, for he added:

"Well, after dinner to-night you shall take down the figures of one or
two long telegrams."

"Anything," offered Sylvia, eagerly.

"It's all that Miss Potberry could have done at present. I'm not writing
any reports, so her expert shorthand of which I was assured would have
been wasted. Reports! One of the revelations of this war to me was the
extraordinary value that professional soldiers attach to the typewritten
word. I suppose it's a minor manifestation of the impulse that made
Wolfe say he would rather have written Gray's 'Elegy' than take Quebec.
If typewriters had been invented in his time he might have said, 'I
would rather be in the War Office and be able to read my report of the
capture of Quebec than take it.' I'm sure that the chief reason of a
knowledge of Latin being still demanded for admission to Sandhurst is
the hope universally cherished in the army that every cadet's haversack
contains a new long Latin intransitive verb which can be used
transitively to supplant one of the short Saxon verbs that still
disfigure military correspondence. I can imagine such a cadet saying,
'Sir, I would sooner have been the first man that wrote of evacuating
wounded than take Berlin.' The trouble with men of action is that
something written means for them something done. The labor of writing is
so tremendous and the consequent mental fatigue so overwhelming that
they cannot bring themselves to believe otherwise. The general public,
even after fifteen months of war, has the same kind of respect for the
printed word. How long does it take you to read a letter? I imagine that
two readings would give you the gist of it? Well, it takes a British
general at least five readings, and even then he only understands a word
here and there, unless it's written in his own barbaric departmental
English. If I had a general over me here--which, thank Heaven, I've
not--and I were to make a simple suggestion, he would invite me to put
it on paper. This he would do because he would presume that life would
be too short for me to succeed, and that, therefore, he should be
forever spared having to make up his mind in response to any prompting
on my side. If, on the other hand, I did by chance embody my suggestion
in typescript, he would be amazed at the result, and by some alchemy of
thought, if he could write on the top 'Concur,' he would feel that he
had created the suggestion himself. The effort even to write 'Concur'
represents for the average British general the amount of labor involved
by a woman in producing a child, and ... but look here--to-night at half
past seven. So long!"

Hazlewood hurried away; at dinner that night he went on with his
discourse.

"You know that among savages certain words are taboo and that in the
Middle Ages certain words possessed magic properties? The same thing
applies to the army and to the navy. For instance, the navy has a word
of power that will open anything. That word is 'submit'. If you wrote
'submitted' at the top of a communication I believe you could tell an
admiral that he was a damn fool, but if you wrote 'suggested' you'd be
shot at dawn. In the same way a naval officer indorses your 'submission'
by writing 'approved' whereas a soldier writes 'concur.' I've often
wondered what would happen to a general who wrote 'agree'. Certainly any
junior officer who wrote 'begin' for 'commence' or 'allow' for 'permit'
would be cashiered. I was rather lucky because, after being suspected
for the simplicity of my reports, I managed to use the word 'connote'
once. My dear woman, my reputation was made. Generals came up and
congratulated me personally, and I'm credibly informed that all the new
military ciphers will include the word, which was just what was wanted
to supplant 'mean,' a monosyllable that had been a blot on military
correspondence for years."

"Are you talking seriously?" Sylvia asked. "You can't really connote
what you say."

Hazlewood indicated the room where they were dining.

"Which are the English diplomats?" he demanded.

"That's perfectly easy to tell," she replied.

"And why?" he went on. "Simply because they've made no concession to
being in Nish at a moment of crisis. I invite you to regard my friend
Harry Vereker. See how he defies any Horatian regret for lapsed years.
Positively he is still at Oxford. Can't you hear above all this clatter
of cosmopolitanism in a pigsty the suave insistency of his voice
impressing upon you by its quality of immutable self-assurance that,
whatever happens to the rest of the world, nothing vitally deformative
ever happens to England?"

"But what has the voice of a secretary to do with the military abuse of
Latin derivations?"

"Not much, I admit, except in its serene ruthlessness. An English
officer compels a Latin verb to fit in with his notion of what a Latin
verb ought to do just in the same way as he expects a Spaniard to regard
with pleasure his occupation of Gibraltar: any protest by a grammarian
or an idealistic politician would strike him as impertinent. Harry
Vereker's voice is a still more ineradicable manifestation of the
spirit. Listen! He is asking the waiter in Serbian for salt, but he does
so in a way that reminds one of mankind's concession to animals in using
forms of communication that the latter can understand. It is not to be
supposed that the dog invented patting: Harry's Serbian is his way of
patting the waiter: it is his language, not the waiter's. Personally I
can't help confessing that I admire this attitude to the world, and I
only wish that it could be eternally preserved. The great historical
tragedy of this war--I'm putting on one side for the moment the
countless personal tragedies that are included in it, and trying to
regard the war as Mr. Buckle regarded civilization--the great historical
tragedy will be the Englishman's loss of his personality. When we look
back at the historical tragedy of the fall of the Roman Empire, we think
less of the _civis Romanus sum_ than of the monuments of architecture,
law, political craft, and the rest that remain imperishably part of
human progress. In the same way a thousand years hence I assume that the
British Empire will be considered to have played a part only second to
the Roman Empire in the manifest results of its domination. But what has
been lost and what will be lost is the individual Roman's attitude and
the individual Englishman's. Not all the remains of the Roman Empire
have been enough really to preserve for us the indefinable flavor of
being a Roman, and with much more material at his disposal I defy the
perfect cosmopolitan of mixed Aryan, Mongol, and Semitic blood to
realize a thousand years from now Harry Vereker's tone of voice in
asking that waiter for the salt. No, no, the cosmopolitan of the future
will turn aside from the records of the past and in Esperanto murmur
sadly to himself that something is missing from his appreciation.
Perhaps I can illustrate my meaning better if I compare the Athenians
with the French. I feel that the art of both enduring through time to
come will be enough. I have no regret for the personal attitude of the
Athenian, and in the same way I don't feel that the cosmopolitan of a
thousand years hence will lose anything by not meeting the Frenchman of
to-day. It is Athens and France rather than the Athenian or the
Frenchman of which the world is enamoured. How often have I heard a
foreigner say: 'The politics of England do not please me: I find it a
brigand policy, but the individual Englishman is always a gentleman.' An
individual Englishman like Byron is worth more to England than twenty
Chamberlains or Greys, who yet have more right to represent their
country: he comes as such a romantic surprise. A Frenchman like
Lafayette is taken for granted. The word of an Englishman is proverbial;
the perfidy of Albion equally so."

"And the Germans?" Sylvia asked.

"Oh, they have never been thought worthy of a generalization. We have
apprehended them vaguely as one apprehends pigs--as a nation of gross
feeders and badly dressed women drinking a mixture of treacle and onions
they call beer, with a reputation for guttural peregrination and
philosophy."

"Their music," Sylvia protested.

"Yes, that is difficult to explain. Yes, I think we must give them that;
but when we remember Bach and Schumann, we must not forget Wagner and
the German band."

"I think your characterization is rather crude," Sylvia said.

"It is crude. But there is no bygone civilization with which Germanic
_Kultur_ can be compared. So as with any novelty one depends upon a
sneer to hide one's own ignorance."

"The Italians interest me more," Sylvia said.

"The Italians seem to me rather to resemble the English, and naturally,
because they are the most direct heirs of Rome. I'm bound to say that I
don't believe in an imperial future for them now. It's surely impossible
to revive Rome. They still preserve an immense capacity for political
craft, but it is an egotism that lacks the sublime unconsciousness of
English egotism. The Italians have never recovered from _Il Principe_ of
Machiavelli. It's an eclectic statecraft; like their painting from
Raphael onward, it's too _soigné_. Moreover, Italy suffers from the
perpetual sacrifice of the southern Italian to the northern. The real
Italians belong to the south, and for me the _risorgimento_ has always
been a phenix rising from the ashes of the south; the bird is most
efficient, but I distrust its aquiline appearance. One of the most
remarkable surprises of this war has been the superior fighting
quality--the more quickly beating heart--of the Neapolitans and
Sicilians. I found the same surprising quality in the Greeks during the
last Balkan war. To me, who regard the Mediterranean as still _the_
civilized sea of the world, the triumph of Naples has been a delight."

"And the Russians?" Sylvia went on.

"Ah, the future of Russia is as much an unknown quantity as the future
of womanhood. Personally I am convinced that the next great civilization
will be Slavonic, and my chief grudge against mortality is that I must
die long before it even begins to draw near, for it is still as far away
as Johannine Christianity will be from the Petrine Christianity to which
we have been too long devoted. But when it does come, I am sure that it
will easily surpass all previous civilizations, because I believe it
will resolve the eternal dualism in humanity that hitherto we have
expressed roughly by Empire and Papacy or by Church and State. I
envisage Russia as containing the civilization of the soul, though God
knows through what agony of blood and tears it may have to pass before
it can express what it contains. In Russia there still exists a genuine
worship of the Czar as a superior being, and a nation that respects the
divinity about a king is still as deep in the mire of fetichism as the
most debased Melanesians. We worship kings in England, I admit, but only
snobbishly; we significantly call the pound a sovereign. Not even our
most exalted snobs dream of paying divine honors to kingship; we are too
much heirs of Imperial Rome for that. I always attribute Magna Charta to
an inherited consciousness of Cæsarian excesses."

"And now you've only Austria left," said Sylvia.

"Austria," Hazlewood exclaimed. "A battered cocotte who sustains herself
by devoting to pietism the settlements of her numerous lovers--a cocotte
with a love of finery, a profound cynicism, and an acquired deportment.
Austria! rouged and raddled, plumped and corseted, a suitable mistress
for that licentious but still tragic old buffoon who rules her."

"What a wonderful sermon on so slight a text as a friend's asking a
Serbian waiter for salt," Sylvia said.

"Ah, you led me away from the main thread by asking me direct questions.
I meant to confine myself to England."

"_On peut toujours revenir aux moutons_" Sylvia said.

"New Zealand mutton, eh?" Hazlewood laughed. "Wasn't it a New Zealander
who was to meditate upon the British Empire a thousand years hence amid
the ruins of St. Paul's?"

"Well, go on," she urged.

"You're one of those listening sirens so much more fatal than the
singing variety," he laughed.

"Oh, but I'm very rarely a good listener," she protested.

Hazlewood bowed.

"And don't forget that sirens have always an _arrière-pensée_," she went
on. "However well you talk, you'll find that I shall demand something in
return for my attention. Don't look alarmed; it won't involve you
personally."

Sylvia was getting a good deal of pleasure out of his monologue; it was
just what her nerves needed, this sense of being entertained while all
the time she preserved, so far as any reality of personal intercourse
was concerned, a complete detachment. She was quite definitely aware of
wanting Hazlewood to exhaust himself that she might either bring her
part of the conversation round to Michael or, at any rate, exact from
him an excuse for lingering in Nish until Michael should come there. Now
her host was off again:

"Have you ever thought," he was asking her, "about the appropriateness
of our national animal--the British lion? We are rather apt to regard
the lion as a bluff, hearty sort of beast with a loud roar and a
consciousness of being the finest beast anywhere about. But, after all,
the lion is one of the great cats. He's something much finer than the
British bulldog, which, with most unnecessary self-depreciation, we have
elected as our secondary pattern or prototype among the animals. There
are few animals so profoundly, so densely, so hopelessly stupid as the
bulldog. Its chief virtue is alleged to be its never knowing when it is
beaten, but this is only an incidental ignorance merged in its ignorance
of everything. Why a dog that approximates in character to a mule and in
appearance to a hippopotamus should be accepted as the representative of
English character I don't know. The attribution takes its place with
some of the great fundamental mysteries of human conduct; it is
comparable with those other riddles of why a chauffeur always waits till
you get into the car again before he turns round, or why kidneys are so
rare in beefsteak-and-kidney pudding, or why every man in the course of
his life has either wanted to buy or has bought a rustic summer-house.
The lion, however, really is typical of the Englishman: somewhat blond
and very agile, physically courageous, morally timid, fierce, full of
domestic virtues, tolerant of jackals, generous, cunning, graceful,
arrogant, and acquisitive: he seems to me a perfect symbol of the
British race."

"Is your friend at the diplomats' table so very leonine?" Sylvia asked.

"Oh no, Harry is the individual Englishman; the lion represents the
race."

"But the race is an accumulation of individuals."

"I say, don't listen too intelligently," Hazlewood begged. "It's not
fair either to my babbling or to your own dinner."

"Well, I want to bring you back to the point you made when you talked
about the historical tragedy of this war."

Hazlewood looked serious.

"I meant what I said. I've just come from the grave of what was England,
and already the deeds at Gallipoli have taken on the aspect of a heroic
frieze. We might have repeated Gallipoli here in Serbia, but we
sha'n't; we've learned our lesson; I do not think that on such a scale
such decorative heroism can ever happen again. Gallipoli saw the death
of the amateur; and a conservative like myself feels the historical
tragedy of such a death. I suppose there are few people who would be
prepared to argue that such a spirit ought to be purchased at such a
price, and yet I don't know--I believe I would. I wasn't in Flanders at
the beginning; but I imagine the same spirit existed there. Don't you
remember the childlike, amateurish pleasure that all the soldiers took
in being ferried across the Channel without anybody's knowing they had
gone? The successful secrecy compensated them for all that hell of Mons.
You'll never again hear of that childlike enjoyment. Very soon we shall
have conscription, and from that moment the amateur in a position of
responsibility who sacrifices any man's life to his own sense of
exterior form will become a criminal. Surely it is an appalling tragedy
that we sha'n't be able to carry on such a war as this without
conscription? England, our England, disappears with conscription:
nothing will ever be the same again. They accused us of decadence, but
had you seen that landing last April--had you seen that immortal
division of Englishmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen, and Welshmen literally
dyeing the sea with their blood, you could never have thought of
decadence again. And yet, mark my words, so much of England was lost
upon that day that already the unthinking herd led by the newspapers,
which are always waiting to hail the new king, talks of the landing as
famous chiefly for the Australian share in it. My God, it enrages me to
read about the Australians when I think of that deathless dead division.
Whatever else may happen in this war, whatever our fate at the hands of
intriguing politicians and backbiting generals, England was herself upon
that day: it stands with Trafalgar and Agincourt in a trinity of
imperishable glory."

"But why do you say that so much of England was lost? You don't think
we shall disgrace ourselves henceforth in this war?"

"We have already done so morally in failing to come to the help of the
Serbians. Gallipoli turned us into professionals, and though I'm not
saying that there is a single good professional argument in favor of
helping Serbia, I still believe against all professionals that we shall
pay for our failure in bitter years of prolonged war. The Dardanelles
could have been forced. What stopped it? Professional jealousy at home."

"It's a hard thing of which to accuse the people at home."

"It was a hard thing to land that day at Sedd-el-bahr, but it was done.
No, we've fallen a prey to the glamour of Teutonism, and of being
expedient and Hunnish. By the time the war is over I don't doubt we
shall be a very pretty imitation of the real article that we're setting
out to destroy. But, thank Heaven, we shall always be able to point to
Mons and to Antwerp and to Gallipoli: though we are fast forgetting to
be gentlemen, we've already forgotten more than the Germans ever dreamed
of in that direction. Mind you, I'm not attempting to say that we
haven't got to hit below the belt: we have, because we are fighting with
foul fighters; but that is what I conceive to be the historical tragedy
of this war--the debasement of our ideals in order that we may compete
with the Germans, and with the old men in morocco-chairs at home, and
with the guttural press. I remember how the waning moon of dawn came up
out of Asia while we were still waiting for news of the Suvla landing.
There was a tattoo of musketry over the sea, a lisp of wind in the sandy
grass; and in a moment of apprehensive chill I divined that with a
failure at Suvla this waning moon was the last moon that would rise upon
the old way of thinking, the rare old way of acting, the old, old merry
England built in a thousand years."

"But a greater England may arise from that failure."

"Yes, but it won't be our England. The grave of our England was dug by
the Victorians; this generation has planted the flowers upon it; the
monument will be raised by the new generation. Oh yes, I know, it's an
egotistical regret, a superficial and sentimental regret, if you will,
but you must allow some of us to cherish it; otherwise we could not go
on. And in the end I believe history will indorse the school of thought
I follow. In the end I'm convinced that it will blame the men who failed
to see that England was great by the measure of her greatness, and that
the real way to win this war was by what were sneeringly called
side-shows. All our history has been the alternate failure and triumph
of our side-shows; we made ourselves what we are by side-shows."

Hazlewood swept from the table the pile of crumbs he had been building
while he was talking, and smiled at Sylvia.

"It's your turn now," he said.

"You've deprived me of any capacity for generalization. I think perhaps
you may have got things out of focus. I know it's a platitude, but isn't
one always inevitably out of focus nowadays? When I was still at a
distance from the war the whole perspective was blurred to my vision by
the intrusion of individual humiliations and sufferings. Now I'm nearer
to it I feel that my vision is equally faulty from an indifference to
them," Sylvia said, earnestly.

Then she told Hazlewood the story of Queenie and the passport, and asked
for his opinion.

"Well, of course, there's an instance to hand of sterile
professionalism. Naturally, had I been the official in Bucharest, I
should have given the girl her passport. At such a moment I should have
been too much moved by her desire of England to have done otherwise.
Moreover, if her desire of England was not mere lust, I should have been
right to do so."

Sylvia finished her story by telling him of Queenie's escape with the
juggler after the probable theft of Maud's passport.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "I'll bet they've gone to Salonika. We'll send
a telegram to our people there and warn them to keep a lookout."

"What a paradox human sympathy is," Sylvia murmured. "Ever since I got
to Nish it's been on my conscience that I didn't tell you about this
girl before, and yet in Bucharest the notion of doing anything like that
was positively disgusting to my sense of decency. And look at you! A
moment ago you were abusing the official in Bucharest for his red tape,
and now your eyes are flashing with the prospect of hunting her down."

"Not even Heraclitus divined quite the rapidity with which everything
dissolves in flux," said Hazlewood. "That's another thing that will be
brought home to people before the war's over--the intensity and rapidity
of change, of course considerably strengthened and accelerated by the
impulse that war has given to pure destruction. You can see it even in
broad ideas. We began by fighting for a scrap of paper; we shall go on
fighting for different ideas until we realize we are fighting for our
existence. Then suddenly we shall think we are fighting about nothing,
and the war will be over."

Hazlewood sat silent; most of the diners had finished and left the room,
which accentuated his silence with an answering stillness.

"Well, what is to be your reward for listening?" he asked at length.

"To stay on in Nish for the present," she answered, firmly.

"No, no," he objected, with a sudden fretfulness that was the more
conspicuous after his late exuberance. "No, no, we don't want more women
than are necessary. You'd better get down to Salonika on Monday. Look
here, I must send a telegram about that friend of yours. Come round to
my office and give me the details."

Sylvia accompanied him in a state of considerable depression; she could
not bear the idea of revealing so much of herself as to ask him directly
to give her an excuse to remain in Nish because she wanted to see
Michael; it was seeming impossible to introduce the personal element in
this war-cursed town, and particularly now when she was quenching so
utterly the personal element by thus allying herself with Hazlewood
against Queenie. She waited while he deciphered a short telegram which
had arrived during his absence and while he occupied himself with
writing another.

"How will this do for their description?" he read:

     "A certain Krebs known professionally as Zozo, acrobatic juggler
     and conjurer, alleged Swiss nationality, tall, large face, clean
     shaven, very large hands, speaking English well, accompanied by
     Queenie Walters of German origin possibly carrying stolen passport
     of Maud Moffat, English variety artiste. Description, slim, very
     fair, blue eyes, pale, delicate, speaks German, Italian, French,
     and English, left Bucharest at end of September. Probably traveled
     via Dedeagatch and Salonika. Nothing definite known against them,
     but man frequented company of notorious enemy agents in Bucharest
     and is known to be bad character. Suggest he is likely to use woman
     to get in touch with British officers."

"But what will they do to her?" Sylvia asked, dismayed by this
metamorphosis of Queenie into a police-court case.

"Oh, they won't do anything," Hazlewood replied, irritably. "She'll be
added to the great army of suspects whose histories in all their
discrepancies are building up the Golden Legend of this war. She'll
exist in card indexes for the rest of her life; and her reputation will
circulate only a little more freely than herself. In fact, really I'm
doing her a favor by putting her down for the observation of our
military psychologists and criminologists; her life will become much
easier henceforth. The war has not cured human nature of a passion for
bric-à-brac, and as a catalogued article _de virtu_--or should I say _de
vice_?--she will be well looked after."

"Then, if that's all, why do you send the telegram?" Sylvia asked.

"I really don't know--probably because I've joined in the May-pole dance
for ribbons with the rest of the departmental warriors. Card indexes are
the casualty lists of officers commanding _embusqués_; the longer the
list of names the longer the row of ribbons."

"You've become very bitter," Sylvia said. "It's like a sudden change of
wind. I feel quite chilled."

"Well, you shall warm yourself by taking down a few hundred groups. Come
along."

Sylvia listened for an hour to the endless groups of five figures that
Hazlewood dictated to her, during which time his voice that began calmly
and murmurously reached a level of rasping and lacerating boredom before
he had done.

"Thank Heaven that's over and we can go to bed," he said.

He seemed to be anxious to be rid of her, and she went away in some
disconsolation at his abrupt change of manner. Nothing that she could
think of occurred to cause it, and ultimately she could only ascribe it
to nerves.

"And, after all, why not nerves?" she said to herself. "Who will ever
again be able to blame people for having nerves?"

The next morning a note came from Hazlewood apologizing for his rudeness
and thanking her for her help.

     I was in a vile humor [he wrote], because when I got back to my
     room I found a refusal to let me leave Nish and join the Serbian
     Headquarters on the eastern frontier. This morning they've changed
     their minds and I'm off at once. Keep the room, if you insist upon
     staying in Nish. If Miss Potberry by any unlucky chance turns up,
     say I've been killed and that she had better report in Salonika as
     soon as possible. If I see Michael Fane, which is very unlikely,
     I'll tell him you want to see him.

With all his talk Hazlewood had plumbed her desire; with all his talk
about nations he had not lost his capacity for divining the individual.
Sylvia wished now that he was not upon his way to the Bulgarian
frontier; she should like to watch herself precipitated by his acid. Did
acids precipitate? It did not matter; there was no second person's
comprehension to be considered at the moment. Sylvia stayed on in the
room, watching from the balcony the now unceasing press of refugees.

Three days after she had dined with Hazlewood there was a murmur in the
square, a heightened agitation that made a positive impact upon the
atmosphere: Bulgaria had declared war. She had the sense of a curtain's
rising upon the last and crucial act, the sense of an audience strung to
such a pitch of expectancy, dread, and woe that it was become a part of
the drama. During the next three days the influx of pale fugitives was
like a scene upon the banks of the Styx. The odor of persecuted humanity
hung upon the air in a positively visible miasma; white exhausted women
suckled their babies in the mud; withered crones dragged from bed sat
nursing their ulcers; broken-hearted old men bowed their heads between
their knees, seeming actually to have been trampled underfoot in the
confused terror that had brought them here; the wailing of tired and
hungry children never ceased for a single instant. The only thing that
seemed to keep this dejected multitude from rotting in death where they
lay was the assurance that every one gave his neighbor of the British
and French advance to save them. Two French officers sent up on some
business from Salonika walked through the square in their celestial
uniforms like angels of God, for the people fell down before them and
gave thanks; faded flowers were flung in their path, and women caught at
their hands to kiss them as they went by. Once there was a sound of
cavalry's approach, and the despairing mob shouted for joy and pressed
forward to greet the vanguard of rescue; but it was a Serbian patrol
covered with blood and dust which had been ordered back to guard the
railway line. The troopers rode through sullenly and the people did not
even whisper about them, so deep was their disillusion, so bitter their
resentment. And through all this fetid and pitiful mob the English
nurses wound their way like a Dorothy Perkins rambler.

A week after Hazlewood had left Nish Sylvia saw from her balcony a fair
young Englishwoman followed by a ragged boy carrying a typewriter in a
tin case. It struck her as the largest typewriter that she had ever
seen, and she was thinking vaguely what a ridiculous weapon it was to
carry about at such a moment when it suddenly flashed upon her that this
might be the long-expected Miss Potberry. She hurried down-stairs and
heard her asking in the hall if any one knew where Captain Hazlewood
could be found. Sylvia came forward and explained his absence.

"He did not really expect you, but he told me to tell you that if you
did come you ought to go back immediately to Salonika."

"I don't think I can go back to Salonika," said Miss Potberry. "Somebody
was firing at the train I came in, and they told me at the station that
there would be no more trains to Salonika, because the line had been
cut."

The boy had put her typewriter upon a table in the hall; she stood by,
embracing it with a kind of serene determination that reminded Sylvia of
the images of patron saints that hold in their arms the cathedral they
protect.

"I'm surprised they let you come up from Salonika," Sylvia said. "Didn't
they know the line was likely to be cut?"

"I had to report to Captain Hazlewood," Miss Potberry replied, firmly.
"And as I had already been rather delayed upon my journey, I was anxious
to get on as soon as possible."

The consciousness of being needed by England radiated from her eyes; it
was evident that nothing would make her budge from Nish until she had
reported herself to her unknown chief.

"You'd better share my room," Sylvia said. She nearly blushed at her own
impudence when Miss Potberry gratefully accepted the offer. However, she
could no longer reproach herself for staying on in Nish without
justification, for now it was impossible to go away in ordinary fashion.

"It seems funny that Captain Hazlewood shouldn't have left any written
instructions for me," said Miss Potberry, when she had waited three days
in Nish without any news except the rumored fall of Veles. "I'm not sure
if I oughtn't to try and join him wherever he is."

"But he's at the front," Sylvia objected.

"I had instructions to report to him," said Miss Potberry, seriously. "I
think I'm wasting time and drawing my salary for nothing here. _That_
isn't patriotism. If he'd left something for me to type--but to wait
here like this, doing nothing, seems almost wicked at such a time."

Two more days went by; Uskub had fallen; everybody gave up the idea of
Anglo-French troops arriving to relieve Nish, and everybody began to
talk about evacuation. About six o'clock of a stormy dusk, four days
after the fall of Uskub, a Serbian soldier came to the hotel to ask
Sylvia to come at once to a hospital. She wondered if something had
happened to Michael, if somehow he had heard she was in Nish, and that
he had sent for her. But when she reached the school-room that was
serving as an improvised ward she found Hazlewood lying back upon a heap
of straw that was called a bed.

"Done a damned stupid thing," he murmured. "Got hit, and they insisted
on my being sent back to Nish. Think I'm rather bad. Why haven't you
left?"

"The line is cut."

"I know. You ought to have been gone by now. You can take my horse.
Every one will evacuate Nish. No chance. The Austrians have joined up
with the Bulgarians. Bound to fall. I want you to take the keys of my
safe and burn all my papers. Don't forget the cipher. Go and do it now
and let me know it's done. Quick, it's worrying me. Nothing important,
but it's worrying me."

Sylvia decided to say nothing to him about Miss Potberry's arrival in
order not to worry him any more. Miss Potberry should have his horse:
Nish might be empty as a tomb, but she herself should stay on for news
of Michael Fane.

"What are you waiting for?" he asked, fretfully. "Damn it! I sha'n't
last forever. That's Antitch you're staring at in the next bed."

Sylvia looked at the figure muffled in bandages. Apparently all the
lower part of his face had been shot away, and she could see nothing but
a pair of dark and troubled eyes wandering restlessly in the
candle-light.

"We took our finals together," said Hazlewood.

Sylvia went away quickly; if she had paused to compare this meeting with
the first meeting in the railway carriage not yet three weeks ago, she
should have broken down.

When Miss Potberry heard of her chief's arrival in Nish she insisted
upon going to see him.

"But, my dear woman, he may be dying. What's the good of bothering him
now? I'll find out whatever he can tell me. You must get ready to leave
Nish. Pack up your things."

"He may be glad to dictate something," Miss Potberry argued. "Please let
me come. I am anxious to report to Captain Hazlewood. I'm sure if you
had told him that I was here he would have wished to see me."

Sylvia did not feel that she could contest anything; with Miss
Potberry's help she burned the few papers that remained in the safe,
together with the cipher, which glowed and smoldered in the basin for
what seemed an interminable time. When not a single record of
Hazlewood's presence in Serbia remained, Sylvia and Miss Potberry went
back to the hospital.

"You've burned everything?" he asked.

Sylvia nodded.

"Is that a nurse? I can't see in this infernal candle-light, and I'm
chockful of morphia, which makes my eye-lids twitch."

"It's I, Captain Hazlewood--Miss Potberry. I had instructions from the
War Office to report to you. I was unfortunately delayed upon my
journey, and when I arrived from Salonika you had left. Is there
anything you would like done?"

"Oh, my God!" he half groaned, half laughed. "I see that even my
death-bed is going to be haunted by departmental imbecility. Who on
earth sent you to Nish from Salonika?"

"Colonel Bullingham-Jones, to whom I reported in Salonika, knew nothing
about me and advised me to come on here as soon as possible."

"Officious ass!" Hazlewood muttered. "Why didn't you go back when you
found I wasn't here?" he added to his secretary.

"There was no way of getting back, Captain Hazlewood. I believe that the
enemy has cut the line."

"I'm sorry you've had all this trouble for nothing," he said. "However,
you and Miss Scarlett must settle between you how to get away. You'd
better hang on to one of the Red Cross units."

"I'm afraid I may have to leave my typewriter behind," said Miss
Potberry. "Have I your permission?"

"You have," he said, smiling with his eyes through the glaze of the
drug.

"You couldn't give me a written authorization?" asked Miss Potberry.
"Being government property--"

"No, I can only give you verbal instructions. Both my arms have been
shot away, or as nearly shot away as doesn't make it possible to write."

"Oh, I beg your pardon. Then to whom should I report next?"

"I don't know. It might be St. Peter, with winter coming on and Albania
to be crossed. No, no, don't you bother about reporting. Just follow the
crowd and you'll be all right. Good-by, Miss Potberry. Sorry you've had
such a long journey for nothing. Sorry about everything."

He beckoned Sylvia close to him with his eyes.

"For Christ's sake get rid of her or I shall have another hemorrhage."

Sylvia asked Miss Potberry to go back to the hotel and get packed. When
the secretary had gone, she knelt by Hazlewood.

"Michael Fane arrived yet?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"I had something to give him."

The wounded man's face became more definitely lined with pain in the new
worry of Fane's non-appearance.

"I want you to give him a letter. It's under my pillow. If by chance he
doesn't come, perhaps you'd be good enough to post it when you get an
opportunity. Miss Pauline Grey, Wychford Rectory, Oxfordshire."

Sylvia found the letter, which was still unaddressed.

"If Michael comes, I'd like him to take it to her himself when he gets
to England. Thanks awfully. Give him my love. He was a great friend of
mine. Yes, a great friend. Thanks awfully for helping me. I don't like
to worry the poor devils here. They've got such a lot to worry them.
Antitch died while you were burning my papers."

Sylvia looked at the muffled figure whose eyes no longer stared with
troubled imperception.

"Of course I may last for two or three days," he went on. "And in that
case I may see Michael. Mind you bring him if he comes in time. Great
friend of mine, and I'd like him to explain something to somebody. By
the way, don't take all my talk the other night too seriously. I often
talk like that. I don't mean half I say. England's all right, really.
Perhaps you'll look me up in the morning if I'm still here? Good-by.
Thanks very much. I'm sorry I can't shake hands."

"Would you like a priest?" Sylvia asked.

"A priest?" he repeated, in a puzzled voice. "Oh no, thanks very much;
priests have always bored me. I'm going to lie here and think. The
annoying thing is, you know, that I've not the slightest desire to die.
Some people say that you have at the end, but I feel as if I was missing
a train. Perhaps I'll see you in the morning. So long."

But she did not see him in the morning, because he died in the night,
and his bed was wanted immediately for another wounded man.

"What a dreadful thing war is!" sighed Miss Potberry. "I've lost two
first cousins and four second cousins, and my brother is soon going to
France."

The evacuation of Nish was desperately hastened by the news of the swift
advance of the enemy on three sides. Sylvia, with the help of Colonel
Michailovitch, managed to establish her rights over Hazlewood's horse,
and Miss Potberry, fired with the urgency of reporting to somebody else
and of explaining why she had abandoned her typewriter, was persuaded to
attach herself to a particularly efflorescent branch of Dorothy Perkins
that had wound itself round Harry Vereker to be trained into safety on
the other side of the mountains. The last that Sylvia saw of her was
when she drove out of Nish in a bullock-cart, still pink and prim,
because the jolting had not yet really begun. The last Sylvia heard of
Harry Vereker was his unruffled voice leaving instructions that if some
white corduroy riding-breeches which he had been expecting by special
courier from Athens should by chance arrive before the Bulgarians, they
were to follow him. One had the impression of his messenger and his
breeches as equally important entities marching arm in arm toward the
Black Drin in obedience to his instructions. The next day came news of
the fall of Kragujevatz, following upon that of Pirot, and the fever of
flight was aggravated to panic.

In the evening when Sylvia was watching the tormented square, listening
to the abuse and blasphemy that was roused by the scarcity of transport,
and trying to accept in spite of the disappointment the irremediable
fact of Michael's failure to arrive, she suddenly caught sight of his
sister pushing her way through the mob below. Her appearance alone like
this could only mean that Michael had been killed; Sylvia cursed the
flattering lamp of fortune, which had lighted her to Nish only to
extinguish itself in this moment of confusion and horror. How pale that
sister looked, how deeply ringed her eyes, how torn and splashed her
dress: she must have heard the news of her brother and fled in despair
before the memory. All Sylvia's late indifference to suffering in the
actual presence of war was rekindled to a fury of resentment against the
unreasonable forces that the world had let loose upon itself; even the
envelope that Hazlewood had given to her now burned her heart with what
it inclosed of eternally unquenched regret, of eternal unfulfilment. She
hurried down-stairs and out into the mad, screaming, weeping mob and
bathed herself in the stench of wet and filthy rags and in the miasma of
sick, starved, and verminous bodies. A child was sucking the raw head of
a hen; it happened that Sylvia knocked against it in her hurry,
whereupon the child grabbed the morsel of blood and mud, snarling at her
like a famished hound. Wherever she looked there were children searching
on all-fours among the filth lodged in the cracks of the rough
paving-stones; it was an existence where nothing counted except the
ability to trample over one's neighbor to reach food or safety; and she
herself was searching for Michael's sister in the fetid swarm, just as
these children were shrieking and scratching for the cabbage-stalks they
found among the dung. At last the two women met, and Sylvia caught hold
of Mrs. Merivale's arm.

"What do you want? What do you want?" she cried. "Can I help you?"

The other turned and looked at Sylvia without recognizing her.

"You're Mrs. Merivale--Michael's sister," Sylvia went on. "Don't you
remember me? Sylvia Scarlett. What has happened to him?"

"Can't we get out of this crowd?" Mrs. Merivale replied. "I'm trying to
find an English officer--Captain Hazlewood."

Before Sylvia could tell her what had happened a cart drawn by a donkey
covered with sores interposed between them; it was impossible for either
woman to ask or answer anything in this abomination of humanity that
oozed and writhed like a bunch of earthworms on a spade. Somehow they
emerged from it all, and Sylvia brought her up-stairs to her room.

"Is Michael dead?" she asked.

"No, but he's practically dying. I've got him into a deserted house. He
fell ill with typhus in Kragujevatz. The enemy was advancing terribly
fast, and I got him here, Heaven knows how, in a bullock-cart--I've
probably killed him in doing so; he certainly can't be moved again. I
must find this friend of ours--Guy Hazlewood. He'll be able to tell me
how long we can stay in Nish."

Sylvia broke the news of Hazlewood's death and was momentarily
astonished to see how casually she took it. Then she remembered that she
had already lost her husband, that her brother was dying, and that
probably she had heard such tidings of many friends. This was a woman
who was beholding the society in which she had lived falling to pieces
round her every day; she was not, like herself, cloistered in vagrancy,
one for whom life and death had waved at each other from every platform
and every quay in partings that were not less final. There occurred to
Sylvia the last utterance of Hazlewood about missing a train; he perhaps
had found existence to be a destructive business; but, even so, she
could not think that he had loved it more charily.

"Everybody is dying," said Mrs. Merivale. "Those who survive this war
will really have been granted a second life and will have to begin all
over again like children--or lunatics," she added to herself.

"Could I come with you to see him?" Sylvia asked. "I had typhus myself
last year in Petrograd and I could nurse him."

"I don't think it's any longer a matter for nursing," the other
answered, hopelessly. "It's just leaving him alone and not worrying him
any more. Oh, I wonder how long we can count on Nish not being
attacked."

"Not very long, I'm afraid," said Sylvia. "Hardly any time at all, in
fact."

They left the hotel with that sense of mechanical action which sometimes
relieves a strain of accumulated emotion. Sylvia had the notion of
finding a Serbian doctor whom she knew slightly, and was successful in
bringing him along to the house where Michael was lying. It was dark
when they arrived in the deserted side-street now strewn with the
rubbish of many families' flight.

Michael was lying on a camp bed in the middle of the room. On the floor
a Serbian peasant wearing a Red Cross brassard was squatting by his head
and from time to time moistening his forehead with a damp sponge. In a
corner two other Serbians armed with fantastic weapons sat cross-legged
upon the floor, a winking candle and strewn playing-cards between them.
Sylvia felt a sudden awe of looking at him directly, and she waited in
the doorway while the doctor went forward with his sister to make his
examination. After a short time the doctor turned away with a shrug; he
and Mrs. Merivale rejoined Sylvia in the doorway and together they went
in another room, where the doctor in sibilant French confirmed the
impossibility of moving him if his life was to be saved. He added that
the Bulgarians would be in Nish within a few days and that the town
would be empty long before that. Then, after giving a few conventional
directions for the care of the patient, he saluted the two women and
went away.

Sylvia and Mrs. Merivale looked at each other across a bare table on
which was set a lantern covered with cobwebs; it was the only piece of
furniture left, and Sylvia had a sense of dramatic unreality about their
conversation: standing up in this dim room, she was conscious of a
make-believe intensity that tore the emotions more completely into rags
than any normal procedure or expression of passionate feeling. Yet it
was only because she divined an approach to the climax of her life that
she felt thus; it was so important that she should have her way in what
she intended to do that it was impossible for her to avoid regarding
Michael's sister not merely as a partner in the scene, but also as the
audience on whose approval success ultimately depended. The bareness of
the room was like a stage, and the standing up like this was like a
scene; it seemed right to exaggerate the gestures to keep pace with the
emotional will to achieve her desire.

"Mrs. Merivale," she began, "I beg you to let me stay behind in Nish and
look after Michael so far as anything can be done--and of course it will
be better for him that a woman should oversee the devotion of his
orderly. Nothing will induce me to leave Nish. Nothing. You must
understand that now. There is nothing to prevent me from staying here;
you must take Captain Hazlewood's horse and go to-morrow."

"Leave my brother? Why, the idea is absurd. I tell you I almost dragged
that cart through the mud from Kragujevatz. Besides, I'm a more or less
qualified nurse. You're not."

"I'm qualified to nurse him through this fever because I know exactly
what is wanted. If any new complication arose, you could do no more than
I could do until the Bulgarian doctors arrived. If you stay here, you
will be taken to Bulgaria."

"And why not?" demanded the other. "I'd much rather be taken prisoner
with Michael than go riding off on my own and leave him here. No, no,
the idea's impossible."

"You have your mother--his mother--to think of. You have your son,"
Sylvia argued.

"Neither mother nor son could be any excuse for leaving Michael at such
a moment."

"Certainly not, if you could not find a substitute. But I shall stay
here in any case, and you've no right to desert other obligations,"
Sylvia affirmed.

"You're talking to me in a ridiculous way. There is only one obligation,
which is to him."

"Do you think you can do more for him than I can do?" Sylvia challenged.
"You can do less. You have already had the fearful strain of getting him
here from the north. You are worn out. You are not fit to nurse him as
he must be nursed. You are not fit to deal with the Bulgarians when they
come. You are already breaking down. Why, there is no force in your
arguments! They are as tame and conventional as if you were inventing an
excuse to break a social engagement."

"But by what right do you make this--this violent demand?" asked the
other.

There suddenly came over Sylvia the futility of discussing the question
in this fashion: this flickering room, echoing faintly to the shouts of
the affrighted fugitives in the distance, lacked any atmosphere to hide
the truth, for which in its bareness and misery it seemed to cry aloud.
The question that his sister had put demanded an answer that would evade
nothing in the explanation of her request; and if that answer should
leave her soul stripped and desolate for the contemptuous regard of a
woman who could not comprehend, why then thus was her destiny written
and she should stand humiliated while the life that she had not been
great enough to seize passed out of her reach.

"If my demand is violent, my need is violent," she cried. "Once, in my
dressing-room--the only time we met--you told me that you half regretted
your rejection of art; you envied me my happiness in success. Your envy
seemed to me then the bitterest irony, for I could not find in art that
which I demanded. I have never found it until now in the chance to save
your brother's life. That is exaggerating, you'll say. Yet I do
believe--and if you could know my history you would believe it, too--I
do believe that my will can save him now not merely from death, but from
the captivity that will follow. I know what it feels like to recover
from this fever; and I know that he will not wish to see you and himself
prisoners. He will fret himself ill again about your position. I am
nothing to him. He will never know that we changed places deliberately.
He will accept me as a companion in misfortune, and I will give all that
love can give, love that feeds upon and inflames itself without
demanding fuel except from the heart of the one who loves. You cannot
refuse me now, my dear--so dear to me because you are his sister. You
cannot refuse me when I ask you to let me stay because I love him."

"Do you love Michael?" asked the other, wonderingly.

"I love him, I love him, and one does not speak lightly of love at a
moment like this. Do you remember when you asked me to come and stay
with you in the country to meet him? It was eighteen months ago. Your
letter arrived when I had just been jilted by the man I was going to
marry in a desperate effort to persuade myself that domesticity was the
cure for my discontent. My discontent was love for your brother. It has
never been anything else since the moment we met, though I cried out
'Never' when I read your invitation. I abandoned everything. I have
lived ever since as a mountebank, driven always by a single instinct
that sustained me. That instinct was merely a superstition to travel
south. Whenever I traveled on, I had always the sense of an object. I
have found that object at last, and I know absolutely that fate stood at
your elbow and dragged with you at those weary bullocks in the mud to
bring Michael here in time. I know that fate chained me to my balcony at
Nish, where for nearly a month I have been watching for your arrival.
You are wise; you have suffered; you have loved: I beseech you that,
just for the sake of your pride, you will not rob me of this moment to
which my whole life has been the mad overture."

"What you say about my being a worry to him when he recovers
consciousness is true," said the sister. "It's the only good argument
you've brought forward. Ah, but I won't be so ungenerous. Stay then.
To-night I will wait here and to-morrow you shall take my place."

The flickering bareness of the room flashed upon Sylvia with
unimaginable glory; the dark night of her soul was become day.

"I think you can hear the joy in my heart," she whispered. "I can't say
any more."

Sylvia fell upon her knees; bowing her head upon the table, she wept
tears that seemed to gush like melodious fountains in a new world.

"You have made me believe that he will not die," the sister murmured. "I
did not think that I should be able to believe that; but I do now,
Sylvia."

An assurance that positively seemed to contain life came over both of
them. Sylvia rose from her knees and abruptly they began to talk
practically of what should be done that night and of what it would be
wise to provide to-morrow. Presently Sylvia left the house, and slept in
her hotel one of those rare sleeps whence waking is a descent upon airy
plumes from heights where action and aspiration are fused in a
ravishing, unutterable affirmative, of which, somehow, a remembered
consciousness is accorded to the favored soul.

The next morning Michael's sister mounted her horse. The guns of the
desperate army of Stephanovitch confronting the Bulgarian advance were
now audible; their booming gave power of flight to the weakest that
remained in Nish; and the coil of fugitives writhed over the muddy plain
toward the mountains.

"I think he seemed a little better this morning," she said, wistfully.

"Don't be jealous of leaving me," Sylvia begged. "You shall never regret
that impulse. Will you take this golden bag with you? I don't want it to
adorn a Bulgarian; it was a token to me of love, and it has been a true
token. At the end of your journey sell it and give the money to poor
Serbians. Will you? And this letter for Captain Hazlewood. Please post
it in England. Good-by, my dear, my dear."

Michael's sister took the bag and the letter. In the light of this gray
morning her gray eyes were profound lakes of grief.

"I am envying you for the second time," she said. Then she waved her
crop and rode quickly away. Sylvia watched her out of sight, thinking
what it must have cost that proud sister to make this sacrifice. Her
heart ached with a weight of unexpressed gratitude, and yet she could
not keep it from beating with a fierce and triumphant gladness when she
went up to where Michael was lying and found him alone. The orderly and
servants had fled from the fear that clung to Nish like the clouds of
this heavy day, and Sylvia, taking his hand, bathed his forehead with a
tenderness that she half dreaded to use, so much did it seem a flame
that would fan the fever in whose embrace he tossed unconscious of all
but a world of shadows.

For a week she stayed beside him, sleeping sometimes with her head
against his arm, listening to the somber colloquies of delirium,
striving to keep the soul that often in the long trances seemed to
flutter disconsolately away from the exhausted body. There was no longer
any sound of people in Nish: there was nothing but the guns coming
nearer and nearer every hour. Then suddenly the firing ceased: there was
a clatter and a splash of cavalry upon the muddy paving-stones. The
noise passed. Michael sat up and said:

"Listen!"

She thought he was away upon some adventure of delirium and told him not
to worry, but to lie still. He was so emaciated that she asked herself
if he could really be living: it was like brushing a cobweb from one's
path to make him lie down again. A woman's scream, the thin scream of an
old woman, shuddered upon the silence outside; but the noise did not
disturb him, and he lay perfectly still with his eyes fixed upon the
ceiling. A few minutes later he again sat up in bed.

"Am I mad, or is it Sylvia Scarlett?" he asked.

"Yes, it's Sylvia. You're very ill. You must keep still."

"What an extraordinary thing!" he murmured, seriously, to himself. "I
suppose I shall hear all about it to-morrow."

He lay back again without seeming to worry about the problem of her
presence; nor did he ask where his sister was. Sylvia remembered her own
divine content in the hospital when the fever left her, and she wanted
him to lie as long as possible thus. Presently, however, he sat up again
and said:

"Listen, Sylvia, I thought I wasn't wrong. Do you hear a kind of whisper
in the air?"

She listened to please him, and then upon the silence she heard the
sound. From a whisper it grew to a sigh, from a sigh it rose to a
rustling of many leaves: it was the Bulgarian army marching into Nish, a
procession of silent-footed devils, mysterious, remorseless,
innumerable.



CHAPTER VII


TO Sylvia's surprise and relief, the conquerors paid no attention to the
house that night. Michael, after he had listened for a while to the
dampered progress of that soft-shod army, fell back upon his pillow
without comment and slept very tranquilly. Sylvia, who had now not the
least doubt of his recovery, busied herself with choosing what she
conceived to be absolute necessities for the immediate future and
packing them into her valise. In the course of her preparations she put
on one side for destruction or abandonment the contents of the golden
shawl. Daguerreotypes and photographs; a rambling declaration of the
circumstances in which her alleged grandfather had married that ghostly
Adèle her grandmother, and a variety of letters that illustrated her
mother's early life: all these might as well be burned. She lay down
upon her bed of overcoats and skirts piled upon the floor and found the
shawl a pleasant addition to the rubber hot-water-bottle she had been
using as a pillow. Michael was still sleeping; it seemed wise to blow
out the candle and, although it was scarcely seven o'clock, to try to
sleep herself. It was the first time for a week that she had been able
to feel the delicious and inviting freedom of untrammeled sleep. What
did the occupation of a Bulgarian army signify in comparison with the
assurance she felt of her patient's convalescence? The brazier glowed
before her path toward a divine oblivion.

When Sylvia woke up and heard Michael's voice calling to her, it was six
o'clock in the morning. She blew up the dull brazier to renewed warmth,
set water to boil, and in a real exultation lighted four candles to
celebrate with as much gaiety as possible the new atmosphere of joy and
hope in the stark room.

"It's all very mysterious," Michael was saying. "It's all so
delightfully mysterious that I can hardly bear to ask any questions lest
I destroy the mystery. I've been lying awake, exquisitely and
self-admiringly awake for an hour, trying to work out where I am, why
I'm where I am, why you're where you are, and where Stella is."

Sylvia told him of the immediate occasion of his sister's departure, and
when she had done so had a moment of dismay lest his affection or his
pride should be hurt by her willingness to leave him in the care of one
who was practically a stranger.

"How very kind of you!" he said. "My mother would have been distracted
by having to look after her grandson in the whirlpool of war-work upon
which she is engaged. So you had typhus, too? It's a rotten business,
isn't it? Did you feel very weak after it?"

"Of course."

"And we're prisoners?"

"I suppose so."

The water did not seem to be getting on, and Sylvia picked up her family
papers to throw into the brazier.

"Oh, I say, don't destroy without due consideration," Michael protested.
"The war has developed in me a passionate conservatism for little
things."

"I am destroying nothing of any importance," Sylvia said.

"Love-letters?" he murmured, with a smile.

She flushed angrily and discovered in herself a ridiculous readiness to
prove his speculation beside the mark.

"If I ever had any love-letters I certainly never kept them," she
avowed. "These are only musty records of a past the influence of which
has already exhausted itself."

"But photographs?" he persisted. "Let me look. Old photographs always
thrill me."

She showed him one or two of her mother.

"Odd," he commented. "She rather reminds me of my sister. Something
about the way the eyes are set."

"You're worrying about her?" Sylvia put in, quickly.

"No, no. Of course I shall be glad to hear she's safely by the sea on
the other side, but I'm not worrying about her to the extent of fancying
a non-existent likeness. There really is one; and if it comes to that,
you're not unlike her yourself."

"My father and my grandfather were both English," Sylvia said. "My
mother was French and my grandmother was Polish. My grandfather's name
was Cunningham."

"What?" Michael asked, sharply. "That's odd."

"Quite a distinguished person according to the old Frenchman whom the
world regarded as my grandfather."

She handed him Bassompierre's rambling statement about the circumstances
of her mother's birth, which he read and put down with an exclamation.

"Well, this is really extraordinary! Do you know that we're second
cousins? This Charles Cunningham became the twelfth Lord Saxby. My
father was the thirteenth and last earl. What a trick for fate to play
upon us both! No wonder there's a likeness between you and Stella. How
strange it makes that time at Mulberry Cottage seem. But you know, I
always felt that underneath our open and violent hostility there was a
radical sympathy quite inexplicable. This explains it."

Sylvia was not at all sure that she felt grateful toward the
explanation; mere kinship had never stood for much in her life.

"You must try to sleep again now," she said, sternly.

"But you don't seem at all amazed at this coincidence," Michael
protested. "You accept it as if it was a perfectly ordinary occurrence."

"I want you to sleep. Take this milk. We are sure to have a
nerve-racking day with these Bulgarians."

"Sylvia, what's the matter?" he persisted. "Why should my discovery of
our relationship annoy you?"

"It doesn't annoy me, but I want you to sleep. Do remember that you've
only just returned to yourself and that you'll soon want all your
strength."

"You've not lost your baffling quality in all these years," he said, and
lay silent when he had drunk the warm milk she gave him and while she
tidied the floor of the coats that served her for a bed. The letters and
the photographs she threw into the brazier and drove them deep into the
coke with a stick, looking round defiantly at Michael when they were
ashes. He shook his head with a smile, but he did not say anything.

Sylvia was really glad when the sound of loud knocking upon the door
down-stairs prevented any further discussion of the accident of their
relationship; nevertheless, she found a pleasure in announcing to the
Bulgarian officer her right to be found here with the sick Englishman,
her cousin: it seemed to launch her once more upon the flow of ordinary
existence, this kinship with one who without doubt belonged to the world
actively at war. The interview with the Bulgarian officer took place in
that stark and dusty room where she had argued with Stella for the right
to stay behind with her brother. Now, in the light of early morning, it
still preserved its scenic quality, and Sylvia was absurdly aware of her
resemblance to the pleading heroine of a melodrama, when she begged this
grimy, shaggy creature, whose slate-gray overcoat was marbled by time
and weather, to let her patient stay here for the present, and,
furthermore, to accord her facilities to procure for him whatever was
necessary and obtainable. In the end the officer went away without
giving a more decisive answer than was implied by the soldier he left
behind. Sylvia did not think he could have understood much of her
French, so little had she understood of his, and the presence of this
soldier with fixed bayonet and squashed Mongolian countenance oppressed
her. She wondered what opinion of them the officer had reached, and
ached at the thought of how, perhaps, in a few minutes, she and Michael
should be separated, intolerably separated forever. She made a sign to
the guard for leave to go up-stairs again; but he forbade her with a
gesture, and she stood leaning against the table, while he stared before
him with an expression of such unutterable nothingness as by sheer
nebulosity acquired a sinister and menacing force. He was as
incomprehensible as a savage beast encountered in a forest, and the
fancy that he had ever existed with his own little ambitions in a human
society refused to state itself. Sylvia could make of him nothing but a
symbol of the blind, mad forces that were in opposition throughout the
old familiar world, the blindness and madness of which were fitly
expressed by such an instrument.

Half an hour of strained indifference passed, and then the officer came
back with another who spoke English. Perhaps the consciousness of
speaking English well and fluently made the new-comer anxious to be
pleasant; one felt that he would have regarded it as a slight upon his
own proficiency to be rude or intransigent. Apart from his English there
was nothing remarkable in his appearance or his personality. He went
up-stairs and saw for himself Michael's condition, came down again with
Sylvia, and promised her that, if she would observe the rules imposed
upon the captured city, nothing within the extent of his influence
should be done to imperil the sick man's convalescence. Then, after
signing a number of forms that would enable her to move about in certain
areas to obtain provisions and to call upon medical help, he asked her
if she knew Sunbury-on-Thames. She replied in the negative, which seemed
to disappoint him. Whereupon she asked him if he knew Maidenhead, and he
brightened up again.

"I have had good days in the Thames," he said, and departed in a bright
cloud of riverside memories.

The next fortnight passed in a seclusion that was very dear to Sylvia.
The hours rolled along on the easy wheels of reminiscent conversations,
and Michael was gradually made aware of all her history. Yet at the end
of it, she told herself that he was aware of nothing except the voyages
of the body; of her soul's pilgrimage he was as ignorant as if they had
never met. She reproached herself for this and wanted to begin over
again the real history; but her own feelings toward him stood in the way
of frankness, and she feared to betray herself by the emotion that any
deliberate sincerity must have revealed. Yet, as she assured herself
rather bitterly, he was so obviously blind to anything but the
coincidence of their relationship that she might with impunity have
stripped her soul bare. It was unreasonable for her to resent his
showing himself more moved by the news of Hazlewood's death than by
anything in her own history, because anything in her own history that
might have moved him she had omitted, and his impression of her now must
be what his impression of her had been nine years ago--that of a hard
and cynical woman with a baffling capacity for practical kindliness. She
had often before been dismayed by a sense of life slipping out of her
reach, but she had never before been dismayed by the urgent escape of
hours and minutes. She had never before said _ruit hora_ with her will
to snatch the opportunity palsied, as if she stood panting in the
stifling impotence of a dream. Already he was able to walk about the
room, and, like all those who are recovering from a serious illness, was
performing little feats of agility with the objective self-absorption of
a child.

"Do people--or rather," she corrected herself, quickly, "does existence
seem something utterly different from what it was before you saw it fade
out from your consciousness at Kragujevatz?"

"Well, the only person I've really seen is yourself," he answered. "And
I can't help staring at you in some bewilderment, due less to fever than
to the concatenations of fortune. What seems to me so amusing and odd is
that, if you had known we were cousins, you couldn't have behaved in a
more cousinly way than you did over Lily."

"When I found myself in that hospital at Petrograd," Sylvia declared,
"I felt like the Sleeping Beauty being waked by the magic kiss--" she
broke off, blushing hotly and cursing inwardly her damned
self-consciousness; and then blushed again because she had stopped to
wonder if he had noticed her blush.

"I don't think anything that happened during this war to me personally,"
Michael said, "could ever make any impression now. The war itself always
presents itself to me as a mighty fever, caught, if you will, by taking
foolish risks or ignoring simple precautions, but ultimately and
profoundly inevitable in the way that one feels all illness to be
inevitable. Anything particular that happens to the individual must lose
its significance in the change that he must suffer from the general
calamity. I think perhaps that as a Catholic I am tempted to be less
hopeful of men and more hopeful of God, but yet I firmly believe that I
am more hopeful of men than the average--shall we call him humanitarian,
who perceives in this war nothing but a crime against human brotherhood
committed by a few ambitious knaves helped by a crowd of ambitious
fools? I'm perfectly sure, for instance, that there is no one alive and
no one dead that does not partake of the responsibility. However little
it may be realized in the case of individuals, nothing will ever
persuade me that one of the chief motive forces that maintain this state
of destruction to which the world is being devoted is not a sense of
guilt and a determination to expiate it. Mark you, I'm not trying to
urge that God has judicially sentenced the world to war, dealing out
horror to Belgium for the horror of the Congo, horror to Serbia for the
horror of the royal assassination, horror to France, England, Germany,
Austria, Italy, and Russia for their national lapses from grace--I
should be very sorry to implicate Almighty God in any conception based
upon our primitive notions of justice. The only time I feel that God
ever interfered with humanity was when He was incarnate among us, and
the story of that seems to forbid us our attribution to Him of anything
in the nature of fretful castigation. The most presumptuous attitude in
this war seems to me the German idea of God in a _pickelhaube_, of
Christ bound to an Iron Cross, and of the Dove as a bloody-minded Eagle;
but the Allies' notion of the Pope as a kind of diplomat with a license
to excommunicate seems to me only less presumptuous."

"Then you think the war is in every human heart?" Sylvia asked.

"When I look at my own I'm positive it is."

"But do you think it was inevitable because it was salutary?"

"I think blood-letting is old-fashioned surgery: aren't you confusing
the disease with the remedy? Surely no disease is salutary, and I think
it's morally dangerous to confuse effect with cause. At the same time
I'm not going to lay down positively that this war may not be extremely
salutary. I think it will be, but I acquit God of any hand in its
deliberate ordering. Free will must apply to nations. I don't believe
that war which, while it brings out often the best of people, brings out
much more often the worst is to be regarded as anything but a vile
exhibition of human sin. The selflessness of those who have died is
terribly stained by the selfishness of those who have let them die. Yet
the younger generation, or such of it as survives, will have the
compensation when it is all over of such amazing opportunities for
living as were never known, and the older generation that made the war
will die less lamented than any men that have ever died since the world
began. And I believe that their purgatory will be the grayest and the
longest of all the purgatories. But as soon as I have said that I regret
my words, because I think it will be fatal for the younger generation to
become precocious Pharisees; and so I reiterate that the war is in every
human heart, and you're not to tempt me any more into making harsh
judgments about any one."

"Not even the great Victorians?" said Sylvia.

"Well, that will be a difficult and very penitential piece of
self-denial, I admit. And it is hard not to hope that Carlyle is in
hell. However, I can just avoid doing so, because I shall certainly go
to hell myself if I do, where his Teutonic borborygmi would be an added
woe, gigantic genius though he was. But don't let's joke about hell.
It's--infernally credible since August, 1914. What were we talking about
before we began to talk about the war? Oh, I remember--the new world
that one gets up to face after a bad illness."

"Perhaps my experience was peculiar," Sylvia said.

But what did it matter how he regarded the world, she thought, unless he
regarded her? Already the topic was exhausted; he was tired by his
vehemence; once more the ruthless and precipitate hour had gone by.

During this period of seclusion Sylvia often had to encounter in its
various capacities the army of occupation, by which generally she was
treated with consideration and even with positive kindness. Nish had
been so completely evacuated that, after the medley which had thronged
the streets and squares, it now seemed strangely empty. The uniformity
of the Bulgarian characteristics added to the impression of violent
change; there was never a moment in which one could delude oneself with
the continuation of normal existence. At the end of the fortnight the
English-speaking officer came to make a visit of inspection in order to
give his advice at headquarters about the future of the prisoners.
Michael was still very weak, and looked a skeleton, so much so, indeed,
that the officer went off and fetched a squat little doctor to help his
deliberation; the latter recommended another week, and the prisoners
were once more left to themselves. Sylvia was half sorry for such
considerate action; the company of Michael which had seemed to promise
so much and had in fact yielded so little was beginning to fret her with
the ultimate futility of such an association. She resented the emotion
she had given to it in the prospect of a more definitely empty future
that was now opening before her, and she gave way to the reaction
against her exaggerated devotion by criticizing herself severely. The
supervention of such an attitude made irksome what had been so dear a
seclusion, and, going beyond self-criticism, she began to tell herself
that Michael was cold, inhuman, and remote; that she felt ill at ease
with him and unable to talk, and that the sooner their separation came
about the better. Perhaps she should be released, in which case she
should make her way back to England and become a nurse.

At the end of the third week Sylvia desperately tried to arrest the
precipitate hour.

"I think I suffer from a too rapid digestion," she announced.

He looked at her with a question in his eyes.

"You were talking to me the other day," she went on, "about your
contemplative experiences, and you were saying how entirely your purely
intellectual and spiritual progress conformed to the well-trodden
mystical way. You added, of course, that you did not wish to suggest any
comparison with the path of greater men, but, allowing for conventional
self-depreciation, you left me to suppose that you were content with
your achievement. At the moment war broke out you felt that you were
ripe for action, and instead of becoming a priest after those nine years
of contemplative preparation, you joined a hospital unit for Serbia. You
feel quite secure about the war; you accept your fever, your possible
internment for years in Bulgaria, and indeed anything that affects you
personally without the least regret. In fact, you're what an American
might call in tune with the infinite. I'm not! And it's all a matter of
digestion."

"My illness has clouded my brain," Michael murmured. "I'm a long way
from understanding what you're driving at."

"Well, keep quiet and listen to my problems. We're on the verge of
separation, but you're still my patient and you owe me your attention."

"I owe you more than that," he put in.

"How feeble," she scoffed. "You might have spared me such a
pretty-pretty sentence."

"I surrender unconditionally," he protested. "Your fierceness is
superfluous."

"I suppose you've often labeled humanity in bulk? I mean, for instance,
you must have often said and certainly thought that all men are either
knaves or fools."

"I must have thought so at some time or another," Michael agreed.

"Well, I've got a new division. I think that all men have either normal
digestions, slow digestions, rapid digestions, or no digestions at all.
Extend the physical fact into a metaphor and apply it to the human
mind."

"Dear Sylvia, I feel as if I were being poulticed. How admirably you
maintain the nursing manner. I've made the application. What do I do
now?"

"Listen without interrupting, or I shall lose the thread of my argument.
I suppose that you'll admit that the optimists outnumber the pessimists?
Obviously they must, or the world would come to an end. Very well, then,
we'll say that the pessimists are the people with no digestions at all:
on top of them will be the people with slow digestions, the great
unthinking herd that is optimistic because the optimists shout most
loudly. The people with good normal digestions are of course the
shouting optimists. Finally come the people whose digestions are too
rapid. I belong to that class."

"Are they optimists?"

"They're optimists until they've finished digesting, but between meals
they're outrageously pessimistic. The only way to illustrate my theory
is to talk about myself. Imagine you're a lady palmist and prepare for a
debauch of egotism from one of your clients. All through my life,
Michael, I've been a martyr to quick digestion. Your friend Guy
Hazlewood suffered from that complaint, judging by the way he talked
about the war. I can imagine that his life has been made of brief,
exquisite illusions followed by long vacuums. Am I right?"

Michael nodded.

"Cassandra, to take a more remote instance, suffered from rapid
digestion--in fact, all prophets have the malady. Isn't it
physiologically true to say that the unborn child performs in its
mother's womb the drama of man's evolution? I'm sure it's equally true
that the life of the individual after birth and until death is a
microcosm of man's later history, or rather I ought to say that it might
be, for only exceptional individuals reproduce the history of humanity
up to contemporary development. A genius--a great creative genius--seems
to me a man whose active absorption can keep pace with the rapidity of
his digestion. How often do we hear of people who were in advance of
their time! This figure of speech is literally true, but only great
creative geniuses have the consolation of projecting themselves beyond
their ambient in time. There remain a number of sterile geniuses, whom
Nature, with her usual prodigality, has put on the market in reserve,
but for whom later on she finds she has no use on account of the economy
that always succeeds extravagance. These sterile geniuses are left to
fend for themselves and somehow to extract from a hostile and suspicious
environment food to maintain them during the long, dreary emptiness that
succeeds their too optimistic absorption. Do you agree with me?"

"At one end of the pole you would put Shakespeare, at the other the
Jubilee Juggins?" Michael suggested.

"That's it," she agreed. "Although a less conspicuous wastrel would
serve for the other end."

"And I suppose if you're searching for the eternal rhythm of the
universe, you'd have to apply to nations the same classification as to
individuals?" he went on.

"Of course."

"So that England would have a good normal digestion and Ireland a too
rapid digestion? Or better, let us say that all Teutons eat heartily
and digest slowly, and that all Kelts are too rapid. But come back to
yourself."

Sylvia paused for a moment, and then continued, with swift gestures of
self-agreement:

"I certainly ascribe every mistake in my own life to a rapid digestion.
Why, I've even digested this war that, if we think on a large scale, was
evidently designed to stir up the sluggish liver of a world. I'm sick to
death of the damned war already, and it hasn't begun yet really. And to
come down to my own little particular woes, I've labored toward
religion, digested it with horrible rapidity, and see nothing in it now
but a half-truth for myself. In art the same, in human associations the
same, in everything the same. Ah, don't let's talk any more about
anything."

In the silence that followed she thought to herself about the
inspiration of her late theories; and looking at Michael, pale and
hollow-eyed in the grim November dusk, she railed at herself because
with all her will to make use of the quality she had attributed to
herself she could not shake off this love that was growing every day.

"Why in God's name," she almost groaned aloud, "can't it go the way of
everything else? But it won't. It won't. It never will. And I shall
never be happy again."

A rainy nightfall symbolized for her the darkness of the future, and
when, in the middle of their evening meal, while they were hacking at a
tin of sardines, a message came from headquarters that to-morrow they
must be ready to leave Nish, she was glad. However, the sympathy of the
English-speaking officer had exercised itself so much on behalf of the
two prisoners that the separation which Sylvia had regarded as immediate
was likely to be postponed for some time. The officer explained that it
was inconvenient for them to remain any longer in Nish, but that
arrangements had been made by which they were to be moved to Sofia and
therefore that Michael's convalescence would be safe against any
premature strain. They would realize that Bulgaria was not unmindful of
the many links, now unfortunately broken, which had formerly bound her
to England, and they would admit in the face of their courteous
treatment how far advanced his country was upon the road of
civilization.

"Splendid," Michael exclaimed. "So we sha'n't be separated yet for a
while and we shall be able to prosecute our philosophical discoveries.
The riddle of life finally solved in 1915 by two prisoners of the
Bulgarian army! It would almost make the war worth while. Sylvia, I'm so
excited at our journey."

"You're tired of being cooped up here," she said, sharply. And then to
mask whatever emotion might have escaped, she added: "I'm certainly sick
to death of it myself."

"I know," he agreed, "it must have been a great bore for you. The
invalid is always blissfully unconscious of time, and forgets that the
pleasant little services which encourage him to go on being ill are not
natural events like sunrise and sunset. You do well to keep me up to the
mark; I'm not really forgetful."

"You seem to have forgotten that we may have months, even years of
imprisonment in Bulgaria," Sylvia said.

He looked so frail in his khaki overcoat that she was seized with
penitence for the harsh thoughts of him she had indulged, and with a
fondling gesture tried to atone.

"You really feel that you can make this journey? If you don't, I'll go
out and rout out our officer and beg him for another week."

Michael shook his head.

"I'm rather a fraud. Really, you know, I feel perfectly well. Quite
excited about this journey, as I told you."

She was chilled by his so impersonally cordial manner and looked at him
regretfully.

"Every day he gets farther away," she thought. "In nine years he has
been doing nothing but place layer after layer over his sensitiveness.
He's a kind of mental coral island. I know that there must still exist a
capacity for suffering, but he'll never again let me see it. He wants to
convince me of his eternal serenity."

She was looking at him with an unusual intentness, and he turned away in
embarrassment, which made her jeer at him to cover her own shyness.

"It was just the reverse of embarrassment, really," he said. "But I
don't want to spoil things."

"By doing what?" she demanded.

"Well, if I told you--" He stopped abruptly.

"I have a horror of incomplete or ambiguous conditionals. Now you've
begun you must finish."

"Nothing will induce me to. I'll say what I thought of saying before we
separate. I promise that."

"Perhaps we never shall separate."

"Then I shall have no need to finish my sentence."

Sylvia lay awake for a long time that last night in Nish, wondering,
with supreme futility as she continually reminded herself, what Michael
could have nearly said. Somewhere about two o'clock she decided that he
had been going to suggest adopting her into his family.

"Damned fool," she muttered, pulling and shaking her improvised bed as
if it were a naughty child. "Nevertheless, he had the wit to understand
how much it would annoy me. It shows the lagoon is not quite encircled
yet."

The soldiers who arrived to escort them to the railway station were like
grotesques of hotel porters; they were so ready to help with the luggage
that it seemed absurd for their movements to be hampered by rifles with
fixed bayonets. The English-speaking officer accompanied them to the
station and expressed his regrets that he could not travel to Sofia; he
had no doubt that later on he should see them again, and, in any case,
when the war was over he hoped to revisit England. Sylvia suddenly
remembered her big trunk, which she had left in the consigne when she
first reached Nish nearly two months ago. The English-speaking officer
shrugged his shoulders at her proposal to take it with her to Sofia.

"The station was looted by the Serbs before we arrived," he explained.
"They are a barbarous nation, many years behind us in civilization. We
never plunder. And of course you understand that Nish is really
Bulgarian? That makes us particularly gentle here. You heard, perhaps,
that when the Entente Legations left we gave them a champagne lunch for
the farewell at Dedeagatch? We are far in front of the Germans, who are
a very strong but primitive nation. They are not much liked in Bulgaria:
we prefer the English. But, alas, poor England!" he sighed.

"Why poor?" Sylvia demanded, indignantly.

He smiled compassionately for answer, and soon afterward, in a
first-class compartment to themselves, Michael and she left Nish.

"Really," Michael observed, "when the conditions are favorable,
traveling as a prisoner of war is the most luxurious traveling of all.
I've never experienced the servility of a private courier, but it's
wonderful to feel that other people are under an obligation to look
after you. However, at present we have the advantages of being new toys.
Our friend from Sunbury-on-Thames may be as compassionate as he likes
about England, but there's no doubt it confers on the possessor a quite
peculiar thrill to own English people--even two such non-combatant
creatures as ourselves. It's typical of the Germans' newness to European
society that they should have thought the right way to treat English
prisoners was to spit at them. I remember once seeing a grandee of Spain
who'd been hired as secretary by a Barcelona Jew, and by Jove! he wasn't
allowed to forget it. The Bulgarians, on the other hand, have a
superficial air of breeding, which they've either copied from the Turks
or inherited from the Chinese. Didn't you love the touch about the
champagne lunch at Dedeagatch? There's a luxurious hospitality about
that which you won't find outside the _Arabian Nights_ or Chicago.
Really the English nation should give thanks every Sunday, murmuring
with all eyes on the east window and Germany: 'There, but for the grace
of God blowing in the west wind, goes John Bull.' Yet I wonder if the
hearts would be humble enough to keep the Pharisee out of the
thanksgiving."

The train went slowly, with frequent stoppages, often in wild country
far from any railway station, where in such surroundings its existence
seemed utterly improbable. Occasionally small bands of _comitadjis_
would ride up and menace theatrically the dejected Serbian prisoners who
were being moved into Bulgaria. There was a cold wind, and snow was
lying thinly on the hills.

In the rapid dusk Michael fell asleep; soon after, the train seemed to
have stopped for the night. Sylvia did not wake him up, but sat for two
hours by the light of one candle stuck upon her valise and pored upon
the moonless night that pressed against the window-panes of the
compartment with scarcely endurable desolation. There was no sound of
those murmurous voices that make mysterious even suburban tunnels when
trains wait in them on foggy nights. The windows were screwed up; the
door into the corridor was locked; in the darkness and silence Sylvia
felt for the first time in all its force the meaning of imprisonment.
Suddenly a flaring torch carried swiftly along the permanent way threw
shadowy grotesques upon the ceiling of the compartment, and Michael,
waking up with a start, asked their whereabouts.

"Somewhere near Zaribrod, as far as I can make out, but it's impossible
to tell for certain. I can't think what they're doing. We've been here
for two hours without moving, and I can't hear a sound except the wind.
It was somebody's carrying a torch past the window that woke you up."

They speculated idly for a while on the cause of the delay, and then
gradually under the depression of the silence their voices died away
into occasional sighs of impatience.

"What about eating?" Sylvia suggested at last. "I'm not hungry, but it
will give us something to do."

So they struggled with tinned foods, glad of the life that the fussy
movement gave to the compartment.

"One feels that moments such as these should be devoted to the most
intimate confidences," Michael said, when they had finished their dinner
and were once more enmeshed by the silence.

"There's a sort of portentousness about them, you mean?"

"Yes, but as a matter of fact, one can't even talk about commonplace
things, because one is all the time fidgeting with the silence."

"I know," Sylvia agreed. "One gets a hint of madness in the way one's
personality seems to shrink to nothing. I suppose there really is
somebody left alive in the world? I'm beginning to feel as if it were
just you and I against the universe."

"Death must come like that sometimes," he murmured.

"Like what?"

"Like that thick darkness outside and oneself against the universe."

"I'd give anything for a guitar," Sylvia exclaimed.

"What would you play first?" he inquired, gravely.

She sang gently:

    _"La donna è mobile qual piuma al vento,_
     _Muta d'accento e di pensiero,_
     _Sempre un amabile leggiadro viso,_
     _In pianto o in riso, è menzognero--_

and that's all I can remember of it," she said, breaking off.

"I wonder why you chose to sing that."

"It reminds me of my father," she answered. "When he was drunk, fair
cousin, he always used to sing that. What a charming son-in-law he would
have made for our grandfather! Oh, are we ever going to move again?"
she cried, jumping up and pressing her face against the viewless pane.
"Hark! I hear horses."

Michael rose and joined her. Presently flames leaped up into the
darkness, and armed men were visible in silhouette against the bonfire
they had kindled, so large a bonfire, indeed, that, in the shadows
beyond, the stony outcrop of a rough, steep country seemed in contrast
to be the threshold of titanic chasms. A noise of shouting reached the
train, and presently Bulgarian regulars, the escort of the prisoners,
joined the merrymakers round the fire. Slow music rumbled upon the air,
and a circle of men shoulder to shoulder with interwoven arms performed
a stately, swaying dance.

"Or are they just holding one another up because they're drunk?" Sylvia
asked.

"No, it's really a dance, though they may be drunk, too. I wish we could
get this window open. It looks as if all the soldiers had joined the
party."

The dance came to an end with shouts of applause, and one or two rifles
were fired at the stars. Then the company squatted round the fire, and
the wine circulated again.

"But where are the officers in charge?" Michael asked.

"Playing cards, probably. Or perhaps they're drinking with the rest.
Anyway, if we're going to stay here all night, it's just as well to have
the entertainment of this _al fresco_ supper-party. Anything is better
than that intolerable silence."

Sylvia blew out the stump of candle, and they sat in darkness, watching
the fire-flecked revel. The shouting grew louder with the frequent
passing of the wine-skins; after an hour groups of _comitadjis_ and
regulars left the bonfire and wandered along the permanent way, singing
drunken choruses. What happened presently at the far end of the train
they could not see, but there was a sound of smashed glass followed by a
man's scream. Those who were still sitting round the fire snatched up
their weapons and stumbled in loud excitement toward the center of the
disturbance. There were about a dozen shots, the rasp of torn woodwork,
and a continuous crash of broken glass, with curses, cries, and all the
sounds of quarrelsome confusion.

"The drunken brutes are breaking up the train," Michael exclaimed. "We'd
better sit back from the window for a while."

Sylvia cried out to him that it was worse and that they were dragging
along by the heels the bodies of men and kicking them as they went.

"Good God!" he declared, standing up now in horror. "They're murdering
the wretched Serbian prisoners. Here, we must get out and protest."

"Sit down, fool," Sylvia commanded. "What good will your protesting do?"

But as she spoke she gave a shuddering shriek and held her hands up to
her eyes: they had thrown a writhing, mutilated shape into the fire.

"The brutes! The filthy brutes!" Michael shouted, and, jumping upon the
seat of the compartment, he kicked at the window-panes until there was
not a fragment of glass left. "Shout, Sylvia, shout! Oh, hell! I can't
remember a word of their bloody language. We must stop them. Stop, I
tell you. Stop!"

One of the prisoners had broken away from his tormentors and was running
along the permanent way, but the blood from a gash in the forehead
blinded him and he fell on his face just outside the compartment. Two
_comitadjis_ banged out his brains on the railway line; with
clasp-knives they hacked the head from the corpse and merrily tossed it
in at the window, where it fell on the floor between Sylvia and Michael.

"My God!" Michael muttered. "It's better to be killed ourselves than to
stay here and endure this."

He began to scramble out of the window, and she, seeing that he was
nearly mad with horror at his powerlessness, followed him in the hope
of deflecting any rash action. Strangely enough, nobody interfered with
their antics, and they had run nearly the whole length of the train, in
order to find the officers in charge, before a tall man descending from
one of the carriages barred their progress.

"Why, it's you!" Sylvia laughed, hysterically. "It's my rose-grower!
Michael, do you hear? My rose-grower."

It really was Rakoff, decked out with barbaric trappings of silver and
bristling with weapons, but his manners had not changed with his
profession, and as soon as he recognized her he bowed politely and asked
if he could be of any help.

"Can't you stop this massacre?" she begged. "Keep quiet, Michael; it's
no good talking about the Red Cross."

"It was the fault of the Serbians," Rakoff explained. "They insulted my
men. But what are you doing here?"

The violence of the drunken soldiers and comitadjis had soon worn itself
out, and most of them were back again round the fire, drinking and
singing as if nothing had happened. Sylvia perceived that Rakoff was
sincerely anxious to make himself agreeable, and, treading on Michael's
foot (he was in a fume of threats), she explained their position.

Rakoff looked up at the carriage from which he had just descended.

"The officers in command are drunk and insensible," he murmured. "I'm
under an obligation to you. Do you want to stay in Bulgaria? Have you
given your parole?" he asked Michael.

"Give my parole to murderers and torturers?" shouted Michael. "Certainly
not, and I never will."

"My cousin has only just recovered from typhus," Sylvia reminded Rakoff.
"The slaughter has upset him."

In her anxiety to take advantage of the meeting she had cast aside her
own horror and forgotten her own inclination to be hysterical.

"He must understand that in the Balkans we do not regard violence as
you do in Europe. He should remember that the Serbians would do the same
and worse to Bulgarians."

Rakoff spoke in a tone of injured sensibility, which would have been
comic to Sylvia without the smell of burned flesh upon the wind, and
without the foul blood-stains upon her own skirt.

"Quite so. _À la guerre comme à la guerre_," she agreed. "What will you
do for us?"

"I'm really anxious to return your kindness at Nish," Rakoff said,
gravely. "If you come with me and my men, we shall be riding southward,
and you could perhaps find an opportunity to get over the Greek
frontier. The officer commanding this train deserves to be punished for
getting drunk. I'm not drunk, though I captured a French outpost a week
ago and have some reason to celebrate my success. It was I who cut the
line at Vrania. _Alors, c'est entendu? Vous venez avec moi?_"

"_Vous êtes trop gentìl, monsieur._"

"_Rìen du tout. Plaisir! Plaisir!_ Go back to your carriage now, and
I'll send two of my men presently to show you the way out. What's that?
The door is locked on the outside? Come with me, then."

They walked back along the train, and entered their compartment from the
other side, on which the door had been broken in.

"You can't bring much luggage. Wrap up well. _Il fait très-froid._ Is
your cousin strong enough to ride?"

At this point Rakoff stumbled over the severed head on the floor, and
struck a match.

"What babies my men are!" he exclaimed, with a smile.

He picked up the head and threw it out on the track. Then he told Sylvia
and Michael to prepare for their escape, and left them.

"What do you think of my esthetic Bulgarian?" she asked.

"It's extraordinary how certain personalities have the power to twist
one's standards," Michael answered, emphatically. "A few minutes ago I
was sick with horror--the whole world seemed to be tumbling to pieces
before human bestiality--and now, before the blood is dry on the railway
sleepers, I've accepted it as a fact, and--Sylvia--do you know what I
was thinking the last minute or two? I'm in a way appalled by my own
callousness in being able to smile--but I really was thinking with
amusement what a pity it was we couldn't hand over a few noisy
stay-at-home Englishmen to the sensitive Rakoff."

"Michael," Sylvia demanded, anxiously, "do you think you are strong
enough to ride? I'm not sure how far we are from the Greek frontier, but
it's sure to mean at least a week in the saddle. It seems madness for
you to attempt it."

"My dear, I'm not going to stay in this accursed train."

"I've a letter of introduction for a clerk in Cavalla," Sylvia reminded
him, with a smile.

"Let's hope he invites us to lunch when we present it," Michael laughed.

The tension of waiting for the escape required this kind of feeble
joking; any break in the conversation gave them time to think of the
corpses scattered about in the darkness, which with the slow death of
the fire was reconquering its territory. They followed Rakoff's advice
and heaped extra clothes upon themselves, filling the pockets with
victuals. Sylvia borrowed a cap from Michael and tied the golden shawl
round her head; Michael did the same with an old college scarf. Then he
tore the Red Cross brassard from his sleeve:

"I haven't the impudence to wear that during our pilgrimage with this
gang of murderers. I've tucked away what paper money I have in my boots,
and I've got twenty sovereigns sewn in my cholera belt."

Two smiling _comitadjis_ appeared from the corridor and beckoned the
prisoners to follow them to where, on the other side of the train,
ponies were waiting; within five minutes, the wind blowing icy cold
upon their cheeks, the smell of damp earth and saddles and vinous
breath, the ragged starshine high overhead, the willing motion of the
horses, all combined to obliterate everything except drowsy intimations
of adventure. Rakoff was not visible in the cavalcade, but Sylvia
supposed that he was somewhere in front. After riding for three hours a
halt was called at a deserted farm-house, and in the big living-room he
was there to receive his guests with pointed courtesy.

"You are at home here," he observed, with a laugh. "This farm belonged
to an Englishman before the war with Greece and Serbia. He was a great
friend of Bulgaria; the Serbians knew it and left very little when their
army passed through. We shall sleep here to-night. Are you hungry?"

The _comitadjis_ had already wrapped themselves in their sheepskins and
were lying in the dark corners of the room, exhausted by the long ride
on top of the wine. A couple of men, however, prepared a rough meal to
which Rakoff invited Sylvia and Michael. They had scarcely sat down
when, to their surprise, a young woman dressed in a very short tweed
skirt and Norfolk jacket and wearing a Tyrolese hat over two long plaits
of flaxen hair came and joined them. She nodded curtly to Rakoff and
began to eat without a word.

"Ziska disapproves of the English," Rakoff explained. "In fact, the only
thing she really cares for is dynamite. But she is one of the great
_comitadji_ leaders and acts as my second in command. She understands
French, but declines to speak it on patriotic grounds, being half a
Prussian."

The young woman looked coldly at the two strangers; then she went on
eating. Her silent presence was not favorable to conversation; and a
sudden jealousy of this self-satisfied and contemptuous creature
overcame Sylvia. She remembered how she had told Michael's sister the
secret of her love for him, and the thought of meeting her again in
England became intolerable. She had a mad fancy to kill the other woman
and to take her place in this wild band beside Rakoff, to seize her by
those tight flaxen plaits and hold her face downward on the table, while
she stabbed her and stabbed her again. Only by such a duel could she
assert her own personality, rescuing it from the ignominy of the present
and the greater ignominy of the future. She had actually grasped a long
knife that lay in front of her, and she might have given expression to
the mad notion if at that moment Michael had not collapsed.

In a moment her fantastic passions died away; even Ziska's sidelong
glance of scorn at the prostrate figure was incapable of rousing the
least resentment.

"He should sleep," said Rakoff. "To-morrow he will have a long and
tiring day."

Soon in the shadowy room of the deserted farm-house they were all asleep
except Sylvia, who watched for a long time the dusty lantern-light
flickering upon Ziska's motionless form; as her thoughts wavered in the
twilight between wakefulness and dreams she once more had a longing to
grip that smooth pink neck and crack it like the neck of a wax doll.
Then it was morning; the room was full of smoke and smell of coffee.

Sylvia's forecast of a week's journeying with the comitadjis was too
optimistic; as a matter of fact, they were in the saddle for a month,
and it was only a day or two before Christmas, new style, when they
pitched their camp on the slopes of a valley sheltered from the fierce
winds of Rhodope about twenty kilometers from the Bulgarian outposts
beyond Xanthi.

"We are not far from the sea here," Rakoff said, significantly.

Whatever wind reached this slope had dropped at nightfall, and in the
darkness Sylvia felt like a kiss upon her cheek the salt breath of the
mighty mother to which her heart responded in awe as to the breath of
liberty.

It had been a strange experience, this month with Rakoff and his band,
and seemed already, though the sound of the riding had scarcely died
away from her senses, the least credible episode of a varied life. Yet,
looking back at the incidents of each day, Sylvia could not remember
that her wild companions had ever been conscious of Michael and herself
as intruders upon their monotonously violent behavior. Even Ziska, that
riddle of flaxen womanhood, had gradually reached a kind of remote
cordiality toward their company. To be sure, she had not invited Sylvia
to grasp, or even faintly to guess, the reasons that might have induced
her to adopt such a mode of life; she had never afforded the least hint
of her relationship to Rakoff; she had never attempted to justify her
cold, almost it might have been called her prim mercilessness. Yet she
had sometimes advised Sylvia to withdraw from a prospective exhibition
of atrocity, and this not from any motive of shame, but always obviously
because she had been considering the emotions of her guest. It was in
this spirit, when once a desperate Serbian peasant had flung a stone at
the departing troop, that she advised Sylvia to ride on and avoid the
fall of mangled limbs that was likely to occur after shutting twenty
villagers in a barn and blowing them up with a charge of dynamite. She
had spoken of the unpleasant sequel as simply as a meteorologist might
have spoken of the weather's breaking up. Michael and Sylvia used to
wonder to each other what prevented them from turning their ponies'
heads and galloping off anywhere to escape this daily exposure to the
sight of unchecked barbarity; but they could never bring themselves to
pass the limits of expediency and lose themselves in the uncertainties
of an ideal morality; ultimately they always came back to the
fundamental paradox of war and agreed that in a state of war the life of
the individual increased in value in the same proportion as it
deteriorated. Rakoff had taken pleasure in commenting upon their
attitude, and once or twice he had been at pains to convince them of
the advantages they now enjoyed of an intellectual honesty from which in
England, so far as he had been able to appreciate criticism of that
country, they would have been eternally debarred. But perhaps no amount
of intellectual honesty would have enabled them to remain quiescent
before the rapine and slaughter of which they were compelled to be
cognizant if not actually to see, had not the journey itself healed
their wounded conscience with a charm against which they were powerless.
The air of the mountains swept away the taint of death that would
otherwise have reeked in the very accoutrements of the equipage. The
light of their bivouac fires stained such an infinitesimal fragment of
the vaulted night above that the day's violence used to shrink into an
insignificance which effected in its way their purification. However
rude and savage their companions, it was impossible to eliminate the
gift they offered of human companionship in these desolate tracts of
mountainous country. In the stormy darkness they would listen with a
kind of affection to the breathing of the ponies and to the broken
murmurs of conversation between rider and rider all round them. There
was always something of sympathy in the touch of a sheep-skin coat,
something of a wistful consolation in the flicker of a lighted
cigarette, something of tenderness in the offer of a water-flask; and
when the moon shone frostily overhead so that all the company was
visible, there was never far away an emotion of wonder at their very
selves being a part of this hurrying silver cavalcade, a wonder that
easily was merged in gratitude for so much beauty after so much horror.

For Sylvia there was above everything the joy of seeing Michael growing
stronger from day to day, and upon this joy her mind fed itself and
forgot that she had ever imagined a greater joy beyond. Her contentment
may have been of a piece with her indifference to the sacked villages
and murdered Serbs; but she put away from her the certainty of the
journey's end and surrendered to the entrancing motion through these
winds of Thrace rattling and battling southward to the sea.

And now the journey was over. Sylvia knew by the tone of Rakoff's voice
that she and Michael must soon shift for themselves. She wondered if he
meant to hint his surprise at their not having made an attempt to do so
already, and she tried to recall any previous occasion when they would
have been justified in supposing that they were intended to escape from
the escort. She could not remember that Rakoff had ever before given an
impression of expecting to be rid of them, and a fancy came into her
head that perhaps he did not mean them to escape at all, that he had
merely taken them along with him to wile away his time until he was
bored with them. So insistent was the fancy that she looked up to see if
any comitadjis were being despatched toward the Bulgarian lines, and
when at that moment Rakoff did give some order to four of his men she
decided that her instinct had not been at fault. Some of her
apprehension must have betrayed itself in her face, for she saw Rakoff
looking at her curiously, and to her first fancy succeeded another more
instantly alarming that he would give orders for Michael and herself to
be killed now. He might have chosen this way to gratify Ziska: no doubt
it would be a very gratifying spectacle, and possibly something less
passively diverting than a spectacle for that fierce doll. Sylvia was
not really terrified by the prospect in her imagination; in a way, she
was rather attracted to it. Her dramatic sense took hold of the scene,
and she found herself composing a last duologue between Michael and
herself. Presumably Rakoff would be gentleman enough to have them killed
decently by a firing-party; he would not go farther toward gratifying
Ziska than by allowing her to take a rifle with the rest. She decided
that she should decline to let her eyes be bandaged; though she paused
for a moment before the ironical pleasure of using her golden shawl to
veil the approach to death. She should turn to Michael when they stood
against a rock in the dawn, and when the rifles were leveled she should
tell him that she had loved him since they had met at the masquerade in
Redcliffe Hall and walked home through the fog of the Fulham Road to
Mulberry Cottage. But had Mulberry Cottage ever existed?

At this moment Michael whispered to her a question so absurdly redolent
of the problems of real life and yet so ridiculous somehow in present
surroundings that all gloomy fancies floated away on laughter.

"Sylvia, it's quite obvious that he expects us to make a bolt for the
Greek frontier as soon as possible. How much do you think I ought to tip
each of these fellows?"

"I'm not very well versed in country-house manners," Sylvia laughed,
"but I was always under the impression that one tipped the head
gamekeeper and did not bother oneself about the local poachers."

"But it does seem wrong somehow to slip away in the darkness without a
word of thanks," Michael said, with a smile. "I really can't help liking
these ruffians."

At that moment Rakoff stepped forward into their conversation.

"I'm going to ride over to our lines presently," he announced. "You'd
better come with me, and you'll not be much more than a few hundred
meters from the Greek outposts. The Greek soldiers wear khaki. You won't
be called upon to give any explanations."

Michael began to thank him, but the Bulgarian waved aside his words.

"You are included in the fulfilment of an obligation, _monsieur_, and
being still in debt to _mademoiselle_, I should be embarrassed by any
expression from her of gratitude. Come, it is time for supper."

Throughout the meal, which was eaten in a ruined chapel, Rakoff talked
of his rose-gardens, and Sylvia fancied that he was trying to reproduce
in her mind her first impression of him in order to make this last meal
seem but the real conclusion of their long railway journey together. She
wondered if Ziska knew that this was the last meal and if she approved
of her leader's action in helping two enemies to escape. However, it was
waste of time to speculate about Ziska's feelings: she had no feelings:
she was nothing but a finely perfected instrument of destruction; and
Sylvia nodded a casual good-night to her when supper was over, turning
round to take a final glance at her bending over her rifle in the dim,
tumble-down chapel as she might have looked back at some inanimate
object which had momentarily caught her attention in a museum.

They rode downhill most of the way toward the Bulgarian lines, and about
two hours after midnight saw the tents, like mushrooms, under the light
of a hazy and decrescent moon.

"Here we bid one another farewell," said Rakoff, reining up.

In the humid stillness they sat pensive for a little while, listening to
the ponies nuzzling for grass, tasting in the night the nearness of the
sea, and straining for the shimmer of it upon the southern horizon.

"Merci, monsieur. Adieu," Michael said.

"_Merci, monsieur, vous avez été plus que gentil pour nous. Adieu_,"
Sylvia continued.

"_Enchanté_," the Bulgarian murmured: Michael and Sylvia dismounted.
"Keep well south of those tents and the moon over your right shoulders.
You are about three kilometers from the shore. The sentries should be
easy enough to avoid. We are not yet at war with Greece."

He laughed, and spurred away in the direction of the Bulgarian tents;
Michael and Sylvia walked silently toward freedom across a broken
country where the dwarfed trees, like the dwarfed Bulgarians themselves,
seemed fit only for savage hours and pathetically out of keeping with
this tranquil night. They had walked for about half an hour when, from
the cover of a belt of squat pines, they saw ahead of them two figures
easily recognizable as Greek soldiers.

"Shall we hail them?" Sylvia whispered.

"No, we'll keep them in view. I'm sure we haven't crossed the frontier
yet. We'll slip across in their wake. They'd be worse than useless to us
if we're not on the right side of the frontier."

The Greeks disappeared over the brow of a small hill; when Sylvia and
Michael reached the top they saw that they had entered what looked like
a guard-house at the foot of the slope on the farther side.

"Perhaps we've crossed the frontier without knowing it," Michael
suggested.

Sylvia thought it was imprudent to make any attempt to find out for
certain; but he was obstinately determined to explore and she had to
wait in a torment of anxiety while he worked his way downhill and took
the risk of peeping through a loophole at the back of the building.
Presently he came back, crawling up the hill on all-fours until he was
beside her again.

"Most extraordinary thing," he declared. "Our friend Rakoff is in there
with two or three Bulgarian officers. The fellows we saw _were_
Greeks--one is an officer, the other is a corporal. The officer is
pointing out various spots on a large map. Of course one says 'traitor'
at first, but traitors don't go attended by corporals. I can't make it
out. However, it's clear that we're still in Bulgaria."

"Oh, do let's get on and leave it behind us," Sylvia pleaded, nervously.

But Michael argued the advisableness of waiting until the Greeks came
out and of using them as guides to their own territory.

"But if they're traitors they won't welcome us," she objected.

"Oh, they can't be traitors. It must be some military business that
they're transacting."

In the end they decided to wait; after about an hour the Greeks emerged,
passing once more the belt of pines where Sylvia and Michael were
waiting in concealment. They allowed the visitors to get a long enough
lead, and then followed them, hurrying up inclines while they were
covered, and lying down on the summits to watch their guides' direction.
They had been moving like this for some time and were waiting above the
steep bank of a ravine, the stony bed of which the Greeks were crossing,
when suddenly the corporal leaped on the back of the officer, who fell
in a heap. The corporal rose, looked down at the prostrate form a
moment, then knelt beside him and began to perform some laborious
operation, which was invisible to the watchers. At last he stood
upright, and with outspread fingers flung a malediction at the body,
kicking it contemptuously; then, with a gesture of despair to the sky,
he collapsed against a boulder and began to weep loudly.

Sylvia had seen enough violence in the last month to accept the murder
of one Greek officer as a mere incident on such a night; but somehow she
was conscious of a force of passion behind the corporal's action that
lifted it far above her recent experience of bloodshed. She paused to
see if Michael was going to think the same, unwilling to let her emotion
run away with her now in such a way as to deprive them of making use of
the deed for their own purpose. Michael lay on the brow of the cliff,
gazing in perplexity at the man below, whose form shook with sobs in the
gray moonlight and whose victim seemed already nothing more important
than one of the stones in the rocky bed of the ravine.

"I'm hanged if I know what to do," Michael whispered at last.

"Personally," Sylvia whispered back, "it's almost worth while to spend
the rest of our life in a Bulgarian prison-camp, if we can only find out
first the meaning of this murder."

"Yes, I was rather coming to that conclusion," he agreed.

"Don't think me absurd," she went on, hurriedly. "But I've got a quite
definite fancy that he's going to play an important part in our escape.
Would you mind if I went down and spoke to him?"

"No, I'll go," Michael said. "You don't know Greek."

"Do you?" she retorted.

"No. But he might be alarmed and attack you."

"He'll be less likely to attack a gentle female voice," Sylvia argued;
and before Michael could say another word she began to slide down the
side of the gully, repeating very quickly, "Don't make a noise; we're
English," laughing at herself for the probable uselessness of the
explanation, and yet all the time laughing with an inward conviction
that there was nothing to fear from the encounter.

The corporal jumped up and held high his bayonet, which was gleaming
black with moonlit blood.

"English?" he repeated, doubtfully, in a nasal voice.

"Yes, English prisoners escaped from the Bulgarians," Sylvia panted as
she reached him.

"That's all right," said the corporal. "You got nothing to be frightened
of. I'm an American citizen from New York City."

Sylvia called to Michael to come down, whereupon the corporal took hold
of her wrist and reminded her that they were still in Bulgaria.

"Don't you start hollering so loud," he said, severely.

She apologized, and presently Michael reached them.

"Wal, mister," said the Greek, "I guess you saw me kill that dog. Come
and look at him."

He turned the dead man's face to the moon. On the forehead, on the chin,
and on each cheek the flesh had been sliced away to form Π.

"Προδὁτης," explained the corporal. "Traitor in American. I'm an
American citizen, but I'm a Greek man, too. I fought in the last war
and was in Thessaloniki. I killed four Toiks and nine Voulgars in the
last war. See here?" He pointed to the pale-blue ribbons on his chest.
"I went to New York and was in a shoe-shine parlor. Then I learned the
barber-shop. I was doing well. Then I come home and fought the Toiks.
Then I fought the Voulgars. Then I went back to New York. Then last
September come the mobilizing to fight them again. Yes, mister, I put my
razor in my pocket and come over to Piræus. I didn't care for
submarines. Hundreds of Greek mens come with me to fight the Voulgars.
The Greek mens hate the Voulgars. But things is different this time.
They was telling tales how our officers was chummy with the Voulgar
officers. I didn't believe it. Not me. But it was true. With my own eyes
I see this dog showing the plans of Rupel and other forts. With my own
ears I heard this sunnavabitch telling the Voulgars the Greek mens
wouldn't fight. My heart swelled up like a watermelon. My eyes was
bursting and I cursed him inside of me, saying, 'I wish your brains for
to become beans in your head.' But when we was alone I thought of what
big mens the Greeks was in old times, and I said to him, 'κὑριε λὁχαγε,'
which is Mister Captain in American, 'what means this what we have done
to-night?' And he says to me, 'It means the Greek men ain't going to
fight for Venizelo, who is a Senegalese and προδὁτης of his country.'
And he cursed the French and cursed the British and he said that the
Voulgars must be let drive them into the sea. But I said nothing. I just
spit. Then, after a bit, I said, κὑριε λὁχαγε, does the other officers
think like you was?' And he says all Greek mens what is not traitors
think like him, and if I tell him who is for Venizelo in our regiment I
will be a sergeant good and quick. But I didn't say nothing: I am only
spitting to myself. Then we come to this place, and my heart was
bursting out of my body, and I killed him. Then I took my razor and
marked his face for a προδὁτης."

The corporal threw up his arms to heaven in denunciation of the dead
man. They asked him what he would do, and he told them that he should
hide on his own native island of Samothrace until he could be an
interpreter to an English ship at Mudros, or until Greece should turn
upon the Bulgarians and free his soul from the stain of the captain's
treachery.

"Can you help us get to Samothrace?" they asked.

"Yes, I can help you. But what you have seen to-night swear not to tell,
for I am crying like a woman for my country; and other peoples and mens
must not laugh at Hellas, because to-night this skylaki σκυλἁκι, this
dog, has had the moon for eats."

"And how shall we get to Samothrace?" they asked, when they had promised
their silence.

"I will find a caique and you will hide by the sea where I show you. We
cannot go back over the river to Greece. But how much can you pay for
the caique? Fifty dollars? There are Greek fish-mens, sure, who was
going to take us."

Michael at once agreed to the price.

"Then it will be easy," said the corporal, after he had calculated his
own profit upon the transaction.

"And ten dollars for yourself," Michael added.

"I don't want nothing out of it for myself," the corporal declared,
indignantly; but after a minute's hesitation he told them that he did
not think it would be possible to hire the caique for less than sixty
dollars, and looked sad when Michael did not try to contest the higher
figure.

They had started to walk seaward along the bed of the ravine when the
corporal ran back with an exclamation of contempt to where the dead
officer was lying.

"If I ain't dippy!" he laughed. "Gee! I 'most forgot to see what was in
his pockets."

He made up for the oversight by a thorough search and came back
presently, smiling and slipping the holster of the officer's revolver on
his own belt. Then he patted his own pockets, which were bulging with
what he had found, and they walked forward in silence. The end of the
ravine brought them to an exposed upland, which they crossed warily,
flitting from stunted tree to stunted tree, because the moonlight was
seeming too bright here for safety. The upland gave place to sandy
dunes, the hollows of which were marshy and made the going difficult;
but the night was breathless and not a leaf stirred in the oleander
thickets to alarm their progress.

"Not much wind for sailing," Michael murmured.

"That's all right," said the corporal, whose name was Yanni Psaradelis.
"If we find a caique, we can wait for the wind."

Sylvia was puzzled by Rakoff's not having said a word about any river to
cross at the frontier. She wondered if he had salved his loyalty
thereby, counting upon their recapture, or if by chance they were to get
away, throwing the blame on Providence. Yet had he time for such
subtleties? It was hard to think he had, but by Yanni's account of the
river it seemed improbable that they would ever have escaped without his
help, and it was certainly strange that Rakoff, if his benevolence had
been genuine, should not have warned them. And now actually the dunes
were dipping to the sea; on a simultaneous impulse they ran down the
last sandy slope and knelt upon the beach by the edge of the tide,
scooping up the water as though it were of gold.

"Say, that's not the way to go escaping from the Voulgars," Yanni told
them, reproachfully. "We got to go slow and keep out of sight."

The beach was very narrow and sloped rapidly up to low cliffs of sand
continually broken by wide drifts and watercourses; but they were high
enough to mask the moonlight if one kept close under their lee and one's
footsteps were muffled by the sand. They must have walked in this
fashion for a couple of miles when Yanni stopped them with a gesture
and, bending down, picked up the cork of a fishing-net and an old shoe.

"Guess there's folk around here," he whispered. "I'm going to see. You
sit down and rest yourselves."

He walked on cautiously; the sandy cliffs apparently tumbled away to a
flat country almost at once, for Yanni's figure lost the protection of
their shadow and came into view like a gray ghost in the now completely
clouded moonlight. Presumably they were standing near the edge of the
marshy estuary of the river between Bulgaria and Greece.

"How will he explain himself to any of the enemy on guard?" Sylvia
whispered.

"He must have had the countersign to get across earlier to-night,"
Michael replied.

"It's nearly five o'clock," she said. "We haven't got so very much
longer before dawn."

They waited for ages, it seemed, before Yanni came back and told them
that there was no likelihood of getting a caique on this side of the
river, but that he should cross over in a boat and take the chance of
finding one on the farther beach before his captain's absence was
remarked. He should have to be careful because the Greek sentries would
be men from his own regiment and his presence so far down the line might
arouse suspicion.

"But if you find a caique, how are we going to get across the river to
join you?" Michael asked.

"Say, give me twenty dollars," Yanni answered, after a minute's thought.
"The fish-mens won't do nothing for me unless I show them the money
first. I'll say two British peoples want to go Thaso. We can give them
more when we're on the sea to go Samothraki. They'd be afraid to go
Samothraki at first. You must go back to where we come down to the sea.
Got me? Hide in the bushes all day, and before the φεγγἁρι, what is it,
before the moon is beginning to-morrow night, come right down to the
beach and strike one match; then wait till you see me, but not till
after the moon is beginning. If I don't come to-morrow, go back and hide
and come right down the next night till the moon is beginning. And if I
don't come the next night--" He stopped. "Sure, Yanni will be dead."

Michael gave him five sovereigns; he walked quickly away, and the
fugitives turned on their traces in the sand.

"Do you feel any doubt about him?" Sylvia whispered, after a spell of
silence.

"About his honesty? Not the least. If he can come, he will come."

"That's what I think."

They found by their old footprints the gap in the cliffs through which
they had first descended, and took the precaution of scrambling back
farther along so that there should remain only the marks of their
descent. In the first oleander thicket they hid themselves by lying flat
on the marshy ground; so tired were they that they both fell asleep
until they were awakened by morning and a drench of rain.

"One feels more secluded and safe somehow in such weather," said Sylvia,
with an attempt at optimism.

"Yes, and we've got a box of Turkish-delight," said Michael.

"Turkish-delight?" she repeated, in astonishment.

"Yes; one of Rakoff's men gave it to me about a week ago, and I kept it
with a vague notion of its bringing us luck or something. Besides,
another thing in the rain's favor is that it serves as a kind of bath."

"A very complete bath I should say," laughed Sylvia.

They ate Turkish-delight at intervals during that long day, when for not
a single moment did the rain cease to fall. Sylvia told Michael about
the Earl's Court Exhibition and Mabel Bannerman.

"I remember a girl called Mabel who used to sell Turkish-delight there,
but she had a stall of her own."

"So did my Mabel the year afterward," she said.

Soon they decided it must be the same Mabel. Sylvia thought what a good
opening this was to tell Michael some of her more intimate experiences,
but she dreaded that he would, in spite of himself, show his distaste
for that early life of hers, and she could not bear the idea of creating
such an atmosphere now--or in the future, she thought, with a sigh.
Nevertheless, she did begin an apostrophe against the past, but he cut
her short.

"The past? What does the past matter? Without a past, my dear Sylvia,
you would have no present."

"And, after all," she thought, "he knows already I have a past."

Once their hands met by accident, and Michael withdrew his with a
quickness that mortified her, so that she simulated a deep preoccupation
in order to hide her chagrin, for she had outgrown her capacity to sting
back with bitter words, and could only await the slow return of her
composure before she could talk naturally again.

"But never mind, the adventure is drawing to a close," she told herself,
"and he'll soon be rid of me."

Then he began to talk again about their damned relationship and to
speculate upon the extent of Stella's surprise when she should hear
about it.

"I think, you know, when I was young," Michael said, presently, "that I
must have been rather like your husband. I'm sure I should have fallen
in love with you and married you."

"You couldn't have been in the least like him," she contradicted,
angrily.

For a moment, so poignant in its revelation of a divine possibility as
to stop her heart while it lasted, Sylvia fancied that he seemed
disappointed at her abrupt disposal of the notion that he might have
loved her. But even as the thought was born it died upon his offer of
another piece of Turkish-delight and of his saying:

"I think it's time for the eighth piece each."

So that was the calculation he had been making, unless, indeed, their
proximity and solitude through this long day in the face of danger had
induced in him a sentimental desire to express an affection born of a
conventional instinct to accord with favoring circumstance, bred of a
kind of pity for a wasted situation. If that were so, she must be more
than ever careful of her pride; and for the rest of the day she kept the
conversation to politics, forcing it away from any topic that in the
least concerned them personally.

A night of intense blackness and heavy rain succeeded that long day in
the oleander thicket. Moonrise could not be expected by their reckoning
much before three in the morning. The wet hours dragged so interminably
that prudence was sacrificed to a longing for action; feeling that it
was impossible to lie here any longer, sodden, hungry, and apprehensive,
they decided to go down to the beach and strike the first match at
midnight, and, notwithstanding the risk, to strike matches every
half-hour. The first match evoked no response; but the plash of the
little waves broke the monotony of the rain, and the sand, wet though it
was, came as a relief after the slime in which they had been lying for
eighteen hours. The second match gained no answering signal; neither did
the third nor the fourth. They consoled themselves by whispering that
Yanni had arranged his rescue for the hour before moonrise. The fifth
and sixth matches flamed and went out in dreary ineffectiveness; so
thick was the darkness over the sea it began to seem unimaginable for
anything to happen out there. Suddenly Michael whispered that he could
hear the clumping of oars, and struck the seventh match. There was
silence; then the oars definitely grew louder; a faint whistle came over
the water: the darkness before them became tremulous with a hint of
life, and their straining eyes tried to fancy the outline of a boat
standing off from the shore. Presently low voices were audible; then the
noise of a falling plank and a hurried oath for some one's clumsiness; a
little boat grounded, and Yanni jumped out.

"Quick!" he breathed. "I believe I heard footsteps coming right down to
the shore."

They pushed off the boat; and when they were about twenty strokes from
the beach, what seemed after so much whispering and stillness a demoniac
shout rent the darkness inland. Yanni and the fishermen beside him
pulled now without regard for the noise of the oars; they could hear the
sound of people's sliding down the cliff; there were more shouts, and a
rifle flashed.

"Those Voulgars," Yanni panted, "won't do nothing except holler. They
can't see us."

Another rifle banged, and Sylvia was thrilled by the way their escape
was conforming to the rules of the game; she reveled in the confused
sounds of anger and pursuit on land.

"They don't know where we are," laughed Yanni.

But the noise of the fugitives scrambling on board the caique and the
hoisting of the little boat brought round them a shower of bullets, the
splash of which was heard above the rain. One of these broke a jar of
wine, and every man aboard bent to the long oars, driving the perfumed
caique deeper into the darkness.

"I had a funny time getting this caique," Yanni explained, when, with
some difficulty, he had been dissuaded from firing his late captain's
revolver at the country of Bulgaria, by this time at least two miles
away. "I didn't have no difficulty to get across, but I had to walk
half-way to Cavalla before I found the old fish-man who owns this
caique. I told him two British peoples wanted him and he says, 'Are them
Mr. B.'s fellows for Cavalla?' I didn't know who Mr. B. was, anyway, so
I says, 'Sure, they're Mr. B.'s fellows,' but when we got off at dusk,
he says his orders was for Porto Lagos and to let go the little boat
when he could hear a bird calling. He didn't give a dern for no matches.
Wal, Mr. B.'s fellows didn't answer from round about Lagos, and he said
bad words, and how it was three days too soon, and who in hell did I
think I was, anyway, telling him Mr. B.'s fellows was waiting? So I
told him there was a mistake somewheres, and asked him what about taking
you Thaso for twenty dollars. We talked for a bit and he said, 'Yes.'
Now we got to make him go Samothraki."

At this point the captain of the caique, a brown and shriveled old man
seeming all the more shriveled in the full-seated breeches of the Greek
islander, joined them below for an argument with Yanni that sounded more
than usually acrimonious and voluble. When it was finished, the captain
had agreed, subject to a windy moonrise, to land them at Samothraki on
payment of another ten pounds in gold. They went on deck and sat astern,
for the rain was over now. A slim, rusty moon was creeping out of the
sea and conjuring from the darkness forward the shadowy bulk of Thasos;
presently, with isolated puffs that frilled the surface of the water
like the wings of alighting birds, the wind began to blow; the long oars
were shipped, and the crew set the curved mainsail that crouched in a
defiant bow against whatever onslaught might prepare itself; from every
mountain gorge in Thrace the northern blasts rushed down with life for
the stagnant sea, and life for the dull, decrescent moon, which in a
spray of stars they drove glittering up the sky.

"How gloriously everything hums and gurgles!" Sylvia shouted in
Michael's ear. "When shall we get to Samothrace?"

He shrugged his shoulders and leaned over to Yanni, who told them that
it might be about midday if the wind held like this.

For all Sylvia's exultation, the vision of enchanted space that seemed
to forbid sleep on such a night soon faded from her consciousness, and
she did not rouse herself from dreams until dawn was scattering its
roses and violets to the wind.

"I simply can't shave," Michael declared, "but Samothrace is in sight."

The sun was rising in a fume of spindrift and fine gold when Sylvia
scrambled forward into the bows. Huddled upon a coil of wet rope, she
first saw Samothrace faintly relucent like an uncut sapphire, where
already it towered upon the horizon, though there might be thirty
thundering miles between.

"I'm glad we ended our adventure with this glorious sea race," shouted
Michael, who had joined her in the bows. "Are you feeling quite all
right?"

She nodded indignantly.

"See how gray the sky is now," he went on. "It's going to blow even
harder, and they're shortening sail."

They looked aft to where the crew, whose imprecations were only visible,
so loud was the drumming of the wind, were getting down the mainsail;
and presently they were running east southeast under a small jib, with
the wind roaring upon the port quarter and the waves champing at the
taffrail. It did not strike either of them that there was any reason to
be anxious until Yanni came forward with a frightened yellow face and
said that the captain was praying to St. Nicholas in the cabin below.

"Samothraki bad place to go," Yanni told them, dismally. "Many fish-mens
drowned there."

A particularly violent squall shrieked assent to his forebodings, and
the helmsman, looking over his shoulder, crossed himself as the squall
left them and tore ahead, decapitating the waves in its course so that
the surface of the water, blown into an appearance of smoothness,
resembled the powdery damascene of ice in a skater's track.

"It's terrible, ain't it?" Yanni moaned.

"Cheer up," Michael said. "I'm looking forward to your shaving me before
lunch in your native island."

"We sha'n't never come Samothraki," Yanni said. "And I can't pray no
more somehows since I went away to America. Else I'd go and pray along
with the captain. Supposing I was to give a silver ship to the παναγἱἱα
in Teno, would you lend me the money for the workmens to do it?"

"I'll pay half," Michael volunteered. "A silver ship to Our Lady of
Tenos," he explained to Sylvia.

"Gee!" Yanni shouted, more cheerfully. "I'm going to pray some right
now. I guess when I get kneeling the trick'll come back to me. I did so
much kneeling in New York to shine boots that I used to lie in bed on a
Sunday. But this goddam storm's regular making my knees itch."

He hurried aft in a panic of religious devotion, whither Michael and
Sylvia presently followed him in the hope of coffee. Every one on board
except the helmsman was praying, and there was no signs of fire; even
the sacred flame before St. Nicholas had gone out. The cabin was in a
confusion of supplicating mariners prostrate amid onions, oranges, and
cheese; the very cockroaches seemed to listen anxiously in the wild
motion. The helmsman was not steering too well, or else the sea was
growing wilder, for once or twice a stream of water poured down the
companion and drenched the occupants, until at last the captain rushed
on deck to curse the offender, calling down upon his head the pains of
hell should they sink and he be drowned.

Michael and Sylvia found the most sheltered spot in the caique and ate
some cheese. The terror of the crew had reacted upon their spirits; the
groaning of the wind in the shrouds, the seething of the waves, and the
frightened litany below quenched their exultation and silenced their
laughter.

Yanni, more yellow than ever, came up and asked Michael if he would mind
paying the captain now.

"He says he don't believe he can get into port, but if he can't, he's
going to try and get around on the south side of Samothraki, only he'd
like to have his money in case anything should happen."

Three hours tossed themselves free from time; and now in all its
majesty and in all its menace the island rose dark before them, girdled
with foam and crowned with snow above six thousand feet of chasms,
gorges, cliffs, and forests.

"What a fearful lee shore!" Michael exclaimed, with a shudder.

"Yes, but what a sublime form!" Sylvia cried. "At any rate, to be
wrecked on such a coast is not a mean death."

Yanni explained that the only port of the island lay on this side of the
low-lying promontory that ran out to sea on their starboard bow. In
order to make this, the captain would have to beat up to windward first,
which with the present fury of the gale and so lofty a coast was
impossible. The captain evidently came to the same conclusion, though at
first it looked as if he had changed his mind too late to avoid running
the caique ashore before he could gain the southerly lee of the island.
Sylvia held her breath when the mast lost itself against the darkness of
land and breathed again when anon it stood out clear against the sky.
Yet so frail seemed the caique in relation to the vast bulk before them
that it was incredible this haunt of Titans should not exact another
sacrifice.

"I think, as we get nearer, that the mast shows itself less often
against the sky," Sylvia shouted to Michael.

"About equal, I think," he shouted back.

Certainly the caique still labored on, and it might be that, after all,
they would clear the promontory and gain shelter.

"Do you know what I'm thinking of?" Michael yelled.

She shook her head, blinking in the spray.

"The Round Pond!" he yelled again.

"I can't imagine that even the Round Pond's really calm at present," she
shouted back.

Suddenly astern there was a cry of despair that rose high above the
howling of the wind; the tiller had broken, and immediately the prow of
the caique, swerving away from the sky, drove straight for the shore.
Two men leaped forward to cut the ropes of the jib, which flapped madly
aloft; then it gave itself to the wind and danced before them till it
was no more than a gull's wing against dark and mighty Samothrace.

The caique rocked alarmingly until the oars steadied her; the strength
of the rowers endured long enough to clear the promontory, but,
unfortunately, the expected shelter on the other side proved to be an
illusion, and, though a new tiller had been provided by this time, it
was impossible for the exhausted men to do their part. The caique began
to ship water, so heavily, indeed, that the captain gave orders to run
her ashore where the sand of a narrow cove glimmered between huge towers
of rock. The beaching would have been effected safely had it not been
for a sunken reef that ripped out the bottom of the caique, which
crumpled up and shrieked her horror like a live, sentient thing. Sylvia
found herself, after she had rolled in a dizzy switchback from the
summit of one wave to another, clinging head downward to a slippery
ledge of rock, her fingers in a mush of sea-anemones, her feet wedged in
a crevice; then another wave lifted her off and she was swept over and
over in green somersaults of foam, until there came a blow as from a
hammer, a loud roaring, and silence.

When Sylvia recovered consciousness she was lying on a sandy slope with
Michael's arms round her.

"Was I drowned?" she asked; then common sense added itself to mere
consciousness and she began to laugh. "I don't mean actually, but
nearly?"

"No, I think you hit your head rather a thump on the beach. You've only
been lying here about twenty minutes."

"And Yanni and the captain and the crew?"

"They all got safely ashore. Rather cut about, of course, but nothing
serious. Yanni and the captain are arguing whether Our Lady of Tenos or
St. Nicholas is responsible for saving our lives. The others are making
a fire."

She tried to sit up; but her head was going round, and she fell back.

"Keep quiet," Michael told her. "We're in a narrow, sandy cove from
which a gorge runs up into the heart of the mountains. There's a
convenient cave higher up full of dried grass--a goatherd's, I
suppose--and when the fire's alight the others are going to scramble
across somehow to the village and send a guide for us to-morrow. There
won't be time before dark to-night. Do you mind being left for a few
minutes?"

She smiled her contentment, and, closing her eyes, listened to the
echoes of human speech among the rocks above, and to the beating of the
surf below.

Presently Yanni and Michael appeared in order to carry her up to the
cave; but she found herself easily able to walk with the help of an arm,
and Michael told Yanni to hurry off to the village.

Sylvia and he were soon left alone on the parapet of smoke-blackened
earth in front of the cave, whence they watched the sailors toiling up
the gorge in search of a track over the mountain. Then they took off
nearly all their clothes and wandered about in overcoats, breaking off
boughs of juniper to feed the fire for their drying.

"Nothing to eat but cheese," Michael laughed. "Our diet since we left
Rakoff has always run to excess of one article. Still, cheese is more
nutritious than Turkish-delight, and there's plenty of water in that
theatrical cascade. The wind is dropping; though in any case we
shouldn't feel it here."

Shortly before sunset the gorge echoed with liquid tinklings, and an
aged goatherd appeared with his flock of brown sheep and tawny goats,
which with the help of a wild-eyed boy he penned in another big cave on
the opposite side. Then he joined Sylvia and Michael at their fire and
gave them an unintelligible, but obviously cordial, salutation, after
which he entered what was evidently his dwelling-place and came out with
bottles of wine and fresh cheese. He did not seem in any way surprised
by their presence in his solitude, and when darkness fell he and the boy
piped ancient tunes in the firelight until they all lay down on heaps of
dry grass. Sylvia remained awake for a long while in a harmony of
distant waves and falling water and of sudden restless tinklings from
the penned flock. In the morning the old man gave them milk and made
them a stately farewell; he and his goats and his boy disappeared up the
gorge for the day's pasturage in a jangling tintinnabulation that became
fainter and fainter, until the last and most melodious bells tinkled at
rare intervals far away in the dim heart of the mountain.

The cove and the gorge were still in deep shadow; but on the slopes
above toward the east bright sunlight was hanging the trees with
emeralds beneath a blue sky, and seaward the halcyon had lulled the
waves for her azure nesting.

"Can't we get up into the sunlight?" Michael proposed.

For all the sparkling airs above them, it was chilly enough down here,
and they were glad to scramble up through thickets of holm-oak, arbutus,
and aromatic scrub to a grassy peak in the sun's eye. Here not even the
buzzing of an insect broke the warm, wintry peace of the South, and it
was hard to think that the restless continent of Asia was lapped by that
tender and placid sea below. The dark, blue wavy line of Imbros and the
dove-gray bulk of Lemnos were the only islands in sight, though, like
lines of cloud upon the horizon, they could fancy the cliffs of
Gallipoli and hear, so breathless was the calm, the faint grumbling of
the guns.

"It was in Samothrace they set up the Winged Victory," Michael said.
Then suddenly he turned to Sylvia and took her hand. "My dear, when I
dragged you up the beach yesterday I thought you were dead, and I cursed
myself for a coward because I had let you die without telling you.
Sylvia, this adventure of ours, need it ever stop?"

"Everything comes to an end," she sighed.

"Except one thing--and that sets all the rest going again."

"What is your magic key?"

"Sylvia, I'm afraid to ask you to marry me, but will you?"

She stared at him; then she saw his eyes, and for a long while she was
crying in his arms with happiness.

"My dear, my dear, you've lost your yellow shawl in the wreck."

"The mermaids can have it," she murmured. "I shall wrap up the rest of
my memories in you."

Then she stopped in sudden affright.

"But, Michael, how can I marry you? I haven't told you anything really
about myself."

"Foolish one, you've told me everything that matters in these two months
of the most perfect companionship possible for human beings."

"Companionship?" she echoed, looking at him fiercely. "And cousinship,
eh?"

"No, no, my dear, you can't frighten me any longer," he laughed.
"Surely, telling things belongs to the companionship of a life
together--love has no words except when one is still very young and
eloquent."

"But, Michael," she went on, "all these nine years of mystical
speculation, are they going to end in the commonplace of marriage?"

"It won't be commonplace, and besides, the war isn't over yet, and after
the war there will be an empty world to fill with all we have learned.
Ah, how poor old Guy would have loved to fill it with his Spanish
castles."

"It seems wrong for us two up here to be so happy," Sylvia sighed.

"This is just a halcyon day, but there will soon be stormy days again."

"You mean you'll go back now to--" She stopped in a desperate
apprehension. "But, of course, we can't live forever in these days of
war between a blue sky and a blue sea. Yet, somehow, oh, my dearest and
dearest, I don't believe I shall lose _you_."

Like birds calling to one another, in the green thickets far away two
bells tinkled their monotone; and a small gray craft flying the white
ensign glided over the charmed sea toward Samothrace.

THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

BOOKS BY

BASIL KING

_THE CITY OF COMRADES

ABRAHAM'S BOSOM

THE HIGH HEART

THE LIFTED VEIL

THE INNER SHRINE

THE WILD OLIVE

THE STREET CALLED STRAIGHT

THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS

THE WAY HOME

THE LETTER OF THE CONTRACT

IN THE GARDEN OF CHARITY

THE STEPS OF HONOR

LET NOT MAN PUT ASUNDER_

HARPER & BROTHERS NEW YORK [ESTABLISHED 1817] LONDON

       *       *       *       *       *

BOOKS BY

ZANE GREY

THE U. P. TRAIL

THE DESERT OF WHEAT

WILDFIRE

THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT

RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE

DESERT GOLD

THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS

THE LONE STAR RANGER

THE RAINBOW TRAIL

THE BORDER LEGION

KEN WARD IN THE JUNGLE

THE YOUNG LION HUNTER

THE YOUNG FORESTER

THE YOUNG PITCHER

HARPER & BROTHERS

NEW YORK [ESTABLISHED 1817] LONDON

       *       *       *       *       *

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

when she was presented to Madema=>when she was presented to Madame

the last hour than in all the year that had gone by since=>the last hour
than in all the years that had gone by since

The Austrains are advancing more rapidly=>The Austrians are advancing
more rapidly

even the envelop that Hazlewood had given to her=>even the envelope that
Hazlewood had given to her

will be delighted to drink a cockataila with him=>will be delighted to
drink a cockatail with him

The French spelling & punctuation have not been corrected.

       *       *       *       *       *





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sylvia & Michael - The later adventures of Sylvia Scarlett" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home