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Title: Orpheus in Mayfair, and Other Stories and Sketches
Author: Baring, Maurice
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Orpheus in Mayfair, and Other Stories and Sketches" ***

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Most of the stories and sketches in this book have appeared in the
_Morning Post_. One of them was published in the _Westminster Gazette_.
I have to thank the editors and proprietors concerned for their kindness
in allowing me to republish them.


     Orpheus in Mayfair
     The Cricket Match
     The Shadow of a Midnight
     Jean Francois
     The Flute of Chang Liang
     “What is Truth?”
      A Luncheon-Party
     Fete Galante
     The Garland
     The Spider’s Web
     Edward II. At Berkeley Castle
     The Island
     The Man Who Gave Good Advice
     The Old Woman
     Dr. Faust’s Last Day
     The Flute-Player’s Story
     A Chinaman on Oxford
     The Fire
     The Conqueror
     The Ikon
     The Thief
     The Star
     Chun Wa


Heraclius Themistocles Margaritis was a professional musician. He was a
singer and a composer of songs; he wrote poetry in Romaic, and composed
tunes to suit rhymes. But it was not thus that he earned his daily
bread, and he was poor, very poor. To earn his livelihood he gave
lessons, music lessons during the day, and in the evening lessons in
Greek, ancient and modern, to such people (and these were rare) who
wished to learn these languages. He was a young man, only twenty-four,
and he had married, before he came of age, an Italian girl called Tina.
They had come to England in order to make their fortune. They lived in
apartments in the Hereford Road, Bayswater.

They had two children, a little girl and a little boy; they were very
much in love with each other, as happy as birds, and as poor as church
mice. For Heraclius Themistocles got but few pupils, and although he
had sung in public at one or two concerts, and had not been received
unfavourably, he failed to obtain engagements to sing in private houses,
which was his ambition. He hoped by this means to become well known, and
then to be able to give recitals of his own where he would reveal to the
world those tunes in which he knew the spirit of Hellas breathed. The
whole desire of his life was to bring back and to give to the world
the forgotten but undying Song of Greece. In spite of this, the modest
advertisement which was to be found at concert agencies announcing that
Mr. Heraclius Themistocles Margaritis was willing to attend evening
parties and to give an exhibition of Greek music, ancient and modern,
had as yet met with no response. After he had been a year in England
the only steps towards making a fortune were two public performances
at charity matinees, one or two pupils in pianoforte playing, and an
occasional but rare engagement for stray pupils at a school of modern

It was in the middle of the second summer after his arrival that an
incident occurred which proved to be the turning point of his career. A
London hostess was giving a party in honour of a foreign Personage.
It had been intimated that some kind of music would be expected.
The hostess had neither the means nor the desire to secure for her
entertainment stars of the first magnitude, but she gathered together
some lesser lights--a violinist, a pianist, and a singer of French
drawing-room melodies. On the morning of the day on which her concert
was to be given, the hostess received a telegram from the singer of
French drawing-room melodies to say that she had got a bad cold, and
could not possibly sing that night. The hostess was in despair, but a
musical friend of hers came to the rescue, and promised to obtain for
her an excellent substitute, a man who sang Greek songs.

* * * * *

When Margaritis received the telegram from Arkwright’s Agency that
he was to sing that night at A---- House, he was overjoyed, and could
scarcely believe his eyes. He at once communicated the news to Tina, and
they spent hours in discussing what songs he should sing, who the good
fairy could have been who recommended him, and in building castles in
the air with regard to the result of this engagement. He would become
famous; they would have enough money to go to Italy for a holiday; he
would give concerts; he would reveal to the modern world the music of

About half-past four in the afternoon Margaritis went out to buy
himself some respectable evening studs from a large emporium in the
neighbourhood. When he returned, singing and whistling on the stairs for
joy, he was met by Tina, who to his astonishment was quite pale, and he
saw at a glance that something had happened.

“They’ve put me off!” he said. “Or it was a mistake. I knew it was too
good to be true.”

“It’s not that,” said Tina, “it’s Carlo!” Carlo was their little boy,
who was nearly four years old.

“What?” said Margaritis.

Tina dragged him into their little sitting-room. “He is ill,” she said,
“very ill, and I don’t know what’s the matter with him.”

Margaritis turned pale. “Let me see him,” he said. “We must get a

“The doctor is coming: I went for him at once,” she said. And then they
walked on tiptoe into the bedroom where Carlo was lying in his cot,
tossing about, and evidently in a raging fever. Half an hour later
the doctor came. Margaritis and Tina waited, silent and trembling with
anxiety, while he examined the child. At last he came from the bedroom
with a grave face. He said that the child was very seriously ill, but
that if he got through the night he would very probably recover.

“I must send a telegram,” said Margaritis to Tina. “I cannot possibly
go.” Tina squeezed his hand, and then with a brave smile she went back
to the sick-room.

Margaritis took a telegraph form out of a shabby leather portfolio, sat
down before the dining-table on which the cloth had been laid for tea
(for the sitting-room was the dining-room also), and wrote out the
telegram. And as he wrote his tears fell on the writing and smudged it.
His grief overcame him, and he buried his face in his hands and sobbed.
“What the Fates give with one hand,” he thought to himself, “they take
away with another!” Then he heard himself, he knew not why, invoking the
gods of Greece, the ancient gods of Olympus, to help him. And at that
moment the whole room seemed to be filled with a strange light, and
he saw the wonderful figure of a man with a shining face and eyes that
seemed infinitely sad and at the same time infinitely luminous. The
figure held a lyre, and said to him in Greek:--

“It is well. All will be well. I will take your place at the concert!”

When the vision had vanished, the half written telegram on his table had
disappeared also.

* * * * *

The party at A---- House that night was brilliant rather than large. In
one of the drawing-rooms there was a piano, in front of which were six
or seven rows of gilt chairs. The other rooms were filled with shifting
groups of beautiful women, and men wearing orders and medals. There was
a continuous buzz of conversation, except in the room where the music
was going on; and even there in the background there was a subdued
whispering. The violinist was playing some elaborate nothings, and
displaying astounding facility, but the audience did not seem to be much
interested, for when he stopped, after some faint applause, conversation
broke loose like a torrent.

“I do hope,” said some one to the lady next him, “that the music will be
over soon. One gets wedged in here, one doesn’t dare move, and one had
to put up with having one’s conversation spoilt and interrupted.”

“It’s an extraordinary thing,” answered the lady, “that nobody dares
give a party in London without some kind of entertainment. It _is_ such
a mistake!”

At that moment the fourth and last item on the programme began, which
was called “Greek Songs by Heraclius Themistocles Margaritis.”

“He certainly looks like a Greek,” said the lady who had been talking;
“in fact if his hair was cut he would be quite good-looking.”

“It’s not my idea of a Greek,” whispered her neighbour. “He is too fair.
I thought Greeks were dark.”

“Hush!” said the lady, and the first song began. It was a strange thread
of sound that came upon the ears of the listeners, rather high and
piercing, and the accompaniment (Margaritis accompanied himself) was
twanging and monotonous like the sound of an Indian tom-tom. The same
phrase was repeated two or three times over, the melody seemed to
consist of only a very few notes, and to come over and over again with
extraordinary persistence. Then the music rose into a high shrill call
and ended abruptly.

“What has happened?” asked the lady. “Has he forgotten the words?”

“I think the song is over,” said the man. “That’s one comfort at any
rate. I hate songs which I can’t understand.”

But their comments were stopped by the beginning of another song. The
second song was soft and very low, and seemed to be almost entirely on
one note. It was still shorter than the first one, and ended still more

“I don’t believe he’s a Greek at all,” said the man. “His songs are just
like the noise of bagpipes.”

“I daresay he’s a Scotch,” said the lady. “Scotchmen are very clever.
But I must say his songs are short.”

An indignant “Hush!” from a musician with long hair who was sitting not
far off heralded the beginning of the third song. It began on a high
note, clear and loud, so that the audience was startled, and for a
moment or two there was not a whisper to be heard in the drawing-room.
Then it died away in a piteous wail like the scream of a sea-bird, and
the high insistent note came back once more, and this process seemed
to be repeated several times till the sad scream prevailed, and stopped
suddenly. A little desultory clapping was heard, but it was instantly
suppressed when the audience became aware that the song was not over.

“He’s going on again,” whispered the man. A low, long note was heard
like the drone of a bee, which went on, sometimes rising and sometimes
getting lower, like a strange throbbing sob; and then once more it
ceased. The audience hesitated a moment, being not quite certain whether
the music was really finished or not. Then when they saw Margaritis rise
from the piano, some meagre well-bred applause was heard, and an immense
sigh of relief. The people streamed into the other rooms, and the
conversation became loud and general.

The lady who had talked went quickly into the next room to find out what
was the right thing to say about the music, and if possible to get the
opinion of a musician.

Sir Anthony Holdsworth, who had translated Pindar, was talking to Ralph
Enderby, who had written a book on “Modern Greek Folk Lore.”

“It hurts me,” said Sir Anthony, “to hear ancient Greek pronounced like
that. It is impossible to distinguish the words; besides which its wrong
to pronounce ancient Greek like modern Greek. Did you understand it?”

“No,” said Ralph Enderby, “I did not. If it is modern Greek it was
certainly wrongly pronounced. I think the man must be singing some kind
of Asiatic dialect--unless he’s a fraud.”

Hard by there was another group discussing the music: Blythe, the
musical critic, and Lawson, who had the reputation of being a great

“He’s distinctly clever,” Blythe was saying; “the songs are amusing
‘pastiches’ of Eastern folk song.”

“Yes, I think he’s clever,” said Lawson, “but there’s nothing original
in it, and besides, as I expect you noticed, two of the songs were gross
plagiarisms of De Bussy.”

“Clever, but not original,” said the lady to herself. “That’s it.” And
two hostesses who had overheard this conversation made up their minds
to get Margaritis for their parties, for they scented the fact that he
would ultimately be talked about. But most of the people did not discuss
the music at all.

As soon as the music had stopped, James Reddaway, who was a Member of
Parliament, left the house and went home. He was engrossed in politics,
and had little time at his disposal for anything else. As soon as he got
home he went up to his wife’s bedroom; she had not been able to go to
the party owing to a sudden attack of neuralgia. She asked him to tell
her all about it.

“Well,” he said, “there were the usual people there, and there was some
music: some violin and piano playing, to which I didn’t listen. After
that a man sang some Greek songs, and a curious thing happened to me.
When it began I felt my head swimming, and then I entirely lost account
of my surroundings. I forgot the party, the drawing-room and the people,
and I seemed to be sitting on the rocks of a cliff near a small bay; in
front of me was the sea: it was a kind of blue green, but far more blue
or at least of quite a different kind of blue than any I have seen. It
was transparent, and the sky above it was like a turquoise. Behind
me the cliff merged into a hill which was covered with red and white
flowers, as bright as a Persian carpet. On the beach in front, a tall
man was standing, wading in the water, little bright waves sparkling
round his feet. He was tall and dark, and he was spearing a lot of
little silver fish which were lying on the sand with a small wooden
trident; and somewhere behind me a voice was singing. I could not see
where it came from, but it was wonderfully soft and delicious, and a
lot of wild bees came swarming over the flowers, and a green lizard came
right up close to me, and the air was burning hot, and there was a
smell of thyme and mint in it. And then the song stopped, and I came
to myself, and I was back again in the drawing-room. Then when the man
began to sing again, I again lost consciousness, and I seemed to be in
a dark orchard on a breathless summer night. And somewhere near me there
was a low white house with an opening which might have been a window,
shrouded by creepers and growing things. And in it there was a faint
light. And from the house came the sound of a sad love-song; and
although I had never heard the song before I understood it, and it was
about the moon and the Pleiads having set, and the hour passing, and
the voice sang, ‘But I sleep alone!’ And this was repeated over and over
again, and it was the saddest and most beautiful thing I had ever heard.
And again it stopped, and I was back again in the drawing-room. Then
when the singer began his third song I felt cold all over, and at the
same time half suffocated, as people say they feel when they are nearly
drowning. I realised that I was in a huge, dark, empty space, and round
me and far off in front of me were vague shadowy forms; and in the
distance there was something which looked like two tall thrones,
pillared and dim. And on one of the thrones there was the dark form of
a man, and on the other a woman like a queen, pale as marble, and unreal
as a ghost, with great grey eyes that shone like moons. In front of them
was another form, and he was singing a song, and the song was so sad and
so beautiful that tears rolled down the shadowy cheeks of the ghosts
in front of me. And all at once the singer gave a great cry of joy, and
something white and blinding flashed past me and disappeared, and he
with it. But I remained in the same place with the dark ghosts far off
in front of me. And I seemed to be there an eternity till I heard a cry
of desperate pain and anguish, and the white form flashed past me once
more, and vanished, and with it the whole thing, and I was back again in
the drawing-room, and I felt faint and giddy, and could not stay there
any longer.”


To Winston Churchill

It was a Saturday afternoon in June. St. James’s School was playing a
cricket match against Chippenfield’s. The whole school, which consisted
of forty boys, with the exception of the eleven who were playing in the
match, were gathered together near the pavilion on the steep, grassy
bank which faced the cricket ground. It was a swelteringly hot day. One
of the masters was scoring in the pavilion; two of the boys sat under
the post and board where the score was recorded in big white figures
painted on the black squares. Most of the boys were sitting on the grass
in front of the pavilion.

St. James’s won the toss and went in first. After scoring 5 for the
first wicket they collapsed; in an hour and five minutes their last
wicket fell. They had only made 27 runs. Fortune was against St. James’s
that day. Hitchens, their captain, in whom the school confidently
trusted, was caught out in his first over. And Wormald and Bell minor,
their two best men, both failed to score.

Then Chippenfield’s went in. St. James’s fast bowlers, Blundell and
Anderson minor, seemed unable to do anything against the Chippenfield’s
batsmen. The first wicket went down at 70.

The boys who were looking on grew listless: three of them, Gordon,
Smith, and Hart minor, wandered off from the pavilion further up the
slope of the hill, where there was a kind of wooden scaffolding raised
for letting off fireworks on the 5th of November. The headmaster, who
was a fanatical Conservative, used to burn on that anniversary effigies
of Liberal politicians such as Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Chamberlain,
who was at that time a Radical; while the boys whose politics were
Conservative, and who formed the vast majority, cheered, and kicked the
Liberals, of whom there were only eight.

Smith, Gordon, and Hart minor, three little boys aged about eleven, were
in the third division of the school. They were not in the eleven, nor
had they any hopes of ever attaining that glory, which conferred the
privilege of wearing white flannel instead of grey flannel trousers, and
a white flannel cap with a red Maltese cross on it. To tell the truth,
the spectacle of this seemingly endless game, in which they did not
have even the satisfaction of seeing their own side victorious, began to
weigh on their spirits.

They climbed up on to the wooden scaffolding and organised a game of
their own, an utterly childish game, which consisted of one boy throwing
some dried horse chestnuts from the top of the scaffolding into the
mouth of the boy at the bottom. They soon became engrossed in their
occupation, and were thoroughly enjoying themselves, when one of the
masters, Mr. Whitehead by name, came towards them with a face like
thunder, biting his knuckles, a thing which he did when he was very

“Go indoors at once,” he said. “Go up to the third division school-room
and do two hours’ work. You can copy out the Greek irregular verbs.”

The boys, taken completely by surprise, but accepting this decree as
they accepted everything else, because it never occurred to them
it could be otherwise, trotted off, not very disconsolate, to the
school-room. It was very hot out of doors; it was cool in the third
division school-room.

They got out their steel pens, their double-lined copy books, and began
mechanically copying out the Greek irregular verbs, with which they were
so superficially familiar, and from which they were so fundamentally

“Whitey,” said Gordon, “was in an awful wax!”

“I don’t care,” said Smith. “I’d just as soon sit here as look on at
that beastly match.”

“But why,” said Hart, “have we got to do two hours’ work?”

“Oh,” said Gordon, “he’s just in a wax, that’s all.”

And the matter was not further discussed. At six o’clock the boys
had tea. The cricket match had, of course, resulted in a crushing and
overwhelming defeat for St. James’s. The rival eleven had been asked to
tea; there were cherries for tea in their honour.

When Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor entered the dining-room they at once
perceived that an atmosphere of gloom and menacing storm was overhanging
the school. Their spirits had hitherto been unflagging; they sat next to
each other at the tea-table, but no sooner had they sat down than they
were seized by that terrible, uncomfortable feeling so familiar to
schoolboys, that something unpleasant was impending, some crime, some
accusation; some doom, the nature of which they could not guess,
was lying in ambush. This was written on the headmaster’s face. The
headmaster sat at a square table in the centre of the dining-room. The
boys sat round on the further side of three tables which formed the
three sides of the square room.

The meal passed in gloomy silence. Gordon, Smith and Hart began a fitful
conversation, but a message was immediately passed up to them from Mr.
Whitehead, who sat at the bottom of one of the tables, to stop talking.
At the end of tea the guests filed out of the room.

The headmaster stood up and rapped on his table with a knife.

“The whole school,” he said, “will come to the library in ten minutes’

The boys left the dining-room. They began to whisper to one another with
bated breath. “What’s the matter?” And the boys of the second division
shook their heads ominously, and pointing to Gordon, Smith, and Hart,
said: “You’re in for it this time!” The boys of the first division were
too important to take any notice of the rest of the school, and retired
to the first division school-room in dignified silence.

Ten minutes later the whole school was assembled in the library, from
which one flight of stairs led to the upper storeys. The staircase was
shrouded from view by a dark curtain hanging from a Gothic arch; it was
through this curtain that the headmaster used dramatically to appear on
important occasions, and it was up this staircase that boys guilty of
cardinal offences were led off to corporal punishment.

The boys waited in breathless silence. Acute suspense was felt by the
whole school, but by none so keenly as by Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor.
These three little boys felt perfectly sick with fear of the unknown and
the terror of having in some unknown way made themselves responsible for
the calamity which would perhaps vitally affect the whole school.

Presently a rustle was heard, and the headmaster swept down the
staircase and through the curtain, robed in the black silk gown of an
LL.D. He stood at a high desk which was placed opposite the staircase in
front of the boys, who sat, in the order of their divisions, on rows of
chairs. The three assistant masters walked in from a side door, also in
their gowns, and took seats to the right and left of the headmaster’s
desk. There was a breathless silence.

The headmaster began to speak in grave and icily cold tones; his face
was contracted by a permanent frown.

“I had thought,” he said, “that there were in this school some boys
who had a notion of gentlemanly behaviour, manly conduct, and common
decency. I see that I was mistaken. The behaviour of certain of you
to-day--I will not mention them because of their exceeding shame, but
you will all know whom I mean. . . .” At this moment all the boys turned
round and looked hard at Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor, who blushed
scarlet, and whose eyes filled with tears. . . . “The less said about
the matter the better,” continued the headmaster, “but I confess that it
is difficult for me to understand how any one, however young, can be so
hardened and so wanton as to behave in the callous and indecent way in
which certain of you--I need not mention who--have behaved to-day. You
have disgraced the school in the eyes of strangers; you have violated
the laws of hospitality and courtesy; you have shown that in St. James’s
there is not a gleam of patriotism, not a spark of interest in the
school, not a touch of that ordinary common English manliness, that
sense for the interests of the school and the community which makes
Englishmen what they are. The boys who have been most guilty in this
matter have already been punished, and I do not propose to punish them
further; but I had intended to take the whole school for an expedition
to the New Forest next week. That expedition will be put off: in fact
it will never take place. Only the eleven shall go, and I trust that
another time the miserable idlers and loafers who have brought this
shame, this disgrace on the school, who have no self-respect and no
self-control, who do not know how to behave like gentlemen, who are
idle, vulgar and depraved, will learn by this lesson to mend their ways
and to behave better in the future. But I am sorry to say that it is
not only the chief offenders, who, as I have already said, have been
punished, who are guilty in the matter. Many of the other boys, although
they did not descend to the depths of vulgar behaviour reached by the
culprits I have mentioned, showed a considerable lack of patriotism by
their apathy and their lack of attention while the cricket match was
proceeding this afternoon. I can only hope this may be a lesson to
you all; but while I trust the chief offenders will feel specially
uncomfortable, I wish to impress upon you that you are all, with the
exception of the eleven, in a sense guilty.”

With these words the headmaster swept out of the room.

The boys dispersed in whispering groups. Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor,
when they attempted to speak, were met with stony silence; they were
boycotted and cut by the remaining boys.

Gordon and Smith slept in two adjoining cubicles, and in a third
adjoining cubicle was an upper division boy called Worthing. That night,
after they had gone to bed, Gordon asked Worthing whether, among all the
guilty, one just man had not been found.

“Surely,” he said, “Campbell minor, who put up the score during the
cricket match, was attentive right through the game, and wouldn’t he be
allowed to go to the New Forest with the eleven?”

“No,” said Worthing, “he whistled twice.”

“Oh!” said Gordon, “I didn’t know that. Of course, he can’t go!”


It was nine o’clock in the evening. Sasha, the maid, had brought in the
samovar and placed it at the head of the long table. Marie Nikolaevna,
our hostess, poured out the tea. Her husband was playing Vindt with his
daughter, the doctor, and his son-in-law in another corner of the room.
And Jameson, who had just finished his Russian lesson--he was working
for the Civil Service examination--was reading the last number of the
_Rouskoe Slovo_.

“Have you found anything interesting, Frantz Frantzovitch?” said Marie
Nikolaevna to Jameson, as she handed him a glass of tea.

“Yes, I have,” answered the Englishman, looking up. His eyes had a
clear dreaminess about them, which generally belongs only to fanatics or
visionaries, and I had no reason to believe that Jameson, who seemed to
be common sense personified, was either one or the other. “At least,” he
continued, “it interests me. And it’s odd--very odd.”

“What is it?” asked Marie Nikolaevna.

“Well, to tell you what it is would mean a long story which you wouldn’t
believe,” said Jameson; “only it’s odd--very odd.”

“Tell us the story,” I said.

“As you won’t believe a word of it,” Jameson repeated, “it’s not much
use my telling it.”

We insisted on hearing the story, so Jameson lit a cigarette, and

“Two years ago,” he said, “I was at Heidelberg, at the University, and I
made friends with a young fellow called Braun. His parents were German,
but he had lived five or six years in America, and he was practically an
American. I made his acquaintance by chance at a lecture, when I first
arrived, and he helped me in a number of ways. He was an energetic and
kind-hearted fellow, and we became great friends. He was a student, but
he did not belong to any _Korps_ or _Bursenschaft_, he was working hard
then. Afterwards he became an engineer. When the summer _Semester_ came
to an end, we both stayed on at Heidelberg. One day Braun suggested that
we should go for a walking tour and explore the country. I was only
too pleased, and we started. It was glorious weather, and we enjoyed
ourselves hugely. On the third night after we had started we arrived at
a village called Salzheim. It was a picturesque little place, and there
was a curious old church in it with some interesting tombs and relics of
the Thirty Years War. But the inn where we put up for the night was even
more picturesque than the church. It had been a convent for nuns, only
the greater part of it had been burnt, and only a quaint gabled house,
and a kind of tower covered with ivy, which I suppose had once been the
belfry, remained. We had an excellent supper and went to bed early. We
had been given two bedrooms, which were airy and clean, and altogether
we were satisfied. My bedroom opened into Braun’s, which was beyond it,
and had no other door of its own. It was a hot night in July, and Braun
asked me to leave the door open. I did--we opened both the windows.
Braun went to bed and fell asleep almost directly, for very soon I heard
his snores.

“I had imagined that I was longing for sleep, but no sooner had I got
into bed than all my sleepiness left me. This was odd, because we had
walked a good many miles, and it had been a blazing hot day, and up till
then I had slept like a log the moment I got into bed. I lit a candle
and began reading a small volume of Heine I carried with me. I heard the
clock strike ten, and then eleven, and still I felt that sleep was out
of the question. I said to myself: ‘I will read till twelve and then I
will stop.’ My watch was on a chair by my bedside, and when the clock
struck eleven I noticed that it was five minutes slow, and set it right.
I could see the church tower from my window, and every time the clock
struck--and it struck the quarters--the noise boomed through the room.

“When the clock struck a quarter to twelve I yawned for the first time,
and I felt thankful that sleep seemed at last to be coming to me. I left
off reading, and taking my watch in my hand I waited for midnight to
strike. This quarter of an hour seemed an eternity. At last the hands
of my watch showed that it was one minute to twelve. I put out my candle
and began counting sixty, waiting for the clock to strike. I had counted
a hundred and sixty, and still the clock had not struck. I counted up to
four hundred; then I thought I must have made a mistake. I lit my candle
again, and looked at my watch: it was two minutes past twelve. And still
the clock had not struck!

“A curious uncomfortable feeling came over me, and I sat up in bed
with my watch in my hand and longed to call Braun, who was peacefully
snoring, but I did not like to. I sat like this till a quarter past
twelve; the clock struck the quarter as usual. I made up my mind that
the clock must have struck twelve, and that I must have slept for
a minute--at the same time I knew I had not slept--and I put out my
candle. I must have fallen asleep almost directly.

“The next thing I remember was waking with a start. It seemed to me that
some one had shut the door between my room and Braun’s. I felt for
the matches. The match-box was empty. Up to that moment--I cannot tell
why--something--an unaccountable dread--had prevented me looking at the
door. I made an effort and looked. It was shut, and through the cracks
and through the keyhole I saw the glimmer of a light. Braun had lit his
candle. I called him, not very loudly: there was no answer. I called
again more loudly: there was still no answer.

“Then I got out of bed and walked to the door. As I went, it was gently
and slightly opened, just enough to show me a thin streak of light.
At that moment I felt that some one was looking at me. Then it was
instantly shut once more, as softly as it had been opened. There was not
a sound to be heard. I walked on tiptoe towards the door, but it seemed
to me that I had taken a hundred years to cross the room. And when
at last I reached the door I felt I could not open it. I was simply
paralysed with fear. And still I saw the glimmer through the key-hole
and the cracks.

“Suddenly, as I was standing transfixed with fright in front of the
door, I heard sounds coming from Braun’s room, a shuffle of footsteps,
and voices talking low but distinctly in a language I could not
understand. It was not Italian, Spanish, nor French. The voices grew all
at once louder; I heard the noise of a struggle and a cry which ended
in a stifled groan, very painful and horrible to hear. Then, whether
I regained my self-control, or whether it was excess of fright which
prompted me, I don’t know, but I flew to the door and tried to open it.
Some one or something was pressing with all its might against it. Then
I screamed at the top of my voice, and as I screamed I heard the cock

“The door gave, and I almost fell into Braun’s room. It was quite dark.
But Braun was waked by my screams and quietly lit a match. He asked me
gently what on earth was the matter. The room was empty and everything
was in its place. Outside the first greyness of dawn was in the sky.

“I said I had had a nightmare, and asked him if he had not had one as
well; but Braun said he had never slept better in his life.

“The next day we went on with our walking tour, and when we got back to
Heidelberg Braun sailed for America. I never saw him again, although
we corresponded frequently, and only last week I had a letter from him,
dated Nijni Novgorod, saying he would be at Moscow before the end of the

“And now I suppose you are all wondering what this can have to do with
anything that’s in the newspaper. Well, listen,” and he read out the
following paragraph from the _Rouskoe Slovo_:--

     “Samara, II, ix. In the centre of the town, in the Hotel --,
     a band of armed swindlers attacked a German engineer
     named Braun and demanded money. On his refusal one of the
     robbers stabbed Braun with a knife. The robbers, taking the
     money which was on him, amounting to 500 roubles, got away.
     Braun called for assistance, but died of his wounds in the
     night. It appears that he had met the swindlers at a

“Since I have been in Russia,” Jameson added, “I have often thought that
I knew what language it was that was talked behind the door that night
in the inn at Salzheim, but now I know it was Russian.”


Jean Francois was a vagabond by nature, a balladmonger by profession.
Like many poets in many times, he found that the business of writing
verse was more amusing than lucrative; and he was constrained to
supplement the earnings of his pen and his guitar by other and more
profitable work. He had run away from what had been his home at the age
of seven (he was a foundling, and his adopted father was a shoe-maker),
without having learnt a trade. When the necessity arose he decided
to supplement the art of balladmongering by that of stealing. He was
skilful in both arts: he wrote verse, sang ballads, picked pockets (in
the city), and stole horses (in the country) with equal facility and
success. Some of his verse has reached posterity, for instance the
“Ballads du Paradis Peint,” which he wrote on white vellum, and
illustrated himself with illuminations in red, blue and gold, for the
Dauphin. It ends thus in the English version of a Balliol scholar:--

     Prince, do not let your nose, your Royal nose,
     Your large Imperial nose get out of joint;
     Forbear to criticise my perfect prose--
     Painting on vellum is my weakest point.

Again, the _ballade_ of which the “Envoi” runs:--

     Prince, when you light your pipe with radium spills,
     Especially invented for the King--
     Remember this, the worst of human ills:
     Life without matches is a dismal thing,

is, in reality, only a feeble adaptation of his “Priez pour feu le vrai
tresor de vie.”

But although Jean Francois was not unknown during his lifetime, and
although, as his verse testifies, he knew his name would live among
those of the enduring poets after his death, his life was one of rough
hardship, brief pleasures, long anxieties, and constant uncertainty.
Sometimes for a few days at a time he would live in riotous luxury,
but these rare epochs would immediately be succeeded by periods of want
bordering on starvation. Besides which he was nearly always in peril
of his life; the shadow of the gallows darkened his merriment, and the
thought of the wheel made bitter his joy. Yet in spite of this hazardous
and harassing life, in spite of the sharp and sudden transitions in his
career, in spite of the menace of doom, the hint of the wheel and the
gallows, his fund of joy remained undiminished, and this we see in
his verse, which reflects with equal vividness his alternate moods of
infinite enjoyment and unmitigated despair. For instance, the only two
triolets which have survived from his “Trente deux Triolets joyeux and
tristes” are an example of his twofold temperament. They run thus in the
literal and exact translations of them made by an eminent official:--

     I wish I was dead,
     And lay deep in the grave.
     I’ve a pain in my head,
     I wish I was dead.
     In a coffin of lead--
     With the Wise and the Brave--
     I wish I was dead,
     And lay deep in the grave.

This passionate utterance immediately preceded, in the original text,
the following verses in which his buoyant spirits rise once more to the

     Thank God I’m alive
     In the light of the Sun!
     It’s a quarter to five;
     Thank God I’m alive!
     Now the hum of the hive
     Of the world has begun,
     Thank God I’m alive
     In the light of the Sun!

A more plaintive, in fact a positively wistful note, which is almost
incongruous amongst the definite and sharply defined moods of Jean
Francois, is struck in the sonnet of which only the first line has
reached us: “I wish I had a hundred thousand pounds.” (“Voulentiers
serais pauvre avec dix mille escus.”) But in nearly all his verse,
whether joyous as in the “Chant de vin et vie,” or gloomy as in the
“Ballade des Treize Pendus,” there is a curious recurrent aspiration
towards a warm fire, a sure and plentiful supper, a clean bed, and a
long, long sleep. Whether Jean Francois moped or made merry, and in
spite of the fact that he enjoyed his roving career and would not have
exchanged it for the throne of an Emperor or the money-bags of Croesus,
there is no doubt that he experienced the burden of an immense fatigue.
He was never quite warm enough; always a little hungry; and never got
as much sleep as he desired. A place where he could sleep his fill
represented the highest joys of Heaven to him; and he looked forward
to Death as a traveller looks forward to a warm inn where (its terrible
threshold once passed), a man can sleep the clock round. Witness the
sonnet which ends (the translation is mine):--

     For thou has never turned
     A stranger from thy gates or hast denied,
     O hospitable Death, a place to rest.

And it is of his death and not of his life or works which I wish to
tell, for it was singular. He died on Christmas Eve, 1432. The winter
that year in the north of France was, as is well known, terrible for its
severe cold. The rich stayed at home, the poor died, and the unfortunate
third estate of gipsies, balladmongers, tinkers, tumblers, and thieves
had no chance of displaying their dexterity. In fact, they starved. Ever
since the 1st of December Jean Francois had been unable to make a silver
penny either by his song or his sleight of hand. Christmas was drawing
near, and he was starving; and this was especially bitter to him, as it
was his custom (for he was not only a lover of good cheer, but a good
Catholic and a strict observer of fasts and feasts) to keep the great
day of Christendom fittingly. This year he had nothing to keep it with.
Luck seemed to be against him; for three days before Christmas he met in
a dark side street of the town the rich and stingy Sieur de Ranquet. He
picked the pocket of that nobleman, but owing to the extreme cold his
fingers faltered, and he was discovered. He ran like a hare and managed
easily enough to outstrip the miser, and to conceal himself in a den
where he was well known. But unfortunately the matter did not end there.
The Sieur de Ranquet was influential at Court; he was implacable as well
as avaricious, and his disposition positively forbade him to forgive any
one who had nearly picked his pocket. Besides which he knew that
Jean had often stolen his horses. He made a formal complaint at high
quarters, and a warrant was issued against Jean, offering a large sum in
silver coin to the man who should bring him, alive or dead, to justice.

Now the police were keenly anxious to make an end of Jean. They knew
he was guilty of a hundred thefts, but such was his skill that they had
never been able to convict him; he had often been put in prison, but he
had always been released for want of evidence. This time no mistake was
possible. So Jean, aware of the danger, fled from the city and sought a
gipsy encampment in a neighbouring forest, where he had friends. These
gipsy friends of his were robbers, outlaws, murderers and horse-stealers
all of them, and hardened criminals; they called themselves gipsies, but
it was merely a courtesy title.

On Christmas Eve--it was snowing hard--Jean was walking through the
forest towards the town, ready for a desperate venture, for in the
camp they were starving, and he was sick almost to death of his hunted,
miserable life. As he plunged through the snow he heard a moan, and he
saw a child sitting at the roots of a tall tree crying. He asked
what was the matter. The child--it was a little boy about five years
old--said that it had run away from home because its nurse had beaten
it, and had lost its way.

“Where do you live?” asked Jean.

“My father is the Sieur de Ranquet,” said the child.

At that moment Jean heard the shouts of his companions in the distance.

“I want to go home,” said the little boy quietly. “You must take me
home,” and he put his hand into Jean’s hand and looked up at him and

Jean thought for a moment. The boy was richly dressed; he had a large
ruby cross hanging from a golden collar worth many hundred gold pieces.
Jean knew well what would happen if his gipsy companions came across the
child. They would kill it instantly.

“All right,” said Jean, “climb on my back.”

The little boy climbed on to his back, and Jean trudged through the
snow. In an hour’s time they reached the Sieur de Ranquet’s castle; the
place was alive with bustling men and flaring torches, for the Sieur’s
heir had been missed.

The Sieur looked at Jean and recognised him immediately. Jean was a
public character, and especially well known to the Sieur de Ranquet.
A few words were whispered. The child was sent to bed, and the archers
civilly lead Jean to his dungeon. Jean was tired and sleepy. He fell
asleep at once on the straw. They told him he would have to get up early
the next morning, in time for a long, cold journey. The gallows, they
added, would be ready.

But in the night Jean dreamed a dream: he saw a child in glittering
clothes and with a shining face who came into the dungeon and broke the

The child said: “I am little St. Nicholas, the children’s friend, and I
think you are tired, so I’m going to take you to a quiet place.”

Jean followed the child, who led him by the hand till they came to a
nice inn, very high up on the top of huge mountains. There was a blazing
log fire in the room, a clean warm bed, and the windows opened on a
range of snowy mountains, bright as diamonds. And the stars twinkled in
the sky like the candles of a Christmas tree.

“You can go to bed here,” said St. Nicholas, “nobody will disturb you,
and when you do wake you will be quite happy and rested. Good-night,
Jean.” And he went away.

* * * * *

The next day in the dawn, when the archers came to fetch Jean, they
found he was fast asleep. They thought it was almost a pity to wake him,
because he looked so happy and contented in his sleep; but when they
tried they found it was impossible.


To P. Kershaw

The village was called Moe-tung. It was on the edge of the big main road
which leads from Liao-yang to Ta-shi-chiao. It consisted of a few baked
mud-houses, a dilapidated temple, a wall, a clump of willows, and a
pond. One of the houses I knew well; in its square open yard, in which
the rude furniture of toil lay strewn about, I had halted more than once
for my midday meal, when riding from Liao-yang to the South. I had been
entertained there by the owner of the house, a brawny husbandman and his
fat brown children, and they had given me eggs and Indian corn. Now it
was empty; the house was deserted; the owner, his wife and his children,
had all gone, to the city probably, to seek shelter. We occupied the
house; and the Cossacks at once made a fire with the front door and any
fragments of wood they could find. The house was converted into a stable
and a kitchen, and the officers’ quarters were established in another
smaller building across the road, on the edge of a great plain, which
was bright green with the standing giant millet.

This smaller cottage had an uncultivated garden in front of it, and
a kind of natural summer-house made by the twining of a pumpkin plant
which spread its broad leaves over some stakes. We lay down to rest
in this garden. About five miles to the north of us was the town of
Liao-yang; to the east in the distance was a range of pale blue hills,
and immediately in front of us to the south, and scarcely a mile off,
was the big hill of Sho-shantze. It was five o’clock in the afternoon,
and we had been on the move since two o’clock in the morning. The
Cossacks brought us tea and pancakes, and presently news came from the
town that the big battle would be fought the next day: the big battle;
the real battle, which had been expected for so long and which had
been constantly put off. There was a complete stillness everywhere. The
officers unpacked their valises and their camp-beds. Every one arranged
his bed and his goods in his chosen place, and it seemed as if we had
merely begun once more to settle down for a further period of siesta in
the long picnic which had been going on for the last two months. Nobody
was convinced in spite of the authentic news which we had received, that
the Japanese would attack the next day.

The sunset faded into a twilight of delicious summer calm.

From the hills in the east came the noise of a few shots fired by
the batteries there, and a captive balloon soared slowly, like a
soap-bubble, into the eastern sky. I walked into the village; here
and there fires were burning, and I was attracted by the sight of the
deserted temple in which the wooden painted gods were grinning, bereft
of their priest and of their accustomed dues. I sat down on the mossy
steps of the little wooden temple, and somewhere, either from one of the
knolls hard by or from one of the houses, came the sound of a flute, or
rather of some primitive wooden pipe, which repeated over and over again
a monotonous and piercingly sad little tune. I wondered whether it was
one of the soldiers playing, but I decided this could not be the case,
as the tune was more eastern than any Russian tune. On the other hand,
it seemed strange that any Chinaman should be about. The tune continued
to break the perfect stillness with its iterated sadness, and a vague
recollection came into my mind of a Chinese legend or poem I had read
long ago in London, about a flute-player called Chang Liang. But I could
not bring my memory to work; its tired wheels all seemed to be buzzing
feebly in different directions, and my thoughts came like thistledown
and seemed to elude all efforts of concentration. And so I capitulated
utterly to my drowsiness, and fell asleep as I sat on the steps of the

I thought I had been sleeping for a long time and had woken before the
dawn: the earth was misty, although the moon was shining; and I was no
longer in the temple, but back once more at the edge of the plain. “They
must have fetched me back while I slept,” I thought to myself. But when
I looked round I saw no trace of the officers, nor of the Cossacks, nor
of the small house and the garden, and, stranger still, the millet had
been reaped and the plain was covered with low stubble, and on it
were pitched some curiously-shaped tents, which I saw were guarded by
soldiers. But these soldiers were Chinamen, and yet unlike any Chinamen
I had ever seen; for some of them carried halberds, the double-armed
halberds of the period of Charles I., and others, halberds with a
crescent on one side, like those which were used in the days of Henry
VII. And I then noticed that a whole multitude of soldiers were lying
asleep on the ground, armed with two-edged swords and bows and arrows.
And their clothes seemed unfamiliar and brighter than the clothes which
Chinese soldiers wear nowadays.

As I wondered what all this meant, a note of music came stealing through
the night, and at first it seemed to be the same tune as I heard in the
temple before I dropped off to sleep; but presently I was sure that this
was a mistake, for the sound was richer and more mellow, and like that
of a bell, only of an enchanted bell, such as that which is fabled to
sound beneath the ocean. And the music seemed to rise and fall, to grow
clear and full, and just as it was floating nearer and nearer, it died
away in a sigh: but as it did so the distant hills seemed to catch it
and to send it back in the company of a thousand echoes, till the whole
night was filled and trembling with an unearthly chorus. The sleeping
soldiers gradually stirred and sat listening spellbound to the music.
And in the eyes of the sentries, who were standing as motionless as
bronze statues in front of the tents, I could see the tears glistening.
And the whole of the sleeping army awoke from its slumber and listened
to the strange sound. From the tents came men in glittering silks (the
Generals, I supposed) and listened also. The soldiers looked at each
other and said no word. And then all at once, as though obeying some
silent word of command given by some unseen captain, one by one they
walked away over the plain, leaving their tents behind them. They all
marched off into the east, as if they were following the music into
the heart of the hills, and soon, of all that great army which had been
gathered together on the plain, not one man was left. Then the music
changed and seemed to grow different and more familiar, and with a
start I became aware that I had been asleep and dreaming, and that I was
sitting on the temple steps once more in the twilight, and that not far
off, round a fire, some soldiers were singing. It was a dream, and my
sleep could not have been a long one, for it was still twilight and the
darkness had not yet come.

Fully awake now, I remembered clearly the old legend which had haunted
me, and had taken shape in my dream. It was that of an army which on
the night before the battle had heard the flute of Chang Liang. By his
playing he had brought before the rude soldiers the far-off scenes of
their childhood, which they had not looked upon for years--the sights
and sounds of their homes, the faces and the spots which were familiar
to them and dear. And they, as they heard this music, and felt these
memories well up in their hearts, were seized with a longing and a
desire for home so potent and so imperative that one by one they left
the battlefield in silence, and when the enemy came at the dawn, they
found the plain deserted and empty, for in one minute the flute of Chang
Liang had stolen the hearts of eight thousand men.

And I felt certain that I had heard the flute of Chang Liang this night
and that the soldiers had heard it too; for now round a fire a group of
them were listening to the song of one of their comrades, a man from the
south, who was singing of the quiet waters of the Don, and of a Cossack
who had come back to his native land after many days and found his true
love wedded to another. I felt it was the flute of Chang Liang which had
prompted the southerner to sing, and without doubt the men saw before
them the great moon shining over the broad village street in the dark
July and August nights, and heard the noise of dancing and song and the
cheerful rhythmic accompaniment of the concertina. Or (if they came from
the south) they saw the smiling thatched farms, whitewashed, or painted
in light green distemper, with vines growing on their walls; or again,
they felt the smell of the beanfields in June, and saw in their minds’
eye the panorama of the melting snows, when at a fairy touch the long
winter is defeated, the meadows are flooded, and the trees seem to float
about in the shining water like shapes invoked by a wizard. They saw
these things and yearned towards them with all their hearts, here in
this uncouth country where they were to fight a strange people for some
unaccountable reason. But Chang Liang had played his flute to them in
vain. It was in vain that he had tried to lure them back to their homes,
and in vain that he had melted their hearts with the memories of their
childhood. For the battle began at dawn the next morning, and when the
enemy attacked they found an army there to meet them; and the battle
lasted for two days on this very spot; and many of the men to whom Chang
Liang had brought back through his flute the sights and the sounds of
their childhood, were fated never to hear again those familiar sounds,
nor to see the land and the faces which they loved.


To E. I. Huber

Sitting opposite me in the second-class carriage of the express train
which was crawling at a leisurely pace from Moscow to the south was a
little girl who looked as if she were about twelve years old, with her
mother. The mother was a large fair-haired person, with a good-natured
expression. They had a dog with them, and the little girl, whose whole
face twitched every now and then from St. Vitus’ dance, got out at
nearly every station to buy food for the dog. On the same side of the
carriage, in the opposite corner, another lady (thin, fair, and wearing
a pince-nez) was reading the newspaper. She and the mother of the child
soon made friends over the dog. That is to say, the dog made friends
with the strange lady and was reproved by its mistress, and the strange
lady said: “Please don’t scold him. He is not in the least in my way,
and I like dogs.” They then began to talk.

The large lady was going to the country. She and her daughter had been
ordered to go there by the doctor. She had spent six weeks in Moscow
under medical treatment, and they had now been told to finish this cure
with a thorough rest in the country air. The thin lady asked her the
name of her doctor, and before ascertaining what was the disease in
question, recommended another doctor who had cured a friend of hers,
almost as though by miracle, of heart disease. The large lady seemed
interested and wrote down the direction of the marvellous physician.
She was herself suffering, she said, from a nervous illness, and her
daughter had St. Vitus’ dance. They were so far quite satisfied with
their doctor. They talked for some time exclusively about medical
matters, comparing notes about doctors, diseases, and remedies. The thin
lady said she had been cured of all her ills by aspirin and cinnamon.

In the course of the conversation the stout lady mentioned her husband,
who, it turned out, was the head of the gendarmerie in a town in
Siberia, not far from Irkutsk. This seemed to interest the thin lady
immensely. She at once asked what were his political views, and what she
herself thought about politics.

The large lady seemed to be reluctant to talk politics and evaded the
questions for some time, but after much desultory conversation, which
always came back to the same point, she said:--

“My husband is a Conservative; they call him a ‘Black Hundred,’ but it’s
most unfair and untrue, because he is a very good man and very just.
He has his own opinions and he is sincere. He does not believe in the
revolution or in the revolutionaries. He took the oath to serve the
Emperor when everything went quietly and well, and now, although I have
often begged him to leave the Service, he says it would be very wrong
to leave just because it is dangerous. ‘I have taken the oath,’ he says,
‘and I must keep it.’”

Here she stopped, but after some further questions on the part of the
thin lady, she said: “I never had time or leisure to think of these
questions. I was married when I was sixteen. I have had eight children,
and they all died one after the other except this one, who was the
eldest. I used to see political exiles and prisoners, and I used to
feel sympathy for them. I used to hear about people being sent here and
there, and sometimes I used to go down on my knees to my husband to
do what he could for them, but I never thought about there being any
particular idea at the back of all this.” Then after a short pause she
added: “It first dawned on me at Moscow. It was after the big strike,
and I was on my way home. I had been staying with some friends in the
country, and I happened by chance to see the funeral of that man Bauman,
the doctor, who was killed. I was very much impressed when I saw that
huge procession go past, all the men singing the funeral march, and
I understood that Bauman himself had nothing to do with it. Who cared
about Bauman? But I understood that he was a symbol. I saw that there
must be a big idea which moves all these people to give up everything,
to go to prison, to kill, and be killed. I understood this for the first
time at that funeral. I cried when the crowd went past. I understood
there was a big idea, a great cause behind it all. Then I went home.

“There were disorders in Siberia: you know in Siberia we are much freer
than you are. There is only one society. The officials, the political
people, revolutionaries, exiles, everybody, in fact, all meet
constantly. I used to go to political meetings, and to see and talk with
the Liberal and revolutionary leaders. Then I began to be disappointed
because what had always struck me as unjust was that one man, just
because he happened to be, say, Ivan Pavlovitch, should be able to rule
over another man who happened to be, say, Ivan Ivanovitch. And now
that these Republics were being made, it seemed that the same thing was
beginning all over again--that all the places of authority were being
seized and dealt out amongst another lot of people who were behaving
exactly like those who had authority before. The arbitrary authority was
there just the same, only it had changed hands, and this puzzled me very
much, and I began to ask myself, ‘Where is the truth?’”

“What did your husband think?” asked the thin lady.

“My husband did not like to talk about these things,” she answered. “He
says, ‘I am in the Service, and I have to serve. It is not my business
to have opinions.’”

“But all those Republics didn’t last very long,” rejoined the thin lady.

“No,” continued the other; “we never had a Republic, and after a time
they arrested the chief agitator, who was the soul of the revolutionary
movement in our town, a wonderful orator. I had heard him speak several
times and been carried away. When he was arrested I saw him taken to
prison, and he said ‘Good-bye’ to the people, and bowed to them in the
street in such an exaggerated theatrical way that I was astonished and
felt uncomfortable. Here, I thought, is a man who can sacrifice himself
for an idea, and who seemed to be thoroughly sincere, and yet he behaves
theatrically and poses as if he were not sincere. I felt more puzzled
than ever, and I asked my husband to let me go and see him in prison. I
thought that perhaps after talking to him I could solve the riddle, and
find out once for all who was right and who was wrong. My husband let me
go, and I was admitted into his cell.

“‘You know who I am,’ I said, ‘since I am here, and I am admitted
inside these locked doors?’ He nodded. Then I asked him whether I could
be of any use to him. He said that he had all that he wanted; and like
this the ice was broken, and I asked him presently if he believed in
the whole movement. He said that until the 17th of October, when the
Manifesto had been issued, he had believed with all his soul in it; but
the events of the last months had caused him to change his mind. He now
thought that the work of his party, and, in fact, the whole movement,
which had been going on for over fifty years, had really been in vain.
‘We shall have,’ he said, ‘to begin again from the very beginning,
because the Russian people are not ready for us yet, and probably
another fifty years will have to go by before they are ready.’

“I left him very much perplexed. He was set free not long afterwards, in
virtue of some manifesto, and because there had been no disorders in our
town and he had not been the cause of any bloodshed. Soon after he came
out of prison my husband met him, and he said to my husband: ‘I suppose
you will not shake hands with me?’ And my husband replied: ‘Because
our views are different there is no reason why both of us should not be
honest men,’ and he shook hands with him.”

The conversation now became a discussion about the various ideals of
various people and parties holding different political views. The large
lady kept on expressing the puzzled state of mind in which she was.

The whole conversation, of which I have given a very condensed report,
was spread over a long time, and often interrupted. Later they reached
the subject of political assassination, and the large lady said:--

“About two months after I came home that year, one day when I was out
driving with my daughter in a sledge the revolutionaries fired six shots
at us from revolvers. We were not hit, but one bullet went through the
coachman’s cap. Ever since then I have had nervous fits and my daughter
has had St. Vitus’ dance. We have to go to Moscow every year to be
treated. And it is so difficult. I don’t know how to manage. When I am
at home I feel as if I ought to go, and when I am away I never have a
moment’s peace, because I cannot help thinking the whole time that my
husband is in danger. A few weeks after they shot at us I met some of
the revolutionary party at a meeting, and I asked them why they had shot
at myself and my daughter. I could have understood it if they had shot
at my husband. But why at us? He said: ‘When the wood is cut down, the
chips fly about.’[*] And now I don’t know what to think about it all.

     [*] A Russian proverb.

“Sometimes I think it is all a mistake, and I feel that the
revolutionaries are posing and playing a part, and that so soon as they
get the upper hand they will be as bad as what we have now; and then
I say to myself, all the same they are acting in a cause, and it is a
great cause, and they are working for liberty and for the people. And,
then, would the people be better off if they had their way? The more I
think of it the more puzzled I am. Who is right? Is my husband right?
Are they right? Is it a great cause? How can they be wrong if they are
imprisoned and killed for what they believe? Where is the truth, and
what is truth?”



Mrs. Bergmann was a widow. She was American by birth and marriage, and
English by education and habits. She was a fair, beautiful woman, with
large eyes and a white complexion. Her weak point was ambition, and
ambition with her took the form of luncheon-parties.

It was one summer afternoon that she was seized with the great idea of
her life. It consisted in giving a luncheon-party which should be more
original and amusing than any other which had ever been given in London.
The idea became a mania. It left her no peace. It possessed her like
venom or like madness. She could think of nothing else. She racked her
brains in imagining how it could be done. But the more she was harassed
by this aim the further off its realisation appeared to her to be. At
last it began to weigh upon her. She lost her spirits and her appetite;
her friends began to remark with anxiety on the change in her behaviour
and in her looks. She herself felt that the situation was intolerable,
and that success or suicide lay before her.

One evening towards the end of June, as she was sitting in her lovely
drawing-room in her house in Mayfair, in front of her tea-table,
on which the tea stood untasted, brooding over the question which
unceasingly tormented her, she cried out, half aloud:--

“I’d sell my soul to the devil if he would give me what I wish.”

At that moment the footman entered the room and said there was a
gentleman downstairs who wished to speak with her.

“What is his name?” asked Mrs. Bergmann.

The footman said he had not caught the gentleman’s name, and he handed
her a card on a tray.

She took the card. On it was written:--

     I, Pandemonium Terrace,
     Telephone, No. I Central.

“Show him up,” said Mrs. Bergmann, quite naturally, as though she had
been expecting the visitor. She wondered at her own behaviour, and
seemed to herself to be acting inevitably, as one does in dreams.

Mr. Satan was shown in. He had a professional air about him, but not
of the kind that suggests needy or even learned professionalism. He was
dark; his features were sharp and regular, his eyes keen, his complexion
pale, his mouth vigorous, and his chin prominent. He was well dressed in
a frock coat, black tie, and patent leather boots. He would never have
been taken for a conjurer or a shop-walker, but he might have been taken
for a slightly depraved Art-photographer who had known better days. He
sat down near the tea-table opposite Mrs. Bergmann, holding his top hat,
which had a slight mourning band round it, in his hand.

“I understand, madam,” he spoke with an even American intonation,
“you wish to be supplied with a guest who will make all other
luncheon-parties look, so to speak, like thirty cents.”

“Yes, that is just what I want,” answered Mrs. Bergmann, who continued
to be surprised at herself.

“Well, I reckon there’s no one living who’d suit,” said Mr. Satan, “and
I’d better supply you with a celebrity of _a_ former generation.” He
then took out a small pocket-book from his coat pocket, and quickly
turning over its leaves he asked in a monotonous tone: “Would you like a
Philosopher? Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Aurelius, M.?”

“Oh! no,” answered Mrs. Bergmann with decision, “they would ruin any

“A Saint?” suggested Mr. Satan, “Antony, Ditto of Padua, Athanasius,
Augustine, Anselm?”

“Good heavens, no,” said Mrs. Bergmann.

“A Theologian, good arguer?” asked Mr. Satan, “Aquinas, T?”

“No,” interrupted Mrs. Bergmann, “for heaven’s sake don’t always give
me the A’s, or we shall never get on to anything. You’ll be offering me
Adam and Abel next.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. Satan, “Latimer, Laud--Historic Interest,
Church and Politics combined,” he added quickly.

“I don’t want a clergyman,” said Mrs. Bergmann.

“Artist?” said Mr. Satan, “Andrea del Sarto, Angelo, M., Apelles?”

“You’re going back to the A’s,” interrupted Mrs. Bergmann.

“Bellini, Benvenuto Cellini, Botticelli?” he continued imperturbably.

“What’s the use of them when I can get Sargent every day?” asked Mrs.

“A man of action, perhaps? Alexander, Bonaparte, Caesar, J., Cromwell,
O., Hannibal?”

“Too heavy for luncheon,” she answered, “they would do for _dinner_.”

“Plain statesman? Bismarck, Count; Chatham, Lord; Franklin, B;
Richelieu, Cardinal.”

“That would make the members of the Cabinet feel uncomfortable,” she

“A Monarch? Alfred; beg pardon, he’s an A. Richard III., Peter the
Great, Louis XI., Nero?”

“No,” said Mrs. Bergmann. “I can’t have a Royalty. It would make it too

“I have it,” said Mr. Satan, “a highwayman: Dick Turpin; or a
housebreaker: Jack Sheppard or Charles Peace?”

“Oh! no,” said Mrs. Bergmann, “they might steal the Sevres.”

“A musician? Bach or Beethoven?” he suggested.

“He’s getting into the B’s now,” thought Mrs. Bergmann. “No,” she added
aloud, “we should have to ask him to play, and he can’t play Wagner, I
suppose, and musicians are so touchy.”

“I think I have it,” said Mr. Satan, “a wit: Dr. Johnson, Sheridan,
Sidney Smith?”

“We should probably find their jokes dull _now_,” said Mrs. Bergmann,

“Miscellaneous?” inquired Mr. Satan, and turning over several leaves of
his notebook, he rattled out the following names: “Alcibiades, kind
of statesman; Beau Brummel, fop; Cagliostro, conjurer; Robespierre,
politician; Charles Stuart, Pretender; Warwick, King-maker; Borgia, A.,
Pope; Ditto, C., toxicologist; Wallenstein, mercenary; Bacon, Roger,
man of science; Ditto, F., dishonest official; Tell, W., patriot; Jones,
Paul, pirate; Lucullus, glutton; Simon Stylites, eccentric; Casanova,
loose liver; Casabianca, cabin-boy; Chicot, jester; Sayers, T.,
prize-fighter; Cook, Captain, tourist; Nebuchadnezzar, food-faddist;
Juan, D., lover; Froissart, war correspondent; Julian, apostate?”

“Don’t you see,” said Mrs. Bergmann, “we must have some one everybody
has heard of?”

“David Garrick, actor and wit?” suggested Mr. Satan.

“It’s no good having an actor nobody has seen act,” said Mrs. Bergmann.

“What about a poet?” asked Mr. Satan, “Homer, Virgil, Dante, Byron,

“Shakespeare!” she cried out, “the very thing. Everybody has heard of
Shakespeare, more or less, and I expect he’d get on with everybody, and
wouldn’t feel offended if I asked Alfred Austin or some other poet to
meet him. Can you get me Shakespeare?”

“Certainly,” said Mr. Satan, “day and date?”

“It must be Thursday fortnight,” said Mrs. Bergmann. “And what,
ah--er--your terms?”

“The usual terms,” he answered. “In return for supernatural service
rendered you during your lifetime, your soul reverts to me at your

Mrs. Bergmann’s brain began to work quickly. She was above all things a
practical woman, and she immediately felt she was being defrauded.

“I cannot consent to such terms,” she said. “Surely you recognise the
fundamental difference between this proposed contract and those which
you concluded with others--with Faust, for instance? They sold the full
control of their soul after death on condition of your putting yourself
at their entire disposal during the whole of their lifetime, whereas
you ask me to do the same thing in return for a few hours’ service. The
proposal is preposterous.”

Mr. Satan rose from his chair. “In that case, madam,” he said, “I have
the honour to wish you a good afternoon.”

“Stop a moment,” said Mrs. Bergmann, “I don’t see why we shouldn’t
arrive at a compromise. I am perfectly willing that you should have the
control over my soul for a limited number of years--I believe there are
precedents for such a course--let us say a million years.”

“Ten million,” said Mr. Satan, quietly but firmly.

“In that case,” answered Mrs. Bergmann, “we will take no notice of leap
year, and we will count 365 days in every year.”

“Certainly,” said Mr. Satan, with an expression of somewhat ruffled
dignity, “we always allow leap year, but, of course, thirteen years will
count as twelve.”

“Of course,” said Mrs. Bergmann with equal dignity.

“Then perhaps you will not mind signing the contract at once,” said Mr.
Satan, drawing from his pocket a type-written page.

Mrs. Bergmann walked to the writing-table and took the paper from his

“Over the stamp, please,” said Mr. Satan.

“Must I--er--sign it in blood?” asked Mrs. Bergmann, hesitatingly.

“You can if you like,” said Mr. Satan, “but I prefer red ink; it is
quicker and more convenient.”

He handed her a stylograph pen.

“Must it be witnessed?” she asked.

“No,” he replied, “these kind of documents don’t need a witness.”

In a firm, bold handwriting Mrs. Bergmann signed her name in red ink
across the sixpenny stamp. She half expected to hear a clap of thunder
and to see Mr. Satan disappear, but nothing of the kind occurred. Mr.
Satan took the document, folded it, placed it in his pocket-book, took
up his hat and gloves, and said:

“Mr. William Shakespeare will call to luncheon on Thursday week. At what
hour is the luncheon to be?”

“One-thirty,” said Mrs. Bergmann.

“He may be a few minutes late,” answered Mr. Satan. “Good afternoon,
madam,” and he bowed and withdrew.

Mrs. Bergmann chuckled to herself when she was alone. “I have done
him,” she thought to herself, “because ten million years in eternity
is nothing. He might just as well have said one second as ten million
years, since anything less than eternity in eternity is nothing. It is
curious how stupid the devil is in spite of all his experience. Now I
must think about my invitations.”


The morning of Mrs. Bergmann’s luncheon had arrived. She had asked
thirteen men and nine women.

But an hour before luncheon an incident happened which nearly drove Mrs.
Bergmann distracted. One of her guests, who was also one of her most
intimate friends, Mrs. Lockton, telephoned to her saying she had quite
forgotten, but she had asked on that day a man to luncheon whom she did
not know, and who had been sent to her by Walford, the famous professor.
She ended the message by saying she would bring the stranger with her.

“What is his name?” asked Mrs. Bergmann, not without intense irritation,
meaning to put a veto on the suggestion.

“His name is----” and at that moment the telephone communication was
interrupted, and in spite of desperate efforts Mrs. Bergmann was unable
to get on to Mrs. Lockton again. She reflected that it was quite useless
for her to send a message saying that she had no room at her table,
because Angela Lockton would probably bring the stranger all the same.
Then she further reflected that in the excitement caused by the presence
of Shakespeare it would not really much matter whether there was a
stranger there or not. A little before half-past one the guests began to
arrive. Lord Pantry of Assouan, the famous soldier, was the first
comer. He was soon followed by Professor Morgan, an authority on Greek
literature; Mr. Peebles, the ex-Prime Minister; Mrs. Hubert Baldwin, the
immensely popular novelist; the fascinating Mrs. Rupert Duncan, who was
lending her genius to one of Ibsen’s heroines at that moment; Miss
Medea Tring, one of the latest American beauties; Corporal, the
portrait-painter; Richard Giles, critic and man of letters; Hereward
Blenheim, a young and rising politician, who before the age of thirty
had already risen higher than most men of sixty; Sir Horace Silvester,
K.C.M.G., the brilliant financier, with his beautiful wife Lady Irene;
Professor Leo Newcastle, the eminent man of science; Lady Hyacinth
Gloucester, and Mrs. Milden, who were well known for their beauty and
charm; Osmond Hall, the paradoxical playwright; Monsieur Faubourg, the
psychological novelist; Count Sciarra, an Italian nobleman, about fifty
years old, who had written a history of the Popes, and who was now
staying in London; Lady Herman, the beauty of a former generation, still
extremely handsome; and Willmott, the successful actor-manager. They
were all assembled in the drawing-room upstairs, talking in knots
and groups, and pervaded by a feeling of pleasurable excitement and
expectation, so much so that conversation was intermittent, and nearly
everybody was talking about the weather. The Right Hon. John Lockton,
the eminent lawyer, was the last guest to arrive.

“Angela will be here in a moment,” he explained; “she asked me to come
on first.”

Mrs. Bergmann grew restless. It was half-past one, and no Shakespeare.
She tried to make her guests talk, with indifferent success. The
expectation was too great. Everybody was absorbed by the thought of what
was going to happen next. Ten minutes passed thus, and Mrs. Bergmann
grew more and more anxious.

At last the bell rang, and soon Mrs. Lockton walked upstairs, leading
with her a quite insignificant, ordinary-looking, middle-aged, rather
portly man with shiny black hair, bald on the top of his head, and a
blank, good-natured expression.

“I’m so sorry to be so late, Louise, dear,” she said. “Let me introduce
Mr. ---- to you.” And whether she had forgotten the name or not, Mrs.
Bergmann did not know or care at the time, but it was mumbled in such
a manner that it was impossible to catch it. Mrs. Bergmann shook hands
with him absent-mindedly, and, looking at the clock, saw that it was ten
minutes to two.

“I have been deceived,” she thought to herself, and anger rose in her
breast like a wave. At the same time she felt the one thing necessary
was not to lose her head, or let anything damp the spirits of her

“We’ll go down to luncheon directly,” she said. “I’m expecting some
one else, but he probably won’t come till later.” She led the way
and everybody trooped downstairs to the dining-room, feeling that
disappointment was in store for them. Mrs. Bergmann left the place on
her right vacant; she did not dare fill it up, because in her heart of
hearts she felt certain Shakespeare would arrive, and she looked forward
to a _coup de theatre_, which would be quite spoilt if his place was
occupied. On her left sat Count Sciarra; the unknown friend of Angela
Lockton sat at the end of the table next to Willmott.

The luncheon started haltingly. Angela Lockton’s friend was heard saying
in a clear voice that the dust in London was very trying.

“Have you come from the country?” asked M. Faubourg. “I myself am just
returned from Oxford, where I once more admired your admirable English
lawns--_vos pelouses seculaires_.”

“Yes,” said the stranger, “I only came up to town to-day, because it
seems indeed a waste and a pity to spend the finest time of the year in

Count Sciarra, who had not uttered a word since he had entered the
house, turned to his hostess and asked her whom she considered, after
herself, to be the most beautiful woman in the room, Lady Irene, Lady
Hyacinth, or Mrs. Milden?

“Mrs. Milden,” he went on, “has the smile of La Gioconda, and hands and
hair for Leonardo to paint. Lady Gloucester,” he continued, leaving
out the Christian name, “is English, like one of Shakespeare’s women,
Desdemona or Imogen; and Lady Irene has no nationality, she belongs to
the dream worlds of Shelley and D’Annunzio: she is the guardian Lady of
Shelley’s ‘Sensitiva,’ the vision of the lily. ‘Quale un vaso liturgico
d’argento.’ And you, madame, you take away all my sense of criticism.
‘Vous me troublez trop pour que je definisse votre genre de beaute.’”

Mrs. Milden was soon engaged in a deep tete-a-tete with Mr. Peebles,
who was heard every now and then to say, “Quite, quite,” Miss Tring was
holding forth to Silvester on French sculpture, and Silvester now and
again said: “Oh! really!” in the tone of intense interest which his
friends knew indicated that he was being acutely bored. Lady Hyacinth
was discussing Socialism with Osmond Hall, Lady Herman was discussing
the theory of evolution with Professor Newcastle, Mrs. Lockton,
the question of the French Church, with Faubourg; and Blenheim was
discharging molten fragments of embryo exordiums and perorations on the
subject of the stage to Willmott; in fact, there was a general buzz of

“Have you been to see Antony and Cleopatra?” asked Willmott of the

“Yes,” said the neighbour, “I went last night; many authors have
treated the subject, and the version I saw last night was very pretty. I
couldn’t get a programme so I didn’t see who----”

“I think my version,” interrupted Willmott, with pride, “is admitted to
be the best.”

“Ah! it is your version!” said the stranger. “I beg your pardon, I think
you treated the subject very well.”

“Yes,” said Willmott, “it is ungrateful material, but I think I made
something fine of it.”

“No doubt, no doubt,” said the stranger.

“Do tell us,” Mrs. Baldwin was heard to ask M. Faubourg across the
table, “what the young generation are doing in France? Who are the young

“There are no young novelists worth mentioning,” answered M. Faubourg.

Miss Tring broke in and said she considered “Le Visage Emerveille,” by
the Comtesse de Noailles, to be the most beautiful book of the century,
with the exception, perhaps, of the “Tagebuch einer Verlorenen.”

But from the end of the table Blenheim’s utterance was heard
preponderating over that of his neighbours. He was making a fine
speech on the modern stage, comparing an actor-manager to Napoleon, and
commenting on the campaigns of the latter in detail.

Quite heedless of this Mr. Willmott was carrying on an equally
impassioned but much slower monologue on his conception of the character
of Cyrano de Bergerac, which he said he intended to produce. “Cyrano,”
 he said, “has been maligned by Coquelin. Coquelin is a great artist,
but he did not understand Cyrano. Cyrano is a dreamer, a poet; he is a
martyr of thought like Tolstoi, a sacrifice to wasted, useless action,
like Hamlet; he is a Moliere come too soon, a Bayard come too late, a
John the Baptist of the stage, calling out in vain in the wilderness--of
bricks and mortar; he is misunderstood;--an enigma, an anachronism, a
premature herald, a false dawn.”

Count Sciarra was engaged in a third monologue at the head of the table.
He was talking at the same time to Mrs. Bergmann, Lady Irene, and Lady
Hyacinth about the devil. “Ah que j’aime le diable!” he was saying in
low, tender tones. “The devil who creates your beauty to lure us to
destruction, the devil who puts honey into the voice of the siren, the
dolce sirena--

“Che i marinari in mezzo il mar dismaga”

(and he hummed this line in a sing-song two or three times over)--“the
devil who makes us dream and doubt, and who made life interesting by
persuading Eve to eat the silver apple--what would life have been if
she had not eaten the apple? We should all be in the silly trees of the
Garden of Eden, and I should be sitting next to you” (he said to Mrs.
Bergmann), “without knowing that you were beautiful; que vous etes belle
et que vous etes desirable; que vous etes puissante et caline, que je
fais naufrage dans une mer d’amour--e il naufragio m’e dolce in questo
mare--en un mot, que je vous aime.”

“Life outside the garden of Eden has many drawbacks,” said Mrs.
Bergmann, who, although she was inwardly pleased by Count Sciarra’s
remarks, saw by Lady Irene’s expression that she thought he was mad.

“Aucun ‘drawback,’” answered Sciarra, “n’egalerait celui de comtempler
les divins contours feminins sans un frisson. Pensez donc si Madame

“Count Sciarra,” interrupted Mrs. Bergmann, terrified of what was coming
next, “do tell me about the book you are writing on Venice.”

Mrs. Lockton was at that moment discussing portraiture in novels with M.
Faubourg, and during a pause Miss Tring was heard to make the following
remark: “And is it true M. Faubourg, that ‘Cecile’ in ‘La Mauvaise
Bonte’ is a portrait of some one you once loved and who treated you very

M. Faubourg, a little embarrassed, said that a creative artist made a
character out of many originals.

Then, seeing that nobody was saying a word to his neighbour, he turned
round and asked him if he had been to the Academy.

“Yes,” answered the stranger; “it gets worse every year doesn’t it?”

“But Mr. Corporal’s pictures are always worth seeing,” said Faubourg.

“I think he paints men better than women,” said the stranger; “he
doesn’t flatter people, but of course his pictures are very clever.”

At this moment the attention of the whole table was monopolised by
Osmond Hall, who began to discuss the scenario of a new play he was
writing. “My play,” he began, “is going to be called ‘The King of the
North Pole.’ I have never been to the North Pole, and I don’t mean to
go there. It’s not necessary to have first-hand knowledge of technical
subjects in order to write a play. People say that Shakespeare must
have studied the law, because his allusions to the law are frequent and
accurate. That does not prove that he knew law any more than the fact
that he put a sea in Bohemia proves that he did not know geography.
It proves he was a dramatist. He wanted a sea in Bohemia. He wanted
lawyer’s ‘shop.’ I should do just the same thing myself. I wrote a play
about doctors, knowing nothing about medicine: I asked a friend to give
me the necessary information. Shakespeare, I expect, asked his friends
to give him the legal information he required.”

Every allusion to Shakespeare was a stab to Mrs. Bergmann.

“Shakespeare’s knowledge of the law is very thorough,” broke in Lockton.

“Not so thorough as the knowledge of medicine which is revealed in my
play,” said Hall.

“Shakespeare knew law by intuition,” murmured Willmott, “but he did not
guess what the modern stage would make of his plays.”

“Let us hope not,” said Giles.

“Shakespeare,” said Faubourg, “was a psychologue; he had the power, I
cannot say it in English, de deviner ce qu’il ne savait pas en puisant
dans le fond et le trefond de son ame.”

“Gammon!” said Hall; “he had the power of asking his friends for the
information he required.”

“Do you really think,” asked Giles, “that before he wrote ‘Time delves
the parallel on beauty’s brow,’ he consulted his lawyer as to a legal
metaphor suitable for a sonnet?”

“And do you think,” asked Mrs. Duncan, “that he asked his female
relations what it would feel like to be jealous of Octavia if one
happened to be Cleopatra?”

“Shakespeare was a married man,” said Hall, “and if his wife found the
MSS. of his sonnets lying about he must have known a jealous woman.”

“Shakespeare evidently didn’t trouble his friends for information on
natural history, not for a playwright,” said Hall. “I myself should not
mind what liberty I took with the cuckoo, the bee, or even the basilisk.
I should not trouble you for accurate information on the subject; I
should not even mind saying the cuckoo lays eggs in its own nest if it
suited the dramatic situation.”

The whole of this conversation was torture to Mrs. Bergmann.

“Shakespeare,” said Lady Hyacinth, “had a universal nature; one can’t
help thinking he was almost like God.”

“That’s what people will say of me a hundred years hence,” said Hall;
“only it is to be hoped they’ll leave out the ‘almost.’”

“Shakespeare understood love,” said Lady Herman, in a loud voice; “he
knew how a man makes love to a woman. If Richard III. had made love to
me as Shakespeare describes him doing it, I’m not sure that I could have
resisted him. But the finest of all Shakespeare’s men is Othello. That’s
a real man. Desdemona was a fool. It’s not wonderful that Othello didn’t
see through Iago; but Desdemona ought to have seen through him. The
stupidest woman can see through a clever man like him; but, of course,
Othello was a fool too.”

“Yes,” broke in Mrs. Lockton, “if Napoleon had married Desdemona he
would have made Iago marry one of his sisters.”

“I think Desdemona is the most pathetic of Shakespeare’s heroines,” said
Lady Hyacinth; “don’t you think so, Mr. Hall?”

“It’s easy enough to make a figure pathetic, who is strangled by a
nigger,” answered Hall. “Now if Desdemona had been a negress Shakespeare
would have started fair.”

“If only Shakespeare had lived later,” sighed Willmott, “and understood
the condition of the modern stage, he would have written quite

“If Shakespeare had lived now he would have written novels,” said

“Yes,” said Mrs. Baldwin, “I feel sure you are right there.”

“If Shakespeare had lived now,” said Sciarra to Mrs. Bergmann, “we
shouldn’t notice his existence; he would be just un monsieur comme tout
le monde--like that monsieur sitting next to Faubourg,” he added in a
low voice.

“The problem about Shakespeare,” broke in Hall, “is not how he wrote
his plays. I could teach a poodle to do that in half an hour. But the
problem is--What made him leave off writing just when he was beginning
to know how to do it? It is as if I had left off writing plays ten years

“Perhaps,” said the stranger, hesitatingly and modestly, “he had made
enough money by writing plays to retire on his earnings and live in the

Nobody took any notice of this remark.

“If Bacon was really the playwright,” said Lockton, “the problem is a
very different one.”

“If Bacon had written Shakespeare’s plays,” said Silvester, “they
wouldn’t have been so bad.”

“There seems to me to be only one argument,” said Professor Morgan, “in
favour of the Bacon theory, and that is that the range of mind displayed
in Shakespeare’s plays is so great that it would have been child’s play
for the man who wrote Shakespeare’s plays to have written the works of

“Yes,” said Hall, “but because it would be child’s play for the man
who wrote my plays to have written your works and those of Professor
Newcastle--which it would--it doesn’t prove that you wrote my plays.”

“Bacon was a philosopher,” said Willmott, “and Shakespeare was a poet--a
dramatic poet; but Shakespeare was also an actor, an actor-manager, and
only an actor-manager could have written the plays.”

“What do you think of the Bacon theory?” asked Faubourg of the stranger.

“I think,” said the stranger, “that we shall soon have to say eggs and
Shakespeare instead of eggs and Bacon.”

This remark caused a slight shudder to pass through all the guests, and
Mrs. Bergmann felt sorry that she had not taken decisive measures to
prevent the stranger’s intrusion.

“Shakespeare wrote his own plays,” said Sciarra, “and I don’t know if he
knew law, but he knew _le coeur de la femme_. Cleopatra bids her slave
find out the colour of Octavia’s hair; that is just what my wife, my
Angelica, would do if I were to marry some one in London while she was
at Rome.”

“Mr. Gladstone used to say,” broke in Lockton, “that Dante was inferior
to Shakespeare, because he was too great an optimist.”

“Dante was not an optimist,” said Sciarra, “about the future life of
politicians. But I think they were both of them pessimists about man and
both optimists about God.”

“Shakespeare,” began Blenheim; but he was interrupted by Mrs. Duncan who
cried out:--

“I wish he were alive now and would write me a part, a real woman’s
part. The women have so little to do in Shakespeare’s plays. There’s
Juliet; but one can’t play Juliet till one’s forty, and then one’s too
old to look fourteen. There’s Lady Macbeth; but she’s got nothing to
do except walk in her sleep and say, ‘Out, damned spot!’ There were not
actresses in his days, and of course it was no use writing a woman’s
part for a boy.”

“You should have been born in France,” said Faubourg, “Racine’s women
are created for you to play.”

“Ah! you’ve got Sarah,” said Mrs. Duncan, “you don’t want anyone else.”

“I think Racine’s boring,” said Mrs. Lockton, “he’s so artificial.”

“Oh! don’t say that,” said Giles, “Racine is the most exquisite of
poets, so sensitive, so acute, and so harmonious.”

“I like Rostand better,” said Mrs. Lockton.

“Rostand!” exclaimed Miss Tring, in disgust, “he writes such bad
verses--du caoutchouc--he’s so vulgar.”

“It is true,” said Willmott, “he’s an amateur. He has never written
professionally for his bread but only for his pleasure.”

“But in that sense,” said Giles, “God is an amateur.”

“I confess,” said Peebles, “that I cannot appreciate French poetry.
I can read Rousseau with pleasure, and Bossuet; but I cannot admire
Corneille and Racine.”

“Everybody writes plays now,” said Faubourg, with a sigh.

“I have never written a play,” said Lord Pantry.

“Nor I,” said Lockton.

“But nearly everyone at this table has,” said Faubourg. “Mrs. Baldwin
has written ‘Matilda,’ Mr. Giles has written a tragedy called ‘Queen
Swaflod,’ I wrote a play in my youth, my ‘Le Menetrier de Parme’;
I’m sure Corporal has written a play. Count Sciarra must have written
several; have you ever written a play?” he said, turning to his
neighbour, the stranger.

“Yes,” answered the stranger, “I once wrote a play called ‘Hamlet.’”

“You were courageous with such an original before you,” said Faubourg,

“Yes,” said the stranger, “the original was very good, but I think,” he
added modestly, “that I improved upon it.”

“Encore un faiseur de paradoxes!” murmured Faubourg to himself in

In the meantime Willmott was giving Professor Morgan the benefit of
his views on Greek art, punctuated with allusions to Tariff Reform and
devolution for the benefit of Blenheim.

Luncheon was over and cigarettes were lighted. Mrs. Bergmann had quite
made up her mind that she had been cheated, and there was only one thing
for which she consoled herself, and that was that she had not waited for
luncheon but had gone down immediately, since so far all her guests had
kept up a continuous stream of conversation, which had every now and
then become general, though they still every now and then glanced at
the empty chair and wondered what the coming attraction was going to be.
Mrs. Milden had carried on two almost interrupted tete-a-tetes, first
with one of her neighbours, then with the other. In fact everybody had
talked, except the stranger, who had hardly spoken, and since Faubourg
had turned away from him in disgust, nobody had taken any further notice
of him.

Mrs. Baldwin, remarking this, good-naturedly leant across the table and
asked him if he had come to London for the Wagner cycle.

“No,” he answered, “I came for the Horse Show at Olympia.”

At this moment Count Sciarra, having finished his third cigarette,
turned to his hostess and thanked her for having allowed him to meet the
most beautiful women of London in the most beautiful house in London,
and in the house of the most beautiful hostess in London.

“J’ai vu chez vous,” he said, “le lys argente et la rose blanche, mais
vous etes la rose ecarlate, la rose d’amour dont le parfum vivra dans
mon coeur comme un poison dore (and here he hummed in a sing-song):--

‘Io son, cantava, Io son, dolce sirena’ Addio, dolce sirena.”

Then he suddenly and abruptly got up, kissed his hostess’s hand
vehemently three times, and said he was very sorry, but he must hasten
to keep a pressing engagement. He then left the room.

Mrs. Bergmann got up and said, “Let us go upstairs.” But the men had
most of them to go, some to the House of Commons, others to fulfil
various engagements.

The stranger thanked Mrs. Bergmann for her kind hospitality and left.
And the remaining guests, seeing that it was obvious that no further
attraction was to be expected, now took their leave reluctantly and
went, feeling that they had been cheated.

Angela Lockton stayed a moment.

“Who were you expecting, Louise, dear?” she asked.

“Only an old friend,” said Mrs. Bergmann, “whom you would all have
been very glad to see. Only as he doesn’t want anybody to know he’s in
London, I couldn’t tell you all who he was.”

“But tell me now,” said Mrs. Lockton; “you know how discreet I am.”

“I promised not to, dearest Angela,” she answered; “and, by the way,
what was the name of the man you brought with you?”

“Didn’t I tell you? How stupid of me!” said Mrs. Lockton. “It’s a very
easy name to remember: Shakespeare, William Shakespeare.”


To Cecilia Fisher

“The King said that nobody had ever danced as I danced to-night,” said
Columbine. “He said it was more than dancing, it was magic.”

“It is true,” said Harlequin, “you never danced like that before.”

But Pierrot paid no heed to their remarks, and stared vacantly at the
sky. They were sitting on the deserted stage of the grass amphitheatre
where they had been playing. Behind them were the clumps of cypress
trees which framed a vista of endless wooden garden and formed their
drop scene. They were sitting immediately beneath the wooden framework
made of two upright beams and one horizontal, which formed the primitive
proscenium, and from which little coloured lights had hung during the
performance. The King and Queen and their lords and ladies who had
looked on at the living puppet show had all left the amphitheatre; they
had put on their masks and their dominoes, and were now dancing on the
lawns, whispering in the alleys and the avenues, or sitting in groups
under the tall dark trees. Some of them were in boats on the lake, and
everywhere one went, from the dark boscages, came sounds of music, thin,
tinkling tunes played on guitars by skilled hands, and the bird-like
twittering and whistling of flageolets.

“The King said I looked like a moon fairy,” said Columbine to Pierrot.
Pierrot only stared in the sky and laughed inanely. “If you persist in
slighting me like this,” she whispered in his ear, in a whisper which
was like a hiss, “I will abandon you for ever. I will give my heart to
Harlequin, and you shall never see me again.” But Pierrot continued to
stare at the sky, and laughed once more inanely. Then Columbine got up,
her eyes flashing with rage; taking Harlequin by the arm she dragged
him swiftly away. They danced across the grass semi-circle of the
amphitheatre and up the steps away into the alleys. Pierrot was left
alone with Pantaloon, who was asleep, for he was old and clowning
fatigued him. Then Pierrot left the amphitheatre also, and putting
a black mask on his face he joined the revellers who were everywhere
dancing, whispering, talking, and making music in subdued tones. He
sought out a long lonely avenue, in one side of which there nestled,
almost entirely concealed by bushes and undergrowth, a round open Greek
temple. Right at the end of the avenue a foaming waterfall splashed down
into a large marble basin, from which a tall fountain rose, white and
ghostly, and made a sobbing noise. Pierrot went towards the temple, then
he turned back and walked right into the undergrowth through the bushes,
and lay down on the grass, and listened to the singing of the night-jar.
The whole garden that night seemed to be sighing and whispering;
there was a soft warm wind, and a smell of mown hay in the air, and an
intoxicating sweetness came from the bushes of syringa. Columbine and
Harlequin also joined the revellers. They passed from group to group,
with aimless curiosity, pausing sometimes by the artificial ponds and
sometimes by the dainty groups of dancers, whose satin and whose pearls
glimmered faintly in the shifting moonlight, for the night was cloudy.
At last they too were tired of the revel, they wandered towards a more
secluded place and made for the avenue which Pierrot had sought. On
their way they passed through a narrow grass walk between two rows of
closely cropped yew hedges. There on a marble seat a tall man in a black
domino was sitting, his head resting on his hands; and between the loose
folds of his satin cloak, one caught the glint of precious stones. When
they had passed him Columbine whispered to Harlequin: “That is the King.
I caught sight of his jewelled collar.” They presently found themselves
in the long avenue at the end of which were the waterfall and the
fountain. They wandered on till they reached the Greek temple, and there
suddenly Columbine put her finger on her lips. Then she led Harlequin
back a little way and took him round through the undergrowth to the back
of the temple, and, crouching down in the bushes, bade him look. In the
middle of the temple there was a statue of Eros holding a torch in his
hands. Standing close beside the statue were two figures, a man dressed
as a Pierrot, and a beautiful lady who wore a grey satin domino. She
had taken off her mask and pushed back the hood from her hair, which was
encircled by a diadem made of something shining and silvery, and a ray
of moonlight fell on her face, which was as delicate as the petal of a
flower. Pierrot was masked; he was holding her hand and looking into her
eyes, which were turned upwards towards his.

“It is the Queen!” whispered Columbine to Harlequin. And once more
putting her finger on her lips, she deftly led him by the hand and
noiselessly threaded her way through the bushes and back into the
avenue, and without saying a word ran swiftly with him to the place
where they had seen the King. He was still there, alone, his head
resting upon his hands.

* * * * *

In the temple the Queen was upbraiding her lover for his temerity
in having crossed the frontier into the land from which he had been
banished for ever, and for having dared to appear at the court revel
disguised as Pierrot. “Remember,” she was saying, “the enemies that
surround us, the dreadful peril, and the doom that awaits us.” And her
lover said: “What is doom, and what is death? You whispered to the night
and I heard. You sighed and I am here!” He tore the mask from his face,
and the Queen looked at him and smiled. At that moment a rustle
was heard in the undergrowth, and the Queen started back from him,
whispering: “We are betrayed! Fly!” And her lover put on his mask and
darted through the undergrowth, following a path which he and no one
else knew, till he came to an open space where his squire awaited him
with horses, and they galloped away safe from all pursuit.

Then the King walked into the temple and led the Queen back to the
palace without saying a word; but the whole avenue was full of dark
men bearing torches and armed with swords, who were searching the
undergrowth. And presently they found Pierrot who, ignorant of all that
had happened, had been listening all night to the song of the night-jar.
He was dragged to the palace and cast into a dungeon, and the King
was told. But the revel did not cease, and the dancing and the music
continued softly as before. The King sent for Columbine and told her she
should have speech with Pierrot in his prison, for haply he might
have something to confess to her. And Columbine was taken to Pierrot’s
dungeon, and the King followed her without her knowing it, and concealed
himself behind the door, which he set ajar.

Columbine upbraided Pierrot and said: “All this was my work. I have
always known that you loved the Queen. And yet for the sake of past
days, tell me the truth. Was it love or a joke, such as those you love
to play?”

Pierrot laughed inanely. “It was a joke,” he said. “It is my trade to
make jokes. What else can I do?”

“You love the Queen nevertheless,” said Columbine, “of that I am sure,
and for that I have had my revenge.”

“It was a joke,” said Pierrot, and he laughed again.

And though she talked and raved and wept, she could get no other answer
from him. Then she left him, and the King entered the dungeon.

“I have heard what you said,” said the King, “but to me you must tell
the truth. I do not believe it was you who met the Queen in the temple;
tell me the truth, and your life shall be spared.”

“It was a joke,” said Pierrot, and he laughed. Then the King grew fierce
and stormed and threatened. But his rage and threats were in vain! for
Pierrot only laughed. Then the King appealed to him as man to man and
implored him to tell him the truth; for he would have given his kingdom
to believe that it was the real Pierrot who had met the Queen and that
the adventure had been a joke. Pierrot only repeated what he had said,
and laughed and giggled inanely.

At dawn the prison door was opened and three masked men led Pierrot out
through the courtyard into the garden. The revellers had gone home, but
here and there lights still twinkled and flickered and a stray note or
two of music was still heard. Some of the latest of the revellers were
going home. The dawn was grey and chilly; they led Pierrot through the
alleys to the grass amphitheatre, and they hanged him on the horizontal
beam which formed part of the primitive proscenium where he and
Columbine had danced so wildly in the night. They hanged him and his
white figure dangled from the beam as though he were still dancing;
and the new Pierrot, who was appointed the next day, was told that such
would be the fate of all mummers who went too far, and whose jokes and
pranks overstepped the limits of decency and good breeding.


The _Referendarius_ had three junior clerks to carry on the business of
his department, and they in their turn were assisted by two scribes, who
did most of the copying and kept the records. The work of the Department
consisted in filing and annotating the petitions and cases which
were referred from the lower Courts, through the channel of the
_Referendarius_, to the Emperor.

The three clerks and their two scribes occupied a high marble room in
the spacious office. It was as yet early in April, but, nevertheless,
the sun out of doors was almost fierce. The high marble rooms of the
office were cool and stuffy at the same time, and the spring sunshine
without, the soft breeze from the sea, the call of the flower-sellers in
the street, and the lazy murmur of the town had, in these shaded, musty,
and parchment-smelling halls, diffused an atmosphere of laziness which
inspired the clerks in question with an overwhelming desire to do

There was, indeed, no pressing work on hand. Only from time to time the
_Referendarius_, who occupied a room to himself next door to theirs,
would communicate with them through a hole in the wall, demanding
information on some point or asking to be supplied with certain
documents. Then the clerks would make a momentary pretence of being
busy, and ultimately the scribes would find either the documents or the
information which were required.

As it was, the clerks were all of them engaged in occupations which were
remote from official work. The eldest of them, Cephalus by name--a man
who was distinguished from the others by a certain refined sobriety both
in his dark dress and in his quiet demeanour--was reading a treatise on
algebra; the second, Theophilus, a musician, whose tunic was as bright
as his flaming hair, was mending a small organ; and the third, Rufinus,
a rather pale, short-sighted, and untidy youth, was scribbling on a
tablet. The scribes were busy sorting old records and putting them away
in their permanent places.

Presently an official strolled in from another department. He was a
middle-aged, corpulent, and cheerful-looking man, dressed in gaudy
coloured tissue, on which all manner of strange birds were depicted. He
was bursting with news.

“Phocas is going to win,” he said. “It is certain.”

Cephalus looked vaguely up from his book and said: “Oh!”

Theophilus and Rufinus paid no attention to the remark.

“Well,” continued the new-comer cheerfully, “Who will come to the races
with me?”

As soon as he heard the word races, Rufinus looked up from his
scribbling. “I will come,” he said, “if I can get leave.”

“I did not know you cared for that sort of thing,” said Cephalus.

Rufinus blushed and murmured something about going every now and then.
He walked out of the room, and sought the _Referendarius_ in the next
room. This official was reading a document. He did not look up when
Rufinus entered, but went on with his reading. At last, after a
prolonged interval, he turned round and said: “What is it?”

“May I go to the races?” asked Rufinus.

“Well,” said the high official, “what about your work?”

“We’ve finished everything,” said the clerk.

The Head of the Department assumed an air of mystery and coughed.

“I don’t think I can very well see my way to letting you go,” he said.
“I am very sorry,” he added quickly, “and if it depended on me you
should go at once. But He,” he added--he always alluded to the Head of
the Office as He--“does not like it. He may come in at any moment and
find you gone. No; I’m afraid I can’t let you go to-day. Now, if it had
been yesterday you could have gone.”

“I should only be away an hour,” said Rufinus, tentatively.

“He might choose just that hour to come round. If it depended only on me
you should go at once,” and he laughed and slapped Rufinus on the back,

The clerk did not press the point further.

“You’d better get on with that index,” said the high official as Rufinus

He told the result of his interview to his sporting friend, who started
out by himself to the Hippodrome.

Rufinus settled down to his index. But he soon fell into a mood of
abstraction. The races and the games did not interest him in the least.
It was something else which attracted him. And, as he sat musing, the
vision of the Hippodrome as he had last seen it rose clearly before him.
He saw the seaweed-coloured marble; the glistening porticoes,
adorned with the masterpieces of Greece, crowded with women in gemmed
embroideries and men in white tunics hemmed with broad purple; he saw
the Generals with their barbaric officers--Bulgarians, Persians, Arabs,
Slavs--the long line of savage-looking prisoners in their chains, and
the golden breastplates of the standard-bearers. He saw the immense silk
_velum_ floating in the azure air over that rippling sea of men, those
hundreds of thousands who swarmed on the marble steps of the Hippodrome.
He saw the Emperor in his high-pillared box, on his circular throne of
dull gold, surrounded by slaves fanning him with jewel-coloured plumes,
and fenced round with golden swords.

And opposite him, on the other side of the Stadium, the Empress, mantled
in a stiff pontifical robe, laden with heavy embroidered stuffs,
her little head framed like a portrait in a square crown of gold and
diamonds, whence chains of emeralds hung down to her breast; motionless
as an idol, impassive as a gilded mummy.

He saw the crowd of gorgeous women, grouped like Eastern flowers around
her: he saw one woman. He saw one form as fresh as a lily of the valley,
all white amidst that hard metallic splendour; frail as a dewy anemone,
slender as the moist narcissus. He saw one face like the chalice of a
rose, and amidst all those fiery jewels two large eyes as soft as dark
violets. And the sumptuous Court, the plumes, the swords, the standards,
the hot, vari-coloured crowd melted away and disappeared, so that when
the Emperor rose and made the sign of the Cross over his people, first
to the right, and then to the left, and thirdly over the half-circle
behind him, and the singers of Saint Sofia and the Church of the Holy
Apostles mingled their bass chant with the shrill trebles of the chorus
of the Hippodrome, to the sound of silver organs, he thought that the
great hymn of praise was rising to her and to her alone; and that men
had come from the uttermost parts of the earth to pay homage to her,
to sing her praise, to kneel to her--to her, the wondrous, the very
beautiful: peerless, radiant, perfect.

A voice, followed by a cough, called from the hole in the wall; but
Rufinus paid no heed, so deeply sunk was he in his vision.

“Rufinus, the Chief is calling you,” said Cephalus.

Rufinus started, and hurried to the hole in the wall. The Head of the
Department gave him a message for an official in another department.

Rufinus hurried with the message downstairs and delivered it. On his way
back he passed the main portico on the ground floor. He walked out into
the street: it was empty. Everybody was at the games.

A dark-skinned country girl passed him singing a song about the swallow
and the spring. She was bearing a basket full of anemones, violets,
narcissi, wild roses, and lilies of the valley.

“Will you sell me your flowers?” he asked, and he held out a silver

“You are welcome to them,” said the girl. “I do not need your money.”

He took the flowers and returned to the room upstairs. The flowers
filled the stuffy place with an unwonted and wonderful fragrance.

Then he sat down and appeared to be once more busily engrossed in his
index. But side by side with the index he had a small tablet, and on
this, every now and then, he added or erased a word to a short poem. The
sense of it was something like this:--

     Rhodocleia, flowers of spring
     I have woven in a ring;
     Take this wreath, my offering, Rhodocleia.

     Here’s the lily, here the rose
     Her full chalice shall disclose;
     Here’s narcissus wet with dew,
     Windflower and the violet blue.
     Wear the garland I have made;
     Crowned with it, put pride away;
     For the wreath that blooms must fade;
     Thou thyself must fade some day, Rhodocleia.


To K. L.

He heard the bell of the Badia sound hour after hour, and still sleep
refused its solace. He got up and looked through the narrow window. The
sky in the East was soft with that luminous intensity, as of a melted
sapphire, that comes just before the dawn. One large star was shining
next to the paling moon. He watched the sky as it grew more and more
transparent, and a fresh breeze blew from the hills. It was the second
night that he had spent without sleeping, but the weariness of his body
was as nothing compared with the aching emptiness which possessed his
spirit. Only three days ago the world had seemed to him starred and
gemmed like the Celestial City--an enchanted kingdom, waiting like a
sleeping Princess for the kiss of the adventurous conqueror; and now the
colours had faded, the dream had vanished, the sun seemed to be deprived
of his glory, and the summer had lost its sweetness.

His eye fell upon some papers which were lying loose upon his table.
There was an unfinished sonnet which he had begun three days ago. The
octet was finished and the first two lines of the sestet. He would never
finish it now. It had no longer any reason to be; for it was a cry
to ears which were now deaf, a question, an appeal, which demanded an
answering smile, a consenting echo; and the lips, the only lips which
could frame that answer, were dumb. He remembered that Casella, the
musician, had asked him a week ago for the text of a _canzone_ which
he had repeated to him one day. He had promised to let him have it.
The promise had entirely gone out of his mind. Then he reflected that
because the ship of his hopes and dreams had been wrecked there was no
reason why he should neglect his obligations to his fellow-travellers on
the uncertain sea.

He sat down and transcribed by the light of the dawn in his exquisite
handwriting the stanzas which had been the fruit of a brighter day. And
the memory of this dead joy was exceedingly bitter to him, so that he
sat musing for some time on the unutterable sadness which the ghosts of
perished joys bring to man in his misery, and a line of Virgil buzzed
in his brain; but not, as of yore, did it afford him the luxury of
causeless melancholy, but like a cruel finger it touched his open wound.
The ancients, he thought, knew how to bear misfortune.

     Levius fit patientia
     Quidquid corrigere est nefas.

As the words occurred to him he thought how much better equipped he was
for the bitter trial, since had he not the certain hope of another life,
and of meeting his beloved in the spaces of endless felicity? Surely
then he should be able to bear his sorrow with as great a fortitude as
the pagan poets, who looked forward to nothing but the dust; to whom the
fabled dim country beyond the Styx was a cheerless dream, and to whom a
living dog upon the earth was more worthy of envy than the King of all
Elysium. He must learn of the ancients.

The magic of the lemon-coloured dawn had vanished now before the swift
daylight. Many bells were ringing in the city, and the first signs of
life were stirring in the streets. He searched for a little book,
and read of the consolation which Cicero gave to Laelius in the _De
Amicitia_. But he had not read many lines before he closed the book. His
wound was too fresh for the balm of reason and philosophy.

“Later,” he thought, “this will strengthen and help me, but not
to-day; to-day my wound must bleed and be allowed to bleed, for all the
philosophy in the world cannot lessen the fact that yesterday she was
and to-day she is not.”

He felt a desire to escape from his room, which had been the chapel of
such holy prayers, the shrine where so many fervent tapers of hope had
burnt, where so sweet an incense of dream had risen. He left his room
and hurried down the narrow stone stairs into the street. As he left
the house he turned to his right and walked on till he reached Or San
Michele; there he turned to his right again and walked straight on till
he reached the churches of Santa Reparata and San Giovanni. He entered
San Giovanni and said a brief prayer; then he took the nearest street,
east of Santa Reparata, to the Porta a ballo, and found himself beyond
the walls of the city. He walked towards Fiesole.

The glory of the sunrise was still in the sky, the fragrance of the
dawning summer (it was the 11th of June) was in the air. He walked
towards the East. The corn on the hills was green, and pink wild roses
fringed every plot of wheat. The grass was wet with dew. The city
glittered in the plain beneath, clean and fresh in the dazzling air;
it seemed a part of the pageant of summer, an unreal piece of imagery,
distinct and clear-cut, yet miraculous, like a mirage seen in mid-ocean.
“Truly,” he thought, “this is the city of the flower, and the lily is
its fitting emblem.”

But while his heart went out towards his native town he felt a sharp
pang as he remembered that the flower of flowers, the queen of the
lilies, had been mowed down by the scythe, and the city which to him had
heretofore been an altar was now a tomb. The lovely Virgilian dirge,

     Manibus date lilia plenis . . .
     His saltem accumulem donis et fungar inani

rang in his ears, and he thought that he too must bring a gift and
scatter lilies on her grave; handfuls of lilies; but they must be
unfading flowers, wet with immortal tears. He pondered on this gift.
It must be a gift of song, a temple built in verse. But he was still
unsatisfied. No dirge, however tender and solemn; no elegy, however soft
and majestic; no song, however piteous, could be a sufficient offering
for the glorious being who had died in her youth and beauty. But what
could he fashion or build? He thought with envy of Arnolfo and of
Giotto: the one with his bricks could have built a tomb which would
prove to be one of the wonders of the world, and the other with his
brush could have fixed her features for ever, for the wonder of future
generations. And yet was not his instrument the most potent of all, his
vehicle the most enduring? Stones decayed, and colours faded, but verse
remained, outliving bronze and marble. Yes, his monument should be more
lasting than all the masterpieces of Giotto, than all the proud designs
of Arnolfo; but how should it be?

He had reached a narrow lane at the foot of a steep hill covered with
corn and dotted with olives. He lay down under a hedge in the shade.
The sun was shining on two large bramble bushes which grew on the hedge
opposite him. Above him, on his right, was a tall cypress tree standing
by itself, and the corn plots stretched up behind him till they reached
the rocky summits tufted with firs. Between the two bramble bushes
a spider had spun a large web, and he was sitting in the midst of it
awaiting his prey. But the bramble and the web were still wet with the
morning dew, whose little drops glistened in the sunshine like diamonds.
Every tiny thread and filament of the web was dewy and lit by the
newly-awakened sun. He lay on his back in the shade and pondered on the
shape and nature of his gift of song, and on the deathless flowers that
he must grow and gather and lay upon her tomb.

The spider’s web caught his eye, and from where he lay the sight was
marvellous. The spider seemed like a small globe of fire in the midst of
a number of concentric silvery lines studded with dewy gems; it was like
a miniature sun in the midst of a system of gleaming stars. The delicate
web with its shining films and dewdrops seemed to him as he lay there
to be a vision of the whole universe, with all its worlds and stars
revolving around the central orb of light. It was as though a veil had
been torn away and he were looking on the naked glory of the spheres,
the heart of Heaven, the very home of God.

He looked and looked, his whole spirit filled with ineffable awe and
breathless humility. He lay gazing on the chance miracle of nature till
a passing cloud obscured the sun, and the spider’s web wore once more
its ordinary appearance. Then he arose with tears in his eyes and gave a
great sigh of thankfulness.

“I have found it,” he thought, “I will say of her what has never yet
been said of any woman. I will paint all Hell, all Purgatory, and all
that is in them, to make more glorious the glory of her abode, and I
will reveal to man that glory. I will show her in the circle of spotless
flame, among the rivers and rings of eternal light, which revolve around
the inmost heart, the fiery rose, and move obedient to the Love which
moves the sun.” And his thought shaped itself into verse and he murmured
to himself:

     L’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stelle.

H. Belloc)

The King had not slept for three nights. He looked at his face in the
muddy pool of water which had settled in the worn flagstones of his
prison floor, and noticed that his beard was of a week’s growth. Beads
of sweat stood on his forehead, and his eyes were bloodshot. In the room
next door, which was the canteen, the soldiers were playing on a drum.
Over the tall hills the dawn was ruffling the clouds. There was a faint
glimmer on the waters of the river. The footsteps of the gaolers were
heard on the outer rampart. At seven o’clock they brought the King a
good dinner: they allowed him burgundy from France, and yellow mead, and
white bread baked in the ovens of the Abbey, although he was constrained
to drink out of pewter, and plates were forbidden him. Eustace, his
page, timidly offered him music. The King bade him sing the “Lay of the
Sussex Lass,” which begins thus:

     Triumphant, oh! triumphant now she stands,
     Above my Sussex, and above my sea!
     She stretches out her thin ulterior hands
     Across the morning . . .

But the King, to whom memories were portentous, called for another song
and Eustace sang a stave of that ballad which was made on the Pyrenees,
and which is still unfinished (for the modern world has no need of
these things), telling of how Lord Raymond drank in a little tent with

     Enormous through the morning the tall battalions run:
     The men who fought with Charlemagne are very dearly done;
     The wine is dark beneath the night, the stars are in the sky,
     The hammer’s in the blacksmith’s hand in case he wants to try.
     We’ll ride to Fontarabia, we’ll storm the stubborn wall,
     And I call.

     And Uriel and his Seraphim are hammering a shield;
     And twice along the valley has the horn of Roland pealed;
     And Cleopatra on the Nile, Iseult in Brittany,
     And Lancelot in Camelot, and Drake upon the sea;
     And behind the young Republic are the fellows with the flag,
     And I brag!

The King listlessly opened his eyes and said that he had no stomach for
such song, and from the next door came the mutter of the drums. For on
that night--which was Candlemas--Thursday, or as we should now call it
“Friday”--the gaolers were keeping holiday, and drinking English beer
brewed in Sussex; for the beer of West England was not to their liking,
as any one who has walked down the old Roman Road through Daglingworth,
Brimpsfield, and Birdlip towards Cardigan on a warm summer’s day can
know. For a man may tramp that road and stop and ask for drink at an
inn, and receive nothing but Imperialist whisky, and drinks that annoy
rather than satisfy the great thirst of a Christian.

Outside, a little breeze had crept out of the West. The morning star was
paling over the Quantock Hills, and the King was mortally weary. “This
day three years ago,” he thought, “I was spurred and harnessed for the
lists in a tunic of mail, with an emerald on my shoulder-strap, and I
was tilting with my lord of Cleremont before Queen Isabella of France.
The birds were singing in Touraine, and the sun was beating on the
lists; and the minstrels of Val-es-Dunes were chanting the song of the
men who died for the Faith when they stormed Jerusalem. What is the lilt
of that song,” said the King, “which the singers of Val-es-Dunes sang?”
 And Eustace pondered, for his memory was weak and he was overwrought by
nights of watching and days of vigilance; but presently he touched his
strings and sang:

     The captains came from Normandy
     In clamorous ships across the sea;
     And from the trees in Gascony
     The masts were cloven, tall and free.
     And Turpin swung the helm and sang;
     And stars like all the bells at Brie
     From cloudy steeples rang.

     The rotten leaves are whirling down
     Dishevelled from September’s crown;
     The Emperors have left the town;
     The Weald of Sussex, burnt and brown,
     Is trampled by the kings.
     And Harmuth gallops up the Down,
     And, as he rides, he sings.

     He sings of battles and of wine,
     Of boats that leap the bellowing brine,
     Of April eyes that smile and shine,
     Of Raymond and Lord Catiline
     And Carthage by the sea,
     Of saints, and of the Muses Nine
     That dwell in Gascony.

And to the King, as he heard this stave, came visions of his youth; of
how he had galloped from Woodstock to Stonesfield on a night of June
within eleven hours, with a company of minstrels, and of how during that
long feast at Arundel he made a song in the vernacular in praise of St.
Anselm. And he remembered that he owed a candle to that saint. For
he had vowed that if the wife of Westermain should meet him after the
tournament he would burn a tall candle at Canterbury before Michaelmas.
But this had escaped his mind, for it had been tossed hither and thither
during days of conflict which had come later, and he was not loth to
believe that the neglect of this service and the idle vow had been
corner-stone of his misfortunes, and had helped to bring about his
miserable plight.

While these threads of memory glimmered in his mind the small tallow
rush-light which lit the dungeon flickered and went out. The chapel
clock struck six. The King made a gesture which meant that the time of
music was over, and Eustace went back to the canteen, where the men of
the guard were playing at dice by the light of smoky rush-lights. The
King lay down on his wooden pallet, whose linen was delicate and of
lawn, embroidered with his own cipher and crown. The pillow, which was
stuffed with scented rushes, was delicious to the cheek, and yielding.

* * * * *

All that night in London Queen Isabella had been waiting for the news
from France. A storm was blowing across the Channel, and the ships
(their pilots were Germans, and bungled in reading the stars) making for
the port turned back towards Dunquerque. It was a storm such as, if you
are in a small boat, turns you back from Broughty Ferry to the Goodwin
Sands. The Queen, who took counsel of no one, was in two minds as to her
daring deed, and her hostage trembled in an uncertain grasp. In Saxony
the banished favourites talked wildly, cursing the counsels of London;
but Saxony was heedless and unmoved. And Piers Gaveston spoke heated
words in vain.

The King, who was in that lethargic state of slumber, between sleep and
waking, heard a shuffle of steps beyond the door; a cold sweat broke
once more on his forehead, and he waved his left hand listlessly.
Outside the sun had risen, and a broad daylight flooded the wet meadows
and the brimming tide of the Severn, catching the sails of the boats
that were heeling and trembling on the ripple of the water, which was
stirred by the South wind. The King looked towards the window with
weariness, expecting, as far as his lethargy allowed, the advent of
another monotonous day.

The door opened. The faces he saw by the gaoler’s torch were not
those he expected. The King, I say, looked towards them, and his hands
trembled, and the moisture on them glistened. They were dark, and one of
them was concealed by a silken mask.

Three men entered the dungeon. In the hands of the foremost of the three
glowed a red-hot iron, which was to be the manner of his doom.


“Perhaps we had better not land after all,” said Lewis as he was
stepping into the boat; “we can explore this island on our way home.”

“We had much better land now,” said Stewart; “we shall get to Teneriffe
to-morrow in any case. Besides, an island that’s not on the chart is too
exciting a thing to wait for.”

Lewis gave in to his younger companion, and the two ornithologists, who
were on their way to the Canary Islands in search of eggs, were rowed to

“They had better fetch us at sunset,” said Lewis as they landed.

“Perhaps we shall stay the night,” responded Stewart.

“I don’t think so,” said Lewis; but after a pause he told the sailors
that if they should be more than half an hour late they were not to
wait, but to come back in the morning at ten. Lewis and Stewart walked
from the sandy bay up a steep basaltic cliff which sloped right down to
the beach.

“The island is volcanic,” said Stewart.

“All the islands about here are volcanic,” said Lewis. “We shan’t be
able to climb much in this heat,” he added.

“It will be all right when we get to the trees,” said Stewart. Presently
they reached the top of the cliff. The basaltic rock ceased and an open
grassy incline was before them covered with myrtle and cactus bushes;
and further off a thick wood, to the east of which rose a hill sparsely
dotted with olive trees. They sat down on the grass, panting. The sun
beat down on the dry rock; there was not a cloud in the sky nor a ripple
on the emerald sea. In the air there was a strange aromatic scent; and
the stillness was heavy.

“I don’t think it can be inhabited,” said Lewis.

“Perhaps it’s merely a volcanic island cast up by a sea disturbance,”
 suggested Stewart.

“Look at those trees,” said Lewis, pointing to the wood in the distance.

“What about them?” asked Stewart.

“They are oak trees,” said Lewis. “Do you know why I didn’t want to
land?” he asked abruptly. “I am not superstitious, you know, but as I
got into the boat I distinctly heard a voice calling out: ‘Don’t land!’”

Stewart laughed. “I think it was a good thing to land,” he said. “Let’s
go on now.”

They walked towards the wood, and the nearer they got to it the more
their surprise increased. It was a thick wood of large oak trees which
must certainly have been a hundred years old. When they had got quite
close to it they paused.

“Before we explore the wood,” said Lewis, “let us climb the hill and see
if we can get a general view of the island.”

Stewart agreed, and they climbed the hill in silence. When they reached
the top they found it was not the highest point of the island, but only
one of several hills, so that they obtained only a limited view. The
valleys seemed to be densely wooded, and the oak wood was larger than
they had imagined. They laid down and rested and lit their pipes.

“No birds,” remarked Lewis gloomily.

“I haven’t seen one--the island is extraordinarily still,” said Stewart.
The further they had penetrated inland the more oppressive and sultry
the air had become; and the pungent aroma they had noticed directly
was stronger. It was like that of mint, and yet it was not mint; and
although sweet it was not agreeable. The heat seemed to weigh even on
Stewart’s buoyant spirits, for he sat smoking in silence, and no longer
urged Lewis to continue their exploration.

“I think the island is inhabited,” said Lewis, “and that the houses
are on the other side. There are some sheep and some goats on that hill
opposite. Do you see?”

“Yes,” said Stewart, “I think they are mouflon, but I don’t think the
island is inhabited all the same.” No sooner were the words out of his
mouth than he started, and rising to his feet, cried: “Look there!” and
he pointed to a thin wreath of smoke which was rising from the wood.
Their languor seemed to leave them, and they ran down the hill and
reached the wood once more. Just as they were about to enter it Lewis
stooped and pointed to a small plant with white flowers and three
oval-shaped leaves rising from the root.

“What’s that?” he asked Stewart, who was the better botanist of the two.
The flowers were quite white, and each had six pointed petals.

“It’s a kind of garlic, I think,” said Stewart. Lewis bent down over it.
“It doesn’t smell,” he said. “It’s not unlike moly (_Allium flavum_),
only it’s white instead of yellow, and the flowers are larger. I’m going
to take it with me.” He began scooping away the earth with a knife so as
to take out the plant by the roots. After he had been working for some
minutes he exclaimed: “This is the toughest plant I’ve ever seen; I
can’t get it out.” He was at last successful, but as he pulled the root
he gave a cry of surprise.

“There’s no bulb,” he said. “Look! Only a black root.”

Stewart examined the plant. “I can’t make it out,” he said.

Lewis wrapped the plant in his handkerchief and put it in his pocket.
They entered the wood. The air was still more sultry here than outside,
and the stillness even more oppressive. There were no birds and not a
vestige of bird life.

“This exploration is evidently a waste of time as far as birds are
concerned,” remarked Lewis. At that moment there was a rustle in the
undergrowth, and five pigs crossed their path and disappeared, grunting.
Lewis started, and for some reason he could not account for, shuddered;
he looked at Stewart, who appeared unconcerned.

“They are not wild,” said Stewart. They walked on in silence. The place
and its heavy atmosphere had again affected their spirits. When they
spoke it was almost in a whisper. Lewis wished they had not landed, but
he could give no reason to himself for his wish. After they had been
walking for about twenty minutes they suddenly came on an open space and
a low white house. They stopped and looked at each other.

“It’s got no chimney!” cried Lewis, who was the first to speak. It was
a one-storeyed building, with large windows (which had no glass in them)
reaching to the ground, wider at the bottom than at the top. The house
was overgrown with creepers; the roof was flat. They entered in silence
by the large open doorway and found themselves in a low hall. There was
no furniture and the floor was mossy.

“It’s rather like an Egyptian tomb,” said Stewart, and he shivered. The
hall led into a further room, which was open in the centre to the sky,
like the _impluvium_ of a Roman house. It also contained a square basin
of water, which was filled by water bubbling from a lion’s mouth carved
in stone. Beyond the _impluvium_ there were two smaller rooms, in one
of which there was a kind of raised stone platform. The house was
completely deserted and empty. Lewis and Stewart said little; they
examined the house in silent amazement.

“Look,” said Lewis, pointing to one of the walls. Stewart examined
the wall and noticed that there were traces on it of a faded painted

“It’s like the wall paintings at Pompeii,” he said.

“I think the house is modern,” remarked Lewis. “It was probably built by
some eccentric at the beginning of the nineteenth century, who did it up
in Empire style.”

“Do you know what time it is?” said Stewart, suddenly. “The sun has set
and it’s growing dark.”

“We must go at once,” said Lewis, “we’ll come back here to-morrow.” They
walked on in silence. The wood was dim in the twilight, a fitful breeze
made the trees rustle now and again, but the air was just as sultry as
ever. The shapes of the trees seemed fantastic and almost threatening in
the dimness, and the rustle of the leaves was like a human moan. Once or
twice they seemed to hear the grunting of pigs in the undergrowth and to
catch sight of bristly backs.

“We don’t seem to be getting any nearer the end,” said Stewart after
a time. “I think we’ve taken the wrong path.” They stopped. “I remember
that tree,” said Stewart, pointing to a twisted oak; “we must go
straight on from there to the left.” They walked on and in ten minutes’
time found themselves once more at the back of the house. It was now
quite dark.

“We shall never find the way now,” said Lewis. “We had better sleep in
the house.” They walked through the house into one of the furthest rooms
and settled themselves on the mossy platform. The night was warm and
starry, the house deathly still except for the splashing of the water in
the basin.

“We shan’t get any food,” Lewis said.

“I’m not hungry,” said Stewart, and Lewis knew that he could not have
eaten anything to save his life. He felt utterly exhausted and yet not
at all sleepy. Stewart, on the other hand, was overcome with drowsiness.
He lay down on the mossy platform and fell asleep almost instantly.
Lewis lit a pipe; the vague forebodings he had felt in the morning
had returned to him, only increased tenfold. He felt an unaccountable
physical discomfort, an inexplicable sensation of uneasiness. Then he
realised what it was. He felt there was someone in the house besides
themselves, someone or something that was always behind him, moving when
he moved and watching him. He walked into the _impluvium_, but heard
nothing and saw nothing. There were none of the thousand little sounds,
such as the barking of a dog, or the hoot of a night-bird, which
generally complete the silence of a summer night. Everything was
uncannily still. He returned to the room. He would have given anything
to be back on the yacht, for besides the physical sensation of
discomfort and of the something watching him he also felt the
unmistakable feeling of impending danger that had been with him nearly
all day.

He lay down and at last fell into a doze. As he dozed he heard a subdued
noise, a kind of buzzing, such as is made by a spinning wheel or a
shuttle on a loom, and more strongly than ever he felt that he was being
watched. Then all at once his body seemed to grow stiff with fright. He
saw someone enter the room from the _impluvium_. It was a dim, veiled
figure, the figure of a woman. He could not distinguish her features,
but he had the impression that she was strangely beautiful; she was
bearing a cup in her hands, and she walked towards Stewart and bent over
him, offering him the cup.

Something in Lewis prompted him to cry out with all his might: “Don’t
drink! Don’t drink!” He heard the words echoing in the air, just as he
had heard the voice in the boat; he felt that it was imperative to call
out, and yet he could not: he was paralysed; the words would not come.
He formed them with his lips, but no sound came. He tried with all his
might to rise and scream, and he could not move. Then a sudden cold
faintness came upon him, and he remembered no more till he woke and
found the sun shining brightly. Stewart was lying with his eyes closed,
moaning loudly in his sleep.

Lewis tried to wake him. He opened his eyes and stared with a fixed,
meaningless stare. Lewis tried to lift him from the platform, and then a
horrible thing happened. Stewart struggled violently and made a snarling
noise, which froze the blood in Lewis’s veins. He ran out of the house
with cold beads of sweat on his forehead. He ran through the wood to
the shore, and there he found the boat. He rowed back to the yacht and
fetched some quinine. Then, together with the skipper, the steward,
and some other sailors, he returned to the ominous house. They found it
empty. There was no trace of Stewart. They shouted in the wood till they
were hoarse, but no answer broke the heavy stillness.

Then sending for the rest of the crew, Lewis organised a regular search
over the whole island. This lasted till sunset, and they returned in the
evening without having found any trace of Stewart or of any other human
being. In the night a high wind rose, which soon became a gale; they
were obliged to weigh anchor so as not to be dashed against the island,
and for twenty-four hours they underwent a terrific tossing. Then the
storm subsided as quickly as it had come.

They made for the island once more and reached the spot where they had
anchored three days before. There was no trace of the island. It had
completely disappeared.

When they reached Teneriffe the next day they found that everybody was
talking of the great tidal wave which had caused such great damage and
destruction in the islands.


To Henry Cust

When he was a child his baby brother came to him one day and said that
their elder brother, who was grown up, had got a beautiful small ship in
his room. Should he ask him for it? The child who gave good advice said:
“No, if you ask him for it he will say you are a spoilt child; but go
and play in his room with it before he gets up in the morning, and he
will give it to you.” The baby brother followed this advice, and sure
enough two days afterwards he appeared triumphant in the nursery with
the ship in his hands, saying: “He said I might choose, the ship or
the picture-book.” Now the picture-book was a coloured edition of Baron
Munchausen’s adventures; the boy who gave good advice had seen it and
hankered for it. As the baby brother had refused it there could be no
harm in asking for it, so the next time his elder brother sent him on an
errand (it was to fetch a pin-cushion from his room) judging the moment
to be propitious, he said to him: “May I have the picture-book that baby
wouldn’t have?” “I don’t like little boys who ask,” answered the big
brother, and there the matter ended.

The child who gave good advice went to school. There was a rage for stag
beetles at the school; the boys painted them and made them run races on
a chessboard. They imagined--rightly or wrongly--that some stag beetles
were much faster than others. A little boy called Bell possessed the
stag beetle which was the favourite for the coming races. Another boy
called Mason was consumed with longing for this stag beetle; and Bell
had said he would give it to him in exchange for Mason’s catapult, which
was famous in the school for the unique straightness of its two prongs.
Mason went to the boy who gave good advice and asked him for his
opinion. “Don’t swap it for your catty,” said the boy who gave good
advice, “because Bell’s stag beetle may not win after all; and even if
it does stag beetles won’t be the rage for very long; but a catty is
always a catty, and yours is the best in the school.” Mason took the
advice. When the races came off, the stag beetles were so erratic that
no prize was awarded, and they immediately ceased to be the rage. The
rage for stag beetles was succeeded by a rage for secret alphabets. One
boy invented a secret alphabet made of simple hieroglyphics, which
was imparted only to a select few, who spent their spare time in
corresponding with each other by these cryptic signs. The boy who gave
good advice was not of those initiated into the mystery of the cypher,
and he longed to be. He made several overtures, but they were all
rejected, the reason being that boys of the second division could not
let a “third division squit” into their secret. At last the boy who
gave good advice offered to one of the initiated the whole of his stamp
collection in return for the secret of the alphabet. This offer was
accepted. The boy took the stamp collection, but the boy who gave
good advice received in return not the true alphabet but a sham
one especially manufactured for him. This he found out later; but
recriminations were useless; besides which the rage for secret alphabets
soon died out and was replaced by a rage for aquariums, newts, and
natterjack toads.

The boy went to a public school. He was a fag. His fag-master had two
fags. One morning the other fag came to the boy who gave good advice and
said: “Clarke (he was the fag-master) told me three days ago to clean
his football boots. He’s been ‘staying out’ and hasn’t used them, and
I forgot. He’ll want them to-day, and now there isn’t time. I shall
pretend I did clean them.”

“No, don’t do that,” said the boy who gave good advice, “because if
you say you have cleaned them he will lick you twice as much for having
cleaned them badly--say you forgot.” The advice was taken, and the
fag-master merely said: “Don’t forget again.” A little later the
fag-master had some friends to tea, and told the boy who gave good
advice to boil him six eggs for not more than three minutes and a half.
The boy who gave good advice, while they were on the fire, took part in
a rag that which was going on in the passage; the result was that the
eggs remained seven minutes in boiling water. They were hard. When the
fag-master pointed this out and asked his fag what he meant by it, the
boy who gave good advice persisted in his statement that they had been
exactly three minutes and a half in the saucepan, and that he had timed
them by his watch. So the fag-master caned him for telling lies.

The boy who gave good advice grew into a man and went to the university.
There he made friends with a man called Crawley, who went to a
neighbouring race meeting one day and lost two or three hundred pounds.

“I must raise the money from a money-lender somehow,” said Crawley to
the man who gave good advice, “and on no account must the Master hear of
it or he would send me down; or write home, which would be worse.”

“On the contrary,” said the man who gave good advice, “you must go
straight to the Master and tell him all about it. He will like you twice
as much for ever afterwards; he never minds people getting into scrapes
when he happens to like them, and he likes you and believes you have a
great career before you.”

Crawley went to the Master of the college and made a clean breast of it.
The Master told him he had been foolish--very foolish; but he arranged
the whole matter in such a manner that it never came to the ears of
Crawley’s extremely violent-tempered and puritanical father.

The man who gave good advice got a “First” in Mods, and everyone felt
confident he would get a first in Greats; he did brilliantly in nearly
all his papers; but during the Latin unseen a temporary and sudden lapse
of memory came over him and he forgot the English for _manubioe_, which
the day before he had known quite well means prize-money. In fact the
word was written on the first page of his note-book. The word was in his
brain, but a small shutter had closed on it for the moment and he could
not recall it. He looked over his neighbour’s shoulder. His neighbour
had translated it “booty.” He copied the word mechanically, knowing
it was wrong. As he did so he was detected and accused of cribbing.
He denied the charge, the matter was investigated, the papers were
compared, and the man who gave good advice was disqualified. In all his
other papers he had done incomparably better than anyone else.

When he left Oxford the man who gave good advice went into a Government
office. He had not been in it long before he perceived that by certain
simple reforms the work of the office could be done twice as effectually
and half as expensively. He embodied these reforms in a memorandum and
they were not long afterwards adopted. He became private secretary to
Snipe, a rising politician and persuaded him to change his party and his
politics. Snipe, owing to this advice, became a Cabinet Minister, and
the man who gave good advice, having inherited some money, stood for
Parliament himself. He stood as a Conservative at a General Election and
spoke eloquently to enthusiastic meetings. The wire-pullers prophecied
an overwhelming majority, when shortly before the poll, at one of his
meetings, he suddenly declared himself to be an Independent, and made a
speech violently in favour of Home Rule and conscription. The result was
that the Liberal Imperialist got in by a huge majority, and the man who
gave good advice was pelted with rotten eggs.

After this the man who gave good advice abandoned politics and took to
finance; in this branch of human affairs he made the fortune of several
of his friends, preventing some from putting their money in alluring
South African schemes, and advising others to risk theirs on events
which seemed to him certain, such as the election of a President or
the short-lived nature of a revolution; events which he foresaw with
intuition amounting to second-sight. At the same time he lost nearly
all his own money by investing it in a company which professed to
have discovered a manner--cheap and rapid--of transforming copper
into platinum. He made the fortune of a publisher by insisting on the
publication of a novel which six intelligent men had declared to be
unreadable. It was called “The Conscience of John Digby,” and when
published it sold by thousands and tens of thousands. But he lost the
handsome reward he received for this service by publishing at his own
expense, on magnificent paper, an edition of Rabelais’ works in their
original tongue. He frequently spotted winners for his friends and for
himself, but any money that he won at a race meeting he invariably lost
coming home in the train on the Three Card Trick.

Nor did he lose touch with politicians, and this brought about the final
catastrophe. A great friend of his, the eminent John Brooke, had the
chance of becoming Prime Minister. Parties were at that time in a state
of confusion. The question was, should his friend ally himself with or
sever himself for ever from Mr. Capax Nissy, the leader of the Liberal
Aristocracy Party, who seemed to have a large following? His friend,
John Brooke, gave a small dinner to his most intimate friends in order
to talk over the matter. The man who gave good advice was so eloquent,
so cogent in his reasoning, so acute in his perception, that he
persuaded Brooke to sever himself for ever from Capax Nissy. He
persuaded all who were present, with the exception of Mr. Short-Sight,
a pig-headed man who reasoned falsely. So annoyed did the man who gave
good advice become with Short-Sight, and so excited in his vexation,
that he finally lost his self-control, and hit him as hard as he could
on the head--after Short-Sight had repeated a groundless assertion for
the seventh time--with the poker.

Short-Sight died, and the man who gave good advice was convicted of
wilful murder. He gave admirable advice to his counsel, but threw away
his own case as soon as he entered the box himself, which he insisted
on doing. He was hanged in gaol at Reading. Many people whom he had
benefited in various ways visited him in prison, among others John
Brooke, the Prime Minister. It is said that he would certainly have been
reprieved but for the intemperate and inexcusable letters he wrote to
the Home Secretary from prison.

“It’s a great tragedy--he was a clever man,” said Brooke after dinner
when they were discussing the misfortune at Downing Street; “a very
clever man, but he had no judgment.”

“No,” said Snipe, the man whose private secretary the man who gave
good advice had been, “That’s it. It’s an awful thing--but he had no


Peter, or Petrushka, which was the name he was known by, was the
carpenter’s mate; his hair was like light straw, and his eyes were mild
and blue. He was good at his trade; a quiet and sober youth; thoughtful,
too, for he knew how to read and had read several books when he was
still a boy. A translation of “Monte Cristo” once fell into his hands,
and this story had kindled his imagination and stirred in him the desire
to travel, to see new countries and strange people. He had made up his
mind to leave the village and to try his luck in one of the big towns,
when, before he was eighteen, something happened to him which entirely
changed the colour of his thoughts and the range of his desires. It was
an ordinary experience enough: he fell in love. He fell in love with
Tatiana, who worked in the starch factory. Tatiana’s eyes were grey, her
complexion was white, her features small and delicate, and her hair
a beautiful dark brown with gold lights and black shadows in it; her
movements were quick and her glance keen; she was like a swallow.

It happened when the snows melted and the meadows were flooded; the
first fine day in April. The larks were singing over the plains, which
were beginning to show themselves once more under the melting snow; the
sun shone on the large patches of water, and turned the flooded meadows
in the valley into a fantastic vision. It was on a Sunday after church
that this new thing happened. He had often seen Tatiana before: that day
she was different and new to him. It was as if a bandage had been taken
from his eyes, and at the same moment he realised that Tatiana was a new
Tatiana. He also knew that the old world in which he had lived hitherto
had crumbled to pieces; and that a new world, far brighter and more
wonderful, had been created for him. As for Tatiana, she loved him at
once. There was no delay, no hesitation, no misunderstandings, no doubt:
and at the first not much speech; but first love came to them straight
and swift, with the first sunshine of the spring, as it does to the

All the spring and summer they kept company and walked out together in
the evenings. When the snows entirely melted and the true spring came,
it came with a rush; in a fortnight’s time all the trees except the ash
were green, and the bees boomed round the thick clusters of pear-blossom
and apple-blossom, which shone like snow against the bright azure.
During that time Petrushka and Tatiana walked in the apple orchard
in the evening and they talked to each other in the divinest of all
languages, the language of first love, which is no language at all but a
confused medley and murmur of broken phrases, whisperings, twitterings,
pauses, and silences--a language so wonderful that it cannot be put
down into speech or words, although Shakespeare and the very great poets
translate the spirit of it into music, and the great musicians catch the
echo of it in their song. Then a fortnight later, when the woods were
carpeted and thick with lilies of the valley, Petrushka and Tatiana
walked in the woods and picked the last white violets, and later again
they sought the alleys of the landlord’s property, where the lilac
bushes were a mass of blossom and fragrance, and there they listened to
the nightingale, the bird of spring. Then came the summer, the fragrance
of the beanfields, and the ripening of corn and the wonderful long
twilights, and July, when the corn, ripe and tall and stiff, changed the
plains into a vast rippling ocean of gold.

After the harvest, at the very beginning of autumn, they were to be
married. There had been a slight difficulty about money. Tatiana’s
father had insisted that Petrushka should produce a certain not very
large sum; but the difficulty had been overcome and the money had been
found. There were no more obstacles, everything was smooth and settled.
Petrushka no longer thought of travels in foreign lands; he had
forgotten the old dreams which “Monte Cristo” had once kindled in him.

It was in the middle of August that the carpenter received instructions
from the landowner to make some wooden steps and a small raft and to fix
them up on the banks of the river for the convenience of bathers. It did
not take the carpenter and Petrushka long to make these things, and one
afternoon Petrushka drove down to the river to fix them in their place.
The river was broad, the banks were wooded with willow trees, and the
undergrowth was thick, for the woods reached to the river bank, which
was flat, but which ended sheer above the water over a slope of mud and
roots, so that a bather needed steps or a raft or a springboard, so as
to dive or to enter and leave the water with comfort.

Petrushka put the steps in their place--which was where the wood
ended--and made fast the floating raft to them. Not far from the bank
the ground was marshy and the spot was suspected by some people of being
haunted by malaria. It was a still, sultry day. The river was like oil,
the sky clouded but not entirely overclouded, and among the high banks
of grey cloud there were patches of blue.

When Petrushka had finished the job, he sat on the wooden steps, and
rolling some tobacco into a primitive cigarette, contemplated the
grey, oily water and the willow trees. It was too late in the year, he
thought, to make a bathing place. He dipped his hand in the water: it
was cold, but not too cold. Yet in a fortnight’s time it would not be
pleasant to bathe. However, people had their whims, and he mused on the
scheme of the universe which ordained that certain people should have
whims, and that others should humour those whims whether they liked it
or not. Many people--many of his fellow-workers--talked of the day
when the universal levelling would take place and when all men could be
equal. Petrushka did not much believe in the advent of that day; he was
not quite sure whether he ardently desired it; in any case, he was very
happy as he was.

At that moment he heard two sharp short sounds, less musical than a pipe
and not so loud or harsh as a scream. He looked up. A kingfisher had
flown across the oily water. Petrushka shouted; and the kingfisher
skimmed over the water once more and disappeared in the trees on the
other side of the river. Petrushka rolled and lit another cigarette.
Presently he heard the two sharp sounds once more, and the kingfisher
darted again across the water: a bit of fish was in its beak. It
disappeared into the bank of the river on the same side on which
Petrushka was sitting, only lower down.

“Its nest must be there,” thought Petrushka, and he remembered that
he had heard it said that no one had ever been able to carry off a
kingfisher’s nest intact. Why should he not be the first person to do
so? He was skilful with his fingers, his touch was sure and light. It
was evidently a carpenter’s job, and few carpenters had the leisure or
opportunity to look for kingfishers’ nests. What a rare present it would
be for Tatiana--a whole kingfisher’s nest with every bone in it intact.

He walked stealthily through the bushes down the bank of the river,
making as little noise as possible. He thought he had marked the
spot where the kingfisher had dived into the bank. As he walked, the
undergrowth grew thicker and the path darker, for he had reached the
wood, on the outskirts and end of which was the spot where he had
made the steps. He walked on and on without thinking, oblivious of
his surroundings, until he suddenly realised that he had gone too far.
Moreover, he must have been walking for some time, for it was getting
dark, or was it a thunder-shower? The air, too, was unbearably sultry;
he stopped and wiped his forehead with a big print handkerchief. It was
impossible to reach the bank from the place where he now stood, as he
was separated from it by a wide ditch of stagnant water. He therefore
retraced his footsteps through the wood. It grew darker and darker; it
must be, he thought, the evening deepening and no storm.

All at once he started; he had heard a sound, a high pipe. Was it the
kingfisher? He paused and listened. Distinctly, and not far off in the
undergrowth, he heard a laugh, a woman’s laugh. It flashed across his
mind that it might be Tatiana, but it was not her laugh. Something
rustled in the bushes to the left of him; he followed the rustling and
it led him through the bushes--he had now passed the ditch--to the river
bank. The sun had set behind the woods from which he had just emerged;
the sky was as grey as the water, and there was no reflection of the
sunset in the east. Except the water and the trees he saw nothing; there
was not a sound to be heard, not a ripple on the river, not a whisper
from the woods.

Then all at once the stillness was broken again by quick rippling laughs
immediately behind him. He turned sharply round, and saw a woman in the
bushes: her eyes were large and green and sad; her hair straggling and
dishevelled; she was dressed in reeds and leaves; she was very pale. She
stared at him fixedly, and smiled, showing gleaming teeth, and when she
smiled there was no light nor laughter in her eyes, which remained sad
and green and glazed like those of a drowned person. She laughed again
and ran into the bushes. Petrushka ran after her, but although he was
quite close to her he lost all trace of her immediately. It was as if
she had vanished under the earth or into the air.

“It’s a Russalka,” thought Petrushka, and he shivered. Then he added
to himself, with the pride of the new scepticism he had learnt from
the factory hands: “There is no such thing; only women believe in such
things. It was some drunken woman.”

Petrushka walked quickly back to the edge of the wood, where he had left
his cart, and drove home. The next day was Sunday, and Tatiana noticed
that he was different--moody, melancholy, and absent-minded. She asked
him what was the matter; he said his head ached. Towards five o’clock he
told her--they were standing outside her cottage--that he was obliged to
go to the river to work.

“To-day is holiday,” she said quietly.

“I left something there yesterday: one of my tools. I must fetch it,” he

Tatiana looked at him, and her intuition told her, firstly, that this
was not true, and, secondly, that it was not well for Petrushka to go to
the river. She begged him not to go. Petrushka laughed and said he would
be back quickly. Tatiana cried, and implored him on her knees not to go.
Then Petrushka grew irritable and almost rough, and told her not to vex
him with foolishness. Reluctantly and sadly she gave in at last.

Petrushka went to the river, and Tatiana watched him go with a heavy
heart. She felt quite certain some disaster was about to happen.

At seven o’clock Petrushka had not yet returned, and he did not return
that night. The next morning the carpenter and two others went to
the river to look for him. They found his body in the shallow water,
entangled in the ropes of the raft he had made. He had been drowned, no
doubt, in setting the raft straight.

During all that Sunday night, Tatiana had said no word, nor had she
moved from her doorstep: it was only when they brought back the dripping
body to the village that she stirred, and when she saw it she laughed
a dreadful laugh, and the spirit went from her eyes, leaving a fixed


The old woman was spinning at her wheel near a fire of myrtle boughs
which burnt fragrantly in the open yard. Through the stone columns the
sea was visible, smooth, dark, and blue; the low sun bathed the brown
hills of the coast in a golden mist. It was December. The shepherds were
driving home their flocks, the work of the day was done, and a noise of
light laughter and rippling talk came from the Slaves’ quarter.

In the middle of the stone-flagged yard two little boys were playing at
quoits. Their eyes and hair were as dark as their brown skin, which had
been tanned by the sun. In one of the corners of the yard a fair-haired,
blue-eyed girl was nursing a kitten and singing it to sleep. The old
woman was singing too, or rather humming a tune to herself as she turned
her wheel. She was very old: her hair was white and silvery, and her
face was furrowed by a hundred wrinkles. Her eyes were blue as the sky,
and perhaps they had once been full of fire and laughter, but all that
had been quenched and washed out long ago, and Time, with his noiseless
chisel, had sharpened her delicate features and hollowed out her cheeks,
which were as white as ivory. But her hands as they twisted the wood
were the hands of a young woman, and seemed as though they had been
fashioned by a rare craftsman, so perfect were they in shape and
proportion, as firm as carved marble, as delicate as flowers.

The sun sank behind the hills of the coast, and a flood of scarlet light
spread along the West just above them, melting higher up into orange,
and still higher into a luminous blue, which turned to green later as
the evening deepened. The air was cool and sharp, and the little boys,
who had finished their game, drew near to the fire.

“Tell us a story,” said the elder of the two boys, as they curled
themselves up at the feet of the old woman.

“You know all my stories,” she said.

“That doesn’t matter,” said the boy. “You can tell us an old one.”

“Well,” said the old woman, “I suppose I must. There was once upon a
time a King and a Queen who had three sons and one daughter.” At the
sound of these words the little girl ran up and nestled in the folds of
the old woman’s long cloak.

“No, not that one,” one of the little boys interrupted, “tell us about
the Queen without a heart.” So the old woman began and said:--

“There was once upon a time a King and a Queen who had one daughter, and
they invited all the gods and goddesses to the feast which they gave in
honour of the birth of their child. The gods and goddesses came and
gave the child every gift they could think of; she was to be the most
beautiful woman in the whole world, she was to dance like the West wind,
to laugh like the stream, and to sing like the lark. Her hair should be
made of sunshine, and her eyes should be as the sea in midsummer. She
should excel in all things, in knowledge, in wit, and in skill; she
should be fleet of foot, a cunning harp-player, adept at all manner of
woman-like crafts, and deft with the needle and the spinning-wheel, and
at the loom. Zeus himself gave her stateliness and majesty, the Lord
of the Sun gave a voice as of a golden flute; Poseidon gave her the
laughter of all the waves of the sea, the King of the Underworld gave
her a red ruby to wear on her breast more precious than all the gems
of the world. Artemis gave her swiftness and radiance, Persephone the
fragrance and the freshness of all the flowers of spring; Pallas Athene
gave her curious knowledge and pleasant speech; and, lastly, the Seaborn
Goddess breathed upon her and gave her the beauty of the rose, the
pearl, the dew, and the shells and the foam of the sea. But, alas! the
King and Queen had forgotten to ask one guest. The Goddess of Envy and
Discord had been left out, and she came unbidden, and when all the gods
and goddesses had given their gifts, she said: ‘I too have a gift to
give, a gift that will be more precious to her than any. I will give
her a heart that shall be proof against all the onsets of the world.’
So saying the Goddess of Envy took away the child’s heart and put in its
place a heart of stone, hard as adamant, bright and glittering as a gem.
And the Goddess of Envy went her way mocking. The King and Queen were
greatly concerned, and they asked the gods and goddesses whether their
daughter would ever recover her human heart. They were told that the
Goddess of Envy would be obliged to give back the child’s heart to the
man who loved her enough to seek and to find it, and this would surely
happen; but when and how it was forbidden to them to reveal.

“The child grew up and became the wonder of the world. She was married
to a powerful King, and they lived in peace and plenty until the Goddess
of Envy once more troubled the child’s life. For owing to her subtle
planning a Prince was promised for wife the fairest woman in the world,
and he took the wife of the powerful King and carried her away to Asia
to the six-gated city. The King prepared a host of ships and armed men
and sailed to Asia to win back his wife. And he and his army fought for
ten years until the six-gated city was taken, and he brought his wife
home once more. Now during all the time the war lasted, although the
whole world was filled with the fame of the King’s wife and of her
beauty, there was not found one man who was willing to seek for her
heart and to find it, for some gave no credence to the tale, and others,
believing it, reasoned that the quest might last a life-time, and that
by the time they accomplished it the King’s wife would be an old woman,
and there would be fairer women in the world. Others, again, could not
believe that in so perfect a woman there could be any fault; they vowed
her heart must be one with her matchless beauty, and they said that even
if the tale were true, they preferred to worship her as she was, and
they would not have her be otherwise or changed by a hair’s breadth for
all the world. Some, indeed, did set out upon the quest, but abandoned
it soon from weariness and returned to bask in the beauty of the great

“The years went by. The Queen journeyed to Egypt, to the mountains of
the South, and the cities of the desert; to the Pillars of Hercules and
to the islands of the West. Wherever she went her fame spread like fire,
and men fought and died for a glimpse of her marvellous beauty; and
wherever she passed she left behind her strife and sorrow like a burning
trail. After many voyages she returned home and lived prosperously.
The King her husband died, her children grew up and married and bore
children themselves, and she continued to live peacefully in her palace.
Her fame and her glory brought her neither joy nor sorrow, nor did she
heed the spell that she cast on the hearts of men.

“One day a harp-player came to her palace and sang and played before
her; he made music so ravishing and so sad that all who heard him wept
save the Queen, who listened and smiled, listless and indifferent. But
her smile filled him with such a passion of wonder and worship that he
resolved to rest no more until he had found her heart, for he knew the
tale. So he sought the whole world over in vain; and for years and years
he roamed the world fruitlessly. At last one day in a far country he
found a little bird in a trap and he set it free, and in return the bird
promised him that he should find the Queen’s heart. All he had to do was
to go home and to seek the Queen’s palace. So the harper went home to
the Queen’s palace, and when he reached it he found the Queen had grown
old; her hair was grey and there were lines on her cheek. But she smiled
on him, and he knelt down before her, for he loved her more than ever,
and to him she was as beautiful as ever she had been. At that moment,
for the first time in her life the Queen’s eyes filled with tears, for
her heart had been given back to her. And that is all the story.”

“And what happened to the harper?” asked one of the little boys.

“He lived in the palace and played to the Queen till he died.”

“And is the story true?” asked the other little boy.

“Yes,” said the old woman, “quite true.”

The boys jumped up and kissed the old woman, and the elder of them,
growing pensive, said:--

“Grandmother, were you ever young yourself?”

“Yes, my child,” said the old woman, smiling, “I was once young--a very
long time ago.”

She got up, for the twilight had come and it was almost dark. She walked
into the house, and as she rose she was neither bowed nor bent, but
she trod the ground with a straightness which was not stiff but full
of grace, and she moved royally like a goddess. As she walked past the
smoking flames the children noticed that large tears were welling from
her eyes and trickling down her faded cheek.


The Doctor got up at dawn, as was his wont, and as soon as he was
dressed he sat down at his desk in his library overlooking the sea,
and immersed himself in the studies which were the lodestar of his
existence. His hours were mapped out with rigid regularity like those of
a school-boy, and his methodical life worked as though by clockwork. He
rose at dawn and read without interruption until eight o’clock. He then
partook of some light food (he was a strict vegetarian), after which he
walked in the garden of his house, overlooking the Bay of Naples, until
ten. From ten to twelve he received sick people, peasants from the
village, or any visitors that needed his advice or his company. At
twelve he ate a frugal meal. From one o’clock until three he enjoyed
a siesta. At three he resumed his studies, which continued without
interruption until six when he partook of a second meal. At seven he
took another stroll in the village or by the seashore and remained out
of doors until nine. He then withdrew into his study, and at midnight
went to bed.

It was, perhaps, the extreme regularity of his life, combined with the
strict diet which he observed, that accounted for his good health. This
day was his seventieth birthday, and his body was as vigorous and his
mind as alert as they had been in his fortieth year. His thick hair and
beard were scarcely grey, and the wrinkles on his white, thoughtful
face were rare. Yet the Doctor, when questioned as to the secret of his
youthfulness, being like many learned men fond of a paradox, used to
reply that diet and regularity had nothing to do with it, and that
the Southern sun and the climate of the Neapolitan coast, which he had
chosen among all places to be the abode of his old age, were in reality
responsible for his excellent health.

“I lead a regular life,” he used to say, “not in order to keep well,
but in order to get through my work. Unless my hours were mapped out
regularly I should be the prey of every idler in the place and I should
never get any work done at all.”

On this day, as it was his seventieth birthday, the Doctor had asked
a few friends to share his mid-day meal, and when he returned from
his morning stroll he sent for his housekeeper to give her a few final
instructions. The housekeeper, who was a voluble Italian peasant-woman,
after receiving his orders, handed him a piece of paper on which a few
words were scrawled in reddish-brown ink, saying it had been left by a

“What Signore?” asked the Doctor, as he perused the document, which
consisted of words in the German tongue to the effect that the writer
regretted his absence from the Doctor’s feast, but would call at
midnight. It was not signed.

“He was a Signore, like all Signores,” said the housekeeper; “he just
left the letter and went away.”

The Doctor was puzzled, and in spite of much cross-examination he was
unable to extract anything more beyond the fact that he was a “Signore.”

“Shall I lay one place less?” asked the housekeeper.

“Certainly not,” said the Doctor. “All my guests will be present.” And
he threw the piece of paper on the table.

The housekeeper left the room, but she had not been gone many minutes
before she returned and said that Maria, the wife of the late Giovanni,
the baker, wished to speak to him. The Doctor nodded, and Maria burst
into the room, sobbing.

When her tears had somewhat subsided she told her story in broken
sentences. Her daughter, Margherita, who was seventeen years old, had
been allowed to spend the summer at Sorrento with her late father’s
sister. There, it appeared, she had met a “Signore,” who had given her
jewels, made love to her, promised her marriage, and held clandestine
meetings with her. Her aunt professed now to have been unaware of this;
but Maria assured the Doctor that her sister-in-law, who had the
evil eye and had more than once trafficked with Satan, must have had
knowledge of the business, even if she were not directly responsible,
which was highly probable. In the meantime Margherita’s brother Anselmo
had returned from the wars in the North, and, discovering the truth, had
sworn to kill the Signore unless he married Margherita.

“And what do you wish me to do?” asked the Doctor, after he had listened
to the story.

“Anything, anything,” she answered, “only calm my son Anselmo or else
there will be a disaster.”

“Who is the Signore?” asked the Doctor.

“The Conte Guido da Siena,” she answered.

The Doctor reflected a moment, and then said: “I will see what can be
done. The matter can be arranged. Send your son to me later.” And then,
after scolding Maria for not having taken proper care of her daughter,
he sent her away.

As he did so he caught sight of the dirty piece of paper on his table.
For one second he had the impression that the letters on it were written
in blood, and he shivered, but the momentary hallucination and sense of
discomfort passed immediately.

At mid-day the guests arrived. They consisted of Dr. Cornelius, Vienna’s
most learned scholar; Taddeo Mainardi, the painter; a Danish student
from the University of Wittenberg; a young English nobleman, who was
travelling in Italy; and Guido da Siena, philosopher and poet, who was
said to be the handsomest man in Italy. The Doctor set before his guests
a precious wine from Cyprus, in which he toasted them, although as
a rule he drank only water. The meal was served in the cool loggia
overlooking the bay, and the talk, which was of the men and books of
many climes, flowed like a rippling stream on which the sunshine of
laughter lightly played.

The student asked the Doctor whether in Italy men of taste took any
interest in the recent experiments of a French Huguenot, who professed
to be able to send people into a trance. Moreover, the patient when in
the trance, so it was alleged, was able to act as a bridge between the
material and the spiritual worlds, and the dead could be summoned and
made to speak through the unconscious patient.

“We take no thought of such things here,” said the Doctor. “In my youth,
when I studied in the North, experiments of that nature exercised a
powerful sway over my mind. I dabbled in alchemy; I tried and indeed
considered that I succeeded in raising spirits and visions; but two
things are necessary for such a study: youth, and the mists of the
Northern country. Here the generous sun kills such phantasies. There are
no phantoms here. Moreover, I am convinced that in all such experiments
success depends on the state of mind of the inquirer, which not only
persuades, but indeed compels itself by a strange magnetic quality to
see the vision it desires. In my youth I considered that I had evoked
visions of Satan and Helen of Troy, and what not--such things are fit
for the young. We greybeards have more serious things to occupy us, and
when a man has one foot in the grave, he has no time to waste.”

“To my mind,” said the painter, “this world has sufficient beauty and
mystery to satisfy the most ardent inquirer.”

“But,” said the Englishman, “is not this world a phantom and a dream as
insubstantial as the visions of the ardent mind?”

“Men and women are the only study fit for a man,” interrupted Guido,
“and as for the philosopher’s stone I have found it. I found it some
months ago in a garden at Sorrento. It is a pearl radiant with all the
hues of the rainbow.”

“With regard to that matter,” said the Doctor, “we will have some talk
later. The wench’s brother has returned from the war. We must find her a

“You misunderstand me,” said Guido. “You do not think I am going to
throw my precious pearl to the swine? I have sworn to wed Margherita,
and wed her I shall, and that swiftly.”

“Such an act of folly would only lead,” said the Doctor, “to your
unhappiness and to hers. It is the selfish act of a fool. You must not
think of it.”

“Ah!” said Guido, “you are young at seventy, Doctor, but you were old at
twenty-five, and you cannot know what these things mean.”

“I was young in my day,” said the Doctor, “and I found many such pearls;
believe me, they are all very well in their native shell. To move them
is to destroy their beauty.”

“You do not understand,” said Guido. “I have loved countless times; but
she is different. You never felt the revelation of the real, true thing
that is different from all the rest and transforms a man’s life.”

“No,” said the Doctor, “I confess that to me it was always the same
thing.” And for the second time that day the Doctor shivered, he knew
not why.

Soon after the meal was over the guests departed, and although the
Doctor detained Guido and endeavoured to persuade him to listen to the
voice of reason and commonsense, his efforts were in vain. Guido had
determined to wed Margherita.

“Besides which, if I left her now, I should bring shame and ruin on
her,” he said.

The Doctor started--a familiar voice seemed to whisper in his ear: “She
is not the first one.” A strange shudder passed through him, and he
distinctly heard a mocking voice laughing. “Go your way,” he said, “but
do not come and complain to me if you bring unhappiness on yourself and

Guido departed and the Doctor retired to enjoy his siesta.

For the first time during all the years he had lived at Naples the
Doctor was not able to sleep. “This and the hallucinations I have
suffered from to-day come from drinking that Cyprus wine,” he said to

He lay in the darkened room tossing uneasily on his bed and sleep would
not come to him. Stranger still, before his eyes fiery letters seemed
to dance before him in the air. At seven o’clock he went out into the
garden. Never had he beheld a more glorious evening. He strolled down
towards the seashore and watched the sunset. Mount Vesuvius seemed
to have dissolved into a rosy haze; the waves of the sea were
phosphorescent. A fisherman was singing in his boat. The sky was an
apocalypse of glory and peace.

The Doctor sighed and watched the pageant of light until it faded and
the stars lit up the magical blue darkness. Then out of the night came
another song--a song which seemed familiar to the Doctor, although for
the moment he could not place it, about a King in the Northern Country
who was faithful to the grave and to whom his dying mistress a golden
beaker gave.

“Strange,” thought the Doctor, “it must come from some Northern fishing
smack,” and he went home.

He sat reading in his study until midnight, and for the first time in
thirty years he could not fix his mind on his book. For the vision
of the sunset and the song of the Northern fisherman, which in some
unaccountable way brought back to him the days of his youth, kept on
surging up in his mind.

Twelve o’clock struck. He rose to go to bed, and as he did so he heard a
loud knock at the door.

“Come in,” said the Doctor, but his voice faltered (“the Cyprus wine
again!” he thought), and his heart beat loudly.

The door opened and an icy draught blew into the room. The visitor
beckoned, but spoke no word, and Doctor Faust rose and followed him into
the outer darkness.


There is a village in the South of England not far from the sea, which
possesses a curious inn called “The Green Tower.” Why it is called thus,
nobody knows. This inn must in days gone by have been the dwelling
of some well-to-do squire, but nothing now remains of its former
prosperity, except the square grey tower, partially covered with ivy,
from which it takes its name. The inn stands on the roadside, on the
brow of a hill, and at the top of the tower there is a room with four
large windows, whence you can see all over the wooded country. The
ex-Prime Minister of a foreign state, who had been driven from office
and home by a revolution, happening to pass the night in the inn and
being of an eccentric disposition, was so much struck with this room
that he secured it, together with two bedrooms, permanently for himself.
He determined to spend the rest of his life here, and as he was within
certain limits not unsociable, he invited his friends to come and stay
with him on any Saturday they pleased, without giving him notice.

Thus it happened that of a Saturday and Sunday there was nearly always
a mixed gathering of men at “The Green Tower”, and after they had dined
they would sit in the tower room and drink old Southern wines from the
ex-Prime Minister’s country, and talk, or tell each other stories. But
the ex-Prime Minister made it a stringent rule that at least one guest
should tell one story during his stay, for while he had been Prime
Minister a Court official had been in his service whose only duty it
was to tell him a story every evening, and this was the only thing he
regretted of all his former privileges.

On this particular Sunday, besides myself, the clerk, the flute-player,
the wine merchant (the friends of the ex-Prime Minister were exceedingly
various), and the scholar were present. They were smoking in the tower
room. It was summer, and the windows were wide open. Every inch of wall
which was not occupied by the windows was crowded with books. The clerk
was turning over the leaves of the ex-Prime Minister’s stamp collection
(which was magnificent), the flute-player was reading the score of
Handel’s flute sonatas (which was rare), the scholar was reading a
translation in Latin hexameters of the “Ring and the Book” (which
the ex-Prime Minister has written in his spare moments), and the wine
merchant was drinking generously of a curious red wine, which was very

“I think,” said the ex-Prime Minister, “that the flute-player has never
yet told us a story.”

The guests knew that this hint was imperative, and so putting away the
score, the flute-player said: “My story is called, ‘The Fiddler.’” And
he began:--

“This happened a long time ago in one of the German-speaking countries
of the Holy Roman Empire. There was a Count who lived in a large castle.
He was rich, powerful, and the owner of large lands. He had a wife, and
one daughter, who was dazzlingly beautiful, and she was betrothed to the
eldest son of a neighbouring lord. When I say betrothed, I mean that
her parents had arranged the marriage. She herself--her name was
Elisinde--had had no voice in the matter, and she disliked, or rather
loathed, her future husband, who was boorish, sullen, and ill-tempered;
he cared for nothing except hunting and deep drinking, and had nothing
to recommend him but his ducats and his land. But it was quite useless
for Elisinde to cry or protest. Her parents had settled the marriage and
it was to be. She understood this herself very well.

“All the necessary preparations for the wedding, which was to be held on
a splendid scale, were made. There was to be a whole week of feasting;
and tumblers and musicians came from distant parts of the country to
take part in the festivities and merry-making. In the village, which was
close to the castle, a fair was held, and the musicians, tumblers, and
mountebanks, who had thronged to it, performed in front of the castle
walls for the amusement of the Count’s guests.

“Among these strolling vagabonds was a fiddler who far excelled all the
others in skill. He drew the most ravishing tones from his instrument,
which seemed to speak in trills as liquid as those of the nightingale,
and in accents as plaintive as those of a human voice. And one of the
inmates of the castle was so much struck by the performance of this
fiddler that he told the Count of it, and the fiddler was commanded to
come and play at the Castle, after the banquet which was to be held
on the eve of the wedding. The banquet took place in great pomp and
solemnity, and lasted for many hours. When it was over the fiddler
was summoned to the large hall and bidden to play before the Lords and

“The fiddler was a strange looking, tall fellow with unkempt fair hair,
and eyes that glittered like gold; but as he was dressed in tattered
uncouth rags (and they were his best too) he cut an extraordinary and
almost ridiculous figure amongst that splendid jewelled gathering. The
guests tittered when they saw him. But as soon as he began to play,
their tittering ceased, for never had they heard such music.

“He played--in view of the festive occasion--a joyous melody. And, as he
played, the air seemed full of sunlight, and the smell of wine vats and
the hum of bees round ripe fruit. The guests could not keep still in
their places, and at last the Count gave orders for a general dance. The
hall was cleared, and soon all the guests were breathlessly dancing to
the divine lilt of the fiddler’s melody. All except Elisinde who, when
her betrothed came forward to lead her to the dance, pleaded fatigue,
and remained seated in her chair, pale and distraught, and staring at
the fiddler. This did not, to tell the truth, displease her betrothed,
who was a clumsy dancer and had no ear for music. Breathless at last
with exhaustion the guests begged the untiring fiddler to pause while
they rested for a moment to get their breath.

“And while they were resting the fiddler played another tune. This time
it was a sad tune: a low, soft tune, liquid and lovely as a human voice.
A great hush came on the company. It seemed as if after the heat and
splendour of a summer’s day the calm of evening had fallen; the quiet
of the dusk, when the moon rises in the sky, still faintly yellow in the
west with the ebb of sunset, and pours on the stiff cornfields its cool,
silvery frost; and the trees quiver, as though they felt the freshness
and were relieved, and a breeze comes, almost imperceptible and not
strong enough to shake the boughs, from the sea; and a bird, hidden
somewhere in the leaves, sings a throbbing song.

“Everyone was spellbound, but none so much as Elisinde. The music seemed
to be speaking straight to her, to pierce the very core of her heart. It
was an inarticulate language which she understood better than any words.
She heard a lonely spirit crying out to her, that it understood her
sorrow and shared her pain. And large tears poured down her cheeks.

“The fiddler stopped playing, and for a moment or two no one spoke. At
last Elisinde’s betrothed gave a great yawn, and the spell was broken.

“‘You play very well--very well, indeed,’ said the Count.

“‘But that sad music is, I think, rather out of place to-day,’ said the

“‘Yes, let us have another cheerful tune,’ said the Count.

“The fiddler struck up once more and played another dance. This time
there was an almost elfish magic in his melody. It took you captive; it
was irresistible; it called and commanded and compelled; you longed to
follow, follow, anywhere, over the hills, over the sea, to the end of
the world.

“Elisinde rose from her chair as though the spirit of the music beckoned
her, but looking round she saw no partner to her taste. She sat down
again and stared at the fiddler. His eyes were fixed on her, and as she
looked at him his squalor and rags seemed to fade away and his blue eyes
that glittered like gold seemed to grow larger, and his hair to grow
brighter till it shone like fire. And he seemed to be caught in a rosy
cloud of light: tall, splendid, young, and glowing like a god.

“After this dance was over the Count rose, and he and his guests retired
to rest. The fiddler was given a purse full of money, and the Count gave
orders that he should be served refreshment in the kitchen.

“Elisinde went up to her bedroom, which overlooked the garden. She threw
the window wide open and looked out into the starry darkness. It was a
breathless summer night. The air was full of warm scents. Lights
still twinkled in the village; now and again a dog barked, otherwise
everything was still. She leant out of the window, and cried bitterly
because her lot was loathsome to her, and she had not a friend in the
world to whom she could confide her sorrow.

“While she was thus sobbing she heard a rustling in the bushes beneath;
she looked down and she saw a face looking up towards her, a beautiful
face, glistening in the moonlight. It was the fiddler.

“‘Elisinde,’ he called to her in a low voice, ‘if you want to escape I
have the means. Come with me; I love you, and I will save you from your

“‘I would come with you to the end of the world,’ she said, ‘but how
can I get away from this castle?’

“He threw a rope ladder up to her. ‘Make it fast to the bar,’ he said,
‘and let yourself down.’

“She let herself down into the garden. ‘We can easily climb the wall
with this,’ he said; ‘but before you come I must tell you that if you
will be my bride your life will be hard and full of misery. Think before
you come.’

“‘Rather all the misery in the world,’ she said, ‘than the awful doom
that awaits me here. Besides which I love you, and we shall be very

“They scaled the wall, and on the other side of it the fiddler had two
horses, waiting tied to the gate. They galloped through many villages,
and by the dawn they had reached a village far beyond the Count’s lands.
Here they stopped at an inn, and they were married by the priest that
day. But they did not stop in this village; they sought a further
country, beyond reach of all pursuit. They settled in a village, and
the fiddler earned his bread by his fiddling, and Elisinde kept their
cottage neat and clean. For awhile they were as happy as the day was
long; the fiddler found favour everywhere by his fiddling, and Elisinde
ingratiated herself by her gentle ways. But one day when Elisinde was
lying in bed and the fiddler had lulled her to sleep with his music,
some neighbours, attracted by the sound, passed the cottage and looked
in at the window. And to their astonishment they saw the fiddler sitting
by a bed on which lay what seemed to them to be a sleeping princess;
and the whole cottage was full of dazzling light, and the fiddler’s face
shone, and his hair and his eyes glittered like gold. They went away
much frightened, and told the whole village the news.

“Now there were already not a few of the villagers who looked askance
on the fiddler; and this incident set all the evil and envious tongues
wagging. When the fiddler went to play the next day at the inn men
turned away from him, and a child in the street threw a stone at him.
Presently he was warned that he had better swiftly fly or else he would
be drowned as a sorcerer.

“So he and Elisinde fled in the night to a neighbouring village. But
soon the dark rumours followed them, and they were forced to flee once
more. This happened again and again, till at last in the whole country
there was not a village which would receive them, and one night they
were obliged to take refuge in a barn, for Elisinde was expecting the
birth of her child. That night their child was born, a beautiful little
boy, and an hour afterwards Elisinde smiled and died.

“All that night the villagers heard from afar a piteous wailing music,
infinitely sad and beautiful, and those that heard it shuddered and
crossed themselves.

“The next day the villagers sought the barn, for they had resolved to
drown the sorcerer; but he was not there. All they found was the dead
body of Elisinde, and a little baby lying on some straw. The body
of Elisinde was covered with roses. And this was strange, for it was
midwinter. The fiddler had disappeared and was never heard of again, and
an old wood-cutter, who was too old to know any better, took charge of
the baby.

“I will tell you what happened to it another day.”

* * * * *

“We wish to hear the end of your story,” said the ex-Prime Minister to
the flute-player.

“Yes,” said the scholar, “and I want to know who the fiddler was.”

This conversation took place at the Green Tower two weeks after the
gathering I have already described. The same people were present;
but there was another guest, namely, the musician, who, unlike the
flute-player, was not an amateur.

“The child of Elisinde and the fiddler,” began the flute-player, “was,
as I have already told you, a boy. The woodcutter who took pity on him
was old and childless. He brought the baby to his hut, and gave it over
to the care of his wife. At first she pretended to be angry, and said
that nothing would persuade her to have anything to do with the child,
and that it was all they could do to feed themselves without picking up
waifs in the gutter; but she ended by looking after the baby with the
utmost tenderness and care, and by loving it as much as if it had been
her own child. The baby was christened Franz. As soon as he was able to
walk and talk there were two things about him which were remarkable. The
first was his hair, which glittered like sunlight; the second was his
fondness for all musical sounds. When he was four years old he had made
himself a flute out of a reed, and on this he played all day, imitating
the song of the birds. He was in his sixth year when an event happened
which changed his life. He was sitting in front of the woodcutter’s
cottage one day, when a bright cavalcade passed him. It was a nobleman
from a neighbouring castle, who was travelling to the city with his
retainers. Among these was a Kapellmeister, who organised the music of
this nobleman’s household. The moment he caught sight of Franz and heard
his piping, he stopped, and asked who he was.

“The woodcutter’s wife told him the story of the finding of the waif,
to which both the nobleman and himself listened with great interest. The
Kapellmeister said that they should take the child with them; that he
should be attached to the nobleman’s house and trained as a member of
his choir or his string band, according to his capacities. The nobleman,
who was passionately fond of music, and extremely particular with regard
to the manner of its performance, was delighted with the idea. The offer
was made to the woodcutter and his wife, and although she cried a
good deal they were both forced to recognise that they had no right to
interfere with the child’s good fortune. Moreover, the gift of a purse
full of gold (which the nobleman gave them) did not make the matter more

“Finally it was settled that the child should go with the nobleman then
and there; and Franz took leave of his adopted parents, not without many
and bitter tears being shed on both sides.

“Franz travelled with the nobleman to a large city, and he became a
member--the youngest--of the nobleman’s household. He was taught his
letters, which he learnt with ease, and the rudiments of music, which he
absorbed with such astounding rapidity, that the Kapellmeister said that
it seemed as if he already knew everything that was taught him. When he
was seven years old, he could not only play several instruments, but he
composed fugues and sonatas. When the nobleman invited the magnates of
the place to listen to his musicians, Franz, the prodigy, was the centre
of interest, and very soon he became the talk of the town. At the age of
ten he was an accomplished organ player, and he played with skill on the
flute and the clavichord.

“He grew up a tall and handsome lad, with clear, dreamy eyes, and hair
that continued to glitter like sunlight. He was happy in the nobleman’s
household, for the nobleman and his wife were kind people; like the
woodcutter they were childless and came to look upon him as their own
child. He was a quiet youth, and so deeply engrossed in his music and
his studies that he seemed to be quite unaware of the outside world and
its inhabitants and its doings. But although he led a retired, studious
life, his fame had got abroad and had even reached the Emperor’s ears.

“When Franz was seventeen years old it happened that the Court was in
need of an organist. The Emperor’s curiosity had been aroused by what he
had heard of Franz, and one fine day the youth was summoned to Court
to play before his Majesty. This he did with such success that he was
appointed organist of the Court on the spot.

“He was sad at leaving the nobleman, but there was nothing to be done.
The Emperor’s wish was law. He became Court organist and he played the
organ in the Imperial chapel during Mass on Sundays. As before, he spent
all his leisure time in composing music.

“Now the Emperor had a daughter called Kunigmunde, who was beautiful and
wildly romantic. She was immediately spellbound by Franz’s music, and
he became the lodestar of her dreams. Often in the afternoon she would
steal up to the organ loft, where he was playing alone, and sit for
hours listening to his improvisations. They did not speak to each other
much, but ever since Franz had set eyes on her something new had entered
into his soul and spoke in his music, something tremulous and strange
and wonderful.

“For a year Franz’s life ran placidly and smoothly. He was made much of,
praised and petted; but now, as before, he seemed quite unaware of the
outside world and its doings, and he moved in a world of his own, only
he was no longer alone in his secret habitation, it was inhabited by
another shape, the beautiful dark-haired Princess Kunigmunde, and in
her honour he composed songs, minuets, sonatas, hymns, and triumphal
marches. As was only natural, there were not wanting at Court persons
who were envious of Franz, his talent, and his good fortune. And
among them there was a musician, a tenor in the Imperial choir, called
Albrecht, who hated Franz with his whole heart. He was a dark-eyed,
dark-haired creature, slightly deformed; he limped, and he had a
sinister look as though of a satyr. Nevertheless he was highly gifted
and composed music of his own which, although it was not radiant
like that of Franz, was full of brilliance and not without a certain
compelling power. Albrecht revolved in his mind how he might ruin Franz.
He tried to excite the envy of the courtiers against him, but Franz was
such a modest fellow, so kindly and good-natured, that it was not easy
to make people dislike him. Nevertheless there were many who were
tired of hearing him praised, and many who were secretly tired of the
perpetual beauty and radiance of Franz’s music, and wished for something
new even though it should be ugly.

“An opportunity soon presented itself for Albrecht to carry out his evil
and envious designs. The Court Kapellmeister died, and not long after
this event a great feast was to be held at Court to celebrate Princess
Kunigmunde’s birthday. The Emperor had offered a prize, a wreath of gilt
laurels, as well as the post of Court Kapellmeister to him who should
compose the most beautiful piece of music in his daughter’s honour.
Franz seemed so certain of success that nobody even dared to compete
with him except Albrecht.

“When the hour of the contest came--it took place in the great
throne-room before the Emperor, the Empress, their sons, their
daughters, and the whole court after the banquet--Franz was the first
to display his work. He sat down at the clavichord and sang what he had
composed in honour of the Princess. He had made three little songs for
her. Franz had not much voice, but it had a peculiar wail in it, and he
sang, like the born and trained musician that he was, with that absolute
mastery over his means, that certain perfection of utterance, that power
of conveying, to the shade of a shade, the inmost spirit and meaning
of the music which only belong to those great and rare artists whose
perfect art is alive with the inspiration that cannot be learnt.

“The first song he sang was the call of a home-going shepherd to
his flock on the hills at sunset, and when he sang it he brought the
largeness of the dying evening and the solemn hills into the elegant
throne-room. The second song was the cry of a lonely fisherman on the
river at midnight, and as he sang it he brought the mystery of broad
starlit waters into the taper-lit, gilded hall. The third song was the
song of the happy lover in the orchard at dawn. And when he sang it
he brought the smell of dewy leaves and grass, the soaring radiance
of spring and early morning, to that powdered and silken assembly. The
Court applauded him, but they were astonished and slightly disappointed,
for they had expected something grand and complicated, and not
three simple tunes. But the nobleman who had educated Franz, and his
Kapellmeister, who were among the guests, wept tears in silence.

“Albrecht followed him. The swarthy singer sat down to the instrument
and struck a ringing chord. He had a pure and infinitely powerful tenor
voice, clear as crystal, loud as a clarion, strong, rich, and rippling.
He sang a love-song he had composed himself. He called it ‘The Homage of
King Pan to the Princess.’ It was voluptuous and vehement and sweet
as honey, full of bold conceits and audacious turns and trills, which
startled the audience and took their breath away. He sang his song with
almost devilish skill and power; and his warm, captivating voice rang
through the room and shook the tall window-panes, and finally died away
like the vibrations of a great bell. The whole Court shouted, delirious
with applause, and unanimously declared him to be the victor. A witty
courtier said that Marsyas had avenged himself on Apollo; but the
nobleman and his Kapellmeister snorted and sniffed and said nothing.
Albrecht was given the prize and appointed Kapellmeister to the Court
without further discussion.

“When the ceremony was over, Franz, who was indifferent to his defeat,
went to the chapel of the palace, and lighting a candle, walked up into
the organ loft. There he played to himself another song, a hymn he had
composed in honour of Princess Kunigmunde. It was filled with rapture
and a breathless wonder, and in it his inmost soul spoke its unuttered
love. He had not sung this song in public, it was too sacred. As
he played and sang to himself in a low voice he was aware of a soft
footstep. He started and looked round, and there was the Princess,
bright in silk and jewels, with a pink rose in her powdered hair. She
took this rose and laid it lightly on the black keys.

“‘That is the prize,’ she said. ‘You won it, and I want to thank you. I
never knew music could be so beautiful.’

“Franz looked at her, and said ‘Thank you.’ He had risen from his
seat and was about to go, but the light of his candle caught Princess
Kunigmunde’s brown eyes (which were wet with tears), and something
rose like fire in his breast and made him forget his bashfulness, his
respect, and his sense of decorum.

“‘Come with me,’ he said, in a broken voice. ‘Let us fly from this
Court to the hills and be happy.’

“But the Princess shook her head sadly, and said: ‘Alas! It is
impossible. I am betrothed to the King of the Two Sicilies.’

“Then Franz mastered himself once more, and said: ‘Of course, it is
impossible. I was mad.’

“The Princess kissed her hand to him and fled.

“At that moment Franz heard a noise in the nave of the chapel; he looked
over the gallery of the organ loft, and saw sidling away in the darkness
the dim figure of a deformed man.

“That night Princess Kunigmunde had a strange dream. She thought she was
transported into a beautiful southern country where the azure sky seemed
to scintillate with the dust of myriads and myriads of diamonds, and to
sparkle with sunlight like dancing wine. The low blue hills were bare
and sparsely clothed with delicate trees, and the fields, sprinkled
with innumerable red, yellow, white and purple flowers, were bright as
fabulous Persian carpets. On a grassy knoll before her the rosy columns
of a temple shone in the gleaming dust of the atmosphere. Beside her
there was a running stream, on the bank of which grew a bay-tree.
There was a chirping of grasshoppers in the air, a noise of bees, and a
delicious warm smell of burnt grass and thyme and mint.

“Near the stream a man was standing; he was an ordinary man, and yet he
seemed to tower above the landscape without being unusually tall; his
hair was bright as gold, and his eyes, more lustrous still, reflected
the silvery blue sky and shone like opals. In his hands he held a
golden lyre, and around him a warm golden cloud seemed to rise, on a
transparent aura of light, like the glow of the sunset. In front of him
there stood a creature of the woods, a satyr, with pointed ears, cloven
hoofs, and human eyes, in his hairy hands holding a flute made out of a

“Presently the satyr breathed on his flute and a wonderful note trembled
in the air, soft, low, and liquid. The note was followed by others, and
a stillness fell upon Nature; the birds ceased to sing, the grasshoppers
were still, the bees paused. All Nature was listening and the Princess
was conscious in her dream that there were others besides herself
listening, unseen shapes and sightless phantoms; a crowd, a multitude of
attentive ghosts, that were hidden from her sight. The melody rose and
swelled in stillness; it was melting and ravishing and bold with a human
audacity. As she listened it reminded her of something; she felt she had
heard such sounds before, though she could not remember where and when.
But suddenly it flashed across her that the music resembled Albrecht’s
song; it was Albrecht’s song, only transfigured as it were, and a
thousand times more beautiful in her dream than in reality. More
beautiful, and at the same time as though it belonged to the days
of youth and spring which Albrecht had never known. The satyr ceased
playing and the pleasant noises of the world began once more. The
shining figure who stood before him looked on the satyr with divine
scorn and smiled a radiant, merciless smile. Then he struck his lyre and
Nature once more was dumb.

“But this time the magic was of another kind and a thousand times more
mighty; a song rose into the air which leapt and soared like a flame,
imperious as the flashing of a sword, triumphant as the waving of a
banner, wonderful as the dawn and fresh as the laughing sea. And once
more Princess Kunigmunde was aware that the music was familiar to her.
She had heard something like it in the chapel that evening, when in the
darkness Franz had played and sung the hymn that he had composed in her
honour. Only now it was more than human, unearthly and divine. As soon
as he ceased an eclipse seemed to darken the world, a thick cloud of
rolling darkness; there was a crash of thunder, a flash of lightning,
and out of the blackness came a piteous, human cry, the cry of a
creature in anguish, and then a faint moaning.

“Presently all was still, but the dark cloud remained, and she heard a
mocking laugh and the accents of a clear, scornful voice (she recognised
the voice, it was the voice of Albrecht), and the voice said: ‘Thou hast
conquered, Apollo, and cruelly hast thou used thy victory; and cruelly
has thou punished me for daring to challenge thy divine skill. It was
mad indeed to compete with a god; and yet shall I avenge my wrong and
thy harshness shall recoil on thee. For not even gods can be unjust with
impunity, and the Fates are above us all. And I shall be avenged; for
all thy sons shall suffer what I have suffered; and there is not one of
them that shall escape the doom and not share the fate of Marsyas the
Satyr, whom thou didst cruelly slay. The music and the skill which shall
be their inheritance shall be the cause to them of sorrow and grief
unending and pitiless pain and misery. Their life shall be as bitter to
them as my death has been to me. Their music shall fill the world with
sweetness and ravish the ears of listening nations, but to them it shall
bring no joy; for life like a cruel blade shall flay and lay bare their
hearts, and sorrow like a searching wind shall play upon their souls
and make them tremble, even as the scabbard of my body trembled in the
breeze; and just as from that trembling husk of what was once myself
there came forth sweet sounds, so shall it be with their souls,
shivering and trembling in the cold wind of life. Music shall come from
them, but this music shall be born of agony; nor shall they utter a
single note that is not begotten of sorrow or pain. And so shall the
children of Apollo suffer and share the pain of Marsyas.

“The voice died away, and a pitiful wail was heard as of a wind blowing
through the reeds of a river. And the Princess awoke, trembling with
fear of some unknown and impending disaster.

“The next morning Franz, as he walked into the chapel to practice on
the organ, was met by two soldiers, who bade him follow them, and he was
shut up in the prison of the palace. No word of explanation was given
him; nor had he any idea what the crime might be of which he was
accused, or of his ultimate fate. But in the evening, when the gaoler’s
daughter brought him his food, she made him a sign, and he found in his
loaf of bread a rose, a file, and a tiny scroll, on which the following
words were written; ‘Albrecht denounced you. Fly for your life. K.’
Later, when the gaolers had gone to sleep, the gaoler’s daughter stole
to his cell. She brought him a rope, and a purse full of silver. He
filed the bars and let himself down into a narrow street of the city.

“By the time the sun rose he had left the city far behind him. He
journeyed on and on till he passed the frontier of the Emperor’s
dominions and reached a neighbouring State. By the time he came to
a city he had spent his money, and he was in rags and tatters;
nevertheless, he managed to earn his bread by making music in the
streets, and after a time a well-to-do citizen who noticed him took him
into his house and entrusted him with the task of teaching music to his
sons and of playing him to sleep in the evening. Franz spent his leisure
hours in composing an opera called ‘The Death of Adonis,’ into which
he poured all the music of his soul, all his love, his sorrow, and his
infinite desire. He lived for this only, and during all the hours he
spent when he was not working at his opera he was like a man in a
dream, unconscious of the realities around him. In a year his opera was
finished. He took it to the Intendant of the Ducal Theatre in the city
and played it to him, and the Intendant, greatly pleased, determined to
have it performed without delay. The best singers were allotted parts
in it, and it was performed before the Arch-Duke and his Court, and a
multitude of people.

“The music told the story of Franz’s love; it was bright with all his
dreams, and sorrowful with his great despair. Never had such music been
heard; so sweet, so sunlit in its joys, so radiant in its sadness. But
the Arch-Duke and his Court, startled by the new accent of this music,
and influenced by the local and established musicians, who were envious
of this newcomer, listened in frigid silence, so that the common people
in the gallery dared not show signs of their delight. In fact, the opera
was a complete failure. Public opinion followed the Court, and found no
words, bad or strong enough to condemn what they called the new-fangled
rubbish. Among those who blamed the new work there was none so bitter
as the citizen whose children Franz had been teaching. For this man
considered himself to be a genius, and was inordinately vain, and his
ignorance was equal to his conceit. He dismissed Franz from his service.
All doors were now closed to him, and being on the verge of starvation
he was reduced to earning his bread in the streets by playing his pipe.
This also proved unsuccessful, and it was with difficulty that he earned
a few pence every day.

“At last he burnt all his manuscripts, and went into the hills; the hill
people welcomed him, but their kindness came too late; his heart was
broken, and when sickness came to him with the winter snow, he had no
longer any strength to resist it. The peasants found him one day lying
cold and stiff in his hut. They buried him on the hill-side. The night
of his funeral a strange fiddler with a shining face was seen standing
beside his grave and playing the most lovely tunes on a violin.

“The name of Franz was soon forgotten, but although he died obscure and
penniless he left a rich legacy. For he taught the hill-people three
songs, the songs he had sung at Court in honour of Princess Kunigmunde,
and they never died. They spread from the hills to the plains, from the
plains to the river, from the river to the woods, and indeed you can
still hear them on the hills of the north, on the great broad rivers of
the east, and in the orchards of the south.”


“Yes, I am a student,” said the Chinaman, “And I came here to study the
English manners and customs.”

We were seated on the top of the electric tram which goes to Hampton
Court. It was a bitterly cold spring day. The suburbs of London were not
looking their best.

“I spent three days at Oxford last week,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful place, is it not?” I remarked.

The Chinaman smiled. “The country which you see from the windows of the
railway carriages,” he said, “on the way from Oxford to London strikes
me as being beautiful. It reminded me of the Chinese Plain, only it is
prettier. But the houses at Oxford are hideous: there is no symmetry
about them. The houses in this country are like blots on the landscape.
In China the houses are made to harmonise with the landscape just as
trees do.”

“What did you see at Oxford?” I asked.

“I saw boat races,” he said, “and a great many ignorant old men.”

“What did you think of that?”

“I think,” he said, “the young people seemed to enjoy it, and if they
enjoy it they are quite right to do it. But the way the older men talk
about these things struck me as being foolish. They talk as if these
games and these sports were a solemn affair, a moral or religious
question; they said the virtues and the prowess of the English race were
founded on these things. They said that competition was the mainspring
of life; they seemed to think exercise was the goal of existence. A man
whom I saw there and who, I learnt, had been chosen to teach the young
on account of his wisdom, told me that competition trained the man to
sharpen his faculties; and that the tension which it provoked is
in itself a useful training. I do not believe this. A cat or a boa
constrictor will lie absolutely idle until it perceives an object worthy
of its appetite; it will then catch it and swallow it, and once more
relapse into repose without thinking of keeping itself ‘in training.’
But it will lie dormant and rise to the occasion when it occurs. These
people who talked of games seem to me to undervalue repose. They forget
that repose is the mother of action, and exercise only a frittering away
of the same.”

“What did you think,” I asked, “of the education that the students at
Oxford receive?”

“I think,” said the Chinaman, “that inasmuch as the young men waste
their time in idleness they do well; for the wise men who are chosen to
instruct the young at your places of learning, are not always wise. I
visited a professor of Oriental languages. His servant asked me to wait,
and after I had waited three quarters of an hour, he sent word to say
that he had tried everywhere to find the professor in the University who
spoke French, but that he had not been able to find him. And so he asked
me to call another day. I had dinner in a college hall. I found that the
professors talked of many things in such a way as would be impossible to
children of five and six in our country. They are quite ignorant of
the manners and customs of the people of other European countries. They
pronounce Greek and Latin and even French in the same way as English. I
mentioned to one of them that I had been employed for some time in the
Chinese Legation; he asked me if I had had much work to do. I said yes,
the work had been heavy. ‘But,’ he observed, ‘I suppose a great deal of
the work is carried on directly between the Governments and not through
the Ambassadors.’ I cannot conceive what he meant or how such a thing
could be possible, or what he considered the use and function of
Embassies and Legations to be. They most of them seemed to take for
granted that I could not speak English: some of them addressed me in a
kind of baby language; one of them spoke French. The professor who spoke
to me in this language told me that the French possessed no poetical
literature, and he said the reason of this was that the French language
was a bastard language; that it was, in fact, a kind of pidgin Latin.
He said when a Frenchman says a girl is ‘beaucoup belle,’ he is using
pidgin Latin. The courtesy due to a host prevented me from suggesting
that if a Frenchman said ‘beaucoup belle’ he would be talking pidgin

“Another professor said to me that China would soon develop if she
adopted a large Imperial ideal, and that in time the Chinese might
attain to a great position in the world, such as the English now held.
He said the best means of bringing this about would be to introduce
cricket and football into China. I told him that I thought this was
improbable, because if the Chinese play games, they do not care who
is the winner; the fun of the game is to us the improvisation of it as
opposed to the organisation which appeals to the people here. Upon which
he said that cricket was like a symphony of music. In a symphony every
instrument plays its part in obedience to one central will, not for its
individual advantage, but in order to make a beautiful whole. ‘So it is
with our games,’ he said, ‘every man plays his part not for the sake of
personal advantage, but so that his side may win; and thus the citizen
is taught to sink his own interests in those of the community.’ I
told him the Chinese did not like symphonies, and Western music was
intolerable to them for this very reason. Western musicians seem to
us to take a musical idea which is only worthy of a penny whistle (and
would be very good indeed if played on a penny whistle!); and they
sit down and make a score of it twenty yards broad, and set a hundred
highly-trained and highly-paid musicians to play it. It is the contrast
between the tremendous apparatus and waste of energy on one side, and
the light and playful character of the business itself on the
other which makes me, a Chinaman, as incapable of appreciating your
complicated games as I am of appreciating the complicated symphonies of
the Germans or the elaborate rules which their students make with
regard to the drinking of beer. We like a man for taking his fun and
not missing a joke when he finds it by chance on his way, but we cannot
understand his going out of his way to prepare a joke and to make
arrangements for having some fun at a certain fixed date. This is why
we consider a wayside song, a tune that is heard wandering in the summer
darkness, to be better than twenty concerts.”

“What did that professor say?” I asked.

“He said that if I were to stay long enough in England and go to a
course of concerts at the Chelsea Town Hall, I would soon learn to
think differently. And that if cricket and football were introduced
into China, the Chinese would soon emerge out of their backwardness and
barbarism and take a high place among the enlightened nations of the
world. I thought to myself as he said this that your games are no
doubt an excellent substitute for drill, but if we were to submit to so
complicated an organisation it would be with a purpose: in order to turn
the Europeans out of China, for instance; but that organisation without
a purpose would always seem to us to be stupid, and we should no more
dream of organising our play than of organising a stroll in the twilight
to see the Evening Star, or the chase of a butterfly in the spring. If
we were to decide on drill it would be drill with a vengeance and with a
definite aim; but we should not therefore and thereby destroy our play.
Play cannot exist for us without fun, and for us the open air, the
fields, and the meadows are like wine: if we feel inclined, we roam and
jump about in them, but we should never submit to standing to attention
for hours lest a ball should escape us. Besides which, we invented the
foundations of all our games many thousand of years ago. We invented and
played at ‘Diabolo’ when the Britons were painted blue and lived in
the woods. The English knew how to play once, in the days of Queen
Elizabeth; then they had masques and madrigals and Morris dances
and music. A gentleman was ashamed if he did not speak six or seven
languages, handle the sword with a deadly dexterity, play chess, and
write good sonnets. Men were broken on the wheel for an idea: they were
brave, cultivated, and gay; they fought, they played, and they wrote
excellent verse. Now they organise games and lay claim to a special
morality and to a special mission; they send out missionaries to
civilise us savages; and if our people resent having an alien creed
stuffed down their throats, they take our hand and burn our homes in
the name of Charity, Progress, and Civilisation. They seek for one
thing--gold; they preach competition, but competition for what? For
this: who shall possess the most, who shall most successfully ‘do’ his
neighbour. These ideals and aims do not tempt us. The quality of the
life is to us more important than the quantity of what is done and
achieved. We live, as we play, for the sake of living. I did not say
this to the professors because we have a proverb that when you are in a
man’s country you should not speak ill of it. I say it to you because I
see you have an inquiring mind, and you will feel it more insulting to
be served with meaningless phrases and empty civilities than with the
truth, however bitter. For those who have once looked the truth in the
face cannot afterwards be put off with false semblances.”

“You speak true words,” I said, “but what do you like best in England?”

“The gardens,” he answered, “and the little yellow flowers that are
sprinkled like stars on your green grass.”

“And what do you like least in England?”

“The horrible smells,” he said.

“Have you no smells in China?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “we have natural smells, but not the smell of gas and
smoke and coal which sickens me here. It is strange to me that people
can find the smell of human beings disgusting and be able to stand the
foul stenches of a London street. This very road along which we are now
travelling (we were passing through one of the less beautiful portions
of the tramway line) makes me homesick for my country. I long to see a
Chinese village once more built of mud and fenced with mud, muddy-roaded
and muddy-baked, with a muddy little stream to be waded across or
passed by stepping on stones; with a delicate one-storeyed temple on the
water-eaten bank, and green poppy fields round it; and the women in dark
blue standing at the doorways, smoking their pipes; and the children,
with three small budding pigtails on the head of each, clinging to them;
and the river fringed with a thousand masts: the boats, the houseboats,
the barges and the ships in the calm, wide estuaries, each with a pair
of huge eyes painted on the front bow. And the people: the men working
at their looms and whistling a happy tune out of the gladness of their
hearts. And everywhere the sense of leisure, the absence of hurry and
bustle and confusion; the dignity of manners and the grace of expression
and of address. And, above all, the smell of life everywhere.”

“I admit,” I said, “that our streets smell horribly of smoke and coal,
but surely our people are clean?”

“Yes,” he said, “no doubt; but you forget that to us there is nothing so
intolerably nasty as the smell of a clean white man!”


John Fletcher was an overworked minor official in a Government office.
He lived a lonely life, and had done so ever since he had been a boy. At
school he had mixed little with his fellow school-boys, and he took no
interest in the things that interested them, that is to say, games. On
the other hand, although he was what is called “good at work,” and did
his lessons with facility and ease, he was not a literary boy, and did
not care for books. He was drawn towards machinery of all kinds,
and spent his spare time in dabbling in scientific experiments or in
watching trains go by on the Great Western line. Once he blew off his
eyebrows while making some experiment with explosive chemicals; his
hands were always smudged with dark, mysterious stains, and his room was
like that of a mediaeval alchemist, littered with retorts, bottles,
and test-glasses. Before leaving school he invented a flying machine
(heavier than air), and an unsuccessful attempt to start it on the high
road caused him to be the victim of much chaff and ridicule.

When he left school he went to Oxford. His life there was as lonely
as it had been at school. The dirty, untidy, ink-stained, and
chemical-stained little boy grew up into a tall, lank, slovenly-dressed
man, who kept entirely to himself, not because he cherished any dislike
or disdain for his fellow-creatures, but because he seemed to be
entirely absorbed in his own thoughts and isolated from the world by a
barrier of dreams.

He did well at Oxford, and when he went down he passed high into the
Civil Service and became a clerk in a Government office. There he kept
as much to himself as ever. He did his work rapidly and well, for this
man, who seemed so slovenly in his person, had an accurate mind, and was
what was called a good clerk, although his incurable absent-mindedness
once or twice caused him to forget certain matters of importance.

His fellow clerks treated him as a crank and as a joke, but none of
them, try as they would, could get to know him or win his confidence.
They used to wonder what Fletcher did with his spare time, what were
his pursuits, what were his hobbies, if he had any. They suspected that
Fletcher had some hobby of an engrossing kind, since in everyday life he
conveyed the impression of a man who is walking in his sleep, who acts
mechanically and automatically. Somewhere else, they thought, in some
other circumstances, he must surely wake up and take a living interest
in somebody or in something.

Yet had they followed him home to his small room in Canterbury-mansions
they would have been astonished. For when he returned from the office
after a hard day’s work he would do nothing more engrossing than slowly
to turn over the leaves of a book in which there were elaborate drawings
and diagrams of locomotives and other kinds of engines. And on Sunday he
would take a train to one of the large junctions and spend the whole
day in watching express trains go past, and in the evening would return
again to London.

One day after he had returned from the office somewhat earlier than
usual, he was telephoned for. He had no telephone in his own room, but
he could use a public telephone which was attached to the building. He
went into the small box, but found on reaching the telephone that he had
been cut off by the exchange. He imagined that he had been rung up by
the office, so he asked to be given their number. As he did so his eye
caught an advertisement which was hung just over the telephone. It was
an elaborate design in black and white, pointing out the merits of a
particular kind of soap called the Venus: a classical lady, holding
a looking-glass in one hand and a cake of this invaluable soap in the
other, was standing in a sphere surrounded by pointed rays, which was no
doubt intended to represent the most brilliant of the planets.

Fletcher sat down on the stool and took the receiver in his hand. As he
did so he had for one second the impression that the floor underneath
him gave way and that he was falling down a precipice. But before he had
time to realise what was happening the sensation of falling left him; he
shook himself as though he had been asleep, and for one moment a faint
recollection as though of the dreams of the night twinkled in his mind,
and vanished beyond all possibility of recall. He said to himself that
he had had a long and curious dream, and he knew that it was too late to
remember what it had been about. Then he opened his eyes wide and looked
round him.

He was standing on the slope of a hill. At his feet there was a kind of
green moss, very soft to tread on. It was sprinkled here and there with
light red, wax-like flowers such as he had never seen before. He was
standing in an open space; beneath him there was a plain covered with
what seemed to be gigantic mushrooms, much taller than a man. Above
him rose a mass of vegetation, and over all this was a dense, heavy,
streaming cloud faintly glimmering with a white, silvery light which
seemed to be beyond it.

He walked towards the vegetation, and soon found himself in the middle
of a wood, or rather of a jungle. Tangled plants grew on every side;
large hanging creepers with great blue flowers hung downwards. There was
a profound stillness in this wood; there were no birds singing and
he heard not the slightest rustle in the rich undergrowth. It was
oppressively hot and the air was full of a pungent, aromatic sweetness.
He felt as though he were in a hot-house full of gardenias and
stephanotis. At the same time the atmosphere of the place was pleasant
to him. It was neither strange nor disagreeable. He felt at home in this
green shimmering jungle and in this hot, aromatic twilight, as though he
had lived there all his life.

He walked mechanically onwards as if he were going to a definite spot of
which he knew. He walked fast, but in spite of the oppressive atmosphere
and the thickness of the growth he grew neither hot nor out of breath;
on the contrary, he took pleasure in the motion, and the stifling,
sweet air seemed to invigorate him. He walked steadily on for over three
hours, choosing his way nicely, avoiding certain places and seeking
others, following a definite path and making for a definite goal. During
all this time the stillness continued unbroken, nor did he meet a single
living thing, either bird or beast.

After he had been walking for what seemed to him several hours, the
vegetation grew thinner, the jungle less dense, and from a more or less
open space in it he seemed to discern what might have been a mountain
entirely submerged in a multitude of heavy grey clouds. He sat down on
the green stuff which was like grass and yet was not grass, at the edge
of the open space whence he got this view, and quite naturally he picked
from the boughs of an overhanging tree a large red, juicy fruit, and
ate it. Then he said to himself, he knew not why, that he must not waste
time, but must be moving on.

He took a path to the right of him and descended the sloping jungle with
big, buoyant strides, almost running; he knew the way as though he had
been down that path a thousand times. He knew that in a few moments he
would reach a whole hanging garden of red flowers, and he knew that
when he had reached this he must again turn to the right. It was as he
thought: the red flowers soon came to view. He turned sharply, and then
through the thinning greenery he caught sight of an open plain where
more mushrooms grew. But the plain was as yet a great way off, and the
mushrooms seemed quite small.

“I shall get there in time,” he said to himself, and walked steadily on,
looking neither to the right nor to the left. It was evening by the
time he reached the edge of the plain: everything was growing dark. The
endless vapours and the high banks of cloud in which the whole of this
world was sunk grew dimmer and dimmer. In front of him was an empty
level space, and about two miles further on the huge mushrooms stood
out, tall and wide like the monuments of some prehistoric age. And
underneath them on the soft carpet there seemed to move a myriad vague
and shadowy forms.

“I shall get there in time,” he thought. He walked on for another half
hour, and by this time the tall mushrooms were quite close to him,
and he could see moving underneath them, distinctly now, green, living
creatures like huge caterpillars, with glowing eyes. They moved slowly
and did not seem to interfere with each other in any way. Further off,
and beyond them, there was a broad and endless plain of high green
stalks like ears of green wheat or millet, only taller and thinner.

He ran on, and now at his very feet, right in front of him, the green
caterpillars were moving. They were as big as leopards. As he drew
nearer they seemed to make way for him, and to gather themselves into
groups under the thick stems of the mushrooms. He walked along the
pathway they made for him, under the shadow of the broad, sunshade-like
roofs of these gigantic growths. It was almost dark now, yet he had no
doubt or difficulty as to finding his way. He was making for the green
plain beyond. The ground was dense with caterpillars; they were as
plentiful as ants in an ant’s nest, and yet they never seemed to
interfere with each other or with him; they instinctively made way
for him, nor did they appear to notice him in any way. He felt neither
surprise nor wonder at their presence.

It grew quite dark; the only lights which were in this world came from
the twinkling eyes of the moving figures, which shone like little stars.
The night was no whit cooler than the day. The atmosphere was as steamy,
as dense and as aromatic as before. He walked on and on, feeling no
trace of fatigue or hunger, and every now and then he said to himself:
“I shall be there in time.” The plain was flat and level, and covered
the whole way with the mushrooms, whose roofs met and shut out from him
the sight of the dark sky.

At last he came to the end of the plain of mushrooms and reached the
high green stalks he had been making for. Beyond the dark clouds a
silver glimmer had begun once more to show itself. “I am just in time,”
 he said to himself, “the night is over, the sun is rising.”

At that moment there was a great whirr in the air, and from out of
the green stalks rose a flight of millions and millions of enormous
broad-winged butterflies of every hue and description--silver, gold,
purple, brown and blue. Some with dark and velvety wings like the
Purple Emperor, or the Red Admiral, others diaphanous and iridescent as
dragon-flies. Others again like vast soft and silvery moths. They rose
from every part of that green plain of stalks, they filled the sky, and
then soared upwards and disappeared into the silvery cloudland.

Fletcher was about to leap forward when he heard a voice in his ear

“Are you 6493 Victoria? You are talking to the Home Office.”

* * * * *

As soon as Fletcher heard the voice of the office messenger through
the telephone he instantly realised his surroundings, and the strange
experience he had just gone through, which had seemed so long and which
in reality had been so brief, left little more impression on him than
that which remains with a man who has been immersed in a brown study or
who has been staring at something, say a poster in the street, and has
not noticed the passage of time.

The next day he returned to his work at the office, and his
fellow-clerks, during the whole of the next week, noticed that he was
more zealous and more painstaking than ever. On the other hand, his
periodical fits of abstraction grew more frequent and more pronounced.
On one occasion he took a paper to the head of the department for
signature, and after it had been signed, instead of removing it from
the table, he remained staring in front of him, and it was not until the
head of the department had called him three times loudly by name that he
took any notice and regained possession of his faculties. As these
fits of absent-mindedness grew to be somewhat severely commented on, he
consulted a doctor, who told him that what he needed was change of
air, and advised him to spend his Sundays at Brighton or at some other
bracing and exhilarating spot. Fletcher did not take the doctor’s
advice, but continued spending his spare time as he did before, that is
to say, in going to some big junction and watching the express trains go
by all day long.

One day while he was thus employed--it was Sunday, in August of
19--, when the Egyptian Exhibition was attracting great crowds of
visitors--and sitting, as was his habit, on a bench on the centre
platform of Slough Station, he noticed an Indian pacing up and down the
platform, who every now and then stopped and regarded him with peculiar
interest, hesitating as though he wished to speak to him. Presently the
Indian came and sat down on the same bench, and after having sat there
in silence for some minutes he at last made a remark about the heat.

“Yes,” said Fletcher, “it is trying, especially for people like myself,
who have to remain in London during these months.”

“You are in an office, no doubt,” said the Indian.

“Yes,” said Fletcher.

“And you are no doubt hard worked.”

“Our hours are not long,” Fletcher replied, “and I should not complain
of overwork if I did not happen to suffer from--well, I don’t know what
it is, but I suppose they would call it nerves.”

“Yes,” said the Indian, “I could see that by your eyes.”

“I am a prey to sudden fits of abstraction,” said Fletcher, “they are
growing upon me. Sometimes in the office I forget where I am altogether
for a space of about two or three minutes; people are beginning to
notice it and to talk about it. I have been to a doctor, and he said I
needed change of air. I shall have my leave in about a month’s time, and
then perhaps I shall get some change of air, but I doubt if it will
do me any good. But these fits are annoying, and once something quite
uncanny seemed to happen to me.”

The Indian showed great interest and asked for further details
concerning this strange experience, and Fletcher told him all that
he could recall--for the memory of it was already dimmed--of what had
happened when he had telephoned that night.

The Indian was thoughtful for a while after hearing this tale. At
last he said: “I am not a doctor, I am not even what you call a quack
doctor--I am a mere conjurer, and I gain my living by conjuring tricks
and fortune-telling at the Exhibition which is going on in London. But
although I am a poor man and an ignorant man, I have an inkling, a few
sparks in me of ancient knowledge, and I know what is the matter with

“What is it?” asked Fletcher.

“You have the power, or something has the power,” said the Indian, “of
detaching you from your actual body, and your astral body has been into
another planet. By your description I think it must be the planet Venus.
It may happen to you again, and for a longer period--for a very much
longer period.”

“Is there anything I can do to prevent it?” asked Fletcher.

“Nothing,” said the Indian. “You can try change of air if you like,
but,” he said with a smile, “I do not think it will do you much good.”

At that moment a train came in, and the Indian said good-bye and jumped
into it.

On the next day, which was Monday, when Fletcher got to the office it
was necessary for him to use the telephone with regard to some business.
No sooner had he taken the receiver off the telephone than he vividly
recalled the minute details of the evening he had telephoned, when the
strange experience had come to him. The advertisement of Venus Soap that
had hung in the telephone box in his house appeared distinctly before
him, and as he thought of that he once more experienced a falling
sensation which lasted only a fraction of a second, and rubbing his eyes
he awoke to find himself in the tepid atmosphere of a green and humid

This time he was not near the wood, but on the sea-shore. In front of
him was a grey sea, smooth as oil and clouded with steaming vapours,
and behind him the wide green plain stretched into a cloudy distance.
He could discern, faint on the far-off horizon, the shadowy forms of the
gigantic mushrooms which he knew, and on the level plain which reached
the sea beach, but not so far off as the mushrooms, he could plainly see
the huge green caterpillars moving slowly and lazily in an endless herd.
The sea was breaking on the sand with a faint moan. But almost at once
he became aware of another sound, which came he knew not whence, and
which was familiar to him. It was a low whistling noise, and it seemed
to come from the sky.

At that moment Fletcher was seized by an unaccountable panic. He was
afraid of something; he did not know what it was, but he knew, he felt
absolutely certain, that some danger, no vague calamity, no distant
misfortune, but some definite physical danger was hanging over him and
quite close to him--something from which it would be necessary to run
away, and to run fast in order to save his life. And yet there was no
sign of danger visible, for in front of him was the motionless oily sea,
and behind him was the empty and silent plain. It was then he noticed
that the caterpillars were fast disappearing, as if into the earth: he
was too far off to make out how.

He began to run along the coast. He ran as fast as he could, but he
dared not look round. He ran back from the coast to the plain, from
which a white mist was rising. By this time every single caterpillar had
disappeared. The whistling noise continued and grew louder.

At last he reached the wood and bounded on, trampling down long trailing
grasses and tangled weeds through the thick, muggy gloom of those
endless aisles of jungle. He came to a somewhat open space where there
was the trunk of a tree larger than the others; it stood by itself and
disappeared into the tangle of creepers above. He thought he would climb
the tree, but the trunk was too wide, and his efforts failed. He stood
by the tree trembling and panting with fear. He could not hear a sound,
but he felt that the danger, whatever it was, was at hand.

It grew darker and darker. It was night in the forest. He stood
paralysed with terror; he felt as though bound hand and foot, but there
was nothing to be done except to wait until his invisible enemy should
choose to inflict his will on him and achieve his doom. And yet the
agony of this suspense was so terrible that he felt that if it lasted
much longer something must inevitably break inside him . . . and just as
he was thinking that eternity could not be so long as the moments he was
passing through, a blessed unconsciousness came over him. He woke
from this state to find himself face to face with one of the office
messengers, who said to him that he had been given his number two or
three times but had taken no notice of it.

Fletcher executed his commission and then went upstairs to his office.
His fellow-clerks at once asked what had happened to him, for he was
looking white. He said that he had a headache and was not feeling quite
himself, but made no further explanations.

This last experience changed the whole tenor of his life. When fits of
abstraction had occurred to him before he had not troubled about
them, and after his first strange experience he had felt only vaguely
interested; but now it was a different matter. He was consumed with
dread lest the thing should occur again. He did not want to get back
to that green world and that oily sea; he did not want to hear the
whistling noise, and to be pursued by an invisible enemy. So much did
the dread of this weigh on him that he refused to go to the telephone
lest the act of telephoning should set alight in his mind the train of
associations and bring his thoughts back to his dreadful experience.

Shortly after this he went for leave, and following the doctor’s advice
he spent it by the sea. During all this time he was perfectly well, and
was not once troubled by his curious fits. He returned to London in the
autumn refreshed and well.

On the first day that he went to the office a friend of his telephoned
to him. When he was told that the line was being held for him he
hesitated, but at last he went down to the telephone office.

He remained away twenty minutes. Finally his prolonged absence was
noticed, and he was sent for. He was found in the telephone room stiff
and unconscious, having fallen forward on the telephone desk. His face
was quite white, and his eyes wide open and glazed with an expression
of piteous and harrowing terror. When they tried to revive him their
efforts were in vain. A doctor was sent for, and he said that Fletcher
had died of heart disease.


Before the bell had time to sound the alarm a huge pillar of smoke
and flame, leaping high in the breathless August night, told the whole
village the news of the fire. Men, women, and children hurried to the
burning place. The firemen galloped down the rutty road with their
barrels of water and hand-pumps, yelling. The bell rang, with hurried,
throbbing beats. The fire, which was further off than it seemed to be
at first sight, was in the middle of the village. Two houses were
burning--a house built of bricks and a wooden cottage. The flame was
prodigious: it soared into the sky like the eruption of a volcano, and
the wooden cottage, with its flat logs and blazing roof, looked like a
sacrificial pyre consuming the body of some warrior or Viking. In the
light of the flames the soft sky, which was starless and flooded with
stillness by the large full moon, had turned from blue to green. A dense
crowd had gathered round the burning houses.

The firemen, working like bees, were doing what they could to extinguish
the flames and to prevent the fire spreading. Volunteers from the crowd
helped them. One man climbed up on the edge of the wooden house, where
the flames had been overcome, and shovelled earth from the roof on the
little flames, which were leaping like earth spirits from the ground.
His wife stood below and called on him in forcible language to descend
from such a dangerous place. The crowd jeered at her fears, and she
spoke her mind to them in frank and unvarnished terms. It was St. John
the Baptist’s Day. Some of the men had been celebrating the feast by
drinking. One of them, out of the fulness of his heart, cried out:
“Oh, how happy I am! I’m drunk, and there’s a fire, and all at the same
time!” But most of the crowd--they looked like black shadows against
the glare--looked on quietly, every now and then making comments on the
situation. One of the peasants tried to knock down the burning house
with an axe. He failed. Someone not far off was playing an accordion and
singing a monotonous rhythmical song.

Amidst the shifting crowd of shadows I noticed a strange figure, who
beckoned to me. “I see you are short-sighted,” he said, “let me lend you
a glass.” His voice sounded thin and distant, and he handed me a piece
of glass which seemed to be more opaque than transparent. I looked
through it and I noticed a difference in things:

The cottages had disappeared; in their place were great high buildings
with lofty porticos, broad columns and carved friezes, but flames were
leaping round them, intenser and greater than before, and the noise of
the fire had increased. In front of me was an open court, in the centre
of which was an altar, and to the right of this altar stood an old
bay-tree. An old man and a grey-haired woman were clinging to this
altar; it was drenched with blood, and on the steps of it lay several
bodies of young men clothed in armour, but squalid with dust and blood.

I had scarcely become aware of the scene before a great cloud of smoke
passed through the court, and when it rose I saw there had been another
change: in that few moments’ space the fire seemed to have wrought
incredible havoc. Nothing was left of all the tall pillared buildings,
the friezes and the porticos, the altar, the bay-tree and the
bodies--nothing but the pile of logs which vomited a rolling cloud of
flame and smoke into the sky. The moon was still shining calmly, and the
sky was softer and greener. On the ground there were hundreds of dead
and dying men; the dying were groaning in their agony. Far away on the
horizon there was a thin line of light, a faint trembling thread as
though of foam, and I seemed to hear the moaning of the sea.

All at once a woman walked in front of the burning pile. She was tall,
and silken folds clothed the perfect lines of her body and fell straight
to the ground. She walked royally, and when she moved her gestures were
like the rhythm of majestic music. The firelight shone on her hair,
which was bound with a narrow golden band. Her hair was like a cloud of
spun sunshine, and it seemed brighter than the flames. She was walking
with downcast eyes, but presently she looked up. Her face was calm, and
faultless as skilfully-hewn marble, and it seemed to be made of some
substance different from the clay which goes to the making of men and
women. It was not an angel’s face; it was not a divine face; neither was
it a wicked face, nor had it anything cruel, nor anything of the siren
or the witch. Love and pleasure seemed to have moulded the flower-like
lips; but an infinite carelessness shone in the still blue eyes. They
seemed like two seas that had never known what winds and tempests
mean, but which bask for ever under unruffled skies lulled by a
slumber-scented breeze.

She looked up at the fire and smiled, and at that smile one thought the
heavens must open and the stars break into song, so marvellous was its
loveliness, so infinitely radiant the glory of it. She was a woman, and
yet more than a woman, a creature of the earth, yet fashioned of pearls
and dew and the petals of flowers: delicate as a gossamer, and yet
radiant with the flush of life, soft as the twilight, and glowing with
the blood of the ruby; and, above all things, serene, calm, aloof, and
unruffled like the silver moon. When the dying men saw her smile they
raised their eyes towards her, and one could see that there shone in
them a strange and wonderful happiness. And when they had looked they
fell back and died.

Then a cloud of smoke blinded me. When it rose the full moon was still
shining in a sky even bluer and softer than it had yet been. The fire
was further off, but it had spread. The whole village was on fire; but
the village had grown; it seemed endless, and covered several hills.
Right in front of me was a grove of cypresses, dark against the intense
glow of the flames, which leapt all round in the distance: a huge circle
of light, a chain of fiery tongues and dancing lightnings.

We were on the top of a hill, and we looked down into a place where tall
buildings and temples stood, where the fire had not penetrated. This
place was crowded with men, women and children. It was the same shifting
crowd of shadows: some shouting, some gesticulating, some looking on
indifferent. And straight in front of me was a short, dark, and rather
fat man with a low forehead, deep-set eyes, and a heavy jaw. He was
crowned with a golden wreath, and he was twanging a kind of harp. In
the distance suddenly the cypress trees became alive with huge flaring
torches, which lit the garden like Bengal lights. The man threw down his
harp and clapped his hands in ecstasy at the bright fireworks. Again a
cloud of smoke obscured everything.

When it lifted I was in the village once more, and once more it was
different. It was on fire, and it seemed infinitely larger and more
straggling than when I had arrived. The moon was still in the sky, but
the air had a chilly touch. Instead of one church there was an infinite
number of churches, for in the glare countless minarets and small
cupolas were visible. There was no crowd, no voices, and no shouting;
only a long line of low, blazing wooden houses. The place was deserted
and silent save for the crackling blaze. Then down the street a short,
fat man on horseback rode towards us. He was riding a white horse. He
wore a grey overcoat and a cocked hat. I became aware of a rhythmical
tramping: a noise of hundreds and hundreds of hoofs, a champing of
bits, and the tramp of innumerable feet and the rumble of guns. In the
distance there was a hill with crenelated battlements round it; it was
crowned with the domes and minarets of several churches, taller and
greater than all the other churches in sight. These minarets shone out
clean-cut and distinct against the ruddy sky.

The short man on horseback looked back for a moment at this hill. He
took a pinch of snuff.


When the ancient gods were turned out of Olympus, and the groan of dying
Pan shook the world like an earthquake, none of the fallen deities was
so disconsolate as Proserpine. She wandered across the world, assuming
now this shape and now that, but nowhere could she find a resting-place
or a home. In the Southern country which she regarded as her own,
whatever shape or disguise she assumed, whether that of a gleaner or of
an old woman begging for alms, the country people would scent something
uncanny about her and chase her from the place. Thus it was that she
left the Southern country, which she loved; she said farewell to the
azure skies, the hills covered with corn and fringed everywhere with
rose bushes, the white oxen, the cypress, the olive, the vine, the
croaking frogs, and the million fireflies; and she sought the green
pastures and the woods of a Northern country.

One evening, not long after her arrival (it was Midsummer Eve), as
she was wandering in a thick wood, she noticed that the trees and the
under-growth were twinkling with a myriad soft flames which reminded her
of the fireflies of her own country, and presently she perceived that
these flames were stars which, soft as dew and bright as moonbeams,
formed the diadems crowning the hair of unearthly shapes. These shapes
were like those of men and maidens, transfigured and rendered strange
and delicate, as light as foam, and radiant as dragonflies hovering over
a pool. They were rimmed with rainbow-coloured films, and sometimes
they flew and sometimes they danced, but they rarely seemed to touch
the ground. And as Proserpine approached them, in the sad majesty of
her fallen divinity, they gathered round her in a circle and bowed down
before her. And one of them, taller than the rest, advanced towards her
and said:--

“We are the Fairies, and for a long time we have been mournful, for we
have lost our Queen, our beautiful Queen. She loved a mortal, and on
this account she was banished from Fairyland, nor may she ever revisit
the haunt and the kingdom that were hers. But Merlin, the oldest and the
wisest of the wizards, told us we should find another Queen, and that we
should know her by the poppies in her hair, the whiteness of her brow,
and the stillness of her eyes, and with or without such tokens we should
know, as soon as we set eyes on her, that it was she and no other who
was to be our Queen. And now we know that it was you and no other.
Therefore shall you be our Queen and rule over us until he comes who,
Merlin said, shall conquer your kingdom and deliver its secrets to the
mortal world. Then shall you abandon the kingdom of the Fairies--the
everlasting Limbo shall receive you.”

* * * * *

It was one summer’s day a long time ago, many and many years after
Proserpine had become Queen of the Fairies, that a butcher’s apprentice
called William was enjoying a holiday, and strolling in the woods with
no other purpose than to stroll and enjoy the fresh air and the cool
leaves and the song of the birds. William loved the sights and sounds
of the country; unlike many boys of his age, he was not deeply versed
in the habits of birds and beasts, but devoted his spare time to reading
such books as he could borrow from the village schoolmaster whose school
he had lately left to go into trade, or to taking part in the games of
his companions, for he loved human fellowship and the talk and laughter
of his fellow-creatures.

The day was hot--it was Midsummer Day--and William, having stumbled on a
convenient mound, fell asleep. And he dreamt a curious dream. He thought
he saw a beautiful maiden walking towards him. She was tall, and clothed
in dark draperies, and her hair was bound with a coronal of scarlet
flowers, her face was pale and lustrous, and he could not see her eyes
because they were veiled. She approached him and said:--

“You are he who has been chosen to try to conquer my kingdom, which is
faery, and to possess it: if, indeed, you are able to endure the
fierce ordeal and to perform the three dreadful tasks which have been
appointed. If he who sets out to conquer my kingdom should fail in any
one of the three tasks he dies, and the world hears of him no more. Many
have tried and failed.”

And William said he would try with all his might to conquer the faery
kingdom, and he asked what the three tasks might be.

The maiden, who was none other than Proserpine, Queen of the Fairies,
told him that the first task was to pluck the crystal apple from the
laughing tree, and second to pluck the blood-red rose from the fiery
rose tree, and the third to cull the white poppy from the quiet fields.
William asked her how he was to set about these tasks. Proserpine told
him that he had but to accept the quest and all would be made clear. So
he accepted the quest without further talk.

Immediately Proserpine vanished, and William found himself in a large
green garden of fruit trees, and in the distance he heard the noise of
rippling laughter. He walked along many paths to the place whence he
thought the laughter came, until he found a large fruit tree which grew
by itself. It was laden with fruit, and from one of its boughs hung a
crystal apple which shone with all the colours of the rainbow.

But the tree was guarded by a hideous old hag, covered with sores and
leprous scales, loathsome to behold. And a laughing voice came from
the tree saying: “He who would pluck the crystal apple must embrace its
guardian.” And William looked at her and felt no loathing but rather a
deep pity, so that tears welled in his eyes and dropped on her, and he
took her face in his hands to embrace her, and as he did so she changed
into a beautiful maiden with veiled eyes, who plucked the crystal apple
from the tree and gave it to him and vanished.

Then the garden changed its semblance, and all around him there seemed
to be a hedge of smoking thorns and before him a fiery tree on which
blood-red roses shone like rubies. The tree was guarded by a maiden
with long grey eyes and flowing hair, and of spun moonshine, beautiful
exceedingly, and a moaning voice came from the tree, saying: “He who
would pluck the rose must slay its guardian.” On the grass beneath the
tree lay an unsheathed sword. William took the sword in his hands, but
the maiden looked at him piteously and wept, so that he hesitated; then,
hardening himself, he plunged the sword into her heart and a great moan
was heard, and the fire disappeared, and only a withered rose-tree stood
before him. Then he heard the voice say that he must pierce his own
heart with a thorn from the tree and let the blood fall upon its roots.
This he did, and as he did so he felt the sharpness of Death, as though
the last dreadful moment had come; but as the drops of blood fell on
the roots the beautiful maiden with veiled eyes, whom he had seen before
stood before him and gave him the blood-red rose, and she touched his
wound and straightway it was healed.

Then the garden vanished altogether, and he stood before a dark porch
and a gate beyond which he caught a pale glimmer. And by the porch stood
a terrible shape: a hooded skeleton bearing a scythe, with white sockets
of fire which had no eyes in them but which were so terrible that no
mortal could look on them and live. And here he heard a voice saying:
“He who would cull the white poppy must look into the eyes of its
guardian and take the scythe from the bony hands.” And William seized
the scythe and an icy darkness descended upon him, and he felt dizzy
and faint; yet he persisted and wrestled with the skeleton, although the
darkness seemed to be overwhelming him. He tore the hood from the bony
head and looked boldly into the fiery sockets.

Then with a crash of thunder the skeleton vanished, and the maiden with
veiled eyes led him through the gate into the quiet fields, and there
he culled the white poppy. Then the maiden turned to him and unveiled
herself, and it was Proserpine, the Queen of the Fairies.

“You have conquered,” she said, “and the faery kingdom is yours for
ever, and you shall visit it and dwell in it whenever you desire, and
reveal its sounds and its sights to the mortals of the world: and in my
kingdom you shall see, as though in a mirror, the pageant of mankind,
the scroll of history, and the story of man which is writ in brave,
golden and glowing letters, of blood and tears and fire. And there is
nothing in the soul of man that shall be hid from you; and you shall
speak the secrets of my kingdom to mortal men with a voice of gold and
of honey. And when you grow weary of life you shall withdraw for ever
into the island of faery voices which lies in the heart of my kingdom.
And as for me I go to the everlasting Limbo.”

Then Proserpine vanished, and William awoke from his dream, and went
home to his butcher’s shop.

Soon after this he left his native village and went to London, where he
became well known; although how his surname shall be spelt is a matter
of dispute, some spelling it Shakespeare, some Shakespere, and some


Ferroll was an intellectual, and he prided himself on the fact. At
Cambridge he had narrowly missed being a Senior Wrangler, and his
principal study there had been Lunar Theory. But when he went down from
Cambridge for good, being a man of some means, he travelled. For a
year he was an honorary Attache at one of the big Embassies. He finally
settled in London with a vague idea of some day writing a _magnum opus_
about the stupidity of mankind; for he had come to the conclusion by the
age of twenty-five that all men were stupid, irreclaimably, irredeemably
stupid; that everything was wrong; that all literature was really bad,
all art much overrated, and all music tedious in the long run.

The years slipped by and he never began his _magnum opus_; he joined
a literary club instead and discussed the current topic of the day.
Sometimes he wrote a short article; never in the daily Press, which he
despised, nor in the reviews (for he never wrote anything as long as a
magazine article), but in a literary weekly he would express in weary
and polished phrases the unemphatic boredom or the mitigated approval
with which the works of his fellow-men inspired him. He was the kind of
man who had nothing in him you could positively dislike, but to whom
you could not talk for five minutes without having a vague sensation of
blight. Things seemed to shrivel up in his presence as though they had
been touched by an insidious east wind, a subtle frost, a secret chill.
He never praised anything, though he sometimes condescended to approve.
The faint puffs of blame in which he more generally indulged were never
sharp or heavy, but were like the smoke rings of a cigarette which a man
indolently smoking blows from time to time up to the ceiling.

He lived in rooms in the Temple. They were comfortably, not luxuriously
furnished; a great many French books--French was the only modern
language worth reading he used to say--a few modern German etchings, a
low Turkish divan, and some Egyptian antiquities, made up the furniture
of his two sitting-rooms. Above all things he despised Greek art;
it was, he said decadent. The Egyptians and the Germans were, in his
opinion, the only people who knew anything about the plastic arts,
whereas the only music he could endure was that of the modern French
School. Over his chimney-piece there was a large German landscape
in oils, called “Im Walde”; it represented a wood at twilight in the
autumn, and if you looked at it carefully and for a long time you saw
that the objects depicted were meant to be trees from which the leaves
were falling; but if you looked at the picture carelessly and from a
distance, it looked like a man-of-war on a rough sea, for which it was
frequently taken, much to Ferrol’s annoyance.

One day an artist friend of his presented him with a small Chinese god
made of crystal; he put this on his chimney-piece. It was on the evening
of the day on which he received this gift that he dined, together with a
friend named Sledge who had travelled much in Eastern countries, at his
club. After dinner they went to Ferrol’s rooms to smoke and to talk. He
wanted to show Sledge his antiquities, which consisted of three large
Egyptian statuettes, a small green Egyptian god, and the Chinese idol
which he had lately been given. Sledge, who was a middle-aged, bearded
man, frank and unconventional, examined the antiquities with care,
pronounced them to be genuine, and singled out for special praise the
crystal god.

“Your things are very good,” he said, “very good. But don’t you really
mind having all these things about you?”

“Why should I mind?” asked Ferrol.

“Well, you have travelled a good deal, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” said Ferrol, “I have travelled; I have been as far east as
Nijni-Novgorod to see the Fair, and as far west as Lisbon.”

“I suppose,” said Sledge, “you were a long time in Greece and Italy?”

“No,” said Ferrol, “I have never been to Greece. Greek art distresses
me. All classical art is a mistake and a superstition.”

“Talking of superstition,” said Sledge, “you have never been to the Far
East, have you?”

“No,” Ferrol answered, “Egypt is Eastern enough for me, and cannot be

“Well,” said Sledge, “I have been in the Far East. I have lived there
many years. I am not a superstitious man; but there is one thing I
would not do in any circumstances whatsoever, and that is to keep in my
sitting-room the things you have got there.”

“But why?” asked Ferrol.

“Well,” said Sledge, “nearly all of them have come from the tombs of the
dead, and some of them are gods. Such things may have attached to them
heaven knows what spooks and spirits.”

Ferrol shut his eyes and smiled, a faint, seraphic smile. “My dear boy,”
 he said, “you forget. This is the Twentieth Century.”

“And you,” answered Sledge, “forget that the things you have here were
made before the Twentieth Century. B.C.”

“You don’t seriously mean,” said Ferrol, “that you attach any importance
to these--” he hesitated.

“Children’s stories?” suggested Sledge.

Ferrol nodded.

“I have lived long enough in the East,” said Sledge, “to know that the
sooner you learn to believe children’s stories the better.”

“I am afraid, then,” said Ferrol, with civil tolerance, “that our points
of view are too different for us to discuss the matter.” And they talked
of other things until late into the night.

Just as Sledge was leaving Ferrol’s rooms and had said “Good-night,” he
paused by the chimney-piece, and, pointing to the tiny Ikon which was
lying on it, asked: “What is that?”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Ferrol, “only a small Ikon I bought for
twopence at the Fair of Nijni-Novgorod.”

Sledge said “Good-night” again, but when he was on the stairs he called
back: “In any case remember one thing, that East is East and West is
West. Don’t mix your deities.”

Ferrol had not the slightest idea what he was alluding to, nor did he
care. He dismissed the matter from his mind.

The next day he spent in the country, returning to London late in the
evening. As he entered his rooms the first thing which met his eye was
that his great picture, “Im Walde,” which he considered to be one of the
few products of modern art that a man who respected himself could look
at without positive pain in the eyes, had fallen from its place over
the chimney-piece to the floor in front of the fender, and the glass was
shattered into a thousand fragments. He was much vexed. He sought the
cause of the accident. The nail was a strong one, and it was still in
its place. The picture had been hung by a wire; the wire seemed strong
also and was not broken. He concluded that the picture must have been
badly balanced and that a sudden shock such a door banging had thrown
it over. He had no servant in his rooms, and when he had gone out that
morning he had locked the door, so no one could have entered his rooms
during his absence.

Next morning he sent for a framemaker and told him to mend the frame as
soon as possible, to make the wire strong, and to see that the picture
was firmly fixed on the wall. In two or three days’ time the picture
returned and was once more hung on the wall over the chimney-piece
immediately above the little crystal Chinese god. Ferrol supervised the
hanging of the picture in person. He saw that the nail was strong, and
firmly fixed in the wall; he took care that the wire left nothing to be
desired and was properly attached to the rings of the picture.

The picture was hung early one morning. That day he went to play golf.
He returned at five o’clock, and again the first thing which met his eye
was the picture. It had again fallen down, and this time it had brought
with it in its fall the small Chinese god, which was broken in two.
The glass had again been shattered to bits, and the picture itself was
somewhat damaged. Everything else on the chimney-piece, that is to say,
a few matchboxes and two candle-sticks, had also been thrown to the
ground--everything with the exception of the little Ikon he had bought
at Nijni-Novgorod, a small object about two inches square on which two
Saints were pictured. This still rested in its place against the wall.

Ferrol investigated the disaster. The nail was in its place in the wall;
the wire at the back of the picture was not broken or damaged in any
way. The accident seemed to him quite inexplicable. He was greatly
annoyed. The Chinese god was a valuable thing. He stood in front of the
chimney-piece contemplating the damage with a sense of great irritation.

“To think that everything should have been broken except this beastly
little Ikon!” he said to himself. “I wonder whether that was what Sledge
meant when he said I should not mix my deities.”

Next morning he sent again for the framemaker, and abused him roundly.
The framemaker said he could not understand how the accident had
happened. The nail was an excellent nail, the picture, Mr. Ferrol must
admit, had been hung with great care before his very eyes and under his
own direct and personal supervision. What more could be done?

“It’s something to do with the balance,” said Ferrol. “I told you that
before. The picture is half spoiled now.”

The framemaker said the damage would not show once the glass was
repaired, and took the picture away again to mend it. A few days later
it was brought back. Two men came to fix it this time; steps were
brought and the hanging lasted about twenty minutes. Nails were put
under the picture; it was hung by a double wire. All accidents in the
future seemed guarded against.

The following morning Ferrol telephoned to Sledge and asked him to dine
with him. Sledge was engaged to dine out that evening, but said that he
would look in at the Temple late after dinner.

Ferrol dined alone at the Club; he reached his rooms about half-past
nine; he made up a blazing fire and drew an armchair near it. He lit a
cigarette, made some Turkish coffee, and took down a French novel. Every
now and then he looked up at his picture. No damage was visible; it
looked, he thought, as well as ever. In the place of the Chinese idol
he had put his little green Egyptian god on the chimney-piece. The
candlesticks and the Ikon were still in their places.

“After all,” thought Ferrol, “I did wrong to have any Chinese art in the
place at all. Egyptian things are the only things worth having. It is a
lesson to me not to dabble with things out of my period.”

After he had read for about a quarter of an hour he fell into a doze.

* * * * *

Sledge arrived at the rooms about half-past ten, and an ugly sight met
his eyes. There had been an accident. The picture over the chimney-piece
had fallen down right on Ferrol. His face was badly cut. They put Ferrol
to bed, and his wounds were seen to and everything that was necessary
was done. A nurse was sent for to look after him, and Sledge decided to
stay in the house all night. After all the arrangements had been made,
the doctor, before he went away, said to Sledge: “He will recover all
right, he is not in the slightest danger; but I don’t know who is to
break the news to him.”

“What is that?” asked Sledge.

“He will be quite blind,” said the doctor.

Then the doctor went away, and Sledge sat down in front of the fire.
The broken glass had been swept up. The picture had been placed on the
Oriental divan, and as Sledge looked at the chimney-piece he noticed
that the little Ikon was still in its place. Something caught his eye
just under the low fender in front of the fireplace. He bent forward and
picked up the object.

It was Ferrol’s green Egyptian god, which had been broken into two


To Jack Gordon

Hart Minor and Smith were behind-hand with their sums. It was Hart
Minor’s first term: Smith had already been one term at school. They were
in the fourth division at St. James’s. A certain number of sums in short
division had to be finished. Hart Minor and Smith got up early to finish
these sums before breakfast, which was at half-past seven. Hart Minor
divided slowly, and Smith reckoned quickly. Smith finished his sums with
ease. When half-past seven struck, Hart Minor had finished four of them
and there was still a fifth left: 3888 had to be divided by 36; short
division had to be employed. Hart Minor was busily trying to divide 3888
by 4 and by 9; he had got as far as saying, “Four’s into 38 will go six
times and two over; four’s into twenty-eight go seven times; four’s
into eight go twice.” He was beginning to divide 672 by 9, an impossible
task, when the breakfast bell rang, and Smith said to him: “Come on!”

“I can’t,” said Hart Minor, “I haven’t finished my sum.”

Smith glanced at his page and said: “Oh that’s all right, don’t you see?
The answer’s 108.”

Hart Minor wrote down 108 and put a large R next to the sum, which meant

The boys went in to breakfast. After breakfast they returned to
the fourth division schoolroom, where they were to be instructed in
arithmetic for an hour by Mr. Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead called for
the sums. He glanced through Smith’s and found them correct, and then
through Hart Minor’s. His attention was arrested by the last division.

“What’s this?” he demanded. “Four’s into thirty-eight don’t go six
times. You’ve got the right answer and the wrong working. What does this
mean?” And Mr. Whitehead bit his knuckles savagely. “Somebody,” he said,
“has been helping you.”

Hart Minor owned that he had received help from Smith. Mr. Whitehead
shook him violently, and said, “Do you know what this means?”

Hart Minor had no sort of idea as to the inner significance of his act,
except that he had finished his sums.

“It means,” said Mr. Whitehead, “that you’re a cheat and a thief: you’ve
been stealing marks. For the present you can stand on the stool of
penitence and I’ll see what is to be done with you later.”

The stool of penitence was a high, three-cornered stool, very narrow at
the top. When boys in this division misbehaved themselves they had to
stand on it during the rest of the lesson in the middle of the room.

Hart Minor fetched the stool of penitence and climbed up on it. It
wobbled horribly.

After the lesson, which was punctuated throughout by Mr. Whitehead with
bitter comments on the enormity of theft, the boys went to chapel. Smith
and Hart were in the choir: they wore white surplices which were put on
in the vestry. Hart Minor, who knew that he was in for a terrific row of
some kind, thought he observed something unusual in the conduct of the
masters who were assembled in the vestry. They were all tittering. Mr.
Whitehead seemed to be convulsed with uncontrollable laughter. The choir
walked up the aisle. Hart Minor noticed that all the boys in the school,
and the servants who sat behind them, and the master’s wife who sat in
front, and the organist who played the harmonium, were all staring at
him with unwonted interest; the boys were nudging each other: he could
not understand why.

When the service, which lasted twenty minutes, was over, and the boys
came out of chapel, Hart Minor was the centre of a jeering crowd of
boys. He asked Smith what the cause of this was, and Smith confessed to
him that before going into chapel Mr. Whitehead had pinned on his back a
large sheet of paper with “Cheat” written on it, and had only removed
it just before the procession walked up the aisle, hence the interest
aroused. But, contrary to his expectation, nothing further occurred;
none of the masters alluded to his misdemeanour, and Hart Minor almost
thought that the incident was closed--almost, and yet really not at all;
he tried to delude himself into thinking the affair would blow over, but
all the while at the bottom of his heart sat a horrible misgiving.

Every Monday there was in this school what was called “reading over.”
 The boys all assembled in the library and the Head Master, standing in
front of his tall desk, summoned each division before him in turn. The
marks of the week were read out and the boys took places, moving either
up or down according to their marks; so that a boy who was at the top
of his division one week might find himself at the bottom the next week,
and vice versa.

On the Sunday after the incident recorded, the boys of the fourth
division were sitting in their schoolroom before luncheon, in order to
write their weekly letter home. This was the rule of the school. Mr.
Whitehead sat at his desk and talked in a friendly manner to the boys.
He was writing his weekly report in the large black report book that was
used for reading over. Mr. Whitehead was talking in a chaffing way as to
who was his favourite boy.

“You can tell your people,” he said to Hart Minor, “that my favourite
is old Polly.” Polly was Hart Minor’s nickname, which was given to him
owing to his resemblance to a parrot. Hart Minor was much pleased at
this friendly attitude, and began to think that the unpleasant incident
of the week had been really forgotten and that the misgiving which
haunted him night and day was a foolish delusion.

“We shall soon be writing the half-term reports,” said Mr. Whitehead.
“You’ve all been doing well, especially old Polly: you can put that in
your letter,” he said to Hart Minor. “I’m very much pleased with you,”
 and he chuckled.

On Monday morning at eleven o’clock was reading over. When the fourth
division were called up, the Head Master paused, looked down the page,
then at the boys, then at the book once more; then he frowned. There was
a second pause, then he read out in icy tones:--

“I’m sorry to say that Smith and Hart Minor have been found guilty of
gross dishonesty; they combined--in fact they entered into a conspiracy,
to cheat, to steal marks and obtain by unfair means, a higher place and
an advantage which was not due to them.”

The Head Master paused. “Hart Minor and Smith,” he continued, “go to the
bottom of the division. Smith,” he added, “I’m astounded at you. Your
conduct in this affair is inexplicable. If it were not for your previous
record and good conduct, I should have you severely flogged; and if Hart
Minor were not a new boy, I should treat him in the same way and have
him turned out of the choir. (The choir had special privileges.) As it
is, you shall lose, each of you, 200 marks, and I shall report the
whole matter in detail to your parents in your half-term report, and if
anything of the sort ever occurs again, you shall be severely punished.
You have been guilty of an act for which, were you not schoolboys, but
grown up, you would be put in prison. It is this kind of thing that
leads people to penal servitude.”

After the reading over was finished and the lessons that followed
immediately on it, and the boys went out to wash their hands for
luncheon, the boys of the second division crowded round Hart Minor
and asked him how he could have perpetrated such a horrible and daring
crime. The matter, however, was soon forgotten by the boys, but Hart
Minor had not heard the last of it. On the following Sunday in chapel,
at the evening service, the Head Master preached a sermon. He chose as
his text “Thou shalt not steal!” The eyes of the whole school were fixed
on Smith and Hart Minor. The Head Master pointed out in his discourse
that one might think at first sight that boys at a school might not have
the opportunity to violate the tremendous Commandments; but, he said,
this was not so. The Commandments were as much a living actuality in
school life as they were in the larger world. Coming events cast their
shadows before them; the child was the father of the man; what a boy
was at school, such would he be in after life. Theft, the boys perhaps
thought, was not a sin which immediately concerned them. But there were
things which were morally the same if not worse than the actual theft
of material and tangible objects--dishonesty in the matter of marks, for
instance, and cheating in order to gain an undue advantage over one’s
fellow-schoolboys. A boy who was guilty of such an act at school would
probably end by being a criminal when he went out into the larger world.
The seeds of depravity were already sown; the tree whose early shoots
were thus blemished would probably be found to be rotten when it grew
up; and for such trees and for such noxious growths there could only be
one fate--to be cut down and cast into the unquenchable fire!

In Hart Minor’s half-term report, which was sent home to his parents,
it was stated that he had been found guilty of the meanest and grossest
dishonesty, and that should it occur again he would be first punished
and finally expelled.


He had long ago retired from public life, and in his Tuscan villa, where
he now lived quite alone, seldom seeing his friends, he never regretted
the strenuous days of his activity. He had done his work well; he had
been more than a competent public servant; as Pro-Consul he proved a
pillar of strength to the State, a man whose name at one time was on
men’s lips as having left plenty where he had found dearth, and order
and justice where corruption, oppression, and anarchy, had once run
riot. His retirement had been somewhat of a surprise to his friends, for
although he was ripe in years, his mental powers were undiminished and
his body was active and vigorous. But his withdrawal from public life
was due not so much to fatigue or to a longing for leisure as to a lack
of sympathy, which he felt to be growing stronger and stronger as the
years went by, with the manners and customs, the mode of thought, and
the manner of living of the new world and the new generation which was
growing up around him. Nurtured as he had been in the old school and the
strong traditions which taught an austere simplicity of life, a contempt
for luxury and show, he was bewildered and saddened by the rapid growth
of riches, the shameless worship of wealth, the unrestrained passion
for amusement at all costs, the thirst for new sensations, and the
ostentatious airs of the youth of the day, who seemed to be born
disillusioned and whose palates were jaded before they knew the taste
of food. He found much to console him in literature, not only in the
literature of the past but in the literature of his day, but here again
he was beset with misgivings and haunted by forebodings. He felt
that the State had reached its zenith both in material prosperity and
intellectual achievement, and that all the future held in reserve was
decline and decay. This thought was ever present with him; in the vast
extension of empire he foresaw the inevitable disintegration, and he
wondered in a melancholy fashion what would be the fate of mankind
when the Empire, dismembered and rotten, should become the prey of the

It was in the winter of the second year after his retirement that his
melancholy increased to a pitch of almost intolerable heaviness. That
winter was an extraordinarily mild one, and even during the coldest
month he strolled every evening after he had supped on the terrace walk
which was before the portico. He was strolling one night on the terrace
pondering on the fate of mankind, and more especially on the life--if
there was such a thing--beyond the grave. He was not a superstitious
man, but, saturated with tradition, he was a scrupulous observer of
religious feast, custom, and ritual. He had lately been disturbed by
what he considered to be an ill-favoured omen. One night--it was twelve
nights ago he reckoned--the statues of Pan and Apollo, standing in his
dining-room, which was at the end of the portico, had fallen to the
ground without any apparent cause and had been shattered into fragments.
And it had seemed to him that the crash of this accident was immediately
followed by a low and prolonged wail, which appeared to come from
nowhere in particular and yet to fill the world; the noise of the moan
had seemed to be quite close to him, and as it died away its echo
had seemed to be miles and miles distant. He thought it had been a
hallucination, but that same night a still stranger thing happened.
After the accident, which had wakened the whole household, he had been
unable to go to sleep again and he had gone from his sleeping chamber
into an adjoining room, and, lighting a lamp, had taken down and read
out of the “Iliad” of Homer. After he had been reading for about half
an hour he heard a voice calling him very distinctly by his name, but
as soon as the sound had ceased he was not quite certain whether he had
heard it or not. At that moment one of his slaves, who had been born in
the East, entered the room and asked him what he required, saying that
he had heard his master calling loudly. What these signs and portents
signified he had no idea; perhaps, he mused, they mean my own
death, which is of no consequence; or perhaps--which may the Fates
forfend--some disaster to an absent friend or even to the State. But
so far--and twelve days had passed since he had seen these strange
manifestations--he had received no news which confirmed his fears.

As he was thus musing he looked up at the sky, and he noticed the
presence of a new and unfamiliar star, which he had never seen before.
He was a close observer of the heavens and learned in astronomy, and
he felt quite certain that he had never seen this star before. It was
a star of peculiar radiance, large and white--almost blue in its
whiteness--it shone in the East, and seemed to put all the other stars
to shame by its overwhelming radiance and purity. While he was thus
gazing at the star it seemed to him as though a great darkness had
come upon the world. He heard a low muttering sound as of a distant
earthquake, and this was quickly followed by the tramping of innumerable
armies. He knew that the end had come. It is the Barbarians, he thought,
who have already conquered the world. Rome has fallen never to rise
again; Rome has shared the fate of Troy and Carthage, of Babylon,
and Memphis; Rome is a name in an old wife’s tale; and little savage
children shall be given our holy trophies for playthings, and shall use
our ruined temples and our overthrown palaces as their playground. And
so sharp was the vividness of his vision that he wondered what would
happen to his villa, and whether or no the Barbarians would destroy the
image of Ceres on the terrace, which he especially cherished, not
for its beauty but because it had belonged to his father and to his
grandfather before him.

An eternity seemed to pass, and the tramp, tramp, tramp of the armies of
those untrained hordes which were coming from the North and overrunning
the world seemed to get nearer and nearer. He wondered what they would
do with him; he had no place for fear in his heart, but he remembered
that on the portico in the morning his freedman’s child had been playing
with the pieces of a broken jar, a copper coin, and a dog made of
terra-cotta. He remembered the child’s brown eyes and curly hair, its
smile, its laughter, and lisping talk--it was a piece of earth and
sun--and he thought of the spears of the Barbarians, and then shifted
his thoughts because they sickened him.

Then, just when he thought the heavy footsteps had reached the approach
of his villa, the vision changed. The noise of tramping ceased, and
through the thick darkness there pierced the radiance of the star: the
strange star he had seen that night. The world seemed to awake from a
dark slumber. The ruins rose from the dust and took once more a stately
shape, even lordlier than before. Rome had risen from the dead, and once
more she dominated the world like a starry diadem. Before him he seemed
to see the pillars and the portals of a huge temple, more splendid and
gorgeous than the Temples of Caesar. The gates were wide open, and
from within came a blare of trumpets. He saw a kneeling multitude; and
soldiers with shining breastplates, far taller than the legionaries of
Caesar, were keeping a way through the dense crowd, while the figure of
an aged man--was it the Pontifex Maximus, he wondered?--was borne aloft
in a chair over their heads.

Then once more the vision changed. At least the temple seemed to grow
wider, higher, and lighter; the crowd vanished; it seemed to him
as though a long corridor of light was opening on some ultimate
and mysterious doorway. At last this doorway was opened, and he saw
distinctly before him a dark and low manger where oxen and asses were
stalled. It was littered with straw. He could hear the peaceful beasts
munching their food.

In the corner lay a woman, and in her arms was a child and his face
shone like the sun and lit up the whole place, in which there were
neither torches nor lamps. The door of the manger was ajar, and through
it he saw the sky and the strange star still shining brightly. He heard
a voice, the same voice which he had heard twelve nights before; but the
voice was not calling him, it was singing a song, and the song was as it
were a part of a larger music, a symphony of clear voices, more joyous
and different from anything he had ever heard.

The vision vanished altogether; he was standing once more under the
portico amongst the surroundings which were familiar to him. The
strange star was still shining in the sky. He went back through the
folding-doors of the piazza into the dining-room. His gloom and his
perplexity had been lifted from him; he felt quite happy; he could not
have explained why. He called his slave and told him to get plenty of
provisions on the morrow, for he expected friends to dinner. He added
that he wanted nothing further and that the slaves could go to bed.


To Henry de C. Ward

His name was Chun Wa; possibly there was some more of it, but that is
all I can remember. He was about four or five years old, and I made
his acquaintance the day we arrived at the temple. It was at the end of
September. We had left Mukden in order to take part in what they said
was going to be a great battle. I don’t know what the village was called
at which we arrived on the second day of our march. I can only remember
that it was a beautiful and deliciously quiet spot, and that we
established ourselves in a temple; that is to say not actually in the
temple itself, but in the house of the priest. He was a Buddhist who
looked after the deities of the place, which were made of carved and
painted wood, and lived in a small pagoda. The building consisted of
three quadrangles surrounded by a high stone wall. The first of these
quadrangles, which you entered from the road, reminded me of the yard
in front of any farm. There was a good deal of straw lying about, some
broken ploughshares, buckets, wooden bowls, spades, and other implements
of toil. A few hens hurried about searching for grains here and there; a
dog was sleeping in the sun. At the further end of the yard a yellow cat
seemed to have set aside a space for its exclusive use. This farmyard
was separated from the next quadrangle by the house of the priest, which
occupied the whole of the second enclosure; that is to say the living
rooms extended right round the quadrangle, leaving a square and open
space in the centre. The part of the house which separated the second
quadrangle from the next consisted solely of a roof supported by
pillars, making an open verandah, through which from the second
enclosure you saw into the third. The third enclosure was a garden,
consisting of a square grass plot and some cypress trees. At the further
end of the garden was the temple itself.

We arrived in the afternoon. We were met by an elderly man, the priest,
who put the place at our disposal and established us in the rooms
situated in the second quadrangle to the east and west. He himself and
his family lived in the part of the house which lay between the farmyard
and the second enclosure. The Cossacks of the battery with which I was
living encamped in a field on the other side of the farmyard, but the
treasure chest was placed in the farmyard itself, and a sentry stood
near it with a drawn sword.

The owner of the house had two sons. One of them, aged about thirteen,
had something to do with the temple services, and wore a kind of tunic
made of white silk. The second was Chun Wa. It was when the sentry went
on guard that we first made the acquaintance of Chun Wa. His cheeks were
round and fat, and his face seemed to bulge out towards the base. His
little eyes were soft and brown and twinkled like onyxes. His tiny
little hands were most beautifully shaped, and this child moved about
the farmyard with the dignity of an Emperor and the serenity of a
great Pontiff. Gravely and without a smile he watched the Cossacks
unharnessing their horses, lighting a fire and arranging the officers’

He walked up to the sentry who was standing near the treasure chest,
a big, grey-eyed Cossack with a great tuft of fair hair, and the
expression of a faithful retriever, and in a tone of indescribable
contempt, Chun Wa said “Ping!” “Ping” in Chinese means soldier-man, and
if you wish to express your contempt for a man there is no word in
the whole of the Chinese language which expresses it so fully and so
emphatically as the word “Ping.”

The Cossack smiled on Chun Wa and called him by a long list of endearing
diminutives, but Chun Wa took no notice, and retired into the inner part
of the house as if he had determined to pay no more attention to the
barbarous intruders. The next day, however, curiosity got the better
of him, and he could not resist inspecting the yard, and observing the
doings of the foreign devils. And one of the Cossacks--his name was
Lieskov and he looked after my mule--made friends with Chun Wa. He made
friends with him by playing with the dog. The dog, like most Chinese
dogs, was dirty, distrustful, and not used to being played with; he
slunk away if you called him, and if you took any notice of him he
evidently expected to be beaten, kicked, or to have stones thrown at
him. He was too thin to be eaten. But Lieskov tamed the dog and taught
him how to play, and the big Cossack used to roll on the ground while
the dog pretended to bite him, until Chun Wa forgot his dignity, his
contempt, and his superior culture, and smiled. I remember coming home
that very afternoon from a short stroll with one of the officers, and we
found Lieskov lying fast asleep in the farmyard right across the steps
of the door through which we wanted to go, and Chun Wa and the dog were
sitting beside him. We woke him up and the officer asked him why he had
gone to sleep.

“I was playing with the dog, your honour,” he said, “and I played so
hard that I was exhausted and fell asleep.”

After that Chun Wa made friends with everybody, officers and men, and
he ruled the battery like an autocrat. He ruled by charm and a thousand
winning ways. But his special friend was Lieskov, who carried the child
about on his back, performed many droll antics to amuse him, and taught
him words of pidgin Russian. Among other things he made him a kite--a
large and beautiful kite--out of an old piece of yellow silk, shaped
like a butterfly. And Chun Wa’s brother flew this kite with wonderful
skill, so that it looked like a glittering golden bird hovering in the

I forget how long we stayed at this temple, whether it was three days or
four days; possibly it was not so long, but it seemed like many months,
or rather it seemed at the same time very long and very short, like a
pleasant dream. The weather was so soft and so fine, the sunshine so
bright, the air so still, that had not the nights been chilly we should
never have dreamt that it was autumn. It seemed rather as though the
spring had been unburied and had returned to the earth by mistake. And
all this time fighting was going on to the east of us. The battle of
Sha-Ho had begun, but we were in the reserve, in what they called the
deepest reserve, and we heard no sound of firing, neither did we receive
any news of it. We seemed to be sheltered from the world in an island of
dreamy lotus-eating; and the only noise that reached us was the sound of
the tinkling gongs of the temple. We lived a life of absolute indolence,
getting up with the sun, eating, playing cards, strolling about on the
plains where the millet had now been reaped, eating again and going to
bed about nine o’clock in the evening. Our chief amusement was to talk
with Chun Wa and to watch the way in which he treated the Cossacks, who
had become his humble slaves. I am sure there was not one of the men who
would not have died gladly for Chun Wa.

One afternoon, just as we were finishing our midday meal, we received
orders to start. We were no longer in the reserve; we were needed
further on. Everything was packed up in a hurry, and by half-past two
the whole battery was on the march, and we left the lovely calm temple,
the cypress trees, the chiming gongs, and Chun Wa. The idyll was over,
the reality was about to begin. As we left the place Chun Wa stood by
the gate, dignified, and grave as usual. In one hand he held his kite,
and in the other a paper flower, and he gave this flower to Lieskov.

Next day we arrived at another village, and from there we were sent
still further on, to a place whence, from the hills, all the fighting
that was going on in the centre of that big battle was visible. From
half-past six in the morning until sunset the noise of the artillery
never ceased, and all night long there was a rattle of rifle firing. The
troops which were in front drew each day nearer to us. Another two
days passed; the battery took part in the action, some of the men
were killed, and some of the men and the officers were wounded, and we
retreated to the River Sha-Ho. Then just as we thought a final retreat
was about to take place, a retreat right back to Mukden, we recrossed
the river, took part in another action, and then a great stillness came.
The battle was practically over. The advance of the enemy had ceased,
and we were ordered to go to a certain place.

We started, and on our way we passed through the village where we had
lived before the battle began. The place was scarcely recognisable.
It was quite deserted; some of the houses looked like empty shells or
husks, as though the place had suffered from earthquake. A dead horse
lay across the road just outside the farmyard.

One of the officers and myself had the curiosity to go into the temple
buildings where we had enjoyed such pleasant days. They were deserted.
Part of the inner courtyard was all scorched and crumbled as if there
had been a fire. The straw was still lying about in the yard, and the
implements of toil. The actual temple itself at the end of the grassy
plot remained untouched, and the grinning gods inside it were intact;
but the dwelling rooms of our host were destroyed, and the rooms where
we had lived ourselves were a mass of broken fragments, rubbish, and
dust. The place had evidently been heavily shelled. There was not a
trace of any human being, save that in the only room which remained
undestroyed, on the matting of the hard _Khang_--that is the divan
which stretches like a platform across three-quarters of every Chinese
room--lay the dead body of a Chinese coolie. The dog, the cat, and the
hens had all gone.

We only remained a moment or two in the place, and as we left it the
officer pulled my sleeve and pointed to a heap of rubbish near the
gate. There, amidst some broken furniture, a mass of refuse, burned and
splintered wood, lay the tattered remains of a golden kite.

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