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: The Drunkard
Author: Thorne, Guy, 1876-1923
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 "The Drunkard" ***

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



the Google Books Library Project (http://books.google.com)



Note: Images of the original pages are available through
      the the Google Books Library Project. See
      http://www.google.com/books?id=w7IWAAAAYAAJ



THE DRUNKARD


BY

GUY THORNE

AUTHOR OF "WHEN IT WAS DARK," "FIRST IT WAS
ORDAINED," "MADE IN HIS IMAGE," ETC., ETC.


New York
STURGIS & WALTON COMPANY
1912

COPYRIGHT, 1911
BY
STURGIS & WALTON COMPANY

Published January, 1912



Transcriber's Note: Inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, and
hyphenation have been retained as printed. The cover of this ebook was
created by the transcriber and is hereby placed in the public domain.



DEDICATION

TO LOUIS TRACY, ESQUIRE


_My Dear Louis_:

It is more than a year ago now that I asked you to accept the
dedication of this story. It was on an evening when I was staying with
you at your Yorkshire house and we had just come in from shooting.

But I discussed the tale with you long before that. It was either--as
well as I can remember--at my place in the Isle of Wight, or when we
were all together in the Italian Alps. I like to think that it was at
that time I first asked your opinion and advice about this book upon
which I have laboured so long.

One night comes back to me very vividly--yes, that surely was the
night. Dinner was over. We were sitting in front of the brilliantly lit
hotel with coffee and cigarettes. You had met all my kind Italian
friends. Our wives were sitting together at one little table with
Signora Maerdi and Madame Riva Monico--to whom be greeting! My father
was at ours, and happy as a boy for all his white beard and skull-cap
of black velvet.

Your son, Dick, was dancing with the Italian girls in the bright salon
behind us, and the piano music tinkled out into the hot night. The
Alpine woods of ilex and pine rose up in the moonlight to where the
snow-capped mountains of St. Gothard hung glistening silver-green.

I ask you to take this book as a memorial of a happy, uninterrupted and
dignified friendship, not less valuable and gracious because your wife
and mine are friends also.

_Nil ego contulerim jucundo sanus amico!_

Yours ever sincerely,

GUY THORNE.



FOREWORD


The sixth chapter in the third book of this story can hardly be called
fiction. The notes upon which it is founded were placed in my
possession by a brilliant man of letters some short time before he
died. Serious students of the psychology of the Inebriate may use the
document certain that it is genuine.

I have to acknowledge my indebtedness to the illuminating study in
heredity of Dr. Archdall Reed, M.B., C.M., F.R.S.E. His book
"Alcoholism" ought to be read by every temperance reformer in Europe
and America.

"The Drink Problem," a book published by Messrs. Methuen and written in
concert by the greatest experts on the subject of Inebriety, has been
most helpful. I have not needed technical help to make my story, but I
have found that it gives ample corroboration of protracted
investigation and study.

My thanks are due to Mr. John Theodore Tussaud for assistance in the
writing of chapter four, book three.

Lastly, I should be ungrateful indeed, if I did not put down my sincere
thanks to my secretary Miss Ethel Paczensky for all she has done for me
during the making of this tale. The mere careful typewriting, revision
and arrangement of a long story which is to be published in America and
Europe, requires considerable skill. The fact that the loyal help and
sympathy of a young and acute mind have been so devotedly at my
service, merits more thanks and acknowledgment than can be easily
conveyed in a foreword.

G. T.



CONTENTS


PROLOGUE

                                                                 PAGE

PART I A BOOK OF POEMS ARRIVES FOR DR. MORTON SIMS                  3

PART II THE MURDERER                                               14


BOOK ONE

LOTHIAN IN LONDON

CHAPTER

   I UNDER THE WAGGON-ROOF. A DINNER IN BRYANSTONE SQUARE          37

  II GRAVELY UNFORTUNATE OCCURRENCE IN MRS. AMBERLEY'S DRAWING
       ROOM                                                        58

 III SHAME IN "THE ROARING GALLANT TOWN"                           76

  IV LOTHIAN GOES TO THE LIBRARY OF PURE LITERATURE               103

   V "FOR THE FIRST TIME, HE WAS GOING TO HAVE A GIRL FRIEND"     121


BOOK TWO

LOTHIAN IN NORFOLK

   I VIGNETTE OF EARLY MORNING. "GILBERT IS COMING HOME!"         145

  II AN EXHIBITION OF DOCTOR MORTON SIMS AND DOCTOR MEDLEY,
       WITH AN ACCOUNT OF HOW LOTHIAN RETURNED TO MORTLAND
       ROYAL                                                      165

 III PSYCHOLOGY OF THE INEBRIATE, AND THE LETTER OF JEWELLED
       WORDS                                                      204

  IV DICKSON INGWORTH UNDER THE MICROSCOPE                        237

   V A QUARREL IN THE "MOST SELECT LOUNGE IN THE COUNTY"          246

  VI AN _OMNES_ EXEUNT FROM MORTLAND ROYAL                        269


BOOK THREE

FRUIT OF THE DEAD SEA

   I THE GIRLS IN THE FOURTH STORY FLAT                           283

  II OVER THE RUBICON                                             295

 III THIRST                                                       318

  IV THE CHAMBER OF HORRORS                                       330

   V THE NIGHT JOURNEY FROM NICE WHEN MRS. DALY SPEAKS WORDS
       OF FIRE                                                    353

  VI GILBERT LOTHIAN'S DIARY                                      367

 VII INGWORTH REDUX: TOFTREES COMPLACENS                          394

VIII THE AMNESIC DREAM-PHASE                                      409

  IX A STARTLING EXPERIENCE FOR "WOG"                             436


EPILOGUE

A YEAR LATER

WHAT OCCURRED AT THE EDWARD HALL IN KINGSWAY                      453



PROLOGUE


PART I

A BOOK OF POEMS ARRIVES FOR DR. MORTON SIMS

    "How many bards gild the lapses of time
      A few of them have ever been the food
        Of my delighted fancy."

    --_Keats._


The rain came down through the London fog like ribands of lead as the
butler entered the library with tea, and pulling the heavy curtains
shut out the picture of the sombre winter's afternoon.

The man poked the fire into a blaze, switched on the electric lights,
and putting a late edition of the _Westminster Gazette_ upon the table,
left the room.

For five minutes the library remained empty. The fire crackled and
threw a glancing light upon the green and gold of the book shelves or
sent changing expressions over the faces of the portraits. The ghostly
blue flame which burnt under a brass kettle on the tea table sang like
a mosquito, and from the square outside came the patter of rain, the
drone of passing taxi-cabs, and the occasional beat of horses' hoofs
which made an odd flute-like noise upon the wet wood pavement.

Then the door opened and Dr. Morton Sims, the leading authority in
England upon Inebriety, entered his study.

The doctor was a slim man of medium height. His moustache and pointed
beard were grey and the hair was thinning upon his high forehead. His
movements were quick and alert without suggesting nervousness or hurry,
and a steady flame burned in brown eyes which were the most remarkable
feature of his face.

The doctor drew up a chair to the fire and made himself a cup of weak
tea, pouring a little lime-juice into it instead of milk. As he sipped
he gazed into the pink and amethyst heart of the fire. His eyes were
abstracted--turned inwards upon himself so to speak--and the
constriction of thought drew grey threads across his brow.

After about ten minutes, and when he had finished his single cup of
tea, Dr. Morton Sims opened the evening paper and glanced rapidly up
and down the broad, well-printed columns.

His eye fell upon a small paragraph at the bottom of the second
news-sheet which ran thus:--

    "Hancock, the Hackney murderer, is to be executed to-morrow morning
    in The North London Prison at eight o'clock. It is understood that
    he has refused the ministrations of the Prison Chaplain and seems
    indifferent to his fate."

The paper dropped from the doctor's hands and he sighed. The paragraph
might or might not be accurate--that remained to be seen--but it
suggested a curious train of thought to his mind. The man who was to
be hanged in a few hours had committed a murder marked by every
circumstance of callousness and cunning. The facts were so sinister and
cold that the horrible case had excited no sympathy whatever. Even the
silly faddists who generally make fools of themselves on such an
occasion in England had organised no petition for reprieve.

Morton Sims was one of those rare souls whose charity of mind, as well
as of action, was great. He always tried to take the other side, to
combat and resist the verdict passed by the world upon the unhappy and
discredited.

But in the case of this murderer even he could have had no sympathy, if
he had not known and understood something about the man which no one in
the country understood, and only a few people would have been capable
of realising if they had been enlightened.

It was his life-work to understand why deeds like this were done.

A clock upon the high mantel of polished oak struck five.

The doctor rose from his chair and stretched himself, and as he did
this the wrinkles faded from his forehead, while his eyes ceased to be
clouded by abstraction.

Morton Sims, in common with many successful men, had entire control
over his own mind. He perfectly understood the structure and the
working of the machine that secretes thought. In his mental context
correct muscular co-ordination, with due action of the reflexes,
enabled him to put aside a subject with the precision of a man closing
a cupboard door.

His mind was divided into thought-tight compartments.

It was so now. He wished to think of the murderer in North London
Prison no more at the moment, and immediately the subject passed away
from him.

At that moment the butler re-entered with some letters and a small
parcel upon a tray.

"The five o'clock post, sir," he said, putting the letters down upon
the table.

"Oh, very well, Proctor," the doctor answered. "Is everything arranged
for Miss Sims and Mrs. Daly?"

"Yes, sir. Fires are lit in both the bedrooms, and dinner is for
half-past six. The boat train from Liverpool gets in to Euston at a
quarter to. The brougham will be at the station in good time. They will
have a cold journey I expect, sir."

"No, I don't think so, Proctor. The Liverpool boat-trains are most
comfortable and they will have had tea. Very well, then."

The butler went away. Morton Sims looked at the clock. It was ten
minutes past five. His sister and her friend, who had arrived at
Liverpool from New York a few hours ago would not arrive in London
before six.

He looked at the four or five letters on the tray but did not open any
of them. The label upon the parcel bore handwriting that he knew. He
cut the string and opened that, taking from it a book bound in light
green and a letter.

Both were from his great friend Bishop Moultrie, late of Simla and now
rector of Great Petherwick in Norfolk, Canon of Norwich, and a sort of
unofficial second suffragan in that enormous diocese.

    "My dear John," ran the letter, "Here is the book that I was
    telling you of at the Athenæum last week. You may keep this copy,
    and I have put your name in it. The author, Gilbert Lothian, lives
    near me in Norfolk. I know him a little and he has presented me
    with another copy himself.

    You won't agree with some of the thoughts, one or two of the poems
    you may even dislike. But on the whole you will be as pleased and
    interested as I am and you will recognise a genuine new
    inspiration--such a phenomenon now-a-days. Such verse must leave
    every reader with a quickened sense of the beauty and compass of
    human feeling, to say nothing of its special appeal to Xn thinkers.
    Some of it is like George Herbert made musical. Lothian is Crashaw
    born again, but born greater--sometimes a Crashaw who has been
    listening to some one playing Chopin!

    But read for yourself.

    Give my regards to your sister when she returns. I hear from many
    sources of the great mark her speeches have made at the American
    Congress and I am anxiously hoping to meet Mrs. Daly during her
    stay over here. She must be a splendid woman!

    Helena sends all kind remembrances and hopes to see you here soon.

    Yours affectionately,

    W. D. MOULTRIE."

Three quarters of an hour were at his disposal. Morton Sims took up the
book, which bore the title "SURGIT AMARI" upon the cover, and began to
read.

Like many other members of his profession he was something of a man of
letters. For him the life-long pursuit of science had been humanised
and sweetened by art. Ever since his days at Harrow with his friend,
the Bishop, he had loved books.

He read very slowly the longish opening poem only, applying delicate
critical tests to every word; analytic and scientific still in the
temper of his mind, and distrusting the mere sensuous impression of a
first glance.

This new man, this Gilbert Lothian, would be great. He would make his
way by charm, the charm of voice, of jewel-like language, above all by
the intellectual charm of new, moving, luminous ideas.

At three minutes to six the doctor closed the book and waited. Almost
as the clock struck the hour, he heard his motor-brougham stop outside
the house, and hurrying out into the hall had opened the door before
the butler could reach it.

Two tall women in furs came into the hall.

The brother and sister kissed each other quietly, but their embrace was
a long one and there was something that vibrated deep down in the
voices of their greeting. Then Miss Morton Sims turned to the other
lady. "Forgive me, Julia," she said, in her clear bell-like voice--in
America they had said that her voice "tolled upon the ear"--"But I
haven't seen him for five months. John, here is Julia Daly at last!"

The doctor took his guest's hand. His face was bright and eager as he
looked at the American woman. She was tall, dressed with a kind of
sumptuous good taste, and the face under its masses of grey hair shone
with a Minerva-like wisdom and serenity.

"Welcome," the doctor said simply. "We have been friends so long, we
have corresponded so often, it is a great joy to me to meet you at
last!"

The three people entered the library for a moment, exchanging the happy
commonplaces of greeting, and then the two women went up to their
rooms.

"Dinner at half past six," the doctor called after them. "I knew you'd
want it. We can have a long talk then. At eight I have to go out upon
an important errand."

He stood in front of the library fire, thinking about the new arrivals
and smoking a cigarette.

His sister Edith had always lived with him, had shared his hopes, his
theories and his work. He was the great scientist slowly getting deep
down, discovering the laws which govern the vital question of
Alcoholism. She was the popular voice, one of the famous women leaders
of the Temperance movement, the most lucid, the least emotional of them
all. Her name was familiar to every one in England. Her brother gave
her the weapons with which she fought. His theories upon Temperance
Reform were quite opposed to the majority of those held by earnest
workers in the same field, but he and his sister were beginning to form
a strong party of influential people who thought with them. Mrs. Daly
was, in America, very much what Edith Morton Sims was in Great
Britain--perhaps even more widely known. Apart from her propaganda she
was one of the few great women orators living, and in her case also,
inspiration came from the English doctor, while she was making his
beliefs and schemes widely known in the United States.

As he waited in the library, the doctor thought that probably no man
had ever had such noble helpers as these two women to whom such great
gifts had been given. His heart was very full of love for his sister
that night, of gratitude and admiration for the stately lady who had
come to be his guest and whom he now met in the flesh for the first
time.


For the first part of dinner the ladies were very full of their recent
campaign in America.

There was an infinity of news to tell, experiences and impressions must
be recorded, progress reported. The eager sparkling talk of the two
women was delightful to the doctor, and he was especially pleased with
the conversation of Mrs. Daly. Every word she spoke fell with the right
ring and chimed, he seemed to have known her for years--as indeed he
had done, through the medium of her letters.

Conversation, which with people like these is a sort of music,
resembles the progress of harmonics in this also--that a lull arrives
with mathematical incidence when a certain stage is reached in the
progress of a theme.

It happened so now, at a certain stage of dinner. There was much more
to be said, but all three people had reached a momentary pause.

The butler came into the room just then, with a letter. "This has just
come by messenger from North London Prison, sir," he said, unable to
repress a faint gleam of curiosity in his eyes.

With a gesture of apology, the doctor opened the envelope. "Very well,"
he said, in a moment or two. "I need not write an answer. But go to the
library, Proctor, and ring up the North London Prison. Say Doctor
Morton Sims' thanks and he will be there punctually at half past
eight."

The servant withdrew and both the ladies looked inquiringly at the
doctor.

"It is a dreadful thing," he said, after a moment's hesitation, "but I
may as well tell you. It must go no further though. A wretched man is
to be executed to-morrow and I have to go and see him."

Edith shuddered.

"How frightful," she said, growing rather pale; "but why, John? How
does it concern you? Are you forced to go?"

He nodded. "I must go," he said, "though it is the most painful thing I
have ever had to do. It is Hancock, the Hackney murderer."

Two startled faces were turned to him now, and a new atmosphere
suddenly seemed to have come into the warm luxurious room, something
that was cold, something that had entered from outside.

"You don't know," he went on. "Of course you have been out of England
for some months. Well, it is this. Hancock is a youngish man of five
and twenty. He was a chemist at Hackney, and of quite exceptional
intelligence. He was at one time an assistant at Williamsons' in Oxford
Street, where some of my prescriptions are made up and where I buy
drugs for experimental purposes. I took rather an interest in him
several years ago. He passed all his examinations with credit and
became engaged to a really charming young woman, who was employed in a
big ladies' shop in Regent Street. He wanted to set up in business for
himself, very naturally, and I helped him with a money loan. He married
the girl, bought a business at Hackney, and became prosperous enough in
a moderate sort of way. He paid me back the hundred pounds I lent him
and from time to time I heard that things were going on very well. He
was respected in the district, and his wife especially was liked. She
was a good and religious woman and did a lot of work for a local
church. They appeared to be a most devoted couple."

The doctor stopped in his story and glanced at the set faces turned
towards him. He poured some water into a tumbler and drank it.

"Oh, it's a hideous story," he said, with some emotion and marked
distaste in his voice. "I won't go into the details. Hancock poisoned
his wife with the most calculating and wicked cunning. He had become
enamoured of a girl in the neighbourhood and he wanted to get rid of
his wife in order to marry her. His wife adored him. She had been a
perfect wife to him, but it made no difference. The thing was
discovered, as such things nearly always are, he was condemned to death
and will be hanged to-morrow morning at breakfast time."

"And you are going to see him _to-night_, John?"

"Yes. It is my duty. I owe it to my work, and to the wretched man too.
I was present at the trial. From the first I realised that there must
have been some definite toxic influence at work on the man's mind to
change him from an intelligent and well-meaning member of society into
a ghastly monster of crime. I was quite right. It was alcohol. He had
been secretly drinking for years, though, as strong-minded and cunning
inebriates do, he had managed to preserve appearances. As you know,
Edith, the Home Secretary is a friend of mine and interested in our
work. Hancock has expressed a wish to see me, to give me some definite
information about himself which will be of great use in my researches
into the psychology of alcoholism. With me, the Home Secretary realises
the value of such an opportunity, and as it is the convict's earnest
wish, I am given the fullest facilities for to-night. Of course the
matter is one of absolute privacy. There would be an outcry among the
sentimental section of the public if it were known. But it is my clear
duty to go."

There was a dead silence in the room. Mrs. Daly played uneasily with
her napkin ring. Suddenly it escaped her nervous fingers and rolled up
against a tumbler with a loud ringing sound. She started and seemed to
awake from a bitter dream.

"Again!" she said in a low voice that throbbed with pain. "At all
hours, in all places, we meet it! The scourge of humanity, the Fiend
Alcohol! The curse of the world!--how long, how long?"



PART II

THE MURDERER

    "Ma femme est morte, je suis libre!
      Je puis donc boire tout mon soûl.
    Lorsque je rentrais sans un sou,
      Ses cris me déchiraient la fibre."

    --_Baudelaire._


The rain had ceased but the night was bitter cold, as Dr. Morton Sims'
motor went from his house in Russell Square towards the North London
Prison.

A pall of fog hung a few hundred feet above London. The brilliant
artificial lights of the streets glowed with a hard and rather ghastly
radiance. As the car rolled down this and that roaring thoroughfare,
the people in it seemed to Morton Sims to be walking like marionettes.
The driver in front moved mechanically like a clockwork puppet, the
town seemed fantastic and unreal to-night.

A heavy depression weighed upon the doctor's senses. His heart beat
slowly. Some other artery within him was throbbing like a funeral drum.

It had come upon him suddenly as he left the house. He had never, in
all his life, known anything like it before. Perhaps the mournful words
of the American woman had been the cause. Her deep contralto voice
tolled in his ears still. Some white cell in the brain was affected,
the nerves of his body were in revolt. The depression grew deeper and
deeper. A nameless malady of the soul was upon him, he had a sick
horror of his task. The hands in his fur gloves grew wet and there was
a salt taste in his mouth.

The car left ways that were familiar. Presently it turned into a street
of long houses. The street rose steeply before, and was outlined by a
long, double row of gas-lamps, stretching away to a point. It was quite
silent, and the note of the car's engine sank a full tone as the ascent
began.

Through the window in front, and to the left of the chauffeur, the
doctor could see the lamps running past him, and suddenly he became
aware of a vast blackness, darker than the houses, deeper than the sky,
coming to meet him. Incredibly huge and sinister, a precipice, a
mountain of stone, a nightmare castle whose grim towers were lost in
night, closed the long road and barred all progress onward.

It was the North London Prison, hideous by day, frightful by night, the
frontier citadel of a land of Death and gloom and shadows.

The doctor left his car and told the man to return in an hour and wait
for him.

He stood before a high arched gateway. In this gateway was a door
studded with sexagonal bosses of iron. Above the door was a gas-lamp.
Hanging to the side of this door was an iron rod terminating in a
handle of brass. This was the bell.

A sombre silence hung over everything. The roar of London seemed like a
sound heard in a vision. A thin night wind sighed like a ghost in the
doctor's ear as he stood before the ultimate reality of life, a reality
surpassing the reality of dreams.

He stretched out his arm and pulled the bell.

The smooth and sudden noise of oiled steel bars sliding in their
grooves was heard, and then a gentle "thud" as they came to rest. A
small wicket door in the great ones opened. A huge sombre figure filled
it and there was a little musical jingle of keys.

The visitor's voice was muffled as he spoke. In his own ears it sounded
strange.

"I am Dr. Morton Sims," he said. "I have a special permit from the Home
Secretary for an interview with the convict Hancock."

The figure moved aside. The doctor stepped in through the narrow
doorway. There was a sharp click, a jingle of keys, the thud of the
steel bars as they went home and a final snap, three times
repeated--snap--snap--snap.

A huge, bull-necked man in a dark uniform and a peaked cap, stood close
to the doctor--strangely close, he thought with a vague feeling of
discomfort. From an open doorway set in a stone wall, orange-coloured
light was pouring from a lit interior. Framed in the light were two
other dark figures in uniform.

Morton Sims stood immediately under the gate tower of the prison. A
lamp hung from the high groined roof. Beyond was another iron-studded
door, and on either side of this entrance hall were lit windows.

"You are expected, sir," said the giant with the keys. "Step this way
if you please."

Sims followed the janitor into a bare room, brilliantly illuminated by
gas. At the end near the door a fire of coke and coal was glowing. A
couple of warders, youngish military-looking men, with bristling
moustaches, were sitting on wooden chairs by the fire and reading
papers. They rose and saluted as the doctor came in.

At the other end of the room, an elderly man, clean shaved save for
short side whiskers which were turning grey, was sitting at a table on
which were writing materials and some books which looked like ledgers.

"Good-evening, sir," he said, deferentially, as Doctor Sims was taken
up to him. "You have your letter I suppose?"

Sims handed it to him, and pulling on a pair of spectacles the man read
it carefully. "I shall have to keep this, sir," he said, putting it
under a paper-weight. "My orders are to send you to the Medical Officer
at once. He will take you to the condemned cell and do all that is
necessary. The Governor sends his compliments and if you should wish to
see him after your interview he will be at your service."

"I don't think I shall want to trouble Colonel Wilde, thank you," said
the doctor.

"Very good, sir. Of course you can change your mind if you wish,
afterwards. But the Governor's time is certainly very much taken up. It
always is on the night before an execution. Jones, take this gentleman
to the Medical Officer."

Again the cold air, as Morton Sims left the room with one of the
warders. Again the sound of sliding bars and jingling keys, the soft
closing of heavy doors. Then a bare, whitewashed hall, with a long
counter like that of a cloak-room at a railway station, a weighing
machine, gaunt anthropometrical instruments standing against the walls,
and iron doors on every side--all seen under the dim light of gas-jets
half turned down.

"The reception room, sir," said the warder, in a quiet voice, unlocking
one of the doors, and showing a long corridor, much better lighted,
stretching away for a considerable distance. The man stepped through
with the noiseless footfall of a cat. The doctor followed him, and as
he did so his boots echoed upon the stone floor. The noise was
startling in this place of silence, and for the first time Sims
realised that his guide was wearing shoes soled with felt.

They went down the corridor, the warder's feet making a soft padding
sound, the steel chain that hung in a loop from his belt of black
leather shining in the gas light. Almost at the end of the passage they
came to a door--an ordinary varnished door with a brass handle--at
which the man rapped.

"Come in," cried a voice.

The warder held the door open. "The gentleman to see Hancock, sir," he
said.

The chief prison doctor, a youngish-looking, clean-shaved man, rose
from his chair. "Wait in the passage till I call you," he said.
"How-do-you-do, Dr. Morton Sims. We had your telephone message some
time ago. You are very punctual! Do sit down for a minute."

Sims sank into an armchair, with a little involuntary sigh of relief.
The room in which he found himself was comfortable and ordinary. A
carpet was on the floor, a bright fire burned upon the hearth, there
was a leather-covered writing table with books and a stethoscope upon
it. The place was normal.

"My name is Marriott, of 'Barts'," said the medical officer. "Do take
off your coat, sir, that fur must be frightfully hot in here and you
won't need it until you leave the prison again."

"Thank you, I will," Sims answered, and already his voice had regained
its usual calmness, his eyes their steady glow. Anticipation was over,
the deep depression was passing away. There was work to be done and his
nerves responded to the call upon them. "There is no hitch, I suppose?"

"None whatever. Hancock is waiting for you, and anxious to see you."

"It will be very painful," Sims answered in a thoughtful voice, looking
at the fire. "I knew the man in his younger days, poor, wretched
creature. Is he resigned?"

"I think so. We've done all we could for him; we always do. As far as I
can judge, and I have been present at nine executions, he will die
quite calmly. 'I shall be glad when it's over,' he said to me this
morning."

"And his physical condition?"

"Just beginning to improve. If I had him here for six months under the
second class regulations--I should not certify him for hard labour--I
could turn him out in fair average health. He's a confirmed alcoholic
subject, of course. It's been a case of ammonium bromide and milk diet
ever since his condemnation. For the first two days I feared delirium
tremens from the shock. But we tided over that. He'll be able to talk
to you all right, sir. He's extremely intelligent, and I should say
that the interview should prove of great value."

"He has absolutely refused to see the Chaplain? I read so in to-night's
paper."

"Yes. Some of them do you know. The religious sense isn't developed at
all in him. It will be all the easier for him to-morrow."

"How so?"

"So many of them become religious on the edge of the drop simply out of
funk--nervous collapse and a sort of clutching at a chance in the next
world. They often struggle and call out when they're being pinioned.
It's impossible to give them any sort of anæsthetic."

"Is that done then? I didn't know."

"It's not talked about, of course, sir. It's quite unofficial and it's
not generally known. But we nearly always give them something if it's
possible, and then they know nothing of what's happening."

Sims nodded. "The best way," he said sadly, "the lethal chamber would
be better still."

There was a momentary silence between the two men. The prison doctor
felt instinctively that his distinguished visitor shrank from the
ordeal before him and was bracing himself to go through with it. He was
unwilling to interrupt such a famous member of his profession. It was
an event to meet him, a thing which he would always remember.

Suddenly Sims rose from his chair. "Now, then," he said with a rather
wan smile, "take me to the poor fellow."

Dr. Marriott opened the door and made a sign to the waiting warder.

Together the three men went to the end of the passage.

Another door was unlocked and they found themselves in a low stone
hall, with a roof of heavily barred ground glass.

There was a door on each side of the place.

"That's the execution room," said Dr. Marriott in a whisper, pointing
to one of the doors. "The other's the condemned cell. It's only about
ten steps from one to the other. The convict, of course, never knows
that. But from the time he leaves his cell to the moment of death is
rarely more than forty-five seconds."

The voice of the prison doctor, though very low in key, was not subdued
by any note of awe. The machinery of Death had no terrors for him. He
spoke in a matter-of-fact way, with an unconscious note of the showman.
The curator of a museum might have shown his treasures thus to an
intelligent observer. For a second of time--so strange are the
operations of the memory cells--another and far distant scene grew
vivid in the mind of Morton Sims.

Once more he was paying his first visit to Rome, and had been driven
from his hotel upon the Pincio to the nine o'clock Mass at St. Peter's.
A suave guide had accompanied him, and among the curious crowd that
thronged the rails, had told in a complacent whisper of this or that
Monsignore who said or served the Mass.

Dr. Marriott went to the door opposite to the one he had pointed out as
the death-chamber.

He moved aside a hanging disc of metal on a level with his eyes, and
peered through a glass-covered spy-hole into the condemned cell.

After a scrutiny of some seconds, he slid the disc into its place and
rapped softly upon the door. Almost immediately it was opened a foot or
so, silently, as the door of a sick-room is opened by one who watches
within. There was a whispered confabulation, and a warder came out.

"This gentleman," said the Medical Officer, "as you have already been
informed by the Governor, is to have an interview with the convict
absolutely alone. You, and the man with you, are to sit just outside
the cell and to keep it under continual observation through the glass.
If you think it necessary you are to enter the cell at once. And at the
least gesture of this gentleman you will do so too. But otherwise, Dr.
Morton Sims is to be left alone with the prisoner for an hour. You
quite understand?"

"Perfectly, sir."

"You anticipate no trouble?--how is he?"

"Quiet as a lamb, sir. There's no fear of any trouble with him. He's
cheerful and he's been talking a lot about himself--about his violin
playing mostly, and a week he had in Paris. His hands are twitching a
bit, but less than usual with them."

"Very well. Jones will remain here and will fetch me at once if I am
wanted. Now take Dr. Morton Sims in."

The door was opened. A gust of hot air came from within as Morton Sims
hesitated for a moment upon the threshold.

The warm air, indeed, was upon his face, but once again the chill was
at his heart. Lean and icy fingers seemed to grope about it.

At the edge of what abysmal precipice, and the end of what sombre
perspective of Fate was he standing?

From youth upwards he had travelled the goodly highways of life. He had
walked in the clear light, the four winds of heaven had blown upon him.
Sunshine and Tempest, Dawn and Dusk, fair and foul weather had been his
portion in common with the rest of the wayfaring world.

But now he had strayed from out the bright and strenuous paths of men.
The brave high-road was far, far away. He had entered a strange and
unfamiliar lane. The darkness had deepened. He had come into a marsh of
miasmic mist lit up by pale fires that were not of heaven and where
dreadful presences thronged the purple gloom.

This was the end of all things. A life of shame closed here--through
that door where a living corpse was waiting for him "pent up in
murderers' hole."

He felt a kindly and deprecating hand upon his arm.

"You will find it quite ordinary, really, sir. You needn't hesitate in
the very least"--thus the consoling voice of Marriott.

Morton Sims walked into the cell.

Another warder who had been sitting there glided out. The door was
closed. The doctor found himself heartily shaking hands with someone
whom he did not seem to know.

And here again, as he was to remember exactly two years afterwards,
under circumstances of supreme mental anguish and with a sick
recognition of past experience, his sensation was without precedent.

Some one, was it not rather _something_? was shaking him warmly by the
hand. A strained voice was greeting him. Yet he felt as if he were
sawing at the arm of a great doll, not a live thing in which blood
still circulated and systole and diastole still kept the soul
co-ordinate and co-incident.

Then that also went. The precipitate of long control was dropped into
the clouded vessel of thought and it cleared again. The fantastic
imaginings, the natural horror of a kind and sensitive man at being
where he was, passed away.

The keen scientist stood in the cell now, alert to perform the duty for
which he was there.

The room was of a fair size. In one corner was a low bed, with a
blanket, sheet and pillow.

In the centre, a deal table stood. A wooden chair, from which the
convict had just risen, stood by the table, and upon it were a Bible,
some writing materials, and a novel--bound in the dark-green of the
prison library--by "Enid and Herbert Toftrees."

Hancock wore a drab prison suit, which was grotesquely ill-fitting. He
was of medium height, and about twenty-five years of age. He was fat,
with a broad-shouldered corpulence which would have been less
noticeable in a man who was some inches taller. His face was ordinarily
clean-shaven, but there was now a disfiguring stubble upon it, a three
weeks' growth which even the scissors of the prison-barber had not been
allowed to correct and which gave him a sordid and disgusting aspect.
The face was fattish, but even the bristling hairs, which squirted out
all over the lower part, could not quite disguise a curious suggestion
of contour about it. It should have been a pure oval, one would have
thought, and in the gas-light, as the head moved, it almost seemed to
have that for fugitive instants. It was a contour veiled by a dreadful
something that was, but ought not to have been there.

The eyes were grey and had a certain capability of expression. It was
now enigmatic and veiled.

The mouth was by far the most real and significant feature of the face.
In all faces, mouths generally are. The murderer's mouth was small. It
was clearly and definitely cut, with an undefinable hint of breeding in
it which nothing else about the man seemed to warrant. But despite the
approach to beauty which, in another face, it might have had, slyness
and egotism lurked in every curve.


. . . "So that's how it first began, Doctor. First one with one, then
one with another. You know!"

The conversation was in full swing now.

The doll had come to life--or it was not quite a doll yet and some of
the life that was ebbing from it still remained.

The voice was low, confidential, horribly "just between you and me."
But it was a pleased voice also, full of an eager and voluble
satisfaction,--the last chance of toxic insanity to explain itself!

The lurid swan-song of a conceited and poisoned man.

. . . "Business was going well. There seemed no prospect of a child
just then, so Mary got in with Church work at St. Philip's. That
brought a lot more customers to the shop too. Fancy soaps, scents and
toilette articles and all that. Dr. Mitchell of Hackney, was a
church-warden at St. Philip's and in time all his prescriptions came to
me. No one had a better chance than I did. And Mary was that good to
me." . . .

Two facile, miserable tears rolled from the man's glazing eyes. He
wiped them away with the back of his hand.

"You can't think, sir, being a bachelor. Anything I'd a mind to fancy!
Sweet-breads she could cook a treat, and Burgundy we used to
'ave--California wine, 'Big Bush' brand in flagons at two and eight.
And never before half-past seven. Late dinner you might have called it,
while my assistant was in the shop. And after that I'd play to her on
the violin. Nothing common, good music--'Orer pro Nobis' and 'Rousoh's
Dream.' You never heard me play did you? I was in the orchestra of the
Hackney Choral Society. I remember one day . . ."

"And then?" the Doctor said, gently.

He had already gathered something, but not all that he had come to
gather. The minutes were hurrying by.

The man looked up at the doctor with a sudden glance, almost of hatred.
For a single instant the abnormal egoism of the criminal, swelled out
upon the face and turned it into the mask of a devil.

Dr. Morton Sims spoke in a sharp, urgent voice.

"Why did you ask me to come here, Hancock?" he said. "You know that I
am glad to be here, if I can be of any use to you. But you don't seem
to want the sort of sympathetic help that the chaplain here could give
you far better than I can. What do you want to say to me? Have you
really anything to say? If you have, be a man and say it!"

There was a brief but horrible interlude.

"Well, you are cruel, doctor, not 'arf!--and me with only an hour or
two to live,"--the man said with a cringing and sinister grin.

The doctor frowned and looked at the man steadily. Then he asked a
sudden question.

"Who were your father and mother?" he said.

The convict looked at the doctor with startled eyes.

"Who told you?" he asked. "I thought nobody knew!"

"Answer my question, Hancock. Only a few minutes remain."

"Will it be of use, sir?"

"Of use?"

"In your work--It was so that I could leave a warning to others, that I
wanted to see you."

"Of great use, if you will tell me."

"Well, Doctor, I never thought to tell any one. It's always been a sore
point with me, but I wasn't born legitimate! I tried hard to make up
for it, and I did so too! No one was more respectable than I was in
Hackney, until the drink came along and took me."

"Yes? Yes?"--The hunter was on the trail now, Heredity? Reversion? At
last the game was flushed!--"Yes, tell me!"

"My father was a gentleman, Doctor. That's where I got my refined
tastes. And that's where I got my love of drink--damn him! God Almighty
curse him for the blood he gave me!"

"Yes? Yes?"

"My father was old Mr. Lothian, the solicitor of Grey's Inn Square. He
was a well-known gentleman. My mother was his housekeeper, Eliza
Hancock. My father was a widower when my mother went into his service.
He had another son, at one of the big schools for gentlemen. That was
his son by his real wife--Gilbert he was called, and what money was
left went to him. My father was a drunkard. He never was sober--what
you might rightly call sober--for years, I've heard . . . Mother died
soon after Mr. Lothian did. She left a hundred pounds with my Aunt, to
bring me up and educate me. Aunt Ellen--but I'm a gentleman's son,
Doctor!--drunken old swine he was too! What about my blood now? Wasn't
my veins swollen with drink from the first? Christ! _you_ ought to
know--you with your job to know--_Now_ are you happy? I'm not a _love_
child, I'm a _drink_ child, that's what I am! Son of old Mr. Lothian,
the gentleman-drunkard, brother of his son who's a gentleman somewhere,
I don't doubt! P'r'aps 'e mops it up 'imself!--shouldn't wonder,
this--brother of mine!"

The man's voice had risen into a hoarse scream. "Have you got what you
came to get?" he yelled. His eyes blazed, his mouth writhed.

There was a crash as the deal table was overturned, and he leapt at the
doctor.

In a second the room was full of people. Dark figures held down
something that yelled and struggled on the truckle bed.

It was done with wonderful deftness, quickness and experience. . . .
Morton Sims stood outside the closed door of the condemned cell. A
muffled noise reached him from within, the prison doctor was standing
by him and looking anxiously into his face.

--"I can't tell you how sorry I am, Dr. Morton Sims. I really can't
say enough. I had no idea that the latent toxic influence was so
strong. . . ."

On the other side of the little glass-roofed hall the door was open.
Another cell was shown, brilliantly lit. Two men, in their
shirt-sleeves, were bending over a square, black aperture in the wooden
floor. Some carpenters' tools were lying about.

An insignificant looking little man, with a fair moustache, was
standing in the doorway.

"That'll be quite satisfactory, thank you," he was saying, "with just a
drop of oil on the lever. And whatever you do, don't forget my chalk to
mark where he's to stand."

From behind the closed door of the condemned cell a strangulated,
muffled noise could still be heard.

"Not now!" said Dr. Marriott, as the executioner came up to him--"In
half an hour. Now Dr. Morton Sims, please come away to my room.
This must have been most distressing. I feel so much that it is my
fault." . . .

The two men stood at the Prison gate, Sims was shaking hands with the
younger doctor. "Thank you very much indeed," he was saying. "How could
you possibly have helped it?--You'll take steps--?"

"I'm going back to the cell now. It's incipient delirium tremens of
course--after all this time too! I shall inject hyoscene and he will
know nothing more at all. He will be practically carried to the
shed--Good-night! _Good_-night, sir. I hope I may have the pleasure
of meeting you again."

                 *       *       *       *       *

The luxurious car rolled away from the Citadel of Death and
Shadows--down the hill into London and into Life.

The man within it was thinking deeply, sorting out and tabulating his
impressions, sifting the irrelevant from what was of value, and making
a précis of what he had gained.

There were a dozen minor notes to be made in his book when he reached
home. The changing quality of the man's voice, the ebb and flow of
uncontrolled emotion, the latent fear--"I must be present at the post
mortem to-morrow," he said to himself as a new idea struck him. "There
should be much to be learnt from an examination of the Peripheral
Nerves. And the brain too--there will be interesting indications in the
cerebellum, and the association fibres." . . .

The carriage swung again into the familiar parts of town. As he looked
out of the windows at the lights and movement, Morton Sims forgot the
purely scientific side of thought. The kindly human side of him
reasserted itself.

How infinitely sad it was! How deep the underlying horror of this
sordid life-tragedy at the close of which he had been assisting!

Who should say, who could define, the true responsibility of the man
they were killing up there on the North London Hill?

Predisposition to Alcohol, Reversion, Heredity!--was not the drunken
old solicitor, long since dust, the true murderer of the
gentle-mannered girl in Hackney?

_Lothian_, the father of Gilbert Lothian the poet! the poet who
certainly knew nothing of what was being done to the young man in the
prison, who had probably never heard of his existence even.

The "Fiend Alcohol" at work once more, planting ghastly growths behind
the scutcheons of every family!

A cunning murderer with a poisoned mind and body on one side, the
brilliant young poet in the sunlight of success and high approbation
upon the other!

Mystery of mysteries that God should allow so foul a thing to dominate
and tangle the fair threads and delicate tissues of life!

"Well, that's that!" said the doctor, in a phrase he was fond of using
when he dosed an episode in his mind. "I'll make my notes on Hancock's
case and forget it until I find it necessary to use them in my work.
And I'll lock up the poems Moultrie has sent me and I won't look at the
book again for a month. Then I shall be able to read the verses for
themselves and without any arrière-penseé.

"But, I wonder . . . ?"

The brougham stopped at the doctor's house in Russell Square.

                 *       *       *       *       *



BOOK ONE

LOTHIAN IN LONDON

    "Myself, arch traitor to myself,
    My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
      My clog whatever road I go."



THE DRUNKARD


CHAPTER I

UNDER THE WAGGON-ROOF. A DINNER IN BRYANSTONE SQUARE

    "Le véritable Amphitryon est l'Amphitryon où l'on dine."

    --_Molière._


It was a warm night in July when Mr. Amberley, the publisher,
entertained a few friends at dinner to meet Gilbert Lothian, the poet.

Although the evening was extremely sultry and the houses of the West
End were radiating the heat which they had stored up from the sun-rays
during the day, Mr. Amberley's dining room was deliciously cool.

The house was one of those roomy old-fashioned places still to be found
unspoiled in Bryanstone Square, and the dining room, especially, was
notable. It was on the first floor, over-looking the square, a long and
lofty room with a magnificent waggon-roof which was the envy of every
one who saw it, and gave the place extraordinary distinction.

The walls were panelled with oak, which had been stained a curious
green, that was not olive nor ash-green but partook of both--the
veritable colour, indeed, of the grey-green olive trees that one sees
on some terrace of the Italian Alps at dawn.

The pictures were very few, considering the size of the room, and they
were all quite modern--"In the movement"--as shrewd Mr. Amberley was
himself.

A portrait of Mrs. Amberley by William Nicholson, which was quite
famous in its way, displayed all the severe pregnancy and almost solemn
reserve of this painter. There was a pastel of Prydes' which
showed--rather suggested--a squalid room in which a gentleman of 1800,
with a flavour of Robert Macaire about him, stood in the full rays of
the wine and honey-coloured light of an afternoon sun.

Upon yet another panel was a painting upon silk by Charles Conder,
inspired of course, by Watteau, informed by that sad and haunting
catching after a fairyland never quite reached, which is the
distinctive note of Conder's style, and which might well have served
for an illustration to a grotesque fantasy of Heine.

Mrs. Amberley loved this painting. She had a Pater-like faculty of
reading into--or from--a picture, something which the artist never
thought about at all, and she used to call this little masterpiece "An
Ode of Horace in Patch, Powder and Peruque!" She adored these perfectly
painted little snuff-box deities who wandered through shadowy mists of
amethyst and rouge-de-fer in a fantastic wood.

It is extremely interesting to discover, know of, or to sit at ease in
a room which, in its way, is historic, and this is what the Amberleys'
guests always felt, and were meant to feel.

In its present form, and with its actual decorations, this celebrated
room only dated from some fifteen years back. The Waggon-roof alone
remained unaltered from its earlier periods.

The Publishing house of Ince and Amberley had been a bulwark of the
Victorian era, and not without some growing celebrity in the earlier
Georgian Period.

Lord Byron had spoken well of the young firm once, Rogers was believed
to have advanced them money, and when that eminent Cornish pugilist
"The Lamorna Cove" wrote his reminiscences they were published by Ince
and Amberley, while old Lord Alvanley himself contributed a preface.

From small beginnings came great things. The firm grew and acquired a
status, and about this time, or possibly a little later, the
dining-room at Bryanstone Square had come into being.

Its walls were not panelled then in delicate green. They were covered
with rich plum-coloured paper festooned by roses of high-gilt. In the
pictures, with their heavy frames of gold, the dogs and stags of
Landseer were let loose, or the sly sleek gipsies of Mr. Frith told
rustic fortunes beneath the spreading chestnut trees.

But Browning had dined there--in the later times--an inextinguishable
fire just covered with a sprinkling of grey ash. With solemn ritual,
Charles Dickens had brewed milk punch in an old bowl of Lowestoft
china, still preserved in the drawing-room. The young Robert Cecil, in
his early _Saturday Review_ days, had cracked his walnuts and sipped
his "pint of port" with little thought of the high destiny to which he
should come, and Alfred Tennyson, then Bohemian and unknown, had been
allowed to vent that grim philosophy which is the reaction of all
imaginative and sensitive natures against the seeming impossibility of
success and being understood.

The traditions of Ince and Amberley--its dignified and quiet home was
in Hanover Square--had always been preserved.

Its policy, at the same time, had continually altered with the passage
of years and the change of the public taste. Yet, so carefully, and
indeed so genuinely, had this been accomplished that none of the
historic prestige of the business had been lost. It still stood as a
bulwark of the old dignified age. A young modern author, whatever his
new celebrity, felt that to be published by Ince and Amberley
hall-marked him as it were.

Younger firms, greedy of his momentary notoriety, might offer him
better terms--and generally did--but Ince and Amberley conferred the
Accolade!

He was admitted to the Dining Room.

John Amberley (the Inces had long since disappeared), at fifty was a
great publisher, and a charming man of the world. He was one of the
personalities of London, carrying out what heredity and natural
aptitude had fitted him to do, and was this evening entertaining some
literary personages of the day in the famous Dining Room.

The Waggon-roof, which had looked down upon just such gatherings as
these for generations, would, if it could have spoken, have discovered
no very essential difference between this dinner party and others in
the past. True, the walls were differently coloured and pictures which
appealed to a different set of artistic conventions were hanging upon
them.

The people who were accustomed to meet round the table in 19-- were not
dressed as other gatherings had been. There was no huge silver epergne
in the centre of that table now. Nor did the Amberley at one end of it
display his mastery of ritual carving.

But the talk was the same. Words only were different. The guests'
vocabularies were wider and less restrained. It was the music of piano
and the pizzicato plucking of strings--there was no pompous organ note,
no ore rotundo any more. They all talked of what they had done, were
doing, and hoped to do. There was a hurry of the mind, inherent in
people of their craft and like a man running, in all of them. The eyes
of some of them burned like restless ghosts as they tried to explain
themselves, display their own genius, become prophets and acquire
honour in the heart of their own country.

Yes! it had always been so!

The brightest and most lucent brains had flashed into winged words and
illuminated that long handsome room.

And ever, at the head of the long table, there had been a bland,
listening Amberley, catching, tasting and sifting the idea, analysing
the constituents of the flash, balancing the brilliant theory against
the momentary public taste. A kind, uncreative, managing Amberley! A
fair and honest enough Amberley in the main. Serene, enthroned and
necessary.


The publisher was a large man, broad in the shoulder and slightly
corpulent. There was something Georgian about him--he cultivated it
rather, and was delighted when pleated shirts became again fashionable
for evening wear. He had a veritable face of the Regency, more
especially in profile, sensual, fine, a thought gluttonous and markedly
intelligent.

His voice was authoritative but bland, and frequently capable of a
sympathetic interest which was almost musical. His love of letters was
deep and genuine, his taste catholic and excellent, while many an
author found real inspiration and intense pleasure in his personal
praise.

This was the cultured and human side of him, and he had another--the
shrewd business man of Hanover Square.

He was not, to use the slang of the literary agent, a "knifer." He paid
die market price without being generous and he was perfectly honest in
all his dealings.

But his business in life was to sell books, and he permitted himself no
experiments in failure. A writer--whether he produced good work or
popular trash--must generally have his definite market and his more or
less assured position, before Ince and Amberley would take him up.

It was distinctly something for a member of the upper rank and files to
say in the course of conversation, "Ince and Amberley are doing my new
book, you know."

To-night Amberley, as he sat at the head of his table towards the close
of dinner, was in high good humour, and very pleasant with himself and
his guests.

The ladies had not yet gone away, coffee was being served at the table,
and almost every one was smoking a cigarette. The party was quite a
small one. There were only five guests, who, with Mr. and Mrs. Amberley
and their only daughter Muriel, made up eight people in all. There was
nothing ceremonious about it, and, though three of the guests were well
known in the literary world, none of these were great, while the
remaining couple were merely promising beginners.

There was, therefore, considerable animation and gaiety round this
hospitable table, with its squat candlesticks, of dark-green Serpentine
and silver, the topaz-coloured shades, its gleaming surface of dark
mahogany (Mrs. Amberley had eagerly adopted the new habit of having no
white table-cloth), its really interesting old silver, and the square
mats of pure white Egyptian linen in front of each person.

In age, with the exception of Mr. Amberley and his wife, every one was
young, while both host and hostess showed in perfection that modern
grace of perfect correspondence with environment which seems to have
quite banished the evidences of time's progress among the folk of
to-day who know every one, appreciate everything and are extremely
well-to-do.

On Amberley's right hand sat Mrs. Herbert Toftrees, while her husband
was at the other end of the table at the right hand of his
hostess--Gilbert Lothian, the guest of the evening, being on Mrs.
Amberley's left.

Mr. and Mrs. Toftrees were novelists whose combined names were
household words all over England. Their books were signed by both of
them--"Enid and Herbert Toftrees" and they were quite at the head of
their own peculiar line of business. They knew exactly what they were
doing--"selling bacon" they called it to their intimate friends--and
were two of the most successful trades-people in London. Unlike other
eminent purveyors of literary trash they were far too clever not to
know that neither of them had a trace of the real fire, and if their
constant and cynical disclaimer of any real talent sometimes seemed to
betray a hidden sore, it was at least admirably truthful.

They were shallow, clever, amusing people whom it was always pleasant
to meet. They entertained a good deal and the majority of their guests
were literary men and women of talent who fluttered like moths round
the candle of their success. The talented writers who ate their dinners
found a bitter joy in cursing a public taste which provided the
Toftrees with several thousands a year, but they returned again and
again, in the effort to find out how it was done.

They also had visions of just such another delightful house in
Lancaster Gate, an automobile identical in its horse-power and
appointments, and were certain that if they could only learn the recipe
and trick, wrest the magic formula from these wizards of the
typewriter, all these things might be theirs also!

The Herbert Toftrees themselves always appeared--in the frankest and
kindest way--to be in thorough sympathy with such aspirations. Their
candour was almost effusive. "Any one can do what we do" was their
attitude. Herbert Toftrees himself, a young man with a rather
carefully-cultivated, elderly manner, was particularly impressive. He
had a deep voice and slow enunciation, which, when he was upon his own
hearthrug almost convinced himself.

"There is absolutely no reason," he would say, in tones which carried
absolute conviction to his hearer at the moment, "why you shouldn't be
making fifteen hundred a year in six months."

But that was as far as it went. That was the voice of the genial host
dispensing wines, entrées and advice, easy upon his own hearth, the
centre of the one picture where he was certain of supremacy.

But let eager and hungry genius call next day for definite particulars,
instructions as to the preparations of a "popular" plot, hints as to
the shop-girl's taste in heroines,--with hopes of introductory letters
to the great firms who buy serials--and the greyest of grey dawns
succeeded the rosy-coloured night.

It was all vague and cloudy now. General principles were alone
vouchsafed--indeed who shall blame the tradesman for an adroit refusal
to give away the secrets of the shop?

Genius retired--it happened over and over again--cursing successful
mediocrity for its evasive cleverness, and with a deep hidden shame
that it should have stooped so low, and so ineffectually! . . . "That's
very true. What Toftrees says is absolutely true," Mr. Amberley said
genially, turning to young Dickson Ingworth, who was sitting by his
daughter Muriel.

He nodded to the eager youth with a little private encouragement and
hint of understanding which was very flattering. It was as who should
say, "Here you are at my house. For the first time you have been
admitted to the Dining Room. I have taken you up, I am going to publish
a book of yours and see what you are made of. Gather honey while you
may, young Dickson Ingworth!"

Ingworth blushed slightly as the great man's encouraging admonitions
fell upon him. He was not down from Oxford more than a year. He had
written very little, Gilbert Lothian was backing him and introducing
him to literary circles in town, he was abnormally conscious of his own
good fortune, all nervous anxiety to be adequate--all ears.

"Yes, sir," he said, with the pleasant boyish deference of an
undergraduate to the Provost of his college--it sat gracefully upon his
youth and was gracefully said.

Then he looked reverentially at Toftrees and waited to hear more.

Herbert Toftrees' face was large and clean shaven. His sleek hair was
smoothly brushed over a somewhat protruding forehead. There was the
coarse determined vigour about his brow that the bull-dog jaw is
supposed to indicate in another type of face, and the eyes below were
grey and steadfast. Toftrees stared at people with tremendous gravity.
Only those who realised the shrewd emptiness behind them were able to
discern what some one had once called their flickering "R.S.V.P.
expression"--that latent hope that his vis-à-vis might not be finding
him out after all!

"I mean it," Toftrees said in his resonant, and yet quiet voice. "There
really is no reason, Mr. Ingworth, why you should not be making an
income of at least eight or nine hundred a year in twelve months'
time."

"Herbert has helped such a lot of boys," said Mrs. Toftrees,
confidentially, to her host, although there was a slight weariness in
her voice, the suggestion of a set phrase. "But who is Mr. Dickson
Ingworth? What has he done?--he is quite good-looking, don't you
think?"

"Oh, a boy, a mere boy!" the big red-faced publisher purred in an
undertone. "Lothian brought him to me first in Hanover Square. In fact,
Lothian asked if he might bring him here to-night. We are doing a
little book of his--the first novel he will have had published."

Mrs. Toftrees pricked up her ears, so to say. She was really the
business head of the Toftrees combination. Her husband did the
ornamental part and provided the red-hot plots, but it was she who had
invented and carried out the "note," and it was she who supervised the
contracts. As Mr. Amberley was well aware, what this keen, pretty and
well-dressed little woman didn't know about publishing was worth
nothing whatever.

"Oh, really," she said, in genuine surprise. "Rather unusual for you,
isn't it? Is the boy a genius then?"

Amberley shook his head. He hated everything the worthy Toftrees
wrote--he had never been able to read more than ten lines of any of the
half-dozen books he had published for them. But the Hanover Square side
of him had a vast respect for the large sums the couple charmed from
the pockets of the public no less than the handsome percentage they put
into his own. And a confidential word on business matters with a pretty
and pleasant little woman was not without allurement even under the
Waggon-roof itself.

"Not at all. Not at all," he murmured into a pretty ear. "We are not
paying the lad any advance upon royalties!" He laughed a well-fed
laugh. "Ince and Amberley's list," he continued, "is accepted for
itself!"

Mrs. Toftrees smiled back at him. "_Of course_," she murmured. "But I
wasn't thinking of the financial side of it. Why? . . . why are you
departing from your usual traditions and throwing the shadow of your
cloak over this fortunate boy?--if I may ask, of course!"

"Well," Amberley answered, and her keen ear detected--or thought that
she detected--a slight reluctance in his voice. . . . "Well, Lothian
brought him to me, you know."

Mrs. Toftrees' face changed and Amberley saw it.

She was looking down the table to where Lothian was sitting. Her face
was a little flushed, and the expression upon it--though not allowed to
be explicit--was by no means agreeable. "Lothian's work is very
wonderful," she said--and there was a question in her voice "--you
think so, Mr. Amberley?"

Bryanstone Square, the Dining Room, asserted itself. Truth to tell,
Amberley felt a little uncomfortable and displeased with himself. The
fun of the dinner table--the cigarette moment--had rather escaped him.
He had got young people round him to-night. He wanted them to be jolly.
He had meant to be a good host, to forget his dignities, to unbend and
be jolly with them--this fiction-mongering woman was becoming annoying.

"I certainly do, Mrs. Toftrees," he replied, with dignity, and a
distinct tone of reproof in his voice.

Mrs. Toftrees, the cool tradeswoman, gave the great man a soothing
smile of complete understanding and agreement.

Mr. Amberley turned to a girl upon his left who had been taken in by
Dickson Ingworth and who had been carrying on a laughing conversation
with him during dinner.

She was a pretty girl, a friend of his daughter Muriel. He liked pretty
girls, and he smiled half paternally, half gallantly at her.

"Won't you have another cigarette, Miss Wallace?" he said, pushing a
silver box towards her. "They are supposed to be rather wonderful. My
cousin Eustace Amberley is in the Egyptian Army and an aide-de-camp to
the Khedive. The Khedive receives the officers every month and every
one takes away a box of five hundred when they leave the palace--His
Highness' own peculiar brand. These are some of them, which Eustace
sent me."

"May I?" she answered, a rounded, white arm stretched out to the box.
"They certainly are wonderful. I have to be content with Virginian at
home. I buy fifty at a time, and a tin costs one and threepence."

She lit it delicately from the little methyl lamp he passed her, and
the big man's kind eyes rested on her with appreciation.

She was, he thought, very like a Madonna of Donatello, which he had
seen and liked in Florence. The abundant hair was a dark nut-brown,
almost chocolate in certain lights. The eyes were brown also, the
complexion the true Italian morbidezza, pale, but not pallid, like a
furled magnolia bud. And the girl's mouth was charming--"delicious" was
the word in the mind of this connoisseur. It was as clear-cut as that
of a girl's face in a Grecian frieze of honey-coloured travertine,
there was a serene sweetness about it. But when she smiled the whole
face was changed. The young brown eyes lit up and visited others with
their own, as a bee visits flowers. The smile was radiant and had a
conscious provocation in it. The paleness of the cheeks showed such
tints of pearl and rose that they seemed carved from the under surface
of a sea-shell.

And, as Amberley looked, wishing that he had talked more to her during
dinner, startled suddenly to discover such loveliness, he saw her lips
suddenly glow out into colour in an extraordinary way. It wasn't
scarlet--unpainted lips are never really that--but of the veiled
blood-colour that is warm and throbs with life; a colour that hardly
any of the names we give to pigment can properly describe or fix.

What did he know about her? he asked himself as she was lighting her
second cigarette. Hardly anything! She was a girl friend of his
daughter's--they had been to the same school together at Bath--an
orphan he thought, without any people. She earned her own
living--assistant Librarian, he remembered, at old Podley's library.
Yes, Podley the millionaire nonconformist who was always endowing and
inventing fads! And Muriel had told him that she wrote a little, short
stories in some of the women's papers. . . .

"At any rate," he said, while these thoughts were flashing through his
mind "you smoke as if you liked it! All the girls smoke now, Muriel is
inveterate, but I often have a suspicion that many of them do it
because it's the fashion."

Rita Wallace gave a wise little shake of her head.

"Oh, no," she answered. "Men know so little about girls! You think
we're so different from you in lots of things, but we aren't really.
Muriel and I always used to smoke at school--it doesn't matter about
telling now, does it?"

Mr. Amberley made a mock expression of horror.

"Good heavens!" he said, "what appalling revelations for a father to
endure! I wish I had had an inkling of it at the time!"

"You couldn't have, Mr. Amberley," she answered, and her smile was more
provocative than ever, and delightfully naughty. "We used to do it in
the bathroom. The hot vapour from the bath took all the smell of
tobacco away. I discovered that!"

"Tell me some more, my dear. What other iniquities did you all
perpetrate--and I thought Muriel such a pattern girl."

"Oh, we did lots of things, Mr. Amberley, but it wouldn't be fair to
give them away. We were little devils, nearly all of us!"

She gave him a little Parisian salute from the ends of her eyelids,
instinct with a kind of impish innocence, the sort of thing that has an
irresistible appeal to a middle-aged man of the world.

"Muriel!" Mr. Amberley said to his daughter, "Miss Wallace has been
telling me dreadful things about your schooldays. I am grieved and
pained!"

Muriel Amberley was a slim girl with dark smouldering eyes and a faint
enigmatic smile. Her voice was very clear and fresh and there was a
vibrant note in it like the clash of silver bells. She had been talking
to Mrs. Toftrees, but she looked up as her father spoke.

"Don't be a wretch, Cupid!" she said, to Rita Wallace over the table.

"Cupid? Why Cupid?" Herbert Toftrees asked, in his deep voice.

"Oh, it's a name we gave her at school," Muriel answered, looking at
her friend, and both girls began to laugh.

Mr. Amberley re-engaged the girl in talk.

"You have done some literary work, have you not?" he asked kindly, and
in a lower voice.

Again her face changed. Its first virginal demureness, the sudden
flashing splendour of her smile, had gone alike. It became eager and
wistful too.

"You can't call it _that_, Mr. Amberley," she replied in a voice
pitched to his own key. "I've written a few stories which have been
published and I've had three articles in the Saturday edition of the
_Westminster_--that's nearly everything. But I can't say how I love it
all! It is delightful to have my work among books--at the Podley
Library you know. I learned typewriting and shorthand and was afraid
that I should have to go into a city office--and then this turned up."

She hesitated for a moment, and then stopped shyly. He could see that
the girl was afraid of boring him. A moment before, she had been
perfectly collected and aware--a girl in his own rank of life
responsive to his chaff. Now she realised that she was speaking of
things very near and dear to her--and speaking of them to a high-priest
of those Mysteries she loved--one holding keys to unlock all doors.

He took her in a moment, understood the change of mood and expression,
and it was subtle flattery. Like all intelligent and successful men,
recognition was not the least of his rewards. That this engaging child,
even, knew him for what he was gave him an added interest in her. All
Muriel's girl friends adored him. He was the nicest and most generous
of unofficial Papas!--but this was different.

"Don't say that, my dear. Never depreciate yourself or belittle what
you have done. I suppose you are about Muriel's age, twenty-one or
two--yes?--then let me tell you that you have done excellently well."

"That is kind of you."

"No, it is sincere. No man knows how hard--or how easy--it is to
succeed by writing to-day."

She understood him in a moment. "Only the other day, Mr. Amberley," she
said, "I read Stevenson's 'Letter to a young gentleman who proposes to
embrace the career of Art.' And if I _could_ write feeble things to
tickle feeble minds I wouldn't even try. It seems so, so low!"

Quite unconsciously her eye had fallen upon Mrs. Toftrees opposite, who
was again chattering away to Muriel Amberley.

He saw it, but gave no sign that he had done so.

"Keep such an ideal, my dear. Whether you do small or great things, it
will bring you peace of mind and dignity of conscience. But don't
despise or condemn merely popular writers. In the Kingdom of Art there
are many mansions you know."

The girl made a slight movement of the head. He saw that she was
touched and grateful at his interest in her small affairs, but that she
wanted to dismiss them from his mind no less than from her own.

"But I _am_ mad, crazy," she said, "about _other_ peoples' work, the
big peoples' work, the work one simply can't help reverencing!"

She had turned from him again and was looking down the table to where
Gilbert Lothian was sitting.

"Yes," he answered, following the direction of her glance, "you are
quite right _there_!"

She flushed with enthusiasm. "I did so want to see him," she said.
"I've hardly ever met any literary people at all before, certainly
never any one who mattered. Muriel told me that Mr. Lothian was coming;
she loves his poems as much as I do. And when she wrote and asked me I
was terribly excited. It's so good of you to have me, Mr. Amberley."

Her voice was touching in its gratitude, and he was touched at this
damsel, so pretty, courageous and forlorn.

"I hope, my dear," he said, "that you will give us all the pleasure of
seeing you here very often."

At that moment Mrs. Amberley looked up and her fine, shrewd eyes swept
round the table. She was a handsome, hook-nosed dame, with a lavish
coronet of grey hair, stately and kindly in expression, obviously
capable of many tolerances, but with moments when "ne louche pas à La
Reine" could be very plainly written on her face.

As she gathered up the three women and rose, Mr. Amberley knew in a
moment that all was not quite well. No one else could have even guessed
at it, but he knew. The years that had dealt so prosperously with him;
Fate which had linked arms and was ever debonnair, had greatly blessed
him in this also. He worshipped this stately madam, as she him, and
always watched her face as some poor fisherman strives to read the
Western sky.

The door of the Dining Room was towards Mrs. Amberley's end of the
table, and, as the ladies rose and moved towards it, Gilbert Lothian
had gone to it and held it open.

His table-napkin was in his right hand, his left was on the handle of
the door, and as the women swept out, he bowed.

Herbert Toftrees thought that there was something rather theatrical, a
little over-emphasised, in the bow--as he regarded the poet, whom he
had met for the first time that night, from beneath watchful eye-lids.

And _did_ one bow? Wasn't it rather like a scene upon the stage?
Toftrees, a quite well-bred man, was a little puzzled by Gilbert
Lothian. Then he concluded--and his whole thoughts upon the matter
passed idly through his mind within the duration of a single
second--that the poet was an intimate friend of the house.

Lothian was closing the door, and Toftrees was sinking back into his
chair, when the latter happened to glance at his host.

Amberley, still standing, was _watching_ Lothian--there was no other
word which would correctly describe the big man's attitude--and
Toftrees felt strangely uneasy. Something seemed tapping nervously at
the door of his mind. He heard the furtive knocking, half realised the
name of the thought that timidly essayed an entrance, and then
resolutely crushed it.

Such a thing was quite impossible, of course.

The four men sat down, more closely grouped together than before.

The coffee, which had been served by a footman, before the ladies had
disappeared, was a pretence in cups no bigger than plovers' eggs.
Amberley liked the modern affectation of his women guests remaining at
the table and sharing the joys of the after-dinner-hour. But now, the
butler entered with larger cups and a tray of liqueurs, while the host
himself poured out a glass of port and handed the old-fashioned cradle
in which the bottle lay to young Dickson Ingworth on his right.

That curly-headed youth, who was a Pembroke man and knew the ritual of
the Johnsonian Common Room at Oxford, gravely filled his own glass and
pushed the bottle to Herbert Toftrees, who was in the vacated seat of
his hostess, and pouring a little Perrier water into a tumbler.

The butler lifted the wicker-work cradle with care, passed behind
Toftrees, and set it before Gilbert Lothian.

Lothian looked at it for a moment and then made a decisive movement of
his head.

"Thank you, no," he said, after a second's consideration, and in a
voice that was slightly high-pitched but instinct with personality--it
could never have been mistaken for any one else's voice, for
instance--"I think I will have a whiskey and soda."

Toftrees, at the end of the table, within two feet of Lothian, gave a
mental start. The popular novelist was rather confused.

A year ago no one had heard of Gilbert Lothian--that was not a name
that counted in any way. He had been a sort of semi-obscure journalist
who signed what he wrote in such papers as would print him. There were
a couple of novels to his name which had obtained a sort of cult among
minor people, and, certainly, some really eminent weeklies had
published very occasional but signed reviews.

As far as Herbert Toftrees could remember--and his jealous memory was
good--Lothian had always been rather small beer until a year or so
back.

And then "Surgit Amari"--the first book of poems had been published.

In a single month Lothian had become famous.

For the ringing splendour of his words echoed in every heart. In this
book, and in a subsequent volume, he had touched the very springs of
tears. Not with sentiment--with the very highest and most electric
literary art--he had tried and succeeded in irradiating the happenings
of domestic life in the light that streamed from the Cross.

". . . Thank you, no. I think I will have a whiskey and soda."



CHAPTER II

GRAVELY UNFORTUNATE OCCURRENCE IN MRS. AMBERLEY'S DRAWING ROOM

    "[Greek: Misô mnêmona sumpotên], Procille."

    --_Martial._

    --"One should not always take after-dinner amenities au pied de la
    lettre."

    --_Free Translation._


Toftrees, at the head of the table, shifted his chair a little so that
he was almost facing Gilbert Lothian.

Lothian's arresting voice was quite clear as he spoke to the butler.
"That's not the voice of a man who's done himself too well," the
novelist thought. But he was puzzled, nevertheless. People like Lothian
behaved pretty much as they liked, of course. Convention didn't
restrain them. But the sudden request was odd.

And there was that flourishing bow as the women left the room, and
certainly Amberley had seemed to look rather strangely at his guest.
Toftrees disposed himself to watch events. He had wanted to meet the
poet for some time. There was a certain reason. No one knew much about
him in London. He lived in the country and was not seen in the usual
places despite his celebrity. There had been a good deal of surmise
about this new star.

Lothian was like the photographs which had appeared of him in the
newspapers, but with a great deal more "personality" than these were
able to suggest. Certainly no one looked less like a poet, though this
did not surprise the popular novelist, in an age when literary men
looked exactly like every one else. But there was not the slightest
trace of idealism, of the "thoughts high and hard" that were ever the
clear watchwords of his song. "A man who wears a mask," thought Herbert
Toftrees with interest and a certain half-conscious fellow-feeling.

The poet was of medium height and about thirty-five years of age. He
was fat, with a broad-shouldered corpulence which would have been far
less noticeable in a man who was a few inches taller. The clean-shaven
face was fattish also, but there was, nevertheless, a curious
suggestion of contour about it. It should have been a pure oval, and in
certain lights it almost seemed that, while the fatness appeared to
dissolve and fall away from it. It was a contour veiled by something
that was, but ought not to have been, there.

The eyes were grey and capable of infinite expression--a fact which
always became apparent to any one who had been half an hour in his
company. But this feature also was enigmatic. For the most part the
eyes seemed to be working at half-power, not quite doing or being what
one would have expected of them.

The upper lip was short, and the mouth by far the most real and
significant part of the face. It was small, but not too small, clearly
and delicately cut though without a trace of effeminacy. In its
mobility, its sensitive life, its approach to beauty, it said
everything in the face. Thick-growing hair of dark brown was allowed to
come rather low over a high and finely modelled brow, hair
which--despite a natural luxuriance--was cut close to the sides and
back of the head.

Such was Toftrees' view of Gilbert Lothian, and it both had insight and
was fair. No one can be a Toftrees and the literary idol of thousands
and thousands of people without being infinitely the intellectual
superior of those people. The novelist had a fine brain and if he could
have put a tenth of his observation and knowledge upon paper, he might
have been an artistic as well as a commercial success.

But he was hopelessly inarticulate, and æsthetic achievement was denied
him. There was considerable consolation in the large income which
provided so many pleasures and comforts, but it was bitter to
know--when he met any one like Lothian--that if he could appreciate
Lothian thoroughly he could never emulate him. And it was still more
bitter to be aware that men like Lothian often regarded his own work as
a mischief and dishonour.

Toftrees, therefore, watched the man at his side with a kind of
critical envy, mingled with a perfectly sincere admiration at the
bottom of it all.

He very soon became certain that something was wrong.

His first half-thought was a certainty now. Something that some one had
said to him a week ago at a Savage Club dinner--one of those
irresponsible but dangerous and damaging remarks which begin, "D'you
know, I'm told that so and so--" flashed through his mind.

"Are you in town for long, Mr. Lothian?" he asked. "You don't come to
town often, do you?"

"No, I don't," Lothian answered. "I hate London. A damnable place I
always think."

The other, so thorough a Londoner, always getting so much--in every
way--out of his life in London, looked at the speaker curiously, not
quite knowing how to take him.

Lothian seemed to see it. He had made the remark with emphasis, with a
superior note in his voice, but he corrected himself quickly.

It was almost as though Toftrees' glance had made him uneasy. His face
became rather ingratiating, and there was a propitiatory note in his
voice when he spoke again. He drew his chair a little nearer to the
other's.

"I knew too much of London when I was a young man," he went on with an
unnecessarily confidential and intimate manner. "When I came down from
Oxford first, I was caught up into the 'new' movement. It all seemed
very wonderful to me then. It did to all of us. We divorced art from
morals, we lived extraordinary lives, we sipped honey from every
flower. Most of the men of that period are dead. One or two are insane,
others have gone quite under and are living dreadful larva-like lives
in obscene hells of the body and soul, of which you can have no
conception. But, thank God, I got out of it in time--just in time! If
it hadn't been for my dear wife . . ."

He paused. The sensitive lips smiled, with an almost painful
tenderness, a quivering, momentary effect which seemed grotesquely out
of place in a face which had become flushed and suddenly seemed much
fatter.

There was a horrible insincerity about that self-conscious smile--the
more horrible because, at the moment, Toftrees saw that Lothian
believed absolutely in his own emotion, was pleased with himself
sub-consciously, too, and was perfectly certain that he was making a
fine impression--pulling aside the curtain that hung before a beautiful
and holy place!

The smile lingered for a moment. The light in the curious eyes seemed
turned inward complacently surveying a sanctuary.

Then there was an abrupt change of manner.

Lothian laughed. There was a snap in his laughter, which, Toftrees was
sure, was meant to convey the shutting down of a lid.

"I like you," Lothian was trying to say to him--the acquaintance of ten
minutes!--"I can open my heart to you. You've had a peep at the Poet's
Holy of Holies. But we're men of the world--you and I!--enough of this.
We're in society. We're dining at the Amberleys'. Our confidences are
over!"

"So you see," the _actual_ voice said, "I don't like London. It's no
place for a gentleman!"

Lothian's laugh as he said this was quite vague and silly. His hand
strayed out towards the decanter of whiskey. His face was half anxious,
half pleased, wholly pitiable and weak. His laugh ended in a sort of
bleat, which he realised in a moment and coughed to obscure.

There was a splash and gurgle as he pressed the trigger of the syphon.

Intense disgust and contempt succeeded Toftrees' first amazement. So
this, after all the fuss, was Gilbert Lothian!

The man had talked like a provincial yokel, and then fawned upon him
with his sickly, uninvited confidences.

He was drunk. There was no doubt about that.

He must have come there drunk, or nearly so. The last half hour had
depressed the balance, brought out what was hidden, revealed the
fellow's state.

"If it hadn't been for my dear wife!"--the tout! How utterly disgusting
it was!

Toftrees had never been drunk in his life except at a bump-supper at
B.N.C.--his college--nearly fifteen years ago.--The shocking form of
coming to the Amberleys' like this!--He was horribly upset and a little
frightened, too. He remembered where he was--such a thing was an
incredible profanation _here_!

. . . He heard a quiet vibrant voice speaking.

He looked up. Gilbert Lothian was leaning back in his chair, holding a
newly-lighted cigarette in a steady hand. His face was absolutely
composed. There was not the slightest hint that it had been bloated and
unsteady the minute before. Intellect and strength--STRENGTH! that was
the incredible thing--lay calmly over it. The skin, surely it _had_
been oddly blotched? was of an even, healthy-seeming tint.

A conversation between the Poet and his host had obviously been in
progress for several minutes. Toftrees realised that he had been lost
in his own thoughts for some time--if indeed this scene was real at all
and he himself were sober!

". . . I don't think," Lothian was saying with precision, and a certain
high air which sat well upon him--"I don't think that you quite see it
in all its bearings. There must be a rough and ready standard for
ordinary work-a-day life--that I grant. But when you penetrate to the
springs of action----"

"When you do that," Amberley interrupted, "naturally, rough and ready
standards fall to pieces. Still we have to live by them. Few of us are
competent to manipulate the more delicate machinery! But your
conclusion is--?"

"--That hypocrisy is the most misunderstood and distorted word in our
mother tongue. The man whom fools call hypocrite may yet be entirely
sincere. Lofty assertions, the proclamation of high ideals and noble
thoughts may at the same time be allied with startling moral failure!"

Amberley shook his head.

"It's specious," he replied, "and it's doubtless highly comforting for
the startling moral failure. But I find a difficulty in adjusting my
obstinate mind to the point of view."

"It _is_ difficult," Lothian said, "but that's because so few people
are psychologists, and so few people--the Priests often seem to me less
than any one--understand the meaning of Christianity. But because David
was a murderer and an adulterer will you tell me that the psalms are
insincere? Surely, if all that is good in a man or woman is to be
invalidated by the presence of contradictory evil, then Beelzebub must
sit enthroned and be potent over the affairs of men!"

Mr. Amberley rose from his chair. His face had quite lost its watchful
expression. It was genial and pleased as before.

"King David has a great deal to answer for," he said. "I don't know
what the unorthodox and the 'live-your-own-life' school would do
without him. But let us go into the drawing room."

With his rich, hearty laugh echoing under the Waggon roof, the big man
thrust his arm through Lothian's.

"There are two girls dying to talk to the poet!" he said. "That I
happen to know! My daughter Muriel reads your books in bed, I believe!
and her friend Miss Wallace was saying all sorts of nice things about
you at dinner. Come along, come along, my dear boy."

The two men left the dining room, and their voices could be heard in
the hall beyond.

Toftrees lingered behind for a moment with young Dickson Ingworth.

The boy's face was flushed. His eyes sparkled with excitement and the
three glasses of champagne he had drunk at dinner were having their
influence with him.

He was quite young, ingenuous, and filled with conceit at being where
he was--dining with the Amberleys, brought there under the ægis of
Gilbert Lothian, chatting confidentially to the great Herbert Toftrees
himself!

His immature heart was bursting with pride, Pol Roger, and
satisfaction. He hadn't the least idea of what he was saying--that he
was saying something frightfully dangerous and treacherous at least.

"I say, Mr. Toftrees, isn't Gilbert splendid? I could listen to him all
night. He talks like that to me sometimes, when he's in the mood. It's
like Walter Pater and Dr. Johnson rolled into one. And then he sort of
punctuates it with something dry and brown and freakish--like Heine in
the 'Florentine Nights'!"

With all his eagerness to hear more--the quiet malice in him welling
up to understand and pin down this Gilbert Lothian--Toftrees was
forced to pause for a moment. He knew that he could never have expressed
himself as this enthusiastic and excited boy was able to do. Ingworth
was a pupil then! Lothian could inspire, and was already founding a
school . . .

"You know Mr. Lothian very well, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes. I go and stay with Gilbert in the country a lot. I'm nearly
always there! I am like a brother to him--he was an only child, you
know. But isn't he wonderful?"

"Marvellous!" Toftrees chuckled as he said the word. He couldn't help
it.

Misunderstood as his chuckle was, it did the trick and brought
confidence in full flood from the careless and excited boy.

"Yes, and I know him so well! Hardly any one knows him so well as I do.
Every one in town is crying out to find out all about him, and I'm
really the only one who knows . . ."

He looked towards the door. Thoughts of the two pretty girls beyond
flushed the wayward, wine-heated mind.

"I'm going to have a liqueur brandy," Toftrees said hastily--he had
taken nothing the whole evening--"won't you, too?"

"Now you'd never think," Ingworth said, sipping from his tiny glass,
"that at seven o'clock this evening Prince and I--Prince is the valet
at Gilbert's club--could hardly wake him up and get him to dress?"

"No!"

"It's a fact though, Mr. Toftrees. We had the devil of a time. He'd
been out all day--it was bovril with lots of salt in it that put him
right. As a matter of fact--of course, this is quite between you and
me--I was in a bit of a funk that it was coming over him again at
dinner. Stale drunk. You know! I saw he was paying a lot of compliments
to Mrs. Amberley. At first she didn't seem to understand, and then she
didn't quite seem to like it. But I was glad when I heard him ask the
man for a whiskey and soda just now. I know his programme so well. I
was sure that it would pull him together all right--or at least that
number two would. I suppose you saw he was rather off when the ladies
had gone and you were talking to him?"

"Well, I wasn't sure of course."

"I was, I know him so well. Gilbert's father was my father's
solicitor--one of the old three bottle men. But when Gilbert collared
number two just now I realised that it would be quite all right. You
heard him with Mr. Amberley just now? Splendid!"

"Yes. And now suppose we go and see how he's getting on in the drawing
room," said Herbert Toftrees with a curious note in his voice.

The boy mistook it for anxiety. "Oh, he'll be as right as rain, you'll
find. It comes off and on in waves, you know," he said.

Toftrees looked at the youth with frank wonder. He spoke in the way of
use and wont, as if he were saying nothing extraordinary--merely
stating a fact.

The novelist was really shocked. Personally, he was the most temperate
of men. He was _homme du monde_, of course. He touched upon life at
other points than the decorous and above-board. He had known men,
friends of his own, go down, down, down, through drink. But here, with
these people, it was not the same. In Bohemia, in raffish literary
clubs and the reprobate purlieus of Fleet Street, one expected this
sort of thing and accepted it as part of the _milieu_.

Under the Waggon roof, at Amberley's house, where there were charming
women, it was shocking; it was an outrage! And the frankness of this
well-dressed and well-spoken youth was disgusting in its very
simplicity and non-moral attitude. Toftrees had gathered something of
the young man's past during dinner. Was this, then, what one learnt at
Eton? The novelist was himself the son of a clergyman, a man of some
family but bitter poor. He had been educated at a country grammar
school. His wife was the youngest daughter of a Gloucestershire
baronet, impoverished also.

Neither of them had enjoyed all that should have been theirs by virtue
of their birth, and the fact had left a blank, a slight residuum of
bitterness and envy which success and wealth could never quite smooth
away.

"Well, it doesn't seem to trouble you much," he said.

Ingworth laughed. He was unconscious of his great indiscretion, frothy
and young, entirely unaware that he was giving his friend and patron
into possibly hostile hands and providing an opportunity for a
dissection of which half London might hear.

"Gilbert's quite different from any one else," he said lightly. "He is
a genius. Keats taking pepper before claret, don't you know! One must
not measure him by ordinary standards."

"I suppose not," Toftrees answered drily, reflecting that among the
disciples of a great man it was generally the Judas who wrote the
biography--"Let's go to the drawing room."

As they went out, the mind of the novelist was working with excitement
and heat. He himself was conscious of it and was surprised. His was an
intellect rather like dry ice. Very little perturbed it as a rule, yet
to-night he was stirred.

Wonder was predominant.

Physically, to begin with, it was extraordinary that more drink should
sober a man who a moment before had been making exaggerated and
half-maudlin confidences to a stranger--in common with most decent
living people, Toftrees knew nothing of the pathology of poisoned men.
And, then, that sobriety had been so profound! Clearly reasoned
thought, an arresting but perfectly sane point of view, had been
enunciated with lucidity and force of phrase.

Disgust, the keener since it was more than tinged by envy, mingled with
the wonder.

So the high harmonies of "Surgit Amari" came out of the bottle after
all! Toftrees himself had been deeply moved by the poems, and yet, he
now imagined, the author was probably drunk when he wrote them! If only
the world knew!--it _ought_ to know. Blackguards who, for some reason
or other, had been given angel voices should be put in the pillory for
every one to see. Hypocrite! . . .

Ingworth opened the door of the drawing room very quietly. Music had
begun, and as he and Toftrees entered, Muriel Amberley was already half
way through one of the preludes of Chopin.

Mrs. Amberley and Mrs. Toftrees were sitting close together and
carrying on a vigorous, whispered conversation, despite the music. Mr.
Amberley was by himself in a big arm-chair near the piano, and Lothian
sat upon a settee of blue linen with Rita Wallace.

As he sank into a chair Toftrees glanced at Lothian.

The poet's face was unpleasant. When he had been talking to Amberley it
had lighted up and had more than a hint of fineness. Now it was heavy
again, veiled and coarsened. Lothian's head was nodding in time to the
music. One well-shaped but rather red hand moved restlessly upon his
knee. The man was struggling--Toftrees was certain of it--to appear as
if the music was giving him intense pleasure. He was thinking about
himself and how he looked to the other people in the room.

Drip, drip, drip!--it was the sad, graceful prelude in which the fall
of rain is supposed to be suggested, the hot steady rain of the
Mediterranean which had fallen at Majorca ever so many years ago and
was falling now in sound, though he that caught its beauty was long
since dust. Drip, drip!--and then the soft repetition which announced
that the delicate and lovely vision had reached its close, that the
august grey harmonies were over.

For a moment, there was silence in the drawing room.

Muriel's white fingers rested on the keys of the piano, the candles
threw their light upwards upon the enigmatic maiden face. Her father
sighed quietly--happily also as he looked at her--and the low buzz of
Mrs. Amberley's and Mrs. Toftrees' talk became much more distinct.

Suddenly Gilbert Lothian jumped up from the settee. He hurried to the
piano, his face flushed, his eyes liquid and bright.

It was consciously and theatrically done, an exaggeration of his bow in
the dining room--not the right thing in the very least!

"Oh, thank you! _Thank you!_" he said in a high, fervent voice. "How
wonderful that is! And you played it as Crouchmann plays it--the _only_
interpretation! I know him quite well. We had supper together the other
night after his concert, and he told me--no, that won't interest you.
I'll tell you another time, remind me! Now, _do_ play something else!"

He fumbled with the music upon the piano with tremulous and unsteady
hands.

"Ah! here we are!" he cried, and there was an insistent note of
familiarity in his voice. "The book of Valses! You know the twelfth of
course? Tempo giusto! It goes like this . . ."

He began to hum, quite musically, and to wave his hands.

Muriel Amberley glanced quickly at her father and there was distress in
her eyes.

Amberley was standing by the piano in a moment. He seemed very much
master of himself, serene and dominant, by the side of Gilbert Lothian.
His face was coldly civil and there was disgust in his eyes.

"I don't think my daughter will play any more, Mr. Lothian," he said.

An ugly look flashed out upon the poet's face, suspicion and
realisation showed there for a second and passed.

He became nervous, embarrassed, almost pitiably apologetic. The
savoir-faire which would have helped some men to take the rebuke
entirely deserted him. There was something assiduous, almost vulgar, a
frightened acceptance of the lash indeed, which immensely accentuated
the sudden _défaillance_ and break-down.

In the big drawing room no one spoke at all.

Then there was a sudden movement and stir. Gilbert Lothian was saying
good-night.

He had remembered that he really had some work to do before going to
bed, some letters to write, as a matter of fact. He was shaking hands
with every one.

"I do hope that I shall have the pleasure of hearing you play some more
Chopin before long, Miss Amberley! Thank you so much Mrs. Amberley--I'm
going to write a poem about your beautiful Dining Room. I suppose we
shall meet at the Authors' Club dinner on Saturday, Mr. Toftrees?--so
interested to have met you at last."

. . . The people in the drawing room heard him chattering vivaciously
to Mr. Amberley, who had accompanied his departing guest into the hall.

No one said a single word. They heard the front door close, and the
steps of the master of the house as he returned to them. They were all
waiting.

When Amberley came in he made a courtly attempt at ignoring what had
just occurred. The calm surface of the evening had been rudely
disturbed--yes! For once even an Amberley party had gone wrong--there
was to be no fun from this meeting of young folk to-night.

But it was Mrs. Amberley who spoke. She really could not help it. Mrs.
Toftrees had been telling her of various rumours concerning Gilbert
Lothian some time before the episode at the piano, and with all her
tolerance Mrs. Amberley was thoroughly angry.

That such a thing should have happened in her house, before Muriel and
her girl friend--oh! it was unthinkable!

"So Mr. Gilbert Lothian has gone," she said with considerable emphasis.

"Yes, dear," Mr. Amberley answered as he sat down again, willing enough
that nothing more should be said.

But it was not to be so.

"We can never have him here again," said the angry lady.

Amberley shook his head. "Very unfortunate, extremely unfortunate," he
murmured.

"I cannot understand it. Such a thing has never happened here before.
Now I understand why Mr. Lothian hides himself in the country and never
goes about. _Il y avait raison!_"

"I don't say that genius is any _excuse_ for this sort of thing,"
Amberley replied uneasily, "and Lothian has genius--but one must take
more than one thing into consideration . . ."

He paused, not quite knowing how to continue the sentence, and
genuinely sorry and upset. His glance fell upon Herbert Toftrees, and
he had a sort of feeling that the novelist might help him out.

"Don't you think so, Toftrees?" he asked.

The novelist surveyed the room with his steady grey eyes, marshalling
his hearers as it were.

"But let us put his talent aside," he said. "Think of him as an
ordinary person in our own rank of life--Mrs. Amberley's guest.
Certainly he could not have taken anything here to have made him in the
strange state he is in. Surely he must have known that he was not fit
to come to a decent house."

"I shall give his poems away," Muriel Amberley said with a little
shudder. "I can never read them again. And I did love them so! I wish
you hadn't asked Mr. Lothian to come here, Father."

"There is one consolation," said Mrs. Toftrees in a hard voice; "the
man must be realising what he has done. He was not too far gone for
that!"

A new voice broke into the talk. It came from young Dickson Ingworth
who had slid into the seat by Rita Wallace when Lothian went to the
piano.

He blushed and stammered as he spoke, but there was a fine loyalty in
his voice.

"It seems rather dreadful, Mrs. Amberley," he said, quite thinking that
he was committing literary suicide as he did so. "It is dreadful of
course. But Gilbert _is_ such a fine chap when he's--when he's, all
right! You can't think! And then, 'Surgit Amari'! Don't let's forget he
wrote 'The Loom'--'Delicate Threads! O fairest in life's tissue,'" he
quoted from the celebrated verse.

Then Rita Wallace spoke. "He is great," she said. "He is manifesting
himself in his own way. That is all. To me, at any rate, the meeting
with Mr. Lothian has been wonderful."

Mrs. Toftrees stared with undisguised dislike of such assertions on the
part of a young girl.

But Mrs. Amberley, always kind and generous-hearted, had been pleased
and touched by Dickson Ingworth's defence of his friend and master. She
quite realised what the lad stood to lose by doing it, and what courage
on his part it showed. And when Rita Wallace chimed in, Mrs. Amberley
dismissed the whole occurrence from her mind as she beamed benevolently
at the two young people on the sofa.

"Let's forget all about it," she said. "Mrs. Toftrees, help me to make
my husband sing. He can only sing one song but he sings it
excellently--'In cellar cool'--just the thing for a hot night. Joseph!
do as I tell you!"

The little group of people rearranged themselves, as Muriel sat down at
the piano to accompany her father.

"Le metier de poëte laisse a désirer," Toftrees murmured to his wife
with a sneer which almost disguised the atrocious accent of his French.



CHAPTER III

SHAME IN "THE ROARING GALLANT TOWN"

    --"Is it for this I have given away
    Mine ancient wisdom and austere control?"

    "'Très volontiers' repartit le démon. 'Vous aimez
    les tableaux changeants; je veux vous contenter.'"

    --_Le Sage._


When the door of the house had closed after him, and with Mr.
Amberley's courteous but grave good-night ringing in his ears, Gilbert
Lothian walked briskly away across the Square.

It was very hot. The July sun, that tempest of fire which had passed
over the town during the day, had sucked up all the sweetness from the
air and it was sickly, like air under a blanket which has been breathed
many times. As it often is in July, London had been delightfully fresh
at dawn, when the country waggons were bringing the sweet-peas and the
roses to market, and although his mind had not been fresh as the sun
rose over St. James' where he was staying, Lothian had enjoyed the
early morning from the window of his bedroom. It had been clear and
scentless, like a field with the dew upon it, in the country from which
he had come five days ago.

Now his mind was like a field in the full sun of noon, parched and full
of hot odours.

He was perfectly aware that he had made a _faux pas_. How far it went,
whether he was not exaggerating it, he did not know. The semi-intoxicated
person--more especially when speech and gait are more or less normal,
as in his case--is quite incapable of gauging the impression he makes
on others. In lax and tolerant circles where no outward indication is
given him of his state, he goes on his way pleased and confident that
he has made an excellent impression, sure that no one has found him
out.

But his cunning and self-congratulation quite desert him when he is
openly snubbed or reproved. "Was I very far gone?" he afterwards asks
some confidential friend who may have been present at his discomfiture.
And whatever form the answer may take, the drunkard is abnormally
interested in all the details of the event. Born of the toxic
influences in his blood, there is a gaunt and greedy vanity which
insists upon the whole scene being re-enacted and commented upon.

Lothian had no one to tell him how far he had gone, precisely what
impression he had made upon his hosts and their guests. He felt with a
sense of injury that Dickson Ingworth ought to have come away with him.
The young man owed so much to him in the literary life! It was a
treachery not to have come away with him.

As he got into a cab and told the man to drive him as far as Piccadilly
Circus, he was still pursuing this train of thought. He had taken
Ingworth to the Amberleys', and now the cub was sitting in the drawing
room there, with those charming girls! quite happy and at ease. He,
Gilbert Lothian himself! was out of it all, shut out from that gracious
house and those cultured people whom he had been so glad to meet.

. . . Again he heard the soft closing of the big front door behind him,
and his skin grew hot at the thought. The remembrance of Amberley's
quiet courtesy, but entire change of manner in the hall, was horrible.
He felt as if he had been whipped. The dread of a slight, the fear of a
quarrel, which is a marked symptom of the alcoholic--is indeed his
torment and curse through life--was heavy upon Lothian now.

The sense of impotence was sickening. What a weak fool he had been to
break down and fly like that. To run away! What faltering and trembling
incapacity for self-assertion he had shown. He had felt uneasy with the
very servant who gave him his opera hat!

And what had he done after all? Very little, surely.

That prelude of Chopin always appealed to him strongly. He had written
about it; Crouchmann had played it privately for him and pointed out
new beauties. Certainly he had only met Miss Amberley for the first
time that night and he may have been a little over-excited and
effusive. His thoughts--a poet's thoughts after all--had come too
quickly for ordered expression. He was too Celtic in manner, too
artistic for these staid cold folk.

He tried to depreciate the Amberleys in his thoughts. Amberley was only
a glorified trades-man after all! Lothian tried to call up within him
that bitter joy which comes from despising that which we really respect
or desire. "Yes! damn the fellow! He _lived_ on poets and men of
letters--privileged people, the salt of the earth, the real forces of
life!"

And yet he ought to have stayed on and corrected his mistake. He had
made himself ridiculous in front of four women--he didn't care about
the men so much--and that was horribly galling.

As the cab swung down Regent Street, Lothian was sure that if his
nerves had not weakened for a moment he would never have given himself
away. It was, he felt, very unfortunate. He knew, as he could not help
knowing, that not only had he a mind and power of a rare, high quality,
but that he possessed great personal charm. What he did not realise was
how utterly all these things fled from him when he was not quite sober.
Certainly at this moment he was unable to comprehend it in the
slightest. Realisation would come later, at the inevitable punishment
hour.

He over-paid his cabman absurdly. The man's quick and eager deference
pleased him. He was incapable of any sense of proportion, and he felt
somehow or other reinstated in his own opinion by this trivial and
bought servility.

He looked at his watch. It was not very much after ten, and he became
conscious of how ridiculously early he had fled from the Amberleys'.
But as he stood on the pavement--in the very centre of the pleasure-web
of London with its roar and glare--he pushed such thoughts resolutely
from him and turned into a luxurious "lounge," celebrated among fast
youths and pleasure-seekers, known by an affectionate nick-name at the
Universities, in every regimental mess or naval ward-room in Great
Britain.

As he went down a carpeted passage he saw himself in the long mirror
that lined it. He looked quite himself, well-dressed, prosperous, his
face under full control and just like any other smart man about town.

At this hour, there were not many people in the place. It would become
crowded and noisy later on.

The white and green tiles of the walls gleamed softly in the shaded
lights, electric fans and a huge block of ice upon a pedestal kept the
air cool. There were palms which refreshed the eye and upon the
porphyry counter at which he was served there was a mass of mauve
hydrangea in a copper bowl.

He drank a whiskey and soda very quickly--that was to remove the marked
physical exhaustion which had begun to creep over him--ordered another
and lit a cigarette.

His nerves responded with magical quickness to the spirit. All day long
he had been feeding them with the accustomed poison. The strain of the
last half hour had used up more vitality than he had been aware.

For the second time that night--a night so infinitely more eventful
than he knew--he became master of himself, calm, happy, even, in the
sense of power returned, and complete correspondence with his
environment.

The barmaid who served him was--like most of these Slaves of the Still
in this part of London--an extremely handsome girl. Her face was
painted--all these girls paint their faces--but it was done merely to
conceal the pallor and ravages wrought upon it by a hard and feverish
life. Lothian felt an immense pity for her, symbolic as she was of all
the others, and the few remarks he made were uttered with an
instinctive deference and courtesy.

He had been married seven years before this time, and had at once
retired into the country with his wife where, by slow degrees, he had
felt his way to the work which had at last made him celebrated. But in
the past he had known the under side of London well and had chosen it
deliberately as his _milieu_.

It had in no way been forced upon him. Struggling journalist and author
as he was, good houses had been open to him, for he was a member of a
well-known family and had made many friends at Oxford.

But the other life was so much easier! If its pleasures were coarse,
they were hot and strong! For years, as many a poet has done before
him, he lived a bad life, tolerant of vice in himself and others, kind,
generous often, but tossed and worn by his passions--rivetting the
chains link by link upon his soul--until he had met and married Mary.

And no one knew better than he the horrors of life behind the counters
of a bar.

He turned away, as two fresh-faced lads came noisily up to the counter,
turned away with a sigh of pity. He was quite unconscious--though he
would have been interested at the psychological fact--that the girl had
wondered at his manner and thought him affected and dull.

She would much rather have been complimented and chaffed. She
understood that. Life is full of anodynes. Mercifully enough the rank
and file of the oppressed are not too frequently conscious of their
miseries. There is a half-truth in the philosophy of Dr. Pangloss, and
if fettered limbs go lame, the chains are not always clanking.

The poor barmaid went to bed that night in an excellent humour, for the
two lads Lothian had seen brought her some pairs of gloves. And if she
had known of Lothian's pity she would have resented it bitterly.

"Like the fellow's cheek," she would have said.


Lothian, as he believed, had absolutely recovered his own normal
personality. He admitted now, as he left the "lounge," that he had not
been his true self at the Amberleys'.

"At this moment, as I stand here," he said to himself, "'I am the
Captain of my Soul,'" not in the least understanding that when he spoke
of his own "soul" he meant nothing more than his five senses.

The man thought he was normal. He was not. On the morrow, when
partially recovering from the excesses of to-day, there was a
possibility that he might become normal--for a brief period, and until
he began to drink again.

For him to become really himself, perfectly clean from the stigmata of
the inebriate mind, would have taken him at least six months of total
abstinence from alcohol.

Lothian's health, though impaired, had by no means broken down.

A strong constitution, immense vitality, had preserved it, up to this
point. At this period, though a poisoned man, an alcoholised body,
there were frequent times of absolute normality--when he was, for
certain definite spaces of time by the clock, exactly as he would have
been had he never become a slave to alcohol at all.

As he stood upon the pavement of Piccadilly Circus, he felt and
believed that such a time had come now.

He was mistaken. All that was happening was that there was a temporary
lull in the ebb and flow of alcohol in his veins. The brain cells were
charged up to a certain point with poison. At this point they gave a
false impression of security.

It must be remembered, and it cannot be too strongly insisted on, that
the mental processes of the inebriate are _definite_, and are _induced_.

The ordinary person says of an inebriate simply that "he is a drunkard"
or "he drinks." Whether he or she says it with sympathetic sorrow, or
abhorrence, the bald statement rarely leads to any further train of
thought.

It is very difficult for the ordinary person to realise that the
mental processes are _sui generis_ a Kingdom--though with a debased
coinage--which requires considerable experience before it can always
be recognised from the ring of true metal.

Alcoholism so changes the mental life of any one that it results in
an ego which has _special_ external and internal characteristics.

And so, in order to appreciate fully this history of Gilbert
Lothian--to note the difference between the man as he was known and as
he really was--it must always be kept in mind under what influence he
moves through life, and that his steps have strayed into a dreadful
kingdom unknown and unrealised by happier men.

He had passed out of one great Palace of Drink.

Had he been as he supposed himself to be, he would have sought rest at
once. He would have hurried joyously from temptation in this freedom
from his chains.

Instead of that, the question he asked himself was, "What shall I do
now?"

The glutton crams himself at certain stated periods. But when repletion
comes he stops eating. The habit is rhythmic and periodically certain.

But the Drunkard--his far more sorrowful and lamentable brother--has
not even this half-saving grace. In common with the inordinate
smoker--whose harm is physical and not mental--the inebriate drinks as
long as he is able to, until he is incapacitated. "Where shall I go
now?"

If God does indeed give human souls to His good angels, as gardens to
weed and tend, that thought must have brought tears of pity to the eyes
of the august beings who were battling for Gilbert Lothian.

Their hour was not yet.

They were to see the temple of the Paraclete fall into greater ruin and
disaster than ever before. The splendid spires and pinnacles, the whole
serene beauty of soul and body which had made this Temple a high
landmark when God first built it, were crumbling to decay.

Deep down among the strong foundations the enemy was at work. The
spire--the "Central-one"--which sprang up towards Heaven was deeply
undermined. Still--save to the eyes of experts--its glory rose
unimpaired. But it was but a lovely shell with no longer any grip upon
its base of weakened Will. And the bells in the wind-swept height of
the Tower no longer rang truly. On red dawns or on pearl-grey evenings
the message they sent over the country-side was beginning to be false.
There was no peace when they tolled the Angelus.

In oriel or great rose-window the colour of the painted glass was
growing dim. The clear colour was fading, though here and there it was
shot with baleful fire which the Artist had never painted there,--like
the blood-shot eyes of the man who drinks.

A miasmic mist had crept into the noble spaces of the aisles. The vast
supporting pillars grew insubstantial and seemed to tremble as the
vapour eddied round them. A black veil was quickly falling before the
Figure above the Altar, and the seven dim lamps of the Sanctuary burned
with green and flickering light.

The bells of a Great Mind's Message, which had been cast with so much
silver in them, rang an increasing dissonance. The trumpets of the
organ echoed with a harsh note in the far clerestory; the flutes were
false, the _dolce_ stop no longer sweet. The great pipes of the pedal
organ muttered and stammered in their massive voices, as if dark
advisers whispered in the ear of the musician who controlled them.


Lothian had passed from one great Palace of Drink. "Where shall I go?"
he asked himself again, and immediately his eye fell upon another, the
brilliant illumination upon the façade of a well-known "Theatre of
Varieties."

His hot eye-balls drank in the flaring signs, and telegraphed both an
impulse and a memory to his brain.

"Yes!" he said. "I will revisit the 'Kingdom.' There is still two
thirds of an hour before the performance will be over. How well I used
to know it! What a nightly haunt it used to be. Surely, even now, there
will be some people I know there? . . . I'll go in and see!"

As Lothian turned in at the principal doors of the most celebrated
Music Hall in the world, his pulses began to quicken.

--The huge foyer, the purple carpets, with their wreaths of laurel in a
purple which was darker yet, the gleaming marble stairway, with its
wide and noble sweep, how familiar all this dignified splendour was, he
thought as he entered the second Palace of Drink which flung wide its
doors to him this night.

A palace of drink and lust, vast and beautiful! for those who brought
poisoned blood and vicious desires within its portals! Here, banished
from the pagan groves and the sunlit temples of their ancient
glory--banished also from the German pine-woods where Heine saw them in
pallid life under the full moon--Venus, Bacchus and Silenus held their
unholy court.

For all the world--save only for a few wise men to whom they were but
symbols--Venus and Bacchus were deities once.

When the Acropolis cut into the blue sky of Hellas with its white
splendour these were the chiefest to whom men prayed, and they ruled
the lives of all.

And, day by day, new temples rise in their honour. Once they were
worshipped with blythe body and blinded soul. Now the tired body and
the besotted brain alone pay them reverence. But great are their
temples still.

Such were the thoughts of Lothian--Lothian the Christian poet--and he
was pleased that they should come to him.

It showed how detached he was, what real command he had of himself. In
the old wild days, before his marriage and celebrity, he had come to
this place, and other places like it, to seize greedily upon pleasure,
as a monkey seizes upon a nut. He came to survey it all now, to revisit
the feverish theatre of his young follies with a bland Olympian
attitude.

The poison was flattering him now, placing him upon a swaying pedestal
for a moment. He was sucking in the best honey that worthless withering
flowers could exude, and it was hot and sweet upon his tongue.

--Were any of the old set there after all? He hoped so. Not conscious
of himself as a rule, without a trace of "side" and detesting
ostentation or any display of his fame, he wanted to show off now. He
wanted to console himself for his rebuff at the house in Bryanstone
Square. Vulgar and envious adulation, interested praise from those who
were still in the pit of obscurity from which his finer brain had
helped him to escape, would be perfectly adequate to-night.

After the episode at the Amberleys', coarse flattery heaped on with a
spade would be as ice in the desert.

And he found what he desired.

He passed slowly through the promenade, towards the door which led to
the stalls, and the great lounge where, if anywhere, he would find
people who knew him and whom he knew.

In a slowly-moving tide, like a weed-clogged wave, the women of the
town ebbed and flowed from horn to horn of the moon-shaped crescent
where they walk. Against the background of sea-purple and white, their
dresses and the nodding plumes in their great hats moved languorously.
Sickly perfumes, as from the fan of an odalisque, swept over them.

Many beautiful painted masks floated through the scented aisle of the
theatre, as they had floated up and down the bronze corridors of the
Temple of Diana at Ephesus in the far off days of St. Paul. A mourning
thrill shivered up from the violins of the orchestra below; the 'cellos
made their plaint, the cymbals rattled, the kettledrums spoke with deep
vibrating voices.

. . . So had the sistra clanked and droned in the old temple of bronze
and silver before the altars of Artemis,--the old music, the eternal
faces, ever the same!

A chill came to Lothian as he passed among these "estranged sad
spectres of the night." He thought suddenly of his pure and gracious
wife, alone in their little house in the country, he thought of the
Canaanitish harlot whose soul was the first that Christ redeemed. For a
moment or two his mind was like a darkened room in which a magic
lantern is being operated and fantastic, unexpected pictures flit
across the screen. And then he was in the big lounge.

Yes, some of them were there!--a little older, perhaps, to his now much
more critical eye, somewhat more bloated and coarsened, but the same
still.

"Good heavens!" said a huge man with a blood red face, startling in its
menace, like a bully looking into an empty room, "Why, here's old
Lothian! Where in the world have _you_ sprung from, my dear boy?"

Lothian's face lit up with pleasure and recognition. The big evil-faced
man was Paradil, the painter of pastels, a wayward drunken creature who
never had money in his pocket, but that he gave it away to every one.
He was a man spoken of as a genius by those who knew. His rare pictures
fetched large prices, but he hardly ever worked. He was soaked,
dissolved and pickled in brandy.

A little elderly man like a diseased doll, came up and began to
twitter. He was the husband of a famous dancer who performed at the
theatre, a wit in his way, an adroit manager of his wife's affairs with
other men, a man with a mind as hollow and bitter as a dried lemon.

He was a well-known figure in upper Bohemia. His name was constantly
mentioned in the newspapers as an entrepreneur of all sorts of things,
a popular, evil little man.

"Ah, Lothian," he said, as one or two other people came up and some one
gave a copious order for drinks, "still alternating between the prayer
book and the decanter? I must congratulate you on 'Surgit Amari.' I
read it, and it made me green with envy to think how many thousand
copies you had sold of it."

"You've kept the colour, Edgar," he said, looking into the little
creature's face, but the words stabbed through him, nevertheless. How
true they were--superficially--how they expressed--and must
express--the view of his old disreputable companions. They envied him
his cunning--as they thought it--they would have given their ears to
have possessed the same power of profitable hypocrisy--as they thought
it. Meanwhile they spoke virtuously to each other about him. "Gilbert
Lothian the author of 'Surgit Amari'!--it would make a cat laugh!"

One can't throw off one's past like a dirty shirt--Gilbert began to
wish he had not come here.

"I ought never to be seen in these places," he thought, forgetting that
it was only the sting of the little man's malice that provoked the
truth.

But Paradil, kindly Paradil with the bully's face and a heart bursting
with dropsical good nature, speedily intervened.

Other men joined the circle; "rounds of drinks" were paid for by each
person according to the ritual of such an occasion as this.

In half an hour, when the theatre began to empty, Lothian was really,
definitely drunk.

Hot circles expanded and contracted within his head. His face became
pale and very grave in expression, as he walked out into Leicester
Square upon Paradil's supporting arm. There was a portentous dignity in
his voice as he gave the address of his club to the cabman. As he shook
hands with Paradil out of the window, tears came into his eyes, as he
thought of the other's drunken, wasted life. "If I can only help you in
any way, old chap--" he tried to say, and then sank back in oblivion
upon the cushions.

He was quite unconscious of anything during the short drive to St.
James's Street, and when the experienced cabman pulled down the flag of
the taximeter and opened the door, he sat there like a log.


The X Club was not fashionable, but it was reputable and of old
establishment. It was fairly easy to get into--for the people whom the
election committee wanted there--exceedingly difficult for the wrong
set of people. Very many country gentlemen--county people, but of
moderate means--belonged to it; the Major-General and the Admiral were
not infrequent visitors; several Judges were on the members' list and
looked in now and again.

As far as the Arts went, they were but poorly represented. There was no
sparkle, no night-life about the place. The painters, actors and
writers preferred a club that began to brighten up about eleven o'clock
at night--just when the X became dreary. Not more than a dozen suppers
were served at the staid building in St. James' on any night of the
week.

Nevertheless, it was not an "old fogies'" club. There was a younger
leaven working there. A good many younger men who also belonged to much
more lively establishments found refreshment, quiet, and just the
proper kind of atmosphere at the X.

For young men of good families who were starting life in London, there
was a certain sense of being at home there. The building had, in the
past, been the house of a celebrated duke and something of comely and
decent order clung to every room now. And, more than anything, the
servants suggested a country or London house of name.

Mullion, the grey-haired head-porter who sat in his glass box in the
hall was a kind and assiduous friend to every one. He was reported to
be worth ten thousand pounds and his manners were perfection. He was
one of the most celebrated servants in London. His deference was never
tinged by servility. His interest in your affairs and wants was
delicately intimate and quite genuine. Great people had tried to lure
this good and shrewd person from the X Club, but without success. For
seventeen years he had sat there in the hall, and, if fate was kind, he
meant to sit there for seventeen years more.

All the servants of the X were like that. The youngest waiter in the
smoking-rooms, library or dining room wore the face of a considerate
friend, and Prince, the head bed-room valet was beloved by every one.
Members of other clubs talked about him and Mullion, the head-porter,
with sighs of regret.

When Gilbert Lothian's taxi-cab stopped at the doors of the X Club, he
was expected. Dickson Ingworth, who was a member also, had been there
for a few moments, expectant of his friend.

Old Mullion had gone for the night, and an under-porter sat in the
quiet hall, but Prince, the valet, stood talking to Ingworth at the
bottom of the stair-case.

"It will be perfectly all right," said Prince. "I haven't done for Mr.
Lothian for all these years without understanding his ways. Drunk or
sober, sir, Mr. Gilbert is always a gentleman. He's the most pleasant
country member in the club, sir! I understand his habits thoroughly,
and he would bear me out in that at any time. I'm sure of that! His
bowl of soup is being kept hot in the kitchens now. The small flask of
cognac and the bottle of Worcester sauce are waiting on his dressing
table. And there's a half bottle of champagne, which he takes to put
him right when I call him in the morning, already on the ice!"

"I know he appreciates it, Prince. He can't say enough about how you
look after him when he's in London."

"I thoroughly believe it, sir," said the valet, "but it gives me great
pleasure to hear it from you, who are such a friend of Mr. Gilbert's. I
may say, sir--if I may tell you without offence--that I'm not really on
duty to-night. But when I see how Mr. Gilbert was when he was dressing
for dinner, I made up my mind to stay. James begged me to go, but I
would not. James is a good lad, but he's no memory for detail. He'd
have forgot the bi-carbonate of soda for Mr. Gilbert's heart-burn, or
something like that--I think that's him, sir!"

Ingworth and the valet hurried over the hall as the inner doors swung
open and Lothian entered. His shirt-front was crumpled. His face was
white and set, his eyes fixed and sombre.

It was as though the master of the house had returned, when the poet
entered. The under-porter hurried out of his box, Prince had the coat
and opera hat whisked away in a moment. In a moment more, like some
trick of the theatre and surrounded by satellites, Lothian was mounting
the stairs towards his bedroom.

They put him in an arm-chair--these eager servitors! The electric
lights in the comfortable bed-room were all switched on. The servant
who loved him, not for his generosity, but for himself, vied with the
young gentleman who loved him for somewhat different reasons.

Both of them had been dominated by this personality for so long, that
there was no sorrow nor pity in their minds. The faithful man of the
people who had served gentlemen so long that any other life would have
been impossible to him, the boy of position, united in their efforts of
resuscitation.

The Master's mind must be called back! The Master's body must be
succoured and provided for.

The two were there to do it, and it seemed quite an ordinary and
natural thing.

"You take off his boots, Prince, and I'll manage his collar."

"Yes, sir."

"Managed it?"

"A little difficulty with the left boot, sir. The instep is a trifle
swelled."

"Good heavens! I do hope he's not going to have another attack of
gout!"

"I hope not, sir. But you can't ever tell. It comes very sudden. Like a
thief in the night, as you may say."

"There! I've broken the stud, but that doesn't matter. His neck's
free."

"And his boots are off. There's some one knocking. It's his soup. Would
you mind putting his bed-room slippers on, sir? I don't like the cold
for his feet."

Prince hurried to the door, whispered a word or two to whoever stood
outside, and returned with a tray.

"Another few minutes," said Prince, as he poured the brandy and
measured the Worcester sauce into the silver-plated tureen; "another
few minutes and he'll be beautiful! Mr. Gilbert responds to anything
wonderful quick. I've had him worse than this at half past twelve, and
at quarter to one he's been talking like an archdeacon. You persuade
him, sir."

"Here's your soup, Gilbert!"

"_It's all nothing, there's nobody, all nothing--dark--_," the voice
was clogged and drowsy--if a blanket could speak, the voice might have
been so.

The boy looked hopelessly at the valet.

Prince, an alert little man with a yellow vivacious countenance and
heavy, black eye-brows, smiled superior. "When Mr. Gilbert really have
copped the brewer--excuse the expression, sir--he generally says a few
words without much meaning. Leave him to me if you please."

He wheeled a little table up to the arm-chair, and caught hold of
Lothian's shoulder, shaking him.

"What? What? My soup?"

"Yessir, your soup."

The man's recuperative power was marvellous. His eyes were bleared, his
face white, the wavy hair fell in disorder over his forehead. But he
was awake and conscious.

"Thank you, Prince," he said, in his clear and sweet voice, "just what
I wanted. Hullo, Dicker! You here?--I'll just have my soup. . . ."

He grasped the large ladle-spoon with curious eagerness. It was as
though he found salvation in the hot liquid--pungent as it was with
cognac and burning spices.

He lapped it eagerly, coughing now and again, "gluck-gluck" and then a
groan of satisfaction.

The other two watched him with quiet eagerness. There was nothing
horrible to them in this. Neither the valet nor the boy understood that
they were "lacqueys in the house of shame." As they saw their muddy
magic beginning to succeed, satisfaction swelled within them.

Gilbert Lothian's mind was coming back. They were blind to the hideous
necessity of their summons, untouched by disgust at the physical
processes involved.

"Will you require me any more, sir?"

"No, thank you, Prince."

"Very good, sir. I have made the morning arrangements."

"Good-night, Prince."

The bedroom door closed.

Lothian heaved himself out of his chair. He seemed fifteen years older.
His head was sunk forward upon his shoulders, his stomach seemed to
protrude, his face was pale, blotchy, debauched, and appeared to be
much larger than it ordinarily did.

With a slow movement, as if every joint in his body creaked and gave
him pain, he began to pace slowly up and down the room. Dickson
Ingworth sat on the bed and watched him.

Yet as the man moved slowly up and down the room, collecting the
threads of his poisoned consciousness, slowly recapturing his mind,
there was something big about him.

Each heavy, semi-drunken movement had force and personality. The
lowering, considering face spelt power, even now.

He stopped in front of the bed.

"Well, Dicker?" he said--and suddenly his whole face was transformed.
Ten years fell away. The smile was sweet and simple, there was a
freakish humour in the eyes,--"Well, Dicker?"

The boy gave a great gasp of pleasure and relief. The "gude-man" had
come home, the powerful mind-machine had started once more, the house
was itself again!

"How are you, Gilbert?"

"Very tired. Horrible indigestion and heartburn, legs like lumps of
brass and a nasty feeling as if an imprisoned black-bird were
fluttering at the base of my spine! But quite sober, Dicker, now!"

"Nor were you ever anything else, in Bryanstone Square," the young man
said hotly. "It _was_ such a mistake for you to go away, Gilbert. So
unnecessary!"

"I had my reasons. Was there much comment? Now tell me honestly, was it
very noticeable?--what did they say?"

"No one said anything at all," Ingworth answered, lying bravely. "The
evening didn't last long after you went. Every one left together--I say
you ought to have seen the Toftrees' motor!--and I drove Miss Wallace
home, and then came on here."

"A beautiful girl," Lothian said sleepily. "I only talked to her for a
minute or two and she seemed clever and sympathetic. Certainly she is
lovely."

Ingworth rose from the bed. He pointed to the table in the centre of
the room. "Well, I'm off, old chap," he said. "As far as Miss Wallace
goes, she's absolutely gone on you! She was quoting your verses all the
way in the cab. She lives in a tiny flat with another girl, and I had
to wait outside while she did up that parcel there! It's 'Surgit
Amari,' she wants you to sign it for her, and there's a note as well, I
believe. Good-night."

"Good-night, Dicker. I can't talk now. I'm beautifully drunk
to-night . . . Look me up in the morning. Then we'll talk."

The door had hardly closed upon the departing youth, when Lothian sank
into a heap upon his chair. His body felt like a quivering jelly, a
leaden depression, as if Hell itself weighed him down.

Mechanically, and with cold, trembling hands, he opened the brown paper
parcel. His book, in its cover of sage-green and gold, fell out upon
the table. He began to read the note--the hand-writing was firm, clear
and full of youth--so he thought. The heading of the note paper was
embossed--

    "The Podley Pure Literature Institute.

    _Dear Mr. Lothian_:

    I am so proud and happy to have met you to-night. I am so sorry
    that I had not the chance of telling you what your poems have been
    to me--though of course you must always be hearing that sort of
    thing. So I will say nothing more, but ask you, only, to put your
    name in my copy of "Surgit Amari" and thus make it more
    precious--if that is possible--than before.

    Mr. Ingworth has kindly promised to give you this note and the
    book.

    Yours sincerely,

    RITA WALLACE."

The letter dropped unheeded upon the carpet. Thick tears began to roll
down Lothian's swollen face.

"Mary! Mary!" he said aloud, "I want you, I want you!" . . .

"Darling! there is no one else in the world but you."

He was calling for his wife, always so good and kind to him, his dear
and loving wife. At the end of his long foul day, lived without a
thought of her, he was calling for her help and comfort like a sick
child.

Poisoned, abject, he whined for her in the empty room.

--She was sleeping now, in the quiet house by the sea. The horn of a
motor-car tooted in St. James' Street below--She was sleeping now in
her quiet chamber. Tired lids covered the frank, blue eyes, the thick
masses of yellow hair were straying over the linen pillow. She was
dreaming of him as the night wind moaned about the house.

He threw himself upon his knees by the bedside, in dreadful drunken
surrender and appeal.

--"Father help me! Jesus help me!--forgive me!"--he dare not invoke the
Holy Ghost. He shrank from that. The Father had made everything and had
made him. He was a beneficent, all-pervading Force--He would
understand. The Lord Jesus was a familiar Figure. He was human; Man as
well as God. One could visualise Him. He had cared for harlots and
drunkards! . . .

Far down in his sub-conscious brain Lothian was aware of what he was
doing. He was whining not to be hurt. His prayers were no more than
superstitious garrulity and fear. Something--a small despairing part of
himself, had climbed upon the roof of the dishonoured Temple and was
stretching trembling hands out into the overwhelming darkness of the
Night.

"Father, help me! Help me _now_. Let me go to bed without phantoms and
torturing ghosts round me! Do not look into the Temple to-night. I will
cleanse it to-morrow. I swear it! Father! Help me!"

He began to gabble the Lord's Prayer--that would adjust things in a
sort of way--wouldn't it? There was a promise--yes--one said it, and it
charmed away disaster.

Half-way through the prayer he stopped. The words would not come to
him. He had forgotten.

But that no longer distressed him. The black curtain of stupor was
descending once more.

"'Thy will be done'--what _did_ come after? Well! never mind!" God
was good. He'd understand. After all, intention was everything!

He scrambled into bed and instantly fell asleep, while the lovely face
of Rita Wallace was the first thing that swam into his disordered
brain.


In a remote village of Norfolk, not a quarter of a mile from Gilbert
Lothian's own house, a keen-faced man with a pointed beard, a slim,
alert figure like an osier wand and steely brown eyes was reading a
thin green-covered book of poems.

Now and then he made a pencil note in the margin. His face was alive
with interest, almost with excitement. It was as though he were tracing
something, hunting for some secret hidden in the pages.

More than once he gave a subdued exclamation of excitement.

"It's there!" he said at last to himself. "Yes, it is there! I'm sure
of it, quite apart from what I've heard in the village since I came."

He rose, put the book carefully away in a drawer, locked it, blew out
the lamp and went to bed.


Three hundred miles away in Cornwall, a crippled spinster was lying on
her bed of pain in a cottage by the sea.

The windows of her room were open and the moon-rays touched a white
Crucifix upon the wall to glory.

The Atlantic groundswell upon the distant beaches made a sound as of
fairy drums.

The light of a shaded candle fell upon the white coverlet of her bed,
and upon a book bound in sage-green and gold which lay there.

The woman's face shone. She had just read for the fifth time, the poem
in "Surgit Amari" which closes the first book.

The lovely lines had fused with the holy rapture of the night, and her
patient soul was caught up into commune with Jesus.

"Soon! Oh, soon! Dear Lord," she gasped, "I shall be with Thee for
ever. If it seemeth good to Thee, let me be taken up on some such
tranquil night as this. And I thank Thee, Dear Saviour, that Thou hast
poured Thy Grace into the soul of Gilbert Lothian, the Poet. Through
the white soul of this poet, which Thou hast chosen to be a conduit of
comfort to me, my night pain has gone. I am drawn nearer to Thee, Jesus
who hast died for me!

"Lord, bless the poet. Pour down Thy Grace upon him. Guard him, shield
him and his for ever more. And, Sweet Lord, if it be Thy will, let me
meet him in Heaven and tell him of this night--this fair night of
summer when I lay dying and happy and thinking kindly and with
gratitude of him.

"Jesus!"



CHAPTER IV

LOTHIAN GOES TO THE LIBRARY OF PURE LITERATURE

    "I only knew one poet in my life:
    And this, or something like it, was his way."

    --_Browning._


The Podley Library in West Kensington was a fad of its creator. Mr.
John Podley was a millionaire, or nearly so, and the head of a great
pin-making firm. He was a public man of name and often preached or
lectured at the species of semi-religious conversations known as
"Pleasant Sunday Afternoons."

Sunday afternoon in England--though Mr. Podley called it "The
Sabbath"--represented the pin-maker's mental attitude with some
fidelity. All avenues to pleasure of any kind were barred, though
possibly amusement is the better word. A heavy meal clogged the
intellect, an imperfectly-understood piece of Jewish religious politics
was made into an idol, erected and bowed down to.

Mr. Podley had always lived with the fear of God, and the love of money
constantly before his eyes. "Sabbath observance" and total abstinence
were his watchwords, and he also took a great interest in "Literature"
and had pronounced views upon the subject. These views, like everything
else about him, were confined and narrow, but were the sincere
convictions of an ignorant, pompous and highly successful man.

He had, accordingly, established the Podley Free Library in Kensington
in order to enunciate and carry out his ideas in a practical way. What
he considered--and not without some truth--the immoral tendency of
modern writers, was to be sternly prohibited in his model house of
books.

Nothing should repose upon those shelves which might bring a blush to
the cheeks of the youngest girl or unsettle the minds of any one at
all. "Very unsettling" was a great phrase of this good, wealthy and
stupid old man. He really was good, vulgar and limited as were all his
tastes, and he had founded the Library to the glory of God.

He found it impossible--when he became confronted by the task--to
choose the books himself, as he had hoped to do.

He had sat down one day in his elegant private sanctum at Tulse Hill
with sheets of foolscap before him, to make a first list. The
"Pilgrim's Progress" was written down immediately in his flowing
clerkly hand. Then came the novels of Mrs. Henry Wood. "Get all of this
line" was the pencilled note in the margin. Memories of his youth
reasserted themselves, so "Jessica's First Prayer," "Ministering
Children" and "A Peep Behind the Scenes" were quickly added, and then
there had been a pause.

"Milton, Shakespeare and the Bible?" said Mrs. Podley, when consulted.
"They're pure enough, I'm sure!" and the pin-maker who had never been
to a theatre, nor read a line of the great poets, wrote them down at
once. As for the Bible, it was God's word, and so "would never bring a
blush" etc. It was Mr. Podley's favourite reading--the Old Testament
more than the New--and if any one had scoffed at the idea that the
Almighty had written it Himself, in English and with a pen, Podley
would have thought him infidel.

The millionaire was quite out of date. The modern expansions of thought
among the Non-conformists puzzled him when he was (rarely) brought into
any contact with them. His grim, uncultured beliefs were such as exist
only in the remote granite meeting houses of the Cornish moors to-day.

"I see that Bunyan wrote another book, the 'Holy War,'" said Mr. Podley
to his wife. "I never heard of it and I'm a bit doubtful. I don't like
the name, shall I enter it up or not?"

The good lady shook her head. "Not knowing, can't say," she remarked.
"But if it is the same man who wrote 'Pilgrim's Progress' then it's
sure to be pure."

"It's the 'Holy' that puzzles me," he answered, "that's a papist
word--'Holy Church' 'Holy Mary' and that."

"Then I should leave it out. But I tell you what, my dear, choosing
these books'll take up a lot of your valuable time, especially if each
one's got to be chose separate. You might have to read a lot of them
yourself, there's no knowing! And why should you?"

"Why, indeed?" said Mr. Podley. "But I don't see how----"

"Well, I do then, John. It's as simple as A. B. C. You want to
establish a library in which there shan't be any wicked books."

"That is so?"

"Yes, my dear. Pure, absolutely pure!"

"Well, then, have them bought for you by an expert--like you do the
metal for the pins. You don't buy metal yourself any more. You pay high
wages to your buyers to do it. Treat the books the same!"

"There's a good deal in that, dear. But I want to take a _personal_
interest in the thing."

"Now don't you worry, John. 'Tis right that we should all be
conscientious in what we do, but them as has risen to the head of great
businesses haven't any further call to trouble about minor details.
I've heard you say it many a time. And so with this library. You're
putting down the money for it. You've bought the land and the building
is being erected. You've got to pay, and if that isn't taking a
personal interest then I'm sure I don't know what is!"

"You advise me?--"

"To go to the best book shop in London--there's that place opposite the
Royal Academy that is the King's booksellers. See one of the partners.
Explain that you want the library furnished with pure books, state the
number you want, and get an estimate of the cost. It's their business
to know what books are pure and what aren't--and, besides, at a shop
like that, they wouldn't sell any wicked books. It would be beneath
them."

Podley had taken his wife's advice. He had "placed an order" for an
initial ten thousand pure volumes with the firm in question, and the
thing was done.

The shop in Piccadilly was a very famous shop indeed. It had all the
_cachet_ of a library of distinction. Its director was a man of
letters and an anthologist of repute. The men who actually sold the
books were gentlemen of knowledge and taste, invaluable to many
celebrated authors, mines of information, and all of them trained
bibliophiles.

"Now look here, Lewis," the director said, to one of his assistants, an
Oxford man who translated Flaubert and wrote introductions to English
editions of Gautier in his spare time, "you've got to fill a library
with books."

Mr. Lewis smiled. "Funny thing they should come to us," he said; "I
should have thought they would have bought them by the yard, in the
Strand. What is it, American millionaire? question of bindings and
wall-space?"

"No, not quite," said the director. "It's Mr. Podley, the pin
millionaire and philanthropist. He's founding a public library of 'pure
literature' in Kensington. The only books he has ever read, apparently,
are the books of the Old Testament. He was with me for an hour this
morning. Take a week and make a list. He wants ten thousand volumes for
a start."

The eyes of Mr. Lewis gleamed. "Certainly!" he said. "It will be quite
delightful. It seems almost too good to be true. But will the list be
scrutinised before the books are actually bought? Won't this Podley man
take another opinion?"

The director shook his head. "He doesn't know any one who could give
him one," he answered. "It would only mean engaging another expert, and
he's quite satisfied with our credentials. 'Pure books'! Good Lord! I
wonder what he thinks he means. I should like to get inside that man's
head and poke about for an hour. It would be interesting."

Mr. Lewis provided for the Kensington Institute exactly the library he
would have acquired for himself, if he could have afforded it. The
result, for all real lovers of books, would have been delightful if any
of them had known of it But the name frightened them away, and they
never went there. Members of the general public were also deterred by
the name of the Institute--though for quite different reasons--and folk
of Mr. Podley's own mental attitude were too illiterate (like him), to
want books--"pure" or otherwise--at all.

Podley, again after consultation with his wife, appointed a clerk from
the Birmingham pin works as chief librarian. "It won't matter," that
shrewd woman had pointed out, "if he knows anything about literature or
not! His duties will be to supervise the lending of the books, and a
soft job he'll have too!"

A Mr. Hands had been elected, a limpet-like adherent to Podley's
particular shibboleth, and a person as anæmic in mind and body as could
have been met with in a month of search.

An old naval pensioner and his wife were appointed care-takers, and a
lady-typist and sub-librarian was advertised for, at thirty-five
shillings a week.

Rita Wallace had obtained the post.

Hardly any one ever came to the library. In the surge and swell of
London life it became as remote as an island in the Hebrides. Podley
had endowed it--it was the public excuse for the knighthood he
purchased in a year from the Liberal Party--and there it was!

Rita Wallace had early taken entire charge and command of her nominal
superior--the whiskered and despondent Mr. Hands. The girl frightened
and dazzled him. As he might have done at the foot of Etna or
Stromboli, he admired, kept at a distance, and accepted the fact that
she was there.

The girl was absolute mistress of the solitary building full of
beautiful books. Sometimes Hands, whose wife was dying of cancer, and
who had no stated times of attendance, stayed away for several days.
Snell and his wife--the care-takers--adored her, and she lunched every
day with them in the basement.

Mrs. Snell often spoke to her husband about "Miss Rita." "If that there
Hands could be got rid of," she would say, "then it would be ever so
much better. Poor silly thing that he is, with his face like the
underside of a Dover sole! And two hundred a year for doing nothing
more than what Miss Rita tells him! He calls her 'Miss'--as I'm sure he
should, her being a Commander's daughter and him just a dirty
Birmingham clerk! Miss Rita ought to have his two hundred a year, and
him her thirty-five shillings a week. Thirty-five shillings! what is it
for an officer's daughter, that was born at Malta too! I'd like to give
that old Podley a piece of my mind, I would!"

"In the first place he never comes here. In the second place he's not a
gentleman himself, so that don't mean nothing to him," Snell would say
on such occasion of talk.

He had been at the Bombardment of Alexandria and could not quite
forget it. . . . "Now if it was Lord Charles what had started
this--'--Magneta--' library, then _'e_ could 'a' been spoke
to--Podley!"


It was four o'clock on the afternoon of the day after the Amberleys'
dinner-party. Hands was away, staying beside his sick wife, and Rita
Wallace proposed to close the library.

She had just got rid of the curate from a neighbouring church, who had
discovered the deserted place--and her. Snubbed with skill the boy had
departed, and as no one else would come--or if they did what would it
matter?--Rita was about to press the button of the electric bell upon
her table and summon Snell.

The afternoon sunlight poured in upon the books from the window in the
dome.

The place was cool and absolutely silent, save for the note a straying
drone-bee made as his diapason swept this way and that.

Even here, as the sunlight fell upon the dusty gold and crimson of the
books, summer was calling. The bee came close to Rita and settled for a
moment upon the sulphur-coloured rose that stood in a specimen-glass
upon her writing-table.

He was a big fellow, and like an Alderman in a robe of black fur,
bearing a gold chain.

"Oh, you darling!" Rita said, thinking of summer and the outside world.
She would go to Kensington Palace Gardens where there were trees, green
grass and flowers. "Oh, you darling! You're a little jewel with a
voice, a bit of the real country! I believe you've actually been
droning over the hop-fields of Kent!"

She looked up suddenly, her eyes startled, the perfect mouth parted in
vexation. Some one was coming, she might be kept any length of
time--for the rare visitors to the Podley Library were generally bores.

. . . That silly curate might have returned!

The outer swing doors thudded in the hall, there was the click of a
latch as the inner door was pushed open and Gilbert Lothian entered.

The girl recognised him at once, as he made his way under the dome
towards her, and her eyes grew wide with wonder. Lothian was wearing a
suit of grey flannel, his hair as he took off his straw hat was a
little tumbled, his face fresh and clear.

"How do you do," he said, with the half-shy deference that came into
his voice when he spoke to women. "It was such a lovely afternoon that
I thought I might venture to bring back your copy of 'Surgit Amari'
myself."

Rita Wallace flashed her quick, humorous smile at him--the connection
between the weather and his wish was not too obvious. But her smile had
pleasure of another kind in it also--he had wanted to see her again.

Lothian laughed boyishly. "I wanted to see you again," he said, in the
very words of her thought.

The girl was flattered and delighted. There was not the slightest hint
of self-consciousness in her manner, and the flush that came into her
cheeks was one of pure friendliness.

"It is very kind of you to take so much trouble," she said in a voice
as sweet as singing. "I was so disappointed when you had to go away so
early from the Amberleys' last night."

She did not say the conventional thing about how much his poems had
meant to her. Girls that he met--and they were not many--nearly always
did, and he always disliked it. Such things meant nothing when they
came as part of ordinary greetings. They jarred upon the poet's
sensitive taste and he was pleased and interested to find that this
girl said nothing of the sort.

"Well, here's the book," he said, putting it down upon Rita's table.
"And I've written in it as you asked. Do you collect autographs then?"

She shook her head. "Oh, dear me no," she answered. "I think it's silly
to collect anything that isn't beautiful. But, in a book one values,
and with which one has been happy, the author's autograph seems to add
to the book's personality. But I hate crazes. There are lots of girls
that wait outside stage doors to make popular actors write in their
books. Did you know that, Mr. Lothian?"

"No, I didn't! Little donkeys! Hard lines on the actors. Even I get a
few albums now and then, and it's a fearful nuisance. I put off writing
in them and they lie about my study until they get quite a battered and
dissipated look."

"And then?"

"Oh, I write in them. It would be impolite not to, you know. I have an
invaluable formula. I write, 'Dear Madam, I am very sorry to say that I
cannot accede to your kind request for an autograph. The practice is
one with which I am not in sympathy. Yours very truly, Gilbert
Lothian!'"

"That's splendid, Mr. Lothian, better than sending a telegram, as some
one did the other day to an importunate girl. They were talking about
it last night at the Amberleys' after you left. I suppose that's really
what gave me courage to send 'Surgit Amari' by Mr. Dickson Ingworth.
Mr. and Mrs. Toftrees said that they always write passages from their
novels when they are asked."

"Perhaps that's a good plan," Lothian answered, listening to the "viols
in her voice" and not much interested in the minor advertising arts of
the Toftrees. What rare maiden was this with whom he was chatting? What
had made him come to see her after all?--a mere whim doubtless--but was
he not about to reap a very delightful harvest?

For he was conscious of immense pleasure as he stood there talking to
her, and there was excitement mingled with the pleasure. It was as
though he was advancing upon a landscape, and at every step something
fresh and interesting came into view.

"I _did_ so dislike Mr. Toftrees and his wife," Rita said with a
mischievous little gleam in her eyes.

"Did you?" he asked in surprise. "They seemed very pleasant people I
thought."

"I expect that was because you thought nothing whatever about them, Mr.
Lothian," she replied.

He realised the absolute truth of the remark in a flash. The novelists
had in no way interested him. He had not thought about these people at
all--this maiden was a psychologist then! There was something subtly
flattering in what she had said. His point of view had interested the
girl, she had discovered it, small and unimportant though it was.

"But why did you dislike poor Mr. Toftrees?" he said, with an eminently
friendly smile--already an unconscious note of intimacy had been
sounded, he was interested to hear why she disliked the man, not the
woman.

"He is pompous and insincere," she replied. "He tries to draw attention
to his great success, or rather his notoriety, by pretending to despise
it. Surely, it would be far more manly to accept the fact frankly, and
not to hint that he could be a great artist if he could bring himself
to do without a lot of money!"

Lothian wondered what had provoked this little outburst. It was
quiveringly sincere, that he saw. His eyes questioned hers.

"It's such dreadful appalling treacle they write! I saw a little
flapper in the Tube two days ago, with the Toftrees' latest
book--'Milly Mine.' Her expression was ecstatic!"

"For my part I think that's something to have done, do you know, to
have taken that flapper out of the daily tube of her life into Romance.
Heaven with electric lights and plush fittings is better than none at
all. I couldn't grudge the flapper her ecstasy, nor Mr. Toftrees his
big cheques. I should very much like to see the people in Tubes reading
my books--it would be good for them--and to pouch enormous cheques
myself--would be good for me! But there must be Toftrees sort of
persons now that every one knows how to read!"

"Well, I'll let his work alone," she answered, "but I certainly do
dislike him. He was trying to run your work down last night--though we
wouldn't let him."

So the secret was out now! Lothian smiled and the quick, enthusiastic
girl understood. A little ripple of laughter came from her.

"Yes, that's it," she cried. "He did all he could."

"Did he? Confound him! I wonder why?"

Lothian asked the question with entire simplicity. Subtle-minded and
complex as he was, he was incapable of mean thoughts and muddy envy
when he was not under the influence of drink.

Poisoned, alas, he was entirely different. All the evil in him rose to
the surface. As yet it by no means obscured or overpowered the good,
but it became manifest and active.

In the case of this fine intellect and splendid artist, no less than in
the worker in the slum or the labourer in the field, drink seemed an
actual key to unlock the dark and secret doors of wickedness which are
in every heart. Some coiled and sleeping serpent within him, no less
than in them, raised its head into baleful life and sudden enmity of
good.

A few nights ago, half intoxicated in a club--intoxicated in mind that
is, for he was holding forth with a caustic bitterness and sharp
brilliancy that had drawn a crowd around him--he had abused the work of
Herbert Toftrees and his wife with contemptuous and venomous words.

He was quite unconscious that he had ever done so. He knew nothing
about the couple and had never read a line of their works. The subject
had just cropped up somehow, like a bird from a stubble, and he had let
fly. It was pure coincidence that he had met the novelists at the
Amberleys' and Lothian had entirely forgotten that he had ever
mentioned their work at the club.

But the husband and wife had heard of it the next day, as people
concerned always do hear these things, and neither of them were likely
to forget that their books had been called "as flat as champagne in
decanters," their heroines "stuffy" and that compared to even "--" and
"--" they had been stigmatised as being as pawn-brokers are to bankers.

Lothian had made two bitter enemies and he had not the slightest
suspicion of it.

"I wonder why?" he said again. "I don't know the man. I've never done
him any harm that I know of. But of course he has a right to his own
opinions, and no doubt he really thinks----"

"He knows nothing whatever about it," Rita answered. "If a man like
that reads poetry at all he has to do it in a prose translation! But I
can tell you why--Addison puts it far better than I can. I found the
passage the other day. I'll show you."

She was all innocent eagerness and fire, astonishingly sweet and
enthusiastic as she hurried to a bookshelf and came back with a volume.

Following her slim finger, he read:--

    "There are many passions and tempers of mankind, which naturally
    dispose us to depress and vilify the merit of one rising in the
    esteem of mankind.

    All those who made their entrance into the world with the same
    advantages, and were once looked on as his equals, are apt to think
    the fame of his merits a reflection on their own deserts. Those,
    who were once his equals, envy and defame him, because they now see
    him their superior; and those who were once his superiors, because
    they look upon him as their equal."

The girl was gazing at him in breathless attention, wondering whether
she had done the right thing, hoping, indeed, that Lothian would be
pleased.

He was both pleased and touched by this lovely eager little champion,
so unexpectedly raised up to defend him.

"Thank you very much," he said. "How kind of you! My bruised vanity is
now at rest. I am healed of my grievous wound! But this seems quite a
good library. Are you here all alone, does nobody ever come here? I
always heard that the Podley Library was where the bad books went when
they died. Tell me all about it."

His hand had mechanically slipped into his waistcoat and half withdrawn
his cigarette case. He could never be long without smoking and he
wanted a cigarette now more than ever. During a whole hour he had not
had a drink. A slight suspicion of headache floated at the back of his
head, he was conscious of something heavy at his right side.

"Do smoke," she said. "No one minds--there never is any one to mind,
and I smoke here myself. Mr. Hands, the head librarian, didn't like it
at first but he does what I tell him now. I'm the assistant librarian."

She announced her status with genuine pride and pleasure, being
obviously certain that she occupied a far from unimportant position in
public affairs.

Lothian was touched at her simplicity. What a child she was really,
with all her cleverness and quickness.

He smoked and made her smoke also--"Delicious!" she exclaimed with
pretty greediness. "How perfectly sweet to be a man and able to afford
Ben Ezra's Number 5."

"How perfectly sweet!"--it was a favourite expression of Rita's. He
soon got to know it very well.

He soon got to know all about the library and about her also, as she
showed him round.

She was twenty-one, only twenty-one. Her father, a captain in the Navy,
had left her just sufficient money for her education, which had been at
a first-class school. Then she had had to be dependent entirely upon
her own exertions. She seemed to have no relations and not many friends
of importance, and she lived in a tiny three-roomed flat with another
girl who was a typist in the city.

She chattered away to him just as if he were a girl friend as they
moved among the books, and it was nearly an hour before they left the
Library together.

"And now what are you going to do?"

"I must go home, Mr. Lothian," she said with a little sigh. "It has
been so kind of you to come and see me. I was going to sit in
Kensington Palace Gardens for a little while, but I think I shall go
back to the flat now. How hot it is! Oh, for the sea, now, just think
of it!"

There was a flat sound in her voice. It lost its animation and timbre.
He knew she was sorry to say good-bye to him, rather forlorn now that
the stimulus and excitement of their talk was over.

She was lonely, of course. Her pleasures could be but few and far
between, and at twenty-one, when the currents of the blood run fast and
free, even books cannot provide everything. Thirty-five shillings a
week! He had been poor himself in his early journalistic days. It was
harder for a girl. He thought of her sitting in Kensington Gardens--the
pathetic and solitary pleasure the child had mapped out for herself! He
could see the little three-roomed flat in imagination, with its girlish
decorations and lack of any real comfort, and some appalling meal
presently to be eaten, bread and jam, a lettuce!

The idea came into his mind in a flash, but he hesitated before
speaking. Wouldn't she be angry if he asked her? He'd only met her
twice, she was a lady. Then he decided to risk it.

"I wonder," he said slowly.

"What are you wondering, Mr. Lothian?"

--"If you realise how easy it is to be by the sea. I know it's cheek to
ask you--or at least I suppose it is, but let's go!"

"How do you mean, Mr. Lothian?"

"Let's motor down to Brighton now, at once. Let's dine at the
Metropole, and go and sit on the pier afterwards, and then rush home
under the stars whenever we feel inclined. Will you!"

"How splendid!" she cried, "now! at once? get out of everything?"

"Yes, now. I am to be the fairy godmother. You have only to say the
magic word, and I will wave my wand. The blue heat mists of evening
will be over the ripe Sussex cornfields, and we shall see the poppies
drinking in the blood of the sinking sun with their burnt red mouths.
And then, when we have dined, the moon will wash the sea with silver,
the stars will come out like golden rain and the Queen Moon will be
upon her throne! We shall see the long, lit front of Brighton like a
horned crescent of topaz against the black velvet of the downs. And
while we watch it under the moon, the breeze shall bring us faint
echoes of the fairy flutes from Prospero's enchanted Island--'But doth
suffer a sea-change into something rich and strange--' And then the sea
will take up the burthen 'Ding-dong, ding-dong bell.' Now say the magic
word!"

"There is magic in the Magician's voice already, and I needs must
answer. Yes! and oh, yes, YES a thousand times!"

"The commandments of convention mean nothing to you?"

"They are the Upper Ten Commandments, not mine."

"Then I will go and command my dragon. I know where you live. Be ready
in an hour!"

"How perfectly, _perfectly_ sweet! And may we, oh, may we have a
lobster mayonnaise for dinner?"



CHAPTER V

"FOR THE FIRST TIME, HE WAS GOING TO HAVE A GIRL FRIEND"

    "Across the hills, and far away
      Beyond their utmost purple rim,
    And deep into the dying day
      The happy princess followed him."

    --_Tennyson._


Lothian went back to his club in a taxi-cab, telling the man to drive
at top speed. On the way he ordered a motor-car to go to Brighton and
to call for him within twenty minutes.

He was in a state of great exhilaration. He had not had such an
adventure as this for years--if ever before. A girl so lovely, so
clever, so young--and particularly of his own social rank--he had never
met, save for a short space of time and under the usual social
conditions which forbade any real intimacy.

Even in the days before his marriage, flirtations, or indeed any
companionship, with girls who were not of his class had not attracted
him. He had never, unlike other men no less brilliant and gifted than
himself, much cared for even the innocent side of Bohemian camaraderie
with girls.

And to have a girl friend--and such a girl as Rita Wallace--was a
delightful prospect. He saw himself responding to all sorts of simple
feminine confidences, exploring reverently the unknown country of the
Maiden mind, helping, protecting; unfolding new beauties for the young
girl's delight. Yes! he would have a girl friend!

The thing should be ideal, pure and without a thought of harm. She
understood him, she trusted herself to him at once and she should be
repaid richly from the stores of his mind. None knew better than he
what jewels he had to give to one who could recognise jewels when she
saw them.

He changed his hat for a cap and had a coat brought down from his
bedroom. Should he write a note to Mary at home? He had not sent her
more than two telegrams of the "All going splendidly, too busy to
write," kind, during the five days he had been in London. He decided
that he would write a long letter to-morrow morning. Not to-night.
To-night was to be one of pure, fresh pleasure. Every prospect pleased.
Nothing whatever would jar. He was not in the mood to write home
now--to compose details of his time in Town, to edit and alter the true
record for the inspection of loving eyes.

"My darling!" he said to himself as he drank the second whiskey and
soda which had been brought to him since he had come in, but there was
an uncomfortable feeling in the back of his mind that the words did not
ring true.

More than ever exhilarated, as excited as a boy, he jumped into the
motor-car when it arrived, and glided swiftly westwards, congratulating
himself a dozen times on the idle impulse which had sent him to
Kensington. He began to wonder how it had come.

The impulse to bring the book himself had been with him all day. It had
taken him till lunch time at least to put himself in any way right--to
_appear_ right even. With a sick and bitter mind he had gone through
the complex physical ritual necessary after the night before--the
champagne at eight, the Turkish bath, the hair-dresser's in Regent
Street where fast men slunk with hot and shaking hands to have the
marks of their vices ironed out of their faces with vibrating hammers
worked by electricity.

All through the morning, the bitter, naked, grinning truth about
himself had been horribly present--no new visitor, but the same leering
ghost he knew so well.

Escape was impossible until the bestial sequence of his morning cure
had run its course. Coming down the bedroom stairs into the club there
was the disgusting and anxious consciousness that his movements were
automatic and jerky, the real fear of meeting any one--the longing to
bolt upstairs again and hide. Then a tremendous effort of will had
forced him to go on. Facial control was--as ever--the most difficult
thing. When he passed the waiters in the smoking room he must screw his
face into the appearance of absorbed thought, freeze the twitching
mouth and the flickering eyes into immobility. He had hummed a little
tune as he had sat down at a table and ordered a brandy and soda,
starting as if from a reverie when it was brought him, and making a
remark about the weather in a voice of effusive geniality which
embarrassed the well-trained servant.

By lunch time the convulsive glances in the mirror, the nervous
straying of the hand to the hair, the see-saw of the voice had all
gone. Black depression, fear, self-pity, had vanished. The events of
the night before became like a landscape seen through the wrong end of
a telescope, far away, and as if they concerned some one quite other
than himself.

He had not exactly forgotten the shame of his behaviour at the
Amberleys' house. But, as he always did after events of this sort, and
they were becoming far more general than he realised, he had pushed the
thought away in some attic of the brain and closed the door. He would
have these memories out some day--soon. It would not be pleasant, but
it must of course be done. Then he would put everything right with
himself, destroy all these corpses, and emerge into the free sunlight
for ever more.

But not to-day. He must put himself _quite_ right to-day. When he _was_
right then he wouldn't have another drink all day. Yes! then by
to-morrow, after a quiet, pensive night, he would throw off all his
habits as if he were throwing an old pair of gloves over a wall. He
knew well what he could do! He knew himself better than any one else
knew him.

But not to-day. "Inshallah Bukra!"--"Please God, to-morrow!"

It had all seemed perfectly natural, though it happened over and over
again, and to-morrow never came.

He did not know that this was but one more definite symptom of his
poisoned state, as definite as the shaking hand, the maudlin midnight
invocations of God, the frequent physical nausea of the morning, even.

And if the man is to be understood and his history to become real in
all its phases, then these things must be set down truly and without a
veil.


It was a joy to watch her pleasure as they swung out of London in the
twenty-horse power Ford he had hired.

She did not say much but leant back on the luxurious cushions by his
side. There was a dream of happiness upon her face, and Lothian also
felt that he was living in a dream, that it was all part of the painted
scenes of sleep.

The early evening was still and quiet. The Western sky, a faint
copper-green with friths and locks of purple, was as yet unfired. In
the long lights the landscape still retained its colour unaltered by
the dying splendours of sunset. The engines of the car were running
sweetly in a monotonous and drowsy hum, the driver sat motionless in
front as they droned through the quiet villages and up and down the
long white ribands of the road. It was an hour of unutterable content.

Once they stopped in a village and drew up before the inn. It was a
lovely place. A bell was tolling for evensong in the grey church and
they saw the vicar pass under the lych-gate with slow footsteps. One of
the long, painted windows was caught by the sun and gleamed like a red
diamond. The road fell to a pond where green water-flags were growing
and waxen-white water-lilies floated. Beyond it was a willow wood.

The driver sat on a bench before the inn and drank his beer, but
Gilbert and Rita passed through it into a garden that there was. The
flowers were just beginning to cense the still air and the faint sound
of a water-wheel down the river came to them--_tic, tac, lorelei!_

She would have milk, "Milk that one cannot get in London," and even he
asked for no poison in this tranquil garden.

Clematis hung the gables like tapestry of Tyrian purple. There were
beds of red crocketed hollyhock and a hedge of honeysuckle with a
hundred yellow trumpet mouths. At their feet were the flowers of
belamour.

"Men have died, trying to find this place which we have found," he
said.

A red-admiral floated by upon its fans of vermilion and black as
Gilbert quoted, and a faint echo from the water-mill answered him.
_Tic--tac--lorelei!_

"Magician! half an hour ago we were in London!"

"You are happy?"

"I can't find anything to say--yet. It is perfect."

She leant back with a deep sigh and closed her eyes, and he was well
content to say nothing, for in all the garden she seemed to him the
most perfect thing, rosa-amorosa, the queen of all the roses!

It was as a flower he looked at her, no more. It was all a dream, of
course. It had come in dream-fashion, it would go in the fashion of a
dream. At that moment she was not a warm human girl with a lovely face.
She was not the clever, lonely, subtle-simple maiden in the house of
books. She was a flower he had met.

His mind began to weave words, the shuttle to glide in the loom of the
poet, but words came to him that were not his own.

    "Come hither, Child! and rest;
      This is the end of day,
    Behold the weary West!

    "Now are the flowers confest
      Of slumber; sleep as they!
    Come hither, Child! and rest."

And then he sighed, for he thought of the other poet who had written
those lines and of what had brought him to his dreadful death.

Why did thoughts like these come into the flower garden?

How true--even here--were the words he had put upon the title-page of
the book which had made him famous--

"_Say, brother, have you not full oft Found, even as the Roman did,
That in Life's most delicious cup Surgit Amari Aliquid!_"

The girl heard him sigh and turned quickly. She saw that her friend's
face was overcast.

It was so much to her, this moment, she was so happy since she had
stepped from the hot streets of the city into fairyland with the
Magician, that there must be no single shadow.

"Come!" she said gaily, "this is perfect but there are other perfect
things waiting. Wave your wand again, Prospero, and change the magic
scene."

Lothian jumped up from his seat.

"Yes! on into the sunset. You are right. We must go before we are
satisfied. That's the whole art of living--Miranda!"

Her eyes twinkled with mischief.

"How old you have grown all of a sudden," she said, but as they passed
through the inn once more he thought with wonder that if six years were
added to his age he might have been her father in very fact. Many a man
of forty-one or two had girls as old as she.

He sent her to the motor, on pretence of stopping to pay for the milk,
but in the little bar-parlour he hurriedly ordered whiskey--"a large
one, yes, only half the soda."

The landlord poured it out with great speed, understanding immediately.
He must have been used to this furtive taking in of the fuel, here was
another accustomed acolyte of alcohol.

"Next stop Brighton, sir," he said with a genial wink.

Lothian's melancholy passed away like a stone falling through water as
the car started once more. He said something wildly foolish and
discovered, with a throb of amazement and recognition, that she could
play! He had never met a girl before who could play, as he liked to
play.

There was a strain of impish, freakish humour in Lothian which few
people understood, which few _sensible_ people ever can understand. It
is hardly to be defined, it seems incredibly childish and mad to the
majority of folk, but it sweetens life to those who have it. And such
people are very rare, so that when one meets another there is a
surprised and delighted welcome, a freemason's greeting, a shout of joy
in Laughter Land!

"Good heavens!" he said, "and you can play then!"

There was no need to mention the name of the game--it has none
indeed--but Rita understood. Her sweet face wrinkled into impish
mischief and she nodded.

"Didn't you know?"

"How could I possibly?"

"No, you couldn't of course, but I never thought it of _you_."

"Nor I of you," he answered. "I'll test you. 'The cow is in the
garden.'"

"'The cat is in the lake,'" she answered instantly.

"'The pig is in the hammock?'"

"'What difference _does_ it make?'" she shouted triumphantly.

For the rest of the drive to Brighton their laughter never stopped.
Nothing draws a man and a woman together as laughter does--when it is
intimate to themselves, a mutual language not to be understood of
others. They became extraordinary friends, as if they had known each
other from childhood, and the sunset fires in all their glory passed
unheeded.

Although he could hear nothing of what they said, there was a
sympathetic grin upon the chauffeur's face at the ringing mirth behind
him.

"It's your turn to suppose now, Mr. Lothian."

"Well--wait a minute--oh, let's suppose that Mr. Podley once wrote a
moral poem--you to play!"

Rita thought for a minute or two, her lips rippling with merriment, her
young eyes shining.

A little chuckle escaped her, her shoulders began to shake and then she
shrieked with joy.

"I've got it, splendid! Listen! It's to inculcate kindness to animals.

    "I am only a whelk, Sir,
      Though if you but knew,
    Although I'm a whelk, Sir,
      The Lord made me too!"

"Magnificent!--your turn."

"Well, what will the title of the Toftrees' next novel be?"

"'Cats' meat!'--I say, do you know that I have invented the one _quite_
perfect opening for a short story. You'll realise when you hear it that
it stands alone. It's perfect, like Giotto's Campanile or 'The Hound of
Heaven.'"

"Tell me quickly!"

"Mr. Florimond awoke from a deep sleep. There was nobody there but the
Dog Trust."

"You are wonderful. I see it, of course. It's style itself! And how
would you end the story? Have you studied the end yet?"

"Yes. I worked at it all the time I was in Italy last year. You shall
hear that too. Mr. Florimond sank into a deep sleep. There was nobody
there but the Dog Trust."

. . . He told her of his younger days in London when he shared a flat
with a brother journalist named Passhe.

"We lived the most delightful freakish lives you can imagine," he said.
"When we came into breakfast from our respective bedrooms we had a
ritual which never varied. We neither looked at each other nor spoke,
but sat down opposite at the table. We each had our newspaper put in
our place by the man who looked after us. We opened the papers and
pretended to read for a moment. Then Basil looked over the top of his
at me, very gravely. 'We live in stirring times, Mr. Lothian!' he would
say, and I used to answer, 'Indeed, Mr. Passhe, we do!' Then we became
as usual."

"How perfectly sweet! I must do that with Ethel--that's the girl I live
with, you know--only we don't have the papers. It runs up so!" she
concluded, with a wise little air that sent a momentary throb of pain
through a man who had never understood (even in his poorest days) what
money meant; and probably never would understand.

Poor, dear little girl! Why couldn't he give her--

"We're here, Mr. Lothian! Look at the lights! Brighton at last!"


Rita had been whisked away by a chambermaid and he was waiting for her
in the great hall of the Metropole. He had washed, reserved a table,
and swallowed a gin and bitters. He felt rather tired physically, and a
little depressed also. His limbs had suddenly felt cramped as he left
the motor car, the wild exhilaration of their fun had made him tired
and nervous now. His bad state of health asserted itself unpleasantly,
his forehead was clammy and the palms of his hands wet.

No champagne for him! Rita should have champagne if she liked, but
whiskey, whiskey! that was the only thing. "I can soon pull myself
together," he thought. "She won't know. I'll tell the fellow to bring
it in a decanter."

Presently she came to him among the people who moved or sat about under
the lights of the big, luxurious vestibule. She was a little shy and
nervous, slightly flushed and anxious, for she had never been in such a
splendid public place before.

He gathered that from her whispered remarks, as with a curious and
pleasant air of proprietorship he took her to the dining rooms.

There was a bunch of amber-coloured roses upon her plate as she sat
down at their table, which he had sent there a few minutes before. She
pressed them to her face with a shy look of pleasure as he conferred
with the head waiter, who himself came hurrying up to them.

Lothian was not known at the hotel, but it was always the same wherever
he went. His wife often chaffed him about it. She said that he had a
"tipping face." Whether that was so or not, the result was the same, he
received immediate and marked attention. Rita noticed it with pride.

He had been, from the first moment he entered the Library in his simple
flannel suit, just a charming and deferential companion. There had been
no preliminaries. The thing had just happened, that was all. In all her
life she had never met any one so delightful, and in her excitement and
pleasure she had quite forgotten that he was Gilbert Lothian.

But it came back to her very vividly now.

How calmly he ordered the dinner and conferred with the wine-man, who
had a great silver chain hanging on his shirt front! What an accustomed
man-of-the-world air there was about him, how they all ran to serve
him. She blushed mentally as she thought of her simple confidences and
girlish chatter--and yet he hadn't seemed to mind.

She looked round her. "It is difficult to realise," she said, as much
to herself as to her host, "that there are people who dine in places
like this every day."

Lothian looked round him. "Yes," he said a trifle bitterly, as his eye
fell upon a party of Jews who had motored down from London,--"people
who rule over three-quarters of the world--and an entire eclipse of the
intellect! You can see it here, unimportant as it is, compared to the
great places in London and Paris--'the feasting and the folly and the
fun, the lying and the lusting and the drink'!"

Rita looked at him wonderingly, following the direction of his eyes.

"Those people seem happy," she said, not understanding his sudden mood,
"they are all laughing and they all seem amused."

"Yes, but people don't always laugh because they are amused.
Slow-witted, obese brained people--like those Israelites there--laugh
very often on the chance that there is something funny which eludes
them. They don't want to betray themselves. When I see people like that
I feel as if my mind ought to be sprinkled with some disinfecting
fluid."

As a matter of fact, the party at the other table with their handsome
Oriental faces and alert, vivacious manner did not seem in the least
slow-witted, nor were they. One of them was a peer and great newspaper
proprietor, another a musician of world celebrity. Lothian's cynicism
jarred on the pleasure of the moment. For the first time the girl did
not feel quite _en rapport_, and was a little uneasy. He struck too
harsh a note.

But at that moment waiters bustled up with soup, champagne in an ice
pail, and a decanter of some bright amber liquid for Lothian. He poured
and drank quickly, with an involuntary sigh of satisfaction.

"How I wanted that!" he said with a frank smile. "I was talking
nonsense, Miranda, but I was tired. And I'm afraid that when I get
tired I'm cross. I've been working very hard lately and am a little run
down," he added, anxious that she should not think that their talk had
tired him, and feeling the necessity of some explanation.

It satisfied her immediately. His change of voice and face reassured
her, the little shadow passed.

"Oh, I _am_ enjoying myself!" she said with a sigh of pleasure, "but
what's this? How strange! The soup is _cold_!"

"Yes, didn't you know? It's iced consommé, awfully good in hot
weather."

She shook her head. "No, I didn't," she said. "I've never been anywhere
or seen anything, you know. When Ethel and I feel frightfully rich, we
have dinner at Lyons, but I've never been to a swagger restaurant
before."

"And you like it?"

"It's heavenly! How good this soup is. But what a waste it seems to put
all that ice round the champagne. Ice is so dreadfully expensive. You
get hardly any for fourpence at our fishmongers."

But it was the mayonnaise with its elaborate decoration that intrigued
her most.

Words failed at the luscious sight and it was a sheer joy to watch her.

"Oh, what a pig I am!" she said, after her second helping, with her
flashing, radiant smile, "but it was too perfectly sweet for anything."

The champagne and excitement had tinted her cheeks exquisitely, it was
as though a few drops of red wine had been poured into a glass of clear
crystal water. With little appetite himself, Lothian watched her eat
with intense pleasure in her youth and health. His depression had gone,
he seemed to draw vitality from her, to be informed with something of
her own pulsing youth. He became quite at his best, and how good that
was, not very many people knew.

It was his hour, his moment, every sense was flattered and satisfied.
He was dining with the prettiest girl in the room, people turned to
look at her. She hung on his words and was instantly appreciative. A
full flask of poison was by his side, he could help himself without let
or hindrance. Her innocence of what he was doing--of what it was
necessary for him to do to remain at concert-pitch--was supreme. No one
else knew or would have cared twopence if they did.

He was witty, in a high courtly way. The hour of freakish fun was over,
and his shrewd insight into life, his poetic and illuminating method of
statement, the grace and kindliness of it all held the girl spellbound.

And well it might. His nerves, cleared and tempered, telegraphed each
message to his brilliant, lambent brain with absolute precision.

There was an entire co-ordination of all the reflexes.

And Rita knew well that she was hearing what many people would have
given much to hear, knew that Lothian was exerting himself to a
manifestation of the highest power of his brain--for her.

For her! It was an incredible triumph, wonderfully sweet. The dominant
sex-instinct awoke. Unconsciously she was now responding to him as
woman to man. Her eyes, her lips showed it, everything was quite
different from what it had been before.

In all that happened afterwards, neither of them ever forgot that
night. For the girl it was Illumination.

. . . She had mentioned a writer of beautiful prose whom she had
recently discovered in the library and who had come as a revelation to
her.

"Nothing else I have ever read produces the same impression," she said.

"There are very few writers in prose that can."

"It is magic."

"But to be understood. You see, some of his chapters--the passages on
Leonardo da Vinci for instance, are intended to be musical compositions
as it were, in which words have to take the place and perform the
functions of notes. It has been pointed out that they are impassioned,
not so much in the sense of expressing any very definite sentiment, but
because, from the combination and structure of the sentences, they
harmonise with certain phases of emotion."

She understood. The whole mechanism and intention of the writer were
revealed to her in those lucent words.

And then a statement of his philosophy.

"In telling me of your reading just now, you spoke of that progress of
the soul that each new horizon in literature seems to stimulate and
ensure for you. And you quoted some hackneyed and beautiful lines of
Longfellow. Cling always to that idea of progress, but remember that we
don't really rise to higher things upon the stepping stones of our dead
selves so much as on the stepping stones of our dead opinions. That is
Progress. _Progress means the capability of seeing new forms of
beauty._"

"But there are places where one wants to linger."

"I know, but it's dangerous. You were splendidly right when you bade me
move from that garden just now. The road was waiting. It is so with
states of the soul. The limpet is the lowest of organisms. Movement is
everything. One life may seem to be like sunlight moving over sombre
ground and another like the shadow of a cloud traversing a sunlit
space. But both have meaning and value. Never strike an average and
imagine you have found content. The average life is nothing but a
pudding in a fog!"

Lothian had been talking very earnestly, his eyes full of light, fixed
on her eyes. And now, in a moment, he saw what had been there for many
minutes, he saw what he had roused.

He was startled.

During this delightful evening that side of their intercourse had not
been very present in his mind. She was a delightful flower, a flower
with a mind. It is summed up very simply. _He had never once wanted
to touch her._

His face changed and grew troubled. A new presence was there, a problem
rose where there had been none before. The realisation of her physical
loveliness and desirability came to him in a flood of new sensation.
The strong male impulse was alive and burning for the first time that
night.

A waiter had brought a silver dish of big peaches, and as she ate the
fruit there was that in her eyes which he recognised, though he knew
her mind was unconscious of it.

In the sudden stir and tumult of his thoughts, one became dominant.

It was an evil thought, perhaps the most subtle and the most evil that
can come to a man. The pride of intellect in its most gross and
devilish manifestation awoke.

He was not a vain man. He did not usually think much about his personal
appearance and charm. But he knew how changed in outward aspect he was
becoming. His glass told him that every morning at shaving time. His
vice was marking him. He was not what he was, not what he should and
might be, in a physical regard. And girls, he knew, were generally
attracted by physical good-looks in a man. Young Dickson Ingworth, for
instance, seemed able to pick and choose. Lothian had often laughed at
the boyish and conceited narratives of his prowess. And now, to the
older man came the realisation that his age, his growing corpulence,
need mean nothing at all--if he willed it so. A girl like this, a pearl
among maidens, could be dominated by his intellect. He knew that he was
not mistaken. Over a fool, however lovely and attractive by reason of
her sex, he would have no power. But here . . .

An allurement more dazzling than he had thought life held was suddenly
shown him.

There was an honest horror, a shudder and recoil of all the good in him
from this monstrous revelation, so sudden, so unexpected.

He shuddered and then found an instant compromise.

It could not concern _himself_, it never should. But it might be
regarded--just for a few brief moments!--from a detached point of view,
as if it had to do with some one else, some creation of a fiction or a
poem.

And even that was unutterably sweet.

It should be so, only for this night. There would be no harm done. And
it was for the sake of his Art, the psychological experience to be
gathered. . . .

There is no time in thought. The second hand of his watch had hardly
moved when he leant towards her a little and spoke.

"Cupid!" he said. "I think I know why they used to call you Cupid at
your school!"

Just as she had been a dear, clever and deferential school-girl in the
Library, a girl-poet in the garden, a freakish companion-wit after
that, so now she became a woman.

He had fallen. She knew and tasted consciousness of power.

Another side of the girl's complex personality appeared. She led him on
and tried to draw back. She became provocative at moments when he did
not respond at once. She flirted with a finished art.

As he lit a cigarette for her, she tested the "power of the hour" to
its limit, showing without possibility of mistake how aware she was.

"What would Mrs. Lothian think of your bringing me here to dinner?" she
said very suddenly.

For a moment he did not know what to answer, the attack was so direct,
the little feline thrust revealing so surely where he stood.

"She would be delighted that I was having such a jolly evening," he
answered, but neither his smile nor his voice was quite true.

She smiled at him in girlish mockery, rejoicing!

"You little devil!" he thought with an embarrassed mental grin. "How
dare you." She should pay for that.

"Would you mind if my wife did care," he asked, looking her straight in
the eyes.

"I ought to, but--I shouldn't!" she answered recklessly, and all his
blood became fired.

Yet at that, he leant back in his chair and laughed a frank laugh of
amusement. The tension was over, the dangerous moment passed, and soon
afterwards they wandered out into the night, to go upon the pier "just
for half an hour" before starting for London.

And neither of them saw that upon one of the lounges in the great hall,
sipping coffee and talking to the newspaper-peer Herbert Toftrees was
sitting.

He saw them at once and started, while an ugly look came into his eyes.
"Look," he said. "There's Gilbert Lothian, the Christian Poet!"

"So that's the man!" said Lord Morston, "deuced pretty wife he's got.
And very fine work he does too, by the way."

"Oh, that's not his wife," Toftrees answered with contempt. "I know who
that is quite well. Lothian keeps his wife somewhere down in the
country and no one ever sees her." And he proceeded to pour the history
of the Amberleys' dinner-party into a quietly amused and cynical ear.


The swift rush back to London under the stars was quiet and dreamy.
Repose fell over Gilbert and Rita as they sat side by side, repose
"from the cool cisterns of the midnight air."

They felt much drawn to each other. Laughter and all feverish thoughts
were swept away by the breezes of their passage through the night. They
were old friends now! An affection had sprung up between them which was
to be a real and enduring thing. They were to be dear friends always,
and that would be "perfectly sweet."

Rita had been so lonely. She had wanted a friend so.

He was going home on the morrow. He had been too long away.

But he would be up in town again quite soon, and meanwhile they would
correspond.

"Dear little Rita," he said, as he held her hand outside the door of
the block of flats in Kensington. "Dear child, I'm so glad."

It was a clear night and the clocks were striking twelve.

"And I'm glad, too," she answered,--"Gilbert!"

He was soon at his club, had paid the chauffeur and dismissed him.
There was no one he wanted to talk to in either of the smoking rooms,
and so, after a final peg he went upstairs to bed. He was quite
peaceful and calm in mind, very placidly happy and pleased.

To-morrow he would go home to Mary.

He said his prayers, begging God to make this strange and sweet
friendship that had come into his life of value to him and to his
little friend, might it always be fine and pure!

So he got into bed and a pleasant drowsiness stole over him; he had a
sense of great virtue and peace. All was well with his soul.

"Dear little Rita," were the words he murmured as he fell asleep and
lay tranquil in yet another phase of his poisoned life.

No dreams disturbed his sleep. No premonition came to tell him whither
he had set his steps or whither they would lead him.

A mile or two away there was a nameless grave of shame, within a
citadel where "pale Anguish keeps the gate and the Warder is Despair."

But no spectre rose from that grave to warn him.


END OF THE FIRST BOOK



BOOK TWO

LOTHIAN IN NORFOLK

    "Not with fine gold for a payment,
      But with coin of sighs,
    But with rending of raiment
      And with weeping of eyes,
    But with shame of stricken faces
      And with strewing of dust,
    For the sin of stately places
      And lordship of lust."



CHAPTER I

VIGNETTE OF EARLY MORNING. "GILBERT IS COMING HOME!"

    "Elle se repand dans ma vie
      Comme un air imprégné de sel,
    Et dans mon âme inassouvie
      Verse le goût de l'éternel."

    --_Baudelaire._


The white magic of morning was at work over the village of Mortland
Royal. From a distant steading came the thin brazen cry of a cock, thin
as a bugle, and round the Lothians' sleeping house the bubble of
bird-song began.

In the orchard before the house, which ran down to the trout stream,
Trust, the brown spaniel dog, came out of a barrel in his little fenced
enclosure, sniffed the morning air, yawned, and went back again into
his barrel. White mist was rising from the water-meadows, billowed into
delicate eddies and spirals by the first breeze of day, and already
touched by the rosy fingers of dawn.

In the wood beyond the meadows an old cock-pheasant made a sound like
high hysteric laughter.

The house, with its gravel-sweep giving directly on to the unfenced
orchard, was long and low. The stones were mellowed by time, and
orange, olive, and ash-coloured lichens clung to them. The roof was of
tiles, warm red and green with age, the windows mullioned, the
chimney-stack, which cut deep into the roof, high and with the grace of
Tudor times.

The place was called the "Old House" in the village and was a veritable
sixteenth century cottage, rather spoilt by repairs and minor
extensions, but still, in the silent summer morning, with something of
the grace and fragrance of an Elizabethan song. It was quite small,
really, a large cottage and nothing more, but it had a personality of
its own and it was always very tranquil.

On such a summer dawn as this with the rabbits frisking in the
pearl-hung grass, on autumn days of brown and purple, or keen spring
mornings when the wind fifed a tune among the bare branches of the
apple-trees; on dead winter days when sea-birds from the marshes
flitted against the grey sky like sudden drifts of snow, a deep peace
ever brooded over the house.

The air began to grow fresher and the mists to disperse as the breeze
came over the great marshes a mile beyond the village. Out on the
mud-flats with their sullen tidal creeks the sun was rising like a red
Host from the far sea which tolled like a Mass bell. The curlews with
their melancholy voices were beginning to fly inland from the marshes,
high up in the still sky. The plovers were calling, the red-shanks
piping in the marrum grass, and a sedge of herons shouted their hoarse
"frank, frank" as they clanged away over the saltings.

Only the birds were awake in this remote Norfolk village, the cows in
the meadows had but just turned in their sleep, and not even the bees
were yet a-wing. Peace, profound and brooding, lay over the Poet's
house.

Dawn blossomed into perfect morning, all gold and blue. It began, early
as it was, to grow hot. Trust came out of his barrel and began to pad
round his little yard with bright brown eyes.

There was a sound of some one stirring in the silent house, and
presently the back door, in the recess near the entrance gates, was
flung wide open and a housemaid with untidy hair and eyes still heavy
with sleep, stood yawning upon the step. There was a rattle of cinders
and the cracking of sticks as the fire was lit in the kitchen beyond.
Trust, in the orchard, heard the sound. He could smell the wood-smoke
from the chimney. Presently one of the Great Ones, the Beloved Ones,
would let him out for a scamper in the dew. Then there would be
biscuits for the dog Trust.

And now brisk footsteps were heard upon the road outside the entrance
gates. In a moment more these were pushed open with a rattle, and
Tumpany swung in humming a little tune.

Tumpany was a shortish thick-set man of fifty, with a red clean-shaven
face. He walked with his body bent forward, his arms hanging at his
sides, and always seemed about to break into a short run. It was five
years since he had retired even from the coast-guard, but Royal Navy
was written large all over him, and would be until he tossed off his
last pint of beer and sailed away to Fidler's Green--"Nine miles to
windward of Hell," as he loved to explain to the housemaid and the
cook.

Tumpany's wife kept a small shop in the village, and he himself did the
boots and knives, cleaned Gilbert's guns and went wild-fowling with him
in the winter, was the more immediate Providence of the Dog Trust, and
generally a most important and trusted person in the little household
of the Poet.

There was an almost exaggerated briskness in Tumpany's walk and manner
as he turned into the kitchen. Blanche, the housemaid, was now "doing"
the dining-room, in the interior of the house, but Phoebe, the cook--a
stalwart lass of three and twenty--had just got the fire to her liking
and was giving a finishing touch of polish to the range.

"Morning, my girl!" said Tumpany in a bluff, cheery voice.

Phoebe did not answer, but went on polishing the handle of the oven
door.

He repeated the salutation, a shade less confidently.

The girl gave a final leisurely twist of the leather, surveyed her work
critically for a moment, and then rose to her feet.

"There are them knives," she said shortly, pointing to a basket upon
the table, "and the boots is in the back kitchen."

"You needn't be so short with a man, Phoebe."

"You needn't have been so beastly drunk last night. Then them knives
wouldn't want doing this morning. If it hadn't been for me the dog
wouldn't have had no food. If the mistress knew she would have given
you what for, as I expect your missis have already if the truth were
known."

"Damn the mistress!" said Tumpany. He adored Mary Lothian, as Phoebe
very well knew, but his head burned and he was in the uncertain temper
of the "morning after." The need of self-assertion was paramount.

"Now, no beastly language in my kitchen," said the girl. "You go and do
your damning--and them knives--in the outhouse. I wonder you've the
face to come here at all, Master being away too. Get out, do!"

With a very red and sulky face, Tumpany gathered up the knives and
shambled away to his own particular sanctum.

The ex-sailor was confused in his mind. There was a buzzing in his head
like that of bees in a hive. He had a faint recollection of being
turned out of the Mortland Arms just before ten o'clock the night
before. His muddy memories showed him the stern judicial face of the
rather grim old lady who kept the Inn. He seemed to feel her firm hands
upon his shoulders yet.

But had he come back to the Old House? He was burning to ask the cook.
One thing was satisfactory. His mistress had not seen him or else
Phoebe's threat would have meant nothing. Yet what had happened in his
own house? He had woke up in the little parlour behind the shop. Some
one had covered him with an overcoat. He had not dared to go upstairs
to his wife. He hoped--here he began to rub a knife up and down the
board with great vigour--he did hope that he hadn't set about her.
There was a sick fear in the man's heart as he polished his knives.

In many ways a better fellow never breathed. He was extremely popular
in the village, Gilbert Lothian swore by him, Mary Lothian liked him
very well. He was a person of some consequence in the village community
where labourers worked early and late for a wage of thirteen shillings
a week. His pension was a good one, the little shop kept by his wife
was not unprosperous, Lothian was generous. He only got drunk now and
then--generally at the time when he drew his pension--but when he did
his wife suffered. He would strike her, not knowing what he did. The
dreadful marks would be on her face in the morning and he would suffer
an agony of dull and inarticulate remorse.

So, even in the pretty cottage of this prosperous and popular man--so
envied by his poorer neighbours--_surgit amari aliquid_!

. . . If only things had been all right last night!

Tumpany put down his knife with a bang. He slipped from his little
outhouse, and slunk across the orchard. Then he opened the iron gate of
the dog's kennel.

The dog Trust exploded over Tumpany like a shell of brown fur. He leapt
at him in an ecstasy of love and greeting and then, unable to express
his feelings in any other way, rolled over on his back with his long
pink tongue hanging out, and his eyes blinking in the sun.

"Goodorg," said Tumpany, a little comforted, and then both he and Trust
slunk back to the outhouse. There was a sympathetic furtiveness in the
animal also. It was as though the Dog Trust quite understood.

Tumpany resumed his work. Two rabbits which he had shot the day before
were hanging from the roof, and Trust looked up at them with eager
eyes. A rabbit represented the unattainable to Trust. He was a
hard-working and highly-trained sporting dog, a wild-fowling dog
especially, and he was never allowed to retrieve a rabbit for fear of
spoiling the tenderness of his mouth. When one of the delicious little
creatures bolted under his very nose, he must take no notice of it at
all. Trust held the (wholly erroneous) belief that if only he had the
chance he could run down a rabbit in the open field. He did not realise
that a dog who will swim over a creek with a snipe or tiny ring-plover
in his mouth and drop it without a bone being broken must never touch
fur. His own greatness forbade these baser joys, but like the Prince in
the story who wanted to make mud pies with the beggar children, he was
unconscious of his position, and for him too--on this sweet
morning--surgit amari aliquid.

But life has many compensations. The open door of the brick shed was
darkened suddenly. Phoebe, who in reality had a deep admiration for Mr.
Tumpany, had relented, and in her hand was a mug of beer.

"There!" she said with a grin, "and take care it don't hiss as it goes
down. Pipes red hot I expect! Lord what fools men are!"

Tumpany said nothing, but the deep "gluck gluck" of satisfaction as he
drank was far more eloquent than words.

Phoebe watched him with a pitying and almost maternal wonder in her
simple mind.

"A good thing you've come early, and Mistress ain't up yet," she said.
"I went into the cellar as quiet as a cat, and I held a dish-cloth over
the spigot when I knocked it in again so as to deaden the sound. You
can hear the knock all over the house else!"

"Thank ye, Phoebe, my dear. That there beer's in lovely condition; and
I don't mind saying I wanted it bad."

"Well, take care, as you don't want it another day so early. I see your
wife last night!"

She paused, maliciously enjoying the anxiety which immediately clouded
the man's round, red face.

"It's all right," she said at length. "She was out when you come home
from the public, and she found you snoring in the parlour. There was no
words passed. I must get to work."

She hurried back to her kitchen. Tumpany began to whistle.

The growing warmth of the morning had melted the congealed blood which
hung from the noses of the rabbits. One or two drops fell upon the
flags of the floor and the Dog Trust licked them up with immense
relish.

Thus day began for the humbler members of the Poet's household.


At a few minutes before eight o'clock, the mistress of the house came
down stairs, crossed the hall and went into the dining room.

Mary Lothian was a woman of thirty-eight. She was tall, of good figure,
and carried herself well. She was erect, without producing any
impression of stiffness. She walked firmly, but with grace.

Her abundant hair was pale gold in colour and worn in a simple Greek
knot. The nose, slightly aquiline, was in exact proportion to the face.
This was of an oval contour, though not markedly so, and was just a
little thin. The eyes under finely drawn brows, were a clear and
steadfast blue.

In almost every face the mouth is the most expressive feature. If the
eyes are the windows of the soul, the mouth is its revelation. It is
the true indication of what is within. The history of a man or woman's
life lies there. For those who can read, its subtle changing curves at
some time or another, betray all secrets of evil or of good. It is the
first feature that sensual vices coarsen or self-control refines. The
sin of pride moulds it into shapes that cannot be hidden. Envy, hatred
and malice must needs write their superscription there, and the blood
stirs about our hearts when we read of an angelic smile.

The Greeks knew this, and when their actors trod the marble stage of
Dionysius at Athens, or the theatre of Olympian Zeus by the hill
Kronian, their faces were masked. The lips of Hecuba were always frozen
into horror. The mouths of the heralds of the Lysistrata were set in
one curve of comedy throughout the play. Voices of gladness or sorrow
came from lips of wax or clay, which never changed as the living lips
beneath them needs must do. A certain sharpness and reality, as of life
suddenly arrested at one moment of passion, was aimed at. Men's real
mouths were too mobile and might betray things alien to the words they
chanted.

The mouth of Mary Lothian was beautiful. It was rather large,
well-shaped without possessing any purely æsthetic appeal, and only a
very great painter could have realised it upon canvas. In a photograph
it was nothing, unless a pure accident of the camera had once in a way
caught its expression. The mouth of this woman was absolutely frank and
kind. Its womanly dignity was overlaid with serene tenderness, a firm
sweetness which never left it. In repose or in laughter--it was a mouth
that could really laugh--this kindness and simplicity was always there.
Always it seemed to say "here is a good woman and one without guile."

The whole face was capable without being clever. No freakish wit lurked
in the calm, open eyes, there was nothing of the fantastic, little of
the original in the quiet comely face. All kind and simple people loved
Mary Lothian and her--

    "Sweet lips, whereon perpetually did reign
        The Summer calm of golden charity."

Men with feverish minds and hectic natures could see but little in
her--a quiet woman moving about a tranquil house. There was nothing
showy in her grave distinction. She never thought about attracting
people, only of being kind to them. Not as a companion for their
lighter hours nor as a sharer in their merriment, did people come to
her. It was when trouble of mind, body or estate assailed them that
they came and found a "most silver flow of subtle-paced counsel in
distress."

Since the passing of Victoria and the high-noon of her reign, the
purely English ideal of womanhood has disappeared curiously from
contemporary art and has not the firm hold upon the general mind that
it had thirty years ago.

The heroines of poems and fictions are complex people to-day,
world-weary, tempestuous and without peace of heart or mind. The two
great voices of the immediate past have lost much of their meaning for
modern ears.

                               "So just
    A type of womankind, that God sees fit to trust
      Her with the holy task of giving life in turn."

--Not many pens nor brushes are busy with such ladies now.

    "Crown'd Isabel, thro' all her placid life,
      The queen of marriage, a most perfect wife."

--Who sings such Isabels to-day? It is Calypso of the magic island of
whom the modern world loves to hear, and few poets sing Penelope
faithful by the hearth any more.

But when deep peace broods over a dwelling, it is from the Mary
Lothians of England that it comes.

Mary was very simply dressed, but there was an indescribable air of
distinction about her. The skirt of white piqué hung perfectly, the
cream-coloured blouse with drawn-thread work at the neck and wrists was
fresh and dainty. On her head was a panama hat with a scarf of mauve
silk tied loosely round it and hanging down her back in two long ends.

In one hand she held a silver-headed walking cane, in the other a small
prayer-book, for she was going to matins before breakfast.

She spoke a word to the cook and went out of the back door, calling a
good-morning to Tumpany as she passed his shed, and then went through
the entrance-gate into the village street.

By this hour the labourers were all at work in the fields and
farmyards--the hay harvest was over and the corn cutting about to
begin--but the cottage doors were open and the children were gathering
in little groups, ready to proceed to school.

There was a fresh smell of wood-smoke in the air and the gardens of the
cottages were brilliant with flowers.

Mary Lothian, however, was thinking very little about the village--to
which she was Lady Bountiful. She hardly noticed the sweet day
springing over the country side.

She was thinking of Gilbert.

He had been away for a week now and she had heard no news of him except
for a couple of brief telegrams.

For several days before he went to London, she had seen the signs of
restlessness and ennui approaching. She knew them well. He had been
irritable and moody by fits and starts. After lunch he had slept away
the afternoons, and at dinner he had been feverishly gay. Once or twice
he had driven into Wordingham--the local town--during the afternoon,
and had returned late at night, very angry on one of these occasions to
find her sitting up for him.

"I wish to goodness you would go to bed, Mary," he had said with a
sullen look in his eyes. "I do hate being fussed over as if I were a
child. I hate my comings and goings spied upon in this ridiculous way.
I must have freedom! Kindly try and remember that you have married a
poet--an artist!--and not some beef-brained ordinary fool!"

The servants had gone to bed, but she had lit candles in old silver
holders, and spread a dainty supper for him in case he should be
hungry, taking especial care over the egg sandwiches and the salad
which he said she made so perfectly.

She had gone to bed without a word, for she knew well what made him
speak to her like that. She lay awake listening, her room was over the
dining room, and heard the clink of a glass and the gurgle of a syphon.
He was having more drink then. When he came upstairs he went into the
dressing room where he sometimes slept, and before long she heard him
breathing heavily in sleep. He always came to her room when he was
himself.

Then she had gone downstairs noiselessly to find her little supper
untouched, a smear of cigarette ash upon the tablecloth, and that he
had forgotten to extinguish the candles.

There came a day when he was especially kind and sweet. His recent
irritation and restlessness seemed to have quite gone. He smoked pipes
instead of cigarettes, always a good sign in him, and in the afternoon
they had gone for a long tramp together over the marshes. She was very
happy. For the last year, particularly since his name had become
well-known and he was seriously counted among the celebrities of the
hour, he had not cared to be with her so much as in the past. He only
wanted to be with her when he was depressed and despondent about the
future. Then he came for comfort and clung to her like a boy with his
mother. "It's for the sake of my Art," he would say often enough,
though she never reproached him with neglect. "I _must_ be a great
deal alone now. Things come to me when I am alone. I love being with
you, sweetheart, but we must both make a sacrifice for my work. It
means the future. It means everything for both of us!"

He used not to be like this, she sometimes reflected. In the earlier
days, when he was actually doing the work which had brought him fame,
he had never wanted to be away from her. He used to read her
everything, ask her opinion about all his work. Life had been more
simple. She had known every detail of his. He had not drunk much in
those days. In those days there had been no question of that at all.
After the success it was different.

She had gone to his study in the morning, after nights when he had been
working late, and had been struck with fear when she had looked at the
tantalus. But, then, he had been spruce and cheerful at breakfast and
had made a hearty meal. Her remonstrances had been easily swept away.
He had laughed.

"Darling, don't be an old goose! You don't understand a bit. What?--Oh,
yes, I suppose I did have rather a lot of whiskey last night. But I did
splendid work. And it is only once in a way. I'm as fit this morning as
I ever was in my life. But I'm working double tides now. You know what
an immense strain it is. Just let me consolidate my reputation, become
absolutely secure, and--well, then you'll see!"

But for months now things had not improved, and on this particular day,
a week ago now, the sudden change in Gilbert, when the placidity of the
old time seemed to have returned, was like cool water to a wound.

They had been such friends again! In the evening they had got out all
her music and while he played, she had sung the dear old songs of their
courtship and early married life. They had the "Keys Of Heaven," "The
Rain Is on the River," "My Dear Soul" and the "Be My Dear and Dearest!"
of Cotsford Dick.

On the next morning the post had brought letters calling Gilbert to
London. He had to arrange with Messrs. Ince and Amberley about his new
book. Mr. Amberley had asked him to dine--"You don't perhaps quite
understand, dear, but when Amberley asks one, one _must_ go"--there
were other important things to see after.

Gilbert had not asked her to come with him. She would have liked to
have gone to London very much. It was a long time since she had been to
a theatre, ages since she had heard a good concert. And shopping too!
It seemed such a good opportunity, while the sales were on.

She had hinted as much, but he had shaken his head with decision: "No,
dear, not now. I am going strictly on business. I couldn't give you the
time I should want to, and I should hate that. It wouldn't be fair to
you. We'll go up in the Autumn, just you and I together and have a
really good time. That will be far jollier. For heaven's sake, don't
let's try to mix up business with pleasure. It's fatal to both."

Had he known that he was to be called to London? Had he arranged it
beforehand, itching to be free of her gentle yoke, her wise,
restraining hand? Was that the reason that he had been so affectionate
the day before he went away? His conscience was uneasy perhaps . . . ?

And why had he not written--was there a sordid, horrible reason for his
silence; when was he coming back . . . ?

These were the sad, disturbing thoughts stirring in Mary's mind as the
near tolling of the bell smote upon her ears and she entered the
Churchyard.


The church at Mortland Royal was large and noble. It would have held
the total population of the village three times over. Relic of Tudor
times when Norfolk was the rich and prosperous centre of the wool
industry of England, it was only one of the many pious monuments of a
vanished past which still keep watch and ward over the remote,
forgotten villages of the North East Coast.

Stately still the fane, in its noble masses, its fairness, majesty and
strength, the slender intricacy and rich meshes of its tracery in which
no single cusp or finial is in vain, no stroke of the chisel useless.
Stately the grey towers also, foursquare for centuries to the winds of
the Wash. Dust the man who made it, but uncrumbled stone the body of
his dream. He had thought in light and shadow. He had seen these
immemorial stones when the sun of July mornings was hot upon them, or
the early dusks of December left them to the dark. Out of the spaces of
light and darkness in the vision of his mind this strong tower had been
built.

Inviolate, it was standing now.

But as Mary passed through the great porch with its worn and weathered
saints into the Church itself, the breath of the morning was damp and
there was a chill within.

The gallant chirrup of the swallows flying round the tower, sank to a
faint "cheep, cheep," the voice of the tolling bell became muffled and
funereal, and mildew lay upon the air. "Non sum qualis eram," the lorn
interior seemed to echo to her steps, "bonae sub regno Ecclesiæ."

There was a little American organ in the Chancel. No more would the
rich plainsong of Gregory echo under these ancient roofs like a flowing
tide in some cavern of the sea.

The stone Altar was covered with a decaying web of crimson upon which
was embroidered a symbol of sickly, faded yellow. Perhaps never again
would a Priest raise the Monstrance there, while the ceremonial
candle-flames were pallid in the morning light and hushed voices hymned
the Lamb of God.

These, all these, were in the olden time and long ago.

But the Presence of God, the Peace of God, were in the Church still,
soul-saving, and as real as when the gracious ceremonies of the past
symbolised them for those who were there to worship.

Mr. Medley, the old Priest who was curate to a Rector who was generally
away, walked in from the vestry with the patient footsteps of age and
began the office.

. . . _Almighty and most merciful Father; we have erred and strayed
from thy ways like lost sheep._

The old and worthy man with his tremulous voice, the sweet matron with
her grave beauty just matured to that St. Martin's Summer of Youth
which is the youth of perfect wifehood, said the sacred words together.
His cultured and appealing voice, her warm contralto echoed under the
high roof in ebb and flow and antiphon of sound.

It was the twenty-sixth day of the month. . . .

    "Trouble and heaviness have laid hold upon me:
      Yet is my delight in thy commandments."

    "The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: O
        grant me understanding and I shall live."

The morning was lighter than ever when Mary came out of Church, and its
smile was reflected on her face.

In the village street an old labourer leading a team of horses, touched
his cap and grinned a welcome while his wistful eyes plainly said, "God
bless you, Ma'am," as Mary went by.

A merry "ting-tang clank" came from the blacksmith's shop, ringing out
brightly in the bright air, and as she drew near the gate of the Old
House, whom should she see but the postman!

"No. There ain't no letter for you," said the Postman--a sly old
crab-apple of a man who always knew far too much--"but what should you
say," he dangled it before her as a sweetmeat before a child, "what
should you say if as how I had a telegram for 'ee?"

--"That you were talking nonsense, William. There can't be a telegram.
It's far too early!"

"Well, then, there _is_!" said William triumphantly, "'anded in at
the St. James' Street office, London, at eight-two! Either Mr.
Lothian's up early or he ain't been to bed. It come over the telephone
from Wordingham while I was a sorting the letters. Mrs. Casley took'n
down. So there! Mr. Lothian's a coming home by the nine-ten to-night."

Mary tore open the orange envelope:--

    "_Arrive nine-ten to-night all my love Gilbert_"

was what she read.

Then, with quick footsteps, she hurried through the gates. Her eyes
sparkled, her lips had grown red, and as she smiled her beautiful,
white teeth flashed in the sunlight.

She looked like a girl.

Tumpany was propped against the lintel of the back door. Phoebe was
talking to him, the Dog Trust basked at his feet, and he had a short
briar pipe in his mouth.

"Master is coming home this evening, Tumpany!" Mary said.

Tumpany snatched the pipe from his mouth and stood to attention. The
cook vanished into the kitchen.

"Can I see you then, Mum?" Tumpany asked, anxiously.

"After breakfast. I've not had breakfast yet. Then we'll go into
everything."

She vanished.

"Them peas," said Tumpany to himself, "he'll want to know about them
peas--Goodorg!"--accompanied by Trust, Tumpany disappeared in the
direction of the kitchen garden.

But Mary sat long over breakfast that morning. The sunlight painted
oblongs of gold upon the jade-green carpet. A bee visited the copper
bowl of honeysuckle upon the sideboard, a wasp became hopelessly
captured by the marmalade, and from the bedrooms the voice of Blanche,
the housemaid, floated down--tunefully convinced that every nice girl
loves a sailor.

And of all these homely sounds Mary Lothian's ear had little heed.

Sound, light, colour, the scent of the flowers in the garden--a thing
almost musical in itself--were as nothing.

One happy fact had closed each avenue of sense. Gilbert was coming
home!

Gilbert was coming home!



CHAPTER II

AN EXHIBITION OF DOCTOR MORTON SIMS AND MR. MEDLEY, WITH AN ACCOUNT OF
HOW LOTHIAN RETURNED TO MORTLAND ROYAL

    "Seest thou a man diligent in his business: He shall stand before
    Kings. He shall not stand before mean men."

    --_The Bible._


About eleven-thirty in the morning, Mr. Medley, the curate, came out of
the rectory where he lived, and went into the village.

Mortland Royal was a rich living, worth, with the great and lesser
tythe, some eight or nine hundred a year. The rector, the Hon. Leonard
O'Donnell, was the son of an Irish peer who owned considerable property
in Norfolk and in whose gift the living was. Mr. O'Donnell was a man of
many activities, a bachelor, much in request in London, and very little
inclined to waste his energies in a small country village. He was a
courtly, polished little man who found his true _milieu_ among people
of his own class, and neither understood, nor particularly cared to
understand, a peasant community.

His work, as he said, lay elsewhere, and he did a great deal of good in
his own way with considerable satisfaction to himself.

Possessed of some private means, Mortland Royal supplemented his income
and provided him with a convenient _pied à terre_ where he could
retire in odd moments to a fashionable county in which a number of
great people came to shoot in the season. The rectory itself was a
large old-fashioned house with some pretensions to be called a country
mansion, and for convenience sake, Mr. Medley was housed there, and
became de facto, if not de jure, the rector of the village. Mr.
O'Donnell gave his colleague two hundred a year, house room, and an
absolutely free hand. The two men liked one another, if they had not
much in common, and the arrangement was mutually convenient.

Medley was a pious priest of the old-fashioned type. His flock claimed
all the interest of his life. He had certain fixed and comely habits
belonging to his type and generation. He read his Horace still and took
a glass of port at dinner. Something of a scholar, he occasionally
reviewed some new edition of a Latin classic for the _Spectator_,
though he was without literary ambitions. He had a little money of his
own, and three times a year he dined at the high table in Merton
College Hall, where every one was very pleased to see him.

A vanishing type to-day, but admirably suited to his environment. The
right man in the right place.

The real rector was regarded with awe and some pride in the village.
His name was often in the newspapers. He was an eloquent speaker upon
Temperance questions at important congresses. He went to garden parties
at Windsor and theatricals at Sandringham. When he was in residence and
preached in his own church, it was fuller than at other times. He was a
draw. His distinguished face and high, well-bred voice were a pleasant
variation of monotony. And the theology which had made him so welcome
in Mayfair was not without a pleasing titillation for even the rustic
mind. Mr. O'Donnel was convinced, and preached melodiously, the theory
that the Divine Mercy extends to all human beings. He asserted that, in
the event, all people would enter Paradise--unless, indeed, there was
no Paradise, which in his heart of hearts he thought exceedingly
likely.

But he did good work in the world, though probably less than he
imagined. It was as an advocate of Temperance that Leonard O'Donnell
was particularly known, and it was as that he was welcomed by Society.

He was a sort of spiritual Karlsbad and was nicknamed the Dean of
Vichy.

The fact was one that had a direct bearing on Gilbert Lothian's life.

The Rector of Mortland Royal was a "managing" man. His forte was to be
a sort of earthly Providence to all sorts of people within his sphere,
and his motive was one of genuine good nature and a wish to help. As a
woman he would have been an inveterate matchmaker.

Did old Marchioness, who liked to keep an eye upon her household
affairs, bewail the quality of London milk--then she must have it from
Mr. Samuel, the tenant of the Glebe Farm at Mortland Royal!

Did a brother clergyman ask to be recommended a school for his son, the
Rector knew the very place and was quite prepared to take the boy down
himself and commend him specially to the Headmaster. With equal
eagerness, Mr. O'Donnell would urge a confessor or a pill, and the odd
thing about it was, that he was nearly always right, and all sorts of
people made use of the restless, kindly little man.

One day, Dr. Morton Sims, the bacteriologist and famous expert upon
Inebriety, had walked from a meeting of the Royal Commissioners upon
Alcoholism to the Junior Carlton with Mr. O'Donnell.

Both were members and they had dined there together.

"I am run down," said Morton Sims, during the meal. "I have been too
much in London lately. I've got a lot of important research work to do.
I'm going to take a house in the country for a few months, only I don't
know where."

The mind of the man occupied with big things was impatient of detail;
the mind of the man occupied with small ones responded instantly.

"I know of the very place, Sims. In my own village. How fortunate! The
'Haven.' Old Admiral Custance used to have it, but he's dead recently.
There are six months of the lease still to run. Mrs. Custance has gone
to live at Lugano. She wants to let the place furnished until the lease
is up."

"It sounds as if it might do."

"But, my dear fellow, it's the very place you want! Exactly the thing!
I can manage it for you in no time. Pashwhip and Moger--the house
agents in our nearest town--have the letting. Do let me be of use!"

"It's very kind of you, O'Donnell."

"Delighted. It will be so jolly to have you in the village. I'm not
there as much as I could wish, of course. My other work keeps me so
much in London. But Medley, my colleague, is an excellent fellow. He'll
look after you in every way."

"Who lives round about?"

"Well, as far as Society is concerned, we are a little distance from
anywhere. Lord Fakenham's is the nearest house----"

"Not in that way, O'Donnell. I mean interesting people. Lord Fakenham
is a bore--a twelve-bore one might say. I hate the big shooting houses
in East England."

The Rector was rather at a loss. "Well," he said, reluctantly, "I don't
know about what you'd probably call _interesting_ people. Sir Ambrose
McKee, the big Scotch distiller--Ambrosia whiskey, you know--has the
shooting and comes down to the Manor House in September. Oh, and
Gilbert Lothian, the poet, has a cottage in the place. I've met him
twice, but I can't say that I know much about him. Medley swears by his
wife, though. She does everything in the village I'm told. She was a
Fielding, the younger branch."

The doctor's face became strangely interested. It was alert and
watchful in a moment.

"Gilbert Lothian! He lives there does he! Now you tempt me. I've heard
a good deal about Gilbert Lothian."

The Rector was genuinely surprised. "Well, most people have," he
answered. "But I should hardly have thought that a modern poet was much
in your line."

Morton Sims smiled, rather oddly. "Perhaps not," he said, "but I'm
interested all the same. I have my own reasons. Put me into
communication with the house agents, will you, O'Donnell?"

The affair had been quickly arranged. The house proved satisfactory,
and Dr. Morton Sims had taken it.

On the morning when Mary Lothian had heard from Gilbert that he was
returning that evening, Mr. Medley, reminded of his duty by a postcard
from the Rector at Cowes, set out to pay a call and offer his services
to the distinguished newcomer.

The "Haven" was a pleasant gabled house standing in grounds of about
three acres, not far from the Church and Rectory. The late Admiral
Custance had kept it in beautiful order. The green, pneumatic lawns
suggested those of a college quadrangle, the privet hedges were clipped
with care, the whole place was taut and trim.

Mr. Medley found Dr. Morton Sims smoking a morning pipe in the library,
dressed in a suit of grey flannel and with a holiday air about him.

The two men liked each other at once. There was no doubt about that in
the minds of either of them.

There was a certain dryness and mellow humour in Mr. Medley--a ripe
flavour about him, as of an old English fruit crushed upon the palate.
"Here is a rare bird," the doctor thought.

And Morton Sims interested the clerygman no less. The doctor's great
achievements and the fact that he was a definite feature in English
life were quite familiar. When, on fugitive occasions any one of this
sort strayed into the placid domains of his interest Medley was capable
of welcoming him with eagerness. He did so now, and warmed himself in
the steady glow from the celebrated man with whom he was sitting.

That they were both Oxford men, more or less of the same period, was an
additional link between them.

. . . "Two or three times a year I go up," Medley said, "and dine in
Hall at Merton. I'm a little out of it, of course. The old, remembered
faces become fewer and fewer each year. But there are friends left
still, and though I can't quite get at their point of view, the younger
fellows are very kind to me. Directly I turn into Oriel Street; I
breathe the old atmosphere, and I confess that my heart beats a little
quicker, as Merton tower comes into view."

"I know," the doctor said. "I was at Balliol you know--a little
different, even in our day. But when I go up I'm always dreadfully
busy, at the Museum or in the Medical School. It's the younger folk,
the scientific dons and undergraduates who are reading science that I
have to do with. I have not much time for the sentiments and caresses
of the past. Life is so short and I have so much yet that I hope to do
in it, that I simply refuse my mind the pleasures of retrospection.
You'll call me a Philistine, but when I go to lecture at Cambridge--as
I sometimes do--it stimulates me far more than Oxford."

"Detestable place!" said Mr. Medley, with a smile. "A nephew of mine is
a tutor there, Peterhouse. He has quite a name in his way, they tell
me. He writes little leprous books in which he conducts the Christian
Faith to the frontier of modern thought with a consolatory cheque for
its professional services in the past. And, besides, the river at
Cambridge is a ditch."

The doctor's eyes leapt up at this.

"Yes, isn't it marvellous that they can row as they do!" he said with
the eagerness of a boy.

"You rowed then?"

"Oh, yes. I was in the crew of--74--our year it was."

"Really! really!--I had no idea, Dr. Morton Sims! I was in the Trials
of--71, when Merton was head of the river, but we were the losing boat
and I never got into the Eight. How different it all was then!"

Both men were silent for a minute. The priest's words had struck an
unaccustomed chord of memory in the doctor's mind.

"Those times will never come again," Morton Sims said, and puffed
rather more quickly than usual at his pipe. He had spoken truly enough
when he had said that he had not time in his strenuous life for
memories of his youth, that he shut his eyes to the immemorial appeal
of Oxford when he went there. But he responded now, instinctively, for
there is a Freemasonry, greater than all the ritual of King Solomon,
among those who have rowed upon the Isis, in the happy, thrice-happy
days of Youth!

To weary clergymen absorbed in the _va_ and _vient_ of sordid parishes,
to grave Justices upon the Bench, the strenuous cynics of the Bar,
plodding masters of schools, the suave solicitor, the banker, the
painter, or the poet, these vivid memories of the Loving Mother, must
always come now and again in life.

The Bells of Youth ring once more. The faint echo of the shouts from
river or from playing field, make themselves heard with ghostly voices.
In the Chapels of Wayneflete, or of Laud, some soprano choir is singing
yet. In the tower of the Cardinal, Big Tom tolls out of the past,
bidding the College porters close their doors.

White and fretted spires shoot upwards into skies that will never be so
blue again. Again the snap-dragon blooms over the grey walls of
Trinity, the crimson creeper stains the porch of Cranmer, and Autumn
leaves of bronze, purple and yellow carpet all the Magdalen Walks.

These things can never be quite forgotten by those who have loved them
and been of them.

The duration of a reverie is purely accidental. There is no time in
thought. The pictures of a lifetime may glow in the brain, while a
second passes by the clock, a single episode may inform the
retrospection of an hour.

These two grey-headed men, upon this delightful summer morning, were
not long lost in thought.

"And now," said the clergyman, "have you seen anything of the village
yet?"

"Not yet. For the three days that I have been here I have been
arranging my books and instruments, and turning that big room over the
barn into a laboratory."

"Oh, yes. Where the Admiral used to keep his Trafalgar models. An
excellent room! Now what do you say, Dr. Morton Sims, to a little
progress through the village with me? I'm quite certain that every one
is agog to see you, and to sum you up. Natural village curiosity! You
might as well make your appearance under my wing."

"Teucro auspice, auspice Teucro?"

"Precisely," said Medley, with a smile of pleasure at the quotation
from his beloved poet, and the two men left the house together in high
glee, laughing like boys.

They visited the Church, in which Morton Sims took a polite interest,
and then the clergyman took his guest over the Rectory.

It was a fine house, standing in the midst of fair lawns upon which
great beech trees grew here and there, giving the extensive grounds
something of the aspect of a park. The rooms were large and lofty, with
fine ceilings of the Adams' school, florid braveries of stucco that
were quite at home in a house like this. There were portraits
everywhere, chiefly members of the O'Donnell family, and the faces in
their fresh Irish comeliness were gay and ingenuous, as of privileged
young people who could never grow old.

"Really, this is a delightful house," the Doctor said as he stood in
the library. "I wonder O'Donnell doesn't spend more time in Mortland
Royal. Few parsons are housed like this."

"It's not his _metier_, Doctor. He hasn't the faculty of really
understanding peasants, and I think he is quite right in what he is
doing. And, of course, from a selfish point of view, I am glad. I have
refused two college livings to stay on here. In all probability I shall
stay here till I die. O'Donnell does a great work for Temperance all
over England--though doubtless you know more about that than I do."

"Er, yes," Morton Sims replied, though without any marked enthusiasm.
"O'Donnell is very eloquent, and no doubt does good. My dear old
friend, Bishop Moultrie, in Norfolk here is most enthusiastic about his
work. I like O'Donnell, he's sincere. But I belong to the scientific
party, and while I welcome anything that really tends to stem
inebriety, I believe that O'Donnell and Moultrie and all of them are on
the wrong tack entirely."

"I know very little about the modern temperance movement in any
direction," said Mr. Medley with a certain dryness. "Blue Ribbons and
Bands of Hope are all very well, I suppose, but there is such a
tendency nowadays among Non-conformists and the extreme evangelical
party to exalt abstinence from alcohol into the one thing necessary to
salvation, that I keep out of it all as much as I can. I like my glass
of port, and I don't mean to give it up!"

Morton Sims laughed. "It doesn't do you the least good really," he
said, laughing. "I could prove to you in five minutes, and with entire
certainty, that your single glass of port is bad, even for you! But I
quite agree with your attitude towards all the religious emotionalism
that is worked up. The drunkard who turns to religion simply manifests
the class of ideas, which is one of the features of the epileptic
temperament. It is a confession of ineptitude, and a recourse to a
means of salvation from a condition which is too hard for him to bear.
That is to say, Fear is at the bottom of his new convictions!"

Certainly Medley was not particularly sympathetic to the modern
Temperance movement among religious people. Perhaps Mr. O'Donnell's
somewhat vociferous enthusiasm had something to do with it. But on the
other hand, he was very far from accepting such a cold scientific
doctrine as this. He knew that the Holy Spirit does not always work
through fear. But like the wise and quiet-minded man that he was, he
forbore argument and listened with intellectual pleasure to the views
of his new friend.

"I know," he said, with a courtly hint of deference in his voice, that
became him very well, "of your position in the ranks of those who are
fighting Intemperance. But, and you must pardon the ignorance of a
country priest who is quite out of all 'movements,' I don't know
anything of your standpoint. What is your remedy, Dr. Morton Sims?"

The great man smiled inwardly.

It did really seem extraordinary to him that a cultured professional
man of this day should actually know nothing of his hopes, aims and
propaganda. And then, ever on the watch for traces of egoism and
vain-glory in himself, he accepted the fact with humility.

Who was he, who was any one in life, to imagine that his views were
known to all the world?

"Well," he said, "what we believe is just this: It is quite impossible
to abolish or to prohibit alcohol. It is necessary in a thousand
industries. Prohibition is futile. It has been tried, and has failed,
in the United States. While alcohol exists, the man predisposed to
abuse it will get it. You, as a clergyman, know as well as I do, as a
doctor, that it is impossible to make people moral by Act of
Parliament."

This was entirely in accordance with Medley's own view. "Of course," he
said, "the only thing that can make people moral is an act of God,
cooperating with an act of their own."

"Possibly. I am not concerned to affirm or deny the power of an Act of
the Supreme Being. Nor am I able to say anything about its operation.
Science tells me nothing upon this point. About the act of the
individual I have a good deal to say."

--"I am most interested" . . .

"Well then, what we want to do is to root out drunkenness by
eliminating inebriates from society by a process of Artificial
Selection. It is within the power of science to evolve a sober race. We
must forbid inebriates to have children and make it penal for them to
do so."

Medley started. "Forbid them to marry?" he asked.

"It would be futile. Drunkenness often develops after marriage. There
is only one way--by preventing Drunkards from reproducing their
like--by forbidding the procreation of children by them. If drunkards
were taken before magistrates sitting in secret session, and, on
conviction, were warned that the procreation of children would subject
them to this or that penalty, then the birthrate of drunkards would
certainly fall immensely."

"But innumerable drunkards would inevitably escape the meshes of the
law."

"Yes. But that is an argument against all laws. And this law would be
more perfect in its operation than any other, for if the drunken father
evaded it in one generation, the drunken son would be taken in the
next."

The Priest said nothing for a moment. The latent distrust and dislike
of science which is an inherent part of the life and training of so
many Priests, was blazing up in him with a fury of antagonism. What
impious interference with the laws of God was this? It seemed a
profanation, horrible!

Like all good Christians of his temper of mind, he was quite unable to
realise that God might be choosing to work in this way, and by the
human hands of men. He had not the slightest conception of the great
truth that every new discovery of Science and each fresh extension of
its operations is not in the least antagonistic to Christianity when
surveyed by the clear, unbiassed mind.

Mr. Medley was a dog-lover. He was a member of the Kennel-Club, and
sent dogs to shows. He knew that, in order to breed a long-tailed
variety of dogs, it would be ridiculous to preserve carefully all the
short-tailed individuals and pull vigorously at their tails. He
exercised the privilege of Artificial Selection carefully enough in his
own kennels, but the mere proposal that such a thing should be done in
the case of human beings seemed impious to him.

Dr. Morton Sims was also incapable of realising that his scheme for the
betterment of the race was perfectly in accordance with the Christian
Philosophy.

But Morton Sims was not a professing Christian and was not concerned
with the Christian aspect. Mr. Medley was, and although one of his
favourite hymns began, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," he was really
chilled to the bone for a minute at the words of the Scientist. He
remained silent for a moment or so.

"But that seems to me quite horrible," he said, at length. "It is
opposed to the best instincts of human nature--as horrible as
Malthusianism, as horrible and as impracticable."

His expression as he looked at his guest was wistful. "I don't want to
be discourteous," it seemed to say, "but this is really my thought."

"Perhaps," the other answered with a half-sigh. He was well used to
encounter just such a voice, just such a shocked countenance as that
of his host--"But by '_best instincts_' people often mean strong
prejudices. Our scheme is undoubtedly Malthusian. I am no believer in
Malthusianism as a check to what is called 'over-population.' That
_does_ seem to me immoral. Nature requires no help in that regard. But
Inebriety is an evil the extent of which no one but an expert can
possibly measure. _The ordinary man simply doesn't know!_ But supposing
I admit what you say. Let us agree that my scheme is horrible, that in
a sense it is immoral--or a-moral--that it is possibly impracticable.

"The alternative is more horrible and more immoral still. There is
absolutely no choice between Temperance Reform, by the abolition of
drink, and Temperance Reform by the abolition of the drunkard. An ill
thing is not rendered worse by being bravely confronted. An unavoidable
evil is not made more evil by being turned to good account. It rests
with us to extract what good we can from the evil. Horrible? Immoral?
Perhaps; but we are confronted by two horrors and two immoralities, and
we are compelled to make a choice. Which is best; to live safe because
strong, or to tremble behind fortifications; to be temperate by Nature
or sober by Law?"

. . . They stood in the quiet sunlit library, with its placid books and
pictures irradiated by the light of approaching noon.

The slim, bearded man in his grey suit, faced the dry, elderly
clergyman. His voice rang with challenge, his whole personality was
redolent of ardour, conviction, an aroma of the War he spent his life
in waging far away from this quiet room of books.

For years, this had been Medley's home. Each night, with his Horace and
his pipe, he spent the happy, sober hours between dinner and bedtime
here. His sermons were written on the old oak table. Over the high
carved marble of the mantel the engraving of Our Lord knocking at the
weed-grown door of a human heart, had looked down upon all his
familiar, quiet evenings. In summer the long windows were open and the
moonlight washed the lawns with silver, and the shadows of the trees
seemed like pieces of black velvet nailed to the grass.

In winter the piled logs glowed upon the hearth and the bitter winds
from the Marshes, sang like a flight of arrows round the house.

What was this that had come into the library, what new disturbing,
insistent element? The Rector brought no such atmosphere into the house
when he arrived. He would sip his coffee and smoke his pipe and linger
for a gracious moment with the Singer of Mantua, or dispute about the
true birthplace of him who sent Odysseus sailing over wine-coloured and
enchanted seas.

An insistent voice seemed to be calling to the clergyman--"Awake from
your slumber--your long slumber! Hear the words of Truth!"

He said nothing. His whole face showed reluctance, bewilderment,
misease.

The far keener intelligence of the other noted it at once. The mind of
the Medico-Psychologist appreciated the episode at its exact value. He
had troubled a still pool, and to no good purpose. Words of his--even
if they carried an uneasy conviction--would never rouse this man to
action. Let it be so! Why waste time? The clergyman was a delightful
survival, a "rare Bird" still!

"Well, that is my theory, at any rate, since you asked for it," Morton
Sims said, the urgency and excitement quite gone from his voice. "And
now, some more of the village, please!"

Mr. Medley smiled cheerfully. He became suddenly conscious of the light
and comfortable morning again. He felt his feet upon the carpet, he was
in a place that he knew.

"We'll go through the wicket-gate in the south wall," he said, with
alacrity. "It's our nearest way, and there is a good view of the Manor
House to be got from there. It's a fine old place, empty for most of
the year, but always full for the shooting. Sir Ambrose McKee has it."

"The whiskey man?"

"Yes. The great distiller," Medley answered nervously--most anxious to
sheer off from any further controversial subjects.

They went out into the village.

The old red-brick manor house was surveyed from a distance, and Morton
Sims remarked absently upon its picturesqueness. His mind was occupied
with other and far alien thoughts.

Then they went down the white dusty road--the bordering hedges were all
pilm-powdered for there had been no rain for many days--to the centre
of the village.

Four roads met there, East, South, West and North, and it was known to
the village as "The Cross." On one side of the little central green was
the Post office and general shop. On the other was the Mortland Royal
Arms, and on the South, to the right of the old stone bridge, which ran
over the narrow river, were the roof and chimneys of Gilbert Lothian's
house nestling among the trees and with a vista of the orchard which
stretched down to the stream.

"That's a nice little place," the doctor said. "Whose is that?"

"It's the house of our village celebrity," Mr. Medley replied--with a
rather hostile crackle in his voice, or at least the other thought so.

"Our local celebrity," Medley continued, "Mr. Gilbert Lothian, the
poet."

Neither the face nor the voice of the doctor changed at all. But his
mind came to attention. This was a moment he had been waiting for.

"Oh, I know," he said, with an assumed indifference which he was well
aware would have its effect of provocation upon the simple mind of the
Priest. "The name is quite familiar to me. Bishop Moultrie sent me a
book of Lothian's poems last winter. And now that I come to think of
it, O'Donnell told me that Mr. Lothian lived here. What sort of a man
is he?"

Medley hesitated. "Well," he said at length, "the truth is that I don't
like him much personally, and I don't understand him in any way. I
speak with prejudice I'm afraid, and I do not wish that any words of
mine should make you share it."

"Oh, we all have our likes and dislikes. Every one has his private Dr.
Fell and it can't be helped. But tell me about Lothian. I will remember
your very honest warning! Don't you like his work?"

"I confess I see very little in it, Doctor. But then, my taste is
old-fashioned and not in accord with modern literary movements. My
'Christian Year' supplies all the religious verse I need."

"Keble wrote some fine verse," said the doctor tentatively.

"Exactly. Sound prosody and restrained style! There is fervour and
feeling in Lothian's work. It is impossible to deny it. But it's too
passionate and feverish. There is a savage, almost despairing,
clutching at spiritual emotion which strikes me as thoroughly
unhealthy. The Love of Jesus, the mysterious operations of the Holy
Ghost--these seem to me no proper vehicles for words which are tortured
into a wild and sensuous music. As I read the poems of Gilbert Lothian
I am reminded of the wicked and yet beautiful verses of Swinburne, and
of others who have turned their lyre to the praise of lust. The
sentiment is different, but the method is the same. And I confess that
it revolts me to see the verbal tricks and polished brilliance of
modern Pagan writers adapted to a fugitive and delirious ecstasy of
Christian Faith."

Morton Sims understood thoroughly. This was the obstinate and
prejudiced voice of an older literary generation, suddenly become
vindictively vocal.

"I know all that you mean," he said. "I don't agree with you in the
least, but I appreciate your point of view. But let me keep myself out
of the discussion for a moment. I am not what you would probably be
prepared to call a professing Christian. But how about Moultrie? He
sent me Lothian's poems first of all. I remember the actual evening
last winter when they arrived. A contemporaneous circumstance has
etched it into my memory with certainty. Moultrie is a deeply convinced
Christian. He is a man of the widest culture also. Yet he savours his
palate with every _nuance_, every elusive and delicate melody that
the genius of Lothian gives us. How about Moultrie's attitude?--it is a
very general one."

Mr. Medley laughed, half with apology, half with the grim humour which
was personal to him.

"I quite admit all you say," he replied, "but, as I told you, I belong
to another generation and I don't in the least mean to change or listen
to the voice of the charmer! I am a prejudiced old fogey, in short! I
am still so antiquated and foolish as to have a temperamental dislike
for a French-man, for instance. I like a picture to tell a story, and I
flatly refused to get into Moultrie's abominable automobile when he
brought it to the Rectory the other day!"

Morton Sims was not in the least deceived by this half real, half
mocking apologia. It was not merely a question of style that had roused
this heat in the dry elderly man when he spoke of the things which he
so greatly disliked in the poet's work. There was something behind
this, and the doctor meant to find out what it was. He was in Mortland
Royal, in the first instance, in order to follow up the problem of
Gilbert Lothian. His choice of a country residence had been determined
by the Poet's locality. Every instinct of the scientist and hunter was
awake in him. He had dreadful reasons, reasons which he could never
quite think of without a mental shudder, for finding out everything
about the unknown and elusive genius who had given "Surgit Amari," to
the world.

He looked his companion full in the face, and spoke in a compelling,
searching voice that the other had not heard before.

"What's the real antagonism, Mr. Medley?" he said.

Then the clergyman spoke out.

"You press me," he said, "very well, I will tell you. I don't believe
Lothian is a good man. It is a stern and terrible thing to say,--God
grant I am mistaken!--but he appears to me to write of supreme things
with insincerity. Not vulgarly, you'll understand. Not with his tongue
in his cheek, but without the conviction that imposes conduct, and
perhaps even with his heart in his mouth!"

"Conduct?"

". . . I fear I am saying too much."

"Hardly to me! Then Mr. Lothian--?"

"He drinks," the Priest said bluntly, "you're sure to hear of it in
some indirect way since you are going to stay in the village for six
months. But that's the truth of it!"

The face of Dr. Morton Sims suddenly became quite pale. His brown eyes
glittered as if with an almost uncontrollable excitement.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, and there was something so curious in his voice
that the clergyman was alarmed at what he had said. He knew, and could
know, nothing of what was passing in the other's mind. A scrupulously
fair and honest man within his lights, he feared that he had made too
harsh a statement--particularly to a man who thought that even an
after-dinner glass of port was an error in hygiene!

"I don't mean to say that he gets drunk," Medley continued hastily,
"but he really does excite himself and whip himself up to work by means
of spirits."

The clergyman hesitated. The doctor spurred him on.

"Most interesting to the scientific man--please go on."

"Well, I don't know that there is much to say--I do hope I am not doing
the man an injustice, because I am getting on for twice his age and
envy the modern brilliance of his brain! But about a fortnight ago I
went to see Crutwell--a poor fellow who is dying of phthisis--and found
Lothian there. He was holding Crutwell's hand and talking to him about
Paradise in a monotonous musical voice. He had been drinking. I saw it
at once. His eyes were quite wild."

"But the patient was made happier?"

"Yes. He was. Happier, I freely confess it, than my long ministrations
have ever been able to make him. But that is certainly not the point.
It is very distressing to a parish Priest to meet with these things in
his visitations. Do you know," here Mr. Medley gave a rueful chuckle,
"I followed this alcoholic missioner the other day into the house of an
old bed-ridden woman whom he helps to support. Lothian is extremely
generous by the way. He would literally take off his coat and give it
away--which really means, of course, that he has no conception of what
money means.

"At any rate, I went into old Sarah's cottage about half an hour after
Lothian had been there. The old lady in question lived a jolly, wicked
life until senile paralysis intervened. She is now quite a connoisseur
in religion. I found her, on the occasion of which I speak, lying back
upon her pillows with a perfectly rapturous expression on her wicked
and wrinkled old face. 'Oh, Mr. Lothian's been, sir!' she said, 'Oh,
'twas beautiful! He gave me five shillings and then he knelt down and
prayed. I never heard such praying--meaning no disrespect, sir, of
course. But it was beautiful. The tears were rolling down Mr. Lothian's
cheeks!' 'Mr. Lothian is very kind,' I said. 'He's wonnerful,' she
replied, 'for he was really as drunk as a Lord the whole time, though
he didn't see as I saw it. Fancy praying so beautiful and him like
that. What a brain!'"

Morton Sims burst out laughing, he could not help it. "All the same,"
he said at length, "it's certainly rather scandalous."

Medley made a hurried deprecating movement of his hands. "No, no!" he
said, "don't think that. I am over-emphasising things. Those two
instances are quite isolated. In a general way Lothian is just like any
one else. To speak quite frankly, Doctor, I'm not a safe guide when
Gilbert Lothian is discussed."

"Yes?"

"For this reason. I admire and reverence Mrs. Lothian as I have never
reverenced any other woman. Now and then I have met saint-like people,
and the more saint-like they were--I hope I am not cynical--the less of
comely humanity they seemed to have. Only once have I met a saint
quietly walking this world with sane and happy footsteps. And that is
Mary Lothian."

There was a catch and tremble in the voice of the elderly clergyman.
Morton Sims, who had liked him from the first, now felt more drawn to
him than at any other time during their morning talk and walk.

"Now you see why I am a little bitter about Gilbert Lothian! I don't
think that he is worthy of such a perfect wife as he has got! I'll take
you to tea with her this afternoon and you will see!"

"I should like to meet her very much. Lothian is not here then?"

"He has been away for a week or so, but he is returning to-night. Our
old postman, who knows everything, told me so at least."

The two men continued their walk through the village until lunch time,
when they separated.

At three o'clock a maid brought a note from the Rectory to the "Haven."
In the letter Medley said that he had been summoned to Wordingham by
telegram and could not take the doctor to call on Mrs. Lothian.

The doctor spent the afternoon reading in the garden. He took tea among
the flowers there, and after dinner, as it was extremely hot, he once
more sought his deck chair under the mulberry tree in front of the
house. Not a breath of air stirred. Now and then a cockchafer boomed
through the heavy dark, and at his feet some glowworms had lit their
elfin lamps.

There was thunder in the air too, it was murmuring ten miles away over
the Wash, and now and again the sky above the marshes was lit with
flickering green and violet fires.

A definite depression settled down upon the doctor's spirits and
something seemed to be like a load upon lungs and brain.

He always kept himself physically fit. In London, during his busy life,
walking, which was the exercise he loved best, was not possible. So he
fenced, and swam a good deal at the Bath Club, of which he was a
member.

For three days now, he had taken no exercise whatever. He had been
arranging his new household.

"Liver!" he thought to himself. "That is why I am melancholy and
depressed to-night. And then the storm that is hanging about has its
effect too. But hardly any one realises that the liver is the seat of
the emotions! It should be said--more truly--that such a one died of a
broken liver, not a broken heart!" . . .

He sighed. His imaginings did not amuse him to-night. His vitality was
lowered. That sick ennui which lies behind the thunder was upon him. As
the storm grew nearer through the vast spaces of the night, so his
psychic organism responded to its approach. Some uneasy imp had got
into the barracks of his brain and was beating furiously upon the
cerebral drum.

The vast and level landscape, the wide night, were alike to be
dramatised by the storm.

And so, also, in the sphere of his thought, upon that secret stage
where, after all, everything really happens, there was drama and
disturbance. The level-minded scientist in Dr. Morton Sims drooped its
head and bowed to the imperious onslaught. The man of letters in him
awoke. Strange and fantastic influences were abroad this night and
would have their way even with this cool sane person.

He knew what was happening to him as the night grew hotter, the
lightning more frequent. He, the Ego of him, was slipping away from the
material plane and entering that psychic country which he knew of and
dreaded for its strange allurements.

Imaginative by nature and temperament, with a something of the artist
in him, it was his habit to starve and repress that side of him as much
as he was able.

He knew the unfathomable gulf that separated the psychical from the
physiological. It was in the sphere of physiology that his work lay,
here he was great, there must be no divided allegiance.

There was a menacing stammer of thunder. A certain line of verse came
into his mind, a line of Lothian's.

    "_Oh dreadful trumpets sounding,
    Pealing and resounding,
    From the hid battlements of eternity!_"

"I will take a ten mile walk to-morrow," he said to himself, and
resolutely wrenched his thoughts towards material things. There was, he
remembered with a slight shudder, that appalling passage in a recent
letter from Mrs. Daly--

    . . . "Six weeks ago a tippler was put into an alms-house in this
    State. Within a few days he had devised various expedients to
    procure rum, but had failed. At length he hit on one that was
    successful. He went into the wood yard of the establishment, placed
    one hand upon the block, and with an axe in the other struck it off
    at a single blow. With the stump raised and streaming he ran into
    the house and cried, 'Get some rum. Get some rum. My hand is off.'
    In the confusion and bustle of the occasion a bowl of rum was
    brought, into which he plunged the bleeding member of his body,
    then raising the bowl to his mouth, drank freely and exultantly
    exclaimed, 'Now I am satisfied!'"

Horrible! Why was it possible that men might poison themselves so?
Would all the efforts of himself and his friends ever make such
monstrous happenings cease? Oh, that it might be so!

They were breaking up stubborn land. The churches were against them,
but the Home Secretary of the day was their friend--in the future the
disease might be eradicated from society.

Oh, that it might be so! for the good of the human race!

How absolutely horrible it was that transparent, coloured liquids in
bottles of glass--liquids that could be bought everywhere for a few
pence--should have the devilish power to transform men, not to beasts,
but to monsters.

The man of whom Mrs. Daly had written--hideously alcoholised and
insane! Hancock, the Hackney murderer, poisoned, insane!

The doctor had been present at the post-mortem, after the execution. It
had all been so pitiably clear to the trained eye! The liver, the
heart, told him their tale very plainly. Any General Practitioner would
have known. Ordinary cirrhosis, the scar tissue perfectly plain; the
lime-salts deposited in the wasting muscles of the heart. But Morton
Sims had found far more than this in that poisoned shell which had
held, also, a poisoned soul. He had marked the little swellings upon
the long nerve processes that run from the normal cell of the healthy
brain. Something that looked like a little string of beads under the
microscope had told him all he wanted to know.

And that little string of beads, the lesions which interfered with the
proper passage of nerve impulses, the scraps of tissue which the
section-cutter had thinned and given to the lens, had meant torture and
death to a good woman.

How dreadfully women suffered! Their husbands and lovers and brothers
became brutes to them. The women who were merely struck or beaten now
and then were fortunate. The women whose lives were made one long
ingenious torture were legion.

Dr. Morton Sims was a bachelor. He was more. He was a man with a virgin
mind. Devoted always to the line of work he had undertaken he had
allowed nothing else to disturb his life. For him passion was explained
by pathological and physiological occurrences. That is to say, passion
in others. For himself, he had allowed nothing that was sensual to
interfere with his progress, or to influence the wise order of his
days.

Therefore, he reverenced women.

Hidden in his mind was that latent adoration that the Catholic feels
about the Real Presence upon an altar.

A good Knight of Science, he was as pure and pellucid in thought upon
these matters as any Knight who bore the descending Dove upon his
shield and flung into the _mêlée_ calling upon the name of the
Paraclete.

In his own fashion, and with his own vision of what it was, Morton
Sims, also, was one of those seeking the Holy Grail.

He adored his sister, a sweet woman made for love and motherhood but
who had chosen the virgin life of renunciation that she might help the
world.

Women! Yes, it was women who suffered. There were tears in his mind as
he thought of Women. Before a good woman he always wished to kneel.

How heavy the night was!

He identified it with the sorrowful weight and pressure of the Fiend
Alcohol upon the world. And there was a woman, here near him, a woman
with a sweet and fragrant nature--so the old clergyman had said.

On her, too, the weight must be lying. For Mary Lothian there must be
horror in the days. . . .

"One thing I _will_ do," he said to the dark--and that he spoke aloud
was sufficient indication of his state of mind--"I'll get hold of
Gilbert Lothian while I am here. I'll save him at any rate, if I can.
And it is quite obvious that he cannot be too far gone for salvation.
I'll save him from an end no less frightful than that of his brother of
whom he has probably never heard. The good woman he seems to have
married shall be happy! The man's fine brain shan't be lost. This shall
be my special experiment while I am down here. Coincidence, no less
than good-will, makes that duty perfectly plain for me."

As he stood there, glad to have found some definite material thing with
which to occupy his mind, a housemaid came through the French windows
of the library. She hurried towards him, ghost-like in her white cap
and apron.

"Are you there, sir?" she said, peering this way and that in the thick
dark.

"Yes, here I am, Condon, what is it?"

"Please, sir, there's been an accident. A gentleman has been thrown out
of a dog-cart. It's a Mr. Lothian. His man's here, and the gentleman's
wife has heard you're in the village and there's no other doctor nearer
than Wordingham."

"I'll come at once," Morton Sims said.

He hurried through the quiet library with its green-shaded reading lamp
and went into the hall.

Tumpany was standing there, his cap held before him in two hands,
naval-fashion. His round red face was streaming with perspiration, his
eyes were frightened and he exhaled a strong smell of beer.

His hand went up mechanically and his left foot scraped upon the
oilcloth of the hall as Morton Sims entered.

"Beg your pardon, sir," Tumpany began at once, "but I'm Mr. Gilbert
Lothian's man. Master have had an accident. I was driving him home from
the station when the horse stumbled just outside the village. Master
was pitched out on his head. My mistress would be very grateful if you
could come at once."

"Certainly, I will," Sims answered, looking at the man with a keen,
experienced eye which made him shift uneasily upon his feet. "Wait here
for a moment."

He hurried back into the library and put lint, cotton-wool and a pair
of blunt-nosed scissors into a hand-bag. Then, calling for a candle and
lighting it, he went out into the stable yard and up to the room above
the big barn, emerging in a minute or two with a bottle of antiseptic
lotion.

These were all the preparations he could make until he knew more. The
thing might be serious or it might be little or nothing. Fortunately
Lothian's house was not five minutes' walk from the "Haven." If
instruments were required he could fetch them in a very short time.

As he left the house with Tumpany, he noticed that the man lurched upon
the step. Quite obviously he was half intoxicated.

With a cunning born of long experience of inebriate men, the doctor
affected a complete unconsciousness of what he had discovered. If he
put the man upon his guard he would get nothing out of him, that was
quite certain.

"He's made a direct statement so far," the doctor thought. "He's only
on the border-land of intoxication. For as long as he thinks I have
noticed nothing he will be coherent. Directly he realises that I have
spotted his state he'll become confused and ashamed and he won't be
able to tell me anything."

"This is very unfortunate," he said in a smooth and confidential voice.
"I do hope it is nothing very serious. Of course I know your master
very well by name."

"Yessir," Tumpany answered thickly, but with a perceptible note of
pleasure in his voice. "Yessir, I should say Master is one of the best
shots in Norfolk. You'd have heard of him, of course."

"But how did it happen?"

"This 'ere accident, sir?" said Tumpany rather vaguely, his mind
obviously running upon his master's achievements among the wild geese
of the marshes.

"Yes, the accident," the doctor answered in his smooth, kindly
voice--though it would have given him great relief to have boxed the
ears of his beery guide.

"I was driving master home, sir. It's not our trap. We don't keep one.
We hires in the village, but the man as the trap belongs to couldn't
go. So I drove, sir."

Movement had stirred up the fumes of alcohol in this barrel! Oh, the
interminable repetitions, the horrid incapacity for getting to the
point of men who were drunk! Lives of the utmost value had been lost by
fools like this--great events in the history of the world had turned
upon an extra pot of beer! But patience, patience!

"Yes, you drove, and the horse stumbled. Did the horse come right
down?"

"I'm not much of a whip, sir, as you may say, though I know about
ordinary driving. They say that a sailor-man is no good with a horse.
But that isn't true."

Yet despite the irritation of his mind, the necessity for absolute
self-control, the expert found time to make a note of this further
instance of the intolerable egotism that alcohol induces in its slaves.

"But I expect you drove very well, indeed! Then the horse did _not_
come right down!"

Just at the right moment, carefully calculated to have its effect, the
doctor's voice became sharper and had a ring of command in it.

There was an instant response.

"No, sir. The cob only stumbled. But master was sitting loose like. He
fell out like a log, sir. He made a noise like a piece of luggage
falling."

"Oh! Did he fall on his head?"

"Yessir. But he had a stiff felt hat on. I got help and as we carried
him into the house he was bleeding awful."

"Curious that he should fall like that. Was he, well, was he quite
himself should you think?"

It was a bow drawn at a venture, and it provoked a reply that instantly
told Morton Sims what he wanted to know.

"Oh, yessir! By all means, sir! Most cert'nly! Master was as sober as a
judge, sir!"

"Of _course_," Sims replied in a surprised tone of voice. "I thought
that he might have been tired by the journey from London."

. . . So it was true then! Lothian was drunk. The thing was obvious.
But this was a good and loyal fellow, not to give his master away.

Morton Sims liked that. He made a note that poor beery Tumpany should
have half a sovereign on the morrow, when he was sober. Then the two
men turned in through the gates of the Old House.

The front door was wide open to the night. The light which flowed out
from the tall lamp upon an oak table in the hall cut into the black
velvet of the drive with a sharply defined wedge of orange-yellow.

There was something ominous in this wide-set door of a frightened
house.

The doctor walked straight into the hall, a small old-fashioned place
panelled in white.

To the right another door stood open. In the doorway stood a
maid-servant with a frightened face. Beyond her, through the archway of
the door, showed the section of a singularly beautiful room.

The maid started. "Oh, you've come, sir!" she said--"in here please,
sir."

The doctor followed the girl into the lit room.

This is what he saw:--

A room with the walls covered with canvas of a delicate oat-meal colour
up to the height of seven feet. Above this a moulded beading of wood
which had been painted vermilion--the veritable post-box red. Above
this again a frieze of pure white paper. At set intervals upon the
canvas were brilliant colour-prints in thin gold frames. The room was
lit with many candles in tall holders of silver.

At one side of it was a table spread for supper, gleaming with delicate
napery and cut glass, peaches in a bowl of red earthenware,
ruby-coloured wine in a jug of German glass with a lid of pewter shaped
like a snake's head.

At the other side of the room was a huge Chesterfield couch,
upholstered in broad stripes of black and olive linen.

The still figure of a man in a tweed suit lay upon the couch. There was
blood upon his face and clotted rust-like stains upon his loosened
collar. A washing-bowl of stained water stood upon the green carpet.

Upon a chair, by the head of the couch a tall woman with shining yellow
hair was sitting. She wore a low-cut evening dress of black, pearls
were about the white column of her throat, a dragon fly of emeralds set
in aluminium sparkled in her hair, and upon her wrists were heavy
Moorish bracelets of oxydised silver studded with the bird's egg blue
of the turquoise stone.

For an instant, not of the time but of thought, the doctor was
startled.

Then, as the stately and beautiful woman rose to meet him, he
understood.

She had decked herself, adorned her fair body with all the braveries
she had so that she might be lovely and acceptable to her husband's
eyes as he came home to her. Came home to her . . . like this!

Morton Sims had shaken the slim hand, murmured some words of
condolence, and hastened to the motionless figure upon the couch.

His deft fingers were feeling, pressing, touching with a wonderful
instinct, the skull beneath the tumbled masses of blood-clotted hair.

Nothing there, scalp wounds merely. Arms, legs--yes, these were
uninjured too. The collar-bone was intact under the flesh that
cushioned it. The skin of the left wrist was lacerated and
bruised--Lothian, of course, had been sitting on the left side of the
driver when he fell like a log from the gig--but the bones of the hand
and arm were normal. There was not a single symptom of brain
concussion. The deep gurgling breathing, the alarming snore-like sound
that came from between the curiously pure and clear-cut lips, meant one
thing only.

Morton Sims stood up.

Mary Lothian was waiting. There was an agony of expectation in her
eyes.

"Not the least reason to be alarmed," said the doctor. "Some nasty cuts
in the scalp, that is all."

She gave a deep sigh, a momentary shudder, and then her face became
calm.

"It is so kind of you to come, Doctor," she said.--"Then that deep
spasmodic breathing--he has not really hurt his head?"

"Not in the least as far as I can say, and I am fairly certain. We must
get him up to bed. Then I can cut away the hair and bandage the wounds.
I must take his temperature also. It's possible--just possible that the
shock may have unpleasant results, though I really don't think it will.
I will give him some bromide though, as soon as he wakes up."

"Ah!" she said. That was all, but it meant everything.

He knew that to this woman, at least, plain-speaking was best.

"Yes," he continued, "I am sorry to say that he is under the influence
of alcohol. He has obviously been drinking heavily of late. I am a
specialist in such matters and I can hardly be mistaken. There is just
a possibility that this may bring on delirium tremens--only a
possibility. He has never suffered from that?"

"Oh, never. Thank God never!" A sob came into her voice. Her face
glowed with the love and tenderness within, the blue eyes seemed set in
a soul rather than in a face, so beautiful had they become. "He's so
good," she said with a wistful smile. "You can't think what a sweet boy
he is when he doesn't drink any horrible things."

"Madam, I have read his poems. I know what an intellect and force lies
drugged upon that sofa there. But we will soon have the flame burning
clearly once more. It has been the work of my life to study these
cases."

"Yes, I know, Doctor. I have heard so much of your work."

"Believe then that I am going to save this foolish young man, to give
him back to you and to the world. A free man once more!"

"Free!" she whispered. "Oh, free from his vice!"

"_Vice_, Madam! I thought that all intelligent people understood by
this time. For the last ten years I and my colleagues have been trying
to make them understand! It is not a _vice_ from which your husband
suffers. It is a _disease_!"

He saw that she was pleased that he had spoken to her thus--though he
was in some doubt if she appreciated what he had actually said.

But already the shuttle of an incipient friendship was beginning to
dart between them.

Two high clear souls had met and recognised each other.

"Well, suppose we get him to bed, Doctor," she said. "We can carry him
up between us. There are two maids, and Tumpany is quite sober enough
to help."

"Quite!" the doctor answered. "I rather like that man upon a first
meeting."

Mary laughed--a low contralto laugh. "She has a sense of humour too!"
the doctor thought.

"Yes," she said, "Tumpany is a good fellow at heart. And, like most
people who drink, when he is himself he is a quite delightful person."

She went out into the hall, tall and beautiful, the jewels in her hair
and on her hands sparkling in the candlelight.

Morton Sims took one of the candles from the table and went up to the
couch.

A shadow flickered over the face of the man who was lying there.

It was but momentary, but in that instant the watcher became cold. The
silver of the candle-stick stung the palm of a hand which was suddenly
wet.

This tranquil, lovely room with its soft yellow light, dissolved and
shifted like a scene in a dream. . . .

. . . It was a raw winter's morning. The walls were the whitewashed
walls of a prison mortuary. There was a smell of chloride of
lime. . . .

And lying upon a long zinc slab, with little grooves and depressions
running down to the eye-hole of a drain, was a still figure whose
face was a ghastly caricature of this face, hideously, revoltingly
alike . . .

Mary Lothian, Tumpany, and two maid-servants came into the room, and
with some difficulty the poet was carried upstairs.

He was hardly laid upon his bed when the rain came, falling in great
sheets with a loud noise, cooling and purging the hot air.



CHAPTER III

PSYCHOLOGY OF THE INEBRIATE, AND THE LETTER OF JEWELLED WORDS

    "Verbosa ac grandis epistola venit a Capreis."

    --_Juvenal._


It was three days after the accident.

Gilbert lay in bed. His head was crossed with bandages, his wrist was
wrapped with lint and a wet compress was upon the ankle of his strained
left foot.

The windows of his bedroom were wide to the sun and air of the morning.
There were two pleasant droning sounds. A bee was flying round the
room, and down below in the garden Tumpany was mowing the strip of lawn
before the house. Gilbert was very tranquil. He was wrapped round with
a delicious peace of mind and body. He seemed to be floating in some
warm ether of peace.

There was a table by the side of his bed. In a slender vase upon it was
a single marguerite daisy with its full green stem, its rays of
white--Chinese white in a box of colours--round the central gold. Close
to his hand, upon the white turned down sheet was a copy of "John
Inglesant." It was a book he loved and could always return to, and he
had had his copy bound in most sumptuous purple.

Mary came into the bedroom.

She was carrying a little tray upon which there was a jug of milk and a
bottle of soda water. There was a serene happiness upon her face. She
had him now--the man she loved! He was hers, her own without
possibility of interference. She was his Providence, he depended
utterly upon her.

There are not many women like this in life, but there are some. Perhaps
they were more frequent in the days of the past. Women who have no
single thought of Self: women whose thoughts are always prayers: women
in whose veins love takes the place of blood, whose hearts are cisterns
of sweet charity, whose touch means healing, whose voices are like
harps that sound forgiveness and devotion alone.

She put the tray upon the bedside table and sat down upon the bed,
taking his unwounded hand in hers, stroking it with the soft cushions
of her fingers, holding up its well-shaped plumpness as if it were a
toy.

"There is something so comic about your hands, darling!" she said. "They
are so nice and fat and jolly. They make me want to laugh!"

To Gilbert his wife's happy voice seemed but part of the dream-like
peace which lay upon him. He was drowsy with incense. How fresh and
fragrant she was! he thought idly. He pulled her down to him and kissed
her and the gilded threads of her hair brushed his forehead. Her lips
were cool as violets with the dew upon their petals. She belonged to
him. She was part of the pleasant furniture of the room, the hour!

"How are you feeling, darling? You're looking so much better!"

"My head hurts a little, but not much. But my nerves are ever so much
better. Look how steady my hand is." He held it out with childish
pride.

"And you'll see, Molly dear, that when I'm shaved, my complexion will
be quite nice again! It's a horrid nuisance not to be able to shave. Do
I look very bad?"

"No, you wicked image! You're a vain little wretch, Gillie, really!"

"I'm quite sure that I'm not. But, Molly, it's so nice to be feeling
better. Master of one's self. Not frightened about things."

"Of course it is, you old stupid! If you were always good how much
happier you'd be! Take my advice. Do what I tell you, and everything
will come right. You've got a great big brain, but you're a silly boy,
too! Think how much more placid you are now. Never take any more
spirits again!"

"No, I won't, darling. I promise you I won't."

"That's right, dear. And this nice new doctor will help you. You like
him, don't you?"

"Molly! What a dear simple fool you are! _Like_ him? You don't in
the least realise who he is. It's Morton Sims, Morton Sims himself!
He's a fearfully important person. Twice, they say, he's refused to
take a baronetcy. He's come down here to do research work. It's an
enormous condescension on his part to come and plaster up my head. It's
really rather like Lord Rosebery coming to shave one! And he'll send in
a bill for about fifty pounds!"

"He won't, Gillie dear. I'm sure. But if he does, what's the use of
worrying? I'll pay it out of my own money, and I've got nearly as much
as you--nasty miser!"

They laughed together at this. Mary had three or four hundreds a year
of her own, Gilbert a little more, independently of what he earned by
writing. Mary was mean with her money. That is to say, she saved it up
to give to poorer people and debated with herself about a new frock
like a chancellor of the Exchequer about the advisability of a fresh
tax. And Lothian didn't care and never thought about money. He had no
real sense of personal property. He liked spending money. He was
extravagant for other people. If he bought a rare book, a special
Japanese colour-print, any desirable thing--he generally gave it away
to some one at once. He really liked people with whom he came into
contact to have delightful things quite as much as he liked to have
them himself.

Nor was this an outcome of the poisoned state of his body, his brain,
and--more terrible than all!--of his mind. It was genuine human
kindness, an eager longing that others should enjoy things that he
himself enjoyed so poignantly.

But what he gave must be the things that _he_ liked, though to all
_necessity_ he was liberal. A sick poor person without proper
nourishment, a child without a toy, some wretched tramp without tobacco
for his pipe--to him these were all tragedies, equal in their appeal to
his charity. And this was because of his trained power of psychology,
his profound insight into the minds of others, though even that was
marred by a Rousseau-like belief that every one was good and decent at
heart! Still, the need of the dying village consumptive for milk and
calf's-foot jelly, was no more vivid in his mind than the need of the
tramp for a smoke. As far as he was able, it was his Duty, his happy
duty, to satisfy the wants of both.

Mary was different.

The consumptive, yes! Stout flannel shirts for old shepherds who must
tend the birth of lambs on bitter Spring midnights. Food for the tramp,
too--no dusty wayfarer should go unsatisfied from the Lothians' house!
But not the subsequent shilling for beer and shag and the humble luxury
of the Inn kitchen that Gilbert would have bestowed.

Such was her wise penuriousness in its calm economy of the angels!

Yet, her husband had his economy also. Odd as it was, it was part of
his temperament. If he had bought a rare and perfect object of art, and
then met some one who he saw longed for it, but couldn't afford to have
it in the ordinary way, he took a real delight in giving it. But it
would have been easier for him to lop off a hand than to present one of
the Toftrees' novels to any one who was thirsting for something to
read. He would have thought it immoral to do so.

He had a great row with his wife when she presented a gaudy pair of
pink-gilt vases to an ex-housemaid who was about to be married.

"But dear, she's _delighted_," Mary had said.

"You've committed a crime! It's disgraceful. Oblige me by never doing
anything of the sort again. Why didn't you give her a ham?"


"Molly, may I have a cigarette?"

"Hadn't you better have a pipe? The doctor said that you smoked far too
many cigarettes and that they were bad for you."

For three days Lothian had had nothing to drink but a glass of Burgundy
at lunch and dinner. Lying in bed, perfectly tranquil, calling upon no
physical resources, the sense of nerve-rest within him was grateful and
profound.

But the inebriate lives almost entirely upon momentary sensation. The
slightest recrudescence of health makes him forget the horrors of the
past.

In the false calm of his quiet room, his tended state, the love and
care surrounding him, Gilbert had already come to imagine that he was
what he hoped to be in his saner moments. He had, at the moment, not
the least desire for a drink. In three days he was already complacent
and felt himself strong!

Yet his nerves were still unstable and every impulse was on a hair
trigger, so to speak.

The fact became evident at once.

He knew well enough that when he began to smoke pipes the most pressing
desire of the other narcotic, alcohol, became numbed. Cigarettes
stimulated that desire, or at least accompanied it. He could not live
happily without cigarettes.

He knew that Mary knew this also--experience of him had given her the
sad knowledge--and he was quite certain that Dr. Morton Sims must know
too.

The extraordinary transitions of the drunkard from one mental state to
another are more symptomatic than any other thing about him. Gilbert's
face altered and became sullen. A sharp and acid note tuned his voice.

"I see," he said, "you've been talking me over with Morton Sims. Thank
you so _very_ much!"

He began to brag about himself, a thing he would have been horrified to
do to any one but Mary. Even with her it was a weak weapon, and
sometimes in his hands a mean and cruel one too.

". . . You were kind enough to marry me, but you don't in the least
seem to understand whom you have married! Is my art nothing to you? Do
you realise who I am at all--in any way? Of course you don't! You're
too big a fool to do so. But other women know! At any rate, I beg you
will not talk over your husband with stray medical men who come along.
You might spare me that at least. I should have thought you would have
had more sense of personal dignity than that!"

She winced at the cruelty of his words, at the wounding bitterness
which he knew so well how to throw into his voice. But she showed no
sign of it. He was a poisoned man, and she knew it. Morton Sims had
made it plainer than ever to her at their talks downstairs during the
last three days. It wasn't Gillie who said these hard things, it was
the Fiend Alcohol that lurked within him and who should be driven out.
. . .

It wasn't her Gilbert, really!

In her mind she said one word. "Jesus!" It was a prayer, hope, comfort
and control. The response was instant.

That secret help had been discovered long since by her. Of her own
searching it had come, and then, one day she had picked up one of her
husband's favourite books and had read of this very habit she had
acquired.

    "Inglesant found that repeating the name of Jesus simply in the
    lonely nights kept his brain quiet when it was on the point of
    distraction, being of the same mind as Sir Charles Lucas when 'Many
    times calling upon the sacred name of Jesus,' he was shot dead at
    Colchester."


The spiritual telegraphy that goes on between Earth and Heaven, from
God to His Saints is by no means understood by the World.

"You old duffer," Mary said. "Really, you are a perfect blighter--as
you so often call me! Haven't you just been boasting about feeling so
much better? And, fat wretch! am I not doing everything possible for
you. _Of course_ I've talked you over with the doctor. We're going
to make you right! We're going to make you slim and beautiful once
more. My dear thing! it's all arranged and settled. Don't bubble like a
frog! Don't look at your poor Missis as if she were a nasty smell! It's
no use, Gillie dear, we've got you now!"

No momentary ill-humour could stand against this. He was, after all,
quite dependent upon the lady with the golden hair who was sitting upon
his bed.

And it was with no more Oriental complacence, but with a very
humble-minded reverence, that the poet drew his wife to him and kissed
her once more.

". . . But I may have a cigarette, Molly?"

"Of course you may, if you want one. It was only a general sort of
remark that the doctor made. A few cigarettes can't harm any one. Don't
I have two every day myself--since you got me into the habit? But
you've been smoking fifty a day, for _weeks_ before you went to town."

"Oh, Molly! What utter rot! I _never_ have!"

"But you _have_, Gilbert. You smoke the Virginian ones in the tins
of fifty. You always have lots of tins, but you never think how they
come into the house. I order them from the grocer in Wordingham.
They're put down in the monthly book--so you see I _know_!"

"Fifty a day! Of course, it's appalling."

"Well, you're going to be a good boy now, a perfect angel. Here you
are, here are three cigarettes for you. And you're going to have a
sweet-bread for lunch and I'm going to cook it for you myself!"

"Dear old dear!"

"Yes, I am. And Tumpany wants to see you. Will you see him? Dr. Morton
Sims won't be here for another half hour."

"Yes, I'll have Tumpany up. Best chap I know, Tumpany is. But why's the
doctor coming? My head's healed up all right now."

There was a whimsical note in his voice as he asked the question.

"You know, darling! He wants to have a long talk with you."

"Apropos of the reformation stakes I suppose."

"To give you back your wonderful brain in peace, darling!" she
answered, bending down, catching him to her breast in her sweet arms.

". . . Gillie! Gillie! I love you so!"

"And now suppose you send up Tumpany, dear."

"Yes, at once."

She went away, smiling and kissing her hand, hoping with an intensity
of hope which burned within her like a flame, that when the doctor came
and talked to Gilbert as had been arranged, the past might be wiped out
and a new life begun in this quiet village of East England.

In a minute there was a knock at the bedroom door.

"Come in," Gilbert called out.

Tumpany entered.

Upon the red face of that worthy person there was a grin of sheer
delight as he made his bow and scrape.

Then he held up his right arm. He was grasping a leash of mallard, and
the metallic blue-green and white upon the wings of the ducks shone in
the sun.

Gilbert leapt in his bed, and then put his hand to his bandaged head
with a half groan.--"Good God!" he cried, "how the deuce did you get
those?"

"First of August, sir. Wildfowling begins!"

"Heavens! so it is. I ought to have been out! I never thought about the
date. Damn you for pitching me out of the dog-cart, William!"

"Yessir! You've told me so before," Tumpany answered, his face
reflecting the smile upon his master's.

"What are they, flappers?"

"No, sir, mature birds. I was out on the marshes before daylight. The
birds were coming off the meils--and North Creake flat. First day since
February, sir! You know what I was feeling like!"

"Don't I, oh, don't I, by Jove! Now tell me. What were you using?"

"Well, sir, I thought I would fire at nothing but duck on the first
day. Just to christen the day, sir. So I used five and a half and
smokeless diamond. Your cartridges."

"What gun?"

"Well, I used my old pigeon gun, sir. It's full choke, both barrels and
on the meils it's always a case of long shots."

"Why didn't you have one of my guns? The long-chambered twelve, or the
big Greener ten-bore--they're there in the cupboard in the gun room,
you've got the key! Did a whole sord of mallard come over, or were
those three stragglers?"

"A sord, sir. The two drakes were right and left shots and this duck
came down too. As I said to the mistress just now, 'last year,' I said,
'Mr. Gilbert and I were out for two mornings after the first of August
and we never brought back nothing but a brace of curlew--and now here's
a leash of duck, M'm.'"

"If you'd had a bigger gun, and a sord came over, you'd have got a bag,
William! Why the devil didn't you take the ten-bore?"

"Well, sir, I won't say as I didn't go and have a look at 'im in the
gun room--knowing how they're flighting just now and that a big gun
would be useful. But with you lying in bed I couldn't do it. So I went
out and shot just for the honour of the house, as it were."

"Well, I shall be up in a day or two, William, and I'll see if I can't
wipe your eye!"

"I hope you will, sir, I'm sure. There's quite a lot of mallard about,
early as it is."

"I'll get among them soon, Tumpany!"

"Yessir--the Mistress I think, sir, and the doctor."

Tumpany's ears were keen, like those of most wildfowlers,--he heard
voices coming along the passage towards the bedroom.

The door opened and Morton Sims came in with Mary.

He shook hands with Gilbert, admired Tumpany's leash of duck, and then,
left alone with the poet, sat down upon the bed.

The two men regarded each other with interest. They were both
"personalities" and both of them made their mark in their several ways.

"Good heavens!" the doctor was thinking. "What a brilliant brain's
hidden behind those lint bandages! This is the man who can make the
throat swell with sorrow and the heart leap high with hope! With all my
learning and success, I can only bring comfort to people's bowels or
cure insomnia. This fellow here can heal souls--like a priest! Even for
me--now and then--he has unlocked the gates of fairyland."

"Good Lord!" Gilbert said to himself. "What wouldn't I give to be a
fellow like this fellow. He is great. He can put a drug into one's body
and one's soul awakes! He's got a magic wand. He waves it, and sanity
returns. He pours out of a bottle and blind eyes once more see God,
dull ears hear music! I go and get drunk at Amberleys' house and cringe
before a Toftrees, Mon Dieu! This man can never go away from a house
without leaving a sense of loss behind him."

--"Well, how are you, Mr. Lothian?"

"Much better, thanks, Doctor. I'm feeling quite fit, in fact."

"Yes, but you're not, you know. I made a complete examination of you
yesterday, you remember, and now I've tabulated the results."

"Tell me then."

"If you weren't who you are, I wouldn't tell you at all, being who you
are, I will."

Lothian nodded. "Fire away!" he said with his sweet smile, his great
charm of manner--all the greater for the enforced abstinence of the
last three days--"I shan't funk anything you tell me."

"Very well, then. Your liver is beginning--only beginning--to be
enlarged. You've got a more or less permanent catarrh of the stomach,
and a permanent catarrh of the throat and nasal passages from membranes
inflamed by alcohol and constant cigarette smoking. And there is a hint
of coming heart trouble, too."

Lothian laughed, frankly enough. "I know all that," he said. "Really,
Doctor, there's nothing very dreadful in that. I'm as strong as a
horse, really!"

"Yes, you are, in one way. Your constitution is a fine one. I was
talking to your man-servant yesterday and I know what you are able to
go through when you are shooting in the winter. I would not venture
upon such risks myself even."

"Then everything is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds?"
Gilbert answered lightly, feeling sure that the other would take him.

"Unfortunately, in your case, it's _not_," Morton Sims replied. "You
seem to forget two things about 'Candide'--that Dr. Pangloss was a
failure and a fool, and that one must cultivate one's garden! Voltaire
was a wise man!"

Gilbert dropped his jesting note.

"You've something to say to me," he answered, "probably a good deal
more. Say it. Say anything you like, and be quite certain that I shan't
be offended."

"I will. It's this, Mr. Lothian. Your stomach will go on digesting and
your heart performing its functions long after your brain has gone."

Then there was silence in the sunlit bedroom.

"You think that?" Lothian said at length, in a quiet voice.

"I know it. You are on the verge of terrible nervous and mental
collapse. I'm going to be brutal, but I'm going to speak the truth.
Three months more of drinking as you have been of late and, for all
effective purposes you go out!"

Gilbert's face flushed purple with rage.

"How dare you say such a thing to me, sir?" he cried. "How dare you
tell me, tell _me_, that I have been drinking heavily. You are
certainly wise to say it when there is no witness here!"

Morton Sims smiled sadly. He was quite unmoved by Lothian's rage. It
left him cool. But when he spoke, there was a hypnotic ring in his
voice which caught at the weak and tremulous will of the man upon the
bed and held it down.

"Now really, Mr. Lothian!" he said, "what on earth is the use of
talking like that to me? It means nothing. It does not express your
real thought. Can you suppose that your condition is not an open book
to _me_? You know that you wouldn't speak as you're doing if your
nerves weren't in a terrible state. You have one of the finest minds in
England; don't bring it to irremediable ruin for want of a helping
hand."

Lothian lay back on his pillow breathing quickly. He felt that his
hands were trembling and he pushed them under the clothes. His legs
were twitching and a spasm of cramp-pain shot into the calf of one of
them.

"Look here, Doctor," he said after a moment, "I spoke like a fool,
which I'm not. I have been rather overdoing it lately. My work has been
worrying me and I've been trying to whip myself up with alcohol."

Morton Sims nodded. "Well, we'll soon put you right," he said.

Mary Lothian had told him the true history of the case. For three
years, at least, her husband had been drinking steadily, silent,
persistent, lonely drinking. For a long time, a period of months to her
own fear and horror-quickened knowledge, Lothian had been taking a
quantity of spirits which she estimated at two-thirds of a bottle a
day. Without enlightening her, and adding what an inebriate of this
type could easily procure in addition, the doctor put the true quantity
at about a bottle and a half--say for the last two months certainly.

He knew also, that whatever else Lothian might do, either now or when
he became more confidential, he would lie about the _quantity_ of
spirits he was in the habit of consuming. Inebriates always do.

"Of course," he said, talking in a quiet man-of-the-world voice, "_I_
know what a strain such work as yours must be, and there is certainly
temptation to stimulate flagging energies with some drug. Hundreds of
men do it, doctors too!--literary men, actors, legal men!"

He noted immediately the slight indication of relief in the patient,
who thought he had successfully deceived him, and he saw also that sad
and doubting anxiety in the eyes, which says so poignantly, "what must
I do to be saved?"

Could he save this man?

Everything was against it, his history, his temperament, the length to
which he had already gone. The whole stern and horrible statistics of
experience were dead against it.

But he could, and would, try. There was a chance.

A great doctor must think more rapidly than a general upon the field of
battle; as quickly indeed as one who faces a deadly antagonist with the
naked foil. There was one way in which to treat this man. He must tell
him more about the psychology--and even if necessary the pathology--of
his own case than he could tell any ordinary patient.

"I'll tell you something," he said, "and I expect your personal
experience will back me up. You've no 'craving' for alcohol I expect?
On the sensual side there's no sense of indulging in a pleasurable
self-gratification?"

Lothian's face lighted up with interest and surprise. "Not a _bit_," he
said excitedly, "that's exactly where people make a mistake! I don't
mind telling you that when I've taken more than I ought, people, my
wife and so on, have remonstrated with me. But none of them ever seem
to understand. They talk about a 'craving' and so on. Religious people,
even the cleverest, don't seem to understand. I've heard Bishop
Moultrie preach a temperance sermon and talk about the 'vice' of
indulgence, the hideous 'craving' and all that. But it never seemed to
explain anything to me, nor did it to all the men who drink too much, I
ever met."

"There _is_ no craving," the Doctor answered quietly--"in the sense
these people use the word. And there is no vice. It is a disease. They
mean well, they even effect some cures, but they are misinformed."

"Well, it's very hard to answer them at any rate. One somehow knows
within oneself that they're all wrong, but one can't explain."

"I can explain to you--I couldn't explain to, well to your man Tumpany
for instance, _he_ couldn't understand."

"Tumpany only drinks beer," Lothian answered in a tone of voice that a
traveller in Thibet would use in speaking of some one who had ventured
no further from home than Boulogne.

It was another indication, an unconscious betrayal. His defences were
fast breaking down.

Morton Sims felt the keen, almost æsthetic pleasure the artist knows
when he is doing good work. Already this mind was responsive to the
skilled touch and the expected, melancholy music sounding from that
injured instrument.

"He seems a very good sort, that fellow of yours," the doctor continued
indifferently, and then, with a more eager and confidential manner,
"But let me explain where the ordinary temperance people are wrong.
First, tell me, haven't you at times quarrelled with friends, because
you've become suspicious of them, and have imagined some treacherous
and concealed motive in the background?"

"I don't know that I've quarrelled much."

"Well, perhaps not. But you've felt suspicious of people a good deal.
You've wondered whether people were thinking about you. In all sorts of
little ways you've had these thoughts constantly. Perhaps if a
correspondent who generally signs himself 'yours sincerely' has
inadvertently signed 'yours truly' you have worried a good deal and
invented all sorts of reasons. If some person of position you know
drives past you, and his look or wave of the hand does not appear to be
as cordial as usual, don't you invent all kinds of distressing reasons
to account for what you imagine?"

Lothian nodded.

His face was flushed again, his eyes--rather yellow and bloodshot
still--were markedly startled, a little apprehensive.

"If this man knew so much, a wizard who saw into the secret places of
the mind, what more might he not know?"

But it was impossible for him to realise the vast knowledge and supreme
skill of the pleasant man with the cultured voice who sat on the side
of the bed.

The fear was perfectly plain to Morton Sims.

"May I have a cigarette?" he said, taking his case from his pocket.

Lothian became more at ease at once.

"Well,"--puff-puff--"these little suspicions are characteristic of the
disease. The man who is suffering from it says that these feelings of
resistance cannot arise in himself. Therefore, they must be caused by
somebody. Who more likely then than by those who are in social contact
with him?"

"I see that and it's very true. Perhaps truer than you can know!"
Lothian said with a rather bitter smile. "But how does all this explain
what we were talking about at first. The 'Craving' and all that?"

"I am coming to it now. I had to make the other postulate first. In
this way. We have seen in this suspicion--one of many instances--that
an entirely fictitious world is created in the mind of a man by
alcohol. It is one in which he _must_ live. It is peopled with
unrealities and phantasies. As he goes on drinking, this world becomes
more and more complex. Then, when a man becomes in a state which we
call 'chronic alcoholism' a new Ego, a new self is created. _This new
personality fails to recognise that it was ever anything else_--mark
this well--_and proceeds to harmonise everything with the new state_.
And now, as the new consciousness, the new Ego, is the compelling mind
of the moment, the Inebriate is terrified at any weakening in it. _The
preservation of this new Ego seems to be his only guard against the_
imagined _pitfalls and treacheries_. Therefore he does all in his power
to strengthen his defences. He continues alcohol, because it is to him
the only possible agent by which he can _keep grasp of his identity_.
For him it is no poison, no excess. It sustains his very being. His
_stomach_ doesn't crave for it, as the ignorant will tell you. It has
no _sensual_ appeal. Lots of inebriates hate the taste of alcohol. In
advanced stages it is quite a matter of indifference to a man what form
of alcohol he drinks. If he can't get whiskey, he will drink methylated
spirit. He takes the drug simply because of the necessity for the
maintenance of a condition the falsity of which he is unable to
appreciate."

Lothian lay thinking.

The lucid statement was perfectly clear to him and absorbingly
interesting in its psychology. He was a profound psychologist himself,
though he did not apply his theories personally, a spectator of others,
turning away from the contemplation of himself during the past years in
secret terror of what he might find there.

How new this was, yet how true. It shed a flood of light upon so much
that he had failed to understand!

"Thank you," he said simply. "I feel certain that what you say is
true."

Morton Sims nodded with pleasure. "Perhaps nothing is quite true," he
said, "but I think we are getting as near truth in these matters as we
can. What we have to do, is to let the whole of the public know too.
When once it is thoroughly understood what Inebriety is, then the
remedy will be applied, the only remedy."

"And that is?"

"I'll tell you our theories at my next visit. You must be quiet now."

"But there are a dozen questions I want to ask you--and my own case?"

"I am sending you some medicine, and we will talk more next time. And,
if you like, I will send you a paper upon the Psychology of the
Alcoholic, which I read the other day before the Society for the Study
of Alcoholism. It may interest you. But don't necessarily take it all
for gospel! I'm only feeling my way."

"I'll compare it with such experiences as I have had--though of course
I'm not what you'd call an _inebriate_." There was a lurking
undercurrent of suspicion creeping into his voice once more.

"Of course not! Did I ever say so, Mr. Lothian! But what you propose
will be of real value to me, if I may have your conclusions."

Lothian was flattered. He would show this great scientist how entirely
capable he could be of understanding and appreciating his researches.
He would collaborate with him. It would be new and exhilarating!

"I'll make notes," he replied, "and please use them as you will!"

The doctor rose. "Thanks," he answered. "It will be a help. But what we
really require is an alcoholic De Quincey to detail in his graphic
manner the memories of his past experiences--a man who has the power
and the courage to lay open the cravings and the writhings of his
former slavery, and to compare them with his emancipated self."

Lothian started. When the kindly, keen-faced man had gone, he lay long
in thought.

In the afternoon Mary came to him. "Do you mind if I leave you for an
hour or two, dear?" she asked. "I have some things to get and I thought
I would drive into Wordingham."

"Of course not, I shall be quite all right."

"Well, be sure and ring for anything you want."

"Very well. I shall probably sleep. By the way, I thought of asking
Dickson Ingworth down for a few days. There are some duck about, you
know, and he can bring his gun."

"Do, darling, if you would like him."

"Very well, then. I wonder if you'd write a note for me, explaining
that I'm in bed, but shall be up to-morrow. Supposing you ask him to
come in a couple of days."

"Yes, I will," she replied, kissing him with her almost maternal,
protective air, "and I'll post it in Wordingham."

When she had left the room he began to smoke slowly.

He felt a certain irritation at all this love and regard, a discontent.
Mary was always the same. With his knowledge of her, he could predict
with absolute accuracy what she would do in almost every given moment.

She would do the right thing, the kind and wise thing, but the certain,
the predicted thing. She lived from a great depth of being and peace
personified was hers, the peace of God indeed!--but--

"She has no changes, no surprises," he thought, "all even surface, even
depth."

He admired all her care and watchfulness of him with deep æsthetic
pleasure. It was beautiful and he loved beauty. But now and then, it
bored him as applied to himself. After six months of the unchanging
gold and blue of Italy and Greece, he remembered how he had longed for
a grey, weeping sky, with ashen cirrus clouds, heaped tumuli of
smoke-grey and cold pearl. And sometimes after a lifeless, rotting
autumn and an iron-winter, how every fibre cried out for the sun and
the South!

He remembered that a man of letters, who had got into dreadful trouble
and had served a period of imprisonment, had remarked to him that the
food of penal servitude was plentiful and good, but that it was its
dreadful monotony that made it a contributory torture.

And who could live for ever upon honey-comb? Not he at any rate.

Mary was "always her sweet self"--just like a phrase in a girl's novel.
There were men who liked that, and preferred it, of course. Even when
she was angry with him, he knew exactly how the quarrel would go--a
tune he had heard many times before. The passion of their early love
had faded; as it must always do. She was beautiful and desirable still,
but too calm, too peaceful, sometimes!

This was one of those times. One must be trained to appreciate Heaven
properly, Paradise must be experienced first--otherwise, would not
almost every one want a little holiday sometimes? He thought of a
meeting of really good people, men and women--one stumbled in upon such
a thing now and then. How appallingly dull they generally were! Did
they never crave for madder music and stronger wine?

. . . He could not read. Restless and rebellious thoughts occupied
his mind.

The Fiend Alcohol was at work once more, though Lothian had no
suspicion of it. The new and evil Ego, created by alcohol, which the
doctor had told him of, was awake within him, asserting itself,
stirring uneasily, finding its identity diminishing, its vitality
lowered and thus clamant for its rights.

And if this, in all its horror, is not true demoniacal possession, what
else is? What more does the precise scientific language of those who
study the psychology of the inebriate mean than "He was possessed of a
Devil"?

The fiend, the new Ego, went on with its work as the poet lay there and
the long lights of the summer afternoon filled the room with gold-dust.

The house was absolutely still. Mary had given orders that there was to
be no noise at all, "in order that the Master might sleep, if he
could."

It was a summer's afternoon, the scent of some flowers below in the
garden came up to Gilbert with a curious familiarity. What _was_
the scent? What memory, which would not come, was it trying to evoke?

A motor-car droned through the village beyond the grounds.

Memory leaped up in a moment.

Of course! The ride to Brighton, the happy afternoon with Rita Wallace.

That was it! He had thought of her a good deal on the journey down from
London--until he had sat in the dining car with those shooting men from
Thetford and had had too many whiskeys and sodas. During the last three
days in bed, she had not "occurred" to him vividly. Yet all the time
there had been something at the back of his mind of which he had been
conscious, but was unable to explain to himself. The nasty knock on his
head, when he had taken a toss from the dogcart, was the reason, no
doubt.

Yet, there had been a distinct sense of hidden thought-treasure,
something to draw upon as it were. And now he knew! and abandoned
himself to the luxury of the discovery.

He must write to her, of course. He had promised to do so at once.
Already she would be wondering. He would write her a wonderful letter.
Such a letter as few men could write, and certainly such as she had
never received. He would put all he knew into it. His sweet girl-friend
should marvel at the jewelled words.

The idea excited him. His pulses began to beat quicker, his eyes grew
brighter. But he would not do it now. Night was the time for such a
present as he would make for her, when all the house was sleeping and
Mary was in her own room. Then, in the night-silence, his brain should
be awake, weaving a coloured tapestry of prose with words for threads,
this new, delicious impulse of friendship the shuttle to carry them.

Like some coarser epicure, arranging and gloating over the details of a
feast to come, he made his plans.

He pressed the electric button at the side of the bed and Blanche, the
housemaid, answered the summons.

"Where is Tumpany, Blanche?" he asked.

"In the garden, sir."

"Well, tell him to come up, please. I want to speak to him."

In a minute or two heavy steps resounded down the corridor, accompanied
by a curious scuffling noise. There was a knock, the door opened, a
yelp of joy, and the Dog Trust had leapt upon the bed and was rolling
over and over upon the counterpane, licking his master's hands, making
loving dashes for his face, his faithful little heart bursting with
emotions he was quite unable to express.

"Thought you'd like to see him, sir," said Tumpany. "He know'd you'd
come back right enough, and he's been terrible restless."

Lothian captured the dog at last, and held him pressed to his side.

"I am very glad to see the old chap again. Look here, William, just you
go quietly over to the Mortland Arms, don't look as if you were going
on any special errand,--but you know--and get a bottle of whiskey. Draw
the cork and put it back in the bottle so that I can take it out with
my fingers when I want to. Then bring it quietly up here."

"Yessir," said Tumpany. "That'll be all right, sir," and departed with
a somewhat ludicrous air of secrecy and importance that tickled his
master's sense of humour and made him smile.

It was by no means the first time that Tumpany had carried out these
little confidential missions.

In ten minutes the man was back again, with the bottle.

"Shall I leave the dog, sir?"

"Yes, you may as well. He's quite happy."

Tumpany went away.

Gilbert rose from bed, the bottle in his hand, and looked round for a
hiding-place. The wardrobe! That would do. He put it in one of the big
inside pockets of a shooting-coat which was hanging there and carefully
closed the door.

As he did so, he caught sight of his face in the panel-mirror. It was
sly and unpleasant. Something horrible seemed to be peeping out.

He shook his head and a slight blush came to his cheeks.

The eyes under the bandaged brow, the smirk upon the clear-cut
mouth. . . . "Beastly!" he said aloud, as if speaking of some one
else--as indeed he really was, had he but realised it.

Now he would sleep, to be fresh for the night. Bromide--always a good
friend, though not so certain in its action as in the past--Ammonium
Bromide should paralyse his racing brain to sleep.

He dissolved five tablets in a little water and drank the mixture.

When Mary came noiselessly into the room, three hours later, he was
sleeping calmly. One arm was round the Dog Trust, who was sleeping too.

Her husband looked strangely youthful and innocent. A faint smile hung
about his lips and her whole heart went out to him as he slept.

                 *       *       *       *       *

It was after midnight.

Deep peace brooded over the poet's household. Only he was awake. The
dog slumbered in his kennel, the servants in their rooms, the Sweet
Chatelaine of the Old House lay in tranquil sleep in her own chamber.

. . . On a small oak table by Gilbert's bedside, three tall candles
were burning in holders of silver. Upon it also was an open bottle of
whiskey, the carafe of water from the washstand and a bedroom tumbler.

The door was locked.

Gilbert was sitting up in bed. Upon his raised knees a pad of white
paper was resting. In his hand was a stylographic pen of red vulcanite,
and a third of the page was covered with small delicate writing.

His face was flushed but quite motionless. His whole body in its white
pyjama suit was perfectly still. The only movement was that of the hand
travelling over the page, the only sound that of the dull grinding of
the stylus, as it went this way and that.

There was something sinister about this automaton in the bed with its
moving hand. And in our day there is always something a little
fantastic and unreal about candlelight. . . .

How absolutely still the night was! Not a breath of air stirred.

The movements, the stir and tumult of the mind of the person so rigid
in the bed were not heard.

_What_ was it, _who_ was it, that was writing in the bed?

Who can say?

Was it Gilbert Lothian, the young and kindly-natured man who reverenced
all things that were pure, beautiful and of good report?

Or was it that dreadful other self, the Being created out of poison,
that was laying sure and stealthy fingers upon the Soul, that "glorious
Devil large of heart and brain"?

Who can tell?

The subtle knowledge of the great doctor could not have said, the holy
love of the young matron could not have divined.

These things are hidden yet, and still will be.

The hump of the bed-clothes sank. The pad fell flat. The figure
stretched out towards the table, there was the stealthy trickle of
liquid, the gurgle of a body, drinking.

Then the bed-clothes rose once more, the pad went to its place, the
figure stiffened; and the red pen moved obedient to that which
controlled it, setting down the jewelled words upon the page.

--The first of the long series of letters that the Girl of the Library
was destined to receive! Not the most beautiful perhaps, not the most
wonderful. Passion was not born yet, and if love was, there was no
concrete word of it here. No one but Gilbert Lothian ever knew what was
born on that fated midnight, when he wrote this first subtle letter,
deadly for this girl to receive, perhaps, from such a man, at such a
time in her life.

A love letter without a word of love.

These are passages from the letter:--

    . . . "So, Rita, I am going to write a great poem for you. Will you
    take it from your friend? I think you will, for it will be made for
    you in the first place and wrought with all my skill.

    "I am going to call it 'A Lady in a Library.' No one will know the
    innermost inwardness of it but just you and me. Will not that be
    delightful, Rita mia amica? When you answer this letter, say that
    it will be delightful, please!

    "'A Lady in a Library!' Are not the words wonderful--say it quietly
    to yourself--'A Lady in a Library!'"

This was the poem which appeared two months afterwards in the _English
Review_ and definitely established Gilbert Lothian's claim to stand in
the very forefront of the poets of his decade. It is certain to live
long. More than one critic of the highest standing has printed his
belief that it will be immortal, and many lovers of the poet's work
think so too.

    . . . "The Lady and the Poet meet in a Library upon a golden
    afternoon. She is the very Spirit and Genius of the place. She has
    drawn beauty from many brave books. They have told her their
    secrets as she moves among them, and lavished all their store upon
    her. Some of the beauty which they hold has passed into her face,
    and the rosy tints of youth become more glorious.

    "Oh, they have been very generous!

    "The thin volume of Keats gave her eyes their colour, but an old
    and sober-backed edition of Coleridge opened its dun boards and
    robbed the magic stanzas of 'Kubla Khan' to give them their mystery
    and wonder.

    "Milton bestowed the music of her voice, but it came from the
    second volume in which Comus lies hid. Her smile was half Herrick
    and half Heine, and her hair was spun in a 'Wood near Athens' by
    the fairies--Tom III, _Opera Glmi Shakespeare, Editio e Libris
    Podley!_--upon a night in Midsummer."


    "Random thoughts, Cupid! random thoughts! They come to me like
    moths through the still night, and I put them down for you. A
    grey-fawn _Papillon de nuit_ is fluttering round my candles now and
    sometimes he falls flapping and whirring on my paper like a tiny
    clock-work toy. But I will not kill him. I am happy in writing
    to my friend, distilling my friendship for you in the lonely
    laboratory of self, so he shall go unharmed. His ancestors may have
    feasted upon royal tapestries and laid their eggs in the purple
    robes of kings!

    "What are the moths like in Kensington this night, Cupid?--But of
    course you are asleep now. I make a picture for myself of you
    sleeping.

    "The whole village is asleep now, save only me, and I am trying to
    reconstruct our afternoon and evening together, five days ago or
    was it six? It is more than ever possible to do that at midnight
    and alone, though every detail is etched upon my memory and I am
    only adding colour.

    "How happy we were! It is so strange to me to think how instantly
    we became friends--as we are agreed we are always to be, you and I.
    And think of all we still have to find out about each other! There
    are golden days coming in our friendship, all sorts of revelations
    and surprises. There are so many enchanted places in the Kingdom of
    Thought to which I have the key, so many doors I shall open for
    you.

    "Ours shall be a perfect friendship--of your bounty I crave again
    what you have already given!--and I will build it up as an
    artificer in rare woods or stained marbles, a carver of
    moon-stones, a builder of temples in honey-coloured Travertine,
    makes beautiful states in which the soul can dwell, out of
    beautiful perishable things.


    "How often do two people meet as you and I have met? Most rarely.
    Men and women fall in love, sometimes too early, sometimes too
    late. There is a brief summer, and then a long winter of calm grey
    days which numb the soul into acquiescence, or stab the dull
    tranquillity with the lightnings of tragedy and woe.

    "We have the better part! We are to be friends, Rita, you and
    I--that is the rivulet of repeated melody which runs through my
    first letter to you. Some sad dawn will rise for me, when you tell
    of something nearer and more poignant than anything I can offer
    you. It will be a dawn in which, for you the trumpets, the sackbuts
    and the psalteries of Heaven will sound. And your friend will bless
    you; and retire to the back of the scene with a most graceful bow!

    "In the last act of the play, when all the players appear as Nymphs
    and Graces, and Seasons, your friend will be found wearing the rich
    yet sober liveries of Autumn, saluting Spring and her Partner with
    a courtly song, and a dance which expresses his sentiments
    according to the best choreographic traditions.

    "But, as he retires among the last red leaves of the year, and
    walks jauntily down the forest rides as the setting sun shows the
    trees already bare, he will know one thing, even if Spring does not
    know it then--when she turns to her Partner.

    "He will know that in her future life, his voice, his face, can
    never be quite forgotten. Sometimes, at the feast, 'surgit amari
    aliquid' that he is not present there with the wistful glance, the
    hands that were ever reverent, the old familiar keys!

    "For a brief instant of recollection, he will have for you
    '_L'effet d'un clair-de-lune par une nuit d'été'_. And you will say
    to yourself, '_Ami du temps passés, vos paroles me reviennent comme
    un écho lointain, comme le son d'un cloche apporté par le vent; et
    il me semble que vous êtes là quand je lis des passages d'amour
    dans vos livres_'."

A click of glass against glass, the low sound of drinking, a black
shadow parodied and repeated upon the ceiling in the candle-glow.

The letter is nearly finished now--the bottle is nearly empty.

    "'Tiens!' I hear you say--by the way, Rita, where did you learn to
    speak such perfect French? They tell me in Paris and, Mon Dieu! in
    Tours even! that I speak well. Mais, toi! . . .

    "Well 'How stupid!' I hear you say. 'Why does Gilbert strike this
    note of the 'cello and the big sobbing flutes at the very beginning
    of things?'

    "Why, indeed? I hardly know myself. But it is very late now. The
    curtains of the dark are already shaken by the birth-pangs of the
    morning. Soon the jocund noises of dawn will begin.

    "Let it be so for you and me. There are long and happy days coming
    in our friendship. The end is not yet! Soon, quite soon, I will
    return to London with a pocket-full of plans for pleasure, and the
    magician's wand polished like the poker in the best parlour of an
    evangelical household, and charged with the most superior magic!

    "Meanwhile I shall write you my thoughts as you must send me yours.

    "I kiss your hand,

    "GILBERT LOTHIAN."

The figure rose from the bed, gathering the papers together, putting
them into a drawer of the dressing-table.

It staggered a little.

"I'm drunk," came in a tired voice, from lips that were parched and
dry.

With trembling hands the empty bottle was hidden, the glass washed out
and replaced, the door noiselessly unlocked.

Then Lothian lurched to the open window.

It was as he had said, dawn was at hand. But a thick grey mist hid
everything. Phantoms seemed to sway in it, speaking to each other with
tiny doll-like squeaks.

There were no jocund noises as he crept back into bed and fell into a
stupor, snoring loudly.

No jocund noises of Dawn.



CHAPTER IV

DICKSON INGWORTH UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

    "On n'est jamais trahi que par ses siens."

    --_Proverb of Provence._


Lothian and Dickson Ingworth were driving into Wordingham.

It was just after lunch and there was a pleasant cold-snap in the air,
a hint of Autumn which would soon be here.

The younger man was driving, sending the cob along at a good pace,
quite obviously a skilful and accustomed whip.

His host sat by his side and looked up at him with some curiosity, a
curiosity which had been growing upon him during the last few days.

Ingworth was certainly good-looking, in a boyish, rather rakish
fashion. There were no indications of dissipation in his face. He was
not a dissipated youth. But there was, nevertheless, in the cast of the
features, something that suggested rather more than staidness. The hair
was dark red and very crisp and curly, the mouth was well-shaped and
rather thick in the lips. Upon it, more often than not, was the hint of
a smile at some inward thought, "rather like some youthful apprentice
pirate, not adventured far upon the high seas yet, but with sufficient
experience to lick the chops of memory now and then" . . . thus
Gilbert's half amused, half wondering thought.

And the eyes?--yes, there was something a little queer about the eyes.
They were dark, not very steady in expression, and the whites--by Jove!
that was it--had a curious opalescence at times. Could it possibly be
that his friend had a touch of the tar-brush somewhere? It was faint,
elusive, born more of a chance thought than of reality perhaps, and yet
as the dog-cart bowled along the straight white road Gilbert wondered
more and more.

He had known the lad, who was some two and twenty years of age, for
twelve months or more. Where had he met him?--Oh, yes, at an exhibition
of caricatures in the Carfax Gallery. Cromartie had introduced them.
Ingworth had made friends at once. In a graceful impulsive way he had
taken Lothian into a corner, and, blushing a good deal, had told him
how much he had wanted to know him. He had just come down from Oxford;
he told the poet how eagerly he was being read by the younger men
there.

That was how it had begun.

Friendship was an immediate result. Lothian, quite impervious to
flattery and spurning coteries and the "tea-shops," had found this
young man's devotion a pleasant thing. He was a gentleman and he didn't
bore Gilbert by literary talk. He was, in short, like an extremely
intelligent fag to a boy in the sixth form of a public school. He spoke
the same language of Oxford and school that Gilbert did--the bond
between them was just that, and the elder and well-known man had done
all he could for his protégé.

From Gilbert's point of view, the friendship had occurred by chance, it
had presented no jarring elements, and he had drifted into it with
good-natured acquiescence.

It was a fortnight after Mary had sent the invitation to Ingworth, who
could not come at the moment, being kept in London by "important work."
He had now arrived, and this was the eighth day of his visit.

"I can't understand Tumpany letting this beast down," Ingworth said.
"He's as sure footed as possible. Was Tumpany fluffed?"

"I suppose he was, a little."

"Then why didn't you drive, Gilbert?"

"I? Oh, well, I did myself rather well in the train coming down, and so
I thought I'd leave it to William!"

Gilbert smiled as he said this, his absolutely frank and charming
smile--it would have disarmed a coroner!

Ingworth smiled also, but here was something self-conscious and
deprecating. He was apologising for his friend's rueful but open
statement of fact. The big man had said, in effect, "I was drunk," the
small man tried to excuse the plain statement with quite unnecessary
sycophancy.

"But you couldn't have been very bad?"

"Oh, no, I wasn't, Dicker. But I was half asleep as we got into the
village, and as you see this cart is rather high and with a low
splashboard. My feet weren't braced against the foot-bar and I simply
shot out!"

Ingworth looked quickly at Lothian, and chuckled. Then he clicked his
tongue and the trap rolled on silently.

Lothian sat quietly in his place, smoking his cigar. He was conscious
of a subtle change in this lad since he had come down. It interested
him. He began to analyse as Ingworth drove onwards, quite oblivious of
the keen, far-seeing brain beside him.

--That last little laugh of Ingworth's. There was a new note in it, a
note that had sounded several times during the last few days. It almost
seemed informed with a slight hint of patronage, and also of
reservation. It wasn't the admiring response of the past. The young man
had been absolutely loyal in the past, though no great strain had been
put upon his friendship. It was not difficult to be friends with a
benefactor--while the benefactions last. Certainly on one occasion--at
the Amberleys' dinner-party--he had behaved with marked loyalty.
Gilbert had heard all about it from Rita Wallace. But that, after all,
was an isolated instance. Lothian decided to test it. . . .

"Of course I wasn't tight," he said suddenly and with some sharpness.

"My dear old chap," the lad replied hastily--too hastily--"don't I
know?"

It wasn't sincere! How badly he did it! Lothian watched him out of the
corner of his eye. There was certainly _something_. Dickson was
changed.

Then the big mind brushed these thoughts away impatiently. It had
enough to brood over! This small creature which was just now intruding
in the great and gathering sweep of his daily thoughts might well be
dissected some other time.

Lothian's head sank forward upon his chest. His eyes lost light and
speculation, the mouth set firm. Instinctively he crossed his arms upon
his breast, and the clean-shaved face with the growing heaviness of
contour mingled with its youth, made an almost Napoleonic profile
against the bright grey arc of sky over the marshes.

Ingworth saw it and wondered. "One can see he's a big man," he thought
with a slight feeling of discomfort. "I wonder if Toftrees is right and
his reputation is going down and people are beginning to find out about
him?"

He surveyed the circumstances of the last fortnight--two very important
weeks for him.

Until his arrival in Norfolk about a week ago he had not seen Lothian
since the night of the party at the Amberleys', the poet having left
town immediately afterwards. But he had met, and seen a good deal of
Herbert Toftrees and his wife.

These worthy people liked an audience. Their somewhat dubious solar
system was incomplete without a whole series of lesser lights. The
rewards of their industry and popularity were worth little unless they
were constantly able to display them.

Knowing their own disabilities, however, quite aware that they were in
literature by false pretences so to speak, they preferred to be
reigning luminaries in a minor constellation rather than become part of
the star dust in the Milky Way. Courtier stars must be recruited,
little eager parasitic stars who should twinkle pleasantly at their
hospitable board.

Dickson Ingworth, much to his own surprise and delight, had been swept
in. He thought himself in great good luck, and perhaps indeed he was.

Nephew of a retired civilian from the Malay Archipelago, he had been
sent to Eton and Oxford by this gentleman, who had purchased a small
estate in Wiltshire and settled down as a minor country squire. The lad
was destined to succeed to this moderate establishment, but, at the
University, he had fallen into one of those small and silly "literary"
sets, which are the despair of tutors and simply serve as an excuse for
general slackness. The boy had announced his intention of embracing a
literary career when he had managed to scrape through his pass schools.
He had a hundred a year of his own--always spent before he received
it--and the Wiltshire squire, quite confident in the ultimate result,
had cut off his allowance. "Try it," he had said. "No one will be more
pleased than I if you make it a success. You won't, though! When you're
tired, come back here and take up your place. It will be waiting for
you. But meanwhile, my dear boy, not a penny do you get from me!"

So Dickson Ingworth had "embraced a literary career." The caresses had
not as yet been returned with any ardour. Conceit and a desire to taste
"ginger in the mouth while it was hot" had sent him to London. He had
hardly ever read a notable book. He had not the slightest glimmerings
of what literature meant. But he got a few short stories accepted now
and then, did some odd journalism, and lived on his hundred a year, a
fair amount of credit, and such friends as he was able to make.

In his heart of hearts the boy knew himself for what he was. But his
good looks, his youth--most valuable asset of all!--and the fact that
he would some day have some sort of settled position, enabled him to
rub along pretty well for the time.

Without much real harm in him--he was too lacking in temperament to be
really wicked--he was as cunning as an ape and justified his good
opinions of his cleverness by the fact that his laborious little tricks
constantly succeeded. He was always achieving infinitesimal successes.

He had marked out Gilbert Lothian, for instance, and had succeeded in
making a friend of him easily enough.

Lothian rarely thought ill of any one and any one could take him in. To
do Ingworth justice he liked Lothian very much, and really admired him.
He did not understand him in the least. His poems were rather worse
Greek to him than the Euripidean choruses he had learnt by heart at
school. At the same time it was a great thing to be Fidus Achates to
the poet of the moment, and it was extremely convenient--also--to have
a delightful country house to retire to when one was hard up, and a
patron who not only introduced one to editors, but would lend five
pounds as a matter of course.

Perhaps there was really some Eastern taint in the young fellow's
blood. At any rate he was sly by nature, had a good deal of undeveloped
capability for treachery latent within him, and, encouraged by success,
was becoming a marked parasite.

Lazy by nature, he soon discovered how easy it was--to take one
example--to look up the magazines of three years back, steal a
situation or a plot, adapt it to the day, and sell it for a guinea or
two. His small literary career had hitherto been just that. If he had
been put upon the rack he could not have confessed to an original
thought. And it was the same in many other aspects of his life. He made
himself useful. He was always sympathetic and charming to some wife in
Bohemia who bewailed the inconstancy of her husband, and earned the
title of a "nice, good-hearted boy." On the next evening he would
gladly sup with the husband and the chorus girl who was the cause of
the trouble, and flatter them both.

Master Dickson Ingworth, it will be seen, was by no means a person of
fine nature. He was simply very young, without any sort of ideals save
the gratification of the moment, and would, no doubt, become a decent
member of society in time.

In a lower rank of life, and without the comfortable inheritance which
awaited him, he would probably have become a sneak-thief or a
blackmailer in a small way.

In the event, he was destined to live a happy and fairly popular life
in the Wiltshire Grange, and to die a much better man than he was at
two and twenty. He was not to repent of, but to forget, all the
calculated meannesses of his youth, and at fifty he would have shown
any one to the door with horror who suggested a single one of the
tricks that he had himself been guilty of in his youth.

And, parasite always, he is displayed here because of the part he is
destined to take in the drama of Gilbert Lothian's life.


"I've been seeing a good deal of Toftrees lately, Gilbert," Ingworth
said with a side glance.

Lothian looked up from his reverie.

"What? Oh, yes!--the Toftrees. Nice chap, Toftrees, I thought, when I
met him the other night. Awfully clever, don't you think, to get hold
of such an enormous public? Mind you, Dicker, I wouldn't give one of
his books to any one if I could help it. But that's because I want
every one to care for real literature. That's my own personal
standpoint. Apart from that, I do think that Mr. and Mrs. Toftrees
deserve all they get in the way of money and popularity and so on.
There must be such people under the modern conditions, and apart from
their work they both seem most interesting."

This took the wind from the young man's sails. He was sensitive enough
to perceive--though not to appreciate--the largeness of such an
attitude as this. He felt baffled and rather small.

Then, something that had been instilled into him by his new and
influential friends not only provided an antidote to his momentary
discomfiture but became personal to himself.

A sense of envy, almost of hate, towards this man who had been so
consistently kind to him, bloomed like some poisonous and swift-growing
fungus in his unstable mind.

"I say," he said maliciously, though there was fear in his voice, too,
"Herbert Toftrees has got his knife into you, Gilbert."

Lothian looked at the young man in surprise. "Got his _knife into me_?"
he said, genuinely perplexed.

"Well, yes. He's going about town saying all sorts of unpleasant things
about you."

Lothian laughed. "Yes!" he said, "I remember! Miss Wallace told me so
not long ago. How intensely amusing!"

Ingworth hated him at the moment. There was a disgusting sense of
impotence and smallness, in that he could not sting Lothian.

"Toftrees is a very influential man in London," he said sententiously.

At that moment all the humour in Lothian awoke.

He leant back and laughed aloud.

"Oh, Dicker!" he said, "what a babe you are!"

Ingworth grew red. He was furious, but dared say nothing more. He felt
as if he had been trying to bore a tunnel through the Alps with a
boiled carrot and had wasted a franc in paying some one to hold his
shadow while he made the attempt!

Lothian's laughter was perfectly genuine. He cared absolutely nothing
what Toftrees said or thought about him. But he did care about the
young man at his side.

. . . The other Self, the new Ego, suddenly became awake and dominant.
Suspicion reared its head.

For days and days now he had drunk hardly anything. The anti-alcoholic
medicines that Morton Sims had administered were gradually
strengthening the enfeebled will and bringing back the real tenant of
his soul. But now . . .

Here was one whom he had thought his friend. It was not so then! An
enemy sat by his side?--he would soon discover.

And then, with a skill which made the lad a plaything in his hands,
with a cunning a hundred times deeper than Ingworth's immature
shiftiness, Lothian began his work.

But it was not the real Lothian. It was the adroit devil waked to life
that set itself to the task as the dog-cart rattled into the little
country town and drew up before the George Hotel in the Market Square.

"Thanks awfully, old chap," Lothian said cheerfully as they turned
under the archway into the stable yard. "You're a topping whip, you
know, Dicker. I can't drive a bit myself. But I like to see you."

For a moment Ingworth forgot his rancour at the praise. Unconscious of
the dominant personality and the mental grin behind the words, he
swallowed the compliment as a trout gulps a fly.

They descended from the trap and the stable-men began to unharness the
cob. Lothian thrust his arm through the other's. "Come along, Jehu!" he
said. "I want a drink badly, and I'm sure you do, after the drive. I
don't care what you say, that cob is _not_ so easy to handle." . . .

His voice was lost in the long passage that led from the stable yard to
the "saloon-lounge."



CHAPTER V

A QUARREL IN THE "MOST SELECT LOUNGE IN THE COUNTY"

    "I strike quickly, being moved. . . . A dog of the house of
    Montague moves me."

    --_Romeo and Juliet._


The George Hotel in Wordingham was a most important place in the life
and economy of the little Norfolk town.

The town drank there.

In the handsome billiard room, any evening after dinner, one might find
the solicitor, the lieutenant of the Coast-guards, in command of the
district, a squire or two, Mr. Pashwhip and Mr. Moger the estate agents
and auctioneers, Mr. Reeves the maltster and local J.P.--town, not
county--and in fact all the local notabilities up to a certain point,
including Mr. Helzephron, the landlord and Worshipful Master of the
Wordingham Lodge of Freemasons for that year.

The Doctor, the Bank Manager and, naturally, the Rector, were the only
people of consequence who did not "use the house" and make it their
club. They were definitely upon the plane of gentlefolk and could not
well do so. Accordingly they formed a little bridge playing coterie of
their own, occasionally assisted by the Lieutenant, who preferred the
Hotel, but made fugitive excursions into the somewhat politer society
which was his _milieu_ by birth.

Who does not know them, these comfortable, respectable hotels in the
High Streets or Market Places of small country towns? Yet who has
pointed the discovering finger at them or drawn attention to the smug
and _convenable_ curses that they are?

"There was a flaunting gin palace at the corner of the street,"--that
is the sort of phrase you may read in half a hundred books. The holes
and dens where working people get drunk, and issuing therefrom make
night hideous at closing time, stink in the nostrils of every one. They
form the texts and illustrations of many earnest lectures, much fervent
sermonizing. But nothing is said of the suave and well-conducted
establishments where the prosperous inebriates of stagnant county towns
meet to take their poison. When the doors of the George closed in
Wordingham and its little coterie of patrons issued forth, gravely,
pompously, a little unsteadily perhaps, to seek their homes, the Police
Inspector touched his cap--"The gentlemen from the George, going home!"

But the wives knew all about such places as the George.

It is upon the women that the burden falls, gentle or simple, nearly
always the women.

Mrs. Gaunt, the naval officer's wife, knew very well why her husband
had never got his ship, and why he "went into the Coast-guard." She was
accustomed to hear unsteady steps upon the gravel sweep a little after
eleven, to see the flushed face of the man she loved, to know that he
had spent the evening tippling with his social inferiors, to lie sad
and uncomplaining by his side while his snores filled the air and the
bedroom was pervaded by the odour of spirits--an Admiral's daughter
she, gently nurtured, gently born, well accustomed to these sordid
horrors by now.

Mrs. Reeves, the Maltster's wife, was soured in temper and angular of
face. She had been a pretty and trusting girl not so long ago as years
measure. She "gave as good as she got," and the servants of the big
bourgeois house with its rankly splendid furniture only turned in their
sleep when, towards midnight and once or twice a month, loud
recriminations reached them from the downstairs rooms.

The solicitor, a big genial brute with a sense of humour, only
frightened to tears the elderly maiden sister who kept his house. He
was never unkind, never used bad language, and was merely noisy, but at
eight o'clock on the mornings following an audit dinner, a "Lodge
Night," or the evening of Petty Sessions, a little shrivelled,
trembling spinster would creep out of the house before breakfast and
kneel in piteous supplication at the Altar rails for the big, blond and
jovial brother who was "dissolving his soul" in wine--the
well-remembered phrase from the poem of Longfellow which she had
learned at school was always with her and gave a bitter urgency to her
prayers.

All the company who met almost nightly at the George were prosperous,
well-to-do citizens. The government of the little town was in their
hands. They administered the laws for drunkards, fined them or sent
them to prison at Norwich. Their prosperity did not suffer. Custom
flowed to Mr. Pashwhip and Mr. Moger, who were always ready to take or
stand a drink. The malt of Mr. Reeves was bought by the great breweries
of England and deteriorated nothing in quality, while more money than
the pompous and heavy man could spend rolled into his coffers. The
solicitor did his routine conveyancing and so on well enough.

No one did anything out of the ordinary. There were no scandals,
"alarums and excursions." It was all decent and ordered.

The doctor could have given some astonishing evidence before a Medical
Commission. But he was a wise and quiet general practitioner who did
his work, held his tongue and sent his three boys to Cambridge.

The Rector might have had an illuminating word to say. He was a good
but timid man, and saw how impossible it was to make any movement. They
were all his own church-wardens, sidesmen, supporters! How could he
throw the sleepy, stagnant, comfortable town into a turmoil and
disorder in which souls might be definitely lost for ever?

He could only pray earnestly as he said the Mass each morning during
the seasons of the year.

It is so all over England. Deny it who may.

In Whitechapel the Fiend Alcohol is a dishevelled fury shrieking
obscenities. In the saloons and theatres of the West End he is a suave
Mephistopheles in evening dress. In Wordingham and the other provincial
towns and cities of England, he appears as a plump and prosperous
person in broadcloth, the little difficulty about his feet being got
over by well-made country shoes, and with a hat pressed down over ears
that may be a trifle pointed or may not.

But the mothers, the wives, the sisters recognise him anywhere.

The number of martyrs is uncounted. Their names are unknown, their
hidden miseries unsung.

Who hears the sobs or sees the tears shed by the secret army of Slaves
to the Slaves of Alcohol?

It is they who must drink the cup to the last dregs of horror and of
shame. The unbearable weight is upon them, that is to say, upon
tenderness and beauty, on feebleness and Love. Women endure the blows,
or cruel words more agonising. They are the meek victims of the Fiend's
malice when he enters into those they love. It is womanhood that lies
helpless upon the rack for ruthless hands to torture.

Cujus animam geminentem!

--She whose soul groaning, condoling and grieving the sword pierced
through!

Saviours sometimes, sufferers always.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Into the "lounge" of the George Hotel came Gilbert Lothian and Dickson
Ingworth.

They were well-dressed men of the upper classes. Their clothes
proclaimed them--for there will be (unwritten) sumptuary laws for many
years in England yet. Their voices and intonation stamped them as
members of the upper classes. A railway porter, a duke, or the
Wordingham solicitor would alike have placed them with absolute
certainty.

They were laughing and talking together with bright, animated faces,
and in this masked life that we all lead to-day no single person could
have guessed at the forces and tragedies at work beneath.

They sat down in a long room with a good carpet upon the floor, dull
green walls hung with elaborate pictures advertising whiskeys, in gold
frames, and comfortable leather chairs grouped in threes round tables
with tops of hammered copper.

Mr. Helzephron did everything in a most up-to-date fashion--as he could
well afford. "The most select lounge in the county" was a minor heading
upon the hotel note-paper.

At one end of the room was a semicircular counter, upon which were
innumerable regiments of tumblers and wine-glasses and three or four
huge crystal vessels of spirits, tulip-shaped, with gilded inscriptions
and shining plated taps.

Behind the counter was Miss Molly Palmer, the barmaid of the hotel,
and, behind her, the alcove was lined with mirrors and glass shelves on
which were rows of liqueur flasks, bottles of brandy and dummy boxes of
chocolates tied up with scarlet ribands.

"Now tell me, Dicker," Lothian said, lighting a cigarette, "how do you
mean about Toftrees?"

The glamour of the past was on the unstable youth now, the same
influence which had made him--at some possible risk to himself--defend
Lothian so warmly in the drawing room at Bryanstone Square.

The splendour of Toftrees was far away, dim in Lancaster Gate.

"Oh, he's jealous of you because you really can write, Gilbert! That
must be it. But he really has got his knife into you!"

Internally, Lothian winced. "Oh, but I assure you he has not," was all
that he said.

Ingworth finished his whiskey and soda. "Well, you know what I mean,
old chap," he replied. "He's going about saying that you aren't
sincere, that you're really fluffed when you write your poems, don't
you know. The other night, at a supper at the Savoy, where I was, he
said you were making a trade of Christianity, that you didn't really
believe in what you wrote, and couldn't possibly."

Lothian laughed. "Have another whiskey," he said. "And what did you
say, Dicker?"

There was a sneer in Lothian's voice which the other was quite quick to
hear and to resent. On that occasion he had not defended his friend, as
it happened.

"Oh, I said you meant well," Ingworth answered with quick impertinence,
and then, afraid of what he had done hurriedly drained the second glass
which the barmaid had just brought him.

"Well, I do, really," Lothian replied, so calmly that the younger man
was deceived, and once more angry that his shaft had glanced upon what
seemed to be impenetrable armour.

Yet, below the unruffled surface, the poet's mind was sick with
loathing and disgust. He was not angry with Ingworth, against Toftrees
he felt no rancour. He was sick, deadly sick with himself, inasmuch as
he had descended so low as to be touched by such paws as these.

"I'll get through his damned high-and-mighty attitude yet," Ingworth
thought to himself.

"I say," he remarked, "did you enjoy your trip to Brighton with Rita
Wallace? Toftrees saw you there, you know. He was dining at the
Metropole the same night."

He had pierced--right through--though he did not know it.

"Rather dangerous, wasn't it?" he continued. "Suppose your wife got to
know, Gilbert?"

Something, those letters, near his heart, began to throb like a pulse
in Lothian's pocket. One of the letters had arrived that very morning.

"Look here, Ingworth," he said, and his face became menacing, "you
rather forget yourself, I think, in speaking to me in this way. You're
a good sort of boy--at least I've thought so--and I've taken you up
rather. But I don't allow impudence from people like you. Remember!"

The ice-cold voice frightened the other, but he had to the full that
ape-like semi-courage which gibbers on till the last moment of a
greater animal's patience.

The whiskey had affected him also. His brain was becoming heated.

"Well, I don't know about impudence," he answered pertly and with a red
face. "Anyhow, Rita dined with _me_ last week!"

He brought it out with a little note of triumph.

Lothian nodded.

"Yes, and you took her to that disgusting little café Maréchale in
Soho. You ought not to take a lady to such a place as that. You've been
long enough in London to know. Don't be such a babe. If you ever get a
nice girl to go out with you again try and think things out a little
more."

Tears of mortified vanity were in the young man's eyes.

"She's been writing to you!" he said with a catch in his voice, and
suddenly his whole face seemed to change and dissolve into something
else.

Did the lips really grow thicker? Did the angry blood which suffused
the cheeks give them a dusky tinge which was not of Europe? Would the
tongue loll out soon?

"I _beg_ your pardon?" Lothian said coolly.

"Yes, she has!" the young fellow hissed. "You're trying on a game with
the girl. She's a lady, and a good girl, and you're a married man.
She's been telling you about me, though I've a right to meet her and
you've not!--Look here, if she realised and knew what I know, and
Toftrees and Mr. Amberley know, what every one in London knows, by
Jove, she'd never speak to you again!"

Gilbert lifted his glass and sipped slowly. His face was composed. It
bore the Napoleonic mask it had worn during the last part of their
drive to the town.

Suddenly Gilbert rose up in his chair.

"You dirty little hanger-on," he said in a low voice, "how dare you
mention any woman's name in this way!"

Without heat, without anger, but merely as a necessary measure of
precaution or punishment, he smashed his left fist into Ingworth's jaw
and laid him flat upon the carpet.

The girl behind the bar, who knew who Gilbert Lothian was very well,
had been watching what was going on with experienced eyes.

She had seen, or known with the quick intuition of her training, that a
row was imminent between the famous Mr. Lothian--whose occasional
presences in the "lounge" were thought to confer a certain lustre upon
that too hospitable rendezvous--and the excited young man with the dark
red and strangely curly hair.

Molly Palmer had pressed the button of her private bell, which called
Mr. Helzephron himself from his account books in the office.

Mr. Helzephron was a slim, bearded man, black of hair and saffron of
visage. He was from Cornwall, in the beginning, and combined the
inherent melancholy and pessimism of the Celt with the Celt's shrewd
business instincts when he transplants himself.

He entered at that moment and caught hold of the wretched Ingworth just
as the young man had risen, saw red, and was about to leap over the
table at Lothian, whom, in all probability he would very soon have
demolished.

Helzephron's arms and hands were like vices of steel. His voice droned
like a wasp in a jam jar.

"Now, then," he said, "what's all this? What's all this, sir? I can't
have this sort of thing going on. Has this gentleman been insulting
you, Mr. Lothian?"

Ingworth was powerless in the Cornishman's grip. For a moment he would
have given anything in the world to leap at the throat of the man at
the other side of the table, who was still calmly smoking in his chair.

But quick prudence asserted itself. Lothian was known here, a
celebrity. He was a celebrity anywhere, a public brawl with him would
be dreadfully scandalous and distressing, while in the end it would
assuredly not be the poet who would suffer most.

And Ingworth was a coward; not a physical coward, for he would have
stood up to any one with nothing but glee in his heart, but a moral
one. Lothian, he knew, wouldn't have minded the scandal a bit, here or
anywhere else. But to Ingworth, cooled instantly by the lean grip of
the landlord, the prospect was horrible.

And to be held by another man below one in social rank, landlord of an
inn, policeman, or what not, while it rouses the blood of some men to
frenzy, in others brings back an instant sanity.

Ingworth remained perfectly still.

For a second or two Lothian watched him with a calm, almost judicial
air. Then he flushed suddenly, with a generous shame at the position.

"It's all right, Helzephron," he said. "It's a mistake, a damned silly
mistake. As a matter of fact I lost my temper. Please let Mr. Ingworth
go."

Mr. Helzephron possessed those baser sides of tact which pass for
sincerity with many people.

"Very sorry, I'm sure," he droned, and stood waiting with melancholy
interest to see what would happen next.

"I'm very sorry, Dicker," Lothian said impulsively; "you rather riled
me, you know. But I behaved badly. It won't do either of us any good to
have a rough and tumble here, but of course" . . . he looked
significantly at the door.

Ingworth took him, and admired him for his simplicity. The old public
school feeling was uppermost now. He knew that Gilbert knew he was no
coward. He knew also that he could have knocked the other into a cocked
hat in about three minutes.

"I was abominably rude, Gilbert," he said frankly. "Don't let's talk
rot. I'm sorry."

"It's good of you to take it in that way, Dicker. I'm awfully sorry,
too."

Mr. Helzephron interposed. "All's well that ends well," he remarked
sententiously. "That's the best of gentlemen, they do settle these
matters as gentlemen should. Now if you'll come with me, sir, I'll take
you to the lavatory and you can sponge that blood off your face. You're
not marked, really."

With a grin and a wink to Lothian, both of which were returned,
Ingworth marched away in the wake of the landlord.

The air was cleared.

Gilbert was deeply sorry for what he had done. He had quite forgotten
the provocation that he had received. "Good old sportsman, Dicker!" he
thought; "he's a fine chap. I was a bounder to hit him. It would have
served me jolly well right if he'd given me a hiding."

And the younger man, as he went to remove the stain of combat, had
kindly and generous thoughts of his distinguished friend.

But, _che sara sara_, these kindly thoughts were but to bloom for
an hour and fade. Neither knew that one of them was so soon to be
brought to the yawning gates of Hell itself, and, at the very last
moment, the unconscious action of the other was to snatch him from
them.

Already the threads were being woven in those webs of Time, whereof God
alone knows the pattern and directs the loom. Neither of them knew.

The barmaid, a tall, fresh-faced young girl, came down the room and
took the empty glasses from the table.

"I say, Mr. Lothian," she remarked, "it's no business of mine, and no
offence meant, but you didn't ought to have hit him."

"I know," Gilbert answered, "but why do you say so?"

"He's got such nice curly hair!" she replied with a provocative look
from her bright eyes, and whisked away to the shelter of her counter.

Lothian sighed. During the years he had lived in Norfolk he had seen
many fresh-faced girls come and go. Only a few days before, he had read
a statement made by Mrs. Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army that the
number of immoral women in the West End of London who have been
barmaids is one quarter of the whole. . . .

At that moment, this Miss Molly Palmer was the _belle des coulisses_ of
Wordingham. The local bloods quarrelled about her, the elder men gave
her gloves on the sly, her pert repartees kept the lounge in a roar
from ten to eleven.

Once, with a sneer and as one man of the world to another, Helzephron
had shown Lothian a trade paper in which these girls are advertised
for--

"Barmaid wanted, must be attractive."

"Young lady wanted for select wine-room in the West End, gentlemen
only, must be well educated and of good appearance, age not over
twenty-five."

"Required at once, attractive young lady as barmaid--young.
Photograph."

. . . A great depression fell upon the poet. Everywhere he turned just
now ennui and darkness seemed to confront him. His youth was going. His
fame brought no pleasure nor contentment. The easy financial
circumstances of his life seemed to roll over him like a weed-clogged
wave. His wife's love and care--was not that losing its savour also?
The delightful labour of writing, the breathless and strenuous
clutching at the waiting harps of poetry, was not he fainting and
failing in this high effort, too?

His life was a grey, numbed thing. He was reminded of it whichever way
he turned.

There was a time when the Holy Mysteries brought him a joy which was
priceless and unutterable.

Yes! when he knelt at the Mass with Mary by his side, he had felt the
breath of Paradise upon his brow. Emptied of all earthly things his
soul had entered into the mystical Communion of Saints.

To husband and wife, in humble supplication side by side, the still
small voice had spoken. The rushing wind of the Holy Ghost had risen
around them and the Passion of Jesus been more near.

And now?--the man rose from his chair with a laugh so sad and hollow, a
face so contorted with pain, that it startled the silly girl behind the
bar.

She made a rapid calculation. "He was sober when 'e come," she thought
in the vernacular, "and 'e can stand a lot, can Mr. Lothian. It's
nothing. Them poets!"

"Something amusing you?" she said with her best smile.

Lothian nodded. "Oh, just my thoughts," he replied. "Give me another
whiskey and soda--a fat one, yes, a little more, yes, that'll do."

For a moment, a moment of hesitation, he held it out at arm's length.

The sunlight of the afternoon blazed into the glass and turned the
liquid to molten gold.

The light came from a window in the roof, just over the bar itself. The
remainder of the room was in quiet shadow.

He looked down into the room and shuddered. It was typical of his life
now.

He looked up at the half open window from which the glory came.

"Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!" he said, with a sad smile.

Molly Palmer watched him. "Juggins!" she thought, "them poets!"

But Lothian's words seemed to call for some rejoinder and the girl was
at a loss.

"Wish you meant it!" she said at length, wondering if that would meet
the occasion--as it often met others.

Lothian laughed, and drank down the whiskey.

The light from above faded almost instantly--perhaps a cloud was
passing over the sun.

But, _au contraire_, the shadow of the room beyond had invitation
now. It no longer seemed sombre.

He went into the shadows and sat down in the same chair where he had
been before.

He smiled as he lit another cigarette. How strange moods were! how
powerful for a moment, but how quickly over! The letters in his breast
pocket seemed to glow out with material warmth, a warmth that went
straight to his heart through the cloth and linen of his clothing. The
new Ego was fed. Rita!

Yes! at least life had given him this and was it not the treasure of
treasures? There was nothing coarse nor earthly in this at least!

The music of the Venusberg throbbed in all his pulses, calling, calling
from the hollow hill. He did not realise from where it came--this magic
music--and that there is more than one angelic choir.

Rita and Gilbert. Gilbert and Rita!

The words and music of one song!

So we observe that now the masked musicians in the unseen orchestra are
in their places.

Any little trouble with the Management is over. Opposition players have
sorrowfully departed. The Audience has willed it so, and the band only
awaits its leader.

Monsieur L'Ame du Vin, that celebrated conductor, has just slid into
his seat. He smirks at his players, gives an intelligent glance at the
first violin, and taps upon the desk.

Three beats of the baton, a raised left hand, and once more the oft
repeated overture to the Dance of Death commences, with the Fiend
Alcohol beating time.


Ingworth came back soon. There was a slight bruise upon his upper lip,
but that was all.

The two men--it was to be the last time in lives which had so strangely
crossed--were friends in a sense that they had never been before. Both
of them looked back upon that afternoon during the immediate days to
come with regret and sorrow. Each remembered it differently, according
to the depth of individual temperament. But it was remembered, as an
hour when strife and turmoil had ceased; when, trembling on the brink
of unforeseen events to come, there was pause and friendship, when the
good in both of them rose to the surface for a little space and was
observed of both.

"Now, Dicker, you just watch. They'll all be here soon for their
afternoon drink--the local bloods, I mean. It's their substitute for
afternoon tea, don't you know. They sit here talking about nothing to
friends who have devoted their lives to the subject. Watch it for your
work. You'll learn a lot. That must have been the way in which Flaubert
got his stuff for 'Madame Bovary.'"

Something of the artist's fire animated the lad. He was no artist. He
hadn't read "Madame Bovary," and it wouldn't have interested him if he
had. But the plan appealed to him. It fitted in with his method of
life. It was getting something for nothing. Yet he realised, to give
him his due, a little more than this. He was sitting at the feet of his
Master.

But as it happened, on that afternoon the local bloods were otherwise
employed, for at any rate they made no appearance.

Lothian felt at ease. He had one or two more pegs. He had been so
comparatively abstemious since his accident and under the regime of Dr.
Morton Sims, that what he took now had only a tranquillising and
pleasantly narcotic influence.

The nervous irritation of an hour before which had made him strike his
friend, the depression and hollow misery which succeeded it, the few
minutes of lyrical exaltation as he thought of Rita Wallace, all these
were merged in a sense of _bien être_ and drowsiness.

He enjoyed an unaccustomed and languid repletion in his mind, as if it
had been overfed and wanted to lie down for a time.

Mr. Helzephron sat down at their table after a time and prosed away in
his monotonous voice. He was a man of some education, had read, and was
a Dickens lover. He did not often have the opportunity of conversation
with any one like Lothian and he made the most of it. Like many common
men who are anxious to ingratiate themselves with their superiors, he
thought that the surest way to do so was to abuse his neighbours, thus,
as he imagined, proclaiming himself above them and flattering his
hearer. Lothian always said of the landlord of the George that he was
worth his weight in gall, and for a time he was amused.

At five o'clock the two visitors had some tea and toast and at the half
hour both were ready to go.

"I'll run round to the post office," Ingworth said, "and see if there
are any late letters."

"Very well," Gilbert answered, "and I'll have the horse put in."

The afternoon post for Mortland Royal left the town at three, and
letters which came in by the five o'clock mail were not delivered at
the village until the next morning unless--as now--they were specially
called for.

Ingworth ran off.

"Well, Mr. Lothian," said the landlord. "I don't often have the
pleasure of a talk with you. Just one more with me before you go?"

They were standing together at the bar counter when a page boy entered
the lounge and went up to his master. "Please, sir," he said, "the new
young lady's come."

"Oh, very well," Helzephron answered. "I'll be out in a minute. Where
is she?"

"In the hall, sir. And shall Boots go down for her trunk?"

"Yes; tell him to go to the station at once with the hand-cart. A new
barmaid," he said, turning to Gilbert, "for the four ale bar, a woman
of about thirty, not much class, you understand, wouldn't do for the
lounge, but will keep the working men in order. It's astonishing how
glad they are to get a job when they're about thirty! They're no draw
then, and they know it. The worst of it is that these older women
generally help themselves from the till or the bottle! I've had fifty
applications for this job."

He led the way out into the hall of the hotel, followed by Lothian, who
was on his way to the stable yard.

A woman was sitting upon a plush-covered bench by the wall. She was a
dark gipsy looking creature, coarsely handsome and of an opulent
figure. She stood up as Helzephron came out into the hall, and there
seemed to be a suggestion of great boldness and flaunting assertion
about her, oddly restrained and overlaid by a timidity quite at
variance with her appearance.

The landlord was in front, and for a moment Lothian was concealed.
Then, as he was about to wish Helzephron good afternoon and turned for
the purpose, he came into view of the new barmaid.

She saw him full face and an instant and horrible change came over her
own. It faded to dead paper-white. The dark eyes became fixed like
lenses. The jaw dropped like the jaw of a ventriloquist's puppet, a
strangled gurgle came from the open mouth and then a hoarse scream of
terror. The woman's arms jerked up in the air as if they had been
pulled by strings, and her hands in shabby black gloves curved into
claws and were rigid. Then she spun round, caught her boot in the leg
of the chair and fell in a swoon upon the floor.

The landlord swore in his surprise and alarm.

Then, keen as a knife, he whipped round and looked at Lothian.

Lothian's face expressed nothing but the most unbounded astonishment.
Help was summoned and the woman was carried into the landlord's private
office, where restoratives were applied.

In three or four minutes she opened her eyes and moaned. Lothian,
Helzephron and a chambermaid who was attending on her, were the only
other people in the office.

"There, there," said the landlord irritably, when he saw that
consciousness was returning. "What in heaven's name did you go off like
that for? You don't belong to do that sort of thing often I hope. If so
I may as well tell you at once that you'll be no good here."

"I'm very sorry, sir," said the poor creature, trembling and obviously
struggling with rising hysteria. "It took me sudden. I'm very strong,
really, sir. It shan't happen again."

"I hope not," Helzephron answered in a rather more kindly tone. "Elsie,
go into the lounge and ask Miss Palmer for a little brandy and
water--but what took you like this?"

The woman hesitated. Her glance fell upon Lothian who was standing
there, a pitying and perplexed spectator of this strange scene. She
could not repress a shudder as she saw him, though both men noticed
that the staring horror was going from her eyes and that her face was
relieved.

"I'm very sorry," she said again, "but the sight of that gentleman
coming upon me sudden and unexpected was the cause of it."

"This gentleman!" Helzephron replied. "This is Mr. Gilbert Lothian, a
famous gentleman and one of our country gentleman in Norfolk. What can
you have to do with him?"

"Oh, nothing sir, nothing. But there's a very strong resemblance in
this gentleman to some one"--she hesitated and shuddered--"to some one
I once knew. I thought it was him come back at first. I see now that
there's lots of difference. I've had an unhappy life, sir."

She began to sob quietly.

"Now, drink this," said the landlord, handing her the brandy which the
chambermaid had just brought. "Stop crying and Elsie will take you up
to your room. Your references are all right and I don't want to know
nothing of your history. Do your duty by me like a good girl and you'll
find me a good master. Your past's nothing to me."

Lothian and the landlord went out into the stable yard where the
rainbow-throated pigeons were murmuring on the tiled roofs, and the
ostler--like Mousqueton--was spitting meditatively. They discussed this
strange occurrence.

"I never saw a woman so frightened!" said Mr. Helzephron. "You might
have been old Bogy himself, Mr. Lothian. I didn't know what to think
for a moment! I hope she doesn't drink."

"Well, I suppose we've all got a double somewhere or other," Lothian
answered. "I suppose she saw some likeness in me to some one who has
ill used her, poor thing."

"Oh, yes, sir," Helzephron replied. "That's it--she said as much. Half
the plays and novels turn on such likenesses. I used to be a great
play-goer when I was in London and I've seen all the best actresses.
But I'm damned if I ever see such downright horror as there was in that
girl's face. He must have been a bad un whoever he was. Real natural
tragedy in that face--William, put in Mr. Lothian's horse."

He said good-bye and re-entered the hotel.

Lothian remained in the centre of the yard. He lit a cigarette and
watched the horse being harnessed. His face was clouded with thought.

It was very strange! How frightful the poor woman had looked. It was a
nightmare face, a face of Gustave Doré from the Inferno engravings!

He never saw the woman again, as it happened, and never knew who she
was. If he had read of the Hackney murder in the papers of the year
before he had given it no attention. He knew nothing of the coarse
siren for whose sake the poisoned man of Hackney had killed the wife
who loved him, and who, under an assumed name, was living out her
obscure and haunted life in menial toil.

Dr. Morton Sims might have thrown some light upon the incident at the
George perhaps. But then Dr. Morton Sims never heard of it and it soon
passed from the poet's mind.

No doubt the Fiend Alcohol who provided the incidental music at the
head of his orchestra was smiling.

For the Overture to the Dance of Death is curiously coloured music and
there are red threads of melody interwoven with the sable chords.



CHAPTER VI

AN OMNES EXEUNT FROM MORTLAND ROYAL

    "Wenn Menschen auseinandergehn
      So sagen sie--auf Wiedersehn!
        Ja Wiederseh'n."

    --_Goethe._


Dickson Ingworth returned from the post office with several letters.

He handed three of them to Lothian. One was a business letter from the
firm of Ince and Amberley, the other an invitation to a literary dinner
at the Trocadero, the third, with foreign stamp and postmark, was for
Mary Lothian.

As they drove out of the town, Ingworth was in high spirits. His eyes
sparkled, he seemed excited.

"Good news by this post, Dicker?" Gilbert asked.

Ingworth had been waiting for the question. He tried to keep the
tremulous pleasure out of his voice as he answered.

"Well, rather. I've just heard from Herbert Toftrees. When I saw him
last, just before I came down here, he hinted that he might be able to
influence things for me in a certain quarter." . . .

He paused.

Gilbert saw how it was. The lad was bursting with news but wanted to
appear calm, wanted to be coaxed. Well, Gilbert owed him that!

"Really! Has something come off, Dicker, then? Do tell me, I should be
so glad."

"Yes, Gilbert. It's the damnedst lucky thing! Toftrees is a topping
chap. The other day he hinted at something he might be able to do for
me in his deep-voiced, mysterious way. I didn't pay much attention
because they say he's rather like that, and one mustn't put too much
trust in it. But, by Jove! it's come off. The editor of the
_Wire_--Ommany you know--wants somebody to go to Italy with the
delegation of English Public School Masters, as special correspondent
for a month. They've offered it to me. It's a big step, Gilbert, for
me! They will pay awfully well for the job and it means that I shall
get in permanently with the _Wire_."

"I'm awfully glad, Dicker. Splendid for you! But what is it exactly?"

"The new movement in Italy, anti-Papal and National. It's the schools,
you know. The King and the Mayor of Rome are frightfully keen that all
the better class schools, like our public schools, you know--shall be
taken out of the hands of the Jesuits and the seminary priests. Games
and a healthy sort of school life are to be organised for the boys.
They're going to try and introduce our system if they can. A Harrow
tutor, a Winchester man, undermasters from Haileybury, Repton and
Denstone are going out to organise things."

"And you're going with them to tell England all about it! I
congratulate you, Dicker. It's a big chance. You can make some fine
articles out of it, if you take care. It should introduce your name."

"Thanks awfully, I hope so. It's because I got my running blue I
expect. But it's jolly decent of the old Toffer all the same."

"Oh, it is. When do you go?"

"At once. They start in four days. I shall have to go up to town by the
first train to-morrow."

"I'm sorry, but of course, if you must" . . .

"Oh, I must," Ingworth said importantly. "I have to see Ommany
to-morrow night."

Unconsciously, as he urged the cob onwards, his head sank forward a
little, and he imitated the grave pre-occupation of Lothian upon the
drive out.

Mary Lothian was sitting in a deck chair in front of the house when the
two men came through the gate. A little table stood by the side of her
chair, and on it was a basket of the thin silk socks her husband wore.
She was darning one of the expensive gossamer things with a tiny needle
and almost invisible thread.

Mary looked up quickly as the two men came up to her. There was a swift
interrogation in her eyes, instantly suppressed but piteous in its
significance.

But now, she smiled.

Gilbert was all right! She knew it at once. He had come back from
Wordingham quite sober, and in her tender anxious heart she blessed God
and Dr. Morton Sims.

She was told of Dickson's opportunity. Gilbert was as anxious to tell,
and as excited as his friend. "Oh, I _am_ so glad, Dicker!" she said
over and over again. "My dear boy, I _am_ so glad! Now you've got your
chance at last. Your real chance. Never come down here again if you
don't make the most of it!"

Ingworth sat down upon the lawn at her feet. Dusk was at hand. The sun
was sinking to rest and the flowers of the garden were almost shouting
with perfume.

Rooks winged homeward through the fading light, and the Dog Trust
gambolled in the middle-distance of the lawn as the cock-chafers went
booming by.

. . . "Think I shall be able to do it, Mrs. Gilbert?"

"Of course you will, Dicker! Put your very heart into it, won't you!
It's your chance at last, isn't it?"

Ingworth jumped to his feet. "I shall do it," he said gravely, as who
should say that the destinies of kingdoms depended upon his endeavours.

"And now I must go in and write some letters. I shall have to be off
quite early to-morrow, Mrs. Gilbert."

"I'll arrange all that. Go in and do your letters. We're not going to
dine till eight to-night."

Ingworth crossed the lawn and went into the house.

Gilbert drew his chair up to his wife.

She held out her hand. He took it, raised it to his lips and kissed it.
He was at home.

"I'm glad, dear," Mary said, "that Dicker has got something definite to
do. It will steady him. If he is successful it will give him a new
sense of responsibility. I wouldn't say anything to you, Gillie, but I
have not liked him so much this time as I used to."

"Why?"

"He doesn't seem to have been treating you quite in the way he used to.
He's been talking a good deal to me of some people who seem to have
taken him up in London. And I can't help knowing that you've done
everything for him in the past. Really, Gillie, I have had to snub him
quite severely, for me, once or twice."

"Yes."

"_Yes._ He assumed a confidential, semi-superior sort of air and
manner. In a clumsy, boyish sort of way he's tried to suggest that I'm
not happy with you."

Lothian laughed bitterly. "I know," he said, "so many people are like
that. Ingworth has good streaks like all of us. But speaking generally
he's unstable. I've found it out lately, too. Never mind. He's off
to-morrow. Oh, by the way, here's a letter for you, dear, I forgot."

Mary took the letter and rose from her chair. Arm in arm they entered
the house together and went upstairs to dress for dinner.

Gilbert had had his bath, had changed, and was tying his tie in front
of the dressing table mirror, when the door of his room opened and Mary
hurried in.

Her hair was coiled in its masses of pale gold, and a star of emeralds
which he had given her was fixed in it. She wore a long dressing robe
of green silk fringed with dull red arabesques--he had bought it for
her in Tunis.

A rope of camels' hair gathered it in round her slender waist and the
lovely column of her neck, the superb white arms were bare.

"What is it, dear?" he said, for his wife's fair face was troubled.

"Oh, darling," she answered, with a sob in her voice, "I've had bad
news from Nice."

"About Dorothy?"

"Yes, Miss Dalton, the lady nurse who is with her has written. It's all
been no use, Gillie, no use at all! She's dying, dear. The doctor from
Cannes who has been attending her has said so. And Sir William Larus
who is at Mentone was called in too. They give her three weeks or a
month. They've cabled to India but it's a forlorn hope. Harold won't be
able to get to her in time--though there's just a chance."

She sank down upon the bed and covered her face with her hands.

She was speaking of her sister, Lady Davidson, who was stricken with
consumption. Sir Harold Davidson was a major in the Indian Army, a
baronet without much money, and a keen soldier. Mary's sister had
developed the disease in England, where she had been ordered from Simla
by the doctors there. She was supposed to be "run down" and no more
then. Phthisis had been diagnosed in London--incipient only--and she
had been sent to the Riviera at once. The reports from Nice had become
much worse during the last few weeks, and now--this letter.

Gilbert went to his wife and sat down beside her upon the bed, drawing
her to him. He was fond of Dorothy Davidson and also of her husband,
but he knew that Mary adored her sister.

"Darling," he said, "don't give way. It may not be so bad after all.
And so much depends upon the patient in all illnesses--doesn't it?
Morton Sims was telling us so the other night, you remember? Dolly is
an awfully sporting sort of girl. She won't give in."

Mary leant her head upon his shoulder. The strong arms that held her
brought consolation. The lips of the husband and wife met.

"It's dear of you to say so," Mary said at length, "but I know, dear.
The doctor and the nurse have been quite explicit. Dorothy is dying,
Gillie, I can't let her die alone, can I?"

"No, dear, of course not," he replied rather vaguely, not quite
understanding what she meant for a moment.

"She must have some one of her own people with her. Harold will most
likely not arrive in time. I must go--mustn't I?"

Then Gilbert realised.

His swift imagination pictured a lonely hotel death-bed among the palms
and mimosa of the Côte d'Azur, a pretty and charming girl fading away
from the blue white and gold with no loving hands to tend her, and only
the paid services of strangers to speed or assuage the young soul's
passage from sunshine and laughter to the unknown.

"You must go to her at once, sweetheart," he said gravely.

"Oh, I _must_! You don't mind my leaving you?"

"How can you ask it? But I will come with you. We will both go. You
will want a man."

Mary hesitated for a second, and then she shook her head.

"I shall manage quite well by myself," she said. "It will be better so.
I'm quite used to travelling alone as you know. And the journey to Nice
is nothing. I shall be in one carriage all the way from Calais. You
could come out after, if necessary."

"I would come gladly, dear."

"I know, Gillie, and it's sweet of you. But you couldn't be of use and
it would be miserable for you. It is better that I should be alone with
Dolly. I can always wire if I want you."

"As you think best, dear. Then I will stay quietly down here."

"Yes, do. You have that poem to work on, 'A Lady in a Library.' It is a
beautiful fancy and will make you greater than ever! It's quite the
best thing you've done so far. And then there's the shooting."

"Oh, I shall do very well, Molly. Don't bother about me, dear."

She held him closer. Her cool white arms were around his neck.

"But I always do bother about you, husband," she whispered, "because I
love you better than anything else in the world. It is sweet of you to
let me go like this. And I feel so much happier about you now, since
the doctor has come to the village."

He winced with pain and shame at her loving words. A pang went right
through him.

It passed as swiftly as it had come. Sweet and loving women too often
provide men with excuses for their own ill conduct. Lothian knew
that--under the special circumstances of which his wife knew
nothing--it was his duty to go with Mary. But he didn't want to go. He
would have hated going.

Already a wide vista was opening before him--a freedom, an absolute
freedom! Wild music! The Wine of Life! Now, if ever, Fate, Destiny,
call it what he would, was preparing the choicest banquet.

He had met Rita. Rita was waiting, he could be with Rita!

And yet, so subtle and tortuous is the play of egoism upon conscience,
he felt pleased with himself for his ready concurrence in his wife's
plans. He assumed the rôle she gave him with avidity, and when he
answered her she thought him the best and noblest of men.

"It will be dreadful without you, darling, but you are quite right to
go. Send for me if you want me. I'll catch the next boat. But I have my
work to do, and I can see a good deal of Morton Sims"--he knew well,
and felt with shame, the cunning of this last statement--"and if I'm
dull I can always run up to town for a day or two and stay at the
club."

"Of course you can, dear. You won't feel so lonely then. Now about
details. I must pack to-night."

"Yes, dear, and then you can go off with Dicker in the morning, and
catch the night boat. If you like, that is."

"Well, I shouldn't gain anything by that, dear. I should only have to
wait about in Calais until one o'clock the next day when the train de
luxe starts. But I should like to go first thing to-morrow. I couldn't
wait about here the whole day. Dicker will be company of sorts. I shall
get to town about two, and go to the Charing Cross Hotel. Then I shall
do some shopping, go to bed early, and catch the boat train from the
station in the morning. I would rather do it like that."

Both of them were experienced travellers and knew the continental
routes well. It was arranged so.

Mary did not come down to dinner. A tray was sent up to her room.
Lothian dined alone with Ingworth. The voices of the two men were
hushed to a lower tone in deference to the grief of the lady above. But
there was a subdued undercurrent of high spirits nevertheless. Ingworth
was wildly excited by the prospect before him; Gilbert fell into his
mood with no trouble at all.

He also had his own thoughts, his own private thoughts.

--"I say, Dicker, let's have some champagne, shall we?--just to wish
your mission success."

"Yes, do let's. I'm just in the mood for buzz-water to-night."

The housemaid went to the cellar and fetched the wine.

"Here's to you, Dicker! May you become a G. W. Stevens or a Julian
Ralph!"

"Thanks, old chap. I'll do my best, now that my chance has come. I say
I am awfully sorry about Lady Davidson. It's such rough luck on Mrs.
Gilbert. You'll be rather at a loose end without your wife, won't
you?--or will you write?"

He tossed off his second glass of Pol Roger.

"Oh, I shall be quite happy," Lothian answered, and as he said it a
quiet smile came placidly upon his lips. It glowed out from within, as
from some comfortable inward knowledge.

Ingworth saw it, and his mind, quickened by wine and excitement, found
the truth unerringly.

Anger and envy flushed the young man's veins. He hated his host once
more.

"So that is his game, damned hypocrite!" Ingworth thought. "I shall be
away, his wife will be out of the way and he will make the running with
Rita Wallace just as he likes."

He looked at Lothian, and then had a mental vision of himself.

"He's fat and bloated," he thought. "Surely a young and lovely girl
like Rita _can't_ care for him?"

But even as he endeavoured to comfort his greedy conceit by these
imaginings, he felt the shadow of the big mind falling upon them. He
knew, as he had known so often of late, the power of that which was
cased in its envelope of flesh, and which could not be denied.

Perhaps there is no hate so bitter, no fear so impotent and
distressing, as that which is experienced by the surface for the depth.

It is the fury of the brilliant scabbard against the sword within,
decoration versus that which cleaves.

Ingworth wished that he were not going away--leaving the field
clear. . . .

"Have a cigar, Dicker. No?--well, here's the very best of luck."

"Thanks, the same to you!"


END OF BOOK TWO



BOOK THREE

FRUIT OF THE DEAD SEA

    "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy
    youth."

    "Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe: let her breasts
    satisfy thee at all times: and be thou ravished always with her
    love."

    "And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and
    embrace the bosom of a stranger?"

    "_His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall
    be holden with the cords of his sins._"



CHAPTER I

THE GIRLS IN THE FOURTH STORY FLAT

    "We were two daughters of one race;
      She was the fairest in the face;"

    --_Tennyson._


In the sitting room of a small forty-five pound flat, upon the fourth
floor of a tall red-brick building in West Kensington known as Queens
Mansions, Ethel Harrison, the girl who lived with Rita Wallace, sat
sewing by the window.

It was seven o'clock in the evening and though dusk was at hand there
was still enough light to sew by. The flat, moreover, was on the west
side of the building and caught the last rays of the sun as he sank to
rest behind the quivering vapours of London.

Last week in August as it was, the heat which hung over the metropolis
for so long was in no way abated. All the oxygen was gone from the air,
and for those who must stay in London--the workers, who could only read
in the papers of translucent sunlit seas in Cornwall where one bathed
from the beaches all day long; of bright northern moors where dew fell
upon the heather at dawn--life was become stifling and hard.

In the window hung a bird-cage and the canary within it--the pet of
these two lonely maidens--drooped upon its perch. It was known as "The
Lulu Bird" and was a recurring incident in their lives.

Ethel was six and twenty, short, undistinguished of feature and with
sandy hair. She was the daughter of a very poor clergyman in
Lancashire, and she was the principal typist in the busy office of a
firm of solicitors in the city. She had ever so many certificates for
shorthand, was a quick and accurate machine-writer, understood the
routine of an office in all its details, and was invaluable to her
employers. They boasted of her, indeed, trusted her in every way,
worked her from nine to six on normal days, to any hours of the night
at times of pressure, and paid her the highest salary in the market.

That is to say, that this girl was at the very top of her profession
and received two pounds ten shillings a week. Dozens of girls envied
her, she was more highly paid than most of the men clerks in the city.
She knew herself to be a very fortunate girl. She gave high technical
ability, a good intelligence, unceasing, unwearying and most loyal
service for fifty shillings a week.

Each year she had a holiday of fourteen days, when she clubbed with
some other girls and they all went to some farmhouse in the country, or
even for a cheap excursion abroad, with everything calculated to the
last shilling. This girl did all this, dressed like a lady, had a
little home of her own with Rita, preserved her dignity and
independence, and sent many a small postal order to help the poor
curate's wife, her mother, with the hungry brood of younger ones. Mr.
and Mrs. Harrison in Lancashire spoke of their eldest daughter with
pride. She had "her flat in town." She was "doing extraordinarily
well"; "Sister Ethel" was a fairy godmother to her little brothers and
sisters.

She was a good girl, good and happy. The graces were denied her; she
had made all sweet virtues her own. No man wooed her, no man looked
twice at her. She had no religious ecstasies, and--instead of a theatre
where one had to pay--asked no thrills from sensuous ceremonial. She
simply went to the nearest church and said her prayers.

It is the shame of most of us that when we meet such women as these, we
pass them by with a kindly laugh or a patronising word. Men and women
of the world prefer more decorative folk. They like to watch holiness
in a picturesque setting, Elizabeth of Hungary washing the beggar's
feet upon the palace steps. . . .

A little worker-bee saint, making a milk pudding for a sick washerwoman
on a gas-stove in a flat--that comes rather too close home, does it
not?

The light was really fading now, and Ethel put down her sewing, rose
from her basket-work chair, and lit the gas.

It was an incandescent burner, hanging from the centre of the ceiling,
and the girls' living room was revealed.

It was a very simple, comely, makeshift little home.

On one side of the fireplace--now filled with a brown and gasping
harts-tongue fern in an earthen pot--was Ethel's bookshelf.

Up-to-date she had a hundred and thirty-two books, of the "Everyman"
and "World's Classics" series. She generally managed a book and a half
each fortnight, and her horizon was bounded by the two-hundredth
volume. Dickens she had very much neglected of late, the new Ruskin had
kept the set at "David Copperfield" for weeks, but she was getting on
steadily with her Thackeries.

Rita had no books. She was free of that Kingdom at the Podley
Institute, but the little black piano was hers. The great luxury of the
Chesterfield was a joint extravagance. Both ends would let down to make
a couch when necessary, and though it had cost the girls three pounds
ten, it "made all the difference to the room."

All the photographs upon the mantel-shelf were Ethel's. There was her
father in his cassock--staring straight out of the frame like a good
and patient mule. . . . Her sisters and brothers also, of all ages and
sizes, and all clothed with an odd suggestion of masquerading, of
attempting the right thing. Not but what they were all perfect to poor
Ethel, whose life was far too busy and limited to understand the
tragedy of clothes.

Rita's photographs were on the piano.

There were several of her school-friends--lucky Rita had been to a
smart school!--and the enigmatic face of Muriel Amberley with its
youthful Mona Lisa smile looked out from an oval frame of red leather
stamped with an occasional fleur-de-lys in gold.

There was a portrait of Mr. Podley, cut from the _Graphic_ and framed
cheaply, and there were two new photographs.

One of them was that of a curly-headed, good-looking young man with
rather thick lips and a painful consciousness that he was being
photographed investing the whole picture with suspense.

Ethel had heard Rita refer to the original of this portrait once or
twice as "Dicker" or "Curly."

But, then, there was another photograph. A large one this time, done in
cloudy browns, nearly a foot square and with the name of a very famous
artist of the camera stamped into the card.

This was a new arrival, also, of the past few weeks, and it was held in
a massive frame of thick plain silver.

The frame, with the portrait in it, had arrived at the flat some
fortnight ago in an elaborate wooden box.

Ethel had recognised the portrait at once. It was of Mr. Gilbert
Lothian, the great poet. Rita had met him at a dinner-party, and, if
she didn't exaggerate, the great man had almost shown a disposition to
be friendly. It was nice of him to send Rita his photograph, but the
frame was rather too much. All that massive silver!--"it must have cost
thirty shillings at least," she had thought in her innocence.

When the gas was turned up, for some reason or other her eye had fallen
at once upon the photograph upon the top of the piano.

She had read some of Lothian's poems, but she had found nothing
whatever in them that had pleased her. Even when her father had written
to her and recommended them for her to read the poems meant less than
nothing, and the face--no! she didn't like the face. "I hardly think
that it's quite a _good_ face," she said to herself, not recognising
that--the question of morality quite apart--her hostility rose from the
fact that it was a face utterly outside her limited experience, a face
that was eloquent of a life, of things, of thoughts that she could
never even begin to understand.

In the middle of the room the small round table was spread with a fair
white cloth and set for a meal. There was a green bowl of bananas, a
loaf of brown bread, some sardines in a glass dish. But a place was
laid for one person only.

Rita was in their mutual bedroom dressing. Rita was going to dine out.

The two girls had lived together for a year now. At the beginning of
their association one thing had been agreed between them. Their outside
lives were to be lived independently of their home life. No confidences
were to be expected or demanded as a matter of course. If confidences
were made they were to be free and spontaneous, at the wish or whim of
each.

The contract had been loyally observed. Ethel never had any secrets.
Rita had had several during the year of their association, but they had
proved only minor little secrets after all. Sooner or later she had
told them, and they had been food for virginal laughter for them both.

But now, during the last few weeks?--Ethel's glance flitted uneasily
from the big photograph upon the piano to a little round table of
bamboo work in one corner of the sitting room.

Upon this table lay a huge bunch of dark red roses. The stalks were
fitted into a holder of finely-woven white grass--as delicate in
texture as a panama hat--and the bouquet was tied with graceful bows
and streamers of purple satin--broad, expensive ribbon.

A boy messenger, most unusual visitor, had brought them an hour ago.
"For Miss Rita Wallace."

The quiet mind, the crystal soul of this girl, dimly discerned
something alien and disturbing.

The door of the sitting-room opened and Rita came in.

She was radiant. Her one evening dress was not an expensive affair, a
simple, girl's frock of olive-green _crêpe de chene_ in the Empire
fashion, but the girl and her clothes were one.

The high "waist," coming just under the curve of the breast, was edged
with an embroidery of dull silver thread, and the gleam of this upon
its olive setting threw up the fair column of the throat the rounded
arms, the whiteness of the girlish bosom, with a most striking and
arresting lustre.

Round her neck the girl wore a riband of dark green velvet, and as a
pendant from it hung a little star of amethysts and olivines set in a
filigree of platinum, no rare nor costly jewel, but a beautiful one.
She was pulling her long white gloves up to the elbow as she entered
the room.

Ethel loved Rita dearly. Rita was her romance, the art and colour of
her life. She was always saying or doing astonishing things, she was
always beautiful. To-night, though the frock was an old friend, the
pendant quite familiar, Ethel thought that she had never seen her
friend so lovely. The nut-brown hair was shining, the young, brown eyes
lit up with excitement and joy, the tints of rose and pearl upon Rita's
cheeks came and went as her heart beat.

"A Duke might be glad to marry her," the plain girl thought without a
throb of envy.

She was perfectly right. If Rita had been in society or on the stage
she probably would have married a peer--not a Duke though, that was
Ethel's inexperience. There are so few dukes that they have not the
same liberty of action as other noblemen. The Beauty Market is badly
organised--curious fact in an age when to purvey cats' meat is a
specialised industry. But the fact remains. The prettiest girls in
England don't have their pictures in the papers and advertise no
dentrifice or musical comedy on the one hand, nor St. Peter and St.
George, their fashionable West End temples, on the other. Buyers of
Beauty have but a limited choice, and on the whole it is a salutary
thing, though doubtless hard upon loveliness that perforce throws
itself away upon men without rank or fortune for want of proper
opportunity!

"How do I look, Wog dear?" Rita asked.

"Splendid, darling," Ethel answered eagerly--a pretty junior typist in
Ethel's office, who had been snubbed, had once sent her homely senior a
golliwog doll, and since then the good-humoured Ethel was "Wog" to her
friends.

"I'm so glad. I want to look my best to-night."

"Well, then, you do," Ethel replied, and with an heroic effort forbore
further questioning.

She always kept loyally to the compact of silence and non-interference
with what went on outside the flat.

Rita chuckled and darted one of her naughty, provocative glances.

"Wog! You're dying to know where I'm going!"

Some girls would have affected indifference immediately. Not so the
simple Wog.

"Of course I am, Cupid," she said.

"I'm going to dine with Gilbert."

"Gilbert?"

"Gilbert Lothian I mean, of course. We are absolute friends, Wog
dear--he and I. I haven't told you before, but I will now. You remember
that night I was home so late, nearly a month ago? Yes?--well I had
been motoring to Brighton with Gilbert. I met him for the first time at
the Amberleys'--but that you know. Since then we have become
friends--such a strange and wonderful friendship it is, Ethel! It's
made things so different for me."

"But how friends? Have you seen him often, then? But you can't have?"

Rita shook her head, impatiently for a moment, and then she smiled
gently. How could poor old Wog know or understand!

"No!" she cried, with a little tap of her shoe upon the carpet. "But
there are such things as letters aren't there?"

"Has he been writing to you, then?"

"Writing! I have had four of the most beautiful letters that a poet
ever wrote. It took him days to write each one. He chose every word,
over and over again. Every sentence is music, every word a note in a
chord!"

Ethel went up to her friend and kissed her. "Dear old Cupid," she said,
"I'm so glad, so very glad. I don't understand his poems myself, but
Father simply loves them. I am sure you will be very happy. Only I do
hope he is a good man--really worthy of my dear! And so"--she
continued, with a struggle to get down to commonplace brightness of
manner--"And so he's coming for you to-night! Now I know why you look
so beautiful and are so happy."

Two tears gathered in the kind green eyes, tears of joy at her dear
girl's happiness, but with a tincture of sadness too. With a somewhat
unaccustomed flash of imagination, she looked into the future and saw
herself lonely in the flat, or with another girl who could never be to
her what Rita was.

She looked up at Rita again, trying to smile through her tears.

What she saw astounded her.

Rita's face was flushed. A knot of wrinkles had sprung between her
eyebrows. Her mouth was mutinous, her brown eyes lit with an angry and
puzzled light.

"I don't understand you, Ethel," she said in a voice which was so cold
and unusual that the other girl was dumb.--"What on earth do you mean?"

"Mean, dear," Ethel faltered. "I don't quite understand. I thought you
meant--I thought . . ."

"What did you think?"

"I thought you meant that you were engaged to him, Cupid darling!"

"Engaged!--_Why Gilbert is married._"

Ethel glanced quickly at the flowers, at the photograph upon the piano.
Things seemed going round and round her--the heat, that was it--"But
the letters!" she managed to say at length, "and, and--oh, Cupid, what
_are_ you doing? He can't be a good man. I'm certain of it, dear! I'm
older than you are. I know more about things. You don't realise,--but
how should you poor darling! He can't be a good man! Rita, _does his
wife know_?"

The girl frowned impatiently. "How limited and narrow you are, Ethel,"
she said. "Have you such low ideals that you think friendship between a
man and a woman impossible? Are you entirely fettered by convention and
silly old puritanical nonsense? Wouldn't you be glad and proud to have
a man with a wonderful mind for your friend--a man who is all chivalry
and kindness, who pours out the treasures of his intellect for one?"

Ethel did not answer. She did not, in truth, know what to say. There
_was_ no reason she could adduce why Rita should not have a man friend.
She knew that many singular and fine natures despised conventionality
or ordinary rules and seemed to have the right to do so. And
then--_honi soit_! Yet, inarticulate as she was, she felt by some
instinct that there was something wrong. Mr. Gilbert Lothian was
married. That meant everything. A married man, and a poet too! oughtn't
to have any secret and very intimate friendships with beautiful, wilful
and unprotected girls.

. . . "You have nothing to say! Of course! There _is_ nothing that
any wide-minded person could say. Ethel, you're a dear old stupe!"--she
crossed the room and kissed her friend.

And Ethel was so glad to hear the customary affection return to Rita's
voice, the soft lips upon her cheek set her gentle and loving heart in
so warm a glow, that her fears and objections dissolved and she said no
more.

The electric bell at the front door whirred.

Rita tore herself from Ethel's embrace. There was a mirror over the
mantel-shelf. She gazed into it for a few seconds and then hurried away
into the little hall.

There was the click of the latch as it was drawn back, a moment of
silence, and then Ethel heard a voice with a peculiar vibration and
timbre--an altogether unforgettable voice--say two words.

"At last!"

Then there was a murmur of conversation, the words of which she could
not catch, interrupted once by Rita's happy laughter.

Finally she heard Rita hurry into the bedroom, no doubt for her cloak,
and return with an excited word. Then the door closed and there was an
instant of footsteps upon the stone stairs outside.

Ethel was left alone.

She went to her bookshelf--she did not seem to want to think just
now--and after a moment's hesitation took down "Sesame and Lilies."
Then she sat at the table with a sigh and looked without much interest
at the bananas, the sardines and the brown bread.

Ethel was left alone.



CHAPTER II

OVER THE RUBICON

    "Inside the Horsel here the air is hot;
    Right little peace one hath for it, God wot;
    The scented dusty daylight burns the air,
    And my heart chokes me till I hear it not."

    --_Swinburne._


Gilbert and Rita said hardly anything to each other as the motor-cab
drove them to the restaurant where they were to dine.

There was a sort of constraint between them. It was not awkwardness, it
was not shyness. Nevertheless, they had little to say to each
other--yet.

They had become extraordinarily intimate during the last weeks by means
of the letters that had passed between them. In all his life Lothian
had never written anything like these letters. Those already written,
and those that were to be written before the end, would catch the
imagination of Europe and America could they ever be published. In
prose of a subtle beauty, which was at the same time virile and with
the organ-note of a big, revealing mind, he had poured his thoughts
upon the girl.

She was the inspiration, the _raison d'être_, of these letters. That
"friendship" which his heated brain had created and imposed upon hers,
he had set up before him like a picture and had woven fervent and
critical rhapsodies about it. The joy that he had experienced in the
making of these letters was more real and utterly satisfying than any
he had ever known. He was filled and exalted by a sense of high power
as he wrote the lovely words. He knew how she would read, understand
and be thrilled by them. Paragraph after paragraph, sentence after
sentence, were designed to play upon some part of the girl's mind and
temperament--to flatter her own opinion at a definite point, and to
flatter it with a flattery so subtle and delicate, so instinct with
knowledge, that it came to her as a discovery of herself. He would
please her--since she was steeped in books and their appeal, utterly
ignorant of Life itself--with a pleasure that he alone could give. He
would wrap her round with the force and power of his mind, make her his
utterly in the bonds of a high intellectual friendship, dominate her,
achieve her--through the mind.

He had set himself to do this thing and he had done it.

Her letters to him, in their innocent, unskilful, but real and vivid
response had shown him everything. From each one he gathered new
material for his reply.

He had lived of late in a new world, where, neglecting everything else,
he sat Jove-like upon the Olympus of his own erection and drew a young
and supremely beautiful girl nearer and nearer to him by his pen.

He had fallen into many mortal sins during his life. Until now he had
not known the one by which the angels fell, the last sin of Pride which
burns with a fierce, white consuming flame.

All these wonderful letters had been wrought under the influence of
alcohol. He would go to his study tired in body and so wearied in brain
that he felt as if his skull were literally packed with grey wool.

"I must write to Rita," he would think, and sit down with the blank
sheet before him. There would not be an idea. The books upon the walls
called to him to lose himself in noble company. The Dog Trust
gambolling with Tumpany in the garden invited him to play. The sight of
Mary with her basket on her arm setting out upon some errand of mercy
in the village, spoke of the pleasant, gracious hours he might spend
with her, watching how sweet and wise she was with the poor people and
how she was beloved.

But no, he must write to Rita. He felt chained by the necessity. And
then the fat cut-glass bottle from the tantalus would make an
appearance, the syphon of soda-water in its holder of silver filigree.
The first drink would have little or no effect--a faint stirring of the
pulses, a sort of dull opening of tired mental eyes, perhaps. Yet even
that was enough to create the desire for the moment when the brain
should leap up to full power. Another drink--the letter begun. Another,
and images, sentences which rang and chimed, gossamer points of view,
mosaics and vignettes glowing with color, merry sunlight laughter,
compliments and _devoirs_ of exquisite grace and refinement, all
flowed from him with steady, uninterrupted progress.

. . . But now, as he sat beside Rita, touching her, with the fragrance
of her hair athwart his face, all ideas and thoughts had to be
readjusted.

The dream was over. The dream personality, created and worshipped by
his Art in those long, drugged reveries, was a thing of the past.

He had never realised Rita to himself as being quite a human girl. No
grossness had ever entered into his thoughts about her. He was not
gross. The temper of his mind was refined and high. The steady progress
of the Fiend Alcohol had not progressed thus far as yet. Sex was a live
fact in this strangely-coloured "friendship" which he had created, but,
as yet, in his wildest imaginings it had always been chivalrous,
abstract and pure. Passion had never soiled it even in thought. It had
all been mystical, not Swinburnian.

And the fact had been as a salve to his Conscience. His Conscience told
him from the first--when, after the excursion to Brighton he had taken
up his pen to continue the association--that he was doing wrong. He
knew it with all the more poignancy because he had never done sweet
Mary a treachery in allegiance before. She had always been the perfect
and utterly satisfying woman to him. His "fountain was blessed; and he
rejoiced with the wife of his youth."

But the inhabiting Devil had found a speedy answer. It had told him
that such a man as he was might well have a pure and intellectual
friendship with such a girl as Rita was. It harmed none, it was of
mutual and uplifting benefit.

Who of the world could point an accusing finger, utter a word of
censure upon this delightful meeting of minds and temperaments through
the medium of paper and pen?

"No one at all," came the satisfactory answer.

Lothian at the prompting of Alcohol was content to entertain and
welcome a low material standard of conduct, a debased ideal, which he
would have scorned in any other department of life.

And as for Rita, she hadn't thought about such things at all. She had
been content with the music which irradiated everything.

It was only now, with a flesh and blood man by her side in the little
box of the taxi-cab, that she glanced curiously at the Musician and
felt--also--that revision and re-statement were at hand.

So they said very little until they were seated at the table which had
been reserved for them at a celebrated restaurant in the Strand.

Rita looked round her and gave a deep sigh of pleasure. They sat in a
long high hall with a painted ceiling. At the side opposite to them and
at the end were galleries with gilded latticework. At the other end, in
the gilded cage which hid the performers from view, was an orchestra
which discoursed sweet music--a little orchestra of artists. The walls
of the white and gold hall were covered with brilliantly painted
frescoes of scenes in that Italy from where the first proprietor had
come. The blue seas, the little white towns clustering round the base
of some volcanic mountain, the sunlight and gaiety of Italy were there,
in these paintings so cunningly drawn and coloured by a great scenic
artist. A soft, white and bright light pervaded everything. There was
not a sound of service as the waiters moved over the thick carpets.

The innumerable tables, for two or four, set with finest crystal and
silver and fair linen had little electric lamps of silver with red
shades upon them. Beautiful, radiant women with white arms and shining
jewels sat with perfectly dressed men at the tables covered with
flowers. It was a succession of little dinner parties; it seemed as if
no one could come here without election or choice. The ordinary world
did not exist in this kingdom of luxury, ease and wealth.

She leant over the little table against the wall. "It's marvellous,"
she said. "The whole atmosphere is new. I did not think such a place as
this existed."

"And the Metropole at Brighton?"

"It was like a bathing machine is to Buckingham Palace, compared to
this. How exquisite the band is! Oh, I am so happy!"

"That makes me happy, Cupid. This is the night of your initiation. Our
wonderful weeks have begun. I have thought out a whole series of
delights and contrasts. Every night shall be a surprise. You will never
know what we are going to do. London is a magic city and you have known
nothing of it."

"How could the 'Girl from Podley's' know?--That's what I am, the Girl
from Podley's. I feel like Cinderella must have felt when she went to
the ball. Oh, I am so happy!"

He smiled at her. Something had taken ten years from his age to-night.
Youth shone out upon his face, the beauty of his twenties had come
back. "Lalage!" he murmured, more to himself than to her--"dulce
ridentem, dulce loquentem!"

"What--Gilbert?"

"I was quoting some Latin to myself, Cupid dear."

"And it was all Greek to me!" she said in a flash. "Oh! who _ever_
saw so many hors d'oeuvres all at one time! I love hors d'oeuvres,
advise me, don't let me have too many different sorts, Gilbert, or I
shan't be able to eat anything afterwards."

How extraordinarily fresh and innocent she was! She possessed in
perfection that light, reckless and freakish humour which was so strong
a side of his own temperament.

She had stepped from her dingy little flat, from a common cab, straight
into the Dance of the Hours, taking her place with instant grace in the
gay and stately minuet.

For it was stately. All this quintessence of ordered luxury and
splendour had a most powerful influence upon the mind. It might have
made Caliban outwardly courteous and debonnair.

Yes, she was marvellously fresh! He had never met any one like her. And
it _was_ innocence, it _must_ be. Yet she was very conscious of the
power of her beauty and her sex--over him at any rate. She obviously
knew nothing of the furtive attention she was exciting in a place where
so many jaded experts came to look at the flowers. It was the naïve and
innocent Aspasia in every young girl bubbling up with entire frankness.
She was amazed and half frightened at herself--he could see that.

Well! he was very content to be Pericles for a space, to join hands and
tread a measure with her and the rosy-bosomed hours in their dance.

It was as though they had known each other for ever and a day, ere half
the elaborate dinner was over.

She had called him "Gilbert" at once, as if he were her brother, her
lover even. He could have found or forged no words to describe the
extraordinary intimacy that had sprung up between them. It almost
seemed unreal, he had to wonder if this were not a dream.

She became girlishly imperious. When they brought the golden
plovers--king and skipper, as good epicures know, of all birds that
fly--she leant over the table till her perfect face was close to his.

"Oh, Gilbert dear! what is it now!"

He told her how these little birds, with their "trail" upon the toast
and their accompaniment of tiny mushrooms stewed in Sillery, were said
to be the rarest flower in the gourmet's garden, one of the supreme
pleasures that the cycle of the seasons bring to those who love and
live to eat.

"How _perfectly_ sweet! Like the little roast pigling was to Elia!
Gilbert, I'm so happy."

She chattered away to him, as he sat and watched her, with an entire
freedom. She told him all about her life in the flat with Ethel
Harrison. Her brown eyes shone with happiness, he heard the silver
ripple of her voice in a mist of pleasure.

Once he caught a man whom he knew watching them furtively. It was a
very well-known actor, who at the moment was rehearsing his autumn
play.

This celebrated person was, as Gilbert well knew, a monster. He lived
his life with a dreadful callousness which made him capable of every
bestial habit and crime, without fear, without pleasure, without
horror, and without pity.

The poet shuddered as he caught that evil glance, and then, listening
anew to Rita's joyous confidences, he became painfully aware of the
brute that is in every man, in himself too, though as yet he had never
allowed it to be clamant.

The happy girl went on talking. Suddenly Gilbert realised that she was
telling him something, innocent enough in her mouth, but something that
a woman should tell to a woman and not to a man.

The decent gentleman in him became wide awake, the sense of comeliness
and propriety. He wasn't in the least shocked--indeed there was nothing
whatever to be shocked about--but he wanted to save her, in time, from
an after-realisation of a frankness that might give her moments of
confusion.

He did it, as he did everything when he was really sober, really
himself, with a supreme grace and delicacy. "Cupid dear," he said with
his open and boyish smile, "you really oughtn't to tell me that, you
know. I mean--well, think!"

She looked at him with puzzled eyes for a moment and then she took his
meaning. A slight flush came into her cheeks.

"Oh, I see," she replied thoughtfully, and then, with a radiant smile
and the provocative, challenging look--"Gilbert dear, you seem just
like a girl to me. I quite forgot you were a man. So it doesn't matter,
does it?"

Who was to attempt to preserve _les convenances_ with such a delightful
child as this?

"Here is the dessert," he said gaily, as waiters brought ices,
nectarines, and pear-shaped Paris bon-bons filled with Benedictine and
Chartreuse.

A single bottle of champagne had served them for the meal. Gilbert lit
a cigarette and said two words to a waiter. In a minute he was brought
a carafe of whiskey and a big bottle of Perrier in a silver stand. It
was a dreadful thing to do, from a gastronomic or from a health point
of view. Whiskey, now! He saw the look of wonder on the waiter's face,
a pained wonder, as who should say, "Well, I shouldn't have thought
_this_ gentleman would have done such a thing."

But Lothian didn't care. It was only upon the morning after a debauch,
when with moles' eyes he watched every one with suspicion and with
fear, that he cared twopence what people thought about anything he did.

He was roused to a high pitch of excitement by his beautiful companion.
Recklessness, an entire abandon to the Dance of the Hours was mounting
up within him. But where there's a conscience, there's a Rubicon. The
little brook stretched before him still, but now he meant to leap over
it into the forbidden, enchanted country beyond. He ordered "jumping
powder."

He drank deeply, dropped his cigarette into the copper bowl of rose
water at his side and lit another.

"Cupid!" he said suddenly, in a voice that was quite changed, "Rita
dear, I'm going to show you something!"

She heard the change in his voice, recognised it instantly, must have
known by instinct, if not by knowledge, what it meant. But there was no
confusion, nor consciousness in her face. She only leant over the
narrow table and blew a spiral of cigarette smoke from her parted lips.

"What, Gilbert?" she said, and he seemed to hear a caress in her voice
that fired him.

"You shall hear," he said in a low and unsteady voice. He drew a
calling card from the little curved case of thin gold he carried in his
waistcoat pocket, and wrote a sentence or two upon the back in French.

A waiter took the card and hurried away.

"Oh, Gilbert dear, what is the surprise?"

"Music, sweetheart. I've sent up to the band to play something.
Something special, Cupid, just for you and me alone on the first of our
Arabian Nights!"

She waited for a minute, following his eyes to the gilded gallery of
the musicians which bulged out into the end of the room.

There was a white card with a great black "7" upon it, hanging to the
rail. And then a sallow man with a moustache of ink came to the balcony
and removed the card, substituting another for it on which was printed
in staring sable letters--"BY DESIRE."

It was all quite new to Rita. She was awed at Gilbert's almost magical
control of everything! She understood what was imminent, though.

"What's it going to be, Gilbert?" she whispered.

Her hand was stretched over the table. He took its cool virginal ivory
into his for a moment. "The 'Salut d'Amour' of Elgar," he answered her
in a low voice, "just for you and me."

The haunting music began.

To the end of her life Rita Wallace never heard the melody without a
stab of pain and a dreadful catch of horror at her heart.

Perhaps the thing had not been played lately, perhaps the hour was ripe
for it in the great restaurant. But as the violins and 'cello sobbed
out the first movement, a hush fell over the place.

It was the after-dinner hour. The smoke from a hundred cigarettes
curled upwards in delicate spirals like a drawing of Flaxman's. Bright
eyes were languorous and spoke, voices sank to silence. The very
waiters were congregated in little groups round the walls and service
tables.

Salut d'Amour!

The melody wailed out into the great room with all the exquisite appeal
of its rose-leaf sadness, its strange autumnal charm. It was perfectly
rendered. And many brazen-beautiful faces softened for a moment, many
pleasure-sodden hearts had a diastole of unaccustomed tenderness as the
music pulsed to its close.

Gilbert's acquaintance, the well-known actor, who was personified
animal passion clothed in flesh if ever a man was, felt the jews-harp
which he called his heart vibrate within him.

He was a luxurious pariah-dog in his emotions as in everything else.

The last sob of the violins trembled into silence. There was a loud
spontaneous burst of applause, and a slim foreign man, grasping his
fiddle by the neck, came from behind the gilded screen and looked down
into the hall below with patient eyes.

Lothian rose from his chair and bowed to the distant gallery. The
musician's face lighted up and he bowed twice to Lothian. Monsieur
Toché had recognised the name upon the card. And the request, written
in perfect, idiomatic French, had commenced, "_Cher Maitre et
Confrère_." The lasting hunger of the obscure artist for recognition by
another and greater one was satisfied. Poor Toché went to his bed that
night in Soho feeling as if he had been decorated with the Order of
Merit. And though, during the supper hours from eleven to half past
twelve he had to play "selections" from the Musical Comedy of the
moment, he never lost the sense of _bien être_ conferred upon him
by Gilbert Lothian at dinner.

Gilbert was trembling a little as the music ended. Rita sat back in her
chair with downcast eyes and lips slightly parted. Neither of them
spoke.

Gilbert suddenly experienced a sense of immense sorrow, of infinite
regret too deep for speech or tears. "This is the moment of
realisation," he thought, "the first real moment in my life, perhaps.
_I know what I have missed._ Of all women this was the one for me,
as I for her. We were made for each other. Too late! too late!"

He struggled for mastery over his emotion. "How well they play," he
said.

She made a slight motion with her hand. "Don't let's talk for a
minute," she answered.

He was thrilled through and through. Did she also, then, feel and know
. . . ? Surely that could not be. His youth was so nearly over, the
keen æsthetic vision of the poet showed him so remorselessly how
changed he was physically from what he had been in years gone by, for
ever.

Mechanically, without thinking, obeying the order given by the new
half-self, that spawn of poison which was his master and which he
mistook for himself, he filled his glass once more and drank.

In forty seconds after, triumph and pride flared up within him like a
sheet of thin paper lit suddenly with a match. Yes! She was his, part
of him--it was true! He, the great poet, had woven his winged words
around her. He had bent the power of his Mind upon her--utterly
desirable, unsoiled and perfect--and she was his.

The blaze passed through him and upwards, a thing from below. Then it
ended and only a curl of grey ash floated in the air.

The most poignant and almost physical sorrow returned to him. His heart
seemed to ache like a tooth. Yet it wasn't dull, hopeless depression.
It was, he thought, a high tragic sorrow ennobling in its strength; a
sorrow such as only the supreme soul-wounded artists of the world could
know--had known.

"She was for me!" his heart cried out. "Ah, if only I had met her
first!" Yes! he was fain of all the tragic sorrows of the Great Ones to
whom he was brother, of whose blood he was.

In a single flash of time--as the drowning man is said to experience
all the events of his life at the penultimate moment of dissolution--he
felt that he knew the secrets of all sorrow, the pangs of all tragedy.

The inevitable thought of his wife passed like a blur across the
fire-lit heights of his false agony.

"I cannot love her," he said in his mind. "I have never loved her. I
have been blind until this moment." A tear of sentiment welled into his
eye at the thought of poor Mary, bereft of his love. "How sad life
was!"

Nearly every man, at some time or other, has found a faint reflection
of this black thought assail him and has put it from him with a prayer
and the "vade retro Sathanas."

Few men would have chosen their present wives if they had met--let us
assume--fifty other women before they married. And when the ordinary,
normal, decent man meets a woman better, clever, more desirable than
the one he has, it is perfectly natural that he should admire her. He
would be insensible if he did not. But with the normal man it stops
there. He is obliged to be satisfied with his own wife. The chaos that
riotous and unbalanced minds desire has not come yet. And if a man says
that he _cannot_ love a wife who is virtuous and good, then Satan is in
him.

"I cannot love her," Lothian thought of his wife, and in the surveyal
of this fine brain and noble mind poisoned by alcohol it is proper to
remember that two hours before he could not have thought this thing. It
would have been utterly impossible.

Was it then the few recent administrations of poison that had changed
him so terribly, brought him to this?

The Fiend Alcohol has a myriad dominations. A lad from the University
gets drunk in honour on boat-race night--for the first time in his
life--and tries to fight with a policeman. But he is only temporarily
insane, becomes ashamed and wiser in the morning, and never does such a
thing again.

Lothian had been poisoning himself, slowly, gradually, certainly for
years. The disease which was latent in his blood, and for which he was
in no way personally responsible, had been steadily undermining the
forces of his nature.

He had injured his health and was coming near to gravely endangering
his reputation. His work, rendered more brilliant and appealing at
first by the unfair and unnatural stimulus of Alcohol, was trembling
upon the brink of a débâcle. He had inflicted hundreds of hours of
misery and despair upon the woman he had married.

This, all this, was grave and disastrous enough.

But the awful thing that he was feeding and breeding within him--the
"false Ego," to use the cold, scientific, and appallingly accurate
definition of the doctors--had not achieved supreme power. Even during
the last year of the three or four years of the poisoning process it
had not become all-powerful. It had kept him from Church; it had kept
him from the Eucharist; it had drawn one thick grey blanket after
another between the eye of his soul and the vision of God. But kindly
human instinct had remained unimpaired, and he had done many things
_sub specie Crucis_--under the influence of, and for the sake of
that Cross which was so surely and steadily receding from his days and
passing away to a dim and far horizon.

But there arrives a time when the pitcher that is filled drop by drop
becomes full. The liquid trembles for a moment upon the brim and
trickles over.

And there comes a sure moment in the life of the alcoholic when the
fiend within waxes strong enough finally to strangle the old self,
fills all the house and reigns supreme.

It is always something of relatively small importance that hastens the
end--ensures the final plunge.

It was the last few whiskeys that sent honour and conscience flying
away with scared faces from this man's soul. But they acted upon the
poison of years, now risen to the very brim of the cup.

One more drop . . .


People were getting up from the tables and leaving the restaurant. The
band was resting, there was no more music at the moment, and the
remaining diners were leaning over the tables and talking to each other
in low, confidential tones.

Rita looked up suddenly. "What are we going to do now?" she said with
her quick bright smile.

"When we went to Brighton together," Gilbert answered, "you told me
that you had never been to a Music Hall. A box at the Empire is waiting
for us. Let us go and see how you like it. If you don't, we can come
away and go for a drive round London in a taxi. The air will be cooler
now, and in the suburbs we may see the moon. But come and try. The
night is yours, and I am yours, also. You are the Queen of the Dance of
the Hours and I your Court Chamberlain."

"Oh, how perfectly sweet! Take me to the Empire."

As they stood upon the steps of the restaurant and the commissionaire
whistled up a cab, Gilbert spoke to Rita in a low, husky voice.

"We ought to get there in time for the ballet," he said, "because it is
the most perfect thing to be seen in Europe, outside Milan or St.
Petersburg. But we've ten minutes yet, at least. Shall I tell him to
drive round?"

"Yes, Gilbert."

The taxi-meter glided away through the garish lights of the Strand, and
then, unexpectedly, swerved into Craven Street towards the Embankment.

Almost immediately the interior of the cab grew dark.

Gilbert put his arm round Rita's waist and caught her hand with his. He
drew her closer to him.

"Oh, my love!" he said with a sob in his voice. "My dear little Love;
at last, at last!"

She did not resist. He caught her closer and closer and kissed her upon
the cheeks, the eyes, the low-falling masses of nut-brown, fragrant
hair.

"Turn your face to me, darling."

His lips met hers for one long moment.

. . . He hardly heard her faint-voiced, "Gilbert, you mustn't." He sank
back upon the cushions with a strange blankness and emptiness in his
mind.

He had kissed her, her lovely lips had been pressed to his.

And, behold, it was nothing after all. It was just a little girl
kissing him.

"Kiss met Kiss me again!" he said savagely. "You must, you must! Rita,
my darling, _my darling_!"

She pressed her cool lips to his once more--how cool they were!--almost
dutifully, with no revolt from his embrace, but as she might have
kissed some girl friend at parting after a day together.

All evil, dominant passions of his nature, hidden and sleeping within
him for so long, were awake at last.

He had held Rita in his arms. Yet, whatever she might say or do in her
reckless school-girl fashion, she was really absolutely innocent and
virgin, untouched by passion, incredibly ignorant of the red flame
which burned within him now and which he would fain communicate to her.

"Are you unhappy, dearest?" he asked suddenly.

"Unhappy, Gilbert? With you? How could I be?"

And so daring innocence and wicked desire drove on through the streets
of London--innocence a little tarnished, ignorance no longer, but
pulsing with youth and the sense of adventure; absolutely unaware that
it was playing with a man's soul.

The girl had read widely, but ever with the hunger for beauty, colour,
music, the sterile, delicate emotions of others. One of the huge facts
of life, the central, underlying fact of all the Romance, all the
Poetry on which she was fed, had come to her at last and she did not
recognise it.

Gilbert had held her in his arms and had kissed her. It was pleasant to
be kissed and adored. It wasn't right--that she knew very well. Ethel
would be horrified, if she knew. All sorts of proper, steady, ordinary
people would be horrified, if _they_ knew. But they didn't and never
would! And Gilbert wanted to kiss her so badly. She had known it all
the time. Why shouldn't he, poor boy, if it made him happy? He was so
kind and so charming. He was a magician with the key of fairyland.

He made love beautifully! This was the Dance of the Hours!

The cab stopped in front of the Empire. Led by a little page-boy who
sprung up from somewhere, they passed through the slowly-moving tide of
men and women in the promenade to their box.

For a little space Rita said nothing.

She settled herself in her chair and leaned upon the cushioned ledge of
the box, gazing at the huge crowded theatre and at the shifting maze of
colour upon the stage. She had removed the long glove from her right
hand and her chin was supported by one white rounded arm. A very fair
young Sybil she seemed, lost in the vague, empty spaces of maiden
thought.

Gilbert began to tell her about the dancers and to explain the ballet.
She had never seen anything like it before, and he pointed out its
beauty, what a marvellous poem it really was; music, movement, and
colour built up by almost incredible labour into one stupendous whole.
A dozen minor geniuses, each one a poet in his or her way, had been at
work upon this triumphant shifting beauty, evanescent and lovely as a
dream painted upon the sable curtains of sleep.

She listened and seemed to understand but made little comment.

Once she flashed a curious speculative look at him.

And, on his part, though he saw her lovelier than ever, he was chilled
nevertheless. Grey veils seemed to be falling between him and the glow
of his desire, falling one by one.

"Surgit amari aliquid?"--was it that?--but he could not let the moment
escape him. It must and should be captured.

He made an excuse about cigarettes, and chocolates for her, and left
the box, hurrying to the little bar in the promenade, drinking there
almost furiously, tasting nothing, waiting, a strange silent figure
with a white face, until he felt the old glow re-commencing.

It came. The drugged mind answered to the call, and he went back to the
box with light footsteps, full of riotous, evil thoughts.

Rita had withdrawn her chair into the box a little.

She looked up with a smile of welcome as he entered and sat down by her
side. She began to eat the chocolates he had brought, and he watched
her with greedy eyes.

Suddenly--maid of moods as she was--she pushed the satin-covered box
away.

He felt a little white arm pushed through his.

"Gilbert, let's pretend we're married, just for this evening," she
said, looking at him with dancing eyes.

"What do you mean, Rita?" he said in a hoarse whisper.

The girl half-smiled, flushed a little, and then patted the black
sleeve of his coat.

"It's so nice to be together," she whispered. "I am so happy with you.
London is so wonderful with you to show it to me. I only wish it could
go on always."

He caught her wrist with his hot hand. "It can, always, if you wish,"
he said.

She started at the fierce note in his voice. "Hush," she said. "You
mustn't talk like that." Her face became severe and reproving. She
turned it towards the stage.

The remainder of the evening alternated between wild fits of gaiety and
rather moody silences. There was absolutely nothing of the crisp,
delightful friendship of the drive to Brighton. A new relation was
established between them, and yet it was not, as yet, capable of any
definition at all.

She was baffling, utterly perplexing. At one moment he thought her his,
really in love with him, prepared for all that might mean, at another
she was a shy and rather dissatisfied school girl. The nervous strain
within him, as the fires of his passion burned and crackled, was
intense. He fed the flame with alcohol whenever he had an opportunity.

All the old reverence and chivalry of that ideal friendship of which he
had sung so sweetly vanished utterly.

A faint, but growing brutality of thought came to him as he considered
her. Her innocence did not seem so insistent as before. He could not
place her yet. All he knew was that she was certainly not the Rita of
his dreams.

Yet with all this, his longing, his subjection to her every whim and
mood, grew and grew each moment. He was absolutely pervaded by her.
Honour, prudence, his keen insight were all thrust away in the
gathering storm of desire.

They had supper at a glittering palace in the Haymarket. In her simple
girlish frock, without much adornment of any sort, she was the
prettiest girl in the room. She enjoyed everything with wild avidity,
and not the least of the exhilarations of the night was the
knowledge--ripe and unmistakable now--of her complete power over him.

Gilbert ate nothing at the Carlton, but drank again. Distinguished
still, an arresting personality in any room, his face had become deeply
flushed and rather satyr-like as he watched Rita with longing, wonder,
and an uneasy suspicion that only added fuel to the flame.

It was after midnight when he drove her home and they parted upon the
steps of Queens Mansions.

He staggered a little in the fresh air as he stood there, though Rita
in her excitement did not notice it. He had drunk enough during that
day and night to have literally _killed_ two ordinary men.

"To-morrow!" he said, trying to put something that he knew was not
there into his dull voice. "To-morrow night."

"To-morrow!" she replied. "At the same time," and evading his clumsy
attempt at an embrace, she swirled into the hall of the flat with a
last kiss of her hand.

And even Prince, at the club, had never seen "Mr. Gilbert" so brutishly
intoxicated as he was that night.



CHAPTER III

THIRST

    "_A little, passionately, not at all?_"
    She casts the snowy petals on the air. . . .

    --_Villanelle of Marguerites._


Lothian had taken chambers for a short time in St. James' and near his
club. Prince, the valet, had found the rooms for him and the house,
indeed, was kept by the man's brother.

Gilbert would not stay at the club. Rita could not come to him there.
He wanted a place where he could be really alone with her.

During the first few days, though they met each night and Gilbert
ransacked London to give her varied pleasure, Rita would not come and
dine in his chambers. "I couldn't possibly, Gilbert dear," she would
say, and the refusal threw him into a suppressed fever of anger and
irritation.

He dare show little or nothing of it, however. Always he had a haunting
fear that he might lose her. If she was silent or seemed cold he
trembled inwardly and redoubled his efforts to please, to gratify her
slightest whim, to bring her back to gaiety and a caressing, half
lover-like manner.

She knew it thoroughly and would play upon him like a piano, striking
what chords she wished.

He spent money like water, and in hardly any time at all, the girl
whose salary was thirty-five shillings a week found a delirious joy in
expensive wines and foods, in rare flowers, in what was to her an
astounding _vie de luxe_. If they went to a theatre--"Gilbert, we
simply must have the stage box. I'm not in the mood to sit _anywhere_
else to-night,"--and the stage box it was.

There is a shop in Bond Street where foolish people buy cigarettes
which cost three pence or four pence each and a box of a hundred is
bought for two guineas or so. Rita wouldn't smoke any others. Rita knew
no more about wine than she did about astronomy, but she would pucker
her pretty brows over the _carte des vins_ in this or that luxurious
restaurant, and invariably her choice would fall upon the most
expensive. Once, it was at the Ritz, she noticed the word Tokay--a
costly Johannesburger wine--and asked Gilbert what it was. He
explained, and then, to interest her, went on to tell of the Imperial
Tokay, the priceless wine which is almost unobtainable.

"But surely one could get it _here_?" she had said eagerly.

"It's not on the card, dear."

"_Do_ ask, Gilbert!"

He asked. A very special functionary was called, who hesitated, hummed
and hawed. "There _was_ some of the wine in the cellars, a half bin,
just as there _was_ some of the famous White Hermitage--but, but"--he
whispered in Gilbert's ear, "The King of Spain, um um um--The Grand
Duke Alexis--you'll understand, sir, 'm 'm."

They were favoured with a bottle at last. Rita was triumphant. Gilbert
didn't touch it. Rita drank two glasses and it cost five pounds.

Lothian did not care twopence. He had been poor after he left Oxford.
His father, the solicitor, who never seemed to understand him or to
care much about him, had made him an infinitesimal allowance during the
young man's journalistic days. Then, when the old man died he had left
his son a comfortable income. Mary had money also. The house at
Mortland Royal was their own, they lived in considerable comfort but
neither had really expensive tastes and they did not spend their mutual
income by a long way. Gilbert's poems had sold largely also. He was
that rare bird, a poet who actually made money--probably because he
could have done very well without it.

It did not, therefore, incommode him in the least to satisfy every whim
of Rita's. If it amused her to have wine at five pounds a bottle, what
on earth did it matter? Frugal in his tastes and likings himself--save
only in a quantity of cheap poison he procured--he was lavish for
others. Although, thinking it would amuse him, his wife had begged him
to buy a motor-car he had always been too lazy or indifferent to do so.

So he had plenty of money. If Rita Wallace had been one of the
devouring harpies of Paris, who--if pearls really would melt in
champagne--would drink nothing else, Gilbert could have paid the piper
for a few weeks at any rate.

But Rita was curious. He would have given her anything. Over and over
again he had pressed her to have things--bracelets, a ring, a necklace.
She had refused with absolute decision.

She had let him give her a box of gloves, flowers she could not have
enough of, the more costly the amusement of the night the better she
seemed to like it. But that was all.

In his madness, his poisoned madness, he would have sold his house to
give her diamonds had she asked for them--she would not even let him
make her a present of a trumpery silver case for cigarettes.

She was baffling, elusive, he could not understand her. For several
days she had refused to dine alone with him in his rooms.

One night, when he was driving her home after the dinner at the Ritz
and a box at the Comedy theatre, he had pressed her urgently. She had
once more refused.

And then, something unveiled and brutal had risen within him. The wave
of alcohol submerged all decency and propriety of speech. He was
furiously, coarsely angry.

"Damn you!" he said. "What are you afraid of?--of compromising
yourself? If there were half a dozen people in London who knew or cared
what you did, you've done that long ago. And for heaven's sake don't
play Tartuffe with me. Haven't I been kissing you as much as ever I
wanted to for the last three days? Haven't you kissed me? You'll dine
with me to-morrow night in St. James' Street or I'll get out of town at
once and chuck it all. I've been an ass to come at all. I'm beginning
to see that now. I've been leaving the substance for the shadow."

She answered nothing to this brutal tirade for a minute or two.

The facile anger died away from him. He cursed himself for his insane
folly in jeopardising everything and felt compunction for his violence.

He was just about to explain and apologise when he heard a chuckle from
the girl at his side.

He turned swiftly to her. Her face was alight with pleasure, mingled
with an almost tender mischief. She laughed aloud.

"Of course I'll come, Gilbert dear," she said softly--"since you
_command_ me!"

He realised at once that, like all women, she found joy in abdication
when it was forced upon her. The dominant male mind had won in this
little contest. He had bullied her roughly. It was a new sensation and
she liked it.

But when she dined in the rooms and he tried to accomplish artificially
what he had achieved spontaneously, she was on her guard and it was
quite ineffectual.

They sat at a little round table. The dinner was simple, but perfectly
served. During the meal, for once,--once again--he had talked like his
old self, brilliantly touching upon literary things and illuminating
much that had been dark to her before with that splendour of intellect
which came back to him to-night for a space; and brought a trace of
spirituality to his coarsening face.

And after dinner he had made her play to him on the little Bord piano
against the wall. She was not a good pianist but she was efficient, and
certain things that she knew well, and _felt_, she played well.

With some technical accomplishment she certainly rendered the "Bees'
Wedding" of Mendelssohn with astonishing vivacity that night. The elfin
humour of the thing harmonised so much with certain aspects of her own
temperament!

The swarming bees of Fairyland were in the room!

And then, with merry malice, and at Gilbert's suggestion, she
improvised a Podley Polonaise.

Then she gave a little melody of Dvôrak that she knew--"A mad scarlet
thing by Dvôrak," he quoted to her, and finally, at Gilbert's urgent
request, she attempted the Troisième Ballade of Chopin.

It reminded him of the first night on which he had met her, at the
Amberleys' house. She did not play it well but his imagination filled
the lacunae; his heated mind rose to a wild ecstasy of longing.

He put his arm round her and embraced her with tears in his eyes.

"Sweetheart," he said, "you are wonderful! See! We are alone here
together, perfectly alone, perfectly happy. Let us always be for each
other. Dear, I will sacrifice everything for you. You complete me. You
were made for me. Come away with me, come with me for ever and ever. My
wife will divorce me and we can be married; always to be together."

He had declared himself, and his wicked wish at last. He made an open
proffer of his shameful love.

There was not a single thought in his mind of Mary, her deep devotion,
her love and trust. He brushed aside the supreme gift that God had
allowed him as a man brushes away an insect from his face.

All that the girl had said in answer was that he must not talk in such
a way. Of course it could never be. They must be content as they were,
hard as it was. "I am very sorry, Gilbert dear, you can never know how
sorry I am. But you know I care for you. That must be all."

He had sent her home by herself that night, paying the cabman and
giving him the address in Kensington.

Then for an hour before going to bed he had walked up and down his
sitting room in a welter of hope, fear, regret, desire, wonder and deep
perplexity.

He had now lost all sense of honour, all measure of proportion. His
desire filled him and racked his very bones. Sometimes he almost hated
Rita; always he longed for her to be his, his very own.

Freed from all possible restraint, lord of himself--"that heritage of
woe!"--he was now drinking more deeply, more madly than ever before in
his life.

He was abnormal in an abnormal world which his insanity created. The
savage torture he inflicted on himself shall be only indicated here.
There are deeper hells yet, blacknesses more profound in which we shall
see this unhappy soul!

Suffice it to say that for three red weeks he drove the chariot of his
ruin more recklessly and furiously than ever towards hell.

And the result, as far as his blistering hunger was concerned, was
always the same.

The girl led him on and repulsed him alternately. He never advanced a
step towards his desire. Yet the longing grew in intensity and never
left him for a moment.

He tried hard to fathom Rita's character, to get at the springs of her
thoughts. He failed utterly, and for two reasons.

Firstly, he was in no state to see anything steadily. The powers of
insight and analysis were alike deserting him. His _mind_ had been
affected before. Now his _brain_ was becoming affected.

One morning, with shaking hand, bloodshot eyes and a bottle of whiskey
before him on the table, he sat down to write out what he thought of
Rita. The accustomed pen and paper, the material implements of his
power, might bring him back what he seemed to be losing.

This is what he wrote, in large unsteady characters, entirely changed
from the neat beautiful caligraphy of the past.

    "Passionate and yet calculating at the same time; eager to rule and
    capable of ruling, though occasionally responsive to the right
    control; generous in confidence and trust, though with suspicion
    never very far away.

    "Merrily false and frankly furtive in many of the actions of life.
    A dear egoist! yet capable of self-abandoning enthusiasm, a
    brilliant embryo really wanting the guiding hand and master brain
    but reluctant to accept them until the last moment."

There was more of it, all compact of his hopes and fears, an entirely
false conception of her, an emanation of poison which, nevertheless,
affords some indication of his mental state.

The sheet concluded:--

    "A white and graceful yacht seriously setting out into dangerous
    waters with no more certainty than hangs upon the result of a toss
    up or the tinkle of a tambourine. Deeply desiring a pilot, but
    unwilling that he should come aboard too soon and spoil the fun of
    beating up into the wind to see what happens. Weak, but not with
    the charm of dependence and that trusting weakness which stiffens a
    man's arm."

A futile, miserable dissection with only a half-grain of truth in it.

Gilbert knew it for what it was directly it had been written. He
crumpled it up with a curse and flung it into the fireplace.

Yet the truth about the girl was simple enough. She was only an
exceptionally clever and attractive example of a perfectly well-defined
and numerous type.

Lothian was ignorant of the type, had never suspected its existence in
his limited experience of young women, that was all.

Rita Wallace was just this. Heredity had given her a quick, good brain
and an infinite capacity for enjoyment. It was an accident also that
she was a very lovely girl. All beautiful people are spoiled. Rita was
spoiled at school. Girls and mistresses alike adored her. With hardly
any interregnum she had been plumped into Podley's Pure Literature
Library and begun to earn her own living.

She lived with a good, commonplace girl who worshipped her.

Except that she could attract them and that on the whole they were
silly moths she knew nothing of men. Her heart, unawakened as yet save
by school-girl affections, was a kind and tender little organ. But,
with all her beauty and charm she was essentially shallow, from want of
experience rather than from lack of temperament.

Gilbert Lothian had come to her as the most wonderful personality she
had ever known. His letters were things that any girl in the world
might be proud of receiving. He was giving her, now, a time which, upon
each separate evening, was to her like a page out of the "Arabian
Nights." Every day he gave her a tablet upon which "Sesame" was
written.

Had he been free to ask her honourably, she would have married Gilbert
within twenty-four hours, had it been possible. He was delightful to be
with. She liked him to kiss her and say adoring things to her. Even his
aberrations--of which of course she had become aware--only excited her
interest. The bad boy drank far too many whiskies and sodas. Of course!
She would cure him of that. If any one had told her that her nightly
and delightful companion was an inebriate approaching the last stages
of lingering sanity, Rita would have laughed in her informant's face.

She knew what a drunkard was! It was a horrid wretch who couldn't walk
straight and who said, "My dearsh"--like the amusing pictures in
"Punch."

Poor dear Gilbert's wife would be in a fury if she knew. But
fortunately she didn't know, and she wasn't in England. Meanwhile, for
a short time, life was entrancing, and why worry about the day after
to-morrow?

It was ridiculous of Gilbert to want her to run away with him. That
would be really wicked. He might kiss her as much as he liked, and when
Mrs. Lothian came back they could still go on much as before. Certainly
they would continue being friends and he would write her beautiful
letters again.

"I'm a wicked little devil," she said to herself once or twice with a
naughty inward chuckle, "but dear old Gilbert is so perfectly sweet,
and I can do just what I like with him!"


Nearly three weeks had gone by. Gilbert and Rita had been together
every evening, on the Saturday afternoons when she was free of Podley's
Library, and for the whole of Sunday.

Gilbert had almost exhausted his invention in thinking out surprises
for her night after night.

There had been many dull moments and hours when pleasure trembled in
the balance. But no night had been quite a failure. The position was
this.

Lothian, almost convinced that Rita was unassailable, assailed her
still. She was sweet to him, gave her caresses but not herself. They
had arrived at a curious sort of understanding. He bewailed with bitter
and burning regret that he could not marry her. Lightly, only half
sincerely, but to please him, she joined in his sorrow.

She had been seen about with him, constantly, in all sorts of places,
and that London that knew him was beginning to talk. Of this Rita was
perfectly unconscious.

He had written to his wife at Nice, letters so falsely sympathetic that
he felt she must suspect something. He followed up every letter with a
long, costly telegram. A telegram is not autograph and the very lesions
of the prose conceal the lesions of the sender's dull intention. His
physical state was beginning to be so alarming that he was putting
himself constantly under the influence of bromide and such-like drugs.
He went regularly to the Turkish Bath in Jermyn Street, had his face
greased and hammered in the Haymarket each morning, and fought with a
constantly growing terror against an advancing horror which he trembled
to think might not be far off now.

Delirium Tremens.

But when Rita met him at night, drugs, massage and alcohol had had
their influence and kept him still upon the brink.

In his well-cut evening clothes, with his face a little fatter, a
little redder perhaps, he was still her clever, debonnair Gilbert.

A necessity to her now.



CHAPTER IV

THE CHAMBER OF HORRORS

    "Let us have a quiet hour,
    Let us hob-and-nob with Death."

    --_Tennyson._


Three weeks passed. There was no change in the relations of Rita
Wallace and Gilbert Lothian.

She was gay, tender, silent by turns, and her thirst for pleasure
seemed unquenchable. She yielded nothing. Things were as they were. He
was married: there was no more to be said, they must "dree their
wierd"--endure their lot.

Often the man smiled bitterly to hear her girlish wisdom, uttered with
almost complacent finality. It was not very difficult for _her_ to
endure. She had no conception of the dreadful state into which he had
come, the torture he suffered.

When he was alone--during the long evil day when he could not see
her--the perspiration his heated blood sent out upon his face and body
seemed like the very night dews of the grave. He was the sensualist of
whom Ruskin speaks, the sensualist with the shroud about his feet. All
day long he fought for sufficient mastery over himself to go through
the evening, fought against the feverish disease of parched throat and
wandering eyes; senseless, dissolute, merciless.

And one dreadful flame burned steadily in the surrounding gloom--

    "_Love, which is lust, is the lamp in the tomb.
    Love, which is lust, is the call from the gloom._"

"Je me nourris de flammes" was the proud motto of an ancient ducal
house in Burgundy. With grimmer meaning Lothian might have taken it for
his own during these days.

He had heard from his wife that she was coming home almost at once.
Lady Davidson had rallied. There was every prospect of her living for a
month or two more. Sir Harold Davidson was on his way home from India.
He would go to her at once and it was now as certain as such things can
be that he would be in time.

Mary wrote with deep sadness. To bid her beloved sister farewell on
this earth was heart-rending. "And yet, darling,"--so the letter had
run--"how marvellous it is to know, not to just hope, but to _know_
that I shall meet Dorothy again and that we shall see Jesus. When I
think of that, tears of happiness mingle with the tears of sorrow.
Sweet little Dorothy will be waiting for us when we too go, my dearest,
dearest husband. God keep you, beloved. Day and night I pray for my
dear one."

This letter had stabbed the man's soul through and through. It had been
forwarded from Mortland Royal and was brought to him as he lay in bed
at breakfast time. His heavy tears had bedewed the pillow upon which he
lay. "Like bitter wine upon a sponge was the savour of remorse."

Shuddering and sobbing he had crawled out of bed and seized the whiskey
bottle which stood upon the dressing table--his sole comforter,
hold-fast and standby now; very blood of his veins.

And then, warmth, comfort--remorse and shame fading rapidly
away--oblivion and a heavy sleep or stupor till long after midday.

He must go home at once. He must be at home to receive Mary. And, in
the quiet country among familiar sights and sounds, he would have time
to think. He could write to Rita again. He could say things upon paper
with a force and power that escaped him _à vive voix_. He could pull
himself together, too, recruit his physical faculties. He realised,
with an ever growing dread, in what a shocking state he was.

Yes, he would go home. There would be peace there, some sort of kindly
peace for a day or two. What would happen when Mary returned, how he
would feel about her, what he would do, he did not ask. Sufficient for
the day!

He longed for a few days' peace. No more late midnights--sleep. No
nights of bitter hollow pleasure and longing. He would be among his
quiet books again in his pleasant little library. He would talk
wildfowling with Tumpany and they would go through the guns together.
The Dog Trust who loved him should sleep on his bed.


It was Saturday. He was going down to Norfolk by the five o'clock train
from St. Pancras. He would be able to dine on board--and have what
drinks he wanted en route. The dining-car stewards on that line knew
him well. He would arrive at Wordingham by a little after nine. By ten
he might be in bed in his peaceful old house.

The Podley Library closed at 12:30 on Saturday. He was to call for
Rita, when they were to lunch together, and at five she would come to
the station to see him off. It was a dull, heavy day. London was
chilly, there was a gloom over the metropolis; leaden opaque light fell
from a sky that was ashen. It was as though cold thunder lurked
somewhere up above, as Lothian drove to Kensington.

He had paid for his rooms and arranged for his luggage to be taken to
the station where a man was to meet him with it a little before five.

Then he had crossed St. James' Street and spent a waiting hour at his
club. For some reason or other, this morning he had more control over
his nerves. There was a lull in his rapid physical progress downwards.
Perhaps it was that he had at any rate made some decision in his mind.
He was going to do something definite. He was going home. That was
something to grasp at--a real fact--and it steadied him a little.

He had smoked a cigar in the big smoking room of the club. It was
rather early yet and there was hardly any one there. Two whiskies and
sodas had been sufficient for the hour.

The big room, however, was so dark that all the electric lamps were
turned on and he read the newspapers in an artificial daylight that
harmonised curiously with the dull, numbed peace of the nerves which
had come to him for a short time.

He opened _Punch_ and there was a joke about him--a merry little
paragraph at the bottom of the column. It was the fourth or fifth time
his name had appeared in the paper. He remembered how delighted he and
Mary had been when it first happened. It meant so definitely that one
had "got there."

He read it now without the slightest interest.

He glanced at the _Times_. Many important things were happening at
home and abroad, but he gazed at all the news with a lack-lustre eye.
Usually a keen and sympathetic observer of what went on in the world,
for three weeks now he hadn't opened a paper.

As he closed the broad, crackling sheet on its mahogany holding rod,
his glance fell upon the Births, Deaths and Marriages column.

A name among the deaths captured his wandering attention. A Mr. James
Bethune Dickson Ingworth, C.B., was dead at Hampton Hall in Wiltshire.
It was Dicker's uncle, of course! The boy would come into his estate
now.

"It's a good thing for him," Lothian thought. "I don't suppose he's
back from Italy yet. The old man must have died quite suddenly. I hope
he'll settle down and won't be quite so uppish in the future."

He was thinking drowsily, and quite kindly of Dickson, when he suddenly
remembered something Mary had said on the night before she went to
Nice.

He had tried to make mischief between them--so he had! And then there
was that scene in the George at Wordingham, which Lothian had forgotten
until now.

"What a cock-sparrow Beelzebub the lad really is," he said in his mind.
"And yet I liked him well enough. Even now he's not important enough to
dislike. Rita likes him. She often talks of him. He took her out to
dinner--yes, so he did--to some appalling little place in Wardour
Street. She was speaking of it yesterday. He's written to her from
Milan and Rome, too. She wanted to show me the letters and she was
cross because I wasn't interested. She tried to pique me and I wouldn't
be! What was it she said, oh, 'he's such nice curly hair.'"

He gazed into the empty fireplace before which he was sitting in a huge
chair of green leather. The remembered words had struck some chords of
memory. He frowned and puzzled over it in his drowsy numbed state, and
then it came to him suddenly. Of course! The barmaid at Wordingham,
Molly what's-her-name whom all the local bloods were after, had said
just the same thing about Ingworth.

Little fools! They were all alike, fluffy little duffers. . . .

He looked up at the clock. It was twenty minutes to one. He had to meet
Rita at the library as the hour struck.

He started. The door leading into the outside world shut with a clang.
His chains fell into their place once more upon the limbs of his body
and soul.

He called a waiter, gulped down another peg, and got into a cab for the
Podley Institute.

The pleasant numbness had gone from him now. Once more he was upon the
rack. What he saw with his mental vision was as the wild phantasmagoria
of a dream . . . a dark room in which a magic lantern is being worked,
and fantastic, unexpected pictures flit across the screen. Pictures as
disconnected as a pack of cards.

Rita was waiting upon the steps of the Institute.

She wore a simple coat and skirt of dark brown tweed with a green line
in it. Her face was pale. Her eyes were without sparkle--she also was
exhausted by pleasure, come to the end of the Arabian Nights.

She got into the taxi-cab which was trembling with the power of the
unemployed engines below it.

Tzim, tzim, tzim!

"Where shall we go, Gilbert?" she said, in a languid, uninterested
voice.

He answered her in tones more cold and bloodless than her own. "I don't
know, Rita, and I don't care. Ce que vous voulez, Mademoiselle des
livres sans reproche!"

She turned her white face on him for a moment, almost savage with
impotent petulance. Then she thrust her head out of the window and
coiled round to the waiting driver.

"Go to Madame Tussaud's," she cried.

Tzim, tzim, bang-bang-bang, and then a long melancholy drone as the
rows of houses slid backwards.

Gilbert turned on her. "Why did you say that?" he asked bitterly.

"What difference _does_ it make?" she replied. "You didn't seem to
care where we went for this last hour or two. I said the first thing
that came into my mind. I suppose we can get lunch at Madame Tussaud's.
I've never been there before. At any rate, I expect they can manage a
sponge cake for us. I don't want anything more."

--"Yes, it's better for us both. It's a relief to me to think that the
end has come. No, Rita dear, I don't want your hand. Let us make an end
now--a diminuendo. It must be. Let it be. You've said it often
yourself."

She bit her lips for a second. Then her eyes flashed. She put her arms
round his neck and drew him to her. "You shan't!" she said. "You shan't
glide away from me like this."

Every nerve in his body began to tremble. His skin pricked and grew
hot.

"What will you give?" he asked in a muffled voice.

"I? What I choose to give!" she replied. "Gillie, I'll do what I like
with you."

She shrank back in the corner of the cab with a little cry. Lothian's
face was red and blazing with anger.

"No names like that, Rita!" he said roughly. "You shan't call me that."

It was a despairing cry of drowning conscience, honour bleeding to
death, dissolving dignity and manhood.

However much he might long for her: however strongly he was enchained,
it was a blot, an indignity, an outrage, that this girl should call him
by the familiar home name. That was Mary's name for him. Mrs. Gilbert
Lothian alone had the right to say that.

Just then the taxi-metre stopped outside the big red erection in the
Marylebone Road, an unusual and fantastic silhouette against the heavy
sky.

They went in together, and there was a chill over them both. They felt,
on this grey day, as people who have lived for pleasure, sensation, and
have fed too long on honeycomb, must ever feel; the bitterness of the
fruit with the fair red and yellow rind. Ashes were in their mouths, an
acrid flavour within their souls.

It is always and for ever thus, if men could only realise it. Since the
Cross rose in the sky, the hectic joys of sin have been mingled with
bitterness, torture, cold.

The frightful "Colloque Sentimental" of Verlaine expresses these two
people, at this moment, well enough. Written by a temperamental saint
turned satyr and nearly always influenced by drink; translated by a
young English poet whose wings were always beating in vain against the
prison wall he himself had built; you have these sad companions. . . .

    _Into the lonely park all frozen fast,
    Awhile ago there were two forms who passed.

    Lo, are their lips fallen and their eyes dead,
    Hardly shall a man hear the words they said.

    Into the lonely park all frozen fast
    There came two shadows who recall the past.

    "Dost thou remember our old ecstasy?"
    "Wherefore should I possess that memory?"

    "Doth thy heart beat at my sole name alway?
    Still dost thou see my soul in visions?" "Nay!"--_

And on such a day as this, with such a weight as this upon their tired
hearts, they entered the halls of Waxwork and stood forlorn among that
dumb cloistered company.

They passed through "Room No. 1. Commencing Right-hand side" and their
steps echoed upon the floor. On this day and at this hour hardly any
visitors were there; only a few groups moved from figure to figure and
talked in hissing whispers as if they were in some church.

All around them they saw lifeless and yet half convincing dolls in rich
tarnished habiliments. They walked, as it were, in a mausoleum of dead
kings, and the livid light which fell upon them from the glass roof
above made the sordid unreality more real.

"There's Charles the First," Rita said drearily.

Gilbert glanced at the catalogue. "He was fervently pious, a faithful
husband, a fond parent, a kind master, and an enthusiastic lover and
patron of the fine arts."

"How familiar that sort of stuff sounds," she answered. "It's written
for the schools which come here to see history in the flesh--or wax
rather. Every English school girl of the upper middle classes has been
brought here once in her life. Oh, here's Milton! What does it say
about him?"

--"Sold his immortal poem 'Paradise Lost' for the sum of five pounds,"
Lothian answered grimly.

"_Much_ better to be a modern poet, Gilbert dear! But I'm disappointed.
These figures don't thrill one at all. I always thought one was
thrilled and astonished here."

"So you will be, Cupid, soon. Don't you see that all these people are
only names to us. Here they are names dressed up in clothes and with
pink faces and glass eyes. They're too remote. Neither of us is going
to connect that thing"--he flung a contemptuous movement of his thumb
at Milton--"with 'Lycidas.' We shall be interested soon, I'm sure. But
won't you have something to eat?"

"No. I don't want food. After all, this is strange and fantastic. We've
lots more to see yet, and these kings and queens are only for the
schools. Let's explore and explore. And let's talk about it all as we
go, Gilbert! Talk to me as you do in your letters. Talk to me as you
did at the beginning, illuminating everything with your mind. That's
what I want to hear once again!"

She thrust her arm in his, and desire fled away from him. The Dead Sea
Fruit, the "Colloque Sentimental" existed no more, but, humour, the
power of keen, incisive phrase awoke in him.

Yes, this was better!--their two minds with play and interplay. It
would have been a thousand times better if it had never been anything
else save this.

They wandered into the Grand Saloon, made their bow to Sir Thomas
Lipton--"Wog and I find his tea really the best and cheapest," Rita
said--decided that the Archbishop of Canterbury had a suave, but
uninteresting face, admired the late Mr. Dan Leno, who was posed next
to Sir Walter Scott, and gazed without much interest at the royal
figures in the same room.

King George the Fifth and his spouse; the Duke of Connaught and
Strathearn--Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, K.G., K.T., K.P.,
G.C.M.C.; Princess Royal of England--Her Royal Highness Princess
Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar; and, next to these august people,
little Mr. Dan Leno!

"Poor little man," Rita said, looking at the sad face of the comedian.
"Why should they put him here with the King and the Queen? Do they just
plant their figures anywhere in this show?"

Gilbert shook his head. In this abnormal place--one of the strangest
and most psychologically interesting places in the world--his freakish
humour was to the fore.

"What a little stupid you are, Rita!" he said. "The man who arranges
these groups is one of the greatest philosophers and students of
humanity who ever lived. In this particular case the ghost of Heine
must have animated him. The court jester! The clown of the monarch--I
believe he did once perform at Sandringham--set cheek by jowl with the
great people he amused. It completes the picture, does it not?"

"No, Gilbert, since you pretend to see a design in the arrangement, I
don't think it _does_ complete the picture. Why should a mere little
comic man be set to intrude--?"

He caught her up with whimsical grace. "Oh, but you don't see it at
all!" he cried, and his vibrating voice, to which the timbre and life
had returned, rang through "Room No. 2."

--"This place is designed for the great mass of the population. They
all visit it. It is a National Institution. People like you and me only
come to it out of curiosity or by chance. It's out of our beat.
Therefore, observe the genius of the plan! The Populace has room in its
great stupid heart for only a few heroes. The King is always one, and
the popular comedian of the music halls is always another. These, with
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Toftrees, satisfy all the hunger for symbols to be
adored. Thus Dan Leno in this splendid company. Room No. 2 is really a
subtle and ironic comment upon the psychology of the crowd!"

Rita laughed happily. "But where are the Toftrees?" she said.

"In the Chamber of Horrors, probably, for murdering the public taste.
We are sure to find them here, seated before two Remingtons and with
the actual books with which the crime was committed on show."

"Oh, I've heard about the 'Chamber of Horrors.' Can we go, Gilbert? Do
let's go. I want to be thrilled. It's such a funereal day."

"Yes it is, grey as an old nun. I'm sorry I was unkind in the cab,
dear. Forgive me."

"I'll forgive you anything. I'm so unhappy, Gilbert. It's dreadful to
think of you being gone. All my days and my nights will be grey now.
However shall I do without you?"

There was genuine desolation in her voice. He believed that she really
regretted _his_ departure and not the loss of the pleasures he had
been giving her. His blood grew hot once more--for a single moment--and
he was about to embrace her, for they were alone in the room.

And then listlessness fell upon him before he had time to put his wish
into action. His poisoned mind was vibrating too quickly. An impulse
was born, only to be strangled in the brain before the nerves could
telegraph it to the muscles. His whole machinery was loose and out of
control, the engines running erratically and not in tune. They could
not do their work upon the fuel with which he fed them.

He shuddered. His heart was a coffer of ashes and within it, most evil
paramours, dwelt the quenchless flame and the worm that dieth not.

. . . They went through other ghostly halls, thronged by a silent
company which never moved nor spake. They came to the entrance of that
astounding mausoleum of wickedness, The Chamber of Horrors.

There they saw, as in a faint light under the sea, the legion of the
lost, the horrible men and women who had gone to swell the red
quadrilles of hell.

In long rows, sitting or standing, with blood-stained knives and
hangmen's ropes in front of them, in their shameful resurrection they
inhabited this place of gloom and death.

Here, was a man in shirt-sleeves, busy at work in a homely kitchen lit
by a single candle. Alone at midnight and with sweat upon his face he
was breaking up the floor; making a deep hole in which to put something
covered with a spotted shroud which lay in a bedroom above.

There, was the "most extraordinary relic in the world," the knife of
the guillotine that decapitated Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, and
twenty thousand human beings besides.

The strange precision of portraiture, the somewhat ghastly art which
had moulded these evil faces was startlingly evident in its effect upon
the soul.

When a _great_ novelist or poet creates an evil personality it shocks
and terrifies us, but it is never wholly evil. We know of the monster's
antecedents and environment. However stern we may be in our attitude
towards the crime, sweet charity and deep understanding of the motives
of human action often give us glimmerings which enable us to pity a
lamentable human being who is a brother of ours whatever he may have
done.

But here? No. All was sordid and horrible.

Gilbert and Rita saw rows upon rows of faces which differed in every
way one from the other and were yet dreadfully alike.

For these great sinister dolls, so unreal and so real, had all a
likeness. The smirk of cruelty and cunning seemed to lie upon the waxen
masks. Colder than life, far colder than death, they gave forth
emanations which struck the very heart with woe and desolation.

To many visitors the Chamber of Horrors is all its name signifies. But
it is a place of pleasure nevertheless. The skin creeps but the
sensation is pleasant. It provides a thrill like a switchback railway.
But it is not a place that artists and imaginative people can enter and
easily forget. It epitomises the wages of sin. It ought to be a great
educational force. Young criminals should be taken there between stern
guardians, to learn by concrete evidence which would appeal to them as
no books or sermons could ever do, the Nemesis that waits upon
unrepentant ways.

The man and the girl who had just entered were both in a state of
nervous tension. They were physically exhausted, one by fierce
indulgence in poison, the other by three weeks of light and feverish
pleasure.

And more than this.

Each, in several degree, knew that they were doing wrong, that they had
progressed far down the primrose path led by the false flute-players.

"I couldn't have conceived it was so, so unnerving, Gilbert," Rita
said, shrinking close to him.

"It is pretty beastly," Lothian answered. "It's simply a dictionary of
crime though, that's all--rather too well illustrated."

"I don't want to know of these horrors. One sees them in the papers,
but it means little or nothing. How dreadful life is though, under the
surface!"

Gilbert felt a sudden pang of pity for her, so young and fair, so
frightened now.--Ah! _he_ knew well how dreadful life was--under
the surface!

For a moment, in that tomb-like place a vision came to him, sunlit and
splendid, calm and beautiful.

He saw his life as it might be--as doubtless God meant it to be, a
favoured, fortunate and happy life, for God does not, in His
inscrutable wisdom chastise all men. Well-to-do, brilliant of mind,
with trained capacity to exact every drop of noble joy from life;
blessed with a sweet and beautiful woman to watch over him and
complement him; did ever a man have a fairer prospect, a luckier
chance?

His Hell was so real. Heaven was so near. He had but to say, "I will
not," and the sun would rise again upon his life. To the end he would
walk dignified, famous, happy, loving and deeply-loved--if only he
could say those words.

A turn of the hand would banish the Fiend Alcohol for ever and ever!

But even as the exaltation of the thought animated him, the dominant
false Ego, crushed momentarily by heavenly inspiration, growled and
fought for life.

Immediately the longing for alcohol burned within him. They had been
nearly an hour among the figures. Lothian longed for drink, to satisfy
no mere physical craving, but to keep the Fiend within quiescent.

He had come to that alternating state--the author of "Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde" has etched it upon the plate for all time--when he must drug
the devil in order to have a little license in which to speak the words
and think the thoughts of a clean man leading a Christian life.

So the vision of what might be faded and went. The present asserted
itself, and asserted itself merely as a brutish desire for poison.

All these mental changes and re-adjustments took place in a mere second
of time.

Rita had hardly made an end of speaking before he was ready with an
answer.

"Poor little Rita," he said. "It was your choice you know. It _is_
horrible. But I expect that the weather, and the inexorable fact that
we have to part this afternoon for a time, has something to do with it.
Oh, and then we haven't lunched. There's a great influence in lunch. I
want a drink badly, too. Let's go."

Rita was always whimsical. She loved to assert herself. She wanted to
go at least as ardently as her companion, but she did not immediately
agree.

"Soon," she said. "Look here, Gilbert, we'll meet at the door. I'm
going to flit down this aisle of murderers on the other side. You go
down this side. And if you meet the Libricides--Toftrees et femme I
mean, call out!"

She vanished with noiseless tread among the stiff ranks of figures.

Gilbert walked slowly down his own path, looking into each face in
turn.

. . . This fat matronly woman, a sort of respectable Mrs. Gamp who
probably went regularly to Church, was a celebrated baby farmer. She
"made angels" by pressing a gimlet into the soft skulls of her
charges--there was the actual gimlet--and save for a certain slyness,
she had the face of a quite motherly old thing. Yet she, too, had
dropped through the hole in the floor--like all her companions
here. . . .

He turned away from all the faces with an impatient shudder.

He ought never to have come here. He was a donkey ever to have let Rita
come here. Where was she?--he was to meet her at the end of this horrid
avenue. . . .

But the place was large. Rita had disappeared among the waxen ghosts.
The door must be this way. . . .

He pressed onwards, walking silently--as one does in a place of the
dead--but disregarding with averted eyes, the leers, the smiles, the
complacent appeal, of the murderers who had paid their debt to the
justice of the courts.

He was beginning to be most unpleasantly affected.

Walking onwards, he suddenly heard Rita's voice. It was higher in key
than usual--whom was she speaking to? His steps quickened.

. . . "Gilbert, how silly to try and frighten me! It's not cricket in
this horrid place, get down at once--oh!"

The girl shrieked. Her voice rang through the vault-like place.

Gilbert ran, turned a corner, and saw Rita.

She was swaying from side to side. Her face was quite white, even the
lips were bloodless. She was staring with terrified eyes to where upon
the low dais and behind the confining rail a figure was standing--a
wax-work figure.

Gilbert caught the girl by the hands. They were as cold as ice.

"Dear!" he said in wild agitation. "What is it? I'm here, don't be
frightened. What is it, Rita?"

She gave a great sob of relief and clung to his hands. A trace of
colour began to flow into her cheeks.

"Thank goodness," she said, gasping. "Oh, Gilbert, I'm a fool. I've
been so frightened."

"But, dear, what by?"

"By that----"

She pointed at the big, still puppet immediately opposite her.

Gilbert turned quickly. For a moment he did not understand the cause of
her alarm.

"I talked to _it_," she said with an hysterical laugh. "I thought _it_
was you! I thought you'd got inside the railing and were standing there
to frighten me."

Gilbert looked closely at the effigy. He was about to say something and
then the words died away upon his lips.

It was as though he saw himself in a distorting glass--one of those
nasty and reprehensible toys that fools give to children sometimes.

There was an undeniable look of him in the staring face of coloured
wax. The clear-cut lips were there. The shape of the head was
particularly reminiscent, the growing corpulence of body was indicated,
the hair of the stiff wig waved as Lothian's living hair waved.

"Good God!" he said. "It _is_ like me! Poor little girl--but you know
I wouldn't frighten you for anything. But it _is_ like! What an
extraordinary thing. We looked for the infamous Toftrees! the egregious
Herbert who has split so many infinitives in his time, and we
find--Me!"

Rita was recovering. She laughed, but she held tightly to Gilbert's arm
at the same time.

"Let's see who the person is--or was--" Gilbert went on, drawing the
catalogue from his pocket.

"Key of the principal gate of the Bastille--no, that's not it. Number
365, oh, here we are! Hancock, the Hackney Murderer. A chemist in
comfortable circumstances, he----"

Rita snatched the book from his hand. "I don't want to hear any more,"
she said. "Let's go away, quick!"

In half an hour they were lunching at a little Italian restaurant which
they found in the vicinity. The day was still dark and lowering, but a
risotto Milanese and something which looked like prawns in _polenta_,
but wasn't, restored them to themselves.

There was a wine list in this quite snug little place, but the
proprietor advanced and explained that he had no license and that money
must be paid in advance before the camerière could fetch what was
required from an adjacent public house.

It was a bottle of whiskey that Gilbert ordered, politely placed upon
the table by a pathetic little Genoese whose face was sallow as
spaghetti and who was quite unconscious that for the moment the Fiend
Alcohol had borrowed his poor personality.

. . . "You must have a whiskey and soda, Rita. I dare not let you
attempt any of the wines from the public house at the corner."

"I've never tried it in my life. But I will now, out of curiosity. I'll
taste what you are so far too fond of."

Rita did so. "Horrible stuff," she said. "It's just like medicine."

Gilbert had induced the pleasant numbness again. "You've said exactly
what it is," he replied in a dreamy voice.--"'Medicine for a mind
diseased.'"

They hardly conversed at all after that.

The little restaurant with its red plush seats against the wall, its
mirrors and hanging electric lights, was cosy. They lingered long over
their coffee and cigarettes. No one else was there and the proprietor
sidled up to them and began to talk. He spoke in English at first, and
then Gilbert answered him in French.

Gilbert spoke French as it is spoken in Tours, quite perfectly. The
Italian spoke it with the soft, ungrammatical fluency of his race.

The interlude pleased the tired, jaded minds of the sad companions, and
it was with some fictitious reconstruction of past gaiety and animation
that they drove to St. Pancras.

The train was in.

Gilbert's dressing-case was already placed in a first-class
compartment, his portmanteau snug in the van.

When he walked up the long platform with Rita, a porter, the Guard of
the train and the steward of the dining-car, were grouped round the
open door.

He was well known. All the servants of the line looked out for him and
gave him almost ministerial honours. They knew he was a "somebody," but
were all rather vague as to the nature of his distinction.

He was "Mr. Gilbert Lothian" at least, and his bountiful largesse was
generally spoken of.

The train was not due to start for six minutes. The acute guard,
raising his cap, locked the door of the carriage.

Gilbert and Rita were alone in it for a farewell.

He took her in his arms and looked long and earnestly into the young
lovely face.

He saw the tears gathering in her eyes.

"Have you been happy, sweetheart, with me?"

"Perfectly happy." There was a sob in the reply.

"You really do care for me?"

"Yes."

His breath came more quickly, he held her closer to him--only a little
rose-faced girl now.

"Do you care for me more than for any other man you have ever met?"

She did not answer.

"Tell me, tell me! Do you?"

"Yes."

"Rita, my darling, say, if things had been different, if I were free to
ask you to be my wife now, would you marry me?"

"Yes."

"Would you be my dear, dear love, as I yours, for ever and ever and
ever?"

She clung to him in floods of tears. He had his answer. Each tear was
an answer.

The guard of the train, looking the other way, opened the door with his
key and coughed.

"Less than a minute more, sir," said the guard.

. . . "Once more, say it once more! You _would_ be my wife if I
were free?"

"I'd be your wife, Gilbert, and I'd love you--oh, what shall I do
without you? How dull and dreadful everything is going to be now!"

"But I shall be back soon. And I shall write to you every day!"

"You will, won't you, dear? Write, write--" The train was almost
moving.

It began to move. Gilbert leaned out of the window and waved his hand
for a long time, to a forlorn little girl in a brown coat and skirt who
stood upon the platform crying bitterly.

The waiter of the dining-car, knowing his man well, brought Lothian a
large whiskey and soda before the long train was free of the sordid
Northwest suburbs.

Lothian drank it, arranged about dinner, and sank back against the
cushions. He lit a cigarette and drew the hot smoke deep into his
lungs.

The train was out of the town area now. There was no more jolting and
rattling over points. Its progress into the gathering night was a
continuous roar.

Onwards through the gathering night. . . .

"_I'd be your wife, Gilbert, and I'd love you--if you were free._"



CHAPTER V

THE NIGHT JOURNEY FROM NICE WHEN MRS. DALY SPEAKS WORDS OF FIRE

    "Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud,
    It is but for a time; I press God's lamp
    Close to my breast: its splendour, soon or late
    Shall pierce the gloom. I shall emerge one day."

    --_Browning._


A carriage was waiting outside a white and gilded hotel on the
Promenade des Anglais at Nice.

The sun was just dipping behind the Esterelle mountains and the
Mediterranean was the colour of wine. Already the Palais du Jetée was
being illuminated and outlined itself in palest gold against the
painted sky above the Cimiez heights, where the olive-coloured headland
hides Villefranche and the sea-girt pleasure city of Monte Carlo.

The tall palms in the gardens which front the gleaming palaces of the
Promenade were bronze gold in the fading light, and their fans clicked
and rustled in a cool breeze which was eddying down upon the Queen of
the Mediterranean from the Maritime Alps.

Mary Lothian came out of the hotel. Her face was pale and very sad. She
had been crying. With her was a tall, stately woman of middle-age;
grey-haired, with a massive calmness and peace of feature recalling the
Athena of the Louvre or one of those noble figures of the Erectheum
crowning the hill of the Acropolis at Athens.

She was Mrs. Julia Daly, who had been upon the Riviera for two months.
Dr. Morton Sims had written to her. She had called upon Mary and the
two had become fast friends.

Such time as Mary could spare from the sickbed of her sister, she spent
in the company of this great-souled woman from America, and now Mrs.
Daly, whose stay at Nice was over, was returning to London with her
friend.

The open carriage drove off, by the gardens and jewellers' shops in
front of the Casino and Opera House and down the Avenue de la Gare. The
glittering cafés were full of people taking an apéritif before dinner.
There was a sense of relaxation and repose over the pleasure city of
the South, poured down upon it in a golden haze from the last level
rays of the sun.

Outside one of the cafés, as the carriage turned to the station, some
Italians were singing "_O Soli Mio_" to the accompaniment of guitars
and a harp, with mellow, passionate voices.

The long green train rolled into the glass-roofed station, the
brass-work of the carriage doors covered thick with oily dust from the
Italian tunnels through which it had passed. The conductor of the
sleeping-car portion found the two women their reserved compartment.
Their luggage was already registered through to Charing Cross and they
had only dressing bags with them.

As the train started again Mrs. Daly pulled the sliding door into its
place, the curtains over it and the windows which looked out into the
corridor. Then she switched on the electric light in the roof and also
the lamp which stood on a little table at the other end.

"There, my dear," she said, "now we shall be quite comfortable."

She sat down by Mary, took her hand in hers and kissed her.

"I know what you are experiencing now," she said in her low rich voice,
"and it is very bitter. But the separation is only for a short, short
time. God wants her, and we shall all be in heaven together soon, Mrs.
Lothian. And you're leaving her with her husband. It is a great mercy
that he has come at last. They are best alone together. And see how
brave and cheery he is!--There's a real man, a Christian soldier and
gentleman if ever one lived. His wife's death won't kill him. It will
make him live more strenuously for others. He will pass the short time
between now and meeting her again in a high fever of righteous works
and duty. There is no death."

Mary held the firm white hand.

"You comfort me," she said. "I thank God that you came to me in my
affliction. Otherwise I should have been quite alone till Harold came."

"I'm real glad that dear good Morton Sims asked me to call. Edith Sims
and I are like" . . . She broke off abruptly. "Like sisters," she was
about to say, but would not.

Mary smiled. Her friend's delicacy was easy to understand. "I know,"
she answered, "like sisters! You needn't have hesitated. I am better
now. All you tell me is just what I am _sure_ of and it is everything.
But one's heart grows faint at the moment of parting and the reassuring
voice of a friend helps very much. I hope it doesn't mean that one's
faith is weak, to long for a sympathetic and confirming voice?"

"No, it does not. God has made us like that. I know the value of a
friend's word well. Nothing heartens one so. I have been in deep waters
in my time, Mary. You must let me call you Mary, my dear."

"Oh, do, do! Yes, it is wonderful how words help, human living words."

"Nothing is more extraordinary in life than the power of the spoken
word. How careful and watchful every one ought to be over words.
Spoken, they always seem to me to have more lasting influence than
words in a book. They pass through mind after mind. Just think, for
instance, how when we meet a man or woman with a sincere intellectual
belief which is quite opposed to our own, we are chilled into a
momentary doubt of our own opinions--however strongly we may hold them.
And when it is the other way about, what strength and comfort we get!"

"Thank you," Mary said simply, "you are very helpful. Dr. Morton
Sims"--she hesitated for a moment--"Dr. Morton Sims told me something
of your life. And of course I know all about your work, as the whole
world knows. I know, dear Mrs. Daly, how much you have suffered. And it
is because of that that you help me so, who am suffering too."

There was silence for a space. The train had stopped at Cannes and
started again. Now it was winding and climbing the mountain valleys
towards Toulon. But neither of the two women knew anything of it. They
were alone in the quiet travelling room that money made possible for
them. Heart was meeting heart in the small luxurious place in which
they sat, remote from the outside world as if upon some desert island.

"Dear Morton Sims," the American lady said at length. "The utter sane
goodness of that man! My dear, he is an angel of light, as near a
perfect character as any one alive in the world to-day. And yet he
doesn't believe in Jesus and thinks the Church and the Sacraments--I've
been a member of the Episcopalian Church from girlhood--only
make-believe and error."

"He is the finest natured man I have ever met," Mary answered. "I've
only known him for a short time, but he has been so good and friendly.
What a sad thing it is that he is an infidel. I don't use the word in
the popular reprehensible sense, but as just what it means--without
faith."

"It's a sad thing to us," Mrs. Daly said briskly, "but I have no fears
for him. God hasn't given him the gift of Faith. Now that's all we can
say about it. In the next world he will have to go through a probation
and learn his catechism, so to speak, before he steps right into his
proper place. But he won't be a catechumen long. His pure heart and
noble life will tell where hearts and wills are weighed. There is a
place by the Throne waiting for him."

"Oh, I am sure. He is wonderfully good. Indeed one seems to feel his
goodness more than one does that of our clergyman at home, though Mr.
Medley is a good man too!"

"Brains, my dear! Brains! Morton Sims, you see, is of the aristocracy.
Your clergyman probably is not."

"Aristocracy?"

"The only aristocracy, the aristocracy of brain-power. Don't forget I'm
an American woman, Mary! Goodness has the same value in Heaven however
it is manifested upon earth. The question of bimetallism doesn't
trouble God and His Angels. But a brilliant-minded Saint has certainly
more influence down here than a fool-saint."

Mary nodded.

Such a doctrine as this was quite in accord with what she wished to
think. She rejoiced to hear it spoken with such sharp lucidity. She
also worshipped at a shrine, that of no saint, certainly, but where a
flaming intellect illuminated the happenings of life. In his way, quite
a different way, of course, she knew that Gilbert had a finer mind
than even Morton Sims. And yet, Gilbert wasn't good, as he ought to
be. . . . How these speculations and judgments coiled and recoiled upon
themselves; puzzled weary minds and, when all was done, were very
little good after all!

At any rate, she loved Gilbert more than anything or anybody in the
world. So that was that!

But tears came into her eyes as she thought of her husband with deep
and yearning love. If he would only give up alcohol! _Why_ wouldn't he?
To her, such an act seemed so simple and easy. Only a refusal, that was
all! The young man who came to Jesus in the old days was asked to give
up so much. Even for Jesus and immortality he found himself unable to
do it. But Gilbert had only to give up one thing in order to be good
and happy, to make her happy.

It was true that Dr. Morton Sims had told her many scientific facts,
had explained and explained. He had definitely said that Gilbert was in
the clutches of a disease; that Gilbert couldn't really help himself,
that he must be cured as a man is cured of gout. And then, when she had
asked the doctor how this was to be done, he had so little comfort to
give. He had explained that all the advertised "cures"--even the ones
backed up by people of name, bishops, magistrates, and so on, were
really worthless. They administered other drugs in order to sober up
the patient from alcohol. That was easy and possible--though only with
the thorough co-operation of the patient. After a few weeks, when
health appeared to be restored, and the will power was certainly
strengthened, the "cure" did nothing more. The _pre-disposition_
was not eradicated. That was an affair to be accomplished only by two
or three years of abstinence and not always then.

--"I'll talk to Mrs. Daly about it," the sad wife said to herself. "She
is a noble, Christian woman. She understands more than even the doctor.
She _must_ do so. She loves our Lord. Moreover she has given her life
to the cause of temperance." . . .

But she must be careful and diplomatic. The natural reticence and
delicacy of a well-bred woman shrank from the unveiling, not only of
her own sorrow, but of a beloved's shame. The coarse, ill-balanced and
bourgeois temperament bawls its sorrow and calls for sympathy from the
sweepings of any Pentonville omnibus. It writes things upon a street
wall and enjoys voluptuous public hysterics. The refined and gracious
mind hesitates long before the least avowal.

"You said," she began, after a period of sympathetic silence, "that you
had been in deep waters."

Julia Daly nodded. "I guess it's pretty well known," she said with a
sigh. "That's the worst of a campaign like mine. It's partly because
every one knows all about what you've gone through that they give you a
hearing. In the States the papers are full of my unhappy story whenever
I lecture in a new place. But I'm used to it now and it doesn't hurt
me. Most of the stories are untrue, though. Mr. Daly was a pretty
considerable ruffian when he was in drink. But he wasn't the monster
he's been made out to be, and he couldn't help himself, poor, poisoned
man. But which story have you read, Mary?"

"None at all. Only Dr. Morton Sims, when he wrote, told me that you had
suffered, that your husband, that----"

"That Patrick was an alcoholic. Yes, that's the main fact. He did a
dreadful thing when he became insane through drink. There's no need to
speak of it. But I loved him dearly all the same. He might have been
such a noble man!"

"Ah, that's just what I feel about my dear boy. He's not as bad as--as
some people. But he does drink quite dreadfully. I hate telling you. It
seems a sort of treachery to him. But you may be able to help me."

"I knew," Mrs. Daly said with a sigh. "The doctor has told me in
confidence. I'd do anything to help you, dear girl. Your husband's
poems have been such a help and comfort to me in hours of sadness and
depression. Oh, what a dreadful scourge it is! this frightful thing
that seizes on noble and ignoble minds alike! It is the black horror of
the age, the curse of nations, the ruin of thousands upon thousands. If
only the world would realise it!"

"No one seems to realise the horror except those who have suffered
dreadfully from it."

"More people do than you think, Mary, but, still, they are an
insignificant part of the whole. People are such fools! I was reading
'Pickwick' the other day, a great English classic and a work of genius,
too, in its way, I suppose. The principal characters get drunk on every
other page. Things are better now, as far as books are concerned,
though the comic newspapers keep up their ghastly fun about drunken
folk. But the cause of Temperance isn't a popular one, here or in my
own country."

"A teetotaller is so often called a fanatic in England," Mary said.

"I know it well. But I say this, with entire conviction, absolute
bed-rock certainty, my dear, the people who have joined together to go
without alcohol themselves and to do all they can to fight it, are in
the right whatever people may say of them. And it doesn't matter what
people say either. As in all movements, there is a lot of error and
mistaken energy. The Bands of Hope, the Blue Ribbon Army, the
Rechabites are not always wise. Some of them make total abstinence into
a religion and think that alcohol is the only Fiend to fight against.
Most of them--as our own new scientific party think--are fighting on
wrong lines. That's to say they are not doing a tenth as much good as
they might do, because the scientific remedy has not become real to
them. That will come though, if we can bring it about. But I tire you?"

"Please go on."

"Well, you know our theory. It is a certain remedy. You can't stop
alcohol. But by making it a penal offence for drunkards to have
children, drunkenness must be almost eliminated in time."

"Yes," Mary said. "Of course, I have read all about it. But I know so
little of science. But what is the _individual_ cure? Is there
none, then? Oh, surely if it is a disease it can be cured? Dr. Morton
Sims tried to be encouraging, but I could see that he didn't think
there really _was_ much chance for a man who is a slave to drink.
It is splendid, of course, to think that some day it may all be
eliminated by science. But meanwhile, when women's hearts are bleeding
for men they love . . ."

Her voice broke and faltered. Her heart was too full for further
speech.

The good woman at her side kissed her tenderly. "Do not grieve," she
said. "Listen. I told you just now that so many of the great Temperance
organisations err in their rejection of scientific advice and
scientific means to a great end. They place their trust in God,
forgetting that science only exists by God's will and that every
discovery made by men is only God choosing to reveal Himself to those
who search for Him. But the Scientists are wrong, too, in their
rejection--in so many cases--of God. They do not see that Religion and
Science are not only non-antagonistic, but really complement each
other. It is beginning to be seen, though. In time it will be generally
recognised. I read the admission of a famous scientist the other day,
to this effect. He said, 'It is generally recognised that any form of
treatment in which the "occult," the "supernatural," or anything secret
or mysterious is allowed to play a dominant part in so neurotic an
affection as inebriety, often succeeds.' And he closed a most helpful
and able essay on the arrest of alcohol with something like these words:

    "'The reference to agencies for the uplifting of the drink-victim
    would be sadly incomplete without a very definite acknowledgment of
    the incalculable assistance which the wise worker and unprejudiced
    physician may obtain by bringing to bear upon the whole life of the
    patient that Power, the majesty and mystery, the consolation and
    inspiration of which it is the mission of religion to reveal.'"

"Then even the doctors are coming round?" Mary said. "And it means
exactly, you would say--?"

"I would tell you what has been proved without possibility of dispute a
thousand times. I would tell you that when all therapeutic agencies
have failed, the Holy Spirit has succeeded. The Power which is above
every other power can do this. No loving heart need despair. However
black the night _that_ influence can enlighten it. Ask those who
work among the desolate and oppressed; the outcast and forlorn, the
drink-victims and criminals. Ask, here in England, old General Booth or
Prebendary Carlile. Ask the clergy of the Church in the London Docks,
ask the Nonconformist ministers, ask the Priests of the Italian Mission
who work in the slums.

"They will tell you of daily miracles of conversion and transformations
as marvellous and mystical as ever Jesus wrought when He was visible on
earth. Mary! It goes on to-day, it _does_ go on. There is the only
cure, the only salvation. Jesus."

There was a passionate fervour in her voice, a divine light upon her
face. She also prophesied, and the Spirit of God was upon her as upon
the holy women of old.

And Mary caught that holy fire also. Her lips were parted, her eyes
shone. She re-echoed the sacred Name.

"I would give my life to save Gilbert," she said.

"I have no dear one to save, now," the other answered. "But I would
give a thousand lives if I had them to save America from Alcohol. I
love my land! There is much about my country that the ordinary English
man or woman has no glimmering of. Your papers are full of the
extravagances and divorces of wealthy vulgarians--champagne corks
floating on cess-pools. You read of trusts and political corruption.
These are the things that are given prominence by the English
newspapers. But of the deep true heart of America little is known here.
We are not really a race of money-grubbers and cheap humourists. We are
great, we shall be greater. The lamps of freedom burn clearly in the
hearts of millions of people of whom Europe never hears. God is with us
still! The Holy Spirit broods yet over the forests and the prairies,
the mountains and the rivers of my land. Read the 'Choir Invisible' by
James Lane Allen and learn of us who are America."

"I will, dear Mrs. Daly. How you have comforted me to-night! God sent
you to me. I feel quite happy now about my darling sister. I feel much
happier about my husband. Whatever this life has in store, there is
always the hereafter. It seems very close to-night, the veil wears
thin."

"We will rest, Mary, while these good thoughts and hopes remain within
us. But before we go to bed, listen to this."

Julia Daly felt in her dressing bag and withdrew a small volume bound
in vermilion morocco.

"It's your best English novel," she said, "far and away the
greatest--Charles Reade's 'The Cloister and the Hearth,' I mean. I'm
reading it for the fifth time. For five years now I have done so each
year."

"For ever?" she began in her beautiful voice, that voice which had
brought hope to so many weary hearts in the great Republic of the West.

    "'For ever? Christians live "for ever," and love "for ever" but
    they never part "for ever." They part, as part the earth and sun,
    only to meet more brightly in a little while. You and I part here
    for life. And what is our life? One line in the great story of the
    Church, whose son and daughter we are; one handful in the sand of
    time, one drop in the ocean of "For ever." Adieu--for the little
    moment called "a life!" We part in trouble, we shall meet in peace;
    we part in a world of sin and sorrow, we shall meet where all is
    purity and love divine; where no ill passions are, but Christ is,
    and His Saints around Him clad in white. There, in the turning of
    an hour-glass, in the breaking of a bubble, in the passing of a
    cloud, she, and thou, and I shall meet again; and sit at the feet
    of angels and archangels, apostles and saints, and beam like them
    with joy unspeakable, in the light of the shadow of God upon His
    throne, for ever--and ever--and ever.'"

The two women undressed and said their prayers, making humble
supplication at the Throne of Grace for themselves, those they loved
and for all those from whom God was hidden.

And as the train bore them through Nimes and Arles, Avignon and the old
Roman cities of southern France, they slept as simple children sleep.



CHAPTER VI

GILBERT LOTHIAN'S DIARY

    "It comes very glibly off the tongue to say, 'Put yourself in his
    position,'--'What would you have done under the circumstances?' but
    if self-analysis is difficult, how much more so is it to appreciate
    the 'Ego' of another, to penetrate within the veil of the maimed
    and debased inner temple of the debauched inebriate?"--"_The
    Psychology of the Alcoholic_," by T. Claye Shawe, M.D., F.R.C.P.,
    Lecturer on psychological medicine. St. Bartholomew's Hospital,
    London.

    "Like one, that on a lonesome road,
    Doth walk in fear and dread,
    And having once turned round walks on,
    And turns no more his head;
    Because he knows, a frightful fiend
    Doth close behind him tread."

    --_Coleridge._


When Mary Lothian returned home to Mortland Royal she was very unwell.
The strain of watching over Lady Davidson, and the wrench of a parting
which in this world was to be a final one, proved more than she was
able to endure.

She had been out of doors, imprudently, during that dangerous hour on
the Riviera between sunset and nine o'clock. Symptoms of that curious
light fever, with its sharp nervous pains, which is easily contracted
at such times along the Côte d'Azur, began to show themselves.

Dr. Morton Sims was away in Paris for a few weeks upon a scientific
engagement he was unable to refuse, and Mary was attended by Dr.
Heywood, the general practitioner from Wordingham.

There was nothing very serious the matter, but the Riviera fever brings
collapse and great depression of spirits with it. Mary remained in bed,
lying there in a dreamy, depressed state of both physical and mental
faculties. She read but little, preferred to be alone as much as
possible, and found it hard to take a lively interest in anything at
all.

Gilbert was attentive enough. He saw that every possible thing was done
for her comfort. But his manner was nervous and staccato, though he
made great efforts at calm. He was assiduous, eager to help and
suggest, but there was no repose about him. In her great longing for
rest and solitude--a necessary physical craving resulting upon her
illness--Mary hardly wanted to see very much even of Gilbert. She was
too weak and dispirited to remonstrate with him, but it was quite
obvious to her experienced eyes that he was drinking heavily again.

His quite unasked-for references to the fact that he was taking nothing
but a bottle of beer in the middle of the morning, a little claret at
meals and a single whiskey and soda before going to bed, betrayed him
at once. His tremulous anxiety, his furtive manner, the really horrible
arrogation of gaiety and ease made upon a most anxious hope that he was
deceiving her, told their own tale.

So did the heavy puffed face, yellowish red and with spots appearing
upon it. His eyes seemed smaller as the surrounding tissues were
dilated, they were yellowish, streaked with little veins of blood at
the corners, and dull in expression.

His head jerked, his hands trembled and when he touched her they were
hot and damp.

Her depression of mind, her sense of hopelessness, were greatly
increased. Darkness seemed to be closing round her, and prayer--for it
happens thus at times with even the most saintly souls--gave little
relief.

"I shall be better soon," she kept repeating to herself. "The doctor
says so. Then, when I am well, I shall be able to take poor Gillie
really in hand. It won't be long now. Then I will save him with God's
help."

In her present feebleness she knew that it was useless to attempt to do
anything in this direction. So she pretended to believe her husband,
said nothing at all, and prayed earnestly to recover her health that
she might set about the task of succour.

She did not know, had not the very slightest idea, of Lothian's real
state. Nobody knew, nobody could know.

On his part, freed of all restraint, his mind a cave of horror, a
chamber of torture, he drank with lonely and systematic persistence.

It was about this time that he began to make these notes in the form of
a diary which long afterwards passed into the hands of Dr. Morton Sims.
The record of heated horror, the extraordinary glimpse into an inferno
incredible to the sane man, has proved of immense value to those who
are engaged in studying the psychology of the inebriate.

From much that they contain, it is obvious that the author had no
intention of letting them be seen by any other eyes than his own, at
the time of writing them. Dr. Morton Sims had certainly suggested the
idea in the first place, but there can be no doubt whatever that
Lothian soon abandoned his original plan and wrote for the mere relief
of doing so, and doubtless with a sinister fascination at the spectacle
of his own mind thus revealed by subtle analysis and the record of a
skilled pen. Alcoholised and impaired as his mind was, it was
nevertheless quite capable of doing this accurately and forcibly, and
there are many corroborative instances of such an occurrence. More than
one medical man during the progress of a protracted death agony has
left minute statements of his sensations for the good of Society.

Such papers as these, for use in a book which has an appeal to all
sorts of people, cannot, of course, be printed entire. There are things
which it would serve no good purpose for the layman to know, valuable
as they are to the patient students of morbid states. And what can be
given is horrible enough.

The selected passages follow herewith, and with only such comment as is
necessary to elucidate the text.

    . . . Last night a letter came from a stranger, one of the many
    that I get, thanking me for some of the poems in "Surgit Amari"
    which he said had greatly solaced and helped him throughout a
    period of mental distress. When I opened the letter it was after
    dinner, and I had dined well--my appetite keeps good at any rate,
    and while that is so there is no fear of it--according to the
    doctors and the medical books. I opened the letter and read it
    without much interest. I am not so touched and pleased by these
    letters as I used to be. Then, after I had said good-night to my
    wife, I went into the library. After two or three whiskies and a
    lot of cigarettes the usual delusion of greatness and power came
    over me. I know, of course, that I have great power and am in a way
    celebrated, but at ordinary times I have no overmastering
    consciousness and bland, suave pride in this. When I am recovering
    from the effects of too much alcohol I doubt everything. My own
    work seems to me trivial and worthless, void of life and imitations
    of greater work.

    Well, I had the usual quickening, but vague and incoherent sense of
    greatness, and I picked up the letter again. I walked up and down
    the room smoking furiously, and then I had some more whiskey. The
    constant walking up and down the room, by the way, is a well-marked
    symptom of my state. The nerves refuse me calm. I can't sit down
    for long, even with the most alluring book. Some thought comes into
    my mind like a stone thrown suddenly into a pool, and before I am
    aware of it I am marching up and down the room like a forest beast
    in a cage. When I had read the letter twice more I sat down and
    wrote a most effusive reply to my correspondent. I almost wept as I
    read it. I went into high things, I revealed myself and my
    innermost thoughts with the grave kindness and wish to be of help
    that a great and good man; intimate with a lesser and struggling
    man; might use.

    In the morning I read the letter which I had thought so wonderful.
    As usual, I tore it up. It was written in a handwriting which might
    have betrayed drunkenness to a child. Long words lacked a syllable,
    words ending in "ing" were concluded by a single stroke, the letter
    "l" was the same size as the letter "e" and could not be
    distinguished from it. But what was worse, was the sickly
    sentiment, expressed in the most feeble sloppy prose.

    It was sort of educated Chadband or Stiggins and there was an
    appalling lack of reticence.

    It is a marked symptom of my state, that when I am drunk I always
    want to write effusive letters to strangers or mere acquaintances.
    Sometimes, if I have been reading a book that I liked, I sit down
    and turn out pages of gush to the unknown author, hailing him as a
    brother and a master. Thank goodness I always tear the wretched
    things up next day. It is a good thing I live in the country. In
    London these wretched letters, which I am impelled to write, would
    be in some adjacent pillar box before I realised what I had done.

    Oh, to be a sane man, a member of the usual sane army of the world
    who never do these things!

The above passage must have been re-read some time after it was written
and been the _raison d'être_ of what follows. The various passages
are only occasionally dated, but their chronological order can be
determined with some certainty by these few dates, changes of
handwriting, and above all by the progress and interplay of thought.

    It had not occurred to me before, with any strength that is, how
    very far my inner life diverges now from ordinary paths! It is, I
    see in a moment such as the present when I am able to contemplate
    it, utterly abnormal. I am glad to realise this for a time. It is
    so intensely interesting from the psychologist's point of view. I
    can so very, very rarely realise it. Immediately that I slip back
    into the abnormal life, long custom and habit reassert themselves
    and I become quite unaware that it is abnormal. I live mechanically
    according to the _bizarre_ and fantastic rules imposed upon me
    by drink. Now, for a time, I have a breathing space. I have left
    the dim green places under the sea and my head is above water. I
    see the blue sky and feel the winds of the upper world upon my
    face. I used to belong up there, now I am an inhabitant of the
    under world, where the krakens and the polyps batten in their sleep
    and no light comes.

    I will therefore use my little visit to "glimpse the moon" like the
    Prince of Denmark's sepulchral father. I will catalogue the ritual
    of the under world which has me fast.

    I will, that is, write as much as I can. Before very long my eyes
    will be tired and little black specks will dance in front of them.
    The dull pain in my side--cirrhosis of course--which is quiet and
    feeding now--will begin again. Something in my head, at the back of
    the skull on the left hand side--so it seems--will begin to throb
    and ache. Little shooting pains will come in my knees and round
    about my ankles and drops of perspiration which taste bitter as
    brine will roll down my face. And, worse than all, the fear of It
    will commence. Slight "alcoholic tremors" will hint of what might
    be. After a few minutes I shall feel that it is going to be.

    I will define all that I mean by "It" another time.

    Well, then I shall send "It" and all the smaller "Its" to the right
    about. I shall have two or three strong pegs. Then physical pains,
    all mental horrors, will disappear at once. But I shall be back
    again under the sea nevertheless. I shan't realise, as I am
    realising now, the abnormality of my life. But I should say that I
    have an hour at least before I need have any more whiskey, before
    that becomes imperative. So here goes for a revelation more real
    and minute than de Quincey, though, lamentable fact! in most
    inferior prose!

Here this passage ends. It is obvious from what follows that the period
of expected freedom came to an end long before the author expected.
Excited by what he proposed to do, he had spent too much of his brief
energy in explaining it. Mechanically he had taken more drink to
preserve himself upon the surface--the poisoned mind entirely
forgetting what it had just set down--and with mathematic certainty the
alcohol had plunged the poet once more beneath the ruining waters.

The next entry, undated, is written in a more precise and firmer
handwriting. It recalls the small and beautiful caligraphy of the old
days. There is no preamble to the bald and hideous confession of mental
torture.

    I wish that my imagination was not so horribly acute and vivid when
    it is directed towards horrors--as indeed it always seems to be
    now. I wish, too, that I had never talked curiously to loquacious
    medical friends and read so many medical books.

    I am always making amateur, and probably perfectly ridiculous,
    tests for Locomotor Ataxy and General Paralysis--always shrinking
    in nameless fear from what so often seems the inevitable onslaught
    of "It."

    Meanwhile, with these fears never leaving me for a moment, to what
    an infinity of mad superstitions I am slave! How I strive, by a
    bitter, and (really) hideously comic, ritual to stave off the
    inevitable.

    Oh, I used to love God and trust in Him. I used to pray to Jesus.
    Now, like any aborigine I only seek to ward off evil, to propitiate
    the Devil and the Powers of the Air, to drag the Holy Trinity into
    a forced compliance with my conjuring tricks. _I can hardly
    distinguish the devil from God._ Both seem my antagonists.
    Hardly able to distinguish Light from dark, I employ myself with
    dirty little conjuring tricks. I well know that all these are the
    phantasms of a disordered brain! I am not really fool enough to
    believe that God can be propitiated or Satan kept at bay by
    movements: touchings and charms.

    But I obey my demon.

    These things are a foolish network round my every action and
    thought. I can't get out of the net.

    Touching, I do not so much mind. In me it is a symptom of
    alcoholism, but greater people have known it as a mere nervous
    affection quite apart from drink. Dr. Johnson used to stop and
    return to touch lamp-posts. In "Lavengro," Borrow has words to say
    about this impulse--I think it is in Lavengro or it may be in the
    Spanish book. Borrow used to "touch wood." I began it a long time
    ago, in jest at something young Ingworth said. I did it as one
    throws spilt salt over one's shoulder or avoids seeing the new moon
    through glass. Together with the other things I _have_ to do
    now, it has become an obsession. I carry little stumps of pencil in
    all my pockets. Whenever a thought of coming evil, a radiation from
    the awful cloud of Apprehension comes to me, then I can thrust a
    finger into the nearest pocket and touch wood. Only a fortnight ago
    I was frightened out of my senses by the thought that I had never
    been really touching wood at all. The pencil stumps were all
    varnished. I had been touching varnish! It took me an hour to
    scrape all the varnish off with a pocket knife. I must have about
    twenty stumps in constant use. At night I always put one in the
    pocket of my pyjama coat--one wakes up with some fear--but, half
    asleep and lying as I do upon my left side, the pocket is often
    under me and I can't get to the wood quickly. So I keep my arm
    stretched out all night and my hand can touch the wooden top of a
    chair by the bed in a second. I made Tumpany sand-paper all the
    varnish off the top of the chair too. He thought I was mad. I
    suppose I am, as a matter of fact. But though I am perfectly aware
    of the damnable foolishness of it, these things are more real to me
    than the money-market to a business man.

                     *       *       *       *       *

    If it were only this compulsion to touch wood I should not mind.
    But there are other tyrannies coincident which are more urgent and
    compelling. My whole mind--at times--seems taken up by the
    necessity for ritual actions. I have no time for quiet thought.
    Everything is broken in upon. There is the Sign of the Cross. I
    have linked even _that_ in the chain of my terrors. I touch
    wood and then I make this sign. I do it so often that I have
    invented all sorts of methods of doing it secretly in public, and
    quickly when I am alone. I do it in a sort of imaginary way. For
    instance, I bend my head and in so doing draw an imaginary line
    with my right eye upon the nearest wall, or upon the page of the
    book that I am reading. Then I move my head from side to side and
    make another fictitious line to complete the cross. A propos of
    making the sign, the imaginary lines nearly always go crooked in my
    brain. This especially so when I am doing it on a book. I follow
    two lines of type on both pages and use the seam of the binding
    between them to make the down strokes. But it hardly ever comes
    right the first time. I begin to notice people looking at me
    curiously as I try to get it right and my head moves about. If they
    only knew!

    Then another and more satisfactory way--for the imaginary method
    always makes my head ache for a second or two--I accomplish with
    the thumb of my right hand moving vertically down the first joint
    of the index finger, and then laterally. I can do this as often as
    I like and no one can possibly see me. I have a little copper Cross
    too, with "In hoc vinces" graved upon it. But I don't like using
    this much. It is too concrete. It reminds me of the use I am making
    of the symbol of salvation. "In hoc vinces"! Not I. There are times
    when I think that I am surely doomed.

    But I think that the worst of all the foul, senseless, and yet
    imperative petty lordships I endure, is the dominion of the two
    numbers. The Dominion of The Two Numbers!--capital letters shall
    indicate this! For some reason or other I have for years imagined
    mystical virtue in the number 7 and some maleficent influence in
    the number 13. These, of course, are old superstitions, but they,
    and all the others, ride me to a weariness of spirit which is near
    death.

    Although I got my first in "Lit. Hum." at Oxford, have read almost
    everything, and can certainly say that I am a man of wide culture
    and knowledge, Figures always gave me aversion and distaste. I got
    an open scholarship at my college and was as near as nothing
    ploughed in the almost formal preliminary exam of Responsions by
    Arithmetic. I can't add up my bank-book correctly even now, and I
    have no sense whatever of financial amounts and affairs.

    But I am a slave to the good but stern fairy 7 and the hell-hag 13.

    I attempt lightness and the picturesque. There is really nothing of
    the sort about my unreasoning and mad servitude. It's bitter,
    naked, grinning truth.

    In my bath I sponge myself seven times--first. Then I begin again,
    but I stop at six in the second series and cross myself upon the
    breast with the bath sponge. Seven and six make thirteen. If I did
    not cancel out that thirteen by the sign of the Cross I should walk
    in fear of some dreadful thing all day.

    Every time I drink I sip seven times first and then again seven
    times. When six times comes in the second seven, I make the Cross
    with my head. My right hand is holding the glass so that the thumb
    and finger joint method won't work. It would be disastrous to make
    the sign with the left hand.

    That is another thing. . . . I use my left hand as little as I can.
    It frightens me. I _always_ raise a glass to my lips with the right
    hand. If I use the left hand owing to momentary thoughtlessness,
    I have to go through a lengthy purification of wood-touching,
    crossing, and counting numbers.

    All my habits re-act one upon the other and the rules are added to
    daily until they have become appallingly intricate. A failure in
    one piece of ritual entails all sorts of protracted mental and
    physical gestures in order to put it right.

    I wonder if other men who drink know this heavy, unceasing slavery
    which makes the commonest actions of life a burden?

    I suppose so. It must be so. All drugs have specific actions. Men
    don't tell, of course. Neither do I! Sometimes, though, when I have
    gone to some place like the Café Royal, or perhaps one of the clubs
    which are used by fast men, I have had a disgusting glee when I met
    men whom I knew drank heavily to think that they had their
    secrets--must have them--as well as I.

    On reading through these notes that I have been making now and
    then, I am, of course, horrified at what they really seem to mean.
    Put down in black and white they convey--or at least they would
    convey to anyone who saw them--nothing but an assurance of the fact
    that I am mad. Yet I am not really mad. I have two lives. . . . I
    see that I have referred constantly to "It." I have promised myself
    to define exactly what I mean by "IT."

    I am writing this immediately after lunch. I didn't get up till
    eleven o'clock. I am under the influence of twenty-five grains of
    ammonium bromide. I had a few oysters for lunch and nothing else. I
    am just about as normal as any man in my state can hope to be.

    Nevertheless when I come to try and define "It" for myself I am
    conscious of a deep horror and distrust. My head is above water, I
    am sane, but so powerful is the influence of the continual FEAR
    under which I live my days and nights, that even now I am afraid.

    "It" is a protean thing. More often than not it is a horrible dread
    of that Delirium Tremens which I have never had, but ought to have
    had long ago. I have read up the symptoms until I know each one of
    them. When I am in a very nervous and excited condition--when, for
    example, I could not face anybody at all and must be alone in my
    room with my bottle of whiskey--I stare at the wall to see if rats
    or serpents are running up it. I peer into the corners of the
    library to detect sheeted corpses standing there. I do not see
    anything of the sort. Even the imaginings of my fear cannot create
    them. I am, possibly, personally immune from Delirium Tremens, some
    people are. All the same, the fear of it racks me and tears me a
    hundred times a day. If it really seized me it surely would be
    almost enjoyable! Nothing, at any rate, can be more utterly
    dreadful than the continual apprehension.

    Then I have another and always constant fear--these fears, I want
    to insist, are fantastically intermingled with all the crossings,
    wood-touchings and frantic calculations I have to do each minute of
    my life. The other fear is that of Prison.

    Now I know perfectly well that I have done nothing in my life that
    could ever bring me near prison. All the same I cannot now hear a
    strange voice without a start of dread. A knock at the front door
    of my house unnerves me horribly. I open the door of whatever room
    I am in and listen with strained, furtive attention, slinking back
    and closing the door with a sob of relief when I realise that it is
    nothing more than the postman or the butcher's boy. I can hardly
    bear to read a novel now, because I so constantly meet with the
    word "arrest."

    "He was arrested in the middle of his conversation,"--"She placed
    an arresting hand upon his arm." . . . These phrases which
    constantly occur in every book I read fill me with horror. A wild
    phantasmagoria of pictures passes through my mind. I see myself
    being led out of my house with gyves upon my wrists like the
    beastly poem Hood made upon "Eugene Aram." Then there is the drive
    into Wordingham in a cab. All the officials at the station who know
    me so well cluster round. I am put into a third class carriage and
    the blinds are pulled down. At St. Pancras, where I am also known,
    it is worse. The next day there is the Magistrate's Court and all
    the papers full of my affair. I know it is all fantastic
    nonsense--moonshine, wild dream. But it is so appallingly real to
    me that I sometimes long to have got the trial over and to be
    sitting with shaven head, wearing coarse prison clothes, in a
    lonely cell.

    Then, I think to myself, I should really have peace. The worst
    would have happened and there would be an end of it all. There
    would be an end of deadly Fear.

    I remember "----" telling me at Bruges, where so many _mauvais
    sujets_ go to kill themselves with alcohol, that wherever he
    went, night and day, he was always afraid of a tiger that would
    suddenly appear. He had never experienced Delirium Tremens either.
    He knew how mad and fantastic this apprehension was but he was
    quite unable to get rid of it.

                     *       *       *       *       *

    At other times I have the Folie de Grandeur.

    My reading has told me that this is the sure sign of approaching
    General Paralysis. General paralysis means that one's brain goes,
    that one loses control of one's limbs and all acts of volition go.
    One is simply alive, that is all. One is alive and yet one is fed
    and pushed about, and put into this place or that as the
    entomologist would use a snail. So, in all my wild imaginings the
    grisly fear is never far away.

    The imaginings are, in themselves, not without interest to a
    student of the dreadful thing I have become.

    I always start from one point. That is that I have become suddenly
    enormously rich. I have invented all sorts of ways in which this
    might happen, but lately, in order to save trouble, and to have a
    base to start from I have arranged that Rockefeller, the American
    oil person, has been so intrigued by something that I have written
    that he presents me with two million pounds.

    I start in the possession of two million pounds. I buy myself a
    baronetcy at once and I also purchase some historic estate. I live
    the life of the most sporting and beneficent country gentleman that
    ever was! I see myself correcting the bucolic errors of my
    colleagues on the Bench at Quarter Sessions. I am a Providence to
    all the labourers and small farmers. My name is acclaimed
    throughout the county of which I am almost immediately made Lord
    Lieutenant.

    After about five minutes of this prospect I get heartily sick of
    it.

    I buy a yacht then. It is as big as an Atlantic liner. I fit it up
    and make it the most perfect travelling palace the world has ever
    seen. I go off in it to sail round the globe--to see all the most
    beautiful things in the world, to suck the last drop of honey that
    the beauty of unknown seas, fairy continents, fortunate islands can
    yield. During this progress I am accompanied by charming and
    beautiful women. Some are intellectual, some are artistic--all are
    beautiful and charming. I, I myself, am the central star around
    which all this assiduous charm and loveliness revolve.

    Another, and very favourite set of pictures, is the one in which I
    receive the two millions from Mr. Rockefeller--or whoever he
    is--and immediately make a public renunciation of it. With wise
    fore-thought I found great pensions for underpaid clergy. I
    inaugurate societies by means of which authors who could do really
    artistic work, but are forced to pot-boil in order to live, may
    take a cheque and work out their great thoughts without any worldly
    embarrassments. I myself reserve one hundred and fifty or two
    hundred pounds a year and go and work among the poor in an East-end
    slum. At the same time I am most anxious that this great
    renunciation should be widely spoken of. I must be interviewed in
    all the papers. The disdainful nobility of my sacrifice for
    Christ's sake must be well advertised.

    Indeed all my Folies de Grandeur are nothing else but exaggerated
    megalomania. I must be in the centre of the picture always. Spartan
    or Sybarite I must be glorified.

                     *       *       *       *       *

    Another symptom which is very marked is that of spasmodic and
    superstitious prayer. When my heated brain falls away from its
    kaleidoscopic pictures of grandeur owing to sheer weariness; when
    my wire-tight nerves are strained to breaking point by the
    despotism of "touchings," the tyranny of "Thirteen" and "Seven,"
    the nervous misery of the Sign of the Cross, I try to sum up all
    the ritual and to escape the whole welter of false obligation by
    spasmodic prayer. I suppose that I say "God-the-Father-help-me"
    about two or three hundred times a day. I shut my eyes and throw
    the failing consciousness of myself into the back of my head, and
    then I say it--in a sort of hot feverish horror,
    "God-the-Father-help-me." I vary this, too. When my thoughts or my
    actions have been more despicable than usual, I jerk up an appeal
    to God the Father. When fluid _sentiment_ is round me it is
    generally Jesus on whom I call.

    . . . I cannot write any more of this, it is too horrible even to
    write. But God knows how true it is!

                     *       *       *       *       *

    This morning I went out for a walk. I was feeling wretchedly ill. I
    had to go to the Post Office and there I met little O'Donnell, the
    Rector, and dear old Medley his curate. It was torture to talk to
    them, to preserve an ordinary appearance. I felt that old Medley's
    eyes were on me the whole time. I like him very much. I know every
    corner of his good simple mind as if I had lived in it. He is a
    good man, and I can't help liking him. He dislikes and distrusts me
    intensely, however. He doesn't know enough--like Morton Sims for
    instance--to understand that I want to be good, that I am of his
    company really. The Rector himself was rather too charming. He
    fussed away about my poems, asked after Dorothy Davidson at Nice,
    purred out something that the Duke of Perth had said to him about
    the verses I had in the "Spectator" a month ago. Yet O'Donnell must
    know that I drink badly. Neither he nor Medley know, of course, how
    absolutely submerged I really am. No one ever realises that about a
    "man who drinks" until they read of his death in the paper. Only
    doctors, wives, experienced eyes know.

    I funked Medley's keen old eyes in the Post Office and I couldn't
    help disgust at O'Donnell's humbug, as I thought it, though it may
    have been meant kindly. Curious! to fear one good man because he
    detects and reprobates one's wickedness, to feel contempt for
    another because he is civil.

    I hurried away from them and went into the Mortland Royal Arms. Two
    strong whiskies gave myself back to me. I felt a stupid desire to
    meet the two clergymen again, with my nerves under proper
    control--to show them that I was myself.

    Going back home, however, another nerve wave came over me. I knew
    how automatic and jerky my movements were really. I knew that each
    movement of my legs was dictated by a _conscious_ exercise of
    command from the brain. I imagined that everyone I met--a few
    labourers--must know it and observe it also. I realise, now that I
    am safe in my study again, that this was nonsense. They couldn't
    have seen--or _could_ they?

    --I am sure of nothing now!

    . . . It is half an hour ago since I wrote the last words. I began
    to feel quite drunk and giddy for a moment. I concentrated my
    intelligence upon the "Telegraph" until the lines became clear and
    I was appreciating what I read. Now I am fairly "possible" I think.
    Reading a passage in the leading article aloud seems to tell me
    that my voice is under control. My face twitched a little when I
    looked in the mirror over the mantel-shelf, but if I have a
    biscuit, and go to my room and sponge my face, I think that I shall
    be able to preserve sufficient grip on myself to see Mary for ten
    minutes now. Directly my eyes go wrong--I can feel when they are
    beginning to betray me--I will make an excuse and slip away. Then
    I'll lunch, and sleep till tea-time. After two cups of strong tea
    and the sleep, I shall be outwardly right for an hour at least. I
    might have tea taken up to her room and sit by the bed--if she
    doesn't want candles brought in. I can be quite all right in the
    dusk.

The next entry of these notes dates, from obvious evidence, three or
four days afterwards. They are all written on the loose sheets of thick
and highly glazed white paper, which Lothian, always sumptuous in the
tools of his work, invariably used. It will be seen that the last
paragraphs have, for a moment, strayed into a reminiscence of the hour.
That is to say they have recorded not only continuous sensations, but
those which were proper to an actual experience. The Notes do so no
more. The closing paragraphs that are exhibited here once more fall
back into the key of almost terrified interest with which this keen,
incisive mind surveys its own ruin.

There are no more records of actual happenings.

Yet, nevertheless, while Gilbert Lothian was making this accurate
diagnosis of his state, it is as well to remember that _there is no
prognosis_.

He _refuses to look into the future_. He really refuses to give any
indication of what is going on in the present. He puts down upon the
page the symptoms of his disease. He catalogues the tortures he
endures. But in regard to where his state is leading him in his life,
what it is all going to result in, he says nothing whatever.

Psychologically this is absolutely corroborative and true.

He studies himself as a diseased subject and obviously takes a horrible
pleasure in writing down all that he endures. But there are things and
thoughts so terrible that even the most callous and most poisoned mind
dare not chronicle them.

While the very last of what was Gilbert Lothian is finding an abnormal
pleasure, and perhaps a terrible relief, in the surveyal of his
extinguishing personality, the other self, the False Ego--the Fiend
Alcohol--was busy with a far more dreadful business.

We may regard the excerpts already given, and the concluding ones to
come, as really the last of Lothian--until his resurrection.

Sometimes a lamp upon the point of expiration flares up for a final
second.

Then, with a splutter, it goes out. And in the circle of confining
glass a dull red glow fades, disappears, and only an ugly, lifeless
black circle of exhausted wick is left.

    I didn't mean in making these notes--confound Morton Sims that he
    should have suggested such a thing to me!--Well, I didn't mean to
    bring in any daily happenings. My only idea was, for a sort of
    pitiful satisfaction to myself, to make a record of what I am going
    through. It has been a relief to me--that is quite certain. While I
    have been writing these notes I have had some of the placidity and
    quiet that I used to know when I was engaged upon purely literary
    pursuits. I can't write now--that is to say, I can't create. My
    poetic faculty seems quite to have left me. I write certain
    letters, to a certain person, but they are no longer the artistic
    and literary productions that they were in the first stages of my
    acquaintance with this person.

    All the music that God gave me is gone out of me now.

    Well, even this relief is passing, I have more in my mind and heart
    than will allow me to continue this fugitive journal.

Here, obviously, Lothian makes a slight reference to the ghastly
obsession which, at this time, must have had him well within its grip.

    Well, I will round it up with a few final words.

                     *       *       *       *       *

    One thing that strikes me with horror and astonishment is that I
    have become quite unable to understand how what I am doing, the
    fact of what I have become, hurts, wounds and makes other people
    unhappy. I try to put myself--sympathetically--in the place of
    those who are around me and who must necessarily suffer by my
    behaviour. _I can't do it._ When I try to do it my mind seems
    full of grey wool. The other people seem a hundred miles away.
    Their sentiments, emotions, wishes--their love for me . . .

It is significant that here Lothian uses the plural pronoun as if he
was afraid of the singular.

    --dwindle to vanishing point. I used to be able to be sympathetic
    to the sorrows and troubles of almost everyone I met. I remember
    once after helping a man in this village to die comfortably, after
    sitting with him for hours and hours and hours during the progress
    of a most loathsome disease after closing his eyes, paying for his
    poor burial and doing all I could to console his widow and his
    daughters, that the widow and the daughters spoke bitterly about me
    and my wife--who had been so good to them--because one of our
    servants had returned the cream they sent to the kitchen because it
    was of inferior quality. These poor women actually made themselves
    unpleasant. For a day at least I was quite angry. It seemed so
    absolutely ungrateful when my wife and I had done everything for
    them for so long. But, I remember quite well, how I thought out the
    whole petty little incident one night when I was out with Tumpany
    after the wild geese. We were waiting in a cold midnight when
    scurrying clouds passed beneath the moon. It was bitter cold and my
    gun barrels burnt like fire. I thought it out with great care, and
    on the icy marshes a sort of understanding of narrow brains and
    unimaginative natures came to me. The next day I told my servants
    to still continue taking cream from the widow, and I have been
    friendly and kind to her ever since.

    But now, I can't possibly get into the mind of anyone else with
    sympathy.

    I think only of myself, of my own desires, of my own state. . . .

                     *       *       *       *       *

    Although I doubt it in my heart of hearts, I must put it upon
    record that I still have a curious and ineradicable belief that I
    can, by a mere effort of volition, get rid of all the horrors that
    surround me and become good and normal once more. When I descend
    into the deepest depths of all I am yet conscious of a little
    jerky, comfortable, confidential nudge from something inside me.
    "You'll be all right," it says. "When you want to stop you will be
    able to all right!" This false confidence, though I know it to be
    utterly false, never deserts me in moments of exhilarated
    drunkenness.

    And finally, I add, that when my brain is becoming exhausted the
    last moment before stupor creeps over it, I constantly make the
    most supreme and picturesque pronunciations of my wickedness.

    I could not pray the words aloud--or at least if I did they would
    be somewhat tumbled and incoherent--but I mentally pray them. I
    wring my hands, I abase my soul and mind, I say the Pater Noster
    and the Credo, I stretch out my hot hands, and I give it all up for
    ever and ever and ever.

    I tumble into bed with a sigh of unutterable relief.

    The Fiend that stands beside my bed on all ordinary nights assumes
    the fantastic aspect of an angel. I fall into my drunken sleep,
    murmuring that "there is joy in Heaven when one sinner repenteth."

    I wake up in the morning full of evil thoughts, blear-eyed, and
    trembling. I am a mockery of humanity, longing, crying for poison.

    There is only a dull and almost contemptuous memory of the
    religious ecstasies of the night before. My dreams, my confession,
    have not the slightest influence upon me. I don't fall again into
    ruining habits--I continue them, without restraint, without sorrow.

                     *       *       *       *       *

    I will write no more. I am adding another Fear to all the other
    Fears. I have been making a true picture of what I am, and it is so
    awful that even my blinded eyes cannot bear to look upon it.

Thus these notes, in varying handwriting, indicating the ebb and flow
of poison within the brain, cease and say no more.

At the bottom of the last page--which was but half filled by the
concluding words of the Confession--there is something most terribly
significant, most horrible to look at in the light of after events.

There is a greenish splash upon the glossy paper, obviously whiskey was
spilt there.

Beginning in the area of the splashed circle, the ink running, a word
of four letters is written.

Two letters are cloudy, the others sharp and clear.

The word is "Rita."

A little lower down, and now right at the bottom of the page, the word
is repeated again in large tremulous handwriting, three times. "Rita,
Rita, Rita!"

The last "Rita" sprawls and tumbles towards the bottom right-hand
corner of the page. Two exclamation marks follow it, and it is heavily
underscored three times.



CHAPTER VII

INGWORTH REDUX: TOFTREES COMPLACENS

    "Les absents ont toujours tort."

    --_Proverb._


Mr. Herbert Toftrees was at work in the splendidly furnished library of
his luxuriously appointed flat at Lancaster Gate--or at least that is
how he would have put it in one of his stories, while, before _her_
Remington in the breakfast room Mrs. Herbert Toftrees would have rapped
out a detailed description of the furniture.

The morning was dark and foggy. The London pavements had that
disgustingly cold-greasy feeling beneath the feet that pedestrians in
town know well at this time of year.

Within the library, with its double windows that shut out all noise, a
bright fire of logs burned in the wide tiled hearth. One electric
pendant lit the room and another burned in a silver lamp upon the huge
writing table covered with crimson leather at which the author sat.

The library was a luxurious place. The walls were covered with
books--mostly in series. The Complete Scott, the Complete Dickens, the
Complete Thackeray reposed in gilded fatness upon the shelves. Between
the door and one of the windows one saw every known encyclopedia, upon
another wall-space were the shelves containing those classical French
novels with which "culture" is supposed to have a nodding
acquaintance--in translations.

Toftrees threw away his cigarette and sank into his padded chair. The
outside world was raw and cold. Here, the fire of logs was red, the
lamps threw a soft radiance throughout the room, and the keyboard of
the writing-machine had a dapper invitation.

"Confound it, I _must_ work," Toftrees said aloud, and at once
proceeded to do so.

To his left, upon the table, in something like an exaggerated menu
holder was a large piece of white cardboard. At the moment Toftrees and
his wife were engaged in tossing off "Claire" which went into its fifth
hundred thousand, at six-pence, within the year.

The sheet of cardboard bore the names of the principal characters in
the story, and what they looked like, in case the prolific author
should forget. There was also marked upon the card, in red ink, exactly
how far Toftrees had got with the plot--which was copied out in large
round hand, for instant reference, by his secretary upon another card.

Clipped on to the typewriter was a note which ran as follows:

    Chapter VII. Book V. Love scene between Claire and Lord Quinton. To
    run, say, 2,000 words. Find Biblical chapter caption. Mrs. T. at
    work on Chapter 145 in epilogue--discovery by Addie that Lord Q is
    really John Boone.

With experienced eyes, Toftrees surveyed the morning's work-menu as
arranged by Miss Jones from painstaking scrutiny and dovetailing of the
husband and wife's work on the preceding day.

"Biblical chapter caption"--that should be done at once.

Toftrees stretched out his hand and took down a "Cruden's Concordance."
It was nearly two years ago now that he had discovered the Bible as an
almost unworked mine for chapter headings.

"Love! hm, hm, hm,--why not 'Love one another'--? Yes, that would do.
It was simple, direct, and expressed the sentiment of chapter VII. If
there were any reason against it Miss Jones would spot it at once. She
would find another quotation and so make it right."

Now then, to work!

    "Claire, I am leaving here the day after to-morrow."

    "Yes?"

    "Have you no idea, cannot you guess what it is that I have come to
    say to you?" He moved nearer to her and for a moment rested his
    hand on her arm.

    "I have no idea," she told him with great gravity of manner.

    "I have come to ask you to be my wife. Ah, wait before you bid me
    be silent. I love you--you surely cannot have failed to see
    that?--I love you, Claire!"

    "Do not," she interrupted, putting up a warning hand. "I cannot
    hear you."

    "But you must. Forgive me, you shall. I love you as I never loved
    any woman in my life, and I am asking you to be my wife."

    "You do me much honour, Lord Quinton," she returned--and was it his
    fancy that made it seem to him that her lips curled a little?--"but
    the offer you make me I must refuse."

    "Refuse!" There was almost amusing wonder and a good deal of anger
    in his tone and look.

    "You force me to repeat the word--refuse."

    "And why?"

    "I do not want to marry you."

    "You do not love me?"--incredulously.

    "I do not love you,"--colouring slightly.

    "But I would teach you, Claire"--catching her arm firmly in his
    hold now and drawing her to him,--"I would teach you. I can give
    you all and more of wealth and luxury than----"

    "Hush! And please let go my arm. If you could give me the world it
    would make no difference."

    "Claire, reconsider it! During the whole of my life I have never
    really wanted to marry any other woman. I will own that I have
    flirted and played at love."

    "No passport to my favour, I assure you, Lord Quinton."

    "Pshaw! I tell you women were all alike to me, all to be amusing
    and amused with, all so many butterflies till I met you. I won't
    mind admitting"--making his most fatal step--"that even when I
    first saw you--and it was not easy to do considering Warwick Howard
    kept you well in the background--I only thought of your sweet eyes
    and lovely face. But after--after--Oh, Claire, I learned to love
    you!"

    "Enough!" cried the girl--

And enough also said the Remington, for the page was at an end.
Toftrees withdrew it with a satisfied smile and glanced down it.

"Yes!" he thought to himself, "the short paragraph, the quick
conversation, that's what they really want. A paragraph of ten
consecutive lines would frighten them out of their lives. Their minds
wouldn't carry from the beginning to the end. We know!"

At that moment there was a knock at the door and the butler entered.
Smithers was a good servant and he enjoyed an excellent place, but it
was the effort of his life to conceal from his master and mistress that
he read Shakespeare in secret, and, in that household, his sense of
guilt induced an almost furtive manner which Toftrees could never quite
understand.

"Mr. Dickson Ingworth has called, sir," said Smithers.

"Ask him to come in," Toftrees said in his deep voice, and with a glint
of interest in his eye.

Young Dickson Ingworth had been back from his journalistic mission to
Italy for two or three weeks. His articles in the "Daily Wire" had
attracted a good deal of attention. They were exceedingly well done,
and Herbert Toftrees was proud of his protégé. He did not know--no one
knew--that the Denstone master on the committee was a young man with a
vivid and picturesque style who had early realised Ingworth's
incompetence as mouthpiece of the expedition and representative of the
Press. The young gentleman in question, anxious only for the success of
the mission, had written nearly all Ingworth's stuff for him, and that
complacent parasite was now reaping the reward.

But there was another, and greater, reason for Toftrees' welcome. Old
Mr. Ingworth had died while his nephew was in Rome. The young man was
now a squire in Wiltshire, owner of a pleasant country house, a
personage.

"Ask Mr. Dickson Ingworth in here," Toftrees said again.

Ingworth came into the library.

He wore a morning coat and carried a silk hat--the tweeds and bowler of
bohemia discarded now. An unobtrusive watch chain of gold had taken the
place of the old silver-buckled lip-strap, and a largish black pearl
nestled in the folds of his dark tie.

He seemed, in some subtle way, to have expanded and become less boyish.
A certain gravity and dignity sat well upon his fresh good looks and
the slight hint of alien blood in his features was less noticeable than
ever.

Toftrees shook his young friend warmly by the hand. The worthy author
was genuinely pleased to see the youth. He had done him a good service
recently, pleased to exercise patronage of course, but out of pure
kindness. Ingworth would not require any more help now, and Toftrees
was glad to welcome him in a new relation.

Toftrees murmured a word or two of sorrow at Ingworth's recent
bereavement and the bereaved one replied with suitable gravity. His
uncle's sudden death had been a great grief to him. He would have given
much to have been in England at the time.

"And the end?" asked Toftrees in a low voice of sympathy.

"Quite peaceful, I am glad to say, quite peaceful."

"That must be a great consolation!"

This polite humbug disposed of, both men fell immediately into bright,
cheerful talk.

The new young squire was bubbling over with exhilaration, plans for the
future, the sense of power, the unaccustomed and delightful feeling of
solidity and _security_.

He told his host, over their cigars, that the estate would bring him in
about fifteen or sixteen hundred a year; that the house was a fine old
Caroline building--who his neighbours were, and so on.

"Then I suppose you'll give up literature?" Toftrees asked.

Dickson Ingworth was about to assent in the most positive fashion to
this question, when he remembered in whose presence he was, and his
native cunning--"diplomacy" is the better word for a man with a
Caroline mansion and sixteen hundred a year--came to his aid.

"Oh, no," he said, "not entirely. I couldn't, you know. But I shall be
in a position now only to do my best work!"

Toftrees assented with pleasure. The trait interested him.

"I'm glad of that," he said. "To the artist, life without expression is
impossible." Toftrees spoke quite sincerely. Although his own
production was not of a high order he was quite capable of genuine
appreciation of greater and more serious writers. It does not
follow--as shallow thinkers tell us--that because a man does not follow
his ideal that he is without one at all.

They smoked cigars and talked. As a matter of form the host offered
Ingworth a drink, which was refused; they were neither of them men who
took alcohol between meals from choice.

They chatted upon general matters for a time.

"And what of our friend the Poet?" Toftrees asked at length, with a
slight sneer in his voice.

Ingworth flushed up suddenly and a look of hate came into his curious
eyes. The acute man of the world noticed it in a second. Before
Ingworth had left for his mission in Italy, he had been obviously
changing his views about Gilbert Lothian. He had talked him over with
Toftrees in a depreciating way. Even while he had been staying at
Mortland Royal he had made confidences about Lothian's habits and the
life of his house in letters to the popular author--while he was eating
the Poet's salt.

But Toftrees saw now that there was something deeper at work. Was it,
he wondered, the old story of benefits forgot, the natural instinct of
the baser type of humanity to bite the hand that feeds?

Toftrees knew how lavish with help and kindness Lothian had been to
Dickson Ingworth. For himself, he detested Lothian. The bitter epigrams
Lothian had made upon him in a moment of drunken unconsciousness were
by no means forgotten. The fact that Lothian had probably never meant
them was nothing. They had some truth in them. They were uttered by a
superior mind, they stung still.

"Oh, he's no friend of mine," Ingworth said in a bitter voice.

"Really? I know, of course, that you have disapproved of much that Mr.
Lothian seems to be doing just now, but I thought you were still
friends. It is a pity. Whatever he may do, there are elements of
greatness in the man."

"He is a blackguard, Toftrees, a thorough blackguard."

"I _am_ sorry to hear that. Well, you needn't have any more to do with
him, need you? He isn't necessary to your literary career any more. And
even if you had not come into your inheritance, your Italian work has
put you in quite a different position."

Ingworth nodded. He puffed quickly at his cigar. He was bursting with
something, as the elder and shrewder man saw, and if he was not
questioned he would come out with it in no time.

There was silence for a space, and, as Toftrees expected, it was broken
by Ingworth.

"Look here, Toftrees," he said, "you are discreet and I can trust you."

The other made a grave inclination of his head--it was coming now!

"Very well. I don't want to say anything about a man whom I have liked,
and who _has_ been kind to me. But there are times when one really must
speak, whatever the past may have been--aren't there?"

Toftrees saw the last hesitation and removed it.

"Oh, he'll get over that drinking habit," he said, though he knew well
that Ingworth was not bursting with that alone. "It's bad, of course,
that such a man should drink. I was horribly upset--and so was my
wife--at that dinner at the Amberleys'. But he'll get over it. And
after all you know--poets!"

"It isn't that, Toftrees. It's a good deal worse than that. In fact I
really do want your advice."

"My dear fellow you shall have it. We are friends, I hope, though not
of long standing. Fire away."

"Well, then, it's just this. Lothian's wife is one of the most perfect
women I have ever met. She adores him. She does everything for him,
she's clever and good looking, sympathetic and kind."

Toftrees made a slight, very slight, movement of repugnance. He was a
man who was temperamentally well-bred, born into a certain class of
life. He might make a huge income by writing for housemaids at
sixpence, but old training and habit became alive. One did not listen
to intimate talk about other men's wives.

But the impulse was only momentary, a result of heredity. His interest
was too keen for it to last.

"Yes?"

"Lothian doesn't care a bit for his wife--he can't. I know all about
it, and I've seen it. He's doing a most blackguardly thing. He's
running after a girl. Not any sort of girl, but a _lady_."--

Toftrees grinned mentally, he saw how it was at once with the lad.

"No?" he said.

"Indeed, yes. She's a sweet and innocent girl whom he's getting round
somehow or other by his infernal poetry and that. He's compromising her
horribly and she can't see it. I've, I've seen something of her lately
and I've tried to tell her as well as I could. But she doesn't take me
seriously enough. She's not really in love with Lothian--I don't see
how any young and pretty girl could really be in love with a man who
looks like he's beginning to look. But they write--they've been about
together in the most dreadfully compromising way. One never knows how
far it may go. For the sake of the nicest girl I have ever known it
ought to be put a stop to."

Toftrees smiled grimly. He knew who the girl was now, and he saw how
the land lay. Young Ingworth was in love and frightened to death of his
erstwhile friend's influence over the girl. That was natural enough.

"Suppose any harm were to come to her," Ingworth continued with
something very like a break in his voice. "She's quite alone and
unprotected. She is the daughter of a man who was in the Navy, and now
she has to earn her own living as an assistant librarian in Kensington.
A man like Lothian who can talk, and write beautiful letters--damned
scoundrel and blackguard!"

Toftrees was not much interested in his young friend's stormy
love-affairs. But he _was_ interested in the putting of a spoke
into Gilbert Lothian's wheel. And he had a genuine dislike and disgust
of intrigue. A faithful husband to a faithful wife whose interests were
identical with his, the fact of a married man of his acquaintance
running after some little typewriting girl whose people were not alive
to look after her, seemed abominable. Nice girls should not be used so.
He thought of dodges and furtive meetings, sly telephone calls, and
anxious country expeditions with a shudder. And if he thanked God that
he was above these things, it was perhaps not a pharisaical gratitude
that animated him.

"Look here," he said suddenly. "You needn't go on, Ingworth. I know who
it is. It's Miss Wallace, of the Podley Library. She was at the
Amberleys' that night when Lothian made such a beast of himself. She
writes a little, too. Very pretty and charming girl!"

Ingworth assented eagerly. "Yes!" he cried, "that's just it! She's
clever. She's intrigued by Lothian. She doesn't _love_ him, she
told me so yesterday----"

He stopped, suddenly, realising what he had said.

Toftrees covered his confusion in a moment. Toftrees wanted to see this
to the end.

"No, no," he said with assumed impatience. "Of course, she knows that
Lothian is married, and, being a decent girl, she would never let her
feelings--whatever they may be--run away with her. She's dazzled.
That's what it is, and very natural, too! But it ought to be stopped.
As a matter of fact, Ingworth, I saw them together at the Metropole at
Brighton one night. They had motored down together. And I've heard that
they've been seen about a lot in London at night. Most people know
Lothian by sight, and such a lovely girl as Miss Wallace everyone looks
at. From what I saw, and from what I've heard, they are very much in
love with each other."

"It's a lie," Ingworth answered. "She's not in love with him. I know
it! She's been led away to compromise herself, poor dear girl, that's
all."

Now, Toftrees arose in his glory, so to speak.

"I'll put a stop to it," he said. The emperor of the sixpenny market
was once more upon his virtuous throne.

His deep voice was rich with promise and power.

"I know Mr. Podley," he said. "I have met him a good many times lately.
We are on the committee of the 'Pure Penny Literature Movement.' He is
a thoroughly good and fatherly man. He's quite without culture, but his
instincts are all fine. I will take him aside to-night and tell him of
the danger--you are right, Ingworth, it is a real and subtle danger for
that charming girl--that his young friend is in. Podley is her patron.
She has no friends, no people, I understand. She is dependent for her
livelihood upon her place at the Kensington Library. He will tell her,
and I am sure in the kindest way, that she must not have anything more
to do with our Christian poet, or she will lose her situation."

Ingworth thought for a moment. "Thanks awfully," he said, almost
throwing off all disguise now. Then he hesitated--"But that might
simply throw her into Lothian's arms," he said.

Toftrees shook his head. "I shall put it to Mr. Podley," he said, "and
he, being receptive of other people's ideas and having few of his own,
will repeat me, to point out the horrors of a divorce case, the utter
ruin if Mrs. Lothian were to take action."

Ingworth rose from his seat.

"To-night?" he said. "You're to see this Podley to-night?"

"Yes."

"Then when do you think he will talk to Rit--to Miss Wallace?"

"I think I can ensure that he will do so before lunch to-morrow
morning."

"You will be doing a kind and charitable thing, Toftrees," Ingworth
answered, making a calculation which brought him to the doors of the
Podley Institute at about four o'clock on the afternoon of the morrow.

Then he took his leave, congratulating himself that he had moved
Toftrees to his purpose. It was an achievement! Rita would be
frightened now, frightened from Gilbert for ever. The thing was already
half done.

"Mine!" said Mr. Dickson Ingworth to himself as he got into a taxi-cab
outside Lancaster Gate.

"I think I shall cook master Lothian's goose very well to-night,"
Herbert Toftrees thought to himself.

Mixed motives on both sides.

Half bad, perhaps, half good. Who shall weigh out the measures but God?

Ingworth was madly in love with Rita Wallace, who had become very fond
of him. He was young, handsome, was about to offer her advantageous and
honourable marriage.

Ingworth's passion was quite good and pure. Here he rose above himself.
"All's fair"--treacheries grow small when they assist one's own desire
and can be justified upon the score of morality as well.

Toftrees was outside the fierce burning of flames beyond his
comprehension.

He was a cog-wheel in the machinery of this so swiftly-weaving loom.

But he also paid himself both ways--as he felt instinctively.

He and his wife owed this upstart and privately disreputable poet a rap
upon the knuckles. He would administer it to-night.

And it was a _duty_, no less than a fortunate opportunity, to save
a good and charming girl from a scamp.

When Toftrees told his wife all about it at lunch that morning she
quite agreed, and, moreover, gave him valuable feminine advice as to
the conduct of the private conversation with Podley.



CHAPTER VIII

THE AMNESIC DREAM-PHASE

    "In the drunkenness of the chronic alcoholic the higher brain
    centres are affected more readily and more profoundly than the rest
    of the nervous system, with the result that the drinker, despite
    the derangement of his consciousness, is capable of apparently
    deliberate and purposeful acts. It is in this dream-state, which
    may last a considerable time, that the morbid impulses of the
    alcoholic are most often carried into effect."

    _The Criminology of Alcoholism_ by William C. Sullivan, M.D.,
    Medical Officer H.M. Prison Service.

    "The confirmed toper, who is as much the victim of drug-habit as
    the opium eater, may have amnesic dream phases, during which he may
    commit automatically offensive acts while he is mentally
    irresponsible."

    _Medico-Legal Relations of Alcoholism_ by Stanley B. Atkinson,
    M.A., M.B., B.Sc. Barrister at Law.


At nine o'clock one evening Lothian went into his wife's room. It was a
bitterly cold night and a knife-like wind was coming through the
village from the far saltings. There was a high-riding moon but its
light was fitful and constantly obscured by hurrying clouds.

Mary was lying in bed, patiently and still. She was not yet better. Dr.
Heywood was a little puzzled at her continued listlessness and
depression.

A bright fire glowed upon the hearth and sent red reflections upon the
bedroom ceiling. A shaded candle stood upon the bedside table, and
there were also a glass of milk, some grapes in a silver dish, and the
"Imitatio Christi" there.

Lothian was very calm and quiet in demeanour. His wife had noticed that
whenever he came to see her during the last two or three days, there
had been an unusual and almost drowsy tranquillity in his manner. His
hands shook no more. His movements were no longer jerky. They were
deliberate, like those of an ordinary and rather ponderous man.

And now, too, Gilbert's voice had become smooth and level. The quick
and pleasant vibration of it at its best, the uneasy rise and fall of
it at its worst, had alike given place to a suave, creamy monotone
which didn't seem natural.

The face, also, enlarged and puffed by recent excesses, had further
changed. The redness had gone from the skin. Even the eyes were
bloodshot no longer. They looked fish-like, though. They had a steady
introspective glare about them. The lips were red and moist, in this
new and rather horrible face. The clear contour and moulding were
preserved, but a quiet dreamy smile lurked about and never left them.

. . ."Gilbert, have you come to say goodnight?"

"Yes, dear,"--it _was_ an odd purring sort of voice--"How do you feel?"

"Not very well, dear. I am going to try very hard to sleep to-night.
You're rather early in coming, are you not?"

"Yes, dear, I am. But the moon and the tides are right to-night and the
wild duck are flighting. I am going out after widgeon to-night. I ought
to do well."

"Oh, I see. I hope you'll have good luck, dear."

"I hope so. Oh, and I forgot, Mary, I thought of going off for three
days to-morrow, down towards the Essex coast. I should take Tumpany.
I've had a letter from the Wild Fowlers' Association man there to say
that the geese are already beginning to come over. Would you mind?"

Mary saw that he had already made up his mind to go--for some reason or
other.

"Yes, go by all means, dear," she said, "the change and the sport will
do you good."

"You will be all right?"--how soapy and mechanical that voice was. . . .

"Oh, of course I shall. Don't think a _bit_ about me. Perhaps--" she
hesitated for a moment and then continued with the most winning
sweetness--"perhaps, Gillie darling, it will buck you up so that you
won't want to . . ."

The strange voice that was coming from him dried the longing, loving
words in her throat.

"Well, then, dear, I shall say good-bye, now. You see I shall be out
most of this night, and if Tumpany and I are to catch the early train
from Wordingham and have all the guns ready, we must leave here before
you will be awake. I mean, you sleep into the morning a little now,
don't you?"

He seemed anxious as he asked.

"Generally, Gillie. Then if it is to be good-bye for two days, good-bye
my dear, dear husband. Come----"

She held out her arms, lying there, and he had to bend into her
embrace.

"I shall pray for you all the time you are away," she whispered. "I
shall think of my boy every minute. God bless you and preserve you, my
dear husband."

She was doubtless about to say more, to murmur other words of sacred
wifely love, when her arms slid slowly away from him and lay motionless
upon the counterpane.

Immediately they did so, the man's figure straightened itself and stood
upright by the side of the bed.

"Well, I'll go now," he said. "Good-night, dear."

He turned his full, palish face upon her, the yellow point of flame,
coming through the top of the candle shade, showed it in every detail.

Fixed, introspective eyes, dreamy painted smile, a suave, uninterested
farewell.

The door closed gently behind him. It was closed as a bland doctor
closes a door.

Mary lay still as death.

The room was perfectly silent, save for the fall of a red coal in the
fire or the tiny hiss and spurt of escaping gas in thin pencils of old
gold and amethyst.

Then there came a loud sound into the room.

It was a steady rhythmic sound, muffled but alarming. It seemed to fill
the room.

In a second or two more Mary knew that it was only her heart beating.

"But I am frightened," she said to herself. "I am really frightened.
This is FEAR!"

And Fear it was, such as this clear soul had not known. This daughter
of good descent, with serene, temperate mind and body, had ever been
high poised above gross and elemental fear.

To her, as to the royal nature of her friend Julia Daly, God had early
given a soul-guard of angels.

Now, for the first time in her life, Mary knew Fear. And she knew an
unnameable disgust also. Her heart drummed. The back of her throat grew
hot--hotter than her fever made it. And, worse, a thousand times more
chilling and dreadful, she felt as if she had just been holding
something cold and evil in her arms.

. . . The voice was unreal and almost incredible. The waxen mask with
its set eyes and the small, fine mouth caught into a fixed smile--oh!
this was not her husband!

She had been speaking with some _Thing_. Some _Thing_, dressed in
Gilbert's flesh had come smirking into her quiet room. She had held it
in her arms and prayed for it.

Drum, drum!--She put her left hand, the hand with the wedding ring upon
it, over the madly throbbing heart.

And then, in her mind, she asked for relief, comfort, help.

The response was instant.

Her life had always been so fragrant and pure, her aims so
single-hearted, her delight in goodness and her love of Jesus so
transparently immanent, that she was far nearer the Veil than most of
us can ever get.

She asked, and the amorphous elemental things of darkness dissolved and
fled before heavenly radiance. The Couriers of the Wind of the
Holy-Ghost came to her with the ozone of Paradise beating from their
wings.

Doubtless it was now that some Priest-Angel gave Mary Lothian that last
Viaticum which was to be denied to her from the hands of any earthly
Priest.

It was a week ago that Mr. Medley had brought the Blessed Sacrament to
Mary. It was seven days since she had thus met her Lord.

But He was with her now. Already of the Saints, although she knew it
not, a Cloud of Witnesses surrounded her.

Angels and Archangels and all the Company of Heaven were loving her,
waiting for her.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Lothian went along the corridor to the library, which was on the first
floor of the house. His footsteps made no noise upon the thick carpet.
He walked softly, resolutely, as a man that had much to do.

The library was not a large room but it was a very charming one. A
bright fire burned upon the hearth. Two comfortable saddle-back chairs
of olive-coloured leather stood on either side of it, and there was a
real old "gate-table" of dark oak set by one of the chairs with a
silver spirit-stand upon it.

Along all one side, books rose to the ceiling, his beloved friends of
the past, in court-dress of gold and damson colour, in bravery of
delicate greens; in leather which had been stained bright orange, some
of them; while others showed like crimson aldermen and red Lord Mayors.

Let into the wall at the end of the room--opposite to the big Tudor
window--was the glass-fronted cupboard in which the guns were kept. The
black-blue barrels gleamed in rows, the polished stocks caught the
light from the candles upon the mantel-shelf. The huge double
eight-bore like a shoulder-cannon ranked next to the pair of ten-bores
by Greener. Then came the two powerful twelve-gauge guns by Tolley,
chambered for three inch shells and to which many geese had fallen upon
the marshes. . . .

Lothian opened the glass door and took down one of the heavy ten-bores
from the rack.

He placed it upon a table, opened a cupboard, took out a leather
cartridge bag and put about twenty "perfect" cases of brass, loaded
with "smokeless diamond" and "number four" shot, into the bag.

Then he rang the bell.

"Tell Tumpany to come up," he said to Blanche who answered the summons.

Presently there was a somewhat heavy lurching noise as the ex-sailor
came up the stairs and entered the library with his usual scrape and
half-salute.

Tumpany was not drunk, but he was not quite sober. He was excited by
the prospect of the three days' sport in Essex and he had been
celebrating the coming treat in the Mortland Royal Arms. He had enjoyed
beer in the kitchen of the old house--by Lothian's orders.

"Now be here by seven sharp to-morrow, Tumpany," Lothian said, still in
his quiet level voice. "We must catch the nine o'clock from Wordingham
without fail. I'm going out for an hour or two on the marshes. The
widgeon are working over the West Meils with this moon and I may get a
shot or two."

"Cert'nly, sir. Am I to come, sir?"

"No, I think you had better go home and get to bed. You've a long day
before you to-morrow. I shan't be out late."

"Very good, sir. You'll take Trust? Shall I go and let him out?"

Lothian seemed to hesitate, while he cast a shrewd glance under his
eyelids at the man.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked. "I ought to be able to pick up any
birds I get myself in this light, and on the West Meils. I shan't stay
out long either. You see, Trust has to go with us to-morrow and he's
always miserable in the guard's van. He'll have to work within a few
hours of our arrival and I thought it best to give him as much rest as
possible beforehand. He isn't really necessary to me to-night. But what
do you think?"

Tumpany was flattered--as it was intended that he should be
flattered--at his advice being asked in this way. He agreed entirely
with his master.

"Very well then. You'd better go down again to the kitchen. I'll be
with you in ten minutes. Then you can walk with me to the marsh head
and carry the bag."

Tumpany scrambled away to kitchen regions for more beer.

Lothian walked slowly up and down the library. His head was falling
forward upon his chest. He was thinking, planning.

Every detail must be gone into. It was always owing to neglect of
detail that things fell through, that _things_ were found out.
Nemesis waited on the failure of fools!

A week ago the word "Nemesis" would have terrified him and sent him
into the labyrinth of self-torture--crossings, touchings, and the like.

Now it meant nothing.

Yes: that was all right. Tumpany would accompany him to the end of the
village--the farthest end of the village from the "Haven"--there could
be no possible idea. . . .

Lothian nodded his head and then opened a drawer in the wall below the
gun cupboard. He searched in it for a moment and withdrew a small
square object wrapped in tissue paper.

It was a spare oil-bottle for a gun-case.

The usual oil-receptacle in a gun-case is exactly like a small, square
ink-bottle, though with this difference; when the metal top is
unscrewed, it brings with it an inch long metal rod, about the
thickness of a knitting needle but flattened at the end.

This is used to take up beads of oil and apply them to the locks,
lever, and ejector mechanisms of a gun.

Lothian slipped the thing into a side pocket of his coat.

In a few minutes, dressed in warm wildfowling clothes of grey wool and
carrying his gun, he was tramping out of the long village street with
Tumpany.

The wind sang like flying arrows, the dark road was hard beneath their
feet.

They came to Tumpany's cottage and little shop, which were on the
outskirts of the village.

Then Lothian stopped.

"Look here," he said, "you can give me the bag now. There really isn't
any need for you to come to the marsh head with me, Tumpany.--Much
better get to bed and be fresh for to-morrow."

The man was nothing loth. The lit window of his house invited him.

"Thank you, sir," he said, sobered now by the keen night wind, "then
I'll say good-night."

--"Night Tumpany."

"G'night, sir."

Lothian tramped away into the dark.

The sailor stood for a moment with his hand upon the latch of his house
door, listening to the receding footsteps.

"What's wrong with him?" he asked himself. "He speaks different like.
Yesterday morning old Trust seemed positive afraid of him! Never saw
such a thing before! And to-night he seems like a stranger somehow. I
felt queer, in a manner of speaking, as I walked alongside of him. But
what a bloody fool I am!" Tumpany concluded, using the richest
adjective he knew, as his master's footsteps died away and were lost.

In less than ten minutes Lothian stood upon the edge of the vast
marshes.

It was a ghostly place and hour. The wind wailed over the desolate
miles like a soul sick for the love it had failed to win in life. The
wide creeks with their cliff-like sides of black mud were brimming with
sullen tidal water, touched here and there by faint moonbeams--lemon
colour on lead.

Night birds passed high over head with a whistle of wings, heard, but
not seen in the gloom. From distant Wordingham to far Blackney beyond
which were the cliffs of Sherringham and Cromer, for twelve miles or
more, perhaps not a dozen human beings were out upon the marshes.

A few bold wildfowlers in their frail punts with the long tapering guns
in the bows, might be "setting to birds"; enduring the bitter cold,
risking grave danger, and pursuing the wildest and most wary of living
things with supreme endurance throughout the night.

Once the wind brought two deep booms to Lothian. His trained ear knew
and located the sound at once. One of the Wordingham fowlers was out
upon the flats three miles away, and had fired his double eight-bore,
the largest shoulder gun that even a strong man can use.

But the saltings were given over to the night and the things of the
night.

The plovers called, "'Tis dark and late." "'Tis late and dark."

The wind sobbed coldly; wan clouds sped to hood the moon with darkness.
Brown hares crouched among the coarse marrum grasses, the dun owls were
afloat upon the air, sounding their oboe notes, and always the high
unseen flight of whistling ducks went on all over the desolate majesty
of the marshes.

And beyond it all, through it all, could be heard the hollow organs of
the sea.

Lothian was walking rapidly. His breathing was heavy and muffled. He
skirted the marsh and did not go upon it, passing along the grass slope
of foreshore which even a full marsh tide never conquered; going back
upon his own trail, parallel to the village.

There were sharp pricking pains in his knees and ankles. Hot sweat
clotted his clothes to his body and rained down his face. But he was
unaware of this. His alarming physical condition was as nothing.

He went on through the dark, hurriedly, like a man in ambush.

Now and then he stumbled at inequalities of the ground or caught his
foot in furze roots. Obscene words escaped him when this happened. They
burst from between the hot cracked lips, mechanical and thin. The weak
complaints of some poor filthy-minded ghost!

He knew nothing of what he said.

But with knife-winds upon his face, thin needles in his joints; sodden
flesh quivering with nervous tremors and wet with warm brine, he went
onwards with purpose.

He was in the Amnesic Dream-phase.

Every foul and bestial impulse which is hidden in the nature of man was
riotous and awake.

The troglodytes showed themselves at last.

All the unnameable, unthinkable things that lie deep below the soul,
far below the conscience, in the lowest and sealed cellars of
personality, had burst from their hidden prisons.

The Temple of the Holy Ghost was full of the squeaking, gibbering
Powers of utmost, nethermost Hell.

--These are similes which endeavour to hint at the frightful Truth.

Science sums it up in a simple statement. Lothian was now in "The
Amnesic dream-phase."

He came to where a grass road bounded by high hedges led down to the
foreshore.

Crouching under the sentinel hedge of the road's end, he lit a match
and looked at his watch.

It was fifteen minutes past ten o'clock.

Old Phoebe Hannett and her daughter, the servants of Morton Sims at
the "Haven," would now be fast in slumber. Christopher, the doctor's
personal servant, was in Paris with his master.

The Person who walked in a Dream turned up the unused grass-grown road.

He was now at the East end of the village.

The path brought him out upon the highroad a hundred yards above the
rectory, Church, and the schools. From there it was a gentle descent to
the very centre of the village, where the "Haven" was.

There were no lights nor lamp-posts in the village. By now every one
would be gone to bed. . . .

There came a sudden sharp chuckle into the night. Something was
congratulating itself with glee that it had put water-boots with
india-rubber soles upon its feet; noiseless soles that would make no
sound upon the gravelled ways about the familiar house that had
belonged to Admiral Custance.

. . . Lothian lifted the latch of the gate which led to the short
gravel-drive of the "Haven" with delicate fingers. An expert handles a
blown bird's-egg so.

It rose. It fell. Not a crack came from the slowly-pushed gate which
fell back into its place with no noise, leaving the night-comer inside.

The gables of the house rose black and stark against the sky. The
attic-windows where old dame Hannett and her daughter slept were black.
They were fast in sleep now.

The night-intruder set his gun carefully against the stone pillar of
the gate. Then he tripped over the pneumatic lawns before the house
with almost a dance in his step.

He frisked over the lawns, avoiding the chocolate patches that meant
flower-beds, with complacent skill.

Just then no clouds obscured the moon, which rode high before the
advancing figure.

A fantastic shadow followed Lothian, coquetting with the flower beds,
popping this way and that, but ever at his heels.

It threw itself about in swimming areas of grey vagueness and then
concentrated itself into a black patch with moving outlines.

There was an ecstasy about this dancing shadow.

And now, the big building which had been a barn and which Admiral
Custance had re-built and put to various uses, cut wedge-like into the
lit sky.

The Shadow crept close to the Dream Figure and crouched at its heels.

It seemed to be spurring that figure on, to be whispering in its
ear. . . .

We know all about the Dream Figure. Through the long pages of this
chronicle we have learned how, and of what, It has been born.

And were it not that experts of the Middle Age--when Demonology was a
properly recognised science--have stated that a devil has never a
shadow, we should doubtless have been sure that it was our old friend,
the Fiend Alcohol, that contracted and expanded with such fantastic
measures over the moon-lit grass.


Lothian knew his way well about this domain.

Admiral Custance had been his good friend. Often in the old sailor's
house, or in Lothian's, the two had tippled together and drank toasts
to the supremacy which Queen Britannia has over the salt seas.

The lower floor of the barn had been used as a box-room for trunks and
a general store-house, though the central floor-space was made into a
court for Badminton; when nephews and nieces, small spars of Main and
Mizzen and the co-lateral Yardarms, came to play upon a retired
quarter-deck.

The upper floor had ever been sacred to the Admiral and his hobbies.

From below, the upper region was reached by a private stairway of wood
outside the building. Of this entrance the sailor had always kept the
key. A little wooden balcony ran round the angle of the building to
where, at one end, a large window had been built in the wall.

Lothian went up the outside stairs noiselessly as a cat, and round the
little gallery to the long window. Here he was in deep shadow.

The two leaves of the window did not quite meet. The wood had shrunk,
the whole affair was rickety and old.

As he had anticipated, the night-comer had no difficulty in pushing the
blade of his shooting knife through the crevice and raising the simple
catch.

He stepped into the room, long empty and ghostly.

First, he closed the window again, and then let down the blue blind
over it. A skylight in the sloped roof provided all the other light.
Through this, now, faint and fleeting moonlights fell.

By the gallery door there was a mat. Lothian stepped gingerly to it and
wiped the india-rubber boots he wore.

Then he took half a wax candle from a side-pocket and lit it. It was
quite impossible that the light could be seen from outside, even if
spectators there were, in the remote slumbering village.

In the corners of the long room, black-velvet shadows lurked as the
yellow candle flame moved.

A huge spider with a body as big as sixpence ran up one canvas-covered
wall. Despite the cold, the air was lifeless and there was a very faint
aroma of chemical things in it.

On all sides were long deal tables covered with a multiplicity of
unusual objects.

Under a big bell of glass, popped over it to keep the dust away, was a
large microscope of intricate mechanism. Close by was a section-cutter
that could almost make a paring of a soul for scrutiny. Leather cases
stood here and there full of minute hypodermic syringes, and there was
a box of thin glass tubes containing agents for staining the low
protoplasmic forms of life which must be observed by those who wish to
arm the world against the Fiend Alcohol.

At the far end of the room, on each side of the fireplace were two
glass-fronted cupboards, lined with red baize. In one of them Admiral
Custance had kept his guns.

These cupboards had been constructed by the village carpenter--who had
also made the gun cupboard in Lothian's library. They were excellent
cupboards and with ordinary locks and keys--the Mortland Royal
carpenter, indeed, buying these accessories of his business of one
pattern, and by the gross, from Messrs. Pashwhip and Moger's
iron-mongery establishment in Wordingham.

Lothian took the key of his own gun cupboard from his waistcoat pocket.
It fitted the hole of the cupboard here--on the right side of the
fireplace, exactly as he had expected.

The glass doors swung open with a loud crack, and the contents on the
shelves were clearly exposed to view.

Lothian set his candle down upon the edge of an adjacent table and
thought for a moment.

During their intimate conversations--before Lothian's three weeks in
London with Rita Wallace, while his wife was at Nice, Dr. Morton Sims
had explained many things to him. The great man had been pleased to
find in a patient, in an artist also, the capability of appreciating
scientific truth and being interested in the methods by which it was
sought.

Lothian knew therefore, that Morton Sims was patiently following and
extending the experiments of Professor Fraenkel at his laboratory in
Halle, varying the investigation of Deléarde and carrying it much
farther.

Morton Sims was introducing alcohol into rabbits and guinea pigs,
sub-cutaneously or into the stomach direct, exhibiting the alcohol in
well-diluted forms and over long periods. He was then inoculating these
alcoholised subjects, and subjects which had not been alcoholised, with
the bacilli of consumption--tubercle bacilli--and diphtheria toxin--the
poison produced by the diphtheria bacillus.

He was endeavouring to obtain indisputable evidence of increased
susceptibility to infection in the animal body under alcoholic
influences.

Of all this, Lothian was thoroughly aware. He stood now--if indeed it
_was_ Gilbert Lothian the poet who stood there--in front of an open
cupboard; the cupboard he had opened by secrecy and fraud.

Upon those shelves, as he well knew, organic poisons of immeasurable
potency were resting.

In those half-dozen squat phials of glass, surrounded with felt and
with curious stoppers, an immense Death was lurking.

All the quick-firing guns of the navies of the world were not so
powerful as one of these little glass receptacles.

The breath came thick and fast from the intruder. It went up in clouds
from his heated body; vapourised into steam which looked yellow in the
candlelight.

After a minute he drew near to the cupboard.

A trembling, exploring finger pushed among the phials. It isolated one.

Upon a label pasted on the glass, were two words in Greek characters,
"[Greek: diphth. toxin.]"

Here, in this vessel of gelatinous liquid, lurked the destroying army
of diphtheria bacilli, millions strong.

The man held up the candle and its light fell full upon the neat
cursive Greek, so plain for him to read.

He stared at it with focussed eyes. His head was pushed forward a
little and oscillated slowly from side to side. The sweat ran down it
and fell with little splashes upon the floor.

Then his hand began to tremble and the light flickered and danced in
the recesses of the cupboard.

He turned away, shaking, and set the candle end upon the table. It
swayed, toppled over, flared for a moment and went out.

But he could not wait to light it again. His attendant devil was
straying, he must be called back . . . to help.

Lothian plunged his hand into his breast pocket and withdrew a flat
flask of silver. It was full of undiluted whiskey.

He took a long steady pull, and the fire went through him instantly.

With firm fingers now, he screwed on the top of the flask and re-lit
the candle stump. Then he took the marked phial from the cupboard shelf
and set it on the table.

From a side pocket he took the little oil-bottle belonging to a
travelling gun-case and unscrewed the top of that.

And now, with cunning knowledge, he takes the thick, grey woollen scarf
from his neck and drenches a certain portion of its folds with raw
whiskey from his flask. He binds the muffler round the throat and nose
in such fashion that the saturated portion confines all the outlets of
his breathing.

One must risk nothing one's self when one plays and conjures with the
spawn and corruptions of death!

. . . It is done, done with infinite nicety and care--no trembling
fingers now.

The vial is unstopped, the tube within has poured a drop or two of its
contents into the oil-bottle, the projecting needle of which is damp
with death.

The cupboard is closed and locked again. Ah! there is candle grease
upon the table! It is scraped up, to the minutest portion, with the
blade of the shooting knife.

Then he is out upon the balcony again. One last task remains. It is to
close the long windows so that the catch will fall into its rusty
holder and no trace be left of its ever having been opened.

This is not easy. It requires preparation, dexterity and thought.
Cunning fingers must use the thin end of the knife to bend the little
brass bracket which is to receive the falling catch. It must be bent
outwards, and in the bending a warning creak suggests that the screws
are parting from the rotten wood.

But it is done at last, surely dexterously. No gentlemanly burglar of
the magazines could have done it better.

. . . There is no moon now. It is necessary to feel one's way in
silence over the lawn and reach the outer gate.

This is done successfully, the Fiend is a good quick valet-fiend
to-night and aids at every point.

The gate is closed with a gentle "click," there is only the "pad, pad"
of the night-comer's footsteps passing along the dark village street
towards the Old House with poison in his pocket and murder in his
heart.

Outside his own gate, Lothian's feet assume a brisk and confidential
measure. He rattles the latch of the drive gate and tries to whistle in
a blithe undertone.

Bedroom windows may be open, it will be as well that his low, contented
whistle--as of one returning from healthy night-sport--may be heard.

His lips are too cracked and salt to whistle, however. He tries to hum
the burden of a song, but only a faint "croak, croak," sounds in the
cold, quiet night--for the wind has fallen now.

Not far away, behind the palings of his little yard, The Dog Trust
whines mournfully.

Once he whines, and then with a full-throat and opened muzzle Dog Trust
bays the moon behind its cloud-pall.

When he hears the footfall of one he knows and loves, Dog Trust greets
it with low, anxious whines.

He is no watch-dog. His simple duties are unvaried from the marsh and
field. Growl of hostility to night-comers he knows not. His faithful
mind has been attuned to no reveillé note.

But he howls mournfully now.

The step he hears is like no step he knows. Perhaps, who can say? the
dim, untutored mind discerns dimly something wicked, inimical and
hostile approaching the house.

So The Dog Trust howls, stands for a moment upon his cold concrete
sniffing the night air, and then with a sort of shudder plunges into
the warm straw of his kennel.

Deep sleep broods over the Poet's house.

The morning was one of those cold bright autumn days without a breath
of wind, which have an extraordinary exhilaration for every one.

The soul, which to the majority of folk is like an invisible cloud
anchored to the body by a thin thread, is pulled down by such mornings.
It reenters flesh and blood, reanimates the body, and sounds like a
bugle in the mind.

Tumpany, his head had been under the pump for a few minutes, arrived
fresh and happy at the Old House.

He was going away with The Master upon a Wild-fowling expedition. In
Essex the geese were moving this way and that. There was an edge upon
anticipation and the morning.

In the kitchen Phoebe and Blanche partook of the snappy message of
the hour.

The guns were all in their cases. A pile of pigskin luggage was ready
for the four-wheel dogcart.

"Perhaps when the men are out of the way for a day or two, Mistress
will have a chance to get right. . . . Master said good-bye to Mistress
last night, didn't he?" the cook said to Blanche.

"Yes, but he may want to go in again and disturb her."

"I don't believe he will. She's asleep now. Those things Dr. Heywood
give her keep her quiet. But still you'd better go quietly into her
room with her morning milk, Blanche. If she's asleep, just leave it
there, so she'll find it when she wakes up."

"Very well, cook, I will," the housemaid said--"Oh, there's that
Tumpany!"

Tumpany came into the kitchen. He wore his best suit. He was quite
dictatorial and sober. He spoke in brisk tones.

"What are you going to do, my girl?" he said to Blanche in an
authoritative voice.

"Hush, you silly. Keep quiet, can't you?" Phoebe said angrily.
"Blanche is taking up Mistress' milk in case she wakes."

"Where's master, then?"

"Master is in the library. He'll be down in a minute."

"Can I go up to him, cook? . . . There's something about the guns----"

"No. You can _not_, Tumpany. But Blanche will take any message.--Blanche,
knock at the library door and say Tumpany wants to see Master. But do
it quietly. Remember Missis is sleeping at the other end of the
passage."

As Blanche went up the stairs with her tray, the library door was open,
and she saw her master strapping a suit case. She stopped at the open
door.

--"Please, sir, Tumpany wants to speak to you."

Lothian looked up. It was almost as if he had expected the housemaid.

"All right," he said. "He can come up in a moment. What have you got
there--oh? The milk for your Mistress. Well, put it down on the table,
and tell Tumpany to come up. Bring him up yourself, Blanche, and make
him be quiet. We mustn't risk waking Mistress."

The housemaid put the tray down upon the writing table and left the
room, closing the door after her.

It had hardly swung into place when Lothian had whipped open a drawer
in the table.

Standing upon a pile of note-paper with its vermilion heading of "The
Old House, Mortland Royal" was a square oil bottle with its silver
plated top.

In a few twists of firm and resolute fingers, the top was loosened. The
man took the bottle from the drawer and set it upon the tray, close to
the glass of milk.

Then, with infinite care, he slowly withdrew the top.

The flattened needle which depended from it was damp with the dews of
death. A tiny bead of crystalline liquid, no bigger than a pin's head,
hung from the slanting point.

Lothian plunged the needle into the glass of milk, moving it this way
and that.

He heard footsteps on the stairs, and with the same stealthy dexterity
he replaced the cap of the bottle and closed the drawer.

He was lighting a cigarette when Blanche knocked and entered, followed
by Tumpany.

"What is it, Tumpany?" he said, as the maid once more took up her tray
and left the room with it.

"I was thinking, sir, that we haven't got a cleaning rod packed for the
ten-bores. I quite forgot it. The twelve-bore rods won't reach through
thirty-two-and-a-half barrels. And all the cases are strapped and
locked now, sir. You've got the keys."

"By Jove, no, we never thought of it. But those two special rods I had
made at Tolley's--where are they?"

"Here, sir," the man answered going to the gun-cupboard.

"Oh, very well. Unscrew one and stick it in your pocket. We can put it
in the case when we're in the train. It's a corridor train, and when
we've started you can come along to my carriage and I'll give you the
key of the ten-bore case."

"Very good, sir. The trap's come. I'll just take this suit case down
and then I'll get Trust. He can sit behind with me."

"Yes. I'll be down in a minute."

Tumpany plunged downstairs with the suit case. Lothian screwed up the
bottle in the drawer and, holding it in his hand, went to his bedroom.

He met Blanche in the corridor.

"Mistress is fast asleep, sir," the pleasant-faced girl said, "so I
just put her milk on the table and came out quietly."

"Thank you, Blanche. I shall be down in a minute."

In his bedroom, Lothian poured water into the bowl upon the washstand
and shook a few dark red crystals of permanganate of potash into the
water, which immediately became a purplish pink.

He plunged his hands into this water, with the little bottle, now
tightly stoppered again, in one of them.

For two minutes he remained thus. Then he withdrew his hands and the
bottle, drying them on a towel.

. . . There was no possible danger of infection now. As for the bottle,
he would throw it out of the window of the train when he was a hundred
miles from Mortland Royal.

He came out into the corridor once more. His face was florid and too
red. Close inspection would have disclosed the curiously bruised look
of the habitual inebriate. But, in his smart travelling suit of Harris
tweed, with well-brushed hair, white collar and the "bird's eye" tie
that many country gentlemen affect, he was passable enough.

A dreamy smile played over his lips. His eyes--not quite so bloodshot
this morning--were drowsed with quiet thought.

As he was about to descend the stairs he turned and glanced towards a
closed door at the end of the passage.

It was the door of Mary's room and this was his farewell to the wife
whose only thought was of him, with whom, in "The blessed bond of board
and bed" he had spent the happy years of his first manhood and success.

A glance at the closed door; an almost complacent smile; after all
those years of holy intimacy this was his farewell.

As he descended the stairs, the Murderer was humming a little tune.

The two maid servants were in the hall to see him go. They were fond of
him. He was a kind and generous master.

"You're looking much better this morning, sir," said Phoebe. She was
pretty and privileged. . . .

"I'm feeling very well, Phoebe. This little trip will do me a lot of
good, and I shall bring home lots of birds for you to cook. Now mind
both you girls look after your Mistress well. I shall expect to see her
greatly improved when I return. Give her my love when she wakes up.
Don't forward any letters because I am not certain where I shall be. It
will be in the Blackwater neighbourhood, Brightlingsea, or I may make
my headquarters at Colchester for the three days. But I can't be quite
sure. I shall be back in three days."

"Good morning, sir. I hope you'll have good sport."

"Thank you, Phoebe--that's right, Tumpany, put Trust on the seat
first and then get up yourself--what's the matter with the dog?--never
saw him so shy. No, James, you drive--all right?--Let her go then."

The impatient mare in the shafts of the cart pawed the gravel and was
off. The trap rolled out of the drive as Lothian lit a cigar.

It really was a most perfect early morning, and there was a bloom upon
the stubble and Mortland Royal wood like the bloom upon a plum.

The air was keen, the sun bright. The pheasants chuckled in the wood,
the mare's feet pounded the hard road merrily.

"What a thoroughly delightful morning!" Lothian said to the groom at
his side and his eyes were still dreamy with subtle content.



CHAPTER IX

A STARTLING EXPERIENCE FOR "WOG"

    "The die rang sideways as it fell,
      Rang cracked and thin,
    Like a man's laughter heard in hell. . . ."

    --_Swinburne._


It was nearly seven o'clock in the evening; a dry, acrid, coughing cold
lay over London.

In the little Kensington flat of Rita Wallace and Ethel Harrison, the
fire was low and almost out. The "Lulu bird" drooped on its perch and
Wog was crying quietly by the fire.

How desolate the flat seemed to the faithful Wog as she looked round
with brimming eyes.

The state and arrangement of a familiar room often seem organically
related to the human mind. Certainly we ourselves give personality to
rooms which we have long inhabited; and that personality re-acts upon
us at times when event disturbs it.

It was so now with the good and tender-hearted clergyman's daughter.

The floor of the sitting-room was littered with little pieces of paper
and odds and ends of string. Upon the piano--it was Wog's piano now, a
present from Rita--was a massive photograph frame of silver. There was
no photograph in it, but some charred remains of a photograph which had
been burned still lay in the grate.

Wog had burnt the photograph herself, that morning, early.

"You do it, darling," Rita had said to her. "I can't do it myself. And
take this box. It's locked and sealed. It has the letters in it. I
cannot burn them, but I don't want to read them again. I must not, now.
But keep it carefully, always. If ever I _should_ ask for it, deliver
it to me wherever I am."

"You must _never_ ask for it, my darling girl," Wog had said quickly.
"Let me burn the box and its contents."

"No, no! You must not, dearest Wog, my dear old friend! It would be
wrong. Rossetti had to open the coffin of his wife to get back the
poems which he had buried with her. Keep it as I say."

Wog knew nothing about Rossetti, and the inherent value of works of art
in manuscript didn't appeal to her. But she had been able to refuse her
friend nothing on this morning of mornings.

Wog was wearing her best frock, a new one, a present also. She had
never had so smart a frock before. She held her little handkerchief
very carefully that none of the drops that streamed from her eyes
should fall upon the dress and stain it.

"My bridesmaid dress," she said aloud with a choke of melancholy
laughter. "We mustn't spoil it, must we, Lulu bird?"

But the canary remained motionless upon its perch like a tiny stuffed
thing.

In one corner of the room was a large corded packing-case. It contained
a big and costly epergne of silver, in execrable taste and savouring
strongly of the mid-Victorian, a period when a choir of great voices
sang upon Parnassus but the greatest were content to live in
surroundings that would drive a minor poet of our era to insanity. This
was to be forwarded to Wiltshire in a fortnight or so.

It was Mr. Podley's present.

Wog's eyes fell upon it now. "What a kind good man Mr. Podley is," she
thought. "How anxious he has been to forward everything. And to give
dear Rita away also!"

Then this good girl remembered what a happy change in her own life and
prospects was imminent.

She was to be the head librarian of the Podley Pure Literature
Institute, vice Mr. Hands, retired. She was to have two hundred a year
and choose her own assistant.

Mr. and Mrs. Podley--at whose house Ethel had spent some hours--were
not exactly what one would call "cultured" people. They were homely;
but they were sincere and good.

"Now you, my dear," Mrs. Podley had said to her, "are just the lady we
want. You are a clergyman's daughter. You have had a business training.
The Library will be safe in your hands. And we like you! We feel
friends to you, Miss Harrison. 'Give it to Miss Harrison,' I said to my
husband, directly I had had a talk with you."

"But I know so little about literature," Wog had answered. "Of course I
read, and I have my own little collection of books. But to take charge
of a public library--oh, Mrs. Podley, _do_ you think I shall be able to
do it to Mr. Podley's satisfaction?"

Mrs. Podley had patted the girl upon her arm. "You're a good girl, my
dear," she said, "and that is enough for us. We mayn't be literary, my
husband and me, but we know a good woman when we meet her. Now you just
take charge of that library and do exactly as you like. Come and have
dinner with us every week, dearie. When all's said we're a lonely old
couple and a good girl like you, what is clever too, and born a lady,
is just what I want. Podley shall do something for your dear Father.
I'll see to that. And your brothers too, just coming from school as
they are. Leave it to me, my dear!"

About Rita the good dame had been less enthusiastic.

"The evening after Podley had to talk to her" (thus Mrs. Podley) "I
asked you both up here. I fell in love with you at once, my dear. Her,
I didn't like. Pretty as a picture; yes! But different somehow! Yet
sensible enough--really--as P. has told me. When he gave her a talking
to, as being an elderly and successful man who employed her he had well
a right to do, she saw at once the scandal and wrong of going about
with a married man--be he poet or whatnot. It was only her girlish
foolishness, of course. Poor silly lamb, she didn't know. But what a
blessing that all the time she was being courted by that young country
squire. I tell you, Miss H., that I felt like a mother to them in the
Church this morning."

These kindly memories of this great day passed in reverie through the
tear-charged heart of Wog.

But she was alone now, very much alone. She had adored Rita. Rita had
flown away into another sphere. The Lulu Bird was a poor consoler!
Still, Wog's sister Beatrice was sixteen now. She would have her to
live with her and pay her fees for learning secretarial duties at
Kensington College and Mr. Munford would find Bee a post. . . .

Wog pulled herself together. She had lost her darling, brilliant,
flashing Rita. _That was that!_ She must reconstruct her life and
press forward without regrets. Life had opened out for her, after all.

But now, at this immediate moment, there was a necessity for calling
all her forces together.

She did not know, she had refused to know, how Rita had dealt with Mr.
Lothian during the past three weeks. The poet had not written for a
fortnight; that she believed she knew, and she had hoped it meant that
his passion for her friend was over. Rita, in her new-found love, her
_legitimate_ love, had never mentioned the poet to Wog. Ethel knew
nothing of love, as far as it could have affected her. Yet the girl had
discerned--or thought she had--an almost frightened relinquishment and
regret on the part of Rita. Rita had expanded with joyous maiden
surrender to the advances and love-making of Dickson Ingworth. That was
her youth, her body. But there had been moments of revolt, moments when
the "wizards peeped and muttered," when the intellect of the girl
seemed held and captured, as the man who wooed her, and was this day
her husband, had never captured it--perhaps never would or could.

Rita Wallace had once said to Gilbert Lothian that she and Ethel did
not take a daily paper because of the expense.

Neither of these girls, therefore, was in the habit of glancing down
the births, marriages and deaths column. Mr. and Mrs. Toftrees had run
over to Nice for a month, Ingworth was far too anxious and busy with
his appeal to Rita--none of the people chiefly concerned had read that
the Hon. Mary Lothian, third daughter of the Viscount Boultone and wife
of Gilbert Lothian, Esquire, of the Old House, Mortland Royal, was
dead.

For a fortnight--this was all Ethel Harrison knew--Rita had received no
communication from the Poet.

Ethel imagined that Rita had finally sent him about his business, had
told him of her quick engagement and imminent marriage. She knew that
something had happened with Mr. Podley--nearly three weeks ago. Details
she had none.

Yet, on the mantel-shelf, was a letter in Rita's handwriting. It was
addressed to Gilbert Lothian. Wog was to forward this to him.

The letter was unnerving. It was a letter of farewell, of course, but
Ethel did not like to handle any message from her dear young bride to a
man who was of the past and ought never, _never_! to have been in it.

And there was more than this.

When Ethel had returned from Charing Cross Station, after the early
wedding in St. Martin's Church and the departure of the happy couple
for Mentone, she had found a telegram pushed through the letter-box of
the flat, addressed "Miss Wallace."

She had opened it and read these words:

    "_Arriving to you at 7:30 to-night, carissima, to explain all my
    recent silence if you do not know already. We are coming into our
    own._

    GILBERT."

Wog didn't know what this might mean. She regarded it as one more
attempt, on the part of the married man who ought never to have had any
connection with Rita. She realised that Lothian must be absolutely
ignorant of Rita's marriage. And, knowing nothing of Mary Lothian's
death, she regarded the telegram with disgust and fear.

"How dreadful," she thought, in her virgin mind, untroubled always by
the lusts of the flesh and the desire of the eyes, "that this great man
should run after Cupid. He's got his own wife. How angry Father would
be if he knew. And yet, Mr. Lothian couldn't help loving Cupid, I
suppose. Every one loves her."

"I must be as kind as I can to him when he comes," she said to herself.
"He ought to be here almost at once. Of course, Cupid knows nothing
about the telegram saying that he's coming. I can give her letter into
his own hands."

. . . The bell whirred--ring, ring, ring--was there not something
exultant in the shrill purring of the bell?

Wog looked round the littered room, saw the letter on the mantel, the
spread telegram upon the table, breathed heavily and went out into the
little hall-passage of the flat.

"Click," and she opened the door.

Standing there, wearing a fur coat and a felt hat, was some one she had
never met, but whom she knew in an instant.

It was Gilbert Lothian. Yet it was not the Gilbert Lothian she had
imagined from his photograph. Still less the poet of Rita's confidences
and the verses of "Surgit Amari."

He looked like a well-dressed doll, just come there, like a quite
_convenable_ but rather unreal figure from Madame Tussaud's!

He looked at her for a quick moment and then held out his hand.

"I know," he said; "you're Wog! I've heard such a lot about you.
Where's Rita? May I come in?--she got my wire?"

. . . He was in the little hall before she had time to answer him.

Mechanically she led the way into the sitting-room.

In the full electric light she saw him clearly for the first time.
Ethel Harrison shuddered.

She saw a large, white face, with pinkish blotches on it here and
there--more particularly at the corners of the mouth and about the
nostrils. The face had an impression of immense _power_--of
_concentration_. Beneath the wavy hair and the straight eyebrows,
the eyes gleamed and shot out fire--shifting this way and that.

With an extraordinary quickness and comprehension these eyes glanced
round the flat and took in its disorder.

. . . "She got my wire?" the man said--finding the spread-out pink
paper upon the table in an instant.

"No, Mr. Lothian," Ethel Harrison said gravely. "Rita never got your
wire. It came too late."

The glaring light faded out of the man's eyes. His voice, which had
been suave and oily, changed utterly. Ethel had wondered at his voice
immediately she heard it. It was like that of some shopman selling
silks--a fat voice. It had been difficult for her to believe that
_this_ was Gilbert Lothian. Rita's great friend, the famous man, her
father's favourite modern poet.

But she heard a _voice_ now, a real, vibrant voice.

"Too late?" he questioned. "Too late for _what_?"

Ethel nodded sadly. "I see, Mr. Lothian," she said, "that you are
already beginning to understand that you have to hear things that will
distress you."

Lothian bowed. As he did so, _something_ flashed out upon the great
bloated mask his face had become. It was for a second only, but it was
sweet and chivalrous.

"And will you tell me then, Miss Harrison?" he said in a voice that was
beginning to tremble violently. His whole body was beginning to shake,
she saw.

With one hand he was opening the button of his fur coat. He looked up
at her with a perfectly white, perfectly composed, but dreadfully
questioning face.

Certainly his body _was_ shaking all over--it was as though little
ripples were running up and down the flesh of it--but his face was a
white mask of attention.

"Oh, Mr. Lothian!" the girl cried, "I am so sorry. I am so very sorry
for you. You couldn't help loving her perhaps, I am only a girl, I
don't pretend to know. But you must be brave. Rita is married!"

Puffed and crinkled lids fell over the staring eyes for a moment--as if
automatic pressure had suddenly pushed them down.

"_Married?_ Rita?"

"Oh, she ought to have told you! It was cruel of her! She ought to have
told you. But you have not written to her for two or three weeks--as
far as I know. . . ."

"_Married?_ Rita?"

"Yes, this morning, and Mr. Podley gave her away. But I have a letter
for you, Mr. Lothian. Rita asked me to post it. She gave it me in bed
this morning, before I dressed her for her marriage. Of course she
didn't know that you were going to be in town. I will give it to you
now."

She gave him the letter.

His hands took it with a mechanical gesture, though he made a little
bow of thanks.

Underneath the heavy fur coat, the man's body was absolutely rippling
up and down--it was horrible.

The eyelids fell again. The voice became sleepy, childish almost.

. . . "But _I_ have come to marry Rita!"

Wog became indignant. "Mr. Lothian," she said, "you ought not to speak
like that before me. How could you have married Rita. You _are_
married. Please don't even hint at such things."

"How stupid you are, Wog," he said, as if he had known her for years;
in much the same sort of voice that Rita would have said it. "My wife's
dead, dead and buried. . . . I thought you would both have known. . . ."

His trembling hands were opening the letter which Rita Wallace had left
for him.

He drew the page out of the envelope and then he looked up at Ethel
Harrison again. There was a dreadful yearning in his voice now.

"Yes, yes, but _whom_ has my little Rita married?"

Real fear fell upon Ethel now. She became aware that this man had not
realised what had happened in any way. But the whole thing was too
painful. It must be got over at once.

"Mr. Ingworth Dickson, of course," she answered, with some sharpness in
her tones.

For a minute Lothian looked at her as if she were the horizon. Then he
nodded. "Oh, Dicker," he said in a perfectly uninterested voice--"Yes,
Dicker--just her man, of course. . . ."

He was reading the letter now.

This was Rita's farewell letter.

    "_Gilbert dear_:

    "I shall always read your books and poems, and I shall always think
    of you. We have been tremendous friends, and though we shall never
    meet again, we shall always think of each other, shan't we? I am
    going to marry Dicker to-morrow morning, and by the time you see
    this--Wog will send it--I shall be married. Of course we mustn't
    meet or write to each other any more. You are married and I'm going
    to be to-morrow. But do think of your little friend sometimes,
    Gilbert. She will often think of you and read _all_ you write."

Lothian folded up the letter and replaced it in its envelope with great
precision. Then he thrust it in the inner breast pocket of his coat.

Wog watched him, in deadly fear.

She knew now that elemental forces had been at work, that her lovely
Rita had evoked soul-shaking, sundering strengths. . . .

But Gilbert Lothian came towards her with both hands outstretched.

"Oh, I thank you, I thank you a thousand times," he said, "for all your
goodness to Rita--How happy you must have been together--you two
girls----"

He had taken both her hands in his. Now he dropped them suddenly.
Something, something quite beautiful, which had been upon his face,
snapped away.

The kindness and welcome in his eyes changed to a horror-struck stare.

He began to murmur and burble at the back of his throat.

His arms shot stiffly this way and that, like the arms of railway
signals.

He ran to one wall and slapped a flat palm upon it.

"Tumpany!" he said with a giggle. "My wild-fowling man! Mary used to
like him, so I suppose he's all right. But, damn him, looking out of
the wall like that with his ugly red face!--"

He began to sing. His lips were dark-red and cracked, his eyes fixed
and staring.

    "Tiddle-iddle, iddle-tiddle, so the green frog said in the garden!"

Saliva dropped from the corners of his mouth.

His body was jerking like a puppet of a marionette display, actuated by
unseen strings.

He began to dance.

Blazing eyes, dropping sweat and saliva, twitching, awful body. . . .

She left him dancing clumsily like a performing bear. She fled
hurriedly down to the office of the commissionaire.

When the man, his assistant and Miss Harrison returned to the flat,
Lothian was writhing on the floor in the last stages of delirium
tremens.

As they carried him, tied and bound, to the nearest hospital, they had
to listen to a cryptic, and to them, meaningless mutter that never
ceased.

    ". . . Dingworth Ickson, Rary, Mita. Sorten Mims. Ha, ha! ha! Tubes
    of poison--damn them all, blast them all--Jesus of the Cross! my
    wife's face as she lay there dead, forgiving me!

    "--Rita you pup of a girl, going off with a boy like Dicker. Rita!
    Rita! You're mine--don't make such a howling noise, my girl, you'll
    create a scandal--Rita! Rita!--damn you, _can't_ you keep quiet?

    "All right, Mary darling. But why have you got on a sheet instead
    of a nightdress? Mary! Why have they tied your face up under the
    chin with that handkerchief? And what's that you're holding out to
    me on your pale hand? Is that the _membrane_? Is that really the
    diphtheria _membrane_ which choked you?--Come closer, let me see,
    old chalk-faced girl. . . ."

At the hospital the house-surgeon on duty who admitted him said that
death _must_ supervene within twelve or fourteen hours.

He had not seen a worse case.

But when he realised who the fighting, tied, gibbering and obscene
object really was, bells rang in the private rooms of celebrated
doctors.

The pulsing form was isolated.

Young doctors came to look with curiosity upon the cursing mass of
flesh that quivered beneath the broad bands of webbing which held it
down.

Older doctors stood by the bed with eyes full of anxiety and pain as
they regarded what was once Gilbert Lothian; bared the twitching arms
and pressed the hypodermic needles into the loose bunches of skin that
skilled, pitiful fingers were pinching and gathering.

When they had calmed the twitching figure somewhat, the famous
physicians who had been hastily called, stood in a little group some
distance from the bed, consulting together.

Two younger men who sat on each side of the cot looked over the body
and grinned.

"The Christian Poet, oh, my eye!" said one.

"Surgit amari aliquid," the other replied with a disgusted sneer.


END OF BOOK THREE



EPILOGUE

A Year Later

    "A broken and a contrite heart, O Lord, Thou wilt not despise."



WHAT OCCURRED AT THE EDWARD HALL IN KINGSWAY

    "Ah! happy they whose hearts can break
      And peace of pardon win!
    How else may man make straight his plan
      And cleanse his soul from sin?
    How else but through a broken heart
      May Lord Christ enter in?"

    --_The Ballad of Reading Gaol._


A great deal of interest in high quarters, both in London and New York
was being taken in the meeting of Leading Workers in the cause of
Temperance that was to be held in Kingsway this afternoon.

The new Edward Hall, that severe building of white stone which was
beginning to be the theatre of so many activities and which was so
frequently quoted as a monument of good taste and inspiration on the
part of Frank Flemming, the new architect, had been engaged for the
occasion.

The meeting was to be at three.

It was unique in this way--The heads of every party were to be
represented and were about to make common cause together. The
scientific and the non-scientific workers for the suppression and cure
of Inebriety had been coming very much together during the last years.

Never hostile to each other, they had suffered from a mutual lack of
understanding in the past.

Now there was to be an _entente cordiale_ that promised great things.

One important fact had contributed to this _rapprochement_. The earnest
Christian workers and ardent sociologists were now all coming to
realise that Inebriety is a disease and not, specifically, a vice. The
doctors had known this, had been preaching this for years. But the time
had arrived when religious workers in the same cause were beginning to
find that they could with safety join hands with those who (as they had
come to see) _knew_ and could define the springs of action which made
people intemperate.

The will of the intemperate individual was weakened by a _disease_. The
doctors had shown and proved this beyond possibility of doubt.

It was a _disease_. Its various causes were discovered and put upon
record. Its pathology was as clearly stated as a proposition in Euclid.
Its psychology was, at last, beginning to be understood.

And it was on the basis of psychology that the two parties were
meeting.

Science could take a drunkard--though really only with the drunkard's
personal connivance and earnest wish to reform--and in a surprisingly
short time, varying with individual cases, restore him to the world
sane, and in health.

But as far as individual cases went, science professed itself able to
do little more than this. It could give a man back his health of mind
and body, it could--thus--enable him to recall his soul from the red
hells where it had strayed. But it could not enable the man to _retain_
the gifts.

Religion stepped in here. Christianity and those who professed it said
that faith in Christ, and that only, could preserve the will; that, to
put it shortly, a personal love of Jesus, a heart that opened itself to
the mysterious operations of the Holy Spirit would be immune from the
disease for ever more.

Christian workers proved their contention by statistics as clear and
unmistakable as any other.

There was still one great question to be agreed upon. Religion and
Science, working together, _could_, and _did_, cure the _individual_
drunkard. Sometimes Science had done this without the aid of Religion,
more often Religion had done it without the aid of Science--that is to
say that while Science had really been at work all the time Religion
had not been aware of it and had not professedly called Science in to
help.

To eradicate the disease from individuals was being done every day by
the allied forces.

To eradicate the disease from nations, to stamp it out as cholera,
yellow fever, and the bubonic plague was being stamped out--that was
the question at issue.

That was, after all, the supreme question.

Now, every one was beginning--only beginning--to understand that recent
scientific discovery had made this wonderful thing possible.

Yellow fever had been destroyed upon the Isthmus of Panama. Small-pox
which ravaged countries in the past, was no more than a very occasional
and restricted epidemic now. Soon--in all human probability--tuberculosis
and cancer would be conquered.

The remedy for the disease of Inebriety was at hand.

Sanitary Inspectors and Medical Officers had enormous power in regard
to other diseases. People who disregarded their orders and so spread
disease were fined and imprisoned.

It was penal to do so.

In order that this beneficent state of things should come about, the
scientists had fought valiantly against many fetishes. They had fought
for years, and with the spread of knowledge they had conquered.

Now the biggest Fetish of all was tottering on its foolish throne. The
last idol in the temples of Dagon, the houses of Rimmon and the sacred
groves was attacked.

The great "Procreation Fetish" remained.

Were drunkards to be allowed to have children without State
restriction, or were they not?

That was the question which some of the acutest and most altruistic
minds of the English speaking races were about to meet and discuss this
afternoon.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Morton Sims drove down to the Edward Hall a little after two
o'clock.

The important conference was to begin at three, but the doctor had
various matters to arrange first and he was in a slightly nervous and
depressed state.

It was a grey day and a sharp East wind was blowing. People in the
streets wore furs and heavy coats; London seemed excessively cheerless.

It was but rarely that Morton Sims felt as he did as this moment. But
the day, or probably (as he thought) a recent spell of over-work, took
the pith out of him.

"It is difficult to avoid doing too much--for a man in my position," he
thought. "Life is so short and there is such an infinity of work. Oh,
that I could see England in a fair way to become sober before I die!
Still I must go on hard. 'Il faut cultiver notre jardin.'"

He went at once to a large and comfortable room adjoining the platform
of the big hall and communicating with it by a few steps and two doors,
one of red baize. It was used as the artists' room when concerts were
given, as a committee room now.

A bright fire burned upon the hearth, round which were several padded
armchairs, and over the mantel-shelf was an excellent portrait in oils
of King Edward the Seventh.

The Doctor took up a printed agenda of the meeting from a table. Bishop
Moultrie was to be in the chair and the list of names beneath his was
in the highest degree influential and representative. There were two or
three peers--not figure heads but men who had done and were doing great
work in the world. Mr. Justice Harley--Sir Edward Harley on the
programme--would be there. Lady Harold Buckingham, than whose name none
was more honoured throughout the Empire for her work in the cause of
Temperance, several leading medical men, and--Mrs. Julia Daly, who had
once more crossed the Atlantic and had arrived the night before at the
Savoy. Edith Morton Sims, who was lecturing in the North of England,
could not be present to-day, but she was returning to town at the end
of the week, when Mrs. Daly was to leave the hotel and once more take
up her residence with Morton Sims and his sister.

In a few minutes there was a knock at the door. The doctor answered, it
was opened by a commissionaire, and Julia Daly came in.

Morton Sims took her two hands and held them, his face alight with
pleasure and greeting.

"This is good," he said fervently. "I have waited for this hour. I
cannot say how glad I am to see you, Julia. You have heard from Edith?"

"The dear girl! Yes. There was a letter waiting for me at the Savoy
when I arrived last night. I am to come to you both on Saturday."

"Yes. It will be so jolly, just like old times. Now let me congratulate
you a thousand times on your great work in America. Every one over here
has been reading of your interview with the President. It was a great
stroke. And he really is interested?"

"Immensely. It is genuine. He was most kind and there is no doubt but
that he will be heart and soul with us in the future. The campaign is
spreading everywhere. And, most significant of all, _we are capturing
the prohibitionists_."

"Ah! that will mean everything."

"Everything, because they are the most earnest workers of all. But they
have seen that Prohibition has proved itself an impossibility. They
have failed despite their whole-hearted and worthy endeavours.
Naturally they have become disheartened. But they are beginning to see
the truth of our proposal. The scientific method is gaining ground as
they realise it more and more. In a year or two those states which
legislated Prohibition, will legislate in another way and penalise the
begetting of children by known drunkards. That seems to me certain.
After that the whole land may, I pray God, follow suit."

She had taken off her heavy sable coat and was sitting in a chair by
the fireside. Informed with deep feeling and that continuous spring of
hope and confidence which gave her so much of her power, the deep
contralto rang like a bell in the room.

Morton Sims leant against the mantel-shelf and looked down on his
friend. The face was beautiful and inspired. It represented the very
flower of intellect and patriotism, breadth, purity, strength. "Ah!" he
thought, "the figure of Britannia upon our coins and in our symbolic
pictures, or the Latin Dame of Liberty with the Phrygian cap, is not so
much England or France as this woman is America, the soul of the West
in all its power and beauty. . . ."

His reverie was broken in upon by her voice, not ringing with
enthusiasm now, but sad and purely womanly.

"Tell me," she was saying, "have you heard or found out anything of
Gilbert Lothian, the poet?"

Morton Sims shook his head.

"It remains an impenetrable mystery," he said. "No one knows anything."

Tears came into Mrs. Daly's eyes. "I loved that woman," she said. "I
loved Mary Lothian. A clearer, more transparent soul never joined the
saints in Paradise. Among the many, many things for which I have to
thank you, there is nothing I have valued more than the letter from you
which sent me to her at Nice. Mary Lothian was the sweetest woman I
have ever met, or ever shall meet. Sometimes God puts such women into
the world for examples. Her death grieved me more than I can say."

"It was very sudden."

"Terribly. We travelled home together. She was leaving her dying sister
in the deepest sadness. But she was going home full of holy
determination to save her husband. I never met any woman who loved a
man more than Mary Lothian loved Gilbert Lothian. What a wonderful man
he must have been, might have been, if the Disease had not ruined him.
I think his wife would have saved him had she lived. He is alive, I
suppose?"

"It is impossible to say. I should say not. All that is known is as
follows. A fortnight or so after his wife's funeral, Lothian, then in a
very dangerous state, travelled to London. He was paying a call at some
house in the West End when Delirium Tremens overtook him at last. He
was taken to the Kensington Hospital. Most cases of delirium tremens
recover but it was thought that this was beyond hope. However, as soon
as it was known who he was, some of the best men in town were called. I
understand it was touch and go. The case presented unusual symptoms.
There was something behind it which baffled treatment for a time."

"But he _was_ cured?"

"Yes, they pulled him through somehow. Then he disappeared. The house
in Norfolk and its contents were sold through a solicitor. A man that
Lothian had, a decent enough servant and very much attached to his
master, has been pensioned for life--an annuity, I think. He may know
something. The general opinion in the village is that he does know
something--I have kept on my house in Mortland Royal, you must know.
But this Tumpany is as tight as wax. And that's all."

"He has published nothing?"

"Not a line of any sort whatever. I was dining with Amberley, the
celebrated publisher, the other day. He published the two or three
books of poems that made Lothian famous. But he has heard nothing. He
even told me that there is a considerable sum due to Lothian which
remains unclaimed. Of course Lothian is well off in other ways. But
stay, though, I did hear a rumour!"

"And what was that?"

"Well, I dined at Amberley's house--they have a famous dining-room you
must know, where every one has been, and it's an experience. There was
a party after dinner, and I was introduced to a man called
Toftrees--he's a popular novelist and a great person in his own way I
believe."

Julia Daly nodded. She was intensely interested.

"I know the name," she said. "Go on."

"Well, this fellow Toftrees, who seems a decent sort of man, told me
that he believed that Gilbert Lothian was killing himself with absinthe
and brandy in Paris. Some one had seen him in Maxim's or some such
place, a dreadful sight. This was three or four months ago, so, if it's
true, the poor fellow must be dead by now."

"Requiescat," Julia Daly said reverently. "But I should have liked to
have known that his dear wife's prayers in Heaven had saved him here."

Morton Sims did not answer and there was a silence between them for a
minute or two.

The doctor was remembering a dreadful scene in the North London Prison.

. . . "If Gilbert Lothian still lived he must look like that awful
figure in the condemned cell had looked--like his insane half-brother,
the cunning murderer--" Morton Sims shuddered and his eyes became fixed
in thought.

He had told no living soul of what he had learned that night. He never
would tell any one. But it all came back to him with extreme vividness
as he gazed into the fire.

Some memory-cell in his brain, long dormant and inactive, was now
secreting thought with great rapidity, and, with these dark
memories--it was as though some curtain had suddenly been withdrawn
from a window unveiling the sombre picture of a storm--something new
and more horrible still started into his mind. It passed through and
vanished in a flash. His will-power beat it down and strangled it
almost ere it was born.

But it left his face pale and his throat rather dry.

It was now twenty minutes to three, as the square marble clock upon the
mantel showed, and immediately, before Julia Daly and Morton Sims spoke
again, two people came into the room.

Both were clergymen.

First came Bishop Moultrie. He was a large corpulent man with a big red
face. Heavy eyebrows of black shaded eyes of a much lighter tint, a
kind of blue green. The eyes generally twinkled with good-humour and
happiness, the wide, genial mouth was vivid with life and pleasant
tolerance, as a rule.

A fine strong, forthright man with a kindly personality.

Morton Sims stepped up to him. "My dear William," he said, shaking him
warmly by the hand. "So here you are. Let me introduce you to Mrs.
Daly. Julia, let me introduce the Bishop to you. You both know of each
other very well. You have both wanted to meet for a long time."

The Bishop bowed to Mrs. Daly and both she and the doctor saw at once
that something was disturbing him. The face only held the promise and
possibility of geniality. It was anxious, and stern with some inward
thought; very distressed and anxious.

And when a large, fleshy, kindly face wears this expression, it is most
marked.

"Please excuse me," the Bishop said to Julia Daly. "I have indeed
looked forward to the moment of meeting you. But something has
occurred, Mrs. Daly, which occupies my thoughts, something very
unusual. . . ."

Both Morton Sims--who knew his old friend so well--and Julia Daly--who
knew so much of the Bishop by repute--looked at him with surprise upon
their faces and waited to hear more.

The Bishop turned round to where the second Priest was standing by the
door.

"This is Father Joseph Edward," he said, "Abbot of the Monastery upon
the Lizard Promontory in Cornwall. He has come with me this afternoon
upon a special mission."

The newcomer was a slight, dark-visaged man who wore a black cape over
his cassock, and a soft clerical hat. He seemed absolutely
undistinguished, but the announcement of his name thrilled the man and
woman by the fire.

The Priest bowed slightly. There was little or no expression to be
discerned upon his face.

But the others in the room knew who he was at once.

Father Joseph Edward was a hidden force in the Church or England. He
was a peer's son who had flashed out at Oxford, fifteen years before,
as one of the cleverest, wildest, most brilliant and devil-may-care
undergraduates who had ever been at "The House." Both by reason of
wealth and position, but also by considered action, he had escaped
authoritative condemnation and had been allowed to take his first in
Lit. Hum.

But, as every one knew at his time Adrian Rathlone had been one of the
wildest, wealthiest and wickedest young men of his generation.

And then, as all the world heard, Adrian Rathlone had taken Holy
Orders. He had worked in the East End of London for a time, and had
then founded his Cornish Monastery by permission of the Chapter and
Bishop of Truro.

From the far west of England, where She stretches out her granite foot
to spurn the onslaught of the Atlantic, it had become known that broken
and contrite hearts might leave London and life, to seek, and find
Peace upon the purple moors of the West.

"But now, John," the Bishop said to Morton Sims, "I want to tell you
something. I want to explain a very important alteration in the agenda.
. . ."

There was no doubt about it whatever, the Bishop's usually calm and
suave voice was definitely disturbed.

He and Morton Sims bent over the table together looking at the printed
paper.

The Bishop had a fat gold pencil case in his hand and was pointing to
names upon the programme.

Mrs. Daly, from her seat by the fire, watched her friend, Morton Sims,
with _his_ friend, William Denisthorpe Moultrie, Father in God, with
immense interest. She was interested extremely in the Bishop's obvious
perturbation, but even more so to see these two celebrated men standing
together and calling each other by their Christian names like boys. She
knew that they had been at Harrow and Oxford together, she knew that
despite their disagreements upon many points they had always been fast
friends.

"What boys nice men are after all," she thought with a slight
sympathetic contraction of her throat. "'William'! 'John'!--Our men in
America are not very often like that--but what, what is the Bishop
saying?"

Her face became almost rigid with attention as she caught a certain
name. Even as she did so the Bishop spoke in an undertone to Morton
Sims, and then glanced slightly in her direction with a hint of a
question in his eyes.

"Mrs. Daly, William," Morton Sims said, "is on the Committee. She is
one of my greatest friends and, perhaps, the greatest friend Edith has
in the world. She was also a great friend of Mrs. Lothian and knew her
well. You need not have the slightest hesitation in saying anything you
wish before her."

Julia Daly rose from her seat, her heart was beating strangely.

"What is this?" she said in her gentle, but almost regal way. "Why, my
lord, the doctor and I were only talking of Gilbert Lothian and his
saintly wife a moment or two ago. Have you news of the poet?"

The Bishop, still with his troubled, anxious face, turned to her with a
faint smile. "I did not know, Mrs. Daly," he said, "that you took any
interest in Lothian, but yes, I have news."

"Then you can solve the mystery?" Julia Daly said.

The Bishop sighed. "If you mean," he said, "why Mr. Lothian has
disappeared from the world for a year, I can at least tell you what he
has been doing. John here tells me that you have known all about him,
so that I am violating no confidences. After his wife's death, poor
Lothian became very seriously ill in consequence of his excesses. He
was cured eventually, but one night--it was late at night in
Norfolk--some one, quite unlike the Gilbert Lothian I had known, came
to my house. It was like a ghost coming. He told me many strange and
terrible things, and hinted that he could have told me more, though I
forbade him. With every appearance of contrition, with his face
streaming with tears--ah, if ever during my career as a Priest I have
seen a broken and a contrite heart I saw it then--he wished, he told
me, to work out his soul's release, to go away from the world utterly
and to fight the Fiend Alcohol. He would go into no home, would submit
to no legal restraint. He wished to fight the devil that possessed him
with no other aids than spiritual ones. I sent him to Father Joseph
Edward."

"And he has cured himself?" the American lady said in a tone which so
rang and vibrated through the Committee room, with eyes in which such
gladness was dawning, that the three men there looked at her as if they
had seen a vision.

The monkish-looking clergyman replied.

"Quite cured," he said gravely. "He is saved in body and saved in soul.
You say his wife, Madam, was a Saint: I think, Madam, that our friend
is not very far from it now."

He stopped suddenly, almost jerkily, and his dark, somewhat saturnine
face became watchful and with a certain fear in it.

What all this might mean John Morton Sims was at a loss to understand.
That it meant something, something very out of the ordinary, he was
very well aware. William Moultrie was not himself--that was very evident.
And he had brought this odd, mediæval parson with him for some special
reason. Morton Sims was not very sympathetic toward the Middle Age.
Spoken to-day the word "Abbot" or "Father"--used ecclesiastically--always
affected him with slight disgust.

Nevertheless, he nodded to the Bishop and turned to Mrs. Daly.

"Gilbert Lothian is coming here during this afternoon," he said. "The
Bishop has specially asked me to arrange that he shall speak during the
Conference. It seems he has come specially from Mullion in Cornwall to
be present this afternoon. Father Joseph Edward has brought him. It
seems that he has something important to say."

For some reason or other, what it was the doctor could not have said,
Julia Daly seemed strangely excited at the news.

"Such testimony as his," she said, "coming from such a man as that,
will be a wonderful experience. In fact I do not know that there will
ever have been anything like it."

Morton Sims had not quite realised this aspect of the question. He had
wondered, when Moultrie had insisted upon putting Lothian's name down
as the third speaker during the afternoon. Moultrie was perfectly
within his rights, of course, as Chairman, but it seemed rather a
drastic thing to do. It was a disturbance of settled order, and the
scientific mind unconsciously resented it. Now, however, the scientific
mind realised the truth of what Julia Daly had said. Of course, if
Gilbert Lothian was really going to make a confession, and obviously
that was what he was coming here for under the charge of this
dark-visaged "Abbot"--then indeed it would be extremely valuable.
Thousands of people who had been "converted" and cured from drunkenness
had "given their experiences" upon temperance platforms, but they had
invariably been people of the lower classes. While their evidence as to
the reality of their conversion--their change--was valuable and real,
they were incapable one and all of giving any details of value to the
student and psychologist.

"Yes!" Morton Sims said suddenly, "if Mr. Lothian is going to speak,
then we shall gain very much from what he says."

But he noticed that the Bishop's face did not become less troubled and
anxious than before. He saw also that the silent clergyman sitting by
the opposite wall showed no sympathetic interest in his point of view.

He himself began to experience again that sense of uneasiness and
depression which he had experienced all day, and especially during his
drive to the Edward Hall, but which had been temporarily dispelled by
the arrival of Mrs. Daly.

In a minute or two, however, great people began to arrive in large
numbers. The Bishop, Morton Sims and Mrs. Daly were shaking hands and
talking continuously. As for Morton Sims, he had no time to think any
more about the somewhat untoward incidents in the Committee room.

The Meeting began.

The Edward Hall is a very large building with galleries and boxes. The
galleries now, by a clever device, were all hung round with dark
curtains. This made the hall appear much smaller and prevented the
sparseness of the audience having a depressing effect upon those who
addressed it.

Only some three hundred and fifty people attended this Conference. The
general public were not asked. Admission was by invitation. The three
hundred and fifty people who had come were, however, the very pick and
élite of those interested in the Temperance cause and instrumental in
forwarding it from their various standpoints.

Bishop Moultrie made a few introductory remarks. Then he introduced Sir
Edward Harley, the Judge. The Judge was a small keen-faced man. Without
his frame of horse hair and robe of scarlet he at first appeared
insignificant and without personality. But that impression was
dispelled directly he began to speak.

The quiet, keen, incisive voice, so precise and scholarly of phrase, so
absolutely germane to the thought, and so illuminating of it, held some
of the keenest minds in England as with a spell for twenty minutes.

Mr. Justice Harley advocated penal restriction upon the multiplication
of drunkards in the most whole-hearted way. He did not go into the
arguments for and against the proposed measure, but he gave
illustrations from his own experience as to its absolute necessity and
value.

He mentioned one case in which he had been personally concerned which
intensely interested his audience.

It was that of a murderer. The man had murdered his wife under
circumstances of callous cunning. In all other respects the murderer
had lived a hard-working and blameless life. He had become infatuated
with another woman, but the crime, which had taken nearly a month in
execution, had been committed entirely under the influence of alcohol.

"Under the influence of that terrible amnesic dream-phase which our
medical friends tell us of," the Judge said. "As was my duty as an
officer of the law I sent that man to his death. Under existing
conditions of society I think that what I was compelled to do was the
best thing that could have been done. But I may say to you, my lord, my
lords, ladies and gentlemen that it was not without a bitter personal
shrinking that I sent that poor man to pay the penalty of his crime.
The mournful bell which Dr. Archdall Reed has tolled is his 'Study in
Heredity' was sounding in my ears as I did so. That is one of the
reasons why I am here this afternoon to support the only movement which
seems to have within it the germ of public freedom from the devastating
disease of alcoholism."

The Judge concluded and sat down in his seat.

Bishop Moultrie rose and introduced the next speaker with a few
prefatory remarks. Morton Sims who was sitting next Sir Edward
whispered in his ear.

"May I ask, Sir Edward," he said, "if you were referring just now to
Hancock, the Hackney murderer?"

The little Judge nodded.

"Yes," he whispered, "but how did you know, Sims?"

"Oh, I knew all about him before his condemnation," the doctor replied.
"In fact I took a special interest in him. I was with him the night
before his execution and I assisted at the autopsy the next day."

The Judge gave a keen glance at his friend and nodded.

The Bishop in the Chair now read a few brief statements as to the
progress of the work that was being done. Lady Harold Buckingham was
down to speak next. She sat on the Bishop's left hand, and it was
obvious to the audience that she understood his next remark.

"You all have the printed programme in your hands," said the Bishop,
"and from it you will see that Lady Harold is set down to address you
next. But I have--" his voice changed a little and became uncertain and
had a curious note of apprehension in it--"I have to ask you to give
your attention to another speaker, whose wish to address the Meeting
has only recently been conveyed to me, but whose right to do so is, in
my judgment, indubitable. He has, I understand from Father Joseph who
has brought him here, something to say to us of great importance."

There was a low murmur and rustle among the audience, as well as among
the semicircle of people on the dais.

The name of Father Joseph Edward attracted instant attention. Every one
knew all about him; the slight uneasiness on the Bishop's face had not
been unremarked. They all felt that something unusual and stimulating
was imminent.

"It is Mr. Gilbert Lothian," the Bishop went on, "who wishes to address
you. His name will be familiar to every one here. I do not know, and
have not the least idea, as to what Mr. Lothian is about to say. All I
know is that he is most anxious to speak this afternoon, and, even at
this late hour pressure has been put upon me to alter the programme in
this regard, which it is impossible for me to resist."

Now every one in the hall knew that some sensation was impending.

People nodded and whispered; people whispered and nodded. There was
almost an apprehension in the air.

Why had this poet risen from the tomb as it were--this poet whose utter
disappearance from social and literary life had been a three weeks'
wonder--this poet whom everybody thought was dead, who, in his own
personality, had become but a faint name to those who still read and
were comforted by his poems.

Very many of that distinguished company had met Gilbert Lothian.

Nobody had known him well. His appearances in London society had been
fugitive and he had shown no desire to enter into the great world. But
still the best people had nearly all met him once or twice, and in the
minds of most of them, especially the women, there was a not ungrateful
memory of a man who talked well, had quite obviously no axe to grind,
no personal effort to further, who was only himself and pleased to be
where he was.

They were all talking to each other in low voices, wondering what the
scandal was, wondering why Gilbert Lothian had disappeared, waked up to
the fact of him, when Lothian himself came upon the platform.

Mr. Justice Harley vacated his seat and took the next chair, while
Lothian sat down on the right of the Chairman.

Some people noticed--but those were only a very few--that the dark
figure of a clergyman in a monastic cape and cassock came upon the
platform at the same time and sat down in the far background.

Afterwards, everybody said that they had noticed the entrance of Father
Joseph Edward and wondered at it. As a matter of fact hardly anybody
did.

The Bishop rose and placed his hands upon the little table before him.

He coughed. His voice was not quite as adequate as usual.

This is what he said. "Mr. Gilbert Lothian, whose name all of you must
know and whose works I am sure most of you, like myself, have in the
most grateful remembrance, desires to address you."

That was all the Bishop said--he made a motion with his hand and
Gilbert Lothian rose from his chair and took two steps to the front of
the platform.

Those present saw a young man of medium height, neither fat nor slim,
and with a very beautiful face. It was pale but the contour was
perfect. Certainly it was very pale, but the eyes were bright and the
æsthetic look and personality of the poet fitted in very well with what
people had known of him in the past.

Only Morton Sims, who was sitting within arm's reach of Lothian--and
perhaps half a dozen other people who knew rather more than the
rest--were startled at what seemed to be a transformation.

As Lothian began to speak Father Joseph Edward glided from his seat,
and leant over the back of Dr. Morton Sims' chair. This was a rather
extraordinary proceeding and at any other time it would have been
immediately remarked upon.

As it was, the first words which Gilbert Lothian spoke held the
audience so immediately that they forgot, or did not see the watchful
waiting "Abbot of Mullion."

In the first place Gilbert Lothian was perfectly self-possessed. He was
so self-possessed that his initial sentence created a sensation.

His way and manner were absolutely different from the ordinary
speaker--however self-possessed he may be. The poet's self-possession
had a quality of rigidity and automatism which thrilled every one. Yet,
it was not an automaton which spoke in the clear, vibrating voice that
Gilbert Lothian used.

The voice was terrible in its appeal--even in the first sentence of the
memorable speech. It was the sense of a personality standing in bonds,
impelled and controlled by something outside it and above it--it was
this that hushed all movement and murmur, that focussed all eyes as the
poet began.

The opening words of the poet were absolutely strange and
unconventional, but spoken quite simply and in very short sentences.

In the first instance it had been decided that reporters were not to be
admitted to this Conference. Eventually that decision had been altered
and a gentleman representing the principal Press Agency, together with
a couple of assistants, sat at a small table just below the platform.

It is from the shorthand transcript of the Press Agent and his
colleagues that the few words Gilbert Lothian spoke have been arranged
and set down here.

Those who were present have read the words over and over again.

They have remembered the gusts of emotion, of fear, of gladness--all
wafted from the wings of tragedy, and perhaps illuminated by the light
of Heaven, that passed through the Edward Hall on this afternoon.

. . . He was speaking.

"I have only a very few words to say. I want what I say to remain in
your minds. I am speaking to you, as I am speaking, for that reason. I
beg and pray that this will be of help. You see--" he made an
infinitely pathetic gesture of his hands and a wan smile came upon his
face--"You see you will be able to use my confession for the sake of
others. That is the reason----"

Here Lothian stopped. His face became whiter than ever. His hand went
up to his throat as if there was some obstruction there.

Bishop Moultrie handed him a glass of water. He took it, with a hand
that trembled exceedingly. He drank a little but spilt more than he
drank.

The black clothed figure of the Priest half rose and took the glass
from the poet. All the people there sat very still. Some of them saw
the Priest hold up something before the speaker's face--a little bronze
something. A Crucifix.

The Bishop covered his face with his hands and never looked up again.

Gilbert went on. "You have come here," he said, "to make a combined
effort to kill alcoholism. I have come to show you in one single
instance what alcoholism means."

Some one right at the back of the hall gave a loud hysterical sob.

The speaker trembled, recovered himself by a great effort and went on.

"I had everything;" he said with difficulty, "God gave me everything,
almost. I had money to live in comfort; I achieved a certain sort of
fame; my life, my private life, was surrounded by the most angelic and
loving care."

His figure swayed, his voice fainted into a whisper.

Dr. Morton Sims had now covered his face with his hands.

Mrs. Julia Daly was staring at the speaker. Her eyes were just
interrogation. There was no horror upon her face. Her lips were parted.

The man continued.

"Drink," he said, "began in me, caught me up, twisted me, destroyed me.
The terrible False Ego, which many of you must know of, entered into my
mind, dominated, and destroyed it.

"I was possessed of a devil. All decent thoughts, all the natural
happinesses of my station, all the gifts and pleasant outlooks upon
life which God had given went, not gradually, but swiftly away.
Something that was not myself came into me and made me move, and walk,
and talk as a minion of hell.

"I do not know what measure of responsibility remained to me when I did
what I did. But this I know, that I have been and am the blackest, most
hideous criminal that lives to-day."

The man's voice was trembling dreadfully now, quite unconsciously his
left hand was gripping the shoulder of the Abbot of Mullion. His eyes
blazed, his voice was so forlorn, so hopeless and poignant that there
was not a sound among the several hundreds there.

"My lord,--" he turned to the Bishop with the very slightest
inclination of his head--"ladies and gentlemen, I killed my wife.

"My wife--" The Bishop had risen from his chair and Father Joseph
Edward was supporting the swaying figure with the pale, earnest
face.--"My wife loved me, and kept me and held me and watched over me
as few men's wives have ever done. I stole poison with which to kill
her. I stole poison from, from you, doctor!"

He turned to Dr. Morton Sims and the doctor sat in his seat as if
frozen to it by fear.

"Yes! I stole it from you! You were away in Paris. You had been making
experiments. In the cupboard in the laboratory which you had taken from
old Admiral Custance, I knew that there were phials of organic poisons.
My wife died of diphtheria. She died of it because I had robbed
your bottles--I did so and took the poison home and arranged that
Mary. . . ."

There was a loud murmur in the body of the hall. A loud murmur stabbed
with two or three faint shrieks from women.

The Bishop again leant over the table with his hands over his face.

Morton Sims was upon his feet. His hands were on Lothian's arm, his
voice was pleading.

"No! no!" he stammered. "You mustn't say these things. You, you----"

Gilbert Lothian looked into the face of his old friend for a second.

Then he brushed his arm away and came right to the edge of the
platform.

As he spoke once more he did not seem like any quite human person.

His face was dead white, his hands fell at his sides--only his eyes
were awake and his voice was vibrant.

"I am a murderer. I killed and murdered with cunning, long-continued
thought, the most sweet and saintly woman that I have ever known. She
was my wife. Why I did this I need not say. You can all make in your
minds and formulate the picture of a poisoned man lusting after a
strange woman.

"But I did this. I did this thing--you shall hear it and it shall
reverberate in your minds. I am a murderer. I say it quite calmly,
waiting for the inevitable result, and I tell you that Alcohol, and
that Alcohol alone has made me what I am.

"This, too, I must say. Disease, or demoniacal possession, as it may
be, I have emerged from both. I have held God's lamp to my breast.

"There is only one cure for Alcoholism. There is only one influence
that can come and catch up and surround and help and comfort the sodden
man.

"That is the influence of the Holy Spirit."

As he concluded there was a loud uproar in the Edward Hall.

Upon the platform the well-known people there were gazing at him,
surrounding him, saying, muttering this and that.

The people in the body of the hall had risen in horrified groups and
were stretching out their hands towards the platform.

The Meeting which had promised so much in the Cause of Temperance was
now totally dissolved--as far as its agenda went.

The people dispersed very gradually, talking among themselves in low
and horror-struck voices.

It was now a few minutes before five o'clock.

In the Committee room--where the bright fire was still burning--Gilbert
Lothian remained.

The Judge, the several peers, had hurried through without a glance at
the man sitting by the fireside.

Lady Harold Buckingham, as she went through, had stopped, bowed, and
held out her hand.

She had been astonished that Gilbert Lothian had risen, taken her hand
and spoken to her in quite the ordinary fashion of society.

She too had gone.

The Bishop had shaken Gilbert Lothian by the hand and nodded at him as
who should say, "Now we understand each other--Good-bye."

Only Morton Sims, Julia Daly and the Priest had waited.

They had not to wait long.

There came a loud and authoritative knock at the door, within an hour
of the breaking up of the Conference.

Gilbert Lothian rose, as a pleasant-looking man in dark clothes with a
heavy moustache entered the room.

"Mr. Gilbert Lothian, I think," the pleasant-looking man said, staring
immediately at the poet.

Gilbert made a slight inclination of his head.

The pleasant-looking man pulled a paper out of his pocket and read
something.

Gilbert bowed again.

"It is only a short distance, Mr. Lothian," said the pleasant-looking
man cheerfully, "and I am sure you will go with me perfectly quietly."

As he said it he gave a half jerk of his head towards the corridor
where, quite obviously, satellites were waiting.

Gilbert Lothian put out his hands. One wrist was crossed over the
other. "I am not at all sure," he said, "that I shall come with you
quietly, so please put the manacles upon my wrists."

The pleasant gentleman did so. Father Joseph Edward followed the
pleasant gentleman and Gilbert Lothian.

As the little cortège turned out of the Committee room, Julia Daly
turned to Dr. Morton Sims.

Her face was radiant. "Oh," she said, "at last I know!"

"You know?" he said, horror still struggling within him, much as he
would have wished to control it, "you know nothing, Julia! You do not
know that the dreadful power of heredity has repeated itself within a
circumscribed pattern. You do not know that this man, Lothian, has
done--in his own degree and in his own way--just what a bastard brother
of his did two years ago. The man who was begotten by Gilbert Lothian's
father killed his wife. Gilbert Lothian has done so too."

The woman put her hands upon the other's shoulders and looked squarely
into his face.

"Oh, John," she said--it was the first time she had ever called him by
his Christian name--"Oh, John, be blind no more. This afternoon our
Cause has been given an Impetus such as it has never had before.

"Just think how splendidly Gilbert Lothian is going to his shameful
death."

"Oh, it won't be death. We shall make interest and it will be penal
servitude for life."

Julia Daly made a slight motion of her hands.

"As you will," she said, "and as you wish. I think he would prefer
death. But if he is to endure a longer punishment, that also will bring
him nearer, and nearer, and nearer to his Mary."



                 *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, and hyphenation have been
retained as printed.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Drunkard" ***

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