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Title: Up and Down
Author: Benson, E. F. (Edward Frederic)
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Up and Down" ***

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Author of "Dodo," "David Blaize," etc.





    MAY, 1914
    JUNE, 1914
    JULY, 1914
    AUGUST, 1914
    SEPTEMBER, 1915
    OCTOBER, 1915
    DECEMBER, 1915
    JANUARY, 1917
    FEBRUARY, 1917
    MARCH, 1917
    APRIL, 1917

MAY, 1914

I do not know whether in remote generations some trickle of Italian
blood went to the making of that entity which I feel to be myself,
or whether in some previous incarnation I enjoyed a Latin existence,
nor do I greatly care: all that really concerns me is that the moment
the train crawls out from its burrowings through the black roots
of pine-scented mountains into the southern openings of the Alpine
tunnels, I am conscious that I have come home. I greet the new heaven
and the new earth, or, perhaps more accurately, the beloved old heaven
and the beloved old earth; I hail the sun, and know that something
within me has slept and dreamed and yearned while I lived up in the
north, and wakes again now with the awakening of Brünnhilde....

The conviction is as unfathomable and as impervious to analysis as the
springs of character, and if it is an illusion I am deceived by it as
completely as by some master-trick of conjuring. It is not merely that
I love for their own sakes the liquid and dustless thoroughfares of
Venice, the dim cool churches and galleries that glow with the jewels
of Bellini and Tintoret, the push of the gliding gondola round the
corners of the narrow canals beneath the mouldering cornices and mellow
brickwork, for I should love these things wherever they happened to be,
and the actual spell of Venice would be potent if Venice was situated
in the United States of America or in Manchester. But right at the back
of all Venetian sounds and scents and sights sits enthroned the fact
that the theatre of those things is in Italy. Florence has her spell,
too, when from the hills above it in the early morning you see her
hundred towers pricking the mists; Rome the imperial has her spell,
when at sunset you wander through the Forum and see the small blue
campanulas bubbling out of the crumbling travertine, while the Coliseum
glows like a furnace of molten amber, or pushing aside the leather
curtain you pass into the huge hushed halls of St. Peter's; Naples has
her spell, and the hill-side of Assisi hers, but all these are but the
blossoms that cluster on the imperishable stem that nourishes them. Yet
for all the waving of these wands, it is not Bellini nor Tintoret, nor
Pope nor Emperor who gives the spells their potency, but Italy, the
fact of Italy. Indeed (if in soul you are an Italian) you will find
the spell not only and not so fully in the churches and forums and
galleries of cities, but on empty hill-sides and in orchards, where the
vine grows in garlands from tree to tree, and the purple clusters of
shadowed grapes alternate with the pale sunshine of the ripened lemons.
There, more than among marbles, you get close to that which the lover
of Italy adores in her inviolable shrine, and if you say that such
adoration is very easily explicable since lemon trees and vines are
beautiful things, we will take some example that shall be really devoid
of beauty to anyone who has not Italy in his heart, but to her lover is
more characteristic of her than any of her conventional manifestations.

So imagine yourself standing on a hilly road ankledeep in dust. On one
side of it is a wine-shop, in the open doorway of which sits a lean,
dishevelled cat, while from the dim interior there oozes out a stale
sour smell of spilt wine mingled with the odour of frying oil. A rough
wooden balcony projects from the stained stucco of the house-front,
and on the lip of the balcony is perched a row of petroleum tins, in
which are planted half a dozen unprosperous carnations. An oblong of
sharp-edged shadow stretches across the road; but you, the lover of
Italy, stand in the white of the scorching sunshine, blinded by the
dazzle, choked by the dust, and streaming with the heat. On the side of
the road opposite the wine-shop is a boulder-built wall, buttressing
the hillside; a little behind the wall stands a grey-foliaged
olive-tree, and on the wall, motionless but tense as a curled spring,
lies a dappled lizard. From somewhere up the road comes the jingle of
bells and the sound of a cracked whip, and presently round the corner
swings a dingy little victoria drawn by two thin horses decorated
between their ears with a plume of a pheasant's tail feathers. The
driver sits cross-legged on the box, with a red flower behind his ear,
and inside are three alien English folk with puggarees and parasols
and Baedekers. You step aside into the gutter to avoid the equipage,
and as he passes, the driver, with a white-toothed smile, raises and
flourishes his hat and says, "Giorno, signor!" The lizard darts into
a crevice from which his tail protrudes, the carriage yaws along in a
cloud of dust.... It all sounds marvellously ugly and uncomfortable,
and yet, if you are an exiled Italian, the thought of it will bring
your heart into your mouth.

It was just this, of which I have given the unvarnished but faithful
jotting, that I saw this morning as I came up from my bathe, and all
at once it struck me that this, after all, more than all the forums
and galleries, and gleams of past splendour and glory of light and
landscape, revealed Italy. But that was all there was to it, the sense
of the lizard and the dust and the _trattoria,_ and yet never before
had my mistress worn so translucent a veil, or so nearly shown me the
secret of her elusive charm. Never had I come so near to catching it;
for the moment, as the Baedekers went by, I thought that by contrast
I should comprehend at last what it is that makes to me the sense of
home in the "dark and fierce and fickle south," as one of our Laureates
so inappropriately calls it, having no more sympathy with Italy than I
with Lapland. For the moment the secret was trembling in the spirit,
ready to flower in the understanding.... But then it passed away
again in the dust or the wine-smell, and when I tried to express to
Francis at lunch in beautiful language what I have here written, he
thought it over impartially, and said: "It sounds like when you all but
sneeze, and can't quite manage it." And there was point in that prosaic
reflection: the secret remained inaccessible somewhere within me, like
the sneeze.

Francis has been an exceedingly wise person in the conduct of his life.
Some fifteen years ago he settled, much to the dismay of his uncle, who
thought that all gentlemen were stockbrokers, that he liked Italy much
better than any other country in the world, and that, of all the towns
and mountains and plains of Italy, he loved best this rocky pinnacle of
an island that rises sheer from the sapphire in the mouth of the Bay of
Naples. Thus, having come across from Naples for the inside of a day,
he telegraphed to his hotel for his luggage and stopped a month. After
a brief absence in England, feverish with interviews, he proceeded
to stop here for a year, and, when that year was over, to stop here
permanently. He was always unwell in England and always well here;
there was no material reason why he should ever return to the fogs,
nor any moral reason except that the English idea of duty seems to be
inextricably entwined with the necessity of doing something you dislike
and are quite unfitted for. So herein he showed true wisdom, firstly,
in knowing what he liked, and secondly, in doing it. For many otherwise
sensible people have not the slightest idea what they like, and a
large proportion of that elect remainder have not the steadfastness
to do it. But Francis, with no ties that bound him to the island of
England, which did not suit him at all, had the good sense to make his
home in this island of Italy that did. Otherwise he most certainly
would have lived anæmically in an office in the City, and have amassed
money that he did not in the least want. And though it was thought very
odd that he should have chosen to be cheerful and busy here rather
than occupied and miserable in London, I applaud the unworldliness of
his wisdom. He settled also (which is a rarer wisdom) that he wanted
to think, and, as you will see before this record of diary is out, he
succeeded in so doing.

Many Mays and Junes I spent with him here, and six months ago now,
while I was groping and choking in the fogs, he wrote to me, saying
that the Villa Tiberiana, at which we had for years cast longing
glances as at a castle in Spain, was to be let on lease. It was too
big for him alone, but if I felt inclined to go shares in the rent, we
might take it together. I sent an affirmative telegram, and sat stewing
with anxiety till I received his favourable reply. So, when a fortnight
ago I returned here, I made my return home not to Italy alone, but to
my home in Italy.

The Villa Tiberiana, though not quite so imperial as it sounds, is one
of the most "amiable dwellings." It stands high on the hill-side above
the huddled, picturesque little town of Alatri, and is approachable
only by a steep cobbled path that winds deviously between other
scattered houses and plots of vineyard. Having arrived at the piazza
of the town, the carriage road goes no further, and you must needs
walk, while your luggage is conveyed up by strapping female porters,
whom on their arrival you reward with _soldi_ and refresh with wine.
Whitewashed and thick-built, two-storied and flat-roofed, it crouches
behind the tall rubble wall of its garden that lies in terraces below
it. A great stone-pine rears its whispering umbrella in the middle of
this plot, and now in the May-time of the year there is to be seen
scarcely a foot of the earth of its garden beds, so dense is the
tapestry of flowers that lies embroidered over it. For here in the
far south of Europe, the droughts of summer and early autumn render
unpractical any horticultural legislation with a view to securing
colour in your flower-beds all the year round. However much you
legislated, you would never get your garden to be gay through July
and August, and so, resigning yourself to emptiness then, you console
yourself with an intoxication of blossom from March to June. And never
was a garden so drunk with colour as is ours to-day; never have I seen
so outrageous a riot. Nor is it in the garden-beds alone that rose and
carnation and hollyhock and nasturtium and delphinium unpunctually but
simultaneously sing and blaze together. The southern front of the house
is hidden in plumbago and vines with green seed-pearl berries, and as
for the long garden wall, it is literally invisible under the cloak of
blue morning-glory that decks it as with a raiment from foundation to
coping-stone. Every morning fresh battalions of blue trumpets deploy
there as soon as the sun strikes it, and often as I have seen it thus,
I cannot bring myself to believe that it is real; it is more like some
amazing theatrical decoration. Beyond on the further side lies the
orchard of fig and peach, and I observe with some emotion that the
figs, like the lady in Pickwick, are swelling visibly.

Within, the house has assumed its summer toilet, which is another way
of saying that it has been undressed; carpets and curtains have been
banished; doors are latched back, and the air sweeps softly from end
to end of it. A sitting-room that faces south has been dismantled, and
its contents put in the big studio that looks northwards, and even in
the height of summer, we hope, will not get over-hot, especially since
a few days ago we had the roof whitewashed and thick matting hung over
its one southern window. Breakfast and dinner, now that the true May
weather has begun, we have on the terrace-top of the big cistern in the
garden, roofed over between the pilasters of its pergola with trellis,
through which the vineleaves wriggle and wrestle. But now at noon it
is too hot in the garden, and to-day I found lunch ready in the square
vaulted little dining-room, with Pasqualino bringing in macaroni and
vine-leaf-stoppered decanter, and Francis, who refrained from bathing
this morning owing to the Martha-cares of the household, debating
with Seraphina (the cook) as to whether the plumbago ought not to be
pruned. It has come right into the room, and, as Seraphina most justly
remarks, it is already impossible to shut the window. But since we
shall not need to shut the window for some months to come, I give my
vote to support Francis, and suffer the plumbago to do exactly as it
likes. So we are two to one, and Seraphina takes her defeat, wreathed
in smiles, and says it is not her fault if burglars come. That is a
poor argument, for there are no burglars in Alatri, and, besides, there
is nothing to steal except the grand piano....

Just now social duties weigh rather heavily on Francis and me, for
the British colony in Alatri consider that, as we have moved into
a new house, they must behave to us as if we were new-comers, and
have been paying formal visits. These civilities must be responded
to, and we have had two house-warmings and are going to have a third
and last to-day. The house-warmings should perhaps be described as
garden-warmings, since we have tea on the terrace in great pomp,
and then get cool in the house afterwards. Rather embarrassing
incidents have occurred, as, for instance, when Miss Machonochie came
to a garden-warming the day before yesterday. She is a red amiable
Scotchwoman, with a prodigious Highland accent, which Francis, whom
she has for years tried to marry, imitates to perfection. So perfect,
indeed, is his mimicry of it, that when Miss Machonochie appeared and
began to talk about the wee braw garden, Pasqualino, who was bringing
out a fresh teapot, had to put it hurriedly down on the ground, and
run back again into the kitchen, from which issued peal after peal
of laughter. So overcome was he, that after a second attempt (Miss
Machonochie being still full of conversation) he had to retire again,
and Seraphina must serve us till Miss Machonochie went away. This she
did not do for a long time, since, after just a little vermouth, she
wanted no persuasion at all to sing a quantity of Scotch ditties about
Bonnie Charlie and Loch Lomond, and other beautiful and interesting
topics. Technically, I should say that she had one note in her voice,
which she was in a great hurry to get on to and very loath to leave.
This had an amazing timbre like a steam siren, and as I played her
accompaniment for her, my left ear sang all the evening afterwards.
But her accent was indubitably Highland, and Mrs. Macgregor declared
she could smell the heather. I was glad of that, for I was afraid that
what I smelled (it being now near dinner-time) was the _fritura_ that
Seraphina was preparing in the kitchen.

This island-life is the busiest sort of existence, though I suppose a
stockbroker would say it was the laziest, and, in consequence, these
social efforts give one a sense of rush that I have never felt in
London. The whole of the morning is taken up with bathing (of which
more presently), and on the way up you call at the post-office for
papers and letters. The letters it is impossible to answer immediately,
since there is so much to do, and the pile on my table grows steadily,
waiting for a wet day. After lunch you read the papers, and then,
following the example of the natives, who may be supposed to know the
proper way of living in their own climate, you have a good siesta.
After tea, the English habit of physical exercise asserts itself, and
we walk or water the garden till dinner. After dinner it is, I take
it, permissible to have a little relaxation, and we either play a game
or two of picquet up here in the studio, or more often stroll down to
the piazza and play in the café, or attend a thrilling cinematograph
show. In the country it is natural to go to bed early, and, behold, it
is to-morrow almost before you knew it was to-day. When it rains, or
when the weather is cold, it is possible to do some work, and Francis
asserts that he does an immense quantity during the winter. I daresay
that is so; I should be the last person to quarrel with the statement,
since he so amiably agrees that it is impossible to behave like that in
the summer.

The mind is equally well occupied, for we always take down books to the
bathing-place, and for the rest the affairs of the island, Pasqualino
and his family, Seraphina and her family, the fact that Mrs. Macgregor
has dismissed her cook, that Mr. Tarn has built a pergola, completely
absorb the intellectual and speculative faculties. What happens outside
the island seems not to matter at all. England, with its fogs and its
fuss, is less real and much further away than the hazy shores of the
mainland, where all that concerns us is the smoke of Vesuvius, which
during the last week has been increasing in volume, and now stands up
above the mountain like a huge stone-pine. The wiseacres shake their
heads and prophesy an eruption, but _che sarà, sarà_--if it comes, it
comes, and meantime it is a marvellous thing to see the red level rays
at sunset turn the edges of the smoke-cloud into wreaths of rose-colour
and crimson; the denser portions they are unable to pierce, and can
but lay a wash of colour on them, through which the black shows like
a thing of nightmare. In the calm weather, which we have been having,
this stone-pine of smoke is reflected in the bay, and the great tree of
vapour steals slowly across the water, nearer and nearer every day. The
observatory reports tell us that its topmost wreaths are eight vertical
miles away from the earth. Sometimes when it is quite calm here we see
these tops torn by winds and blown about into fantastic foliage, but
the solidity of the trunk remains untouched.

But Vesuvius is far away, twenty-five miles at the least, and here in
this siren, lotus-eating island nothing across the sea really interests
us. But island affairs, as I have said, are perfectly absorbing, and
during this last fortnight we have been in vertiginous heights of
excitement. Only yesterday occurred the _finale_ of all this business,
and Francis thinks with excellent reason, that he is accomplice to a
felony. The person chiefly concerned was Luigi, nephew of our cook
Seraphina, who till six months ago was valet, butler, major-domo,
and gardener to Francis. Then, in a misguided moment, he thought to
"better himself" by going as hall-boy to the Grand Hotel in Alatri.
There were tips, no doubt, in the tourist season at the Grand Hotel,
but there was also trouble. It happened like this.

From the day of the supposed crime the sympathy of the island generally
was on the side of Luigi, in the fiery trials that awaited him. It
was felt to be intolerable that a boy who had just changed into his
best clothes, and had taken a carnation from one of the tables in the
dining-room, and was actually going out of the hotel gate to spend the
afternoon of the _festa_ in the Piazza, should have been summarily
ordered back by the porter, and commanded to show a fat white German
gentleman, who was staying in the hotel, the way to the bathing-place
at the _Palazzo a mare,_ and carry his towels and bathing-dress for
him, the latter of which included sandals, so that the fat white
gentleman should not hurt his fat white toes on the shingle. This
abominable personage had also preferred, in the unaccountable manner of
foreigners, to go all the way on foot, instead of taking a victoria,
which would have conveyed him three-quarters of the distance and saved
much time. But he would go on his feet, and being very fat had walked
at tortoise-pace along the dusty road, under a large green umbrella,
perspiring profusely, and stopping every now and then to sit down.
There was Luigi standing by, carrying the sandals and the bathing-dress
and the towels, while all the time the precious moments of this holiday
afternoon were slipping along, and the Piazza, where Luigi should have
been (having been granted a half-holiday on account of the _festa_),
was full of his young friends, male and female, all in their best
clothes, conversing and laughing together, and standing about and
smoking an occasional cigarette, in the orthodox fashion of a holiday
afternoon. Then, after this interminable walk, during which the German
gentleman kept asking the baffled Luigi a series of questions in an
unknown tongue, and appeared singularly annoyed when the boy was unable
to answer him except in a Tower-of-Babel manner, he drew three coppers
from his pocket, and after a prolonged mental struggle, presented
Luigi with two of them, as a reward for his services. He then told
him that he could find his way up again alone, and having undressed,
swam majestically off round the promontory of rock that enclosed the

An hour afterwards Luigi, defrauded of half his holiday afternoon,
returned to the gaiety and companionship of the Piazza, and recounted
to an indignant audience this outrageous affair. But some time during
the afternoon, Francis, looking out of his bedroom window after his
siesta, thought he saw Luigi slipping across the garden of the Villa
Tiberiana, and climbing down over the wall at the bottom. He says he
was not sure, being still sleepy, and when he shouted Luigi's name out
of his window, there came no answer.

Luigi returned to the Grand Hotel in time to get into his livery again
before dinner, and on entrance was summoned into the manager's bureau,
where he was confronted with his Teutonic taskmaster of the afternoon,
and charged with having picked his pocket while he was bathing. A
portfolio was missing, containing a note for a hundred liras, and this
the German gentleman was gutturally certain he had on his person when
he started off to bathe, and equally certain that he had lost when he
came to dress for dinner. His certainty was partly founded on the fact
that he had tipped the boy when they arrived at the _Palazzo a mare,_
and to have tipped him he must have had his money in his pocket. In
answer, Luigi absolutely denied the charge, and then made a dreadful
mistake by suggesting that the Signor had a hole in his pocket, through
which the portfolio had slipped. This was quite the most unfortunate
thing he could have said, for, as the German gentleman instantly
demonstrated, the hole in his pocket was undoubtedly there. But how, so
he overpoweringly urged, could Luigi have known there was a hole there,
unless he had been examining his pockets? And an hour later poor Luigi,
with gyves upon his wrists, was ignominiously led through the Piazza,
all blazing with acetylene lights and resonant with the blare of the
band, and was clapped into prison to await the formal charge.

Arrived there, he was searched, and a similar examination was made in
his room at his mother's house, where he went to sleep at night, but
nothing that ever so remotely resembled a German portfolio or a note
for a hundred liras was found, and he still doggedly denied his guilt.
Then, since nothing incriminating could be got out of him, the key
was turned, while through the small high-grated window came the sound
of the band in the Piazza for this _festa_ night. Later, by standing
on his board bed, he could see the fiery segment of the aspiring path
of the rockets, as they ascended from the peak above the Piazza, and
listen to the echo of their explosions flap and buffet against the
cliffs of Monte Gennaro. But it was from prison that he saw and heard.

Outside in the Piazza the tragic history of his incarceration formed a
fine subject for talk, and public opinion, which cheerfully supposed
him guilty, found extenuating circumstances that almost amounted to
innocence. The provocation of being obliged to spend the best part
of a _festa_ afternoon in walking down to the sea with a fat white
Tedesco was really immense, and the reward of twopence for those lost
hours of holiday was nothing less than an insult. What wonder if Luigi
for a moment mislaid his honesty, what wonder if when so smooth-faced
and ready-made a temptation came, he just yielded to it for a second?
Certainly it was wrong to steal, everyone knows that--_Mamma mia,_
what a rocket, what a _bellezza_ of stars!--but it was also primarily
wrong to dock a jolly boy of his promised half-holiday. No wonder,
when the German signor--ah, it was the same, no doubt, as was sick in
Antonio's carriage the other day, and refused to pay for a new rug--no
wonder, when that fat-head, that pumpkin (for who but a pumpkin would
carry a hundred liras about with him?) swam away round the corner of
those rocks, that Luigi's hand just paid a visit to his great pockets
to see if he was as poor as that miserable tip of twopence seemed to
say! Then he found the portfolio, and turned bitter with the thought
of the _quattro soldi_ which was all that had been given him for his
loss of the half-holiday. Ah, look! Was it really a wheel like that
on which Santa Caterina had been bound? How she must have spun round!
What giddiness! What burning! A steadfast soul not to have consented
to worship Apollo; no wonder that Holy Church made a saint of her.
But what could Luigi have done with the portfolio and the note for a
hundred liras? He had been searched and on him was nothing found; his
room had been searched, but there was nothing there. Was it possible
that he was innocent, _il povero?_ Could the sick German gentleman
really have lost his foolish pocket-book by natural means as he came up
from his bathe? It might be worth while taking a walk there to-morrow,
always keeping a peeled eye on the margin of the path. It was possible,
after all, that he had lost his pocket-book all by himself, without aid
from Luigi, for the hole in his pocket was admitted, and shown to the
manager of the Grand Hotel. But then there was Luigi's fatal knowledge
of the hole in his pocket. That was very bad; that looked like guilt.
If only the boy had held his tongue and not said that fatal thing! He
only suggested that there was a hole in his pocket? No, no; he said
there _was_ a hole in his pocket, didn't he? What a lesson to keep the
tongue still! Luigi had always a lot to learn about keeping the tongue
still, for who will soon forget the dreadful things he shouted out last
winter at the priest, his mother's cousin's uncle, when he had smacked
his head? They were quite true, too, like the hole in the pocket....
Ah, there is the great bomb. Pouf! How it echoes! So the fireworks are
over! _Buona notte! Buona notte!_

All this, while lounging in the Piazza, listening to the band and
watching the fireworks, I heard from the tobacconist and the barber and
a few other friends. I coupled with this information that which Francis
told me as we strolled up homewards again, namely, that he thought
he had seen Luigi that afternoon slipping through the garden. He was
not sure about it, so leaving it aside, he recalled a few facts about
Luigi when he was in his service. He used to hurry over his house-work
always, for he preferred his rôle of gardener to all others, and used
to wander among the flower-beds, making plants comfortable, and giving
this one a drop of water, and that a fresh piece of stick to lean
on. Then he would make a mud pie by turning on the cistern tap, and
plant verbenas in it, or in more mysterious fashion made _caches_ in a
hole behind loose masonry in the cistern wall. Francis has got a just
appreciation of the secrecy and rapture of making _caches,_ and never
let Luigi know that he was aware of this hidden treasure. But after
Luigi had gone home to his mother's of an evening, he would yield to
curiosity and see what the boy had put there. Sometimes there would
be a matchbox, or a pilfered cigarette, or a piece of string carefully
wrapped up in paper.... And now poor Luigi was behind his grated
window, and Seraphina, with deepest sarcasm, said that this was what he
called bettering himself. He would have done better to have done worse
and remained at the Villa Tiberiana in the service of the Signori.

But suddenly next day, like a change in the weather coming from
a cloudless sky, a fresh train of thought was suggested by the
Luigi-episode, and the mention of the lottery, and how the various
incidents and personages bore on the luck of numbers. On the instant
Luigi and all he had done or not done ceased to interest anybody
except in so far as the events were concerned with the science and
interpretation of numbers in the lottery as set forth in the amazing
volume called "Smorfia." There you will find what any numeral means,
so that should an earthquake occur or an eclipse, the wise speculator
looks out "earthquake" or "eclipse" in "Smorfia," and at the next
drawing of the National Lottery or the lottery at Naples backs the
numbers to which these significations are attached. As it happened, no
event of striking local interest had occurred in Alatri since, in April
last, the carpenter in the Corso Agosto had unsuccessfully attempted to
cut his throat with a razor, after successfully smothering his aunt.
This had been the last occasion on which there was clear guidance
as to the choice of numbers in the Naples lottery, and nobody of a
sporting turn of mind who had the smallest sense of the opportunities
life offers had failed to back No. 17, which among other things means
"aunt," and numbers which signified "razor," "throat," "blood" and
"bolster." Nor had "Smorfia," the dictionary that gives this useful
information, disappointed its adherents, for Carmine, Pasqualino's
brother, had backed the numbers that meant "throat," "razor,"
"carpenter," "aunt" and "Sunday," the last being the day on which those
distressing events occurred, and went to bed that night to dream of
the glories which awaited him who nominated a _quinterno secco._ (This
means that you back five numbers, all of which come out in the order
named.) Once, so succulent tradition said, a baker at the Marina had
accomplished this enviable feat, after which Alatri saw him no more,
for his reward was a million francs, a marquisate and an estate in
Calabria, where soon afterwards he was murdered for the sake of his
million. This stimulating page of history was not wholly repeated in
the case of Carmine and the carpenter's aunt, but by his judicious
selection he had certainly reaped two hundred francs where he had only
sowed five. The doctor also, who had attended the abortive suicide, had
done very well by backing salient features of the tragedy, and astute
superstition had, on the whole, been adequately rewarded.

Next day, accordingly, the Piazza seethed with excitement as to the
due application of the Luigi episode to the enchanting Lorelei of
the lottery. It had magnificent and well-marked features; "Smorfia"
shouted with opportunities. First of all, there was Luigi himself to
be backed, and, as everyone knew, "boy" was the number 2. Next there
was the German gentleman. ("Michele, turn up 'German.'") Then there
was "pocket" and "hole" and "portfolio" and "bathe." All these were
likely chances. Other aspects of the affair struck the serious mind.
"_Festa_" was connected with it; so, too, was "prison," where now Luigi
languished. Then there was "theft" and "denial." Here were abundant
materials for a _quinterno secco_, when once the initial difficulty
of selecting the right numbers was surmounted. And marquisates and
millions hovered on the horizon, ready to move up and descend on Alatri.

Among those who were thus interested in the _affaire Luigi_ from the
purely lottery point of view, there was no more eager student than the
boy's mother. Maria was a confirmed and steadfast gambler, of that
optimistic type that feels itself amply rewarded for the expenditure of
ten liras on a series of numbers that prove quite barren of reward, if
at the eleventh attempt she gained five. She had been to see her son
in prison, had wept a little and consoled him a little, had smuggled
a packet of cigarettes into his hand, and had reminded him that the
same sort of thing, though far worse, had happened to his father, with
whom be peace. For at the most Luigi would get but a couple of months
in prison, owing to his youth (and the cool of the cell was really not
unpleasant in the hot weather), and the severity of his sentence would
doubtless be much mitigated if he would only say where he had hidden
the portfolio and the hundred liras. But nothing would induce Luigi
to do this; he still firmly adhered to his innocence, and repeated
_ad nauseam_ his unfortunate remark that there was a hole in the fat
German's pocket.

Expostulation being useless, and Luigi being fairly comfortable, Maria
left him, and on her way home gave very serious consideration to the
features of the case which she intended to back at the lottery. She
had ascertained that Luigi had his new clothes on (which was the sort
of flower on which that butterfly Chance alighted), and on looking up
the number of "new clothes, novelty, freshness," found that it was
8. Then, on further study of "Smorfia," she learned that the word
"thief" was represented by No. 28, and following her own train of
thought, discovered that No. 88 meant "liar." Here was a strange thing,
especially when, with an emotional spasm, she remembered that "boy" was
No. 2. Here was the whole adventure nutshelled for her. For was there
not a boy (2) who put on his new clothes (8), showed himself a thief
(28) and subsequently a liar (88)? 2 and 8 covered the whole thing, and
almost throttled by the thread of coincidence, she hurried down to the
lottery-office, aflame with the premonition of some staggering success,
and invested fifteen liras in the numbers 2, 8, 28, 88.

She lingered in the Piazza a little, after laying this touching garland
on the altar of luck, to receive the condolences of her friends
on Luigi's wickedness, and had a kind word thrown to her by Signor
Gelotti, the great lawyer, who had come over for a week's holiday to
his native island. Ah, there was a man! Why, if he got you into the
witness-box, he could make you contradict yourself before you knew you
had opened your mouth. Give him a couple of minutes at you, and he
would make you say that the man you had described as having a black
coat and a moustache had no coat at all and whiskers, and that, though
you had met him at three o'clock precisely in the Piazza, you had just
informed the Court that at that hour you were having a siesta in your
own house. Luigi's father had at one time been in his service, and
though he had left it, handcuffed, for a longer period of imprisonment
than his son was threatened with, Lawyer Gelotti had always a nod and a
smile for his widow, and to-day a pleasant little joke about heredity.
Ah, if Lawyer Gelotti would only take up the case! He would muddle
everybody up finely, and in especial that fat German fellow, who, like
his beastly, swaggering, truculent race, was determined to press home
his charge. But Lawyer Gelotti, as all the world knew, never held up
his forefinger at a witness under a thousand liras. What a forefinger.
It made you tell two more lies in order to escape from each lie that
you had already told.

Three days passed, while still Luigi languished behind bars, and
then a sudden thrill of excitement emanating from the offices of the
lottery swept over the island. For the Naples lottery had been drawn,
and the five winning numbers were issued, which in due order of their
occurrence were 2, 8, 28, 4, 91. Alatri grew rosy with prospective
riches, for in this _affaire Luigi_ it would have been slapping the
face of the Providence that looks after lotteries not to have backed
No. 2 (boy) and No. 28 (thief). At least ten dutiful folk had done
that. But--_che peccato_--why did we not all back No. 8, as Luigi's
mother had done, for we all knew that Luigi must have had his new
clothes on, as did every boy on a _festa?_ What a thing it is to use
rightly the knowledge you possess! The lucky woman! She had won a
_terno,_ for the first three numbers she backed came out in the order
she nominated. Never was such a thing seen since the days of the
classical baker! Why, her _terno_ would be worth three thousand liras
at least, which was next door to the title of a marchioness. But No.
91 now: what does No. 91 mean? Quick, turn it up in "Smorfia"! Who has
a "Smorfia?" Ernesto, the tobacconist, of course, but he is a mean
man, and will not lend his "Smorfia" to any who does not buy a packet
of cigarettes. Never mind, let us have both; a cigarette is always a
cigarette. There! No. 91! What does No. 91 signify? _Dio!_ What a lot
of meanings! "The man in the moon" ... "the hairs on the tail of an
elephant" ... "an empty egg-shell." ... Who ever heard the like? There
is no sense in such a number! And No. 4--what does No. 4 mean? Why, the
very first meaning of all is "truth." There is a curious thing when we
all thought that Luigi was telling lies! And No. 4, look you, was the
fourth number that came out. It would have been simple to conjecture
that No. 4 would be No. 4. Pity that we did not think of that last
week. But it is easy to be wise after the event, as the bridegroom said.

The talk on the Piazza rose to ever loftier peaks of triumph as fresh
beneficiaries of Luigi, who had made a few liras over "boy" and
"thief," joined the chattering groups. He had done very well for his
friends, had poor Luigi, though "pocket" and "portfolio" had brought
in nothing to their backers. And it was like him--already Luigi was
considered directly responsible for these windfalls--it was like him to
have turned up that ridiculous No. 91, with its man in the moon, and
its empty egg-shell. Luigi, the gay _ragazzo,_ loved that extravagant
sort of joke, of which the point was that there was no point, but
which made everybody laugh, as when he affixed a label, "Three liras
complete," to the fringe of Donna Margherita's new shawl from Naples
as she walked about the Piazza, showing it off and never guessing
what so many smiles meant. But No. 4, which stood for "truth," it was
strange that No. 4 should have turned up, and that nobody dreamed of
supposing that Luigi was telling the truth. His mother, for all her
winnings, must be finely vexed that she had not trusted her son's word,
and backed "truth," instead of putting her money on "liar." Why, if
she backed "truth," she would have gained a _quaterno,_ and God knows
how many liras! Ah, there she is! Let us go and congratulate the good
soul. Her winnings will make up to her for having a son as well as a
husband who was a thief.

But Luigi's mother was in a hot haste. She had put on all her best
clothes, not, as was at first conjectured, because in the affluence
that had come to her they had been instantly degraded into second-best,
but because she was making a business call on Lawyer Gelotti. She
was not one to turn her broad back on her own son--though it is true
that she had confidently selected No. 88 with its signification of
"liar"--and if the satanic skill of Lawyer Gelotti could get Luigi off,
that skill was going to be invoked for his defence. A hundred thanks,
a hundred greetings to everybody, but she had no time for conversation
just now. Lawyer Gelotti must be seen at once, if he was at home; if
not, she must just sit on his doorstep and wait for him. Yes; she had
heard that a thousand liras was his fee, and he should have it, if that
was right and proper. There was plenty more where they came from! And
this _bravura_ passage pleased the Piazza; it showed the gaiety and
swagger proper to a lady of property.

In due course followed the event which Alatri was quite prepared for
when it knew that Lawyer Gelotti was engaged on Luigi's behalf, and
that the full blast of his hurricane of interrogations would be turned
on the fat German gentleman. Never was there such a tearing to shreds
of apparently stout evidence; its fragments were scattered to all
points of the compass like the rocket-stars which Luigi had watched
from his grated window. The Tedesco was forced to allow that he had
not looked in his pockets, to see if his portfolio was safe, till full
three hours after he had returned from his bathe. What had he done in
those three hours? He did not know? Then the Court would guess! (That
was nasty!) Again he had told the manager of the hotel that he knew
he had his portfolio with him when he went to bathe, because he had
tipped the boy. Ah, that wonderful tip! Was it, or was it not twopence?
Yes: Lawyer Gelotti thought so! Twopence for carrying a basket of
towels and a bathing costume and two elephant sandals all over the
island! _Tante grazie!_ But was it really his custom to carry coppers
in his portfolio? Did he not usually carry pence loose in a pocket?
Had he ever to his knowledge carried pennies in his portfolio? Would
he swear that he had? Come, sir, do not keep the Court waiting for a
simple answer! Very good! This magnificent tip did not come out of the
portfolio at all, as he had previously affirmed.

Lawyer Gelotti had a tremendous lunch at this stage of the proceedings,
and tackled his German afterwards with renewed vigour. Was it credible
that a man so careful--let us say, so laudably careful--with his money
as to make so miserly a tip, would have taken a portfolio containing a
hundred liras down to the bathing-place, and left it in his clothes?
And what was the number of this note? Surely this prudent, this
economical citizen of Germany, a man so scrupulously careful of his
money as to tip on this scale, would have taken the precaution to have
registered the number of his note. Did he not usually do so? Yes. So
Lawyer Gelotti suspected. But in this case, very strangely, he had not.
That was odd; that was hard to account for except on the supposition
that there was no such note. And this portfolio, about which it seemed
really impossible to get accurate information? It was shabby, was
it, and yet an hour before we had been told it was new! And who else
had ever set eyes on this wonderful portfolio, this new and ragged
portfolio with its note of unknown number? Nobody; of course, nobody.

       *       *       *       *       *

There followed a most disagreeable forensic picture of the fat German
gentleman, while above him, as a stained glass window looks down on
Mephistopheles, Lawyer Gelotti proceeded to paint Luigi's portrait
in such seraphic lines and colour that Maria, brimming with emotion,
felt that sixteen years ago she had given birth to a saint and had
never known it till now. Here was a boy who had lost his father--and
Gelotti's voice faltered as he spoke of this egregious scamp--who
from morning till night slaved to support his stricken mother, and
through all the self-sacrificing days of his spotless boyhood never
had suspicion or hint of sin come near him. The Court had heard how
blithely and eagerly he had gone down to the _Palazzo a mare_--it
was as well the Court had not heard his blithe remarks as he passed
through the Piazza--on the afternoon of what should have been his
holiday. What made him so gay? Gentlemen, the thought that inspired him
was that by his service he might earn a franc or perhaps two francs,
since it was a _festa,_ to bring home to his aged parent. And what was
his reward? Twopence, twopence followed by this base and unfounded
and disproved and diabolical accusation. Prison had been his reward;
he languished in a dungeon while all Alatri kept holiday and holy
festival. As for the admission of which the prosecution had made so
much, namely, that Luigi had said that the German gentleman had a hole
in his pocket, how rejoiced was Lawyer Gelotti that he had done so.
It was suggested that Luigi must have searched his clothes, and found
there the apocryphal portfolio and the note that had no number. But it
was true that Luigi was intimately acquainted with those voluminous
trousers. But how and why and when?... And Lawyer Gelotti paused, while
Luigi's friends held their breath, not having the slightest idea of the

Lawyer Gelotti wiped his eyes and proceeded. This industrious saintly
lad, the support of his mother's declining years, was hall-boy at the
Grand Hotel. Numerous were the duties of a hall-boy, and Lawyer Gelotti
would not detain them over the complete catalogue. He would only tell
them that while others slept, while opulent German gentlemen dreamed
about portfolios, the hall-boy was busy, helping his cousin, the valet
of the first floor, to brush the clothes of those who so magnificently
rewarded the services rendered them. Inside and outside were those
clothes brushed: not a speck of dust remained when the supporter of
his mother had done with them. They were turned inside and out, they
were shaken, they were brushed again, they were neatly folded. In this
way, gentlemen, and in no other came the knowledge of the hole in the

_Dio mio!_ Who spoke of fireworks?

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening Luigi came up to the villa to receive Francis's
congratulations on his acquittal and departed through the garden. Next
morning Francis, strolling about, came to the wall of the cistern,
where Luigi's cache used to lurk behind the loosened masonry. The
garden-bed just below it looked as if it had been lately disturbed,
and with a vague idea in his mind he began digging with his stick in
it. Very soon he came upon some shredded fragments of leather buried
there.... I am rather afraid Francis is an accomplice.

JUNE, 1914

We have had a month of the perfect weather, days and nights of flawless
and crystalline brightness, with the sun marching serene all day across
the empty blue, and setting at evening unveiled by cloud or vapour
into the sea, and a light wind pouring steadily as a stream from the
north. But one morning there gathered a cloud on the southern horizon
no bigger than a man's hand, which the weather-wise say betokens a
change. On that day, too, there appeared in the paper that other cloud
which presaged the wild tempest of blood and fire. Here in this secure
siren isle we hardly gave a thought to it. We just had it hot at
lunch and cold at dinner, and after that we thought of it no more. It
seemed to have disappeared, even as the column of smoke above Vesuvius
disappeared a few weeks ago.

It had been a very hot clear morning, and since, the evening before,
it had been necessary to tell Pasqualino that the wages he received,
the food he ate, and the room he occupied were not given him gratis by
a beneficent Providence in order that he should have complete leisure
to make himself smart and spend his whole time with his Caterina, he
had been very busy sweeping and embellishing the house, while it was
still scarcely light, in order to put into practice the fervency of
his reformed intentions. He had come into my bedroom while dawn was
yet grey, on tiptoe, in order not to awaken me, and taken away the
step-ladder which he needed. As a matter of fact, I was already awake,
and so his falling downstairs or throwing the step-ladder downstairs
a moment afterwards with a crash that would have roused the dead did
not annoy but only interested me, and I wondered what he wanted the
step-ladder for, and whether it was much broken. Soon the sound of
muffled hammering began from the dining-room below, which showed he was
very busy, and the beaming face with which he called me half an hour
later was further evidence of his delighted and approving conscience.
It was clear that he could hardly refrain from telling me what he
had been doing, but the desire to surprise and amaze me prevailed,
and he went off again with a broad grin. Soon I came downstairs, and
discovered that he had woven a great wreath of flowering myrtle, gay
with bows of red riband, and had nailed it up over the door into the
dining-room. A cataract of whitewash and plaster had been dislodged
in the fixing of it, which he was then very busy sweeping up, and
he radiantly told me that he had been on the hill-side at half-past
four to gather materials for his decoration. Certainly it looked very
pretty, and when the plaster and whitewash was cleared away, you could
not tell that any damage had been done to the fabric of the house. Soon
after Caterina came in with the week's washing balanced in a basket on
her head, and Pasqualino took her through to show her his wreath. She
highly approved, and he kissed her in the passage. I may remark that
she is sixteen and he seventeen, so there is plenty of time for him
to do a little work as domestic servant before he devotes himself to
Caterina. Of all the young things in the island these two are far the
fairest, and I have a great sympathy with Pasqualino when he neglects
his work and goes strutting before Caterina. But I intend that he shall
do his work all the same.

There is no such delicious hour in this sea-girt south as that of early
morning ushering in a hot day. The air is full of a warm freshness.
The vigour of sea and starlight has renewed it, and though for several
weeks now no drop of rain has fallen, the earth has drunk and been
refreshed by the invisible waters of the air. The stucco path that
runs along the southern face of the house, still shadowed by the
stone-pine, glistened with heavy dews, and the morning-glory along the
garden walls, drenched with moisture, was unfolding a new galaxy of wet
crumpled blossoms. Yet in spite of the freshness of the early hour,
there was a certain hint of oppression in the air, and strolling along
the lower terrace, I saw the cloud of which I have spoken, already
forming on the southern horizon. But it looked so small, so lost, in
the vast dome of blue that surrounded it, that I scarcely gave it a
second thought.

Presently afterwards Francis and I set out to walk down to the
bathing-place. We stopped in the Piazza to order a cab to come down
to the point where the road approaches nearest to the beach from which
we bathed, for the midday walk up again would clearly be intolerable
in the heat that was growing greater every moment, and set out through
narrow ways between the vineyards, in order to avoid the dust of the
high road. The light north wind, which for the past month had given
vigour to the air, had altogether fallen, and not a breath disturbed
the polished surface of the bay, where twenty miles away Naples and
the hills above it were unwaveringly mirrored on the water. So clear
was it that you could see individual houses there, so still that the
hair-like stalks of the campanulas which frothed out of the crevices
of the walls stood stiff and motionless, as if made of steel. Above us
the terraced vineyards rose in tiers to the foot of the sheer cliffs
of Monte Gennaro, fringed with yellow broom; below they stretched, in
an unbroken staircase down to the roofs of the Marina, to which at
midday comes the steamer from Naples carrying our post and a horde of
tourists who daily, for the space of three or four hours, invade the
place. Still downwards we went between vines and lemon orchards, and an
occasional belt of olive-trees, till the bay opened before us again and
the flight of steps that led to the enchanted beach of the _Palazzo a

Here on the edge of the sea the Emperor Tiberius built one of his seven
island palaces, but in the course of centuries this northern shore has
subsided, so that the great halls that once stood on the margin of the
bay are partly submerged, and the waves wash up cubes of green and red
marble from tesselated pavements that once formed the floors of the
palace. Portions of the cliff-side are faced with the brickwork of its
walls, from the fissures in which sprout spurge and tufts of valerian,
and tumbled fragments of its foundations lie about on the beach and
project into the water, in lumps twenty feet thick of compounded stone
and mortar. The modern historian has been busy lately with Tiberius,
devoting to his memory pailfuls of antiquarian whitewash, and here,
where tradition says there lay the scene of infamous orgies, we are
told now to reconstruct a sort of Sunday-school presided over by an
aged and benevolent emperor, who, fatigued with affairs of state, found
here an innocent and rural retreat, where he could forget his purple,
and refresh himself with the beauties of Nature. Whatever the truth
of that may be, there is no doubt that he built this palace in a most
delectable place, and I sincerely hope that he was as happy in it as I
am every morning among its ruins.

At one end of this little bay project huge masses of the palace walls,
forming the promontory round which the fat and thwarted German swam,
the day that he brought Luigi down to carry his clothes and his towels
and his shoes. These latter were to enable him to cross the shingly
beach, which, when the feet are unaccustomed to it, is undeniably
painful. Along it, and by the edge of this tideless water, are pockets
and streaks of grey sand, and to-day the sea lies as motionless as
if it was the surface of some sheltered lake. Not a ripple disturbs
it, not a breath of wind ruffles its surface. Standing knee-deep in
it and looking down, you might think, but for a certain fullness and
liquid clarity in the pebbles that lie at the bottom, that there was
no water there at all, so closely does its translucence approach to
invisibility. But it is impossible to stand dry-skinned there for long,
so hotly does the sun strike on the shoulders, and soon I fall forward
in it, and lie submerged there like a log, looking subaqueously at the
bright diaper of pebbles, with a muffled thunder of waters in my ears,
longing to have a hundred limbs in order to get fuller contact with
this gladdest and loveliest of all the creatures of God.

But even in this hedonistic bathing one's ridiculous mind makes tasks
for itself, and it has become an affair of duty with me to swim
backwards and forwards twice to a certain rock that lies some three
hundred yards away. There (for Luigi is not alone in this island in
the matter of caches) I have what you may really call an emporium
stowed away in a small seaweed-faced nook which I believe to be
undiscoverable. If you know exactly where that nook is (it lies about
two feet above the surface of the water), and put your hand through the
seaweed at exactly the right spot, you will find a tin box containing
(_i_) a box of matches, (_ii_) a handful of cigarettes, (_iii_) a
thermometer. The first time that I arrive at the rock I have no truck
with my cache, but only touch the rock with a finger, and swim back
to the beach again. There I touch another rock with my finger (these
two rocks, in fact, are like the creases at cricket, which you must
touch with your bat in order to score a run), and swim back for the
second time to my wicket out at sea. Then, oh then, after a cautious
survey, in order to see that no one, not even Francis, can observe my
movements, I take the tin box from its place, get out of the water on
to the rock, and having dried my fingers on wisps of seaweed, light
a cigarette and smoke it. As I smoke it, I submerge the thermometer
in the sea, and when the cigarette is finished, read the temperature.
After that the thermometer has to be dried, and is put back in the box
with the cigarettes and matches, and the treasure is stowed away again
in its seaweed-fronted cave. Once a fortnight or so I must go through
a perilous manoeuvre, for I have to bring the box back to be refilled.
This entails swimming with one hand in the air holding the box like
Excalibur above the sea, and it can only be done on very calm mornings,
for otherwise there is danger of some ripples intruding through the
hinges or edge of the lid, which does not shut very well. And all the
time the risk of detection is imminent, for if Francis saw me swimming
to land with a bright tin box in my hand, he would be certain to make
inquires. But so far no such heartbreaking disaster has befallen, and
without detection (and I humbly trust without suspicion) the cache-box
has been twice taken back to be refilled and gone on its return journey
again to its romantic hiding-place. Sometimes I have been within an
ace of discovery, as when, to my horror, two days ago Francis swam out
to my rock, instead of going to his own, while I was in the middle of
my cigarette. I had time to put the box back, but somehow it never
occurred to me to throw the cigarette away. By a special dispensation
of Providence, however, it was not permitted that it should occur to
him as odd that I should be seated on a rock in the middle of the sea,
smoking. He was accustomed to the sight, I must suppose, of my smoking
on land, and the question of locality did not occur to him. But it
seemed a weary, weary time before he slid off into the sea again, I
airily remarking that I should sit there a little longer. Sometimes,
when Francis has been unusually communicative about private matters
that concern himself alone, I wonder whether I ought to tell him about
my cache. But I don't, for those who understand the true science of
caches understand that if you have made a cache alone, you might just
as well not have made it at all if you share your secret with anybody.
You can have joint caches, of course....

      *       *       *       *       *

This morning the thermometer registered seventy-six degrees, which
gave me a feeling of personal pride in the sea and Italy generally,
and I swam lazily back through the warm clinging water. The sun flamed
overhead, and the line of the beach was reeling and dancing in the
heat. But if you think that now my bathe was over, you are miserably
mistaken; you might as well suppose that the play of _Hamlet_ was
finished when the ghost appeared. The swim to the rock is only the
first act, the main bathe; and now begins the second or basking act,
which may or may not be studious.

Some dozen bathers, English and American, for the most part, are dotted
about the beach. Francis is already out of the water, and is lying on
his back in a pocket of sand, with his hands across his eyes to keep
the glare out, and I take my volume of "The Ring and the Book," which I
have made it my task to read through, put on a hat, and, wet and cool,
sit down propped up against a smooth white rock. This is so hot that I
must needs hang a towel over it, and then I open my book where I last
turned down the page. For ten minutes perhaps I am a model of industry,
and then insensibly my eye wanders from the dazzling white page where
the words by some optical delusion seem printed in red....

The sea is still a mirror of crystal; some little way out a big
steamer, high in the water, so that the screw revolves in a smother
of foam, is kicking her way into Naples, and soon the dark blue lines
of her wash will come creaming to land. Otherwise nothing stirs; the
sun-burned figures disposed about the beach might be asleep, and on the
steep hill-side behind there is no sound or movement of life. Perhaps
a little draught draws downward towards the sea, for mixed with the
aromatic smells of the dried seaweed on the beach there is a faint
odour of the broom flower that flames on the slope. Already my book
has slipped from my knee on to the pebbles, and gradually--a phenomenon
to which I am getting accustomed in these noonday baskings--thought
fades also, and I am only conscious, though very vividly conscious; I
know vividly, acutely, that this is Italy, that here is the sea and the
baking beach, and the tumbled fragments of Tiberius's palace, that a
dozen yards away Francis, having sat up, is clasping his knees with his
arms, and is looking seaward, but all these things are not objects of
thought, but only of consciousness. They seem part of me, or I of them;
the welding of the world to me gets closer and more complete every
moment; I am so nearly _the same thing_ as the stones on the beach, and
the liquid rim of the sea; so nearly too, am I Francis, or, indeed,
any other of these quiet dreaming basking figures. The line of the
steamer's wash which is now on the point of breaking along the shore
is so nearly realizable as one with the sun or the sky, or me, or any
visible or tangible part of the whole, for each is the expression of
the Absolute....

I do not know whether this is Paganism or Pantheism, or what, but that
it is true seems beyond all power of doubt; it is certain, invariable,
all that varies is our power of feeling it. To me personally the sense
of home that Italy gives quickens my perception and assimilation
of it, and this is further fulfilled by the intimacy with external
things produced by these sun-soaked and sea-pickled mornings. Here in
the south one gets closer to the simple facts of the world, one is
welded to sun and sea; the communications between soul and body and
the external world are cleaned and fortified. It is as if the buzz
and clatter of a telephone suddenly cleared away, and the voice came
through unhindered. In England the distraction and complications that
necessarily crowd in on one in the land where one lives and earns one's
living, and is responsible for a house and is making arrangements
and fitting them into the hours of the day, choke the lines of
communication; here I strip them off even as I strip off my clothes to
wallow in the sea and lie in the sand. The barriers of individualism,
in which are situated both the sense of identity, and the loneliness
which the sense of _being oneself_ brings, are drawn up like the
sluices of a lock, letting the pour of external things, of sun and sea
and human beings into the quiet sundered pool. I begin to realize with
experience that I am part of the whole creation to which I belong.

You will find something of this consciousness in all that school of
thought known as mysticism; it is, indeed, the basis of mysticism,
whether that mysticism is pagan or Christian. In Greek thought you will
find it, expressed guardedly and tentatively, and it undoubtedly lies
at the base of some of their myths. It lurks in that myth of Narcissus,
the youth who, beholding his own fair image in tranquil water, was
drawn in by the spirits of the stream, and became a flower on the bank
of the pool where he had lost himself, becoming merged in creation. So,
too, in the story of Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved. Him, as he was
playing with the discus, the sun-god inadvertently slew, and from his
blood came up the flowers that bear his name. And more especially, for
here we get not the instance only but the statement of the idea itself,
we find it in the myth of Pan, the god of all Nature, the spirit of all
that is. He was not to be found in town or market-place, nor where men
congregate, but it might happen that the lonely wayfarer, as he passed
through untenanted valley or over empty hill-side, might hear the sound
of his magical fluting of the tune that has no beginning and no ending,
for it is as young as spring and as old as Time. He might even see him
seated in some vine-wreathed cave, and though the sight of him meant,
even as to Narcissus or to Hyacinthus, the death of the body, who shall
doubt that he to whom that vision was vouchsafed died because he had
utterly fulfilled himself as an individual, and his passing was the
bursting of his heart with the greatness of the joy that illuminated
him? He had beheld Nature--Nature itself with true eyes, and could no
longer exist in separate individual consciousness; seeing the spirit of
the All, he knew and was merged in his union with it.

Here is the pagan view of the All-embracing, All-containing God, and it
is hardly necessary to point out how completely it is parallel to, even
identical with, the revelations of Christian mysticism. The bridal of
the soul with her Lord, as known to St. Theresa, the dissolution and
bathing of the soul in love, its forsaking of itself and going wholly
from itself, which is the spirit of what Thomas à Kempis tells us of
the true way, are all expressions of the same spiritual attainment. To
them it came in the light of Christian revelation, but it was the same
thing as the Greek was striving after in terms of Pan. And in every
human soul is planted this seed of mystic knowledge, which grows fast
or slow, according to the soil where it is set, and the cultivation
it receives. To some the knowledge of it comes only in fitful faraway
flashes; others live always in its light. And the consciousness of it
may come in a hundred manners: to the worshipper when he receives the
mystery of his faith at the altar, to the lover when he beholds his
beloved, to the artist when the lift of cloud or the "clear shining
after rain" suddenly smites him personally and intimately, so that for
the moment he is no longer an observer but is part of what he sees.

But to none of us does the complete realization come until the time
when our individuality, as known to us here and now, breaks like the
folded flower from the sheath of the body. Often we seem nearly to get
there; we feel that if only we could stay in a state of mind that is
purely receptive and quiescent, the sense of it would come to us with
complete comprehension. But as we get near it, some thought, like a
buzzing fly, stirs in our brain, and with a jerk we are brought back
to normal consciousness, with the feeling that some noise has brought
us back from a dream that was infinitely more vivid and truer than the
world we awake to.

So it happened to me now. I saw and heard the hissing of the wash of
the steamer break on the shore, observing it and thinking about it. I
saw, too, that Francis had got up and was walking along towards me,
ankle-deep in the shallow water. He groped among the pebbles with his
hand, and picked something up. Then he came and lay down alongside, and
before he spoke I think I knew the gist of what he was going to say.

He held out to me what he had picked up. It was one of those fragments
of green mottled marble, such as we often find here, washed up from the
ruined pavements of the palace.

"What is it?" he said. "What is it really? God somehow, you know."

"Or you or me?" I suggested.

"Yes, of course. Either, both. But there is something, Someone, call it
the Absolute or the First Cause or God, which is quite everywhere. It
can't be local. That's the only explanation of All-there-is which will
hold water, and it holds water and everything else. But you don't get
at it by discussion and arguments, or even by thought. You've got to
open the windows and doors; let the air in. Perhaps you've got to knock
down and blow up the very house of your identity, and sit on the ruins
and wait. But it's the idea of that which makes me so busy in my lazy

The ripple of the steamer's wash died away again.

"Funny that you should have said that just now," I remarked.

"Why? Just because you had been thinking about it? I don't see that. If
the wind blew here, it would be odder that it didn't blow when I was
sitting over there."

"But did you know I had been thinking about it?"

"Well, it seemed likely. Let's have another swim before we dress.
There's trouble coming in the sky. It's the last of the serene days for
the present."

"But there was a high barometer this morning."

"There won't be when we get up to the Villa again," he said. "The sun
has got the central-heating touch to-day. It's been stuffy heat for the
last hour, not the heat of the fire. And look at the sky."

Certainly a curious change had taken place all over the firmament. It
was as if some celestial painter had put body-colour into what had been
a wash of pure blue; there was a certain white opacity mingled with
the previous clarity of it. The sun itself, too, was a little veiled,
and its heat, as Francis had said, seemed more like the radiation from
hot-water pipes than the genial glow of an open fire. Round it at a
distance of three or four of its diameters ran a pale complete halo, as
of mist. Yet what mist could live in such a burning and be unconsumed?

  "'Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimmed,'"

quoted Francis. "But here we have the two things occurring
simultaneously, which Shakespeare did not mean. But what, after all,
_didn't_ Shakespeare mean?"

We swam out round the fat German's promontory, floated, drifting with
the eastward setting current, came lazily in again, and even more
lazily walked up through the narrow cobbled path to where the rickety
little victoria was waiting for us on the road. The tourist boat had
arrived, and clouds of dust hung in the air, where their vehicles
had passed, undispersed by any breeze. The intolerable oppression of
the air was increasing every moment; the horse felt himself unable
to evolve even the semblance of a trot, and the driver, usually the
smartest and most brisk of charioteers, sat huddled up on his box,
without the energy to crack his whip or encourage his steed to a
livelier pace. Usually he sits upright and sideways, with bits of
local news for his passengers, and greetings for his friends on the
road; to-day he had nothing beyond a grunt of salutation, and a shrug
of the shoulders for the tip which he usually receives with a wave of
his hat, and a white-toothed "_Tante grazie!_" The Piazza, usually a
crowded cheerful sort of outdoor club at midday, was empty, but for a
few exhausted individuals who sat in the strips of narrow shadow, and
the post-office clerk just chucked our letters and papers at us. The
approach of Scirocco, though as yet no wind stirred, made everyone
cross and irritable, and set every nerve on edge, and from the kitchen,
when we arrived at the Villa, we heard sounds of shrill altercation
going on between Pasqualino and Seraphina, a thing portentously
unusual with those amicable souls. Pasqualino banged down the macaroni
on the table, and spilt the wine and frowned and shrugged till Francis
told him abruptly to mend his manners or let Seraphina serve us; on
which for a moment the sunny Italian child looked out from the clouds
and begged pardon, and said it was not he but the cursed Scirocco. And
then, following on the cloud in the sky that had spread so quickly over
the heavens, came the second cloud.

Francis had just opened the Italian paper which we had got at the
post-office and gave one glance at it.

"Horrible thing!" he said. "The Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the
Austrian throne, and his wife have been murdered at Serajevo. Where is
Serajevo? Pass the mustard, please."

       *       *       *       *       *

Pasqualino's myrtle wreath fell down during lunch (he told us that it
had done the same thing a good deal all morning), and he, exhausted by
his early rising to pick it, and the increasing tension of Scirocco,
went and lay down on the bench by the cistern in the garden as soon as
his ministrations were over, and after the fashion of Italians took off
his coat and put it over his head, which seemed odd on this broiling
and airless day. From the kitchen came the choking reverberation of
snores, and looking in, I saw Seraphina reposing augustly on the floor,
with her back propped up against the kitchen dresser and her mouth
wide, as if for presentation to a dentist. Francis retired to his
bedroom to lie down and sleep, and, feeling like Oenone that "I alone
awake," I went to my sitting-room to read the paper, and, if possible,
write a letter that ought to have been sent quite a week ago.

This room is furnished exactly as I chose to furnish it; consequently
it has got exactly all that I want in it, and, what is even more
important, it has nothing that I don't want. There is a vast table made
of chestnut wood, so big that a week's arrears can accumulate on it,
and yet leave space to write, to play picquet at the corner and to have
tea. (If there are any other uses for a table, I don't know them.) This
table stands so that the light from the window number one falls on it,
and close behind it along the wall is the spring mattress of a bed. On
it lies another thick comfortable mattress; above that a stamped linen
coverlet, and on that are three enormous cushions and two little ones.
The debilitated author, therefore, when the fatigue of composition
grows to breaking-point, can thus slide from his chair at the enormous
table, and dispose the cushions so as to ensure a little repose.
Opposite this couch stands a bookcase, where are those few works that
are necessary to salvation, such as "Wuthering Heights," "Emma," and
"The Rubáiyát," books that you can open anywhere and be instantly
wafted, as on a magic carpet, to familiar scenes that never lose the
challenge of novelty (for this is the reason of a book, just as it is
also of a friend). After the bookcase comes the door into my bedroom,
and after that, on the wall at right angles, window number two, looking
south. A chair is set against the wall just beyond it, and beyond again
(coming back to window number one, which looks west) another chair,
big, low and comfortable, convenient to which stands a small table, on
which Pasqualino has placed a huge glass wine-flask, and has arranged
in it the myrtle that was left over from his wreath. The walls of this
abode of peace are whitewashed and ungarnished by pictures, the ceiling
is vaulted, the tiled floor is uncarpeted, and outside window number
one is a small terrace, on the walls of which stand pots of scarlet
geraniums, where, when nights are too hot within, I drag a mattress, a
pillow and a sheet. There are electric lamps on both tables and above
the couch, and I know nothing that a mortal man can really want, which
is not comprised in this brief catalogue.

I wrote the letter that should have been written a week ago, found that
it didn't meet the case, and after tearing it up, lay down on the couch
(completely conscious of my own duplicity of purpose) in order, so I
said to myself, to think it over. But my mind was all abroad, and I
thought of a hundred other things instead, of the bathe, of the garden,
and wondered whether if I went into the studio and played the piano
very softly, it would disturb anybody. Then I had the idea that there
was someone in the studio, and found myself listening as to whether I
heard steps there or not. Certainly I heard no steps, but the sense
that there was someone there was rather marked. Then, simultaneously
I remembered how both Pasqualino and Seraphina had heard steps there,
when the house was otherwise empty, and had gone there, both singly and
together, to see if Francis or I had come in. But even as I did now,
they have entered and found the studio empty. Often I have hoped that
a ghost might lurk in those unexplained footfalls, but apparently the
ghost cannot make itself more manifest than this.

I stood there a moment still feeling that there was somebody there,
though I neither saw nor heard anything, and then went quietly along
the passage, under the spur of the restlessness that some people
experience before Scirocco bursts, and looked into Francis's room, the
door of which was open. He lay on his bed in trousers and opened shirt,
sleeping quietly. From here I could catch the sound of Seraphina's
snoring, and from the window could see the head-muffled Pasqualino
spread out in the shade of the awning above the garden cistern. And
feeling more Oenone-ish than ever, I went back and lay down again. It
was impossible in this stillness and stagnation of the oppressed air to
do more than wait, as quiescently as possible, for the passing of the

I was not in the least sleepy, but I had hardly lain down when the
muddle and blur of sudden slumber began to steal over my brain. I
thought I remembered seeing the murdered Archduke once in London, and
was I wrong in recollecting that he always wore a fur-tippet over
his mouth? I recognized that as nonsense, for I had never seen him at
all, and fell to thinking about Francis lying there on his bed, with
doors and windows open. It seemed to me rather dangerous that he should
lie there, relaxed and defenceless, for it was quite possible that
Miss Machonochie, recognizing that everything was one (even as I had
felt this morning on the beach) might easily prove to be Artemis, and
coming in moon-wise through Francis's window might annex her Endymion.
This seemed quite sensible ... or Caterina might float into the garden
in similar guise, and carry off Pasqualino ... perhaps both of these
love-disasters might happen, and then Seraphina and I alone would
be left.... I should certainly swim away to my _cache_, and live on
cigarettes and seaweed, and mercury from the thermometer.... I should
have to break the bulb to get at it, and I thought that I was actually
doing so.

It broke with a terrific crash, which completely awoke me. Another
crash followed and a scream: it was the second shutter of my window
that faced south being blown against the sash, and the scream was that
of the pent-up wind that burst with the suddenness of lightning out of
the sky. On the instant the house was full of noises, other shutters
clattered and banged, my open door slammed to, as the Scirocco howled
along the passage, as if making a raid to search the house. My pile of
unanswered businesses rose like a snowdrift from the table, and were
littered over the room; the wine flask and its myrtle overturned; a
pot of geraniums on the edge of the terrace came crashing down. In a
moment the whole stagnation of the world was rent to ribands, and the
ribands went flying on the wings of the wind. There was no doubt about
footsteps now: Pasqualino came rushing in from the garden, Seraphina
left her kitchen and bundled upstairs, and I collided with Francis as
we ran into the studio to close the windows. Never have I known so
surprising a pounce of the elemental forces of the world. A volcano
bursting in flame and lava at one's feet, a war suddenly springing
full-armed in a peaceful country, could not have shattered stillness
with so unheralded an uproar.

Five minutes served to bolt and bar the southern and western aspects
of the house from the quarter of the gale, and five more to repair
the damage of its first assault. After that we listened with glee to
its bellowing, and while Seraphina made tea, I went out of an eastern
entrance to gain further acquaintance with this savage south-wester
at first hand. It threw me back like a hot wave when I emerged from
the sheltered side of the house into its full blast, but soon, leaning
against it, I crept across the garden to the lower terrace. The
olive-trees were bending to it, as if some savage, invisible fish had
taken a bait they held out; twigs and branches were scurrying along
the paths, and mixed with them were the petals and the buds of flowers
that should have made July gay for us. A whirl of blue blossoms was
squibbing off the tangle of morning-glory; even the red pillar-trunk
of the stone-pine groaned as the wind drove through its umbrella of
dense foliage. The sun was quite hidden; only a pale discolourment
in the sky showed where it travelled, and to the south the sea was
already a sheet of whipped wave-tops under this Niagara of wind. It was
impossible to stand there long, and soon I let myself be blown back
up the garden and round the corner of the house into calm. Upstairs
Francis was already at tea; he had picked up the sheet of the Italian
paper which he had only glanced at during lunch.

"Serajevo appears to be in Servia," he said, "or Bosnia. One of those

"Oh, the murder!" said I. "The garden's in an awful mess."

"I suppose so. Tea?"

JULY, 1914

For the last seven weeks not a drop of rain has fallen on the island.
The great Scirocco of June brought none with it, and when that three
days' hurricane was over, we returned to the wonderful calm weather
that preceded it. Already nearly a month before the ordinary time the
grape clusters are beginning to grow tight-skinned on the vines, and
we expect an unprecedented vintage, for the Scirocco, though violent
enough on the south of the island, did no damage to the northern
slopes, where are the most of the vineyards. But the dearth of water
is already becoming serious, for depending, as we do, on the cisterns
where the rain is stored, it is full time that replenishment came to
their ebbing surfaces. For the last fortnight, unable to spare water
for other than household purposes, we have been obliged to maroon the
garden, so to speak, on a desert island, and already many householders
are buying water for purposes of ablution and cooking. Indeed, when,
last night, the sprightly Pasqualino announced that there was only
half a metre of water left in the second cistern (the first one we
improvidently emptied in order to clean it), and that the Signori would
have to have their risotto and macaroni boiled in the wine-juice, of
which there promised so remarkable a supply, Seraphina, who had come
upstairs for orders, told him pretty roundly that if this was meant for
a joke, it was in the worst possible taste, for it was she who ordered
the wine, and was responsible for the lowness of the Signori's bills.
Upon which Pasqualino sinuously retired with a deprecating smile,
leaving Seraphina, flushed with victory, in possession of the field....
In fact the situation is so serious, she proceeded to tell us, that the
priests have arranged that the silver image of San Costanzo is to-night
to be taken in procession from the cathedral, where it usually abides,
down to the Marina, where an altar is to be set up for him close to the
quay, and fireworks to be let off, so that he may be gratified and by
making intercession cause the rain we so sorely need to fall.

Certainly that seems a very sensible idea. The islanders adore
fireworks and processions, and it is only reasonable of them to endow
their saints with the same amiable tastes. San Costanzo, like all
sensible folk, whether saints or sinners, delights in fireworks and
processions, and of course he will be pleased to do his best after
that. (As a matter of fact, though I hate cynicism, I cannot help
remembering that the barometer has been falling these last three days,
and I wonder whether the priests who have arranged this _festa_ for San
Costanzo know that. I hope not.)

Seraphina's informant on these matters was not the priest, anyhow, but
Teresa of the cake shop.

"And is Teresa then going down to the Marina?" I asked.

Seraphina threw open her hands and tossed back her head in emphatic
denial. The Signor surely knew very well (or if he did not, Signorino
Francesco did) that it was twelve years now since Teresa had gone down
to the port, and never again would she set foot on that ill-omened
quay. _La povera!..._ And Seraphina stood in silence a moment, gravely
shaking her head. Then she threw off the melancholy train of thought
into which the mention of Teresa had led her.

"The meat comes from Naples to-morrow," she announced. "For dinner then
a piece of roast meat and the fish that Nino has promised and a soup of
vegetables. _Ecco!_ And there will be no cooking in wine as that scamp

       *       *       *       *       *

Afterwards Francis told me why Teresa of the cake shop never goes down
to the Marina, though _festas_ and fireworks beckon, and though San
Costanzo's silver image is borne there in solemn procession, so that he
may intercede for us, and cause to break up the brazen sky. It filled
up in the telling the studious or basking stage of our bathe next

"Fifteen years ago," he said, "when first I came to the enchanted
island, Teresa Stali was the prettiest maid and the daintiest cook in
all Alatri. That year I took for six months the Villa Bardi, which
belonged to her father, who told me that if I was in need of a cook he
could supply me with one of whom I should have no complaints. So, if I
had not already got one, Teresa would do everything I needed--cook my
food, look after the garden, and keep the house as bright as a Sunday
brooch. Teresa, he explained, was his daughter, a good girl, and would
I interview her. In answer to his loud cries of 'Teresa! Teresina!'
taken up by shrill voices along the street, there came to the door a
vision of tall black-haired maidenhood.

"'She is strong, too,' said her grinning parent, clapping her on the
shoulder. 'Eh, the Signor should have seen her bump the heads of
her two brothers together last week, when they threw stones at the
washing she had hung up to dry. Bang! bang! they will not meddle with
Teresina's washing again!'

"Of course I engaged this paragon, and never has a house been so
resplendent, never were such meals offered for the refreshment of
the esurient sons of men, as when Teresa was Prime Minister in the
Villa Bardi. She was scarcely capable, it seemed, of walking, for her
nimble feet broke into a run whenever more than a yard or two must
be traversed; household work was a festival to her, and she sang as
she emptied slops. Flowers, fresh every day, decked my table; you
could have eaten off the floors, and each morning my shoes shone with
speckless whitening. One thing alone had power to depress her, and that
if by chance I went out to dine with friends, so that there was no
opportunity that evening for her kitchen-magic. The antidote was that
on another day someone would dine with me, so that others beside her
own signor should taste the perfect fruits of her oven.

"Often, when the table was cleared in the evening, and she came to
get orders for next day before going back to her father's house for
the night, she would stop and talk to me, for, in that she was in my
household, she was of my family, identified with my interests and I
with hers. By degrees I learned her domestic history, how there was a
brother doing his military service, how there were two younger boys
still at home, whom Satan continually inspired to unspeakable deeds (of
which the stoning of her washing was among the milder); how her mother
had taught her all she knew of cooking, how her father was the best
carpenter in all South Italy, so that he had orders from Naples, from
Salerno, from Rome even. And, finally, she told me about herself, how
that she was engaged to Vincenzo Rhombo, of Santa Agatha, who had gone
to Buenos Ayres to seek his fortune, and was finding it, too, with both
hands. He had been gone for two years now, and last year he had sent
her seven hundred francs to keep for him. Every year he was going to
send her all he saved, and when he came home, Dio!...

"The post used to arrive about half-past eight in the morning, and was
announced by sepulchral knocking on the garden door, on which Teresa,
if she was brushing and tidying upstairs, flew down to take in the
letters, duster in hand, or with whatever occupied her busy fingers at
the moment. From there she rushed along the garden terrace to where
I was breakfasting underneath the pergola, bringing me my letters.
But one morning, I saw her take them in, and instead of coming to me,
she sat down on the steps and remained there a long time, reading.
Eventually I called to her.

"'Nothing for me, Teresa?' I asked.

"Instantly she sprang up.

"'Pardon--a thousand pardons,' she said. 'There are two letters, and a
packet, a great packet.'

"'And you have had a packet?' I asked.

"'Jesu! Such a packet! May I show the Signor? Look, here is Vincenzo,
his very self! And again seven hundred francs. Ah, it _is_ Vincenzo! I
can hear him laughing.'

"She laid the photograph before me, and, indeed, you could hear
Vincenzo laughing. The merry handsome face was thrown back, with mouth
half open.

"'And such news!' she said. 'He has done better than ever this year,
and has bought a piece of land, or he would have sent even more money
home. And at the end----' she turned over the sheets, 'at the end he
writes in English, which he is learning. What does it mean, Signor?'

"This is what Vincenzo had written:

"'My corrospondence must now stopp, my Teresina, but never stopps my
love for you. Across the sea come my kisses, O my Teresina, and from
the Heart of your Vincenzo. I kiss my corrospondence, and I put it in
the envelop.'

"I translated this and turned to the dim-eyed Teresina.

"'And that is better than all the money,' she said.

"Then she became suddenly conscious that she was carrying my trousers,
which she was brushing when the knock of the postman came.

"'Dio! What a slut is Teresina!' she exclaimed. 'Scusi, Signor.'

"I went back to England at the termination of my lease of the Villa
Bardi, for interviews with stormy uncles, and the settlement of many
businesses, and it was some months later that I set off on my return
here, with finality in my movements. On the way I had intended to stop
half a week in Naples to take my last draught of European culture. But
the sight of Alatri on the evening I arrived there, harp-shaped and
swimming molten in a June sunset, proved too potent a magnet. Besides,
there was reputed to be a great deal of cholera in Naples, and I have
no use for cholera. So, early next morning I embarked at the Castello
d'Ovo to come back to my beloved island.

"It was a morning made for such islanders as I: the heat was
intense but lively, and the first thing to do on landing was to
'Mediterranizer' myself, as Nietzsche says, and bathe, wash off the
stain of the mainland and of civilization, and be baptized, finally
baptized, into this dreamland life. I often wonder whether dreams----"

"Stick to your story," said I. "It's about Teresa."

Francis shifted on his elbow.

"There was a bucketful of changes here," he said, "and I was
disconcerted, because I expected to find everything exactly as I had
left it. Alatri is the sleeping-beauty--isn't it true?--and the years
pass, and you expect to see her exactly as she was in the nineties.
But now they were talking of a funicular railway to connect the Marina
with the town, and Giovanni the boatman had married, and they said his
wife had already cured him of his habits. Oh, she brushed his hair for
him, she did! And a damned American had started a lending library, and
we were all going to enlarge our minds on a circulating system, and
there was a bathing establishment planned, where on Sunday afternoon
you could drink your sirop to the sound of a band, and see the sluts
from Naples. But it fell into the sea all right, and the posts of it
are covered with barnacles. Far more important it was that Teresa had
opened a cake-shop in a superb position, as you know, close to the
Piazza, so that when you come in from your walk you cannot help buying
a cake: the force of its suggestion is irresistible. She opened it with
good money, too, the money that Vincenzo had sent her back from Buenos
Ayres. The cake-shop was now proceeding famously, and it was believed
that Teresa was making twenty per cent. on her outlay, which is as much
as you can hope to get with safety. But it had been--the cake-shop--a
prodigious risk; for a month when the island was empty it had not
prospered, and Teresa's family distended their poor stomachs nightly
with the cakes that were left unsold that day, for Teresa had high
ideas, and would have nothing stale in her shop. She brought the unsold
things home every night in a bag, for fresh every morning must be her
cakes, and so the family ate the old ones and saved the money for their
supper. Rich they were, many of them, and stuffed with cream.

"But after an anxious four weeks the _forestieri_ began to arrive,
and under their patronage, up went Teresa's cake-shop like a rocket.
Customers increased and jostled; and Teresa, the daring, the audacious,
took good luck on the wing, and started a tea-place on the balcony
above the cake-shop, and bought four iron-legged, marble-topped
tea-tables, and linen napkins, no less. She washed these incessantly,
for her tea-place was always full, and Teresa would no more have dirty
napkins than she would have stale cakes. That is Teresa!

"Business expanded. One of the two young brothers (whose heads she so
soundingly knocked together) she now employed in the baking of her
cakes, and for the other she bought, straight off, a suit of white
drill with ten thousand bone buttons, and gave him employment in
bringing the tea-trays up to the customers in the balcony. She paid
them both good wages, but Satan, as usual, entered into their malicious
heads, and once in the height of the season they confabulated, and
thought themselves indispensable, and struck for higher wages. Else
they would no longer bake or hand the bakeries.

"A less supreme spirit than Teresa's might have given in, and raised
their wages. Instead she hurried their departure, and no whit
discouraged, she rose at four in the morning, and baked, and when
afternoon came had all ready, and flew upstairs and downstairs, and
never was there so good a tea as at Teresa's, nor so quickly served.
In three days she had broken the fraternal strike, and the baffled
brothers begged to be taken back. Then Teresa, who had been too busy
to attend to them before, for she was doing their work in addition to
her own, condescended to them, and told them what she really thought of
them. She sat in a chair, did Teresa, and loosed her tongue. There was
a blistering of paint that day on the balcony, though some said it was
only the sun which had caused it....

"Two sad-faced males returned to their work next day, at a stipend
of five francs per month less than they had hitherto received. The
island, which had watched the crisis with the intensest interest,
loudly applauded her spirit, and told the discouraged but repentant
labour-party that only a good-hearted sister would have taken them back
at all. She had not even smacked them, which she was perfectly capable
of doing, in spite of their increasing inches, but perhaps her tongue
was even more stinging than the flat of her hand. Great was Teresa of
the cake-shop!

"All this I heard, and the best news of all remained to tell, for
Vincenzo was even now on his way back from Buenos Ayres. He had made
a tremendous hit with the land he had bought last summer, had money
enough to pay off the mortgages on his father's farm at Santa Agatha,
and he and Teresa would marry at once. Then, alas! Alatri would know
Teresa no more, for she would live with her husband on the mainland.
Already she had been made a very decent offer for the appurtenances
and goodwill of the cake-shop, which, so she told me, she was secretly
inclined to accept. But according to the proper ritual of bargaining,
she had, of course, refused it, and told Giorgio Stofa that when he had
a sensible proposition to make to her, he might call again. Giorgio, a
mean man by all accounts, had been seen going to the bank that morning,
and Teresa expected him to call again very soon.

"This conversation took place in the cake-shop while all the time she
bustled about, now diving into the bake-house to stimulate the industry
of Giovanni, now flying up to the balcony to see if Satan's other limb
had put flowers on the marble-topped tables. Then, for a moment there
was peace, and love looked out of Teresa's eyes.

"'Eh, Signor,' she said. 'Vincenzo will be home, if God wills, by the
day of Corpus Domini. What a _festa! Dio!_ What a _festa_ will that be!'

"The serene island days began to unroll themselves again, with long
swimmings, long baskings on the beach, long siestas on grilling
afternoons, when the whole island lay mute till the evening coolness
began, and only the cicalas chirped in the oleanders. Then, as the heat
of the day declined, I would often have tea on Teresa's balcony, and
on one such afternoon the great news came, and Teresa put into my hand
the telegram she had just received from Naples, which told her that
Vincenzo's ship had arrived, and that her lover had come back. Business
necessary to transact would detain him there for a day, and for another
day he must be at Santa Agatha, but on the morning of Corpus Domini he
would come to Alatri, by the steamer that arrived at noon....

"'Six years since he went,' said Teresa. 'And oh, Signor, it is but as
a day. We shall keep the _festa_ together and see the fireworks.... We
shall go up into the rockets,' she cried in a sudden kindling of her
tongue. 'We shall be golden rain, Vincenzo and I.'

"'And I shall stand below, oh, so far below,' said I, 'and clap my
hands, and say "Eccoli!" That is, if I approve of Vincenzo.'

"Teresa put her hands together.

"'Eh! but will Vincenzo approve of me?' she said. 'Will he think I have
grown old? Six years! Oh, a long time.'

"'It is to be hoped that Vincenzo will not be a pumpkin,' I remarked.
'Give me the large sort of cake, Teresa. I will carry it up to the

"Teresa frowned.

"'The cakes are a little heavy to-day,' she said. 'I had a careless
hand. You had better take two small ones, and if you do not like them,
you will send back the second. _Grazie tante, Signor._'

"The news that Vincenzo was to arrive by the midday boat on Corpus
Domini, spread through the town, and all Teresa's family and friends
were down at the Marina to give him welcome. A heavy boat-load of
visitors was expected, and the little pier was cleared of loungers,
so that the disembarkation in small boats from the steamer might, be
unimpeded. But by special permission Teresa was given access to the
landing-steps, so that she might be the first to meet her lover, even
as he set foot on the shore, and there, bare-headed and twinkling with
all her _festa_ finery, she waited for him. In the first boat-load that
put off from the steamer he came, standing in the prow, and waving to
her, while she stood with clasped hands and her heart eager with love.
He was the first to spring ashore, leaping across to the steps before
the boat had come alongside, and with a great cry, jubilant and young,
he caught Teresa to him, and for a supreme moment they stood there,
clasped in each other's arms. And then he seemed to fall from her and
collapsed suddenly on the quay, and lay there writhing.... The cholera
that was prevalent in Naples had him in his grip, and in two hours he
was dead...."

Francis sat silent a little after the end of his story.

"So now you know," he said, "why for fourteen years Teresa of the
cake-shop has never gone down to the Marina."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, when the thud and reverberation of the fireworks began down
on the Marina, Francis and I went into the town to see them from above.
The Piazza was deserted, for all Alatri had gone down to the port to
take part in this procession and explosion in honour of San Costanzo,
so that he might make intercession and send rain to the parched island,
and we went out on to the broad paved platform which overlooks the
Marina. This, too, seemed to be deserted, and perched on the railing
that surrounds it, we watched the golden streaks of the ascending
rockets, and their flowering into many-coloured fires. At this distance
the reports reached the ear some seconds after their burstings; their
plumes of flame had vanished before their echoes flapped in the cliffs
of Monte Gennaro. The moon was not yet risen, and their splendour
burned brilliantly against the dark background of the star-sown sky.
By and by a whole sheaf of them went up together, and afterwards a
detonating bomb showed that the exhibition was over. And then we saw
that we were not alone, for in the dark at the far end of the railings
a black figure was watching. She turned and came towards us, and I saw
who it was.

"You have been looking at the fireworks, Teresa?" said Francis.

"_Sissignor._ They have been very good. San Costanzo should send us
rain after that. But who knows? It is God's will, after all."

"Surely. And how goes it?"

She smiled at him with that sweet patient face, out of which fourteen
years ago all joy and fire died.

"The cake-shop?" she said. "Oh, it prospers. It always prospers. I am
trying a new recipe to-morrow--a meringue."

"And you--you yourself?" he asked.

"I? I am always well. But often I am tired of waiting. _Pazienza!_
Shall I send some of the new meringues up to the Villa, if they turn
out well, Signor?"

Francis had an inexplicable longing that evening to play chess, and
as he despises the sort of chess I play with the same completeness
as I despise parsnips, I left him with someone less contemptible at
the café, and strolled up to the Villa again alone, going along the
paved way that overlooks the sea to the south. High up was hung an
amazing planet, and I felt rather glad I was no astronomer, and knew
not which it was, for the noblest of names would have been unworthy
of that celestial jewel. As if it had been a moon, the reflection of
its splendour made a golden path across the sea, and posturing in its
light, I found that it actually cast a vague shadow of me against a
whitewashed wall. To the east the rim of the hill, where is situated
the wireless station, was beginning to stand out very black against a
dove-coloured sky, and before I had reached the steep steps that lead
past the garden wall, the rim of the full moon had cut the hill-top,
dimming the stars around it, and swiftly ascending, a golden bubble
in the waters of the firmament, it had shot up clear of the horizon
and refashioned the world again in ivory and black. All the gamut of
colours was dipped anew; blues were translated into a velvety grey,
so too were greens, and though the eye could see the difference, it
was impossible to say what the difference was. Simply what we call
blue by daylight became some kind of grey; what we call green a
totally distinct kind of grey and blacker than the darkest shadow of
the stone-pine was the shouting scarlet of the geraniums. No painter
(pace the Whistlerians) has ever so faintly suggested the magic of
moon-colouring, and small blame to him, since the tone of it cannot be
rendered in pictures that are seen in the daylight. But if you take the
picture of a sunny day, and look at it in moonlight, you will see, not
a daylight picture, but a moonlight scene. The same thing holds with
daylight scents and night-scents, and the fragrance of the verbena by
the house wall was not only dimmer in quality, but different in tone.
It was recognizable but different, ghost-like, disembodied without the
smack of the sun in it.

I strolled about for a little, and then having (as usual) writing
on hand that should have been done days before, I went reluctantly
into the house. I was quite alone in it, for Seraphina had gone home,
Pasqualino was down at the Marina taking part in fireworks and
_festa,_ and I had left Francis in a stuffy café pondering on gambits.
We had dined early by reason of the fireworks, and before going up to
my sitting-room to work, I foraged for cake and wine in the kitchen,
and carried these upstairs. It was very hot, and I went first into the
studio, where I set the windows wide, and next into Francis's room and
Pasqualino's, where I did the same. Then I came back to my own room,
exactly opposite the studio, and, stripped to shirt and trousers, with
door and windows wide, I sat down for an hour's writing.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is no such incentive to constructive thought as the knowledge
that, humanly speaking, interruption is impossible. Seraphina would
not return till morning, while _festa_ and chess would undoubtedly
detain Pasqualino and Francis for the next couple of hours. I had a
luxurious sense of security; should I be so fortunate as to strike
the vein I was delving for, I could go on mining there without let
or hindrance. Reluctant though I had been to begin, I speedily found
myself delightfully engrossed in what I was doing. Probably it did not
amount to much, but the illusion in the author's mind, when he tinkers
away at his tale, that he is doing something vastly important, is one
that is never shaken, even though he continually finds out afterwards
that the masterpiece has missed fire again. While he is engaged on his
scribbling (given that his pen is in an interpreting frame of mind,
and records without too many stumblings the dictation his brain gives
it), he is in that Jerusalem that opens its gates of pearl only to
the would-be artist, be he painter or poet or writer or sculptor. He
is constructing, recording his impressions, and though (I hasten to
repeat) they may be totally unworthy of record, he doesn't think so
when he is engaged on them, for if he did, he would be conscious of
external affairs, his mind would wander, and he would stop. Often, of
course, that happens, but there are other blessed occasions when he is
engulfed by his own imaginings, and absorbed in the reproduction of

It was so with me that night, when I sat quite alone in the silent
house, knowing that none could disturb me for a couple of hours to
come. Italy, even the fact that I was in Italy, vanished from my mind,
and for the sake of the curious, at the risk of egoism, I may mention
that I was with Mrs. Hancock in her bedroom in her horrid villa called
Arundel, and looking over her jewels with her, to see what she could
spare, without missing it, as a wedding present for her daughter.
Engaged in that trivial pursuit, I lost conscious touch with everything

Quite suddenly a very ordinary noise, though as startling as the
ringing of a telephone-bell at my elbow, where there was no telephone,
snatched me away from my imaginings. There was a step in the studio
just opposite, and I made no doubt that Francis had got home, had come
upstairs without my hearing him, and no doubt thinking that I was at
work, had passed into the studio. But then, looking at my watch, which
lay on the table before me, I saw that it was still only half-past
ten, and that I had been at work (and he at chess) for barely half an
hour. But there was no reason that I should not go on working for an
hour yet, and though my sense of security from interruption was gone,
I anchored myself to my page again. But something had snapped; I could
not get back into Mrs. Hancock's bedroom again, and after a few feeble
sentences, and a corresponding number of impatient erasures, I came to
a full stop.

I sat there for some ten minutes more, vainly endeavouring to
concentrate again over Mrs. Hancock's jewels, but Francis's steps were
in some way strangely disturbing. They passed up the studio, paused
and returned, and paused and passed up again. Then, but not till then,
there came into my mind the fact that Seraphina and Pasqualino had at
different times heard (or thought they heard) footsteps in the studio,
and on investigation had found it empty, and I began to wonder, still
rather dimly and remotely, whether these were indeed the pacings of
Francis up and down the room. My reasonable mind told me that they
were, but the recollection of those other occasions became momently
more vivid, and I got up to see.

The door of my room and that of the studio were exactly opposite each
other, with the width of a narrow passage between them. Both doors
were open, and on going into the passage I saw that the studio was
dark within. It seemed odd that Francis should walk up and down, as he
was still continuing to do, in the dark.

I suddenly felt an intense curiosity to know whether this was Francis
walking up and down in the dark, or rather an intense desire to satisfy
myself that it was not. The switch of the electric light was just
inside the door, and even as my hand fumbled for it I still heard the
steps quite close to me. Next moment the studio leaped into light as I
pressed the switch, and I looked eagerly up and down it. There was no
one there, though half a second before I had heard the footsteps quite
close to me.

I stood there a moment, not conscious of fear, though I knew that
for some reason my heart was creaking in my throat, and that I felt
an odd prickly sensation on my head. But my paramount feeling was
curiosity as to who or what it was that went walking here, my paramount
consciousness that, though I could see no one, and the steps had
ceased, there was someone close to me all the time, watching me not
unkindly. But beyond doubt, for all visible presence, the studio was
empty, and I knew that the search which I now carried out, visiting the
darker corners, and going on to the balcony outside, from which there
was no external communication further, was all in vain. Whatever it was
that I, like Pasqualino and Seraphina, had heard, it was not a thing
that hid itself. It was there, waiting for us to perceive it, waiting
for the withdrawal of the shutter that separates the unseen world from
the seen. The shutter had been partly withdrawn, for I had heard it; I
had also the strong sense of its presence. But I had no conception as
to what it was, except that I felt it was no evil or malignant thing.

I went back to my room, and, oddly enough, directly after so curious
an experience, I found myself able to concentrate on Mrs. Hancock
again without the slightest difficulty, and spent an absorbed hour.
Then I heard the garden gate open, there were steps on the stairs, and
a moment afterwards Francis came up. I told him what had happened,
exactly as I have set it down. He asked a few slightly scornful
questions, and then proceeded to tell me how he had lost his king's
bishop. I could not ask scornful questions about that, but it seemed
very careless of him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The very next morning there turned up information which seems to
my mind (a mind which Francis occasionally describes as credulous)
to bear upon the watcher and walker in the studio, and it happened
in this wise. Ten days before, the careful Seraphina had collected
certain table-cloths, sheets and socks that needed darning, and with a
view to having them thoroughly well done, and with, I make no doubt,
another motive as well in her superstitious mind, had given the job to
Donna Margherita, a very ancient lady, but nimble with her needle,
to whom we are all very polite. Even Francis (though he has admirable
manners with everybody) goes out of his way to be civil to Donna
Margherita, and no one, who is at all prudent, will fail to give her
a "Good day" if he passes her in the street. But if the wayfarer sees
Donna Margherita coming in his direction, and thinks she has not yet
seen him, he will, if he is prudent, turn round and walk in another
direction. I have known Francis to do that on some paltry excuse (and
he says I have a credulous mind!), but his real reason is that though
he would not admit it, he is aware that Donna Margherita has the evil
eye. Consequently we islanders must not vex her or be other than
scrupulously civil to her, though we keep out of her way if we can,
and when we must pass her it is wise to make the sign of the Cross
surreptitiously. We do not talk about her much, for it is as well not
to get near the confines of dangerous things; but before now Pasqualino
has told me of various occurrences which to his mind put it beyond all
doubt that Donna Margherita has the _jettatura._ There was the affair
of his uncle's fig-tree: he had been foolish and said sharp things to
her because her goat strayed into his vineyard. And Donna Margherita
just looked at the fig-tree which grows by his gate, and said: "You
have a fine fig-tree there; there will be plenty of fruit this summer."
Within a fortnight all the crop of little half-ripe figs dropped off.
There was her landlord who threatened to turn her out unless her
quarter's overdue rent was paid the same evening. Was it paid? Not
a bit of it; but the very same day the landlord's kitchen roof fell
in.... There is no end to such evidence, and so when ten days ago Donna
Margherita asked Seraphina if there was not any mending for her to do,
it is no wonder (especially since she is so neat with her needle) that
Seraphina gave her our lacerated linen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such is the history of Donna Margherita, and so when this morning,
as we were breakfasting, her knock came at the garden door, and she
entered, Francis jumped up, and called Seraphina from the kitchen to
pay for the mending and give Donna Margherita a glass of wine on this
hot morning. It was cool and shady under the pergola where we were
breakfasting, and as the old lady had a fancy to sit down for a little
after her walk, she came along and sat down with us. And, vying with
each other in courtesies, Pasqualino brought her a slice of cake, and
Seraphina a glass of wine, and then hastily retired from the dangerous
neighbourhood, and looked out on the interview with troubled faces from
an upper window.

To judge by her dried-apple cheek, and her gnarled and knotted hands,
Donna Margherita might almost number the years with which Alatri
credits her, asserting that she is a hundred summers old. Eighty, at
any rate, she must be, since she has good recollection of the events of
more than seventy years ago, and as she sipped her wine and clinked
the soldi Seraphina (grossly overpaying) had given her, she talked
amiably enough about our house and her early memories of it.

"Yes, it's a fine villa that the Signori have," she said; "but I can
remember it as but a farm-house before additions were made to it. The
farm buildings used to lean against it on the north, where later the
big room was built by the English artist; byre and cow-house were
there, and when I was a little girl a strange thing happened."

She mumbled her cake a little in her toothless jaws and proceeded:

"The farm in those days belonged to Giovanni Stofa, long since dead,
and there he lived alone with his son, who is long dead also. One night
after the house was shut up, and they sat together before going to bed,
there came a noise and a clatter from the cow-house, very curious to
hear. Giovanni thought that one of the cows had convulsions and ran out
of the house and round by the kitchen, and into the shed where the two
cows were stabled. And as he opened the door he was near knocked down,
for both of them ran out with hoofs in the air and tails switching.
Then, not knowing what should meet his eyes, he turned the lantern that
he carried into the cow-house, and there standing in the middle was a
_strega_ (witch). But she looked at him not unkindly, and said: 'I have
come to guard the house, and from henceforth I shall always guard it,
walking up and down, ever walking up and down.'

"The _strega_ smiled at him as she spoke, and his knees ceased to
tremble, for this was no black visitant.

"'Your cattle will not be frightened again,' she said. 'Look, even now
they come back.'

"As she spoke, first one and then the other of the cows came into the
stable again, and walked right up to where the _strega_ stood, blowing
hard through their nostrils. And next moment they lay down close to
her, one on each side.

"'You will often hear me walking about here,' said the _strega;_ 'but
have no fear, for I guard the house.'

"And with that there came just one puff of wind, and Giovanni's lantern
flickered, and lo! when the flame was steady again there was no
_strega_ there."

       *       *       *       *       *

Donna Margherita took a sip of wine after her recitation.

"And does she still walk up and down where the cow-house was?" I asked.

"Surely; but fat ears cannot hear even the thunder," quoted Donna
Margherita. "And now, Signori, I will be walking. And thanks for the
soldi and the cake and the wine."

Francis got up too.

"You are active still, Donna Margherita," he said.

Donna Margherita stepped briskly down the path.

"Eh, yes, Signor," she said. "I am old but active; I can still do such
a day's work as would surprise you."

Francis's eye and mine met; we were behind her, so that she could not
see the exchanged glance. What was in both our minds was the affair of
Pasqualino's uncle's fig-tree, for that had certainly been a surprising
day's work. But after she had gone, he alluded again to the steps I
had heard in the studio in a far more respectful manner. The fact is,
so I made bold to tell him, that he does not like Donna Margherita's
unconscious innuendo that he has fat ears.

The hot, serene days pursued their relentless course without our
experiencing any of the watery benefits we had hoped for from the treat
of fireworks that we had given to San Costanzo, for immediately after
that improvised _festa_ the falling barometer retraced its downward
steps, and the needle stood, steady as if it had been painted there, on
the "V" of "Very Dry." Miss Machonochie's cistern, so she informed us,
had barely a foot of water in it, and she came up to ask if she might
borrow a few pailfuls from ours of a morning. "Borrow" was good, since
naturally she could not pay it back till the rain came and replenished
her store, and the moment the rain came it would be a foolish thing
to go carrying pailfuls of water from one house to another when all
were plentifully supplied. But she made a great point of putting down
exactly how many pailfuls she borrowed, and also made a great point of
coming to thank Francis every other afternoon about tea-time for his
kindness. She did not care about thanking me, though I had been just as
kind as Francis, and eventually, owing to the awful frequency of these
visits, we posted Pasqualino on the balcony overlooking the path to
give warning (like Brangäene from her tower) of Miss Machonochie's fell
approach, while we had tea, so that we could effect an exit through
the kitchen door, and live, like outlaws, in the heather, till Miss
Machonochie had left her gratitude behind her. It was not sufficient to
instruct Pasqualino to say we were out, for then Miss Machonochie would
sit and rest in the garden for a little, or come up to the studio to
write a letter of thanks (always to Francis). But with Pasqualino on
the balcony, we can sit in peace over tea, till with a broad grin that
occasionally explodes into laughter, he comes in to say that the Scotch
Signorina's sunshade is a-bobbing up the path. Then we hastily scald
ourselves with tea and go for a walk, for no longer in this dearth of
water can the garden be refreshed, but must needs lie waterless, till
the rain revisits us.

To-day we made an expedition up Monte Gennaro, the great crag that
rises sheer from the south side of the island in two thousand feet of
unscalable cliff. From the west the ascent is a mild, upward path over
a stony hill-side, and the more delectable way is on its east side,
where a very steep ascent burrows among thick growing scrub of laburnum
and arbutus till it reaches the toppling precipices that frown above
it. There, squeezing through interstices and fissures, it conducts to
a huge grassy upland, unsuspected from below, that sweeps upward to the
summit. A pine-tree or two stand sentinel here, but there is little
anchorage of soil for trees, and for the most part the hill-side is
clothed in long jungle grasses and spaces of sunny broom, the scent
of which hangs sweet and heavy in the windless air. Here the dews
are thicker, and the heat less intense, and though the rain has been
so long withheld, the hill-side is still green and unwithered, and
deep among the grasses we saw abundance of the great orange-coloured
lilies that we had come to gather. But that task was for the downward
journey, and first we ascended to the peak itself. As we climbed, the
island dwindled below us, and at last at the summit it had shrunk to a
pin's-head in the girdle of the dim sea, domed with huge blue.

West, south and north, straight to the high horizon, stretched the
untarnished and liquid plain; here and there, like some minute fly
walking on a vast sheet of sapphire glass, moved an ocean-going
steamer. Eastwards there floated, distant and dreamlike but curiously
distinct, the shores and peaks of the mainland, and from it, on this
side and that, there swam the rocks of the Siren isles, as if trying
to join Alatri, the boldest swimmer of them all. The remoteness and
tranquillity of mountain tops lay round us, and curious it was to think
that down there, where Naples sparkled along the coast, there moved a
crowd of insatiable ant-like folk, busy on infinitesimal things that
absorbed and vexed and delighted them. Naples itself was so little; it
was as if, in this great emptiness of sea and sky, some minute insect
was seen, and one was told that that minute insect swarmed with other
minute forms of life. To look at it was to look at a piece of coral,
and remember that millions of animalculæ built up the structure that
was but a bead in a necklace. And here, lying at ease on the grass,
were just two more of the coral-insects that mattered so much to
themselves and to each other....

We slewed round again seawards, and looked over the precipitous
southern cliffs. A little draught of wind blew up them, making the
grasses at the rim shake and tremble. From below a hawk swooped
upwards over the cliff edge, saw us, and fell away again with a rustle
of reversed feathers into the air. Round the base of the cliffs the
sapphire of the sea was trimmed with brilliant bottle-green, and not
the faintest line of foam showed where it met the land. To the left on
the island, the town of Alatri, with all its house-roofs and spires,
looked as flat as on a map, and on the hill-side above it we could
just make out the stone-pine cutting the white façade of the Villa
Tiberiana. For a moment that anchored me to earth; but slipping my
cable again, I spread myself abroad in the openness and the emptiness.
Was I part of it, or it part of me? That did not matter much; we were
certainly both part of something else, something of tumultuous energy
that whirled the stars on their courses, and was yet the peace that
passed understanding....

       *       *       *       *       *

The days had slipped away. Before the orange lilies, which we gathered
that afternoon on Monte Gennaro, were withered, there remained to me
but a week more for the present of island life, which flowed on hour
by hour in the normal employments that made up the day. But all the
small events, the sights and sounds, had to me then, as they have now,
a curious distinctness, as when before a storm outlines of hills and
houses are sharp and defined, and the details of the landscape are
etched vividly in the metallic tenseness of the preceding calm. But, as
far as I knew, there were in life generally no threats of approaching
storm, no clouds that broke the serenity of the sky. Privately, my
friendships and affairs were prosperous, and though by the papers it
appeared that politicians were turning anxious eyes to Ireland, where
ferment was brewing over Home Rule, I supposed, in the happy-go-lucky
way in which the average English citizen goes whistling along, that
those whose business it was to attend to such things would see to it.
Personally I intended to go back to England for a couple of months, and
then return here for the warm golden autumn that often lasts into the
early days of December. Established now, in this joint house, "_piccolo
nido in vasto mar,_" I meant to slide back often and for prolonged
periods down the golden cord that has always bound me to Italy. But
though these days were so soon to be renewed, I found myself clinging
to each minute as it passed with a sense that they were numbered; that
the sands were running out, and that close behind the serenity of the
heavens there lurked the flare of some prodigious judgment. Yet, day
by day there was nothing to warrant those ominous presages. I swam
to my cache, smoked my cigarette, basked on the beach, and continued
weaving the adventures of Mrs. Hancock. The same sense of instability,
I found, beset Francis also, and this in spite of the fact that the
beleaguerings of Miss Machonochie were suddenly and celestially put a
stop to.

We had strolled down to the Piazza one evening after dinner, and
mingled with the crowd that stood watching a great display of
thunderstorm that was bursting over the mainland twenty miles away.
Above us here was a perfectly clear sky, in which the full moon rode
high, and by its light we could see that the whole of the coast was
smothered in cloud, out of which broke ten times to the minute flashes
of lightning, while the low, remote roar of the thunder, faintly echoed
on the cliffs of Monte Gennaro, boomed without ceasing. Then we saw
that long streamers of cloud were shooting out of that banked rampart
towards us, and we had barely got back to the Villa again before the
moon and the stars were obscured, and hot single drops of rain, large
as a five-franc piece, steamed and vanished on the warm cement of the

All night long the rain fell in sheets, and through the slats of
the shutters I saw the incessant flashes, while the thunder roared
and rattled overhead, and the pipe from the house-roof, that feeds
our depleted cistern, gurgled and gulped and swallowed the rain it
was thirsting for. Hour after hour the downpour continued, and when
morning broke the garden-paths were riddled with water-courses, and
the gathered waters gleamed in the cisterns, and Miss Machonochie need
"borrow" no more, nor come up about tea-time to thank Francis for his
largesse, and hound us from our tea to seek refuge on arid hill-sides.
Pasqualino remarked that San Costanzo had been a long time thanking us
for the fireworks; did I suppose that----And as Pasqualino's remarks
about the hierarchy of Heaven are sometimes almost embarrassingly
child-like in their reasonableness, I skilfully changed the subject by
telling him to measure the water in the cistern.

But though Francis need no longer be afraid of Miss Machonochie, "the
arrow that flieth by day" so constantly transfixing him, and though
after prolonged thought he confessed that there was nothing else in
life which bothered him, except that in two years' time Pasqualino
would have to go for his military service, and he himself would have
to find another servant (which really seemed a trial, the fieriness of
which need not be allowed to scorch so soon), he shares my sense of
instability and uneasiness, and, like me, cannot in any way account
for it. To encourage him and myself on the morning of my departure as
we had our last bathe, I was noble enough to let him into the secret
of my cache of cigarettes in the seaweed-hung recess in the rock, and
together we lit the farewell incense to the _Palazzo a mare,_ sitting
on the rock.

"And there are two left," said I, "which we will smoke together here
the first day that I come back."

"Is that a promise?" he said.


"And when will you keep it?"

"About the middle of September."

"And if you don't?" he asked.

"Well, it will only mean that I have been run over by a motor-car, or
got cancer, or something of the sort, or that you have. If we are still
in control of ourselves we'll do it. I wonder if those two cigarettes
will be mouldy or pickled with brine by that time?"

"Kippered or mouldy or pickled, I will smoke one of them on the day you
return," said he.

"And I the other. But I hope it won't be mouldy. Or I shall be sick,"
said I.

"Likely. Lord, what a pleasant thing it is to sit on a rock all wet
in the blaze of the sun! I wonder if it's all too pleasant--whether
Nemesis has her wooden eye on me? Oh, Mother Nemesis, beautiful, kind
Lady Nemesis, remove your wooden eye from me! Your wooden eye offends
me; pluck it out and cast it from thee! I don't do much harm; I sit in
the sea and eat my food, and have a tremendous quantity of great ideas,
none of which ever come to anything."

"You might be called lazy, you know," said I. "Lady Nemesis would
explain that to you before she beat you."

"I might be called whatever you choose to call me," said he, "but it
need not be applicable. I'm not lazy; my brain is an exceedingly busy
one, though it doesn't devote itself to the orthodox pursuits of losing
money in the city and labelling yourself a financier, or playing bridge
in a country town and labelling yourself a soldier, or writing a lot of
weary stories and calling yourself an author."

"I never did," said I hastily.

"Well, you permit other people to do so, if you will put on the cap
like that. Don't rag, or I shall push you into the sea. I was saying
that I was not lazy, because I think. Most people imagine that energy
must be spent in action, and they will tell you quite erroneously (as
you did just now) that if you don't sit in an office, or something of
that kind, or do something, that you are indolent. The reason is that
most people can't think, and so when they cease from acting they are
unemployed. But people who can think are never so busy as when they
cease from action. Most people are beavers; they build a dam, in which
they shut up their souls. And they call it civilization. The world as
pictured by such Progressionists will be an awful place. There will
be wonderful drainage, and milk for children, and capsuled food, and
inoculation against all diseases, and plenty of peace and comfort for
everybody, and a chromolithograph of Mr. H. G. Wells on every wall.
Then the millennium will come, the great vegetable millennium, in which
the whole human race will stretch from world's end to world's end like
rows of cabbages, each in his own place in straight lines, and all
seated on the ground, as the hymn says. Why, the whole glory of the
human race is that we're not content, not happy, missing something
always, yearning for something that eludes us and glorifies our

He paused a moment, and drew the thermometer out of the water.

"It's an affair of conscience," he said; "I do what my conscience tells
me is of most importance."

I felt rather sore at the fact that this afternoon I had to start on
my northern career across Europe in a dusty train, with the knowledge
that Francis would be here, still cool and clean, in the sea, while the
smuts poured in on to the baked red velvet of my carriage, and that
here he would remain, while I, dutiful and busy, saw the sooty skies
of the town on the Thames, which seemed a most deplorable place of
residence. Some of this soreness oozed into my words.

"Your conscience is very kind to you," I said. "It tells you that it is
of the highest importance that you should live in this adorable island
and spend your day exactly as you choose."

"But if it said I should go back to England, and sweep a crossing
in--what's the name of that foul street with a paddock on one side of
it?--Oh, yes, Piccadilly--sweep a crossing in Piccadilly, I should
certainly go!" said he.

Unfortunately for purposes of argument, I knew that this was true.

"I know you would," I said, "but on the day of departure you must
excuse my being jealous of such a well-ordered conscience. Oh, Francis,
how bleak the white cliffs of our beloved England will look! Sometimes
I really wish Heaven hadn't commanded, and that Britain had remained
at the bottom of the azure main instead of arising from out of it.
How I shall hate the solemn, self-sufficient faces of the English.
English faces always look as if they knew they were right, and they
generally are, which makes it worse. A quantity of them together are
so dreadful, large and stupid and proper and rich and pompous, like
rows of well-cooked hams. Italian faces are far nicer; they're a bed of
pansies, all enjoying the sun and nodding to each other. I don't want
to go to England! Oh, not to be in England now that July's here! I wish
you would come, too. Take a holiday from being good, and doing what
your conscience tells you, and spending your days exactly as you like.
Come and eat beef and beer, and feel the jolly north-east wind and the
rain and the mud and the fogs, and all those wonderful influences that
make us English what we are!"

Francis laughed.

"It all sounds very tempting, very tempting indeed," he said. "But I
shall resist. The fact is I believe I've ceased to be English. It's
very shocking, for I suppose a lack of patriotism is one of the most
serious lacks you can have. But I've got it. Even your sketch of
England doesn't arouse any thrill in me. Imagine if war was possible
between England and Italy. Where would my sympathies really be? I know
quite well, but I shan't tell you."

The daily tourist steamer, the same that in a few hours' time would
take me away, came churning round the point, going to the Marina, where
it would lie at anchor till four o'clock. It was obviously crammed with
passengers--Germans, probably, for the most part, and the strains of
the "Watch by the Rhine" played by the ship's band (cornet, violin and
bombardon) came fatly across the water to us. Francis got up.

"Sorry, but it's time to swim back and dress," he said. "There's the

"There's the cart for Tyburn," said I mournfully.

So we put the tin box with the thermometer and the two cigarettes to
be smoked on the rock one day in the middle of September, back in its
curtained cave, and swam to land, lingering and lying on the sea and
loath to go. Then we dressed and walked through the dappled shade of
the olive trees on the cobbled paths between the vineyards to where on
the dusty road our carriage waited for us, and so up to the Villa.

I had but little to do in the way of packing, for with this house
permanently ours and the certainty (in spite of qualms) of coming back
in a couple of months' time, I was making deposit of clothes here,
and a few hours later I stood on the deck of the crowded steamer and
saw the pier, with Francis standing white and tall on the end of it,
diminish and diminish. The width of water between me and the enchanted
island increased, and the foam of our wash grew longer, like a white
riband endlessly laid out on a table of sapphire blue. All round me
were crowds of German tourists, gutturally exclaiming on the beauty of
the island and the excellence of the beer. And soon the haze of hot
summer weather began to weave its veil between us and Alatri: it grew
dim and unsubstantial; the solidity of its capes and cliffs melted
and lost its clarity of outline till it lay dream-like and vague, a
harp-shaped shell of grey floating on the horizon to the west. Already,
before we got to Naples, it seemed years ago that I sat on its beaches
and swam in its seas with a friend called Francis.

AUGUST, 1914

Out of the serene stillness, and with the swiftness of the hurricane,
the storm came up. It was in June that there appeared the little cloud,
no bigger than a man's hand, when the heir to the Austrian throne was
murdered at Serajevo. There it hung on the horizon, and none heeded,
though in the womb of it lurked the seed of the most terrific tempest
of blood and fire that the world has ever known. Suddenly in the last
week of July that seed fructified, shooting out monstrous tendrils to
East and West. A Note was sent from Vienna to Servia making demands,
and insisting on terms that no State could possibly entertain, if it
was henceforth to consider itself a free country. Servia appealed
to Russia for protection, and Russia remonstrated with those who
had framed or (more accurately) those who had sent that Note. The
remonstrance fell on ears that had determined not to hear, and the
throttling pressure of the inflexible hands was not abated. London and
Paris appealed for a conference, for arbitration that might find a
peaceful solution, for already all Europe saw that here was a firebrand
that might set the world aflame. And then we began to see who it was
that had caused it to be lit and flung, and who it was that stood over
it now, forbidding any to quench it.

Out of the gathering darkness there arose, like some overtopping
genius, the figure of Germany, with face inexorable and flint-like,
ready at last for _Der Tag,_ for the dawning of which during the last
forty years she had been making ready, with patient, unremitting toil,
and hell in her heart. She was clad in the shining armour well known
in the flamboyant utterances of her megalomaniac Nero, and her hand
grasped the sword that she had already half-drawn from its scabbard.
She but waited, as a watcher through the night waits for the morn
that is imminent, for the event that her schemes had already made
inevitable, and on the first sign of the mobilization of the Russian
armies, demanded that that mobilization should cease. Long years she
had waited, weaving her dream of world-wide conquest; now she was
ready, and her edict went forth for the dawning of The Day, and, like
Satan creating the world afresh, she thundered out: "Let there be
night." Then she shut down her visor and unsheathed her sword.

She had chosen her moment well, and, ready for the hazard that should
make her mistress of the world, or cause her to cease from among
the nations, she paid no heed to Russia's invitation to a friendly
conference. She wished to confer with none, and she would be friendly
with none whom she had not first battered into submission, and ground
into serfdom with her iron heel. On both her frontiers she was
prepared; on the East her mobilization would be complete long before
the Russian troops could be brought up, and gathering certain of her
legions on that front, she pulled France into the conflict. For on
the Western front she was ready, too; on the word she could discharge
her troops in one bull-like rush through Belgium, and, holding the
shattered and dispersed armies of France in check, turn to Russia
again. Given that she had but those two foes to deal with, it seemed to
her that in a few weeks she must be mistress of Europe, and prepared
at high noon of _Der Tag_ to attack the only country that really stood
between her and world-wide dominion. She was not seeking a quarrel with
England just yet, and she had strong hopes that, distracted by the
imminence of civil war in Ireland, we should be unable to come to the
help of our Allies until our Allies were past all help. Here she was
staking on an uncertainty, for though she had copious information from
her army of spies, who in embassy and consulate and city office had
eaten the bread of England, and grasped every day the hands of English
citizens, it could not be regarded as an absolute certainty that
England would stand aside. But she had strong reasons to hope that she

It was on the first day of this month that Germany shut her visor down
and declared war on Russia. Automatically, this would spread the flame
of war over France, and next day it was known that Germany had asked
leave to march her armies through Belgium, making it quite clear that
whatever answer was given her, she would not hesitate to do it. Belgium
refused permission, and appealed to England. On Monday, August 3rd,
Germany was at war with France, and began to move her armies up to and
across the Belgian frontier, violating the territory she had sworn to
respect, and strewing the fragments of her torn-up honour behind her.
Necessity, she averred, knew no law, and since it was vital for the
success of her dream of world-conquest that her battalions should pass
through Belgium, every other consideration ceased to exist for her.
National honour, the claim, the certificate of a country's right to be
reckoned among the civilizing powers of the world, must be sacrificed.
She burned in the flame of the war she had kindled the patent of her
rights to rank among civilized states.

It was exactly this, which meant nothing to her, that meant everything
to us, and it upset the calculation on which Germany had based her
action, namely, that England was too much distracted by internal
conflict to interfere. There was a large party, represented in the
Government, which held that the quarrel of Germany with France and
Russia was none of our business, and that we were within our rights
to stand aside. All that Monday the country waited to know what the
decision of the Cabinet and of the House would be.

The suspense of those hours can never be pictured. It belongs to the
nightmare side of life, where the very essence of the threatening
horror lies in the fact that it is indefinite. But this I know, that
to thousands of others, even as to myself, England, from being a vague
idea in the background which we took for granted and did not trouble
about, leaped into being as a mother, or a beloved personage, of whose
flesh and bone we were, out of whose womb we had sprung. All my life,
I am willing to confess I had not given her a thought, I had not even
consciously conceived of her as a reality; she had been to me but like
the heroine of some unreal sentimental tale, a thing to blush at if she
was publicly spoken of. But on those days she, who had hitherto meant
nothing to me, sprang to life, deep-bosomed, with patient hands and
tender eyes, in which was no shadow of reproach for all those years of
careless contempt. And by the curious irony of things, on the day that
she was revealed to me, she stood in a place, from which, if she chose,
she could withdraw herself into isolation, and from which, if she
chose, she could step forth to meet the deadliest peril that had ever
assailed her. But even in the moment of the first knowledge and love
of her that had ever entered my soul, I prayed in a silent agony of
anxiety that she should leave her sheltered isle for the unimaginable
danger of the tempest that raged beyond the sea that was hers. For,
indeed, if she did not, she was but a phantom of the pit; no mother of
mine, but some unspeakable puppet, a thing to be hidden away in her
shame and nakedness.

It was known that night that England would not tolerate the violation
of Belgian soil, and had sent an ultimatum to Germany which would
expire in twenty-four hours. And from the whole country there went up
one intense sigh of relief that we were resolved to embark on what
must be the most prodigious war that the world had ever seen. "Give War
in our time, O Lord!" was the prayer of all who most truly knew that
the only peace possible to us was a peace which would stamp the name
of England with indelible infamy. And God heard their prayer, and on
Wednesday we woke to a world where all was changed. The light-hearted,
luxurious, unreflective days were gone, never probably in our time to
return. Already the tempest of fire and blood was loosened in Europe; a
line was drawn across the lives of everyone, and for the future there
were but two periods in one's consciousness, the time before the war,
and war-time.

It was during this week that I had a long letter from Francis written
before the English ultimatum was known, but delayed in posts that
were already scrutinized and censored. Though I had no friend in the
world so intimate as he, his letter revealed him now as a person
strangely remote, speaking an unintelligible language. So little a
while ago I had spoken the same tongue as he; now all he said seemed
to be gibberish, though his sentiments were just such as I might have
expressed myself, if, since then, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday
had not been among the days of my life.

        "Things look black," he said, "and the papers, for once
        reflecting the mind of the people, are asking what Italy
        will do, if Germany and Austria go to war with France
        and Russia. I believe (and, remember, I speak entirely
        from the Italian point of view, for verily I have long
        ceased to be English) that it is frankly impossible that
        we should range ourselves side by side with Austria, our
        hereditary foe. It seems one of the things that can't
        happen; no ministry could remain in office that proposed
        that. And yet we are the ally of Austria and Germany,
        unless it is true, as the _Corriere_ tells us, that the
        terms of our alliance only bind us to them in the event
        of aggression on the part of two nations of the Triple
        Entente. Be that as it may, I don't believe we can come
        in with Austria.

        "I am extremely glad of it, for I am one of those
        queer creatures who do not believe that a quarrel
        between two countries can be justly settled by making
        a quantity of harmless young men on both sides shoot
        each other. I don't see that such a method of settling
        a dispute proves anything beyond showing which side
        has the better rifles, and has been better trained,
        unless you deliberately adopt the rule of life that
        'Might is Right.' If you do let us be consistent, and
        I will waylay Caterina as she goes home with the money
        Seraphina has given her for the washing, rob, and, if
        necessary, murder her. If she proves to be stronger than
        me, she will scratch my face and bring her money safely
        home. And her father will try to shoot me next day, and
        I will try to shoot him. That's the logical outcome of
        Might is Right.

        "I am glad, too, of this, that I myself am a
        denationalized individual, and if I have a motherland
        at all, it is this beloved stepmother-land, who for so
        long has treated me as one of her children. Damnable as
        I think war is, I think I could fight for her, if anyone
        slapped her beautiful face. And yet how could I fight
        against the country to whom we owe not only so much of
        the art and science, but of Thought itself? Germany
        taught mankind how to think.

        "Let me know how things go in England. It looks as if
        you could keep out of this hurly-burly. So if Italy
        does too, I hope to see you here again in September.
        Seraphina suggests that Italy should make pretence of
        being friends with the '_bestia fedente,_' by which she
        means the Austrians, and that when they are fighting the
        Russians, she should run swiftly from them and seize the
        Trentino again. There seems much good sense in this, for
        'the Trentino is ours, and it is right and proper to
        take what belongs to us.'

        "England must be peculiarly beastly with all these
        disturbances going on. Why don't you pack up your
        tooth-brush and your comb and come back again at once?
        The _Palazzo a mare_ is better than Piccadilly, and the
        purple figs are ripe, and the cones are dropping from
        the stone-pine, and never were there such fat kernels
        for Seraphina to fry in oil. Perhaps if you come back
        the _strega_ would continue walking; she seems to have
        had no exercise since you were here. Your room is empty,
        and the door makes sorrowful faces at me as I go along
        the passage. It frowns at me, and says it isn't I it
        wants. And I share the silent verdict of your door.

        "I don't see what quarrel England can have with Germany,
        and it is unthinkable that Italy should go in with the
        Central Powers against the Triple Entente. Besides,
        how is England to fight Germany? It is the elephant
        and the whale. England hasn't got an army, has it? I
        can't remember anything connected with soldiers in
        England, except some sort of barracks with a small
        temple or chapel in front of it somewhere in St. James's
        Park. And I suppose the German fleet is only a sort of
        herring-boat compared to a liner, if it comes to ships.
        So really I don't see how the two countries could fight
        each other even if they wanted to.

        "Even if you don't come now, you'll be certain to be
        back in September, won't you? Otherwise I shall think
        that there is some validity in presentiments, for you
        went away with a notion that it was not only for a
        month or two that you went. Better put an end to vain
        superstition by coming back before.

        "Ever yours,


        "P.S.--Send a wire if you are coming. They say the posts
        are disorganized.

        "Donna Margherita has had words with Miss Machonochie's
        cook. I'm sure I don't want any harm to come to Miss
        Machonochie or her household, but I think there must
        already be a leak in her cistern. That would be a good
        day's work for Donna Margherita, wouldn't it? Otherwise,
        when we all have plenty of water, why should Miss M.
        alone be wanting it?"

Reading this, I felt for a moment here and there that the events of
this last week must have been a dream, so vividly did the island and
the island life etch themselves on a page. For a half second I could
smell the frying of the pine-kernels, could hear Pasqualino's quick
step across the passage, as he entered from his Brangäene duty on the
balcony to tell us that Miss Machonochie's foot was coming firmly up
the steps. But the next moment the huge background of war was set up
again, and all these things were strangely remote and dim. They had
happened, perhaps, at least I seemed to remember them, but they no
longer had any touch of reality about them, were of the quality of
dreams.... The same unreality possessed Francis's suave surmises about
the improbability of England's going to war with Germany, for the only
thing that was actual was that she had done so. And not less unreal
was the fact of Francis himself living the life that he and I also had
lived before this cataclysm came. All that belonged to some prehistoric
period which ceased something less than a week ago. Less than a week
ago, too, I had been baptized and become a member of England, and
already, so swiftly does the soul no less than the body adjust itself
to changed conditions, the sense of having ever been otherwise, had
vanished as completely as the aching of a tooth after the offender has
been dealt with, and you can no longer imagine the pain it gave you.

But the letter was a difficult one to answer; I could not convey to
him what had happened to me, any more than in this letter he could,
except for a transient second, convey to me a realization of what
had not happened to him. I began a dozen times: "I have just been to
Trafalgar Square, and cannot picture to you the thrill that 'Rule,
Britannia'"----Clearly that would not do. I tried again with a jest
to hide the seriousness of it: "What do they know of England who
only Italy know?" I tried yet again: "Since seeing you something has
happened that makes----"

And at that moment the cry of a newsvendor in the street made me
rush out for the sixth time that afternoon to see what the latest
information was. Liège still held out, it seemed, though it was
rumoured that certain of its forts had fallen. But still the most
gallant of the little States held up the Titanic invasion that was
pouring down upon it, maintaining in the face of terrific pressure its
protest and its resistance to the onrush of that infamous sea, in the
depths of which German honour already lay drowned. How could any man
fail to know what the sense of the native land, of patriotism meant,
when he saw what a supreme meaning it actually did have? It is the
fashion of cynics to say that mankind will suffer and deny themselves
for the sake of some definite concrete thing, like money or a jewel
or a picture, but never for an idea. Here was an instance that blew
such cynicism to atoms. Already the soil of Belgium, its cities and its
plains were lost, and its people knew it But they fought, beaten and
indomitable, just because it was an idea that inspired them--namely,
the freedom of those who were already conquered (for none could doubt
the outcome), the independence of the country which must soon for
certain lay beneath the heel of Prussian murderers, who slew their
children and violated their women, and could no more touch the spirit
of the people than they could quench the light of the moon. Normally,
perhaps, we more often feel the pull and the press of material things;
but when there is heard in a man's soul the still small voice, which
is greater than fire or earthquake, his true being wakes, and at the
spiritual call, whether of religion or love or patriotism, he answers
to an idea that far transcends all the beckonings of material sense.
It is then that those we thought smug and comfort-smothered, bound in
the bonds of peaceful prosperity, break from their earth-bound fetters
and their sleep at the voice of the God which is immanent in them.
There is no material profit to gain, but all to lose, and eagerly, like
ballast that keeps them down, they cast everything else overboard, and
sweep soaring into the untarnishable sunlight of their real being. For
it is not only the stocks and stones of his native land that a man
loves, any more than it is just the eyebrows and the throat of his
mistress that he worships. He loves them because they are symbols and
expression of her who inhabits them. They are the bodily tokens of the
beloved spirit that dwells there. Under that inspiration the dumb lips
prophecy, as the coal from the altar is laid on them, and their land
becomes a temple filled, even in the darkness of their affliction, with
the glory of the Lord. The terror by night and the arrow that flieth by
day have no power to daunt them, for high above earthly things is set
their house of defence.

There rose then from this quiet little land, sure and untroubled as
the rising of the moon, a race of heroes. From further east, across
the Rhine, there was another rising, the monstrous birth of a presence
and a portent undreamed of. It towered into the sky, and soon at its
breath the forts of Liège and of Namur crumbled and fell, and it
passed on phallic and murderous over the corpses of slain children and
violated mothers. Those who thought they knew Germany could not at
first believe that this was the spirit and these the infamies of the
land they loved. She who had stood for so much to them, she the mother
of music, the cradle of sciences, the lover of all that was lovely, was
changed as by the waving of a magician's rod into a monster of hell,
oozing with the slime of the nethermost pit. Many could not credit the
tales that flooded the press, and put them down to mere sensational
news-mongering. But they were true, though they were not the whole
truth; the half of it had not been told us. The race of musicians,
scientists, artists, of chivalrous knights, still took as their motto:
"The women and children first." But they played upon the words, and
smiled to each other at the pun. Pleading the necessity that knows no
law, they had torn up their treaty, avowing that it was but a scrap of
paper, and dishonouring for ever the value of their word, now, like
some maniac, they mutilated the law they had murdered. It may be that
Germany was but the first victim of Prussian militarism, and Belgium
the second; but Germany had sold its soul, and it kept its bargain with
the power that had bought it.

While still Francis's letter remained unanswered on my desk, I received
another from him, written several days later, which had made a quicker

        "This is all damnable," he said. "Of course we had to
        come in when Belgium was invaded. I skulked all day
        in the house while it was yet uncertain, for I simply
        dared not show an English face in the streets for shame.
        Thank God that's all right. I never thought I could
        have cared so much. They sang 'Rule, Britannia,' in the
        Piazza to-day, wonderfully vague and sketchy. You know
        what my singing is, but I tell you I joined. It was a
        strange thing to hear that tune in a country which was
        supposed to be allied with the nation on whom England
        has declared war, but there it was. They say that Italy
        has declared neutrality. You'll know by the time you get
        this whether that is so. By the way, if it is true that
        we are sending an Expeditionary Force to France, just
        send me a wire, will you? The papers are full of news
        one day which is contradicted the next, and one doesn't
        know what to believe about England's attitude and doings.

        "There's no news on this dead-alive island. I feel
        frightfully cut off, and it's odd to feel cut off in the
        place where you've lived for so long. I began an article
        on the early French mystics last week, but I can't get
        on with it. Mind you send me a telegram.


I sent the telegram saying that an Expeditionary Force to help the
French to hold their frontier had already landed in France, and more
men were being sent. Next morning I received a brief telegram in answer:

        "Am starting for England to-day."

Liège fell, Namur fell, and like a torrent that has gathered strength
and volume from being momentarily damned up, the stream of the invaders
roared through France, and on her as well as on England descended
the perils of their darkest and most hazardous hour. Sheer weight
of metal drove the line of the Allies back and back, wavering and
dinted but never broken. In England, but for the hysterical screams
of a few journalists who spoke of the "scattered units" of a routed
army making their way back singly or in small companies, the temper
of the nation remained steadfast and unshaken, and in France, though
daily the thunder of the invaders boomed ever nearer to Paris, nothing
had power to shake the inflexible will of our ally. It mattered not
that the seat of the Government must be transferred to Bordeaux, and
thither they went; but the heart of France beat on without a tremor,
waiting for the day which none doubted would come, when they turned
and faced the advancing tide, breasted it, and set up the breakwater
that stretched from the North Sea to the borders of Switzerland.
Right across France was it established, through ruined homesteads and
devastated valleys, and against it in vain did the steel billows beat.

Here I have a little anticipated events, for it was in the days while
still the Germans swept unchecked across north-eastern France that
Francis arrived, after a devious and difficult journey, that brought
him on shipboard at Havre. He had no psychological account to give of
the change that had occurred between his first letter and his telegram;
he had simply been unable to do anything else than come.

"I know you like analysis," he said, "but really there is no analysis
to give you. I was, so I found myself, suddenly sick with anxiety that
England should come into the war (I think I wrote you that), and when
your telegram came, saying we were sending a force abroad, I merely had
to come home and see if there was anything for me to do. One has got
to do something, you know, got to do something! Fancy my having been
English all these years, and it's only coming out now, like getting
measles when you're grown up."

There was no need then to explain, and Francis, in his philosophical
manner, tried to define what it was that had so moved him, and found,
as so often happens when we attempt to fit words to a force that is
completely unmaterial, that he could at first only mention a quantity
of things that it was not. It was not that he felt the smallest
affection for London, or Lincoln, or Leeds; he did not like Piccadilly
any more than he had done before, or the mud, or the veiled atmosphere.
Nor did he regard any of the inhabitants of our island with a greater
warmth than previously. Besides myself, he had after his long absence
abroad no one whom he could call a friend, and of the rest, the porter
who had carried his luggage to the train at Southampton had not thanked
him for a reasonable tip; the guard had been uncivil; the motor driver
who brought him to my house was merely a fool. Indeed, whatever
component part of the entity that made up England he considered, he
found he disliked it, and yet the thought of all those disagreeable
things as a whole had been enough to make him leave the siren isle,
and come post-haste across the continent to get to that surly northern
town, in which he had not set foot for a dozen years. And, being here,
he did not regret, as an impulsive and ill-considered step, his exile
from Alatri. There was no fault to be found with that; it had been
as imperative as the physical needs of thirst and hunger. He got up,
gesticulating, in Italian fashion.

"Where does it come from?" he said. "What is it that called me? Is it
something from without? Is it a mixture, a chemical soul-mixture of the
grumpy porter and the grey sea, and this dismal, half-lit afternoon
that is considered a lovely day in London? Or is it from within, some
instinct bred from fifty generations of English blood, that just sat
quiet in me and only waited till it was wanted? I hate doing things
without knowing the reason why I do them. I always said 'Why?' when I
was a child, and I only don't say 'Why?' now, because if I want to know
something, I sit and think about it instead of asking other people. But
all the way here I've been considering it, and I can't see why I had to
come back. I don't think it's only something internal. There's a magnet
outside that suddenly turned its poles to us, and instantly we jumped
to it like iron filings and stuck there. There's no shirking it. There
I was in Italy, saying to myself that I wasn't an iron filing, and
should stop exactly where I was. But the magnet didn't care. It just
turned towards me, and I jumped. It will keep me attached, I suppose,
as long as there's any use for me."

He was feeling his way gropingly but unerringly down into himself,
and I listened as this, the simplest of men, but that deft surgeon of
minds, cut and dissected down into his own.

"The magnet, the magnet!" he said. "I think that the magnet is
something that lies behind mere patriotism. Patriotism perhaps is the
steel of which it is made; it is the material through which the force
is sent, the channel of its outpouring, but ... but it isn't only to
put myself at the disposal of England in my infinitesimal manner that I
have come back. England is the steel of the magnet--yes, just that; but
England isn't the force that magnetizes it."

He dropped down on the hearth-rug, and lay there with the back of his
hands over his eyes, as he so often lay on the beach at the _Palazzo a

"I haven't wasted all those years at Alatri," he said, "when I was
gardening and mooning about and looking at the sea. I have come to
realize what I remember saying to you once, when I picked up a bit
of green stone on the beach, that it was you or me and God. To do
that I had got to get out of myself.... We collect a hard shell round
ourselves like mussels or oysters, and we speak of it as 'ours.' It's
just that which we are bound to get rid of, if we are to see things
in any way truly. We talk of 'having' things; that's the illusion we
suffer from. We can't enter into our real kingdom till we quite get rid
of the sense that anything is ours, thus abdicating from the kingdom we
falsely believed to be our own. That's the glorious and perfect paradox
of mysticism. We have everything the moment we get rid of ourselves,
and the sense that we have anything. You can express it in a hundred
ways: the lover expresses it when he says: 'Oh, my beloved, I am you!'
Christ expresses it when He says: 'What shall it profit a man if he
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' As long as you cling to
anything, you can't get at your soul, in which is God.

"Patriotism, standing by the honour of your country when your country
is staking itself on a principle, seems to me a materialization of this
force, the steel through which it can act. Well, when you believe in
a principle, as I do, you've got to live up to your belief in it, and
suffer any amount of personal inconvenience. You mustn't heed that, or
else you are not getting outside yourself. So if England wants a limb
or an eye, or anything else, why, it's hers, not mine."

He was silent a moment.

"And perhaps there's another thing, another drama, another war going
on," he said. "Do you remember some fable in Plato, where Socrates
says that all that happens here upon earth is but a reflection, an
adumbration of the Real? Is it possible, do you think, that in the
sphere of the eternal some great conflict is waging, and Michael and
his angels are fighting against the dragon? Plato is so often right,
you know. He says that is why beauty affects the soul, because the soul
is reminded of the true beauty, which it saw once, and will see again.
Why else should we love beauty, you know?"

He got up with a laugh.

"But it's puzzling work is talking, as Mr. Tulliver said. However,
there's my guess at the answer of the riddle, as to why I came home.
And it really is such a relief to me to find that I didn't cling to
what I had. I was always afraid that I might, when it came to the
point. But it wasn't the slightest effort to give it up, all that
secure quiet life; the effort would have been not to give it up. I
don't in the least want to be shot, or taken prisoner, or brutally
maimed, but if any of those things are going to happen to me, I shan't
quarrel with them."

"And when the war is over?" I asked.

"Why, naturally, I shall go back to Alatri by the earliest possible
train and continue thinking. That's what I'm alive for, except when
it's necessary to act my creed, instead of spelling out more of it. I
say, may we have dinner before long? This beastly bracing English air
makes me very hungry."

Francis refused all thought of getting a commission, since it seemed
to him that this was not doing the thing properly, and enlisted next
day as a private. For myself, since circumstances over which I had no
control prevented my doing anything of the sort, I found work connected
with the war which to some extent was a palliative of the sense of
uselessness. It was quite dull, very regular, and entailed writing an
immense quantity of letters.

       *       *       *       *       *

And at this point I propose to pass over a whole year in which the grim
relentless business went on. Like wrestlers, the opposing armies on the
Western Front were locked in a deadly grip, each unable to advance,
each refusing to give ground. On the east Russia advanced and was
swept back again; in the Balkans, owing to our inept diplomacy Turkey
and Bulgaria joined the enemy. During the spring Italy abandoned
her neutrality and joined the Allies. Expeditions were sent out to
Mesopotamia and the Dardanelles. For a year the war flamed, and the
smoke of its burning overshadowed the earth.


I do not suppose that there is any literal truth in that remarkable
piece of natural history which tells us that eels get used to being
skinned. It may have been invented by those who like eating that
execrable worm, or, more probably, it is a proverbial simile which
is meant to convey a most unquestionable truth, namely, that however
unpleasant a thing may be, in time we get adjusted to it. It would
be an ill thing for the human race if they did not, and argues no
callousness on their part. It is simply one of Nature's arrangements,
an example of the recuperative power which enables us to throw off
colds, and mends the skin when we have cut ourselves shaving. If every
wound, physical and moral alike, remained raw, the race could not
continue, but would speedily expire from loss of blood and gangrene.
And if in process of time we did not rally from staggering blows, we
should all of us, at an early age lie prone on our backs, squealing,
till death mercifully put an end to our troubles. But all our lives we
are receiving wounds and blows, and we recuperate. Only once during
this mortal existence do we fail to recover, more or less, from things
that at first seemed intolerable, and then we die.

This invariable rule applies to the position in which we find ourselves
after thirteen months of war. Most of us have suffered intimate losses;
there is scarcely a man or woman in England whom death has not robbed
of some friend or relation. But we are not as a nation bewildered
and all abroad, as we were thirteen months ago. We do not wake every
morning with the sense that after the oblivion of the night we are
roused to a nightmare existence. We have somehow adjusted ourselves
to what is happening, and this adjustment argues no callousness or
insensibility; it is just the result of the natural process by virtue
of which we are enabled to continue living. Also, the need that Francis
felt when he said, "One must do something," has come to the aid of
those who in general, before the days of the war, never did anything
particular beyond amusing themselves. This really implied that other
people had got to amuse them by giving them dinner-parties and concerts
and what not, and since these had no time to attend to them now, a
remarkably large percentage of the drones, finding that nobody was
providing for them, set to work for once in their lives, and slaved
away at funds or hospitals or soup-kitchens, and found that to do
something for other people was not half so tedious as they had supposed
before they gave it a trial. This was a very salutary piece of natural
adjustment, and they all felt much the better for it. A certain number
of confirmed drones I suppose there will always be, but certainly
London has become a much more industrious hive than it ever used to be.

Another process has contributed to the recuperative process, for
the details of life have been much simplified. When your income is
ruthlessly cut down, as has happened to most of us, it is clear that
something must be done. The first thing we all did, naturally, was to
raise a wild chorus of asserting that we were ruined. But when these
minor strains did not seem to mend matters much, most people, under
the recuperative force, began to consider and make catalogues of all
the things which they could quite well do without. It is astonishing
how voluminous these catalogues were. Those who had footmen who went
to the war, like proper young men, suddenly found out that there were
such things as parlour-maids. Those who rolled about in motor-cars
discovered that there were taxicabs, and it was even hinted in more
advanced circles that 'buses plied upon the London streets and tubes
underneath them. There was some vague element of sport about it: it
was something new to lie in ambush at a street corner and pounce on
No. 19 that went up Sloane Street and along Shaftesbury Avenue, or get
hopelessly befogged in the stupefying rabbit warrens that are excavated
below Piccadilly Circus.

In spite, then, of the huge tragedies, the cruel bereavements, the
distress among those whose economies were in no way a game, but a
grinding necessity, we have adjusted ourselves, and are alive to
the amazing fact that the day of little things, the small ordinary
caresses and pleasures of life, is not over. For a while it was utterly
darkened, the sun stood in full-orbed eclipse, but now (not callously)
we can take pleasure in our little amusements and _festas_ and fusses,
though, owing to more useful occupations, we have not so much time for
them. To compare a small affair with these great ones, I remember how
a few years ago I suddenly had to face a serious operation. The moment
at which I was told this was one of black horror. There the doctor
sat opposite me, looking prosperous and comfortable, and said: "You
must make up your mind to it; have it done at once." Being a profound
physical coward, the thing seemed quite unfaceable, an impossibility.
But before an hour was up, the adjustment had come, and once more the
savour of the world stole back. The sun that day was just as warm as it
had ever been, food was good, the faces of friends were dear, and the
night before it was to take place I slept well, and when finally I was
told it was time to go along the passage to where the operation was to
be done, I remember turning down the page of the book I was reading and
wondering less what was going to happen to me than to the characters
of the novel. Nothing, in fact, is unfaceable when you have to face
it; nothing entirely robs the eye and the ear of its little accustomed

But what is much more important than the fact that the little things
of life have put forth their buds again is that as a nation our eyes,
half closed in dreamy contentment, have been opened to the day of
great things. The outbreak of war in August last year was an earthquake
inconceivable and overwhelming; but it has become one of the things
that is, an austere majestic fact. Among its débris and scarred
surfaces, not only has the mantle of growth with which Nature always
clothes her upheavals begun to spring up, but the smoke of its ruin,
like the cloud of ash over Vesuvius, has soared into high places,
and its deepest shadows are lit with splendours that irradiate and
transfigure them. It is not of terror alone that tragedy is compounded;
there is pity in it as well, the pity that enlightens and purges, the
unsealing of the human heart. God knows what still lies in the womb of
the future, but already there has come to us a certain steadfastness
that lay dormant, waiting for the trumpet to awaken it. We are, it
is to be hoped, a little simpler, a little more serious, a little
busier over doing obvious duties, a little less set on amusements and
extravagancies. And I do not think we are the worse for that. The
faith in which we entered the war, that ours was a righteous quarrel,
has proved itself unshakeable; the need to stand firm has knitted the
nation together.

Of our necessities, our failures, our endeavours and our rewards in
these great matters, it is not possible to speak, for they are among
the sacred things that dwell in silence. But there are, you may say,
certain condiments in life which can be spoken of. First and foremost
among them is a sense of humour, which has been extremely useful.
Without losing sight of the main issue, or wanting to forget the tragic
gravity of it all, it would be ridiculous to behave like pessimists and
pacifists, and with distorted faces of gloom and pain, to shudder at
the notion of finding anything to smile at. Even while we are aghast at
the profanity with which the German Emperor regards himself as a Moses
of the New Dispensation, and steps down from the thunderclouds of Sinai
with the tables that have been personally entrusted to him, on the
strength of which he orders his submarines to torpedo peaceful merchant
vessels, we cannot (or should not) help smiling at this Imperial
buffoon. Or why waste a shudder on his idiot son, when a smile would
not be wasted, since it would do us good? Surely there are bright spots
in the blackness. Or again, though hate is a most hellish emotion, and
it is, of course, dreadful to think of one white nation being taught to
hate another, yet when people compose a hymn of hate for the English,
words and music, and have it printed and sold at a loss all over the
German Empire in order to root more firmly yet the invincible resolve
of the Teuton to strafe England, is it reasonable not to feel cheered
up by the ludicrousness of these proceedings? Certainly it is a pity
to hate anybody; but, given that, may we not treasure tenderly this
crowning instance of the thoroughness of the frightful German race? I
am glad they did that; it does me good. When I think of that, my food,
as Walt Whitman says, nourishes me more. I like to think of Prince
Oscar sending a telegram to his father, saying that he has had the
overpowering happiness to be wounded for the sake of the Fatherland. I
am glad his father sent for a Press agent and had those precious words
published in every paper in the Fatherland, and I trust that Prince
Oscar, since he likes being wounded so much, will get well quickly and
go back and be wounded again. I am pleased that when Russia was sending
hundreds of thousands of troops through England to join the Western
battle-line, the fact was put beyond a doubt by somebody's gamekeeper
seeing bearded men getting out of a train at Swindon on a hot day and
stamping the snow from their boots, which proved they had come from
Archangel.... It all helps. Queen Elizabeth was a wise woman when she
said that we have need of mirth in England. God knows we have.

I have been a year in London, hardly stirring from it by reason
of things to do; but a fortnight ago I escaped into Norfolk for a
breathing-space of air and sea. It was a good sea, in the manner of
northern seas, and though it was impossible not to contrast it with
the hot beach and lucid waters of the _Palazzo a mare,_ I would not
have exchanged it for that delectable spot. High, sheer sand-cliffs
lined the coast, and on their edges were dug trenches with parapets
of sandbags, while here and there, where the cliffs were broken away,
there were lines of barbed wire entanglements. These, I must hope,
were only, so to speak, practice efforts, for I found it saved time,
when going down to bathe early, to step through these, with an eye to
pyjama legs, rather than walk an extra hundred yards to a gap in those
coast defences. But it all gave one a sense that this was England,
alert and at war, and the sea itself aided the realization. For there
every day would pass cruisers or torpedo-boats, no longer in peaceful
manoeuvres, but engaged, swift and watchful, on their real business.
Sometimes one would be running parallel with the coast, and then turn
and roar seawards, till only a track of smoke on the horizon marked
its passage. But that was the real thing; the armour of England was
buckled on; it was no longer just being polished and made ready. The
whole coast was patrolled, and all was part of one organized plan of
defence, and when the moment came, of offence; somewhere out there the
Grand Fleet waited, as it had waited more than a year; these ships that
passed and went seaward again were the sentries that walked round the
forts of the ocean.

A week on the coast was followed by a few days at a country house
inland before I returned to London, and once again the realization of
war had a vivid moment. The house where I was staying was surrounded by
pheasant covers that came close up to the garden, where one night after
dinner I was straying with a friend. It was warm and still; the odour
of the night-blooming stocks hung on the air; the sky was windless and
slightly overclouded, so that the stars burned as if through frosted
glass, and we were in the dark of the moon. Then suddenly from the
sleeping woods arose an inexplicable clamour of pheasant's cries; the
place was more resonant with them than at the hour when they retired
to roost. Every moment fresh crowings were added to the tumult. I
have never heard so strange an alarum. It did not die down again,
but went on and on. Then presently through it, faintly at first, but
with growing distinctness, came a birring rhythmical beat, heavy and
sonorous. It came beyond doubt from the air, not from the land, and
was far more solid, more heavy in tone, than any aeroplanes I had ever
heard. Then my friend pointed. "Look!" he said. There, a little to the
east, a black shape, long and cylindrical, sped across the greyness of
the shrouded sky, moving very rapidly westward. Soon it was over our
heads; before long it had passed into indistinctness again. But long
after its beat had become inaudible to our ears, the screams of the
pheasants continued, as they yelled at the murderer on the way to the
scene of his crime.

For half an hour after that some stir of uneasiness went on in the
woods; the furred and feathered creatures were aware, by some sixth
sense, that there was danger in the air. Then muffled and distant came
the noise of explosions and the uneasiness of the woodland grew to
panic again, with rustlings in the brushwood of hares seeking cover,
and the cries of birds seeking each other, and asking what was this
terror by night. Presently afterwards the beat of the propellers was
again audible to human ears, and the Zeppelin passed over us once
more, flying invisible at a great height, going eastwards again. It
was moving much faster now, for its deadly work was over, and, flushed
with its triumph, it was bearing home the news of its glorious exploit.
Those intrepid crusaders, Lohengrins of the air, had taken their toll
of smashed cottages, slain children and murdered mothers, and the
anointed of the Lord next morning, hearing of their great valour above
a small Norfolk hamlet, would congratulate them on their glorious
exploit and decorate them with iron crosses to mark his shameful
approval of their deed.

       *       *       *       *       *

London at night has become a dim Joseph's coat of many colours. The
authorities are experimenting in broken rainbows for the sake of our
safety from above, and for our vastly increased peril on the ground.
Instead of the great white flame of electric lights, and the hot
orange of the gas, we have a hundred hues of veiled colour. What
exactly all the decrees are which produce these rainbows, I do not
know; but the effect, particularly on a wet night when the colours are
reflected on wet wood pavements and asphalte, is perfectly charming,
and we hope that, in compensation for the multiplied dangers of the
streets, we shall be immune from the flames and fumes of incendiary
and asphyxiating shells. The prudent householder--I am afraid I
am not one--has had a good deal of pleasant occupation in fitting
up his cellar as a place to flee unto when we are threatened with
Zeppelins, and one night, shortly after my return, I had the pleasure
of inspecting one of these. It lay deep in the bowels of the earth,
and if the absence of air would not asphyxiate you, I am sure its
refugees need fear no other cause of suffocation. There were several
deck-chairs, and at a slightly withdrawn distance a serviceable wooden
form on which the servants would sit, while the bombardment was going
on, in a respectful row. There was a spirit-lamp on which to make
tea, a tin of highly nutritious biscuits, and a variety of books to
read by the light of electric torches. Upstairs the same thoroughness
prevailed. Nightly, on retiring to bed, the lady of the house had
on a table close at hand a bag containing the most valuable of her
jewellery, and a becoming dressing-gown much padded. Her husband's
Zeppelin suit, the sort of suit you might expect to find in opulent
Esquimaux houses, lay on another chair, and outside in the hall was a
large washing basin filled with some kind of soda-solution, and on the
rim of it, hung like glasses on the top of a punch-bowl, were arranged
half a dozen amazing masks, goggle-eyed and cotton-wooled, which, on
the first sign of an asphyxiating bomb, would be dipped in the solution
of soda and tied over the face. To provide against incendiary bombs
there was a pail of sand and a pail of water at every corner, while
below the cellar beckoned a welcome in case of explosions. Given
a moment for preparation, this house was a fortress against which
Zeppelins might furiously rage together without hurting anybody.
Whether they sought to suffocate or to burn, or to blow to atoms, this
thoughtful householder was prepared for any of their nasty tricks.

All this was perfectly entrancing to my flippant mind, and after
dinner, when the servants had washed up, we had, at my particular
request, a rehearsal of the Zeppelin game to see how it all worked. The
servants and my host and hostess retired to their respective bedrooms,
and we put out all the lights. As guest, I had no duty assigned to me,
I was just going to be a passenger in the Ark of safety, so I remained
in the hall. When I judged I had given them enough time to lie fairly
down on their beds, I sounded the gong with great vigour, which denoted
that a Zeppelin had begun dropping bombs in the neighbourhood. Then the
house responded splendidly: in an incredibly short space of time my
hostess came out of her room, with the bag containing the regalia in
her hand, and her beautiful padded dressing-gown on; my host came from
his with the Esquimaux suit over his dress-clothes--looking precisely
like Tweedledum arrayed for battle--and the servants, with shrill
giggles, waited near the basin of soda-solution. Then we all put on
masks (there was one to spare, which was given me), and, omitting the
ceremony of dipping them in the soda, my host caught up the basin,
and we all trooped downstairs into the cellar. The servants plumped
themselves down on the bench, we sat in the deck-chairs, and there we
all were. The time from the sounding of the gong to the moment when
the cellar door was banged, and we were safe from explosives and
asphyxiating bombs, was just three minutes and five seconds. The only
thing unprovided for was the event of the Zeppelin dropping incendiary
bombs after we had all gone into the Ark, for in that case the house
would be burned above us, and we should be slowly roasted. But that
cruel contingency we settled to disregard. It would be the kind of bad
luck against which it is hopeless to take precautions. So then, as it
was a hot evening, my host took off his Zeppelin suit again, and after
testing the nutritive biscuits, which were quite delicious, we went
upstairs again with shouts of laughter. No doubt their provision had
a solid base of reason, for it certainly would be very annoying to be
asphyxiated in your room, when such simple arrangements as these would
have resulted in your having a cup of tea in the comfortable cellar
instead; but there was this added bonus of sport about it all. It was
the greatest fun.

This house where I had been dining was in the neighbourhood of Bedford
Square, and I left about half-past ten, with the intention of walking
as far as Charing Cross, and there embarking on the underground. I had
hardly gone a hundred yards from the house, when on to the quiet night
there came a report so appalling that it seemed like some catastrophic
noise heard in a dream. It was quite close to me, somewhere on the
left, and I ran as hard as I could round the corner of a block of
houses to be able to look eastwards, for there was no doubt in my mind
that a Zeppelin, nearly overhead, had dropped a bomb. Before I got to
the corner there was another report as loud as the first, and, looking
up, I saw that the searchlights, like pencils of light, were madly
scribbling about over the sky. Suddenly one caught the Zeppelin, then
another, and next moment it was in the meeting focus of half a dozen
of them, hanging high above my head, serene and gilded with the rays
of light, a fairy creation of the air. Then began the sound of guns,
one shell exploded in front of it, another far below it. Disregarding
all the regulations for their protection, people ran out of their
houses, and, like me, stood gaping up at it, for the excitement of it
was irresistible. I noticed that one man near me put up the collar
of his coat whenever there was a loud explosion, just as if a slight
shower was falling, and then quite gravely and seriously put it down
again. Others stepped into porches, or flattened themselves against
the walls, but none did as they were told by the police regulations.
A special constable was there too, who should have herded us all into
cover; instead, he stared with the rest, and put the lighted end of his
cigarette into his mouth. For, indeed, this was not a thing you could
see every day, a Zeppelin hanging above you, and the shells from guns
in London exploding round it. It fired the imagination; here was the
Real Thing, which we had been reading about for a year and never seen.
The air had been invaded by the enemy, and guns in the heart of the
securest city in the world were belching shells at it.

Then came the end of this amazing sight: a shell burst close to that
serene swimmer, and it stuck its nose in the air, and ascending with
extraordinary speed, like a bubble going upwards through water, got out
of the focus of searchlights and disappeared.

By this time the eastern horizon was glowing with a light that grew
steadily more vivid. The airship had dropped incendiary bombs in the
City, and fire-engines were racing along Oxford Street, with gleam
of helmets, clanging of bells and hoarse shouts from the firemen.
But there was no getting near the seat of the fire, for a cordon of
police had closed all streets near it, and I walked homewards along
the Embankment, with eyes fixed on the sky, and cannoning into other
passengers, because I did not look where I was going, as you may see
ladies doing when they gaze in a hypnotized manner into hat-shops, as
they walk along the street.

Apart from the actual thrill of the adventure, there was a most
interesting psychological point, which I considered as I went
homewards. There were we, the crowd in the street, just average folk,
just average cowards in the face of danger, and not one, as far as
I could see, gave a single thought to the risk of dropped bombs or
falling pieces of shrapnel. We might any or all of us be wiped out next
moment, but we didn't care, not in the least because we were brave, but
because the interest of what was happening utterly extinguished any
other feeling. Probably the majority of the crowd had passed gloomy and
uncomfortable moments imagining that very situation, namely, of having
a murderous Zeppelin just above them; but when once the murderous
Zeppelin was there, they all forgot it was murderous, and were merely
interested in the real live Zeppelin. Just in the same way, in minute
matters, we all find that ringing the dentist's bell is about the worst
part of the tiresome business.

The sequel as concerns the house in which I had dined so few hours
before delighted me when I was told it next day. I suppose the
realistic character of our rehearsal preyed on the servants' minds,
for they groped their way downstairs to the cellar in the dark, and
none thought to turn on the electric light. My hostess picked up
her jewel-case and groped her way after them, forgetting about the
soda-solution and the masks, and my host threw open the window and
gazed ecstatically at the Zeppelin till it vanished. Then he turned on
the lights and fetched his household back from the cellar, since the
raid was over.... It is but another instance of how, when faced with a
situation, we diverge from the lines of conduct we have so carefully
laid down for ourselves. I once knew a family that practised fire-drill
very industriously in case that one day there might be an outbreak in
the house. There were patent extinguishers to put it out with, and
ropes to let yourself out of window all over the place, and everyone
knew exactly what he was to do. Then the opportunity so long expected
came, and a serious outbreak occurred. On which the owner forgot
everything that he had learned himself and taught everybody else, and
after throwing a quantity of his valuable Oriental china on to the
stone terrace, he performed prodigies of single-handed valour in saving
a very old piano which nobody wanted at all.... (I think this pathetic
story contradicts my theory about the calmness of the crowd on the
Zeppelin night, but who wants to be consistent?)

       *       *       *       *       *

I had arrived this September at a break in the lease of my house, and
six months before (see page two of the lease in question) I had given
notice to the owner in writing that I should evacuate. Consequently for
the last few months I had been an assiduous frequenter of house-agents'
offices, and the God of addition sums alone knows how many houses I
had seen over from garret to basement. The extraordinary thing about
all these was that they were all exceptional bargains, such as the
agent had never before known, and that in almost every case another
gentleman was in negotiation for them. In spite of that, however,
if I chose at once and firmly to offer the price asked, there was a
strong probability of my securing one of these marvellous bargains,
and thwarting the ambitions of the other gentleman. This opportunity
to thwart the other gentleman was certainly an appeal to the more
villainous side of human nature, and often, if a house seemed to me
the sort of habitation I was on the look-out for, the thought of the
other gentleman getting it was an incentive to take it myself. But
never before did I realize how hopelessly traditional is that section
of the human race which designs our houses for us. The type, in the
modest species of abode I was looking for, never varied. There was a
narrow passage inside the front door, with a dining-room and a back
room opening out of it, and a staircase up to the first floor, where
lay two sitting-rooms, invariably knocked into one. There was a bath
on a half-landing, there were front bedrooms and back bedrooms higher
up, all exactly alike, and for a long time I looked in vain for any
house that was not precisely like any other house. In fact, this became
a _sine qua non_ with me, and ceasing to care whether I thwarted the
other gentleman or not, I think if I had found a house where the
bath-room was in the basement, or there was no staircase, so that you
had to go upstairs in a basket with a rope, I should have taken it. I
almost despaired of finding what I wanted, and thought of revoking,
if possible, my notice of quitting, for in my present house there is
something which is not quite like other houses, for some inspired
tenant threw down the wall between the dining-room and the entrance
passage, making a sort of hall of it, in the middle of which I dine.
That there are inconveniences attaching to it I don't deny, for the
guest sitting nearest the front door occasionally jumps out of his skin
when the postman thunders with the evening post close by his ear; but
the house isn't quite like other houses of its type, which is precisely
the reason why ten years ago I took it.

With a pocket full of "orders to view," and plenty of shillings for
the patient caretakers who mournfully conducted me over their charge,
I used on most days to set out on these explorations after lunch,
returning discouraged at tea-time. I could not see myself in any of the
houses I saw, or imagine going to sleep in any of those front bedrooms,
or spending the evening in the back-room behind the dining-room, or in
the two sitting-rooms knocked into one. But then, though it lingered
long, came the Mecca of my quest. Even at the front door I had some
premonition of success, for the knocker was not like other knockers,
and when the door opened, I saw, with a beating heart, that the
staircase was not like other staircases. Some four feet from the ground
it turned at right angles towards where the dreadful little back room
should be. It couldn't go into the door of the little back room, or
if it did, it would be very odd. You would have to pass through the
dining-room in order to get to the bottom of the staircase.... Then
advancing I saw: the staircase turned into a little hall (originally,
no doubt, the dreadful little back room). Beyond lay a broad passage,
and the dining-room was built out at the end. Through the open door
of it I saw the windows looking out, not on to a street at all, but
on to full-foliaged trees that grew in a disused graveyard. Between
it and the house ran a way for foot-passengers only. Something in my
brain exulted, crying out "This is it!" and simultaneously I felt a
soft stroking on my shin. Looking down I saw a grave black cat rubbing
against me. Was there ever such an omen? I had already settled in my
mind that this must be the house intended for me (it was), and here was
the bringer of good luck congratulating me on my discovery.

I made the usual grand tour, but in how different a mood, and as I
mounted my spirits rose ever higher. In front was a square (so-called
though it was an oblong) closed at the top end where my house was
situated, so that no traffic came through it, and at the back was this
big graveyard, with its church, and the dome of the Brompton Oratory
(concealment is useless) rising over its shoulder like the Salute at
Venice. Literally not a house was in sight; there was but the faintest
sound of traffic from the Brompton Road; I might have been a country
parson in his vicarage. I went straight to the house-agent's, made an
offer, and didn't care one atom whether I thwarted anybody or not.
Naturally I hoped I did, but it made no difference.

A little genteel chaffering ensued, for I felt so certain that I was
going to live in that house, that I felt I was running no risks, and in
a week it was mine, with possession at this quarter-day of September.
Then having got my desire, I began to feel regretful about the house I
was leaving. I had spent ten jolly years in it, and now for the first
time I became aware how I had taken root there, how our tendrils, those
of the house and of me, had got intertwined. The roots consisted of
all kinds of memories, some sad, some pleasant, some ludicrous, but
all dear. I was digging myself up like a plant, and these fibres had
to be disentangled, for I could not bear to break them. For though
memories are immaterial things, they knit themselves into rooms or
gardens, the scenes where they were laid, and those scenes become part
of them and they of those scenes. Just as a house where some deed of
horror has been done retains for sensitives some impression of it, and
we say the house is haunted, so even for those who are not sensitives
in this psychical sense the rooms they have lived in, where there has
been the talk and laughter of those they have loved, and maybe lost,
have got knit into them, and must be treated tenderly if parting comes.
And I imagined, when I came home after definitely settling to leave
this month, that the house knew about it, and looked at me with silent
reproach. For we had suited each other very well, we had been very
friendly and happy together, and now I was deserting the home in the
making of which we had both been ingredients, and the spirit of the
house I was betraying was full of mute appeal. It did not want to be
left alone, or, still worse, to be mated with people who did not suit
it. But what could I do? I was going away; there was no doubt about
that, and I could hardly give it a present of fresh paint or paper some
of its rooms to please it. That would have been ridiculous. But I would
leave it all the bulbs I had planted year by year in the garden. There
would be a great show of them next spring.... Poor dear little old

I had got possession of my new house "as from" (this is legal
phraseology, and means "on") the first of September, when the front
door-key was given me; and thus I had four weeks for decoration,
and took a header into the delightful sea of paints and papers and
distempers. The most altruistic of friends, whom I will call Kino
(which has something to do with his name but not much), vowed himself
to me for the whole of that month, to give advice in the matter of
colours, and not to mind if I rejected it, to come backwards and
forwards for ever and ever from one house to the other, with a pencil,
a memorandum-book and a yard measure incessantly in his pocket. For
when you go into a new house you have to measure all that you possess
to see if it fits. It never does, but you can't help believing it is
going to. You have to measure curtains and curtain rods to see where
they will go (the idea of leaving a lovely brass curtain rod behind was
an idea before which my happiness shrivelled like a parched scroll);
you have to measure brass stair-rods and count them; you have to
measure blinds, and carpets and rugs and grand pianos and beds and
tables and cupboards. Then with the dimensions written down in Kino's
memorandum-book, we hurried across to the new house, and measured the
heights of rooms by tying the tape on to the end of a walking-stick,
and the spaces between the eyelets on stairs which in favourable
circumstances retain the carpet rods in place, the widths of recesses,
comparing them with the measurements of the articles we hoped to
establish there. Also with sinkings of the heart I surreptitiously
took the size of an awkward angle of the staircase (up which my grand
piano must pass), and came to the conclusion that it wouldn't. I said
nothing about it to Kino, because it is no use to anticipate trouble.
But later in the day, when we were back in Oakley Street again, I came
unexpectedly into the drawing-room and caught _him_ measuring the
piano. Of course I pretended not to see.

The previous tenant of the new house had taken away most of the
fixtures, but was willing to leave certain degraded blinds, which on
my side I did not want. On the other hand, I had not long ago got a
quantity of new blinds for my old house, which I should have liked to
use if possible, and the question of blinds became a nightmare. I had
before now deplored the awful uniformity of architects in matters of
building; now I raged over their amazing irregularities with regard
to windows. In an insane anxiety for originality, they seemed to make
every window of a different size; my drawing-room blinds were three
inches too narrow for my new drawing-room, and two inches too broad for
the front bedroom. Then Kino would have a marvellous inspiration, and,
running downstairs, discovered that the hall window was of precisely
the same width as the drawing-room windows in the old house, so that
a home was found for one of the blinds. So he measured all the other
windows in the new house, to find a home for the other drawing-room
blind. Then we lost the measurements of the windows in my old bedroom,
and I went back to Oakley Street, to measure these again and telephone
the dimensions to him. On going to the telephone "the intermittent
buzzing sound" awaited me, and after agitating discussions between
me and the exchange, I found that Kino was simultaneously ringing
me up to say he had found the list in question, and by a wonderful
stroke of good luck my bedroom blinds fitted the back bedroom on the
second floor. There was only one window there, so we had left over (at
present) one drawing-room blind and one bedroom blind.... That night
I dreamed that Kino was dead, and that I, as undertaker, was trying
to fit a bedroom blind on to him as a shroud; but his feet, shod in
Wellington boots, protruded, and I cut a piece off the dining-room
blind to cover them up.

But through all these disturbances the work of painting and
distempering went swiftly on, and the house began to gleam with the
colours I loved. For a mottled wall-paper in the hall and passage
which resembled brawn that had seen its best days, there shone a blue
in which there met the dark velvet of the starry sky and the flare
of the Italian noon. Black woodwork with panels of white framed the
window, and of black and white was the staircase; a yellow ceiling made
sunshine in the dining-room. The drawing-room was fawn-grey, and on the
black floor would gleam the sober sunsets of Bokhara; even blinds that
would not fit and brass curtain-rods that there was no use for had, so
to speak, a silver lining. Marvellous to relate, there seemed every
prospect of the work being finished by the twenty-ninth of the month,
and with an optimism pathetically misplaced, I supposed that it was the
simplest thing in the world to put the furniture of a small house into
a larger one. I knew exactly where everything was to go; what could
be simpler than with a smiling face to indicate to the workmen the
position of each article as it emerged from the van? It is true that
the thought of the grand piano still occasionally croaked raven-like in
my mind, but I pretended, like Romeo, that it was only the nightingale.

I suppose everybody, however lightly enchained to possessions, has
some few objects of art (or otherwise) to which he is profoundly
attached. In my case there were certain wreaths and festoons of gilded
wood-carving by Kent, and before the actual move took place, Kino and
I had a halcyon day in fixing these up to the walls of the blue hall,
where they would be safe from the danger of having wardrobes and other
trifles dumped down on them. So on a certain Sunday we set off from
Oakley Street in a taxicab piled high with these treasures and with
hammer and nails, and with a bottle of wine, sandwiches of toast and
chicken, apples and two kitchen chairs. Disembarking with care, we
ate the first meal in the house, and did not neglect a most important
ceremony, that of making friends with the Penates, or gods of the home,
who, like my _strega_ in Alatri and the fairies of _Midsummer Night's
Dream,_ police the passages when all are asleep and drive far from the
house all doubtful presences. There on the earth we made burnt offering
of the crumbs of chicken sandwiches and apple-rind, building an oven of
the paper in which our lunch was wrapped, and at the end pouring on the
ashes a libation from the bottle of wine. All was right that day; the
nails went smoothly home into the walls, we did not hammer our fingers,
and the gold wreaths arranged themselves as by magic.

The great manoeuvre began next day, when at an early hour the vans
arrived to begin taking my furniture. That day they moved dispensable
things, leaving the apparatus of bedrooms, which was to be transferred
on the morrow, at the close of which I was to sleep in the new house.
Dining-room furniture went on the first day, and when I came back
that evening to sleep in the old house for the last time, I found it
dishevelled and mournful. Canvas-packing strewed the floor, pictures
were gone, and on the walls where they had hung were squares and
oblongs of unfaded paper. The beauty and the amenity of the house were
departed; I felt as if I had been stripping the robes off it, and its
spirit shivering and in rags went silently with me as I visited the
denuded rooms, with eyes of silent reproach. I was taking away from it
all that it had reckoned as its own; to-morrow I, too, should desert
it, and it would stand lonely and companionless. Never in those ten
years had it been so pleasant to live with as in that last week; it
was as if it were putting forth shy advances, making itself so kind
and agreeable, in order to detain the tenants with whom it had passed
such happy years. One by one I turned out the lights, and its spirit
followed me up to my bedroom. But to-night it would not come in, and
when I entered the sense of home was gone from my room.

       *       *       *       *       *

All next day the chaos in the new house grew more and more abysmal
as the vans were unloaded. The plan of putting everything instantly
and firmly into its place failed to come off; for how could you put
anything firmly or otherwise into the dining-room when for two hours
the refrigerator blocked access to it? Meantime books were stacked on
the floor, layers of pictures leaned against the walls; the hall got
packed with tables and piles of curtains, and finally, about five of
the afternoon, arrived the grand piano. The foreman gave but one glance
at the staircase, and declared that it was quite impossible for it to
go up, and pending some fresh plan for its ascension, it must needs
stop in the hall too, where it stood on its side like the coffin of
some enormous skate. By making yourself tall and thin you could just
get by it.

Trouble increased; soon after nightfall a policeman rang at the door
to tell me I had an unshaded light in a front room. So I had, and,
abjectly apologizing, I explained the circumstance and quenched the
light. Hardly had he gone, when another came and said I had a very
bright light in a back room. That seemed to be true also, and since
there were neither blinds nor curtains in that room, where I was
trying to produce some semblance of order, my labours there must be
abandoned. But the more we tidied, the more we attempted to put pieces
of furniture into their places, the worse grew the confusion, and the
more the floors got carpeted with china and pictures and books. It was
as when you eat an artichoke, and, behold, the more you eat, the higher
on your plate rises the débris.

About midnight Kino went home; the servants had gone to bed, and I was
alone in this nightmare of unutterable confusion. Till one I toiled on,
wondering why I had ever left the old house, where the spirit of home
was now left lonely. No spirit of home had arrived here yet, and I did
not wonder. But just before I went to bed I visited the kitchen to see
how they had been getting on downstairs, and for a moment hope gleamed
on the horizon. For sitting in the middle of the best dinner-service,
which was on the floor, was Cyrus, my blue Persian cat, purring loudly.
His topaz eye gleamed, and he rose up, clawing at the hay as I entered.
He liked the new house; he thought it would suit him, and came upstairs
with me, arching his back and rubbing himself against the corners.


For two days the grand piano remained on its side at the bottom of the
stairs, while furniture choked and eddied round it, as when a drain
is stopped up and the water cannot flow away. It really seemed that
it would stop there for ever, and that the only chance of playing it
again involved being strapped into a chair, and laid sideways on the
floor. Eventually the foreman of the removal company kindly promised
to come back next morning, take out the drawing-room window, and sling
the creature in. This would require a regiment of men, and the sort of
tackle with which thirteen-inch guns are lifted into a ship. He hoped
(he could go no further than that) that the stone window ledge would
stand the strain; I hoped so too. My wits, I suppose, were sharpened
by this hideous prospect, and I telephoned to the firm who had made
the piano to send down three men and see if they concurred in the
impossibility of getting the piano upstairs except _via_ the doubtful
window-ledge. In half an hour they had taken it up the staircase
without touching the banisters or scratching the wall.

Magically, as by the waving of a wand, the constipation on the
ground-floor was relieved; it was as if the Fairy Prince (in guise
of three sainted piano-movers) had restored life to the house. The
tables and chairs danced into their places; bookshelves became peopled
with volumes; the china clattered nimbly into cupboards, and carpets
unrolled themselves on the stairs. There was dawn on the wreck, and
Kino and I set to work on the great scheme of black and white floor
decoration which was destined to embellish in a manner unique and
surprising the whole of the ground-floor.

Linoleum was the material of it, an apotheosis of linoleum. Round the
walls of the passages, the hall, the front room, were to run borders
of black and white, with panels in recesses, enclosing a chess-board
of black and white squares. Roll after roll of linoleum arrived, and
with gravers we cut them up, and tacked down the borders and the panels
and the chess-board with that admirable and headless species of nail
known as "little brads." The work was not noiseless like the building
of the Temple of Solomon, but when it was done, my visitors were indeed
Queens of Sheba, for no more spirit was left in them when on their
blinded eyes there dawned the glories of the floors that were regular
and clean as marble pavements, and kind to the tread. No professional
hand was permitted to assist in these orgies of decoration; two
inspired amateurs did it all, and one of them did about twenty times
as much as the other. (The reader may form his own conclusion as to
whether modesty or the low motive of seeking credit where the credit
belongs to another prompts my reticence on this point.) Then there
were wonderful things to be done with paint (and I really did a good
deal of that); ugly tiles were made beautiful with shining black, that
most decorative of all hues when properly used, and in one room the
splendour given to a door and a chimneypiece put Pompeii in its proper
place for ever. And all the time, as we worked, and put something of
human personality into the house, the spirit of home was peeping in at
windows shyly, tentatively, or hiding behind curtains, or going softly
about the pleasant passages, till at last one evening, as we finished
some arrangement of books in the front-room, I was conscious that it
had come to stay. It did not any longer shrink from observation or
withdraw itself when it thought I got a glimpse of it. It stood boldly
out, smiling and well pleased, and next day, when I woke for a moment
in the hour before dawn, with sparrow-twitters in the trees outside,
it was in my room, and I turned over contentedly and went to sleep
again. Was it that the disconsolate ghost in Oakley Street had come
here, transferring itself from the empty shell? Had it followed, like a
deserted cat, the familiar furniture, and the familiar denizens? Or had
a new spirit of home been born? Certainly the conviction that the house
had found itself, that it had settled down to an incarnate plane again
was no drowsy fantasy of the night; for in the morning, when I went
downstairs, the whole aspect of things had changed. I knew I was _chez
moi,_ instead of just carrying on existence in some borrowed lodging.

That morning an enormous letter, chiefly phonetic, arrived from
Seraphina. It was difficult to read, because when Seraphina wished to
erase a word, she had evidently smudged her finger over the wet ink,
and written something on top of it. At first I felt as bewildered as
King Belshazzar, when on the wall there grew the inconjecturable doom;
but since I had no Daniel in fee, I managed, by dint of trying again
and again, to make out the most of her message. She relapsed sometimes
into the dialect of Alatri, but chiefly she stuck to the good old plan,
recommended by Mr. Roosevelt, of putting down the letters like which
the word, when spoken, would sound. But by dint of saying it aloud, I
caught the gist of it all. No word had come from Alatri since Francis's
return, and even as I read the glamour of that remote existence grew
round me.

She had written before, she said, both to Signorino Francesco and to
me, but she supposed that the letters had gone wrong, for they said
the Government soaked off the stamps from the envelopes and sold them
again. But that was all right; they wanted every penny they could get
to spend against the devil-Austrians. _Dio!_ What tremendous battles!
How the gallant Italian boys were sweeping them out of the Trentino!
And Goriza had fallen twenty times already. Surely it must have fallen
by now. And there was the straight road to Trieste....

The flame of war had set Alatri alight; there was scarce a man of
military age left on the island, except the soldiers who from time to
time were quartered there. The price of provisions was hideous, but
thrifty folk had planted vegetables in their gardens, and if God said
that only the rich might have meat, why, the poor would get on very
well without. She herself had planted nutritious beans in the broad
flower-bed, as soon as the flowers were over, as she had said in her
previous letter (not received), and already she had made good soup from
them, since Signorino Francesco had told her to use garden produce for
herself. But Signora Machonochie had come to borrow some beans, and, as
the beans belonged to the Signori, Seraphina wished for permission to
give her them, since they would otherwise be dried, and make good soup
again when the Signori returned. For herself--_scusi_--she thought the
Signora Machonochie was a good soul (though greedy), for she was always
making mittens for the troops on the snow of the frontier against the
winter-time, and went about the roads perpetually knitting, so that
one day she, not looking where she was going, charged into Ludovico's
manure cart, and was much soiled. So, if it was our wish that she
should have some beans, she should have them, but there would be fewer
bottles in the store-room.

Then Seraphina became more of a friend, less of a careful housekeeper.
She continued:

        "The house expects your excellencies' dear presence
        whenever you can return. All the rooms are like Sunday
        brooches: there is no speck of dust. Pasqualino has been
        gone this long time, for as soon as we went to war
        with the stinking beasts, up he goes to the military
        office, and swears on the Holy Book that he is just
        turned nineteen, and has come to report himself to the
        authorities. Of course, they looked him out in their
        register, and he was but eighteen, but he confessed
        his perjury when it was no longer any use to deny it,
        and they were not displeased with him, nor did he go
        to prison, as happened to Luigi. But they wanted young
        fellows for the Red Cross who look after the wounded,
        and, after many prayers, Pasqualino was permitted, in
        spite of his perjury, to go and serve. Gold buttons, no
        less, on his jacket; so smart he looked; and there was
        Caterina smiling and crying all in one, and she gulped
        and kissed him, and kissed him again and gulped, and
        for all the world she was as proud of him as the priest
        on Sunday morning, and would not have had him stay. She
        came up here to help in the house, and it is all for
        love of Pasqualino, for once I offered her some _soldi_
        for the help she had given me in dusting, and she just
        smacked my hand, and the _soldi_ fell out, and we kissed
        each other, for then I understood; and she asked to go
        to Pasqualino's room and sat on the bed, and looked at
        his washstand, and stroked the coat he had left behind.
        Oh, I understand young hearts, Signor, for all that I
        am old, and I left her alone there, and presently she
        came down again and told me her trouble. It was the
        night before he went, and your excellency must not think
        hardly of him or her. _Scusi,_ if I give advice, but
        they were young, and did not think, for you do not
        think when you are young, and they are beautiful, both
        of them, and when they are beautiful, who can wonder?
        She knows he will marry her, and, indeed, Alatri knows
        it too, and thus the _bambino_ will not be blackened.
        Pasqualino is a good boy, and in spite of it, she wanted
        him to go for the sake of the wounded, thinking nothing
        of herself and the little one within her. Alatri will be
        blind to the _bambino,_ and wait for him to make it all

        "Eh, what a pen I have, for it runs on like a tap! All
        this last month I have been writing a little every day,
        and now it is nearly finished. But still I think the
        Signor would like to hear of Teresa of the Cake-shop.
        There was never such a wonder; it was like a miracle.
        Suddenly she would have no more of the cake-shop, but
        must needs go to Naples, and learn to be a nurse, and
        look after the wounded, as Pasqualino had done. Never,
        as the Signor knows, had she gone down to the Marina
        since fifteen years ago (or is it sixteen?), when she
        went to meet her _promesso,_ Vincenzo Rhombo, who had
        come back from Buenos Ayres, and even as he landed on
        the Marina, was stricken in her very arms with the
        cholera and died that day. Never since then had Teresa
        gone to the Marina, whatever was the _festa_ or the
        fireworks; but now nothing would serve her but that
        she must go to help in the war. She had money, for the
        cake-shop had done well all these years, and she must
        needs go and spend her money in learning nursing in
        Naples. All of a sudden it was so with her, and one
        day a month ago she asked me to come down with her to
        see her forth. And when we came to the Marina, Signor,
        she shut her eyes, for she could not bear to see it,
        and asked me to lead her along the quay to where the
        boats took off the passengers by the steamer. All along
        the quay I led her, she with eyes closed; but when we
        came to the steps, where Vincenzo had landed and fell
        into her arms a stricken man, then at last she opened
        her eyes, or the tears opened them, and she fell on
        her knees and kissed the place where Vincenzo had been
        joined to her. She kissed it, and she kissed it, and
        then suddenly her tears dried, and she stepped into
        the boat and waved her hand to her friends and said:
        'Vincenzo wishes it; Vincenzo wishes it.' Oh, a brave
        woman! she had not baked her heart in the cake-shop.

        "My humble duty to you, excellency, Seraphina has no
        more to say, but that often the step goes up and down
        in the studio. I think, as Donna Margherita said, that
        someone guards the house. It is as a sentry, who makes
        the house secure. But it will be a good day when I hear
        there the steps of the Signorino and of you. All humble
        compliments and the good wishes of a friend who is

        "_Scusi!_ Shall I sow the flower seeds in the garden
        that were saved from last year? If the Signori will
        not be here in the spring, what need to sow them, for
        they will keep, will they not? But if there is a chance
        of your coming, the garden must needs be gay with a

Right in the middle of the black cloud of war there came a rift, as I
read Seraphina's budget of news. Some breeze parted the folds of it,
and I saw a peep of blue sky and bluer sea, and the stone-pine and
the terraced gardens, with the morning-glory rioting on the wall. But
how incredibly remote it seemed, as if it belonged to some previous
cycle of existence; as if the closed doors of eternity that swing
shut when we are born had opened again, and I looked on some previous
incarnation. I thought I remembered (before the war came) experiences
like those which Seraphina's letter suggested, but they seemed like
the affairs of childhood, when imagination is so mixed up with reality
that we scarcely know whether there are robbers in the shrubbery or
not. We pretend that there are, and even while we pretend dusk falls
and the shrubbery has to be passed, and we are not certain whether
there are not robbers there, after all. It was so with the recollection
of the things of which Seraphina spoke (and even they were mixed up
with war). I felt I might have dreamed them, or have invented them for
myself, or have experienced them in some pre-natal existence. Just
that one glimpse I had of them, and no more; then the rift in the
clouds closed up again, and blacker than ever before, except perhaps
during the days of the Retreat from Mons, grew the gigantic bastion
of storm through which we had to pass.... Even so once, thunderclouds
collected before me when I was on the top of an Alpine peak, gathering
and growing thicker with extraordinary swiftness. A rent came in them
for a moment, and through it we could see the pastures and villages ten
thousand feet below. Then it closed up, and we had to pass through the
clouds out of which already the lightning was leaping before we could
arrive on the safe familiar earth again.

I could scarcely realize, then, what life was like before the war,
and now, looking forward, it seemed impossible to imagine that there
could be any end to the murderous business. This month a wave of
pessimism swept over London; even those who had been most optimistic
were submerged in it; and all that was possible was to go on, the more
occupied the better, and, anyhow, not to talk about it. A dozen times
had our hopes flared high; a dozen times they had been extinguished.

Only a few months ago we had seen the advance of the Russian armies
through Galicia, and had told each other that the relentless
steam-roller had begun its irresistible progress across the Central
Empires, leaving them flattened out and ground to powder in its wake.
But now, instead of their being flattened out in its wake, it appeared
that they had only been concentrated and piled high in front of it,
for now the billow of the enemies' armies, poised and menacing, had
broken and swept the steam-roller far back on the beach, where now
it remained stuck in the shingle with quenched furnaces and a heavy
list. Przemysl had been retaken; the newly-christened Lvoff had become
Lemberg again; Warsaw had fallen; Ivangorod had fallen; Grodno and
Vilna had fallen. For the time, it is true, that great billow had spent
itself, but none knew yet what damage and dislocation had been wrought
on the steam-roller. Russia's friends assured us that the invincible
resolve of her people had suffered no damage, and expressed their
unshaken belief in the triumphant march of her destiny. But even the
most eloquent preachers of confidence found it difficult to explain
precisely on what their confidence was based.

That was not all, nor nearly all. In the Balkans Bulgaria had
joined the enemy; the fat white fox Ferdinand had kissed his hand
to his august brothers in Vienna and Berlin, and soon, when Servia
had been crushed, they would meet, and in each other's presence
confirm the salutation, and be-Kaiser and be-Czar each other. From
one side the Austro-German advance had begun, from the other the
Bulgarian, and it was certain that in a few weeks we should see Servia
extinguished--exterminated even as Belgium had been. It was useless to
imagine that all the despairing gallantry of that mountain people could
stand against the double invasion, or to speak of the resistance in
the impregnable mountain passes, which would take months to overcome.
Such talk was optimism gone mad, even as in the Retreat from Mons
certain incredible tacticians in the Press assured us that this was all
part of a strategic move, whereby the German lines of communication
would be lengthened. Certainly their lines of communication were
being lengthened, for they were pressing the Allies, who were totally
unable to stand against that first rush, across half France. So now
only insane interpreters could give encouraging comments on the news
from Servia. Servia, who had been but a king's pawn to open the savage
game that was being played over the length and breadth of Europe, was
taken and swept off the board; in a few weeks at the most we should
see the power of Germany extending unbroken from Antwerp on the
West to Constantinople on the East. Allied to Bulgaria and Turkey,
with Servia crushed, the way to the East, should she choose to go
Eastwards, lay open and undefended in front of her. It seemed more than
possible, too, that Greece, who had invited the troops of the Allies
to Salonika, would join the triumphant advance of the Central Empires.
Our diplomacy, as if it had been some card game played by children,
had been plucked from our hands and scattered over the nursery table;
every chance that had been ours had been thrown on to the rubbish
heap, and Germany, going to the rubbish heap, had picked up our lost
opportunities and shown us how to use them. It was impossible (it would
also have been silly) to be optimistic over these blunders; the Balkan
business was going as badly as it possibly could.

There was worse yet. Before the end of the month no one, unless,
like the ostrich, he buried his eyes in the sand and considered that
because he saw nothing there was nothing to see, had any real hope of
a successful issue to the Dardanelles expedition, and it was with an
aching sense of regret that one recalled the brave days when the _Queen
Elizabeth_ went thundering into the Straits, and we were told that but
a mile or two divided us from victory. But what miles! They seemed
quite sufficient, to divide us, even as when on board ship you are told
that only a plank lies between yourself and a watery grave, the plank
will do very well indeed to keep off the watery grave. That mile or two
had the same stubborn quality; months of valiant endeavour, endless
sacrifice, and sickening mistakes had not brought us any nearer our

It was useless to blink these obvious facts, and I found one morning
that it would be wiser to sit down and just stare them in the face,
get used to them, as far as might be, rather than shuffle them out of
sight, or pretend to see silver linings to clouds which, in spite of
the proverb, had not got any. There was a pit of clouds. Somehow that
must be explored. It was no use to pretend to put a lid on it, and say
there was no such pit. I had to go down into it.

I descended then into this "black tremendous sea of cloud." It was not
the invariable daily tale of ill-success in the war that caused it to
form in my brain, though I suppose it was that which consolidated it.
It came like an obsession. I had gone to bed one night with hope of
good news next day; I had taken pleasure in my jolly new house! I had
dined with friends and I slept well. But when I woke the Thing was
there. There was no bad news in the paper that morning, but in the
papers and in my bed, and about my path, and in my breakfast, there
was a blackening poison that spread and sprouted like some infernal
mushroom of plague. I found that I did not care for anything any more;
there was the root of this obsession. I thought of the friends I should
presently meet when I went out to my work, and the thought of them
roused no feeling of any kind. There was a letter from Francis, saying
that in a week's time he would have three days' leave, and proposed
that he should spend them with me. There was a letter from Kino, saying
that he had found the book which I so much wanted, and would bring it
round after breakfast, and should we go out, as we had vaguely planned,
that afternoon to Kew, and get the country whiff from the flaming
autumn? Certainly if he liked, thought I, for it does not matter. I did
not want to go, nor did I want not to go; it was all one, for over all
and in all was the blackness of the pit of clouds. We went accordingly,
and to me his face and his presence were no more than the face and the
presence of any stranger in the street. He had lost his meaning, he was
nonsense; it might have been some gesticulating machine that walked by
me. We looked at the flaring towers of golden and russet leaf, and I
saw them as you see something through the wrong end of a telescope. I
saw them through glass, through a diving bell. The sun was warm, the
sky was flecked with the loveliest mackerel scales of cloud; I was
with a friend stepping along mossy paths below the beech-trees, and
within me was a centre-point of consciousness that only wailed and
cried out at the horror of existence. The glory of the autumn day was
as magnificent as ever; the smell of the earth and the tea-like odour
of dry leaves had in itself all the sting and thrill that belonged to
it, and by my side was the friend with whom the laying of linoleum had
been so wonderful a delight, because we laid it together, and I was cut
off from it all. Everything was no more than dried flowers, sapless,
brittle and colourless.

Those days were no more than hours of existence, to which somehow my
flesh clung, though the fact of existence was just that which was so
tragic and so irremediable. By occupying myself, by doing anything
definite that required attention, even if it was only acknowledging
the receipt of subscriptions, or of writing begging letters on behalf
of the fund for which I worked, I could cling to the sheer cliff
and still keep below me that sea of cloud. But the moment that the
automatism only of life was wanted, the sea rose and engulfed me again.
When I walked along a street, when I sat down to eat, when, tired with
conscious effort of the mind, I relaxed attention, it drowned me. The
effort to keep my head above it was infinitely fatiguing, and when
at nights, having been unable to find something more to do, however
trivial, or when, unable to hold the dam-gate any longer, I went up to
bed, the nightmare of existence yelled out and smothered me. Huge and
encompassing, it surged about a pinprick of consciousness which was
myself; black wrinkled clouds brooded from zenith to horizon, and I
knew that beyond the horizon, and to innumerable horizons beyond that,
there reached that interminable blackness _in saecula saeculorum._ Or,
again, as in some feverish dream, behold, it was I, who just before
had been a pinprick in everlasting time and space, who now swelled up
to infinite dimensions, and was surrounded for ever and ever by gross
and infinitesimal nothingness. At one moment I was nothing set in the
middle of cosmic darkness; at the next I was cosmic darkness itself,
set in a microscopic loneliness, an alpha and omega of the everlasting
midnight. No footstep fell there, no face looked out from it, neither
of God nor of devil, nor of human kind. I was alone, as I had always
been alone; here was the truth of it, for it was but a fancy figment
that there was a scheme, a connection, a knitting of the members of the
world to each other, and of them to God. I had made that up myself; it
was but one of the foolish stories that I had often busied myself with.
But I knew better now; I was alone, and all was said.

Now there are many who have been through much darker and deeper waters
than these, without approaching real melancholia. To the best of my
belief I did no more than paddle at the edge of them. Certainly they
seemed to close over me, except for that one fact that even where they
were deepest, any manual or mental act that required definite thought
was sufficient for the moment to give me a breath of air. All pleasure,
and, so it seemed to me, all love had become obscured, but there was
still some sense of decency left that prevented me from lying down on
the floor, and saying in the Italian phrase, "_Non po' combattere._"
There was a double consciousness still. I said to myself, "I give
up!" but I didn't act as if I gave up, nor did I tell another human
soul that in myself I had done so. I confessed to depression, but
didn't talk about it. I wrote a perfectly normal and cordial letter to
Francis, saying how welcome he would be, though I felt that there was
no such person. Still, I wrote to him, and did not seriously expect
that my note would be returned through the dead-letter office. And this
is precisely the reason why I have written these last pages; it is to
assure all those who know, from inside, what such void and darkness
means, that the one anchor is employment, and the absolute necessity is
behaving in a normal manner. It does not seem worth while; it seems,
too, all but impossible, but it is not quite impossible, and there is
nothing which is so much worth while. Until you actually go over the
edge, stick to the edge. Do not look down into the abyss, keep your
eyes on such ground as there is, and find something there: a tuft of
grass, a fallen feather, the root of a wild plant--and look at it. If
you are so fortunate as to discover a little bare root there, something
easily helped, cover it up with a handful of kindly soil. (You will not
slip while you are doing this.) If a feather, be sure that some bird
has flown over, and dropped it from a sunlit wing; if a tuft of grass,
think of the seed from which it came. Besides, if God wills that you go
down into Hell, He is there also....

Hold on, just hold on. Sometimes you will look back on the edge to
which you clung, and will wonder what ailed you.

It was so with me. I merely held on till life, with its joys and its
ties, began to steal back into me, even as into a dark room the light
begins to filter at dawn. At no one second can you say that it is
lighter than it was the second before, but if you take a series of
seconds, you can see that light is in the ascendant. A certain Friday,
for instance, had been quite intolerable, but, just as you look out of
the window, and say "It is lighter," I found on Saturday that, though
nothing in the least cheerful had happened in the interval, I didn't
so earnestly object to existence, while a couple of days later I could
look back on Friday and wonder what it had all been about. What it had
been about I do not know now: some minute cell, I suppose, had worked
imperfectly, and lo! "the scheme of things entire" not only seemed,
but, I was convinced, was all wrong. Subjective though the disturbance
was, it could project itself and poison the world.

Two things certainly I learned from it, namely, that manual or mental
employment, hateful though it is to the afflicted, is less afflicting
than idleness; the second, that the more you keep your depression to
yourself the better. I wish that the infernal pessimists whose presence
blackens London would learn this. These ravens with their lugubrious
faces and their croaking accents, hop obscenely about from house to
house, with a wallet full of stories which always begin, "They say
that--" and there follows a tissue of mournful prognostications. They
project their subjective disturbance, and their tale beginning "They
say that--" or "I am told that--" generally means that Mr. A. and Mr.
B., having nothing to do, and nothing to think about, have sat by the
fire and ignorantly wondered what is going to happen. Having fixed on
the worst thing, whatever it is, that their bilious imagination can
suggest, they go out to lunch, and in accents of woe proceed to relate
that "They say that--" and state all the dismal forebodings which their
solitary meditations have hatched. In fact, the chief reason for which
I wish that I was a Member of Parliament is that I could then bring
in a Bill (or attempt to do so) for the Suppression of Pessimists. I
would also gladly vote for a Bill that provided for the Suppression of
Extreme Optimists on the same grounds, namely, that to be told that
the Kaiser has cancer, and that the burgesses of Berlin are already
starving, leads to a reaction such as the pessimists produce by direct
means. To be told that the Russians are incapable of further resistance
on the authority of "They say that--" depresses everybody at once;
and to be told that there isn't a potato to be had in all Germany
for love or money (particularly money) gives rise to an alcoholic
cheerfulness which dies out and leaves you with a headache of deferred
hopes. These grinning optimists were particularly hard to bear when
the terrible Retreat from Mons was going on, for they screamed with
delight at the notion that we were lengthening out the German lines
of communication, which subsequently would be cut, as by a pair of
nail-scissors lightly wielded, and the flower of the German army neatly
plucked like a defenceless wayside blossom. The same smiling idiots
were to the fore again during the great Russian retreat, and told us to
wait, finger on lip, with rapturous eyes, till the Germans had reached
the central steppes of Russia, when they would all swiftly expire of
frosts, Cossacks and inanition. But, after all, these rose-coloured
folk do very little harm; they make us go about our work with a heady
sense of exhilaration, which, though it soon passes off, is by no means
unpleasant. At the worst extreme optimists are only fools on the right
side, whereas pessimists are bores and beasts on the wrong one.

Pessimists have had a high old time all this month. They do not exactly
rejoice when things go ill for us, but misfortune has a certain sour
satisfaction for them, because it fulfils what they thought (and
said) in September. Thus now they nod and sigh, and proceed to tell
us what they augur for November. If only they would keep their misery
to themselves, nobody would care how miserable they are; but the
gratuitous diffusion of it is what should be made illegal. For the
microbe of pessimism is the most infectious of bacteria; it spreads
in such a manner that all decent-minded folk, when they have fallen
victims to it, ought surely (on the analogy of what they would do if
it was influenza) to shut themselves up and refuse to see anybody. But
because the disease is one of the mind, it appears that it is quite
proper for the sufferer to go and sneeze in other people's faces. There
ought to be a board of moral health, which by its regulations would
make it criminal to spread mental disorders, such as pessimism. I had
so severe an attack of it myself, when the clouds encompassed me, that
I have a certain right to propose legislation on the subject. Those
afflicted by the painful disease which, like typhoid, is only conveyed
through the mouth, in terms of articulate speech, should be fined some
moderate sum for any speech that was likely to propagate pessimism. If
the disease is acute, and the sufferer feels himself in serious danger
of bursting unless he talks, he would of course be at liberty to shut
himself up in any convenient room out of earshot, and talk till he felt
better. Only it should be on his responsibility that his conversation
should not be overheard by anybody, and, in suspension of the common
law of England, a wife should be competent to witness against her

It is not because the ravens are such liars that I complain, for
lying is the sort of thing that may happen to anybody, but it is the
depressing nature of their lies. The famous national outburst of lying
that took place over the supposed passage of hundreds of thousands of
Russians through England on their way to the battle-fields of France
and Flanders was harmless, inspiriting lying. So, too, the splendid
mendacity that seized so many of our citizens on the occasion of the
second Zeppelin raid. That ubiquitous airship I verily believe was seen
hovering over every dwelling-house in London; it hovered in Kensington,
in Belgravia, in Mayfair, in Hampstead, in Chelsea, and the best of it
was that it never came near these districts at all. In fact, it became
a mere commonplace that it hovered over your house, and a more soaring
breed of liars arose. One asserted that on looking up he had seen their
horrid German faces leaning over the side of the car; another, that the
cigar-shaped shadow of it passed over his blind. Of course, it passed
over Brompton Square, on which the Zeppelinians were preparing to
drop bombs, thinking that the dome of the Oratory was the dome of St.
Paul's, and that they had thus a good chance of destroying the Bank of
England. But in the stillness of the night, amid the soft murmurs of
the anti-aircraft guns, a guttural voice from above was heard to say,
"Nein: das ist nicht St Paul's," and the engine of destruction passed
on, leaving us unharmed. Was not that a fortunate thing?

Of course, by the time the Zeppelins began to visit us, we had all had
a good deal of practice in lying, which accounted for the gorgeous
oriental colouring of such amazing imaginings. But the pioneers
of this great revival of the cult of Ananias, were undoubtedly
that multitude whom none can number, who were ready to produce (or
manufacture) any amount of evidence to prove that soon after the
outbreak of the war battalions of Russian troops in special trains,
with blinds drawn down, were dashing through the country. It is a
thousand pities that some serious and industrious historian was not
commissioned by his Government to collect the evidence and issue it in
tabulated form, for it would have proved an invaluable contribution
to psychology. There was never any first-hand evidence on the subject
(for the simple reason that the subject had no real existence), but
the mass of secondhand evidences went far to prove the non-existent.
From Aberdeen to Southampton there was scarcely a station at which a
porter had not seen these army corps and told somebody's gardener.
The accounts tallied remarkably, the trains invariably had their
blinds drawn down, and occasionally bearded soldiers peered out of the
windows. There was a camp of them on Salisbury Plain, and hundreds of
Englishmen who knew no language but their own, distinctly heard them
talking Russian to each other. Sometimes stations (as at Reading)
had platforms boarded up to exclude the public, and the public from
neighbouring eminences saw the bearded soldiers drinking quantities of
tea out of samovars. This was fine imaginative stuff, for the samovar,
of course, is an urn, and nobody but a Russian, surely, would drink
tea out of an urn. There was collateral evidence, too: one day the
_Celtic_ was mined somewhere in the North Sea; she had on board tons of
ammunition and big guns, and for a while the hosts of Russia did not
appear in the fighting line, because they had remained on Salisbury
Plain till fresh supplies of ammunition came. Bolder spirits essayed
higher flights: At Swindon Station, so the porter told the gardener,
they had been seen walking about the platform stamping the snow off
their boots, which proved they had come from far North, where the snow
is of so perdurable a quality that it travels like blocks of ice from
Norwegian lakes without apparently melting even in the middle of a
hot September. Or again, in the neighbourhood of Hatfield the usual
gardener had heard that a _képi_ had been picked up on the road, and
what do you think was the name of the maker printed inside it? Why, the
leading military outfitter of Nijni-Novgorod! There was glory for you,
as Humpty-Dumpty said. The gardener fortunately knew who the leading
military outfitter of Nijni-Novgorod was, while regarded as a proof
what more could anybody want? How could a Russian _képi_ have been
dropped on the North Road unless at least a hundred thousand Russians
had been going in special trains through England? I suppose you would
not want them _all_ to throw their _képis_ away.

There were hundreds of such stories, none first hand, but overwhelming
in matter of cumulative secondhand evidence, all springing from
nowhere but the unassisted brain of ordinary Englishmen. The wish
was father to the thought; in the great peril that still menaced the
French and English battle-line, we all wanted hundreds of thousands of
Russians, and so we said that they were passing through. Some cowardly
rationalist, I believe, has explained the whole matter by saying that
some firm telegraphed that a hundred thousand Russians (whereby he
meant Russian eggs) were arriving. I scorn the truckling materialism
of this. The Russian stories were invented, bit by bit, even as coral
grows, by innumerable and busy liars, spurred on by the desire that
their fabrications might be true. Bitter animosities sprang up between
those who did and those who did not believe the Russian Saga. Single
old ladies, to whom the idea that Russia was pouring in to help us was
very comforting, altered their wills and cut off faithless nephews,
and the most stubborn Thomases amongst us were forced to confess that
there seemed to be a good deal to say for it, while the fact that the
War Office strenuously denied the whole thing was easily accounted for.
Of course the War Office denied it, for it didn't want the Germans to
know. It would be a fine surprise for the Germans on the West Front to
find themselves one morning facing serried rows of Russians.... They
would be utterly bewildered, for they had been under the impression
that Russia was far away East, on the other side of the Fatherland; but
here were the Russian armies! They would think their compasses had gone
mad; they would have been quite giddy with surprise, and have got that
lost feeling which does so much to undermine the morale of troops. Oh,
a great stroke!

But all these Russian and Zeppelin Saga were good heady, encouraging
lies, tonic instead of lowering, like the dejected inventions of
prostrate pessimists. I do not defend, on principle, the habit of
making up stories and saying that a porter at Reading told your
gardener; but, given that you are going to do that sort of thing, I do
maintain that you are bound to invent such stories as will encourage
and not depress your credulous friends. You have no right to attempt
to rob them of their most precious possession in times like these,
namely, the power of steadfast resistance of the spirit to trouble and
anxiety, by inventing further causes of depression. The law forbids
you to take away a man's forks and spoons; it ought also to forbid the
dissemination of such false news as will deprive him of his appetite
for his mutton chop.

Indeed, I fancy that by the law of England as laid down in the
statute-book it is treasonable in times of national crisis to
discourage the subjects of the King, and I wonder whether it would not
be possible, as there has been so little grouse-shooting this year, to
have a grouser-shoot instead. A quantity of old birds want clearing
off. Guns might be placed, let us say, in butts erected along the south
side of Piccadilly, and the grousers would be driven from the moors
of Mayfair by a line of beaters starting from Oxford Street. The game
would break cover, so I suppose, from Dover Street, Berkeley Street,
Half Moon Street, and so on, and to prevent their escaping into Regent
Street on the one side and Park Lane on the other, stops would be
placed at the entrance of streets debouching here in the shape of huge
posters announcing victories by land and sea for the Allied forces.
These the grousers would naturally be unable to pass, and thus they
would be driven out into Piccadilly and shot. This would take the
morning, and after a good lunch at the Ritz Hotel the shooters would
proceed to the covers of Kensington. Other days would, of course, be

But all this month the devastating tide swept on through Serbia.
Occasionally there were checks, as, for a moment, it dashed against
some little reef before submerging it; but soon wave succeeding wave
overleaped such barriers, and now Serbia lies under the waters of the
inundation. And in these shortening days of autumn the sky grows red in
the East with the dawning of new fires of battle, and to the watchers
there it goes down red in the West, where from Switzerland to the sea,
behind the trenches, the graveyards stretch themselves out over the
unsown fields of France.


Francis arrived on the last day of October, with a week's leave before
his regiment embarked for the Dardanelles. For a few hours he was a
mere mass of physical needs; until these were satisfied he announced
himself as incapable of thinking or speaking of anything but the

"Tea at once," he said. "No, I think I won't have tea with you; I
want tea sent up to the bath-room. That packet? It's a jar of bath
salts--verbena--all of which I am going to use. I saw it in a shop
window, and quite suddenly I knew I wanted it. Nothing else seemed
to matter. I want a dressing-gown, too. Will you lend me one? And
slippers. For a few hours I propose to wallow in a sensual sty. I've
planned it all, and for the last week I have thought of nothing else."

He sketched the sty. There was to be tea in the bath-room and a muffin
for tea. This he would eat as he lay in a hot bath full of verbena
salts. He would then put on his dressing-gown and lie in bed for half
an hour, reading a shilling shocker and smoking cigarettes. (End of
Part I.) Still in his dressing-gown he would come downstairs, and smoke
more cigarettes before my fire, till it was time to have a cocktail.
We would dine at home (he left the question of dinner to me, provided
only that there should be a pineapple), after which we should go to
the movies. We were then to drive rapidly home in a taxi, and, over
sandwiches and whisky and soda, he felt that he would return to a
normal level again. But the idea of being completely comfortable and
clean and gorged and amused for a few hours had taken such hold of him,
that he could not "reach his mind" until the howling beast of his body
had been satisfied. That, at least, was the plan.

Accordingly, proclamation having come from upstairs that all was ready,
Francis departed to his sty, and I, as commanded, waited till such time
as he should reappear in my dressing-gown and slippers. But long before
his programme (Part I.) could have been carried out he re-entered.

"It didn't seem worth while to get into bed," he said, "so I left that
out. I loved the bath-salts, and the tea was excellent. But how soon
anything that can be satisfied is satisfied. It's only----"

He leaned forward and poked the fire, stretching his legs out towards
the blaze.

"I've travelled a long way since we met," he said, "and the further one
goes the simpler the way becomes. The mystics are perfectly right. You
can only get what you want, what your soul wants, by chucking away all
that you have. The only way to find yourself is to lose yourself. I've
been losing myself all these months, and I began to recover little bits
of me that I didn't want over the muffin and the verbena. I was afraid
I should find more if I tucked up in bed. That's why I didn't. I used
to want such lots of things; now there is growing a pile of things I
don't want."

I put the cigarette-box near him.

"There are the smokes," I said, "and let me know when you want a
cocktail. We'll have dinner when you like. Now I have heard nothing
from you for the last three months; let's have a budget."

"Right. Well, the material side of the affair is soon done with. I'm
Quartermaster-Sergeant, with stripes and a crown on my arm, as you have
noticed, and I live immersed in accounts and stores and supplies. I
have to see that the men have enough and are comfortable, and I have to
be as economical as I can. That's my life, and it's being my salvation."

He lay back in his chair, the picture of complete indolence, with eyes
half closed. But I knew that to be a sign of intense internal activity.
Most people, I am aware, when they are aflame with some mental or
spiritual topic, walk up and down with bright eyes and gesticulating
hands. But it is Francis's great conjuring trick to disconnect his
physical self, so to speak, and let it lie indolent; his theory is that
thus your vitality is concentrated on thought. There seems something to
be said for it, when once you have learned how to do it.

"Of course, in order to get anywhere," he said, "you must go through
contemplative periods and stages, and towards the end of the journey,
I fancy that you enter into an existence where only that is possible.
But before that comes, you have to know the sacredness of common
things. It's like this. The first stage is to know that the only thing
worth our consideration is the reality that lies behind common things:
it is then that you think them worthless and disregard them. But
further on you find out that they aren't common, because the reality
behind permeates them, and makes them sacred. Later, if you ever get
there, you find, I believe, that in your union with the reality behind,
they cease to exist again for you. But, good heavens, what miles apart,
are the first and third stages! And the danger of the first stage is
that, if you are not careful, you imagine it to be the same as the

"I was in danger of getting like that, living in perfect comfort and
peace on that adorable island. Do you know how a jelly looks the day
after a dinner-party, how it is fatigued, and lies down and gets
shapeless and soft? I might have stayed in that stage, if the war
hadn't summoned me. I did not consciously want material things: I was
not greedy or lustful, and I had a perfectly conscious knowledge that
God existed in everything. But I didn't reverence things for that
reason, nor did I mix myself up in them. I held aloof, and was content
to think. Then came the war, and now for nearly fifteen months I have
been learning to get close to common things, to see, as I said, that
the sacredness of their origin pervades them. It doesn't lie in them,
tucked away in some secret drawer, which you have to open by touching
a spring. The spring you have to touch is in yourself, you have
to open your own perception of what is always before your eyes. It
doesn't require any wit or poetic sense to perceive it: it is there, a
plain simple phenomenon. But in it is the answer to the whole cosmic
conundrum, for there lies the Love that 'moves the sun and the other
stars!' Theoretically I knew that, but not practically.

"Now, after a good deal of what you might call spade-work, I'm
beginning to feel that, first-hand. For months I hated the drill, and
the sordidness (so I said) and the life in which you are so seldom
alone. I hated the rough clothes, and the heavy boots and the food.
But I never hated the other fellows: I've always liked people. Then
when I got on I hated the accounts I had to do, and the supplies I
had to weigh, but in one thing I never faltered, and that was in the
desire to get at what lay behind it all. There was something more in
it than the fact that the work had to be done because England was at
war with Germany, and because I wanted to help. That was sufficient to
bring me out of Alatri, and it would have been sufficient to carry me
along, even if there had been nothing else behind it. But always I had
the knowledge of there being something else behind. And clearly the
life I was leading gave me admirable conditions for finding that out.
Everything was very simple: I had no independence; I had to do what I
was told. You may bet that obedience is the key to freedom.

"There were days of storm and days of peace, of course. There were
darknesses in which one was tempted to say that there wasn't anything
to be perceived. Some persistent devil inside me kept suggesting that
an account-book was just an account-book, and a rifle nothing more than
a rifle. But I still clung to that which had grown, in all those years
at Alatri, to be a matter of knowledge. I knew there was something
behind, and I knew what it was, though the mists obscured it, just as
when the sea-fog comes down in the winter over the island, and you
cannot see the mainland for days together. But you don't seriously
question whether the mainland is there because you don't see it. A
child might: if you told a child that the mainland had been taken
away, he would probably accept what you said.... There were days when
I doubted everything, not only the reality at the back of it all, but
even the immediate cause for my work, namely, that the regiment was
part of the army that was fighting the Germans, and that so it was my
job to help.

"And then, one day when I was least expecting it or consciously
thinking of it, the knowledge came with that sense of realization that
makes all the difference between theoretical and practical knowledge. I
was among the stores, rather busy, and suddenly the tins of petroleum
shone with God. Just that."

He turned his handsome, merry face to me: there was no solemnity in it,
it was as if he had told me some cheerful piece of ordinary news.

"Now will you understand me when I say that that moment was in no
sense overwhelming, nor did it interfere in the slightest degree with
either the common work of the day, drill and accounts and what not,
or with the common diversions of the day? It did not even give them
a new meaning, for I had known for years that the meaning was there;
only, it had not been to me a matter of practical knowledge. It was
like--well, you know how slow I am at learning anything on the piano,
but with sufficient industry I can get a thing by heart at last. It
was like that: it was like the first occasion on which one plays it
by heart. It did not yet, nor does it now get between me and all the
things that fill the day. It is not a veil drawn between me and them,
so that drudgery and little menial offices are no longer worth while:
it is just the opposite: it is as if a veil were drawn away, and I can
see them and handle them more clearly and efficiently, and enjoy them
infinitely more. This warm fire feels more delightfully comfortable
than ever a fire did. I take more pleasure in seeing you sitting there
near me than ever before. There was never such a good muffin as the one
you sent up to the bath-room. That's only natural, if you come to think
of it. It would be a very odd sort of illumination, if it served only
to make what we have got to do obscure or tiresome or trivial. Instead,
it redeems the common things from triviality. It takes weariness out of
the world."

"You said the petroleum-tins shone with God," I said. "Can you tell me
about that? Was it a visible light?"

"I wondered if you would ask that," he said, "and I wish I could
explain it better. There was no visible light, nothing like physical
illumination round them. But my eyes told that faculty within me which
truly perceives, that they shone. What does St. Paul call it? 'The
light invisible,' isn't it? That is exactly descriptive. 'The light
invisible, the uncreated light.' I can't tell you more than that, and
I expect that it is only to be understood by those who have seen it. I
am quite conscious that my description of it must mean nothing. I have
long known it was there, and so have you, but till I perceived it I had
no idea what it was like."

"There's another thing," said I, "you are going out next week to the
Dardanelles. What does the business of killing look like in the light
of the light invisible?"

He laughed again.

"It hasn't turned me into a conscientious objector, if you mean that,"
he said. "I hate the notion of shooting jolly funny rabbits, or merry
partridges, though I'm quite inconsistent enough to eat them when they
are shot--at least, not rabbits: I would as soon eat rats. But I shall
do my best to kill as many Turks as I possibly can. I _know_ it's right
that we should win this war. I was never more certain about anything.
The Prussian standpoint is the devil's standpoint, and since it's our
business to fight the devil, we've got to fight the Prussians and all
who are allied with them. It seems a miserable way of fighting the
devil, to go potting Turks. If I could only get to know the fellows I
hope I am going to kill, I would bet that I should find them awfully
decent chaps. I shouldn't be surprised if they would shine, too, like
the petroleum-tins. But there's no other alternative. No doubt if our
diplomatists hadn't been such apes, we should be friends with the
Turks, instead of being their enemies, but, as it is, there's no help
for it. I've no patience with pacificists; we've got to fight, unless
we choose to renounce God. As for the man who has a conscientious
objection to killing anybody, I think you will find very often that
he has a conscientious objection to being killed. I haven't any
conscientious objection to either. I shall be delighted to kill Turks,
and I'm sure I don't grudge them the pleasure of killing me."

"But you think they're fighting on the devil's side," I objected. "You
don't want to be downed by the devil?"

"Oh, they don't down me by shooting me," he said. "Also, they don't
think they are in league with the devil; at least, we must give them
the credit of not thinking so, and they've got every bit as good a
right to their view as I have. Lord! I am glad, if I may say it without
profanity, that I'm not God. Fancy having millions and millions of
prayers, good sincere honest prayers, addressed to you every day from
opposite sides, entreating you to grant supplications for victory!
Awfully puzzling, for Him! You'd know what excellent fellows a lot of
our enemies are."

The clock on the mantelpiece chimed at this moment, and Francis jumped
up with a squeal.

"Eight o'clock already!" he said. "What an idiot you are for letting me
jaw along like this! I'm not dressed yet, nor are you."

"You may dine in a dressing-gown if you like," I said.

"Thanks, but I don't want to in the least. I want to put on the fine
new dress-clothes which I left here a year ago. Do dress too; let's
put on white ties and white waistcoats, and be smart, and pompous. I
love the feeling of being dressed up. Perhaps we won't go to the movies
afterwards; what do you think? We can't enjoy ourselves more than
sitting in this jolly room and talking. At least, I can't; I don't know
about you. Oh, and another thing. You have a day off to-morrow, haven't
you, it being Saturday? Let's go and stay in the country till Monday.
I've been in a town for so many months. Let's go to an inn somewhere
where there are downs and trees, and nobody to bother. If we stayed
with people, we should have to be polite and punctual. I don't want to
be either. I don't want to hold forth about being a Tommy, except to
you. Most people think there's something heroic and marvellous about
it, and they make me feel self-conscious. It's no more heroic than
eating when you're hungry. You want to: you've got to: your inside
cries out for food, it scolds you till you give it some."

       *       *       *       *       *

We put Francis's plan into execution next morning, and at an early
hour left town for a certain inn, of which I had pleasant memories,
on the shore of the great open sea of Ashdown Forest, to spend three
days there, for I got rid of my work on Monday. St. Martin came with
us and gave us warm windless days of sun, and nights with a scrap of
frost tingling from the stars, so that in the morning the white rime
turned the blades of grass into spears of jewellery, and the adorable
sharp scent of autumn mornings pricked the nostrils. The great joyful
forest was ablaze with the red-gold livery of beech trees, and the pale
gold of birches, and holly trees wore clusters of scarlet berries among
their stiff varnished foliage. Elsewhere battalions of pines with tawny
stems defied the spirit of the falling leaf, and clad the hill-sides
with tufts of green serge, in which there sounded the murmur of distant
seas. Here the foot slid over floors of fallen needles, and in the
vaulted darkness, where scarce a ray of sun filtered down, there seemed
to beat the very heart of the forest, and we went softly, not knowing
but that presently some sharp-eared faun might peep round a tree-trunk,
or a flying drapery betray a dryad of the woods.

Deeper and deeper we went into the primeval aisles, among the Druid
trees that stood, finger on lip, for perhaps even Pan himself had
lately passed that way, and they, initiate, had looked on the
incarnate spirit of Nature. Then, distantly, the gleam of sunshine
between the trunks would show the gates of this temple of forest, and
we passed out again into broad open spaces, covered with the russet of
bracken, and stiff with ling, on which the spikes of minute blossom
were still pink. Here we tramped till the frosted dews had melted and
dried, and sat in mossy hollows, where gorse was still a-flower, and
smelled of cocoa-nut biscuits. Across the weald the long line of South
Downs, made millions of years ago by uncounted myriads of live things,
was thrust up like some heaving shoulder of a marine monster above the
waves. It seemed necessary to walk along that heavenly ridge, and next
day, we drove to Lewes, and with pockets bulging with lunch, climbed on
to that fair and empty place. There, with all Sussex lying below us,
and the sea stretched like a brass wire along the edge of the land to
the south, we made a _cache,_ containing the record of the expedition,
and buried it in a tin-box below a certain gnarled stump that stood on
the edge of the steep descent on to the plain. Francis insisted also
on leaving our empty wine bottle there, with a wisp of paper inside
it, on which he wrote: "We are now utterly without food, and have
already eaten the third mate. Tough, but otherwise excellent. Latitude
unknown: longitude unknown: God help us!" And he signed it with the
names of Queen Adelaide and Marcus Aurelius. Neither he nor I could
think of anything sillier than this, and since, when you are being
silly, you have to get sillier and sillier, or else you are involved in
anticlimaxes, he rolled over on to his face and became serious again.

"Lord, Lord, how I love life!" he said, "in whatever form it manifests
itself. I love these great open and empty places, and the smile of the
indolent earth. Great kind Mother, she is getting sleepy, and will
soon withdraw all her thoughts back into herself and doze and dream
till spring awakens her again. She will make no more birds and beasts
and flowers yet awhile, for those are the thoughts she puts out, but
collect herself into herself, hibernating in the infinite cave of the
heavens. All the spring and the summer she has been so busy, thinking,
thinking, and putting forth her thoughts. In the autumn she lies down
and just looks at what she has made, and in the winter she sleeps.
I love that life of the earth, which is so curiously independent of
ours, pagan in its essence, you would think, and taking very little
heed of the children of men and the sons of God. How odd she must think
our businesses and ambitions, she who only makes, and feeds. What a
spendthrift, too, how lavish of life, how indifferent to pain, and
death, and all the ills that her nurselings make for themselves. She
doesn't care, bless you."

"You called her kind just now," I remarked.

"Yes, she is kind to joy, because joy is productive. She loves health
and vitality and love, but she has no use for anything else. It is only
one aspect of her, however, the pagan side, which sets Pan a-fluting
in the thickets. But what she makes is always greater than she who made
it. She gives us and maintains for us till death our physical nature,
and yet the moment she has given it us, even before perhaps, it has
passed out of her hands, being transfused with God. Then, when she has
done with us, she lets death overtake us, and has no more use for us,
except in so far that our bodies can enrich her soil. She does not
know, the pagan earth, that death is only an incident in our lives.
The death of our body, as St. Francis says, is only our sister, for
whom we should praise God just as much as for our life, or the sun and
moon. Really, I don't know what I should do, how I should behave, if
I thought it ever so faintly possible that death was the end of us.
Should I take immense care of myself, so as to put off that end as long
as possible, and in the interval grab at every pleasure and delight I
could find? I don't think so. If I thought that death was the end, I
think I should kill myself instantly, out of sheer boredom. All the
bubble would have gone out of the champagne. I love all the pleasures
and interests of life just because they are part of an infinitely
bigger affair. If there wasn't that within them, I don't think I should
care about them."

"But if they are only part of the bigger thing," said I, "why don't we
kill ourselves at once, in order to get to the bigger thing?"

"Surely for a very good reason, namely, that whatever life lies
beyond, it cannot be this life again. And this life is such awful fun:
I want lots of it. But it doesn't rank in the same class with the
other. I mean that no sensible fellow will want to prolong this at
the expense of what comes after. Much as we like it, we are perfectly
willing to throw it away if we are shown a sufficiently good cause to
throw it away for. It's like a tooth: have it out if it aches. And life
would ache abominably if we clung to it unworthily."

Suddenly I felt horribly depressed.

"Oh, Francis, don't die at the Dardanelles," I said.

"I haven't the slightest intention of doing so. I sincerely hope I
shall do nothing of the sort. But if I do, mind you remember that I
know it is only an incident in life. As we sit here, secure in the sun
and the safety, it is easy enough to realize that. But it is harder
to realize it when it happens to someone you like, and people are apt
to talk rot about the cruel cutting-short of a bright young life. My
bright middle-aged life mustn't rouse these silly reflections, please,
if it's cut off. They are unreal: there is a touch of cant about them.
So promise!"

"If you'll promise not to die, I'll promise not to be vexed at your
death. Besides, you aren't middle-aged; you're about fourteen."

"Oh, I hope I'm younger now at thirty-five than I was when I was
fourteen. I used to be terribly serious at fourteen, and think about my
soul in a way that was positively sickening. I wonder my bright young
life wasn't cut short by a spasm of self-edification. I was a prig, and
prigs are the oldest people in the world. They are older than the rocks
they sit among, as Mr. Pater said, and have been dead many times. You
didn't know me then, thank God."

"Were you very beastly?"

"Yes, quite horrible, and so old. Easily old enough to be my own father
now, if that's what Wordsworth means when he says the child is father
to the man. I thought a lot about my soul, and took great care of it,
and wrapped it up. In fact, I set about everything entirely the wrong
way. What does Thomas à Kempis say, do you remember? That a man must
forsake himself, and go wholly from himself, and retain nothing out of
self-love. He must give up his soul too, for it is only by giving it up
that he avoids losing it...."

He turned over again on his face, sniffing a sprig of thyme that still
lingered into November.

"And yet, oh, how I love all the jolly things in the world!" he
said; "but I don't want them to be mine, and I don't think that I am
entangled in them. Surely it is right to love them if you don't cling
to them. I love the smile of the earth when she wakes in spring, and
puts forth her thoughts again. When she thinks about hawthorn, she
thinks in little squibs of green leaf, when she thinks about birds she
thinks in terms of nightingale-song, or when she thinks about crocuses
she sees her thoughts expressed in yellow chalices, with pollen-coated
tongues. She thinks she has had enough of the grey winter-withered
grass, and, lo, the phalanxes of minute green spears charge and rout
it. She thinks in the scent of wall-flowers, and the swift running of
lizards on the stone-walls, and pinks of peach-blossom, and foam of
orchid-flower. My goodness, what a poet she is!"

"And you aren't attached to all that?" I asked.

"Of course I like it tremendously, but it doesn't entangle me any
more. But I took years to disentangle myself, all those years when you
thought I was being so lazy and ineffective in Alatri. Ineffective I
was, no one ever made less of a splash than I have done; but lazy I
wasn't. I thought, and I thought, and unconsciously to myself, while I
was sunk, as I imagined, in a stupor of purring content with the world,
this war woke me up, and, as you know, I found I wasn't entangled. But
I have learned such a lot this year. I always liked people: I liked
their funny ridiculous ways, their queernesses and their attractions.
But I never got into them before. People are like oranges: the rind
smells delicious, you like them first for the rind. Then just inside
the rind you find that fluffy white stuff, but inside of all is the
substance of them, in which lies their unity with God. There is this,
too: when you get down to the fruit, you find that it has the same
savour as the rind. I take it that the attraction of people, the thing
you love them for, is the first thing you perceive about them, the
aromatic rind. It's a hint of what is within, if you get through
their fluffy part. You find first of all the emanation of their real
selves, next their funny odd ways, and finally themselves. Deep in the
heart of everyone you find what seemed at first their most superficial
qualities. That's an excursus by the way; think it out for yourself."

The sun was already wheeling westwards, and presently after, as we had
half a dozen miles of this high down-land to traverse, we got up and
went on our way. Here and there a copse of flaming beech climbed like
stealthy fire up from the weald on to this roof of South England, on
the ridge of which we walked; but the prevalent wind from the sea had
so continuously blown their branches in one direction that now they
grew there, brushed back in permanence, as Francis suggested, like
the hair of a Knut. Northwards and far below the weald stretched into
misty distances, laid out like a map, with here and there a pond, here
a group of clustered houses, while a moving plume of steam marked the
passage of a train. Mile after mile of springy turf we traversed,
empty and yellowing and uniform, save where a patch of brambles lay
dark, like the shadow from a cloud. Once or twice we passed a dew-pond
dug in the chalk, but otherwise in all those miles we found no sign
up here on the heights of the fretful ways and works of man. All was
untouched and antique: a thousand years had wrought no more change
here than on the liquid plain of the sea. A steady westerly breeze met
us all the way, warmed with the leagues of autumn sunshine through
which it had travelled all day, and it streamed past us like some quiet
flowing river out of the eternal reservoir of the sky. And never, even
in children, round whom there still trail the clouds of glory, have I
seen such ecstatic and natural enjoyment as was Francis's. Around them,
perhaps, linger the lights that play outside the prison-house, but to
him, it seemed that into the prison-house itself there streamed in such
a jubilation of sunshine that every vestige of shade was banished.
Like the petroleum-tins, when first illumination had come to him, the
whole world shone with God, and that in no vague and mystical manner,
but with a defined and comprehended brightness. Here was no dream-like
mysticism, no indifferent contemplation like that of the Quietists,
but an active and ecstatic enjoyment, eager and alert, and altogether
human. He moved in a fairyland, the magic of which was not imaginary
and fabulous; the spell lay in the very fact that it was real. He was
convinced by the conviction that comes from personal experience: the
glory that enveloped the world was as certain as the streaming wind and
the pervasion of the autumn sun.

It was no haphazard intoxication of animal spirits that possessed him,
no wild primal delight in health and physical vigour, it was a joy that
had had its birth in thought and contemplation, and had passed through
dark places and deserts. But, even as the sunlight of ages past sleeps
in seams of coal, ready to burst into blaze, so through darknesses and
doubts had passed the potential sunlight of his soul, black, you would
say, and dormant, but alive and pregnant with flame, when the finger of
God touched it into illumination. For him no longer in gloomy recesses
sat Pan, the incarnate aspect of the cruelty and the lust of Nature,
the sight of whom meant death to the seer, but over all the world shone
the face of Christ, Who, by the one oblation of Himself, had transfused
His divine nature into all that lived and moved. This was no fact just
accepted, and taken for granted: it was the light from which sprang all
his joy of life, the one central and experienced truth which made all
common things sacred, and opened for him, as for all mystics who have
attained the first illumination, the gates of pearl within which shines
the Heavenly Kingdom. This was no visionary place: it stood solid about
him, an Earthly Paradise no less than a heavenly, and men and women
were its citizens, the hills and valleys, the birds and beasts of this
actual world were of it, the blaze of the westering sun lit it, and
this wind from the West streamed over it. And yet it was the actual
kingdom of heaven.

Francis told me that day how he had attained to where he stood. It was
by no vague inactive passivity, but by stern and unremitting training
of the mind and spirit. He had learned by hard work, first of all, to
concentrate his mind on some given concrete object, to the exclusion of
all other objects, forcing himself, as he put it, "to flow into this
one thing." By slow degrees he had so cultivated this power that he
was able at last to be conscious of nothing else than that on which he
fixed his attention, making all his faculties of perception concentrate
upon it. One of the objects of his meditation had often been the
stone-pine in our garden at Alatri, and "opening himself to it," as
he said, he saw it not only as it was in shape and form, but into his
mind were conveyed its whole nature and formation; not by imagining
them, so it seemed to him, for himself, but by receiving suggestions
from outside. He felt it growing from the pine-seed of a cone that had
dropped there; he felt it as a sapling, and knew how its roots were
groping their ways underground, one to the north, another to the south,
to anchor it from the stress of winds. He felt the word go forth among
the spiders and creeping things that here was a new city a-building for
their habitations. Out of the sapling stage it passed into mature life,
and stripped itself of its lower branches, concentrating its energy on
its crown of foliage. The soft sappy bark hardened itself to resist
the rains, the roots spread further and further, and burrowed more
deeply: the murmur of sea began to nest in its branches, and its shadow
spread like a pool around it. It grew fruitful with cones that opened
themselves so that its seed might ripen; it became a town of fertility.
All this came, not student-wise, but from eager meditation, a vision
evoked not from within, but seen through the open windows of his mind.
A new mode of sight dawned on him.

From meditation on concrete and visible things he passed to meditation
on abstract qualities, which clothed themselves in images. He saw
Mercy, a woman with hands of compassion, touching and remitting the
debts of the crowd that brought the penalties they had incurred: he saw
Truth, nude and splendid, standing on the beach, fresh from the sea,
with a smile for those who ignorantly feared him, and anger blazing
from his eyes for those who tried to hide from him, and hands of love
for those who came to him. But such visions never came to the scope of
his physical sight, only by interior vision did he see Mercy bending to
him, and Truth holding out a strong and tender hand. Their presences
lived with him, and the gradual realization of them caused a shining
company to stand round him.

       *       *       *       *       *

But they were not what he sought: he sought that which lay behind them,
that of which, for all their splendour, they were but the pale symbols
and imperfect expressions. They were the heralds of the King, who
attended in his presence-chamber, and came forth into the world radiant
with his tokens. There were strange presences among them: there came
Sorrow with bowed head, and Pain with pierced hands, and that darkness
of the soul which still refuses to disbelieve in light. Often he turned
his face from these storm-vexed visitants, crying out that they were
but phantoms of the pit, and yet not quite endorsing his rejection of
them, for their wounded hands shone, and there lurked a secret behind
the tragedy of their faces....

We had come to the end of the ridge, and must descend into the plain
below us. The sun had just set, and the wind that still blew steadily
from the West held its breath for a moment.

"They took their places there," said Francis, "until they became
friendly and glorious, and I did not fear them any longer. I knew
what they represented, of what they were the symbols. Just as I had
contemplated the stone-pine till I saw what was the nature from which
it sprang, so I contemplated Sorrow and Doubt, till I saw that they had
come from the Garden of Gethsemane. They are as holy as Mercy or Truth,
and their touch sanctifies all the pain and sorrow that you and I and
the whole world can ever feel. I dwelt within them. I learned to love
them. I learned also to do the daily tasks that were mine, no longer
with any sense of the triviality of them or with the notion that I
might have been better employed on larger things. But for a long time,
employed on this common round, nothing more happened: I just went on
doing them, believing that they were part of a great whole, but not, I
may say, energetically conscious of it. Then one day, as I told you, I
saw God shining from the petroleum-tins and the shelves of the store."

       *       *       *       *       *

There are certain moments in one's life that are imperishably
photographed on the mind, and will live there unblurred and unfaded
till the end. I think the reason for this (when so much that seemed
important at the time, constantly fades from one's memory) is that in
some way, great or small, they mark the advent of a new perception,
and this sense of enlightenment gives them their everlasting quality.
They are thus more commonly associated with childish days, when
discoveries are of more frequent occurrence than is the case in later
years. Certainly now the smell of lilac is hugely significant to me
because of that one moment when, at the exploring age of five, I was
first consciously aware of it. It was time to go to bed, though the
sunlight still lay level across the garden where we children played,
and the nurse who had come to fetch us in, relented, and gave us five
minutes' grace, the granting of which at that moment seemed to endow
one with all that was really desirable in life. Simultaneously the
evening breeze disentangled the web of fragrance from the lilac bush
near which I stood, and cast it over me, so that, imperishable to this
day, the scent of it is mixed up in my mind with a mood of ecstatic
happiness. What went before that, what had been the history of the
afternoon, or what was the history of the days that followed, has quite
gone, but vignetted for ever for me is the smell of the lilac bush and
the rapture of five minutes more play. The first conscious sight of the
sea, lying grey and quiet beneath a low sky, is another such picture,
and another such, I am sure, will be the sight of Francis's face as he
stood there facing westwards, with the glow of molten clouds on it,
and with the wind just stirring his hair, as he stood bare-headed, and
spoke those last words. The memory of our walk that day may grow dim,
much may get blurred and indistinct in my mind, but his face then,
alight with joy, not solemn joy at all, but sheer human happiness, will
live to me in the manner of the lilac-scent, and the first sight of the
sea. It was new; never before had I seen so complete an exuberance, so
unshadowed a bliss.

We returned to town next morning. Two days later he rejoined his


Duty under a somewhat threadbare disguise of pleasure has the upper
hand just now, in this energetic city, and we spend a large number of
our afternoons each week seated in half-guinea and guinea stalls, and
watch delightful entertainments at theatres or listen to concerts at
private houses, got up for the benefit of some most deserving charity,
and for the really opulent there are seats at three or five guineas.
These entertainments are as delightful as they are long, and we have
an opportunity two or three times a week of seeing the greater part of
our prominent actors and actresses, and hearing the most accomplished
singers and players on all or more than all of the musical instruments
known to Nebuchadnezzar pour forth a practically endless stream of
melody. Certainly it is a great pleasure to hear these delightful
things, but, as I have said, it is really duty that prompts us to live
for pleasure, for the pleasure, by incessant wear, is getting a little
thin. We should not dream of spending so much on seats in theatres if
we were not contributing to a cause. Often tea of the most elaborate
and substantial style is thrown in, and thus our bodies as well as our
minds are sumptuously catered for. Soon, I suppose, when we have once
freed our minds from the nightmare of Zeppelins, we shall have these
entertainments in the evening with dinner thrown in. The only little
drawback connected with them is concerned with the matter of tickets.
Naturally you do not want to go alone, and in consequence, when you are
asked to take tickets you take two guinea ones if you are rich, and if
not two half-guinea ones. There is no question of refusing. You have
got to. But it is not so easy as you would imagine to get somebody to
go with you to these perpetual feasts of histrionic and vocal talent,
for everyone else has already taken two tickets, and is eagerly
hunting for a companion at these entertainments on behalf of funds for
Serbians, Russians, French, Italians, Red Cross, eggs for hospitals,
smokes for sailors, soup kitchens, disabled horses, bandages, kit-bags,
mine-sweepers, cough lozenges, for aeroplanists, woollen mufflers, and
all the multifarious needs of those who are or have been taking a hand
in the fight. Indeed, sometimes I think those entertainments are a
little overdone, for a responsible admiral told me the other day that
if any more woollen mufflers were sent to the fleet it would assuredly
sink, which would be a very disastrous consequence of too ardent a
spirit of charity. But till the fleet sinks under the woollies that
are poured into it, and the kitchens are so flooded with soup as to be
untenable, I suppose we shall continue to take two stalls and wildly
hunt about for someone to occupy the second, between the hours of two
and seven-thirty. But whether there is a theatrical entertainment or
not on any particular day, it is sure to be a flag day. You need not
buy two flags, though you have been obliged to take two stalls--until
you have lost the first one. But it is as essential as breathing to buy
one flag, if you propose to go out of doors at all, and on the whole
it is wiser to buy your decoration from the first seller that you see.
It is your ransom; the payment of this amiable blackmail ensures your
unmolested passage through the streets. True, for a time, you can play
a very pretty game which consists in crossing the street when you see
a flag-seller imminent, and proceeding along the opposite pavement.
Soon another flag-seller will be imminent there also, upon the approach
of whom you cross back again to your original pavement. But sooner or
later you are bound to be caught: a van or an omnibus obstructs the
clear view of the other side of the street, and after being heavily
splashed with mud from the roadway, you regain the pavement only to
find there is another flag-seller who has been in ambush behind the
'bus that has splashed you. If you are urgently in need of exercise
you can step back again before encountering the privateer, but you
know that sooner or later you will have to buy a flag, and on the
whole it is wiser to buy it at once, and take your exercise with an
untroubled mind, and a small garish decoration in your buttonhole. The
flag-sellers for the most part, are elegant young females, who appear
to enjoy this unbridled licence to their pillaging propensities, and
as long as they enjoy it, I suppose flag-days will go on. But it would
be simpler and fairer to add a penny to the income-tax, and divide
it in just proportions between these harpy charities. Or, if that is
too involuntary a method of providing funds for admirable objects, I
should suggest that every seller of flags, should, in return for the
privilege of helping in such good causes, start her own collection-box
with the donation of one sovereign from herself. Then the beleaguered
foot-passenger would feel that he was giving to one who had the cause
for which she worked really at heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just as patriotism has become a feature in the streets, so the same
motif has made its appearance in the realms of art, and at these
entertainments of which I have spoken, there has sprung up a new form
of dramatic and topical representation. Sometimes it takes the form
of a skit, and the light side of committees is humorously put before
us, but more often the author, with a deadlier and more serious aim,
shows us in symbolical form the Sublimity of Patriotism. Somehow these
elevating dramas make me blush. I am not ashamed of being patriotic,
but I cannot bear to see patriotism set to slow music in front of the
footlights, and in the presence of those blue-coated men with crutches
or arms in slings. The general audience feel it too, and as the curtain
goes up for the patriotic sketch, an uncomfortable fidgety silence
invariably settles down on the house. The manner of the drama is
usually somewhat in the following style:

Britannia, in scarlet with a gold crown, is seated in the centre of
the stage, and on each side of her is a row of typical female figures,
whom she addresses collectively as "Sisters" or "Children." In a few
rhyming lines she gives vent to some noble sentiments about the war,
and calls on each in turn to express her opinion. As these assembled
females represent Faith, Hope, Belgium, Mother, Wife, Sweetheart,
Serbia, Child, Justice, Mercy, Russia, Victory and Peace, a very
pleasant variety of sentiments is expressed. Faith brandishes a sword
with an ingenious arrangement by which electric lights spring out along
the blade, and expresses complete confidence in the righteousness of
the cause for which she unsheathed it. Hope looks forward to a bright
dawn, and fixes her eyes dreamily on the Royal Box. Belgium, giving way
to very proper emotion when she mentions Namur (rhyming to "poor"),
sinks back on her chair, and Britannia, dismounting from her throne,
lays a hand on her shoulder and kisses her hair. She then gives Belgium
into the care of Faith, and dashing away a tear, resumes her throne,
and asks Mother what she has to say. Mother and Wife then stand hand
in hand and assure Britannia that they have sent their son and husband
to the war because it was their duty to send him and his to go. Mother
knows the righteousness of the cause. Faith crosses, presses the
electric light, and with illuminated sword in hand, kisses Mother.
Mother kisses Faith. Wife knows it too, and looks forward to the
bright dawn of which Hope has spoken (Hope crosses and embraces Wife:
momentary Tableau, accompanied on the orchestra by "Land of Hope and
Glory." Britannia rises and bows to the audience).

When the applause has subsided, they resume, and Britannia calls on
Sweetheart. Sweetheart trips out into the front of the stage, and goes
through a little pantomime alone, but it is at once apparent that
in her imagination there is a male figure there. There are little
embracings: she promises the unseen figure not to cry any more, but to
write to him (B.E.F.) every day.

Britannia calls her, "Brave girl."

Britannia (pointing to Child, with a voice already beginning to break
with emotion): "And you, my little one?"

Long pause.

Child (in a high treble): "Oh, Mrs. Britannia, do let Daddy come home
soon!" (Pause.) "Won't he come home soon, Mrs. Britannia?"

Britannia (choking): "My little one!" (Sobs.) "My little one!"

(Faith, Hope, Mother, etc., all turn aside and hide their faces, with
convulsive movements of their shoulders. Eventually Hope looks firmly
up at the Royal Box, and a loud click is heard as Faith tries to light
the electric sword. As it is out of order, she merely holds it up. This
is the cue for the play to proceed.)

Justice is rather fierce, and as she speaks about an eye for an eye and
a tooth for a tooth, Britannia rises and with a majestic look sets her
teeth and flashes her eyes. Mercy intervenes, telling Justice that they
are sisters, Justice acknowledges the soft impeachment, and hides her
head on Mercy's shoulder, who reminds her that the quality of Mercy is
twice blest, which is very pleasant for her as she _is_ Mercy.

Rolls of drum in the orchestra punctuate what Victory has to say,
which is just as easily described as imagined, but is scarcely worth
description. Then a soft smile irradiates Britannia's face, and she

   "And now that Victory's won I call
    The fairest sister of you all."

On which Peace advances and crowns Britannia with a green wreath, and a
small stuffed pigeon descends from above Britannia's head and hovers.
The curtain descends slowly to long soft chords on the orchestra. The
applause of relief sounds faintly from various quarters of the house.
The curtain instantly ascends again and shows the same picture. It
goes up and down five or six times. Then it parts, and Britannia comes
out and bows to the house. She smiles at someone behind the curtain,
and extends her hand. A small man in a frock coat and an expression
of abject misery comes out and clutches it. The audience come to the
conclusion that he must be the author, and with the amiable idea
of putting him out of his misery applaud again. On which Britannia
advances a little to the left and again beckons behind the curtain.
On which Child runs out, and (as previously instructed) after an
alarmed survey of the house, hides its little face in the ample folds
of Britannia's gown. Murmurs of sympathy. Britannia (who has a way
with her) encourages the infant (who has done this fifty times before,
and is really as brazen as brass) and points to the Royal Box. Child
drops curtsy, amid more applause. Faith, Hope, Mother, Wife, History,
Geography, Belgium, Peace, Mathematics, Victory, Suicide, Phlebotomy,
Green Grocery and any other symbolical figures that there may be, join
the group one by one. They all bow, the audience continues applauding:
Faith (having mastered the unruly mechanism) lights up her sword. Peace
holds aloft the Dove. Belgium's hair falls down....

The lights go up in the theatre, and guinea stall turns to guinea stall
with a sigh.

"Oh, George Robey next," she says. "I hope he'll play golf."

       *       *       *       *       *

Now I want to make my position clear. I think it wonderfully kind
of all these eminent ladies to spend all this time and trouble in
giving us this patriotic sketch. I think it wonderfully clever of the
gentleman who wrote it to have made it all up, and thought of all those
rhymes. I think every single sentiment expressed in his drama to be
absolutely unexceptionable, and, as we hear from the pulpit, "True in
the best sense of the word," without even inquiring what that cryptic
utterance means. But there seems to me to be two weighty objections
to the whole affair: it is all utterly devoid of the sense of humour
and of the sense of decency. You may say that when treating of such
deeply-felt matters as Faith and Victory and Mother and Child, a sense
of humour would be out of place. I do not agree: it is the absence of
the sense of humour that causes it to be so ridiculous. As for the
propriety of presenting such things on the stage, I can only say that
the Lord Chamberlain ought never to have allowed this and fifty other
such pieces to appear, on grounds of indecent exposure. To present
under such ruthless imagery the secret and holiest feelings of the
heart is much worse than allowing people to appear with no clothes on.
It is all true, too: there is its crowning horror. It is just because
it is so sacredly true that it is totally unfit for public production.
There are things you can't even talk about ... and they are just these
things that the author of this abomination has put into the mouths of
these eminent actresses. And the bowings and the scrapings, and the
return of the actors, all smiles to their friends in the audience....
Oh, swiftly come, George Robey, and let us forget about it!

       *       *       *       *       *

In this blear-eyed December, which, with its stuffy dark days and
absence of sunshine, seems like some drowsy dormouse faintly conscious
of being awake, and desiring only to be allowed to go to sleep again,
there is an immense amount of activity going on. As in those ample
entertainments for the sake of something, there is exhibited on the
part of actors, authors and audience an intense desire to be doing
something, so in the general life of the country there is a sense
of being busy, being strenuous, doing work of some sort in order
to experience the narcotic influence of occupation. The country is
unhappy, and since England is a very practical country, it is stifling
its spiritual unhappiness by being busy. It does things to prevent
its thinking about things, and though it does very foolish things,
it shows its common-sense in doing something rather than encourage
its unhappiness by brooding over it. Herein, it shows its inherent
vitality: were it less vital it would abandon itself to gloomy
reflection. But it does not: it is tremendously busy, and so with set
purpose deprives itself of the tendency to think. That is not very
difficult, for, as a nation, we cannot be considered good at thinking.

Now considering that all action of whatever kind is the direct
result of thought, it would seem at first sight, when we observe
the amazing activities of most people, that these same people must
think a great deal. But as a matter of fact, most people, so far from
thinking a great deal, hardly think at all, and the greater part of
their consistent activity is the result of mere habit. The baby, for
instance, who is learning to walk, or the girl who is learning to knit,
think immensely and absorbedly about these locomotive and involved
accomplishments, just because they have not yet formed the habit of
them. But a few years later, the baby who has become a man will give
no thought at all to the act of walking and, indeed, to walk (the feat
which once so engaged his mind), now sets his mind free to think, and
he finds that problems which require to be thought out are assisted
to their solution by the act that once required so much attention:
similarly the grown-up woman often really talks and attends better to
other things when she is engaged in knitting. The accomplishment has
soaked in through the conscious to the sub-conscious self, and demands
no direction from the practical mind.

It is on the lines of this analogy that we must explain the fact that
many very active people are almost incapable of sustained or coherent
thought. Many of their activities are matters of habit; they order
dinner or look at a picture exhibition or argue about the war with no
more thought than the man who walks or the woman who knits. They can be
voluble about post-impressionism because at one time they acquired the
habit of talking about it, and to do so now requires no more exercise
of the reflective or critical qualities than does the ordering of a
beef-steak pudding. Oh, if they argue about the war, most people have
no original ideas of any kind on the subject: they mix round, as in an
omelette, certain facts they have seen in the official telegrams, with
certain reflections they have read in the leaders of their papers, and
serve up, hot or cold, as their fancy dictates. But they do not think
about it.

Thought, in fact, not merely abstract thought, but a far less difficult
variety, namely, definite coherent thought about concrete things, is an
extremely rare accomplishment among grown up people. We are often told
that it is infinitely harder to learn anything when we are of mature
age than when we are young, and this is quite true, the reason for it
being that we now find it more difficult to think since we have so
long relied on muddling along under the direction of habit. And even
the people who think they think are not in most cases the real owners
of their thoughts. They borrow their thoughts, as from a circulating
library, and instead of owning them, return them slightly damaged at
the end of a week or two, and borrow some more. They do not think for
themselves: they stir about the stale thoughts of others and offer
their insipid porridge as a home-industry.

This secondhand method of thinking is strangely characteristic of our
race, in contradistinction to French and German methods of thought,
and is admirably illustrated by the anecdote concerning the camel. An
Englishman, a Frenchman and a German were bidden to write an essay
on that melancholy beast, deriving their authorities from where they
chose. The Englishman studied books of natural history at the British
Museum, and when he had written an essay founded on them, went and shot
a camel. The Frenchman took his hat and stick and went to the _Jardin
des Plantes,_ where he looked at a real camel, and subsequently had a
ride or two on its back. But the German did none of these things: he
consulted no authority, he looked at no camel, but shutting himself up
in his study, he constructed one from his inner consciousness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now whether this offspring of mentality was like a real camel or not,
history does not tell us. Probably it was not, any more than the new
map of Europe planned by Prussian militarism will prove like the map
of Europe as it will appear in the atlases published, let us say, in
1918. But even if the German camel was totally unrecognizable as such,
its constructor had shown himself capable of entering on a higher
plane of thought than is intelligible to the ordinary Englishman. The
German, in fact, as we are beginning to learn, is able to sit down and
think, and out of pure thought to build up an image. The English are
excellent learners, quick to assimilate and apply what others have
thought out, the French are vivid and keen observers, but neither have
the power of sustained internal thought which characterizes the Teuton,
who incidentally is quite the equal of the Englishman at learning and
of the Frenchman at observation. The German, for instance, thought out
the doctrine of submarine warfare, and to our grievous cost applied
it to our shipping. Similarly they thought out the doctrine of trench
warfare, supplemented by gas, then the French, with their marvellously
quick powers of observation, saw and comprehended and applied. In
fact, the two great German inventions conceived by them, and originally
used by them, have been adopted and brought to a higher pitch of
perfection by their adversaries. But if only any of our allied nations
could pick up from them the power of concentrated and imaginative
thought, for the root of the matter is imagination! We proverbially
muddle through, and when occasion arises, by dint of a certain
stubbornness and admirable stolidity, though pommelled and buffeted,
eventually learn by experience a successful mode of resistance. But
constitutionally, we appear incapable of initiating ideas. We cannot
imagine an occasion, but can only meet the occasion when somebody else
imagines it.

Of all the disappointments of this year this is the root. We cannot
invent: we can only counter. We have not the power of constructive
imagination, which is the mother and father of original actions. But
when our adversaries indulge in original actions, we can (on occasion)
think out an answer to them which is perfectly effective. We can resist
and we can hit back when we are hit, but at present we have not shown
that we are capable of imagining and dealing the first blow. Perhaps
this may come, for it goes without saying that we were notoriously
unready at the beginning of the war, and had our hands full and
overfull with countering the blows that were rained on us. We were on
the defensive and could barely maintain the defence, and could not
possibly have collected that coiled force which is necessary for any
offensive movement. But if after sixteen months of war we do not begin
to show signs of it, it is reasonable to wonder whether the cause of
this is not so much that we lack the battering power, but that our
statesmen and our generals lack the imagination out of which original
plans are made. True, there have been two original schemes, namely,
that of forcing the Dardanelles and capturing Bagdad, and if these show
the quality of our originality, perhaps we are better without it ...

It is natural that the stress of war should have brought out the
deep-rooted, inherent qualities of the nations engaged, and those
qualities are just those that strike you first in a man of whatever
nationality. When you know him a little better, you think you detect
all sorts of other qualities, but when you come really to know
him--singly or collectively--he is usually just such as you first
thought him to be. Indeed, it is as Francis said about the orange: the
rind has the savour of the fruit within, between the two there is a
layer of soft, pulpy stuff. But when you get through that, the man, the
essential person is like the taste of the rind. This has been immensely
true with regard to the war. On the surface the French strike anyone
who comes in contact with them as full of admirable fervour: there is
the strong, sharp odour about them, there is a savour that penetrates.
Then you get to know them just a little better, and you find a woolly
and casual touch about them, which you, in your ignorance born out
of a little knowledge, take to be the real spirit of the French. But
when intimate acquaintance, or the stripping of the surface takes
place, how you must alter your estimate again, going back to your first
impression. You meet the fervour, the strong sharp odour again, and
it goes into the heart of the nation. The Frenchman is apt on first
acquaintance to seem too genuine, too patriotically French to be real.
But when you get within, when the stress of war has revealed the nation
and shown the strong beating of its heart, how the fervour and the
intensity of savour persist! What you thought was superficial you find
to be the quality that dwells in the innermost. He will easily talk
about _La France_ and _La gloire_ when you first get acquainted with
him, but when he stands revealed you find that he talks about it easily
because it is the spring and source of his being.

The same holds with the German. When first you get
speaking-acquaintance with a German, you consider him brutal and beery
and coarse and loud-tongued. You penetrate a little further, and find
him watching by the Rhine and musical and philosophical, a peaceful,
aloof dreamer. Such, at any rate, was the experience of Lord Haldane.
But when the pulpy, stringy layer is stripped off, when the stress
of war makes penetration into his real self, you find him again to
be as you first thought him, coarse and brutal and clamant, the most
overweening individual in all creation. Both with the French and the
German you revised your first impressions when you thought you began to
know him, only to find when the real man is revealed that he is as you
first thought him. And though it is the hardest thing in the world for
anyone to form even an approximately true estimate of the race to which
he belongs, I think that the same holds of the English. They are at
heart very much what they appear to be on the surface, blundering but
tenacious, slow to move, but difficult when once on the move to stop.
But really, when I try to think what the English are like, I find I can
form no conclusion about them, simply because I am of them.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have just had a long letter from Francis, a letter radiant with
internal happiness. The exterior facts of life cannot much contribute
to that, for the place where he now is consists, so he tells me,
entirely of bare hill-side, lined with shallow trenches, bullets and
swarms of drowsy flies. He hints in a cryptic manner his belief that he
will not remain there very long, leaving me to make any conjecture I
please. But in the lines and between them I read, as I said, a radiance
of happiness. He knows, with a strength that throttles all qualms of
the flesh, that does not, indeed, allow them to exist at all, the
bright shining of the light invisible, that diffused illumination in
which no shadow can be cast. And as in that walk we had on the downs,
the knowledge fills him not only with inward bliss, but with intense
physical enjoyment, so that he can be humorous over the horrors of
existence on that damned promontory. He is genuinely amused: for nobody
was ever such a poor hand at dissimulation as Francis. He finds things
to enjoy in that hell; more than that, he finds that hell enjoyable:
his letter breathed that serenity of well-being which is the least
imitable thing in the world.

Meantime, he wants the news of everyday happenings, "without any
serious reflections, or the internal stomach-ache of pessimists."
These rather pointed remarks refer, I am afraid, to my last letter to
him, to which he does not otherwise allude. He quotes Mr. Longfellow's
best-known poem (I am afraid also) in the spirit of mockery, and says:

        "'Life is real, life is earnest,' and if you doubt it,
        come out to Suvla Bay and see. We are damned earnest out
        here, and I haven't seen anybody who doubts that Life is
        extremely real: so are the flies. What I want to know
        is the little rotten jokes and nonsense, the things you
        talk about when you don't think what you are talking
        about. Here's one: the other day I was opening a tin of
        potted meat, and a bit of shrapnel came and took the
        tin clean out of my hand. It didn't touch me; it simply
        whisked it neatly away. Another inch and my hand would
        have gone with it. But I hope you don't think I gave
        thanks for the lucky escape I had had. Not a bit: I was
        merely furious at losing the potted meat. It lay outside
        the trench (a trench out here is a tea-spoonful of earth
        and pebbles which you pile up in front of you, and then
        hide yourself behind it), and I spent the whole of the
        afternoon in casting for it, with a hook on a piece of
        string. I was much more interested in that than in the
        military operations. I wanted my potted meat, which
        I think you sent me. Well, what I should like you to
        write to me about, is the things that the part of me
        which wanted the potted meat would like to hear about.
        Patriotism and principles be blowed, bless them! That's
        all taken for granted--'granted, I'm sure,' as the
        kitchen-maid said.


        "P.S.--You alluded to a grey parrot, in one letter. For
        God's sake, tell me about the grey parrot. You just
        mentioned a grey parrot, and then no more. Grey parrot
        is what I want, and your cat, and all the little, rotten
        things that are so tremendously important. Write me a
        grey parrot letter."

Well, the grey parrot is rather interesting ... and her name is
Matilda, and if you want to know why she is Matilda, you have only
got to look at her. If words have any suggestiveness to your mind, if
there is to you any magic about them, or if they, unbidden, conjure
up images, I should not be surprised if the word "Matilda" connoted
to you a grey parrot. It would be more surprising if, when you become
acquainted with my grey parrot, you did not become aware that she
_was_ Matilda. I don't see how you can get away from the fact that she
must, in the essentials of her nature, be Matilda. Presently you will
see what Matilda-ism is: when it is stated, you will know that you
knew it all along, but didn't know you knew it. The same sort of thing
happened to somebody, when he became aware that all his life he had
been writing prose. And very good prose it was.... Here, then, begins
the introduction to Matilda-ism, in general terms to be applied later.


        We all of us know (even the most consistent of us) those
        baffling instincts which lead us to act in manners
        incompatible with each other, simultaneously. That
        is not so puzzling as it sounds (nor sounds quite as
        ungrammatical as it is), and an instance will clarify
        the principle. For who does not understand and in
        measure sympathize with the careful housewife who
        embarks on a two-shilling taxicab expedition in order
        to purchase some small household commodity at sixpence
        less than she could have bought it for across the road?
        The motive of her expedition is economy, and therefore
        she lashes out into bewildering expenditure in order to
        achieve it. Economy, in fact, is the direct cause of her
        indulging in totally unnecessary expenditure. She ties
        herself to the stake with one hand, ready to be burned
        for the sake of her faith, and offers incense to the
        heathen gods with the other.

        It is this strain of self-contradictory conduct that I
        unhesitatingly label Matilda-ism, for, as far as I am
        aware, there is no other succinct term in the English
        language which sums up and expresses it. (Besides, it
        is characteristic of my grey parrot, for as you shall
        presently see, this is what Matilda does.) You cannot
        explain this incompatibility of action and principle
        otherwise: it is not vacillation, it is not infirmity
        of purpose, for the economical housewife is one mass of
        purpose and her motive is as pure as Parsifal. Simply
        in pursuance of her economical design, she rushes into
        expense. Nor is it the sign of a weak intellect, for
        Matilda's grasp of a subject is, like Mrs. Micawber's,
        inferior to none, and yet Matilda is the great example
        of the quality which takes its name from her. She
        does not spare thought and industry, perhaps, if
        anything, she thinks too much, which may account for
        the inadequacy of her plumage. She has been ill, too,
        lately, which perhaps makes her plumage worse, for she
        has been suffering from some obscure affection of the
        brain. But since her illness her Matilda-ism has been
        more marked than ever, and I prefer to think that it is
        Thought which has accounted both for the illness and her
        abnormal moultings. She had that rare disease, beloved
        of novelists, called Brain-fever. People's hair, we are
        told, falls out after brain-fever, and so did Matilda's
        feathers. But I am sure that Matilda would sooner go
        naked, than cease to think.

        Unlike most women, Matilda does not care about her
        clothes, and unlike most birds, she does not scoop and
        preen herself after breakfast. She gives one shake,
        and then settles down to her studies, which consist
        in observing, with a scornful wonder, all that goes
        on round her. When first she came here, she was in no
        hurry to draw conclusions, or commit herself hastily
        to irrevocable words, for she sat and waited without
        speech for some six weeks, until I thought she was
        either dumb or had nothing to say. Then, unlike Mr.
        Asquith, she ceased to wait and see, and began calling
        the kitchen-maid (Mabel) in a voice so like the cook's,
        that that deluded young lady came running from the
        scullery into the kitchen, to find no cook there at all,
        at all, but only a grey parrot, that sat with stony,
        half-closed eyes on her perch. Then, as she went out
        again, believing that some discarnate intelligence had
        spoken to her, Matilda laughed at her in a rude, hoarse
        voice that was precisely like the milkman's, mewed like
        the cat, and said "Cuckoo" a number of times. (This she
        had learned last spring in the country, and was unaware
        that there were no cuckoos in London ever, or even in
        the country in November.) Matilda, in fact, with her
        powerful intellect and her awful memory, had been taking
        stock of everybody, and not telling anybody about it.
        Now that it was well within her power to deal with every
        situation that could possibly arise in a mocking manner,
        she decided to begin talking and taking an active part,
        that of the critic, in life. Simultaneously, she began
        to reveal what Matilda-ism was. At this period, since
        she was too accomplished to be limited to the kitchen, I
        took her upstairs. I thought she would meet more people
        there, and enlarge, if possible, a mind that was already

        Her first definite elucidation of Matilda-ism was to
        make love in the most abandoned manner to the green
        parrot. She wooed him in the style that the Bishop of
        L-nd-n so rightly deprecates, with loud Cockney whistles
        and love-lorn eyes. Of course Joey seemed to like that,
        and their cages were moved close together, in the hope
        that eventually they would make a match of it, and that
        most remarkable babies would chip the shells of their
        eggs. Matilda continued to encourage him, and one day,
        when their cages were now quite close to each other, the
        green gentleman, trembling with excitement, put out a
        horned claw, and introduced it into Matilda's cage. On
        which Matilda screamed at the top of her voice and bit
        it viciously. I thought at the time that this was only
        an exhibition of the eternal feminine, which encourages
        a man, and then is offended and indignant when he makes
        the natural response to her invitations, but in the
        light of subsequent events, I believe it to have been
        Matilda-ism. She was not being a flirt, simply, while
        she adored, she hated also. It was Matilda, you see: all
        the time it was Matilda waiting to be classified.

        Matilda knew perfectly well what a cat says: she knew,
        too, that a cat is called "Puss," and, putting two and
        two together, she always said "Meaow" when you went to
        her cage and said "Puss." This is synthetic reasoning,
        like that of the best philosophers, and, all the world
        over, is taken as a mark of the highest intelligence.
        Similarly, she knew that my dog is called Taffy, and (by
        a converse process inaccessible to any but the finest
        minds) if you went to her cage and said "Bow-ow-ow,"
        she responded with the neatness of a versicle, "Taffy,
        Taffy, Taffy." But--and this is Matilda-ism--when Taffy
        came near her cage she invariably mewed to him, and
        when a cat came near her cage, she barked. She did not
        confuse them; Matilda's brain shines illustriously above
        the clouds of muddle. She preferred to abandon synthetic
        reasoning, and create Matilda-ism.

        I must insist on this, for all the evidence goes to
        confirm it. For instance, if you pull a handkerchief
        from your pocket, she makes rude noises which cannot
        fail to remind you of the blowing of a nose oppressed by
        catarrh. Also, when Mabel left, she learned the name of
        the new kitchen-maid at once, and never made mistakes
        about it. But as she increased in years and wisdom, her
        ineradicable leanings towards Matilda-ism increased also.

        Then came the crisis in her life, the brain-fever to
        which I have alluded. She had a fit, and for five or
        six days was seriously ill in the spare-room, set high
        above the noises of the street, where no exciting sounds
        could reach her. But she recovered, and her recovery
        was held to be complete when from the spare-room where
        she had undergone her rest-cure, a stream of polyglot
        noises one morning issued forth. I took her back into
        my sitting-room again, and reminded her of the European
        War by saying, "Gott strafe the Kaiser." I thought this
        would bring her into touch with the world of to-day
        again, but for a long time she remained perfectly
        silent. But when I had said, "Gott strafe the Kaiser"
        two or three hundred times, she burst into speech with a
        loud preliminary scream.

        "Gott strafe Polly's head," she cried. "Gott save the
        King! Gott save the Kaiser! Gott scratch Polly's head.
        Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord! Cuckoo! Cuckoo. Puss, Puss, Puss!
        Bow-ow-ow!..." And the poor demented bird laughed in
        hoarse ecstasy, at having got in touch with synthetic
        reasoning again!

        Matilda-ism took control of all her thoughts. If a
        tea-cup was presented to her notice, she blew her nose
        loudly, though I cannot believe that she had ever seen
        a tea-cup used as a handkerchief. When Joey was put
        near her cage again she called him Taffy. She barked at
        the kitchen-maid, and mewed at the cook, and called the
        cat Mabel. All her correlations had gone wrong in that
        attack of brain-fever, and though she had shown signs
        of Matilda-ism before, I never thought it would come
        to this. She was a voluble mass of contradictory and
        irreconcilable propositions.

        All this I wrote to Francis, since he desired domestic
        and ridiculous information, but when the letter was
        sealed and dispatched, I could not help thinking that
        Matilda, real as she is, is chiefly a parable. It
        is impossible, in fact, not to recollect that King
        Constantine of Greece was very ill last spring (like
        Matilda), and subsequently (i) invited the Allies to
        land at Salonica, and (ii) turned M. Venizelos out of
        office. It all looks traitorous, but perhaps it is mere
        Matilda-ism. But I am not sure that it would not be
        better for him to have some more brain-fever, and have
        done with it.

               *       *       *       *       *

        A postscript must be added. I took Matilda into the
        country, when I went there for a few days last week.
        One morning she saw a ferret being taken out of a bag,
        and instantly sang, "Pop goes the Weasel." I think that
        shows a turn for the better, some slight power of sane
        synthesis lurks in the melody, for a ferret is a sort
        of weasel. I am naturally optimistic, and cannot help
        wondering whether a change of air might not produce a
        similar amelioration in the case of King Constantine.
        Russia, for instance....

I had intended to keep these annals of Matilda detached from the war,
but it has wound its way in again, as King Charles's head invaded the
chronicles of Mr. Dick. There is no getting away from it: if you light
a cigarette, you think of Turkey and the expedition to the Dardanelles;
if you drink a glass of wine, you think of the trenches dug through
the vineyards of France. And yet, how little, actually, has the war
entered into the vital parts of the mass of English people. To large
numbers, reckoned by thousands, it has made unhealable wounds, but into
larger numbers, reckoned by millions, no prick of the sword has really
penetrated. I wonder when some kind of awakening will come, when to the
endless dormitories of drowsy sleepers, some smell of the burning, some
sound of the flaming beams above their heads and below them will pierce
their dreams. I pray God that on that day there will be no terrified
plucking from sleep into realities vastly more portentous than any
nightmare, but an awakening from sloth into an ordered energy.

But up till now, a profound slumber, or at the most a slumber with
coloured dreams, has possessed the spirit of the nation. Occasionally
some sleeper, roused by the glare that burns sombrely on the placid
night of normal human existence, has awoke and has screamed out words
of Pythian warning. But his troubled awakening has but annoyed the
myriads of other sleepers. One has growled out, "Oh, for God's sake,
go to sleep again: there's the Navy;" another has murmured, "It's
unpatriotic to be pessimistic;" a third has whispered, "God always
permits us to muddle through." Sometimes the yell has startled another
into futile whimperings, but then some retired Colonel, who writes for
the papers, like a soft-slippered nurse, pads up to his bedside, and
says, "Go to sleep again, dearie, I'm here," and the whimpering ceases,
and the nurse pulls down the blind to keep the glare out of the eyes
of the sleeper. Occasionally one of them makes such a to-do that an
attendant hurries downstairs to fetch a member of the Government from
the room where they are having such a pleasant chat over their wine,
and he is given a glass of port, and asked to come downstairs in his
dressing-gown and join the amusing supper-party. Sometimes he goes,
sometimes he drinks his wine and prefers to go to sleep again instead.
I don't know what would happen if he refused to go downstairs, and
said he would go on screaming. But no one at present contemplates such
an upsetting contingency. Besides, there is always the Censor, Auntie
Censor, who can be stern when sternness is really wanted, and spank any
obstreperous screamer with a ruthless blue pencil.

       *       *       *       *       *

Everyone knows that particular (and disagreeable) climatic condition,
when, during a frost, thaw becomes imminent. It may still be freezing,
but there is something in the air which tells those who are susceptible
to change just a little before change arrives that a thaw is
approaching. The sensation cannot be accounted for by the thermometer,
which still registers a degree or two of frost, but to those who have
this weather prescience, it is quite unmistakable. Similarly in affairs
not appealing to the merely physical sense, it sometimes happens that
people are aware of a coming event implying change, before there is any
real reason to justify their belief. This is so common a phenomenon
that it has even been crystallized into an awkwardly-worded proverb
which informs us that coming events cast their shadow before (meaning
light), but to adopt the current phrase, there has lately been a great
deal of shadow projected from the Dardanelles, and it is now a matter
of general belief that that ill-planned, ill-executed expedition is
about to be recalled, and that all the eager blood shed there will
now prove to have been poured out over an enterprise that shall be
abandoned as unrealizable. For many months now hearts have been sick
with deferred hope, eyes dim with watching for the dawn that never
broke, and it seems probable that "Too late" is to be scrawled in red
over another abortive adventure, now to be filed away among failures
under the appropriate letter D. It is idle to attempt to see any bright
lining to the cloud which hangs over that accursed peninsula: all that
can be hoped is that the gallant souls who still hold a corner of it,
despite the misadventures, the miscalculations, the mismanagement that
have for months punctuated heroism with halts and full stops written in
crimson, will be bought off without the crowning record of some huge

       *       *       *       *       *

Christmas approaches, and the furnaces of the world-war are being
stoked up to burn with a more hideous intensity, while village choirs
practise their hymns and anthems about peace on earth, good will
towards men. Every decent Christian Englishman (_pace_ the pacifists)
believes in the prime importance of killing as many Germans as
possible, and yet no decent Christian Englishman will somehow fail to
endorse with a genuine signature the message of the angelic host, even
though his fingers itch for the evening paper, which he hopes contains
some news of successful slaughter. That sounds like another instance
of Matilda-ism, and mere discussion, as confined to the narrow sphere
of rational argument, might easily leave the defender of such an
attitude with not a leg to stand upon. But all the time (for argument
at best can only prove what is not worth explaining) he will know at
heart that his position has not been shaken by the apparent refutation,
and he will give you his word (than which there is nothing greater and
nothing less) that his contention, logically indefensible, is also
unassailable. He can't explain, and it is better not to try. But he
knows how it feels, which is more vital than knowing how to account for
it. Logic and Euclid are not, after all, irrefutable, though they may
be, by human reason, the final guides to human conduct.

Everything cannot be referred to reason as to a supreme arbiter. Reason
will lead you a long way across the plain, but beyond the plain there
is, like a row of visionary blue mountains, a range of highland which
is the abode of the riddles, the questions, the inconsistencies which
are quite outside the level lands of reason. No one can tell why the
Omnipotent Beneficence (some people hate to see the word God) ever
allowed cancer and malarial mosquitoes and Prussian militarism to
establish themselves so firmly on the earth which is the Lord's. It is
impossible to explain this away, and unless you argue from the fact of
their undoubted existence that there is no such thing as the Omnipotent
Beneficence, and become that very silly thing called an atheist, the
best thing you can do (collectively) is to look for the germs of cancer
with a view to their destruction, cover with paraffin the breeding
places of the mosquito, and help, if you have the good fortune still to
be useful, in the extermination of Prussian militarism. All these three
things are, very possibly, manifestations of the devil, and even if
they are not (improbable as it sounds), they are so like manifestations
of the devil, that we are justified in mistaking them for such. I
am quite convinced of that, and am impervious to any argument about
it. I "am in love and charity" (in my microscopic degree) "with my
neighbours," but that would not prevent me killing a German with all
the good will in the world, if I was put in the firing line, any more
than it would prevent me squashing a malaria-carrying mosquito with
my Prayer Book. And if I could sing (which I can't) I would bellow
"Peace on earth, good will towards men," at the top of my voice, even
while I was poising the Prayer Book or drawing a bead on the Prussians.
"Inconsistent," I daresay, but why be consistent? Besides, deep down, I
know it is consistent.

Yet, though we all recognize the essential consistency of this apparent
inconsistency, how we long, as with the yearning for morning through
the dark hours of pain, for the time when such complication of instinct
will have vanished. Twelve leaden months have dropped sullenly, one by
one, into the well of time, salt with human tears, and those who were
optimistic a year ago, believing that when Christmas next came round,
Europe would have recovered from this madness of bloodshed, are less
confident in their outlook for another Christmas. But few, I think,
if a stroke of the pen could give back to the world that menacing
tranquillity which preceded the war, would put their name to so craven
a document. Now that we know what those faint and distant flashes of
lightning meant in the years that saw us all sunk in the lethargy of
opulent prosperity, now that we know what those veiled drowsy murmurs
of thunder from Central Europe portended, we would not take in exchange
for the days of direst peril, the false security that preceded them.
Even as America now is drunk with dollars, so that no massacre of her
citizens on the high seas will reduce her from the attitude of being
too proud to fight, to the humbler office of resenting crimes that
send her defenceless citizens without warning to the bottomless depths
of the Atlantic, so we, with our self-sufficiency and our traditional
sense of supremacy, could not be bothered to listen to the warnings of
the approaching storm till with hail of fire it burst on us. Then, it
is true, we ceased to dream, but ever since our kind nurses have done
their best to cozen back those inert hours. "I'm sitting up, dearie,"
they say. "Just wait and see."

       *       *       *       *       *

And at this point I will again pass over a year, that comprises the war
events of 1916. In the spring the great German attack against Verdun
opened, and for months the French stood steadfast, until that hail
of hammer blows exhausted itself. Early in June was fought the naval
battle of Jutland, announced by the German Press as so stupendous a
victory, that for the rest of the year their fleet sheltered in Kiel,
presumably because they had destroyed the British naval supremacy for
ever. In August came the fall of Gorizia, and next month the entry of
Rumania into the war, and a disastrous campaign followed. In Greece
King Constantine continued his treacherous manoeuvres, but failed to
exhaust the patience of the Allies. In December, lastly, came the
bombastic announcement that the invincible and victorious Germany was
willing from motives of magnanimous humanity, to grant peace to the
crushed and trampled Allies, who had dared to dispute the might of her
God-given destiny. A suitable reply was returned.


It is a year since last I wrote anything in this book, and the year
has passed with such speed that I can scarcely believe that the ink
of December is dry. Nothing makes time slide away so fast as regular
monotonous employment, and not only this year, but the year before
that, and five months before that, seem pressed into a moment, dried
and flattened. But all the things that happened before that, when
in August, 1914, the whole of one's consciousness was changed, is
incredibly remote.

The war has made a cleavage across the continuity of life, and while
the mind and the conscious self get to be at home in the changed
existence, the line of cleavage does not become obliterated, but, on
the contrary, appears steeper and more sheer-sided. The edges of the
chasm have been covered over with the green growth of habit, of the
adjustment that alone renders fresh conditions possible; but further
and further away becomes the consciousness that there was once a time
in which all Europe was not at war. In those golden years people used
to discuss, just as they would discuss ghosts or the approach of a
comet, the possibility of a German war, that would lead all Europe into
the gate of Hell. But it was discussed theoretically as a subject of
polite conversation, when topics that were really of interest, like
Suffragettes or Home Rule in Ireland, ran dry. You talked about the
comet, Halley's comet, that was going to destroy the world, and then
you talked about a European war, that was going to destroy the world.
And then you played the guessing game.... It was all one: just a matter
of remote possibilities, based on an idea that you did not believe
in. And then it came, not Halley's comet, or a ghost, but the third
incredible happening. All that was before has receded into dim ages.
You feel that "once upon a time," as in stories you tell to children,
there was somebody else masquerading under your own name, and suppose
that as by some conjuring trick he was mysteriously identical with
you. If you were closely questioned you would allow that in 1913 you
did this or that; you wanted something (and perhaps got it); you lived
in a house in a certain street, and were popularly supposed to be the
same person who lives in that or another house now. You would have to
admit these facts, but deep down in yourself you would cling to the
secret belief that it was somebody else who, under your name, did the
things and lived the life that is supposed to have been yours. A label
was attached to you then, which gave your name and address, and you
find the same label round your neck still. For the sake of convenience
you continue to answer to your name, and, in a manner of speaking,
are responsible for the old lease. But all the time you feel that
another person wears the label now. A different identity (that is your
private opinion) inhabits your house. He wears the same (or similar)
boots and shoes; he comes when he is called; he has a face that is
still recognized by his friends. But though his friends recognize him,
you scarcely recognize him yourself. He, who was nurtured in peace,
has now but a remote memory of those tranquil years, and thinks they
must surely belong to someone else. All he knows now is that since
the foundation of the world he has lived in the midst of this grim
struggle, which, since the foundation of the world, was as inevitable
as the succession of night and day. Before the storm broke, somebody
(himself probably, since everyone else says so) knew only that life
was a pleasant business (or unpleasant, as the case may be), and that
it would go on for a certain number of years, and that then an end
would come to it. It was all very jolly, and a railway strike or the
rise of the income-tax to, say, one and sixpence in the pound was the
sum of the inconvenience ahead. In due time he would get pneumonia or
cancer, or be run over by a motor-bus; but all those disheartening
possibilities seemed quite remote. Then came the war, and it cleaved
his former life from his present life as by an impassable chasm. That
being so, he adjusted himself to his present life, and, if he was wise,
ceased to waste time over thinking of the "jolly days" which preceded
the changed conditions. And if he was wiser still, he did not throw
the memory of the "jolly days" away, but put them in a box and locked
it up. And if he was wisest of all, he said: "I am different, but the
eternal things are not different," and went on just as usual.

Indeed, why you do a thing matters far more than what you do. It is
easy to conceive of a thoroughly lethargic person who, for mere want of
vitality, lives a most respectable life. He has not energy enough--and
thereby is less of a man--to commit the usual errors. But the question
seriously arises as to whether he had not better be more of a man and
commit them. I hasten over this difficult phase, and conceive of him
again as more vital than ever, and abstaining from the usual crimes
because he is now above them rather than below them. He looks down on
them instead of gazing feebly up at them. In actual result, his conduct
as regards errors is the same, but who can doubt about the respective
values of the respective conducts? The two are poles apart (though in
net and tangible result the extremes meet), for no one can say that the
man who does not cheat at cards simply from fear of detection has the
smallest spiritual affinity with the average person who plays honestly
because he is honest.

There is a periodical piece of business in shops and places where they
sell things, called stock-taking, and, as its name implies, it consists
in the owner going through the goods and seeing what he has got. It
is a useful custom, not only in shops, but as applied by ordinary
individuals to themselves, and the first day of a New Year is a date
commonly in use as the day of internal stock-taking. Very sensible
people will tell you that the division of one's life into years is a
purely arbitrary arrangement, and that December 31st is not severed
from January 1st by any more real division than July 3rd is severed
from July 4th. But less superbly-constituted minds fall back on these
arbitrary arrangements, and with the sense that they are starting
again on January 1st, they often have a look round their cupboards
and shelves to see what they have in hand. It is a disagreeable sort
of business; you will find that your things have got very dusty and
dirty, and that probably there is much that should be thrown away and
but little that is worth keeping when you run over your record for the
past year. But far more important than your actual conduct (as in the
case of the two very different gentlemen, neither of whom cheats at
cards) is the motive that inspired your conduct. If you are lucky you
will perhaps find that you have done a certain number of good-natured
things; you may have done some generous ones, but if you are wise,
you will, before you let a faint smile of satisfaction steal over
your mobile features, consider why you did them. You may have been
good-natured out of kindness of heart; all congratulations if it is so;
but you may find you have been good-natured out of laziness, in which
case I venture to congratulate you again on having brought that fact
home to yourself.... Indeed, this search for motive rather resembles
what happens when you turn over a prettily marked piece of rock lying
on the grass. It _may_ be all right, but sometimes you discover
horrible creepy-crawlies below it, which, when disturbed, scud about
in a disconcerting manner. Or again (which is more encouraging), you
may come across an object--a piece of conduct, that is to say--which
really makes you blush to look at it. But possibly, when you turn it
over you may find that you really meant rather well, in spite of your
deplorable behaviour. Hoard that encouragement, for you will want as
much encouragement as you can possibly find if you intend to do your
stock-taking honestly; otherwise, you will assuredly not have the
spirit to go through with it. And when the stock-taking is done look
at the total, which will certainly be very disappointing, without
dismay, but with a sanguine hope that you will find a better show next
year. Think it over well, and then dismiss the whole thing from your
conscious mind. For to dwell too much on your stock-taking, or to take
stock too often, produces a paralysing sort of self-consciousness.
The man who sets his past failures continually before him is not
likely to be much better in the future; while he who contemplates his
past successes gets fat and inert with probably quite ill-founded
complacency. One of the shrewdest philosophers who ever lived gives
very sage advice on this point when he says: "And when he hath done all
that is to be done, as far as he knoweth, let him think that he hath
done nothing."... So we, who have not done one tithe of the things that
we knew we ought to have done, will certainly have little excuse for
thinking we have done something.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another effect of this last year of tension, besides that of sundering
our present lives and consciousness from pre-war days, is that it has
made a vast quantity of people very much older. That has advantages
and disadvantages, for while there are certainly many very admirable
things connected with the sense of youth, there are some which are
not so admirable when manifested by those of mature and middle age.
It is admirable, for instance, that the middle-aged should have
enough vitality to devote themselves to learning the fox-trot, or the
bunny-bump, but it is less admirable that they should actually spend
their vitality in doing so. The war has taken the wish to bunny-bump
out of them, the desire for bunny-bumping has failed, and that has
caused them to realize that they are not quite so young as they
thought, or as they proposed to be for the next twenty years or so. The
sense of middle-age has come upon them as suddenly as the war itself
came, and many have found it extremely disconcerting. It is as if they
were introduced to a perfect stranger, whom they have to take into
their house and live with. They don't like the look of the stranger,
nor his manners, nor his habits, and this infernal intruder does not
propose, they feel, to make a short visit, but has come to stop with
them permanently. He eats and walks and reads with them, and when they
wake up at night they see his head on their pillow. He seems to them
ungracious and angular and forbidding; they dearly long to get away
from him, but that is impossible. What, then, are they to do? There is
only one thing to be done, to make friends with him without loss of
time, and never to regret the vanishing of the jolly days before he
came. If they had been wise (hardly anybody is in this respect), they
would have made friends with him long before he came as a permanent
guest; they would have asked him to lunch, so to speak, on one day, and
gone out a walk with him on another, and have thus got accustomed to
his ways by degrees. But as they have not done that, they must resign
themselves to a period of discomfort now.

Probably they will find that he is much easier to get on with than they
think at first. They fancy that they will never be happy again with
that old bore always at their elbows, and it is quite true that they
never will be happy again in the old way. They must find a new way, and
the first step towards that is not to call this guest, middle-age, an
old bore, but discover what he can do, and what his good points are. He
really has a good many, if you take the trouble to look for them. He
has not got the tearing high spirits which they are accustomed to, but
he has a certain serenity which is far from disagreeable if you will be
at the pains to draw it out. He is not very quick, he has but little
of that quality compounded of wit and activity and nonsense which they
were wont to consider the basis of all social enjoyment; but he has
a certain rather kindly humour which gives a twinkle to the eye that
sparkles no longer. He has boiled down his experiences, sad and joyful
alike, into a sort of broth which is nutritive and palatable, though
without bubble. But patience is one of its excellent ingredients, a
wholesome herb, which, for all its homeliness, has a very pleasant
taste. He can be a very good friend, not liable to take offence, and
though his affections are not passionate, they are very sincere.

But if you refuse to see his good points, and will not make friends
with him (he will always allow you to do that; it is "up to you"), he
will prove himself a very cantankerous old person indeed. He will give
you the most annoying reminders of his presence, digging you with his
skinny elbow, and making all sorts of sarcastic interruptions when you
are talking. You will get to hate him more and more, for he will always
be spoiling your pleasure until you are cordially inclined towards
him. He will trip you up in the bunny-bump; he will give you aches and
pains if you persist in behaving as if you were twenty-five still; he
will make you feel very unwell if you choose to eat lobster-salad at
sunrise. And you can't get rid of him; the more strenuously you deny
his existence, the more indefatigably he will remind you of it. He is
quite a good friend, in fact, but a perfectly pernicious enemy. But
naturally you will do what you choose about him, as you have always
done about everything else....

To revert to Francis (a far more exhilarating subject than New Year
reflections), he was at home for a few days last week. After the
Dardanelles expedition was abandoned, he went out to France (after
having condescended to accept a commission), where he proceeded at
once to earn the V.C. for a deed of ludicrous valour, under a storm of
machine-gun bullets, and while on leave received his decoration.

"Of course I like it awfully," was his comment about it; "but, as a
matter of fact, I didn't deserve it, because on that particular morning
I didn't happen to be frightened. I usually am frightened, and I've
deserved the V.C. millions of times, but just when I got it I didn't
deserve it. They ought to give the V.C. to fellows who are in the devil
of a fright all the time they are doing their job. But that day I
wasn't; I had had a delicious breakfast, and felt as calm as Matilda is
looking. I don't believe she can speak a word by the way; you made it
all up."

I was very much mortified by Matilda's conduct. Ever since Francis's
return she had sat in dead silence, though I had taught her to say
"Hurrah for the V.C.," and she had repeated it without stopping for
several hours the day before he arrived. But the moment she saw
him, she looked at him with a cold grey eye and remained absolutely
speechless. Of course I did not tell Francis what I had taught her to
say, because she might take it into her head to begin to talk at any
time, and her congratulations would not then be a surprise to him. So
I held my tongue, and Matilda hers.

Then a most unfortunate incident occurred, for Francis left his
decoration in a taxi next day, and though we telephoned to all the
taxi-ranks and police-stations in the world, we could hear nothing of
it. I don't think I ever saw anyone so furious as he was.

"No one will believe I got it," he shouted. "I meant to wear it day
and night, so that even a burglar coming into the house should see it.
But now no one will know. I can't go about chanting 'I am a V.C., but
I left it in a taxi.' Who would believe such a cock-and-bull story? If
you heard a fellow in the street saying 'I am a V.C.,' you wouldn't
believe him. Of course there's the riband, but it was the Cross I
wanted to wear day and night--nobody looks at an inch of riband. Don't

Matilda suddenly cleared her throat, and blew her nose, which is often
the prologue to conversation. I sincerely hoped she wouldn't say
"Hurrah for the V.C." just this moment, for it really seemed possible
that the enraged Francis might wring her neck if she mocked at him. I
hastened to talk myself, for Matilda usually waits for silence before
she scatters her pearls of wisdom.

"Well, apply for another one," I said. "They'll surely give you another
one. Or earn another one, but apply first."

"And how many years do you think I should have to wait for it?" he
asked. "How many departments do you think I should have to visit? How
many papers and affidavits do you think I should have to sign? Apply
for another one, indeed, as if the V.C. was only a pound of sugar!"

"Only a pound of sugar!" I said. "Certainly, if it takes as long as it
takes to get a pound of sugar----"

Matilda gave a loud shriek.

"Gott strafe the V.C.!" she screamed. "Hurrah for Germany! Gott scratch
the Kaiser's head! Bow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Pussy!"

Francis stopped dead and turned his head slowly round to where Matilda
was screaming like a Pythian prophetess. She whistled like the milkman,
she cuckooed, she called on her Maker's name, and on Taffy's; in a
couple of minutes she had said everything she had ever known, and mixed
the V.C. up with them all. She laughed at the V.C.; she blew her nose
at him, accompanying these awful manifestations of Matilda-ism with
dancing a strange Brazilian measure on her perch. Then she stopped as
suddenly as if her power of speech had been blown out like a candle,
and hermetically sealed her horny beak for all conversational purposes
for precisely three weeks.

Francis had stuffed his handkerchief into his mouth, so that his
laughter should not interrupt Matilda, and got so red in the face I was
afraid he was going to have a fit. But when she definitely stopped, he
took the handkerchief out of his mouth, and laughed till exhaustion set

"O Lord! I'm so glad Matilda is true!" he said. "I was half afraid you
might have invented her, though I was surprised at the impeccable art
of your invention."

"Why surprised?" I asked coldly.

"Oh, I don't know. The ordinary reason. But she's really more like
the British public than King Tino. They get things more mixed up than
anyone I ever came across. For instance, they think that they ought to
be very grave and serious, because the war is very grave and serious.
Why, there's Matilda-ism for you! The only possible way of meeting
a grave situation is to meet it gaily, and they would learn that if
they came out to the trenches. Unless you were flippant there you
would expire with depression. They are beavers at work, I allow that,
but when the day's work is over they ought to be compelled to amuse

"But they don't feel inclined to," said I.

"No, and I don't feel inclined to get up in the morning, but that is no
justification for lying in bed. There ought to be an amusement-board,
which should make raids on private houses, if they suspected that
unseemly seriousness was practised there. People talk of unseemly
mirth, but they don't realize that gloom, as a general rule, is much
more unseemly. Besides, you don't arrive at anything like the proper
output of work if it is done by depressed people. Also, the quality of
it is different."

"Do you mean that a shell made by cheerful munition workers has a
greater explosive force than when it has been made by the melancholy?"
I asked.

"I daresay that is the case, and it would account for the fact that
the Boches' shells haven't been nearly so devastating lately, because
beyond doubt the Boches are a good deal depressed. There is a marked
sluggishness stealing into their explosives. If you want to do a good
day's work on Thursday, by far the best preparation you can make for
it is to have a howling, jolly time on Wednesday evening. Pleasure
gives you energy, and pleasure is every bit as _real_ as pain, and
cheerfulness as depression. I know you will say that it is the
fogs that make people depressed, but it is more likely, as someone
suggested, that the depressed people make the fogs. If so, I don't
wonder at the impenetrable state of affairs outside."

He pointed at the window, which, as far as purposes of illumination
went, was about as useful as the wall. Since dawn no light had broken
through that opaque cloud of brown vapour; a moonless night was not
darker than this beleaguered noonday. It had penetrated into the house
and veiled the corners of the room in obscurity, and filled eyes and
nose with smarting ill-smelling stuff.

"Yes, decidedly it's the depressed people who make the fog," said he.
"They are the same thing on two different planes, for they both refuse
to admit the sunshine."

"But, good heavens, aren't you ever depressed?" I asked.

"Not inside. I don't count surface depression, which can be easily
produced by an aching tooth, though, indeed, I haven't got much
experience of that. But I am never fundamentally depressed; I never
doubt that behind the clouds is the sun still shining, as that odious
school-marm Longfellow tells us. Often things are immensely tiresome,
but tiresome things, painful things, have no root. They don't penetrate
down to the central reality. But all happiness springs from it.
Even mere pleasure is as real as pain, as I said just now; but joy,
happiness, is infinitely more real than either. But somehow--I don't
quite understand this, though I know it's true--somehow happiness
casts a shadow, like a tree growing in the sunshine. Thomas à Kempis,
as usual, is quite right when he says, 'Without sorrow none liveth in
love.' But that sorrow is a thing that passes; it wheels with the sun;
it is not steadfast; it is not everlasting. But it's the devil to try
to describe that which from its very nature is indescribable. Only
there are so many excellent folk who think that the shadow is more real
than the object which causes it."

He came and sat on the hearth-rug, where presently he stretched himself
at length.

"And yet some of the best people who have ever lived," he said,
"have experienced what they call the darkness of the soul. The
whole of their belief in God and in love, all that has made them far
the happiest creatures on the earth, suddenly leaves them. Their
naked souls are left in outer darkness; they are convinced in their
own minds--minds, I say--that there is nothing in the world except
darkness. And their souls must remain perfectly steadfast, clinging in
this freezing blindness to the conviction that it can't be so, that
all their senses and their reasoning powers are wrong. Nothing can
help them except their own unaided faith, from which all support seems
withdrawn. Job had it pretty badly. It must be beastly, for you can't
guess at the time what is the matter with you. Your mind simply tells
you that it has become a reasoned and convinced atheist. It's a sort of
possession; the devil, for some inscrutable reason, is allowed to enter
into you, and he's an awful sort of tenant. He's so plausible too, so
convincing. He gets hold of your mind and says, 'Just chuck overboard
all that you once blindly believed, and now clear-sightedly know to be
false. You needn't bother yourself to curse God and die, because there
isn't such a thing as God. And instead of dying live and thoroughly
enjoy yourself.' That sounds ridiculous to you and me, whose minds the
devil doesn't entirely possess, but imagine what it would be if your
mind had his spell cast on it, if all you had ever believed drifted
away from you, and left you in the outer darkness. It would sound
excellent advice then. Your mind would tell you that there was nothing
beyond the mere material pleasures of the world. It would seem very
foolish not to make the most of them, regardless of everything else, if
there was nothing else."

"But all atheists are not unbridled hedonists," said I.

"More fools they. At least, from my point of view, the only possible
bridle on one's carnal and material desires is the fact that one is not
an atheist. What does the progress of mankind amount to considered by
itself? A few scientific inventions, a little less small-pox. Is it for
that that unnumbered generations have lived and suffered and enjoyed?"

"But can't atheists believe in and work for the progress of the world?"
I asked.

"I know they do, but for the life of me I can't see why. I wouldn't
stir a finger or make a single act of renunciation if all that inspired
me was the welfare of the next generation. To me the brotherhood of man
is a meaningless phrase unless it is coupled with the fatherhood of

"But you left Alatri, you went to fight, you won the V.C. you left in a
taxi for the sake of men."

"No, for the sake of what they stood for," he said. "For the sake of
that of which they are the manifestation."

He got up and looked at his watch.

"Blow it! I've got to go and see the manifestation known as the War
Office," he said.

"After which?" I asked. "Will you be back for lunch?"

"No, I don't think so. Lord, I wish I wasn't going to the War Office,
specially since you have a morning off. Why shouldn't I say that
I'm tired of the war--I might telephone it--or that I have become a
conscientious objector, or that I've got an indisposition?"

"There's the telephone," said I.

He buckled his belt.

"Wonderful thing the telephone," he said. "And what if it's true that
there's another telephone possible: I mean the telephone between the
people whom we think of as living, and the people whom we don't really
think of as dead? I'm going to lunch with an Aunt, by the way, who is
steeped in spiritual things; so much so, indeed, that she forgets that
the chief spiritual duties, as far as we know them for certain, are to
be truthful and cheerful, and all those dull affairs which liars and
pessimists say that anybody can do. Aunt Aggie doesn't do any of them;
she's an awful liar and a hopeless pessimist, and her temper--well! But
as I said, or didn't I say it--I'm going to lunch with her and go to a
_séance_ afterwards. She's going to inquire after Uncle Willy, who was
no comfort to her in this life; but perhaps he'll make up for that now.
Really London is getting rather cracked, which is the most sensible
thing it ever did. I think it's the cold stodgy granite of the English
temperament which I dislike so. But really it's getting chipped, it's
getting cracked. Aunt Aggie bows to the new moon just like a proper
Italian, and wouldn't sit down thirteen to dinner however hungry she
was. Oh, there are flaws in Aunt Aggie's granite, and she does have
such horrible food! Good-bye."

I settled down with a book, and an electric light at my elbow, and
a large fire at my feet, to the entrancing occupation of not doing
anything at all. The blessed sixth morning of the week had arrived,
when I was not obliged to go out to a large chilly office after
breakfast, and I mentally contrasted the nuisance of having to go out
into a beastly morning with the bliss of not having to go out, and
found the latter was far bigger with blessing than the former with
beastliness. I needn't read my book. I needn't do anything that I did
not want to do, but very soon the book, that I had really taken up for
fear of being surprised by a servant doing nothing at all, began to
engross me. It was concerned with the inexplicable telephone to which
Francis had alluded, and contained an account of the communications
which had been made by a young soldier killed in France with his
relatives. As Francis had said, London had got cracked on the

After all, what wonder? Were there the slightest chance of establishing
communication between the living and the dead, what subject (even the
war) would be worthier of the profoundest study and experiment? Nothing
more interesting, nothing more vitally important, could engross us,
for which of the affairs in this world could be so important as the
establishment, scientifically and firmly, of any facts that concern the
next world? For there is one experience, namely, death, that is of
absolutely universal interest. Everything else, from my little finger
to Shakespeare's brain, only concerns a certain number of people;
whereas death concerns the remotest Patagonian. However strongly and
sincerely we may happen to believe that death is not an extinguishing
of the essential self, with what intense interest we must all grab at
anything which can throw light on the smallest, most insignificant
detail of the life that is hereafter lived? Or, if your mind is so
constructed that you do not believe in the survival of personality, how
infinitely more keenly you would clutch at the remotest evidence (so
long as it _is_ evidence) that there is something to follow after the
earth has been filled in above the body, from which, we are all agreed,
_something_ has departed. Without prejudice, without bias either of
child-like faith or convinced scepticism, and preserving only an open
mind, willing to be convinced by reasonable phenomena, there is nothing
sublunar or superlunar that so vitally concerns us. You may not care
about the treatment of leprosy, presumably in the belief that you will
not have leprosy; you may not care about Danish politics in the belief
that you will never be M.P. (if there is such a thing) for Copenhagen.
But what cannot fail to interest you is the slightest evidence of what
may occur to you when you pass the inevitable gates.

There are only two things that can possibly happen: the one is complete
extinction (in which case I allow that the subject is closed, since if
you are extinguished it is idle to inquire what occurs next, since
nothing can occur); the other is the survival, in some form, of life,
of yourself. This falls into three heads:

        (_i_) Reincarnation, as an earwig, or a Hottentot, or an

        (_ii_) Mere absorption into the central furnace of life.

        (_iii_) Survival of personality.

And here the personal equation comes in. I cannot really believe I
am going to be an earwig or an emperor. To my mind that sounds so
unlikely that I cannot fix serious thought upon it. What shall I, this
Me, do when I am an earwig or an emperor? How shall I feel? The mind
slips from the thought, as you slip on ice, and falls down. Nor can
I conceive being absorbed into the central furnace, because that, as
far as personality goes, is identical with extinction. My soul will be
burned in the source of life, just as my body may perhaps be burned
in a crematorium, and I don't really care, in such a case, what will
happen to either of them.

But my unshakeable conviction, with regard to which I long for
evidence, is that I--something that I call I--will continue a perhaps
less inglorious career than it has hitherto pursued. And if you
assemble together a dozen healthy folk, who have got no idea of dying
at present, you will find that, rooted in the consciousness of at least
eleven of them, if they will be honest about themselves, there is this
same immutable conviction that They Themselves will neither have been
extinguished or reincarnated or absorbed when their bodies are put away
in a furnace or a churchyard. There is the illusion or conviction of a
vast majority of mankind that with the withdrawal from the body of the
Something which has kept it alive, that Something does not cease to
have an independent and personal existence.

Well, there has been lately an enormous increase in the number of those
who seek evidence on this overwhelmingly interesting subject. The
book which I have been reading and wondering over treats of it, and
Francis has gone with his Aunt Aggie to seek it. There has been, too,
it is only fair to say, an enormous increase in the exasperation of
the folk who, knowing nothing whatever about the subject, and scorning
to make any study of what they consider such hopeless balderdash,
condemn all those who have an open mind on the question as blithering
idiots, hoodwinked by the trickery of so-called mediums. Out of their
own inner consciousness they know that there can be no such thing as
communication between the living and the dead, and there's the end of
the matter. All who think there possibly may be such communication are
fools, and all who profess to be able to produce evidence for it are
knaves.... They themselves, being persons of sanity and common-sense,
know that it is impossible.

But other shining examples of sanity and common-sense would undoubtedly
have affirmed thirty years ago, with the same pontifical infallibility,
that such a thing as wireless telegraphy was impossible, or a hundred
years ago that it was equally ridiculous to think that a sort of big
tea-kettle could draw a freight of human beings along iron rails
at sixty miles an hour. But wireless telegraphy and express trains
_happened,_ in spite of their sanity and common-sense, and it seems
to me that if we deny the possibility of this communication between
the living and the dead, we are acting in precisely the same manner as
those same sensible people would have acted thirty and a hundred years

Another favourite assertion of the sane and sensible is that if they
could get evidence themselves (though they foam with rage at the very
notion of attempting to do such a thing) they would believe it. That is
precisely the same thing as saying you will not believe in Australia
till you have been there. For the existence of Australia depends (for
those who have never seen it) on the evidence of others. The evidence
for the existence of Australia is overwhelming, and therefore we
are right to accept it, even though we have not seen it ourselves.
Kangaroos and gold, and Australian troops and postage-stamps, and
the voyages of steamers, makes its existence absolutely certain;
there is no doubt whatever about it. And the evidence in favour of
the possibility of communication between this world and another
non-material world is now in process of accumulation. It is being
studied by people who are eminent in the scientific world, and it seems
that there are fragments, scraps of evidence, which must be treated
with the respect of an open mind by all who have not the pleasant gift
of the infallibility that springs from complete ignorance. It is no
longer any use to quote from Mr. Sludge the Medium....

There are a great many gullible people in the world and a great many
fraudulent ones, and when the two get together round a table in a
darkened room, it is obvious that there is a premium on trickery.
But because a certain medium is a knave and a vagabond, who ought to
be put in prison, and others are such as should not be allowed to go
out, except with their minds under care of a nurse, it does not follow
that there are no such things as genuine manifestations. It would be
as reasonable to say that because a child does his multiplication
sum wrong, there is something unsound in the multiplication table. A
fraudulent medium does not invalidate a possible genuineness in those
who are not cheats; a quack or a million quacks do not cast a slur
on the science of medicine. In questions of spiritualism there is no
denying that the number of quacks exposed and unexposed is regrettably
large, and, without doubt, all spiritualistic phenomena should be
ruthlessly and pitilessly scrutinized. But when this is done, it is
only a hide-bound stupidity that refuses to treat the results with

Other reservations must be made. All results that can conceivably
be accounted for by such well-established phenomena as telepathy or
thought-reading must be unhesitatingly ruled out. They are deeply
interesting in themselves, they are like the traces of other metals
discovered in exploring a gold-reef, but they are not the gold, and
have no more to do with the thing inquirers are in quest of than have
acid-drops or penny buns. Many mediums (so-called) are not mediums at
all, but have that strange and marvellous gift of being able to explore
the minds of others....

What is the working and mechanism of that group of phenomena, among
which we may class hypnotism, thought-reading, telepathy, and so forth,
we do not rightly know. But inside the conscious self of every human
being there lurks the sub-conscious or subliminal self, which has
something to do with all these things. Every event that happens to a
man, every thought that passes through his mind, every impression that
his brain receives makes a mark on it, similar, perhaps, to the minute
dots on phonograph records. That phonograph record (probably) is in
the keeping of the sub-conscious mind, and though the conscious mind
may have forgotten the fact, and the circumstances in the making of
any of these marks, the sub-conscious mind has it recorded, and, under
certain conditions, can produce it again. And it is the sub-conscious
mind which without doubt exercises those thought-reading and telepathic
functions. In most people it lies practically inaccessible; others,
numerically few, appear, in trance or even without the suspension of
the conscious mind, to be able to exercise its powers, and--leaving out
the mere conjuring tricks of fraudulent persons--it is they who pass
for mediums.

What happens? This: A bereaved mother or a bereaved wife sits with one
of those mediums. The medium goes into a genuine trance, and probing
the mind of the eager expectant sitter, can tell her all sorts of
intimate details about the husband or son who has been killed which are
already known to her. The medium can produce his name, his appearance;
can recount events and happenings of his childhood; can even say things
which the mother has forgotten, but which prove to be true. Is it
any wonder that the sitter is immensely impressed? She is more than
impressed, she is consoled and comforted when the medium proceeds to
add (still not quite fraudulently) messages of love and assurance of
well-being. It is not quite conscious fraud; it is perhaps a fraud of
the sub-conscious mind.

Now all this, these reminiscences, these encouraging messages from the
other world, have to be ruled out if we want to get at the real thing.
They are phenomena vastly interesting in themselves, but they are
clearly accountable for by the established theory of thought-reading.
They need have nothing whatever to do with communications from
discarnate spirits, for they can be accounted for by a natural law
already known to us. They do not help in the slightest degree to
establish the new knowledge for which so many are searching....

Francis had come back from his lunch and his _séance_ with Aunt Aggie,
and a considerable part of these reflections are really a _précis_ of
our discussion. It had been quite a good thought-reading _séance:_
Uncle Willy, through the mouth of the medium in trance, had affirmed
his dislike of parsnips and mushrooms, had mentioned his name, and
nickname, Puffin, by which Aunt Aggie had known him, and had described
with extraordinary precision the room where he used to sit.

"I was rather impressed," said Francis. "It really was queer, for
silly though Aunt Aggie is, I don't think she had previously gone to
Amber--yes, the medium was Amber, just Amber--and primed her with
regard to this information. Amber read it all right out of Aunt Aggie's
mind. But then Uncle Willy became so extremely unlike himself that I
couldn't possibly believe it was Uncle Willy; it must have been a sort
of reflection of what Aunt Aggie hoped he had become. He was deeply
edifying; he said he was learning to be patient; he told us that he
had improved wonderfully. Poor Aunt Aggie sobbed, and I knew she loved
sobbing. It made her feel good inside. All the same----" He let himself
lie inertly on the sofa, in that supreme bodily laziness which, as I
have said, gives his mind the greater activity.

"It was all a thought-reading _séance_," he said, "quite good of its
kind, but it had no more to do with the other world than Matilda....
But why shouldn't there be a way through between the material and the
spiritual, just as there is a way for telegraphy, as you said, without
wires? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, no doubt, a so-called
message from the other side is only a subtle intercommunication between
minds on this side. It's so hard to guard against that. But it might be
done. We might think of some piece of knowledge known only to a fellow
who was dead."

Suddenly he jumped up.

"I've thought of a lovely plan," he said. "Go for a walk, if you
haven't been out all day, or go and have a bath or something; and while
you are gone I'll prepare a packet, and seal it up in a box. Nobody
will know but me. And then when the next bit of shrapnel comes along
and hits me instead of the potted-meat tin, you will pay half-a-guinea,
I think it is--I know I paid for Aunt Aggie and myself--and see if a
medium can tell you what is in that box. Nobody will know except me,
and I shall be dead, so it really will look very much as if I had a
hand in it if a medium in trance can tell you what is in it. A box
can't telepathize, can it? The Roman Catholics say it's devil-work
to communicate with the dead; they say all sorts of foul spirits get
hold of the other end of the telephone. Isn't it lucky we aren't Roman

"And what about the War Office?" I said, chiefly because I didn't want
either to go out or have a bath.

"Oh, I forgot. I'm going to be sent out to the Italian front. We've
got some people there, and it seems they don't know Italian very well.
I don't know what I shall be quite: I think a sort of Balaam's ass
that talks, a sort of mule perhaps with a mixed Italian and English
parentage. Duties? Ordering dinner, I suppose."

"Lucky devil!"

"I'm not sure. I think I would sooner take my chance in the trenches.
But off I go day after to-morrow. Lord, if I get a week's leave now and
then, shan't I fly to Alatri! Can't you come out, too, to look after
your Italian property? Fancy having a week at Alatri again! There won't
be bathing, of course; but how I long to hear the swish and bang of the
shutters that Pasqualino has forgotten to hitch to, in the Tramontana!
And the sweeping of the wind in the stone-pine! And the glow and
crackle of the wood-fire on the hearth! And the draughty rooms! And the
springing up of the freesias! And Seraphina, fat Seraphina, and the
smell of frying! Fancy being _heedless_ again for a week! I feel sure
the war has never touched the enchanted island. The world as it was!
Good Lord, the world as it was!"

He had sat and then lain down on the floor.

"It's odd," he said, "that though I wouldn't change that which I am,
and that which I know, for anything that went before, I long for a
week, a day, an hour of the time when all the material jollinesses of
the world were so magically exciting. Oh, the pleasant evenings when
one didn't think, but just enjoyed what was there! There's a great
lump of Boy still in me, which I don't get rid of. The cache: think of
the cache we were going to revisit in September, 1914! After all, It,
the mystical thing that matters, was there all the time, though one
didn't really know it.... But I should love to get the world as it was
again. I don't want it for long, I think, but just for a little while.
Rest, you know, child's play, nonsense, Italy. I would buckle to again
afterwards, but it would be nice to be an animal again. I want not to
think about anything that matters, God, and my soul, and right and

"I want to rebel. Just for a minute. I daresay it's the devil who makes
me want. It's a way he has. 'Be an innocent child,' says he, 'and don't
think. Just look at the jolly things, and the beautiful things, and
take your choice!' I don't want to be beastly, but I do want to get out
of the collar of the only life which I believe to be real. I want to
eat and drink and sit in the sun, and hear the shutters bang, and read
a witty wicked book, and see a friend--you, in fact--and do again what
we did; I want to quench the light invisible, and make it invisible,
really invisible, for a minute or two. I suppose that's blasphemy all

He lay silent a moment, and then got up.

"Oh, do go for a walk," he said, "while I prepare my posthumous packet.
Or prepare a posthumous packet for me. You may die first, you see;
it's easily possible that you may die first now that they're not
sending me to the trenches again, and it would be so interesting after
your lamentable decease to be told by a medium what you had put in the
packet. Let's do that. Let each of us prepare a posthumous packet,
and seal it up, and on yours you must put directions that it is to be
delivered to me unopened. I needn't put anything on mine; you can keep
them both in a cupboard till one of us dies. And the survivor will
consult a medium as to what is in the late lamented's packet. Only the
late lamented will know. Really, it will be a great test. Come on. It
will be like playing caches again. Mind you put something ridiculous in

I procured two cardboard boxes, of which we each took one, and went to
my bedroom to select unlikely objects. Eventually I decided on a "J"
nib, a five-franc piece and a small quantity of carbolic tooth-powder.
These I put in my box, put directions on the top that it was to be
given on my death to Francis, and went downstairs again, where I found
him sealing his up. I put them both in a drawer of a table and locked

"Lord, how I long to tell you what I've put in mine!" said Francis.

       *       *       *       *       *

More than half the month has passed (I am writing, as a matter of
evidential data, on the 17th of January), and I desire to record with
the utmost accuracy gleanable in such affairs, the general feeling
of the inhabitants of London with regard to the war. Briefly, then,
a huge wave of optimism--for which God be thanked--has roared over
the town. Peace Notes, and the replies to them, and the replies to
those replies have been probably the wind that raised that wave, or,
in other words, the super-coxcomb who rules the German Empire has
expressed his "holy wrath" at the reply of our Allied nations to his
gracious granting of peace on his own terms. But England and France
and Russia and Italy have unanimously wondered when, in the history
of the world, a nation that proclaimed itself victor has offered
peace to the adversary it proclaimed it has conquered. Germany, not
only belligerent, but also apparently umpire, has announced that she
has won the war, and therefore offers peace to her victims. That was
a most astounding piece of news, and it surprised us all very much.
But what must have surprised Germany more was the supposedly-expiring
squeal of her victims which intimated that they were not conquered.
Hence the "holy wrath" of the World-War-Lord, who had intimated, as out
of Sinai, that they were conquered. They don't think so--they may be
wrong, but they just don't think so. Instead they are delighted with
his victorious proclamation, and take the proclamation as evidence that
he is not victorious. German newspapers have been, if possible, more
childishly profane than he, and tell us they are ready to grasp the
hand of God Almighty, who is giving such success to their submarine
warfare. They said just that; it was their duty to shake hands with
God Almighty, because with His aid they had sunk so many defenceless
merchant ships. Perhaps that "goes down" in Germany, for it appears
that they are short of food, and would gladly swallow anything.

But here we are, the conquered beleaguered nation--and by a tiresome
perversity we delight in the savage glee of our conquerors, for we
happen to believe that it expresses, not glee of the conqueror, but the
savage snarl of a fighting beast at bay. Rightly or wrongly, we think
just that, and the louder the pæans from Germany, the brighter are the
eyes here. Though still the bitterness of this winter of war binds us
with stricture of frost, a belief in the approaching advent of spring,
now in mid-January, possesses everybody. Reports, the authenticity
of which it is no longer possible to doubt, are rife concerning the
internal condition of Germany and Austria, which is beginning to be
intolerable. There is not starvation, nor anything like starvation,
but the stress of real want grows daily, and we all believe that from
one cause or other, from this, or from the great offensive on the
Western front, the preparations for which, none doubts, are swiftly
and steadily maturing, the breaking of winter is in sight. Perhaps all
we optimists, as has happened before, will again prove to be wrong,
and some great crumbling or collapse may be threatening one of the
Allies. But to-day the quality of optimism is somehow different from
what it has been before. Also, the black background of war (not yet
lifted), in front of which for the last two years and a half our lives
have enacted themselves, has become infinitely and intensely more
engrossing. But here in England and France and Italy and Russia, it is
pierced with sudden gleams of sunshine; there are rifts in it through
which for a moment or two shines the light of the peace that is coming.
Only over Germany it hangs black and unbroken.

A king gave a feast to his lords and by his command there were brought
in the spoils and the vessels which he had taken from the house of God
which he had sacked and destroyed. In the same hour came forth fingers
of a man's hand, and wrote on the wall of the king's palace. Then the
king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that
the joints of his loins were loosed and his knees smote one against
another. For he had lifted himself up against the Lord of Heaven, and
he knew that his doom was written. There was no need to call in the
astrologers and soothsayers, or to search for a Daniel who should be
able to interpret the writing, or to promise to him who should read the
writing and show the interpretation thereof a clothing of scarlet, a
chain of gold, and that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom,
for the king's captains and his lords, and the king himself, knew what
the meaning and the interpretation of the writing was. In silence they
sat as they read it, and they sat in silence looking in each other's
eyes which were bright with terror, and on each other's faces which
were blanched with dread. But most of all they looked at the king
himself, still clad in his shining armour, and the cold foam of his
doom was white on the lips that profaned the name of the Most Highest,
and the hand that still grasped the hilt of the sword which to his
eternal infamy he had unscabbarded and to his everlasting dishonour had
soaked in innocent blood, was shaken with an ague of mortal fear. And
this is the writing that was written: _MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN,_
for God had numbered his kingdom and finished it; he was weighed in the
balance and found wanting; his kingdom was divided.

Even so, as in the days of King Belshazzar, is the doom written of
him who, above all others, is responsible for the blood that has been
outpoured on the battle-field of Europe, for the shattered limbs, the
blinded eyes, for the murder of women and children from below on the
high seas, and from above in their undefended homes. God set him on the
throne of his fathers, and out of his monstrous vanity, his colossal
and inhuman ambitions, he has given over the harvest fields of the East
to the reaper Death, and has caused blood to flow from the wine presses
of the West. East and West he has blared out his infamous decree that
evil is good, might is right, that murder and rape and the unspeakable
tales of Teutonic atrocities are deeds well pleasing in the sight of
God. And even as in the days when, with his fool's-cap stuck on top
of his Imperial diadem, and the jester's bells a-tinkle against his
shining armour, he paraded through the courts of Europe and the castles
of his dupes, as Supreme Artist, Supreme Musician, Supreme Preacher,
as well as Supreme War Lord, and fancied himself set so high above the
common race of man that no human standard could measure him; so now his
infamy has sunk him so low beneath the zones of human sympathy that not
till we can feel pity for him who first left the love-supper of His
Lord and hanged himself, we shall commiserate the doom that thickens
round the head of the Judas who has betrayed his country and his God in
hope to gratify his insensate dream of world-wide domination.

There still he sits at the feast with his lords and captains, but the
wine is spilt from his cup, and his thoughts are troubled and voices
of despair whisper to him out of the invading night. Low already burn
the lights in the banqueting-hall that was once so nobly ablaze with
the glory of those who in the sciences and the arts and in learning and
high philosophy made Germany a prince among nations. He and his dupes
and his flatterers have made a brigand and a pirate of her, have well
and truly earned for her the scorn and the detestation of all civilized
minds and lovers of high endeavour, and in the _Dämmerung_ that gathers
ever thicker round them the fingers of a man's hand trace on the wall
the letters of pale flame that need no Daniel to interpret. The painted
timbers of the roof are cracking, the tapestries are rent, the spilt
wine congeals in pools of blood, and the legend of the decree of God
blazes complete in the ruin of the shambles where they sit.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is then this belief that ruin is moving swiftly and steadily up over
the Central Empires that causes the war once more, as in its earlier
days, to engross the whole of our thoughts. It is coming, as it were,
in the traditional manner of a thunderstorm against the wind, for there
is no use in pretending that, as far as military and naval operations
go, the wind is not at the moment being favourable to our enemies. By
sea the submarine menace is more serious than it has been since the
war begun; there is still no advance on the West front, while on the
East the complete over-running of Roumania cannot be called a success
from our point of view. But in spite of this, there is the rooted
belief that the collapse which we have so long waited for is getting
measurably nearer. None knows, and few are rash enough to assert when
it will come, or what month, near or distant, will see it, and in the
meantime the broom of the new Government, to judge by the dust it
raises, may be thought to be sweeping clean, and the appalling bequests
of our late rulers, the accumulated remains of sloppy Cabinet puddings,
are being vigorously relegated to the dustbins. With the ineradicable
boyishness of the nation (which really has a good deal to be said for
it), we still tend to make a game out of serious necessities, and are
having great sport over the question of food. For a few weeks we
amused ourselves over one of the most characteristic inventions of
the last Government, and tried to see how much we could eat without
indulging in more than three courses for dinner or two for lunch, which
was what the late Food Controller allowed us. This was an amusing
game, but as a policy it had insuperable defects, as, for instance,
when we consider that the bulk of the working population takes its
solid meal in the middle of the day, and would no more think of eating
three courses in the evening than of eating four in the morning. There
was a regular tariff: meat counted as one course, pudding another,
toasted cheese another, but you were allowed any quantity of cold
cheese, bread and butter (those articles in which national economy was
really important) without counting anything at all. In the same way
you could have as many slices of beef as you wished (as the Government
wanted to effect a saving in the consumption of meat), but to touch
an apple or a pear, about which there was no desire to save, cost you
a course. Altogether it was one of the least helpful, but most comic
schemes that could well be devised. Matilda, I fancy, thought it out
and communicated it to Mr. Runciman by the telepathy that exists
between bird-like brains. It is in flat and flagrant violation of human
psychology, for you have only to tell the perverse race of mankind
that they may only eat two dishes, to ensure that they will eat much
more of those two dishes than was comprised in the whole of their
unrestricted meals, while to allow them to eat as much cheese as they
wish is simply to make cheese-eaters out of those who never dreamed of
touching it before. But there is a rumour now that we are to go back to
our ordinary diet again, which I take to be true, for when this morning
I gave Matilda a list of the regulations to show her how it looked in
print, she uttered a piercing yell and tore the card into a million

But with the new broom has come a powerful deal of cleaning up: there
is a new Food Board, and a Man Power Board, and a fifty per cent.
increase in railway fares (which will be nice for the dividends of
railway companies), and hints of meatless days and sugar tickets, and
there are ideas of ploughing up the parks and planting wheat there
(which will be nice for the wood-pigeons). Indeed, as Francis said, we
are perhaps beginning to take the war seriously, though, on the other
hand, since he left the prevalent optimism has largely remedied the
absence of the gaiety which he so much deplored.


Germany has proposed a toast. She drinks (_Hoch!_) to the freedom of
the seas. And she couples with it the freedom (of herself) to torpedo
from her submarines any vessel, neutral or belligerent, at sight, and
without warning.

So now at last we know what the freedom of the seas means. The seas are
to be free in precisely the sense that Belgium is free, and Germany is
free to commit murder on them.

This declaration on the part of Germany was followed three days later
by a declaration on the part of the United States. Diplomatic relations
have been instantly severed, and President Wilson only waits for a
"clear overt act" of hostility on the part of Germany to declare war.

America has declared her mind with regard to the freedom of the seas,
and that abominable toast has led to the severance of diplomatic
relations between her and Germany. Count Bernstorff has been dismissed,
and in Berlin Mr. Gerard has asked for his passports. There is no
possible shadow of doubt what that means, for we all remember August
4th, 1914, when we refused to discuss the over-running of Belgium by
Germany. War followed instantly and automatically. "You shan't do
that," was the equivalent of "If you do, we fight." It is precisely
the same position between America and Germany now. Germany _will_
torpedo neutrals at sight, just as Germany would overrun Belgium. The
rest follows. Q.E.D.

But it is impossible to overstate the relief with which England has
hailed this unmistakable word on the part of the United States. Many
people have said: "What can America do if she does come in?" But that
was not really the point. Of course she will do, as a matter of fact,
a tremendous lot. She will finance our Allies; she is rich, beyond all
dreams of financiers, with the profits she has reaped from the war, and
the loans she will float will eclipse into shadow all that England has
already done in that regard. "But what else?" ask the sceptics. "What
of her army? She has no army." Nor for that matter had England when the
war began. But even the sceptics cannot deny the immense value of her
fleet. In the matter of torpedo-boats and of light craft generally,
which we so sorely need for the hunting down of those great-hearted
champions of the freedom of the seas, the German submarines, she can
double our weapons, or, as the more enthusiastic say, she can more than
double them. All the Government munition factories will be working
like ours, day and night; she may even bring in conscription; she will
devote to the cause of her Allies the million inventive brains with
which she teems. This is just a little part of what America could have
done, when first the Belgian Treaty was torn over, and it is just a
little part of what America will do now.

But all that she can do, as I said, is beside the point. The point is,
not what America can do, but what America _is_. Now she has shown what
she is, a nation which will not suffer wrong and robbery and piracy.
The disappointments of the past, with regard to her, are wiped off.
She was remote from Europe, and remote from her was the wrong done to
Belgium.... There is no need now to recount the tale of outrages that
did not exhaust her patience. She waited--wisely, we are willing to
believe--until she was ready, until the President knew that he had the
country behind him, and until some outrage of the laws of man and of
God became intolerable. It has now become intolerable to her, and if
she is willing to clasp the hands of those who once doubted her, and
now see how wrong it was to doubt, a myriad of hands are here held out
for her grasping.

The splendour of this, its late winter sunrise, has rendered quite
colourless things that in time of peace would have filled the columns
of every newspaper, and engrossed every thought of its readers. A plot,
unequalled since the days of the Borgias, has come to light, the object
of which was to kill the Prime Minister by means of poisoned arrows,
or of poisoned thorns in the inside of the sole of his boot. Never
was there so picturesque an abomination. The poison employed was to
be that Indian secretion of deadly herbs called _curare,_ a prick of
which produces a fatal result. A party of desperate women, opposed to
conscription, invoked the aid of a conscripted chemist, and Borgianism,
full-fledged, flared to life again in the twentieth century, with a
setting of Downing Street and the golf-links at Walton Heath. To the
student of criminology the Crippen affair should have faded like the
breath on a frosty morning, compared with the scheme of this staggering
plot. But with this Western sunrise over America to occupy our public
minds, no one (except, I suppose, the counsel in the case and the
prisoners) gave two thoughts to this anachronistic episode. And there
was the Victory War Loan and National Service as well.

But though the public mind of any individual can be satiated with
sensation, my experience is that the private mind "carries on" much
the same as usual. If the trump of the Last Judgment was to sound
to-morrow morning, tearing us from our sleep, and summoning us out to
Hyde Park or some other open space, I verily believe that we should
all look up at the sky that was vanishing like a burning scroll, and
consider the advisability of taking an umbrella, or of putting on a
coat. Little things do not, in times of the greatest excitement, at
all cease to concern us; the big thing absorbs a certain part of our
faculties, and when it has annexed these, it cannot claim the dominion
of little things as well. And for this reason, I suppose, I do not
much attend to the Borgia plot, since my public sympathies are so
inflamed with America; but when work is done (or shuffled somehow
away, to be attended to to-morrow) I fly on the wings of the Tube to
Regent's Park, and, once again, ridiculously concern myself with the
marks that it is possible to make on ice with a pair of skates, used
one at a time (unless you are so debased as to study grape-vines).
There is a club which has its quarters in that park, which in summer
is called the Toxophilite, and in winter "The Skating Club" ("The" as
opposed to all other skating clubs), and to the ice provided there
on the ground where in summer enthusiastic archers fit their winged
arrows to yew-wood bows, we recapture the legitimate joys of winter.
Admirals and Generals, individuals of private and public importance,
all skulk up there with discreet black bags, which look as if they
might hold dispatches, but really hold skates, and cast off Black
Care, and cast themselves onto the ice. An unprecedented Three Weeks
(quite as unprecedented as those of that amorous volume) have been
vouchsafed us, and day after day, mindful of the fickleness of frost
in our sub-tropical climate, we have compounded with our consciences,
when they reminded us that it was time to go back to work, on the plea
that skating was so scarce, and that in all probability the frost would
be gone to-morrow. To snatch a pleasure that seldom comes within reach
always gives a zest to the enjoyment of it, and we have snatched three
weeks of this, under the perpetual stimulus of imagining that each day
would be the last. Indeed, it has been a return to the Glacial Age,
when we must suppose there was skating all the year round. Probably
that was why there were no wars, as far as we can ascertain, in that
pacific epoch of history. Everyone was so intent on skating and
avoiding collisions with the mammoths (who must rather have spoiled the
ice) that he couldn't find enough superfluous energy to quarrel with
his fellows. You have to lash yourself up, and be lashed up in order to
quarrel, and you are too busy for that when there is skating.... Was it
to the Glacial Age that the hymn referred, which to my childish ears
ran like this:

  That war shall be no more;
  And lusto, pression, crime
  Shall flee thy face before.

I never knew, nor cared to inquire, what "lusto" was, nor what "Thy
face before" could mean. For faces usually were before, not behind.

While we have been enjoying these unusual rigours, Francis, "somewhere
in Italy," at a place, as far as I can gather, which not so long ago
used to be "somewhere in Austria," has not been enjoying the return
of the Glacial Age at all. He has written, indeed, in a strain most
unusual with him and as unlike as possible to his normal radiance
of content. "On the calmer sort of day," he says, "the wind blows a
hurricane, and on others two hurricanes. I can hear the wind whistling
through my bones, whistling through them as it whistles through
telegraph wires, and the cold eats them away, as when the frost gets
into potatoes. Also, the work is duller than anything I have yet
come across in this world, and I am doing nothing that the man in a
gold-lace cap who stands about in the hall of an hotel and expects to
be tipped because of his great glory, could not do quite as well as I.
Besides, he would do it with much greater urbanity than I can scrape
together, for it is hard to be urbane when you have an almost perpetual
stomach-ache of the red-hot poker order. But in ten days now I go down
to Rome, where I shall be for some weeks, and I shall sit in front
of a fire or in the sun, if there is such a thing as the sun left in
this ill-ordered universe, and see a doctor. I dislike the thought of
that, because it always seems to me rather disgraceful to be ill. One
wasn't intended to be ill.... But I daresay the doctor will tell me
that I'm not, and it will be quite worth while hearing that. Anyhow, I
shall hope to get across to the beloved island for a few days, before
I return to this tooth-chattering table-land. This is too grousy and
grumbly a letter to send off just as it is. Anyhow, I will keep it till
to-morrow to see if I can't find anything more cheerful to tell you."

       *       *       *       *       *

But there was nothing added, and I must simply wait for further news
from him. It is impossible not to feel rather anxious, for the whole
tenor of his letter, from which this is but an extract, is strangely
unlike the Francis who extracted gaiety out of Gallipoli. There is,
however, this to be said, that he has practically never known pain, in
his serene imperturbable health, which, though I am not a Christian
Scientist, I believe is largely due to the joyful serenity of his
spiritual health, and that probably pain is far more intolerable to him
than it would be to most people who have the ordinary mortal's share
of that uncomfortable visitor. But a "red-hot poker" pain perpetually
there does not sound a reassuring account, and I confess that I wait
for his next letter with anxiety.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ruthless submarine campaign has begun, and there is no use in
blinking the fact that at present it constitutes a serious menace.
Owing to the criminal folly of the late Government, their obstinate
refusal to take any steps whatever with regard to the future, their
happy-go-lucky and imperfect provision just for the needs of the day,
without any foresight as to what the future enterprise of the enemy
might contrive, we are, as usual, attempting to counter a blow after it
has been struck. Pessimism and optimism succeed each other in alternate
waves, and at one time we remind ourselves that there is not more
than six weeks' supply of food in the country, and at another compare
the infinitesimally small proportion of the tonnage that is sunk per
week with that which arrives safely at its destination. Wild rumours
fly about (all based on the best authority) concerning the number
of submarines which are hunting the seas, only to be met by others,
equally well attested, which tell us how many of those will hunt the
seas no more. There appear to be rows and rows of them in Portsmouth
Harbour; they line the quays. And instantly you are told that at the
present rate of sinking going on among our merchant navy, we shall
arrive at the very last grain of corn about the middle of May. For
myself, I choose to believe all the optimistic reports, and turn a deaf
ear, like the adder, to anything that rings with a sinister sound.
Whatever be the truth of all these contradictory and reliable facts, it
is quite outside my power to help or hinder, beyond making sure that
my household does not exceed the weekly allowance of bread and meat
that the Food Controller tells me is sufficient. If we are all going to
starve by the middle of May, well, there it is! Starvation, I fancy,
is an uncomfortable sort of death, and I would much sooner not suffer
it, but it is quite outside my power to avert it. Frankly, also, I do
not believe it in the smallest degree. Pessimistic acquaintances prove
down to the hilt that it will be so, and not knowing anything about the
subject, I am absolutely unable to find the slightest flaw in their
depressing conclusions. They seem to me based on sound premises, which
are quite unshakeable, and to be logically arrived at. But if you ask
whether I believe in the inevitable fate that is going to overtake us,
why, I do not. It simply doesn't seem in the least likely.

In addition to this development of enemy submarine warfare (for our
discomfort), there have been developments on the Western front (we
hope for theirs). The English lines have pushed forward on both
sides of the Ancre, to find that the Germans, anticipating the great
spring offensive, which appears to be one of the few certain things in
the unconjecturable unfolding of the war, have given ground without
fighting. In consequence there has ensued a pause while our lines
of communication have been brought up to the new front across the
devastated and tortured terrain which for so many months has been torn
up by the hail of exploding shells. And for that, as for everything
else that happens, we find authoritative and contradictory reasons.
Some say that the Germans could not hold it, and take this advance to
be the first step in the great push which is to break and shatter them;
others with long faces and longer tongues explain that this strategic
retreat has checkmated our plans for the great push. But be this as it
may (I verily believe that I am the only person in London who has not
been taken into the confidence of our Army Council), all are agreed
that the bell has sounded for the final round of the fight, except a
few prudent folk who bid us prepare at once for the spring campaign of
1918 (though we are all going to be starved in 1917).

       *       *       *       *       *

The frost came to an end, and a thaw more bitter and more congealing to
the blood and the vital forces set in with cold and dispiriting airs
from the South-East. For a week we paid in mud and darkness and fog
for the days of exhilarating weather, and I suppose the Toxophilites
took possession of the skating rink again. And then came one of those
miracle days, that occasionally occur in February or March, a moulted
feather from the breast of the bird of spring, circling high in the air
before, with descending rustle of downward wings, it settled on the

I had gone down into the country for a couple of nights, arriving at
the house where I was to stay at the close of one of those chilly
dim-lit February days, after a traverse of miry roads between sodden
hedgerows off which the wind blew the drops of condensed mists that
gathered there, and it seemed doubtful whether the moisture would
not be turned to icicles before morning. I had a streaming cold, and
it seemed quite in accordance with the existing "scheme of things
entire" that the motor (open of course) should break down on the steep
ascent, and demand half an hour's tinkering before it would move again.
Eventually I arrived, only to find that my hostess had gone to bed that
afternoon with influenza, having telegraphed too late to stop me, and
that the two other guests were not coming till next day.

Now I am no foe, on principle, to a solitary evening. There is a great
deal to be said for dining quite alone, with a book propped up against
the candlestick, a rapid repast, some small necessary task (or more
book) to while away an hour or two in a useful or pleasant manner, and
the sense of virtue which accompanies an early retirement to bed. But
all this has to be anticipated, if not arranged, and I found a very
different programme. I dined in a stately manner, and dish after dish
(anyone who dines alone never wants more than two things to eat) was
presented to my notice. At the conclusion of this repast, which would
have been quite delicious had there only been somebody to enjoy it with
me, or even if all sense of taste had not been utterly obliterated by
catarrh, I was conducted to the most palatial room that I know in any
English house, and shut in with the evening paper, a roaring fire,
half a dozen of the finest Reynolds and Romneys in the world sailing
about and smiling on the walls, and the news that my hostess was far
from well, but hoped I had everything I wanted. As a matter of fact I
had nothing I wanted, because I wanted somebody to talk to, though I
had the most sumptuous _milieu_ of things that I didn't want. Reynolds
and Romney and a grand piano and an array of books and a box of cigars
were of no earthly use to me just then, because I wanted to be with
something alive, and no achievement in mere material could take the
place of a living thing. I would humbly have asked the footman who
brought me my coffee-cup, or the butler who so generously filled it
for me to stop and talk, or play cards, or do anything they enjoyed
doing, if I had thought that there was the smallest chance of their
consenting. But I saw from their set formal faces that they would only
have thought me mad, and I supposed that the reputation for sanity
should not be thrown away unless there was something to be gained from
the hazard. And where was the use of going to bed at half-past nine?

       *       *       *       *       *

The most hopeful object in the room was the fire, for it had some
semblance of real life about it. True, it was only a make-believe: that
roaring energy was really no more than a destructive process. But it
glowed and coruscated; the light of its consuming logs leaped on the
walls in jovial defiance of this sombre and solitary evening, it blazed
forth a challenge against the depressing elements of wet and cold. It
was elemental itself, and though it was destructive, it was yet the
source of all life as well as its end. It warmed and comforted; to sit
near its genial warmth was a make-believe of basking in the sun to
those who had groped through an endless autumn and winter of dark days.
The sunshine that had made the trees put forth the branches that were
now burning on the hearth was stored in them, and was being released
again in warmth and flame. It was but bottled sunshine, so to speak,
but there was evidence in it that there once had been sunshine, and
that encouraged the hope that one day there would be sunshine again.

Quite suddenly I became aware that some huge subtle change had taken
place. It was not that my dinner and the fire had warmed and comforted
me, but it came from outside. Something was happening there, though it
never occurred to me to guess what it was. But I pushed back my chair
from the imitation of summer that sparkled on the hearth, drew back
the curtain from the window that opened on to the terrace, and stepped
out. And then I knew what it was, for spring had come.

The rain had ceased, the clouds that had blanketed the sky two hours
before had been pushed and packed away into a low bank in the West, and
a crescent moon was swung high in the mid-heaven. And whether it was
that by miraculous dispensation my cold, which for days had inhibited
the powers of sense and taste, stood away from me for a moment, or
whether certain smells are perceived, not by the clumsy superficial
apparatus of material sense, but by some inward recognition, I drank
in that odour which is among the most significant things that can be
conveyed to the mortal sense, the smell of the damp fruitful earth
touched once again with the eternal spell of life. You can often
smell damp earth on summer mornings or after summer rain, when it is
coupled with the odour of green leaves or flowers, or on an autumn
morning, when there is infused into it the stale sharp scent of
decaying foliage, but only once or twice in the year, and that when
the first feather from the breast of spring falls to the ground, can
you experience that thrill of promise that speaks not of what is,
but of what is coming. It is just damp earth, but earth which holds
in suspense that which makes the sap stream out to the uttermost
finger-tips of the trees, and burst in squibs of green. Not growth
itself, but the potentiality of growth is there. The earth says,
"Behold, I make all things new!" and the germs of life, the seeds and
the bulbs, and all that is waiting for spring, strain upwards and
put forth the green spears that pierce the soil. But earth, young
everlasting Mother Earth, must first issue her invitation; says she, "I
am ready," and lies open to the renewal of life....

I hope that however long I happen to inhabit this delightful planet, I
shall never outlive that secret call of spring. When you are young it
calls to you more physically, and you go out into the moonlit night,
or out into the dark, while the rain drips on you, and somehow you
make yourself one with it, digging with your fingers into the earth,
or clinging to a wet tree-bough in some blind yearning for communion
with the life that tingles through the world. But when you are older,
you do not, I hope, become in the least wiser, if by wisdom is implied
the loss of that exquisite knowledge of the call of spring. You have
learned that: it is yours, it has grown into your bones, and it is
impossible to experience as new what you already possess. You act the
play no longer; it is for you to sit and watch it, and the test of
your freedom from fatigued senility, your certificate to that effect,
will lie in the fact that you will observe with no less rapture than
you once enjoyed. You stand a little apart, you must watch it now,
not take active part in it. But you will have learned the lesson of
spring and the lesson of life very badly if you turn your back on it.
For the moment you turn your back on it, or yawn in your stall when
that entrancing drama of unconscious youth is played in front of you,
whether the actors are the moon and the dripping shrubs and the smell
of damp earth, or a boy and a girl making love in a flowery lane or in
a backyard, you declare yourself old. If the upspringing of life, the
tremulous time, evokes no thrill in you, the best place (and probably
the most comfortable) for you is the grave. On the other side of the
grave there may be a faint possibility of your becoming young again
(which, after all, is the only thing it is worth while being), but on
this side of the grave you don't seem able to manage it. God forbid
that on this side of the grave you should become a grizzly kitten, and
continue dancing about and playing with the blind-cord long after you
ought to have learned better, but playing with the blind-cord is one of
the least important methods of manifesting youth....

I was recalled from the terrace by decorous clinkings within, and went
indoors to find the butler depositing a further tray of syphons and
spirits on the table, and wishing to know at what time I wished to
be called. On which, taking this as a hint that before I was called,
I certainly had to go to bed (else how could I be called?), I went
upstairs, and letting the night of spring pour into my room, put off
into clear shallow tides of sleep, grounding sometimes, and once more
being conscious of the night wind stirring about my room, and sliding
off again into calm and sunlit waters. Often sleep and consciousness
were mixed up together; I was aware of the window curtains swaying
in the draught while I lay in a back-water of calm, and then
simultaneously, so it seemed, it was not this mature and middle-aged I
who lay there, but myself twenty-five years ago, eager and expectant
and flushed with the authentic call of spring. By some dim dream-like
double-consciousness I could observe the young man who lay in my place;
I knew how the young fool felt, and envied him a little, and then
utterly ceased to envy him, just because _I had been that,_ and had
sucked the honey out of what he felt, and had digested it and made it
mine. It was part of me: where was the profit in asking for or wanting
what I had got?

There we lay, he and I, while the night wheeled round the earth, which
was not sleeping, but was alert and awake. Some barrier that the past
years thought they had set up between us was utterly battered down by
those stirrings of spring, and all night I lay side by side with the
boy that I had been. He whispered to me his surmises and his desires,
as he conceived them in the wonder of spring nights, when he lay awake
for the sheer excitement of being alive and of having the world in
front of him. He wound himself more and more closely to me, nudging
me with his elbow to drive into me the urgency of his schemes and
dreams, and I recognized the reality of them. How closely he clung! How
insistent was his demand that I should see with his eyes, and listen
with his ears, and write with his hand. And, fool though he was, and
little as I respected him, I could not help having a sort of tenderness
for him and his youth and his eagerness and his ignorance.

"I want so awfully," he repeated. "Surely if I want a thing enough I
shall get it. Isn't that so?"

"Yes; that is usually the case," said I.

"Well, I want as much as I _can_ want," he said. "And yet, if you are
what I shall be (and I feel that is so), you haven't got it yet. Why is

"Perhaps you aren't wanting enough," said I. "To get it, would you
give up everything else, would you live, if necessary, in squalor and
friendlessness? Would you put up with complete failure, as the world
counts failure?"

He drew a little away from me; his tense arm got slack and heavy.

"But there's no question of failure," he said. "If I get it, that means

"But it's a question of whether you will eagerly suffer anything that
can happen sooner than relinquish your idea. Can you cling to your
idea, whatever happens?"

He was silent a moment.

"I don't know," he said.

"That means you aren't wanting enough," said I. "And you don't take
trouble enough. You never do."

"I wonder! Is that why you haven't got all I want?"

"Probably. One of the reasons, at any rate. Another is that we are
meant to fail. That's what we are here for. Just to go on failing, and
go on trying again."

"Oh, how awfully sad! But I don't believe it."

"It's true. But it's also true that you have to go on acting as if you
didn't believe it. You will get nothing done, if you believe it when
you're young."

"And do you believe it now?" he asked.

"Rather not. But it's true."

He left me and moved away to the window.

"It's the first night of spring," he said. "I must go and run through
the night. Why don't you come too?"

"Because you can do it for me."

"Good-night then," he said, and jumped out of the window.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the next morning spring vibrated in the air; the bulbs in the
garden-beds felt the advent of the tremulous time, and pushed up little
erect horns of vigorous close-packed leaf, and the great downs beyond
the garden were already flushed with the vivid green of new growth,
that embroidered itself among the grey faded autumn grass. A blackbird
fluted in the thicket, a thrush ran twinkle-footed on to the lawn,
and round the house-eaves in the ivy sparrows pulled about straws and
dead leaves, practising for nesting-time; and the scent, oh, the scent
of the moist earth! In these few hours the whole aspect of the world
was changed, the stagnation of winter was gone, and though cold and
frost might come back again, life was on the move; the great tide had
begun to flow, that should presently flood the earth with blossom and
bird-song. Never, even in the days when first the wand of spring was
waved before my enchanted eyes, have I known its spell so rapturously
working, nor felt a sweeter compulsion in its touch, which makes old
men dream dreams and middle-aged men see visions so that all for an
hour or two open the leaves of the rose-scented manuscript again, and
hear once more the intoxicating music, and read with renewed eyes the
rhapsody that is recited at the opening of the high mass of youth. The
years may be dropping their snowflakes onto our heads, and the plough
of time making long furrows on our faces, but never perhaps till the
day when the silver bowl is broken, and the spirit goes to God Who gave
it, must we fail to feel the thrill and immortal youth of the first
hours of spring-time. And who knows whether all that this divine moment
wakes in us here may not be but the faint echo, heard by half-awakened
ears, the dim reflection, seen in a glass darkly of the everlasting
spring which shall dawn on us then?

MARCH, 1917

Never has there been a March so compounded of squalls and snows and
unseasonable inclemencies. Verily I believe that my _Lobgesang_ of that
spring day in February was maliciously transmitted to the powers of the
air, and, so far from being pleased with my distinguished approval,
they merely said: "Very well; we will see what else we can do, if you
like our arrangements so much." Indeed, it looks like that, for we all
know how the powers of Nature (the unpleasant variety of them) seem to
concentrate themselves on the fact of some harmless individual giving a
picnic, or other outdoor festivity, for which sun and fine weather is
the indispensable basis. But now in a few days I shall defy them, for I
do not believe that their jurisdiction extends to Italy.

Italy: yes, I said Italy, for at last an opportunity and a cause have
presented themselves, and I am going out there "at the end of this
month, D.V." (as the clergyman said), "or early in April, anyhow."
Rome is the first objective, and then (or I am much mistaken) there
will be an interval of Alatri, and then Rome again and Alatri again:
a sumptuous sandwich. How I have longed for something of the sort in
these two years and a half of insular northern existence I cannot hope
to convey. Perhaps at last I have reached that point of wanting which
ensures fulfilment, but though I am interested in fantastic psychology,
I don't really care how the fulfilment came now that it has come.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have had no word from Francis since his letter last month from the
Italian front, announcing his departure for Rome. He mentioned that
he hoped to go to Alatri, and since he did not give me his address in
Rome, I telegraphed to the island, announcing my advent at the end of
March or early in April. Rather to my surprise I got the following
answer from Alatri:

        "Was meaning to write. Come out end of March if
        possible. Shall be here."

For no very clear reason this somewhat perturbed me. There was no cause
for perturbation, if one examined the grounds of disquietude, for if he
was ill he would surely have told me so before. Far the more probable
interpretation was that he had already forgotten about his discomforts
and his very depressed letter, and was snatching a few rapturous days
now and then from Rome, and spending them on the island. He might
foresee that he could do this again at the end of the month, and wanted
me to come then, because he would be back at the front in April. That
all held water, whereas the conjecture that he was ill did not. But
though I told myself this a good many times, I did not completely
trust my rendering, and his silence both before and after this telegram
was rather inexplicable. My reasonable self told me that there was no
shadow of cause for anxiety, but something inside me that observed from
a more intimate spy-hole than that of reason was not quite satisfied.
However, as the days of March went by and the time for my departure got
really within focus, this instinctive and unreasonable questioning grew
less insistent, and finally, as if it had been a canary that annoyed
me by its chatter, I put, so to speak, the green baize of reason quite
over it and silenced it. Soon I shall be sitting on the pergola, where
the shadows of the vine-leaves dance on the paving-stones, telling
Francis how yet another of my famous presentiments had been added the
list of failures.

And, indeed, there were plenty of other things to think about. Bellona,
goddess of war, has come out of her winter reverie, where, with her
mantle round her mouth, she has lain with steadfast eyes unclosed,
waiting her time. All these last months she has but moved a drowsy
hand, just sparring, but now she has sprung up and cast her mantle
from her mouth, and yelled to her attendant spirits "Wake! for winter
is gone and spring is here!" And, day by day, fresh news has come of
larger movements and the stir of greater forces. In Mesopotamia an
advance began late in February, and gathering volume, like an avalanche
rushing down a snow-clad cliff, it thundered on with ever-increasing
velocity till one morning we heard that the Baghdad city was reached
and fell into the hands of the British expedition. And still it rolls
on with its broad path swept clean behind it....

Simultaneously the advance on the French front has continued, though
without anything approaching a battle, as battles are reckoned
nowadays. The Germans have been unable to hold their line, and
retreating (I am sorry to say) in a masterly manner, have given us
hundreds of square miles of territory. The ridge of Bapaume, which held
out against the Somme offensive of last summer, has fallen into our
hands; so, too, has Peronne. True to the highest and noblest precepts
of _Kultur,_ the enemy in their retreat have poisoned wells, have
smashed up all houses and cottages with their contents, down to mirrors
and chairs; have slashed to pieces the plants and trees in gardens, in
vineyards and orchards; have destroyed by fire and bomb all that was
destructible, and have, of course, taken with them women and girls.
The movement has been on a very large scale, and the strategists who
stay at home have been very busy over telling us what it all means, and
the "best authority" has been very plentifully invoked. The optimist
has been informed that the enemy have literally been blown out of
their trenches, and tells us that a headlong retreat that will not
stop till it reaches the Rhine has begun, while the pessimist sees
in the movement only a strategical retreat which will shorten the
German line, and enable the enemy both to send reinforcements to other
fronts, and establish himself with ever greater security on what is
known as the "Hindenburg Line." The retreat, in fact, according to the
pessimist (and in this the published German accounts agree with him) is
a great German success, which has rendered ineffective all the Allies'
preparations for a spring offensive. According to the optimist, we have
taken, the French and we, some three hundred square miles of territory,
some strongly fortified German positions, at a minimum of cost. Out of
all this welter of conflicting opinion two incontestable facts emerge,
the one that the enemy was unable to hold their line, the other that
their retreat has cost them very little in men, and nothing at all in

In the midst of the excitement in the West has come a prodigious
happening from Russia. For several days there had been rumours of
riots and risings in Petrograd, but no authentic news came through
till one morning we woke to find that a revolution had taken place,
that the Tzar had abdicated for himself and the Tzarevitch, and that
already a National Government had been established, which was speedily
recognized by the Ambassadors of the various Powers. At one blow all
the pro-German party in Russia, which had for its centre the ministers
and intriguers surrounding the Imperial Family, had been turned out by
the revolutionists, and the work that began with the murder of Rasputin
at the end of December had been carried to completion. The Army and
the Navy had declared for the new National Government, and the work
of the National Government after the extirpation of German influence
was to be the united effort of the Russian people to bring the war
to a victorious close. The thing was done before we in the West knew
any more than muttered rumours told us; it came to birth full-grown,
as Athene was born from the head of Zeus. There are a thousand
difficulties and dangers ahead, for the entire government of a huge
people, involving the downfall of autocracy, cannot be changed as you
change a suit of clothes, but the great thing has been accomplished,
and at the head of affairs in Russia to-day are not the Imperial
marionettes bobbing and gesticulating on their German wires, but those
who represent the people. A thousand obscure issues are involved in the
movement: we do not know for certain yet whether the Grand Duke Michael
is Tzar of all the Russias, or the Grand Duke Nicholas the head of the
Russian armies, or whether the whole family of Romanoffs have peeled
off and thrown aside like an apple-paring; what is certain is that
some form of national government has taken the place of a Germanized
autocracy. How stable that will prove itself, and whether it will be
able to set the derelict steam-roller at work again and start it on its
way remains to be seen. For myself, I shout with the optimists, but
certainly, if the crisis is over and there actually is now in power a
firm and national Government, capable of directing the destinies of
the country, it will have been the most wonderful revolution that ever

And then, even earlier than I had dared to hope, for I had not expected
to get away before the last week in March, came that blessed moment,
when one night at Waterloo Station the guard's whistle sounded, and we
slid off down the steel ribands to Southampton. In itself, to any who
has the least touch of the travelling or gipsy mind, to start on a long
journey, to cross the sea, to go out of one country and into another
where men think different thoughts and speak a different language, is
one of the most real and essential refreshments of life, even when he
leaves behind him peace and entertainment and content. For two years
and a half, if you except those little niggardly journeys that are
scarce worth while getting into the train for, I had lived without
once properly moving, and, oh, the rapture of knowing that when I got
out of this train, it was to get on to a boat, and when I got out of
the boat (barring the exit entailed by a mine or a submarine), it
would be to get into another train, and yet another train, and at the
Italian frontier another train yet, all moving southwards. Then once
more there would be a boat, and after that the garden at Alatri, and
the stone-pine and Francis. Even had I been credibly informed by the
angel Gabriel or some such unimpeachable authority that the chances
were two to one that the Southampton boat would be torpedoed, I really
believe I should have gone, and taken the other chance in the hope of
getting safely across and, for the present, leaving England (which I
love) and all the friends whom I love also, firmly and irrevocably
behind. I wanted (as the doctors say) a change, not of climate only,
but of everything else that makes up life, people and things and moral
atmosphere and occupations. I was aware that there were some thousands
of people then in London who wanted the same thing and could not get
it, and I am afraid that that added a certain edge to ecstasy. To get
away from the people I knew and from the nation to which I belonged
was the very pith of this remission. A few hours ago, too, I had been
hunting the columns of newspapers and watching the ticking tape to
get the very last possible pieces of information about all the events
of which I have just given the summary, and now part and parcel of my
delight was to think that for many hours to come I should not see a
tape or a newspaper. The war had been levelled at me, at point-blank
range; for two years and a half I had never been certain that the very
next moment some new report would not be fired at me (and, indeed, I
intentionally drew such fire upon myself); but now I had got out of
that London newspaper office, and was flying through the dark night
southwards. Here in England everything was soaked in the associations
of war (though the most we had seen of it was two or three futile
Zeppelins), but in Alatri, which I had never known except in conditions
of peace and serenity, its detonation and the smoke of its burning
would surely be but a drowsy peal of thunder, a mist on the horizon,
instead of that all-encompassing fog out of which leaped the flash of
explosions. I wanted desperately, selfishly, unpatriotically, to get
out of it all for a bit, and Alatri, in intervals of Rome, beckoned
like the promised land. I am aware that a Latin poet tells us that a
change of climate obtained by a sea-voyage does not alter a man's mind,
but I felt convinced he was mistaken.

Throughout that delightful journey my expectations mounted. First came
the windy quay at Southampton, the stealing out into the night with
shuttered portholes, and in the early morning the arrival at Havre.
Then for a moment I almost thought that some ghastly practical joke
had been played on us passengers, and that we had put back again into
a British port, so Anglicized and khakied did the town appear. But no
such unseemly jest had been played, and that night I slept in Paris,
and woke to find a chilly fog over that lucent city, which again sent
qualms of apprehension through me, for fear that by some cantrip trick
this might be London again, and my fancied journey but a dream. But
the dream every hour proved itself real, for again I was in the train
that started from the Gare de Lyon, and not from my bedroom or the top
of the Eiffel Tower, as would have been the wont of dreams, and in
due time there was Aix-les-Bains with its white poplars and silvery
lake, and the long pull upwards to Modane, and the great hill-side
through which the tunnel went, with wreaths of snow still large on
its northern slopes, and when we came out of the darkness again, we
had passed into the "land of lands." The mountain valleys were still
grey with winter, but it was Italy; and presently, as we sped clanking
downwards, the chestnut trees were in leaf, and the petroleum tins
stood on the rails of wooden balconies with carnations already in bud,
and on the train was a _risotto_ for lunch and a dry and abominable
piece of veal, which, insignificant in themselves, were like some
signal that indicated Italy. The dry veal and the _risotto_ and the
budding chestnut trees and the unwearied beneficence of the sun were
all signals of the Beloved: tokens of the presence that, after so
long, I was beginning to realize again. And then the great hopeless
station of Turin happened, where nobody can ever find the place he
wants, and trains steal out from the platform where he has left them,
and hide themselves again, guarded by imperious officials in cocked
hats at subtly-concealed side tracks, escaping the notice, like prudent
burglars, of intending travellers. There were shrill altercations
and immediate reconcilements, and polite salutings, and finally the
knowledge that all was well, and I found my hat and my coat precisely
where I had left them, as in some conjuring trick, in the identical
compartment (though it and the train had moved elsewhere), and again we
slid southwards. There were olive-trees now, green in a calm air, and
grey when the wind struck them, and little ruined castles stuck on the
tops of inaccessible hills, and houses painted pink, and stone-walled
vineyards, and dust that came in through the windows, but it was the
beloved Italian dust. Then came the sea again on the right-hand side
of the train (only here was the magic of the Mediterranean), and the
stifle of innumerable tunnels, punctuated with glimpses of Portofino,
swimming in its hump-backed way out into the tideless sea, and the
huddle of roofs at Rapallo, and the bridge at Zoagli, and the empty
sands at Sestri, and the blue-jackets crowding the platform at Spezzia.
All this was real; a dream, though the reality was as ecstatic as a
dream, could not have produced those memories in their exact order and
their accurate sequence, and when, next morning, I awoke somewhere
near Rome, I thought that the years of war-time were the nightmare,
and this golden morning which shone on fragments of ancient aqueducts
and knuckled fig-trees was but the resumption of what had been before
the unquiet night possessed and held me. Here again, as three years
ago, was the serene wash of sun and southern air, untroubled and real
and permanent. I could open my mouth and draw in my breath. Dimly
I remembered the fogs of the north, and almost as dimly the fact
that Italy was at war too, striving to put her foot on that damnable
centipede that had emerged from Central Europe to bite and to sting and
to claw all that resented its wrigglings and prevented its poisoning of
the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

I found that after four days in Rome I was free (except for a wallet
of papers which required attention), to go wherever I pleased for the
inside of a week, and you may judge where next the train took me. That
morning I had sent to Francis news of my escape from Rome (how desirous
"an escape from Rome" would have sounded a month ago), and the same
evening, across the flames of the sunset, I saw the peaks and capes of
the island, shaped like a harp lying on its back, grow from dimmest
outline of dream-shape into distinctness again. There on the left was
the lower horn of it, plunged into the sea; then came the inward curve,
sloping downwards to the grey cluster of the town, where the fingers of
the player would be, and it swelled upwards again into the larger horn
which formed the top of it. Never for more than a moment, I think, did
my eyes leave some part of that exquisite shape. How often in the lower
horn of it had Francis and I sat perched on that little platform by
the gilded statue of Our Lady, looking landwards across the blue plain
of sea towards the streamer of smoke from the truncated volcano, or to
the coastland northwards, where the port was whitely strung like a line
of pearls along the shore of the bay. Just below the other horn is the
divinest bathing-place that the world holds; on a rock a hundred yards
from the shore there is a little cave, curtained by seaweed, and in it
is a tin box where shall be found two cigarettes and matches to match.
Those were to have been lit and smoked within two months of their
concealment there, and that date has now long been buried beneath the
three years' landslide of war. The matches will certainly be a mildewed
fricassée of wood pulp and phosphorus, the cigarettes an almost more
ignoble glue of paper and tobacco; but to-morrow morning I swear that
Francis and I will swim there, and unearth the remains of the serene
days before the war, and recapture the _feel_ that there was in the
world before the Prussian centipede went forth on his doomed errand.
Francis, I know, will hate swimming so early in the year as this, for
he is a midsummer bather; but surely one who has been through the
horrors of Gallipoli and earned the V.C. in France will not absolutely
refuse to go through this ordeal by water for the sake of the recovery
of the peace-cache. If it is possible to feel certain of anything, it
is that to-morrow morning, whatever the weather, two futile Englishmen,
as happy as they are silly, will swim out to the rock below the higher
horn of the harp, and verify the existence of a tin box.

The shores grew clearer, and at last through a thin low-lying haze of
sunset we passed into the clear shadow of the island, and the houses
and pier of the Marina on which Teresa stood to welcome the return of
her _promesso,_ who was stricken to death as he was clasped in her
outstretched arms, defined themselves with the engraved sharpness of
evening in the south. As we entered this zone of liquid twilight, I
could see the fishing boats drawn up on the beach, the open arch of
the funicular station, the crowd on the quay awaiting the mild daily
excitement of the boat from the mainland, and at the sight of all those
things, unchanged and peaceful, I had for the moment more strongly
than ever the sense that there had been no war and there was no war,
and that I should presently step back into the days that preceded
those nightmare years. In a moment now I shall be able to distinguish
a tall white-flannelled figure, who will wave his hat as he catches
sight of me in the bow of the first disembarking boat that comes from
the steamer, and he will move forward to the steps, and he will say
"Hullo!" and I shall say "Hullo!" as I step ashore to find that to-day
is linked on without break to the summer of 1914 when I was here last.
I may have been to Naples for a night, or did I only leave by the
morning boat to-day? I really do not know....

And then I saw that Francis was not among the little group of islanders
on the quay. Probably he had not got the telegram I sent from Rome
to-day, for the postmaster of Alatri is no friend to telegrams, and, as
I have often thought, keeps one in his desk for a day or two, in order
to teach you not to be in such a hurry. And when he thinks you have
learned your lesson, he has it delivered, two or three days afterwards,
among your letters. But in spite of this perfectly adequate method of
accounting for the undoubted fact that Francis had not come to meet
the boat, I felt an inward resurgence of the uneasiness with which I
had received his request that I should come out in March if possible,
and not wait till April. I had accounted for that at the time by a
reasonable explanation, and I could account, also reasonably, for his
absence. But I could now, as the funicular railway drew us up like
a bucket from the well, into the higher sunlit slopes of the island,
account for both by one and the same explanation. He was ill when last
he wrote....

I found a porter in the Piazza, who shouldered my luggage, and I went
on ahead, striving to convince myself, with quite decent success, that
I was being afraid "even where no fear was," and yielded myself up,
though I walked briskly in order to put an end to my ominous surmises,
to the enchantment of the hour, and of the sense that I really had
arrived again. The little huddled town, with the Piazza from the doors
and arches of which any moment the chorus of light-opera might issue
with short skirts and "catchy" chorus, was quite unchanged, save that
at this hour of sunset it used always to be guttural with Teutonic
tourists, and a place to be avoided by the genuine islander. Unchanged,
too, was the narrow street, where two could scarcely walk abreast,
that led out to the hill-side on which the villa was perched; there
was the narrow slit of blue overhead, and the vegetable shop and the
tobacconist's and the _trattoria_ with the smell of spilt wine issuing
from it and the lean cat blinking at the doorway. The same children
apparently ran up against one's legs, the tailor was putting up his
shutters, and two Americans, as always, were buying picture-postcards
at the stationer's. The path dipped downwards, ran level between olive
groves and villas, made a right turn and a left turn, and there above
me was the flight of steps that led steeply up by the whitewashed
wall of the garden, and above the wall, still catching the last rays
of the sun, was the stone-pine, and behind it, greyish-white and
green-shuttered, the house, where in a minute now Francis would welcome
me. My bedroom shutters I saw were open, and blankets were being aired
on the window-sill, and this looked as if I was expected.

I opened the garden gate, pulling at the string that lifted the latch
inside, and a great wave of the scent of wallflower and freesias poured
over me, warm from their day-long sunning underneath the southern wall,
and intoxicatingly sweet. And even as I inhaled the first breath of it,
a woman came out of the dining-room door that opens on to the terrace.
She was dressed in the uniform of a hospital nurse.

"We were expecting you," she said, speaking with that precise utterance
of foreigners. "I hope you have had a good journey."

The scent of the freesias suddenly sickened me.

"What is the matter?" I asked. "What has happened?"

"He wants to tell you himself," she said.

"He? And is it serious?"

She looked at me with that calm, untroubled sympathy that is the reward
of those who give up their lives to mitigate suffering.

"Yes," she said. "It is very serious. Will you go up and see him now?"

"Surely. Where is he?"

"In his bedroom. The third door along the passage. Ah, I forgot; of
course you know."

He was lying much propped up in bed, opposite the open window, and as
he turned towards the door at my entry, I thought that this must be
some wicked, inexplicable joke, so radiant and young and normal was his

"Ah, that's splendid!" he said. "It was ripping getting your telegram
this morning."

"Francis, what's the matter?" I asked. "Why are you in bed? Why is
there a nurse here?"

He had not let go of my hand, and now he clasped it more closely.

"I'll tell you the end first," he said; "quickly; just in one word. I'm
dying. I can't live more than a few weeks."

There was a moment's silence, not prolonged, but at the end of it I
felt that I had known this for years.

"Will you hear all about it from the beginning?" he asked. "Or would it
bore you?"

He was so perfectly normal that there was really nothing left but to
be normal too, or it may be that a great shock stuns your emotional
faculties for a while. But I do not think it was that with me now.
It was Francis's intense serenity and happiness that infected and
enveloped me.

"I can't tell whether it would bore me or not," I said, "until I hear

"Then make yourself comfortable for about half an hour," he said. "But
stop me when you like."

       *       *       *       *       *

"It was very soon after I came out to Italy," he said, "that I kept
getting attacks of the most infernal pain. Then they ceased to be
attacks; at least, they attacked all the time. It was about then, when
it was worst, that I wrote you a pig of a letter. Wasn't it?"

"It was rather."

"Yes. I was pretty bad in other ways as well, which I'll tell you of
afterwards. At present this is just physical. I had an awful dread all
the time in my mind what this might be, though I kept saying it was
indigestion. Then I went down to Rome and saw Schiavetti, the doctor.
And I can't describe to you--though it may sound odd--what a relief it
was to know for certain that my fears were correct. The worst I had
feared was true, but anyhow, the fear, the apprehension were gone. When
you are up against a thing, you may dislike it very much, but you don't
fear the possibility of it any longer. It's there; and nothing, even
the worst, is as bad as suspense. I've got cancer."

He looked radiantly at me.

"That was one relief," he said, "and on the top of it came another.
It was quite impossible to operate. I needn't be afraid of being cut
about. All the surgery that I have had or will have is the morphia
needle, which, when you are in bad pain, is neither more nor less than
heaven. But I haven't wanted the morphia needle for the last fortnight,
and they think I shan't want it again. After a few horrible weeks the
pain grew much less, and then ceased altogether. I doze and sleep most
of the time now, and when I wake it is to an ecstasy. I don't want
to die, it isn't that, and I don't want to live. But that complete
absence of desire isn't apathy at all. It's just the divinest content
you can imagine. It's true that I wanted to see you, and here you are."

An idea suddenly struck me.

"Then there's something happened to you," said I, "which is not

"Ah! I wondered if you would think of that. Guess once more."

It was no question of guessing; I knew.

"You have passed through the dark night of the soul."

He laughed.

"Yes; that's it. And that explains a thing you must have been asking
yourself, why I didn't write to tell you when I knew what was the
matter with me. I couldn't. For among other things, which I will tell
you of, I had the absolute conviction that you wouldn't come, and
wouldn't want to be bothered. That's a decent specimen of the pleasures
of the dark night."

He turned a little in bed.

"But I wouldn't have been spared the dark night for all the treasures
of heaven," he said. "Out of His infinite Love Christ Jesus let me
know something of what He felt when He said, 'My God, my God, why
hast Thou forsaken me?' I remember once we talked about it, and it is
summed up in the sense of utter darkness and utter loneliness. My mind
reasoned it all out, and came to the absolute conclusion that there
was nothing: there was neither love anywhere nor God anywhere, nor
honour, nor decency. Had I been physically capable of it, there was
no pleasure, carnal and devilish, that I would not have plucked at.
At least, I think I should, but perhaps that would not have seemed
worth while. I didn't, anyhow, because I was in continual pain. But
all that I believed, all the amazing happiness that I had enjoyed from
such knowledge of God as I had attained to, was completely taken from
me. I could remember it dimly, as in some nonsensical dream. My mind,
I thought, must have been drugged into some hysterical sentimental
mood; but now, clearly and lucidly it saw how fantastic its imagination
had been. I went deeper and deeper into the horror of great darkness,
and I suppose that it was just that (namely, that my spirit knew that
existence without God _was_ horror) which was my means of rescue. I
still clung blindly and without hope to something that my whole mind
denied. It was precisely in the same way that I telegraphed to you to
come in March if you could. My mind knew for certain that you didn't
care, but I did that.

"It was just about then that I had forty-eight hours of the worst pain
I had ever known. The morphia had no effect, and I lay here in a sweat
of agony. But in the middle of it the dark night lifted off my soul
and it was morning. I can't give you any idea of that, for it happened
from outside me, just as dawn comes over the hills. And even while my
physical anguish was at its worst, I lay here in a content as deep as
that which I have now, with you sitting by me, and that delicious sense
of physical lassitude which comes when you are resting after a hard day.

"Next day the pain began to get better, and two days afterwards it was
gone. It has never come back since. I am glad of that, for it is quite
beastly. But what matters more is that the dark night is gone. And that
can't come back, because I know that the dawn that came to me after it
was the dawn of the everlasting day."

He paused a moment.

"And that's all," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

He grew drowsy after this, and presently his nurse, a nun from a
convent in the mainland, settled him for the night. Seraphina came
from the kitchen after I had dined, and wept a little, and told me how
Francis, "_il santo signorino,_" saw her every day, and took no less
interest than before in her affairs and the little everyday things.
Pasqualino was at the war, and the new boy who waited at dinner was
a fat-head, as no doubt I had noticed, and Caterina (if so be I
remembered about Caterina and Pasqualino and the baby) was in good
service, and the baby throve amazingly. Provisions were dear; you
had to take a foolish card with you when you wanted sugar, but the
vegetables were coming on well, and we should not do so badly. The
Signorino liked to hear all the news, and, if God willed, he would have
no more pain; but she wished he would eat more, and then perhaps he
would get his strength back, and cheat the undertaker after all. There
was a cousin of hers who had done just that; he was dying, they all
said, and then, _Dio!_ all of a sudden he got better from the moment
Seraphina had cooked him a great beefsteak for his dinner.

To those who have loved the lovely and the jolly things of this
beautiful world, the day of little things is never over, and next
morning, at Francis's request, I went down to the bathing-beach with
orders not to mind if the water was chilly, but swim out to the rock
of the cache and bring the tin box home. From his window he could not
see the garden itself, but only the pine-tree, but would it not be
possible to fix a looking-glass on the slant in the window-sill, so
that from his bed he could see as well as smell the freesias and the
narcissus and the wall-flowers? The success of this made him want to
see more, and now that the weather was warm, there surely could not be
any harm in transplanting him, bed and all, on to the paved platform
at the end of the pergola, and letting him spend the rest of his days
and nights in the garden. With a few sheets of canvas, to be let down
at night, and could we not engineer a room for him there? He often used
to sleep out there before. The question was referred to the nurse and
met with her approval and that of the doctor; so that afternoon we made
everything ready, and by tea-time had carried him out on his mattress
with the aid of Seraphina and the fat-head, to his great contentment.
This out-of-door bedroom was screened from the north by the house,
and between the pillars of the pergola to east and south and west the
nimble fingers of Seraphina had rigged up curtains of canvas that could
be drawn or withdrawn according to the weather, while overhead was the
matting underneath which we dined in the summer. The electric light was
handy to his bed, and on the table by it was a bell with which he could
summon the nurse, who slept in the bedroom overlooking the pergola. His
bedside books stood there also: "Alice in Wonderland," a New Testament,
"Emma," and a few more. The stone-pine whispered to the left of his
bed, and the wind that stirred there blew in the wonderful fragrance of
the spring-flowering garden.

Francis had been very drowsy all day, but for an hour that evening
we talked exactly as we might have talked nearly three years ago,
before the flame of war had scorched Europe. There were plans we had
been making then for certain improvements in the house, and those we
discussed anew. We spoke of the odd story concerning the footstep that
walked in the studio, and wondered if the _strega_ would be heard
again; the tin box, which I had obediently fetched from its cache,
was opened; Seraphina came out with commissariat suggestions for next
day, and the news that Pasqualino had got a week's leave and would be
here several days before Easter to see the _bambino_ on which he had
never yet set eyes. Soon the stars began to appear in the darkening
night-blue of the sky, and the breeze from the garden bore in no longer
the scent of open flowers, but the veiled fragrance of their closing,
and the smell of the damp earth, irrigated by the heavy dew, came with

We talked of pleasant and humorous little memories of the past, and
plans for the future, just as if we were spending one of the serene
summer evenings the last time we were here together, three years ago,
and it seemed perfectly natural to do so. Among those plans for the
future there came up the question of my movements, and we settled that
I should go back to Rome the day after to-morrow, and return here if
possible for Easter.

"For that," said Francis cheerfully, "will be about the end of my
tether. The end of it, I mean, in the sense that I shan't be tethered
any more. Oh, and there's one thing I forgot. Be sure you go to some
medium about the packet I sealed up on the last time I was in England.
Don't you remember? We both sealed up a packet?"

"Oh, don't!" said I. "I hate the thought of it."

"But you mustn't shirk," he said. "If it had been you, not me, I
shouldn't have shirked. You've got to go to some medium, and see if he
can tell you what's in my packet. And the interesting thing is that
I can't remember for the life of me what I put there, and certainly
nobody else knows. So if any medium can tell you what's inside it, it
will really be extremely curious. Mind you tell me--oh, I forgot."

"Would you mind not being quite so horrible?" I said.

"I'm not horrible. If anybody is being horrible it's you in not feeling
that I shall be living, not only as much as before, but much more. I
say, do get hold of that."

"Yes, I'll try. But the flesh is weak."

He was silent a moment.

"It's through weakness that His strength is made perfect," he said.
"And here's my nurse coming to settle me. What a jolly talk we've had!"

I got up.

"Good-night, then," I said.

"Good-night. Sleep as well as I shall."

It was still early and I went to the studio to read a little before
I went to bed. But I found a book was not a thing one could attend
to, and I sat doing nothing, scarcely even thinking. I did not want
to think; all I wanted to do was to _look at_ what was going on here.
Thought, with its perplexities and conjectures and burrowings, did not
touch the heart of the situation. I could only contemplate; the best
friend I had in the world lay dying, and yet there must be no sorrow.
He was too utterly triumphant; banners and trumpets were assembling for
his passing, and he called on the joy of the world to congratulate him.
He was not dying, in his view, any more than a man dies who leaves a
little sphere for a larger one. Death was not closing in upon him, but
opening out for him! I saw him walking, not through a dark valley, but
upon hill-tops at the approach of dawn, and soon for him the dim night
world would burst into light and colour. Already had he been through
the night, and now he lay there with morning in his eyes, assured of
day. All that he waited for now was the dimming of the terrestrial
stars, and the flooding with sun of the infinite heavens. He knew it;
all I could decently do was to try to look at it through his eyes and
not through my own, which were blinded with tears that should never
have been shed....

I did not doubt the truth of his conviction, I knew it in my bones. But
the flesh on my bones was weak, and it cried out for him.

APRIL, 1917

It was on the evening of the Thursday before Easter that I got back
to Alatri. Once more the outline of the island, that had been a soft
cloud-like shape afloat on the sea, grew distinct, and before we got
there it lay dark against an orange sunset and a flame of molten
waters. There stood the little crowd on the pier waiting the steamer's
arrival, but to-night I needed not to look for Francis among them.
During the last ten days I had had frequent news from his nurse,
always of the same sort: he suffered no more pain, but each day he was
sensibly weaker. But there among the crowd stood Pasqualino very smart
in his Bersaglieri uniform; he had come down to meet me with a similar
message. He had arrived two days before on a week's leave, and, so he
told me, spent most of the day up at the villa, helping in the house
and weeding in the garden. Sometimes when the Signorino was awake he
called to him, and they talked about all manner of things, as in the
good days before he was ill and before the accursed war came. "And
shall we all be as happy as the Signorino when we come to our last
bed?" asked Pasqualino.

There was a great change in Francis since ten days ago; he had drifted
far on the tide that was carrying him so peacefully away. He just
recognized me, said a few words, and then dozed off again into the
stupor in which he had lain all day. Through the morning of Good Friday
also, and into the afternoon he lay unconscious. But now for the
first time his sleep was troubled, and he kept stirring and muttering
to himself, unintelligibly for the most part, though now and then
there came a coherent sentence. Some inner consciousness, I think,
was aware of what day this was, for once he said, "It was I, my Lord,
who scourged Thee, and crowned Thee with the thorns of many sorrows."
During these hours the nurse and I remained at his bedside, for his
breathing was difficult, and his pulse very feeble, and it was possible
that at any moment the end might come. Pasqualino went softly about the
garden barefooted, doing his weeding, and once or twice came to look at
his Signorino. A cat dozed in the hot sunshine, the lizards scuttled
about the pillars of the pergola, and in the stone-pine a linnet sang.

But about three o'clock in the afternoon his breathing grew more quiet,
his pulse grew stronger, and he slept an untroubled sleep for another
hour. After that he awoke, and that evening and all Saturday morning
he was completely conscious and brimming over with a serene happiness.
Sometimes we talked, sometimes I read to him out of "Emma," or "Alice
in Wonderland," and during the afternoon he asked me to read him the
few verses in St John about Easter Eve.

"Do come very early to-morrow morning," he said, when this was done,
"and read the next chapter, the Easter morning chapter."

I put down the Bible, still open, on his table.

"Very well," I said, "I'll come at sunrise. But aren't you tired now?
You've been talking and listening all day."

"Yes; I'll go to sleep for a bit. And won't you go for a walk? You
always get disagreeable towards evening if you've had no exercise."

"Where shall I go?" I asked.

He thought a moment, smiling,

"Go to the very top of Monte Gennaro," he said, "to get the biggest
view possible, and stand there and in a loud voice thank God for
everything that there is. Say it for yourself and for me. Say 'Francis
and I give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.' That's about all that
there is to say, isn't it?"

"I can't think of anything else."

"Off you go, then," he said. "Oh, Lor'! I wish I was coming too. But
I'll go to sleep instead. Good-bye."

       *       *       *       *       *

I woke very early next morning, before sunrise, with the impression
that somebody had called to me from outside, and putting on a coat, I
went out into the garden to see whether it was Francis's voice that I
heard. But he lay there fast asleep, and I supposed that the impression
that I had been called was but part of a dream. Overhead the stars were
beginning to burn dim in a luminous sky, and in the East the sober
dove-colour of dawn was spreading upwards from the horizon, growing
brighter every moment. Very soon now the sun would rise, and as I had
promised to come out then and read Francis the chapter in St John about
the Resurrection morning, it was not worth while going back to bed

So waiting for him to awake, I took up the Bible, which still lay open
on his table where I had laid it yesterday, with "Emma" and "Alice in
Wonderland," and as I waited I read to myself the verses that I should
presently read aloud to him. Just as I began the first ray of the sun
overtopped the steep hill-side to the East, and shone full on the page.
It did not yet reach the bed where Francis lay asleep.

"And when she had thus said, she turned herself and saw Jesus standing,
and knew not that it was Jesus.

"Jesus saith unto her, 'Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?'
She, supposing him to be the gardener...."

At that moment I looked up, for I thought I heard footsteps coming
towards me along the terrace, and it crossed my mind that this was
Pasqualino arriving very early to help in the house and garden, though,
as it was Sunday, I had not expected him. But there was no one visible;
only at the entrance to the pergola, which was still in shadow, there
seemed to be a faint column of light. I saw no more than that, and the
impression was only vague and instantaneous, and perhaps the first
sunray on the book had dazzled me....

And then I looked there no more, for a stir of movement from the bed
made me turn, and I saw Francis sitting up with his hands clasped
together in front of him. And whether it was but the glory of the
terrestrial dawn that now shone on his face or the day-spring of the
light invisible, so holy a splendour illuminated it that I could but
look in amazement on him. He was gazing with bright and eager eyes to
the entrance of the pergola, and in that moment I knew that he saw
there Him whom Mary supposed to be the gardener.

Then his clasped hands quivered, and in a voice tremulous with love and
with exultation:

"Rabboni!" he said, and his joyful soul went forth to meet his Lord.

       *       *       *       *       *

Never have I felt the place so full of his dear and living presence as
in the days that followed. It was so little of him that we laid in the
English cemetery here, no more than the discarded envelope which he
had done with, and the love of our comradeship seemed but to have been
more closely knit. Day after day, and all day long, Francis was with
me in an intensity of actual presence that never lost its security or
its serenity. For a week I remained there, and hourly throughout it
I expected to see him in bodily form or to hear the actual sound of
his voice. But I am sure that no appearance of him, such as we call
a ghost, or any hearing of his voice, could possibly have added to
the reality of his companionship. What those laws are which sometimes
permit us to be conscious with physical eye or ear of someone who
has passed over that stream which daily seems to me more narrow, we
do not certainly know; but never before did I realize how little the
mere satisfaction of vision or audition matters, when the inward sense
of the presence of the dead is so vivid. Nor was it I alone who felt
this, for Seraphina has told me how often in those days she would hear
the stir of a rattled door-handle or steps along the kitchen passage
when she was at her cooking, and look round, expecting to see "her
Signorino," before she recollected that she would see him no more. It
was the same with Pasqualino, and, oddly enough, though the islanders
are full of superstitious terror of the dead, and avoid certain places
as haunted and uncanny, neither she nor he felt the slightest fear at
the thought of seeing Francis, but looked round for him with bright
eager faces which disappointment clouded again.

And for me he was always there: in that hot blink of premature summer
he came down to bathe, and lay beside me on the beach; he swam with
me to the rock of the cache; he sat with me at meals; one afternoon
he came up to the top of Monte Gennaro, to pick the orchises of the
spring and to say his Gloria for himself. There was no break at all
in our companionship; indeed, it but seemed, as I have said, to have
grown intenser and more vivid. And that which, when he lay dying,
seemed quite impossible, namely, that I should come back to the island
and the villa again now that I should not find him here, has become
perfectly natural, since I shall most assuredly find him here. He will
be with me in England, too, and wherever I may go during the period
of my mortal days, I shall find him, not by any act of faith that the
dead die not, nor by any theoretical conviction that his individuality
survives, but from the plain experience that it is so.... And when the
dimness and the dream of life vanish from my awakening vision, I know
also that among the first who will give me welcome will be Francis, and
his grey merry eyes will greet me....

       *       *       *       *       *

I arrived back to a cold and snowy England towards the end of the
month, and as soon as I got home unlocked the drawer in which I had
placed on a certain day last January the two "posthumous packets," as
Francis called them, which we had severally prepared. As the reader
may remember, we had packed them to serve as a test concerning the
possibility of spirit-communication, and in mine I had placed a "J"
nib, a five-franc piece and some carbolic tooth-powder, and had written
directions on it that it was to be sent to him to deal with in the
event of my dying first. While I was doing this upstairs, he was making
ready his packet in the sitting-room, and on my return gave it me
wrapped up and bound with string and sealed. There in its drawer it had
lain till to-day, and the time was now come when the test could be put.
The box in which he had disposed a certain object or objects unknown
to me was some six inches long, and about the same across.

       *       *       *       *       *

I at once went to a friend who is much immersed in spiritualistic
affairs, and asked him to arrange a sitting for me with some medium
whom he believed to have power, and believed not to be fraudulent. (It
did not really matter whether the medium was fraudulent or not, since
no amount of trickery could discover the contents of that package.) I
asked that my name should not be given, but that a sitting should be
arranged on some appointed day. I begged him, finally, to come with
me, so that between us we might get a fairly complete account of what
occurred, and to be a witness. I may add that I was not at all sanguine
as to anything occurring.

       *       *       *       *       *

Accordingly a few days afterwards Jack Barrett arrived, and together we
drove off to the medium's house. The packet that Francis had made still
lay in the locked drawer of a black oak table, and I said no word to my
friend either about Francis, whom he had known slightly, or about the

The procedure was of the kind common to trance-mediums. We sat in a
small front-room of a rather dingy house in a dull respectable street.
The room was partially darkened by the drawing of curtains over the
window, but there was a bright fire burning on the hearth, and a lamp
turned low was placed for my friend and me on a small round table, so
that we could see sufficiently to write without difficulty. The medium
herself was a pleasant-looking woman, about thirty years of age, with a
slight cockney accent and a quiet level voice. Before the sitting began
she made us an explanation of her powers, which I will give for what
it is worth. Since she was a child she had often gone off into queer
trances, which she could induce at will. When she awoke from them, she
never knew more than that she had been having very vivid dreams, and
talking to unknown people, but all recollection of what had passed
instantly faded from her memory. Subsequently she married and had one
child, a girl, who died at the age of ten. But, going into a trance a
day or so after her death, the mother was aware when she awoke that
she had been talking to her child. Thereafter she cultivated her gift,
getting her husband or a friend to sit with her when she was in trance,
and listen to and take down what she said. When in trance she spoke
in Daisy's voice, not in her own, and the dead child told her about
its present state of existence. Daisy described other dead people whom
she came across, and could transmit messages from them. Such was Mrs.
Masters's account of her gift.

She asked me only one question, and that was whether I wanted to get
into communication with a dead friend. I told her that this was so, and
then quite suddenly found myself harbouring a strong distaste for all
these proceedings. I should certainly have gone away and had no sitting
at all, if I had not recollected my promise to Francis to go through
with it. It seemed to me like taking some sacred thing into a place of

All that follows is a compilation from our joint notes, and I
have inserted nothing which did not appear in the notes or in the
recollection of both of us.

The medium sat close to me in a high chair opposite the fire, so that
her face was clearly visible. Her eyes were closed and she had her
hands on her lap. For about five minutes she remained thus, and then
her breathing began sensibly to quicken; she gasped and panted, and her
hands writhed and wrestled with each other. That passed, and she sat
quite quiet again.

Presently she began to whisper to herself, and though I strained my
ears to listen, I could catch no words. Very soon her voice grew
louder, but it was a perfectly different voice from that in which she
had spoken to us before.... It was a high childish treble, with a
little lisp in it. The first coherent words were these:

"Yes, I'm here. Daisy's here. What shall I tell you about?"

"Ask her," said Barrett to me.

"I want to know if you can tell me anything about a friend of mine," I

"Yes, here he comes," she said.

She then told us that he--whoever it was--was in the room, and was
looking into my face, and was rather puzzled because I did not appear
to see him. He put his hand on my shoulder and was talking to me
and smiling, and again seemed puzzled that I could not hear him. She
proceeded to describe him at length with very great accuracy, and
presently, in answer to a question, spelled out the whole of his name
quite correctly. She told us that he had not long passed over; he had
been on this side but a few weeks before, that he had died not in
England, and not fighting, but he was connected with fighting. She said
he was talking about an island in the sea, and about bathing, and about
a garden where he had died; did I not recollect all those things?

Now so far all that had been told us could easily be arrived at
and accounted for by mind-reading. All those things were perfectly
well known to me, and contributed no shred of proof with regard to
spirit-communication. For nearly an hour the medium went on in this
manner, telling me nothing that I did not know already, and before the
hour was up I had begun to weary of the performance. As a whole it was
an extraordinary good demonstration of thought-reading, but nothing
more at all. Indeed, I had ceased to take notes altogether, though
Barrett's busy pencil went writing on, when quite suddenly I took my
own up again, and attended as intently as I possibly could.

Francis told her, she said, that there was a test, and the test was in
a box, and the box was in a big black drawer. "It's a test, he says
it's a test," she repeated several times.

Then she stopped, and I could hear her whispering again.

"But it's silly, it's nonsense," she said. "It doesn't mean anything."

She laughed, and spoke again out loud.

"He says, 'Bow, wow, wow! Puss,'" she said. "He says, 'Gott strafe the
V.C.' He says it's a parrot. He says it's a grey feather of a parrot
and something else besides. Something about burning, he says. He says
it's a cinder. It's a cinder and a parrot's feather. That's what he
says is the test."

It was not long after this that the coherent speaking ceased and
whisperings began again. Presently the medium said, still in the
child's voice, that the power was getting less. Then the voice stopped
altogether, and soon afterwards I saw her hands twisting and wrestling
together. She stretched out her arms with the air of a tired woman, and
rubbed her eyes, and came out of trance.

My friend and I went home, and before we opened the box we compared
and collated our notes. Then I unlocked the drawer, took out Francis's
packet and broke the seals and cut the string. The cardboard box
contained a piece of paper folded round one of Matilda's grey feathers
and a fragment of burned coal.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now I see no possible way of accounting for this unless we accept Mrs.
Masters's explanation, and believe that in some mysterious manner
Francis, his living self, was able to tell her while in this trance
what were the contents of the packet he had sealed up. No possible
theory of thought-transference between her and anyone living in the
conditions of this earthly plane will fit the case, for the simple
reason that no one living here and now has ever had the smallest
knowledge of what the packet contained. That information had never,
until the moment that Mrs. Masters communicated it to me and my friend,
been known to more than one person. Francis had made the packet,
had sealed it up, and in that locked drawer it had remained till we
opened it after this sitting. I can conceive of no possible channel
of communication except one, namely, that Francis himself spoke in
some mysterious way to the medium's mind. My reason and my power of
conjecture are utterly unable to think of any other explanation.

So accepting that (for a certain reason to be touched on later, I
rather shrink from accepting it), it follows as possible that all the
earlier part of the sitting, which can certainly be accounted for by
the established phenomenon of thought-transference, may not have been
due to thought-transference at all, but to direct communication also
with Francis. And yet while the medium was speaking, telling me that he
was looking into my face, and wondering that I could not see him, I,
who have so continually with me the sense of his personal presence, had
no such feeling. That Francis whom I knew, the same one who is now so
constantly with me, did not seem to be there at all ...

Now I reject altogether the theory of the Roman Catholic Church,
namely, that when we try to communicate with the dead and apparently
succeed in so doing, we are not really brought into connection with
them, but into connection with some evil spirit who impersonates them.
I cannot discover or invent the smallest grounds for believing that;
it seems to me more a subject for some gruesome magazine tale than
a spiritual truth. But what does seem possible is this, that we are
brought into connection not with the soul of the departed, his real
essential personality, the thing we loved, but with a piece of his mere
mechanical intelligence. Otherwise it is hard to see why those who
have passed over rarely, if ever, tell us, except in the vaguest and
most unconvincing manner, about the conditions under which they now
exist. They speak of being happy, of being busy, of waiting for us, but
they tell us nothing that the medium could not easily have invented
herself. No _real_ news comes, nothing that can enable us to picture in
the faintest degree what their life over there is like. Possibly the
conditions are incommunicable; they may find it as hard to convey them
as it would be to convey the sense and the effect of colour to a blind
man. Material and temporal terms must naturally have ceased to bear
any meaning to them, since they have passed out of this infinitesimal
sphere of space and time into the timeless and immeasurable day, the
sun of which for ever stands at the height of an imperishable noon. If
they could tell us of that, perhaps we should not understand.

The upshot, then, is this: I believe that when the medium, sitting
opposite the fire in that dim room, said what was in the sealed packet,
the discarnate mind of Francis told her what was there. I believe
the door between the two worlds not to be locked and barred; certain
people--such as we call mediums--have the power of turning the handle
and for a little setting this door ajar. But what do we get when the
door is set ajar? Nothing that is significant, nothing that brings us
closer to those on the other side. If I had not already believed in
the permanence and survival of individual life, I think it more than
possible that the accurate and unerring statement of what was in the
sealed packet might have convinced me of it. But it brought me no
nearer Francis.

       *       *       *       *       *

A great event has happened, for America has joined the cause of the
Allies. That was long delayed, but there is now no possibility of
doubting the wisdom of such delay, if from it sprang the tremendous
enthusiasm which shows how solid is the nation's support. What this
event means to the cause of the Allies cannot be over-estimated, for
already it is clear that Russia is as unstable as a quicksand, and none
knows what will be swallowed up next in those shifting, unfathomable
depths. There is something stirring there below, and the first cries of
liberty and unity which hailed the revolution have given place to queer
mutterings, unconjecturable sounds....

April is nearly over, and spring, which came so late here in England
that long after Easter the land lay white under unseasonable snows,
has suddenly burst out into full choir of flower and bird-song. The
blossoms that should have decked last month, the daffodils that should
have "taken the winds of March with beauty," have delayed their golden
epiphany till now, and it is as if their extra month of sleep had given
them a vigour and a beauty that spring never saw before. The April
flowers are here too, and the flowers of May have precociously joined
them, and never was there such bustle among the birds, such hurried
transport of nest-building material. But through all the din of the
forest-murmurs sounds the thud of war.

How still it was on that Easter morning....


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