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Title: Signs & Wonders
Author: Beresford, J. D. (John Davys)
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 "Signs & Wonders" ***

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

_By the same Author_:


_With Kenneth Richmond_:


_Printed in Great Britain._





  “_Hath serving nature, bidden of the gods,
  Thick-screened Man’s narrow sky,
  And hung these Stygian veils of fog
  To hide his dingied sty?--
  The gods who yet, at mortal birth,
        Bequeathed him fantasy?_”

                  ‘FOG’ by WALTER DE LA MARE




  SIGNS AND WONDERS                   12

  THE CAGE                            16

  ENLARGEMENT                         20

  THE PERFECT SMILE                   26

  THE HIDDEN BEAST                    34

  THE BARRAGE                         38

  THE INTROVERT                       44

  THE BARRIER                         50

  THE CONVERT                         54


  THE MIRACLE                         74



  REFERENCE WANTED                    92

  AS THE CROW FLIES                   96

  THE NIGHT OF CREATION              102



_When the curtain rises, two men and a woman are discovered talking
before an illimitable background._

FIRST MAN [_shaking hands with the man and the woman_] Well! Who’d have
thought of meeting you here!

WOMAN. Or you, as far as that goes. We thought you were living in

FIRST MAN. So I am. It just happened that I’d run over this morning.

[_Enter R. a nebula, spinning slowly. It passes majestically across the
background as the scene proceeds._]

SECOND MAN. The world’s a very small place.

FIRST MAN. Ah! You’re right, it is.

WOMAN. And how’s the family?

FIRST MAN. Capital, thanks. Yours well, too, I hope?

WOMAN. All except Johnnie.

[_Enter R. a group of prehistoric animals; a few brontosauri,
titanotheres, mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers, and so on._]

FIRST MAN. What’s wrong with him?

WOMAN. He was bit by a dog. Nasty place he’s got.

FIRST MAN. Did you have it cauterised? They’re nasty things, dog-bites.

WOMAN. Oh, yes, we had it cauterised, you may be sure.

SECOND MAN [_reflectively_] Dangerous things, dogs.

FIRST MAN. If they’re not properly looked after, they are. Now I’ve got
a little dog....

[_At this point the speaker’s voice becomes inaudible owing to the
passing of the brontosauri, which gradually move off L._]

WOMAN [_becoming audible and apparently interrupting in the middle of
an anecdote_] Though I tell Johnnie it’s his own fault. He shouldn’t
have teased him.

[_Enter R. a few thousand savages with flat weapons._]

SECOND MAN. Boys will be boys.

WOMAN. Which is no reason, I say, that they shouldn’t learn to behave

FIRST MAN. Can’t begin too soon, in my opinion.

[_Exeunt savages: enter the population of India._]

WOMAN. He might have been killed if a man hadn’t come up and pulled the
dog off him. A black man, he was, too.

FIRST MAN. What? A nigger?

WOMAN. Or a Turk, or something. I can’t never see the difference.
[_With a shiver._] Ugh! I hate black men, somehow. The look of ’em
gives me the shudders.

SECOND MAN [_on a note of faint expostulation_] My dear!

FIRST MAN. I’ve heard others say the same thing.

WOMAN. A pretty penny, Johnnie’ll cost us, with the Doctor and all.

[_Enter two armies engaged in a Civil War._]

FIRST MAN [_shaking his head, wisely_] Ah! I daresay it will.

SECOND MAN. _I_ don’t know what we’re coming to, what with wages and
prices and Lord knows what all?

FIRST MAN. No more do I. Why, only yesterday....

[_The rest of his sentence is drowned by the firing of a battery of
heavy guns._]

WOMAN. Oh! well, I suppose it’ll all come right in time.

[_The Civil War moves off L. Signs of the approaching end of the world
become manifest._]

FIRST MAN. We’ll hope for the best, I’m sure.

[_The Hosts of Heaven appear in the sky._]

SECOND MAN [_reflectively_] On the whole, I should say that things
looked a bit better than they did.

[_The Sea gives up its Dead._]

WOMAN. We shall take Johnnie to Ramsgate, as soon as his arm’s well.

FIRST MAN. We always go to Scarborough.

SECOND MAN. We have to consider the expense of the journey, especially
now there’s no cheap trains.

[_The universe bursts into flame. For a moment all is confusion; and
then the Spirit of the First Man is heard speaking._]

SPIRIT OF FIRST MAN. Well, I suppose I ought to be getting along.

SPIRIT OF SECOND MAN. Glad to have met you, anyway.

SPIRIT OF WOMAN. Funny our running up against you like this. As you
said, the world’s a very small place. Remember me to the family. [_They
go out._]

_The nebula, still spinning slowly, passes of the stage L._




I dreamed this in the dullness of a February day in London.

I had been pondering the elements that go to the making of the human
entity, and more particularly that new aspect of the theory of the
etheric body which presents it as a visible, ponderable, tangible,
highly organised, but almost incredibly tenuous, form of matter. From
that I slid to the consideration of the possibility of some essence
still more remote from our conception of the gross material of our
objective experience; and then for a moment I held the idea of the
imperceptible transition from this ultimately dispersing matter to
thought or impulse--from the various bodies, etheric, astral, mental,
causal, or Buddhistic, to the free and absolute Soul.

I suppose that at this point I fell asleep. I was not aware of any
change of consciousness, but I cannot otherwise explain the fact
that in an instant I was transported from an open place in the North
of London, and from all this familiar earth of ours, to some planet
without the knowledge of the dwellers in the solar system.

This amazing change was accomplished without the least shock. It was,
indeed, imperceptible. The new world upon which I opened my eyes
appeared at first sight to differ in no particular from that I had so
recently left. I saw below me a perfect replica of the Hampstead Garden
Suburb. The wind blew from the east with no loss of its characteristic
quality. The occasional people who passed had the same air of tired
foreboding and intense preoccupation with the miserable importance
of their instant lives, that has seemed to me to mark the air of
the middle-classes for the past few weeks. Also it was, I thought,
beginning to rain.

I shivered and decided that I might as well go home. I felt that it was
not worth while to travel a distance unrecordable in any measure of
earthly miles, only to renew my terrestrial experiences. And then, by
an accident, possibly to verify my theory that it was certainly going
to rain, I looked up and realised at once the unspeakable difference
between that world and our own.

For on this little earth of ours the sky makes no claim on our
attention. It has its effects of cloud and light occasionally, and
these effects no doubt may engage at times the interest of the poet or
the artist. But to us, ordinary people, the sky is always pretty much
the same, and we only look at it when we are expecting rain. Even then
we often shut our eyes.

In that other world which revolves round a sun so distant that the
light of it has not yet reached the earth the sky is quite different.
Things happen in it. As I looked up, for instance, I saw a great door
open, and out of it there marched an immense procession that trailed
its glorious length across the whole width of heaven. I heard no sound.
The eternal host moved in silent dignity from zenith to horizon. And
after the procession had passed the whole visible arch of the sky
was parted like a curtain and there looked out from the opening the
semblance of a vast, intent eye.

But what immediately followed the gaze of that overwhelming watcher
I do not know, for someone touched my arm, and a voice close at my
shoulder said in the very tones of an earthly cockney:

“What yer starin’ at, guv’nor? Airyplanes? I can’t see none.”

I looked at him and found that he was just such a loafer as one may see
any day in London.

“Aeroplanes,” I repeated. “Great Heaven, can’t you see what’s up there?
The procession and that eye?”

He stared up then, and I with him, and the eye had gone; but between
the still parted heavens I could see into the profundity of a space so
rich with beauty and, as it seemed, with promise, that I held my breath
in sheer wonder.

“No! I can’t see nothin’, guv’nor,” my companion said.

And I presume that as he spoke I must have waked from my dream, for the
glory vanished and I found myself dispensing a small alms to a shabby
man who was representing himself as most unworthily suffering through
no fault of his own.

As I walked home through the rain I reflected that the people of that
incredibly distant world, walking, as they always do, with their gaze
bent upon the ground, are probably unable to see the signs and wonders
that blaze across the sky. They, like ourselves, are so preoccupied
with the miserable importance of their instant lives.


I was not asleep. I have watched passengers who kept their eyes shut
between the stations, but as yet I have not seen an indisputable case
of anyone sound asleep on the Hampstead and Charing Cross Tube. Of
the other passages that make up London’s greater intestine I have
less experience, and it may be that some tubes are more conducive
to slumber than the one most familiar to me. I have no ambition to
make a dogmatic generalisation concerning either the stimulative or
soporific action of the Underground. I merely wish it to be understood
that I was not asleep, and that it was hardly possible that I could
have been, with a small portmanteau permanently on one foot, and the
owner of it--a little man who must have wished that the straps were
rather longer--intermittently on the other. Against this, however, I
have to put the fact that I could not say at which station the little
man removed from me the burden of himself and his portmanteau. Nor
could I give particulars of the appearance of such of my innumerable
fellow-passengers as were most nearly presented to me, although I do
know that most of them were reading--even the strap-hangers. It was,
indeed, this observation that started my vision or train of thought or
preoccupation--call it anything you like except a dream.

       *       *       *       *       *

The eyes in his otherwise repulsive face held a wistfulness, a hint
of vague speculation that attracted me. He sat, hunched on the summit
of the steeply rising ground overlooking the sea, the place where the
forest comes so abruptly to an end that from a little distance it looks
as if it had been gigantically planed to a hard edge.

He was alone and ruminatively quiescent after food. He had fed well
and carelessly. Some of the bones that lay near him had been very
indifferently picked. He leaned forward clasping his hairy legs with
his equally hairy arms, and stared out with that hint of speculation
and wistfulness in his eyes over the placid magnificence of the Western
Sea--just disturbed enough to reflect a gorgeous road of fire that laid
a vanishing track across the waters up to the open goal of the low sun.
A faint breeze blew up the hill, and it seemed as if he leant his face
forward to drink the first refreshment of that sweet, cool air.

I approached him more nearly, trying to read his thought, rejoicing in
the knowledge that he could neither see nor apprehend me. For though a
man may know something of the past, the future is hidden from him, and
I represented to him a future that could only be reckoned in a vast
procession of centuries. Yet as I came nearer, so near that I could
rest my hands on his knees and gaze up closely into his eyes, he shrank
a little and leaned slightly away from me, as if he were uncertainly
aware of an unfamiliar, distasteful presence. I fancied that the mat of
hair on his chest just perceptibly bristled.

I could read his thought, now, and I was thrilled to discover that the
expression of his eyes had not misled me. He had attained to a form of
consciousness. He, alone, of all the beasts had received the gift of
constructive imagination. He could look forward, make plans to meet a
possible emergency. He knew already something of tomorrow. Even then
he was deep in speculation. That day he had hunted a slow but cunning
little beast which found a refuge among the great boulders that lay
piled in gigantic profusion along the foreshore. And he had failed.
Another quarry had been his, but that particular little beast had
outwitted him. And now, longing for it, he ruminated clumsy lethargic
plans for its capture.

It may have been that the unusual effort tired him, for presently he
slept, still hunched into the same compact heap, crouching with an
effect of swift alertness as if he were ready at the least alarm to
leap up and vanish into the cover of the forest.

Then, a plan came to me, also. I would bring a vision to this primitive
ancestor of mankind. I would merge myself with his being and he should
dream a dream of the immensely distant future. Blessed and privileged
above all the human race, he should know for an instant to what
inconceivable developments, to what towering heights of intellectual
and manipulative glory his descendants should one day be heir. I
had no definite idea of the precise illustration I should choose to
set forth the magnificence of man’s latest attainment. Nor did I
pause to consider what I myself might suffer in the process of this
infamous liaison between the ages. I acted on an impulse that I found
irresistible. I have myself longed so often to read the distant future
of mankind, that I felt as a god bestowing an inestimable gift. But I
should have known that in the mystical union it is the god and not the
man who suffers.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was wrapped in an awful darkness as we fell stupendously through
time, but presently I knew that we were rising again, weighted with the
burden of primitive flesh. Then in an instant came a strange yellow
unnatural light, the roaring of a terrible sound--and the fearful
vision. The horror of it was unendurable; the shock of it so great that
spirit and flesh were rent asunder. I remained. He fell back to the
sweetness of the cool air blowing up from the tranquil sea.

Did he rush frantically into the forest or sit with dripping mouth and
wide alarmed eyes, rigidly staring at the scarlet rim of the setting
sun? Yet what could he have understood of the future in that moment of
detestable revelation? Could he have recognised men and women in their
strange disguise of modern dress, as being even of the same species
as himself? And if he had, what could he have known of them, seeing
them packed so closely together, immoveably wedged into the terror of
that rocking roaring cage of unknown material; seeing them occupied
in staring so intently and incomprehensibly at those amazing little
black-dotted white sheets? Impossible for him to guess that those
speckled sheets held a magic that transported his descendants from the
misery of their cage into imaginations so extensive and so various that
some of them might, however dimly and allusively, include himself,
hunched and ruminant, regarding the vast tranquillity of the sea.

The tunnel suddenly broke, the roaring gave place to a rattle that
by contrast was gentle and soothing. I opened my eyes. We were under
the sky again, slipping, with intermittent flashes of light, into the
harbour of Golder’s Green Station.

For a moment, I seemed to see the clumsy and violent shape of a beast
that strove in panic to escape; and then I came back to my own world of
the patient readers, with their white, controlled faces, forming now in
solemn procession down the aisle of the carriage.

But it was his dream, not mine. And I have been wondering whether, if I
dreamed also, the distant future might not seem equally unendurable to


When he heard the first signal, warning the people of London to take
cover, his spirit revolted.

He began to picture with a sick disgust the scene of his coming
confinement in the dirty basement. Mrs. Gibson, his landlady, would
welcome him with the air of forced cheerfulness he knew so well. She
would make the same remarks about the noise of the guns. She would
say again: “Well, there’s one thing, it drowns the noise of the
bombs--if they’ve really got here this time.” Then Maunders from the
first floor would say that you could always pick out the sound of the
aerial torpedoes; and explain, elaborately, why. Mrs. Graham from the
second floor would say that she’d rather enjoy it, if it weren’t for
the children. And her eldest little prig of a boy would say, “I’m not
afraid, mumma,” and expect everyone to praise his courage. Mrs. Gibson
would praise him, of course. She would say: “There, now, I declare he’s
the bravest of anyone.” She was obliged to do it. She would never be
able to get new lodgers this winter. And when that preliminary talk was
done with, they would all begin again on the endlessly tedious topic of
reprisals; and keep it up until a pause in the barrage set them on to
spasmodic ejaculations of wonder whether “they” had been driven off, or
gone, or been shot down, or....

No; definitely, he would not stand it. He could better endure the
simultaneous explosion of every gun in London than three hours of that
conversation. Moreover, he could not face the horrible drip, drip, from
the scullery sink. On the night of the last raid he had been very near
the sink. And the thought of that steady plop ... plop ... of water
into the galley-pot Mrs. Gibson kept under the tap for some idiotic
reason, was as the thought of an inferno such as could not have been
conceived by Dante, nor organised by the Higher German Command.

Nerves? He shrugged his shoulders. In a sense, no doubt. Suspense,
dread, a long exasperation of waiting had filled every commonplace
experience--more particularly that dreadful dripping of the cold water
tap--with all kinds of horrible associations. But if it was “nerves,”
it was not nervousness, not fear of being killed, nothing in the least
like panic. He was quite willing to face the possible danger of the
open streets. But he could not and would not face Mrs. Gibson and the
scullery sink.

No; he must escape--a fugitive from protection. Men had fled from
strange things, but had they ever fled from a stranger thing than
refuge? He must go secretly. If Mrs. Gibson heard him she would stop
him, begin an immense, unendurable argument. She could not afford to
risk the loss of a lodger this winter. She would bring Maunders and
Mrs. Graham to join her in persuasion and protest. Freedom was hard to
win in London, in such times as these.

He crept down the long three flights of stairs like some wary criminal
feeling his cautious way to liberty. But once he had, with infinite
deliberation, slipped back the ailing latch of the front door, he
lifted his head and squared his shoulders with a great gasp of relief.
He could have wept tears of exultation. He was filled with a deep
thankfulness for this boon of his enlargement....

There was no sound of guns as yet; nor any sweep of searchlights
tormenting the wide gloom of the sky. It was a wonderful, calm night; a
little misty on the ground; but, above, the moon was serene and bright
as a new guinea.

He had no hesitation as to his direction. He desired the greatest
possible expansion of outlook; and turned his face at once towards the
river. On the Embankment he would be able to see a wide arc of the sky.
He had a sense of setting about a prohibited adventure, full of the
most daring and delicious excitements. His one dread was that he might
be interfered with, stopped, sent home.

The cycling policemen looked at him, he thought, with peculiar
suspicion. They gruffly shouted at him to take cover, with a curt note
of warning, as if he were breaking the law by indulging himself in this
escapade. He tried to avoid notice by slinking into the shadows. That
cold, inimical moonlight made everything so conspicuous....

Except for the policemen, the streets were vividly empty. He could feel
the spirit of London crouched in expectancy. Behind every darkened
window men, women, and children waited and longed for the relief of the
first gun. And while they waited they chattered and smiled. And all
their laughter and conversation was like these streets, vividly empty;
their spirits had taken cover.

He alone was free, exempt, rejoicing in his liberty....

The ground mist was thicker on the Embankment; and for a moment he
was confused by the loom of a strange obelisk that had a curiously
remote, exotic air in the midst of this familiar London. Then he
recognised the outline as that of Cleopatra’s Needle, and went close
up to the alien monument of another age and stared up at it in the
proclamatory moonlight. He wondered if any magic lingered in those
cryptic inscriptions? If they might not have endowed the very granite
with curious, occult powers. He was still staring at the solemn portent
of the obelisk when the barrage opened with unusual suddenness....

For a time he was crushed and overwhelmed by the pressure of that
intimidating fury of sound. He cowered and winced like a naked soul
exposed to the intimate vengeance of God. He was as beaten and battered
by the personal threat of those cumulative explosions as if every gun
sought him and him alone as the objective of its awful wrath.

But, by degrees, he began to grow accustomed even to that world-rocking
pandemonium. He became aware of the undertones that laced the dominant
roar and thunder of artillery. He could trace, he believed, beside the
shriek of shell, the humming whirr of an aeroplane he could not see.
And once something whizzed past him with a high singing hiss that ended
abruptly with a sharp clip. He guessed that a fragment of shrapnel had
buried itself in one of the plane-trees.

Yet the real danger of that warning did not terrify him as had the
enormous onslaught of noise from the barrage. At the next intermission
of the deafening bombardment he stood up, rested his hand on the
plinth of the obelisk, and stared, wondering and unafraid, into the
great arc of the sky. He could see no aeroplanes.... The stillness was
so profound that he could hear with a grateful distinctness the soft
clucking ripple of the rising flood.

Presently he dropped his regard for the heavens to the plain objective
of deserted London. The mist had almost dispersed in some places, had
thickened in others--churned and driven, perhaps, by the vast pressure
of the sound waves. Across the road he could see the impending cliff
of great buildings, pale and tall in the moonlight. At his feet the
plane-trees threw trembling, skeleton shadows. All the town waited in
suspense to know whether or not the bombardment would presently be

He had a presentiment that it was all over. He felt the quick
exaltation and vigour of one who has suffered and escaped danger.
But when he looked up the Embankment and saw what he took to be the
silhouettes of three towering trams emerging with furtive silence from
the mist, he was aware of a faint sense of disappointment. Nothing was
left to him but to return to the common dreariness of life.

He took a step towards the trams that were advancing with such a
stately, such a hushed and ponderous deliberation....


He held his breath, staring and gaping, and then backed nervously
against the pedestal of the great Egyptian monument.

Had the shock of that awful bombardment broken his nerve? Was he mad?
Bewitched by some ancient magic? Or was it, perhaps, that in one swift
inappreciable moment he had been instantly killed by a fragment of
shrapnel, and that, now, his emerging spirit could, even as it watched
these familiar surroundings, peer back deep into the hidden mysteries
of time?

He pressed himself, shivering and fascinated, against the hard,
insistent reality of cold granite; but still in single file these three
colossal shapes advanced, solemn and majestic, rocking magnificently
with a slow and powerful gravity.

They were almost abreast of him now, sombre and stolid--three vast,
prehistoric, unattended Elephants, imperturbably exploring the silences
of this dead and lonely city.

They passed, and left him weak and trembling, but indescribably happy.

Two minutes later, a blind and insensible policeman, following the very
path of those magical evocations of the thought of ancient Egypt, rode
carelessly by, bearing the banal message that all was clear.

But the adventurer walked home in a dream of ecstasy. Whatever the
future might hold for him, he had pierced the veil of the commonplace.
He had seen and heard on the Thames Embankment that sacred, mystical
procession of the Elephants.

       *       *       *       *       *

He looked at Mrs. Gibson with something of contempt when she brought
him his breakfast next morning. He could not respond to her chatter
concerning the foolish detail of last night’s raid. She, poor woman,
was afraid that she might, in some unknown way, have offended him. Her
last effort was meant as an amiable diversion. One never knew whether
people weren’t more scared than they chose to admit.

“There’s one amusin’ bit,” she said, laying his morning paper on the
table, “as I just glanced at while I was waitin’ for the water to
boil. It’s in Hincidents of the Raid. It seems as three performin’
elephunts goin’ ’ome from the ’Ippodrome or somewhere got loose--their
keeper done a bolt, I suppose, when the guns began--and got walkin’
off by theirselves all down the Embankment. They must ’a been a comic
sight, poor things. Terrified they was, no doubt....”

Now, why should God explain his miracles through the mouth of a Mrs.


The realisation of it first came to Douglas Owen when he was not quite
five years old.

From his babyhood he had been spoilt, more particularly by his father.
He could be such a charming little boy, and his frequent outbreaks of
real naughtiness were overlooked or gently reproved. They were even
admired in private by his parents, who regarded these first signs of
disobedience, temper, and selfishness as the marks of an independent
and original spirit.

Nevertheless, when Douglas was nearly five years old, he achieved a
minor climax that the most indulgent father could not overlook. Despite
all warnings and commands, Douglas would steal from the larder. When
there were cakes or tarts he took those for preference, but when there
was nothing else he would steal bread, merely, as it seemed, for
the pleasure of stealing it. His father had protested to his mother
that everything should be kept under lock and key, but as Mrs. Owen
explained: “You can’t expect a cook to be for ever locking things up.”
And the little Douglas was ingenious in his depredations. He chose his
moment with cunning. Also he knew, as the cook herself confessed, how
“to get round her.”

Mr. Owen, who was a tender-hearted idealist, admitted at last that
stern measures were called for, and he took Douglas into his study
and remonstrated with him gently, even lovingly, but with great
earnestness. The remonstrance gained strength from Mrs. Owen’s fear
that Douglas might make himself seriously ill by his illicit feastings.
Douglas, who was forward for his age, listened with attention to his
father’s serious lecture and promised reform. “I won’t do it again,
father. Promise,” he said with apparent sincerity. And his father,
believing absolutely in his child’s truthfulness, and remembering his
wife’s adjuration to be “really firm,” was tempted to clinch the thing
once for all by issuing an ultimatum.

“I’m sure you won’t, little son,” he said, “because you see if you did,
daddy would have to whack you. He’d hate doing it, but he’d have to do
it all the same.”

Douglas’s expression was faintly speculative. He had heard something
like this before, from his mother.

“But you’ve promised faithfully that you’ll never, never take anything
out of the larder, or the kitchen, or the pantry again, haven’t you,
darling?” Mr. Owen persisted, by way of having everything quite clear.

“Promised faithfully,” agreed Douglas; parted from his father with a
hug of forgiveness; and was found a quarter of an hour later in the
larder, eating jam with a spoon from a newly-opened jar.

“You threatened to whack him if he didn’t keep his promise, and you
must do it,” Mrs. Owen said firmly to her husband. “If you don’t keep
your promises, how can you expect him to keep his?”

“Damn!” murmured Mr. Owen with great intensity.

“I shall bring him in and leave him with you,” his wife said, correctly
interpreting her husband’s method of reluctantly accepting the

Douglas was brought, and it was evident that on this occasion he
was truly conscious of sin and apprehensive of the result. All his
nonchalance was gone from him. He did not cry, but his eyes were wide
and terrified. He looked a thoroughly guilty and scared child.

Mr. Owen hardened his heart. He thought of the contempt shown for
his authority, of the wilfully broken promise, and of the threat to
his son’s future unless he were made to realise that sin cannot go

Mrs. Owen, looking at her husband’s stern face, was satisfied that
justice would be done.

And then, when father and son were alone and sentence had been
pronounced, the smile came for the first time.

Douglas did not know why or how it came. He was only conscious of it as
something that illuminated his whole being, put him among the angels,
and gave him immunity from all earthly terrors.

To his father, the smile was simply blinding. It was so radiant, so
tender, forgiving, and altogether godlike. It condescended to his
weakness and mortality, and made him feel how unworthy he was of such
splendid recognition. His little son’s face glowed with a perfect
consciousness of power, and yet he seemed to surrender himself with a
dignified humility to this threatened infamy of corporal punishment.
Moreover, it was a smile that expressed the ultimate degree of
innocence. It was impossible for anyone who saw it to believe that
Douglas could have sinned in perversity, or with any evil intention.

And there was one other amazing peculiarity about this rare smile of
Douglas’s, for it not only permeated the finer feelings of those who
witnessed it, but was also reflected weakly in their faces, as the
outer and larger rainbow reflects the intensified beauty of the inner.

So now Mr. Owen’s smile faintly echoed his son’s.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” said Douglas confidently.

And Mrs. Owen waiting outside, listening in tremulous agitation for the
wail that should announce her husband’s resolution, heard no sound. And
presently Douglas came out, still wearing the last pale evidences of
his recent halo.

“But why didn’t you?” Mrs. Owen asked her husband, when their son was
out of earshot. She would have overlooked the essential omission,
almost with gratitude, if she had not believed it her duty to reprove
her husband’s characteristic weakness.

“He--he smiled,” Mr. Owen said.

“But Harold!” his wife protested.

Mr. Owen wrinkled his forehead and looked exceedingly distressed. “I
don’t know that I can explain,” he said. “It wasn’t an ordinary smile.
I’ve never seen him do it before. I--I have never seen anything like
it. I can only say that I would defy anyone to punish him when he
smiled like that.”

“I noticed as he came out....” began Mrs. Owen.

“It was practically over then,” her husband interrupted, and added with
a slightly literary turn of speech he sometimes adopted: “That was only
the afterglow.”

But it is worth recording that, from that time, Douglas, although he
was naughty enough in other ways, never robbed the larder again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nine years passed before Douglas’s great gift was once more manifested.

There was undoubtedly something unusually charming about the boy that
protected him from punishment; and as he had been spoilt by his father
at home, so was he also treated rather too leniently at school. But
Dr. Watson, his headmaster, came at last to the end of his weakness.
Douglas was becoming a bad influence in the school. His careless
evasions of discipline set an example of insubordination that was all
too readily followed by the other boys.

Dr. Watson braced himself to the inevitable. In his heart he regretted
the necessity, but he knew that Douglas must be sacrificed for the good
of the school. He had been warned and mildly punished a hundred times.
Now he must pay the full penalty.

The choice lay between expulsion and a public flogging, and when
Douglas chose the latter, Dr. Watson resolved that the flogging should
be of unusual severity. When the whole school was assembled, he made
a very earnest and moving speech, deploring the causes that had given
rise to the occasion, and showing how inevitable was the disgraceful

Douglas, white and terrified, made ready in a trembling silence,
then, turning his back on the tensely expectant audience, he faced his

Arthur Coburn, Douglas’s humanitarian house-master, was so upset by
these preliminaries that for one moment he was tempted to leave the
hall. Corporal punishment had always seemed to him a horrible thing,
but never had it seemed quite so revolting as on this occasion. Yet
he fought against the feeling. He knew that his chief was neither a
stern nor a cruel man, and had been driven into the present position
by the sheerly impudent persistence of Douglas’s disobedience. By way
of alleviating as far as possible his own nervous distress, therefore,
Coburn took up a position with his back to the rostrum, and faced the
great crowd of just perceptibly intimidated boys.

And waiting, much as Douglas’s mother had waited in shamed anxiety
some nine years before, Coburn was amazed to see a sudden and
incomprehensible change in the massed faces before him. The tensity,
the look of half eager, half apprehensive expectation strangely
relaxed. A wave of what looked like relief ran back in a long ripple
of emotion from the front to the back of the many ranks of watching
boys. In one instant everyone was wearing a faint smile of almost holy

Coburn turned with a leap of astonishment and stared at Dr. Watson. And
the smile he saw on the headmaster’s face outshone that on the faces of
his audience as the sun outshines the moon.

But no one save Dr. Watson saw the perfect radiance that flowed out
from the face of Douglas Owen....

“I’m sorry, sir,” was all that Douglas said.

Dr. Watson dropped his birch as if it had burnt him.

His second address to the school was hesitating and apologetic. He
tried to explain that when the clear signs of repentance and of reform
were so evident as they were in the case of Owen, corporal punishment
was superfluous and would be little short of criminal. Yet even
Coburn, who so profoundly agreed with the principle expounded, found
the explanation unsatisfying. He could not help feeling that Dr. Watson
was concealing his true reason.

Nevertheless, it is well to note that after this reprieve Douglas
passed the remainder of his school-life without committing any other
serious offence.

He was only thirty-two when he came before the last and most terrible
tribunal possible in our society.

After he left Cambridge, he was taken into a city office by a friend of
his father’s. Everyone liked him, and he might have made an excellent
position for himself if he had not led such a loose life out of
business hours. He seemed unable to resist any temptation, and the
inevitable result was that he got into debt.

When his father’s friend discovered the extent of Douglas’s thefts
from the firm, he had no choice but to dismiss him; although for the
young man’s sake not less than for the sake of his friendship with his
father, he never even threatened prosecution.

For a time Douglas lived at home. Later he went to Canada for a couple
of years. Then his father died, leaving him some five or six thousand
pounds, and he came home again--to spend it. When that money was all
gone, he lived on the charity of his many friends. They all knew him
for an incorrigible scamp, but he still retained much of his old charm.

The crime for which he came at last to be tried for his life at the
Old Bailey was too disgraceful an affair to be reported in detail.
The only possible defence was that Douglas was unquestionably drunk
when the murder was actually committed. Yet despite the weakness of
the case for the defending counsel, everyone in court including the
jury and possibly even Lord Justice Ducie himself, could not restrain
a feeling of sympathy for the prisoner. He had not lost, despite all
his excesses, his engaging air of ingenuous youth. And his manner
throughout the trial naturally evoked a strong sense of pity.

The jury did all they could for him by bringing in a verdict of

The judge leaned forward with a kindly, almost fatherly air, as he
asked the prisoner if he had anything to say in his own defence.

And at that supreme moment, as he stood white and terrified in the
dock, Douglas was aware that once more, for the third time in his life,
that wonderful glow of power, peace, and condescension was beginning to
thrill through him.

He straightened himself and raised his head. He looked the judge in the
face. He believed that the perfect smile had come again to save him.
But he looked in vain for the old response.

The judge’s mouth had twitched as Douglas looked at him, and for one
instant all those who were waiting so anxiously for the pronouncement
of the sentence were astounded to see a look of horrible bestiality
flicker across the face of the old man who was accounted the most
gentle and philanthropic judge who had ever sat in the criminal court.
It was only a momentary impression, for Lord Ducie at once put both
hands before his face as if to shut off the sight of some terrible
infamy; but Bateson, the defending counsel, who was watching the judge,
says that he never afterwards could quite recover his old respect for

It is unquestionably true that the hideous, depraved, and insulting
grimace which had so unexpectedly revealed the soul of Douglas Owen,
was solely responsible for the maximum sentence of twenty years’ penal
servitude that was imposed upon him.

If a man continually flouts the angels of grace, he must expect at last
to be delivered over to the devil he so devotedly serves.


His house is the last in the village. Towards the forest the houses
become more and more scattered, reaching out to the wild of the wood
as if they yearned to separate themselves from the swarm that clusters
about the church and the inn. And his house has taken so long a stride
from the others that it is held to the village by no more than the
slender thread of a long footpath. Yet the house is set with its face
towards us, and has an air of resolutely holding on to the safety of
our common life, as if dismayed at its boldness in swimming so far it
had turned and desperately grasped the life-line of that footpath.

He lived alone, a strange man, surly and reticent. Some said that he
had a sinister look; and on those rare occasions when he joined us at
the inn, after sunset, he sat aside and spoke little.

I was surprised when, as we came out of the inn one night, he took
my arm and asked me if I would go home with him. The moon was at the
full, and the black shadows of the dispersing crowd that lunged down
the street seemed to gesticulate an alarm of weird dismay. The village
was momentarily mad with the clatter of footsteps and the noise of
laughter, and somewhere down towards the forest a dog was baying.

I wondered if I had not misunderstood him.

As he watched my hesitation his face pleaded with me. “There are times
when a man is glad of company,” he said.

We spoke little as we passed through the village towards the silences
of his lonely house. But when we came to the footpath he stopped and
looked back.

“I live between two worlds,” he said, “the wild and ...”--he paused
before he rejected the obvious antithesis, and concluded--“the

“Are we so restrained?” I asked, staring at the huddle of
black-and-silver houses clinging to their refuge on the hill.

He murmured something about a “compact,” and my thoughts turned to the
symbol of the chalk-white church-tower that dominated the honeycomb of
the village.

“The compact of public opinion,” he said more boldly.

My imagination lagged. I was thinking less of him than of the
transfiguration of the familiar scene before me. I did not remember
ever to have studied it thus under the reflections of a full moon. An
echo of his word, differently accented, drifted through my mind. I saw
our life as being in truth compact, little and limited.

He took up his theme again when we had entered the house and were
facing each other across the table, in a room that looked out over the
forest. The shutters were unfastened, the window open, and I could see
how, on the further shore of the waste-lands, the light feebly ebbed
and died against the black cliff of the wood.

“We have to choose between freedom and safety,” he said. “The
individual is too wild and dangerous for the common life. He must
make his agreement with the community; submit to become a member of
the people’s body. But I”--he paused and laughed--“_I_ have taken the
liberty of looking out of the back window.”

While he spoke I had been aware of a sound that seemed to come from
below the floor of the room in which we were sitting. And when he
laughed I fancied that I heard the response of a snuffling cry.

He looked at me mockingly across the table.

“It’s an echo from the jungle,” he said. “Some trick of reflected
sound. I can always hear it in this room at night.”

I shivered and stood up. “I prefer the safety of our common life,” I
told him. “It may be that I have a limited mind and am afraid, but
I find my happiness in the joys of security and shelter. The wild
terrifies me.”

“A limited mind?” he commented. “Probably it is rather that you lack a
fire in the blood.”

I was glad to leave him, and he on his part made no effort to detain me.

It was not long after this visit of mine that the people first began
to whisper about him in the village. At the beginning they brought
no charge against him, talking only of his strangeness and of his
separation from our common interests. But presently I heard a story
of some fierce wild animal that he caged and tortured in the prison
of his house. One said that he had heard it screaming in the night,
and another that he had heard it beating against the door. And some
argued that it was a threat to our safety, since the beast might escape
and make its way into the village; and some that such brutality, even
though it were to a wild animal, could not be tolerated. But I wondered
inwardly whether the affair were any business of ours so long as he
kept the beast to himself.

I was a member of the Council that year, and so took part in the voting
when presently the case was laid before us. But no vote of mine would
have helped him if I had dared to overcome my reluctance and speak in
his favour. For whatever reservations may have been secretly withheld
by the members of the Council, they were unanimous in condemning him.

We went, six of us, in full daylight, to search his house. He received
us with a laugh, and told us that we might seek at our leisure. But
though we sought high and low, peering and tapping, we found no
evidence that any wild thing had ever been concealed there.

And within a month of the day of our search he left the village.

I saw him alone once before he went, and he told me that he had chosen
for the wild and freedom, that he could no longer endure to be held to
the village even by the thread of the footpath.

But he did not thank me for having allowed the search of his house to
be conducted by daylight, although he knew that I at least was sure no
echo of the forest could be heard in that little room of his save in
the transfigured hours between the dusk and the dawn.



My friend has a wonderful voice, a primitive voice, open-throated
and resonant, the great chest roar of the wild. When he shouts he
does it without visible effort. The full red of his face may deepen
to the opening shades of purple, but that evidence of constriction
is due solely to emotion. The lift of a major third in his tone is
accomplished without any appearance of muscular effort. He opens
another cylinder and lets the additional power find its own pitch in
the reverberating brass of the fog-horn. And the effect is as if the
devastating crash of the barrage had come suddenly and horribly near.
Perhaps, for one instant, the attack of his voice ceases, and then
while the room still trembles to the echo of his last statement, the
barrage leaps forward and spills its explosion into the secret refuges
of my being.

Behind that cover, the sense of the statements he gives forth with
such enormous assurance creeps up and falls upon me while I am still
insensible. It is as though his argument bayoneted me treacherously
while I am paralysed from shock. If my mind were free I could defeat
the simple attack of his argument; but should I be given one trifling
opportunity for speech I can never take it. My mind is battered,
crushed and inert. I dare not lift my head for fear of exposing myself
again to that awful approach of the barrage.

My friend has described himself so conclusively in a term of the old
free-trade dispute, that nothing could be added to enlighten his
definition. He is, and prides himself vociferously on the fact, a
whole-hogger. He gets that off on his lower register which is just
bearable. There is no need for the barrage to defend the approach of
that statement. It is self-evident. The great welt of his boots,
massive as an Egyptian plinth; the stiff hairiness of his bristling
tweeds; the honest amazement of his ripe face; the very solidity of
the signet ring that is nevertheless not too heavy for his hirsute
finger--all these proclaim him as the type and consummation of the

He adopted the label with pride some time in the middle ’nineties,
when he was already a mature, determined and unalterable man of
twenty-eight. He was a fervent patriot throughout the Boer War. He
has, since December, 1905, spent a fount of energy that would have
wrecked the physique of ten average men in denouncing such things
as Education Bills, Old Age Pensions, the Reform of the House of
Lords, Home Rule--in brief, the Government--or, as he always called
it, “_this_ Government.” And since the beginning of the war he has
demonstrated--proving every statement of the _Times_ by the evidence
of the _Daily Mail_--that there will never be any truth or sanity in
the world until the whole German race is beaten to its perjured knees
(his metaphors sometimes have an effect of concentration); until it
is so thrashed, scourged, humiliated, broken and defeated (a barrage
is necessarily redundant) that the last remaining descendants of the
Prussian shall crawl, pitifully exposed and humbled, about the earth,
begging God and man for forgiveness.

My friend is, in fact, the perfect type of what is known to
psycho-analysts as the extrovert. He has never questioned himself,
never doubted the infallibility of his own gospel, never known fear.
He does not understand the meaning of the word introspection, and
feels nothing but pity for a man who halts between two opinions. He
divides all mankind into two categories--splendid fellows and damned
fools--although I have found the suggestion of a third division in his
description of a querulous Tory as “a damned fool on the right side.”
On the wrong side, however, there are no splendid fellows. As he says,
he “hasn’t patience” with anyone who is either so thick-headed or so
unscrupulous as to disagree with him in politics.

By way of a hobby he farms 800 acres of land, and he has never had any
trouble with his labourers. I will admit that he is generous with a
careless, exuberant generosity that does not ask for gratitude. But it
is not his generosity that has won for him the devotion of his servants
and employees. They bow before his certainty. He is a religion to them,
a trustworthy holdfast in this world of unstable things.

And I suppose that is also why he is still “my friend.” His
conversation is nothing but a string of affirmations with none of
which I can agree. He is an intolerable bore, and his voice hurts me.
But I regard him with wonder and admiration, and when the terrors and
oppressions of the world threaten to break my spirit I go to him for

In the early days of our acquaintanceship I used to try, by facial
contortions and parenthetic gesture, to indicate my paltry disagreement
with his political and social creed. Perhaps I came near at that time
to inclusion in the “Damfool” category; but the nearness of my house,
his generosity in overlooking the preliminary marks of my idiocy, and
(deciding factor) the inappeasable craving for company which is his
only means of expression, influenced him to give me another and yet
another chance. He took to putting up the barrage at the least sign of
my disapproval, and so converted me--outwardly. While I am with him
I relax myself. I stare at him and wonder. I sometimes find myself
wishing that I could be like him!

It was, indeed, the thought of so impossible and outrageous an ambition
that prompted me to attempt this portrait of him. I have failed, I
know, to convey his proper quality. Anyone who has never met my friend
will find nothing but the echo and shadow of him in this sketch. But
is there anyone who has not met him or some member of his family? Down
here I associate him with the land, but he has business interests
connected with the Stock Exchange. And he has brothers, uncles and
sons--any number of them--all of the same virtue. They are in the
Army, the Law, Medicine, in the Pulpit, in Trade, in the House--in
everything. They are all successful, and they have all given their
services with immense vigour and volubility to the great task that
my friend defines as “downing the Hun.” They are all men of action,
and their thinking is done by a method as simple as simple addition.
A few sterling principles are taken for granted, principles that can
be applied in such phrases as “the good of the country,” “playing the
game,” “Rome was not built in a day,” or “what I go by is facts,”
and from these elementary premisses any and every argument can be
deduced by the two-plus-two method. It is the apotheosis and triumph
of a priorism. They do not believe in induction, and what they do not
believe in does not exist for them. Their strength is in loudness and
confidence, and they are very strong.

Nevertheless, puzzling over my friend and his family in my own
hair-splitting way, I have been wondering if this loudness is not
a sign that the family has lost something of its old power? Their
ancestors, also, were men of simple ideas and strong passions, men of
inflexible purpose. But they were not, so far as one can judge from
history, so blatantly loud. They bear the same kind of relation to my
friend that Lincoln does to Roosevelt.

Is the type changing, I ask myself, or only the conditions? And if the
latter, is the man of intense convictions and rigid principles become
so much of an anomaly in this new world of ours that the development
of the barrage has become necessary as a means of assertion against a
people who will question even such a simple premiss as that two added
to two invariably produces four? For they do that. Your characteristic
man of the age will warn you that the mathematical statement is an
assumption only, not a universal truth. He will probably add that in
any case it is useless as an analogy, since it disregards entirely the
qualitative value of “two.”

From the over-conscientious mind such criticisms as this tear away the
last hopes of stability. One loses faith in the Cosmos. But my friend
smiles his pity for all such damfoolishness. His solid feet are planted
on the solid earth. He knows that two and two make four. His ancestors
have proved it by their actions. And if such silly questioning of sound
principles is persisted in, he waves it aside and asserts himself in
his usual effective way.

Nevertheless, as I have said, it seems that that form of barrage was
once unnecessary.


Nothing is more dispiriting than the practice of classifying humanity
according to “types.” Your professional psychologist does it for his
own purposes. This is his way of collating material for the large
generalisation he is always chasing. His ideal is a complete record.
He would like to present us as so many samples on a labelled card--the
differences between the samples on any one card being ascribed to an
initial carelessness in manufacture. His method is the apotheosis
of that of the gay Italian fortune-teller one used to see about the
streets, with her little cage of love-birds that sized you up and
picked you out a suitable future. Presently, we hope, the psychologist
will be able to do that for us with a greater discrimination. He will
take a few measurements, test our reaction times, consult an index,
and hand us out an infallible analysis of our “type.” After that we
shall know precisely what we are fitted for, and whether our ultimate
destination is the Woolsack or the Workhouse.

But your psychologist has his uses, and it is the amateur in this sort,
particularly the novel-writing amateur, who arouses our protest. He--I
use the pronoun asexually--does not spend himself in prophecy, but he
deals us out into packs with an air of knowing just where we belong.
And his novels prove how right he was, because you can prove anything
in a novel. His readers like this method. It is easy to understand, and
it provides them with an articulate description of the inevitable Jones.

I cling to that as some justification for the habit, as an excuse
for my own exhibition of the weakness, however dispiriting. It is so
convenient to have a shorthand reference for Jones and other of our
acquaintances. The proper understanding of any one of them might
engage the leisure of a lifetime; and if for general purposes we can
tuck our friends into some neat category, we serve the purposes of

Lastly, to conclude this apology, I would plead that a new scheme of
classification, such as that provided by psycho-analysis, is altogether
too fascinating to be resisted.

There is, for example, my friend David Wince, the typical “introvert,”
and an almost perfect foil for my friend the “extrovert,” previously
described. The two men loathe the sight of one another. Contempt on one
side and fear on the other is a sufficient explanation of their mutual
aversion. Wince, indeed, has an instinctive fear of anything that
bellows, and a rooted distrust of most other things. He suffers from a
kind of spiritual agoraphobia that makes him scared and suspicious of
large generalisations, broad horizons and cognate phenomena. He likes,
as he says, to be “sure of one step” before he takes the next. The open
distances of a political argument astound and terrify him. He takes
all discussions with a great seriousness, and displays an obstructive
passion for definition and the right use of words. “What I should like
to understand” is a favourite opening of his, and the thing he would
like to understand is almost invariably some abstruse and fundamental

The _á priori_ method is anathema to him. He is, in fact,
characteristically unable to comprehend it. He has little respect for
a syllogism as such, because his mind seems to work backwards, and all
his logical faculty is used in the dissection of premisses. When my
exasperation reaches the stage at which I say: “But, my dear fellow,
let us take it for granted, for the sake of argument ...” he wrings his
hands in despair and replies: “But that’s the whole point. We _can’t_
take these things for granted. If you don’t examine your premisses,
where _are_ you?” He has a habit in conversation of emphasizing such
words as those I have underlined, and a look of desolation comes into
his face when he plaintively enquires where we _are_. At those times
I see his timid, irresolute spirit momentarily staring aghast at the
threat of this world’s immense distances; before it ducks back with a
sigh of relief into the shelter afforded by his introspective analyses.
“Let us be quite sure of our ground,” he says, “before we draw any
deductions.” His ground is, I fancy, a kind of “dug-out.”

He has had an unfortunate matrimonial experience. His wife ran away
with another man, some three or four years ago, and he is trying to
screw himself up to the pitch of divorcing her. For a man of his
sensitiveness, the giving of evidence in Court upon such a delicate
subject will be a very trying ordeal. He has confided very little of
his trouble to me, but occasional hints of his, and the reports of
another friend who knew Mrs. Wince personally, lead me to suppose that
she was rather a large-minded, robust sort of woman. Perhaps he bored
her. I can imagine that he would bore anyone who had a lust for action;
and as they had been married for eight years and had no children, I
am not prepared to condemn Mrs. Wince, off-hand, for her desertion
of him. I have no doubt that Wince might be able to make out a good
ethical case for himself. I picture his attitude towards his wife as
being extremely self-denying, deprecatory and almost passionately
virtuous. But I prefer to reserve judgment on the issue between them. I
can imagine that his habit of procrastinating may have annoyed her to
desperation. He has told me with a kind of meek pride that he has often
been to the door of a shop, and then postponed the purchase he had come
to make until the next day. He loathes shopping. He finds the mildest
shopkeeper an intimidating creature. I do not know what would happen
to him if his hairdresser died. He has been to the same man for over
twenty years.

In politics he is a conscientious Radical, and his one test of
politicians is “Are they sincere?” He distrusts the Tories because he
believes that they must be working for their own personal ends, but he
has had a private weakness for Mr. Balfour ever since he read _The
Foundations of Belief_. His hero is W. E. Gladstone, whose opinions
represent to him, I fancy, some aspect of his own, while Gladstone’s
courage, Wince says, was “perfectly glorious.”

He adores courage, but only when it is the self-conscious kind. Our
friend Bellows, for instance, does not appear to Wince as brave,
but as callous, thick-skinned, or “simply a braggart.” All Wince’s
resentment comes to the surface when the two men meet by some untoward
accident. On one such occasion he magnificently left the room and
slammed the door after him, but I think that he probably regretted that
act of violence before he reached home. He has a nervous horror of
making enemies. He need have no fear in this case. Bellows considers
Wince as beneath his notice, and always speaks of him to me as “your
hair-splittin’ friend.”

Now that I have documented Wince I feel chiefly sorry for him, but
when I am in his company I frequently have a strong desire to shake
him. I wonder if his wife began by being sorry for him, and if her
escapade was incidentally intended as a shaking? Did she flaunt her
wickedness at him in the hope of “rousing him up”? If so, she failed,
ignominiously. Shakings of that sort only aggravate his terror of
life. Indeed, I do not think that anything can be done for him. If he
survives the war, the coming of the New Democracy will certainly finish
him. Talking of the possibility of a November Election, he told me that
he meant to abstain from voting. He said that he could not vote for
Lloyd George, and was afraid of putting too much power into the hands
of the Labour Party. He did not think that they had yet had enough
experience of government to be trusted with the control of a nation.

In the hallowed protections of the Victorian era he had his place and
throve after his fashion. Life was so secure and the future apparently
so certain. But he was not fitted to stand the strain of coming out
into the open. He is horrified by the war, but in his heart he is
still more horrified by the thought of the conditions that will come
with peace. He sees the future, I know, as a vast, formless threat.
He sees life exposed to a great gale of revolution. He is afraid that
his retreat will be no longer available, that one day he will find his
burrow stopped and himself called upon to face, and to work with, his

But no doubt his natural timidity tends to over-estimate the
probability of these dangers.


The body seems to have a separate and industrious life of its
own. It carries on works of amazing intricacy beyond the reach of
consciousness; works, the very existence of which are unknown to us
so long as they are being successfully performed. Only when there is
some hitch or impediment, is the consciousness crudely signalled by
the message of pain. Attention is demanded, but no detail is given of
the nature of the trouble, nor of how it may be overcome. All that
the message conveys is a plea for rest, for the suspension of those
activities within the consciousness which are--may we assume?--using up
energy from some additional source that the workers now wish to draw
upon themselves.

Can we assume further, that this corporate life of the cells is not
entirely mechanical; is not a series of chemico-biological reflexes
or reactions, somehow mysteriously initiated at the birth of life and
continued by the stimulus of some unknown unconscious force so long
as this plastic, suggestible association of cells remains active?
For example, it would appear that although strangers from another
like community will be accepted and treated as fellow members, some
lack of sympathy, or different habit of work mars the perfection
of the building. In renewing the bone structure after trephining,
for instance, it has been found that a graft from the patient’s own
body--thin slices from the tibia are now being used--produces better
results than can be achieved by the workers with strange material. The
graft in this case is only used as a scaffolding. (Our assumed workers
with all their ingenuity are not equal to the task of throwing out
cantilevers into the void.) But the planks of the scaffolding become an
organic part of the new structure, and when the new material used is
foreign, we find the marks of divided purpose in plan and construction.
The new bone takes longer to form and the work is not so well done.

(Incidentally, it is interesting to notice how impossible our
mechanical metaphors become when we are speaking of this work of the
cells. I have spoken of throwing out a cantilever, and incorporating
the planks of a scaffold in the new structure, but cantilevers and
planks are themselves, also, workers! And, indeed, the fact that the
process cannot be truly stated or even conceived in mechanical terms
may be taken as a contribution to the metaphysical argument.)

Yet astounding and difficult as is this problem of the civic,
corporate life that is being lived without our knowledge, a still more
inconceivable partnership awaits our investigation. So far, we have
touched only on two domains; the first peculiar to those who study the
body from a more or less mechanical aspect, such as the surgeon or the
histologist; the second to the psychologist. There remains, I believe,
a third peculiar to the practical experiments of biology and psychology.

Such reflections as these have often haunted me, and my mind was
confusedly feeling for some key to the whole mystery as I stood by the
death-bed of old Henry Sturton. He had been fatally injured by a motor
omnibus as he stood in the gutter with his pitiful tray of useless
twopenny toys. No one else had been hurt; the accident would have
been no accident, nothing more than a violent and harmless skidding
of the juggernaut, if Henry Sturton had not been standing on that
precise spot. A difference of a few inches either way would have saved
him. As it was the whole performance seemed to have been fastidiously
planned in order to destroy him. And in his pocket they had found a
begging letter addressed to me that he had perhaps forgotten to post.
Or it may be that for once he had honestly intended to stamp it? I
had egotistically wondered if I was the person for whose benefit this
casual killing had been undertaken.

When I reached the hospital, he was either asleep or unconscious, but
they allowed me to wait within the loop of the screen that was to hide
the spectacle of his passing from the other patients in the ward. And
I stood there pondering on the marvel of the bodily functions. I got no
further than that until he opened his eyes and I saw my vision.

He had been a gross man. I had always disliked and despised him since
a certain occasion on which I had lunched with him at his Club. That
was more than twenty years ago. I was young then, full of eagerness for
the spiritual adventure of life, and he was a successful business man
of nearly fifty, coarse and stupid, drugged by his perpetual indulgence
in physical satisfactions. But, indeed, he had always been stupid. He
was, I have heard, the typical lout of his school, too lethargic to
be vicious, living entirely, as it seemed, for his stomach and his
bed. Heaven knows what his life would have been, if he had always been
forced to work for his bare living, but Providence has a habit of
pandering to fat men, and he succeeded to his father’s business, and
let it run itself on its own familiar lines.

He had never married. He was too selfish for that, but he had, so
someone told me, bought and mistreated more than one young woman for
his own office--his only positive sin in the eyes of the moralists;
though I used to feel that his whole existence was one vast
overwhelming sin from first to last. That, however, is the common error
of judgment of the ascetic, self-immolating type.

He found no friends when his business failed. His intimates were men of
the same calibre as himself, and rejected him in those circumstances
as he would have rejected them. The failure itself was an unlucky
accident. The man who ran the business proved unfaithful; he was
the victim of a confidence that begot in him the lust for power. He
gambled, lost, and absconded.

Sturton’s descent into the gutter was delayed for a few years by a
clerical appointment he begged from some firm with whom he had traded
before his bankruptcy. The appointment could not have been lucrative.
He attended the office every day, but nothing else seemed to have
been expected of him. He could have been capable of nothing else.
Whatever his potentialities may once have been, they were hopelessly
stultified by then. I used to meet him now and again in those days of
his clerkship; and let him gorge himself at my expense. That was his
single pleasure and desire. Poverty had exaggerated the cravings of his

And as I stood respectfully within the fold of the screen and looked
down at the flabby coarseness of the horrible old man in the bed,
I reflected that his body must in its own way have represented a
highly successful community of cells. There had been no distractions
of purpose in the entity we knew as Henry Sturton; no rending
uncertainties to upset his nerves and interfere with the steady
industry of his bodily functions.

I was thinking that when he opened his eyes and I caught a glimpse
of the fierce and splendid thing his body had always hidden from us.
I saw it then, beyond any shadow of doubt--the spirit that had been
imprisoned for seventy years, lying in wait eternally patient and
vigilant, for this one brief instant of expression. It looked at me
without recognition, yet with an amazing intensity, as if it knew that
all its long agony of suppression would find no other compensation than
this. So near release, his soul, still longing to touch life at some
point, had seized its opportunity when that intolerably gross barrier
of his body had been mangled and dislocated by this long-delayed

Then Henry Sturton coughed, and I saw the beautiful eager stare die out
of his eyes, and give place to that look of gross desire I had always
loathed. Even then, I believe, he craved for food. But the next moment
his eyes closed and his lips spurted a stream of blood.

The nurse was with him instantly, pushing me aside. I took advantage
of her preoccupation to stay till the end. I hoped for one more sight
of his soul. I thought it might take advantage of another intermission
before the work of the community was abruptly closed. But I did not see
it again.

He spoke once, two minutes before he died.

“God blast,” was what he said.


For the first time in his life, Henry Wolverton had been seriously

His had been an orderly life. Even when he was at Shrewsbury, he had
escaped bullying and other disturbances. He had been marked out as a
future scholar who would be a credit to the school; and his calm air of
reserve had also protected him. He might be classed as a “swat,” but he
was not the kind of swat who gets singled out for bullying. He was no
good at games, but he had a handsome, dignified presence, and he was
never known to put on side.

At Oxford he passed from triumph to triumph. After he got his
fellowship at Balliol, he married a girl-graduate from Lady Margaret
Hall, and they worked happily together on his research. He was writing
in many volumes, the _Economic History of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth
Centuries_; and at twenty-nine he was already an authority. His wife
died rather incidentally when they had been married three years, but
that had not seriously interfered with his life work.

Nor did the war, although it was a terrible nuisance, have any
considerable effect upon him. He undertook work of “national
importance” in Whitehall, and when he returned home in the afternoon to
the house he had taken at the corner of Bedford Square, he found that
he could still put in four or five valuable hours’ work on his history.
And if he wanted extra time for research in the British Museum library,
he could always get leave. Everyone in his department recognized the
fact that he was an exceptional man, and that the work he was engaged
upon would be a lasting monument to English scholarship.

By comparison, the war itself was almost an ephemeral thing.

Since the signing of the armistice, he had settled down to make up for
lost time. He had his whole future planned. He hoped to finish his
immediate task by the time he was sixty-five, but he foresaw that there
would still be other work for him to do. He would, for example, almost
certainly find it necessary by then to make revision in his earlier

It was no trifle that had upset him on this particular day. But even
the fact that the English revolution had at last broken into the flame
of civil war would not have disturbed him so seriously, if he had not
conclusively proved in the course of the past five weeks that the
revolution was impossible. Throughout the welter of the national strike
disturbances, editors of any importance from the editor of the _Times_
downwards had begged him for articles. Although he had specialized upon
a study of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, he was regarded as
the first authority on the entire history of the English people. And
in his articles, he had proved conclusively from his vast knowledge of
precedents and tradition, that the temper of the English people would
never seek the arbitrament of an armed revolution.

He was still convinced of that, although, so far as he could judge, the
revolution had already begun.

He had been startled in the middle of his best hours of the day, by
what he had at first imagined to be the back-firing of a rapidly
driven motor-bicycle. He went to the window, opened it wide (he always
kept it closed when he was working, to shut out the noise of the
traffic), and listened with an anxious attention. He had a peculiar
and unprecedented feeling of nervousness. He felt, for no assignable
reason, as if someone had discovered a bad anachronism in his book.
And then he was reluctantly driven to the conclusion that, indeed,
some mistake had been committed, although he could not admit that it
was his own. For the motor-bicycle continued to back-fire in short,
spasmodic bursts, while it remained stationary; and he could do longer
avoid the inference that it was as a matter of fact a machine gun, no
further away than Oxford Street. He could, also, hear dim and terrible
shouting, and more faintly, occasional cries of dismay, of anger, or of

The Square was completely deserted, but when he saw a scattered rout
of people flying north, up Bloomsbury Street, he closed the window and
began to pace up and down his well-fitted writing room, sanctified now,
by the five years’ work he had done there.

What so annoyed and disturbed him was that some officious, political
fool should have upset his scholarly deductions from the vast
precedents of history. He would not admit for one moment that he had
been mistaken; his chain of reasoning was unassailable. But, so he
inferred, some blundering, malicious idiot had made a gross error in
the conduct of the negotiations that, no longer ago than yesterday, had
promised so hopefully. The result of that error was incalculable. There
could be no doubt that the rioters had been fired upon, and so given a
sound cause, and what would perhaps be more effective still, a rallying
cry, to the great mass of unemployed workers. And the army could not be
depended upon. The more loyal part of it was in Germany enforcing the
peace terms. It was just possible in the circumstances that there might
be something very like an armed revolution, despite the fact that his
arguments had been so indubitably sound and right. Henry Wolverton was
exceedingly annoyed and upset.

His troubles did not end there. Just as he had succeeded, by a masterly
effort of concentration, in putting away the thought of this stupid
anomaly and returning to his work, his housekeeper came and tapped at
his door--a thing she had been explicitly forbidden to do, at that time
of day, in any circumstances whatever.

He ignored the first knock, and then she knocked again, more loudly.

He frowned, and bade her come in. She was stupid, like most women, and
would probably continue to pester him until she was admitted.

She came in trembling with agitation.

“Oh! I’m sure I beg your pardon, sir, coming now, against all orders,”
she said; “but William has just come in--it’s his evening off, you
know, sir--and he says there’s been firin’ in Oxford Circus, and people
killed, and--”

“I inferred that,” Henry Wolverton interrupted her calmly. “I heard the
machine guns. You had better tell William not to go out again.”

“Oh! sir, but he says we’re none of us safe,” the housekeeper wailed,
on the verge of hysterics. “He says there’ll be looting and Heaven only
knows what, and us so near Oxford Street.”

“I do not anticipate any effects of that kind, to-night, Mrs. Perry,”
Wolverton replied frigidly. “And, by the way, I should be glad if you
could let me have dinner half an hour earlier, this evening. After
these annoying disturbances, I may not be able to settle down again
until I have dined, and I shall work longer afterwards to make up for
lost time. Can you arrange that?”

“Yes, sir,” gasped Mrs. Perry. “Then, you don’t believe, sir--”

“I do not,” Wolverton returned with the dignity of the assured. “You
may lock the outer doors, if it gives you any sense of security. I
shall expect dinner in half an hour from now.”

Mrs. Perry returned to the kitchen greatly comforted by her master’s
magnificent confidence. She told William that things were not so bad as
he was afraid of! And William in his turn derived a sense of security
from the knowledge that he was living in the house of Henry Wolverton.

Nevertheless, they locked and bolted all the doors with a fine
attention to detail.

Henry Wolverton worked rather intermittently after dinner that night.
He was not disturbed by any noises from without. London was quieter
than he had ever known it. He could hear no sound of traffic either
along Bloomsbury Street or Tottenham Court Road. No paper boys came.
No one passed his window. He could not even hear the sound of the
policeman on his beat. But he found the absence of noise on this
occasion more disturbing than the presence of it would have been. He
found himself hailed out of his profoundest efforts of attention by
his consciousness of this abiding, deathly silence. He would discover
himself, sitting idly, listening to the stillness of the night.

A little after twelve o’clock, he got up and went to the front door.
And after he had somewhat impatiently unlocked it, drawn back the
bottom bolt and the top bolt, released the night latch, and undone the
chain, he opened the door and stood on the top step, looking out over
the darkness of the Square. After a moment or two, he realized with a
little shock of dismay why the Square looked unfamiliar to him. The
street lamps had not been lighted. Only a clear and brilliant moon in
its second quarter, brooded over the unprecedented silence; weakly
illuminating the apparently deserted city....

The thin scream of fear that suddenly pierced the stillness, came with
an effect of audacious irreverence.

Henry Wolverton stiffened and a cold thrill of apprehension ran down
his spine.

The scream was succeeded by a faint, eager patter of hurrying feet; and
then more distantly, by the brutal intrusion of hoarse shouts, and the
clutter of heavy boots vehemently running.

Wolverton did not move. Until now fear had never entered his life and
he had the courage of a man who has never faced a real danger.

The lighter footsteps were approaching very rapidly, coming up
Bloomsbury Street; and the sound of them seemed suddenly to lift and
acquire precision as a figure came round the corner and turned swiftly
into the Square. Wolverton could see then that the runner was a young
woman in a light dress.

He would have let her pass without trying to attract her attention. He
was watching the whole incident with the detached and careful interest
of the historian. But the young woman, herself, had evidently seen the
beacon of his open door before she actually reached it, and had settled
upon her course of action. She came straight up the steps without an
instant’s hesitation, pushed Henry Wolverton back into the hall, and
closed the door with the intent and silent urgency of a conspirator.

He made no attempt to speak, and the young woman crouched in silence
behind the door, until they had heard the clutter of heavy footsteps
pass by and hurry on, up the Square. The men were not shouting now,
but even through the heavy door, Wolverton could hear them gasping
and panting as they ran. The sound of it made him think of the hoarse
panting of great dogs.

When the flurry of that passing had dwindled again into silence,
the young woman got up, locked and bolted the door and faced Henry
Wolverton under the light of the hall lamp.

“So, that’s all right,” she said, with a little laugh of exultation.

“Do I understand--?” Wolverton began.

“Probably, I should imagine,” she interrupted him. “The scum’s let
loose--the hooligans; the Apaches. After the fighting comes pillage and
rapine.” She frowned slightly as she added, “I suppose rapine has got
to do with rape?”

“It is not used specifically in that sense, now,” Wolverton replied.
“But it had that meaning, earlier.”

“Oh, thanks! Well that was what I meant,” the young woman said. “Do you
mind if I come in and sit down? Is that your room? I’m a bit blown.”

Wolverton stood aside for her to enter the sacred places of his

She nodded by way of thanks, as she passed him, went in, looked round
the room and then having thrown herself with a sigh of relief into his
reading chair, proceeded to take off her hat.

“Jolly room,” she remarked pleasantly, as her deft fingers twitched and
patted at her hair. “You a writer?”

“My name is Henry Wolverton,” he informed her with a modest dignity.

“What?” she exclaimed, sitting bolt upright and staring at him eagerly.
“Henry Wolverton, the historian?”

He nodded gravely.

“Oh, Lord!” she said, and went on, “Well, I was wrong about one thing.
I said you must be a dried up little mummy of a man, all beard and
spectacles. And you’re not a bit like that. In fact you’re quite
unusually goodlooking.”

The faintest adumbration of a flush tinged Wolverton’s white forehead.
“My name appears to be known to you,” he remarked, ignoring the

“Obviously,” his visitor retorted. “Pretty well known to everyone, I
should imagine, just now.”

“May I ask why?” he put in.

“Well, considering that you’re the man who’s responsible for the
revolution, I suppose you’re more famous at the present moment than any
man in Great Britain,” she said. “Though you’re not exactly popular
with either side, to-night, I should think,” she added thoughtfully.

Henry Wolverton made a little noise in his throat that sounded like an
asthmatic cough. With him that noise did duty for a laugh. “I’m afraid
I don’t follow you,” he said.

“Do you mean that you don’t admit your own responsibility for the
revolution?” she asked.

“I cannot see that I am even remotely connected with it,” he replied.

The young woman pursed her lovely mouth, and clasped her hands
round her knee. After a reflective pause she remarked with apparent
inconsequence, “My name is Susan Jeffery; but I don’t suppose that
conveys anything to you.”

“I believe I saw the name on a committee list of the ‘League of
Youth,’” Wolverton said.

“Lord, what a memory he has,” commented Susan Jeffery in a soft voice.

“But I must plead ignorance of the general scope of your activities,”
he continued.

“But you know something about our league?” she put in.

“Something,” he admitted.

“Such as our policy of percolation?”

“I understand that your endeavour is to be represented in every
imaginable grade of society.”

“Precisely. From royalty down to the criminal and the gutter-snipe,”
Susan confirmed. “We have only one qualification for membership; we
admit no one over twenty-five.”

“And have you many members, now?” Wolverton inquired politely.

“Nine thousand, eight hundred and forty-three,” Susan replied. “We
admitted a hundred and seven new members after our grand meeting
to-night, including a royal prince and two hooligans.”

Henry Wolverton nodded his head encouragingly.

“Most satisfactory,” he murmured.

Susan dropped her knee and sat up.

“I’m telling you this,” she said in a firm voice, “for your own good.
We discussed you at our meeting, and it was resolved unanimously that
you were largely responsible for the revolution that broke out to-day,
and will end God knows where or when.”

Wolverton made his noise again--Susan had not yet recognized it as
a laugh. “I must confess that I don’t quite follow your train of
reasoning,” he said.

“You don’t _look_ like a fool, either,” Susan commented, frankly. “I
suppose that’s just your one blind spot. Most of us have one.”

“Perhaps you would explain,” Wolverton suggested.

“It’s so bally obvious,” Susan replied. “You’ve been writing articles
for the last six weeks--they’ve appeared all over the shop--rubbing it
in about the English temper. It wouldn’t have mattered if it had been
anybody else, but people believe _you_. All sorts of people. We know
that, through the activities of the league, because we’re represented
everywhere. Well, what has been the effect of those articles? One side,
the side in power, has believed you and decided on your authority not
to give way. The other side, the workers, has believed you, too, and
they’re so annoyed to think that you are right that they’ve determined
to prove you’re wrong.”

“But, in that case, I was right,” Wolverton put in with his first sign
of excitement.

“You were, until you put your opinion on record,” Susan corrected
him. “You see,” she explained, “it’s like knowing the future. You can
only know it for certain about other people as long as you keep it to
yourself. If you tell a man that next Friday he’ll walk under a ladder
in Fleet Street, and that a brick will drop on his head and kill him,
he’ll keep out of Fleet Street next Friday, if he believes you.”

“I admit the instance,” Wolverton murmured.

“Well, it’s just the same in your case. The workers have been saying,
‘Here’s that chap Wolverton convincing everybody that there’ll be no
revolution, that we’ll have to give in, in the end, and make terms. And
all the politicians, and the owners and the middle classes believe him,
and they’ll stick it out to the last minute, because they’re sure we
have got the “English temper” and won’t fight. Well, we’ll jolly well
prove that Mr. Wolverton is wrong for once.’ You see,” Susan concluded
with a graceful gesture. “Our league knows these things. And it comes
to this: if you want your prophecies to come off, you must keep them to
yourself until after the event. Hasn’t your study of history taught you
that much?”

Henry Wolverton leaned forward in his chair and covered his face with
his hands.

“I’m sorry if I’ve upset you,” Susan said gently. “I’m sure you’re a
very nice man, really.”

Wolverton groaned. “I’m finally discredited,” he muttered.

“Oh, no!” Susan comforted him. “Not in your own line. Remember the
motto of our League: ‘These things are hidden from the wise and prudent
and revealed unto babes.’ No man, however clever he is, can be expected
to know everything.”

Henry Wolverton lifted his head.

“I shall never write again,” he said, in the tone of one who makes the
great renunciation; and he looked at Susan a trifle nervously, as if he
feared this immense announcement might be a little too much for her.

“Just as well,” she replied soothingly. “In any case we’ve pretty
well scrapped history now. It was never any practical use except as a
reference for precedents; and now we’re chucking precedents down the
sink as fast as we can. We’re all going to begin again presently--when
the fighting is over--on a new basis.”

Henry Wolverton jumped to his feet and began to pace up and down the

“It’s sure to be a wrench at first, of course,” Susan consoled him.
“These things always are. But if I can help you in any way--”

He turned on her with the first sign of emotional passion he had ever

“You!” he said fiercely. “Don’t you realize that you’ve destroyed
my whole life’s work; that you’ve robbed me in ten minutes of every
happiness and satisfaction I’ve ever had. Good God, if I’d known, I’d
have slammed the door in your face, just now. I would have delivered
you over to the scum of London to do what they would with you.”

Susan blushed. “I don’t think that’s a very nice thing to say,” she
remarked, gently. “But perhaps it’s just as well for you to blow off
steam a bit. It does help when you’ve had a real facer. And honestly,
you know, although I’m very sorry in a way, I do think it’s all for
your good that I came in to-night; because you would have been bound to
find it out for yourself sooner or later.”

Henry Wolverton stared at her, and his look of anger slowly gave place
to one of bewilderment.

“But what am I to _do_?” he asked. “I’ve always worked for ten hours a
day. I can’t live without work of some kind, and now....”

Susan got up and came across the room to him, with an expression of
bright and eager helpfulness.

“Oh! look here, we’ll find a use for you,” she said, laying her hand on
his arm. “You’re too old to join the league, of course--”

“I’m thirty-seven,” he interpolated.

“It’s quite young, really,” she comforted him. “I’m twenty-three. But
what I was going to say was that we are founding a reference committee
of experts of all kinds to advise the league. The members of that
committee will have no voice in our decisions, you understand; they’ll
be simply advisory. And it would be absolutely splendid to have you as
chairman. I shall get no end of prestige from the league for having
found you.” Her face shone with the joy of the successful discoverer.

“I understand you to suggest,” Henry Wolverton commented dryly,
“that I should devote the rest of my life, and the--er--fruits of my
scholarship, to instructing young men and women under twenty-five
years of age in the lessons of history; always with the distinct
understanding that they are in no way pledged to apply my advice in the
prosecution of their own policy?”

Susan did not miss the implications of his tone. “My dear man,” she
said, “whatever is the good of scholarship, if it isn’t to advise the
young? Surely you haven’t been studying history all these years just in
order to swap opinions with all the other old fogies?”

Henry Wolverton turned his back on her and walked over to the window.
After a short pause he faced her again and said, “You have a remarkable
power of statement, Miss Jeffery. I must admit that I have never before
considered the precise use, in the pragmatical sense, to which I might
apply my--er--scholarship; and I am ready to grant that your point is a
good one. Where your otherwise admirable logic seems to fail, however,
is in the admission that though I might turn my knowledge to good
effect by advising youth, I may be wasting all my effort since youth
will probably not be guided by my teaching.”

“I don’t know much about logic,” replied Susan, “but I should have
thought it must be pretty evident to you, to-day of all days, that if
we were going to be guided only by the lessons of history, our league
would be a back-number in a week. Isn’t it possible for you to get it
into your head that history isn’t everything?”

She put her last question with the appealing gesture of a mother
addressing a refractory and rather stupid child.

“How is history going to get us out of the mess you’ve landed us in,
for example?” she continued, as Henry Wolverton made no attempt to
answer her. “How is history, alone, going to help us presently to start
everything afresh on a new basis? You must know, yourself, that it’s no
good trying to get back to the old way of doing things. That could only
mean, by your own showing, that we should just be preparing the way for
all this to happen again.”

Henry Wolverton threw up his hands with a gesture of despair.

“But if I admit that you’re right,” he said, “I have to face the
conclusion that I’ve wasted my whole life.”

“Well, in a way, I’m afraid you have, rather,” Susan admitted. “It’s
a great pity, for instance, about this revolution of yours. It means
such a lot of blood and disorder; and people do get so out of hand when
there’s fighting going on. Now if the owners and the middle-classes
hadn’t been so cocksure, and had given way, we could have started in on
our new methods of government without any bother.”

She paused a moment, before she added,

“We’ve got it all worked out, you know, but, of course, I can’t tell
you anything about it, yet.”

“I am, in fact, what you would call a back-number,” Henry Wolverton

Susan puckered her forehead. “I think there’s still a hope for you,”
she remarked.

“After all these years?” he asked.

“If you’d let me take you in hand for a bit,” she said. “You seem
willing to learn.”

“But you have surely more important work to do? You couldn’t spare time
to teach me?” he suggested.

“I think I might work it in,” she said reflectively. “I’d take you
about with me and show you things--real things, you know. What’s
chiefly wrong with you is that you’ve spent all your time over your old

“You suggest that I ought to study life in--in action?” Henry Wolverton

“Rather,” Susan agreed. “You ought to come to one of our meetings.”

She stopped abruptly, and her hand went up to her mouth with a gesture
of dismay.

“Oh! Great Scott!” she ejaculated; “that reminds me, I was going on
to another frightfully important meeting when those hooligans started
chasing me; and that and our talk put it right out of my head.”

“At what time was this important meeting to be held?” Henry Wolverton
asked, looking at his watch.

“One o’clock,” she told him.

“You still have ten minutes,” he said.

Susan shuddered. “I daren’t go out again alone,” she confessed. “I
simply daren’t. I’d--I’d sooner stay here all night with you.”

“I shall be delighted to come with you,” Henry Wolverton said.

“You!” Susan exclaimed. “But don’t you understand the risk? The mob’s
loose. What good would you be against three or four chunky hooligans?”

Henry Wolverton squared his shoulders. He was a tall, finely-built man,
and his face had the cool assurance of one who has never known fear.

“I am not afraid of hooligans,” he said.

Susan gazed at him with frank admiration.

“You know you’re a perfect topper in some ways,” she complimented him.

He bowed gravely. “If I might be admitted to this meeting of yours,” he
said; “it would perhaps afford me an opportunity to begin my education.”

“If you’re sure you’re not afraid,” Susan replied, picking up her hat.

“I’m not in the least afraid,” he said. “Will you take my arm?”

At the open door they paused a moment, looking out into the darkness;
listening to the profound silence of the empty night--creative youth
and patient scholarship, hand-in-hand, facing the immense void of the
unforetellable future.


“I can’t get him right, somehow,” the young sculptor said, but he
looked tenderly at the little figure of the man he was modelling in
plasticine, as if, despite its very obvious defects, he found something
to admire in his creation.

“Wants stiffening, doesn’t he?” I suggested. “Couldn’t you put a wire
or something up his legs and back?”

“Well, you see,” my young friend explained, “I could if I knew
beforehand exactly what I was going to do with him. Only I don’t. I
like to make him up as I go along. I’m no good at it really. I can’t
think it all out ahead and then sit down and do it right off. I have to
experiment and--see how it comes, you know. Do you think his head is
too big?”

I thought it was rather big.

The young modeller regarded his creation with a look in which fondness
still seemed to preponderate.

“Perhaps if....” he said; then speech died out of him as his hands
again began to fashion and improve his little image of humanity.

And as I watched him a vision came to me. I lost consciousness of
the boy and his workshop. I wandered away into a dreamland of the
imagination, following the lure of a fantasy deeper and more satisfying
than the reality of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I read in my morning’s paper of the “Nova” in the constellation
of Sagittarius, I thought first of H. G. Wells’s story of “The New
Star,” and smiled. Later, I turned with a little shiver of anxiety to
that chapter in Professor Lowell’s _Evolution of Worlds_ in which he
describes the possible coming of a “dark stranger” out of the depths
of space. Already there were points of striking resemblance between
Lowell’s imaginative account and the details that were appearing
casually, in the intervals between more important news, in the
newspapers. This new star differed from those other _novæ_ so many of
which have been recorded at various times. _They_ brought us tidings
of a collision that had already occurred, blazing out suddenly into a
short-lived splendour and quickly waning again to invisibility. This
stranger, astronomers were agreed, shone not by its own light but by
the reflected light of the sun. Then it must be, relatively, near.
Lowell’s calculations gave us something like thirty years to prepare
before the invader wrought the destruction of the solar system. But,
obviously, that calculation depended on various assumptions that the
reality need not verify. This strange visitor might be much smaller
than he had assumed--he had taken the enormous mass of the sun as his
standard--its albedo might be lower; its speed greater. Also Lowell’s
stranger was assumed to be coming at right angles to the plane of the
ecliptic; this one would, as it were, skim the edge of that swimming
saucer. Would any of the outer planets be interposed between us
and this dreadful visitor? Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars,
might any of them be a buffer to us--provide us, perhaps, with some
stupendous display in the heavens, but save us from ultimate disaster?

Everyone treated the thing so lightly. Here and there alarmist
paragraphs appeared, but they only displayed the hand of the
sensation-monger. No one took the threat seriously. And yet the
astronomers must know? They had had more than a week, now, in which to
make their calculations.

And then the shadow fell with such suddenness that it was impossible to
say how the certainty had come to us. Everyone knew. The astronomers
confirmed one another without a dissentient. And there was nothing
in the way. With a horrible unanimity the outer planets had left a
clear space for the intruder, while the Earth, with that blundering
indifference which is surely its chief characteristic, was stolidly
marching straight into the path of destruction. Is there any esoteric
significance in the fact that the Earth has a greater density than any
other member of the solar system?

Everyone knew, but little was changed. We went on with our affairs;
with little zest, no doubt--we could never forget the deepening shadow.
But what else was there for us to do but go on? We could not instantly
alter ourselves or our way of life. Religions blazed into a spasmodic
fever as men and women sought refuge from the dreadful reality. Crimes
of lust and greed increased for the same reason. But for the most part
we continued in the old ways by sheer inertia, though there was a new
and smaller moon visible to us in the night sky, a moon that waxed with
infinite slowness towards the full, and grew larger night by night.
We knew by then that the stranger was as big as Jupiter, and with a
density little less than that of the Earth.

The first portents of disaster came when our own moon was approaching
the new. The stranger’s mass had begun to affect the tides, and we were
warned to evacuate all low lands, near the sea, upon the estuaries, and
incidentally the river level in London. Four days before the highest
tide the Thames flooded Farringdon Street, Westminster, and great
districts on the south bank, and the retreating river laid bare the
river-bed as far down as Greenwich.

The population of London had fled to the heights North and South
before the great floods that devastated all the low lands of Essex,
Kent, Surrey, and Middlesex. And with that rush for safety and the
rapidly increasing portents of disaster the routine of civilisation was
definitely broken. It seemed as if in the mass we were being gradually
stripped of all our tediously-acquired virtues and vices, until but one
instinct remained, the instinct for self-preservation. That, however,
was only the effect produced by the panic movement of the crowd; when
one came to individuals....

I can, however, only speak of two, myself and another man. We sat
together on a hill in Derbyshire and watched through the last night.

A certain calmness had come to me, then, mingled with the queerest
feelings of excitement and expectation. Within sight of death, I could
still enjoy this amazing celestial adventure. The new planet that was
rushing in upon us had already torn us from our steady path about the
sun, and our old familiar moon dwindled to the size of a sixpence, and,
diminishing almost visibly, was within a few hours of destruction. For
the moon had fled its old allegiance to the Earth and was rushing to
the arms of this great stranger like some passionate, unfaithful lover.

But the new planet itself drowned all consciousness of lesser things
when it rose magnificently above the eastern horizon. That night it
was a full circle of yellow light, and across its great expanse moved
one circle of intense blackness, the size of our old moon, a circle
that was slowly increasing in size, the shadow of our own Earth. So
great a thing appeared this new planet, then, that when its lower rim
was at last clear of the horizon, its upper limb towered half-way to
the zenith. It had few markings, but from one pole, which was turned
markedly towards us, radiated uneven, dark lines--chains of mountains,
perhaps--that definitely produced the effect of a solid globe long
before its actual convexity was recognisable. All the rest of the
planet presented a smooth, unbroken expanse, possibly the vast bed of
some long-vanished sea.

For an hour or more my companion and I had sat in silence watching
this gigantic spectacle; then he said quietly, “We are witnessing the
failure of a negligible experiment.”

I did not answer at once. I had not caught his drift. I was struggling
with a foolish preoccupation, the result of an almost lifelong habit.
As I watched I was searching for words to describe what I saw. I wanted
to write my experience; yes, even there, under the sentence of death
pronounced not only upon me, but upon all humanity, I was struggling
with this meaningless desire to create a record that none could ever

I made an effort and roused myself from this inane preoccupation.
“Negligible?” I said, grasping at what seemed to be his most prominent

“Proved to be negligible,” he asserted. “You are a serious man? You
don’t cling to straws? You have no doubt that this is the end of
the Earth? Very well then, you know that we are to be destroyed? By
an accident? Possibly. Or it may be that this arrow that has been
discharged at us was shot deliberately; with a definite purpose.

“It isn’t as if the same thing had not happened before,” he continued
after a pause. “We have seen it--seen the effects at least. When some
temporary star blazed up in the sky, we inferred some such collision
as this. It may very well be that from a planet in some other system
men may catch sight of this tiny blaze of ours--and wonder. It will be
relatively a very small affair. Some of those we’ve seen must have been
many thousand times greater.

“But the point is that this experiment of making men upon the Earth
is now proved to be negligible. In a few hours it will be finished,
wiped out. And whether that termination is the result of accident or
design makes no difference to the effect. This is an answer to all our
philosophies and religions. Either we are the creatures of some chance
evolutionary process, or we are an experiment that has failed.”

I looked at him, and noted with a curious stir of unplaceable
recollection that his head was too large.

“It is certain that we shall go off like an exploded shell?” I asked.

“I don’t fancy that many of us will live to see that,” he replied.
“Most of us will be drowned in the next tide. It will come in a wall of
water many thousand feet high. Don’t you notice a feeling of lightness
in your body? The attraction of this great stranger is beginning
to drag at us. On the other side of the Earth men are feeling an
intolerable heaviness. And our speed increases. We have been drawn out
of our orbit. We are rushing now to greet the stranger with a kiss of
fire. Our circling about the sun is done for ever. We and the stranger
are leaping together like two bubbles in a cup.”

I believe some hours passed before I spoke again. A sense of imminence
had grown upon me in the meantime. I was aware of the guards that were
fetching me to execution.

“After all,” I cried, “there may still be such a thing as an immortal
soul. Though every physical expression is smashed at one blow, that
does not prove....”

“There is no such thing as proof possible,” my companion interrupted.
“But don’t you know in your heart that it’s no good?”

       *       *       *       *       *

“No good. It’s no good.” I woke with a start at the repetition of that

My young modeller was rolling a great ball of plasticine, and before I
could stop him he had thrown it with deadly accuracy at his effigy of

“He wouldn’t come right,” he explained, picked up the shapeless mass of
clay, and tossed it carelessly into a corner of the workshop.

“Oh, but you shouldn’t have done that,” I said, with the incurable
didacticism of the pedagogue.


“_I’m_ dead.”

She heard the voice, _his_ voice, speaking distinctly, with something
of the same fatalism, half-careless, half-resentful, that he had used
when he returned to France after their five short days of married
life. For one moment she believed that it was actually his voice,
that he had come suddenly and wonderfully out of his six weeks’
insensibility, to a doubting interrogation of the darkness. But even
as she fumbled impatiently for the switch of the electric light, she
knew that the voice had not come from the bed on the further side of
the room, but had spoken its horrible message close, very close, to her
ear--intimately, confidentially, with a touch of swaggering, careless

And as the light, with an effect of servile obedience, disclosed the
room at her touch of the switch, she had no least hope that she would
be the witness of the longed-for miracle; that she would see him who
had lain so long a lax and useless counterfeit of his vigorous self,
half raised and questioning the unfamiliar surroundings with his
pitiful assertion.

Nevertheless she got out of bed, a slight pathetic figure in the white
light that searched out every corner of the room, and crossed to where
he lay inert and flaccid.

No, there was no change in him. The enigma that had baffled all the
specialists still persisted. He was still the living dead man who had
been ejected with just one little sobbing gasp of air out of the narrow
tunnel, the bore of his own body, by the premature explosion of the
mine he had spent six weeks’ labour in laying. On the further side that
explosion had blown out the flank of a hill, but he who had stoppered
the narrow vent on the hither side, like a plug of damp earth in the
mouth of a rifle-barrel, had been softly expelled into the presence
of his fellow-sappers waiting at the junction of the wider tunnel they
had bored, with never a mark of injury on him. Even his hair, which had
been so near--a paltry twenty feet or so--to the charge that had lifted
goodness knows how many tons of earth and stone sky-high--even his hair
had not been singed.

His body, almost incredibly, had come unscathed from its open sight of
death, but something--his wife thought of it as his spirit--had been
instantly shocked into silence. Since that awful experience he had
given no sign of consciousness or of volition. His bodily functions
continued their offices with a slow, dull persistence--he was fed
artificially now and again to remedy the slight waste of tissue--but
his spirit gave no least sign of its occupancy.

The specialists had been greatly interested, but he had given them so
little material for actual experiment that they had yielded to his
wife’s urgent request, and yesterday he had been transferred to her
immediate care in the reasonably convenient Maida Vale flat in which
they had spent their too restricted honeymoon....

She leant over him now and stared into his composed impassive face,
every feature of which was steady with the challenging quiet of death.
Where was he? she wondered. What could she conceivably do to reach him
through that unresponsive instrument on the bed--an instrument that
appeared as useless now as an unstrung piano?

And the voice, that had made its immense admission with the desperate
gallantry of one who had flung up his arms and acknowledged himself
prisoner to the great enemy--whence had come the voice? She could
remember no antecedent dream. The sound of his speaking had wakened
her, and in the act of waking she had heard his surrender made, as
clearly as if he had spoken it with his mouth at her ear. She felt that
she could hear it still. That reckless sentence was yet ringing through
the room: “_I’m_ dead.” Just so, she thought, might he have said
“Kamerad” in face of some overwhelmingly superior force.

“But you’re _not_; you’re not dead,” she pleaded to that insensible
figure; “you’re alive if--if you would but come back.”

She might as well have strummed on the keyboard of a wireless piano for
all the reaction she could produce from the lax representative that
lay before her, but her own verbal image returned to her with another

Come back? From where? Where was _he_ now--the individuality she
addressed as “you”? Was that essential personality of his buried deep
in this spiritless automaton, or was it away somewhere in the void,
unaware both of its fleshly anchor and of her? Could she not reach that
spirit of his, poised out of time and space, by the powers of her own
love and longing, since they, too, surely were able to transcend the
limitations of the purely physical? But to do that she must not sit and
gaze at this empty replica on the bed; she must think not of his image,
but of _him_, not of the representative, but of the spirit.

Nevertheless, when she began to pace the length of the room, she found
that when the sight of her husband’s placid face was hidden some
stimulus to concentration was removed also. While she stared at him
her thought was held and focused, now she was distracted by her vision
of the familiar things that were associated with her past life in his
company. She was thinking, not of him, but of the things he had done,
the man he had been.

Perhaps darkness might help her, she thought, and she laid herself down
on the bed and once more quenched the obedient light.

For a time she lay still, staring into the blackness, clenched in a
vivid effort of concentration, and then her eyes closed, and even as
she protested that she would not sleep, she had a vision of herself
lying inert and pale on her own bed, even as he was lying.

Then she seemed to be rising, baffled and half-unwilling, through
wreaths of a palpable darkness that clung about her with a dragging,
suffocating weight. And then it seemed to her that she was wandering,
lost and perplexed, on a gaunt and arid plain that might once have been
the bed of a now vanished sea.

She was not alone. Other figures, wraiths of humanity, also wandered
here and there. But none noticed her. They moved as if they were
searching for something they could never hope to find. They peered
vaguely downwards, passing her with bent heads and eyes that sought the
ground with a reluctant determination....

She found herself trembling, not with horror, but with a rapture of
expectancy. She had become aware that one among these drifting wraiths
was moving definitely towards her, drawn by the power of her longing.
And she had command of the power, so that it was ecstasy to wield it.
Almost she was tempted to withhold her amazing strength in order to
taste again the pleasure of its renewed exercise.

Then with a sense of some lost interval she found herself face to face
with him. But he looked at her without a sign of recognition. His eyes,
too, were full of that aimless intention, as though he was under an
eternal command to search for some unknown thing that was hidden he
knew not where.

“Paul!” she cried to him.

He made no reply. He did not seem to have heard her. But still she was
conscious of her immense power over him.

“Paul,” she said again. “Come back with me.”

He heard her then; but now it was as if he could not see her. He looked
about him, half-startled, half-resentful. “There’s no way back from the
plains of France,” he said, and a sudden doubt shook her. Her power to
hold him was failing. From out of the ground the darkness was rising
again like a swelling lake of still, black smoke, clinging about her
feet with an awful weight of recall.

She was sinking into the blackness, struggling against its vast
strength as it rose, sluggish and irresistible, to her waist, her
breast, her neck. She could not fight its immense strength, but her
power had returned to her. They might be drowned together in the
darkness, but she would compel him to come with her. She could see him
no longer, but she was aware of her limitless ability to hold him to
her by the power of her longing and her love....

She came slowly out of some remote distance to a realisation of herself
lying unaccountably still and dazed on her own bed. She could not move,
as yet, but her eyes were open, and she could see the grey outline of
the room in the growing daylight.

And then, again, clearly, but more distantly, she heard the sound of
Paul’s voice repeating his strange assertion.

“I’m dead,” he said, but in the tone there was now, she thought, the
first flicker of a doubt, the statement of wonder.

She made a great effort and raised herself.

He was sitting up in bed, propping his weakened body on his tremulous

“You’re not dead, Paul; you’re _not_, you’re _not_,” she screamed.
“I’ve brought you back, and I am going to hold you here.”

In a moment she was kneeling by him, supporting, clasping him. Her
power had become overwhelming, illimitable.

He looked at her with a grin, that was in some way sheepish, a little

“Well, if I’m not, I jolly well ought to be,” he said.

It must have seemed to him so boastful to be alive again.


No doubt the story of the future is written, so far as the future is
an expression of present potentialities. We boast our foreknowledge
of planetary history, and can prophesy with fine accuracy the
occurrence of every major and minor eclipse or occultation in the
solar system. But in the most precise science there remains always
at least one element that is undefinable and unknowable. The regular
traffic of planets about the sun might one day be upset by the coming
of an unknown visitor from the deeps of space. The materials of our
knowledge are so limited. And in human affairs we know so little of the
materials. Nevertheless, it may be that to the universal consciousness
the future is a foretellable expression of our present potentialities.

I remember how my friend Strickland used to harp on that theme eighteen
years ago. I was incredulous; a stickler for free-will. I could not
bear the thought of anything like a cut-and-dried programme of human
development. But my one really convincing retort to all his arguments
was to reply, “Oh; on broad lines, perhaps. On the very broadest lines.”

Strickland’s attitude just then was so obviously influenced by his
desires. He had married at forty, had one child, a boy, and was
oppressed by the fear that he would not live to see his son’s future.
Strickland was obsessed with that idea for a time. He even went so
far as to consult mediums. And a man of forty-five who will consult
professional mediums about the future cannot be quite sane.

His sole excuse for that lapse was the plea that astrology had failed
him. He had had two very expensive horoscopes cast, and they had been
most grievously at fault concerning the first three years of little
Strickland’s life. Both forecasts had been gloomy with regard to those
early years, prophesying a delicate constitution, unusual trouble with
infantile complaints. And one horoscope shrugged its inspired shoulders
at the critical period of teething, and continued with a kind of
cynical despair, as if the astrologer were a little ashamed of the way
he was earning his ten guineas: “Should he, however, survive....” And
the truth was that little Strickland was quite a fatiguingly healthy
child. His appetite and his craving for exercise, even at the age of
eight weeks, were, admittedly, almost abnormal.

So Strickland lost faith in the pattern of the stars, and tried
mediums, who were not so nervous of the magistrates in those days.
If he had stuck to one clairvoyante he might have laid his restless
enquiry, but, unhappily, the first lady he visited misread her client’s
hopes, and mapped out a successful business career for his little
son; and Strickland, who had already fulfilled that destiny in his
own life, and had ambitions to see his son leading a “really sensible
Government,” took another opinion. The second prophetess, pathetically
anxious to please, no doubt, saw young Strickland as a Bishop; the
third was a shade nearer to the mark with an Admiral; but the fourth--a
charming young woman, recently engaged to be married, and collecting a
trousseau by her last professional efforts--made the boy a Poet.

After that Strickland bought a crystal, and tried to see the future for

I laughed at him then, of course; and even now I feel inclined to laugh
at those first foolish enquiries of his. But his very earnestness
should have saved Strickland from anything like ridicule; and I am
glad to remember that I did not laugh when he told me of the one and
only vision that came to him through the crystal--it was, by the way,
an unusually fine specimen, as big as an orange. He picked it up
second-hand, somewhere in Soho.

As I see it, one of the most intriguing features of Strickland’s
experience is the fact that he had ceased to probe his son’s future
when the vision came. The boy was seven years old then, and had a
little sister of two and a half who had partly diverted her father’s
attention. And Strickland had probably outgrown the fear of his own
premature death; though it may be that his passionate longing for
assurance as to the glory of his boy’s career had not so much spent
itself as been thrust back into his sub-consciousness. Superficially
the difference in him was quite obvious. The change of his tone, for
example, when he spoke of his son. Even the manner of reference. The
tender enunciation of “My little boy” had altered to “That young rascal
of mine,” just the proudly modest description of the ordinary father.

And when the vision came, neither he nor I related it in any way to his
ancient search....

He came to my rooms one evening after dinner, produced the crystal from
his pocket, and tossed it over to me.

“A present for a sceptic,” he said. “I’ve finished with it.”

I might have thought that he was clearing up the lumber of his old
fancies if it had not been for his manner; but the garment of his
initiation still clung to him and affected me with the strangeness of
its mystery.

I shuddered.

“What did you see?” I asked.

“Oh! don’t say you believe in it,” he said; “after all your jeers at

“Did you see anything?” I insisted, nursing the crystal in the cave of
my two hands. I stared into it and saw the faint pink of my magnified
palm. No vision came to me; yet I was aware of some potency in the

“Perhaps some reflection, some translation of one’s
sub-consciousness....” I ventured.

Strickland sneered. “By God, I hope not,” he said.

“What were you--looking for?” I asked.

“For nothing. I wasn’t looking for anything,” he said. “I picked the
thing up by the merest accident. I was going to give it to the little
girl--as a plaything.”

“And then....” I prompted him.

“I saw a picture in it. It snatched my attention. I wasn’t thinking....”

“And the picture?”

“Hell. Just hell. The real thing; none of your picturesque flames
and torture. It came out at me, as it were, and it was--well, the
abomination of desolation, nothing more nor less than that.”

“But....” I began.

He interrupted me. His eyes were fixed on the vision of a future that
had become a fragment of his past. “A waste,” he said, in a low,
thoughtful voice. “A dead, horrible waste ... all black and pitted
and furrowed ... it looked as if there had been some awful, blasting
eruption ... or as if the whole earth had been scorched and blighted by
some unimaginably vast fire. But, oh! the terrible gauntness and death
of it all.”

He paused and threw his head back with a queer laugh before he
continued in a new tone, “It was just a silly nightmare, that’s all.
And it had its inevitable element of the grotesque. In the middle of
that waste there was a scarecrow, a live scarecrow--digging. Digging
turnips, if you please. Oh! it was bosh, of course, absolute bosh. I
shall have forgotten all about it next week. But I couldn’t give the
crystal to the little girl after that. You can keep it. Tell me if you
get anything....”

So I kept the crystal, and sometimes stared into it. But no vision came
to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the late autumn of 1919 that Strickland got permission to
go out to France. The war had made an old man of him, although he was
little over sixty; and he begged me to go with him. “I should like you
to help me,” he said. “I have a feeling that we might, perhaps, hear
something about that young rascal of mine. ‘Wounded and missing,’ you
know, always leaves one with just a hope.”

The first beautiful release of peace was passing then into that
restless craving for immense action which affected us all so strongly
at that time; and the feeling was aggravated in my case by the
realisation of impotence. I was too old to help.

I accepted Strickland’s offer, eagerly....

I do not believe that he remembered his vision when, after a week’s
fruitless enquiry, we came one afternoon to the historic desert that
had once been beautiful France. Certainly, he made no reference to his
old experience; but he was almost senile. I noticed a difference in
him, even in that one week.

But _I_ remembered; and I had a fit of cold shivering that I could not
control when we came out on to the awful plain that they now call The
Plain of the Dead, and saw the figure of that one demented peasant,
dressed in the grotesque relics of two nations’ uniforms.

He was digging feverishly with his pointed spade, and I heard the ring
of it as it struck.

It was not a turnip that he wrenched up.

The thing rolled towards us....

Young Strickland’s head had always been a queer shape.


The differences between “young” Royce and “old” Bunnett had a dramatic
quality that stirred even the wearied indifference of Stamp and Co.’s
counting-house to simple efforts in psychological analysis.

Young Royce was dark, square, and determined; a reasoned boaster, who
verified his boasts by action. When he made what sounded like a very
rash assertion, it was bad policy to contradict, and quite fatal to bet
against him.

Old Bunnett was tall and thin, fair, drooping, and despondent. He
seldom committed himself to a confident statement of opinion, but
gravely, almost voluptuously, hoped for the worst on every possible
occasion. He was, by the office’s classification, of the same breed as
“old Robinson,” who had come into the firm as a boy of fourteen and had
now served his employers faithfully for fifty-one years.

Royce found a delight in marking that likeness. “Bunny, my boy,” he
used to say, “you’ve come here to stop. When I come back here in twenty
years’ time I shall find you still at the same old grind. You’ll never
get out of it.”

“Not so sure as I want to,” was Bunny’s single form of defence against
this impeachment of his powers of initiative--that and a sniff. The
sniff was his characteristic comment on life; a long and thoughtful
substitute for speech. He was not more than ordinarily susceptible to
colds in the head; and his sniff was less a physical function than a
vehicle of mental expression.

Young Royce, however, wanted and meant to leave the firm “directly he
could see his way,” as he put it. He had a vein of prudence, or it may
have been merely shrewdness, that was sometimes overlooked by those
who had come a little to dread the threat of his boasting. The one
consolation afforded to those who suffered under his implication of
their feebleness was the reflection that he would almost certainly “go
to the bad one of these days.” Bunny, alone, was pessimist enough to
admit that Royce would “get on.” He had been known to add, “Sure to;
he’s the sort that gets on.”

The office as a whole jealously disagreed with him; and in their
vehement denouncement of Bunny’s pessimism failed to recognise that
underlying all the violent and obvious contrasts between Royce and
Bunnett there was at least one point of likeness, inasmuch as they both
believed in Royce. (The only likeness conceded by the office was the
coincidence that both men were born in the same month of the same year,
and had come into the firm of Stamp and Company on the same day.)

Royce had actually left the firm on the Saturday afternoon that first
introduced him to Bunnett’s mother on Hampstead Heath. He had “seen his
way” as far as a job at Capetown--a very risky and uncertain affair, in
the office’s opinion.

He had a streak of romantic sentiment hidden away somewhere, and he had
come up to the Spaniards’ Road to “take a last look at London.” He was
leaning over the railings looking down across the Vale of Health, when
he became aware of an arrested Bunnett sniffing profoundly at the back
of a bath-chair.

“My mother,” Bunnett said, by way of introduction, and then in a
half-aside, “she’s a bit of an invalid, but she’s been a little better
lately, ain’t you, mother? This is the Mr. Royce I was telling you
about. Just going out to South Africa.”

Mrs. Bunnett pinched her mouth into a line of sympathetic disapproval.
“It’s a long way to go,” she remarked--and sniffed thoughtfully.

She and her son were, Royce thought, as exactly alike as a couple of
old sheep.

The job in Capetown proved even more uncertain than the office had
hopefully predicted, and Royce presently migrated to Melbourne. Thence
he drifted across to Hobart. A year later he had found a temporary
post in Ceylon, then worked his way up the Bay of Bengal to Calcutta,
and stayed there a month before he took ship to Tientsin. It was in
1909, seven years after he had left London, that he first put foot in
America, landing at San Francisco, after crossing the Pacific from
Yokohama by way of Hawaii.

In those seven years he had suffered and learnt many things, but if the
staff of Stamp and Co.’s counting-house had met “young Royce” on his
landing in California they would have found no difference in him. He
came ashore with the boast that he meant to make money in America.

And, indeed, his apparent failure to win any financial success during
those years of wandering was due rather to that streak of imaginative
romance in him than to any weakness of character. It had been necessary
for him to satisfy some lust for adventure and experience before he
could settle down to achieve a worldly ambition. He knew himself well
enough to recognise his own quality. He had a perfect confidence in
his ability to make money eventually. And just as he had made good his
boasts in the old days, so now he made good his determination to seek
another form of romance in America.

It would be superfluous to trace the means of his ascent. He was
so obviously the successful type that readily finds employment and
opportunity in the United States. He had determination combined with
initiative and imagination. It is doubtful if even the deliberate,
conservative methods of Stamp and Co. could have overlooked his ability
if he had elected to stay in the employ of that stately English concern.

He became an American citizen in 1913, but he did not revisit
London until the autumn of 1917, when he came over on business as
a representative of the Steel Trust. Arthur H. Royce had become a
person of considerable importance and influence. He stayed at the
Carlton Hotel during the progress of his negotiations with the
English Government Department, the methods of which he ridiculed as
being founded on the same principles as those familiar to him in the
counting-house of Messrs. Stamp and Co.

But the old streak of romance showed itself again on the last Saturday
of his stay in England. He had not called on the partners or employees
of his old office. He had come to boast in action now, and the boast
of language had become futile and unnecessary. He went up to the
Spaniards’ Road solely to satisfy some need for self-approval that he
hoped to find in the contrast between his present condition and that in
which he had last looked down over the hazy prospect of London, fifteen
years before.

He was leaning over the rail in much the same place and attitude when
he saw, with a strange thrill, the once familiar figure of old Bunnett
coming towards him, pushing his invalid mother in what was surely the
same bath-chair.

Royce straightened himself, and turned to meet them. He wondered if
they would recognise him. There was something of the old self-conscious
boast in his attitude as he held out his hand and said;

“Hullo! Bunny. Still here, then?”

Bunnett and his mother sniffed in concert, a deep and melancholy
comment on life.

“Still here,” agreed Bunnett, and his mother added, “So you’re back in
London, Mr. Royce?”

“For a few days,” Royce admitted.

“South African job turn out all right?” Bunnett asked.

Royce hesitated. In one swift flash of retrospect he looked back on
those full and varied adventures that had begun for him with the
voyage to Capetown, and knew that though he stood there talking and
boasting for a week, he could not convey to old Bunnett and his mother
one-hundredth part of the romance and wonder that had glorified his
existence for fifteen years.

“Oh! yes; all right,” he said; “and you? Still with Stamps?”

And Bunnett, too, hesitated as if there were something he also lacked
power to describe before he answered “Yes, still there.”

The conversation seemed to offer no further possibilities. For a
moment they stood awkwardly, and then Bunnett said, “My mother’s a
bit of an invalid, but she’s been a little better lately.” He sniffed

As Royce made his way back to his hotel he modestly thanked God that he
was not as some other men.

He had, however, missed one small observation. He had been standing on
Bunnett’s right side as they talked, and had not noticed that he had
lost his left arm.


As usual, the compartment was nearly empty after we left Rickmansworth,
and I anticipated that my one other fellow-passenger would probably get
out at the next station and leave me to finish the dull journey alone.
I did not, in any case, expect much entertainment from his society. He
had a narrow forehead, and a preoccupied, rather scared, expression. It
crossed my mind that he might have been a sufferer from shell-shock. I
had seen that look in the eyes of one such case, a look at once timid,
defensive, and suspicious. I was surprised when he came across the
compartment to the seat opposite to me and began to talk.

We opened in the usual way by abusing the line, but he broke off in the
middle to comment on the book I had been reading, Dostoievsky’s _The

“Fine stuff, that,” he commented, looked at me suspiciously
for a moment, and then added, “What’s that other book of his,

“Anna Karenin?” I suggested.

He nodded.

“But that’s Tolstoi,” I said.

“Very likely,” he replied; “I’ve no memory for some things. No memory
at all. But I’ve read more than you might expect. To be quite honest,
when I was a bit younger I read too much.”

I pricked up my ears. I saw the promise of getting him to talk about
himself. And I can listen to anything a man has to tell me of his own
history; it is only men’s opinions that I find so boring. Why will
people have opinions?

“And overstrained your memory?” I asked.

He shook his head and pursed his mouth. “It wasn’t that that ruined my
prospects,” he said.

“No?” I commented, as provocatively as I could.

He leaned a little forward and frowned with an effect of thoughtful
concentration as he said, “You see, in some ways I’ve got too good
a memory; the trouble with me is that I can’t remember what I’ve

I raised my eyebrows interrogatively. I could see that he was warm,
now, with the craving to confess himself.

“You aren’t a writer, yourself, by any chance?” he asked.

“I’ve done a certain amount,” I admitted.

“Thought you had rather that look,” he said; and went on quickly as if
he were afraid that I might, in the circumstances, be tempted to detail
my own achievements; “and that being so, my case might interest you,
professionally, as you might say.”

“It certainly would, if you care to....” I began, but I saw that he
was not listening. Those queer-looking eyes of his had taken on the
expression of one who is engaged in some immense effort of memory.

“As a young man,” he said--I guessed him to be, then, about
thirty-five--“I had a great ambition to become a writer; but although
my mind was full of ideas, I had no gift for putting them into
language. At first, I tried in the ordinary way, just as all beginners
do, to write stories for the magazines; but they none of them got
accepted. Which wasn’t to be wondered at. I knew myself how bad they
were, and I used to console myself a little with that knowledge. I may
have read somewhere that so long as you kept a cool head about your own
writing, there was hope for you.

“Anyway, I left off writing for a time--I wasn’t twenty then--and took
to studying. I read all the best authors--carefully, trying to see how
the thing was done. I had a lot of spare time one way and another,
and in the next five years I got through a wonderful lot of reading.
I didn’t confine myself to English authors, either; I read a heap of
translations from Russian, French, and German. And all that time I
never once tried to write again, myself. I was just getting to learn my
trade, I thought.

“Then I lost my job in the city, and while I was looking about for
another one I had another shot at writing a magazine story. Well, it
was certainly the nearest I’d got up to then of being the right thing.
It was a lot better written than any of my other shots, but the plot
was too weak. And I found that in learning to write I had lost all my
ideas. I’d forgotten all the old ones, and no new ones came to me. At
least, not at first.”

He paused a moment and looked out of the window before he continued,
rather abruptly: “An idea came to me, though, in the train one day--the
best I’d ever had. And I not only saw the whole story clear in my mind,
but I saw just how it ought to be written. I went home and began it at
once. I had it finished in two days. A little masterpiece I thought it
was. I submitted it to one of the reviews, and it was accepted within a

“A fortnight later I’d written another. It was very different from the
first--done in another mood, as you might say, and lighter altogether.
But that one came, too, as an inspiration, and was accepted by one
of the magazines. And, after that, I used to get inspirations every
other day almost--all sorts of inspirations. I saw myself as the most
versatile and gifted writer of the day. I fancied that when my stories
were collected and published in book form they would cause a lot of
attention. By the time my second story appeared in the magazine--that
was the first to get into print--I had written about eight altogether,
and they’d all been taken by some editor or another--except one.”

He paused again, and remained silent for so long that I prompted him by
saying: “What was the matter with that one exception?”

He looked at me and sighed. “There wasn’t anything wrong with the
story, as you might say,” he said; “but there was a note from the
editor in which he said that my story appeared to be a translation from
some French writer, I’ve forgotten the name, and should not have been
submitted as an original contribution. Rather a nasty note it was.

“And about a week later my first story came out in the review, and then
there was the devil to pay. It seems that that was a translation, too,
from the Russian, and had been printed in English, in a collection
of the fellow’s works. His name began with a T, too, I fancy, but it
wasn’t Tolstoi.”

“Turgenev?” I suggested.

“Very likely,” he said wearily. “_I_ can’t remember. All I know is that
every one of my stories were cribs. I’d remembered them all, and didn’t
remember that I’d remembered. Well, I got back all the stories that
hadn’t been published, but there was the very deuce of a row.”

The train was drawing into Aylesbury, and my companion got up and
collected his things from the rack. Before he got out, however, he
paused to say, “Well, there you are. It was a dreadful experience for
me, but if you can make any use of it, professionally, so to speak,
you’re welcome to it. Good-day to you.”

I had still four more stations to go, and I sat on, turning over that
strange confession in my mind. The man had appeared to be honest,
the story sounded true as he told it, yet his phraseology and his
accent were not those I should have expected from one of his literary

But what worries me most of all is the vague but horribly persistent
impression that somewhere, at some time, I have seen that story of his
in print....


It is more than twenty years, now, since the late George Wallace
came into the offices of Hallows and Rice one afternoon and talked
to me about the novel he was writing. He was well known, even then,
as journalist, essayist, playwright, and poet, and I welcomed with
enthusiasm the suggestion that the firm of publishers for which I was
then reader should consider the book when it was written. He told me in
the strictest confidence that the title was to be _As the Crow Flies_,
and gave me a hint of the subject he proposed to treat. Both title and
subject were, I thought, admirable from every point of view, but he
said that he would prefer me to say nothing to the firm about the novel
until it was actually written. “Wait until you’ve read it, my dear
chap,” he said. “I haven’t told another soul as yet, and I don’t want
to, until the thing’s done and off my hands.”

I did not see him again for nearly six months. He was the guest of the
evening at a small literary dining club on that occasion, and when
I went over and sat down by him, after the speeches, he instantly
referred to our last interview by saying, “It’s getting on, but we
can’t talk about it here. How’s the business?” I told him that the
business, so far as I was concerned, remained in a state of tense
expectation for a really firstclass novel. He nodded with an air of
satisfaction. “You shall have it,” he said. “If you’ll walk part of
the way home with me I’ll tell you something about it.” He lived at
Highgate, and my rooms were at Herne Hill, but I was prepared to miss
the last train rather than lose that confidence. I was very eager in
those days.

And I certainly did not regret the walk to Highgate and back, nor the
two hours’ wait at Ludgate Hill for the 3.15 “paper” train. Wallace
let himself go that night, and made me realise that his novel was to
be the best thing for years. He told me all about it. The book was
to be a complete exposition of the British national character, as
portrayed in the person of his hero, Joseph Blake. Blake was to be a
success; a typical member of the middle class, educated at a grammar
school, entering a business career at eighteen, and Parliament at
forty-five; achieving cabinet rank at fifty-four, and the Premiership
at sixty-three. As a background to the central figure there were to
be any number of minor characters, all, as it were, supporting and
representing Blake--“the firm mass of British opinion” Wallace called
it. The single exception was to be a school friend of Blake’s, a man of
brilliant parts, but without social or personal ambitions, who spent
his life in writing works of philosophy that nobody wanted to read. He
was not poor, nor, in a sense, neglected--“we’ll get away altogether
from the typical romance,” Wallace commented--but his work and life
counted for nothing in popular opinion. The real climax of the book,
and incidentally the very first suggestion that Blake was not a great
man nor his friend (“I have thought of calling him John Rooke,” Wallace
said) a failure, was reached in the last few pages, when Blake, after a
prolonged illness, and patiently waiting for death, confides in Rooke
that he knows, now, that such a career as his had been was wasted
effort. To which Rooke replies that he had known that at school.

“How much of the book have you written?” I asked Wallace just before we

“About 80,000 words,” he told me, “but I am not absolutely satisfied
with some of the detail. What I propose to do is to finish the thing
and then partly rewrite it.”

He went to America on a long lecture-tour that autumn, and I did not
see him again for twelve months. I sought him out, then, because
McGillett made a casual reference to the magnum opus at lunch one day,
and I realised that I was no longer the only recipient of Wallace’s
confidence. In those days one of McGillett’s sources of income was
finding books for publishers, and afterwards using what influence he
had to get his discoveries well noticed in the Press; and when I found
that he knew about the book, I was afraid that I might not, after all,
get it for Hallows and Rice.

Wallace reassured me, however. He said that he never went back on a
bargain, and when I pointed out to him that no bargain had been made as
yet, he promised to call at the office next day and discuss terms with
the partners. On my recommendation, the terms offered were amazingly
liberal for a first novel; but my enthusiasm was powerful enough for
once to overcome the awful inertia of old Hallows. (He had been in
the publishing business for thirty years, and his one idea was to buy
as cheaply as he could. He had no conception of what Rice and myself
understood by “enterprise.”) The firm even went so far as to offer to
pay a proportion of the “advance” on signing the agreement, but Wallace
refused to accept that. He said that it would harass him to feel tied;
and he would not promise any particular date for the delivery of the
manuscript. “I’ve nearly finished the book,” he told us, “but when
it’s written, I want to put it away for three months and then go right
through it again with a fresh mind. I mean this book to be a classic.”
Old Hallows was tremendously impressed, I remember, and congratulated
me on having made “a real find.”

After that agreement was signed I no longer felt it necessary to hold
my tongue about the book, and I dropped a hint or two here and there
as to what might be expected when it was published. I cannot believe,
however, that I was the chief instigator of the steadily growing
interest that was being aroused by the promise of Wallace’s novel.
No doubt both old Hallows and Rice made occasional references in
public to the same subject, but I fancy that Wallace himself was the
really active propagandist. In any case, one was continually finding
references to _As the Crow Flies_ in the Press that spring, even the
name of Joseph Blake was sometimes referred to as an exemplar of the
British character. The book was asked for at the libraries, and I more
than once met people who declared that they had read it. At the office
we had decided to print a first edition of 20,000 copies, and we put a
note about it in our autumn list. Wallace assured me that summer (1899)
that the thing was done and only needed a final revision. “If I died
tomorrow,” he said, “the story is all there ready to be published, but
there is an incident or two that I want to alter before I send it along
to you. I mean to deliver you a perfect manuscript. I sha’n’t touch the
thing in proof.”

And then, of course, we did not press him for delivery in the autumn
of that year. We should not, in any case, have published so important
a book during the first months of the Boer war. And in the following
spring Wallace himself went out to South Africa. I did not see him
before he went. In fact, I did not know he had enlisted until I saw a
reference to the fact in the “literary notes” that were just beginning
to break out again in the daily and weekly papers.

In that paragraph Wallace’s name was, as usual, coupled with that of
his novel _As the Crow Flies_, a precedent that was invariably followed
two months later in his obituary notices. (It will be remembered that
he died of enteric in June 1900.) Many of the writers assumed that
the book had already been published, but some of the better informed
expressed their eagerness to read the book which they understood had
been completed before Wallace went out to the front.

I firmly believe that our failure to discover that precious manuscript
of Wallace’s was the cause of old Hallows’s breakdown and subsequent
retirement from the business. He used to go up to Highgate two or three
days a week to search Wallace’s house for possible hiding places. “He
would have been sure to have put it in some very safe place before he
left the country,” he would say, and then fret himself into a fever
lamenting the “rank imbecility” of not having insisted on taking
charge of the precious script before Wallace went away.

Rice’s theory was that Wallace had taken the MS. with him to make his
final revision, but I have often wondered whether Wallace had ever
begun it. I have found a suggestion of that one fatal omission, in his
title. He took too direct a method. So far as he was concerned, the
book was written, and published, and noticed, without his having put
pen to paper.

But the queer thing is that the unwritten book has outlived him. For
some reason it was not forgotten in the stress of the South African
war. And it will be remembered that, in the reaction of the first years
of this century, _As the Crow Flies_ was constantly “quoted,” and that
there was quite a controversy as to whether the figure of Joseph Blake
did not stand for that of Joseph Chamberlain.

Indeed, I was tempted to put down these notes of the true facts of the
case because a friend asked me yesterday where he could get a book
called _As the Crow Flies_, by George Wallace. A man had told him, he
said, that it was the finest novel of the century.




The discussion had threatened while they were still at dinner. Leslie
Vernon had begun it: and there had been a hardness and a determination
in his expression that had sharpened the suggestion of fanaticism in
his clever face. Little Harrison, already looking a trifle flushed and
dishevelled, had only managed to avoid the direct issue by talking
rapidly, and with something more than his usual brilliance, about the
true inwardness of the Russian Revolution; a subject upon which he had
recently acquired some very special information. Even Lady Ulrica More,
who was manifestly prepared to encourage Vernon, had been borne down
and fairly talked into silence.

The other guests of the week-end party, although they had shown no
signs of disapproving Vernon’s choice of topic when he had irrelevantly
introduced it, had accepted their cue with a tactful readiness. Little
Harrison was their host, and if he wished, as he obviously did, to
avoid this topic of Psychical Research, it was their duty to support
him. Moreover, Mrs. Harrison had cut in almost at once, with that
bird-like flustered air of hers, to the effect that spiritualism
was almost “worse than religion with some people” and never led to
anything but recriminations. Vernon had smiled with a fine effect
of self-control when she had said that, but before he could defend
himself, Harrison at the other end of the table had got under way with
an anecdote of Lenin’s pre-revolution career in Switzerland.

And directly dinner was finished, he had suggested that they should
take their coffee and liqueurs on the lawn under the cedar. There
was excuse enough--it was a wonderful night--but Greatorex, the
leader-writer, who had acquired a habit of always looking for secret
motives, was probably right in calling the move to the garden “a clever

“Dodge?” enquired young Fell listlessly. He had sat through dinner with
a melancholy air of wondering how people could be interested in spirits
whether of the dead or of the Russians; but Greatorex had been too much
engrossed in drawing his own inferences to take any notice of Fell’s

“Rather,” he said, taking Fell’s arm. “Gives Harrison the chance of
slipping off when he can’t stand it any longer. In a room, it’s a bit
pointed to get up and go away, but out here Vernon’ll probably find
himself addressing Harrison’s empty chair.”

Fell sighed. “What’s he want--Vernon, I mean?” he asked indifferently.

Greatorex was willing enough to explain. “He wants to bring Harrison
to book,” he said, leading his companion down towards the sunk fence
out of earshot of the rest of the party. “You see, Vernon has been
tremendously interested in that book of Schrenck-Notsing’s. You’ve seen
it, I expect? It’s all about materialisations. Extraordinary stuff.
They did get amazing results. The book’s full of photographs of the
materialisations. Licked Crookes’s _Katie King_ into a cocked hat.
Well, Vernon’s been writing about it all over the place. Says it proves
that there is a form of matter unknown to science, and that until the
sceptics have disproved that, they had better shut up about the problem
of immortality and so on. And then Harrison came out with a leader in
the Supplement, pooh-poohing the whole affair. Clever stuff, of course,
but not very sound on the logical side.”

“And Vernon wants to pin him down, I suppose?” Fell commented tepidly.

“He wants to have a straight argument,” Greatorex said, and then
sinking his voice to a confidential note, he continued, “And if you
ask me, Fell, Harrison’s _afraid_ of spiritualism. I’ve seen him
tackled before, and he loses his temper. He doesn’t want to listen! You
know the look that comes into a fellow’s face when he’s shutting his
mind against you--a sort of resolution and concentration as if he’d
got his eye on his own ideal somewhere in the middle distance, and did
not mean to look away from it....” He paused in the very heart of his
account of Harrison’s perversity, suddenly struck by the application of
his description to the present expression on Fell’s face. “Pretty much
the look you’re wearing now, in fact,” he concluded drily. “Sorry if
I’ve been boring you.”

Fell came back to a realisation of his lapse with a slight start. “No,
no, rather not, Greatorex,” he said. “I mean it wasn’t that; the truth
is I’m rather worried. I was thinking....” He waved his hand vaguely in
the direction of the sunset, and added, “That, somehow, made me feel as

Greatorex thrust his hands into the pockets of his dinner-jacket and
turned round to observe the phenomenon that had distracted Fell’s
attention. For a moment his prominent nose and rather small head came
out as an emphatic silhouette against the afterglow in the North-West;
and to Fell, already deep in the languors of sentiment, presented an
air of picturesque romance.

Since Fell had come out from the high-lights and conventional
influences of the house, his determination had begun to give way. In
the atmosphere of the dining-room, he had felt certain that he would
be right in doing what he had come down here expressly to do. Phyllis
was no wife for a Civil Servant in his position. He had seen the
consequences of such marriages in the Service. They kept a man back. If
he married her, he would lose just that extra fillip of influence which
would make the difference between special appointments and the common
routine of promotion that would leave him no better prospect than an
ultimate income of at best ten or twelve hundred pounds a year. One
could not expect Lady Ulrica, for example, to continue the patronage
she seemed, at present, so willing to lend him, if he made a marriage
of that kind. He had seen it all so clearly while they were at dinner,
and although his heart had failed him at the thought of his coming
interview with Phyllis--she was so sweet and so gentle and she loved
him with such an amazing singleness and rapture--he had been sure that
he must give her up before his honour was entangled.

But now all the prestige of social success, everything that was
represented by the fashion he had just left, was dwindling and fading;
the effect of it falling away so that it seemed to him garish and
unreal--as the lights and distractions of the town may seem to a man
who sets his face eagerly towards the joy of his quiet home. The rest
and immensity of nature was an enduring reality with which his love was
in perfect accord. He and Phyllis had their place in it. If he could
step down, now, to the sombre yews at the lake’s edge and take her in
his arms, as he had done a month ago, his last doubts would vanish on
the instant. They would be one with the greatness of earth, and able
to look down with contempt from their perfect enthronement, at the
frivolous and ephemeral superficiality of conventional life....

The sound of Greatorex’s voice seemed to take up the thread of his

“’Course, you’re a poet, Fell,” Greatorex said. “You feel an evening
like this, I suppose? Means something quite tremendous to you?”

“You see,” Fell began, trembling on the verge of confession; “there is
a reason why, more particularly, to-night....”

Greatorex turned round and looked at him. “I shouldn’t,” he said.
“You’ll be sorry afterwards. Better not tell me. I know I look
romantic, but I’m not. Harrison says I ought to have been a pirate.
He’s wrong, I ought to have been a barrister. I’ll tell you, now, just
what I’ve been thinking while I’ve been looking at all this view that
makes you feel so sentimental. I’ve been thinking that I wouldn’t like
to have a lake so near the house--unhealthy. And I don’t care for all
those black yews, either. Melancholy, mournful, things.”

Fell shuddered. “They _are_ mournful,” he agreed, “but they’re in

“Too much,” Greatorex said. “I don’t know whether it’s your sentimental
influence or not, Fell; but, damn it, this place makes _me_ feel
superstitious, to-night. It’s so infernally quiet and brooding, as if
it were hatching some nasty mischief.”

“Or some wonderful miracle?” Fell suggested.

“We probably mean the same thing,” Greatorex said. “I’ve got a trick
of using prose words to get attention. ‘Wonderful miracle,’ you know,
would be either a cliché or bombast in a leader.”

Fell did not appear to hear this explanation. He was looking out over
the swell of Orton Park that was separated from Harrison’s garden by
the width of the lake. The afterglow was slowly dying and the greens
of turf and wood were deepening and hardening into dark masses little
softer than the funereal shadows of the clustered yews. The detail that
had recently started into almost excessive prominence under the level
light of the setting sun, was taking refuge in the temporary darkness
before it emerged again altered in shape and colour to greet the
mysteries of the moon. Only the lake still shone faintly, reflecting
a last glimmer of brightness in the Northern sky. Near the island,
a streamer of indigo ripples splayed out to mark the course of some
belated water-bird, hurrying back to the cover of the reeds; and in the
hush of the coming night Fell could almost believe that he heard the
delicate clash and whisper of infinitely tiny waves breaking in hasty
processional upon the sandy foreshore.

“’Straordinarily peaceful,” murmured Greatorex. “Suppose we ought to be
joining the others?”

“Yes, I suppose we ought,” Fell agreed tamely. What else was there to
do? He could not go down to the village of Long Orton now, and beseech
Phyllis to come out and walk with him by the lake. And without her,
all the glory of this amazing night was wasted.

Nor was the full promise of the night yet revealed to him; for it was
not until with a reluctant sigh he had turned to follow Greatorex back
to the nearly invisible group under the cedar, that he saw the Hunter’s
moon, a great disc of ruddy copper, resting as it seemed on the very
edge of the eastern horizon.

He lingered, gazing, for a few seconds, half resolved even now to
escape the banalities of polite conversation on the lawn and go
up to the village. This was such a rare night for the silences of
love; serene, brooding and mystical. Yet the automaton in him, the
formalised, cultured habit of the Civil Servant, moved him relentlessly
back towards the decencies of polite society and the patronage of Lady
Ulrica More.

As he silently approached the group on the lawn he heard the clear,
musical voice of Leslie Vernon.

“At least you might let one state a case, Harrison,” he was saying.


They had already passed the stage of skirmishing for position,
when Greatorex rejoined them. Something had apparently happened to
Harrison since he came out into the garden. He had lost that effect of
impatience which had underlain all his talk of Russia, when, as though
afraid of silence, he had been talking, a trifle desperately, against
some latent opposition.

Now, comfortably relaxed in the depth of a well-designed basket chair,
and little more of him visible than the gleam of his shirt front, the
pale blur of his face and the occasional glow of his cigarette end,
he had an air of being tolerantly complacent. It seemed that he was
willing to listen, however condescendingly, to Vernon’s attack.

“Look here, Harrison,” Vernon had begun. “Why won’t you talk this out?”

“Nothing fresh to say,” Harrison had replied.

“But _I_ have,” Vernon continued; and then Lady Ulrica definitely put
her weight into the scale by saying, “How fascinating! Something really
new in the way of evidence?”

“Or only a réchauffé?” Harrison interpolated.

“At least you might let one state a case,” Vernon said as Greatorex
joined the other four and sat down with a grunt beside his wife.

“We saw you gesticulating picturesquely against the sunset, G.,”
Harrison remarked, as though he would even now create a diversion and
defer the discussion indefinitely.

Greatorex snorted; quite conscious of the fact that in Harrison’s
presence he always played up in manner to that part of the buccaneer
which had been thrust upon him, although he disclaimed it in speech.

“Been discussing the effects of sunset on temperament,” he said.

“But did you see the _Moon_?” asked Mrs. Harrison, rather in the tone
of one who introduces a delightful piece of scandal.

“Afraid I missed that,” Greatorex said. “But I expect Fell has found
it. He’s probably worshipping now.”

“Oh! but you ought,” Mrs. Harrison asserted, still intent no doubt, on
keeping away from the subject of spiritualism, for her husband’s sake.
“It was like a rather badly done stage moon balanced on the scenery.
Sha’n’t we all go and worship with Mr. Fell?”

No one moved, however; and the excuse of joining Fell was spoilt by his
arrival at the cedar.

“Do help yourself to coffee and anything you want, Mr. Fell,” Mrs.
Harrison said. “If you can see, that is.” She was certainly doing her
best to keep the conversation at the right after-dinner level. She was
so far successful that for a minute or two little spurts of irrelevant
talk continued to start up and die away again, like the uncertain
catspaws of wind before a flat calm.

It was Harrison himself who at last anticipated the inevitable. He must
have felt, as everyone had--including his plucky but finally despairing
wife--that it was inevitable. There was something that urged them,
something more than that quiet determination of Vernon’s, although
his very silence conveyed a perpetual sense of remonstrance. But this
other, greater influence was with them as an almost palpable presence.
It was like a force exhausting them and drawing them into a common

None of them was more keenly aware of it than Fell, though he
attributed the weakness that was overcoming him to a particular source.
For here, with the arm of his chair almost touching that of Lady
Ulrica’s, he was planning an interview with Phyllis that held no least
hint of the renunciation of love. He was giving way freely and without
reserve to his dream. Moreover, he had a curious sense of instant
accomplishment, as if at that very moment his spirit and the spirit of
Phyllis had touched and coalesced. He was drifting into far heights
of remote and supernal ecstasy, when the thin, high voice of Harrison
recalled him to earth; and he started as though, on the verge of sleep,
he had been brutally jarred and awakened by the violent slamming of a

“Hm! hm! Well, Vernon,” Harrison said. “We’re all waiting for that
statement of your case.”

Vernon’s chair creaked slightly as if he had suddenly leaned forward.

This moment of their beginning, when by some undivinable act of common
consent all oppositions had been temporarily relinquished and they were
agreed at least to listen, was, also, the moment of greatest darkness.
Presently the moon transmuted from copper to brass would rise above
the house and give validity and form to all that was now being created
in the profundity of the night. But when Vernon began to speak, he was
hidden from them; they realised him only as a voice, that issued with a
steady and increasing definition out of the silence and the shadows.

He talked well, pleading without passion for an unprejudiced
examination of all the new “facts” in psychical research. He had
a scholarly knowledge of his subject and gave his instances and
authorities, building up as it seemed to Lady Ulrica, to Fell, and even
to Greatorex, a case that it would be very hard to knock down.

Not once did Harrison interrupt him, and during Vernon’s occasional
pauses the immense stillness of the night seemed to close in upon the
little group under the cedar with a sudden intensity. The slender
stream of his steady speech was like a little candle, burning
delicately in the darkness, and when it was extinguished, his listeners
were freshly aware of themselves and their surroundings. In those
moments of almost painful silence, they sought to recover their
consciousness of the familiar world by restless movements and faint
articulations. Chairs creaked, someone sighed, and once Greatorex
rather brutally coughed.

Nearly at the end of his long speech, however, Vernon’s tone became
more emotional. He was talking, then, of materialisations and of the
strange and as yet unrecognised form of matter--provisionally known as
the ectoplasm or teleplasm--that issues from the body of the medium, is
manifested in visible forms that can be successfully photographed, and
can handle material objects.

“I claim that the existence of this matter is proved,” Vernon
concluded. “Given favourable conditions, the medium can build up
a form, visible, tangible, ponderable and capable of simulating
every appearance of material reality. I don’t say that this amazing
phenomenon proves the immortality of the soul, but I do say that until
you produce another hypothesis to cover the immense accumulation of
tested facts, you have no right to pronounce any opinion in psychical

By this time the moon, now pale as scoured brass, had topped the trees
behind the house, and was sending out pale and slender shafts of light
to pierce here and there the overshadowing gloom of the wide cedar:
one shaft had dappled the statuesque bare shoulder of Lady Ulrica, and
another had slanted down upon the smooth fair hair of Leslie Vernon.
And by such reflections and by other sources of faint diffusion, the
heavy brooding darkness that had so far enveloped the group on the
lawn, had been definitely lifted. Dimly they could see each other,
either as shadows against the increasing brightness beyond, or as
weakly illuminated figures picked out, maybe, by a brilliant little
spark of moonshine that had pierced its way through some common opening
in the many-storied foliage above.

And although there had come no least stir of wind to break the intense
calm, the releasing effect of the light was manifest upon the spirits
of the party. As Vernon ceased speaking everyone suddenly wanted to
talk. A little fusillade of chatter broke out, which only gave way when
Greatorex was heard saying: “If he believe not Stainton Moses and the
Lodges, neither will he believe though one rose from the dead.”

Mrs. Harrison laughed brightly. “We must remember that,” she said.

“But it’s not a question of rising from the dead at all, Mr.
Greatorex,” Lady Ulrica put in. She had no sense of humour.

Vernon apparently felt that all the effect of his long argument
was being foolishly dissipated by this absurd interruption. “Well,
Harrison, what’s your answer to my case?” he asked in a slightly raised

Harrison began to stammer, a sure sign that his temper was at last
beginning to conquer him. “I--I can’t see, even if we admit the
validity of these materialisations,” he said, “that you--you are any
nearer to proving your general case, Vernon. I’ve been into the whole
question very thoroughly and--and impartially, and I can only say that
I see no reason whatever to assume that we have ever received any
communication from the spirits of the dead. I think that that is the
real point under discussion, and I can’t see that you’ve done much to
support your contention. What d’you say, G.?”

Greatorex grunted. A beam of moonlight had just caught the most salient
of his features, and at the moment his face appeared to be all nose.

“You won’t accept my explanation of the facts, Harrison?” Vernon

“I--I don’t see why I should,” Harrison replied. “I don’t see the
necessity for it. I--I’m not convinced, by any means, of the validity
of your examples. At present, I am content to go on with the enquiry
without formulating any theory. I contend that the evidence up to the
present time is insufficient to theorise upon.”

“Ah! well, there’s a lot more coming,” Vernon replied, and for the
first time a real note of passion crept into his voice. “Don’t you
realise that all these developments taken together are just the first
stages of the knowledge that is coming to us? They are symptoms, that’s
all, of the new trend in the evolution of mankind; of the coming of
the new age--the age of the Spirit. The days of materialism are nearly
spent, and the next generation will smile at our feeble tentatives.

“Do you ask me how I know? Well, I can’t tell you in terms that you
can understand. The best part of my knowledge is intuitional, but
intuition, even mysticism, must no longer be divorced from science
and intellect. That, I feel, is the essential synthesis of the new
doctrine. We are going to produce our material proofs; in the future
religion and science will become one.”

“My own opinion, precisely,” said Lady Ulrica.

But Vernon’s homily had proved a little too much for Harrison. He tried
to speak and could not control the pitch of his voice, which soared
ineffectively to a falsetto squeak.

“Er--er--I--I ...” he began, and had to get to his feet before he could
attain coherence. Then he started again with “No, no! It’s incredible
nonsense that--the kind of religion foreshadowed by spiritualism--could
ever appeal to sensible men and women. Are we to be expected to listen
to the drivelling platitudes of some supposed spirit communicating
through an illiterate old woman with the further interposition
of a ‘control,’ speaking pigeon English and imitating the worst
sophistications of a spoilt child? No, no, positively I can’t take that
kind of nonsense seriously. I--I have no sort of desire to imitate the
credulity of Lodge, Barrett and Crookes--no sort of desire. I--I--it’s
absurd. I’ve no patience even to talk about it. Who is coming to look
at the moon?” And without waiting to receive any response to his
invitation, he turned his back on the cedar and strode out, a perturbed
and impatient little figure, into the light of the open garden.

The other six followed him in a straggling procession.

Emma Harrison was obviously relieved that the discussion was at an
end. “I said it would only end in recriminations,” she explained to
Greatorex, who looked about seven feet high in contrast with her
diminutive slenderness. “Charles never can keep his temper about that
subject. And I did think it was very splendid of him to keep it as long
as he did. We can’t do with all that nonsense. Can you, Mr. Greatorex?”

Mrs. Harrison dropped her voice to an indiscreet confidence. “I always
think that our poor dear Lady Ulrica,” she whispered, “is so very much
the type from which mediums are made. You know, stout, placid, and not
too clever.”

“Queer thing why mediums should generally be so stupid,” commented
Greatorex, tactfully avoiding any overt agreement with his hostess’s
description of Lady Ulrica.

For a few minutes the party drifted about the lawn in couples, with
the exception of Harrison, who maintaining a little distance from the
others was pacing restlessly up and down, either working off his spleen
or thinking out some really telling retort that should settle Vernon’s
business once and for all.

The moon was now high in the heavens, but it had suffered another
transmutation. A faint screen of misty cirrus had crept over the sky,
and the brass was toned down almost to the whiteness of silver. And
with this change, the light in the garden had become more diffused. The
shadows had lost their hardness, the high-lights their accentuation.

And by degrees, some sense of a peculiar quality in the night began
to affect every member of the little party on the lawn. They began by
almost imperceptible changes in their movements to drift together into
a little knot, like the swimming bubbles in a cup. The area of their
promenade diminished until even Harrison himself had come into the
focus; and yet when they had again drawn into a group they had nothing
to say to one another. It is true that they were still conscious of a
slight social constraint, due to what had amounted to a quarrel between
the host and one of his guests. But there was something in their
attitude and their common movement towards each other that suggested
some deeper cause for their momentary awkwardness. It was as if each
of them was aware of some sudden fear, and hesitated to speak lest the
shameful fact should be revealed.

It was Mrs. Harrison who first broke a silence that was becoming
altogether too insistent--even the soft hush of their feet upon the
grass had ceased. She laughed artificially, with a touch as it seemed
of bravado, a laugh that might have disguised a shudder.

“I don’t know how it seems to you,” she said in a high strained voice,
“but it strikes me that it’s actually getting a little chilly.”

“Yes, yes. It is, Emma,” her husband replied with an effect of relief.
“I--I think we’d better go in. We get a cold air off the lake, now and
again,” he explained to the company at large.

“Precious little air, Harrison,” muttered Greatorex. “I’ve never known
a stiller night.”

“Haze come over the moon,” commented Fell, staring up into the sky.

“It has certainly turned colder,” remarked Lady Ulrica with a shiver;
“much colder.”

Harrison cleared his throat and made his usual effort to get his pitch.
“Hm! Hm! Perhaps we’re going to get some phenomena,” he said with a
slightly cracked laugh. “Always the first warning, isn’t it, Vernon, a
draught of cold air?”

“Always,” Lady Ulrica said solemnly, before Vernon could reply.

Harrison was about to speak again when Greatorex cut in. “I say,” he
said, in a voice that held a just perceptible note of excitement, “is
that one of your maids down there by the lake? Girl in white; moving
about by the yews?”

“What _do_ you mean?” Mrs. Harrison replied, speaking with a little
flurry of haste. “It must be after eleven, and the maids are in bed
long ago, I hope.”

“Someone down there, anyway,” Greatorex asserted.

“Hm, hm! G.’s quite right, my dear,” Harrison said. “I--I think we
ought to investigate this in the cause of common morality.”

“Charles? It may be one of the village girls,” his wife suggested.

“In which case she has no business in our paddock at midnight,”
Harrison replied, and as he spoke he began to walk with an air of
mechanical determination towards the steps in the sunk fence that led
to the meadow.

“Shall we all go?” Greatorex asked, but Mrs. Harrison manifestly

“I don’t know. Do you think, perhaps....” she began.

Greatorex, however, had not waited for her permission, and in half a
dozen strides he too had reached the meadow. Vernon, Lady Ulrica and
Mrs. Greatorex followed him with an effect of yielding to a sudden
impulse, and Emma found herself alone on the lawn with Robert Fell.

“Well, if they’re all going,” she said with a little hysterical laugh,
“I suppose we may as well go, too.”

“I don’t know. Yes. Do you think we ought?” Fell replied in a strangely
agitated voice.

Mrs. Harrison turned to look at him with a little start of surprise.
“Surely you’re not afraid?” she asked, unconsciously revealing the
cause of her own reluctance.

“Afraid?” he echoed, entirely misunderstanding her true intention.
“Afraid of what?”

“Well--ghosts!” she said.

“But you don’t really imagine, Mrs. Harrison....” Fell began.

“Not for one moment,” she said with determination. She was disturbed
and a trifle shocked by the marks of his agitation, which had
nevertheless stiffened her own courage. She was prepared now to
demonstrate how little she cared for an unexpected coldness in the air,
or for white figures moving about at the most unlikely hours on the
borders of the lake.

Already the shadows of the other five were stringing out across
the meadow, all of them clearly visible in the milky light of the
thinly veiled moon. They were moving very deliberately; but a certain
deliberation of approach was only decent if they expected to disturb a

“Well, aren’t you coming, Mr. Fell?” Emma asked sharply.

He sighed and then, “Yes, I’ll come,” he said, in the tone of one who
finally commits himself.



Harrison and Fell were within a few yards of the plantation, when the
vague pillar of illusive whiteness that flitted in the shadow of the
trees moved towards them, and, after the slight hesitation of one who
dreads to plunge, stepped into the moonlight. But having thus dared
the shock of immersion, it seemed that for the moment her strength
could carry her no further. She stood motionless and with an effect of
strained effort, on the shadow, her eyes downcast and her crossed hands
grasping the ends of the tulle scarf that draped her head and shoulders.

In that stiff pose, with the rigid lines of her figure delivered
milk-white against the sullen background of the yews, she looked less
like a human being than the rather conventional image of some idealised
virgin, the expression of a dream, modelled none too definitely in wax
by an artist whose recollection of his vision was already fading.

Harrison stopped short and laid his hand on Fell’s arm. “Who is it?”
he asked him. It was manifestly an absurd question to put to his
companion, a stranger in Long Orton; but in the first agitation of the
discovery Harrison clutched at the nearest support.

“No idea!” Fell replied. He was suddenly disappointed and downcast.
This girl, whoever she might be, was certainly not Phyllis, and all the
furious expectations and fine resolves that had wonderfully lighted
him had been quenched with an abruptness that left him listless and
momentarily devoid of curiosity.

“Who is it?” repeated Greatorex, who had been only a pace or two behind
them. He spoke in the tone a man might use while surreptitiously
addressing his neighbour during a church-service. This echo of his
own question seemed to annoy Harrison. He shrugged his shoulders
contemptuously, and turning round addressed his wife in a voice that
was unnecessarily strident.

“Here’s a mysterious lady come to call upon us, Emma,” he said.

And then Mrs. Harrison, giggling nervously, put the essential but
manifestly hopeless question for the third time.

“Who is she?” she asked, in an undertone.

Harrison may have hoped that the shock of his voice, and, perhaps,
of his determinedly sceptical attitude, would have exorcised the
phantom that was assuredly, so he had already decided, the creation
of a moment’s excited imagination. But when he turned back to face
the plantation, the pale figure still stood in the same attitude, and
seemed now, moreover, to have attained a sharper definition of outline;
to be altogether more human and solid.

“By Jove, you know, it _is_ someone, after all,” Harrison murmured.

“Oh! it _is_ someone, right enough,” Fell said, at present concerned
only with the fact that it was not the right someone.

“Oh! Well!” Harrison softly ejaculated, as one who braces himself to an

He stepped forward a couple of paces with a slightly grotesque air of
greeting. “Hm! hm! I don’t quite know ...” he said; “that is, might I
ask whom we have the pleasure of--of meeting so unexpectedly?”

The frozen intensity of the silence that appeared to follow his
question may have been due to the fact that each member of the party
was holding his or her breath in the expectation of the moment.

The figure moved. Slowly and with an almost painful deliberation she
released the ends of the tulle scarf that was about her head and
shoulders, and let her hands fall to her sides. Her mouth opened, but
she did not speak; and after what might have been another effort to
reply--a just perceptible movement of the head--she took a careful step
backward, entering again the shadow of the yews.

“But, I say, you know....” Harrison began.

She interrupted him with a gesture, raising her hand and pointing with
an unmistakable certainty at Lady Ulrica. And the hand and forearm that
by this gesture she once more plunged into the moonlight had something
the appearance of opalescent glass.

Harrison, standing with his back to the house-party, did not understand
this indication and turned his head to see who or what had been
selected for peculiar notice; but Lady Ulrica responded with a fine
dignity. She came forward past Harrison right up to the edge of the
yews, and said in a voice that did credit to her breeding:

“My dear, what is it? Can I help you in any way?”

And then, no doubt to the infinite relief of the Harrisons, the unknown
replied. She had a little husky voice when she first spoke, a voice
that suggested the last sleepy clutter of roosting birds; and her
speech came with an appearance of effort.

“Presently,” she said rather indistinctly, and added something that
sounded like “more strength.”

Lady Ulrica was painfully short-sighted. She had those large,
protuberant brown eyes, almost devoid of expression, that are sometimes
indicative of heart trouble. And as she answered, she was fumbling at
her breast for the impressive, handled lorgnette that was discovered
later on the coffee table under the cedar.

“We weren’t quite sure, you know,” she said in her authoritative
contralto; “whether you were an apparition or not, and so we came to
see. But, of course, now we have seen you and heard you speak, we shall
be delighted to help you if you want help, or--if you’d prefer it--to
go away.”

“Stay near me,” the stranger said in a clearer voice, and striking a
lower pitch than when she had spoken first. “Till I get more strength.”

The rest of the party had paused in a little knot, some six or seven
feet away, while this brief conversation had gone forward, listening
staring with an absorption that in other circumstances might have
been judged as slightly lacking in good taste. But now, some kind of
realisation of their attitude seemed to come to them, and they diverted
their attention by a manifest effort from the two people on the edge of
the plantation and began to talk in low voices among themselves.

Mrs. Harrison, moving across to her husband, looked at him with raised
eyebrows, silently asking the obvious question.

“Fraud,” he said in a careful undertone, and added rather more
viciously, “Hoax of some kind.”

Mrs. Harrison, however, was not to be rebuffed so easily. “But,
Charles,” she said with a slight urgency, as if she would persuade him
to be reasonable; “don’t you think there is something very _odd_ about
her? As if she were not quite sane? That pose of the Virgin Mary when
she was in the moonlight as we came up? And did you notice that she’s
wearing quite the commonest sort of tulle scarf?”

“Yes, I’d noticed that,” he began, and then their attention was
snatched back to their strange visitor by the sound of a laugh. It was
a clear, high laugh, but just too near the edge of emotion for a person
under suspicion of madness.

“I must see to this,” Harrison murmured to his wife, and took a
few steps towards Lady Ulrica and the mysterious visitor. He was a
connoisseur of feminine beauty, and he had been struck by what he
mentally termed the “exquisite accuracy” of the profile presented
to him. It had come clear and sharp against the background of the
plantation, white and vivid in the moonlight; a forehead in a vertical
line over the delicately rounded chin, a perfectly curved aquiline nose
and the suggestion of a fine, sensitive mouth. Harrison saw it as the
considered and patient modelling of some idealised profile in a cameo.
It was a type that he very greatly admired; and this sight of her
beauty perhaps softened the asperity of the cross-examination he had

He came within a few feet of her as he began to speak, but she was
still within the black shadow of the trees and he could no longer
distinguish her features.

“We--we are rather at a loss, my dear young lady,” he said. “You
understand, I hope, that if you find yourself in any perplexity, my
wife will be delighted to offer you our hospitality.”

Instead of answering him she put out her hand towards Lady Ulrica, but
when that lady made a responsive movement, the stranger shrank away

“They don’t help me,” she murmured. An undercurrent of agitation was
coming into her speech, and began to dominate it as she continued,
more hurriedly; “I can’t help it, if they won’t believe me. They’re
antag--antago--tell them to be still--in their thoughts--in their....”

Her voice died out, fluttering down through the original quality of
huskiness that had first distinguished it, to a hoarse, diminishing
whisper. And it seemed at the same moment as if she also were
stealthily retreating, sliding away from them.

“Look out! She’s going!” Harrison cried out. “We mustn’t let her get
away like this. She’s--she’s not safe to be left alone. We must catch

But already the stranger was nearly out of sight. For an instant they
saw her through the darkness, as an illusive pillar of faint light
gleaming among the profound shadows of the yews; a pale uncertain form
that vanished even as they started in pursuit.

“I’m going to get to the bottom of this,” Harrison announced with
determination as he led the search.

Yet, from the very outset, that search was the most perfunctory and
futile affair. The members of the party, two of whom stayed behind,
exhibited a marked inclination not to separate. Outside, in the
security of the moonlight and each other’s society, they had suffered
mystification, wonder, perhaps an occasional thrill of apprehension,
but not that peculiar quality of fear that lay in wait for them the
moment they entered the gloom of the plantation.


Even Greatorex felt that influence. He had followed his host, in
advance of the other three, but lost sight of him directly as he
entered the cover of the trees. He started violently when a twig
brushed his face, and then, with a just perceptible note of alarm in
his voice, called out:

“Hallo, Harrison! You there? It’s so infernally dark!”

Harrison answered him with a remarkable promptitude.

“Hallo, G.!” he said. “That you? I’m close here! I’ll wait for you.”

They were as a matter of fact separated only by the spread of a single

“Don’t see that we stand much chance of catching the lady in a place
like this, Harrison,” Greatorex remarked when they had joined company.
“You might hide a platoon under these trees in this light, what?”

“Only a narrow belt of it,” Harrison replied. “We’ll be through on to
the shore of the lake in ten yards. We can see her then for half a mile
if she’s come out.”

“All right,” Greatorex agreed, and added in a mood of sudden
confidence; “Beastly weird sort of place, this, but it’s been a weird
sort of affair altogether.”

“Mad woman,” commented Harrison with a touch of vehemence.

“Queer, certainly,” Greatorex agreed. “But why did you say hoax, just
now? You don’t think that...?”

They had been talking in interrupted snatches as they pressed their
way, keeping close together, through the stubborn resistance of the
yews, but as Greatorex’s sentence trailed away with a suggestion of
cutting off his own suspicions, they came out on to the long grass that
bordered the lake.

Harrison stopped, and gave a sigh that may have indicated his relief at
getting clear from the intriguing opposition of the plantation.

Before them was spread the placid deep of the black water, so calm and
rigid that it looked like a sheet of unsoiled and faintly lustrous ice.
To the right and left of them the bank ran in a flat curve, in full
sight for a quarter of a mile each way, save that it was bordered by an
uneven selvage of impenetrable black shadow. But nowhere was there any
sign of a flitting white shape, escaping from the charges of hoax or
insanity that had been brought against it.

“Either got away or hiding in the plantation,” remarked Greatorex,
after a pause during which with a suggestion of breathless eagerness
the two men had searched the moonlit distances. The wreath of cirrus
had cleared away now, and the moon had reached the perfect gold of its
ultimate splendour.

“Hm!” Harrison replied thoughtfully. “Not much good searching the

“Might as well hunt for a louse in a woodstack,” Greatorex thought.

“What did you make of it, G.?” Harrison asked suddenly.

“Mighty queer business altogether,” Greatorex replied. And then with a
sudden drop in his voice, he added on a note of alarm, “What the devil
is that you’ve got on your back, Harrison?”

“Eh? What? What d’you mean?” Harrison asked nervously.

Greatorex took a step towards him, and after a moment’s pause in which
he hesitated as if afraid to touch some uncanny thing, laid hold
of a long wisp of drapery and stripped it from his host’s back and
shoulders. It seemed to Greatorex that the flimsy thing clung slightly
to the smooth cloth of the dinner jacket.

“What is it? What is it?” asked Harrison impatiently.

“Looks like that scarf the apparition was wearing,” Greatorex remarked,
displaying it.

Harrison clutched at it eagerly.

“By Jove, so it is!” he said; “tangible proof, this, G., of the lady’s
substantiality. Good, solid evidence of fact. They must all have seen
it. Emma even mentioned it to me as being of rather common material.”
As he spoke he was fingering the stuff of the scarf; running it through
his hands, as if he found an almost sensual pleasure in the reassuring
quality of its undoubted substance.

“Why, of course,” Greatorex answered, little less relieved than his
companion; but anxious, now, to prove that he had never for one instant
been under any delusion as to the nature of the apparition. “You never
thought, did you, that the lady was a ghost?” His laugh as he asked
the question had a slightly insincere ring, but Harrison was too
preoccupied with his own thoughts to notice that.

“A ghost! My dear G.!” he said. “The ghost of what, in Heaven’s name?
No, no, she was solid enough. But what’s puzzling me is whether she was
insane, or whether, as seems to me more probable, the whole thing was a
hoax of some kind.”

“You don’t suggest that Vernon, or Lady Ulrica....” Greatorex began,
but Harrison cut him short.

“No, certainly not,” he said. “They would not be so silly. It was just
a coincidence that we should have been discussing all this foolishness
beforehand. No, there are thousands of deluded idiots about, of one
sort or another, who have gone mad on this spiritualism business, and
I think the most probable explanation is that some week-end visitor at
the hotel--we’ve got quite a decent hotel in the village, you know,
kept by a fellow called Messenger--some woman or other, a little
cracked on this subject, came out here and was tempted to try a little
experiment on us. Probably she didn’t mean to go quite so far, in the
first instance. Just showed herself in the moonlight, playing at being
an apparition for our benefit. She’d be able to see us on the lawn from
here. And then when we caught her, she had to play up to the part. No
doubt, she recognised Lady Ulrica’s credulity. Recognised her as the
kind of woman that makes the fortune of the ordinary medium. And all
that nonsensical talk of hers--not badly done, in a way, by the by--was
just the sort of stuff they spew up at a séance. Eh? Don’t you agree?
What we’ve got to do now is to find out who it was. We’ll go down and
talk to Messenger tomorrow morning, and get the truth about it. He’s
got an uncommonly pretty daughter, by the way; and I don’t think we’ll
take Fell. He showed signs of being a trifle épris in that quarter,
when he was down here last.”

Harrison’s confidence grew as he spoke, and before he had finished he
had warmed to quite a glow of certainty. His excitement had something
the quality of that displayed by one who finds himself unhurt after a
nasty accident.

“Expect you’re right,” Greatorex agreed calmly.

“Well, we’d better get back to the others--with our--our evidence.”
Harrison looked down at the scarf in his hands, and began automatically
to fold it as he spoke. “There’s a path through the plantation, a few
yards further up,” he continued. “No need for us to tear ourselves to
pieces among the shrubs. As you said, we haven’t the least chance of
finding the lady by this light, and the only decent thing we can do is
to clear off, and let her find her way back to the hotel.”

“If your theory is the right one,” Greatorex commented, as they began
to walk up the bank of the lake.

“Have you a better?” snapped Harrison.

“No--no,” Greatorex admitted. “Can’t say I have. And anyway, yours is
susceptible of proof. All we have to do is to find the lady.”

“Quite so,” Harrison said without conviction. He foresaw, with a little
qualm of uneasiness, that his failure to produce the lady might prove
a difficulty in any controversy that might follow with Vernon and Lady
Ulrica. If he definitely committed himself to a theory that could
be upheld or discredited by the investigation of verifiable facts,
he would be at an immense disadvantage should the facts go against
him--as, he was ready to admit to himself, they very possibly might. He
realised that in his excitement he had been too hasty.

“Of course, G.,” he said on a faintly expostulating note, “of course,
I may have been rather premature in assuming that this--er--visitor of
ours was staying at the hotel. I--I don’t in any way insist on that.
It’s our first chance and perhaps our best one; but there are other
alternatives. We can begin with this scarf. That’s our solid ground of
evidence. What we have to do is to trace the owner.”

“Exactly,” Greatorex agreed thoughtfully.

Harrison noticed the sound of a qualification in his friend’s reply.

“Well, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, oh yes; that’s all right,” Greatorex agreed. “I was only
wondering why, after all, we should bother any more about it?”

Harrison was too clever a man to attempt evasions. He saw quite clearly
that if he pretended some more or less plausible excuse such as being
annoyed by the trespass, Greatorex would see through him. And he would
not risk that. Instead, he took what seemed a perfectly safe line.

“To be quite honest, G.,” he said, “I am fully anticipating that Vernon
will claim this--this experience, as being a spiritualistic phenomenon.
And--and--well, I’ll admit that that attitude annoys me. It’s so
childish. This seems to me a--a perfectly fair instance of the sort
of thing that these credulous people take hold of and transform into
what they call proof. Properly garbled, as no doubt it will be, this
silly little incident will presently be figuring in the Proceedings
of the S.P.R. as ‘new evidence.’ Vernon could dress it up to look as
circumstantial as the evidence in a police-court--give all our names
and addresses, and make out affidavits for us to sign--affidavits that
would not contain a single mis-statement of fact so far as we can see,
but taken altogether would have an entirely false significance. You
know how the....” He broke off suddenly in the middle of his sentence.
“What the devil’s that?” he asked sharply.

He had paused in his walk, as was his habit when he wished to elaborate
an argument, and they had not yet left the bank of the lake for
the path through the plantation. What had so abruptly diverted his
attention was the beginning of a sound in that airless night, a sound
that, as they waited and listened, waxed from the first insistent
whispering with which it had begun, to a fierce rustling that seemed to
swell almost to a roar, before it died again to the hushed sibilance of
the outset.

“What the devil is it?” Greatorex muttered.

Harrison gave a little scream of half-hysterical laughter.

“Our--our nerves must have been very thoroughly upset, G.,” he said in
a strained voice, “if--if you and I can be startled by the sound of
wind in the poplars. They’re on the island there, a big clump of them.
Now I think of it, that’s one of the things that made this place so
confoundedly unfamiliar to-night. It’s the first time I’ve ever been
here when it has been so still that the poplars weren’t talking.”

“Wind!” ejaculated Greatorex. “There is no wind.”

“There has been,” Harrison said, and pointed to the lake whose level
surface was now flawed here and there by a tiny ripple that flashed an
occasional reflected sparkle from the high moon.

“Queer!” Greatorex ejaculated, and shivered as if he were suddenly cold.

“But, after all, why queer, G.,?” Harrison expostulated, although there
was still a note of uneasiness in his voice. “I--I mean, there are
always, on the stillest night, these slight movements of the air. We
happen to notice it because it’s so particularly still.”

“Uncannily still,” Greatorex murmured.

“Oh! damn it, G.,” Harrison expostulated; “if you’re going to get
superstitious about meteorological conditions....”

“It’s no use pretending, Harrison,” Greatorex returned. “There _is_
something uncanny about this place to-night. I’m not a superstitious
man, as you know, but I don’t mind confessing that I’ve got the
creeps.” He shivered again, and then added, “Come along, let’s get back
to your familiar house. I’ve had enough of this.”

Harrison’s only reply at the moment was a grunt of annoyance, but after
they had turned into the path between the yews he began to talk again.
“Admitting,” he said, “that my nerves, too, are a trifle on edge, what
does that prove, unless it is that we still retain something of the
emotional fear of the savage?”

“What a chap you are for proving things this evening,” Greatorex
returned. “That argument with Vernon has upset you.”

“They lay such stress on all these subjective reactions,” Harrison
grumbled, evidently continuing his own line of thought. “A normal

But at this point they came out of the plantation into the clear spaces
of the meadow and were instantly hailed by Fell and Mrs. Greatorex, who
came forward to meet them.

“The others have gone on,” Fell explained. “Lady Ulrica had a kind of
faint, and Mrs. Harrison and Vernon have taken her back to the house.
What a time you’ve been!”

“I suppose you didn’t find anyone?” Mrs. Greatorex asked.

“No, no, we didn’t,” Harrison replied. “Only a part of the lady’s
apparel.” And he exhibited the tulle scarf with the air of one prepared
to explain a conjuring trick.

“Where did you find it?” Fell asked.

“On Harrison’s back,” Greatorex said.

“On his back?” ejaculated Fell.

“Simple enough, simple enough,” Harrison explained. “We’d been dodging
and skirmishing about the plantation, and, no doubt, I unknowingly
scraped the thing off one of the trees. Greatorex saw it when we came
out into the light by the lake.”

“Yes,” Greatorex commented, “and it was spread out over his coat as
neatly as you please--might have been arranged there as a kind of joke.”

“Herbert!” his wife ejaculated. “Do you mean that the woman was playing
tricks on you; behind your back, as it were?”

Harrison clicked his tongue, as if he were facetiously reproving a

“Not you too, Mrs. Greatorex,” he said. “I--I give you credit for more
sense. The truth is that your good husband has brought with him into
this life some of the old fears and superstitions that used to rule him
when he plundered and murdered on the high seas. Yes--yes--in effect
that’s the truth, though we may find a biological explanation for the
phenomenon without accepting any theory of reincarnation. It’s--it’s
a case of latent cell memory, and to-night it has come out very--very
strongly. He can find no explanation but the supernatural. I--I assure
you, when a little bit of a breeze sprang up just now and set the
poplars whispering, he was absolutely terrified. It only needed another
touch to set him crossing himself and calling on his patron saint.”

“Oh, Herbert!” Mrs. Greatorex expostulated. “You don’t really believe
it was a spirit, do you?”

Everyone knew that Greatorex had married beneath him, but his wife’s
usual method in company was to maintain a thoughtful silence that
covered a multitude of faults. That method was one of her own devising.
Her husband had never attempted to correct her. Nor did he now show the
least impatience either with her unusual loquacity or her failure to
appreciate Harrison’s persiflage.

“No, my dear, as a matter of fact, I don’t,” he said; “but if you ask
me, our host is almost painfully anxious to prove that the strange lady
was of like substance to ourselves, of very flesh and bone subsisting;
I forget just how the quotation goes.”

“Well, of course she was,” his wife replied with an air of assurance.
“What else could she be?”

“Er--er--by the way, Mrs. Greatorex,” Harrison put in. “Did
you--er--see her plainly? Could you by any chance describe her for--for
the purposes of identification?”

“Yes, I think I could,” Mrs. Greatorex said cheerfully. “She was
wearing a rather dowdy--old-fashioned, at least--white dress, more
like a négligée than anything. I thought it funny she should come out
in the garden in a thing like that. But I didn’t make out quite what
the material was. It looked like a rather fine linen tulle worn over a
white linen petticoat, I thought. And she had a common scarf--but of
course you’ve got that in your hand now....”

“Hm! yes,” Harrison interrupted. “But her face, eh? Did you happen to
catch her in profile, by any chance?”

“I don’t know that I _did_ notice her face very particularly,” Mrs.
Greatorex said. “She seemed quite an ordinary sort of young woman, I

They had been retracing their way across the field as they talked, and
now having reached the sunk fence, filed up the little flight of stone
steps to the garden. Before them, across the width of the lawn the
lighted windows of the drawing-room shone artificially yellow against
the whiteness of the moonlight. They had returned to the influences
of their own world; even the garden planned and formalised was a
man-made thing. But as they crossed the short, well-kept turf, some
common impulse made them pause, and with a movement that seemed to be
concerted, turn back to look down over the meadow to the plantation
and the solemn stretches of the lake--back to that other world, vague,
mysterious and enormously still, into which they had so carelessly

No one spoke until Harrison, with an impatient sigh, remarked suddenly:
“Oh, come along! let’s get back to sanity.”

“Hm! Yes,” Greatorex agreed.

“About time we went to bed,” Harrison went on. “We’ll be wiser in the

“I suppose,” Fell began as they resumed their walk to the house, but
Harrison cut short his speculations.

“Here’s Emma coming to reprove us,” he interrupted. “She’ll probably
insist on our all taking something hot to ward off the evil effects of

Mrs. Harrison was, in fact, coming quickly to meet them with a brisk
air of urgency, and as though she would shorten the little distance
that still divided them, she called to her husband while she was still
some few yards away, on a note that held the suggestion of a faint

“Charles. I want to speak to you,” she said.

“Are we in the way?” Fell asked as they hurried to meet her.

Mrs. Harrison looked at him for a moment as if she had been
unexpectedly reminded of the fact of his existence, and then, taking no
notice of his question, continued:

“That man Messenger, from the hotel, is here, Charles, with the police
sergeant. They want to see you at once.”

Harrison’s quick mind leapt at once to a possible explanation.

“Ha! Now we shall hear something about the lady of the lake, no doubt,”
he said.

“It’s about Messenger’s daughter,” Mrs. Harrison replied. “She’s--she
has disappeared. They are looking for her; and Messenger wants to know
if they can go down to the plantation. He has apparently got some idea
that she may be there.”

“Oh!” commented Harrison on a falling note, and exchanged a glance of
understanding with his wife. Then they both turned and looked at Fell.

He had almost forgotten the resolutions he had made an hour earlier,
and was quite unprepared to meet the silent accusation that was now
levelled at him.

“I--_I_ don’t know anything about it,” he stammered.

“Oh, well,” Harrison said. “Let’s go and hear what Messenger and the
Sergeant have to tell us. I suppose this means that we shall have to
make another pilgrimage to the lake.”

Greatorex, in the rear of the procession, was heard to remark that he
was damned if he could make head or tail of it.



Mr. Messenger and the Sergeant were in the drawing-room talking to Lady
Ulrica and Vernon, when Harrison, at the head of the little party,
entered by the French window.

Mr. Messenger’s story was soon told. His daughter had left the hotel
presumably between nine and ten o’clock, and had not been seen since.
He explained that he was peculiarly anxious because she had been in
very low spirits recently. For one thing, a friend of hers, a Mrs.
Burton who lived a few miles away, had committed suicide about three
weeks before. Also, and here Mr. Messenger looked rather pointedly in
the direction of Robert Fell; also, he believed that she had--he paused
with obvious intention before he concluded--“she had--another trouble
on her mind.”

Harrison had listened with a preoccupied air that was unusual to him.
But as the hotel-keeper finished his story, he warmed again to his
usual alertness.

“I must tell you, Messenger,” he said, “that we have only this moment
come up from the lake, all of us. And we saw no sign of your daughter
there, but we did meet another young woman, a perfect stranger to all
of us, who behaved in--er--in a rather odd manner. Might I ask you if
you have anyone staying with you who at all answers that description?”

“We’ve no one staying in the house at all this week-end, sir,”
Messenger replied.

“And do you know of anyone, any stranger staying in the village?”

“There’s no one, sir, to my knowledge,” Messenger said, and went on
quickly: “But have I your permission now, sir, for me and Mr. Stevens
to go down to the plantation, and--and the lake?” He paused before he
added in a lower tone, “Though I’m afraid we’ll be too late. She’s been
gone, now, for more than three hours.”

“But we’ve just come back from the plantation, all of us,” Harrison
protested. “If she’d been there, surely we should have seen her?”

“Not if she’d ... if she’d been....” Messenger began, and stopped
abruptly, putting his hand to his throat as if his words had choked him.

Stevens, the police-sergeant, shifted his feet uneasily and looked
half-appealingly at Mrs. Harrison. “Mr. Messenger is afraid as Miss
Phyllis may ’ave--may ’ave done what her friend Mrs. Burton did,” he

Mrs. Harrison got to her feet with a sudden effect of tense emotion,
but before she could speak her husband cut in quickly by saying, “We’d
better have the electric torches, Emma. Will you get them? G. and I
will go, too. Will you come, Vernon?”

“Certainly,” Vernon said. There was a light in his eyes that was hardly
indicative of horror or even of pity.

Harrison turned away from him with a movement of disgust. “And Fell?
Where’s Fell?” he asked.

But Fell had already left the room.

“He went out by the window, a couple of minutes back, sir,” the
Sergeant said.

Charles Harrison was at all times an impatient man, and there were
occasions, as in the present case, when his nervous irritability
completely overcame him. He was seriously distressed by the thought
that Phyllis Messenger had in all probability committed suicide. That
touched him on his human, generous side. But the thing that had finally
upset him had been the look on Vernon’s face; rapt, faintly mystical,
the look of one who believed that a very miracle had been performed for
his benefit. Harrison could not endure to remain in his presence for
another moment.

“I’ll--I’ll go on and see what’s become of Fell,” he mumbled as he
fairly scuttled out of the room.

Once outside, he began to run. He wanted to think, but his mind was
full of exasperation--with Vernon for his look of triumph, with the
unfortunate Phyllis Messenger, with the vacillating Robert Fell as the
immediate cause of the whole disaster. It seemed to Charles Harrison as
if a fortuitous coincidence of events were conspiring against him to
produce the illusion of a spiritualistic phenomenon. He did not believe
for one moment that the stranger he had seen by the plantation was the
spirit of the drowned Phyllis Messenger, but he foresaw the kind of
case that Vernon would make out, and the effect it would have upon all
the other members of the party. He could not even be sure that his own
wife might not be influenced. When that confounded Stevens had hinted
at the probability of this girl’s suicide, a very queer expression
had come into Emma’s face, just as if she had suddenly realised some
strange, significant connection between the possibility of the girl’s
death and that other experience earlier in the evening. He had cut
hurriedly into the conversation for fear that she might say something

No, no, the girl could not, must not be dead. They would find her
somewhere. And yet, so great was Harrison’s foreboding that he never
paused a moment by the yews, but hurried straight on to the shore of
the lake. He had seen nothing of Fell. He had indeed forgotten all
about him.

The night was still clear, but it was no longer frozen into that
rigid immobility which had earlier produced so strange an effect of
expectancy. There was a perceptible movement of air from the west, the
familiar voices of the poplars maintained a perpetual background of
sound, and when he had come through the plantation to the edge of the
lake, he could hear the minute clashing of the reeds as the chasing
ripple of the water set them gently swaying. The air of mystery had
fled. He no longer felt the least influence of fear. The dread that
he might presently see something that heavily floated, rocking and
pressing against the rushes, was more the dread of annoyance.

But there was no one in sight. Nothing moved on all the long curving
reaches of the bank. There was no sound in the night other than the
faint crash of the reeds, the soft chuckle of the water and the steady
insistence of the sibilant poplars.

And search as he would up and down the brooding sweep of the dark
water, damascened here and there by the yellow silver of moonlight
reflected from the crest of the increasing ripple, he could see no
slender raft of floating drapery, nor any sign of a sodden form, nearly
immersed, sagging inertly towards the bank.

He desisted presently, and sat down to consider the whole situation.
The sense of exasperation had faded under the influence of the night’s
peace, and he fell into a calmer consideration of the problem that
was vexing him. He saw that he must take the initiative, state his
case before Vernon could get a word in. He would treat the affair as
an instance of the kind of thing that gets worked up into what these
people absurdly called “evidence.” The coincidence of this stranger,
(whoever she was,) turning up on the very evening on which that unhappy
girl had drowned herself--if she had sunk, they would have an awful job
to recover the body; the lake was over forty feet deep in places--was
just another of those coincidences that had probably been responsible
for most of the superstitions about the appearance of the spirit at
the moment of death. And in this case it was obviously absurd to
argue that it was the spirit of Phyllis Messenger they had seen. _And
heard!_ That was a good point. Finally and conclusively, there was the
tulle scarf; real and solid enough. No one had ever heard of a spirit
leaving such material evidence behind it. What had he done with that
scarf, by the way? He had had it in his hand when he had entered the
drawing-room. He’d probably laid it down there, somewhere. He must make
enquiries about that as soon as he got in. It might help him to trace
the identity of the stranger.

He had wandered a quarter of a mile or so away from the path through
the plantation, and he jumped up now, with the intention of getting
back at once to the house, in order to make sure of that valuable piece
of evidence. But as he came out of his preoccupation, his attention was
arrested by the distant murmur of little detached sounds, the separated
notes of human voices, musical in their remoteness, faintly impinging
upon the textured whisperings of the night.

They are still looking for that poor girl, he thought with a twinge
of remorse for his own loss of interest in the search. But even as he
started to join them, he realised that the sounds were retreating,
fading imperceptibly into the depths of the night. Have they found her,
I wonder, he murmured to himself, thinking still of a desecrated and
draggled body; and then he heard himself being distantly hailed in the
strong, cheerful voice of his friend Greatorex.

“Ahoy there, Harrison; Harrison, ahoy!” he was shouting.

It was not in the least the voice one would expect from a man who had
so recently stood in the presence of the dead.

“Ahoy! Hallo! Where are you?” Harrison shouted in return.

The next minute he saw the tall, athletic figure of Greatorex coming
towards him along the bank of the lake.

“Been looking for you everywhere,” Greatorex said as he came within
speaking distance. “We’ve found the lady.”

“Alive?” gasped Harrison.

“Rather. Not exactly hearty, perhaps, but she’s all right. Well enough,
in any case, to walk back to the house in the company of her father and
Fell.” He dropped his voice confidentially as he added: “Seems that
it’s a case with Fell. What? We found ’em together, you know, in a cosy
little place among the yews, not five yards from the spot where the
mysterious lady came out. Perfect little tunnel up to it, too. If we’d
happened on it at first, we’d have found the girl there and saved all
the trouble. Fell knew all about the place, it seems. Went straight to
it and found Miss Messenger in a faint, or just recovering from it.”

“How long had she been there?” Harrison asked sharply.

“All the time, presumably,” Greatorex said.

“Come there to meet Fell, eh?”

“Seems probable. And we spoilt his little game by coming too, I
suppose. However, he’s owned up now. Made a clean breast of it, and
declared his intention of marrying her; in the presence of five
witnesses. Quite a dramatic little scene there was. Old Messenger was
almost overcome.”

Harrison did not seem to have been attending to this speech, for his
next question was:

“You didn’t find anything else there, did you? No apparatus of any
kind, such as a mask or attempts at a disguise?”

“Lord, no. I didn’t see anything, and I was the first to get to them,”
Greatorex replied. “But why? You don’t think....”

“That she may have been prepared? I do,” Harrison said emphatically.
“She’d made an assignation and come ready to pass herself off as
someone else if she were caught--which she very nearly was. Showed
herself in the first instance in order to attract Fell’s attention, and
unfortunately for her brought the whole party out.”

“Oh! no, no, Harrison. No, I don’t think so,” Greatorex said. “You’ve
got that blessed apparition or whatever it was on your nerves. But,
honestly, that explanation won’t do. Why, the girl was half-unconscious
when I found ’em.”

“Put on,” Harrison interpolated.

“Impossible,” Greatorex replied. “When we got her out into the open,
she was still as white as a sheet.”

“Effect of moonlight,” commented Harrison.

“No.” Greatorex’s tone had a quality of great assurance. “No, she was
recovering from a faint all right. There can be no question of that.
Besides, what could be the point of all that make-believe after she was

“Well, she may have fainted after she’d fooled us,” Harrison suggested.
“Overwrought, you know.”

They had been making their way steadily back to the house as they
talked, but Greatorex stopped now in the middle of the meadow, and took
Harrison by the lapel of his dinner-jacket.

“Bad line, my friend,” he said gravely. “Take my advice and don’t
attempt it before Vernon. I’m advising you for your good.”

“Well, then, who the devil was it?” Harrison snapped impatiently.

“Ah! there you have me,” Greatorex said.

“But, good God, G.,” Harrison expostulated. “_You_ don’t believe that
it was a--er--an apparition.”

“Dunno what to think,” Greatorex said.

Harrison blew a deep breath of disgust. “I thought you had more sense,”
he snapped out.

“Well, I’m willing to be convinced,” Greatorex replied; “if you have
any other explanation to offer.”

But Harrison had nothing further to say in the matter just then. He
wanted to see Phyllis Messenger first, alone. When he had got his
evidence, he would be ready to offer his explanation.

They found only Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Greatorex in the drawing-room
when they entered by the French window. Messenger, his daughter,
Stevens and Fell had gone back to the hotel, she explained, and Vernon
and Lady Ulrica were in the morning-room, conferring, so Mrs. Harrison
suggested, over the events of the evening.

“I don’t quite know whether Mr. Fell means to come back,” Mrs. Harrison
concluded with a lift of her eyebrows. “He seemed--well, rather ashamed
of himself altogether. I’m not sure that he hasn’t taken his things.”

“Just as well, perhaps,” her husband said. And then his observant
glance fell on the tulle scarf thrown over the back of a chair.

“Did you find out whom that belonged to?” he asked sharply.

“Oh!” ejaculated Mrs. Harrison. “They left it behind after all. It’s
Miss Messenger’s. She identified it at once and wondered how it had got

“Certain it was hers, I suppose?” Harrison asked.

“Oh yes! It’s got her initials worked on it,” his wife told him.

For a few seconds Harrison stood thoughtfully drawing the scarf through
his hands, then dropping it back on to the chair, he said: “That’s all
right, then. Hadn’t we better be going to bed? It’s after one o’clock.”


When Charles Harrison set about the investigation of that night’s
mystery, he was still intent upon the theory that the appearance he had
seen and spoken to was in fact the living personality of some stranger
who had been staying either in the village or possibly at Orton Park,
the grounds of which sloped down to the other side of the lake. There
were a couple of canoes and a punt in Lord Orton’s boathouse, and
the crossing presented no real difficulty. He was, however, finally
deflected from that theory in the course of his interview with Miss

He had been quite firm at breakfast. As a result, no doubt, of the
“conference” they had held the night before, Lady Ulrica and Vernon
were eager to begin an immediate discussion of what they called the
“phenomenon.” Harrison effectively stopped that.

“No! no!! no!!!” he said, putting his hands over his ears as soon as
the topic was opened. “Now, Vernon, you profess to be scientific in
your investigations. You--you insisted on that in your--er--lecture
under the cedar last night. Now listen to me. I promise to thrash
this out with you--presently. To--to discuss the thing in all its
bearings. But I at least mean to be thorough and careful in my
methods. Give me to-day to examine the case. I must cross-examine the
principal witness--er--alone. Yes. I insist on that. You’ll have the
very best intentions, of course. I don’t doubt it. But you’ll offer
suggestions--unconsciously, perhaps, but you’ll do it.”

“And you?” Vernon replied. “Won’t you put suggestions into the
examinee’s mind, too?”

“Hm! hm! You’ll have to trust me,” Harrison said. “I assure you that
I only want to arrive at the truth of--of the actual facts, you
understand. I want to know what Miss Messenger was doing down there
for three hours or more. And if you want me to discuss the thing with
you, you must let me get at the facts in my own way. I--I make that
a condition. If you won’t agree to it, I shall refuse to discuss the
thing at all.”

“Oh, very well,” Vernon agreed.

And Harrison had gone off to the hotel after breakfast, in the cheerful
state of mind of one who has good reasons to hope for the best.

Miss Messenger received him in the private parlour of the hotel, a room
that evidenced her desperate efforts to alleviate the influence of the
original furniture.

She professed to be completely recovered from the effects of her
adventure, and indeed she displayed no sign of illness. Her engagement
to Robert Fell was, it seemed, an understood thing, and she received
Mr. Harrison’s congratulations with the air proper to the occasion.
Harrison, who had only known her very slightly hitherto, decided in his
own mind that she was a very charming young woman, and came at last to
the purpose of his visit with a slight effect of apology.

“I--I don’t know whether you have heard, Miss Messenger,” he began,
“that we had another visitor in the plantation last night.”

She opened her eyes at that, with a genuine surprise that could not be

“Didn’t Mr. Fell or your father say anything to you about it?” Harrison

She looked at him with obvious perplexity. “About another visitor?” she
repeated. “No, they haven’t told me anything. I don’t quite understand.”

“I--I’ll explain in a moment,” Harrison said. “There are just one or
two little questions that I’d like to ask you first, if you don’t mind?”

She shook her head with a sigh. “No, I don’t mind,” she said. “I
suppose as a matter of fact you know all about it already?”

“Something,” Harrison agreed, shrewdly guessing at her meaning. “So far
as you and Mr. Fell are concerned at least. But--well--I’ll tell you in
a moment why I want to know--could you say what the time was when you
got to the plantation?”

“A little before ten,” she told him. “I heard the stable clock in Orton
Park strike after I’d been there a few minutes.”

“Hm! hm! And what did you _do_ exactly between ten o’clock
and--er--half-past twelve or so?” Harrison enquired.

Phyllis Messenger’s face glowed suddenly red. “I--I don’t know,” she
said after a marked pause.

“Did you go to sleep, for instance?” Harrison asked with a friendly

She shook her head. “It wasn’t a sleep,” she said, and then went on
quickly: “Oh, you said you knew--something. Don’t you know how--how
unhappy I was?”

Mr. Harrison turned his head away and stared at the ferns in the
fireplace. “I’ve heard something,” he murmured.

“About my friend Rhoda Burton?” Miss Messenger said.

“Ah! yes. She--she committed suicide about a month ago, I believe?”
Harrison mumbled.

“Well, I meant to do that, too,” Phyllis Messenger burst out with
a sudden boldness. “In there, where they found me. I meant to--to
strangle myself with my tulle scarf. I tied it round my neck and I
meant to do it. And then I couldn’t.”

“Yes?” Harrison prompted her gently.

“Oh, and then I threw it down--the scarf, I mean--and everything went
black. I thought I was going to die. I went down on my knees and tried
to pray. I don’t remember anything after that until--until they found

Harrison’s agile mind seized the significance of this evidence in
a flash. At one stroke it eliminated the probability of that scarf
having been worn by a stranger. If the scarf had lain there by the
side of the swooning Miss Messenger, no one but a mad woman could have
callously picked it up, worn it and postured before a group of half a
dozen people without making the least mention of the helpless figure
to whom it belonged. For a moment he played with the thought of a
madwoman, but dismissed it. If there was a madwoman in Long Orton or
the neighbourhood, he would have heard of her.

He sighed heavily, and chiefly for the sake of giving himself more
time, said, “You’re quite sure you had the scarf with you?”

“Well, of course,” Miss Messenger replied. “I only bought it last
week;” and added with a shudder, “but I don’t ever want to see it
again.” There could be no question of the vividness of the unhappy
memories associated in her mind with that particular article of apparel.

“It doesn’t follow, however,” Harrison went on thoughtfully after a
perceptible pause, “that because you have no memory of anything after
you fainted, you never moved from the spot where you were found?”

Miss Messenger shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t say anything about
that, can I?” she asked.

“You see,” Harrison explained, “earlier in the evening, it may have
been about eleven or thereabouts, my friends and I saw someone down by
the plantation, and--and went down to investigate. And there we met and
spoke to--er--someone who was unquestionably wearing your scarf--which
she later discarded. It was found later by myself, as a matter of fact.”

“How very extraordinary!” was all Miss Messenger’s comment. Her
surprise and interest, however, were beyond question.

“Inexplicable,” Harrison agreed.

“But who _could_ it have been?” Miss Messenger besought him.

“It could, so far as I can make out, only have been yourself--in a
trance,” Harrison replied. He instinctively disliked the sound of
that last word, but could find no other. People who have “swooned”
or fainted do not walk about in that condition. “Er--you’ve never, I
suppose--er--been in that state of unconsciousness before?” he went on
quickly, as if to obliterate the effect of the too suggestive word.

“Not actually,” Miss Messenger said, hesitated, and then continued:
“but I’ve--felt queer once or twice lately.”

“Queer?” Harrison prompted her.

“As if--as if I were going off like I did last night,” she explained.
“Only lately, though. Only since my friend died.”

“Mrs. Burton?”

She nodded.

“Hm. Very sad, very,” said Harrison, getting up, and then he added: “It
was very good of you to answer my questions, and I think, now, that I
am satisfied as to the identity of the stranger. You must have walked
in your trance last night, Miss Messenger, and made your way back again
to the place where we found you, dropping your scarf on the way. You
must forgive us for not recognising you in the half-light.”

Miss Messenger had no comment to make on that explanation. It was
evident that she was not in a position to deny his statement, even if
she had had the desire to do so....

And after that interview, Harrison began to see his way quite clearly.
When he left the hotel he visited the scene of last night’s encounter
in order to make a thorough examination of the place itself, and
especially of that curious little enceinte among the yews where Miss
Messenger had been found. He thought it possible that he might
discover fresh evidence.

No fresh evidence, however, rewarded his investigation.


He was, nevertheless, in very good spirits at dinner that night. The
discussion had been postponed by common consent until the evening, but
he once or twice referred to it in the course of the meal.

Greatorex, noting his host’s almost gleeful manner, asked him if he had
got new and conclusive evidence in the process of his investigations,
but Harrison refused to answer that.

“No, no,” he said. “We’ll have it out after dinner. Vernon has got his
case, and I have mine. We’ll argue, and then put it to the vote. Do you
agree, Vernon?”

Vernon, no less confident than his antagonist, agreed willingly enough,
and later, when they were all gathered together in the drawing-room, he
agreed also to open the discussion.

“It’s all so clear to me,” he said. “I cannot see how there can be two

“Well, fire away,” Harrison encouraged him.

Vernon leaned back in his chair, and clasped his hands behind his head.

“I postulate to begin with,” he said, “that we were all in precisely
the right, expectant, slightly inert condition necessary to the
production of phenomena. We were sitting in a circle, and our conscious
minds were completely occupied with the subject of spiritualism. We
were, in fact, according to the common agreement about such things, in
the state that best enables us to assist any possible manifestations
by--by giving out power.

“The chief medium in the case was unquestionably the unconscious person
of Miss Messenger. She was in what I may call an ideal trance for the
purpose of manifestation. Also, by an extraordinary chance, her body
was secluded and in darkness. If the conditions had been planned by
experts they could hardly have been improved upon. After that our
explanation of the apparition and of the ‘direct voice’ phenomena is
largely dependent upon precedents.

“With regard to the first, I claim that von Schrenck-Notsing’s
photographs taken in Paris and elsewhere in 1912 and 1913 have
sufficiently demonstrated that in favourable conditions and with
a sensitive medium, a form of matter, not as yet scientifically
described, may be drawn from the body of the medium and used by the
external agency to build up representations not only of the human form,
but also of familiar materials. I mention that in order that we may
not be in any way disturbed by the fact that the materialisation was
dressed in a gown of different colour from that worn by Miss Messenger.
That gown too was instantly woven out of the creative flux.

“Indeed, the only thing that was not so momentarily created and
re-absorbed was the tulle scarf. That must actually have been taken
from Miss Messenger’s unconscious body and handled by the temporary
form evolved out of the teleplasm. There is good precedent for that, as
I believe I said last night.”

He paused a moment and then, as Harrison did not immediately reply, he
added: “And if we are all agreed, after we have finished our discussion
this evening, I would like to have separate written accounts from
each of you as to your sight of the phenomenon; those, backed by the
evidence of Mr. Messenger, his daughter and the police sergeant, ought,
I think, to establish one of the most remarkable and convincing cases
ever reported to the S.P.R.”

“Steady, steady, Vernon,” Harrison put in. “I can’t say that I’m
absolutely convinced as yet.”

“What’s the alternative explanation?” Vernon asked.

“That it was Miss Messenger herself whom we saw in a state of trance,”
Harrison said. “You see I concede you the trance.”

“But, my dear man,” Vernon expostulated, “the figure we saw by the
wood was not like Miss Messenger.”

“No?” Harrison replied. “Very well, let’s analyse the differences as
observed by the various witnesses. You begin, Vernon. Was there any
difference in height?”

“None to speak of that I noticed,” Vernon admitted, “but that woman had
a distinctly more spiritual face than Miss Messenger.”

“Anything else?” Harrison pressed him.

“We only saw her for a few moments, of course,” Vernon said. “I
must confess that at the moment I can’t think of any other marked
differences. It--it was another face and expression, that’s all.”

“And you, Emma,” said Harrison, looking at his wife.

“I couldn’t be absolutely sure that it wasn’t Miss Messenger,” she
replied. “We were all in rather an excited state just then, weren’t we?”

“But the dress was a different colour,” put in Mrs. Greatorex. “That
first woman was in white. Miss Messenger had a grey dress on.”

“I think, you know,” her husband continued, “that Vernon rather hit the
mark when he said that the first girl had a more spiritual face. That
was what struck me.”

“Haven’t you any comments, Lady Ulrica?” Harrison asked.

Lady Ulrica sighed. “I’m afraid,” she said honestly, “that for
observations of that kind, you can’t count on me one way or the other.
I’d left my glasses under the cedar, and I’m as blind as a bat without

Harrison smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, come, what does it
all amount to?” he asked. “Is there any reason in the world why we
should resort to so far-fetched an explanation as the supernatural?
Let us consider the evidence as if we were going to put it before a
body of expert opinion. We were, according to Vernon’s own admission,
in an ‘expectant, slightly inert condition.’ We had been talking
spiritualism for an hour or more after dinner, in very exceptional
conditions. I never remember a stiller or an--er--more emotional night.
When we were all worked up by Vernon’s eloquence into a peculiar
state of anticipation, we saw a white figure down by the lake. It
was inevitable, in these circumstances, that we should approach it
in a state of emotion. And what did we find? We found a young woman
walking in trance. Well, that state had very naturally altered her
usual appearance, given her face a more spiritual expression. No doubt,
she was very pale. She told me this morning that she had contemplated
suicide just before she fell into this trance, and I conceive it as
being probable that her highly disturbed mental condition had reacted
upon her physical appearance.

“Now let us consider what actually happened. Three observers, Emma,
Fell and myself, had seen Miss Messenger before and failed in those
circumstances to recognise her. Is that a very remarkable failure
when we give due weight to our own excited anticipations, coupled
with the fact that the girl was in an altogether abnormal physical
state? Furthermore we find that four people fail later to recognise
Miss Messenger as the original of the supposed stranger. Of these
four, one admits that she cannot be trusted as an observer of the
details, another that she hardly noticed the stranger’s face. A third,
Vernon, cannot deny that he was the victim of a prepossession, that
he anticipated a spiritualistic phenomenon and he is not therefore a
reliable witness. The fourth is our friend Greatorex. Now, G., I ask
you in all seriousness whether you would be prepared to swear on oath
that the figure we saw for a few seconds in the moonlight down by the
yews could not have been Miss Messenger in a state of trance. On your
oath, now.”

“No, Harrison, no. I would not be prepared to swear that,” Greatorex
said. “In fact, I believe you’re right about the whole affair.”

“But the dress, Mr. Harrison,” Mrs. Greatorex put in. “That woman by
the wood was in white. Miss Messenger was wearing a grey dress.”

“The effect of moonlight, my dear lady,” Harrison replied. “Moonlight
takes the colour out of everything.” As he spoke, he got to his feet
and took a turn up the room. As he had argued, the conviction of the
truth of his theory had been steadily growing in his own mind. He
wanted, now, to clinch the thing once and for all, eliminate the last
possibility of sending in a report to the S. P. R., and lay the ghost
for ever. But as he reached the end of the room, his eye fell on the
tulle scarf left by Miss Messenger on the previous night, now neatly
folded by the housemaid and laid on a table by the window. And he
realised in an instant that the confounded thing was grey and matched
the colour of Miss Messenger’s dress. Why then had that scarf also not
appeared white in the moonlight? It meant nothing; no doubt he might
be able to evolve some explanation, but at the present moment it might
most vexatiously complicate his case. Everyone, strangely enough, had
recognised that scarf. It was the one thing that had appeared to be
unaltered by the unusual conditions.

Harrison was intellectually honest, but the temptation to suppress that
piece of evidence was too strong for him. As he turned, he was between
the table and the rest of the party, and he stretched his hand out
behind him, and surreptitiously crammed the scarf into the pocket of
his dinner-jacket.

But his peroration was spoilt. The enthusiasm seemed to have been
suddenly drained out of him.

“Hm! hm! Well, in effect,” he said as he returned, “I submit that
there is no reason whatever to seek a supernatural explanation of our
experience last night. What do you all say?”

“Personally, I’m quite convinced that it was Miss Messenger we saw,”
his wife replied cheerfully.

“Very probably, I should say,” Greatorex agreed.

“It certainly seems the most likely explanation,” Mrs. Greatorex added.

“And you, Lady Ulrica?” Harrison asked.

“Well, of course, if you are all sure it was Miss Messenger, I don’t
see that there’s anything more to be said,” Lady Ulrica replied.

“All of us except Vernon,” Harrison amended.

Vernon sighed and leaned back in his chair. “You’ve pretty effectively
diddled my report to the S.P.R., anyway,” he said. “If no one is
prepared to swear that the person we first saw was not Miss Messenger,
I’ve got no evidence.”

“There is still Fell, of course,” Harrison suggested.

“I don’t think we can rely upon anything Mr. Fell might say,” Mrs.
Harrison put in. “I’m afraid he had a reason for not _wanting_ to
recognise Miss Messenger just then. I don’t think Mr. Fell has behaved
at all nicely.”

“I think we’ll drop it, Harrison,” Vernon said with a touch of
magnanimity. “I can’t say that you’ve convinced me, even about last
night’s experience, but you’ve got all the ordinary probabilities on
your side. It’s curious how difficult it is even to _plan_ a perfect
test case.”


Harrison had triumphed. He ought to have been content. But the truth is
that he had satisfied everyone but himself. “That confounded scarf,” as
he began to think of it, bothered and perplexed him. He stowed it away
in a drawer when he went to bed, but in the small hours of the morning
he found himself wide awake reconsidering all the evidence. It had come
to him with a perfectly detestable clearness that if Vernon’s theory
was a true one, that scarf was the single piece of common earthly
material that had been used in the presentation of the phenomenon they
had witnessed; and it was, at least, a strangely significant fact that
the scarf should be the one thing they had all seen so clearly, the one
thing the appearance of which had not been influenced by their mental
emotion or the effect of moonlight.

The coincidence bothered him. He could not find an explanation.

It continued to bother him the next morning. It came between him and
his work. And after lunch he put the scarf in his pocket and made it an
excuse to call again on Miss Messenger. There were, perhaps, one or two
further points that might be elucidated in conversation with her. She
had taken, he judged, almost as violent an antipathy to the thing as he
had himself. The sight of it might produce some kind of shock, might
just possibly revive some memory of what had happened during her trance.

When he arrived at the hotel, Miss Messenger was in the garden, and
he was shown up into her private sitting-room to await her. Still
thoughtfully considering the best means to approach the production of
the scarf, he walked absent-mindedly across the room and began to stare
at the photographs on the mantelpiece. And then, suddenly, he became
aware of the illusion that he was gazing at a background of dark yews,
against which was vividly posed the delicate profile of some exquisite
cameo. He blinked his eyes in amazement, and the background changed to
the commonplace detail reflected in the mirror. But the face remained,
the very profile he had seen by the plantation, a face sensitive and
full of sadness, staring wistfully out as if at some unwelcome vision
of the future.

Harrison shivered. It seemed to him as if a thin draught of cold air
were blowing past him. And then, for a moment, he had a sense of
immense distances and strange activities beyond the knowledge of common
life. He was aware of some old experience newly recognised after long
ages of forgetfulness; an experience that came back to him elusive as
the thought of a recent dream. But while he struggled to place that
fugitive memory, the door behind him opened, and the dark curtain of
physical reality was suddenly interposed between him and his vision.

He heard the voice of Miss Messenger speaking to him close at hand.

“That’s my friend, Rhoda Burton,” she was saying. “The photograph was
taken only a week before she died. She was in great trouble even then,
poor darling.”



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